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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Tunisia March 18th - 24th 2001,
Tunisia, especially its northern part was heavily prospected
during March 18th - 24th 2001.
1 Tunisian Dinar = 31 Bef, 5 FF or 0,60 GBP.
Most of the products or services are by far cheaper than the same in Belgium.
For comparison, a complete meal cost about 10 Dinars, a mint tea about 0,80 Dinar and a coca about 1 Dinar.
Pollution is everywhere ! Most birding sites are full of garbage, plastics, etc.
Most of the time was dedicated to birding.
Flight: Swissair from Brussels to Tunis via Geneva and Tunis - Brussels via Zurich. Prices are not known because the tickets were received by accumulation of free miles on Swissair/Quliflyer flights. Service on board, is really luxurious. On the other hand, one of our luggage's was lost on the way in (found back the same evening) and two were lost on the way back (sent by taxi to our home the next day).
Car : rented by Cameclar via Internet website: www.camelcar.com After comparison, it's by far the cheapest of the Tunisian market. Price per day was of 38 Dinars for a recent VW Polo with air-conditioned and included unlimited mileage, Full insurances and taxes. Price for a litre of unleaded is 0,71 Dinars. 1380 km were made during the trip.
Hotel : La Tour Blanche is a 3 star hotel situated at
Gammarth (17 km from Tunis and 10 km from the airport) on the beach. 20 Dinars
per night or 25 Dinars in half pension (our choice). Services, clean, restaurant
was really good. Rooms are comfortable and well equipped. Room on ground floor
have a direct access to the swimming pool and the beach while rooms on the 1st
floor (our choice) have a balcon very interesting for sea-watching !
Recommended address in " guide du Routard ". Reservation was made two weeks earlier.
Well situated for birding sites in northern Tunisia but a little bit a long way for Cap Bon and sites south of Kairouan.
Routes : the general state is pretty good. The
only motorway between Tunis is really good and cheap (1 Dinar). Take care when
driving at night because of numerous vehicles driving without lights. Speed
is limited at 50 km/h in the cities, 90 km/h on roads and 110 km/h on the motorway.
Many policeman on the roads.
Be prepared to spend much time on the road because of the density of the circulation and the limited speed of some old vehicles.
Weather : 18/03 Sunny - Wind W/NW4 Bft 23°C
19/03 Sunny - Wind NW4 Bft 24 °C
20/03 Sunny - Wind SW3 Bft 26° C
21/03 Sunny - Wind SW3 Bft 25° C
22/03 Light clouds - Wind W5-6 Bft 25° C
23/03 Sunny - Wind S3 Bft 31° C
24//03 Sunny - Wind SW3 Bft 33° C
Timing : I choose end March hoping to see still good number of wintering birds and already moving migrants. I was not disappointed with the wintering birds and migrant shorebirds and passerine but there were not much raptors on the move. A trip scheduled in the first half of April could be more rewarding?
Maps : The only reliable maps that exist is the Michelin 958 Algérie-Tunisie at 1/1 000 000è scale but contains some mistakes and not precise enough for a birders point of view. Hopefully there is a zoom in the area around Tunis and the north at 1 cm = 5 Km.
