Workshop participants outside the headquarters of the General Commission for Al Badia Development and Management, Palmyra, Syria, March 2011. Photo: Geoff & Hilary Welch
The first meeting of the International Working Group was held in Palmyra, Syria between 18 and 20 March, hosted jointly by the Syrian Society for the Conservation of Wildlife (SSCW – BirdLife Affiliate in Syria) and the General Commission for Al Badia Development and Management. The meeting brought together government and NGO representatives from eight of the key range states for the species, covering the principle breeding, stopover and wintering sites. In addition to agreeing the functioning of the Working Group, the main output of the meeting was identifying the priority actions each country will endeavour to undertake in the next 3 years. Although there were variations between countries, the key actions for the group as a whole were: identifying additional stopover sites on the western flyway; protecting and managing key stopover sites; and encouraging all range countries to accede to AEWA if they are not already signatories.
Searching for Sociable Lapwings near Palmyra, Syria, March 2011. Photo: Geoff & Hilary Welch
As well as confirming the country membership of the Working Group, three permanent observer organisations were appointed – BirdLife International, RSPB and OSME. OSME’s inclusion highlights the importance of the OSME region for the species as it covers the main breeding grounds in Kazakhstan and important stopover sites in Turkey and Syria and, more recently discovered, Oman and Uzbekistan. The meeting also marked the end of the Darwin Initiative-funded project on Sociable Lapwing which has contributed so much to our understanding of the ecology, threats and conservation of the species. The final day of the workshop was a field trip to the steppe around Palmyra in search of Sociable Lapwings but unfortunately none were located. Numbers passing through Syria this year appear to have been very low, possibly because of the very dry conditions. The meeting was supported by the RSPB, BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions campaign and Swarovski Optic and Jim Lawrence from BirdLife presented several of the participants with Swarovski binoculars and telescopes to assist future fieldwork on the species. OSME was represented by Chairman, Geoff Welch, and (unofficially) Council member, Rob Sheldon.