Azraq Wetland Reserve
Azraq Wetland Reserve information
For several millennia, the Qa’al Azraq (Azraq Basin) comprised a huge area of mudflats, pools and marshlands, which lead to the establishment of Azraq as one of the most important oasis towns in the Levant. Although the basin was declared an ‘internationally important wetland’ by the Jordanian government in 1977, this largely token gesture couldn’t stop the horrific environmental destruction that was being wrought on the area. In an effort to provide fresh drinking water to the burgeoning cities of Amman and Irbid, the wetlands suffered appalling ecological damage in a remarkably short time, and were virtually bone dry by 1991. In recent years, the RSCN has seized control of the wetlands, and established a small nature reserve to help facilitate the recovery of the wetlands. Sadly, until more water is pumped in to attract larger and more stable bird populations, the wetlands are a meagre reflection of their past glory. However, an environmental recovery project of this magnitude is certainly worth your support, and the on-site visitor centre has well-documented (if somewhat tragic) exhibits detailing the history of the basin’s demise. The RSCN estimates that about 300 species of resident and migratory birds still use the wetlands during their winter migration from Europe to Africa. They include raptors, larks, warblers, finches, harriers, eagles, plovers and ducks. A few buffaloes also wallow in the marshy environs, and jackals and gerbils are occasionally spotted in the late evening. The best time to see birdlife is in winter (December to February) and early spring (March and April), though large flocks of raptors steadily arrive in May. Ultimately, however, bird populations are dependent on the water levels in the reserve. The Marsh Trail, a 1.5km pathway through the reserve, is ideal for bird-watching. Serious birding enthusiasts can stop at the bird hide and various places along the pathway. Also of interest is the viewing platform overlooking the Shishan springs, which once watered the entire marshlands, as well as the ancient Roman control wall that runs alongside the path.