Saturday 18 December 2010

All change at Al Thama

I never knew Al Thama in north east Benghazi when it was an urban wetland. It arguably used to be a natural wetland or an unsightly, polluted tip depending on your perspective.   

When I arrived in Benghazi in May it was already being re-landscaped and tidied up.

By then,most of the natural vegetation had been removed along with the rubbish. However one island was still natural. In May I found breeding black winged stilt, kentish plover and little tern there.

The island has since been re-landscaped too. 

black-headed gull, Al Thama

I am an optimist by nature and I am pretty sure there will be winners and losers among the bird species once the re-development is finished. I am not one of those birders who thinks all re-development is bad news.  

I understand that there will be up to seven lakes in the area replacing the existing two main ones.  

Kentish plover is a great adaptor and I saw them during my visit on Friday morning. I expect them to stay.  However the black winged stilt and little tern won't breed in this area again unless new cover grows.

The area is in transition at the moment so its hard to know which species will benefit and which will lose out. During the UN winter bird count in 2005 over 1,250 waders were reported. I don't think the new scheme will be so amenable to as many waders.

one of the new lakes at Al Thama

Much will depend on the type of landscaping which will be introduced. If its like near-by Buduzeera (very good balance between human recreational needs and the wildlife's needs) there will be tall reeds, trees and grass.

On Friday the largest number of birds at Al Thama were black-headed gull and cormorant. There were tens of the latter on one artificial island. I would expect them to be very comfortable in the new environment. It also seems highly probable there will be more herons and egrets as well as reed warblers in the future if Buduzeera is any thing to go by.

Al Thama by the UN water count team 2005

The picture above shows how degraded the land was.

some of the banking today at Al Thama 

Obviously the area will be very different. 

In this time of transition there were some surprising birds about. I saw several common sandpiper in the various building ditches.

There are more green sandpiper in winter in Libya followed by equal numbers of wood sandpiper and common sandpiper. The presence of the latter two north of the Sahara shocks some people but they are here.

common sandpiper, Al Thama

I have a working rule of thumb as to which sandpiper I am likely to see in which habitat. If the area smells it will be green sandpiper. They don't seem to mind run-off ditches and sewage works. At the other end of the spectrum common sand piper like cleaner water. Wood sandpiper is in between.

kingfisher, Al Thama

The other surprising bird at Al Thama was kingfisher. There were several despite the lack of green cover. Maybe the earth mounds achieved the same trick for them.

I look forward to the completion of the project. It could be an very interesting place. Time will tell.  

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