Year in review: 2019

As is now a bit of a tradition on these pages, I’m again compiling a review of last year’s main birding events. Senegal’s bird year 2019 was a pretty good one, with the usual decent mix of new discoveries, rare vagrants, scarce migrants, range extensions and new breeding records.

First things first: last year saw the addition of two new species to the country’s avifauna, so rather similar to previous years – on average, there have been two additions per year during 2014-2018. First a Willcock’s Honeyguide in Dindefelo nature reserve found by Nik Borrow and his group in January, then the discovery of a small group of Cuckoo Finches at Kagnout in Casamance, in February by Bruno Bargain, Gabriel Caucal and Adrien de Montaudouin. As predicted back in 2018, both Dindefelo and Casamance are obviously key areas for finding new birds in the country. Both species are known to occur in neighbouring countries so these additions are not too much of a surprise, and will likely show up again in Senegal in coming years. These “firsts” bring the total number of species confirmed to occur in Senegal to 674, with seven additional species listed as requiring confirmation. The full checklist as per IOC taxonomy (v.8.1) may be found here.

Anomalospize parasite - Kagnout 17 Feb 2019 - GabrielCaucal

Cuckoo Finch  / Anomalospize parasite, Kagnout (B. Bargain)

 

Next up, the usual lot of vagrants: from North America, the now annual American Golden Plovers (Palmarin in April, and Yene in December), the country’s fourth Pectoral Sandpiper at Lac Mbeubeusse on 5.10, and a Lesser Yellowlegs wintering at Technopole – apparently the longest stay recorded in Africa (at least 71 days!), and most likely the same bird seen several years in a row now.  Two Laughing Gulls that were present at Technopole in April-May – an adult in breeding plumage and a first-summer bird – were the 6th and 7th records; the immature was also seen at Ngor on 22.5. Also at Technopole were at least two different Franklin’s Gulls, one in January and two in April-May including an adult displaying to other gulls. A Lesser Jacana was found by Vieux Ngom on 16.3 on the Lampsar, while a Spotted Creeper on 17.12 at Kamobeul (Ziguinchor) was another rarely recorded Afro-tropical vagrant. And finally from Europe, a Little Gull – possibly not a true vagrant but rather a very scarce winter visitor – was seen on 8.3 at Ngor, and a European Golden Plover was at Saloulou island (Casamance) on 25.2.

 

Scarce migrants included a few species of ducks that are rarely reported from Senegal, starting with these three Gadwalls found by Simon Cavaillès at Technopole in January, which were probably the same birds as those seen in December 2018 in The Gambia. A Eurasian Wigeon was present at the same time; while the latter is regular in the Djoudj, both ducks were apparently seen for the first time in the Dakar region.

gadwall_technopole_20190124_img_2210

Gadwall / Canard chipeau, Technopole, Jan. 2019 (BP)

 

Almost a year later this pair of Ferruginous Ducks on a small dam at Pointe Sarène near Mbour on 24.12 were a real surprise in this location. Apparently they didn’t stick around: earlier today (19.1.20) I had the chance to visit the dam again but no sign of our two Palearctic ducks…

FerruginousDuck_Mbodiene_20191224_IMG_5601 (2)

Ferruginous Duck / Fuligule nyroca, Mbodiene, Dec. 2019 (BP)

 

An African Crake found by Miguel Lecoq in a dry river bed at Popenguine NR on 12.7 was highly unusual. The two Short-eared Owls at Technopole in January (with one still here on 11.2) were possibly returning birds from the 2017-18 influx as they roosted in exactly the same location; another bird was found in the Djoudj on 26.12 by Vieux and Frank Rheindt. Perhaps more unexpected was a Marsh Owl that was actively migrating at Ngor on 8.10, coming from the north out at sea, but even more spectacular was the discovery of an Egyptian Nightjar by Frédéric Bacuez on his local patch at Trois-Marigots, on 23.10 (an early date and first in this location); in the Djoudj NP, a somewhat classic location for the species, three birds were seen several times from 23.11 up to mid December at least.

DSC_2991 - Egyptian Nightjar Trois Marigots 20191023- F Bacuez - small

Egyptian Nightjar / Engoulevent du désert, Trois-Marigots, Oct. 2019 (F. Bacuez)

 

A few Red-footed Boobies were again seen at Ngor: an adult on 3.7 and likely the same bird again on 22.7, then daily from 9-12.8 (with two here on 17.8), and again an imm. seen twice in November. These are the 5th to 7th records, a remarkable presence given that the first record was in October 2016 only! As usual, several Brown Boobies were seen as well but we didn’t get the chance to properly check on the birds at Iles de la Madeleine this past year. Other scarce seabirds seen from Ngor were a Balearic Shearwater (18.11), a Bulwer’s Petrel (5.12), several Leach’s Storm-Petrels (11 & 13.11), and some 30 Barolo’s/Boyd’s Shearwaters that passed through in August and September. A Baltic Gull (fuscus Lesser Black-backed Gull) at Technopole 27.1 was our first record here.

Quite a few birds were reported for the first time from Casamance by Bruno and friends, and several resident forest species that had not been seen in many years were “rediscovered” this past year, such as Black-shouldered Nightjar, Black Sparrowhawk, White-throated and Slender-billed Greenbuls, Flappet Lark, Red-faced and Dorst’s Cisticolas – the online Casamance atlast can be found here. Several Senegal Lapwings were again seen towards the end of the rains, and a Forbes’s Plover at Kagnout on 17.2 was definitely a good record as the species had previously been reported only on a few occasions from the Niokolo-Koba NP.

ForbesPlover - Casamance - Bargain - DSC05592 (Copier)

Forbes’s Plover / Pluvier de Forbes, Kagnout, Feb. 2019 (B. Bargain)

 

A Brown-throated (= Plain) Martin feeding over the lagoon at Technopole on 28.4 was a first for Dakar; this species is rarely seen in Senegal it seems. A few Moltoni’s Warblers were reported in autumn including at least one on 20.10 at Mboro, where Miguel also noted several northward range extensions such as Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Grey Kestrel, Splendid Sunbird, and Orange-cheeked Waxbill. The observation of two Mottled Spinetails some 15km south of Potou (Louga region) is the northernmost so far and seems to confirm the presence in this part of the country, following one in the same region in January 2018. A pair of Little Grey Woodpeckers at Lompoul and the discovery of Cricket Warbler in the Gossas area (Diourbel) are also noteworthy as they are just outside known distribution ranges for these two Sahelian species. More significant is the observation of a Long-billed Pipit on the Dande plateau near Dindefelo on 9.2, as this is the first record away from the Djoudj area, raising the possibility that the species is breeding in the vicinity.

