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Bird Migration Routes

Date of Submission: 12/06/2003
Criteria: (vii)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Egyptian National UNESCO Commission Egyptian National MAB Committee
Coordinates: 1) North Sinaï: 31°05' N – 33°05' E 2) North Sinaï; 3) Eastern Desert, Red Sea Governorate 4) Southern Egypt, Aswan Govern. 24°05' N – 32°50' E 5) Southern Egypt, Aswan Governorate 22°00' - 23°58' N / 30°35' - 33°15' E
Ref.: 1809

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Site # 1: Lake Bardawil Lake Bardawil is situated on the Mediterranean coast, in the north of the Governorate of North Sinaï. It has an area of about 59,000 ha. It is a Ramsar Site (number 407) and was added to the Montreux Record on 4 July 1990. It consists of two interconnected hypersaline lagoons, with interspersed islands and peninsulas. The site provides important spawning areas for fish and supports commercially important fish stock, mainly the mullet, Mugil cephalus. It is also an important wintering and staging area for about half a million birds. About 244 bird species have been recorded here, including 24 species of raptors. There are also 18 species of reptiles, including two that are endangered: the green turtle Chelonia mydas and the loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta. An ongoing programme for the protection of the desert turtoise Testudo kleinmanni is reaping success. Considerable ecological changes have occurred in recent years due to the extension of salt extraction and the constant formation of sand bars (siltation), which tend to close the channels connecting the lagoons with the Sea. These channels are vital for the annual migration of mullets from the Sea to the Lake and vice versa. Moreover, the El-Salam irrigation Canal, bringing water from the Nile mixed with agricultural drainage water from the eastern Delta (1part : 2 parts) threatens to pollute the Lake in a fairly short time. Site # 2: Zaranik Scrubland This relatively recently discovered migration hotspot lies on the north coasst of the Sinaï Peninsula, east of Lake Bardawil. It is situated at about 35 km west of El-Arish, on the main road across northern Sinaï and has an area of 250 sq. km. The site consists of a lagoon, beach, and desert scrub vegetation (68% water and 32% land). It is an excellent site for autumn migrants. Breedding species include large numbers of Kentish Plover and Little Tern, smaller numbers of Spur-winged Plover and Avocet, a rare breeding bird in Egypt. Also present in summer are Slender-billed Gull and Greater Sand Plover, as well as Greater Flamingo. Arid land species such as Desert Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike and Hoopoe Lark can also be seen. It is recognized as a Wetland Site of International Importance since 1985. Site # 3: Gebel Shayeb El-Banat The complex of Gebel Shayeb El-Banat near Hurghada (Lat 26° 30' N to 27° 20' N) on the Red Sea coast, comprises four major mountains: Gebel Abu Dukhan (1705 masl), Gebel Qattar (or Gattar, 1963 masl), Gebel Shayeb El-Banat (2187 masl), and Gebel Umm Anab (1782 masl). Gebel Shayeb El-Banat is the highest peak from among the Red Sea coastal mountains in Egypt. The coastal area is organized into coastal desert plain and littoral salt marshes. Water sources in the area are mainly rainfall and underground water. The shoreline of the Red Sea is characterized by a chain of coral reefs, the width of which may exceed 100 m in some localities. Inhabitants of the Gebel Shayeb El-Banat area are of the Ma’aza tribe, known as Bani Attia. Their number is one thousand, living in an area of 90,000 sq. km. They are pastoral nomads, raising sheep, goats, and camels. They have no fixed dwellings. Site # 4: Saluga and Ghazal Nile Islands These two Islands are within the group of the First Cataract Islands within the Nile stream in Aswan. They are all granitic outcrops of fine grained granite with fine soil deposits accumulated behind the rocks. These islands vary in size from a few to hundreds of square meters. The remains of the semi-natural vegetation of the First Cataract Islands at Aswan are the relicts of a Nile Valley gallery forest. In just the last decade the floristic diversity of First Cataract Islands comprised 94 species belonging to 34 Families of Angiosperms. Trees of six species of Acacia dominate the plant communities of these islands. This is a unique assemblage of Acacia species, growing together in a very small area, which comprise half of all the Acacia species known in Egypt. Of these six Acacia species, three: A. laeta, A. seyal, and Faidherbia albida (formerly A. albida), are very rare elsewhere in Egypt. Three vegetation types are recognized according to age of formation and position in the relief: the xeromorphic forest inhabiting the highest and presumably oldest silt terraces of the islands, xerohalophytic shrubs occupying slightly elevated ground which could be the old levee, with dominant