Monday 6 September 2010

Harriers and sparrows at the farm

Before I left for Senegal I made two last birding trips within Libya. One was to Jardinah farm again (south of Benghazi) and the other was to the Wadi Ghan area which is a 1000 kilometres to the west of Jardinah! and 50 kilometres south of Tripoli.  This blog is about the first trip.

You may re-call that Jardinah is a showpiece farm, excellently managed and well-irrigated in what otherwise would be semi-desert. However, with the access to so much water it has its own micro environment which seems to have resident birds which otherwise are found in countries much further north. 

I visited it one last time to try to finally get pictures of what I am confident is a family of marsh harrier which have been patrolling the farm all summer. This bird is yet another species unreported in Libya in summer.

The main attraction for them is the hundreds of house sparrow which live here.  The trees along the public road next to the farm are stuffed full of sparrow nests. 

some of the house sparrow nests near Jardinah farm, late July

I have been past these line of trees several times but this was the first time I saw a spanish sparrow too. There must be a small minority but they are definitely there. Unlike in Tripolitania this sparrow appears not to be widespread in Cyrenaica. The sighting here is consistent with my only other sighting at Sultan not far away.   

Spanish sparrow, Jardinah, late July

I failed in my attempt to get a good photo of the harriers. There seems to be one male, one female and one juvenile. Below is a distant shot of the female patrolling quite low over the corn fields. 

While I was there the three birds were constantly panicking the huge flocks of sparrow and goldfinch which spend their day on the farm. Indeed the best way to know the raptors are around  is to see a cloud of sparrows splitting in two or three directions first.

marsh harrier flies low over the fields at Jardinah 

I am a bit disappointed that I will have to wait until next May before I can get better photographic proof. This is because a small number of marsh harrier are known to winter in Libya.

While the main objective that day was to view the raptors I stumbled upon other birds. The most surprising was a squacco heron. Its presence shows just much access to water there is on the farm.

squacco heron, Jardinah farm

The normal numbers of white stork were also present. I am intrigued to know where these birds migrate south in the autmn or whether they stay all winter.  Indeed I want to know whether they are re-inforced by European winterers. I'll find out soon after I get back to Libya! 
white stork, Jardinah farm, late July

The storks below just flew to the next field but the picture reminds me that the autumn passage will be in full flight soon. (Remember the main autumn passage comes a little bit later than in Europe). Still I might miss the beginning but I can't wait to see it.

white stork flying at Jardinah farm

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