Sunday 27 June 2010

Where there's water there are birds - Part 2

Watering the fields at Jardinah farm -late June

On the second half of Friday (25th June) we visited a hugh farm just outside Jardinah. Jardinah is about 25 kilometres south of Benghazi and about 15 kilometres in from the coast.

We were invited there by one of the deputy farm managers, James who is an ex-pat friend.

I have wanted to visit one of these "project" farms ever since I found out about them. They use water from "the Man made River"  - a hugh aquifer from the desert and are well irrigated.

They can produce very unLibyan habitats! I have a suspicion that they may house birds not found anywhere else in Libya but that is to be proven.

Each farm varies but this one mostly produces maize, (winter) wheat, alfalfa and barley.

On arrival at the farm the first thing you notice is the hugh noise made by hundreds of house sparrow who nest in the avenue of trees outside the main entrance. They know a good spot when they saw one.

Inside the farm my instant reaction was to be astounded how many white stork I could see. There are only supposed to be about 60-80 in the colony at Al Marj (90 kilometres away).  If this is the only colony (as has been previously reported) then most of them must have taken the long trip here on Friday.

White stork and pallid swift at Jardinah farm - late June

They seemed particularly interested in the fields where alfalfa had been recently cropped. I was euqally surprised to see so many pallid swift. This bird breeds on cliffs and on tall buildings, neither of which can be seen from the farm.  Whether they have come as far as the storks I don't know. There were also many barn swallow which was less surprising.

In the maize fields were plenty of cattle egret. The maize has not grown above about 50 cm yet but will grew to nearly 2 metres tall. It has quite a few weeds which probably provide additional food opportunities for several bird species. Even more helpfully for the birds is that many of the fields are waterlogged in a few places. 

a pool of water in a maize field - Jardinah farm - late June

I didnt really have anywhere near enough time to inspect the farm which has 54 extremely large fields but my initial observations are encouraging my orignal assumption that the mix of birds may be atypical for anywhere else in Libya apart from similar farms.

First I saw my first two calandra lark. These birds were in a field which had been harvested for winter wheat. There was quite a bit of grain left around and this would look like a feast to them. This bird is on the distribution maps for north east Libya but it had evaded my attention until Friday.

Second I saw a large number of larks in the flat sandy area right next to a wet maize field. The birds were also in and out of the field but observation was easier on the sand.  The flock was mixed and the birds were variable. I viewed this flock for at least 45 minutes. I had thought the majority of birds were short toed lark. even though this bird is only recorded as a winter vistior to north east Libya and not a summer resident. However correspondence with experts suggests the ID question is very open.

The birds were highly variable and also in the loose flock . I am pretty sure there were one or two lesser short toed lark which is well documented here.  In the same patch of land were a small number of crested lark but they didn't behave as part of the flock. However for once I spent quite alot of my time in a place where I was doing what my blog says I do - birding for a lark!  It didnt have the numbers or variety of larks that the Mugam Steppe does in Azerbaijan (skylark, oriental skylark, calandra lark, bimaculated lark, crested lark, short toed, lesser short toed, white winged lark and even black lark in a cold year) but it was great renewed practice.

two different members of a lark flock - Jardinah farm - late June

My time here was tantilisingly short. I have come close to making my most exciting call. I thought I saw a water pipit. Certainly the bird winters in the Benghazi area. . It is known to like waterlogged coastal sites among other places and this fits especailly as the environment is artificially more like northern Italy than northern Libya. The bird I saw certainly had a black tail with broad white edges but I didn't get a full view.So I am not going to call it. It will be a spur for me to return the next time we get a cool day this summer.

1 comment:

  1. I have amended this post as a result of correspondence with experts over the identification of the larks at Jardinah farm.

    I hope to get a firm ID this Frdiay. Let's see!