A Lost Paradise

post 236/365

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The silver of swamp lilies lip the land in wild haze as the stream takes possession of the land made wetlands. High up in the sky the clouds frolic in the sky, their dark shadows dissolve in water. This wetland is a secret, fertile, and full of life parcel, where birth and death are free and rife.

In the West Bekaa at the foot of Mount Lebanon and stretching across to the Litani River, lies this paradise lost. Aammiq wetland, Lebanon’s most biodiversity rich site, is nestled within the beautiful Aammiq estate. Comprising the fertile fields of the West Bekaa, rocky and grassy hills and rich oak forest leading to the heights of the majestic Barouk ridge, the Aammiq estate is an unspoiled glimpse in to Lebanon’s rural past. The “jewel in the crown” of the area, and what most people come to see, is the reed bed and marshes of the wetland itself. Designated as a Ramsar site, an Important Bird Area and part of the UNESCO “Man & Biosphere” reserve of the Shouf Mountain it is one of Lebanon’s best places to see wild birds. Particularly famous at migration time for large flocks of White Storks, Pelicans, Eagles, Buzzards and water birds it is also home to resident birds, summer breeders and winter visitors. It is not just birds………..reptiles, mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians, fish and flowers all abound.

The Aammiq Wetland is the largest remaining freshwater wetland in Lebanon, a remnant of much more extensive marshes and lakes that once existed in the Bekaa Valley. This natural spot remains an important staging and wintering area for migratory water birds en route between Europe and Africa.

The swamp lies on one of the most important bird migration routes in the world, and over 250 species of birds have been recorded in the area, including the globally vulnerable great spotted eagle, eastern imperial eagle, and lesser kestrel

In addition to the great diversity of birds in the area, there are a wide variety of animals living in and around the marsh. Mammals including the Common Otter, Swamp Cat, Jackal and Wild Boar are found here with abundant amphibians and reptiles.

Rain and snow falling on the high ridge of Barouk mountain to the west provide water for the wetland. Most rain falls between December and March, soaking quickly through layers of limestone in the mountains and emerging as springs in the valley floor. The water is particularly pure, as agricultural fertilizer and pesticides have not polluted it.

On this piece of land, the willows flow silent and green, as the reeds and rushes wave tall. Painting within the mind, the wonder of this fecund space that nature has so well designed, somehow very modestly a planet rests in its embrace, where deeper waters bar the reeds and bleed oh so slowly.

The beauty here is so eternal and so essential to our earth. Here where the land and water meet and living wonders never cease, one must find respect for such a rare resource.

A spark of iridescent blue, a sharp, repeated, strident note, the picture changes, hour-by-hour, where unseen an Eagle floats on high and deer graze the fertile land below.

 

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