A new window for seabird observations
After a few pleasant months in the busy central Dakar Plateau, generally referred to as “en ville”, I have decamped to Yoff Virage and a studio with stupendous roof terrace views obliquely towards the classic seabird observation point of Ile de Ngor (second image) and directly into the Atlantic (first image). I am 200m from a headland that is probably quite as good as Ile de Ngor for seabird migration, though lacking the raised views from that island’s cliffs, so this blog is likely to record my shuffle between Technopole and the Atlantic Ocean during the periods I am in Dakar.
Prior to the move, a whistle-stop tour of the Sahel during 12-16 October was motivated by ornithological projects, but with little time to birdwatch, other than from the vehicle window and then often during the mid-day heat when most birds are sensibly hidden within the shade at Sahel latitudes. Highlights were a brief flight view of an Arabian bustard at the Ndiael reserve and then, between Richard Toll and Dara, within the Six Forages sylvo-pastoral reserve, a male pallid harrier and an immature red-necked buzzard. The latter was the commonest raptor when I visited the Senegalese Sahel further east, around Linguere and Barkedji, just after the rains in 2012. The species is central and west Africa’s common forest bustard and the standard Senegal description is of it as a rainy season visitor even to the SE around Niokolo Koba, 300km south. Morel had a couple of observations during the rains near Richard Toll in the 1960s-70s. There seems to be a larger movement of birds north in this period than previously noted in this little-watched part of Senegal.
Two seasonal spectacles impressed my visitors during the tour. At dusk thousands of straw-coloured fruit bats, another species which shifts north with the rains, streamed out of St. Louis old town and across the river, presumably to orchards, providing a fine back-drop to sun-down drinks on a hotel roof terrace. This is the same bat species currently in Dakar. It is IUCN Red listed as Near Threatened, apparently due to its widespread capture for bush meat and medicinal use within the Central and West African forest zone, though this appears to be a perceived rather than quantified threat. I have no idea if the species is similarly used here.
Further north, on the east banks of Lac de Guier, another dusk gathering was of thousands of sands martins on overhead electricity wires east of the lake, probably waiting to descend into a nocturnal roost within the extensive reedmace Typha fringing the lake.
ps WordPress, the free blog hosting service, has just decided that advertisements will be permitted on blogs, unless one pays for them to be removed. Whilst I decide whether to pay or move the blog elsewhere, apologies for any inconvenience.