Additional good records for the Dakar region included a White-throated Bee-eater on 12.8, a Red-breasted Swallow near Diamniadio on 11.10 and Grasshopper Warblers  at Yene lagoon on 8 & 15.12, as well as at Lac Tanma (Thiès region) on 27.10 – and more surprisingly, one was found aboard a sail boat some “400 Miles South West Of Dakar” on 13.9. Last year we documented oversummering of Yellow-legged and Mediterranean Gulls on the peninsula.

We also continued our modest efforts to survey breeding Black-winged Stilts at several sites in Dakar, Ziguinchor and Saint-Louis; the findings of these should be formally published later this year. The Horus Swift colony was visited on several occasions (Jan.-March and Nov.-Dec.) with further evidence of breeding. A pair of Tawny Eagles at their nest site on a high tension pylon near Ndioum, where they are known since at least 2015, were seen again in December by Frédéric and Jérémy. Yellow-throated Longclaw was found to be breeding at lac Mbeubeusse and probably at lac Rose as well: more on the species in this post.

YellowthroatedLongclaw_LacRose_20190629_IMG_4250

Yellow-throated Longclaw / Sentinelle à gorge jaune, lac Rose, June 2019 (BP)

 

In July we found several additional pairs of Turati’s Boubou right on the border with Guinea-Bissau, a bit further to the south of the site where Bruno initially found the species, in October 2018 near Ziguinchor. Also in Casamance, breeding was confirmed for Common Buttonquail, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, and a whole range of other species.

Another noteworthy record is that of a group of 113 Eurasian Griffons in the Djoudj NP on 2.11 – apparently the largest flock ever recorded in Senegal! This surely reflects the general increase in numbers of what used to be a rather scarce species it seems – read up more on the status of this vulture in Senegal in this post on Ornithondar.

EurasianGriffon_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4893

Eurasian Griffon / Vautour fauve, Djoudj NP, Nov. 2019 (BP)

 

As usual, a few interesting ring recoveries were obtained, including several returning birds, providing further evidence for site fidelity and local movements between key sites for e.g. Black-tailed Godwits and Ospreys of course, but also for a Eurasian Spoonbill from Spain – more on this in a future post. Gull-billed Tern from the Neufelderkoog colony in northern Germany was also a good recovery, just like the many Sandwich Terns that we managed to read at Technopole in April-May with birds originating from Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and Italy! Also of note were a French Black-headed Gull, the first colour-ringed Greenshank and wing-tagged Marsh Harrier in our ever-growing database, and last but not least the first recovery of a Croatian-ringed bird in Senegal, an Audouin’s Gull seen at three sites in Dakar in January and February.

AudouinsGull-A5_Technopole_20190218_IMG_2475

Audouin’s Gull / Goéland d’Audouin “A5”, Technopole, Feb. 2019 (BP)

 

During 2019 I was fortunate to continue our regular coverage of Technopole but also for the third consecutive year of seabird migration at Ngor, and managed a few trips further afield: the northern Saloum delta (Simal, Palmarin), three trips to Casamance (January, May, July), the Petite Côte (at long last explored the lagoons at Mbodiene!), the Langue de Barbarie and Trois-Marigots in April, the Djoudj and other parts of the lower Senegal valley (November), and finally Toubacouta in December. Oh and a memorable day trip on a successful quest for the enigmatic Quail-Plover!

QuailPlover_Tip_20190511_IMG_3649

Quail-Plover / Turnix à ailes blanches (BP)

 

Other blog posts this past year covered the status and distribution (and a bit of identification!) of Seebohm’s Wheatear, Iberian Chiffchaff, and Western Square-tailed Drongo.

SeebohmsWheatear_GamadjiSare_20180105_IMG_8288

Seebohm’s Wheatear / Traquet de Seebohm, 1st winter male (BP)

 

Another series focused on recent ornithological publications relevant for Senegal, in three parts. I’m not sure how I managed but in the end I was involved in quite a few articles published in 2019: the autumn migration of seabirds at Ngor and the status of Iberian Chiffchaff in West Africa (the latter with Paul Isenmann and Stuart Sharp) in Alauda, the first records of Eurasian Collared Dove and of Turati’s Boubou in Senegal (the latter with Bruno Bargain) published in Malimbus, and finally two papers in the Bulletin of the African Bird Club: a short piece on the hybrid shrike from lac Tanma in 2017 (with Gabriel Caucanas), and a review of the status of the Short-eared Owl in West Africa, following the influx during winter 2017/18.

 

Many thanks to all visiting and (semi-)resident birders who shared their observations through eBird or other channels, particularly Miguel, Frédéric and Bruno. The above review is of course incomplete and probably a bit biased towards the Dakar region: any additions are more than welcome and will be incorporated!

 

 

The Tigers of Toubacouta

Our main target during a brief visit to the Saloum delta national park, just last week, was a rather unique bird that had so far eluded us: the enigmatic Tigriornis leucolopha. Its presence in the area has been known for a few years only, but it quickly became a classic target species for visiting birders – particularly those touring the country with the excellent Abdou “Carlos” Lo who is based at Toubacouta. But it’s one of those birds that requires a bit of planning combined with a decent dose of luck. It’s certainly not enough to just get on a pirogue into the mangrove forest where it lives: thanks to Abdou’s expert advice, we made sure to set off at low tide even if this meant going out in the mid-afternoon heat.

Toubacouta_Pirogue_20191225_IMG_5712

 

I’d always thought that the White-crested Tiger Heron (Onoré à huppe blanche) was more of a nocturnal or at best a crepuscular species, but that’s obviously not the case: when the tide is low, it will come out to the edge of the mangrove to fish, apparently at pretty much any time of the day. We were extremely lucky to actually witness this first-hand: after an unsuccessful attempt in one of the bolongs near the island of Sipo, our piroguier Abdoulaye eventually spotted a Tiger Heron, very much out in the open as we drifted past at fairly close range. It quickly entered the dense mangrove forest only to re-appear in a more concealed area a few meters away, carefully navigating the labyrinth of roots and tangles.

WhitecrestedTigerHeron_Toubacouta_20191225_IMG_5727

White-crested Tiger Heron / Onoré à huppe blanche, Sipo, 25.12.19 . Check out its amazing yellow-and-burgundy eye

 

As we were watching and photographing this dream bird, it caught a small fish, gobbled it down and quickly vanished back into the forest.

WhitecrestedTigerHeron_Toubacouta_20191225_IMG_5754

White-crested Tiger Heron / Onoré à huppe blanche

 

Note the rather cold colours and overall rather pale plumage of this individual, something that’s also visible in other pictures from the Saloum: possibly an adaptation to the mangrove environment here? Compare with the darker and more rufous birds found in e.g. Ghana and Gabon, for instance in the photo gallery of the Internet Bird Collection.

