Birding Tunisia in Winter, December 10th-17th 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


by Rob Martin, Rich Moores & Mike Hoit

Literature used:

Logistics: Lonely Planet: Tunisia. 2nd edition, 2001. Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd, Victoria, Australia. A useful guide. Several restaurants mentioned have closed down, but the accommodation info was accurate.

Michelin National map number 744, Tunisia motoring and tourist map. 1800000. Not a great map, but cheap and widely available in Britain.

Bird identification: Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D. & Grant, P.J. 1999. Collins Bird Guide. HarperCollins, London.

Mammal identification: Kingdon, J. The Kingdon guide to African Mammals. The guide for mammals in Africa.

Trip reports:

Raes, D. 2000. Birding Trip Reports. Tunisia, April 26th-3rd May 2000. http:www.surfbirds.comTrip%20Reportstunisia.html

Hansen, J.H. 2003. Birding trip to Tunesia, winter 2002-2003. http:club300.seresedatabasfilerTunesia2003_JH.pdf

Cameron, C. & Dawson, J. 2002. Tunisia - December 9th - 15th 2002.

Oliver, W. 1999. Birding trip to Tunisia, March 7-15, 1999.

Selosse, N. 2001. Tunisia March 18th - 24th 2001.

Annsi? 1997. A Piece of Land Between Sea and Sand. Trip Report: Tunisia, January 1997. http:www.camacdonald.combirdingtripreportsTunisia97.html

Thompson, J. 1997. Tunisia, January 25 - February 1, 1997. http:www.camacdonald.combirdingtripreportsTunisiaJKS97.html


10/12/2003. Monastir airport - Monastir police station - Tataouine
11/12/2003. Tataouine - Matmata - Douz
12/12/2003. Douz - El Hessai - C105C210 junction west of El Faouar - Blidette Pools - southern Chott el Jerid -Tozeur
13/12/2003. Selja Gorge - C173 Touiref road nr Jendouba
14/12/2003. C173 Touiref road nr Jendouba - Ain Draham - Tabarka - Cap Serrat - Bechateur
15/12/2003. Bizerte - Lake Ichkeul - Menzel Temime - Kelibia - Korba Pools - Nabeul
16/12/2003. Cap Bon - El Haouaria - Nabeul - Enfida - P2 south - Sebkeht Halk el Menzel - Sousse
17/12/2003. Sousse - Monastir - Kneiss - Monastir airport

Wednesday 10th December

Flight from London Luton to Monastir with Britannia Airlines (flight BY465: booked through for £88person). Arrived about 14:00. Efficient customs & baggage claim. Persuaded the man at the Avis stand to let us have a Renault Clio saloon for TD380 for the week (approx. £172).

Drove out of airport c5km before deciding to have a look at the saltpans. Got arrested. Spent all afternoon in Monastir Police station convincing officers that we were not photographing or videotaping the airport. Released about 17:10, by which time it was dusk. Started heading south then decided to go for it, travelling down the P1 to Medenine then the P19 to the Oued el Goudarab, where we took a track to the west and parked off the road by a junction. Arrived about 23:30, slept in the car.

Saltpans at Monastir:

Great Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Great Egret (6), Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Common Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Slender-billed Gull (c2000), Caspian Tern (15+), Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Kentish Plover, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little Stint, Southern Grey Shrike (algeriensis), Spotless Starling, Italian Sparrow, Feral Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Common Stonechat (rubicola), European Robin, Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Blackbird, African Chaffinch, European Serin

Thursday 11th December

Weather: 5-10 degrees celcius, 88 cloud, NE0-2, rain all day. 07:00 (dawn)-08:20. Around the area we had parked the car. Moussier's Redstart (1 male), Red-rumped Wheatear 2 (pairs), African Desert Warbler (1 - MH only), Spectacled Warbler 2 (pairs), Trumpeter Finches (c45 giving close views).

