Two long narrow freshwater lagoons near the Caspian shore, 5–10 km west of Miankaleh Wildlife Refuge, c.10 km west of the extreme west end of the Gorgan Bay marshes, and c.25 km north-west of Behshahr. They are fed by irrigation ditches and local run-off, and drain east into the Gorgan Bay marshes. The water level fluctuates considerably, and extensive mudflats can be exposed, but the ab-bandans do not appear to have been affected by the recent rise in level of the Caspian Sea. Open-water areas support a rich growth of submerged and floating aquatic vegetation, mainly Ceratophyllum with some Potamogeton. The fringing marshes are dominated by Phragmites beds with some Typha, but there are scrubby areas of Salix, Ribes, Rubus and Punica. The wetlands are bounded to the north by dune vegetation and to the south by cotton and wheat fields. Wildfowl hunting and reed-cutting occur. Land ownership is private.
See box for key species. The wetland is used by a wide variety of waterfowl during the migration seasons and in winter, but few species except Fulica atra (18,600 recorded) occur in large numbers. There is a large colony of Chlidonias hybridus and Haliaeetus albicilla breeds locally. A small flock of Oxyura leucocephala wintered in the area in the 1970s, feeding by night on the ab-bandans and roosting by day on the adjacent Caspian Sea; none have been recorded since 1978, but it may be that the birds have simply moved a few kilometres east to Gorgan Bay, where the increased water depth has created more favourable conditions. The numbers of other ducks using the site have increased in recent years, presumably because of the better protection from disturbance now being afforded by the local hunters. Phylloscopus trochiloides nitidus is fairly common on passage, and Tadorna tadorna and Falco pelegrinoides are occasional visitors.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The ab-bandans are included together with Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay (site 023) in a Ramsar Site of 100,000 ha. They have no legal protection, but are well managed and protected by the owners in the nearby village of Zargmarz who use the wetland for waterfowl hunting in winter and as a source of water for irrigation in summer. Under an agreement with the Department of the Environment, the owners are permitted to hunt on up to three days per month during the hunting season. To protect their interests, the owners pay a warden to prevent poaching, and in fact hunt at the site on only three or four occasions per season.
Data-sheet compiled by Dr D. A. Scott, reviewed by Dept of Environment.