The IBA is situated in the south-west of Turkmenistan 70 km from Etrek which is to the west of Esenguly. The northern and southern boundaries of the site are notional, varying with extent of flooding of the river Etrek. The western border is the artificial dam of the Ajyyab spawning area. In the east, the site is limited by small plots of agricultural land. This site belongs to the Esenguly district of Balkan region.
The IBA is located between the dry Mashad desert in the north and the humid Astrabad province of Iran in the south. The site is a clay plain with strong saline soils and a jagged shallow riverbed channel. There are scattered hills which are the outliers of an ancient Caspian terrace. There are shallow and plant-filled freshwater lakes (Big Delili and Little Delili, Garajabatyr water reservoir and others) in the depressions. Their water regime depends on the intensity of flooding. The floods are not regular due to a deficit of water in the Etrek river. The last large period of flooding was recorded in 1976-1981. The water in the river is turbid and contains a lot of minerals. In the western part of the IBA there is the Ajyyab spawning area, where the main volume of floodwater collects. The spawning area has been dry for the last ten years and has not functioned. In summer many other lakes and waterbodies also dry up.
The IBA is situated in a dry tropic zone with warm dry summers and humid warm winters. The average annual temperature is 17.1C, with a maximum of +48C and minimum of –16C (sporadically). The average temperature of January is +4.3C. The average annual rainfall is up to 200 mm, the main part of which falls from November to April. The number of days with precipitation is about 30-60. Cloudy days are common (c74 days/year). The number of days without frost is 296.
Brackish soils and heavy clay loams alternate with sandy and sandy-loam sierozems. There are marsh-meadow and marsh soils in the depressions.
The avifauna includes more then 300 species, about half of these are wintering and about a quarter are resident. There are 125 waterbird species, of which 35 are migrating and breeding, 80 are migrating and wintering and others are resident. Most species start to breed in the second half of April. This is connected with the gradual growth of emergent vegetation and feeding resources in the lakes and floods. As a result of water deficits and the instability of the Etrek river many species breed irregularly and there are no indications of population increases.
Shorebirds, terns and herons dominate in number in spring time, in autumn and winter Coot and surface-feeding ducks dominate. Filling of waterbodies and forming of feeding resources (aquatic invertebrates and vegetation) usually happens in the first half of winter. The distribution of waterbirds is affected by disturbance, climate and feeding conditions.
Non-bird biodiversity: The local fauna is desertic in nature with mainly desert and hygrophilous species. Characteristic mammals include wild boar, wolf, jackal, fox, porcupine and Tolai hare. Many European vertebrates are on the edge of their range here.
The vegetation of the hills and hillocks is rather poor with Eremopyrum orientale, ephemerals and annual salsola. On the depressions Salsola gemmascens occurs, and in inundated meadows typical species are grasses and sedge (Aeluropus spp., Puccinellia spp., Bromus japonicus). On shore of the lakes Bolboschoenus maritimus, Juncus, Phragmites australis, Typha and Tamarix can be found, with Myriophyllum spicatum and Ceratophyllum in the waterbodies themselves. Cladophora usually grows on flooded areas.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Unstable hydrological factors affect nesting and wintering birds. Prolonged drought in recent years and the uncontrolled damming of water in Iran have reduced flows in the river Etrek and, as consequence, caused degradation of waterbird habitats on the IBA.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Delili - Garajabatyr. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 18/08/2022.