A warm welcome from OSME on 

The Ornithological Society of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia is a registered charity (no 282938) and exists to collect, collate and publish data on all aspects of the Ornithology of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia region.

OSME members receive

Our journal Sandgrouse

Sandgrouse 36(2)


Sandgrouse is published twice a year in spring and autumn.

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OSME & The Bird Fair 2014 - some reflection
The OSME Region List (ORL) 2014 – the story so far
The Birdfair and Birding The Silk Road
See you at the Birdfair!
Volunteer for the Batumi Raptor Count 2014
Champions of the Flyway- Birdrace
OSME Summer Meeting 2014
OSME at the Birdfair 2014
OSME Summer Meeting 6 July 2013
The Omani Owl – a completely new owl species is discovered
Certificate of Recognition
Conservation and Research Fund news
UNDP/BirdLife International Migratory Soaring Birds project website

OSME & The Bird Fair 2014 - some reflections

Well, it seems like an age since Bird Fair 2014 and it was fantastic that OSME was again part of the 'birders Glastonbury'. The three days were as hectic as ever, with lots of opportunities to talk to members, friends and supporters. Catching up with some of our 755 members, is an important part of the Bird Fair. It is always interesting to get feedback from those that support our small, but soon to be growing, Society. There was a lot of discussion around the conservation work that OSME supports via the Conservation and Research Fund (CRF), with the overwhelming majority of members wanting to see us do more. Three things occurred at the Bird Fair that will enable us to support more projects in the coming 12 months.

OSME at Birdfair 2014

Mike Jennings, author of the Atlas of The Breeding Birds of Arabia, visiting the OSME stand

Firstly, a huge thanks to Nick Acheson of Naturetrek, who won the Bird Brain quiz on behalf of OSME with £1,000 going to the CRF.
Secondly, those members that collected their copies of Sandgrouse from the stand, helped us save more than £250 in postage costs. This saving will go directly to the CRF.
Thirdly, welcome to 16 new members, and 4 lapsed members, who joined OSME at The Bird Fair. Your membership subscription directly supports OSME's conservation work, and the larger our membership, the more work we can do - so thank you, and welcome.

OSME at Birdfair 2014

Bill Oddie congratulating Nick Acheson on his stunning victory in the Bird Brain quiz

The OSME CRF has previously funded work by the excellent Batumi Raptor Count from Georgia, and it was great to be sandwiched in between them and Birdwatch Turkey in Marquee 6. The Bird Fair offers a unique opportunity to exchange ideas about the birds of our region, and it was pleasing to hear from Johannes Jansen about the growth of the Batumi Raptor Count and the development of Bird Conservation Georgia.

One noticeable difference at Bird Fair this year was the number of younger people - did anyone else notice this? Of course it could be that I'm just getting older!!!
We had a new member, Findlay Wilde, who is an amazing young conservationist, who writes an excellent blog - Wilde About Birds - well worth a read. I think Findlay is our youngest member, so welcome Findlay, I hope you enjoy being a member of OSME. On Sunday, Council Member Tristan Reid aka The Inked Naturalist, helped man the stand and was ably assisted by his daughter, Shannon - who must be the youngest OSME helper.

OSME at Birdfair 2014

Shannon Reid joining OSME Council members Tristan Reid, Effie Warr and Helen Demopolous

Having local language bird identification guides is a crucial way of growing interest in birds and their conservation. I managed to have several fruitful discussions with a range of people, notably our very own Richard Porter, about developing an updated Arabic version of Birds of The Middle East. OSME will be joining forces with BirdLife International to help raise funds for this important initiative in the coming months. Watch this space.

Birds don't recognise boundaries, so it was great to meet up with the Chairs of the other regional bird clubs - ABC and OBC, with whom we share so many of the same birds, and NBC. We were also joined by Chris Storey of the British Ornithologists Club. It was refreshing to hear that all the regional bird clubs are doing well in terms of membership and support, and we discussed a number of ways we can all collaborate together in the future.

