A trip to Tunisia for the Pan-African Ornithological Congress provided the opportunity for some desert birding. Tunisia is an amazingly varied country with extensive wetlands in the east, mountains in the north west and some excellent desert birding in the south. We connected with several difficult species including good numbers of Desert Sparrows at a site not previously covered in UK trip reports, and Thick-billed Lark.
The country is well set up for travelling around. We hired a care relatively cheaply (£300 for 11 days) from Camelcar (www.camelcar.com), and they fixed a problem we had with the car very quickly and efficiently. We used Michelin map number 744, although the scale of the map meant that we sometimes left guessing particularly in towns, where signposting was erratic. In general, driving felt very safe and it was possible to cover large distance relatively easily.
Essential previous trip reports available from FBRIS (http://www.fbris.co.uk):
Pat Bonham. Tunisia (Pingrum Tours), 6-13 January 1996. (plus updated site maps from 1997)
Stephen Mawby & John King. Tunisia - 14th to 28th November 1993.
Alan Parnell. Tunisia Dec 29 1997 - 6 Jan 1998.
Useful trip reports available from the internet:
Rob Martin, Rich Moores & Mike Holt. Birding Tunisia in winter, December 10th-17th 2003. (from surfbirds)
William Oliver. Trip report: Tunisia, March 7-15, 1999 (from Urs Geiser)
Main sites visited
Co-ordinates are given in metres using UTM-UPS (WGS84).
NORTH AND EAST TUNISIA
Lake at Sidi Jdidi
Head west out of Hammamet, cross the P1 following signs for Sidi Jdidi. The lake is a few kms along this road on the right hand side. We had a female White-headed Duck here, but didn't fully explore the lake, which looked to be excellent.
At the eastern end of the Cap Bon peninsula, we saw Yelkouan Shearwaters from a cafe at the point at 0688684E, 4078508N.
The site for Levaillant's Woodpecker is c 8km south of Ain Draham. Park at the junction with the road heading east to Beni M'Tir (the C65) from the P17. You will see a large fire break running south up the slope. The birds can be heard from this ride. The forest along the road to Beni M'Tir is also worth investigating.
Impressive Roman ruins just south of the town of Teboursouk, accessed along the C74. Good site for getting excellent views of Rock Sparrow. Also plenty of Black Wheatears and Blue Rock Thrush.
This town is between Kairouan and Sfax, and the Roman amphitheatre there is well worth seeing. It provided us with a fine Alpine Accentor.
Accessed from the main road south of Sfax, head for the red and white lighthouse and then drive around the saltpans on the raised causeways. Looked like an excellent and very extensive wetland site, although we could only spend a couple of hours there.
We found the hills west of Medenine to be highly productive birding, supporting very large numbers of Black Wheatears, Bonelli's Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, Barbary Partridge, Long-legged Buzzard, House Buntings (e.g. at 0605851E, 3704796N where we also had excellent views of Gundi).
Pipeline Road Wadi
Turn south from the Matmata-Douz road about 35 km west of Matmata, and head along the pipeline road signposted towards Ksar Ghilane. In November 2004, this road was easily passable in a 2WD vehicle. After exactly 20km, you will see a large wadi that crosses the road. This is at 0566452E, 3694952N. The tussocky grass here is apparently a site for Dupont's Lark, although we couldn't find any in our late morning visit. We did see 15+ Hoopoe Larks, 15 Temminck's Horned Larks and 9 Black-bellied Sandgrouse here.
We saw a single Thick-billed Lark just north of the main Matmata-Douz road, between km posts 26 and 27 (from Matmata) at 0568166E, 3713633N.
Continue south along the pipeline road from Pipeline Road Wadi for 12 km. Turn west from the pipeline road at Bir Soultane cafe and drive along the track for c1 km, past an army barracks on the right, until you reach a small group of buildings with a windmill on the right hand side. We had 40+ Desert Sparrows at this site: 0566043E, 3683541N.
We found the oasis town itself, including El Hessai (a few kms south of Douz) not especially productive, and mostly the birding is a case of birding suitable-looking habitat from the road in the general vicinity of the town. A couple of days in the area seems sufficient to clear up most of the desert species. Tristram's Warbler was reasonably common in the semi-desert around Douz. We saw Cream-coloured Coursers near the tourist zone at 0501893E, 3698823N, and House Buntings from the terrace of Restuarant des l'Arcs at 0502139E, 3701648N.
