More American waders in Senegal
With the report of the new species for Africa, I was keen to find something exciting myself, but it was a surprise to be satisfied so quickly, at Lac Tanma, a 1.5 hour drive from Dakar, though only 50km NE of the city. This is a large, slightly saline lake and my main purpose there was waterbird counting with excellent Nature Communautés Développement (NCD). More about that elsewhere, shortly.
The lake is a personal favorite location, though this (22 november) was only my fourth visit. Birdwatching is moderately difficult, requiring a long walk along the lake edge and wading through shallowly flooded grassland, with no redeeming shade and birds often distant or partly hidden within the wet grassland. There are usually a few cattle and their herders and the lake can be crossed on foot, as evidenced by the herders. There is not much bird data, but what there is points to this and the nearby Lac Mbaouane, 5km west towards Kayar, being the best of the Niayes Important Bird Area for ducks and most wader species, though both are largely devoid of fish eating birds.
In West Africa south of the Sahara three of the four Pluvialis are vagrants, though with the european golden plover regular in Mauritainia, so the immediate reaction to the bird above was to think of grey plover, before putting up the scope. A second bird appeared, both were thankfully close and suddenly clearly not grey plovers, though also not golden in colour and with a prominent supercilium and capped appearance of American golden plover. It was my first outing using my new “bridge” camera, hence in part the poor photos as I zoomed beyond the digital maximum by mistake and got the blurred images shown here (others may say I am just a lousy photographer).
The two birds together show the unambiguous one to the right and a less clear bird on the left. They flew off together, showing grey under-wings. This is the third or fourth record for Senegal. There is an old record from Lac de Guier (Senegal River delta) in May 1979 and recent records from Dakar’s Technopole (October 2005) and Zuiginchor (October 2006, photographed). There are also one or two records from five other coastal West African countries, making this I think the most frequently identified american wader in West Africa.
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The defunct, twin volcanoes of Mamelles, in Dakar’s Ouakam arrondissement, with Cape Verde Shearwaters and Bottle-nosed Dolphins. The rocky coast of Dakar, forming the Cap Vert Important Bird Area, is an outstanding site for seabirds (photo: P. Robinson). Technopole and its numerous waders, herons, gulls, terns and other waterbirds (including Greater Flamingos when conditions are right) is one of the best sites for birds in the greater Dakar region, So is Iles de la Madeleine, and further afield the Saloum Delta at Palmarin (photos: B. Piot)
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