OSME at Birdfair 2014

Findlay Wilde, is our youngest member, and conservationist, with our chairman Dr Rob Sheldon

OSMEs presence at the Bird Fair always seems to be rather like a smooth running, well oiled engine. This is no accident!! A lot of hard work takes place before and during Bird Fair weekend. I'd like to thank all of OSME Council for their hard work in the run up to, and during the event, especially Helen Demopolous, Chris Hughes and Bird Fair stalwarts John and Effie Warr. Nick Moran did a great job organising more bright yellow OSME polo shirts. Many Council members helped man the stand including Sal Cooke, Ian Harrison, Tristan and Nick, and it was great to see our Web Master, AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan, from Kuwait on the stand too. A big thank you to David Murdoch for helping in many ways including setting up and manning the stand, and to Mike Jennings for donating a copy of the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia to the Bird Fair auction.

Finally, thanks to all OSME members for your continued support, it was great to see so many of you in Rutland. We will be at Bird Fair again from the 21st - 23rd August 2015, and we hope to see you there.

Rob Sheldon, Chairman

The OSME Region List (ORL) 2014 – the story so far

Matters came to a head when at an OSME Council Meeting in 2004 the question was raised as to which taxonomic authority OSME should follow in correspondence and publications. This came as a mild surprise because many Council Members knew the answer. Possibly a bigger surprise was that many of their answers differed! The majority response was that OSME followed the 1996 Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East, by Richard Porter, Steen Christensen and Per Schiermacker-Hansen, but then the question arose, expressed in a state of mild alarm, would Richard Porter take kindly to being supplanted as the taxonomic authority cited by OSME? Now, the whole subject had arisen because the OSME Region had expanded in order to provide ornithological coverage in areas that other similar organisations, such as the Oriental Bird Club, had not considered when establishing the geographical or biogeographical boundaries of their areas of interest, in this case Central Asia (Technically, Middle Asia was the better term, but the usage of ‘Central Asia’ had long prevailed in most other fields of scientific enquiry).

In 1996 OBC had produced an exceptionally useful checklist in book form . . . click here . . . to read full article.

The Birdfair and Birding The Silk Road

The Birdfair is now getting closer, and is less than one week away. Along with the Summer Meeting, the Birdfair is a great opportunity for OSME Council and members to meet up and discuss birds, birding and conservation in our region. The marquee is now up and the 5 day weather forecast from the BBC is looking promising - fingers crossed.

OSME at Birdfair

Please come and visit the stand, collect your copy of Sandgrouse, and give us your ideas and feedback about OSME and the work we do. If you don't know any of the Council members, then you will instantly recognise us - we are the ones in the rather bright polo-shirts!

OSME Stand at Birdfair

Birdfair co-organiser, Martin Davies, at the OSME stand at Birdfair 2013.

There are a few Birdfair talks this year with a link to OSME, including one from our Corporate supporter - Sunbird Tours - titled, Birding the Silk Road. Steve Rooke has been leading tours to Central Asia since the early 90's and will be giving a talk on this fascinating part of the OSME region on Friday at 11.30 in Lecture Marquee 1. Steve's talk will not only showcase the rich variety of birds to be found along the route of the ancient Silk Road, but will also touch on the fascinating culture to be found there.

Below a Pleske's Ground Jay Podoces pleskei an endemic species of Iran.

Pleskes Ground Jay

Below a Black Lark Melanocoryha yeltoniensis

Black Lark

See you at the Birdfair!

It's almost time for the birdwatching event of the year - the British Birdwatching Fair, or Birdfair for short, or some even refer to it as the Birdwatcher's Glastonbury. Whatever you call it, it is the largest wildlife event of its kind anywhere in the world.

You can find OSME in Marquee 6, stand number 6. Here.......

OSME at Birdfair

Hopefully by the 15th August the marquee will actually be up! You can follow progress at our Twitter account @_OSME

Most of Council will be at Birdfair and we look forward to seeing as many OSME members as possible. If you are a member then please visit the stand and say hello, and of course collect the latest issue of Sandgrouse which has just been printed. Collecting your copy whilst at the Birdfair really helps us save money too - last year we saved more than £200 on postage, and with increasing rates we hope to save almost £350 this year. These small savings allow us to transfer more money into our Conservation and Research Fund - meaning more money going to projects across our region. We also want to hear your ideas about how we can do more for conservation - so come and talk to us!

