Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Return to Wadi Ghan

My company  called me back from Benghazi to go to Tripoli for a few days before the Ramadan break. This gave me a chance to bird again in the Tripoli area. I chose to go out towards Wadi Ghan. This is a reservoir on the northern foothills of Jebel Nafusa.

I went with my friends Martin and Ibrahim.  We stopped first at a place which had proved to be a good migrant trap in spring. It is an area of well spaced trees,and farmland just off the main Tripoli to Gharyan road.

We spent a few minutes chasing a warbler which wouldn't keep still. It proved to be an icterine warbler. I had seen one here in spring too. Either it was a very early migrant or it had over-summered. I hesitate to call it is a summer resident because once again this would dispute the accepted distribution maps. 

In the farmland there were very large numbers of hoopoe. These were unlikely to be migrants this early. I put it down to a large number of local hoopoe being attracted to recently cut fields.

rufous tailed bush robin

Lurking in the hedges was one of my favourite Libyan birds - a rufous-tailed bush robin (or rufous scrub robin as I think the African Bird Club calls it).

I have only seen this bird in Tripolitania although it is supposed to be in Cyrenacia too. 

It was not shy. The only thing stopping a good photo was the extremely strong sun light and the bird's knack of sitting partially in the sun and partially in the shade. I wonder whether this is a real habit.

rufous tailed bush robin from another angle 

As we travelled on and upwards towards Wadi Ghan we had a great chance to see a black-eared wheatear. This was the first time I had caught such a good view.

It seems quite co-incidental to see three of the most special main summer breeders birds who are not resident (rufous-tailed bush robin, black-eared wheatear, and turtle dove) in close proximity. In general Libya has many more species in winter and passage than in summer but these three species buck the trend.

male (dark throated) black-eared wheatear

This wheatear was seen just downhill (and north) of Wadi Ghan reservoir. In Libya I have only seen the dark throated version in summer although both it and the pale throated bird can be seen in autumn and spring. 

Wadi Ghan reservoir

The reservoir is at its smallest in mid summer but it is still massive.  At the far end (not very easily accessible for people) I could see some white stork and grey heron wading and keeping cool. Once again it proved to be a place where you can easily see scrub warbler

Birding was actually very difficult because it was so hot but we managed to force ourselves down to the land side of the dam. We went looking for other warblers- we had hoped for reed warbler and/or zitting cisticola. However it soon became apparent that there were very few reeds along the stream leading down from the reservoir. Instead there were three or four hundred metres of bamboo. Whether this alien species was there by design or fault we do not know. Ibrahim is a big man but the bamboo dwarfed him!   Instead of warblers we saw only crested lark near-by. We saw no birds in the bamboo.

Ibrahim and bamboo

On the way back we stopped briefly to look at an unidentified bird (at the time) on a wire. 

 probable juvenile trumpeter finch

Having viewed the picture with an experienced birding friend in Bulgaria we have concluded it is probably a young trumpeter finch.  I know the bird is quite common in this area. But I wonder where the rest of the flock was? It's not usually a solitary bird.

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