Drove to Tataouine for provisions and comedy value. Excellent fruit. 09:00-11:20. Birded the track 23km N of Tataouine, mentioned in Wheatley. Bar-tailed Lark (1), Moussier's Redstart (2), Red-rumped Wheatear (6), Desert Wheatear (4-5), Thekla Lark (6), Little Owl (saharae) 1, Scrub Warbler (1), Spectacled Warbler (2), Trumpeter Finch

Drove north to Matmata, which took longer than we had hoped as the heavy rain had made the mountain road impassable. Returned to the P1 and took the road from Mareth to Matmata Nouvelle, then C107 to Matmata.13:00-13:20. Matmata village. House Bunting (1), Brown-necked Raven (6)

Drove out along the Douz road (C105) to the bridge at 3km. Black Wheatear (2) A pair was present in the wadi to the north of the road, as per Jens Hansen's trip report.

Headed to Douz along the C105. Fantastic and bizarre landscape. Brown-necked Raven (6), Red-rumped Wheatear (2), Desert Wheatear 2+

16:45-17:10. Marsh & pools c 5km west of Douz. Little Grebe (1), Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Little Stint, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper (2), Spanish Sparrow (<5), Southern Grey Shrike (elegans), Chiffchaff

Night at the Hotel 20 Mars, TD8pp with breakfast (bread, yoghurt & coffee). Crazy staff. Still raining.

Friday 12th December

Still raining, but began to dry up during breakfast. Brief sunny spell from 09:00-10:00, then dry until dusk, when the rain began again. Max. 17oC, N0-1. House Bunting in Douz just after breakfast, and a large brief falcon.

09:00-10:20. El Hessai: Moussier's Redstart (2), Fulvous Babbler (7), Tristram's Warbler (2+), Spectacled Warbler (8), Desert Wheatear

Drove west from Douz. Same pool as yesterday evening, 5km west of Douz: Marsh Sandpiper (2), Temminck's Stint (1), Green Sandpiper (1). Another Fulvous Babbler was seen from the C105 east of El Faouar.

Ghidma Pools - Coot

Explored the area about 300yds east of the junction of the C105 and the C210 (signed to El Dergine). Ruddy Shelduck (4 on a dune near a leaking water pump). Rock Dove, seemingly genuine. Thekla Lark, Scrub Warbler (2), Desert Wheatear (2)

Tried slightly further west along the C210: Dotterel (4 flyovers), Desert Wheatear (2)

Went back to the junction and stopped rapidly half a mile to the east when a Hoopoe Lark performed its display flight. Greater Hoopoe Lark (3), Moussier's Redstart (1), Mourning Wheatear (1 male), Desert Wheatear (2)

Satisfied, we drove north towards Blidette. Pools between Nouil and Blidette: Ruddy Shelduck (2), Marsh Harrier (2), Brown-necked Raven (2)

For Blidette Lake turn right into Blidette village from the main road to Kebili and go through the village. The lake is about a kilometre and a half further. Nothing present. We then made a ridiculous journey back down to the C210 and west along the southern edge of the Chott el Jerid in a vain attempt to see sandgrouse. Worth a go, anyway. No birds seen. The rain returned at dark, as we cruised back north, then across the Chott on the P16 to Tozeur. Stayed at the Hotel Essalem (TD7pp).

Saturday 13th December

14 degrees celcius, clear and dry. Very gusty, N1-5. 28 cloud cover. 07:00-09:40, 10:30-17:40. Selja Gorge area: Bonelli's Eagle (2), Lanner (1), flew to cliff at dusk, Desert Lark (30+), Thick-billed Lark, stony desert north of the junction of the road to Magrou and the track to the Gorge mouth. (1 flyover - R Moores - 2 briefly on ground - MH). Thekla Lark (8+), Moussier's Redstart (3), White-crowned Wheatear (10+), Mourning Wheatear (10+), Blue Rock Thrush (1 male), Scrub Warbler (4), Tristram's Warbler (1), Spectacled Warbler (common), Trumpeter Finch (40+), House Bunting (10)

After dark stormed up the P17 almost all the way to Jendouba, turning onto the C173 to Touiref to find a spot to park up. Another night in the car.