· " Guide to Birdwatching " in The Birds
of Tunisia (Danish authors)
· Trip Report : Tunisia, March 7-15, 1999 by William Oliver
· Trip Report : Cap Bon area (Tunisia), April 26 - May 3, 2000 by Dirk Raes
· Tunisie : du 1 au 12 juin 2000 de Ludovic Scalabre
· Trip reports : http://www.bsc-eoc.org/links/link_afr_tn.html
· Tunisian Wetlands : http://www.ramsar.org/w.n.tunisia.htm
· Lake Ichkeul : http://www.ramsar.org/profiles_tunisia.htm
Do not hesitate to contact me for information :
237 chaussée des Ballons
Sunday 18th March : Gammarth
Monday 19th March : Lagoon Ariana - Kalaat El Andalous - Gammarth
Tuesday 20th March : Lagoon Ariana - Korbous - Korba - Kelibia - El Haouaria (Cap Bon)
Wednesday 21st March : Lagoon Ariana - Gammarth - Enfida - Zone Kelbia
Thursday 22nd March : Lagoon Ariana - Tunis - Ross St Ali El Mekki - Bizerte - Cap Blanc - Gammarth
Friday 23rd March : Lagoon Ariana - Kalaat el Andalous - Jebel Ressas - C 35 - Zagouhan - Oued Rmel - Sidi Jedidi
Saturday 24th March : Lac Ichkeul - Zone du Cap Negro
Day by day itinerary and best birds
Sunday 18th March
I started birding on the balcony of the hotel at 5 PM with good numbers of Cory's Shearwaters (270), 6 Levantines, 16 Gannets, 1 light phase Arctic Skua, about 50 Sandwich, 3 Little and 2 Capian Terns. Birding around the hotel and on Gammarth hill (covered with mimosas and tamaris) was a good introduction with common species : Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Spotless Starling, Crested Lark, 3 species of Hirundines, Spanish Sparrow, Common Bulbul, Blue Tit, etc. In the evening, on the way back from the airport we saw a Barn Owl.
Monday 19th March
Early morning visit to the lagoon Ariana close to the
hotel. Called exactly Sebkhet er Ariana, this lagoon is heavily degraded by
pollution, by the construction of many new hotels and by the construction of
a new golf course within the next 30 months on one of the best part of the lagoon.
To find this place from La Marsa, take the direction Gammarth by the coast and
then 5 km further take right direction Raoued. The Lagoon is on the left and
the most interesting places are 1,2 km further.
Very good surprise, thousands of shorebirds are present on the mudflat : 2600+ Little Stints, about 100 Sanderlings, some Dunlins, 12 Curlew Sandpipers, many Kentish Plovers , a Grey Plover and some other Tringa sandpipers in good numbers. A compact group of up to 640 Black-winged Stilt will stay for most of the week !
A good surprise now : a Red-necked Red-necked Phalarope moulting to summer plumage is swimming in one of the small pool close to the road and allowed me close view. (Further in the trip, I met an English birder who already saw the Red-necked Phalarope on 14/03). In the same pools : 115 Marsh Sandpipers, 30 Spotted Redshank, 1 Greenshank, tens of Ruffs and lots of other shorebirds in good supply.
Between the hundreds Black-headed Gulls, 9 Slender-billed and one Mediterranean Gull.
I also visited the bushes on the beach close to the lagoon. This place seems to be a good migrant trap. You can easilly reach it by taking the small dirt road signposted " accès à la plage " some Willow Warblers, 1 Pied Flycatcher, some Sardinian Warblers with good numbers of common passerines. 2 migrants Turtle Doves here.
Kalaat El Andalous is one the place I have preferred during this trip. In the village Raoued take right at he roundabout and straight on at the following junction. The road become well but rapidly transform in a dirt track easilly practicable during approx. 10 km. On each side of the road, beautiful steppes full of Calandra Larks (at least 170 were seen, some as close as 3 meters). About 3 km from the beginning of the track I flushed 2 Richard's Pipit calling and going a little bit further. Closest views revealed that in fact they were 4 ! It's may be one of the first mention of this species for Tunisia. Only 100 meters away, good views on 2 summer plumaged Tawny Pipits. Over the whole area : 5 Cattle Egrets, 2 Booted Eagles, about 10 Marsh Harriers, 1 Lanner, 20 Short-toed Larks, 2 Red-throated Pipits in flight, a dozen of Yellow Wagtails (all thunbergii), 6 Northern and 2 Black-eared Wheatears and at least 50 Singing Quails, 2 Stone Curlews and good numbers of shorebirds in small pools. Two males Montagu's and two Hen Harriers in the more arid area left of the road next to the small crossing. This place seems pretty good for Pallid Harrier. April must be better
Back at the hotel for 1h30 sea-watching under NW winds produced 2 summer plumaged Pomarine and 1 Arctic Skua, 185 Cory's Shearwaters, 7 Levantines, 13 Gannets, 70 Sandwich and 2 Common Terns.