OSME Council wish to increase the amount of money we allocate to the Conservation and Research Fund, from a current average of about £6000 per year, to as much as £20,000. To do this OSME needs to grow the amount of support we get from those with an interest in bird conservation of The Middle East, The Caucasus and Central Asia. Some of this growth needs to come from increasing our membership, so if you aren't a member then join at The Birdfair. For those who join at the Birdfair, you will receive the 2014 issues of Sandgrouse free, and your membership will start from the 1st January 2015.

Don't forget to check out the Birdfair auction for which Mike Jennings, a founding member and long-term supporter of OSME, donated his outstanding "Atlas of the breeding birds of Arabia".

www.birdfair.org.uk/auction-lots/atlas-breeding . . .

See also this article from our website: OSME at the Birdfair 2014

We look forward to seeing you at the Birdwatcher's Glastonbury!


Would you like to volunteer bird ringing stations run by KuzeyDoga Society in the northeast of Turkey where 63,434 birds of 198 species ringed in only 8 years!

Mount Ararat from Aras River Bird Paradise Lale Aktay

Ringers are needed to help with the autumn ringing programme at Aras Station in northeast Turkey. Ringing will run from 15 August to 31 October and, depending on weather conditions, at nearby Lake Kuyucuk from mid-August to the end of September. Minimum participation must be at least 15 days, ideally one month or more, and the facilities are basic but comfortable. Accommodation at Aras is in a village guesthouse with five beds, hot shower, kitchen and internet access, and volunteers are responsible for preparing meals with supplies provided by KuzeyDoga.

Menetries warbler

While the Society (KuzeyDoga) will cover local expenses including food, accommodation and local transportation for licensed ringers, they cannot cover travel expenses to/from Kars. Non-ringers who want to provide basic help will also need to pay for their local expenses. Any licensed ringers interested in coming for the full season (15 August to 31 October) will have their return airfare paid for.

Grey-necked Bunting

Aras River Bird Paradise and Lake Kuyucuk Ramsar Site are two of the most important wetlands for migratory birds in the eastern part of Turkey.

258 bird species, 55% of Turkey's avifauna recorded at Aras River Bird Paradise and 232 bird species recorded at Lake Kuyucuk.

Mountain Chiffchaff

More details are available online and anybody interested in volunteering should fill out an online application.

Email: lale 'AT' kuzeydoga.org

Websites: www.kuzeydoga.org and www.savearas.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kuzeydoga, www.facebook.com/arasbirdstation.

Application: http://kuzeydoga.org/index.php/en/volunteership/volunteer-application-form

Volunteer for the Batumi Raptor Count 2014

"As every autumn, the Batumi Raptor Count seeks interested birdwatchers to participate in this absolutely extraordinary monitoring camp to record the fantastic migration of raptors along the Eastern Black Sea Flyway, in Georgia.

Batumi Raptor Count

This flyway is one of the biggest in the world, and last two autumn seasons over 1 million birds of prey were recorded on migration from our two watchpoints. On peak days, over 150.000 raptors can be seen in a single day. Volunteering counters can learn identification skills of up to 35 raptor species of the WP. The program is led by highly experienced count coordinators from France (Organbidexka) and Spain (Strait of Gibraltar) with lots of experience from Batumi.

Batumi Raptor Count

Volunteers are asked to engage for at least two weeks, and to work full days in an international group to master the migration. At least basic knowledge of raptor identification, fluent in english and willing to follow a standardised protocol is requested. The last 5 positions are available, so don't hesitate to submit your application!

More information can be found here:www.batumiraptorcount.org/visit/raptor-count/autumn-count

Batumi Raptor Count


DogaDernegi the BirdLife partner in Turkey are establishing long-term population monitoring of raptors on their autumn migration. They are seeking experienced volunteers to join the monitoring teams in Adana Province.

