Tuesday 12 October 2010

Update on eagles and harriers

Occasionally I write a more in-depth post trying to make sense of what I see and today's is one of these.  I hope that both serious and curious birders will enjoy it !  Here goes:

Last week I reported seeing and photographing two short toed eagle at Shahat on October 2nd. These birds don't like crossing open sea on migration  so I was n't sure whether they were migrants from Crete (where passage across the sea to Turkey is nearly as far as to Libya), local birds or vagrants.

Once again the bird is not on the Collins guide distribution map as present in Libya at any time.

short toed eagle, Shahat

Well, I'm a member of the Egyptian birding yahoo group. This group kindly allows Libyan issues to be discussed too.

Last week, I wrote to the group asking for help:

Dear friends,

Short toed eagles may be common in Egypt as it is on their main fly route but I was very surprised to see two near Shahat, Libya last Friday.  My understanding is that this is a good 800 kilometres west of the main route. 
Once again Libya is not on the Collins distribution map for this bird.
I photographed one bird and it is on my blog today.
I have speculated that the birds could be a migrants from Crete, resident or just lost!  Do any stray in Egypt?

And here's the reply I got from Abdulmaula Hamza one of the top local birders in Libya.

Dear Rob
I think they are summer breeders in Libya especially in Cyrenica. I used to spot them on electric towers between April and September. Jaber Yahia and me have some more photos of last August. I dont know the status in Egypt
Abdulmaula Hamza

So there you have it: short toed eagle is almost certainly a local breeder here which migrates in early October.  

Meanwhile the local sightings of marsh harrier continues to increase. 

On migration, they can cross open sea better than short toed eagle. Many of them use the so called central European fly way. In autumn, they cross by island-hopping from southern Italy to Tunisia via Sicily or via Malta to Libya in very large numbers.

It appears that, after they reach Libya, many must roam large distances along the Libyan coast since I keep seeing them in Cyrenaica which is 900 kilometres east of where they land  near Tripoli.

marsh harrier, Ain Azziana, October 9th

In the past ten days I have seen them at Ain Azziana, the wetland east of Deryanah, near Sousse (80 kilometres further east) and more inland at Marj.  In short I have seen them everywhere I have been.

marsh harrier, al Marj, October 9th

I am beginning to wonder how many will stay the winter and how many will eventually move south. The Collins guide says they are all passage birds but we already know from the UN winter wetland counts (over the past few years)  that some stay. My guess now is that an awful lot do.

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