Tuesday 20th March
Another visit to the lagoon Ariana at 6h15 : The Red-necked
Phalarope is still present and shorebirds still in good supply ! At least 15
Slender-billed Gulls were present today on the lagoon. Two White Storks, almost
moribund were on the roadside. Ducks are more numerous today, especially Shovelers
(250) and Garganeys (19). 2 Yellow Wagtails (cinereocapilla).
When I entered in the bushes on the beach, I rapidly realised that lots of passerines are on the move : a Wryneck is on the ground, 2 Spotted, 2 Pied and a fantastic male Collared Flycatcher., 2 females Bluethroats, 1 Wood Warbler and lots of sylvia Warblers : 2 Gardens, 2 Common Whitethroats, 2 males Subalpine, 1 Orphean and at least 10 Sardinian. Two Black-eared Wheatears were on the beach. An impressive northwards migration of Swallows took place from 8.30 am and within 2 Red-rumped Swallows, some Sand and House Martins.
Back at the hotel for some sea-watching but the wind had turned to the SW and only some Cory's are visible very far and some Sandwich Terns fishing close to the shore.
Go to Cap Bon with some stops en route. Firstly Korbous : Come via Soliman and the C26 then take the " corniche " road. You arrive at a warm thermal source (72 ° C). Around the source, it's really beautiful but nothing of interest excepted one singing Firecrest and 1 Wood Warbler. Then follow the road through the village Douela. 3 km after I saw a Black-shouldered Kite hovering on the left side of the road (known place).
Direction Korba via Menzel Bouzelfa. The road from Korba to the Cap Bon follow the sea for many kilometres (already from Nabeul) and very good lagoons with 2 Caspian, 4 Little and 2 Gull-billed Terns, numerous shorebirds with 7 Marsh Sandpipers. Hundreds of Cory's Shearwaters were feeding close to the shore.
We left this site too quickly because we wanted to be at the cap bon as soon as we can. This is surely one place not to miss.
The next stop is made at Kelibia. Go to the fishing harbour and the marshes are just further : 1 Black-necked Grebe, 1 Squacco Heron, 3 Glossy Ibis, 8 Marbled Teals, 7 Ferruginous Ducks, 3 White-headed Ducks, a dozen of Slender-billed Gulls, 1 migrating Osprey, good numbers of shorebirds with 100 Little Stints and 11 Marsh Sandpipers and hundreds of Ruffs.
Finally we arrived at El Haouardia around midday. We stayed here until dusk. This place called "Cap Bon " is ideally situated for birds crossing the sea in direction of Italy. In order to arrive at the best place, you have to enter the village El Haourdia and take one of the roads going to the " mountain ". Nothing is signposted but you'll rapidly come to a dirt road in first time easilly practicable then difficult for a non 4-wheel car. We stopped 2-3 times en route and at our third stop we met a young birdwatcher, Mohamed Ali Dakhli. His knowledge is unbelievable : he knows exactly where to be with a wind direction, where to find some difficult birds. He wants to become an eco-tourist guide and have the potential to succeed. You can contact him by mail at Dali.email@example.com
Thanks to his knowledge of the area, I succeed to see a breeding pair of Black-headed Tchagra, 2 Thekla Larks, 2 Lanners, 3 Peregrines, 4 Long-legged Buzzards, 2 Barbary Partridges, 1 Short-eared Owl, 2 Calandra Larks, 2 Rufous Bush Robin, some Common Bulbuls, 2 Moussier's Redstart, 1 Black-eared Wheatear, 1 Blue Rock Thrush, 1 Orphean Warbler, 1 Woodchat Shrike and 8 Ravens. In Migration : About 40 Marsh Harriers, 1 Hen Harriers, 8 Black Kites, 2 Booted Eagles, 2 Short-toed Eagles, 3 Lesser Kestrels, 1 Merlin and a group of more than 30 Kestrels, 49 White and 2 Black Storks, 226 Common Cranes at sea, Also about 1500 Hirundines, mostly Swallows but 2 Red-rumped Swallows within.
At sea, hundreds (maybe 1500 ?) Cory's and 3 Levantines Shearwaters, 3 Gannets, 6 Little Gulls and some Common Terns.