The full details are given below and anyone interested should contact DogaDernegi directly via their website.

Egyptian Vulyure

Location: Adana Province, Turkey

Duration: 15 August 2014 - 15 October 2014

Job Type: Volunteer. Number of Openings: 10

Application Deadline: Open until filled.

Job Description: The Egyptian Vulture is an endangered raptor that is widespread across southern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Birds from SE Europe migrate around the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and pilot work in 2013 identified suitable raptor migration monitoring stations to count Egyptian Vultures and other raptors in southern Turkey. In 2014, the first full fall migration census will take place near Sarimazi, Adana province, Turkey. This project is a collaboration between several BirdLife International partner organizations leaded by DogaDernegi, and will offer spectacular views of mass migration (>100.000 raptors of >20 species, >100.000 storks and countless smaller migrants).

Duration: 15 August 2014 - 15 October 2014, but applicants are welcome to participate for only parts of this period. Minimum duration of commitment is 2 weeks for highly skilled participants, 4 weeks for volunteers who will require substantial training.

Duties: (1) daily observations and censuses of all migrating raptors, with a particular focus on Egyptian Vultures; (2) assisting in data entry; daily chores around the field base.

*Basic housing (shared rooms), local transportation, and basic food will be provided.

Required qualifications: Keen bird watcher with good eyesight and raptor identification skills; physical fitness to endure exposure to direct hot sunlight for > 8 hours every day (7 days a week); ability to follow established protocols and record data accurately; proficiency with computers and data entry; must be flexible and capable of working independently and as part of a culturally diverse team.

Preferred qualifications: experience in raptor migration monitoring; valid driver's license and a good driving record.

To Apply: Please return your application to DogaDernegi at “doga at dogadernegi.org” together with a CV and a cover letter quoting ‘Ref: RMC2014’ in the e-mail subject line

Turkey Raptor Survey

Champions of the Flyway- Birdrace

On the 1st of April 2014 The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI – Birdlife International Partner) hosted the first ever ‘Champions of the Flyway’ 24 hour bird race in Eilat. The event is a BirdLife International Migratory Birds & Flyways Programme initiative.

Teams from all around the world competed for the much coveted title! The race was won by the Palestine Sunbirders; a team made up of a collaborative team of both Palestinian and Israeli birders. They recorded a 24hr total of 169 species! Given their obviously tactical advantage they generously opted to share the title with the highest scoring international team ‘The Cornell Lab of Ebirders’ (who recorded a staggering 165 species in 24hrs)! Second place went to one of the UK based teams ‘The Digital Stringers’ with an impressive tally of 159 species! Third place went to ‘Birding Frontiers’ with 155 species!

Horizontal Method of Birding
The vertical method of birding. Photo: © J. Jansen

The Champions of the Flyway event was staged as a celebration of migratory birds and with the main aim to raise funds for conservation projects. The competition has raised over $60,000

The ‘Flyway Racers’ won the Guardians of the Flyway trophy for raising the most money in sponsorship. They raised over $12,000; an incredible amount!

For this year’s event money raised will go to help BirdLife International tackle the illegal killing of birds in Southern and Eastern Europe.

Horizontal Method of Birding
The horizontal method of birding. Photo: © J. Jansen

As several OSME council members have experienced the Batumi Bottle-neck in Georgia it was great to see Bird Conservation Georgia (Birdlife International Partner) receive a cheque for $30,000 to help fund their forward thinking and innovative methods for protecting the 1,000,000+ birds that migrate through Batumi!

You can find out more about the ‘Champions of the Flyway’ at www.champions-of-the-flyway.com

You can hear more about the 'Champions of the Flyway' at the OSME Summer Meeting when David Lindo, The Urban Birder, will be talking about his experiences in the event. See the post below.

OSME Summer Meeting 2014

The Wonder of Birds in the OSME Region

The OSME Summer Meeting and 36th AGM will be held at BTO Headquarters, Thetford, Norfolk on Saturday 5 July. The Programme is as follows. Non-members welcome. No attendance charge.

