Conservationists from Scotland are heading out to Syria tomorrow (March 3) on a six-week trip to search for the critically endangered Sociable Lapwing and Bald Ibis.
The four-strong RSPB team, including Martin Scott from the Isle of Lewis, will be swapping a damp Scottish March to search for the Lapwing-like species in the dry arid steppes of Syria.
The team hope to promote conservation through direct contact with local people and government officials.
Target species include Sociable Lapwing, a species that has declined sharply in recent years and breeds in Kazakhstan before migrating south in winter to the Sudan. Recently satellite tracking of this species has shown that the northern Syrian steppes are a critical stop-over area for these migrating birds and it is hoped that the Scottish team will be able to locate groups in the north eastern deserts.
Syria is also crucial for the fabled Bald Ibis. Only two pairs are known from the Middle East, nesting in Syria, and these birds too have been satellite tagged. It is thought that they will return to their nesting ledges in early March.
Martin Scott, RSPB Scotland Western Isles Officer said: “All four of us are very excited. Syria looks to have some breathtaking habitats, from the lush Euphrates Valley to the dry steppes and stony deserts of the north.
“We hope to see lots of amazing birds, but more importantly pass on our knowledge and expertise to a nation that hosts some critical areas for wildlife. Of course, escaping the North of Scotland for six weeks at this time of year has certain appeal too!”
“This is a key international project. Work has been undertaken in Kazakhstan, Sudan and India on Sociable Lapwings, now it is Syria’s turn to be in the limelight.
“It is a vast country, but not enough is known about its stunning birdlife. From correspondence, the Syrians are clearly passionate about their wealth of wildlife, and we hope to help them in any way we can. Being able to survey in such a country is a real privilege.”