Sunday 14th December

Birded the chance spot we'd left the car, more to stretch our legs than anything else. Stunningly rewarded though. Barbary Falcon, 1 male, very pale, exceptional views as it rose out of the valley to the north of the road just after 08:00. Barbary Partridge c15 birds seen in flight over the road heading into the valley shortly after the falcon. Continued driving north along the P17 past Jendouba. Shortly after km39 to Tabarka we stopped in a wide layby to the left of the road: Long-legged Buzzard (cirtensis) (2), African Blue Tit (3), Firecrest, African Chaffinch

10:00-12:20. Ain Draham forest. Junction of P17 & road to Ben M'tir, c5km south of Ain Draham. Long-legged Buzzard (3), Levaillant's Woodpecker (3) from the main track heading up the hill on the southern side of the Ben M'tir road, African Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper

Continued north to Tabarka, stopping at a few flooded areas and pools: Cattle Egret, Mediterranean Gull, Zitting Cisticola

16:30-17:10. Cap Serrat: Long-legged Buzzard (4, 1 en route and 3 over to the east at dusk). Audouin's Gull (8 adults on the beach). Common Bulbul (2. Pulled out of the bag on the cusp of night. Found by piling north along the riverbank from the bridge about 0.5km from the beach.), Cetti's Warbler (1)

Spent the night in the car again, near Bechateur.

Monday 15th December

10 degrees celcius, N1-4, 78 cloud cover, dry. Tried to seawatch along the corniche running north from Bizerte, but it was very windy. Common Tern (1)

Near Tinja the second Lanner of the trip crossed the road in front of the car. Lake Ichkeul. Too much water, generally rubbish. Distant common wildfowl including thousands of Greylag. Crag Martin (10)

Drove onto the Cap Bon peninsular. It was slow going through Tunis so it took longer than hoped. Lake to the southwest of Menzel Temime along the C43. Ferruginous Duck, Purple Swamphen (1)

Kelibia: Yelkouan Shearwater (c8), Audouin's Gull (50, 1 1st winter, the rest adults), Caspian Gull 1 1st winter

Marshy pools near Kelibia harbour: Little Swift (10+), Barn Swallow, Crag Martin

2km south of Kelibia along the C27: Black-shouldered Kite 1

Korba Pools: Black-necked Grebe (3), Marbled Duck (4), Greater Flamingo, Black-shouldered Kite (1, 12km north of Korba along C27) Spoonbill (20), Mediterranean Gull (hundreds)

Stayed the night in Nabeul, at the Auberge de Jeunesse (TD5pp).

Tuesday 16th December

10oC, 78 cloud cover, NW2-4. Cap Bon Roman caves shortly after dawn: Great Skua (1), Barbary Partridge (5 - R Moores), Moussier's Redstart (1), Blue Rock Thrush

West of El Haouaria: Barbary Partridge (4), Northern Chaffinch, brief views of Marmora's/Dartford Warbler, adult Long-legged Buzzard seen along the C27 back to Nabuel. Carried on south to Enfida, then took P2 towards Kairouan.

Stopped first about 2km from Enfida, due to tremendous weight of crane. Farmland that is actually crawling with birds! Ruff (1), Crane (500+), Calandra Lark (40+), Skylark, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting (100's)

Around km31 from Kairouan there is some good steppe, with several tracks leading up to a ridge. Spent half an hour here around 14:00: Merlin 1 male. Seen catching a small passerine at distance. Black-bellied Sandgrouse 1. Single male seen flying in from distance, eventually passing about 200 metres from our vantage point. Lesser Short-toed Lark 4 flew over, calling.

Sebkeht Halk el Menzel: Thousands of waders at the northern end, also 2 Marbled Duck. Several Caspian Tern along the eastern edge.

Night in Sousse, at the Hotel Paris (TD11pp). Recommended.

Wednesday 17th December

20 degrees celcius, 08 cloud, dry, still. Last day, ironic perfect birding weather. Completed the countrywide circuit by returning to Monastir from Sousse. Birded the lagoons from the harbour south to Kneiss (Khniss) and added trip ticks: Greater Flamingo, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper (2), Common Sandpiper (1), Little Stint, Temminck's Stint (2), Dunlin, Common Snipe, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Whiskered Tern (10), Little Owl (1)

We returned to the airport, ditched the hire car and our flight departed about 13:30.