11.10 Latest update on the BTO satellite-tagged cuckoos.

11.30 An overview of the OSME Conservation and Research Fund. Rob Sheldon

12.15 The ecology and breeding behaviour of Black Larks in Kazakhstan. Johannes Kamp

13.00 Lunch break A range of sandwiches and drinks will be available for purchase.

14.00 36th Annual General Meeting

14.30 The Champions of the Flyway. David Lindo, The Urban Birder

15.15 Short break

15.30 The avifauna of Tajikistan – and some recent surprises. Raffael Aye

16.15 Reviving mid-winter waterbird censuses in the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Szabolcs Nagy

17.00 Drawing of raffle and closing remarks.

17.15 Close of meeting

DINNER.> We have again arranged a meal at the Mulberry restaurant in Thetford after the meeting. We hope you will be able to join us. Please contact Helen Demopoulos – events– from whom further details can also be obtained.

DAVID LINDO, THE URBAN BIRDER, will have a stand at the Summer Meeting promoting the joys of bird-watching in urban environments.

OSME RAFFLE. On the day, a raffle will be held with a range of prizes. All profits will go towards the OSME Conservation and Research Fund that supports a range of projects throughout our region.

Sunday 6th July 07.30 – 10.30 Join us on a Breckland birding trip

Possibilities of seeing Eurasian Stone-curlew, Woodlark, Firecrest. Contact Phil Cannings

( secretary) to reserve a place and to obtain more details. We hope you can join us!

Getting to the BTO

By Rail to Thetford Station Thetford is on the Birmingham-Norwich line. From London travel via Cambridge. Taxis are available at Thetford station.

By Road The Nunnery is on Nuns' Bridge Road which is off the A134 to the south of the town. To obtain a map of the area visit www.multimap.co.uk and enter postcode IP24 2PU. There is a large car park at The Nunnery.

Accommodation can be found in Thetford, Bury St.Edmunds, Norwich, Newmarket, Barton Mills.

OSME at the Birdfair 2014

14/02/2014, Mike Jennings, a founding member and long-term supporter of OSME, and Arabian bird expert extraordinaire, recently made a very generous donation of 2 copies of his ground-breaking ‘Atlas of the breeding birds of Arabia.’ OSME are extremely grateful for the support of Mike and are planning to use both copies to raise money for our Conservation Research Fund, as well as raise the profile of our work.

We’re pleased to announce that one copy of the Atlas has been donated as an OSME contribution to the 2014 Birdfair auction – and as we understand – we are the first to commit a prize this year!!!

Mike Jennings Fauna of Arabia vol 25 2010

On hearing OSMEs plans, Mike added - “The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia has been a voluntary project involving some 500 observers, national records and others over almost three decades. It has resulted in an atlas that brings together everything known on the distribution, ecology and breeding of more than 270 breeding birds in the Arabian Peninsula. Although for most of that period the project was supported by the Saudi Wildlife Authority, I am very grateful to OSME for its initial financial support back in the 1980s, for various grants over the years on surveys to little recorded areas, and for its general help, support and encouragement since the project started. I am proud to have been one of the founders of the Society back in the 1970s”.

Following the most recent OSME Council meeting on the 8th February our planning for this year’s Birdfair is well underway, and we are looking forward to seeing as many members and supporters, including new ones, as possible. Further information will be available on the web-site, Facebook and Twitter during the coming months.

OSME Summer Meeting 6 July 2013

This year’s Summer Meeting, themed around monitoring bird populations in the OSME region, was again held at the BTO headquarters in Thetford and was attended by 55 members and guests.

Geoff Welch, handing over to new Chairman, Rob Sheldon

Outgoing OSME Chairman, Geoff Welch, handing over to new Chairman, Rob Sheldon at the Summer Meeting/AGM.

