Technopole early August
Back in Dakar after several weeks abroad, yesterday morning I paid a quick visit to our favourite local patch to see whether any interesting waders were around, and as usual Technopole didn’t disappoint.
Hundreds of waders of all sorts were frantically feeding on the main lake, which now has ideal conditions for most species. There were of course still loads of noisy Black-winged Stilts (including several locally fledged young) and the usual Spur-winged Lapwings and Senegal Thick-knees, but by now the number of migrant species has considerably increased compared to my previous visit at the end of June: literally hundreds of Ruff of a variety of colours and sizes (a rough yet conservative estimate suggests at least 400 birds), at least 50 Wood Sandpipers, about half as many Common Redshanks, 34 Black-tailed Godwits, about a dozen each of Common Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint, 3 Sanderlings, 4-5 Whimbrels, 10 Marsh Sandpipers (a good count for the site), just a few Common Sandpipers and Greenshanks, and singles of Avocet and Kittlitz’s Plover. All in all, there must be at least 800 waders on site at the moment which makes for some exciting birding! No Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers or Dunlins yet but surely these will pass through in the coming days or weeks… and with a bit of luck a rarer species will turn up this autumn (last year’s Lesser Yellowlegs was found on Aug. 11th). Whether the conditions will remain suitable for waders in coming weeks will depend on the intensity of the rains, which are slowly starting here. So far, Dakar has experienced only a couple of showers, but that may change between now and the end of the month.
A flock of about 140 to 150 Greater Flamingos – a good count here – contained no less than 3 ringed adults, all with a white ring with a four-letter code starting with K: these must be French birds from 2013-2015, as per the information on the key to Flamingo rings on www.flamingoatlas.org. Details will be added once I receive them from the Tour du Valat station, which hopefully won’t take too long.
The majority of terns were Sandwich (ca. 50) and Black Terns (25-30), with a few Common, two Royal and one Lesser Crested Tern among them. Nice to see the latter two species side by side as they can be tricky to id when it’s difficult to judge their size. The picture below was taken from quite a distance, but one can still just about make out all 5 species: a young Royal Tern on the left (note the yellow legs), the Lesser Crested Tern in the centre, a few Sandwich and an adult Royal (black legs). A 2nd summer Common Tern is mostly hidden by the 2nd and 3rd Sandwich Terns. The Black Terns were mostly sitting on the mud mounts in the background. Even fewer gulls were present, with just a handful of Slender-billeds and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls seen.
As I already mentioned, this was a brief visit, so I didn’t have time to explore the golf area or the wetlands and fields on the northern fringes of the main lake, and I didn’t get to see many species other than the aforementioned waterbirds. There were the usual Red-billed Queleas with many bright-coloured males, also Red-billed Firefinch, White-rumped Seedeater and a single male Sudan Golden-Sparrow, and of course the resident Greater Swamp Warblers and several more common passerines including Pied Crows, a pair of which decided to build a nest in a very exposed spot, right on top of this old lamp post:
Finally, as I was standing on the edge of the water watching the waders (and sweating profusely – it’s bloody hot in Dakar at the moment, already 30 degrees at 9am and a few rain drops while I was at Technopole), I got a glimpse of a fairly large lizard with bright orange flanks that I had never seen before as it was moving through dense grass right next to me. It turns out that it was, well, the aptly named Orange-flanked Skink (Mabuya perrotetii), which in the Common Reptiles of The Gambia (Barnett & Emms 2005; click title for PDF) is described as follows:
“This species is the largest skink in The Gambia and indeed, in the whole of Africa, growing to about 30cm in length. Females are a drabcoloured pale brown, whereas males in the wet season have a bright, almost fluorescent, orange stripe along each flank. This species appears to be active only during the wet season, perhaps spending the dry season months tucked away out of sight in termite or animal burrows. When the males emerge they can be very conspicuous with their bright flanks and are often seen scuttling quickly across roads. The Orange-flanked Skink appears to be common and widespread in The Gambia in a variety of habitats”
Fred and Etienne also saw the species recently, about a month ago near St. Louis – check out their story and see a superb picture of the skink here (in French).
Interesting, and definitely a nice change from the ever-present “Rainbow Lizards” (Agama agama)! Below a picture of our very own resident agame in one of his dull moments.