Saturday 23 January 2010

carry on up the Kaam

Wadi kaam is famous in Libya because it has the longest permanent river in the country. It is nearly two(2) kilometres long all year round. This certainly puts the Nile into perspective.

The river flows because of an Ain (springs) reaches the surface just before the coast and flows the remaining 1.75 kilometres into the sea. In the other direction, this water doesn't link up anymore with the waters coming off the hills further up the wadi. It doesn't link up because there is a huge dam. And behind that dam can be a serious amount of water. In fact it is probably the largest fresh water body in Libya. It certainly is in winter when most rain falls in the Jebel Nafusa hills which feed the reservoir.

The wadi complex that is the Ain, the reservoir, and the valley between the two, is well worth a visit. Since where there is fresh water in Libya there are birds - plenty of them. I went to Wadi Kaam in late November.

It was a long drive from Tripoli. It's way past the tourist mecca at Leptis Magna. We decided to visit the reservoir by travelling along the Kaam valley before visiting the Ain (see purple circles on the map above). Mind you its not easy to find. There is a signpost in arabic which is easily missed without an arabic speaker. Then you pass a never-ending army camp. Its probably not wise to photograph there. However we did get out and notice serins and chaffinches (sub species -africana). Isn't this sub species so attractive! There were a few wintering robins too.

Two interesting birds which were seen in the valley were photographed. These were little owl and cattle egret (plenty of them actually).

The african bird club site says there has been an unconfirmed report of a little owl in Libya. Let me assure them they are alive, kicking and common.

The cattle egret is also nowadays a fairly common bird and spreading. The big change apparently was when it adapted to feeding off the Benghazi corporation tip. There is apparently lots of food there. They are the new herring gulls. They are good scavengers. Though, the picture above shows them feeding the traditional way in the valley.

At the reservoir itself we found a great diversity of species. There were cormorants, little and great egrets in or by the water (see photogrpah above) the water. Little crested terns and sandwich terns flew overhead. Flocks of goldfinch darted between the reservoir-side trees. Black redstarts were seeming standing around idly. There were plenty of chiffchaff around too. On the fields near-by thekla larks and black wheatears were going about their business.

My friend Martin even spotted a kingfisher at the reservoir edge. This bird is a rare winter visitor. It makes me wonder why the fatbirder website using it as the bird to adorn the Libyan pages. I think there are approximately 100,000 times more white crowned wheatears in Libya at any one time than kingfishers. Still it looks prettier I suppose!

Ain Kaam is a subtly different habitat to the reservior. It is fringed with very high reeds and loooks like a genuine river. The reeds are home to resident reed warblers. Scientists have found that unlike virtually everywhere else reed warblers in Libya are resident. The area around also house zitting cisticola.

The river had cormorants and egrets just like the reservoir.

The "estuary" had a few dunlin (see below) , little ringed plovers and a lone grey plover. Ain Kaam is quite an action packed 2 kilometre strip.

I cannot wait to visit this area again at the time of the spring passage and the breeding season.


  1. i hope that you have an account in flicker ,because you have a great photos :)

  2. Hi Rob,

    I have been trying to get in touch. I hope this time this works. I am in Egypt and would like to keep in contact. We might be coming to Lybia and would like some advise about birding. If you are interested in visiting Egypt, welcome! You can see my website at: Send me your personal e-mail and I will send you may contact details.

    Hope to keep in contact. By the way, nice site!


    Mindy Baha El Din

  3. Hello, this is actually my city, Ka'am. I live by Ain Ka'am Sidi Own. Thank you so much for ur wonderful report.