Technopole’s Palearctic species and waterbirds, 22 and 29 January

Two brief late Sunday afternoon visit found Technopole to have a rich variety of birds. Amongst the ducks, Northern pintail was new compared to the last  visits as were  a few common coot, species 169 for Technopole. Common coot is familiar to many Europeans as a bird of city parks and not one looking energetic enough to cross the Sahara. However, the more eastern and northern population does in increasing numbers, exiting its frozen breeding grounds. Most West African birds are found on the big river systems of the Niger and Senegal delta, but the Dakar and La Petite Côte area have records of small numbers since 1987. The Wings Over Wetlands web site here gives more information on its range and numbers.

Amongst waders,  these two ruff on an embankment included a white-headed variant male on the right. Behind the ruff is a patch of the water plant reedmace Typha domingensis the African representative of a genus familiar in Europe and north America, where it is known as cat’s-tail. At Technopole it grows around the edge of the lakes, “pied dans l’eau” and is at the moment full of sedge warblers and fewer European reed and great-reed warblers . Reedmace colonises shallow fresh (perhaps nitrogen-rich?) water rapidly and is considered a problem species in the Senegal River delta, blocking drainage channels. It is not very extensive in Technopole,  though it has taken over most of the neighbouring Camberene Niaye and nearby Hann ansd Malika Niayes.

Other long distance migrant passerines today included no surprises; abundant yellow wagtails and a  few chiffchaff, subalpine warbler, sand martin, woodchat shike ansd northern wheatear.

The Audouin’s gull numbers  continue to increase, or are more  abundant in the afternoon.  I do not know if gulls roost here at night or stop here on the way elsewhere. A count of 102 was certainly incomplete, with birds half hidden behind mounds of earth. As usual more  than 95% were first and second year birds.

A more  careful search on 29 January recorded 21 species of wader and 31 other species of waterbird – not bad for an urban wetland! More careful checking of the ringed plover flock revealed a few kentish plover and kittlitz’s plover, whilst new for the site was species number 170, Mediterranean gull.    At least two first year birds were amongst the other gulls.

It appears there are only about 10 previous records of Mediterranean gull for Senegal, though it is an easy bird to miss in big gull flocks, especially the young birds which form the majority of records south of the Sahara. The species is much more numerous along the Moroccan coast. First year birds  appear to disperse further south than adults. Whilst the breeding population stronghold is in the east of the range, especially Ukraine, colour ringed first year birds from the expanding Belgian and French populations have  been seen in Mauritania.

Paul

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