Offshore off Mamelles and Almadies, 18 May
Pointe des Alamadies lighthouse
Another friday afternoon on the pirogue out of Ouakam for a couple of hours saw more exciting observations and bad photos. The wind had dropped so it is uncertain whether it was this or the fact mid May had passed that was responsible for a large reduction in shearwaters and skuas, with only single figures of the five now expected species: Corys, Cape Verde and sooty shearwater, pomarine and arctic skua. Wilson’s storm-petrel showed less change in numbers and a few attracted to an unidentified floating object allowed some photos; adequate to see, compared to European storm-petrel, the lack of “elbow”in flight, lack of white on the under-wing, white on the upper wing, feet extended beyond the tail and even, in the first photo, the yellow under-side to the feet which is not usually a helpful identification feature.
Wilson’s storm-petrels (above and below)
On the return journey we detoured into the shallows inshore of Pointe des Almadies lighthouse. Many terns gather on the exposed reefs here at low tide. Today was mid tide and 1400 royal terns were there, with a few immature Sandwich and common terns. Next off Baie des Alamadies we saw unusually many small pirogues out fishing apaprently for a species of sardinelle that appears now as the waters warm. Perhaps attracted by these were a few slender-billed gulls, a species not regular offshore here and, extraordinarily, an adult Franklin’s gull. It is difficult not to think that this is one of the birds present on and off at Technopole for the last 10 months. If it is following the slender-billed gulls and there are, as it seems, two adults, though of unknown sex, could a breeding pair turn up at Ile aux Oiseaux or elsewhere along the African coast? There is a 1980s record of an “apparent pair” of Franklins and grey-headed gull there, though no proof of hybridisation.
I was able to point out the Franklins to skipper Bass, but it was he who first picked up the next surprise -“phaeton!” – and for 15 minutes we watched an adult red-billed tropicbird apparently prospecting the Mammelles cliffs. They are not known to have ever nested in Senegal away from the Iles de la Madeleine. This one flew as if to land close to the small colony of cormorants and eventually did, half hiding itself in a crevice that, however, Bass considered was to shallow to be a potential nest.
Rare sight – a red-billed tropicbird (neither tail nor bill visible) on mainland West Africa!