Sunday 19 September 2010

Migrant wheatears and more

northern wheatear, Tulmaythah, September

Another place visited last Friday was Tulmaythah which is about 80 kilometres north east of Benghazi on the coast. This is where my friends relaxed on the beach while I bird-watched 100 metres away inland. This blog is about the birds I saw in the area with the exception of those seen around and in a near-by melon field!  The melon field merits a blog all of its own. It will follow this one. Why? well you'll have to wait and see.

The most noticeable birds in the area by sheer weight of numbers were wheatears. But what surprised me was the proportions of the different types. Over 70% were northern wheatear, 15% were black-eared wheatear and only a similar proportion were isabelline wheatear. All were migrants. The proportions were about the same as I found on spring passage near Tarhunah in Tripolitania, 950 kilometres to the west.

typical ground for wheatears, Tulmaythah, September

In fact there were so few isabelline wheatear that I failed to get a good photo. You will have to wait a couple of blogs for one of those. The presence of so many northern wheatear is once again contrary to the distribution maps in the main guide books. The maps show northern wheatear missing from this area.   Without spoiling future blogs I can reveal they are present in Benghazi and all along the coast between Tulmaythah and Benghazi too.

black-eared wheatear, Tulmaythah, September 

Black-eared wheatear proved easier to photograph than it's isabelline cousin. Here is a dark throated male. Both forms pale and dark throated were there.

There were other migrants too. I suddenly noticed (and so even did my beach loving friends) a flock of about 15 little egret flying down the beach from east to west. I had little time to react but just managed to record the event.

flock of passing little egret, Tulmaythah, September

The blurred photo of most of the flock is above and a clearer shot of three birds is below.

close up of little egrets on passage, Tulmaythah

My clumsy walking flushed two snipe in two different places. Some snipe stay the winter and some go further south. Who knows what these two will do but my guess is that these will move on when they gain strength. This area was not wet enough for them.

There were more migrants around but they were in the melon field so please wait for that blog. 

Meanwhile with all the migrant action, the residents were carrying out there normal business. House sparrow, great grey shrike and laughing dove were plentiful. Indeed every palm tree seemed to have at least one great grey shrike in it. I still checked carefully to see if any migrant sub species of this bird were among them. They weren't.

great grey shrike, Tulmaythah

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