Sunday, 26 September 2010

It's raining herons (and cattle egrets)

It's raining grey heron

The new collin's guide shows no grey heron (in any season) in Cyrenaica on its distribution map. It does show they winter in the far north west of Libya over 1,100 kilometres away and in the Nile delta 900 kilometres in the other direction.

Last weekend I saw a flock of 50 in one place and 15 in another. I never saw such numbers in the north west. Clearly once again this is a case of gross under-reporting in Cyrenaica (making life very difficult for guide writers). And this is what makes this area so exciting.

grey heron east of Darnayah

There is no doubt in my mind that Cyrenaica is a wintering place for significant numbers of grey heron - well above the numbers in north west Libya.

when they landed

The reason for the high numbers of grey heron is almost certainly the availability of good coastal wetlands. There are many more in the north east than in the relatively better recorded north west of Libya.

the habitat is the reason

If you thought the grey heron was under-reported try the cattle egret. It doesn't feature on the collins distribution map anywhere in Libya. It is far more numerous in Cyrenaica than in Tripolitania (north west Libya) but it is in both. 

cattle egret love rubbish dumps

The population of cattle egret has been growing rapidly in Libya in recent years. The bird is so adaptable.

yet more cattle egret

Unlike grey heron which is mostly (but not entirely) a winter visitor, cattle egret is a significant local breeder. 

It can rain cattle egret too.


  1. Very interesting. I was told that Deriana wetlands is a famous habitat for migrating birds. By the way, I assume the name Deriana is originated from Hadriana, i.e. town named after the Roman Emperor; Hadrian.

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  3. Thanks for your continued interest in my blog. Its really appreciated.

    I'm interested who told you that Darnayah wetlands were famous. I thought I found them myself when I saw them off the main road back from Tulmaythah to Benghazi!

    It's a superb habitat for birds isn't it.

    As for the name, I didn't realise it was so ancient a place

  4. Hi Rob. I'm Andy. I've just started at BC in Tripoli on the MoH contract. My wife, Helen, and I are keen birders. We hope to get over to Benghazi soon (we became friends with Matt, a new teacher, who is now in Benghazi). Let's hope we can meet up. Cheers, Andy.
    PS We've got (what I think are) nesting Lesser Kestrels around our blocks in Salahaddin. Would that sound right?

  5. Rob there're people who're interested in birds for a different reason: hunting - and unfortunately unlicensed birds hunting. By the way, there is another migrating birds habitat near Benghazi you find in Sloug. If you drive from Hawari road for about 45 kms, and about 2 kms before entering the town of Sloug, you drive into the right hand side of the road for about few hundred meters until you reach a depression in the land and that’s the beginning of Wadi al Makamen, usually full of water in Winter, or so I've seen it three years ago in December. There is no road, and probably you'll need a rough terrain car like a Toyota pickup and not necessarily a four wheeler. You find some pics here on this link of the Wadi:

  6. Andy,

    Look forward to seeing you in this neck of the wood. You are more than welcome to come over, stay and bird watch.

    Could be lesser kestrel but more likely to be common kestrel. They nest quite freely on buildings in urban Tripoli


    Hunting is illegal but I know it goes on. Falconry is one of the main methods. However I believe it is on a smaller scale than most other north African countries.

    Thanks for the locational tip. I have a copy of 2005 water bird census which maps about 40 sites in Libya. I'll check whether yours is there