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From Hyrcanian Forests To The Central Deserts Of Iran
Birdwatching tour in Iran plans to let you explore the birds in their Iran’s natural habitats. Iran is a vast country, full of natural beauty, and rich in history. Birdwatching Breaks is therefore pleased to offer you a comprehensive birding tour of this fascinating country for birds and culture. We should encounter the country’s two endemics, Pleske’s Ground-Jay and Caspian Tit, while other regional specialities we are likely to see include Coot, purple swamphen, smew, flamingo, white-headed duck, red-breasted goose, and whooper swan.
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Spectacular Bird Species
After arriving in Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA) our tour guide will meet and greet you then you will be transferred to hotel for resting.
Today we will drive up the dry and barren south-facing slopes of the Alborz almost to the snow-line and then down through the luxuriant forests on the northern slopes to the densely populated, rice-growing areas along the shores of the Caspian (which has a surface 26m below sea-level!).
En route we should encounter some of the commoner birds of northern Iran, such as Common Kestrel, Common Swift, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, White Wagtail, Cetti’s Warbler, Eurasian Magpie, Rook and Carrion Crow.
As we descend into the lowlands, we will begin our exploration of the Caspian forest. Eventually, we will arrive at Chalus, a popular resort town on the shores of the Caspian, where we will spend three nights.
Our first full day at the Caspian we will visit Chlus Area, a large reserve on the north slope of the Alborz encompassing patches of forest and scrubby secondary growth, as well as areas of farmland with small fields and hedgerows, somewhat reminiscent of the English countryside.
Birds of this area we may find in this area such species as Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Common Pheasant (here in its native home), Common Cuckoo, European Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Wood Lark, European Robin, Common Stonechat, Common Redstart, Common Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Longtailed, Coal and Blue Tits, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Jay, Common Chaffinch, European Goldfinch and Common Linnet.
Other common European birds that we may find in this area include European Honey Buzzard, Eurasian Hobby, Common Quail, European Scops Owl, Red-backed Shrike, Common Rosefinch, Black-headed and Corn Buntings.
The star attraction here is the uncommon Caspian (or Hyrcanian) Tit, a recent split from Sombre Tit that is restricted to the Caspian forest zone stretching from eastern Azerbaijan to northeast Iran. It is by no means common, and we may have to spend some time searching through the mixed feeding flocks in the forest.
Today we will drive east through the Caspian lowlands to Gorgan for an overnight stay. On the way, we will make a short detour to visit Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea. Here we will visit a reed fringed lake where Black Headed Penduline Tits can sometimes be found, along with Western Marsh Harrier, Common Kingfisher, and Moustached, European Reed and Great Reed Warblers.
We will also explore a part of the Miankaleh Peninsula, a 60km long peninsula of sand dunes and pomegranate scrub separating the Caspian Sea from Gorgan Bay. This reserve is famous for the huge concentrations of waterbirds that occur during the winter months, and there should still be many of these around, including Black-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Coot, Black-winged Stilt and Pied Avocet. Migrant waders should be present in good numbers, along with Whiskered and White-winged Terns. If we are lucky, we will find a lingering White-tailed Eagle or Pallas’s (or Great Black-headed) Gull.
In the morning, we will drive north onto the Turkoman Steppes – the vast rolling plains to the east of the Caspian Sea – and visit a group of small lakes where Black-headed Penduline Tits are known to have bred.
Other possibilities in this area include Little and Great Crested Grebes, Little Bittern, Lesser Kestrel, Common Moorhen, Calandra and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Isabelline Wheatear, Rosy Starling (sometimes in large swirling flocks), Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Red-headed Bunting (here at the western extremity of its range). Later we will drive south over the eastern Alborz Mountains and into Iran’s arid interior for an overnight stay at Shahrud.
We will break our journey near the top of the divide to investigate an area of montane steppe, where we may find Long-legged Buzzard, Bimaculated and Greater Short-toed Larks, Tawny Pipit, Pied and Finsch’s Wheatear, and Ortolan Bunting. As we continue onto the northern rim of the Central Plateau, the landscape becomes increasingly arid.
Iran’s largest reserve, Touran Wildlife Refuge and Biosphere Reserve, lies at the northeastern edge of the great Dasht-e-Kavir desert, about 150km southeast of Shahrud.
Established in 1973 and covering 18,000 square kilometres, this vast reserve protects a wide range of semi-desert and desert habitats from Artemisia steppe in the arid foothills of the Alborz in the north through bushy Zygophyllum steppe, sparsely vegetated sand dunes and bare stony plains to the immense salt wastes of the Dasht-e-Kavir proper in the south.
We will have the best part of two full days to explore this wonderful area, spending one night in the simple reserve headquarters at Delbar near the northwestern edge of the reserve and one night back at Shahrud.
Our primary target will be the highly localized Pleske’s Ground Jay, not only a member of a uniquely Central Asian group of aberrant corvids, but also a species endemic to the eastern deserts of Iran. The predominant vegetation in its favoured habitat is Zygophyllum, a desert shrub which can grow to two metres in height, and we will wait for a ground jay to pop up on top of a bush to give its ringing call, or try to keep up with this swift runner as it dashes between the bushes.
Today we will be looking out for a number of other birds characteristic of much of Iran’s central plateau including Egyptian Vulture, Cream-coloured Courser, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert and Variable Wheatears, Asian Desert Warbler, the enigmatic Pale Rockfinch (or Pale Rock Sparrow), and Desert and Trumpeter Finches.
With a little luck we will also find the stately Macqueen’s Bustard (split from Houbara), which is still a fairly common breeding species in this area. Vast numbers of migrants pass over the deserts of Iran in both spring and autumn, and while the great majority doubtless make the desert crossing in a single hop, the luxuriant vegetation around the many small springs always seems to attract stragglers, such as Eurasian Golden Oriole, Red-throated and Tree Pipits, Citrine and Yellow Wagtails (of an interesting variety of forms), Green and Willow Warblers, and Red-breasted Flycatcher, whatever the weather. Larger migrants such as Pallid Harrier and Steppe Eagle also make a pause in the reserve. Touran is one of the last strongholds of the Asiatic Wild Ass, or Onager, in Iran and, although numbers have been much depleted in recent years, we have a good chance of seeing this endangered species.
Today we will drive westwards along the northern edge of the Dasht-e-Kavir to Tehran for an overnight stay, stopping at likely looking spots along the way to check for migrants.
Our tour guide will transfer you to Imam Khomeini International Airport according to your’ flight time.