Casamance trip, 11-15 October
No time for an extensive trip report, but still wanted to share a few of the highlights and a number of pictures from our recent family trip to coastal Casamance. We first spent a night in the town of Ziguinchor, then moved to the village of Diembering just north of Cap Skirring where we spent 3 nights in the excellent Akine Dyioni ecolodge, set in a perfect spot in the dunes between the village and the beach. Lots of great birds, good food, a private (well, almost) beach… what else can one wish for?
Casamance’s capital Ziguinchor is quite a birdy town: Pink-backed Pelicans are all over the place (including at least one colony near the airport), Hooded Vultures everywhere, several colonies of Yellow-billed Stork, White-breasted and Long-tailed Cormorants, and African Darters in the middle of town, and of course quite a few birds can be seen along the Casamance river (which also seems to be full of dolphins!).
The unique Palm-nut Vulture – the only frugivorous vulture species in the world – can be seen flying over the river, such as this adult with its conspicuous black-and-white plumage.
Several Wire-tailed Swallows were hanging out on the waterfront near our hotel in Ziguinchor, including this fine adult (presumably a female given the short tail streamers).
Many species reach their northernmost distribution around Diembering, which has a decent coastal forest, lagoons, dunes and good farmland – and as such a good mix of birds! Especially the forest holds a few “specials” which in Senegal are largely restricted to Casamance, such as Ahanta Francolin, African Pied Hornbill, Green Hylia, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, Olive Sunbird, and many more.
And of course lots of other good birds, including the neat Oriole Warbler – a “lifer” that I finally managed to see, right within the lodge gardens. The latter also had Klaas’s and Diederik Cuckoos, Yellow-throated Leaflove, no less than five sunbird species (Green-headed, Beautiful, Splendid, Variable, Copper Sunbird), Brown-throated (Common) Wattle-eye, Black-necked Weaver, Blue-billed (African) Firefinch, etc.
Every visit to the fields, rice paddies and small wetlands around the lodge yielded something new: Lizard Buzzard, Grey Kestrel, Northern White-faced Owl, African Green Pigeon, West African Swallow, Short-winged Cisticola, Bronze-tailed Starling and Orange-cheeked Waxbill to name but a few. The header picture of this post shows a Northern Red Bishop displaying in one of the paddies, which also had a few Yellow-crowned Bishops. On the northern migrants front, besides the various waders, gulls and terns, there were several European Bee-eaters around, as well as Osprey, Pallid Swift, Yellow Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Whinchat, Common Redstart, Western Olivaceous Warbler, and Willow Warbler.
This juvenile Rufous-breasted Swallow – my first in Senegal – was a nice treat one morning as I was heading out to the forest.
A flash of red amidst a flock of Village Weavers: Vieillot’s Barbet
An obliging male Fine-spotted Woodpecker was seen at Djiromaithe (near Mloump). Also here were several Blue-bellied Rollers, Northern Puffback, Yellow-mantled Widowbird and so on.
Below is one of many Hooded Vultures seen during our trip, often a few dozen together. On the beach at Diembering there were usually several of these vultures feeding on stranded fish – a behaviour that is not known from Dakar but which seems pretty typical further south along the Senegambian coast. A few White-backed Vultures were noted, while the much scarcer White-headed Vulture was seen at Djiromaithe.
We also visited the Pointe Saint-Georges, which at this time of the year involves a pleasant one-hour boat trip through a bolong and along the Casamance river. Lots of birds of course, but also several Bottlenose Dolphins swimming around the pirogue (but alas no Manatees!).