New Year Technopole and an American in December
2011’s autumn was a good one for sightings of american waders in Senegal and the surprises continued with this pectoral sandpiper on the road-side Gandiol lagoons, just north of the Guembeul reserve. The bird was feeding with, though often chased by, a few ruffs. Credit for first spotting it must go to Frederic Bacuez, who accompanied us, and there is more information on his fine blog of what is Senegal’s second record of this species.
Back in Dakar, presumably last years’ peregrine (and how many other years now? Perhaps Senegal’s most photographed individual bird) is back on its favourite ledge of the Ngor Diarama hotel.
The consensus seems to be that this is a peregrinus/calidus bird, i.e. one of the sub-species originating north of the pyrenees, which account for most of the West African records – Mediterranean and north African birds of closer origin being scarcer trans-Saharan migrants.
15 January was this year’s symbolic African Waterbird Census day, celebrated by this observer being stuck in a meeting all day, though Senegalese bird census teams were out in force. I did manage to get to Technopole on the preceding Saturday 12th; my first visit for a long time and in the company of Bram Piot who added a dimension, picking up many calls I was missing.
I do not know when this greater cormorant colony, presumably a spill over from the expanding Iles de la Madeleine colony, commenced at Technopole. A few flightless chicks were in nests. Unusually the main lake, seen here behind the cormorants, did not provide today’s highlights. The gull roost was on the smaller northern lake. It mainly comprised black-headed gulls, an (un-counted) hundred or so Audouin’s gulls and at least 12 Mediterranean gulls; the latter mostly first winter (second calendar year) birds, but with two second winter (third calendar year) types. This is easily the highest count for Senegal, though it is not possible to say whether this is a real increase. What does seem to be real is that most birds wintering south of the Sahara are these easily overlooked sub-adults.
Thirty or so (my counting being extremely lazy on the day) sacred ibises is a high count for here and feeding with them was a ringed Eurasian spoonbill, which zooming into the bird shows to be…..
The “reed” beds, actually the African species of the genus Typha that colonises freshwater so quickly in Senegal, provided the usual sedge and European reed warblers, but also at least three calling greater swamp warblers. None were seen. This is something of a speciality here. Senegal and the Gambia have an isolated, endemic sub-species, senegalensis, about which very little is known other than that it is probably common where there is plenty of Typha. You have to go then to Ghana for the nearest country with the quite different, browner rufescens. Bram made some recordings of the call which are loaded onto xeno-canto. He also was able to separate the calls of the numerous yellow wagtails and confirm that both flava (north and central Europe) and one of the southern European sub-species (iberiae of Spain, Portugal, SW France and NW Africa is the most often seen in Senegal when the males are in diagnostic breeding plumage) were present. We also saw a third sub-species, with a bright yellow male flavissima, originating from Britain and adjacent coasts.
The scrubby edges of the main lake had a great reed warbler, but unusually no other migrant warbler species.