Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The railway line springs some surprises

A well watered citrus grove and orchard, Janzour, West Tripoli

I visited the railway corridor again yesterday (March 23rd). It was a spontaneous decision. I had half a morning free so I started out at 7am and was back by 10.30am. I had made a mental note to see if the flock of stone curlews were still present and to investigate the type of habitat that had led to my sighting of a blackbird earlier in the week. It was my first blackbird since arriving in Libya 6 months ago.

The habitat in which I saw the blackbird is like the picture above - well irrigated citrus groves and/or orchards with lots of shade. Needless to say that this is exceedingly uncommon. Nevertheless there is some of this habitat on my walking route. I stopped at the place which I photographed in the picture above. I immediately heard a beautiful song. it was even better than that of a blackbird. I heard and after a few minutes saw a nightingale. I guessed the place would be good for thrushes but I hadn't expected a nightingale on passage!

Further alone the walk, many of the same birds from previous days were still there (babbler, hoopoe, serin, sardinian wabler etc etc) but the flock of stone curlew have gone. They have presumably migrated. I still saw a few curlew in other places which are likely to be local birds. The one below was spotted quite close to a house. No one has told Tripolitanian birds that Tripoli is a city. I am constantly surprised how many rural birds live in an urban or sub-urban environment.

Stone curlew near a house , Janzour, West Tripoli

The most dramatic example of a rural bird being found locally then occured. I saw a pharaoh eagle owl (see photograph below) resting in a tree next to the field where the stone curlews had been in the days before. It was very well hidden. I am afraid I got a little too close and it flew off. It looked absolutly huge close up even though its supposedly much smaller than bubo bubo.

pharaoh eagle owl, Janzour, West Tripoli (above)
Clearly this is one eagle owl who prefers woods to the rocky environment of many of his brothers and sisters. Or is it that we are trying too hard to create distinctions between the habits of a pharoah eagle owl from the eagle owl. I suspect this behavoiur is quite common. As you can probably tell I am not a great fan of all the recent species splits.

Yesterday I got luckier with photographing some more species that I missed on earlier viists. The turtle dove was a bit less jumpy. See two below on a wire. The area is indundated with this bird at present. I wonder whether some are on passage and whether they are all are going to stay.

Two turtle doves, Janzour, West Tripoli

Finally having failed to get a picture of a barn swallow in flight, skimming insects off the flatter parts of rail corridor, I took a picture of one resting.

Barn swallow resting on a wire, Janzour, West Tripoli

Stop press: On a very short early morning walk (March 24th) I spotted my first woodchat shrike of the summer. It's time to be a bit more careful when passing a shrike on a wire. It might not be one of the hundreds and hundreds of desert grey shrikes.

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