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A Report from

Jordan, 17 October - 2 November 2007,

Ernesto Occhiato

Wadi Rum - ©Ernesto Occhiato


For my second birding trip with my wife Dina to the Middle East, after the one to Oman in 2006, I chose Jordan, as this is a safe country, with generous and welcoming people, wonderful archaeological sites, and, of course, a lot of birds.

Compared to the near and much visited Israel, however, there is a substantial lack of updated information on where to find some the most wanted birds in Jordan. As far as I know, there are no local birders, a part from some people working at the Azraq reserve. Ian Andrews’s beautiful book “The Birds of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” is more than ten year old and his internet site at was last updated in 2004. However the book is still good and, in combination with the information found in the most recent internet trip reports (very few actually), the chances of finding the various specialties are quite high. Of course I met no other birders during my stay. The feeling of discovering all by yourself is very strong when you are alone in the deserts and wadis of Jordan….

The last words of this introduction are dedicated to the hospitality and generosity of the Jordanians, which I experimented in several occasions, first of all when I had a very bad accident while visiting the stony archaeological site of Umm ar Rasas (actually I was trying to get closer to a male Finsch’s Wheatear….), the very first day of my trip!


The itinerary I chose was biased by my interest in the resident desert and mountain birds of Jordan. For a longer bird list, the Aqaba sewage ponds and the Dead Sea-Jordan valley areas should be visited. The end of October, moreover, coincides with the end of the migration which crosses the country, but I still managed to get something good. These are the sites I visited for birding:

19-20 October: Wadi Dana
21-23 October: Petra
24-25 October: Aqaba and Wadi Rum
26 October: Wadi Araba and Wadi Fidan (en route from Aqaba to Wadi Zerqa Ma’in)
26-27 October: Wadi Zerqa Ma’in
29 October-01 November: Azraq area (Azraq wetland reserve, Qasr al Kharana,Wadi al Butm, Shawmari reserve area).

Here some notes about the above sites which I think could be useful (otherwise I will refer to the indications found in Andrews’ book I mentioned above):

Wadi Dana: I visited Wadi Dana just after the accident I had at Umm ar Rasas, so my birding capacities were very limited. I could not properly look for Syrian Serin in the nearby Barra Forest and I concentrated my birding efforts in the easy Dana’s gardens and then around the Rummana campsite. I stayed in the Dana Hotel, basic, but cheap, clean and offering very good food.

- The road from Shawbak to Dana is very good for various species of wheatears, with Mourning being very common. Also Spectacled Warbler in the scrub to the left of the road. There is a military base halfway along this road. At the village of Al Qadisiyya, Tristram’s Starling was very numerous.

- For the garden and orchard areas of Dana a good foothpath starts on the right just after the small mosque in front of the Dana Hotel. I saw several migrants along this track, among which a Red-breasted Flycatcher.

- Quite close to the entrance of the Rummana campsite, on the left, there is an artificial pool and a hide. This is very good for close view of Sinai Rosefinch and other birds. The Rummana campsite trail was very good, with Sooty Falcon, Sinai Rosefinch, Palestine Sunbird, Scrub Warbler, and so on.

Petra: a lot of Sinai Rosefinches along the steps to Ad Dayr, not one in the Siq!. Arabian Babblers in the oleander scrubs of Wady Siyyagh. For Barbary Falcon, check the area around the Sesto Fiorentino tomb, after the Royal tombs (a pair was there). Scrub Warbler quite common. I could not visit the site at night for Hume’s Owl.

Aqaba: I stayed at the Moon Beach Hotel, very close to the castle and the allotment plots in front of the public beach. These irrigated areas and palm plantations were very good for migrants (still lots of Red-backed Shrikes, Red-throated Pipits, Yellow Wagtails, and so on, and a White-throated Kingfisher). From the beach I saw some White-eyed Gulls.

During the week-end, on Thursday night, a lot of people from Amman come and sleep outside on the sidewalks along the allotments and on the beach. I tried to do some birding early morning on Friday, but it was not easy, as I had to walk among sleeping bags (with people sleeping inside), children playing football, people playing cards, and people stealing vegetables from the gardens…….After 10 minutes I was in my bed again!! So, avoid week-ends.

Wadi Rum: the area suggested by Andrews, 3 km before the village of Rum, is good. Moreover you can park the car along the old road and walk along this as far as the village. I got Hooded Wheatear here (a splendid male chasing a butterfly high up in the sky). White-crowned Wheatear was very common and Scrub Warbler was easy, too.