Other wildlife:

Cape Hare, several in semi-desert areas. Common Toad, very common along roads at night during rain. Plain Tiger, one seen just south of Kneiss on the 17th. Painted Lady, common. Large White, common around coast

Bird trip list: (total 145 species)

1.Little Grebe
2. Great Crested Grebe
3. Black-necked Grebe
4. Yelkouan Shearwater
5. Northern Gannet
6. Great Cormorant
7. Cattle Egret
8. Little Egret
9. Great Egret
10. Grey Heron
11. Spoonbill
12. Greater Flamingo
13. Greylag
14. Common Shelduck
15. Ruddy Shelduck
16. Eurasian Wigeon
17. Gadwall
18. Teal
19. Mallard
20. Pintail
21. Shoveler
22. Marbled Duck
24. Ferruginous Duck
25. Tufted Duck
26. Black-shouldered Kite
27. Marsh Harrier
28. Eurasian Sparrowhawk
29. Long-legged Buzzard
30. Bonelli's Eagle
31. Common Kestrel
32. Merlin
33. Lanner
34. Barbary Falcon
35. Barbary Partridge
36. Moorhen
37. Purple Swamphen
38. Coot
39. Crane
40. Black-winged Stilt
41. Avocet
42. Little Ringed Plover
43. Ringed Plover
44. Kentish Plover
45. Dotterel
46. Golden Plover
47. Grey Plover
48. Lapwing
49. Little Stint
50. Temminck's Stint
51. Dunlin
52. Ruff
53. Common Snipe
54. Curlew
55. Spotted Redshank
56. Redshank
57. Marsh Sandpiper
58. Greenshank
59. Green Sandpiper
60. Wood Sandpiper
61. Common Sandpiper
62. Ruddy Turnstone
63. Great Skua
64. Arctic Skua
65. Mediterranean Gull
66. Black-headed Gull
67. Slender-billed Gull
68. Audouin's Gull
69. Yellow-legged Gull
70. Caspian Gull
71. Lesser Black-backed Gull
72. Common Tern
73. Sandwich Tern
74. Caspian Tern
75. Whiskered Tern
76. Black-bellied Sandgrouse
77. Rock Dove
78. Woodpigeon
79. Collared Dove
80. Laughing Dove
81. Barn Owl
82. Little Owl (saharae)
83. Little Swift
84. Hoopoe
85. Levaillant's Green Woodpecker
86. Bar-tailed Lark
87. Desert Lark
88. Hoopoe Lark
89. Thick-billed Lark
90. Calandra Lark
91. Lesser Short-toed Lark
92. Crested Lark
93. Thekla Lark
94. Skylark
95. Barn Swallow
96. Crag Martin
97. Meadow Pipit
98. White Wagtail
99. Common Bulbul
100. Wren
101. Robin
102. Black Redstart
103. Moussier's Redstart
104. Common Stonechat (rubicola)
105. Desert Wheatear
106. Red-rumped Wheatear
107. Mourning Wheatear
108. White-crowned Wheatear
109. Black Wheatear
110. Blue Rock Thrush
111. Blackbird
112. Song Thrush
113. Mistle Thrush
114. Cetti's Warbler
115. Zitting Cisticola
116. Scrub Warbler
117. Tristram's Warbler
118. Spectacled Warbler
119. Sardinian Warbler
120. Blackcap
121. Common Chiffchaff
122. Firecrest
123. Fulvous Babbler
124. Coal Tit Parus ater ledouci
125. African Blue Tit Parus ultramarines
126. Great Tit
127. Short-toed Treecreeper
128. Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis elegans, L. m. algeriensis
129. Jay Garralus glandarius cervicalis
130. Brown-necked Raven
131. Northern Raven
132. European Starling
133. Spotless Starling
134. House Sparrow (Italian)
135. Spanish Sparrow
136. African Chaffinch
137. Northern Chaffinch
138. European Serin
139. Greenfinch
140. Linnet
141. Trumpeter Finch
142. Cirl Bunting
143. House Bunting
144. Reed Bunting
145. Corn Bunting