Lac Mbeubeusse and another American golden plover
Lac Mbeubeusse, incorrectly labelled in this Google Earth image as Lac Retba, is the largest freshwater lake of the Niayes Important Bird Area. It is also a difficult lake to access. On the outskirts of Dakar, on the north east edge of the residential settlement, it is surrounded by building sites and, visible south west of the lake in the photo, the city’s municipal rubbish dump. The lake is 2km long. A concrete wall, lined with cormorants and pelicans, retains the rubbish tip. Various failed attempts to build houses on the lake bed in drier years are now partly submerged concrete skeletons. With the current building boom, a line of tanker lorries wait to have water pumped into them for cement mixing. Not then a classically pretty lake, but full of birds if the water levels are lower.
The mix of birds is, from the little evidence available, the lake very seldom being visited, much as at Technopole, 12km away, though with more terns and ducks and, lacking the reedmace and reed beds, overall fewer species. The lake is seasonal, though the water regime is complicated by its use as a retaining reservoir for the city’s flood waters. Water levels were high and birds few from August to January, other than lots of black terns in September. The last two months have been more interesting, with 30 to 40 species of waterbirds. Today, amongst the terns, was my first roseate tern of this spring, with the Sandwich and gull-billed. Whilst trying and failing to photograph this, a plover flew past, hey ho, settled and proved to be American golden plover – our third for the Niayes in the past six months.
One could speculate that it was one of the two October birds from Lac Tanma, 25km further east, that has wintered. Alan Vittery tells me a bird wintered this year in the Azores after the large influx of American waders and that the Mbeubeusse bird is the dullest and brownest he has seen. The colouring certainly looks different from the October birds.
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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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