Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Kingfisher and other migrants join the locals

European kingfisher, Juliana, September 

Last Saturday afternoon, I hopped into a taxi and went to Juliana wetlands which are 15 minutes from my flat. Along with Ain Azziana, these two are the main permanent wetlands close to Benghazi.

The last time I visited Juliana the most noticeable feature(apart from the heat that day) that I saw were the breeding colonies of cattle egret and little egret (see earlier blogs). There were other breeding birds too.

Both these birds were present on Saturday but the bird population had been re-enforced by large numbers and types of passage and wintering birds.

The most striking wintering bird (and one of the first birds I noticed on my arrival at Juliana on Saturday) was a European kingfisher. This is a rare bird in Cyrenaica. It is occasionally recorded in the Benghazi area by the UN winter water bird count. It is missing from north east Libya in the Collins guide distribution map although the guide fairly accurately represents it for north west Libya. 

The winter water count has revolutionised the data set for water birds in Libya and will surely help the distribution maps improve next time round.

a small island in Juliana wetlands, September

Local birds included coot, black-winged stilt, little egret and cattle egret. The first three can be seen together on the above picture. I cannot tell whether the same three bird species had been re-enforced with migrants of the same species. However it is quite likely.

Before I started to look in earnest at many of the other birds, I noticed a stone curlew.  I walked one step towards it when it flew off in seeming panic. It wasn't me. Some of the other birds panicked too as a bird of prey flew over. They need not have worried because they weren't on the osprey's menu.

osprey, Juliana wetlands, September

I used the sports tracking setting for the first time on my camera and was rewarded with 20 consecutive stills of the bird which helped its identification as I am a self-confessed poor raptor identifier. I  blame it on lack of practice. 

It's a juvenile osprey

Apparently the white spots on the wings pin point the bird as a juvenile.

little tern, Juliana

One other local bird is the little tern. This bird migrates south but several were still around.  

After a little while I turned my attention to the water bird passage and wintering birds.  There were more common redshank around than in high summer (a small number almost certainly breed here).  Some of the migrants were still in their summer plumage. These included the dunlin whose black bellies made them easy to identify compared with in true winter. 

dunlin, Juliana wetlands, September

Yet other waders were completely in winter plumage like the several turnstone which were present. This is a known winterer in the area.

turnstone, Juliana wetlands, September

There were a small number of greenshank and wood sandpiper. A small number of these birds are recorded to stay all winter in the Benghazi area (rather than fly on south of the Sahara). I would recommend that the next wave of bird guides reflect this now it is well established.

wood sandpiper, Juliana - passage or winterer? 

I am told that Juliana gets really interesting when the winter rains appear. The wetlands swell and so does its bird count. Roll on the rain.

No comments:

Post a Comment