Offshore off Almadies, Dakar

The undoubtedly very large seabird migration off Dakar is often a bit far offshore, other than terns and some attendant skuas, to have the immediacy of a wildlife spectacle, so it is always a treat to get into a  boat and amongst seabirds.

We set out in a small 4-5 person pirogue from Ouakam, where there is an artisanal fishing fleet hauled out on the beach. It is just round the corner from the volcanic rocks of Mamelles, so the southern limit of the Cap Vert Important Bird Area. Our trip was therefore unintentionally  a meander offshore of half (10km) of the IBA. Leaving the sheltered bay, the cliffs of Mamelles  rise abruptly.

The expanding population of great cormorants of the sub-Saharan african sub-species ludidus from the Iles de la Madeleine, recently estimated at over 800 pairs, has spilled onto these cliffs and a few unoccupied nest can be seen.

The calm waters south of pointe des Alamdies, sheltered by the Cap Vert peninsula from the dominant northerly winds, had a few common, Sandwich and royal  terns and the surprise of a marabou stork flying over Mamelles.

It is just beyond the rocky reef off Pointe des Almadies , as  the swell increases, that pelagic birds appear. Birds were not obviously migrating, but there were plenty around. Frequent singles of Wilson’s storm-petrel and small  groups of black tern eluded the camera, but Cory’s and Cape Verde shearwater were easier.

Cory’s “scopoli” shearwater

The white fingers extending into the black primary tips  identify the scopoli sub-species of Cory’s shearwater, of  mostly Mediterranena origin. This is the main wintering sub-species off Senegal.

Cape Verde and a Cory’s (nearest bird) searwater.

Both shearwaters were in mixed feeding groups;  sitting  waiting, weaving backwards and forwards low over  the water in tight flocks  or feeding by head dipping. CapeVerde shearwater was much more  numerous. The distinct smaller bill and proportionately larger black under-wing area can  be seen above and below.

Cape Verde shearwaters.

One brief surfacing of tuna attracted birds and there was a more prolonged feeding frenzy above a large group of more than 20 bottle-nosed dolphins, seen here with the distinct Mamelles skyline.

Bottle-nosed dolphins and Cape Verde  shearwaters

A  small number of sooty shearwaters amongst the other species totaled about 10 for the day.

Sooty shearwater.

Pomarine  skuas were numerous, arctic skuas occasional and perhaps the higlight was three  sightings of adult long-tailed skuas  with full tails and their elegant, pale grey upper plumage.

Paul

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