All in all, quite a surreal moment and a perfect Christmas present – Frédéric and I were of course hopeful we’d get a glimpse of this secretive heron, but certainly never thought we’d get such amazing views. It easily ranks in my Top 10 of Best African Birds Seen So Far, alongside the likes of Quail-Plover, Egyptian Plover, Crab Plover, Pel’s Fishing-Owl, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Böhm’s Spinetail, Little Brown Bustard, Wattled Crane and of course the most bizarre Grey-necked Picathartes (and Shoebill and Locustfinch and Spotted Creeper and… so on). Just like some of these species, the White-crested Tiger Heron – or White-crested Bittern as it is sometimes called – is the unique representative of its genus.

Here’s one more picture of this amazing bird, taken by Frédéric as we first spotted it – pretty cool, right?

WhitecrestedTigerHeron_Sipo_20191225_FBacuez_DSC_9475.jpg

White-crested Tiger Heron / Onoré à huppe blanche (Frédéric Bacuez/Ornithondar)

 

Earlier that same day – much earlier actually, about 6.45 am to be precise! – we had already heard the rather ghost-like song that’s typical of the species, right from the small jetty at our campement villageois at Dassilame Serere. The song is not dissimilar to the Eurasian Bittern, a monotonous booming “whooooooom” uttered at a very low frequency, at 4-6 second intervals, which however got easily drowned in the dawn chorus of roosters, donkeys, dogs and goats of Dassilame… and which stopped abruptly just as daylight started to take over the night. The next morning I was better prepared and actually managed a few mediocre recordings when two distant birds were singing to each other deep in the mangrove, again pre-dawn and stopping before it properly got light. These turned out to be the first to be uploaded onto xeno-canto: check out the species page here (and make sure to turn up the volume to the max as the sound is quite subdued).

Tiger Bird habitat:

Toubacouta_Mangrove_20191225_IMG_5736

White-crested Tiger Heron / Onoré à huppe blanche (yes it’s in the picture… just impossible to see, even when you know where it is! When we first saw it, it was out on the tiny patch of mud to the right)

 

The Tiger Heron was initially thought to be restricted, in Senegal that is, to the Basse-Casamance region, where the first record is that of two nestlings collected and raised near the village of Mlomp (Oussouye) in 1979, followed by a few sightings in 1980-81 in the Parc National de Basse-Casamance and a nest found in Nov. 1980 north of Oussouye (A. Salla in Morel & Morel 1990); as far as we know, the next confirmed record was obtained in… 2017, at Egueye island, also near Oussouye, on January 1st, so almost 36 years later.

Onore huppe blanche - Egueye Jan 2017 - Lettre APALIS n4.jpg

White-crested Tiger Heron / Onoré à huppe blanche, Egueye Jan. 2017 (Photo by Campement Egueye)

 

The first mention of the species in the Saloum delta is from 1980 by A. R. Dupuy (1981), while the next published record is from 2004 only – see comment by John Rose on this blog post [updated 4 Jan 2020] and the short paper by Rose et al. (2016).  The next observation that I could find is from January 2007, of a bird photographed near Missirah by Stéphane Bocca. The fact that we heard two birds singing from Dassilame Serere, the records near Toubacouta and Sipo as well as the observation from Missirah all suggest that the Tigriornis is fairly well established here, and may well be widespread throughout the vast mangroves of the Saloum delta: targeted searches are likely to turn up more birds in other parts of the delta. The species is also present in mangroves along the Gambia river, where first discovered in 1996 (Kirtland & Rogers 1997). Casamance and especially the Saloum delta are actually right on the edge of the distribution range of the species, which extends from central Africa through the Congo-Guinean forest zone. In Senegal and Gambia, it primarily inhabits the vast mangrove forests, though it may also still occur in the swamp forest of the Basse-Casamance NP, i.e. in similar habitat to that occupied further south such as in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

Other good birds seen during our boat trip included several majestic Goliath Herons, Palm-nut Vultures, a colour-ringed German Osprey (more on this later), a few Blue-breasted Kingfishers and Common Wattle-eyes (both heard only), as well as an unexpected Swamp Mongoose seen in full daylight (Héron goliath, Palmiste africain, Balbuzard, Martin-chasseur à poitrine bleue, Pririt à collier, Mangouste des marais).

GoliathHeron_Toubacouta_20191225_IMG_5708

Goliath Heron / Héron goliath ad.

 

PalmnutVulture_Toubacouta_20191225_IMG_5756

Palmnut Vulture / Palmiste african ad.

 

During our stay in the Toubacouta area, we also visited the Sangako community forest, Sandicoly, and bush/farmland near Nema Ba: plenty of birds everywhere, though no real surprises here, except maybe for a fine pair of Bateleurs, a species that’s right on the edge of its regular range here. Other goodies for us northerners included Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Grey-headed Bushshrike, White Helmetshrike, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Four-banded Sandgrouse and many more of course (Guêpier à queue d’aronde, Gladiateur de Blanchot, Bagadais casqué, Colombar waalia, Ganga quadribande). Also a nice series of owls heard from our campsite: Greyish Eagle Owl, African Scops Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet and Barn Owl! (Grand-duc du Sahel, Petit-duc africain, Chevêchette perlée, Effraie des clochers).

SwallowtailedBeeeater_Toubacouta_20191226_IMG_5806

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater / Guêpier à queue d’aronde

 

With the addition of the Tiger Heron but also Ferruginous Duck (a pair on a small dam near Mbodiene, 24.12; Fuligule nyroca), my Senegal list now stands at 530 species: which one will be next?

 

 

 

Seawatching Ngor – October & November 2019

We’re entering the final stretch of this year’s seawatch season, but before we wrap things up in a few weeks, it’s time for a quick overview of October and November. As for August and September, below is a comparison of the 2019 counts with those from the previous two years. Even if observer effort and coverage were quite different in those three years, it’s clear that there are important variations from year to year, both in terms of phenology and in terms of abundance of many of the seabirds that migrate past the Dakar peninsula. Prevailing weather conditions, and in particular dominant wind direction (and wind force), of course have a strong influence on the intensity of visible seabird migration, though other factors are also at play for certain species. Annual variations in breeding success of skuas are well documented and probably explain some of the annual differences that we see here in Dakar.

CalaoSeawatch_20191110

Essential seawatch equipment!

 

This year’s coverage was again pretty good for October (28 sessions on 24 days, similar to Oct. 2017) but less so for November (15 sessions on 12 days), though we did manage to do longer counts during both months, especially in November. But let’s start with October:

Species

2019

2018

2017

Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwater

86

0

232

Sooty Shearwater

631

1,035

2,534

Manx Shearwater

20

8

29

Shearwater sp.

