Canada via Lac de Guiers


I started  writing this post four weeks ago at the end of the Birdlife congress in Ottowa. Senegal does not yet have a national partner organisation, but NCD is working towards that objective. It was an honour to represent them.

ottawaOttawa river. Cross it from left to right and one is in Quebec where French becomes the official  language, permitting the French contingent at the Birdlife conference to bring up every cliché concerning francophone virtues.

songsparrowSong sparrow on the railings during the walk between the university halls of residence and the conference center, which was as far as most days’ birding went.

kingbirdEastern kingbird, in the wooded slope in the foreground of the top picture of Ottawa.

My tenuous birding link is to point out that no north american passerine has yet been found in Senegal, though surely some must have jumped cruise ships unnoticed.

The long trip from Senegal to Canada started for me at  Lac de Guiers Important Bird Area. Despite being not far from the sugar cane town of Richard Toll, this vast freshwater lake, the reservoir for Dakar, had up to the year 2000 been fully censused for waterbirds only once, in 1991. I am not aware that the situation has subsequently changed. The lake is fringed by reedmace, part of which comprises the new government wildlife reserve of Tocc Tocc; a Wolof name that describes a breach in the complex irrigation system around the lake that created a new channel and wetland. From my brief visit, in a month for which there is not much information anywhere in Senegal away from the coast on bird life, Tocc Tocc looks promising to include in Senegal River delta circuits. The edge of Lac de Guiers and many of the ditches, both covered in water lilies, had plenty of pairs of African pygmy-goose, often a target species for birders. The species is apparently abundant later in the year.


The  irrigated rice fields were close to harvest and made clear that the main seasonal employment opportunity related to birds is Senegal is scaring them. Most fields had someone, apparently on a monthly 30,000 cfa, making assorted noises and movements to chase the diminuitive, colourful northern red bishops, yellow-crowned bishops and the notorious rice-pest red-headed quelea.

Winding cisticolas (above and below) sang from most fields, little bitterns seemed frequent and African jacanas were everywhere. The overall effect of working rice fields was colourful and picturesque, not ignoring the serious and exhausting work of rice cultivation.


Winding cisticola singing

Closer to the river, the reedmace fringing the ditches had two specialities in song; greater swamp warbler and the Sahel endemic river prinia (below).

riverpriniaOne can be lazy and say that a prinia in reedmace and looking rather greyer than tawny-flanked prinia is river prinia, but the real clincher is the song. So, for educational purposes, here is one of the briefest song recordings on the internet, but also as far as I can  discover the only internet recording of river prinia. You heard it here first.

River prinia singing


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