Monday, 22 November 2010

Wadi Dana - starting with the redstarts

Straight after my trip to Jaghboub Oasis, Libya I went directly to Benghazi airport for a trip to Jordan. This was possible because I had eight days holiday for Eid. To be even handed, I spent the first four days in Libya and the second four in Jordan.

The next three blogs this week are about my time and observations at Wadi Dana, Jordan and there will be two more blogs next week on the same place. 

For those of us in Libya, I have included a few details at the end of the blog if you are interested in travelling to Jordan for a short break.

Dana village, Jordan

I flew from Benghazi airport with Royal Jordanian airlines to Amman where I stayed the night. The hotel arranged a taxi for me to get to Wadi Dana the next day. It is 220 kilometres (3 hours) south and I had been a little nervous about finding transport on the main day of Eid. I needn't have worried.

Wadi Dana is the biggest national park in Jordan and is well described on the following website  Take a look at it!

I stayed at the Dana hotel but there are two others in the village (Dana Tower hotel and Dana Moon hotel as well as Dana guesthouse). It was very peaceful and comfortable but enough about the logistics. I want to talk about birds!

This particular blog is mostly about redstarts. All around Dana village on any slope you could see wintering black redstart. We get very large numbers of them in Libya too at this time of the year but there are a few differences. There seemed to be proportionately more adult males in Jordan. Also, in Libya they are not confined to slopes but can be seen equally on flat low land.

black redstart, mid November, Wadi Dana

So far no surprises. However, when I walked to the forested areas two kilometres south of the village on my second day I was surprised.

Whereas Wadi Dana itself is initially a steep wadi descending into a narrow, shallow, scrubby gorge, this more southern wadi is a wide valley with lots of forest. Naturally the birds were different.

forest south of Wadi Dana

It was at the edge of this forested area that (over the course of a morning) I saw four common redstart.

The conventional wisdom is that common redstart all winter south of the Sahara. But is this right?  Certainly I haven't seen one in the last three weeks in Libya and assume they have all gone south.

common redstart in forest south of Wadi Dana on November 18

When I put the information about seeing common redstart in mid November on my local discussion group ( - join it if you want to keep abreast of regional information!) it was suggested that these might be sick or slow birds. Alternatively one birder from Egypt (Mary Megalli) told us all that she sees wintering common redstart where she lives 82 kilometres south of Suez. This like Wadi Dana is, of course, north of the Sahara.

second picture of common redstart, forest south of Wadi Dana

Wadi Dana is clearly a very special place. It is so well-protected that fragile forests have survived a long way south. There  can be very little comparable habitat north of the Sahara but so far south. My guess, helped by Mary's information, is that these are genuine wintering birds at Wadi Dana and not sick birds. After all its getting close to the shortest day anyway!   

great tit in forest south of Wadi Dana

While I am discussing the forests south of Wadi Dana (and for want of a better blog to put them in), I can report that they are full of great tit. Unlike British birds which can even feed off your hand, these birds are shy. Getting a half decent photo took great patience which I don't have.

Tomorrow I will report on wheatears and blackstart including seeing three "lifers"  (lifers are what birders call a species they have'nt seen in the wild before).

PS: For those of us in Libya thinking of travelling to Jordan for a break, the good news is that Royal Jordanian Airlines fly to and from Tripoli 5 times a week (not Wednesday or Friday) and (great for me) they fly to and from Benghazi twice a week on Mondays and Fridays). Citizens from virtually all countries can obtain a visa on arrival for 10 Jordanian dinars. The cost of a return ticket from Libya is about 420 Libya Dinars.

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