24

4

22

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel

0

0 96

Northern Gannet

3 2

1

Brown Booby

0

1 0
Oystercatcher

24

20 18

Common Ringed Plover

2 0

5

Whimbrel

32 4

8

Bar-tailed Godwit

8

0 10
Turnstone

6

0 0
Ruff

0

0 12
Dunlin

0

0

2

Sanderling

16

6

0

Little Stint

6

0 0

Common Sandpiper

4 0

0

Greenshank

0 0

1

Common Redshank

3 5

0

Grey (Red) Phalarope

12

0 78

Audouin’s Gull

77 21

55

Lesser Black-backed Gull

3

18 2
Yellow-legged Gull

1

0

0

Large gull sp.

8 0

7

Slender-billed Gull

6

1 4

Grey-headed Gull

2 0

0

Sabine’s Gull

1,081

178 2,970

Arctic/Common Tern

3,768 1,094

4,296

Roseate Tern

6

14 54
Little Tern

65

7

78

Sandwich Tern

2,479

905 1,313

Lesser Crested Tern

299 113

150

African Royal Tern

457

198 57
Caspian Tern

22

20

9

Black Tern

1,059 333

2,735

Whiskered Tern

1

0 1

Bridled Tern

1 0

0

Bridled/Sooty Tern

1

0 0

Great/South Polar Skua

60 11

66

Pomarine Skua

763

85 1436

Arctic Skua

486 198

339

Long-tailed Skua

47

21 32

Skua sp.

476 182

1138

Total birds

12,045 4,484 17,880

Number of days

24

10

26

Number of hours

37h30′ 19h00′

28h20′

 

October was relatively quiet compared to previous years, mostly because conditions were not so favourable during the last 10 days of the month, hitting an absolute low on Oct. 31st when only 68 birds were counted in one hour… With hardly any wind, far fewer Sooty Shearwaters and Pomarine Skuas than usual were noted (Puffin fuligineux, Labbe pomarin). Most terns however were more numerous, possibly due to a later passage than in previous years, particularly for African Royal, Lesser Crested and Sandwich Terns (Sternes royales, voyageuses, caugeks). With just over 1,000 birds, the passage of Sabine’s Gull was fairly average though still very enjoyable on two days: 220 in 2h45’ on Oct. 12, and 315 in 3h20’ on Oct. 17 (Mouette de Sabine). Among the rarer species, an ad. Bridled Tern was seen on Oct. 12 (+ a distant Bridled or Sooty on Oct. 8; Sterne bridée).

Long-tailed - Pomarine Skua - DSC_2305 - B Mast

Pomarine & Long-tailed Skuas, off Ngor, Oct. 2018 (Bruce Mast)

 

November was a different story: with a fairly similar number of hours spent counting birds from the Calao terrace, almost double the number of birds were counted than in 2017. A much stronger passage was noted for many species: Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwaters (56,438 birds counted: almost twice the 2017 number and triple that of 2018!), Great Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Northern Gannets, and Pomarine & Arctic Skuas (Puffin cendré / de Scopoli, Puffin majeur, fuligineux, Fou de Bassan, Labbes pomarins et arctiques). Because we were present on less days but spent more time per session, it’s hard to compare with previous years, though it’s clear that at least some of these species were more numerous, such as the Gannets that passed through en masse from the 10th onward (max. 1,223 birds in 90’ on Nov. 20!), which is far earlier than in previous years when peaks were noted from the end of the month and in December. The higher number of skuas and Sooty Shearwaters are also at least in part explained by the later passage, properly starting only around November 10th rather than in the last week of October. Only one Long-tailed Skua was identified during this period, at the very start of the month, bringing this season’s total to 489 birds.

ScopolisShearwater_Ngor_20170415_IMG_1320

Scopoli’s Shearwater, off Ngor, April 2017

 

The peak passage of Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwaters took place during Nov. 10-16, with up to 4,020 birds passing through per hour during the morning of the 10th. While slightly less intense in previous years, the highly concentrated passage took place almost exactly during the same period. It’s really remarkable how this species pair is completely absent up to the very last week of October: the first 45 birds were seen on Oct. 28th with just a handful in subsequent days, then 638 in 1h15’ on Nov. 4th and 215 in 1h45’ the following day, then literally exploding just a few days later (unfortunately no observations were made during Nov. 6-9). Our counters nearly overheated, thumbs hurting! In comparison, the migration pattern of Sooty Shearwater for instance is very different, showing a very long and diffuse migration season (end August – mid December) without a clearly defined peak.

Corys-ScopolisShearwater_2019_daily_chart

Daily average number of Cory’s & Scopoli’s Shearwater per hour (2019). The dotted lines and grey markers indicate extrapolated data; red markers are based on actual counts

 

Besides this really impressive flow of the shearwaters, the highlights in November were our first (ever!) Leach’s Storm Petrels (Océanite cul-blanc), the good number of Great Shearwaters of course – confirming that quite a few pass through Senegalese waters at this time of the year – a fine Balearic Shearwater (Nov. 18; Puffin des Baléares), and an imm. Red-footed Booby seen twice flying past the Calao (Fou à pieds rouges). Another big surprise and clearly one of my highlights was a huge Killer Whale (Orque) swimming past at mid-range, apparently heading SW – not my first here at Ngor, but this one was really impressive, nicely showing its massive dorsal fin.

November summary:

Species

2019

2018

2017

Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwater 56,438 18,593 30,836
Great Shearwater 125 32 0
Sooty Shearwater 1,174 573 526
Balearic Shearwater 1 0 0
Manx Shearwater 5 4 1
Shearwater sp. 16 31 2
European Storm-Petrel 0 0 1
Leach’s Storm-Petrel 3 0 0
Storm-Petrel sp. 10 0 0
Northern Gannet 3,896 1,239 60
Brown Booby 0 2 3
Red-footed Booby 1 1 0
Oystercatcher 0 0 2
Common Ringed Plover 0 0 1
Grey Plover 1 0 0
Whimbrel 9 4 0
Bar-tailed Godwit 5 0 0
Grey Phalarope 1 0 26
Audouin’s Gull 255 514 40
Lesser Black-backed Gull 37 2 17
Yellow-legged Gull 3 0 0
Large gull sp. 47 0 5
Slender-billed Gull 10 1 1
Sabine’s Gull 144 13 226
Arctic/Common Tern 1,272 836 764
Little Tern 14 14 1
Sandwich Tern 313 105 178
Lesser Crested Tern 2 7 18
African Royal Tern 19 9 2
Caspian Tern 3 1 2
Black Tern 29 3 321
Catharacta Skua sp. 32 23 5
Pomarine Skua 2,917 2,144 1,819
Arctic Skua 149 66 76
Long-tailed Skua 1 1 9
Skua sp. 149 60 313
Total birds 63,833 21,984 33,033
Total days 12 21 20
Number of hours 33h 30h30′ 28h

 

November 11th clearly was one of our most memorable Seawatch sessions ever: in just 3 hours, we counted an impressive 12,492 birds belonging to 23 species, a remarkable diversity at this time of the year: check out our eBird checklist here!

