Located in eastern Jordan, the great Syrian plateau, this permanent marsh supports a variety of mammals and migratory birds, described in great detail here.
Deserts are beautiful and fascinating places, but they are hard taskmasters. Survival requires effective adaptations to one of the severest habitats on earth. Eastern Jordan is mainly desert - part of the great Syrian plateau - a desolate tract of basalt and limestone hammada. In the desert some eighty-five kilometers east of the old highland capital of Amman, lies Azraq, a delightful oasis surrounded by permanent marsh. Its huge supply of clear, cool water travels underground from the Syrian Jebel Druze. Azraq forms a remarkable subject if study, for in addition to the intricacies of its underground aquifers and the freshwater biology of the marsh, there are desert biotopes all around, a vast flow of Palearctic migrants moving between Africa south of the Sahara and Eurasia, and a great winter population of wildfowl.
This book describes the oasis and the wildlife of the area, especially the birds and mammals, with an emphasis throughout in desert adaptation, extending even to the Bedouin. It explores biological themes such as desert coloration and the ecology and behavior if some desert mammals.
The chapter on migration through Azraq is a contribution to the study of thius subject in a wilder context and provides an up-to-date account of all the birds that have been seen at this important staging post. Similarly the account of Azraq's wildfowl is in the context of Middle East wetlands and of the Russian origin of these birds.
Azraq, Desert Oasis is a case book of a beautiful area which could become ornithologically and biologically celebrated.
Bryan Nelson, born in Yorkshire in 1932, was a lecturer in Zoology at Aberdeen University. He studied Zoology at St Andrews and ethology at Oxford - at the latter under Niko Tinbergen and Mike Cullen. His main research interest was animal behavior and ecology, particularly that of colonial sea-birds, pursuit of which had taken him and his wife to the Galapagos (as a result of which he wrote Galapagos: Islands of Birds), Peru and the Indian Ocean. They went to Jordan in 1968 to establish a Biological Station at Azraq.