Monday 6 December 2010

The winter warblers of Jalu

Fresh water is everywhere in the triangle of oasis towns of Jalu. Awjila and Jakarrad (blue square on the map below). It is mostly in small irrigation channels and in small pools underneath thousands of date palm and other trees.

Jalu is the blue square on the map

This phenomenon is relatively recent and I suspect the bird life has only recently changed along with the environment.

It is not like the northern coast. I didn't see any stonechat or black redstart which winter in large numbers further north. On the other hand I didn't see any white-crowned wheatear (a "southern" bird) which I had expected probably because the area doesnt have the aridity which this bird likes!

The most obvious bird is spanish sparrow. There are very large numbers. I will report on them over the next two days because there was something odd about them!

What the Jalu farms and gardens also had in profusion were warblers.  There were some wintering chiffchaff and sardinian warbler like on the north coast.

wintering sub-alpine warbler, Jalu

However by far the most common warbler was sub-alpine warbler. This bird is supposed to winter almost exclusively south of the Sahara but the Jalu towns were teeming with them. Every third or four palm tree and every tamarisk tree seemed to hold one.

It seems clear to me that the greening of the desert has affected some species' habits more than others and that sub-alpine warbler has been  affected more than most. 

another wintering sub-alpine warbler

All warblers proved a nightmare to photograph. They just don't stay still. I found it impossible to photograph the ones in the tamarisk even though they were denser there. I had most success in my hosts garden!


Talking of nightmares the above bird proved very difficult for me. It had dark legs like a chiffchaff but a strong supercillium and brighter yellow underneath like a willow warbler. In the end I plumped for chiffchaff because of its call. 

sardinian warbler

I am sure there were other warblers in Jalu and a proper audit by more bird watchers would be exciting. 

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