Sunday 24 October 2010

Derna wetlands field trip - the beginning

Last Friday  I met up with fellow bird watcher Gencer Gencoglu in Derna, where he works, for a field trip round three remote wetlands east of the city. 

Gencer has considerable experience birding in Turkey and it was great to met him for the first time. 

The bird watching community is growing in Libya both among ex-pats like Gencer and me, and among locals. 

More and more is becoming known with each week that passes. We will unveil a couple more secrets in the coming days as we report on our field trip.  This blog sets the scene. 

Rob (left) and Gencer (right) at Wadi al Hamsa

A map of our tour is shown below. The red circle shows the place where we report on tonight. It actually the land upstream of the first wetland - Wadi Al Khalij.  

map of our field trip using google maps

The trip started quietly enough. We turned off the main road to Tobruk and immediately found ourselves in a silent and strangely remote plain that reminded me of Azeri steppe where I had regularly birded two or three years ago.

dry upland section of wadi al khalij

The seemingly endless plain's most obvious bird inhabitants were resident crested lark and wintering skylark.

We followed a bird of prey which we are quite confident was a sparrowhawk. This bird has recently been found to breed in Cyrenaica. 

A very tame corn bunting allowed the car to pull up close and for Gencer to get a beautiful shot of it out of the back seat window. Indeed Gencer's superior camera was to prove very valuable later in the trip.

corn bunting west of wadi al Khalij estuary - photo by Gencer Gencoglu

We walked up to the wadi gorge and saw it was dry (in stark contrast to further downstream as we would soon discover). We also saw a pair of blue rock thrush. This is a known wintering bird here but you have to wonder if some breed here.

We came up on a pair of common raven too.  Once again I failed to get a good photo. Like the brown-necked raven last week, this common raven is more of a silhouette.

common raven west of wadi al Khalij estuary

We were distracted from our onward journey to the wadi estuary by an unusual looking great grey shrike. it had a pink look. We rejected the idea it was a vagrant Iberian grey shrike and it was wasn't a lesser grey shrike. We concluded it was a local bird which had acquired a pink stain.  Its only lots of practice at looking at this bird that allowed the call with any confidence. 

great grey shrike, west of wadi al khalij estuary

We finally started our descent into the wadi estuary near the sea with great expectations and it was not a disappointment. However there was a small surprise just before we finished our descent. We spotted an uncommon looking wheatear. It turned out to be a female maghreb wheatear. Within Libya this bird is confined to the absolute far west near the Tunisian border and with an isolated population in the Jebel Akhdar. We found one of that small population!

female (dark throated) maghreb wheatear, wadi al khalij

The next blog will show what we found in the wadi. There was more than just the best scenery I have seen in Libya.

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