Once again, needless to say that Dakar clearly ranks as one of the top seawatch spots in the world!

 

 

Virée dans le delta, en images

Pas trop le temps pour écrire en ce moment (trop d’oiseaux à compter au Calao!) je voulais tout de même partager quelques clichés pris lors d’une nouvelle visite au Bas-Delta du fleuve Sénégal, au tout début du mois. En compagnie, bien sûr, du référent local et fin connaisseur de l’avifaune de la région – que dis-je, de la faune tout court –  Frédéric Bacuez. D’abord les environs de Bango et les Trois-Marigots, puis une journée dans le parc national du Djoudj avec Vieux, Miguel et Rosa en plus dans la bande, puis pour terminer une matinée dans la réserve de faune du Ndiael. Pas loin (voire un peu plus) de 200 espèces observées pendant notre long weekend ornitho, tous les détails comme d’hab sur eBird.

Sans plus tarder, voici donc en ordre chronologique une petite série d’images:

 

YellowcrownedBishop_Bango_20191101_IMG_4777

Yellow-crowned Bishop / Euplecte vorabé (juv.?) le 1.11 dans la plaine de crue du fleuve, ici dans une rizière près de Mberaye et son canal de décharge

 

Djeuss-Rizieres_20191101_IMG_4780

La-dite rizière…

 

LittleRingedPlover_Bango_20191101_IMG_4784

…un Petit Gravelot (Little Ringed Plover) au bord d’une des nombreuses flaques résiduelles après les pluies, certes modestes ici, de ces derniers mois.

 

GreatEgret_RossBethio_20191101_IMG_4796

Great Egret / Grande Aigrette, au bord de la “mare” de Ross-Bethio. Encore assez peu d’oiseaux ici mais tout de même déjà quelques canards: Pilet, Souchet, Sarcelle d’été.

 

CrestedLark_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4805

Crested Lark / Cochevis huppé (Djoudj), juste pour rendre hommage à ce sympathique passereau commun dans les zones côtières du pays, mais trop souvent ignoré par les ornithos…

 

ChestnutbackedSparrowLark_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4812

Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark / Moinelette à oreillons blancs, un couple près du Grand Lac dans le Djoudj…

 

BlackcrownedSparrowLark_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4902

… puis dans la même zone, une femelle de Moinelette à front blanc (Black-headed Sparrow-Lark). Les deux espèces de moinelette, en plein dans la période de reproduction, sont cette année bien présentes dans la région et elles sont souvent facilement observables. Notez le plumage plus uniforme et plus clair que la femelle de l’espèce précédente.

 

DesertGreyShrike_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4839

“Desert” Grey Shrike / Pie-grièche “du desert”, nom qui lui convient tout de même mieux, car après avoir été incluse pendant des années dans le groupe de la Pie-grièche méridionale, la rattacher à la Pie-grièche grise d’Europe centrale et du Nord me semble un peu farfelu. Ici très probablement le taxon elegans.

 

WoodchatShrike_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4847

L’autre Lanius du coin, la PGTR (Pie-grieche à tete rousse / Woodchat Shrike), en pleine mue de la queue. Notez également le contraste de mue entre d’un côté les tertiaires et primaires (très sombres au bord blanc bien marqué), et les secondaires brunes bien usées de l’autre.

 

NorthernWheatear_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4826

Northern Wheatear / Traquet motteux, dans le Djoudj également. Pas eu la chance de tomber sur un Traquet de Seebohm – plutôt restreint à l’extreme-nord apparemment – ni sur une cousine Isabelle, un neveu du Désert ou un oncle Oreillard…

 

EurasianGriffon_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4893

Eurasian Griffon / Vautour fauve imm., l’un des 113 (!) sujets rencontrés près du Grand Lac, d’abord tous au repos par terre et dans les quelques arbres parsemant la plaine, puis en vol lorsque le groupe a décollé avec les premiers thermiques de la matinée. Sans doute ces oiseaux venaient-ils d’y passer la nuit, après la grande traversée du Sahara. Peut-être l’un des plus grands groupes, si ce n’est le plus grand, jamais observé au Sénégal?

 

BarnOwl_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4864

Autre moment fort de la journée, cette Effraie des clochers (Barn Owl) qui niche dans l’un des miradors du Grand Lac, avec pour le moment trois oeufs déposés à même le sol de l’observatoire. Site de nidification pour le moins original!

BarnOwl_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4853

Barn Owl / Effraie des clochers

 

Djoudj-MirradorTantale_20191102_IMG_4917

L’observatoire “Tantale”, zone où nous avons de nouveau contacté la Gorgebleue, le Tarier d’Afrique, les Prinias aquatiques évidemment, et bien d’autres passereaux!

 

AfricanStonechat_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4909

Femelle (ou jeune?) Tarier d’Afrique / African Stonechat

 

BlackStork_Djoudj_20191102_IMG_4921

Une jeune Cigogne noire (Black Stork), espèce d’observation quotidienne pendant ce long weekend, ici au repos dans les cultures non loin du Djoudj.

 

ChestnutbelliedSandgrouse_Ndiael_20191103_IMG_4949

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse / Ganga à ventre brun, couple dans la réserve de faune du Ndiael – un site classique pour l’observation de cette espèce toujours aussi agréable à voir!

 

Ndiael_20191103_IMG_4936

Le Ndiael

 

BootedEagle_LacTanma_20191103_IMG_4971

Booted Eagle / Aigle botté de forme sombre, vers Mboro sur la Grande Côte

 

 

 

Seawatching Ngor – September 2019

I count myself extremely lucky to live just a few minutes away from what must surely be one of the best seawatch sites in the world. What other capital can compete with Dakar on that front? It does make it hard not to go out there every day, especially at this time of the year when so many migrants can be seen from this privileged spot. And I’m fortunate to have a very flexible work schedule that allows me to spend an hour or so counting seabirds before heading to the office! I’m obviously spending too much time at the Calao at the moment… but then again it’s always better being out birding in the field than sitting behind a desk (especially when The Field is a comfortable terrace, sat under a sun umbrella with a cup of decent coffee).

Anyway, time for the September numbers:

  • 25 days
  • 38 hours
  • 20,109 birds belonging to 36 species counted (total so far: 27,303 birds!)

