Saturday 31 July 2010

Autumn arrivals in July!

Omar Mukhtar reservoir - Saluq - end July

Yesterday I visited Omar Mukhdar reservoir. It supplies water for the whole of the Benghazi area. It is claimed to be the largest man made reservoir in the world. It is truely massive.

Imagine you are a bird and you want to cross the Sahara. You see 100,000 cubic metres of fresh water just before the desert. I think you would stop. Prehaps you wouldn't go any further particularly as its warm all winter.

The drawback is there is precious little cover on the banks of the reservoir although bushes are being grown around the sides.

I was given permission by the police to stay there for 90 minutes. This was much appreciated. 

The first impression is that it is stark and deserted but after a minute or two you realise your mistake. I saw barn swallow skimming the edges for insects. Then one by one I noticed various flocks of waders which had been well hidden at the rocky sides round the lake.  The most obvious bird and most common wader was kentish plover.

However my attention was drawn to darker, slightly larger wader which at first I thought was wood sandpiper. 

Mostly green sandpipers - Omar Mukhdar reservoir - end July

It took me sometime to work out it was actually green sandpiper. This ID problem was a classic example of what I am up against in Libya. The Collins guide shows wood sandpiper as a passage bird though here. It doesn't show green sandpiper in Cyrenaica at all. You have to trust your judgement and have the confidence to go against the book's distribution maps.

The birds I saw were darker and more robust than wood sandpiper.

closer picture of green sandpipers - Omar Mukhtar reservoir - end July

There were about twelve birds.  But they were at least partially mixing with other waders. So I kept to the text book techinque of concentating on the bird and following it through. Its no good watching one bird on the land and another in flight. 

I noticed more detail. These birds had greyish green (green) not yellowish green (wood) legs.

Green sand pipers with kentish plovers in foreground - end July

The main bird they were mixing with were kentish plover (see foreground). This is an easy bird to seperate although I will show later than at least one other sandpiper was present.

Kentish plover and green sandpiper in flight - end July

One of the green sandpiper took off with a kentish plover. It was very dark in flight and the white tail contrasted brilliantly. Shame about my photo. The tail bars were distinct. Don't let the photo lead you astray. 

Two more green sandpipers take off

Above is another picture taken seconds later when the rest of the green sandpiper decided to take off too.

common sandpipers - Omar Mukhtar reservoir - end July

I supect the green sandpipers may stay until next spring. They mostly winter around the Mediterranean. However the other wader that I positively identified will probably not. It winters south of the Sahara normally. It is the common sandpiper.

There were several of these there too. I have read reports that they have been sighted at Eilat, southern Israel in the past week. This is obviously one of the very earliest autumn migrants.

grey heron and little egret - Omar Mukhdar reservoir - end July

The waders didn't have the reservoir to themselves. It is well stocked with fish. So it has naturally attracted grey heron and little egret. These birds are rapidly being known to be more common in summer in Libya than any one had previously thought.

Finally I want to say a few words about the bushes near the reservoir. These are being watered regularly on a sprinkler system and will make fine heath land soon. The shrubs are all natural species and are beginning to attract birds. I saw goldfinch, great grey shrike, turtle dove and my first ever eastern olivaceous warbler.  I think the bushes are going to make a good migrant trap this autumn.

goldfinch - Omar Mukhtar reservoir - end July

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