Wednesday 21st March
Daily visit to the lagoon Ariana : the Red-necked Phalarope
is still present but shorebirds numbers have decreased. A group of 460 Common
Cranes were on the lagoon and left at 8.45 AM to the south. There is also a
group of 115 Avocets (only several the previous days).
Fewer passerines on the beach bushes : only some Willow Warblers and some Sardinian Warblers but a beautiful Ortolan. Back on the Gammarth hill: 2 Turtle Doves, 2 migrating Marsh Harriers, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Little Owl hunting during in daylight, a group of about 15 Pallid Swifts, some Bulbuls and 1 Spotted Flycatcher.
Long road (135 Km) to Enfida : Quick visit to the city centre (park close to the mosque and just wait) : two minutes after, the first Little Swift flew over. At least 5 were seen during the next 15 minutes. Also numerous Common Swifts and a dozen of Pallid Swifts.
Zone lake Kelbia : North of Kairouan, take the P3 to Shibka (the only small Tunisian population of Magpie (mauretanica) is around here but not observed by me). Then took the dirt road going east in the village. This is a bad dirt road for some kilometres. Only few birds were seen : Some Black-eared Wheatear and 2 Stone Curlews. A group of 7 Black-bellied Sandgrouses flew over. This area was, and maybe is, very good for Houbara Bustard. 18 Km after the beginning of the track, there is a small hill full of raptors : 1 Lanner, 2 Peregrines, 2 Long-legged Buzzards, 1 Bonelli's, 2 Short-toed and 2 Booted Eagles. At the same place, the only Black Wheatear of the trip, 2 Crag Martins, some Short-toed Larks and 10 Pallid Swifts. At the end of the track, there is the P2 and the village Metbassa (12 km NE of Kairouan). This is the beginning of the Sebkha Kelbia. This is a depression in the rocky desert. Little precipitation this winter caused the low water level. Despite this, the area is full of birds : hundreds of Greater Flamingos, 78 migrating White Storks, 45 Spoonbills, some hundreds of Ducks, 170 Little Stints, 44 Marsh Sandpipers and other shorebirds in good supply. In the plain west of the " lake " : 8 Spectacled Warbler and 8 Lesser Short-toed Lark (specialities here) A dozen Short-toed and 6 Calandra Lark. Also 1 Whinchat and 3 early Red-footed Falcons (2 immature males and 1 female) (First are seen around 10 April at Cap Bon). Really a good area but few time left to correctly prospect the entire flooding plain. James Durham has observed a group of 7 Dotterels here on 10th March.
Thursday 22nd March
Lagoon Ariana : when scanning the big flock of shorebirds,
I discovered a Terek Sandpiper ! The bird allowed me close views down to 50
meters. This is surely not a country first (at least two observations in the
Golf of Gabès and 1 or 2 elsewhere) but a really good bird. The Red-necked
Phalarope is still there, only 200 meters away. Numbers of shorebirds have considerably
increased today, especially the Tringa Sandpipers : Wood, Common, Greenshanks,
Redshanks and Marsh Sandpipers (max. of 145 !). Temminck's Stints are now 6.
In the bushes on the beach, 1 Western Bonelli's Warbler singing, 1 Wood Warbler,
1 Subalpine Warbler, 1 Icterine Warbler and 1 male Pied Flycatcher. 2 Gull-billed
Terns flew over in direction of the lagoon.
Visit of the Tunis souks around noon. 2 Collared Doves were in the city centre (new ?). Then road northwards with a stop at Ross St Ali El Mekki : In the lagoon close to the lake Ghar El Melh, at least 78 Slender-billed Gulls, some shorebirds and numerous Greater Flamingos. In the cliff, a beautiful Marmora's Warbler only a few meters away and numerous Sardinian Warblers and other common passerines. One hour sea-watching from the pier of the fishing harbour produced some hundreds of Cory's Shearwaters (not counted), 1 British Storm Petrel very far, 5 Little Terns, 3 Little Gulls et 2 Shags.. Visit of Bizerte (commercial and fishing harbours) where at least 35 Audouin's Gulls (mostly immatures) were counted between the numerous Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls.
