Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Jardinah revisited

hoopoe - just outside Jardinah farm - July

Last Friday, I returned to Jardinah farm again. This time I went without friends.  They are more sensible than me and were "resting". At Jardinah, it was 36C and there was precious little wind. However I felt I had to re-visit Jardinah farm. Its micro-enviroment and climate are very special.  It's so wet its more like a hot version of a central European bog in those parts of the farm where the irrigation has been over-zealous otherwise it feels like southern Europe.

Before I say too much more about the inside of the farm I want first to tell you a little bit about the outside. Near the gate to the farm on both sides of the road are two parallel avenues of trees. These contain literally hundreds of house sparrow and their nests.  In the shade of the trees I glimpsed an unidentified bird of prey. More about this later. Along the road, There were once again plenty of turtle dove and great grey shrike (ssp probably aucheri) too. Scraping a living by the trees was a hoopoe (see picture above). I was very happy to get this snap since I have been seeing hoopoe all over Cyrenaica but they had evaded my camera.

I spent half an hour on this avenue before entering the farm. I gave up counting sparrow nests at over 250.

Last time I went inside Jardinah farm you re-call we saw the first recorded summer yellow wagtail in Libya. I also said I saw a grey heron. Well the alfalfa fields where I had seen the wagtails had been cut down the week before and the water turned off. I hope any breeding of wagtails had been completed and they had moved to one of the many other watered fields.

grey heron - Jardinah farm - July

I caught up with a grey heron this time and photographed it (see above). Its always good to get a photo so that the world can believe the remarkable things going on here. Distribution maps such as in the new collins guide don't show grey heron in eastern Libya at any time of year. I think its the first record of it in summer though waterbird counts (which are more accurate than the guides) have recorded it in winter.

I am sure there are many more birds to see which are usually found further north in summer - more of this later.

waterlogged side to a maize field - Jardinah farm -July

Nearly all the spring alfalfa has been cropped so some of the easiest birding has gone for a while. It was so easy to see bird movements. However there are pools and wet ground in the maize fields particularly near the edges of the circular fields. The cut alfalfa fields attract some birds too.

the walk to the middle of a maize field - Jardinah farm

Its a beautiful walk into the maize fields along the service tracks or at least it would have been if it hadn't been 36C. The path edges teem with flowers. For all the fine walking I failed to see many birds in the maize fields. I knew they were there but it was hot and the maize was shady. I saw the odd barn swallow fly over and a great grey shrike on the water sprayer. A number of LBJs flew over very quicky several times. My instinct said corn bunting but  I can't yet prove it.

one of several groups of white stork - Jardinah farm - July

On the other fields I was more successful. There were more white stork around than ever particularly on the remaining alfafa fields - both uncut and dried.

White storks on sprayers - Jardinah farm -July

The white stork love the water sprayers - on them, by them or under them. Several cattle egret had a similar attitude.

an unflattering photo of one of several cattle egret on Jardinah farm -July

On top of an antenna on one of the water sprayers I got a big surprise. I saw a sparrowhawk perched for some time. Like with the grey heron, its going to take another visit or two to get a good photo. The sparrowhawk  has very recently been reported as breeding in Cyrenaica. So I shouldn't have been so surprised to see it in a green place with hundreds of food items available. This was the unidentified bird of prey seen early in the shade of the avenue of trees.

After following the storks and cattle egret and watching a sparrowhawk, I caught up with one of the mobile flocks of greater short toed lark that I had seen on the two previous visits. I finally got a pretty good shot of this lark. Each week I have progressively taken  better photos. I'm reasonably happy with the latest. I think its pretty definitive proof that this bird is here in summer and not just a winter visitor as guide books say. 
Greater short toed lark - Jardinah farm -July

There are large numbers of this lark. I moved over to the second part of the farm across the road to have lunch with the deputy farm manager. There were more flocks of greater short toed lark there. This part of the farm has more maize fields but also more than its fair share of cut barley. These fields and the water channels obviously act as a magnet for larks. There were flocks of lesser short toed lark, greater short toed lark, calandra lark and  individual or couples of crested lark.

The water channels also attract other species. There turtle dove were visiting (see picture below).

two turtle doves - Jardinah farm - July

Near-by I got a reminder that the farm is on the margins of the desert. Three cream coloured courser inspected a water channel at the edge of the farm. This was my first sighting in Cyrenaica.

cream coloured courser - Jardinah farm - July

Finally as I came to leave the farm I saw a huge flock of pigeon. Their feeding was suddenly broken by a swoop from a different bird of prey from those seen before. I am pretty sure I know what bird it was but I'm going to leave that until I've got photos. Let's just say its not supposed to be here.

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