Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Bird team become star attraction

Sociable lapwing
The sociable lapwing is on the list of critically endangered birds

Conservationists in Syria searching for critically endangered bird species have found themselves to be an attraction.

The RSPB team have drawn crowds of children during stops and been invited guests to a mosque.

Hywel Maggs, Graham Rebecca and John Wills from Aberdeenshire and Martin Scott from Lewis are looking for sociable lapwings and the bald ibis.

The project aims to establish the importance of Syria as a migration route for the birds.

The team, who are working with the Syrian authorities, also hope to indentify sites for future conservation protection.

Plane Stupid

On a blog recording their progress, they report sightings of the lapwings and other species such as hoopoe, spur winged plover, white cheeked bulbul and marbled teal.

The internet diary entries also tell of the hospitality they have received from locals and of being introduced to a gathering of more than 500 worshipers at a mosque who were told by the imam of their quest for rare birds.

The team's flight out of Scotland earlier this month was delayed by a demonstration by campaign group Plane Stupid at Aberdeen Airport.

Meanwhile, a regular breeding female osprey has returned for the seventh time to the RSPB's reserve at Loch Garten in the Cairngorms.

Known as EJ because of the letters on the identifying leg ring returned to the site with a freshly caught fish in her talons.

Staff remain hopeful of male birds arriving following their migration from Africa.

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