Miankaleh Peninsula ‒ A Heaven For Bird Watchers
Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge is located at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea, the Miankaleh Peninsula separating the Bay of Gorgan from the Caspian.
The entire bay and its adjacent marshes along with the peninsula, an area of about 68,000 hectares (263 square miles), was declared a Protected Region in 1970 and a Wildlife Refuge in 1974.
The creation of such a large refuge provided shelter and security for a quarter of a million waterfowl, including especially the greater flamingo, greylag goose, lesser white-fronted goose, red-breasted merganser and the rare white-headed duck.
Within the Miankaleh Peninsula, however, excessive grazing of domestic stock, hunting and the cutting down of most of the forested areas had all but exterminated the once profuse and diverse wildlife.
But by the time the reserve was declared a Wildlife Refuge, the reappearance of wild boar, fox, jackals, jungle cats, as well as pheasants and black francolin, gave promise of recovery of the peninsula's fauna.
Of even greater importance is the undisturbed regeneration of the peninsula vegetation, as this is perhaps the only sizeable area of the Caspian coastal ecosystems to be afforded protection.
The Miankaleh reserve remains the finest refuge in Iran for very large numbers of migratory waterfowl.
Breeding birds, in years when there has been plenty of rain in early summer, include many heron Ardeidae species.
The Pratincole Glareola pratincola nests in large colonies and along the shores Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus and Little Terns Sterna albifrons are the characteristic breeding species.
The wetland is extremely important for a wide variety of waterfowl and other birds during the migrations and in the winter, including Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and many species Of Ardeidae and Ana- tidae, including various swans and geese, notably the Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus.
The Lapoo-Zagmarz Ab-bandans consist of a group of muddy-bottomed fresh- water lakes and marshes, fed by irrigation canals, rainfall and run-off.
Flooding takes place in autumn and winter and the water level fluctuates considerably but is to some extent controlled, the water flowing sluggishly eastwards into the marshes at the western end of the Gorgan Bay.
Phragmites reedbeds are the dominant feature Of the vegetation but there are stands or scrubby areas of reedmace Typha, willow Salix, Currants Ribes, berries Rubus and pomegranate Punica and an abundant submersed vegetation.
Besides the Ardeidae and a few Anatidae nesting in the pond area, there is a large colony of Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida.
It is also important for migrating and wintering species, especially Red-crested Pochard Nerta rufina and Coot Fulicaatra; more occasional visitors are swans Cygnus spp. and White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala