Friday, 31 December 2010

highlights of 2010 part 2

On the last day of 2010, this is the second blog looking at the some of the highlights of 2010.  Yesterday we looked at the first half of the year.  I chose 12 photos. I aimed to do the same for today's blog but I really couldn't do it! There are 13 because each tells a unique story.


My first picture shows a yellow wagtail taken in mid July at Jardinah. I believe this is the first time a yellow wagtail has ever been recorded in summer in Libya. It was on a path in a waterlogged alfalfa field on the government farm. These highly watered farms produce wet conditions in summer which have more in common with more northern countries and have thrown up some very special species at different times of the year.  I visited Jardinah farm several times in the summer.

summer yellow wagtail

The second bird I have chosen is a female maghreb wheatear. This bird is resdient in the far north west of the country near the Tunisan border and also as a small community in the Jebel Akhdar near Derna a 1,000 kilometres further east. The pictured bird was at Wadi Al Khalji near Derna.  I had photographed a male from the western population earlier in the year.

female maghreb wheatear

The desert loving white crowned wheatear remained elusive to me in north east Libya (its much more easily reached from Tripoli than Benghazi) until I travelled to Jaghboub Oasis in late November.  I don't believe the bird is anywhere within 7 hours drive (and Libyans can drive a long way in that time) of Benghazi.

white crowned wheatear, Lake Melfa, Jaghboub

I am indebted to other birders and friends in Libya who have contributed news and pictures to the blog in the second half of the year. I have chosen this one shot from Les Edwards in Sirt to represent anyone!  Its a picture of a pharaoh eagle owl. Other possibilities included  Essam Bourass' short toed eagle near Tocra and Sam Dewhurst's house bunting at Ghat. Both those were proof of a bird's presence in an area the guidebooks miss.

Pharaoh eagle owl, Sirt by Les Edwards

The autumn passage brought plenty of material. I have chosen a red-breasted flycatcher snapped near Sultan as the representative of true passage birds. Once again the guide books don't show it in Libya and this is why it gave me so much satisfaction. 

red breasted flycatcher, Sultan

Libya probably has as many birds in winter as in the passage weeks - its just the summer when numbers are lower. There are tens of species I could choice from  - pretty birds like flamingo, waders like common snipe, rarer birds like dotterel  but I have gone for this flock of curlew. I am trying to tell people as best I can to come to Libya to look for slender- billed curlew. We have so many isolated coastal wetlands and the more isolated the more curlew I see.

flock of curlew near Tocra

There is a big group of birds which are known to mostly winter south of the Sahara but some of which winter in Libya. I could have chosen from four different sandpipers for example but in the end a bluethroat picture is my representative. The one below was taken at Jaghboub Oasis but there are plenty which winter on the coast too.

bluethroat, Jaghboub

As I have said in the write-up for the red breasted flycatcher there were plenty of birds I saw this year which aren't in Libya at all according to the bird guidebooks. The best example is probably the  black-crowned night heron. Unlike red breasted flycatcher I'm not sure whether it is just a passage bird or whether the bird over-winters. I have seen it at two different places several hundred kilometres apart. The record below is of a flock of 30 juveniles seen at Wadi Al Khaliji east of Derna.

black crowned night heron, Wadi Al Khalji

There were another but similar category of birds - those which people thought wintered south of the Sahara but some of which I found winter in Libya. The best example is these isabelline wheatear wintering in the steppe habitat east of Ajdabiya.

wintering isabelline wheatear

The list of birds formerly thought to winter just north of the Sahara got longer following my visit in early December to Jalu Oasis. This area has benefitted in recent years from improved private sector water pump systems and public sector water from the man made river project. There is a massive government farm in the desert. These farms produce "green oases".

Two birds now known to winter in Libya (and not go on south of the Sahara) are sub-alpine warbler - plenty seen at Jalu and northern wheatear seen at the government project in a field of wheat.

sub alpine warbler wintering at Jalu

One of the most dramatic moments of the year was when I saw four common crane in a field of alfalfa on the government farm in the middle of the Sahara - at least 1,000 kilometres from its nearest place on the bird guidebook maps. 

common crane on farm near Jalu Oasis

Finally I must write about two other blogging events in the year. First I posted about a mystery heron which produced the highest volume traffic of the year as people came to identify it. Its a shame the bird was probably a stained grey heron. Below is a flock taken last week in Benghazi which looks like it contained the recovering bird.

flock of grey heron at Al Thama, Benghazi

I cant finish without mentioning my non-Libyan birding. I have posted about my trips to Morocco (early in the year) and to Senegal, Jordan and Bulgaria in the second half. Highlights here included a kurdish wheatear at Wadi, Dana Jordan. However the statistics tell me the most interesting find was the land birds at Technopole, Dakar, Senegal. Perhaps its the picture of the rare river prinia which has the most attraction. Here it is. 

river prinia, Dakar, Senegal, August

Next year will almost certainly be more exciting still. More home grown Libyan  birding will take place. There will also be more people will visiting Libya for research and birding - some of them with me. I am sure many more secrets will be unlocked.

Looking forward to a Happy birding New Year for all of us.

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