Saturday, 12 February 2011

My first Greater Sand Plover (in Libya)

Thanks to Andy for standing in yesterday while I was away in the Derna area. I have some really exciting things to report over the next week. Today's blog is a taster!

The birding there is arguably the best in Libya and it is certainly different. It is 250 kilometres east of Benghazi and its bird life reflects a more eastern geography.

Ras Al Tin looking in-land

Today I'm reporting visits to two coastal wetland areas east of Derna. The first one was new to me. It was Ras Al Tin. The place is mosquito infested and I have several horrible bites to prove it.

I walked out from the road through the swamps and pools to the sand bar which separates the main pool/lake from the sea. I saw very few birds apart from meadow pipit and was beginning to have great regrets about spending my time there.

four waders including a greater sand plover

However I was more than a little appeased when I saw a mixed group of waders on the sand bank. There were some kentish plover, dunlin and a greater sand plover!  Note its size compared with the kentish plover (and its beak size too).

I recognised it instantly as I had seen a breeding colony when I lived in Azerbaijan. Who knows this bird may come from there.

greater sand plover at Ras Al Tin

The UN winter bird counts (which visit the majority of Libya's wetlands in late January or early February) pick up between zero and 3 birds each year. This would suggest the bird is indeed rare in Libya. Collins doesn't have it here at all suggesting its wintering grounds finish at about the Egyptian/Libyan border.

kentish plover at Ras Al Tin

After the excitement of Ras Al Tin I backtracked westward along the coast to nearby Wadi al Hamsa which was so rich in birds in October (see my blog on it!). 

pictureque Wadi al Hamsa on Friday

Sadly I have to report that there were only a few birds there. And the reason is illegal hunters.  The Tobruk area (and its only two and half hours drive)  along with Adjabiya has the strongest tradition of hunting in Libya. There are many spent cartridges at Wadi al Hamsa which unfortunately provides little cover for birds.

Among the middle sized and larger birds, I only saw one grey heron and a few moorhen. Last time I saw many kingfishers for example and an osprey. None were present this time.
grey heron at Wadi Al Hamsa

The birding at Wadi Al Hamsa is fantastic during the spring and autumn migrations and in early winter but I can't recommend it in December, January and February when the birds have been frightened off or in some cases killed.

I have much happier things to post about for the rest of the week.

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