Paul Stancliffe from the BTO opened the day by providing a brief update on the ongoing satellite tracking study of Common Cuckoos Cuculus canorus. Paul talked at last year’s meeting and within a matter of days the first ever UK Cuckoo turned up in the OSME region! This ongoing study shows that a small number of UK Common Cuckoos regularly pass through Egypt en route to wintering areas in the Congo. Importantly, the study also shows that many birds follow the same route each year and use the same staging and wintering areas. Using the same developing technologies for the study of globally threatened species provides an invaluable tool for conservationists struggling to protect some of the world’s most endangered species.

The second speaker of the day was Marcus Kohler from BirdLife International who gave an overview of the UNDP/BirdLife Migratory Soaring Birds project which focuses on the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway which runs through the western half of the OSME region. The project, covering 11 countries, focuses on 37 species of soaring bird and is looking to find ways of mainstreaming (integrating) their conservation into five main development sectors – agriculture; energy; hunting; waste management and tourism. The pressures from uncontrolled and unsustainable hunting of birds, not just soaring birds, throughout the flyway is well known and organisations such as SPNL in Lebanon and RSCN in Jordan are devoting a great deal of effort into improving and enforcing legislation, training hunters and raising awareness but there is still a great deal to be done. An increasing problem and one which Marcus talked about in particular is energy production, especially the rapid increase in the number of wind farms being constructed along the flyway. Unfortunately, the ideal locations for wind farms are often also those most favoured by migrating soaring birds so the risk of conflict is very high. Collision with turbines is just one of the risks, others include electrocution, collision with transmission lines and other associated infrastructure, habitat loss, disturbance and barrier effects. The project’s approach is to engage actively with the energy companies and, importantly, the major investment and development banks, in order to find practical solutions such as preparing guidance materials for the siting and operation of wind farms. An additional invaluable tool that is still under development is a sensitivity mapping tool which aims to bring together bird, weather and topographical data to identify those areas of greatest potential conflict so that the planning of future developments can be undertaken to minimise conflicts which will benefit both the energy companies and conservationists. More information on the project is available at - www.migratorysoaringbirds.undp.birdlife.org.

The final speaker of the morning was Wouter Vansteelant who talked about the ground-breaking monitoring and conservation study of migrating raptors at Batumi in Georgia. Although north-east Turkey was known to be important for migrating raptors following studies in the 1970s, it wasn’t until work started at Batumi in 2008 that the scale of the movement and the importance of the eastern Black Sea bottleneck became apparent – 800,000 birds were recorded in the first season and over 1 million birds in 2012! Ten species have been recorded in numbers exceeding 1% of the estimated global population. What sets the Batumi project apart from many other migration studies is that from the start equal emphasis has been given to involving local community members – households, school children, hunters – to build interest and awareness of the importance of the migration and to find ways of delivering tangible benefits from conserving rather than killing birds. Activities have included educational activities for school children, bird guide training courses, promotion of home stays by visiting birders and the launch of the 1st Batumi Bird Festival in 2012 which attracted international media attention and looks set to become an annual event. OSME is proud to have provided support for some of this work previously.

The afternoon’s talks kicked off with Chris Bowden from the RSPB, and Chair of the International Advisory Group for Northern Bald Ibis (IAGNBI), who gave a sobering overview of the fortunes of the eastern Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita population. This population was thought to have become extinct in the wild in 1989/90 when the remaining birds at Birecik in Turkey were taken into captivity but a tiny population of just seven birds was then discovered breeding in Syria in 2002. Despite the declaration of the breeding and feeding areas of these birds as a protected area in 2004 and intensive monitoring and protection work by both Syrian and international conservationists since their rediscovery, the population has gradually declined and this spring only one bird returned from the wintering grounds in Ethiopia. Satellite tracking has identified the migration route and stopover sites for the species and also revealed the many hazards they face, most notably illegal shooting. However, there are two glimmers of hope for conserving this population – four birds were seen on the Ethiopian wintering grounds in 2012/13 so there may still be immature (?) wild birds which may return in 2014; and the Birecik population is doing well and provides a potential source of birds for reintroduction to Syria. Indeed two Turkish juveniles were released in Syria in late summer 2010 and, much to many people’s surprise, successfully migrated as far as southern Saudi Arabia. There are also several projects in Europe aimed at re-establishing the central European population which became extinct several hundred years ago. The Konrad Lorenz Institute has developed a technique for teaching captive bred ibis to migrate between Austria and Tuscany in Italy and a sedentary breeding population has been established in Andalucia, Spain. An International Working Group on the species was established in 2012 and an updated Species Action Plan has been produced. The situation remains dire for the eastern population but the story is far from over.

