Friday, 18 February 2011

Water birds on sand south of Benghazi

I have been asking myself why haven't I seen any sanderling and very few little stint since I moved to Cyrenacia.

The answer should have been blindingly obvious. I hadn't been visiting the right habitat. None of the wetlands I have visited (except at Ras Al Tin when I met a greater sand plover) have had sand bars.

sand bar separating fresh water (on right) at Garyounis from the sea (left - not seen)

So on Tuesday I visited the beach just north of the tourist village. During the winter, the water at permanent wetland there has swollen right up to the beach.

two sanderling at Garyounis beach

I came across a mixed group of waders. There were dunlin as usual but the single most numerous species was sanderling.

Furthermore the birds were quite tame and I was able to approach quite close. I am pleased with my photographs. Two sanderling are shown above.

a flying sanderling complete with sand on its chest

There were less little stint but they were also easy to photograph even though they keep moving! The one below (left) is noticeably much smaller than its neighbouring sanderling.

little stint (left) and sanderling (right)

A close up of a little stint is shown below. This bird was particularly tame. He came within two metres of me.

close up of a little stint at Garyounis

There are always a few kentish plover at Garyounis. They are local breeders. In summer I see them running on the sandy area which is currently under water.

kentish plover at Garyounis

I didn't spend any time visiting the in-land part of the wetland but I did notice two other species without trying. I saw a grey heron near the reeds and a greenshank in another pool.

greenshank at Garyounis

mixed gulls at Garyounis

Also at Garyounis were a hundred or so gulls of different types. I saw black- backed gull as well as black-headed gull (a couple in summer plumage) , slender- billed gull, Caspian/yellow legged gull.

As reported yesterday, black backed gull is not as common here as in Tripolitania.

mixed gulls at Ganfouda

Ten kilometres down the coast from Garyounis is Ganfouda. The is where Benghazi's main rubbish tip is located. It is also the location of 25,000 gulls in winter and the main attraction for any black backed gull in Cyrenacia. However the most common gull there by far is black headed gull. Over 15,000 winter each year.

some of large number of gulls at Ganfouda

Two other species were present at Ganfouda in large numbers. There were starling and cattle egret.

sheltering cattle egret

While I was there the wind was very fierce. I came across 80 cattle egret sheltering in the scrub with their heads down! It took me six times to take a photo because the wind blurred each photo. I got a half decent shot in the end.


  1. How are the birds coping with the troubles?

  2. I'm sure all your regular readers will be thinking of you and wishing you the best. We hope you are back out in the field again soon.

  3. I can't say I can speak for the entire international birding community, but many birders abroad wish you the best during this time of transition. Migration isn't far off, is it?

  4. The greenshank and possibly the little stint - are among the birds we saw at the Berg River mouth last week. Birders reaching out from South Africa.

  5. Hi,
    I am Robert from Malta and this is my first visit to your site. I was amazed by your interst in birding. I myself have always been interested in birds living on an island that experiences some of the bird transits between the two continents. I have been many times to Libya but always confined to the Tarablus area. Libya is a wonderful harsh country that many make a mistake in misjudging especially when it comes to birding.
    You may be aware of the illegally hunting issues in Malta. It is not easy to change a social mentality overnight but many are trying for the better. I have seen the spooonbill flock and comments about migratory indictaors of the birds seen. Some days ago we had an extraordinary large number of visits of spoonbills during a gale force NW, migrating back to their breeding areas in Europ. Unfortunately some poachers had a try and mangaed to kill some of the birds. Police did their best and arrested 6 men from around the areas where this unfortunnate event happended. There was a public outcry including one from the hunters' associaltion on the island condemming the illegal shooting of these fine birds.
    Anyway all the best keep it up and hope to join in and make an input at times. Should you wish to contact my e-mail is
    Best regards,
    Robert, Malta

  6. Thanks for your comments and support. I got out of Benghazi last Saturday on HMS Cumberland.

    I hope to do some birding in Lebanon and southern Africa in the coming weeks. I would love to be in Benghazi for the passage but I am afraid it won't be possible until the dictator is fully removed.

    I've got a couple of blogs left on Libya and I feel compelled to write them!