Wadi Al Mujib, historically known as Arnon, is a gorge in Jordan which enters the Dead Sea at 410 meters below sea level. The Mujib Reserve of Wadi Al Mujib is the lowest nature reserve in the world, located in the mountainous landscape to the east of the Dead Sea, approximately 90 km south of Amman. The 220 square kilometers reserve was created in 1987 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and is regionally and internationally important, particularly for the bird life that the reserve supports. It extends to the Kerak and Madaba mountains to the north and south, reaching 900 meters above sea level in some places.Wadi Al Mujib
A large part of Central Jordan is drained by the Wadi el-Mujib basin. This river developed a deep canyon through the Moab plateau, the eastern shoulder of
the Dead Sea Rift. Intense subsidence of the base level at the Dead Sea is the main cause for the high rate of Pliocene/Pleistocene fluvial incision along the lower reaches of the Mujib basin.
During this phase of accelerated incision the wadis were submitted to the presence of a dense fault net in the canyon area. The directions of the thalwegs correspond well with the apparent directions of the faults, indicating that fluvial incision occurred preferentially along tectonic lines characterized by rock weakness and discontinuity. Major convex knickpoints along the longitudinal profiles are caused by normal fault movement or due to the delay in headward erosion with respect to the main or local base level. Minor knickpoints correspond usually to differences in rock resistance.Wadi Al Mujib
Climatic changes seem to be the principal cause for several types of Pleistocene deposits in the canyon but tectonic influence often played an additional role. Flash floods drive the principal incision events that result in effective erosion in the present dry semi-arid climate.
Wadi Al Mujib
This 1,300 meter variation in elevation, combined with the valley’s year round water flow from seven tributaries, means that Wadi Al Mujib enjoys a magnificent biodiversity that is still being explored and documented today. Over 300 species of plants, 10 species of carnivores and numerous species of permanent and migratory birds have been recorded until this date. Some of the remote mountain and valley areas are difficult to reach, and thus offer safe havens for rare species of cats, goats and other mountain animals.
During the last Ice Age the water level of the Dead Sea reached 180 m below sea level, about 230 m higher than it is today. It flooded the lower areas of the canyons along its banks, which became bays and begun to accumulate sediments. As the climatic conditions changed, about 20,000 years ago, the water level of the lake dropped, leaving the re-emergent canyons blocked with lake marl. Most canyons managed to cut through their plugged outlets and to resume their lower courses. However, Wadi Al Mujib, the biblical Arnon River, abandoned its former outlet by breaking through a cleft in the sandstone. This narrow cleft became the bottleneck of an enormously large drainage basin with a huge discharge. During the years the cleft was scoured deeper and the gorge of Wadi Mujib was formed.Wadi Al Mujib
The Mujib reserve in Wadi Al Mujib consists of mountainous, rocky, and sparsely vegetated desert (up to 800 m), with cliffs, gorges and deep wadis cutting through plateaus. Perennial, spring-fed streams flow down the wadis to the shores of the Dead Sea which lies 400 m below sea-level.Wadi Al Mujib
The slopes of the mountainous land are very sparsely vegetated, with a steppe-type vegetation on plateaus. Groundwater seepage does occur in places along the Dead Sea shore, for example at the hot springs of Zara, which support a luxuriant thicket of Acacia, Tamarix, Phoenix and Nerium, and a small marsh. The less severe slopes of the reserve are used by pastoralists for the grazing of sheep and goats.Wadi Al Mujib
The hot springs of Hammamat Ma’in lie close to the borders of the reserve are heavily used for tourism/recreation.Wadi Al Mujib
A large dam was recently finished at the bottom of the wadi, where the modern road crosses the river. As a result, a large lake has formed. Today, Wadi Al Mujib is fed by seven tributaries.Wadi Al Mujib
As well as resident birds, the reserve is strategically important as a safe stop-over for the huge number of birds which fly annually along the rift valley between Africa & northeast Europe. It is possible to see the following :
Birds in Wadi Al Mujib
In the nominate race the males weigh 6.2 to 10.5 kg (14 to 23 lb) and females typically weigh 6.5 to 11.3 kg (14 to 25 lb), while in the Indian subspecies (G. f. fulvescens) the vultures average 7.1 kg (16 lb). Extreme adult weights have been reported from 4.5 to 15 kg (9.9 to 33.1 lb), the latter likely a weight attained in captivity. Hatched naked, it is a typical Old World vulture in appearance, with a very white head, very broad wings and short tail feathers.