This is a much better coverage than in previous years, and as a result the number of birds counted is higher for most species; Lesser Crested Tern is the main exception due to a later than usual passage, which only started properly at the very end of the month, picking up rapidly during the first few days of October (Sterne voyageuse).

As usual, here some of the highlights: good numbers of Manx Shearwater (also two possible Balearics… unfortunately too distant and poorly seen), and several Macaronesian Shearwaters including at least one that seemed right for Boyd’s (Puffins des Anglais et de Macaronésie). Sooty Shearwater passage was clearly more intense, or at least more visible, than last year, probably because of more favourable winds (Puffin fuligineux).

Numerous terns were counted of course, with the four most common species – Common & Arctic, Sandwich, Black Terns – accounting for nearly 90% of the twenty thousand birds counted this month (Sternes pierregarin et arctique, caugeks, Guifette noire). Roseates continued to pass through almost daily, up to 12 BPH (that’s birds per hour!), and so did Little Tern: with 304 birds in September, far more were seen than in previous years (and the passage continues: on 5.10 a total of 31 birds were seen in one hour, including a flock of 22) (Sternes de Dougall et naine). A Bridled Tern on the 4th is so far the only one of the season (Sterne bridée).

sandwichtern_ngor_20160925_img_5344_edited

Sandwich Tern / Sterne caugek, Ngor, Oct. 2016

 

September is also peak month for Sandwich Tern (Sterne caugek), which passes through daily in double or even triple digits (that’s BPH). The peak at the end of the month is clearly visible on this chart combining 2017 and 2018 data:

SandwichTern-Ngor_2017-18_chart

Hourly average number of Sandwich Terns per decad, 2017 & 2018

 

Now for some slightly more advanced data viz’ fun: I tried to find a clever way of visualising the intensity of bird migration at Ngor alongside wind speed and wind direction. The chart below shows average “BPH” per day as histograms (primary axis: number of birds) and wind speed as the dotted line (secondary axis: knots), while the colour represents the wind direction: dark green for WNW to N winds, pale green for SW to W winds, and orange for SSW to ENE. One would expect the highest number of birds during the favourable winds, i.e. higher wind speed from a WNW to N direction, and less so on days with little wind and/or with winds coming from the “wrong” side. That does seem to be the case on most days, but not always… though in general it’s fair to say that days with stronger NW winds usually see the highest number of birds, and also a higher diversity of species. Shearwaters, skuas, Sabine’s Gulls and most terns are largely influenced by these conditions, which can rapidly change from day to day or even within the same day. A good site to check out wind forecasts is Windguru.

BPH-Wind_Chart_September2019.JPG

Disclaimer: nothing scientific here, just fooling around with Excel!

 

Arctic Skuas continued to pass through on a daily basis, and Long-tailed Skuas were seen on 13 dates, mainly at the start and at the end of the month, with a max. of 61 birds in 2h15′ on the 4th (Labbes arctique et à longue queue). The four Catharacta skuas were seen in the last week of the month but as usual could not be identified down to species level (Great or South Polar Skua, Grand Labbe/Labbe de McCormick).

A usual, waders were fairly well represented this month: Whimbrel and Oystercatcher remain the most frequent migrants and thanks to the regular rains this autumn there has been a good diversity of waders in general, including my first Grey Plovers here and regular sightings of migrating Turnstones (Courlis corlieu, Huîtrier pie, Pluvier argenté, Tournepierre). Red Phalaropes were seen on five occasions in relatively modest numbers (Phalarope à bec large).

Oystercatcher_Ngor_20170930_IMG_4931

Oystercatcher / Huîtrier pie, Ngor, Oct. 2017

 

Table with September totals for 2019, 2018 and 2017:

Species

2019

2018

2017

Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwater 2 0 0
Sooty Shearwater 271 87 393
Balearic Shearwater 0 0 1
Manx Shearwater 98 6 60
Boyd’s/Barolo Shearwater 9 16 1
Shearwater sp. 51 22 34
Storm-Petrel sp. 1 0 0
Northern Gannet 0 1 1
Brown Booby 0 4 3
Oystercatcher 51 20 16
Whimbrel 211 75 78
Eurasian Curlew 0 0 2
Bar-tailed Godwit 4 1 8
Grey Plover 2 0 0
Common Ringed Plover 0 2 0
Turnstone 33 2 0
Dunlin 0 0 40
Sanderling 12 0 25
Little Stint 1 0 0
Common Sandpiper 1 0 0
Greenshank 1 0 0
Common Redshank 3 1 1
Grey (Red) Phalarope 163 133 1
Audouin’s Gull 21 1 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1 15 1
Kelp Gull 1 0 0
Large gull sp. 1 5 0
Slender-billed Gull 6 1 1
Grey-headed Gull 0 1 2
Sabine’s Gull 95 43 123
Arctic/Common Tern 11,161 4,100 4,500
Roseate Tern 144 89 35
Little Tern 304 57 76
Sandwich Tern 2,425 2,080 1,928
Lesser Crested Tern 61 147 95
African Royal Tern 295 305 219
Caspian Tern 10 13 19
Black Tern 3,870 2,187 2,342
Sooty Tern 0 1 0
Bridled Tern 1 0 0
Great/South Polar Skua 4 1 2
Pomarine Skua 13 5 35
Arctic Skua 400 172 142
Long-tailed Skua 215 265 59
Skua sp. 167 64 226
Total birds 20,109 9,922 10,472
Number of days 25 17 15
Number of hours 38h35′ 24h50′ 20h30′

 

In addition to the seabirds, as usual a few other species were noted on active migration: a Purple Heron on 10.9 and more surprisingly two Squacco Herons the next day coming from out at sea. Common Swifts were spotted on at least three occasions (max. 66 on 11.09, migrating low over the ocean), while a Hoopoe was seen on 8.9 and a Sand Martin on 12.9 (Heron pourpré, Crabier, Martinet noir, Huppe fasciée, Hirondelle de rivage). What appeared to be a juv. Barbary Falcon was seen several times from 4 – 12 Sept., with a Peregrine also here on 9th (Faucons de Barbarie et Pèlerin). This provided for some action as both birds were regularly seen hunting pigeons and other birds; on the 6th it was a juv. Common Cuckoo (or at least I assumed it to be this species and not African Cuckoo) which was seen coming on land from Ngor island or islet, chased by the Barbary Falcon only to disappear into the Calao gardens and never to be found again… (Coucou gris).

PurpleHeron_Ngor_20170924_IMG_4800

Migrating Purple Heron / Héron pourpré en migration, Ngor, Sept. 2017

 

That’s all for now – let’s see what October brings (Pomarine Skuas! Sooty Shearwaters! Sabine’s Gulls!). Conditions are expected to be good in the next few days.