Then road to Cap Blanc, 15 km north of Bizerte. Impressive cliffs there. Another hour of sea-watching produced 1500 Cory's Shearwaters, 3 British Storm Petrels, quite close this time, 2 Turnstones, 19 Audouin's Gulls, all adults, 1 Blue Rock Thrush, 2 Alpine Swifts. Another good views on 2 Marmora's Warblers (probably a pair) in the cliff and a female Subalpine Warbler. Nocturnal visit to Gammarth hills where I heard 1 Scoops and 2 Little Owls.
Friday 23rd March
Another early visit to the lagoon Ariana : no more Terek
Sandpiper but still the Red-necked Phalarope, a little bit more coloured than
on 19/03. Shorebirds numbers are decreasing.
Kalaat El Andalous: always magical impression of an area full of birds. About the same birds than on 19/03 with more Northern Wheatear but no more Richard's Pipits (at least at the previous place) nor Harriers. Small pools around had good numbers of shorebirds (Little Stint, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, etc.).
Early in the afternoon, road to Jebel Ressas by the A1 motorway out at Mornag. Go by car at the foot of the Jebel. It's possible to walk in the small bushy area bordering the Jebel : 1 Booted Eagle, 1 Lanner, 10 Pallid and two Alpine Swifts, 1 Moussier's Redstart with common passerines in good numbers. Go to Zagouhan via the Road C35, numerous stops en route: 2 groups of White Storks (760 birds) en route for Cap Bon, 1 immature Egyptian Vulture, 1 Booted and 1 Short-toed Eagle, 1 Black Kite, 2 Long-legged Buzzards, 3 Lesser Kestrels, 1 Rufous Bush Chat, 1 Black-eared Wheatear, 4 Ravens and 3 Rock Sparrows.
In Zagouhan, take the road across the city climbing to " Le Temple des eaux " where you can already see some good birds while drinking a cup of mint tea in the shadow. Then continue the road and stop each time you consider having a good panorama on the mountain: 2 adults Egyptian Vultures, 1 pair of Golden Eagle, at least 6 Booted Eagles, 3 Short-toed Eagles, 1 Black Kite, 4 Long-legged Buzzards, 1 Lesser Kestrel, 2 Peregrines, 1 Lanner, 1 Barbary Partridge, 5 Pallid and 7 Alpine Swifts, 3 European Bee-eaters and 1 Roller, 2 singings Thekla Larks, 2 Crag Martins, 5 Moussier's Redstart, 3 Black-eared Wheatears, 1 Blue Rock Thrush and 10 Ravens. In the bushes, some dozen (at least 50 ex.) Blackcaps.
En route for Oued Rmel by the road to Bou Ficha with a stop in the dry Oued: European migrating passerines in good supply : 1 Wryneck, 1 Turtle Dove, 1 Cuckoo, 3 Nightingales, 2 Bluethroats, 1 Moussier's Redstart, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Sedge, 2 Cetti's, 1 Great Reed, 5 Reed Warblers and 1 Icterine Warbler..
Arrived at the barrage, close to the village of Bouachir, this is really full of birds! To have a good idea of what is on and around the lake, you have to make numerous stops: 12 Black-necked Grebes, 1 Great White Egret, 7 Cattle Egrets, 2 Squacco Herons, 7 Spoonbills, dozen of Greater Flamingos, thousands of Ducks: hundreds of Common Teals, 140 Garganeys, 35 Marbled Teals, 4 Ferruginous Duck and 70 White-headed Ducks, 1 Booted Eagle, 1 Lanner, hundreds of shorebirds : 1 Stone Curlew, 800 Little Stints, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 3 Temmincks, and all Tringa Sandpipers in good numbers with at least 40 Marsh Sandpipers and several hundreds Ruffs. Also 6 Gull-billed and 4 Common Terns, 4 Calandra and 2 Short-toed Larks, 4 Pallid Swifts, 5 Yellow Wagtails (cinereocapilla and thunbergii).
Back via the C 35 then la C 28 with a last stop at Sidi Jedidi, lake close to the village of the same name : 6 Black-necked Grebes, 4 Cattle Egrets, 40 migrating White Storks, hundreds of Ducks (every species represented) with 6 Marbled Teals and 105 White-headed Ducks, 1 Gull-billed Tern, 1 Rufous Bush Chat.
