Thursday 25 October 2012

Beirut's corniche

Last Thursday I took a gentle birding walk down the corniche in Beirut while a friend I was visiting was working.

The birding wasn't fantastic but I felt privileged to bird in a place which many people consider off-limits currently.

first winter stonechat

I only counted 12 species but this started my Lebanese list.  Apart from the expected house sparrow and rock dove (pigeon), the most common bird in the more natural places was stonechat

There was a mix of European and Siberian stonechat. I had to take extra care not to misidentify some female and especially Siberian stonechat which have a strong supercilium and weak collar like a whinchat. The throat on the stonechat is always grey black whereas in a whinchat it is brown or red brown. Hence the bird above is a stonechat and probably a Siberian stonechat. I did however see a couple of genuine whinchat there too.

"Pigeon rocks"

"Pigeon rocks" is the aptly named rocks which divide the corniche in half.  I started out by walking north from there. 


Unfortunately near here, on a natural piece of the sea front,  I saw two hunters kill a passerine right in front of me. This was a stark reminder as why Lebanon is such a difficult place for birds and why I struggled to see many along the corniche. They were so scared of people. 

Indeed I didn't see a single gull or wader anywhere along the sea front.

Nevertheless, in this area, I did see a northern wheatear and surprisingly a pair of common kingfisher. Yellow vented bulbul made quick appearances and graceful prinia were everywhere among the natural scrub. They were heard a lot more than they were seen.

laughing dove

On the corniche walkway itself there were house sparrow, laughing dove and common myna.

common myna

Beirut along with Istanbul are the only places on the Mediterranean where you can see common myna. This was a fact I dint know until I saw them and looked the information up.

the beach at Beirut

There are very few sandy beaches in northern and central Lebanon. I have no idea about the south as it wasn't visited. The biggest beach we met was in Beirut itself and next to it is some natural scrub. This is all south of "pigeon rocks" and was visited after a late lunch in the second part of my walk on the corniche. 

willow warbler

Very similar birds were there as were on the northern walk though there were also three willow warbler seen.

first year willow warbler

One of the three (which kept together by the way) was one of those confusing yellow first year birds but with darkish legs. Apart from the leg colour it was in every way a willow warbler and that's what I have ended up identifying it as. 

white wagtail

The final addition to my species list was white wagtail. A single was seen near where a treated effluent stream meets the sea. I thought it strange that this type of stream should be so close to the beach! Nevertheless I'm sure it helps diversify the bird life.

My final list was:

Rock dove
Laughing dove
Common kingfisher
Yellow vented bulbul
Graceful prinia
Willow warbler
Common myna
Northern wheatear
White wagtail
House sparrow


  1. Visited there ca30 years ago and was extremely depressed to see 4x4-type vehicles driving around with Eagles, Buzzards and Harriers strung to the fenders! Little kids about 5-10 years old with little belts of shotgun shells and carrying small bore guns. Probably has'nt changed much - best of luck.......

    Laurie -

  2. Lauire, sadly there were hunters in several other places too.