And it is now 2014!
Verreaux’s eagle owl (www.gregpoole.co.uk)
It has been a bad lapse to not keep up to date with a wildlife sightings blog for two months. In early December, before my Christmas break, two new sightings (African reed warbler and long-tailed nightjar) brought the Technopole list to 200 species since this blog started two years ago.
I have often visited the picturesque fishing cove of Ouakam in Dakar, but so far ignored the cliffs to the north (right as one looks out to sea). A scramble along their foot in mid-January produced two young peregrines, so with the adult bird still on the Hotel Ngor Diorama, at least three are wintering in north-west Dakar.
My second visit to the sparsely vegetated sandy Sahel within 5-10km east of the bridge at Richard Toll on the main N2, south of the road, again produced cricket warblers, though many more and better views than previously. This is a site for the species discovered by French birders in 2010 and like them we also saw cream-coloured and temminck’s coursers and noted the high densities of northern wheatears. A few yellow wagtails picturesquely followed livestock and other paleacrtic passerines, giving brief and difficult views as they flitted from one interior of a bush to the next, were mostly Sylviidae; many common whitethroats, several orphean warblers and one spectacled warbler. Frequent hoopoes, all of the nominate Palearctic race, a couple of tawny pipits, many sand martins and the occasional barn swallow completed the migrant list. As on the last visit, it took a very close approach to a dense Balanites bush to flush a group of fulvous babblers, so perhaps quite a few are lurking.
On to Palmarin where artist Greg Poole (www.gregpoole.co.uk) found and took these excellent photos ( digiscoping with his iphone through his telescope) of Verreaux’s eagle owls in a baobab with buffalo weaver nests; not a rare species, but always fun to find and something of a birding tourist’s favourite.
In the same area of sparsely wooded savanna he flushed a quail plover, another birders’ target species whose elusive behaviour makes it impossible to say much about its true status in Senegal.
The more open areas of Palmarin had the usual good mix of raptors: montagu’s and marsh harriers, common and lesser kestrels, black-shouldered and swallow-tailed kite, short-toed eagle, peregrine and ospreys. Two button quails were another surprise in the same short grassland habitat.
We stayed at nearby Djiffer, where a barn owl roosted in the campement grounds and pomerine skuas harassed a mix of terns, including a roseate tern, feeding on fishing discards. Roseate terns are much better known off Senegal on both migrations and winter records remain scarce, but it is an easily overlooked species. Amongst the familiar waders and terns on the saline lagoons, now mostly dry and with considerably reduced numbers of birds, a count of c200 little terns was notable.