Monday 31 January 2011

The birds of Wadi Kaam valley

On Saturday, I went with Andy, Helen and Ibrahim to Wadi Kaam. It was a gloriously sunny and warm (but not hot) day to visit arguably the greenest area in Tripolitania.

The northern, lower, section of the valley is fertile farming land with many cypress trees. The dominant finch of these trees in Tripolitinia - serin - were everywhere to be seen and heard.

serin in the lower Wadi Kaam valley

In contrast, in Cyrenaica (north east Libya), the dominant finch is chaffinch. In Tripolitania (including Wadi Kaam) that bird is rare. Conversely serin is a rare winter visitor to Cyrenaica. This at variance with the guide books which surprisingly over-report serin distribution there!

a green field in the lower Wadi Kaam valley

In winter, walking along the shaded country lanes in the lower Wadi Kaam valley, within minutes you can easily pick out cattle egretserin, goldfinch, meadow pipit, sardinian warbler and spanish sparrow.

Cattle egret is nowhere near as common in Tripolitania as in Cyrenaica but is common in Wadi Kaam.

view of the middle Wadi Kaam valley from the reservoir

The valley stretches for several kilometres north of a very large reservoir, getting wider and greener as it heads north.

view of another serin in the lower wadi kaam valley

I was a little surprised to see so many black redstart in the lower valley.  Some seemed to be moving around in pairs.

male black redstart 

Here all the black redstart were gibraltariensis. When I bird around Benghazi (850 kilometres east) they are a mix of the European sub species gibraltariensis and the Turkish sub species ochruros.

The easiest way I separate the two sub species is the white flash on the wing of the European but not the Turkish male bird. Females I find impossible to distinguish.

an apparent black redstart pair at Wadi Kaam

I didn't find chiffchaff that common at Wadi Kaam but they were there is low numbers.

chiffchaff at Wadi Kaam

In the drier areas of the middle and upper valley the bird life changed. Crested lark and black wheatear were easily seen. They were also present at Wadi Lubda (the next valley along which we visited briefly before reaching Wadi Kaam).

black wheatear

My favourite resident of theses drier areas is fulvous babbler. There were several family groups around to view.

fulvous babbler

This article is not a full audit of the birds of Wadi Kaam valley. Take a look at an article on a trip report from February last year . You'll find some more birds from this area there. Between the two articles I hope you'll get a good overall picture.

Tomorrow we can look at the birds seen at the reservoir itself.

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