The August report can be found in this post.

 

 

 

Wet season visitors, Popenguine & co.

Every year during the wet season, the Sahel undergoes an impressive transformation, the landscape turning all lush green in the space of just a few weeks. Four visits to the northern Petite Côte area in just as many weeks were a nice opportunity to see this extremely rapid transition from ultra-dry to completely soaked terrain. And with it of course the associated changes in bird life.

On our first excursion to Popenguine mid-August, shortly after the onset of the first few rains, the reserve was still bone dry, only the baobabs being all green & leafy while grasses has only just begun to sprout.

Popenguine_20190815_IMG_4439

 

Exactly one month later, this is what the same area looked like (the same baobab tree can be seen in both pictures):

Popenguine_20190915_IMG_4573

 

Impressive, right? It never ceases to amaze me how fast everything grows here once the rains arrive!

For now, back to mid-August when all was dry, and when the highlights of our visit were a juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo (locally hatched?)…

GreatSpottedCuckoo_Popenguine_20190815_IMG_4444

Great Spotted Cuckoo / Coucou-geai juv.

 

… a female Standard-winged Nightjar (on transit, looking for greener pastures? August is breeding season here for the species…)…

StandardwingedNightjar_Popenguine_20190815_IMG_4454-2

Standard-winged Nightjar / Engoulevent à balanciers f.

 

… and finally this juvenile Peregrine Falcon circling briefly above the cliffs before disappearing towards the village – an early record here, though perhaps not that surprising given that the species breeds early in the Mediterranean, even if the pair that winters in Dakar every year typically shows up around mid-October only.

 

 

Fast-forward ten days, after copious showers in the preceding days, and the lagoons of the region were now completely filled – in particular the Yene lagoon which I’ve never seen this high:

Yene_20190825_104035

 

Few waterbirds were around but this will surely change in coming weeks; a Knob-billed Duck amongst the White-faced Whistling Ducks was the most notable species here (Canard à bosse, Dendrocygne veuf). Should be interesting to see how the birdlife evolves here in the next few months, and what species will show up this year (last year with the lack of rains the site was pretty disappointing, should be far more interesting this year!!).

A stroll on one of the hills above Toubab Dialaw produced several Savile’s Bustards and Singing Bush Larks, while Mottled Spinetails were flying above the small escarpment… Klaas’s and Diederik Cuckoos were heard near the village (Outarde de Savile, Alouette chanteuse, Martinet d’Ussher, Coucous de Klaas et didric).

The bustards were particularly vocal and obviously occur in good densities here, with at least 4-5 birds responding to one another. Recording here on xeno-canto; picture of habitat below. This rather sought-after Sahel special is clearly easy to find here, even if rather disturbed habitat, particularly during the rains but they may sing – albeit the shorter version of their song, and less regularly – throughout the dry season as well. They’re often difficult to spot and even a careful approach to a singing bird will usually result in just a brief glimpse, a bird flushed from low bushes, or no sighting at all… Senegal and to a lesser extent The Gambia currently remain pretty much the only easily accessible countries to find this species.

ToubabDialaw_IMG_4510.JPG

 

A male Sahel Paradise Whydah in full breeding plumage was encountered along the track leading to Diass:

SahelParadiseWhydah_ToubabDialaw_20190825_IMG_4523.JPG
Sahel Paradise Whydah / Veuve à collier d’or m. ad.

 

Back to Popenguine on Sept. 8th, this time round for a very enjoyable bike tour through the bush between the villages of Popenguine, Ndayene and Toubab Dialaw (with Teranga Bike Adventure, highly recommended!) which provided a different kind of birding experience. Again Savile’s Bustard and Singing Bush Larks which are both very vocal at the moment, a Black-headed Lapwing breeding record (adult with chick), a Green Sandpiper flushed from a small pool along one of the tracks, a few Gull-billed Terns feeding over moist grassland, a Broad-billed Roller, Yellow-billed Oxpecker feeding on a donkey, a Gosling’s Bunting, and so on (Outarde de Savile, Alouette chanteuse, Vanneau à tête noire, Chevalier culblanc, Sterne hansel, Rolle violet, Piqueboeuf, Bruant d’Alexander).

BlackheadedLapwing_Yene_20171217_IMG_6642

Black-headed Lapwing / Vanneau à tête noire (Yene, Dec. 2017)

 

Last Sunday, Popenguine nature reserve again: the usual suspects such as Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (the resident ssp. minor, “African Scrub Robin”), Stone Partridge, Helmeted GuineafowlSenegal Batis, several Sahel Paradise Whydahs including males in display flight and a few females, one of which was clearly interested in a pair of Green-winged Pytilias which is the host species of this brood parasite (Agrobate roux, Poulette de roche, Pintade de Numidie, Pririt du Senegal, Veuve a collier d’or, Beaumarquet melba). Woodland Kingfisher and Klaas’s Cuckoo had joined the ranks of the intra-African migrants that move north with the rains and that occur in Popenguine (Martin-chasseur du Sénégal, Coucou de Klaas).

SahelParadiseWhydah_Popenguine_20190915_IMG_4585

Sahel Paradise Whydah / Veuve à collier d’or f.

 

Several Gosling’s Buntings were singing at the top of the Cap de Naze cliffs, with one bird posing quite nicely at short range:

GoslingsBunting_Popenguine_20190915_IMG_4611

Gosling’s Bunting / Bruant d’Alexander

 

Migrant songbirds have now started to arrive from Europe: at least three Sand Martins were flying overhead, clearly heading south, when I arrived by the pond which by now is completely filled with water; I heard a Tree Pipit, saw 4-5 migrating Barn Swallows, while the acacias and bushes held a few Melodious Warblers, Willow Warblers, a Common Whitethroat, and even a fine Nightingale. (Hirondelles de rivage et rustique, Pipit des arbres, Hippolais polyglotte, Pouillot fitis, Fauvette grisette, Rossignol philomèle).

The Popenguine eBird checklists along with other recent records from the area – including a surprising African Crake seen by Miguel – can be found here.

Plenty more to come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seawatching Ngor – August 2019

An update on this autumn’s seabird migration at Ngor is long overdue, so here we set off the season’s summary with the month of August. I managed to count migrants during 18 hours spread out over 16 sessions, starting with the first on August 9th, straight after coming back to Dakar from a short break Up North. As usual I tried to do relatively brief sessions (usually about an hour) as often as possible, typically early morning about an hour after sunrise. And always from the Club Calao terrace, of course.

