Postcards From Kurdistan
The spectacular Zagros mountain range harbours the geo-cultural region of Kurdistan that straddles the borders of Syria to the west, Iran to the east, and Turkey to the north, with a major part of the region lying in north Iraq. Sabr Dri, captures the wild beauty of this war-torn region, underscoring Kurdistan’s resilient and incredible wildlife.
Kurdistan is blessed with breathtaking landscapes and framing them against the spectacle of countless stars provides me with endless hours of delightful photography. The sight of the Milky Way, visible here on a clear night from the Shirin mountains in Kurdistan, near the Turkey border, makes one understand the insignificance of one’s life in the vastness of space.
Despite having grown up in Kurdistan and having witnessed the dramatic transformation of our skies between sunrise and sunset, it was only when I took to photography seriously that I truly gained a deep perspective on the beautiful landscapes that most people probably take for granted.
A stunning landscape in the Mazandaran province of Ramsar, Iran. It is here that the famous Convention on Wetlands – an international treaty that provides the framework for wetland conservation globally – was signed.
One of my favourite birds is the slender but brightly-coloured European Bee-eater Merops apiaster, from the bee-eater family Meropidae. Males sport rich chestnut brown-gold plumage in the breeding season, a white forehead and a black-bordered, stark-yellow throat. The bird breeds in southern Europe, parts of north Africa and western Asia. It winters in tropical Africa. I was able to photograph this male in flight in Biye village in the Barzan area.
The Chukar Partridge Alectoris chukar belongs to the pheasant family, Phasianidae. An Eurasian upland bird, it is widely distributed between Eastern Europe, China and Russia, and even Africa. Ornithologists say it forms ‘a super-species complex along with the rock partridge’. Their signature black and white wing, face and neck markings give them their distinctive look. This image was captured in the austere scrublands around the Biye village.
I saw these Black-headed Buntings Emberiza melanocephala at Barzan near the Turkey border, one of my favourite birding areas. They breed within the range of southeast Europe to Kurdistan and Iran and migrate to India during winters. This bird grows to all of 15 cm. long and one can hear their melodious song in spring.
I often spend hours on riverbanks watching the antics of dragonflies, particularly around the Ifraz river in Erbil, Kurdistan, where I captured this handsome lesser emperor Anax parthenope. The flying predator is distributed across southern Europe, North Africa and Asia.
A tiny, irresistibly-endearing mammal, the Caucasian squirrel Sciurus anomalus ranges from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Kurdistan, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria to Turkey. A mere 20-30 cm. in length, it barely weighs a few hundred grams. I saw this individual nibbling away at food it discovered under snowflakes in Barzan.
A widespread species of goat found in Europe, Asia Minor, central Asia and the Middle East, the Kurdish ‘Bezoar ibex’ or wild goat Capra aegagrus is the progenitor of the domestic goat. In the wild, goats may live in herds of as many as 500 individuals; though males are solitary. I photographed this photogenic goat in the Barzan area in Kurdistan.
Author: Sabr Dri, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVI No. 8, August 2016.