Tuesday 27 July 2010

They really shouldn't be here. Juliana wetlands

Black winged stilt - Juliana - July

Last Friday was my first proper visit to the Juliana wetlands. I had visited the south western edge in late May. I don't understand why I hadn't re-visited it earlier. My excuse is that the Jardinah farm (see blogs) has been equally enticing.

The Juliana wetlands are the largest fresh water (OK - semi saline) wetlands in Libya in the summer. They are known to house thousands of water birds in the winter. However they are little birded in the summer.

I found the wetlands to be very special as you will see.
Main Juliana lake - July

It was another hot day ameliorated by a sea breeze but still 31C. I took a taxi to Gar Younis tourist resort but unlike hundreds of others I didn't head for the beach. I headed up the coast and inland 200 metres. Here I found first the Gar Younis sebkhet (salt marsh) and then the much larger Juliana lake.

South west Juliana - sometimes called Sebkhet Gar Younis - July

At Gar Younis, I saw many barn swallow and a few pallid swift. But my attention was drawn to a little egret standing on a recently used nest. He flew off a short distance but never left my view. You have to remember that to the best of my knowledge that little egret are unrecorded in summer in Libya and certainly not known to breed.

recently used little egret nest - Sebkhet Gar Younis - July

He flew towards a small pack of dogs. Wild dogs seem to be my main companions throughout Libya at all the salpans which reatain water in summer.

Little egret - Sebkhet Gar Younis - July

This is the same sebkhet I saw a sedge warbler in late May. However this time I had other things on my mind I wanted to visit the main Juliana wetlands for the first time. I started walking the 300 metres between the two wetlands. I saw some surprises before I even got to the lake. First I saw a purple heron. I have a lousy photograph below which just looks "heron like" but it definitely was purple. I always seem to screw up the first time  I see an unexpected birds. Then I take a better and better photo on later contacts. I think it must be psychological. By the way, please remember, the first record of a summer grey heron was last week! (at Jardinah - see last week's blog).
Purple heron - Juliana - July

There were several cattle egret in the fields. I am now so used to seeing this bird even though its not on most distribution maps for Libya. Nevertheless they have been well documented by Gaskell in sandgrouse magazine.

Cattle egret on field near Juliana - July

To add to the entertainment there were also two pairs of stone curlew. This was my first definite sighting in Cyrenaica. A mobile very large flock of house sparrow also kept my attention. Hoopoe were also present. Laughing dove and pigeon made up the numbers
large flock of house sparrow - Juliana - July

But the second best sighting (after the heron) were two common redshank flying from Sebkhet Gar Younis to Juliana lake. Researchers have suggested they breed at Farwa next to the Tunisan border 1500 kilometres away. I suggest they breed here too.

common redshank - Juliana - July

The fun was only just beginning. I saw several recently used little egret nests and several little egret, tens of cattle egret, plenty of black winged stilt and a few kentish plover. The stilts were not afraid of me. If anything they were quite assertive to wards me as if defending the area. I dont usually get as good a photo as the top one of a black winged stilt unless the bird is co-operating!

mostly cattle egret next to Juliana lake - July

Many of the cattle egret were together in one set of reeds. A few little egret and a couple of squacco heron were with them. This was a great sight. I had seen a squacco heron at sebkhet Gar Younis in late May. I can now confirm they stay all summer at Juliana. Once again I believe this is a new record for Libya.

squacco heron - Juliana lake - July

Every week I have been observing new summer records (as I know them and certainly according to the distribution maps of the top two guides) . I was told Cyrenaica (north east Libya) was even more under-reported than Tripolitania (north west Libya) and this is proving to be the case. I suspect I may have exhausted the potential new summer water bird sightings although I have a couple of reservoirs up my sleeve.

more little egret - Juliana lake - July

I nearly forgot to add that there were plenty of little grebe in the water (known fact) and a small number of coot (unknown before).

coot - Juliana lake - July

I have been walking very carefully since the farmers at Jardinah farm told me they have cobra (not on its distribution maps either!). Well I didn't see one at Juliana but I did see this (see below). Its not my area of expertise but I think it would make good heron food!

other life at Juliana - July

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