Saturday, 10 April 2010

Passage time at Jadu

Jadu Springs, Jebel Nafusa

On Friday I took a long trip to the Jadu area of the Jebel Nafusa. This is further west than most of my day trips from Tripoli. I made this trip to try to find some of the rarer larks such as dupont's lark and to see more mahreb wheatears which are restricted in Libya to the west of the Jebel Nafusa.

The temperatures were ideal for bird watching. It was very cool for this time of year so the birds were active all day.

However the day was mostly stolen by passage birds. Perhaps the reasons were obvious. It's peak time for migration. And the wind had been northerly for two or three days (which is why the weather was cool) which may well have caused a backing -up of migrants.

Sam and Jane, Ibrahim and I travelled on the plains road to Shasluk. We made a couple of short walks into the plain just north of Shasluk. We were not rewarded richly. Fulvous babbler were in the thorn bushes and crested lark in the the fields. A few kilometres further on we sighted several red rumped wheatear and northern wheatear. The latter were on passage. I was surprised that they were still around since I had seen the first ones in Tripolitania on February 19th.

Finally, we took the road up onto the Jebel Nafusa plateau through Shasluk which is part way up the mountain side. Here we saw spanish sparrow, house bunting and black wheatear. The latter birds are only found on the Jebel Nafusa.

When we reached the top at the edge of Jadu town we soon saw several woodchat shrike. A few of these breed in the coastal strip of the country but the vast majority of them are passage birds. In many places during the day near Jadu we saw large numbers.

Woodchat shrike (female) left and (male) right near Jadu

The brief stop at the edge of the town also revealed turtle dove and hoopoe. Although these birds are summer breeders and residents respectively closer to the coast, the ones seen were almost certainly migrants.

Next, we headed straight to Jadu springs (see main photo at the top of the blog). This is a large natural permenant spring with a shaded and wooded valley. Although it was busy with people, it is undoubtably a migrant trap and has its fair share of resident birds too.

house bunting, Jadu springs - April

Residents include house bunting (see photo below), crested lark, thekla lark, rock dove, laughing dove, spanish sparrow, black wheatear and cattle egret!

collared flycatcher on passage in April at Jadu Spring

The passage migrants which were seen on Friday were: common whitethroat, nightingale, willow warbler in the trees and shrubs, house martin, common swift in the air, and a collared flycatcher right next to the path seemingly unconcerned about all the people passing by.

Having had lunch in the shaded valley, we headed about 6 kilometres south west of Jadu Spring. This was the furthest west that we went and our best chance of seeing mahreb wheatear. Unfortunately we saw none. However the fields had an excellent mix of passage migrants and local residents. First we noticed there were many eurasian bee-eater about in the fields and on the wires.

Eurasian bee-eater. South West of Jadu in April

In this area we saw a big surprise - a male montagu's harrier. The bird is documented to fly through Tunisia but not 100 kilometres inside Libya. It was in no hurry to leave as it was hunting locally at its leisure. This bird was not an exception. We saw a male and female pair 20 kilometres further east an hour later.

male montagu's harrier southwest of Jadu. April (above and below)

In this area there was one stony field with several different species. There were two stone curlew who judging by their behaviour were resident. There was also large flocks of trumpeter finch and spanish sparrow, a single yellow wagtail and two willow warbler. Near-by in different fields were a cream coloured courser,little owl, crested lark and more woodchat shrike.

trumpeter finch and little owl seen south west of Jadu. April

We finally turned back towards Tripoli but stopped after only about 20 minutes just east of Jadu. Off the main road we saw local brown necked raven, another cream coloured courser, black wheatear and a kestrel and more passage bee-eater, woodchat shrike and a single sub alpine warbler.

One final stop in the Jadu area was just west of Zintan. We visited a place which I had visited before in February looking for rare larks but had found none. This time we were luckier. I saw my first temminck's lark in Libya. So although I didn't see a dupont's lark, at least I added to my list of Libyan resident species seen.

This area had been full of various types of wheatear then but now we could only see passage northern wheatear. Perhaps the local birds were taking a siesta? The northern wheatear (see picture below) looked very buff all down its front. It might be Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa the sub species from Greenland.

temminck's lark (left) and northern wheatear (right) east of Jadu
This is the place we where wev saw the second (and third) montagu's harrier mentioned earlier . Other migrants were a yellow wagtail, a pied flycatcher (see picture below) and yet more woodchat shrike and eurasian bee-eater. The resident birds seen were crested lark, kestrel and desert grey shrike.

Pied flycatcher. April. Just west of Zintan

Finally we zoomed back towards Tripoli as the light was fading, seeing a long legged buzzard and many hoopoe betweeen Ifran and Gharyan.

We arrived back in the dark after 13 hours of intense birding.

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