Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Jordan, 31st October - 6th November 2010 ,
A WORD OF WARNING
We had a lot of trouble taking our telescopes both in and out of the country. We spent an hour and a half in the airport in Amman on arrival politely but firmly refusing the security police’s kind invitation to leave our opticals in the airport until our departure. And when we left it was no better. We spent an hour refusing to pack our telescopes in our suitcases and leaving them to the tender mercies of the luggage handlers before we were allowed to check in. Thank goodness we had plenty of time
This was a week's trip with the combined goals of birding and seeing some of the archaeological sites.
The car hire and all the accommodation was booked online. CAR HIRE - reliable. This was the only firm I could find which allowed us to drop off the car at another destination.
The flight was with Lufthansa from Milan to Amman, via Frankfurt. We also had one internal flight with Jordanian Airlines from Aqaba to Amman.
Navigating around the country was not easy since it was the build up to the elections and all the sign posts were plastered with election posters. But I would guess that there wouldn't normally be any problems.
The roads get covered in a mixture of rubber from tyres and oil, which can make them very slippery. Keep your distance from the vehicle in front and try not to brake suddenly! When you get into built-up areas, there are often speed-bumps, which may cause some problems until you get used to knowing where they are.
The currency is Jordanian Dinars and at the time the exchange rate was 1.30 € to 1JOD.
No particular health precautions or vaccinations are needed for Jordan. As usual, be careful to drink bottled water and don’t eat salad or uncooked vegetables.
All the Jordanians we met were kind, humorous and helpful and there was none of the constant demands for money that we have encountered in some other Middle Eastern and North African countries.
Since we arrived on a late flight, it was after 02.00 before we got to the Golden Tulip Airport hotel.
We had arranged our car to be brought to the hotel at 09.00 that morning, but the driver was there 15 minutes early. While we did the paperwork, we ticked off Yellow-vented Bulbul, Laughing Dove and African Rock Martin.
We headed south towards Petra, taking in the Dead Sea and the crusader castle at Karak. On the way we added Blackstart, White-crowned Black Wheatear and a pair of Desert Larks. Incidentally, most of the White-crowned Black Wheatears we saw on the trip didn't have the white crown. We had hoped to find some waders at the salt pans on the Dead Sea but couldn't find a way into the pans. I have to admit that we didn't try very hard since scanning didn't reveal anything promising. The castle at Karak was well worth a visit. There were 3 Long-legged Buzzards and 2 Honey Buzzards in the same thermal over the castle. Continuing along the road to Petra we spotted a Steppe Eagle settling down to roost on the top of a telegraph pole.
We spent the whole day in Petra and of course, could have spent another 3 days there. Don't miss out on a trip to Petra! Birdwise, we added Fan-tailed Raven, Mourning Wheatear, Sinai Rosefinch and Scrub Warbler to our list. One Sinai Rosefinch was particularly cheeky, hopping inside an old lady's cooking pot to steal her lunch.
Leaving one of our party catching up on some missed sleep, we went out before breakfast into the hills above Petra where we managed to have some excellent views of a flock of Syrian Serins and a group of Desert Finches. A Lesser Short-toed Lark put in a brief appearance as did several Northern Wheatears and a single Desert Wheatear.
Leaving Petra behind, we headed towards Dana, picking up several Tristram's Grackles as we entered the village. We had booked 2 nights accommodation in the Dana Guest House. Chukars were constantly rushing backwards and forwards, advertising themselves to all and sundry. No wonder they are high on the hunters' list! Before light faded, we walked along through terraces towards the spring. Most of the terraces were abandoned long ago but a few were being cared for again as a few families have come back to live in the village.
Yellow-vented Bulbuls were common, and we also added Sparrowhawk to our list.
The day was incredibly windy – at times it was hard staying on your feet. Consequently most of the birds were keeping their heads down. The wind had dropped a lot by 16.00 but got up later and by 20.00 it was whistling round again.
We spent the whole day walking down the wadi from the Guest House. The walk back up is a long, hard slog, so don't go too far. At this time of year, darkness fell extremely suddenly about 17.00 and being out on a steep, very rough track in the dark is not a good idea.
The valley is spectacular and you pass from Mediterranean vegetation to desert as you descend. We had stunning views of 4 Griffon Vultures and a pair of Bonelli's Eagles. Rock Hyrax were also visible, sunning themselves on the crags.
Incidentally, if you have a chance, go and eat in the Tower Hotel in the village of Dana. There were dozens of platters piled high with local dishes, and you just helped yourself.
A Graceful Prinia was messing about on some bushes outside the guest house as dawn broke.
Walking along the track from the Guest House to the spring took us through abandoned and neglected terraces which were once full of olive, pistachio and pomegranate trees. Now it is a riot of growth and excellent for migrants. We added Blackcap, Sardinian and Cetti's Warblers, Black and Common Redstarts, and Stonechat to the list.
Leaving Dana, we headed down to Aqaba. There was the usual problem with navigation, with election stickers over all the signposts made worse by the new roads which weren't on the map.
Descending from the mountains into the wadi north of Aqaba, a Barbary Falcon flashed across the road.
Make for the flagpole at Aqaba (one of the tallest freestanding flagpoles in the world) and search the small-holdings around the castle. Ring-necked Parakeets and House Crows are everywhere but the migrants were good too: Crag Martin, Bluethroat, Red-throated and Tree Pipits and Hoopoe. Looking over the harbour produced Squacco Heron, Little Egret and the pale morph of Western Reef Heron.
Aqaba fills up with people from further north on Thursdays and Fridays. Families camp out on the pavements or beaches. All very jolly, but you might want to avoid Aqaba on these days.
We were staying in a small hotel 12kms south of Aqaba so that we could admire the coral reef directly from the hotel.
White-eyed and Black-headed Gulls were common over the sea. There was also a Crested Lark, Bluethroat and Red-throated Pipit messing about in a smelly drainage ditch.
We headed back up into the mountains to visit Wadi Rum. On the way we stopped off at a cultivated area near what seemed to be a refugee camp. Sand Martins and Barn Swallows were drawn to the insects over the fields while 8 Brown-necked Ravens and 3 Black Kites soared in a thermal. A single Steppe Eagle was perched on a post.
You are not allowed to drive private cars in Wadi Rum so the local Bedouin have cornered the market offering visitors rides in 4-wheel drive jeeps. We chose not to go in a jeep since we wanted to be able to stop when we saw something. We still had plenty of things to keep us happy. As well as the expected desert species, we had good views of flock of Trumpeter Finches. And orfcourse, the scenery is stunning.
The crowds had gone and there were a few waders on the beach risking the piles of litter left behind. Greenshank, Greater Sand Plover and Ringed Plover performed well.
The rest of the day was taken up with diving and snorkelling before we caught the evening flight back to Amman and on to Frankfurt and home.
Western Reef Heron
Greater Sand Plover
Feral Rock Pigeon
African Rock Martin
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Streaked Scrub Warbler
Willow / Chiff
White-crowned Black Wheatear
Blue Rock Thrush