Friday, 15 October 2010

Another call on the Juliana wetlands

The last time I visited the Juliana wetlands in Benghazi was three weeks ago. A lot has changed in that time. The development pressure on the site has increased. One sixth of the permanent lake has been landfilled including where the cattle egret and little egret bred this summer. On the bright side there were plenty of new bird species around.

greenfinch, Juliana beach

The development as it stands has not had a major impact so I am not panicking. The lost area has gone to help build a training ground for a hugely popular local football team. There is still a large wetland area which incidentally has swollen as the result of the first autumn rains. Furthermore, cattle egret in particular are very resourceful and this change won't impede their remarkable population growth in Libya.  

Only a small number of cattle egret and little egret were still at the site but I think this is a natural annual movement away from a breeding area. 

ferruginous duck (front) with coot and little grebe, Juliana lake

The number of coot has greatly increased in the last three weeks as have the number of little grebe. Both species are summer residents but they have been vastly re-enforced with winterers. There are now a few duck here too. The great news is they are the rare ferruginous duck.  The UN winter water bird count recorded they winter in Libya in some numbers before I saw them!  However, once again the Collins guide doesn't show them present in Libya.

moorhen, Juliana lake

I finally got a photograph of a moorhen. Juliana is the sixth place in Cyrenaica I have seen this bird. It probably breeds in all six despite its none appearance in the distribution maps of the main guidebooks. 

I wonder if part of the reason only a few foreign bird watchers come to Libya  is the rest believe the guidebooks which don't show half of the birds we have got? 

Incidentally you may have noticed some of my picture quality is not as good as usual. The is purely a result of the swollen wetlands. After the rain, I can't get very close to many of the water birds without wading!

yellow legged gulls, Juliana lake

I couldn't get near the area where the waders have been on my previous visits because of the water level. However, I did see black winged stilt again and hear the noisy common redshank.

One bird I could see was yellow legged gull. This is the main breeding gull in north eastern Libya. It's identification proved a bit tricky because of the light. I had restricted options on approaching the lake because of the increased water level so I saw some gulls directly into the sun. This made them a lot darker looking (see picture above). It would have been very easy to misidentify them as lesser black-backed gull which are known to winter in northern Libya.

yellow legged gulls in flight, Juliana

Seeing the birds in flight and in better light confirmed they were yellow legged gull.

kestrel, Juliana

This time there were no osprey or marsh harrier which I had seen on different occasions here recently. The only bird of prey was a solitary kestrel.

part of a flock of greenfinch, Juliana beach

Finally on the area next to the near-by beach I had my most satisfying find of the day. I saw a flock of greenfinch which I think is a very attractive bird. This is a known wintering bird in the area but it must fly a long way. It's nearest summer residences are Crete and mainland Greece.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rob
    I think you are meaning by Juliana lake (the site we call in our reports Garyounis 1 and 2), because those are the sites where Nadi Al Ahli (Ahli FC) is building its new training grounds. Jeliana site is the western part of Lake 23 July or Lake Naser of Benghazi harbour. It is the site you see first on left after the reouundabout of your juliana site. It is now fenced with wooden wall and a subject to great destruction due to a building project on its banks. You unlikely succeed to get in for birding as it is a construction site.
    If you did please post your comments v soon