Ghidma Oasis & Pool
Head west out of Douz, passing Zaafrane, and you will see a small oasis on the north side of the road just before reaching Ghidma at 0487880E, 3701635N. We saw Fulvous Babblers and Hoopoe Lark here. West of Ghidma, there is a large pool north of the road. This held 350+ Marbled Ducks and 20 Ferruginous Ducks. The birds were not immediately visible from the road owing to extensive reedbeds. Walk around the west side to the back of the lake for views of the main part of the lake.
Tozeur - Seldja Gorge
We did not find the Seldja Gorge particularly productive, but the area between Tozeur and Seldja was the only place we saw White-crowned Black Wheatears during the trip. We saw many roadside birds from the P3, although the area around El Mahassen was particularly good for them.
Landed at Monastir at around midday, picked up the hire car immediately and headed to Hammamet, noting a roadside flock of 130 Greater Flamingo and 20 Common Shelducks near the airport. Didn't get out to bird the area, as there was a high police presence, and previous birders have been arrested here. Dropped off the hire car rep in town, and then had lunch near the Medina in Hammamet. A look at the sparrows there indicated that most appeared to be hybrid Spanish * House, although some birds approached pure Spanish. Sandwich Tern and Yellow-legged Gull offshore there. After lunch we went to the lake at Sidi Jdidi, which produced a female White-headed Duck, a Long-legged Buzzard on the ground, a fantastic erlangeri Lanner, Wryneck, 2 Moussier's Redstarts, algeriensis Southern Grey Shrike, Cetti's Warbler, and a Reed Bunting. It was already late afternoon, so we headed into Nabeul and stayed at the Pension Les Oliviers for the night.
Wandered around the garden of the guesthouse in the morning, and had 2 Collared Doves, Laughing Dove, Hoopoe, African Blue Tit, and several groups of Spotless Starlings. Back at the guesthouse, three Tree Sparrows were on the building opposite.
Left the guesthouse at about 0930 and drove eastwards onto the Cap Bon Peninsula, stopping near Korba to watch a flock of 500 Greater Flamingoes, and a couple more Collared Doves, clearly a species beginning to colonise Tunisia, as we saw many during the course of the trip, but the books don't show Tunisia as part of its range.
Arrived at Kelibia, and first looked at the marshy lake in the west side of town. It held 3 Slender-billed Gulls and 4 Mediterranean Gulls in a flock of 100 Black-headed Gulls. Overhead was a flock of c50 Crag Martins, accompanied by c10 Little Swifts and a Barn Swallow. We set up at the cafe on the point, and seawatched over a coffee. There were about 20 Cory's Shearwaters offshore, and after about half an hour, a Yelkouan Shearwater flew past at quite close range. Also present were a Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail.
Next we headed to the Lake near Menzel Temime, but relatively little was present and the birds were very distant. Two Spoonbills and a flyover Short-toed Lark were the only notable birds. We then drove to the Black-crowned Tchagra site near Menzel Bouzelfa where we had fantastic views of a noisy group of Common Bulbuls, a flyover Song Thrush, African Blue Tit and spodiogenys Chaffinch. No sign of any Tchagras, but presumably they have not been seen here for many years?
It was already late afternoon, so we drove straight to Ain Draham, eventually arriving there about 8pm and finding a hotel in town.
Spent the morning searching for Levaillant's Woodpecker, and heard three birds calling within the first half an hour. Despite SGW glimpsing one bird as it flew off, we could not obtain good views. Reluctantly we had to call off the search after four hours, although we had noted a fine male numidus Great Spotted Woodpecker, several ledouci Coal Tits, a cervicalis Jay, three Dartford Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest, and a flyover Marsh Harrier.
We then drove to the magnificent Roman ruins at Dougga, where we wandered around during the late afternoon. Notable birds included 6 Blue Rock Thrushes, at least 4 Moussier's Redstart, 3 Black Wheatears and a Little Owl. As dusk approached, we set off for Kairouan; a Barn Owl flew across the road about 10km before we reached the city.
We had a leisurely wander around the fantastic medina at Kairouan in the morning, then drove to El Jem where we visited the awesome Roman coliseum. A cracking Alpine Accentor stopped us in our tracks as we entered the coliseum, and we enjoyed point blank views of the bird for several minutes. This species is a scarce winterer in Tunisia. In the afternoon, en route to Jerba, we stopped at Es Chaffar beach, just south of Mahres. The saltmarsh behind the beach was quite productive with 100 Spoonbills, 120 Greater Flamingoes, a Marsh Harrier, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Turnstone and Little Owl. Offshore were 2 Audouin's Gulls, several Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls, and 5 Black-necked Grebes. The dunes held a Spectacled Warbler and several Zitting Cisticolas. At dusk, we left for Jerba, eventually arriving there just in time for the opening ceremony of the conference. Stayed in Club Les Alizees near Midoun.
