Monday 20 December 2010

Tracking Montagu's harrier over Libya

I try to keep up to date with all new news about Libyan birds. Recently I came across the work being done this winter by the Montagu's Harrier working group.   

In late March this year I saw three Montagu's harriers flying north near Jadu in the Jebel Nafusa, north west Libya. They were foraging for food and continuing their north bound passage in no particular hurry.

In those days (they seem so long ago!) I believed the distribution maps of guidebooks were very accurate. I was surprised to see birds 100 kilometres east of the guidebook's  most easterly fly route.

Montagu's Harrier pictured near Jadu, Jebel Nafusa in late March

Well the Montagu's Harrier Working Group have tracked several birds on their southward migration this autumn. Some of the birds flew through Libya much further east still than the place I saw birds in March.

Map from Montagu's Harrier Working Group

The autumn tracking gives us some sort of clue as to where the birds I saw in March were likely to be heading. My best guess is Eastern Germany or Poland. This assumes they take a similar route back from where they came (could be a big assumption).

If you want to know more about the tracking please visit the following website:

second picture of a Montagu's Harrier near Jadu in late March

This harrier is even more likely to take a direct route across the Mediterranean than marsh harrier (which in turn is much more direct than eagles and buzzards which prefer to cross the sea at the shortest points). This gives me great hope that a harrier I saw fleetingly at Deryanah on Friday was a pallid harrier which was my first thought. It's a shame I lost touch with it. Pallid harriers from eastern Europe have pretty much all have been assumed to travel through Istanbul down the Nile. Don't bet your shirt on it.

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