Thursday, 18 November 2010

Lake Melfa, Jaghboub Oasis

We checked in at the guesthouse in Jaghboub Oasis and confirmed what we suspected - we were the only visitors in town. 

We picked up basic provisions at one of the village's eight! supermarkets (why does a village have eight?)  and then leaped into the car to get some birding in.

Idris who is the local manager of the water company guided Abdullah and us to Lake Melfa. This lake is barely 10 kilometres from the Egyptian border and is part of the same aquifer as Siwa in Egypt.

Lake Melfa is the one place at Jaghboub which has seen some birding in the past. The 2005 UN winter wetland census people went there. We can now add to their observations. 

white crowned wheatear, Lake Melfa, Jaghboub

I finally got to see white crowned wheatear in north east Libya. The bird is clearly found only much further in land than in Tripolitania ( north west Libya). It was common around the lake.

Lake Melfa, Jaghboub

Lake Melfa is turquoise, big and beautiful. It is surrounded by vegetation for at least 250 metres in all directions.

It is also saline. This worried me because salinity restricts the number of birds likely to be found. However as we walked round we noticed that there were three fresh water ains (springs) feeding into the lake on the north side. Two were very small but one was quite significant.

The vegetation included tamerisk and reeds on the north side. We didn't have time to walk all the way round. We presumed the birding would be better on the north side and this is where we looked.

On the shores we saw quite a few wintering red-throated pipit. A large proportion were first winter.

red throated pipit, Lake Melfa

There were very large numbers of chiffchaff. I didn't see any willow warbler.

chiffchaff, Lake Melfa

As every where else in Libya in winter there were large numbers of white wagtail.

white wagtail, Lake Melfa

I could hear reed warbler but failed to see them. In the reeds were a small number of little egret and at least two grey heron. One is photographed below.

grey heron, Lake Melfa

There are undoubtably other wintering birds at Lake Melfa but I was keen to visit a neighbouring lake before it got dark. I had seen it on the way (about 3-4 kilometres before we reached Lake Melfa). 

It has no name on my map but looked very interesting for three reasons - 
  • one: as far as I know no birder had ever been there 
  • two: it was secluded (you can only get there on foot) and surrounded by reeds 
  • three: I glimpsed 5 large birds as we passed
Find out tomorrow what those large birds were. I think you might find them very interesting.

STOP PRESS: I forgot to mention that there were also a dozen or so little grebe on  lake Melfa. I presume they breed there.

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