Spent all day at the conference. During a coffee break on the balcony of the Hotel Vincci Al Kantara, had a Ringed Plover, Marsh Sandpiper and 20 Slender-billed Gulls.
Woke early and drove to the ferry terminal at Ajim. Around the port were 6 Black-necked Grebes, 100 Greater Flamingoes and 50 Slender-billed Gulls. We took the short ferry ride across to the mainland and then headed for Matmata. On the way through a small mountain range around Toujane, we stopped to look at a small group of Gundi (an endearing guinea-pig like mammal) and had three House Buntings, a Desert Lark, 2 calling Barbary Partridges, 2 Moussier's Redstarts, a Mourning Wheatear and 10+ Black Wheatears.
We then drove west from Matmata, stopping just west of Tamezret for a small group of Trumpeter Finches by the side of the road. 14km west of Tamezret between km posts 26 and 27 (from Matmata), we stopped to look at a roadside wheatear that turned out to be a Red-rumped Wheatear. While we were enjoying it, a calling Thick-billed Lark flew low north over the road and landed about 100 yards away in the pebbly desert. We could not believe our luck and scoped it for several minutes. It then disappeared and we could not relocate it despite wandering around in the desert for half an hour.
We then drove through fantastic desert scenery to Douz, and immediately went to the spot at El Hessai for Desert Sparrows. We could not find any, but wandered about in the date palm plantation and then the dunes north of the road, which produced 2 Tristram's Warblers, a Desert Wheatear, and a Brown-necked Raven. We checked into a hotel in the tourist zone, and promptly broke the key in the ignition of the car while we were in the car park. Stunned by this distaster, we phoned the car hire company, and were amazed when their "man in Douz" appeared less than an hour later while we were having dinner. He arranged for a mechanic to look at the car the following morning, so in effect all we had lost was the opportunity to go birding using the car in the morning.
With little other option, we wandered from the hotel around the date plantations by the tourist zone, and were stunningly rewarded by a couple of fine Cream-coloured Coursers in the area at the end of the zone touristique, where the camel riding crews assemble in the morning. Other birds were a Tristram's Warbler, a Spectacled Warbler, at least 5 Moussier's Redstarts, and 10 Zitting Cisticolas. Arrived back at the hotel at 12:00, and as promised, the car was ready and we headed west out of Douz. Just beyond Zaafrane, we had a pair of fine roadside Hoopoe Larks and four Moussier's Redstarts. Just before reaching Ghidma, we noticed a small oasis on the north side of the road, stopped, and wandered across the sand dunes to it, noting a Hoopoe Lark on the way. The oasis itself produced four Moussier's Redstarts, four Tristram's Warblers and three Fulvous Babblers.
When we started the car again, we noticed a strange noise coming from the engine, but persevered past Ghidma, stopping at the large lake just beyond the town. Having turned the engine off, we immediately realised that the car would not start, and called out our trusty rep again. Determined not to lose birding time, we wandered around the lake. It was excellent, producing 350 Marbled Ducks (not visible from the road - walk around the west side to the back of the lake for views), 20 Ferruginous Ducks, 3 Water Rails, 10 Black-winged Stilts, 15 Kentish Plovers, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Hoopoe Lark, 8 Reed Warblers, four Tristram's Warblers including a spanking male, at least 150 Chiffchaffs, and a massive roost of more than 1000 Spanish Sparrows. We stayed until dusk at the lake, enjoying the sunset over the desert to the west. The mechanic told us that our starter motor was broken and that we would have to push the car every time we wanted to start it! We phoned the office in Tunis, and they arranged to swap our car at midday the next day. Back to Douz, and we checked into the Hotel 20 Mars in the town - a great place to stay, cheap and very clean etc. Had dinner in Ali Baba's restuarant.
