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Iran is the Middle East’s second-largest country and offers a great deal to the intrepid and curious traveler. The Persian people are without a doubt some of the world’s friendliest and most hospitable! Our thirteen day Iran Birdwatching tour starts in the capital, Tehran with a short flight south to Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf. Here we will spend time investigating the mangrove forest around Jask, the almond and pistachio woodlands and orchards around Minab for Sind Woodpecker, Graceful Prinia, Red-tailed (Turkestan) and Bay-backed Shrike, Afghan Babbler, Dalmatian Pelican and Crab-plover.
We depart Minab and head to Ahvaz for a few days to search the Dez and Karkhe River area for Iraq Babbler, Grey Hypocolius, Hooded Crow (of the distinct Mesopotamian sub-species), Dead Sea Sparrow, Egyptian Nightjar and Menetries’s Warbler. Returning to Tehran, we shall spend the rest of our tour traversing the Alburz Mountain Range, the Caspian Sea, and Touran National Park. Amongst the many species we can expect to see over the next few days, the highlights are sure to include Caspian Tit, Caspian Snowcock, Red-fronted Serin, Red-tailed (Persian) Wheatear, Black-headed Penduline Tit, Pleske’s Ground Jay, Asian Desert Warbler, Macqueen’s Bustard and See-see Partridge.
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3* or 4* Hotels/ Traditional House/ Eco-lodge
A.C Minibus / Van / Private car
4×4 cars for Alborz mountainous regions
3 domestic flights
13 Breakfasts, 13 lunches, and 12 dinners
2 bottles of water/fruits/snacks per day
Hotel check-in time generally is at 2:00 PM. So, according to your arrival time, if you need early check-in you must book an extra day.
The price includes double and twin rooms in Hotels. Obviously, single rooms cost an extra fee.
Private or single rooms are not available in some traditional local houses. No Bed, but sleeping equipment is traditional comfortable Mattresses and Blankets.
Use Minibus / Van / Private car depending on your group size
4×4 cars would be completely safe and well organized technically and comfortably and in good condition. But they could be old models.
Each 4×4 car has a capacity of up to 3 pax.
The number of meals depending on your arrival and departure time may be changed.
Vegetarian dishes are also possible upon request.
The priority in sightseeing may be changed. It is due to the time of your arrival, your guide’s discretion, and official and unofficial holidays of some museums. Also, some activities in the itinerary may be changed depending on the weather conditions.
Photographic Opportunities: good to excellent
Climatic condition: Warm to hot, mostly dry with bright sunshine. Expect cool or cold temperatures at higher altitudes in the north, where some rain is likely. It will be rather humid in the Bandar Abbas/Mekran coast area.
Transfer from IKA to Tehran. Our Iran birding tour officially starts today in Tehran with a domestic flight from Tehran to Bandar Abbas. Bandar Abbas is one of Iran’s major cities in the south, situated on the shores of the Persian Gulf. From here we head a short distance to the small town of Minab, where we will check in to our hotel. This afternoon we shall have our first chance for birding in the Minab region.
Today, we will explore southwards of Minab along the Mekran (or Makran) coast of Persian Baluchistan. The area is dominated by palm gardens and local orchards, which create an ideal habitat for some fantastic woodland birding. Our main target this morning will be the Sind Woodpecker, and we will focus our efforts on this rare species. Spotted Owlets are active when the day is still young, the opposite being the case for Oriental Honey Buzzard (a winter visitor to the groves in the coastal plain) as they start moving around on thermals as the temperature rises. Purple Sunbird is refreshingly common alongside Indian Roller, Lesser Whitethroat, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Isabelline Wheatear, Red-wattled Lapwing and Yellow-throated Sparrow.
In the drier habitats and wadis (dry ravine or watercourse) we may find Graceful Prinia, common Green Bee-eater, White-eared Bulbul, Red-tailed and Bay-backed Shrike, Pallid Swift, Pale Crag Martin, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Indian Silverbill, the scarce Afghan Babbler and Variable Wheatear.
After a picnic lunch and some rest in the shade, we will have a short drive to reach the nearby mangrove forests for some more exciting birding. The area is one of the best and most pristine environments of its kind in the Persian Gulf. It provides excellent habitat for Indian Pond Heron, massive Dalmatian Pelican and Great Stone-curlew. With luck, we may encounter Crab-plover with some having remained after the migration season. After a long, we make our way back to our hotel in Minab.
After some final birding in the Minab region, we will drive to Bandar Abbas for an overnight stay. Probably, we have time to check out the numerous shorebirds and terns around Bandar Abbas.
O/N Bandar Abbas
This morning we will visit Kuh-e-Genu in the north of Bandar Abbas. The spectacular winding road up the mountain takes us through a variety of vegetation zones until we end up in scattered junipers.
Special birds we will be looking for here include See-see Partridge, Pale Crag Martin, Desert Lark, Long-billed Pipit, the restricted-range Hume’s Wheatear, Variable Wheatear, Streaked Scrub Warbler (now considered a monotypic bird family in its own right), Upcher’s and Eastern Orphean Warblers, Eastern Rock Nuthatch and Striolated Bunting.
Later in the day, we will catch a flight to Ahvaz in the province of Khuzestan that is situated on the shores of the Karun River, nearby the once vast Mesopotamian marshes.
