Friday, 15 January 2010

Singing Serins in sizzling sunshine

The number of active resident bird watchers in Libya has recently risen to a staggering total of approximately three. I am the new one. My name's Rob and I'm teaching English here for the next two years.

There is plenty of news about bird watching which takes place in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt but not Libya. Until now.......... With any luck, that is about to change.

Libya is a great place for birds. Lets explore the evidence: Four billion birds fly across the Sahara twice a year. Many of these fly across Libya. It has huge numbers of European birds taking winter holidays joining some exotic residents and there are some additonal summer breeders too.

Follow my exploits week by week and understand the almost unknown joy of Libyan birding.


Lets start with a short trip. In early January, I visited the closest national park to Tripoli at Garabolli with Ibrahim (the big guy on the scope) and a couple of friends.

It is a coastal area with wadis, a small coastal lagoon, olive and citrus groves, garrigue and cypress copses. Not bad variety for a small area. Unfortunately it also has too much rubbish in places and some dodgy new development on the seafront.

It has been ridiculously hot this winter in Libya. On top of this there was vitually no rain in November and December. This has clearly confused the wildlife including the birds. The local variety of star of bethlehem is in flower 4 weeks early. The male serins in the cypress trees were singing their heads off. A couple of spotless starlings - which arent supposed to be in Libya by the way (the books are wrong again) seem to have paired off. The great grey shrikes were off their wires picking twigs from the ground. It will all end in tears when we get a cold spell.

There was some normality. The spanish sparrows were twittering and the fulvous babblers were, well, urgh... babbling. Even though one was high on a tree pretending to be a shrike.

But my reason to be at Garabolli was not to admire the weather or look at the "normal" birds. I came in seach of Sardinian Warblers. Although they are quite wide spread in Libya in winter, this is their one stronghold and the main breeding site here. I heard one or two but it took eagled eyed Ibrahim to see one. They flit round the low bushes right next to the sea making a sound which sometimes seems to mimics a rattlesnake. They stay in cover so very long so you have to be patient.

If you think I have photo of the warbler you are wrong. The bird was just too quick for me. You will have to be satified with one of a Hoopoe seen as we left the park. Yes, Hoopoes are resident birds here. This isn't Europe you know. They just don't go away when it gets very cold because it doesn't get very cold.

Good birding. Rob


  1. Dear Rob,
    very interesting blog. Good luck. It is interesting country and you can find quit many interesting birds.

  2. Thanks Elchin. Why dont you start a blog about Azerbaijan! Its got great birds too