Thursday 10 June 2010

Juliana, Benghazi

sedge warbler - Juliana, Benghazi - late May

My first lengthy bird watching trip since moving to Benghazi was on May 28th. The date is important because I saw several birds which are reported as passage birds but which may actually be summer breeders too. It is getting very late in spring and the longer I see them locally the more chance there is that they are not moving on.

My first trip was to the southern edge of the Juliana wetlands. These are centred on about 3 kilometres south west of the city centre near the coast. Like everywhere in Benghazi they seem to have at least two names. On the best local map in English (which is still poor!) they are described as "Western Lakes". The map shows them as permanent water with an outlet to the sea. It would appear though that they are now three separated marsh lands with thick vegetation which may get flooded in the winter. Its possible that they swell enough to meet the sea but I don't know yet. They are under tremendous development pressure but are still very interesting.

I visited the southern most wetland which is also by far the smallest.

I approached it on foot walking up the coast for one kilometre fr0m Gar Younis tourist village. Around the tourist village there are plenty of sparrows. Unlike in Tripolitania there are house sparrow. In Tripolitania (north west Libya) I didn't see a single house sparrow in 8 months. There were spanish and italian sparrow but no house. In Cyrenaica (north east Libya) I have yet to see a spanish sparrow (or italian) and that includes trips out into the country side which will be blogged later.

house sparrow - Gar Younis tourist village - Late May

This observation is once again at variance with the distribution maps in recent guides. There were plenty of pigeon and laughing dove. Both are common in the city. Turtle dove is a little less common than in Tripolitania and is not found within the city. The tourist village has a few resident hoopoe near by. This bird appears to be as common as in Tripolitania. I don't know whether it is also resident like there. I will have to wait til the winter.

a pair of laughing dove -Gar Younis tourist village - late May

There are plenty of barn swallow and pallid swift in this area too. There are also great grey shrike in the rest of the city and surrounding countryside. This bird is darker than the desert grey shrike found near Tripoli and I will say more about this in a later blog!

After leaving the tourist village and heading to the Juliana wetlands where I was very happy with the variety and number of wetland birds I found. On the short walk there. I notice a cattle egret and several barn swallow flying overhead. The coast had one or two lesser crested tern flying down it.

When I arrived at the Juliana wetlands, one very bold bird I saw is shown at the top of the blog. It is a sedge warbler - an acrocephelus warbler. There has been a report of breeding aquatic warbler (another acrocephelus) in Cyrenaica which is hundreds of kilometres away from it other breeding ranges. But the bird I saw (photo at the top of the blog) is definitely a sedge warbler which has been reported previously as a passage bird. Its breeding range is a lot closer than that of aquatic warbler! It was very late in the passage season. I have to wonder if the sedge warbler breeds here.
On the sands between the wetland and the coast several kentish plover were running around.

kentish plover- Juliana wetlands - late May

The kentish plover and black winged stilt I saw are probably local breeders. Also present in large numbers were little egret and a few squacco heron. I also saw one purple heron. This is the first time I had seen either bird in Libya. I presume they were all late passage birds since I also saw two flocks flying north east. One flock was just little egret. The other had one squacco heron in with the little egret.

squacco heron (left) little egret (right) - Juliana wetlands -late May

The number of late passage birds continued to surprise me. I saw four grey plover. None had their breeding plummage yet.

grey plover - Juliana wetlands - late May

All in all this was very satisfactory start to my bird watching in north east Libya. But before I finish I want to document that I had done a small amount of bird watching the day before (May 27th) at Al Bosco - the local name for the city park and zoo. Here I first saw the dark great grey shrike and realised that like in Tripoli (and contrary to many dsitribution maps) hoopoe is a common bird. I also saw laughing dove, barn swallow, house sparrow and pleasingly pallid swift. The latter appears to be fundamentallly an urban bird here though if I sight it later in the countryside I'll change my view.

I'm looking forward to more local birding.

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