Tuesday 11 January 2011

Waders at Marj

The water complex at Old Marj is sourced mostly by dirty water (presumably from the town of Al Marj) which runs into a reed bed. 

Reeds are one of nature's amazing ways of cleaning water so after the reed bed it continues to flow down hill and it is much cleaner (or less eutrophic as scientists say). It collects in a lake and marsh land at the lowest point locally.  

The shear variety of terrain encourages a variety in the types types of wader.

I reported in an earlier blog how the wet meadows near the clear lake attract northern lapwing.  Well on the same day (last Friday) that I saw them I also saw 40 or 50 black-winged stilt in the deeper parts of the "lake".  This is a breeding bird in Libya but I can't tell you whether these were local birds or wintering birds from Europe.

black winged stilt at Old Marj "lake"

As I said in the blog about northern lapwing it is impossible to sneak up on the waders at the lake because there is no cover and you are wading yourself through marsh land. So all the photos of this area are from a distance.

blown up picture of lake with black winged stilt

If you look carefully at the above picture you might see that some of the flying birds are northern lapwing.  

However the wader present in the largest numbers by far was dunlin. I estimate there were over 400. I now wonder whether the annual UN wetlands survey underestimates the number of winter water birds in Libya simply because it doesn't look at many "informal" sites like this. There is nothing elegant about birding a (partially) treated waste water outlet but the birding is fantastic!


huge flock of dunlin at Old Marj

In some of the smaller pools within the marsh land there are other waders too - notably sandpipers. The main sandpiper in the cleaner areas beyond the reeds is wood sandpiper.  (I have blogged before about the frequency of wood sandpiper as a wintering bird). 

two dunlin and a flying wood sandpiper

The marsh land itself houses some wood sandpiper and green sandpiper but the most abundant bird I found was common snipe. I had been warned by German ornithologist Jens Hering that I might even see hundreds and I can confirm they were present in very large numbers.

marsh land between reeds and main lake

Common snipe was also present near the more eutrophic  water before the reed beds but not in such great numbers. However they were easier to photograph there simply because there is cover for the bird watcher.

common snipe at Old Marj

As usual green sandpiper were found near the dirtier water in places wood sandpiper wouldn't go. 

moorhen and green sandpiper

I wonder what waders I'll see here during the passage?


  1. Hi Rob
    The reason why UN survey (actually it is EGA survey with tech help of RAC/SPA, the UN center in Tunis), I said the reason is that those surveys were done in late January or even in February, mainly to wait the team to gather after each non Libyan team member finish his nation's midwinter census, therefore the survey in Libya is late, due to inadequate number of local birders. thats why I stressed to you the matter of training locals and involve them whenever possible.
    The other point is how much time the team spent at each site, usually 30 min to max of 1-3 hours. whereas our friend Rob may spend the whole day in one site and come up with significantly different results.

    Hope I was clear in my justifications.

    Enjoy birding


  2. Abdul,

    Thanks for your explanation on bird numbers. I was n't being critical of the UN by the way! I was trying to say that Libya has even more birds than the literature says.

    It would be great to train more local birders and I have seen more and more local activity even in the last 18 months



  3. Thanks Rob

    I know your passion on Libyan birding, and no one can deny your significant contributions the last 2 years in establishing this oasis of information (starting with a lark!).
    Thanks and I am reading your blogs everyday.