Calao_20190831_IMG_4524

View from the Calao terrace, 31 August 2019

 

With some 7,100 birds counted, numbers passing through during August were about average in comparison with previous years. The few highlights so far were a Great Shearwater (Puffin majeur) flying SW on the 10th which I believe is the first August record, more than usual ‘Macaronesian’ Shearwaters (=Boyd’s or Barolo, Puffin “de Macaronésie”) with no less than 21 birds spread out fairly evenly throughout the period, and again a decent amount of Long-tailed Skuas (Labbe à longue queue). So far, 226 of these elegant pelagic skuas passed through, compared to 213 in August 2018; last year a record 500 were logged during the entire season. Top day was the 20th when I counted a very honorable 84 birds in just one hour, surprisingly during modest NNW wind – always impressive seeing loose flocks of up to 15-20 birds, usually including several adults. None were seen the following two days but during 24-26th there were 89 in 4h35′. Last year the peak passage was during the first decad of September when no less than 217 were counted in just 75′ on 2.9.18, so it’s possible that quite a few more Long-tails will pass through in coming weeks, though this will in part depend on wind conditions: moderate to strong winds from W to NW are usually required to see this species in double or even triple digits (in 2017, hardly any were seen, as shown in the chart below where the dashed line is 2017 and the dotted line 2018; solid line is hourly average per decad).

LTS_Ngor_Chart2017-18

 

Other pelagics included early Sooty Shearwaters (Puffin fuligineux) with seven birds during 24-26 August, and three Sabine’s Gulls (Mouette de Sabine) on the 20th. September and October should see many more of these two species! In contrast with last year when more than a thousand birds were seen in August when conditions were good for this species, just three Red Phalaropes (Phalarope à bec large) were detected this past month, though I had the first small flock this morning Sept. 1st, about 15 towards the SW and one coming in from the N and landing at sea. Of course many must have passed through these past few weeks, just too far off-shore for them to be seen from the coast.

Red Phalarope - DSC_2276 - B Mast

Typical view of a migrating Red Phalarope, low over the waves… Off Ngor, Oct. 2018 (Bruce Mast)

 

What was most likely the same Red-footed Booby (Fou à pieds rouges) was seen daily from 9th-12th, usually flying past at close range and sometimes feeding just behind the surf, with two birds together on Aug. 17th. I also twice saw one in July so it’s quite possible that at least one of these two immatures – both dark morph, as all others seen so far – oversummered around the peninsula.

As usual, the most frequently seen wader was Whimbrel, with just a handful of Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits each (Courlis corlieu, Huîtrier pie, Barge rousse). The lower number of waders compared to the past few years is probably due to the late arrival of the rains and a four-day gap in my presence during the last week of the month (waders tend to be seen mostly during and just after spells of rain here).

Whimbrel_Ngor_20170930_IMG_4932

Whimbrel / Courlis corlieu, Ngor, Oct. 2017 (BP)

 

The table below lists all species with totals for the month, with 2017 and 2018 numbers to compare with. Note that the vast majority of the ‘Comic’ Terns were Arctic, and the higher number of Roseate Terns is possibly explained by the fact that I may feel more confident identifying these birds (Sterne arctique/pierregarin, Sterne de Dougall). Oftentimes, Roseates are migrating 2-3 birds together, usually mixed in with Arctic Terns.

 

Species

2019

2018

2017

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 0 157 0
Cape Verde Shearwater 0 100 1
Great Shearwater 1 0 0
Sooty Shearwater 7 0 0
Boyd’s/Barolo Shearwater 21 3 0
Shearwater sp. 3 6 4
Red-footed Booby 2 0 0
Oystercatcher 8 8 6
Whimbrel 127 340 437
Bar-tailed Godwit 6 1 49
Turnstone 0 4 13
Red Knot 0 28 0
Ruff 0 1 5
Sanderling 0 0 16
Curlew Sandpiper 0 0 4
Little Stint 0 0 4
Grey (Red) Phalarope 3 1,123 0
Common Sandpiper 0 7 1
Common Redshank 1 1 1
Audouin’s Gull 7 0 0
Lesser Black-backed Gull 0 0 1
Yellow-legged Gull 0 1 0
Large gull sp. (prob. Kelp Gull) 1 0 2
Slender-billed Gull 1 0 1
Sabine’s Gull 3 12 6
Arctic/Common Tern 3,878 4,500 1,399
Roseate Tern 56 44 10
Little Tern 23 56 28
Sandwich Tern 462 343 463
Lesser Crested Tern 4 40 41
African Royal Tern 342 585 166
Caspian Tern 10 14 1
White-winged Tern 0 1 0
Black Tern 1,803 2,160 774
Bridled Tern 0 4 0
Catharacta Skua sp. 0 0 1
Pomarine Skua 3 1 2
Arctic Skua 59 94 24
Long-tailed Skua 226 213 25
Skua sp. 46 18 17
Total birds 7,103 9,865 3,502
Number of days 16 22 13
Number of hours 18h05′ 26h20′ 17h05′

 

Meanwhile at Technopole, the lagoons are finally starting to fill up again now that we’ve had a few decent showers, though a lot more will be needed to ensure that the site remains wet all through the dry season. There’s a good diversity of waders again and breeding activity is at its peak for many of the local species. Striated Heron for instance is now very visible, and last Sunday I saw a pair feeding a recently fledged young at the base of one of the Avicennia stands on the main lagoon, while Spur-winged Lapwing juveniles are all about, Zitting Cisticolas are busy tending their nest, and this morning a small flock of juvenile Bronze Mannikins was seen (Héron strié, Vanneau éperonné, Cisticole des joncs, Capucin nonnette).

Several wader species are starting to pass through again, such as Common Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper (Grand Gravelot, Bécasseau minute, Bécasseau cocorli, Chevalier stagnatile). It’s also peak season for Ruff, with a very modest max. so far of 148 counted this morning (Combattant varié).

On the gulls & terns front, a Mediterranean Gull was still around on 18 & 25.8, probably one of the two immatures that were seen in May-July and apparently completing its summer stay here (these are the first summer records for the species in Senegal), while the first juvenile Audouin’s Gulls of the year were also seen last Sunday, Aug. 25th (Mouette mélanocéphale, Goéland d’Audouin, . This morning a White-winged Tern was of note, as were 24 Little Terns resting with the other terns or feeding above the main lake (Guifette leucoptère, Sterne naine). Three Orange-breasted Waxbills and three Long-tailed Nightjars on 11.08 were far less expected (Bengali zebré, Engoulevent à longue queue).

This morning’s eBird checklist has all the details.

 

CommonRedshank-Ruff_Technopole_20190901_IMG_4541

Redshank & Ruff / Chevalier gambette & Combattant

CurlewSandpiper_Technopole_20190901_IMG_4560

Curlew Sandpiper / Bécasseau cocorli juv.