Tried again the circuit west of Douz, stopping just past Zaafrane and birding the desert to the north of the road. This produced 2 Desert Wheatears and 4 Tristram's Warbler. Driving west, we had a pair of Lanner perched on a pylon by Km post 70 near El Faouar. We then stopped at the junction of the C105 and the C210 and birded east of the junction in the desert. This produced flyover Lesser Short-toed Larks, single Desert Wheatear and Tristram's Warbler, as well as excellent views of two Scrub Warblers. Continuing around the circuit, we stopped at Blidette Lake, which held 7 Grey Herons, a Marsh Harrier, Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, 30 Little Stints, 2 Moussier's Redstarts.
Arriving back in Douz for midday, we found our replacement car waiting outside the hotel as promised, and immediately went for lunch in the Restuarant des l'Arcs in town. We sat on the terrace eating couscous, while watching a House Bunting perched on nearby rooves!
After lunch, we headed back east, as we wanted to return to the conference for another day. 12 Km east of Douz, we stopped and birded the desert south of the road, noting two Hoopoe Larks, 2 flyover Bar-tailed Larks, Tristram's Warbler and Scrub Warbler.
We stopped again just before reaching Tamezret and birded along a wadi north of the road. This produced Desert Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Mourning Wheatear, Red-rumped Wheatear and Scrub Warbler.
Threading our way back through the hills, we stopped at a magnificent clifftop lookout near Toujane. This produced a Blue Rock Thrush, a pair of Bonelli's Eagles patrolling along the cliff edge, great views of a perched Long-legged Buzzard, and at least 20 Black Wheatears were in the area. Dusk fell and we headed in darkness back onto Jerba just in time for an evening rendezvous in the bar.
Spent most of the day at the conference again, meeting several birders who had been on desert trips. A couple of guys had seen Desert Sparrow at a site along the pipeline road south of the Matmata-Douz road, so after the talks in the afternoon, we headed out west again. On the way, we noted 20 Black-necked Grebes, an adult Audouin's Gull, 10 Mediterranean Gulls and 50 Slender-billed Gulls from the ferry. Arrived in Matmata mid evening and checked into the Hotel Matmata, where we were treated to a fantastic huge meal, everything apparently a 'Berber speciality'. The next morning we were up early and headed expectantly down the pipeline road that heads south from the Matmata-Douz road towards Ksar Ghilane.
First we stopped at the large wadi 20 km south of the main road. This is apparently a site for Dupont's Lark, among the tussocky grass in the wadi bed, but we walked about 2 km of it east from the pipeline road, but could not locate any. However, we were amply rewarded with 15 Hoopoe Larks, including several displaying pairs, 10 Bar-tailed Larks, 6 Lesser Short-toed Larks, Thekla and Crested Larks, 15 Temminck's Horned Larks, including crippling views of sand-bathing birds at very close range, and 8+ Red-rumped Wheatears.
Buoyed by this success, we headed south to Bir Soultane. Turn west from the pipeline road at Bir Soultane cafe and drive along the track for c1 km, past an army barracks on the right, until you reach a small group of buildings with a windmill on the right hand side. We had 40+ Desert Sparrows at this site. The birds were coming in small groups from the sand dunes west of the buildings to drink on the roof of the small building on the left surrounded by a wire fence. The birds would perch on the wire fence before going onto the roof, giving awesome views. This area was accessible easily by 2WD vehicle, and was also a great place to see classical rolling dunes of the Sahara desert.
Having secured our main target species, we drove back north along the pipeline road and stopped again briefly at the Pipeline Wadi, where we again had excellent views of Temminck's Horned Larks, and also had a flyover group of 9 Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
We picked up some food in Douz, and then headed toward Chott-el-Jerid. We stopped for lunch in Souk Lahad, climbing up onto a rocky outcrop overlooking the oasis town. During lunch we saw 2 saharae Little Owls flycatching aerial insects(!), a Grey Wagtail, Mourning Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush and a couple of House Buntings at very close range. Continuing over the Chott (which was fantastic in its huge expanse of shallow water), we headed north past El Mahassen on the C106. The area between El Mahassen and the P3 produced 6+ White-crowned Black Wheatears, a Black Wheatear, and a Red-rumped Wheatear. We then headed down into Tozeur, where we stayed the night in a hotel way past its prime. We ate camel steaks in town and sank a few beers in the bar of the Continental Hotel.
