Iran - Northwest

02 May 2018 – 21 May 2018

Fabian Schneider and Reto Burri

Participants: Niloofar Alaei Kakhki, Reza, (Ali & Morteza during the first half of the trip)

We prospect mainly the Elburz Mountain range between Semnan and Tabriz to study the hybridization zone between Pied Wheatear and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears. Most of the visited sites correspond to the different samples places. The year before we covered the area between Mashhad and Baladeh (North of Tehran).

May was a nice month to travel there. The temperatures were nice (not so hot than in June) and, in addition to the local species, we observed many migrant species.

On site, it is not possible to withdraw money. So you have to take with you Euros or USD.

It is virtually impossible to explore well the country without some local persons. For a good guide to Iran I can recommended Ali, he is friendly, he knows most of the birding places and the most common species.

Visited Sites

General Travelling Information

This scientific trip was all organized by Reto Burri in collaboration with the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. The weather was mainly sun and the temperatures pleasant. Only in Shemshak, the weather was cloudy, wet and rather cold.

Recommended Literature

Birds of the Middle East, Helm Field Guides, R. Porter & S. Aspinall

Firuzkuh–Semnan road

The whole area between Firuzkuh and Semnan worth the trip. Whith more than 50 birds species encountered, it is one of the best visited place during our trip. The green surroundings of the river hosts many species included several migrant birds. 

Some of the good areas for the migrant passerines are around Seranza. A small valley located west of Seranza (35°44'20.3"N 52°50'42.8"E) host some nice species such as White-throated Robin, Menetries's Warbler (migrant), Plain Leaf-warbler and Grey-necked Bunting.

The north of Aftar (35°37'50.5"N 53°06'42.2"E) are good for steppic species like Desert Lark. A Hume's Wheatear was also observed there and some possible Pale Crag Martin.

The bushy area near the pass 15km north of Aftar (35°42'28.1"N 53°01'34.1"E) offers some nice view of Isabelline Shrike and Eastern Orphean Warbler.

Target species

  • Plain Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus neglectus

  • White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis

  • Gray-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani

Absard–Eyvanekey road

The north of Eyvanekey seems good for raptors. We observed Egyptian Vulture and Saker Falcon.

One of the most interesting areas was a small dry valley (35°24'41.7"N 52°05'29.6"E)  where we observed See-see Partridge,Pale Crag Martin, Desert Lark, Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin, and Streaked Scrub-warbler. The place is also really good for wheathers: we saw some Hume's Wheatears and, Ali and Morteza, photographed a Mourning Wheather.

A small dam just before Ahmad?b?d (35°25'43.2"N 52°08'44.5"E) looks pretty good. We observed a few waders, some migrant passerines andTrumpeter Finch.

In the upper part of the Valley, around Zeyarat is interesting for wheaters: many Red-tailed and Pied/Eastern Black-eared/hybrid Wheatears.

Target species

  • See-see Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis

    Northeast of Eyvanekey

  • Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus

  • Saker Falcon Falco cherrug

  • Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti

  • Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula

  • Hume's Wheatear Oenanthe albonigra


The southern part of Eyvanekey worth the detour.

We explored a bit the agricultural area in the south of the town. The fields are interspersed by bushes and we observed many shrikes (Lesser Grey, Red-backed and Isabelline), Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Greater Short-toed Lark, many Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin: very common here, as the Black-headed Buntings.

The lake located just south of Eyvanekey was very good for the water birds. Some interesting sightings inclued Northern Pintail, Collared Pratincole,Terek Sandpiper and a group of 70 Red-necked Phalaropes!

Target species

  • Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas galactotes


The lake located near Solehbon look good for bird species linked with water. We observed one male of Citrine Wagtail in a wet meadow and some Red-necked Phalaropes, Slender-billed Gulls and White-winged Terns on the lake.

Near Solehbon we saw two Bearded Vultures.


The area around Farahabad and the valley coming from Amin Abad seem good for many warblers. We encountered, for example, Upcher's, Eastern Olivaceous and Great Reed Warblers.

Target species

  • Upcher's Warbler Hippolais languida

Lasem–Firuzkuh road

The avifauna here was almost the same as the areas between Firuzkuh and Semnan with some rocky slopes hosting, for example, Grey-necked Bunting and Rock Sparrow, but the average diversity was a bit lower.


We just did a small walk during the afternoon in the village of Shemshak. One of the most interesting observation there was an Olivaceous Warbler apparently in a stoppover at 2'650 m.a.s.l. (pretty high elevation for this species)!

The place was pretty cold and the weather cloudy.


We mainly visited two areas, one in a small valley east of Ziyaran (36°06'30.3"N 50°34'25.9"E) and this other southwest of Ziyaran (36°05'23.3"N 50°29'27.5"E). The first place holds See-see Partridge and Trumpeter Finch and we observed several Pale Sparrows at the second place.

Target species

  • Pale Rockfinch Carpospiza brachydactyla

Lowshan–Barehsar road

We observed a few raptors along this road like Eurasian Griffon and Short-toed Snake Eagle. We encountered several times some Streaked Scrub-warblers, as well as Trumpeter Finches.

From this region and further west the Woodchat Shrike start to be relatively common.

Hashjin–Barandagh road

This region is really remarkable and one of the most productive in term of species that we visited with more than 50 birds species encountered. The region is good for shrikes, wheaters and warblers. The open grasslands with a lot of bushy areas attracted many species and appear to be really good for migrant species such as Blue-cheecked Bee-eater, Sedge Warbler, Barred Warbler and Rosy Starling. 

Some good spots:

The bushes around this spot (37°20'34.3"N 48°22'52.3"E) seem to hold many birds (included some migrants like Sedge and Barred Warblers) and the little water point attract for example Desert Finches.

The small valley located southeast of Damdool was very interesting, particularly around some ruins and agricultural fiels (37°19'18.9"N 48°24'52.2"E). In the bushes we observed some White-throated Robin, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Sedge Warbler, Upcher's Warbler and Eastern Orphean Warbler. We also saw some flocks of Blue-cheecked Bee-eaters and Rosy Starlings. But the highlight of the spot was the presence of two Caspian.

The area with scattered trees in the east of Damdool (37°20'01.0"N 48°26'06.8"E) was attractive for many species. We observed many White-throated Robin, Upcher's Warbler and Eastern Orphean Warbler as well as Streaked Scrub-warbler.

Target species

  • Caspian Tit Poecile hyrcanus

  • Upcher's Warbler Hippolais languida

  • Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta

  • White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis

Sarein–Ardabil road

The most interesting species were observed in the west of Ardabil where the landscapes are green. We saw Little Bittern, Ruddy Shelduck, Great Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Common Rosefinch.

Arbab Kandi–Dadeh Beyglu road

The area was not so interesting but Isabelline and Northern Wheatears where common there.

Germi area

The grassland areas in the south of Germi were good for Calandra Lark and Eurasian Skylark. Some Desert Finches occure in the rocky slopes and we hearded Green Warbler and Common Chaffinch in the wooded area along rivers.

Ahar–Tabriz road

Some interesting species observed along this road included Eurasian Crimson-winged Finch, just southwest of Ahar.

The fields zones around Goouydaraq (38°20'13.2"N 46°51'45.5"E) host many Bimaculated Larks.

Target species

  • Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculata

Yengi Ispiran–Nahand–Khaje area

The whole region seems good for Bimaculated Lark, Finsch's Wheatear, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and Desert Finch.

We observed several water birds included Armenian Gull on the lake near Nahand.

Species List

Order: systematic | alphabetic | highlights first