Saturday, 5 June 2010


rufous tailed bush robin - Zuwia (May 8th)

May 8th was the date of my last trip outisde Tripoli before my move (for a year) to Benghazi though I did manage some local birding after that date and before I left.

I chose the coastal strip between Janzour and Zuwia because this was one the last pieces of the Tripolitanian jigsaw. In the past 8 months, it was one of the few parts I had not visited even though it was one of the closest.

As we set out down the Tunis road towards Zuwia we had not gone more than 2 kilometres before we saw 2 eleanora' s falcon flying westward along the coast . We followed them for a while before losing them only to pick up another individual soon after. These three birds were probably stragglers following a sighting three days earlier in Tripoli of a bigger migration. Then tens of these birds flew through- scattering the local pigeon population! They came in waves of small numbers - often ones and twos of eleanora's falcon all through the day.

The start point was a small national park just east of Zuwia which is 100 metres inland fr0m the coast. The other highlight of this trip (apart from the eleanora's falcon) was my first sighting of a rufous bush robin. This is a summer visitor and breeder. I have seen it before when I worked in Azerbaijan. However, the sub species there is syriaca whereas here it is galactotes. I was amazed just how red galactotes is.

The park is mostly planted cypress woodland though the rufous bush robin was seen in a long hedgerow of mixed bushes marking one of the boundaries of the park. There are clumps of tamerisk and other bushes too.

Ironically the first birds we saw were on a waste tip out side the park boundary. The flies there had attracted several local barn swallow and many yellow wagtail on passage.

yellow wagtail and barn swallow sharing the insects at a waste dump - east of Zuwia in May

stone curlew - east of Zuwia -May

Once again stone curlew provided to be common as elsewhere on the Tripolitania coast (and even further inland). In the trees we saw pigeon, laughing dove, turtle dove and a pair of barbary partridge which were accidentally flushed. Spotted flycatcher, woodchat shrike and spanish sparrow were also easy to see. The latter two are resident and the former maybe. Although it is a very common passage bird a few are recorded as staying along north west coast near Tunisia. It's quite possible their range is 60 kilometres further east than recorded and includes Zuwia.

Among some barn swallow flying about within the park were one or two sand martin. Once again I cannot say for certain that these were passage birds as the passage season was almost finished and their known summer range is not far away. Sadly I will not be in Tripolitania to continue monitoring this.

Outside the woodland area of the park there were also passage whinchat and resident fulvous babbler and the ever present desert grey shrike.

Further away from the park, the coastal cliffs and sea front itself between Janzour west towards Zuwia are a disappointment. They are mostly being used as a huge landfill site for the city of Tripoli which has recently improved its waste collection service. The area affected is probably 15 kilometres long.

The coastal strip is denuded of vegetation to make way for the landfill site. Nevertheless a group of 5 or 6 lesser kestrel have a colony right next to the park and on coastal cliffs.

After visiting the park we headed inland about 10 kilometres south east. This is mostly a farming area. We saw bee-eater and desert grey shrike on the wires. There were more whinchat and spotted flycatcher hawking for insects.

House martin were seen among the groups of barn swallow. Like sand martin, the summer distribution of house martin may also include north west Libya. Actually, it was sighted even more often than sand martin in May.

The other birds seen in this area were pigeon, laughing dove and turtle dove and of course - spanish sparrow.

Before the trip ended we made a short call to the sea front 2 kilometres west of Janzour. This is just east of where the landfill starts.

Two new birds for the day were observed. A lone little egret was feeding on the shore and several crested lark were heard and seen.

Finally (at least for this blog), I would like to record what I saw earlier in the week (around May 4th) ahead of the trip. Apart of the eleanora' falcon sightings (from my workplace terrace) I visited the railway line around Janzour. There were still some pasasge birds - yellow wagtail, spotted flycatcher, pied flycatcher, and whinchat. There even one or two remaining tree pipit - though I am unsure of their health. They looked like they might struggle with any further journey.

There were definitely more spectacled warbler around. These birds are recorded as resident but I have seen many more in spring than in winter. This is the exact opposite of the situation with sardinian warbler. The usual birds were seen - in no particular order - spanish sparrow, fulvous babbler, kestrel (see picture below), crested lark, stone curlew, serin, bee-eater (summer resident), barbary partridge, desert grey shrike laughing dove, turtle dove and pigeon.

kestrel on a mosque- Janzour -May 4th

However, I saw a family of linnet including juveniles. This was the first time I had seen linnet so close to the city. The city still has surprises.

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