Thursday 25 November 2010

Wadi Al Bab

I return to Libyan birds after a few days writing about Jordan.  Last Saturday morning I ventured south of the Jebel Akhdar. The idea was to visit (for the first time) one of the wadis that runs off the Jebel on its dry southern side. These wadis only have water after heavy rain on the hills. They get most of their water from run off rather than direct rainfall. It rained for three days on the hills and near Benghazi during the previous week so I thought prospects might be good for water and birds.

Wadi Al Bab, west of Saluq

I was in luck. Nearly all the wadis run across the  road which goes westerly out of Jardas Al Abar (see map below). However,  I chose to take a more minor (and southerly road) out of Saluq instead. It was on this road that I came across Wadi Al Bab (see pin on map). This is the most southerly and westerly of all these wadis.

map (from Google earth) showing geography south of part of the Jebel Akhdar

The first good news was that the wadi did, indeed, have water.

I didn't know what to expect in terms of birds. This was my first look at this class of habitat. I hadn't even visited similar wadis south of Jebel Nafusa when I lived in Tripoli.

flock of lapwing, Wadi Al Bab

As soon I arrived I saw a flock of six northern lapwing. I took a hasty picture before they moved away from my camera range. Apologises for the quality.

I was very excited by this discovery. Northern lapwing is a rare sight in Libya. Take a look at your Collins guide. The bird is completely missing from Libya according to the book. Actually I saw one before at Wadi Zaret dam in Tripolitania last winter.

As far as I can tell this is the second largest sighting in recent years in the country. The largest was by the UN winter wetland census team. They saw 20 (more than in all the other years added together) at Al-Abyar. Take a look again at the map above. Al-Abyar is close to Wadi Al Bab. This area seems to be the Libyan hotspot for this bird.

corn bunting, Wadi Al Bab

The second surprise was a very large flock of at least 200 corn bunting scattered around all the wadi's bushes and trees.

Again the Collins guide doesn't have them south of the Jebel Akhdar but I think this is almost certainly down to lack of reporting on the southern run-off wadis.

I wonder how much birding has ever taken place in these wadis?

some of the corn bunting flock, Wadi Al Bab

Down stream the wadi after it crosses the road changes complexion. Its more like a meadow with high grasses.  

downstream at Wadi Al Bab

The main occupants of the wadi downstream were wintering stonechat and chiffchaff. These birds along with white wagtail (also seen by the road) winter in vast numbers throughout Libya.

stonechat and chiffchaff downstream at Wadi Al Bab

Despite all these wintering birds, there were locals too. Both desert grey shrike and great grey shrike were present right next to each other. This may well mark the boundary of the two species.

desert grey shrike, Wadi Al Bab

I suspect any further south or east and I would see only desert grey shrike.

great grey shrike, Wadi Al Bab

The other obvious residient (or at least non-foreign) were trumpeter finch. Once again the  Collins guide distribution map is worth looking at. Wadi Al Bab  is exactly half way between two isolated areas where the book says the bird should be. It now looks like the two areas aren't isolated at all and trumpeter finch is in the areas in between. 

trumpeter finch coming to drink at Wadi Al Bab

Finally as we left Wadi Al Bab and started to head back to Saluq, I was reminded that the wadi was the only break in otherwise semi-desert by the presence of two brown-necked raven near the road.

brown-necked raven between Saluq and Wadi Al Bab

Tomorrow I'll write about another new habitat. I birded a rubbish dump! See what I found.

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