Sunday 19 December 2010

A wet and grey day at Deryanah

I returned to one of my favourite local spots on Friday afternoon. I really like birding the wetland just east of Deryanah.

This time the weather was poor. It was grey, windy and rainy. At one stage the temperature dropped to 9C and it hailed. It doesn't get more wintery than this in this part of Cyrenaica.

I was in my element. Many birders in Europe know this weather all too well.

Dunlin, Deryanah

This area has some permanent water but expands greatly in winter. Yet the water level of the  most westerly part was lower than usual (and it was pouring at times). Abdullah translated a local person who said this bit had been the run-off dirty water from the town! but two weeks ago it had been diverted to a new sewage works.

The newly clearer but lower water in the west had different birds than last time. There were no white wagtail on the shore but there were now ducks and coot (more on them later) as well as a very large number of dunlin.

part of Deryanah on a grey Friday

I found something new about dunlin behaviour. When it was dry they scared very easily (see photo below) but when I approached them in the pouring rain they didn't move. Even after the sun came out they didn't seem to mind me so close - hence the top photo.

flock of dunlin flying off

There were common redshank in this area too. Their screams always gives them away.

one redshank among the dunlin

My prize sighting in this part of Deryanah was four curlew that standing just as the storm was fiercest. I really wanted to look at them closely because I truly believe the Libyan coast is the most likely place on the planet to see the slender billed curlew if they still exist.

I am particularly interested in small groups after all looking for smaller birds in large flocks of curlew has failed. My hunch is they don't mix easily. You don't often see mixed whimbrel and curlew either.

I had a technical problem with my camera which prevented me tracking the birds and photographing them which I cursed.  My camera froze when it got wet. This adds to my problems when I get too much sand in it!

shoveler at deryanah

This new cleaner part of Deryanah had attracted shoveler too. This is usually the most numerous duck in the UN winter wetland bird counts but it was my first sighting in Cyrenaica (I had seen them near Tripoli) last winter. Maybe I was premature last week when I said mallard was the last duck (or any wintering species) to arrive each winter.

shoveler and coot

When I moved on to the central and eastern parts of the wetland, I saw my first flamingo of the day sharing some deeper water with some common shelduck.

shelduck flying

The flamingo appeared at first sight to be on its own but I later saw a flock of seven others a little further east which he returned to towards the end of the day.


I don't see many adult flamingo in Libya. Its well known that adults fly further from their breeding sites which UN research shows for Libyan wintering birds are mostly France, Spain and Turkey.

yellow legged gull

The eastern part of the complex held many waders - most seemed to be dunlin (and redshank) but I didn't get to look at them as closely as I would have wished. This is also where the other flamingo were.  There were also several yellow-legged gull.

On the way back to the car I walk pass a tip and adjacent water. This held plenty of cattle egret and white wagtail as I would expect near the tip. A few barn swallow were also present. Remember they are resident in the Benghazi area although on a cold day like this they may have regretted this.

The water near-by was lower than I( have ever known it so it must also have been fed in the past by the town's dirty water which is now going elsewhere. next to this water were a large number (at least a dozen) common snipe.  I have said recently that I hadn't realised how they cluster in loose flocks throughout the winter.

chiffchaff, deryanah

The bushes near this water still held many chiffchaff which must be working harder since the number of flies and mosquitoes are well down due to the water change and cooler weather. I also saw one bluethroat under a bush there. The family of moorhen are still around but if the water level continues to drop there then they must surely move on.

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