Saturday 24th March
Road by night to Lake Ichkeul. On the road leading to
the visitor centre and the eco-museum : 15 Calandra and 4 Short-toed Larks,
5 Northern and 2 Black-eared Wheatear, 1 Stonechat, 70 White Storks, 70 Cattle
Egrets. Then prospecting of the SE corner of the lake and the Jebel Jebel Ichkeul
(6 Moussier's Redstarts on the car park !). Very good panorama but poor views
on the birds due to the distance and the bad light (at least early in the morning)
: thousands of Ducks (mostly Shovelers, Garganeys (at least 250), 71 Greylag
Geese, 6 Tufted and 12 Ferruginous Duck, about 20 White-headed Ducks and numerous
Marbled Teals (not counted but at least several dozen) . Also hundreds of shorebirds
(500 Little Stints, 50 Wood and 17 Marsh Sandpipers, with other species in good
On the Jebel, 1 Blue Rock Thrush, 4 Short-toed and 1 Booted Eagle, 2 Black Kites, 1 Peregrine, 3 Long-legged Buzzards and one Sparrowhawk. Hopefully, to obtain a better light, you can walk on the foot path bordering the marsh for several hundred meters: many Yellow Wagtails (cinereocapilla et thunbergii) and Pipits with a good selection : 2 summer plumaged Waters, 2 Tree, 2 Tawny and 3 already richly coloured Red-throated in the flooded plain right of the track. Also 7 Collared Pratincoles, 30 Spoonbills, one Purple Gallinule, 10 Marsh Harriers and 1 fishing Osprey, 2 Kingfishers, hundreds Greater Flamingos and 65 Common Cranes. For close views, especially of the Purple Gallinules, prefer the agricultural road going to the right at the entrance of the park. Stop at the old railway and walk until you reach the marsh.
Several stops on the road bordering the Jebel from the visitor centre: Orphean, Subalpine and Common Whitethroats (2), 2 Woodchat Shrike, 2 European Bee-eaters, 2 Bulbuls, 1 male Common Redstart and 2 Little Owls.
Then visit of an interesting place in the NW corner of the Lake where river Sedjenane goes in Ichkeul. Go as close as you can from the lake and the reedbeds: 2 Moustached, 4 Sedge, and several Reed Warblers, 1 Squacco, 1 Night and 2 Purple Herons, 2 Whiskered Terns, etc.
Road to the NW corner of Tunisia, especially the area around the Cap Negro (30 Km NE of Tabarka at the Algerian border) : 2 Dartford Warblers, 1 Blue Rock Thrush, 1 Spotted Flycatcher and numerous common passerines. One Grey Plover on the beach. Numerous Cory's Shearwaters at sea but no time to waste: I wanted to see Levaillant's Woodpecker In the highest part of the area, 3 km south of the coast, I quickly saw a male Levaillant's Woodpecker in the mixed forest and another individual is heard on the next side of the hill.
We left Tunisia late in the afternoon.
Great crested Grebe
Cory's Shearwater, 100's
Levantine Shearwater, 10
British Storm Petrel, 4
Black-crowned Night Her.
Squacco Heron, 4
Little Egret, Common
Great White Egret, 1
Grey Heron, Common
Greater Flamingo, Common
Common Teal, 100's
Marsh Harrier, Common
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover, Common
Little Stint, 1000's
Black-headed Gull, Common
Yellow-legged Gull, Common
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Sandwich Tern, Common
Collared Dove, 2 ex. Tunis
Laughing Dove, Common
Common Swift, Common
Crested Lark, Common
Lesser Short-toed Larks
Sand Martin, Common
House Martin, Common
Meadow Pipit, Common
White Wagtail, Common
Rufous Bush Chat
Blue Rock Thrush
Sardinian Warbler, Common
Fan-tailed Warbler, Common
Great Reed Warbler
Willow Warbler, Common
Blue Tit, Common
Southern Grey Shrike, Common
Spotless Starling, Common
House Sparrow, Common
Spannish Sparrow, Common
Corn Bunting, Common