Tamarix nilotica shrubs, and hydromesophytic meadow and swamp vegetation at lower positions in relief and regularly inundated. In this latter group, tree communities were identified depending on the duration of inundation. Submerged microphytes in shallow water in the protection of the islands, where the water current slows down, providing habitats for populations of submerged macrophytes, are dominated by Ceratophyllum demersum, Potamogeton crispus, and Najas spp. The First Cataract Islands are among the Important Bird Areas of Egypt. Islands are important for resident and migratory birds during the migration seasons, and particularly for water birds (herons, ducks, waders and terns). A total of at least 100 birds, both migratory and resident, were recorded in the Saluga and Ghazal Islands, within an area of not more than 100 acres, or approximately 42 ha. The ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca) is in the List of Globally Threatened Bird Species. Although seen also in Luxor, these Islands are also the only place in Egypt where the Nile sunbird still exists in fairly viable numbers. Site # 5: Lake Nasser Lake Nasser is a huge man-made water reservoir extending for about 300 km upstream the Aswan High Dam in Egyptand continues as Lake Nubia for another 200 km in Sudan, till latitude 20° 27' N. It has an average width of 10 km, hence an area of about 5000 sq. km. On completion of the construction of the High Dam in the early 1970’s, the Lake covered the entire Nubian Nile Valley in both Egypt and Sudanand deeply penetrated into the surrounding desert through the numerous wadis (dry desert rivers) that drained from the Eastern (the majority) and the Western Deserts, about 80 all in all, the largest of them being Wadi Allaqi. This gives the Lake its dendritic shape in satellite images. The climate is extremely arid with very hot summers and cold winters. The area is in the transition zone between the tropical climate with a summer rain regime and the Mediterranean climate with a winter rain regime. Therefore some of the very rare rain events fall in winter, summer, or in the transitional seasions, hence their utter unpredictability. Since the formation of the Lake, its fluctuating water level, as a function of the two factors of incoming flood water and drawdown for irrigation purposes, has a yearly rhythm of rise and fall. A yearly fluctuation of as much as 30 m has beeen recorded, which may lead to considerable expansion into the associated wadis, and shrinking down from them, according to changes in the Lake’s surface area. The Lake is mainly lacustrine, except in its southern part, which has riverine characteristics. It has three types of bottom environments: sandy, clayey, and rocky. Fluctuations in Lake level has led, during recess, to temporal exposure of large areas, so that a wetland ecosystem prevails. In particular, large wetlands have been formed in the deltaic mouths of the dry wadis where they join the Lake. The pioneer plants that colonized the exposed land are Tamarix nilotica, Glinus lotoides, and Heliotropium supinum. Among the submerged euhydrophytes in shallow water the most common are Najas spp., Ceratophyllum demersum, Vallisnaria spiralis (a new invasive species first discovered in a water channel in Aswan in 1966), and Potamogeton crispus. Lake Nasser, the huge water body in the heart of the great Sahara Desert, is becoming increasingly important as a wintering area for migratory Palaearctic water birds, the reason for putting the Lake on the list of Important Bird Sites in Egypt. Among the ost abundant birds are; the Black-necked Grebe, the White Pelican, the Tufted Duck, the Northern Pochard, the Northern Shoveler, the Wigeon, and the Black-headed Gull. During the summer, significant numbers of Yellow-billed Storks and Pink-backed Pelicans can be seen on the Lake. The creation of Lake Nasser offered new ecological niches for many species, particulaly birds, as well as for locally breeding populations of the Egyptian Goose. Winter visitors of the Lake include the Ferruginous Duck, which is on the list of globally threatened species. The large numbers (more than 1% of a biogeographic population) of White Pelicans wintering on the Lake ae also an endangered species. Regarding the country’s important birds, the African Skimmer anmd the African Pied Wagtail bred at the Lake’s wetlands and not elsewhere in Egypt. The Lake shores are also the only habitat of the northernmost populations of the Nile crocodile. Among land animals living near the shore are the hyaena and the endemic and extremely rare Sand Cat Felis margarita. The fish fauna of the Lake is undergoing drastic reduction in its diversity, from 94 species before the creation of the Lake, to nearly 50 at present. Such transformations are not known from other reservoirs and this calls for intensive studies. These transformations can be attributed neither to overfishing nor to pollution, as neither is a problem to reckon with here.