Thursday 30 December 2010

Highlights of 2010 - part one

For the next two days I'm reviewing the highlights of my blog since it first appeared in January 2010. Today I look at the first half of the year.  It's been hard making choices and some  exciting birds and moments haven't make the cut. For example it was a wrench not making room for fulvous babbler, a common place bird in Tripolitania but seemingly exotic to many European and American birders.

Today's review is more or less chronological (tomorrow's isn't!).

In my earliest blogs, I published one or two events from late 2009. One such event was a trip to Ghadames which is an Oasis and world heritage centre near both the Algerian and Tunisian borders.

Just south of Nalut we had a picnic en route to Ghadames. It was here I saw my first ever bar-tailed lark, hoopoe lark and maghreb wheatear all within 5 metres of the picnic blanket.  I chose the picture of the maghreb wheatear to represent all this below.

maghreb wheatear, near Nalut, November 2009

In Ghadames were some wintering warblers but my favourite find was collared dove. This bird is very rare in Libya and is possibly slowly colonising from Tunisia in a few places. I have only seen it in one other place since.

collared dove, Ghadames, November 2009

Another early post was not based on my information at all but from a trip by an ex-colleague Jon Bradbeer. He toured the four corners of Libya in December 2009 and although not a birder took a few photos for me. 

Among the places he visited was the remote Uweinat on the border with Egypt and Sudan. He brought back records of both white crowned wheatear which is arguably the hardiest bird in the Sahara.  However what excited me was his record of desert wheatear which despite its name is nowhere near as hardy.
As desert wheatear is there then they must surely be a longer list of species than some had imagined (see my tab on the home page on Uweinat).

desert wheatear, Uweinat, Dec 2009 by Jon Bradbeer

In February British Birders Paul and Diane Bowden visited. There is a trip report as one of the blogs. Plenty of species including two lifers for me - cream coloured courser and moussier's redstart. The latter bird was seen in two different locations tens of kilometres apart. It is clearly more than a scarce winter visitor that had been supposed. By the way I have seen cream coloured courser several times since.

moussiers redstart by Paul Bowden near wadi kaam

Even during Paul and Diane's visit the passage had started (mostly northern wheatear and isabelline wheatear). Soon after it was in earnest.

Below is a selection of passage birds seen mostly in the Tripoli area.

bee-eater, Janzour

Some bee-eater stay for the summer especially near Garabolli but most are on passage. I usually hear them before I see them and its a wonderful sound.

In March and April I often walked along the new (and unfinished railway line in Janzour, Tripoli). each day brought different passage birds. One day a cat flushed two nightingale but another passage bird bravely stood up to it. The cat ran away. It was a great reed warbler. Without the cat I would never have noticed it.

great reed warbler, Janzour

I noticed that nightingales stay three or four weeks before moving on. The one below could be found under the same bush as often as not for three weeks running. Eventually they move on and the morning sounds are worse for it.

I read a website  last week where someone had reported that nightingale in Morocco also similarly stall their migration. 

nightingale in Janzour, March and April

The passage brought many wagtails and pipits but my favourite in spring was red throated pipit. There are plenty to be seen then. A few are supposed to winter in northern Libya but for once I think this maybe over (not under) reporting. I have only seen them in winter at Jaghboub Oasis well south of the coast but I'm still looking.

red throated pipit, Janzour

Another interesting passage bird (not necessarily just passage as I now know - see December's blog) which incidentally crosses northern Libya on a broad front is sub-alpine warbler. The one below was seen in spring between Yefren and Tripoli. 

sub alpine warbler north of  Yefren on the plain

In late May I moved to Benghazi and left summer birding near Tripoli behind but not before i had seen my first rufous tailed bush robin (not pictured).

There are more permenant wetlands on this side of Libya at one near Garyounis, Benghazi I saw a sedge warbler. I still don't know whether this was a late passage bird or a summer resident. it is one of over 45 species that books like Collins don't report in Libya at all so you have to draw your own conclusions. 

sedge warbler, Garyounis near Benghazi

In June I started visiting Jardinah (about 60 kilometres south east of Benghazi). It has a huge government farm project producing farmland in otherwise semi-desert with the help of copious water and urea (fertiliser). It is the mostly northerly of these projects which are so rich in bird life.

On my first visit I saw over 50 white stork - no bad for a bird which isn't even on the Collin's guide map in Libya. This farm and other government projects produced many surprises during the year. I predict they will continue to do so.

white stork (and pallid swift) at Jardinah

In June I explored the Al Thama water complex in Benghazi and came up on breeding colonies of black winged stiltkentish plover and little tern. Many more birds breed in Libya than any guide books say. Trust me.

little tern at Al Thama

Tomorrow we look at the second half of the year that is just finishing.

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