Exploring the Niayes : Lac Tanma

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to return to Lac Tanma, one of the Niayes wetlands of the Cap-Vert Peninsula just outside Dakar, though technically located in the Thiès region. Together with Paul Robinson I’d visited the site in November 2013 and was keen on checking out the site once again (see Paul’s post on our 2013 excursion, during which we found a number of interesting species, including one of Senegal’s very few confirmed breeding records of Knob-billed Duck).

Accompanied by Diemé, we set off at 6.30 and reached the lake about an hour later, shortly after sunrise and before the oppressive heat set in. We started by exploring the area to the north of the “bridge”, which held the usual Spur-winged Lapwings and Senegal Thick-knees, as well as a few Wattled Lapwings, a Western Marsh Harrier, a lone Yellow Wagtail and a small flock of Gull-billed Terns hawking insects, while White-faced Ducks and several groups of waders flew in from the coast towards the main lake. A handful of Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Larks, always unpredictable to find, were feeding out in the open, and a Yellow-bellied Eremomela was seen at close range – a rather unexpected record here as this is much more of a dry-country species which is mainly restricted to the northern half of the country (Sauvage & Rodwell (1998) mention just two records from the Dakar region).

It took a while to reach the main lake on the other side of the road, the vegetation being very dense, almost impenetrable at times. Singles of Woodchat Shrike, Melodious Warbler and Subalpine Warbler were the only Palearctic passerines encountered here. More numerous were local species such as White-billed Buffalo-Weaver (one of the baobab trees holds a colony, with several birds seen nest building), Black-crowned Tchagra, Woodland Kingfisher and Northern Red Bishop.

Baobab trees near Lac Tanma

Leafy Baobab trees, as seen from the shores of Lake Tanma.

The lake itself was fairly empty even though the water level was lower than expected, given how much it has rained these past weeks. A nice surprise here was a pair of Black-crowned Cranes, which is probably a scarce migrant in this part of the country as it moves between its stronghold in the lower Senegal valley and the Saloum region and possibly further south. A few dozen Ruffs and a handful of Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks, Common Redshanks and Wood Sandpipers were feeding along the shore. Eleven Garganeys were visible but many more may well have been present, hidden by the dense aquatic vegetation – and if it hadn’t been flying around, we surely would have missed out on Knob-billed Duck (one female: is it breeding again here?).

Conditions were too windy to make decent sound recordings today, so I reverted to the camera instead:

 Western Red-billed Hornbill, Gull-billed Terns and White-faced Ducks, Northern Red Bishop, Anteater Chat

Western Red-billed Hornbill, Gull-billed Terns and White-faced Ducks, Northern Red Bishop, Anteater Chat

Finally, a few recent records from Dakar are worth mentioning here: a Yellow White-eye in the King Fahd (aka Méridien) hotel gardens on 7 October, where Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler and Subalpine Warbler were also present last week. Also noteworthy were three sightings of possibly the same juvenile Brown Booby flying past Club Calao at Ngor, and decent numbers of shearwaters (mainly Sooty) and Sabine’s Gulls from the same site, with respectively 44 and 34 migrating birds during just 1.5 hours of seawatching on 10 October. Oh and the usual Peregrine has returned to Ngor Diarama Hotel where it will likely spend the next few months (and what was probably another bird was at the Mamelles light house last Monday).

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