Our last full day in Tunisia, we headed for the Seldja Gorge in the morning. We birded the entrance track by the wadi, as recommended in previous reports, but could not find any Thick-billed Larks. We had 10 Lesser Short-toed Larks, Mourning Wheatear, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Red-rumped Wheatear, Scrub Warbler and 20 Trumpeter Finches. The gorge itself was less productive bird-wise, but the spectacular scenery made it well worth the trip. Birds in the gorge included 2 Desert Larks, 30 Crag Martins, a Tristram's Warbler and 2 Moussier's Redstarts. We finished at the gorge around midday, and decided to head for Bou Hedma National Park on the way up to Sfax, where we were going to stay the night. We approached from the west, having turned off the P15 at El Guettar. We had a few problems navigating along increasingly small tracks, but enjoyed spectacular panoramic views from the top of what we think was Jebil Biada! On the way down, we had good views of an erlangeri Lanner, and the agricultural fields along the valley floor produced 10 Calandra Larks, a House Bunting, 3 Barbary Partridges and 10 Fulvous Babblers. We eventually reached Bou Hedma as the sun was setting, and had 2 Black-shouldered Kites hunting over the fenced reserve, a couple of Fulvous Babblers, Moussier's Redstarts and 2 Little Owls. There were 10 Ostriches and a couple of Addax inside the fenced reserve. These are the subject of what is sometimes referred to as a re-introduction programme, but the animals are fenced into a fairly small area and don't feel at all tickable. Further east, we came across the main fenced reserve where we saw lots of Scimitar-horned Oryx, more Addax and a Dorcas Gazelle.
Satisfied, we drove for several hours to Sfax, reaching there after 20:00, and checked into a nice hotel in the town. We went for dinner in the Hotel Alexander.
After a wander around the bustling and refreshingly un-touristy town of Sfax, we headed to Thyna saltpans south of the town and spent several hours exploring the area. The saltpans produced 60 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Great White Egrets, 70 Spoonbills, 5000 Greater Flamingoes, 1000 Avocets, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 20 Spotted Redshanks, 3 Marsh Sandpipers, 25 Greenshanks, 12 Turnstones, 20 Curlew Sandpipers, 10 Ruff, 100 Slender-billed Gulls, 15 Caspian Terns, 4 Gull-billed Terns, 10 Lesser Short-toed Larks and 15 Spotless Starlings.
We then drove north, had dinner at a seafront restaurant in Hammamet, and caught our plane from Monastir at 20:40.
1. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis ruficollis)
20 at Sidi Jdid and 6 at Ghima Pool.
2. Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus cristatus)
Small numbers coastally, 20 at Thyna Saltpans.
3. Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis nigricollis)
Small flocks coastally, 60 at Thyna Saltpans.
4. Cory's Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea diomedea)
20 off Kelibia.
5. Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan)
A single north past Kelibia on 18th November.
6. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo maroccanus)
Widespread in small numbers along the coast.
7. Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii)
A single off Ajim, Jerba Island was the only record.
8. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea cinerea)
Regular in suitable habitat. 30 at Es Chaffar beach on 20th November.
9. Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus albus)
Two at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
10. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta garzetta)
Regular in suitable habitat.
11. White Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia leucorodia)
2 at lake near Menzel Temime, 100 at Es Chaffar Beach, 2 at Ajim, Jerba and 70 at Thyna Saltpans.
12. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
Common along the east coast, with large flocks frequently seen e.g. 5000 at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
13. Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
20 birds on saltpan near Monastir airport on 17th November.
14. European Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Three at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November, and a single at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
15. Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Four at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November.
16. Common Teal (Anas crecca)
20 at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November and 10 at Ghidma Pool on 23rd November.
17. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)
Small numbers in suitable habitat.
18. Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Fifty at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November and 6 at Ghidma Pool on 23rd November.
19. Marbled Duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris)
350 on Ghidma Pool on 23rd November.
20. Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Twenty at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November.
21. Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
Twenty at Ghidma Pool on 17th November.
22. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Ten at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November.
23. White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
A female close into the road at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November.
24. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus caeruleus)
Two birds hawking over the breeding reserve at Bou Hedma National Park on 27th November.
25. Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus harterti)
Singles over Ain Draham, Es Chaffar Beach, Blidette Pool and Thyna Saltpans.
26. Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus cirtensis)
Distinctive subspecies, paler than Middle Eastern birds. Singles at Sidi Jdidi and Toujane.
27. Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus fasciatus)
Good views of a pair low along the ridge top near Toujane.
28. Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus tinnunculus)
Widspread in small numbers.
29. Lanner (Falco biarmicus erlangeri)
Distinctive subspecies, much brighter and cleaner than eastern birds. We had a single at Sidi Jdidi, two near El Faouar and one 20 km west of Bou Hedma National Park.
30. Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara spatzi)
Two calling near Toujane, and good views of three birds in farmland west of Bou Hedma National Park.
31. Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus aquaticus)
Two at Sidi Jdidi and three at Ghidma Pool.
32. Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus chloropus)
Five at Sidi Jdidi and one at Ghidma Pool.
33. European Coot (Fulica atra atra)
Large groups in suitable habitat e.g. 500 at Sidi Jdidi.
34. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Perhaps suprisingly, the only record was 10 at Ghimda Pool on 23rd November.
35. Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
1000 at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
36. Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor cursor)
A pair in desert near the tourist zone at Douz on 23rd November.
37. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Four at Es Chaffar and one at Thyna Saltpans.
38. Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula hiaticula)
Singles at Aghir (Jerba) and Blidette Pool.
39. Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius curonicus)
A single at Blidette Pool on 24th November.
40. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus alexandrinus)
Fairly common in suitable habitat.
41. Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa limosa)
Two at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
42. Western Curlew (Numenius arquata arquata)
Thirty at Es Chaffar beach and 20 at Ajim (Jerba).
43. Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
Twenty at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
44. Common Redshank (Tringa totanus totanus)
Fifteen at Es Chaffar beach at 15 at Thyna Saltpans.
45. Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
A single on the beach at Aghir (Jerba) on 21st November, and three at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
46. Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Singles at Es Chaffar and Ghidma Pool, and 25 at Thyna Saltpans.
47. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
Singles at El Hessai, Douz and Ghidma Pool.
48. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
One at Blidette Lake on 24th November.
49. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Small numbers in suitable habitat.
50. Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres interpres)
Two at Es Chaffar beach on 20th November and 12 at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
51. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago gallinago)
A single at Ghidma Pool on 23rd November.
52. Sanderling (Calidris alba)
Four at Es Chaffar beach on 20th November.
53. Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
Common in suitable habitat e.g. 100 at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
54. Temminck's Stint (Calidris temminckii)
A single at Es Chaffar beach on 20th November.
55. Dunlin (Calidris alpina ssp)
Twenty at Es Chaffar beach on 20th November and 20 at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
56. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
Twenty at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
57. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Ten at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
58. Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii)
Two off Es Chaffar beach on 20th November, and an adult alongside the ferry between Jerba and the mainland on 25th November. We didn't spend much time at the coast, suggesting that this species is relatively easy down the east coast.
59. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus)
Small numbers along the coast.
60. Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis michahellis)
Common along the coast.
61. Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanocephalus)
Small numbers along the coast e.g. 10 at Ajim (Jerba) on 25th November.
62. Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
The only record was a group of c100 birds on the pool in Kelibia (Cap Bon peninsula) on 18th November.
63. Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei)
The commonest coastal gull. Largest group was 100 at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
64. Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica nilotica)
Four at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
65. Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia caspia)
Fifteen at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November.
66. Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis sandvicensis)
One off the seafront at Hammamet on 17th November and two off Es Chaffar beach on 20th November.
67. Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis orientalis)
A group of nine birds flew over the Pipeline Wadi on 26th November.
68. Feral Dove (Columba livia ssp)
Common in towns, a group of 150 at Thyna Saltpans on 28th November. Some 'wild type' looking birds at Ain Draham on 19th November.
69. Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto decaocto)
Although not shown in field guides as occurring in Tunisia, we had several records, including 10 at Douz on 23rd November, 2 at Nabeul (Cap Bon) on 18th November, and 2 at Korba (Cap Bon) on 18th November. This species appears to be be increasing Tunisia.
70. Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis phoenicophila)
Fairly common and widespread.
71. Barn Owl (Tyto alba erlangeri)
One flew across the road just north-west of Kairouan on 19th November.
72. Little Owl (Athene noctua ssp)
Birds resembling the slightly darker race glaux were at Dougga and Es Chaffar Beach, but paler birds more similar to race saharae were at Souk Lahad and Bou Hedma National Park.
73. Little Swift (Apus affinis galilejensis)
Ten birds with Crag Martin flock over the marshy lagoon in W of Kelibia town on 18th November.
74. River Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis atthis)
One at Kelibia on 18th November.
75. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops epops)
Widespread and reasonably common.
76. Wryneck (Jynx torquilla mauretanica)
One in the olive grove just south of Sidi Jdidi on 17th November.
77. Great Spotted Woodpecker (Picoides major numidus)
Great views of a male of this distinctive North African race at Ain Draham on 19th November.
