Within an hour I had re-written my agenda. I discovered that the site was five times bigger than I had thought.
I walked towards the horizon only to find that the cleaner wetlands area away from the reeds is huge.
a view of part of Old Marj I had missed first time
I don't know how big the wetland is in summer but in winter it is over 3 kilometres long. This must make it a contender for the largest non-saline wetland in the country. I also don't yet know how much of the water is created by dirty water from the town, natural aquifers and rainfall. I suspect all three factors contribute to this wonderful birding environment. It feels like a Nile delta in miniature.
common snipe mets moorhen
In the first hour there were no shocks. I visited the reed area first. This is where the town's dirty water flows through reeds and provides nutrients for plant growth. The moorhen and a small proportion of the whole site's common snipe were still there along side a variety of birds such hoopoe, coot and chiffchaff in differing habitats.
Once again green sandpiper were easy to pick out. One bird I picked up which I hadn't seen the week before was meadow pipit. They looked so camouflaged. See the picture below.
spot the meadow pipit
After looking around the reeds area I started to walk towards the cleaner wetlands. This is where I realised the huge size of the wetland. It was too big for me to walk all round. There is some unfinished business to be done.
One area was a wet channel at the side of the main lake. I can best describe it as heavily water logged marsh land. See the picture below. This channel was yet another home for common snipe but my attention was drawn to several whiskered tern flying and feeding all down the channel. This is a known wintering bird in Libya but I saw more here than at any other site.
the channel with whiskered tern
Whiskered tern is another example of a bird which mostly winters south of the Sahara but which finds Libyan winters amenable.
whiskered tern flying above channel at Old Marj
The picture below shows the trailing grey edge to the out half of the wing which I find a quick tool for identification purposes.
second look at whiskered tern, Old Marj
black winged stilt at Old Marj
Meanwhile in the main lake there were more black winged stilt than last week. I could see there were waders there and in the surrounding marsh land which I failed to see last week because I was further away.
A curlew at Old Marj
There was at least one curlew which you can see on the land verge in the lake. it was too far for me to get a good look. Despite its thin looking bill (at that distance) I think it was an ordinary curlew simply because of its size!
I can now safely say that there are very large numbers of wood sandpiper on the site - a lot more than I thought last week. Some are starting to show breeding plumage. The white spots are becoming very prominent.
wood sandpiper at Old Marj
I can report that there are also definitely many common redshank (which I failed to notice - or hear last week) and a smaller number of greenshank. I have reported this bird as wintering at Brega and now its obvious some winter here too.
The northern lapwing were still there and they have found some friends. More about this in the next blog.