Lac Tanma 3 November
Juvenile plain-backed pipit
Sunday morning was spent at Lac Tanma, just east of the fishing town of Kayar, with Bram Piot. A 2.5km width of sand dunes separates the lake from the sea, but numerous shells in the soil indicate that this must once have been been an inlet of the sea, isolated from the Atlantic at some point by the spread of the dunes. The water tastes a bit salty, but there are water lilies on the fringes of the part of the lake south of the Bayakh-Mboro road, which I associate perhaps erroneously with fresh water.
Lac Tanma: east of Kayar either side of the Bayakh-Mboro Road
This is a temporary, rain-fed lake, dry last winter by February. As with other such lakes to the north and south of Dakar that I have recently visited, it is bursting with water after this year’s heavy rains (there were a few drops today) and there is little habitat for waders. Whereas on 12 November 2012 a few hundred each of ruff and little stint were on the lake margins and hundreds of greater flamingos feeding in the centre, today the numbers were respectively less than 10, nil though still with a few hundred greater flamingos, but clustered at the far edge and inactive. A few hundred Palearctic ducks,, a mix of northern shoveler and garganey, had arrived, but the exciting waterfowl find was a female knob-billed goose with six flightless young. It has surely been overlooked, but this seems to be the first documented breeding for Senegal¹.
Otherwise the dominant waterbirds were feeding black terns and less active gull-billed terns. Perhaps 10 ospreys circled or loafed on the banks and there was a reasonable mix of other raptors; 3-4 marsh harriers, 2 peregrines (one taking a black tern in flight), a female/juvenile montagu’s harrier, african hobby and adult short-toed eagle.
Paleartic passerines were also quite varied. The lake is fringed by low scrub, especially tamarisk, and a few small fields with hedges. This habitat was full of subalpine wablers, with smaller numbers of melodious warbler and one or two willow warbler, common whitethroat, northern wheatear, woodchat shrike, tree pipit and turtle dove. A few yellow wagtails and sedge warblers were around the lake edge and a pallid swift flew over.
Of african resident passerines, a male sahel paradise whydah and several northern red bishops were still in full plumage, whilst two male pin-tailed whydahs had moulted.
Almost at the end of the visit, the plain-backed pipit caused some initial confusion, as the immature plumage with white-ish edges to the feathers on the back gave it less of a “plain back” than its name suggests. This is not a rare species and not assumed to be localised in Senegal, but not one seen much here.
Immature plain-backed pipit
Finally, two photos of an African savanna monitor lizard (perhaps less often seen by birders than the Nile monitor lizard well known from Dakar’s Technopole and Djoudj), that took fright up a bush.
¹ Note by Bram (Dec. 2016): B. Tréca and C. Rouchouse report several breeding records from Lac de Guiers, in Malimbus vol. 11 (1990): Note sur la reproduction du Canard casqué (Sakridiornis melanotos) dans le nord du Sénégal.