78. Levaillant's Green Woddpecker (Picus vaillantii)
Three birds heard at Ain Draham on 19th November, and one glimpsed by SGW. We could not get good views of the birds despite searching for four hours.
79. Hoopoe Lark (Alaemon alaudipes alaudipes)
Regular roadside bird around Douz. The best site was the Pipeline Wadi, where we had 15 birds, including several displaying pairs on 26th November.
80. Thick-billed Lark (Ramphocoris clotbey)
One calling bird flew low north over the Matmata-Douz road between km posts 26 and 27 (from Matmata). It landed distantly on a slope in the pebbly desert where scoped it for a few minutes before it moved on again.
81. Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra calandra)
Ten birds in agricultural fields about 20km W of Bou Hedma National Park on 27th November.
82. Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cincturus arenicolor)
Two in roadside desert about 12 km east of Douz, and at least 10 at the Pipeline Wadi on 26th November.
83. Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti algeriensis)
Fairly common in semi-desert habitats.
84. Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla brachydactyla)
One at the lake near Menzel Temime on 18th November.
85. Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens minor)
Fairly common in semi-desert and desert habitats, including 10 at the Pipeline Wadi on 26th November.
86. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata carthaginis (coast), arenicola (inland))
Common and widespread.
87. Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae ruficolor/deichleri)
Regular, though much less common than Crested.
88. Skylark (Alauda arvensis cantarella)
Singles at Korba and Menzel Temime (Cap Bon), and 15 at Es Chaffar beach.
89. Temminck's Horned Lark (Eremophila bilopha)
At least 15 birds at the Pipeline Wadi on 26th November, including some birds giving excellent views.
90. Crag Martin (Hirundo rupestris rupestris)
Fifty at Kelibia on 18th November, and 30 at Seldja Gorge on 27th November.
91. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica rustica)
A single with the Crag Martins at Kelibia on 18th November.
92. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea cinerea)
93. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba alba)
Common and widespread.
94. Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis pratensis)
Scattered singles and small flocks along the east coast.
95. Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus barbatus)
Fantastic views of 3+ birds in a noisy group crossing the path running east from the road by the 8km post north of Menzel Bouzelfa (Cap Bon).
96. Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis algiriensis (coastal), elegans (inland))
Common and widespread.
97. Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes kabylorum)
Single at Menzel Buzelfa (Cap Bon) and two at Ain Draham.
98. Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris collaris)
Cracking point blank views of bird on the roman coliseum at El Jem on 20th November.
99. European Robin (Erithacus rubecula witherbyi)
Regular in the north-east of the country but not seen elsewhere.
100. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros gibraltariensis)
Widespread in small numbers.
101. Moussier's Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri)
Widespread and reasonably common. Easily picked up as a roadside bird, we saw over 30 individuals during our trip.
102. Stonechat (Saxicola torquata rubicola)
Widespread in small numbers.
103. Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti homochroa)
Five birds in the Douz area 22nd-24th November.
104. Mourning Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens halophila)
Fairly regular roadside bird in the semidesert around Toujane and Tozeur.
105. White-crowned Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga aegra)
Six birds at the wadi near El Mahassen and another Seldja Gorge on 27th November, several other roadside birds between Tozeur and Metlaoui.
106. Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura syenitica)
Common in hills around Toujane. Also 3 at Dougga Roman ruins and single near El Mahassen.
107. Red-rumped Wheatear (Oenanthe moesta moesta)
Scattered individuals between Matmata and Douz, including 8 at the Pipeline Wadi on 26th November.
108. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius solitarius)
Six at Dougga on 19th November, and singles at Toujane and Souk Lahad.
109. Blackbird (Turdus merula mauritanicus)
Only seen coastally, with 10 at Nabeul on 18th November, and one at Thyna on 28th November.
110. Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos philomelos)
A single at Menzel Bouzelfa on 18th November, and a freshly dead bird there.
111. Fulvous Babbler (Turdoides fulvus fulvus)
Potentially a tricky species. We bumped into three groups of birds, one group of 3 at the oasis just E of Ghidma on 23rd November, a noisy group of 10 in the farmland W of Bou Hedma National Park on 17th November, and two birds in Bou Hedma on the same day.
112. Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti cetti)
One singing at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November.
113. Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus scirpaceus)
Eight birds, most singing, at Ghidma Pool on 23rd November.
114. Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla atricapilla)
Two at Nabeul on 18th November was the only record.
115. Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala melanocephala)
Common and widespread.