It breeds in forests from Greece and the Balkans east to southern Russia. It is migratory, wintering from Egypt across to southwestern Iran. It will migrate in large flocks, unlike the more widespread Eurasian sparrowhawk.
The Levant sparrowhawk nests in trees, building a new nest, lined with green leaves, each year. The normal clutch is 3-5 eggs. It hunts small birds, insects and lizards in woodland, relying on surprise as it flies from a perch to catch its prey unaware.
This is an elegant bird of prey, 32–37 cm long with a 78–90 cm wingspan. It is shaped like a large Hobby or a small Eleonora’s Falcon, with its long pointed wings, long tail and slim body.
This 22–25 cm bird is a resident breeder in dry, open and often hilly country. It nests in a scantily lined ground scrape laying 5-7 eggs. The sand partridge takes a wide variety of seeds and some insect food.
The sand partridge is a rotund bird, mainly sandy-brown with wavy white and brown flank stripes. The male has a grey head with a white stripe in front of the eye and a white cheek patch. The neck sides are plain, and not speckled with white.
This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping is the barn owls, Tytonidae.
Hume’s Owl breeds in Syria, Israel, northeast Egypt and the Arabian peninsula. Its habitat is palm groves, desert, semi-desert and rocky ravines. It nests in crevices and holes in cliffs. Its diet consists of voles, mice and large insects.
This 15.5–17 cm long bird is a resident breeder in unvegetated desert from eastern Egypt through the Arabian peninsula used to be in UAE and Oman a scarce breeder in Hajar mountains to Iran and Pakistan. It has occurred as a wanderer to Cyprus. The nest is built in a rock crevice, and 3-6 eggs is the normal clutch.
In summer the male hooded wheatear is a white and black bird. The white crown and belly contrast with the black face, back and throat.
It is a 14–16 cm long bird named for its black tail, which is frequently fanned; the rest of its plumage is bluish-grey or grey-brown (North African races being browner, Middle Eastern races bluer). The sexes are similar, but the male on average has blacker lores. The song is a clear melancholy whistle: CHURlee…TRUloo…CHURlee…TRUlur…, with short phrases from the song used as a call.
The Arabian Babbler prefers to settle along dry river beds with few trees and bushes. It is found in eastern, southern and western Arabia, occurring in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen and western Saudi Arabia but absent from the central and north-eastern parts of the peninsula. Its range extends north to Jordan, Israel and eastern Sinai.
It is 14 cm long, similar in size to the House Bunting and smaller than the similarly plumaged Rock Bunting. The breeding male has a chestnut body, and grey head with darker streaking and a white supercilium and moustachial streak. The female’s head has a brown tint to the grey, and more diffused streaking.
This bird breeds in the Canary Islands, across north Africa, and in the Middle East and into central Asia. There is a small European population in southern Spain. Many birds are largely resident, but there is post-breeding dispersal, and some Asian breeders migrate into Pakistan for the winter.
In the summer of 2005 there was a notable eruption of this species into northwestern Europe, with several birds reaching as far as England.
Stony desert or semi-desert is favoured for breeding. Four eggs are laid in a nest in a rock crevice.
This gregarious terrestrial finch’s food is mainly seeds, and, particularly in the breeding season, insects.
It is a small 12–13 cm long sparrow which breeds in dry lowlands with some shrubs, including tamarisk, and access to water. It builds a nest in a tree, and 4-7 eggs are laid.
It is gregarious and noisy, with a call that resembles a wolf whistle. They are omnivorous, feeding on fruit and invertebrates, and can also be observed grooming Nubian ibex and domestic livestock for parasites.
Many carnivores also inhabit the various vegetation zones in Wadi Al Mujib, such as the Caracal cat, striped hyena and the Syrian wolf. One of the most important animals in Wadi Al Mujib is the Nubian ibex, a large mountain goat which became threatened as a result of over-hunting.