Saturday, 18 September 2010

Glossy ibises in Cyrenaica

juvenile glossy ibis, Ain Azziana, September

Following my Ramadan break, it was great to be back in Libya and birding again. My first real chance was Friday, the beginning of the weekend. I did manage a walk in the main Benghazi park (Al Bosco) on Tuesday evening and was rewarded with the sight of a flock of golden oriole passing through.  Nevertheless Friday (yesterday) was my first "proper" birding.

I chose to bird the coast east of Benghazi. I saw so many migrants, passage birds and locals that its going to take three blogs!

I went on my trip with two friends from work who chose the beach option for most of the trip. Apparently the sea is very warm and the weather was just right.

The place visited nearest to Benghazi is a permanent wetland called Ain Azziana. It was my first visit there and I am kicking myself that I didn't visit in summer.

The biggest treat was the sight of glossy ibis. I am checking whether this species has ever been recorded in north east Libya (Cyrenaica). I know its recorded in winter in Tripolitania (800 kilometres away). Regretfully once again the main guide books don't show this bird in Libya at all.

adult glossy ibis, Ain Azziana, September

There were at least two glossy ibis, one was a juvenile and the other was an adult.  The last time I saw this bird was in Azerbaijan. It brought back memories.

I can't meaningfully say whether the bird breeds, winters or is on passage here because of the time of year. Hence my comment earlier that I regret not coming here in the "true" summer.

The wetlands were teeming with waders. Some in summer plumage, some in winter plumage but most part way between!

One of my favourite sighting was curlew sandpiper. This bird was presumably on passage since it is supposed to winter south of the Sahara. But at least at the moment it seems to be eating a lot and was not going anywhere quickly.  

curlew sandpiper, Ain Azziana

The most common birds were dunlin, sanderling and ringed plover. Like with the curlew sandpiper there was an awful lot of eating going on. Most photos were ruined by the bird having its head in the water. Unlike the curlew sandpiper they are known to winter in Libya.

I did get this quick but poor snap of another interesting bird - golden plover. Again this is a known winterer here but I hadn't seen one so close to its summer plumage before.

golden plover, Ain Azziana, September

One thing I found quite surprising was the proportion of juvenile birds among the waders.  Having eclipse plumage and having many juveniles stretches my ID capabilities.  It was seriously good practice. 

sanderling(back) and ringed plover, Ain Azziana

If anything the bird winning the prize for the most juveniles in the wetland was the ringed plover.

juvenile ringed plover, Ain Azziana

Before I leave Ain Azziana, I want to say something some other birds. There were plenty of black winged stilt, stone curlew and great egret around. The first  breeds here and the last probably doesn't (not according to books anyway). There is much more to this wetland than I could walk to on foot. My scope (left at home) would have helped me here.

black winged stilt, Ain Azziana

Last night just before I went to bed, as I was sketching out the blog in my mind, I suddenly had a thought or more probably a fantasy?.... I should have looked at those stone curlew more closely. It's a very long shot but since Senegal thick knee are found in the Nile delta could they be here? If glossy ibis can be 800 kilometres way from their known habitat then...  What were stone curlew doing in wetllands?  Not looking properly at the thick knees was very sloppy birding.  

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