Wadi Fidan: just before the road to Wadi Fidan, I saw some Hoopoe Larks in the Wadi Araba. The road to Wadi Fidan is just before a military check-point. Some lark nearby could have been Bar-tailed, but I did not even try to use my telescope. The same around the military camp along the way to Wadi al Fidan. I had limited time to explore the acacia tree areas, but I saw Arabian Babbler and Sand Partridge. Blackstart was very common. As I was already satisfied with the several Arabian Warblers seen in Oman last year I did not carry out a thorough search of this species, but some of the small woods after the military camp were very promising.

Wadi Zerq Ma’in: we went to the Janna Spa resort (at Hammamat Ma’in) for a day of rest, but I birded from the terrace of my room and around the resort along the road above and below the resort. It is now possible to go inside this wadi by taking, some kms before the northern end of the lake, the new steep road from the Dead Sea to Madaba and then turning right toward the resort. Several hanging gardens in this wadi. The gardens of the resort were good for migrants. Bonelli’s Eagle (pair with young), Sand Partridge, Scrub Warbler, Palestine Sunbird, Bluethroat, and so on.

Azraq area: I stayed at the Azraq Resthouse. Around the pool of the resthouse and in the trees outside White-eared Bulbul is now easy to see. It is very common at the Azraq Wetland reserve. The Wadi ar Rattami near the resthouse is now full of Bedouin (or refugees) tents and it is not so easy to go around.

- Azraq Wetland reserve: closes at 4 p.m., so go there earlier. The small pool in front of the hide was good for herons, with Little Bittern, and Night, Squacco, Purple, Grey, Little, and Great Egret. Several duck species in other ponds which I visited thanks to the courtesy of Hussein, who works as a guide at the reserve.

- Shawmari reserve area: I parked the car some 0.5 km after the turning from the main road and walked first south toward the vegetated wadi and then along the wadi toward the reserve. Some Bedouin tents are present in the area. A male Finsch’s Wheatear, some Desert Wheatears, several Temminck’s Larks, and a pair of Bar-tailed Larks and one Hoopoe Lark in the hammada. Then I went to the reserve which was closed for maintenance and walked along the fence. Scrub Warbler, Crane, Long-legged Buzzard, and so on.

- Qasr al Kharana: a good area is that along the wadi below the bridge before you reach the castle. Another male Finsch’s Wheatear and several Temminck’s Lark.

- Wadi al Butm: park at the parking area in front of the Qasr Amra and go to the right around the fenced area till you descend into the broad wadi, which is rich in Atlantic Pistachio trees and good for migrants. One subadult Eastern Imperial Eagle and one adult Greater Spotted Eagle here. I saw some Jirds in the wadi, I guess food for the Imperial Eagle…

Annotated List

I saw 119 species, which is not bad considering that I did not visit the Aqaba Sewage ponds and the Jordan Valley. The lifers were 12 (with three dips, Syrian Serin, Desert Finch and Long-billed Pipit). The most interesting species were:

(1)   Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus): one was at the Azraq Wetland reserve on 29/10.

(2)   Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides): one was at the Azraq Wetland reserve on 29/10.

(3)   Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea): one (white morph) was on the public beach of Aqaba on 24/10.

Western Reef Heron ©Ernesto Occhiato

(4)   Black Stork (Ciconia nigra): one flew over Azraq Wetland reserve on 29/10.

(5)   Black Kite (Milvus migrans): one flew over Azraq Wetland reserve on 30/10.

(6)   Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): 4-5 birds in Wadi Dana.

(7)   Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus): still some migrants, for example 28 birds over Madaba on 18 october, 8 birds on 20 october over Wadi Dana e 3 es in Wadi Rum on 25 october.

(8)   Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus): one pair at Petra on 23/10, 2 birds in the Wadi Rum on 25/10 and one bird at Shawmari on 31/10.

(9)   Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga): one adult in the Wadi Butm on 01/11.

(10)   Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis): one adult en route to Aqaba from Petra on 24/10.

(11)   Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca): one subadult in the Wadi Butm on 01/11

(12)   Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus): one pair above Wadi Dana and one pair and a young in the Wadi Zerqa Ma’in.

(13)   Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor): one juv. over the Rummana campsite trail on 20/10. Lifer.

(14)   Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides): a pair at Petra, near the Sesto Fiorentino’s tomb on 21/10.

(15)   Chukar (Alectroris chukar): very common in Wadi Dana.

(16)   Sand Partridge (Ammoperdix heyi): three birds in the Wadi Fidan on 26/10 and four in the Wadi Zerqa Ma’in on 27/10.

(17)   Crane (Grus grus): seven birds near the Shawmari reserve on 31 October.

(18)   White-eyed Gull (Larus leucophtalmus): five birds from the public beach at Aqaba. Lifer.

(19)   Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis): a very common species.

(20)   Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo): heard in the Wadi Dana on 19 October evening.

(21)   Hoopoe (Upupa epops): scattered observation in the north (Ajilun, Jerash)

(22)   White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis): one in the allotments of Aqaba on 24/10. Lifer.