For the next two days of our Iran birding tour, we explore the areas north of Ahvaz. Two major rivers, the Dez and Karkhe meander through this land and it is in the habitat created by these rivers that we go in search of the range-restricted Iraq Babbler, the monotypic Grey Hypocolius, the range-restricted capellanus sub-species of Hooded Crow (Mesopotamian Crow), Egyptian Nightjar and Menetries’s Warbler. Another major target here is the sought-after and little known Basra Reed Warbler.
We have good chances of encountering more Red-wattled Lapwing alongside colorful Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, White-throated and Pied Kingfisher, European Turtle Dove and the impressive Collared Pratincole. We even stand a slight chance of locating Pied Bush Chat and Namaqua Dove.
There are many small wetlands along the rivers, as well as some large lagoons, and here we may find Pygmy Cormorant, Western Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco and Purple Herons, the threatened Marbled Duck, Grey-headed Swamphen (split from Western or Purple), Collared Pratincole, White-tailed Lapwing, an assortment of migrant waders including Wood and Marsh Sandpipers, Pied Kingfisher, Sand Martin (or Bank Swallow), Zitting Cisticola and both Clamorous and European Reed Warblers.
If time permits, As we explore this area we will stop briefly to admire the ziggurat of Tchogha Zanbil, a very impressive step pyramid of great antiquity that dates back to the 13th century BC and the Elamite dynasty.
This morning we will catch a flight to Tehran. After our arrival, we will drive to the picturesque city of Kelardasht that is located on the northern slopes of the Alborz Mountain. We reach this area by driving through scenic mountainous roads which connect the barren slopes of southern Alborz to the lush broad-leafed forests of the northern side, and the coastal areas of the Caspian Sea. En-route, we should encounter some of the commoner birds of northern Iran, such as Common Kestrel, Common Swift, Hooded Crow, Rook, and European Bee-eater. Finally, we head to Kelardasht, our home for the following two nights of our Iran birding tour. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration this afternoon.
During our time in the Kelardasht area, we will visit some beautiful areas of forest. At first, we go in search of the little-known Caspian Tit. We shall explore the northern faces of Alburz Mountains surrounding Kelardasht.
Areas, where Oak and Hawthorn trees are scattered along slopes above 2,000 meters, is the ideal habitat for this species, and we shall search diligently for our quarry. Steep and bumpy roads mean that 4×4 vehicles are essential to reach these areas, and give us the best chances of locating this tiny gem. We may also bump into Eurasian Wryneck, European Green Woodpecker, Eurasian Blue, Coal, Long-tailed and Sombre Tit, Ortolan Bunting and Lesser Whitethroat. Whilst in this area we go on another target mission, this time to find Caspian Snowcock. This regal bird resides at very high altitudes on the northern faces of the Alborz and Zagros Mountains, between 3,500 – 4,000 meters. Another early morning is required to get up the mountain in our capable vehicles in order to put ourselves in prime position. Searching for Caspian Snowcock could also produce Black Redstart, Red-fronted Serin, Red-tailed, Northern and Finsch’s Wheatear, Radde’s Accentor and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush.
We leave the Alborz Mountains this morning and make our way to the eastern coastal regions of the Caspian Sea. Along the way, we will visit one an area of lowland forest where we can see the smart Red-breasted Flycatcher, as well as Long-tailed Tit and Eurasian Nuthatch.
Near the coastal city of Babolsar, we visit a few ponds adjacent to rice paddies. This is a good area to find the sought-after Black-headed Penduline Tit that weaves their nests in the local Willow trees in spring. After searching for this special we head to Sari where we will check in to our accommodations.
Today we will drive to Bastam near Shahrud. En route, we will spend some time exploring the drier slopes of the eastern Alborz in search of such specialties as the lovely White-throated Robin (also known as Irania), the diminutive Plain Leaf Warbler (a bird little bigger than a Goldcrest).
As we continue onto the northern rim of the Central Plateau, the landscape becomes increasingly arid. Other likely new birds today include Lesser Kestrel, Isabelline Wheatear.
This morning we will look for Bimaculated Lark. Other new species in this area are likely to include Long-legged Buzzard and Greater Short-toed Lark.
Afterwards, we will head eastwards to Iran’s largest reserve, Touran National Park that is located at the northeastern edge of the great Dasht-e-Kavir desert.
We will have two days to explore this wonderful area.
The park holds vast tracts of steppes, semi-arid deserts, and arid mountains. The Artmesia and Zygophyllum steppes situated in the north of the park are the prime stronghold of the attractive and highly sought after endemic, Pleske’s Ground Jay.
Our primary target will be the highly localized this species, as well as the localized Red-tailed (Persian) Wheatear.
Other species we should come across include Asian Desert Warbler, Black-bellied, and Crowned Sandgrouse, Desert, Bar-tailed and Crested Lark, Pale Crag Martin, Trumpeter, and Desert Finch, Steppe Grey Shrike, Macqueen’s Bustard, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Desert Wheatear, personata sub–species of White Wagtail, See-see Partridge, Eastern Rock Nuthatch and even chances for Cream-coloured Courser and Hooded Wheatear.
A special mammal we will keep an eye out for in this area is the rare Asiatic Wild Ass or Onager.
O/N Touran National Park
After some final birding in Touran, we will go back to the westward along the northern edge of the Dasht-e-Kavir to Tehran, where the tour ends this evening.