116. Spectacled Warbler (Sylvia conspicillata conspicillata)
One at Es Chaffar beach on 20th November, and several around Douz on 23rd November.
117. Tristram's Warbler (Sylvia deserticola deserticola)
Quite common around Douz. We saw 18 birds while birding the desert around Douz. The oasis and pool at Ghidma seemed particularly good sites for the species.
118. Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata toni)
Three birds in the forest ride at Ain Draham on 19th November.
119. Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybitus collybitus)
Fairly common in drier habitats. At least 150 birds at Ghimda Pool on 23rd November.
120. Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla balearicus)
One at Ain Draham on 19th November.
121. Scrub Warbler (Scotocerca inquieta saharae)
Scarce in desert around Douz. We saw two just E of the junction of the C105 and the C210 W of Douz, one in desert south of the road at km 88 post 12 km E of Douz, 2 in desert 5 km W of Tamezret and two along the entrace track to Seldja Gorge.
122. Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis cisticola)
Common in suitable habitat.
123. Coal Tit (Parus ater ledouci)
Good views of five birds of this distinctive North African race at Ain Draham on 19th November.
124. Great Tit (Parus major excelsus)
Ten at Ain Draham on 19th November.
125. African Blue Tit (Parus teneriffae ultramarinus)
Distinctive North African race, fairly common in the north, e,g, 10 at Menzel Bouzelfa and 10 at Ain Draham.
126. Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla)
Two at Ain Draham on 19th November.
127. House Bunting (Emberiza striolata sahari)
Scattered records of seven birds on four dates. Three near Toujane, one in Douz, two at Souk Lahad and 1 at Bou Hedma National Park.
128. Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus schoeniclus)
Single at Sidi Jdidi on 17th November.
129. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs spodiogenys)
Distinctive North African race, fairly common in the north e,g, 5 at Menzel Bouzelfa and 10 at Ain Draham.
130. European Serin (Serinus serinus)
Fairly common and widespread.
131. Western Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris aurantiiventris)
Fairly common and widespread.
132. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis parva)
Two at Dougga was the only record.
133. Linnet (Acanthis cannabina cannabina)
Five at Menzel Temime was the only record.
134. Trumpeter Finch (Rhodopechys githaginea zedlitzi)
Five birds drinking at a wadi 14 km west of Tamezret on 22nd November,
135. Italian Sparrow (Passer domesticus 'italiae')
Most of the sparrows we saw appeared to be hybrids of various hues, although the vast majority were close to Spanish. Seemingly pure House Sparrows were observed on a few occasions including excellent views of a pure male at Ajim, Jerba on 25th November.
136. Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis hispaniolensis)
More pure Spanish Sparrows were seen than pure House Sparrows. Most notable observation was a roost of c1000 birds at Ghidma Pool on 23rd November, but pure Spanish Sparrows observed on 8 other occasions.
137. Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex simplex)
Forty-two birds at Bir Soultane on 26th November (see itinerary for details)
138. Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus montanus)
Very good views of three birds on the building under construction opposite the Pension Les Oliviers in Nabeul on 18th November.
139. Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia barbara)
Fifteen birds at Dougga Roman remains on 19th November was the only record.
140. Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris vulgaris)
Fairly common along the east coast with several large flocks noted.
141. Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor)
Common in the east of the country, with small numbers seen most days.
142. Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius cervicalis)
Excellent views of this distinctive race at Ain Draham on 19th November.
143. Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis ruficollis)
A single at El Hessai on 22nd November was the only record, although we saw some other distant ravens in the desert that we could not identify with certainty.
144. Common Raven (Corvus corax tingitanus)
Two at Ain Draham on 19th November, two near Tamezret on 22nd November and two there four days later.
1. Dorcas Gazelle (Gazella dorcas)
One in Bou Hedma National Park on 27th November. Apparently the Dorcas in the park are wild and therefore tickable
2. Bottle-nosed Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
A small group of dolphins almost certainly of this species were off Kelibia point on 18th November.
3. Cape Hare (Lepus capensis)
Single in desert just west of Tamezret on 24th November.
4. Gundi (Ctenodactylus gundi)
Great views of four animals on a roadside wall near Toujane on 22nd November, and one at Seldja Gorge on 27th.
Also, an unidentified squirrel-like mammal at Seldja Gorge and Bou Hedma that we are still investigating.
Large numbers of captive-bred Addax (Addax nasomaculatus) and Scimitar-horned Oryx (Oryx dammah) in Bou Hedma National Park.