Sunday, 13 February 2011

A little piece of Europe in Africa

Ras al Hilal is the northern most point of Cyrenaica and it juts out into the sea. It is a green place and popular with the wealthy. However the land rises (up passed the permanent waterfall) into a very green valley 500 metres above which is almost unknown and unvisited. This upland valley (which is best approached from Guba on top of the hillside) is special. It is almost certainly the wettest place in Libya. There is a permanent stream - a very rare occurrence and lots of tree types. It is kept mild in summer and winter by proximity to the sea but it is sheltered too. 

some of the meadow land 500 metres above Ras al Hilal 

I guessed that if I was to see any special birds this might be the place to see them.

It lived up to expectations as being "European". There was a flock of corn bunting in the trees. Chaffinch was everywhere. 

song thrush in the valley 

I was rewarded with my first sight of a song thrush since coming to Libya over 17 months ago. They are supposed to be elsewhere in the Jebel Akhdar but surely this place was the most likely.

There were the obligatory chiffchaff, sardinian warbler and other warblers singing. One I identified (and saw - male and female) were singing blackcap. Collins guide places them as wintering birds in Tripolitania and I used to see them there. However its distribution map doesn't have them within 600 kilometres of this valley. And I wonder whether they are actually resident in this valley and the two neighbouring ones which have a similar climate. I just have to visit there again in summer.

normally looking chaffinch?

One local chaffinch caused me great consternation. It looked normal for a north African chaffinch from the front but from the side the markings were odd. 

side on view of chaffinch

The picture above doesn't do my case justice but the bird had yellow where I expected to see white. Maybe its breeding colours are like this and haven't been recognised in the guide books.

laughing dove and house sparrow

The visit to this valley was part of my weekend trip to Derna. I still have two or three blogs to go including the "big one" on Um Afain - a huge remote wetland.  It held some very pleasant surprises.

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