Rob Sheldon, new OSME Chairman, then gave a fascinating talk about the importance of Central Asia for the endangered White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala – the species for which OSME raised over £1,400 from last year’s raffle and painting auction. White-headed Ducks have four main populations – in Spain, Algeria and Tunisia, Pakistan and Central Asia with the Central Asian population being by far the largest. Significant breeding populations occur in four countries in the OSME region and six OSME region countries are important for passage and wintering birds. The species faces a range of threats including hybridisation with introduced North American Ruddy Duck O. jamaicensis (primarily in western Europe); climate change/drought; and loss of habitat through groundwater abstraction, infrastructure development and increased arable farming. Illegal hunting is also a major problem at some sites. The OSME funds are being used to support research work in central Kazakhstan by the national BirdLife Affiliate, the Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK). In a pilot area, research is being carried out to determine breeding numbers and distribution, identify important habitat characteristics, study food availability and sample lead in lake sediments and initial results are expected in November 2013. It is hoped that the work will be expanded next year to include satellite tagging and, hopefully, also to include important sites in neighbouring Uzbekistan.

The final speaker of the day was Maxim Koshkin from Kazakhstan who presented preliminary results of his PhD research project on numbers and distribution of Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii in the Kyzylkum Desert of Uzbekistan. Maxim is based at the University of East Anglia and his work is supported by the Emirates Breeding Birds Conservation Centre. Macqueen’s Bustard is highly revered among Arab falconers but numbers have declined dramatically across the species’ range due, especially, to unsustainable hunting. Through a combination of transect surveys, point counts, habitat sampling and monitoring of land use, Maxim is studying the ecology of the species in the Kyzylkum Desert and investigating links with land use such as sheep grazing. Ultimately it is hoped that it will be possible to develop habitat management recommendations and guidelines for sustainable hunting.

The formal part of the day’s proceedings, the 35th Annual General Meeting, saw major changes to OSME Council with the retirement of Mike Blair, Ian Harrison and Geoff Welch. Christine Booth and Chris Lamsdell also stood down as co-opted members of Council. All were thanked for the enormous amount of work they have contributed to the running of OSME. Tristan Reid and Matthew White were elected as new Council members and Rob Sheldon took over from Geoff as the new Chairman of Council. Nabegh Ghazal Aswad, Chairman of the Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife (SSCW) was elected as a new Vice-President. Three important announcements were made at the end of the AGM – Khaled Irani, President of RSCN in Jordan and new Chairman of BirdLife International, sent a personal message expressing a wish to work closely with OSME in the future; at the recent BirdLife World Congress in Ottawa, Richard Porter was appointed a Member of Honour in recognition of his work in promoting conservation throughout the Middle East, especially on Socotra and, more recently, in Iraq; and Ahmad Aidek from Syria became the first recipient of the new OSME Certificate of Recognition as the author of A Guide to the Biodiversity of Deir ez-Zoor Area – see Sandgrouse 35 (2): 167.

Geoff Welch

The Omani Owl – a completely new owl species is discovered in the OSME region

A completely new species of owl to science has been discovered in a remote mountain range in Oman. The bird is being named the Omani Owl, as a tribute to Oman and its people, and details of its discovery are being published today in Dutch Birding.

The owl was first noticed in March 2013 when it called while researchers were making sound recordings of another species. Sound-recordist and author Magnus Robb heard a call so unlike anything he knew that adrenalin immediately started to rush through his veins. However, he and colleague René Pop failed to find the mystery bird again the next night and it was only on the last night of their trip that they heard it again, just before they had to leave for the airport!