(23)   Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis): two bird in the Wadi Zerqa Ma’in.

(24)   Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cincturus): two birds in the hammada near Shawmari on 31/10. Lifer.

Bar-tailed Lark ©Ernesto Occhiato

(25)   Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti): common in the right habitat everywhere (rocky wadis and slopes).

(26)   Hoopoe Lark (Alaemon alaudipes): three birds in Wadi Araba on 26/10 and one near the Shawmari reserve on 31/10. At Shawmari, in the same scope view I had for a moment Temminck’s Lark, Bar-tailed Lark and Hoopoe Lark all together!

(27)   Temminck’s Lark (Eremophila bilopha): 8 birds while approaching Shawbak from the Desert Highway. Common in the Azraq desert  (Shawmari, Kharana, ecc). Lifer.

Temminck’s Lark ©Ernesto Occhiato

(28)   Rock Martin (Ptyonoprogne fuligula): common at Petra, Dana, Wadi Rum, and Wadi Zerqa Ma’in.

(29)   Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus): common in the irrigated areas of Aqaba and Azraq.

(30)   White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus lucotis): common at Azraq.

(31)   Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos): a widespread species, not observed however at Azraq.

(32)   Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica): one was in the Wadi Zara Ma’in on 27/10.

(33)   Blackstart (Cercomela melanura): common in the Wadi Fidan, Wadi Zerqa Ma’in and two-three were at Petra.

(34)   Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maura): one near the Azraq Wetland reserve.

Siberian Stonechat  ©Ernesto Occhiato

(35)   Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti): commonly observed in the right habitat

(36)   Eastern Black-eared Wheater (Oenanthe melanoleuca): Still some birds present. One above Dana village, one in Wadi al Butm, and one between Shawbak and Dana.

(37)   Finsch’s Wheater (Oenanthe finschii): four males and one female. Three males were in the Azraq area and one at Umm ar Rasas. Lifer.

Finsch’s Wheatear ©Ernesto Occhiato

(38)   Mourning Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens): common between Dana e Shawbak, at Petra and in the Wadi Rum. In the Wadi Rum however less numerous than White-crowned Wheatear. Lifer.

Mourning Wheatear ©Ernesto Occhiato

(39)   Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monaca): an adult male in the Wadi Rum, some three km before the village of Rum. Lifer.

(40)   White-crowned Wheater (Oenanthe leucopyga): common in the Wadi Rum, two at Petra, and one in the Wadi Zerqa Ma’in. Lifer.

White-crowned Wheatear ©Ernesto Occhiato

(41)   Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis): one in the garden of Dana, some birds in the Wadi Zerqa Ma’in and one in the Shawmari reserve.

(42)   Scrub Warbler (Scotocerca inquieta): six were at Dana, around the Rummana campsite; then at Petra (3-4 bird.), one pair in the Wadi Zerqa Ma’in and finally one at Shawmari. Lifer.

(43)   Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata): two were seen along the road from Shawbak to Dana.

(44)   Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala): race “momus”. Heard along the Rummana campsite trail, heard and seen near Petra and unexpectedly in the Wadi al Butm, near Azraq.

(45)   Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva): one was in the gardens of Dana on 20 October.

(46)   Arabian Babbler (Turdoides squamiceps): in the Wadi Fidan (2 seen, others heard) and at Petra (5 ind.) in the Wadi Siyyagh.

(47)   Palestine Sunbird (Nectarina osea): at least five at Petra, same number at Dana and in the Wadi Zerqa Ma’in.

(48)   Tristram’s Starling (Onychognathus tristramii): common at Dana, Petra, Wadi Rum and in Wadi Zerqa Ma’in. Perhaps just less than one hundred all together at the village of Al Qadisiyya above Dana.

(49)   Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio): sevearal in the irrigated areas of Aqaba and some in the Azraq resthouse around the pool.

(50)   Great Grey Shrike (Lanius e. aucheri): two were in the Wadi Fidan.

(51)   House Crow (Corvus splendens): common at Aqaba.

(52)   Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis): seen in various desert areas and in the Wadi Rum.

(53)   Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus): very common (up to 100 all together) at Petra.

(54)   Trumpeter Finch (Bucanetes githagineus): a flock of 13 birds in the Wadi Rum on 25/10. Lifer.

(55)   Sinai Rosefinch (Carpodacus synoicus): common at Dana around the campsite (at least 25 on 20 October), and at Petra, along the steps to Ad Dayr.Several males seen. Lifer.

(56)   Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia): a small colony at Ain Dana and en route to Rummana campsite.

(57)   House Bunting (Emberiza striolata): only one at Petra on 22/10.

Ernesto Occhiato

Firenze, Italy


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