Robb and his team are currently writing their fifth title in the Sound Approach series aptly named ’Undiscovered Owls’. So a month later, he was back in the mountains, this time accompanied by colleague Arnoud B van den Berg. Although the owl inhabits vertical terrain and its voice is difficult to hear, they eventually heard one, and were relieved to actually glimpse it perched on a rock, confirming that it was indeed an owl, and one that didn't resemble any species they had seen before.

In May and July the Sound Approach team made two more research trips to look for new individuals, gather photographs and sound recordings, and observe behaviour. After critical analysis, they are thrilled to conclude this is indeed a new owl for science, and the first bird species to be discovered in Arabia for 77 years!

The Sound Approach team plans to continue its studies of the owl in co-operation with the Omani nature conservation authorities.

For the full story, please visit the http://soundapproach.co.uk/omani-owl-diary-of-discovery

Certificate of Recognition

Certificate of Recognition

Plate 1 Certificate of Recognition 2013 – Ahmad Aidek

While many of the problems facing birds and the environment in the OSME region will only be solved by the work of governments and NGOs, a great many individuals are selflessly devoting much of their time, energy and resources to ‘make a difference’ at a local level. OSME feels strongly that such commitment should be recognised and therefore we are launching an annual Certificate of Recognition award which includes £200 worth of books from the Natural History Book Service (NHBS).

We are delighted to announce that the first recipient is Ahmad Aidek from Syria for the production of A Guide to the Biodiversity of Deir ez-Zor Area which was published in 2010 – see plates 1, 2 and 3. This photographic guide to the flora and fauna of the area is for free distribution to local schools, universities, conservation staff and interested locals. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing situation in Syria, it has not yet been possible to send Ahmed his certificate or books.

Ahmad Aidek and local community members

Plate 2 Ahmad Aidek (second from left) with local community members (© Ahmad Aidek)

OSME is now inviting nominations for this year’s award. Nominees should be residents of the OSME region who have made an outstanding individual contribution to the conservation of species or sites locally. This can take the form of research, awareness-raising or practical action. Nominations should be no more than two pages of A4 and clearly state why the action carried out is ‘outstanding’ and provide details of:
the issue that was addressed
the action(s) that was carried out
the successful outcome.

Ahmed Aidek Book Cover

Plate 3 Cover of A Guide to the Biodiversity of Deir ez-Zor Area (© Ahmad Aidek)

Additional supporting material such as photographs, media coverage etc are also welcome. Nominations should be sent by email to the OSME Secretary – secretary@osme.org - by 31 October 2013.
NOTE – self-nominations are not permitted and the £200 award is for books only and cannot be taken as cash.

Conservation and Research Fund news

White-headed Duck)

Due to personal reasons, Christine Booth has regrettably decided to stand down as Chair of the CRF sub-committee. OSME would like to take this opportunity to thank her for all of the work she did to ‘professionalise’ the operation of the CRF. A replacement chair will be appointed shortly. On a more positive note, Maxim Koshkin has now joined the sub-committee and will be advising on applications to the fund from a Central Asian perspective.

OSME is also pleased to announce that the ‘average’ level of grant awarded by the CRF has now been increased to £1,000 and larger grants, up to £3000, will also be considered - see the Conservation page for details of how to apply.

UNDP/BirdLife International Migratory Soaring Birds project website

The Migratory Soaring Birds project, covering 11 countries along the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway, one of the most important flyways in the world, aims to mainstream birds’ conservation into the strategies, management and activities of the Agriculture, Energy, Hunting, Tourism and Waste Management sectors in each country. This is being achieved through building strategic partnerships with key sector stakeholders and mainstreaming into on-going or planned projects and processes that deal with these sectors.

The project has just launched its new website - www.migratorysoaringbirds.undp.birdlife.org

The website provides all needed information about the project, its latest developments and events and showcases the tools developed and will soon also host the pioneering wind energy sensitivity mapping web-tool which will provide valuable information on the potential impact on birds of wind energy development along the flyway!

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