Technopole & Lac Rose (again)

Back in town after a trip to Niamey (Cricket Warbler! Egyptian Plover! Greater Swamp Warbler and more!) we headed out to Le Calao du Lac Rose where we spent the weekend. No birding on Saturday, but as is often the case hotel grounds have some good stuff to offer.

There are the usual Senegal Parrots, Little Bee-eatersRed-billed Firefinches, Beautiful Sunbirds and so on, but this time it was a small mammal that stole the show: two ochre-coloured, medium-sized bats with huge ears and a distinctive “nose”. I found them while walking past a bougainvillea bush in which they were roosting, where they allowed for real good views in broad daylight. They turned out to be Yellow-winged Bats, a widespread species that I’d already seen roosting in bamboo growth in the Plain du Sô near Cotonou. More on bats will follow here in due course.

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Yellow-winged Bat Lavia frons

While looking for the bats after they’d moved to a Casuarina tree, I spotted a Northern White-faced Owl observing us from a bit higher up. Seen first in fading light (1st picture) we found it again in the same place the next morning (2nd picture). Somehow this bird had extremely long eartufts and was much greyer in the face than what I’ve seen on other individuals; see also the species gallery on the African Bird Image Database hosted by the ABC.

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Northern White-faced Owl / Petit-duc à face blanche

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Northern White-faced Owl / Petit-duc à face blanche

On Sunday, an early morning visit to the dunes and nearby niaye was fairly uneventful; this site is probably quite interesting during and just after the raining season when the depression fills up. Besides the usual suspects, a male Green-winged Pytillia was seen in a group of granivores, which also held a Yellow-fronted Canary, just like on my previous visit here. Other scarcer species seen were Black-headed Heron once again, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, and Splendid Sunbird.

While looking for Buff-breasted Sandpipers (no sign of them – they all seem to have left by now!), I did find a Temminck’s Courser on the NE end of the plain, not far from the dunes that I’d just been exploring. Not the hoped for Cream-coloured Courser but a courser nevertheless – and definitely my best views of the species so far. I took a few pictures after which it flew off, uttering its typical toy trumpet call… and soon to be followed by a second individual that must have been sitting in the short grass nearby. Didn’t get good views of the second courser, but it may well have been a young bird.

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

Barely five minutes later I found two more coursers, this time closer to the “sandpiper field”. Light was better by now and although they stayed within 30-40 meters I managed to get a few good pics with our trusted Canon Powershot SX60 HS:

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

At least two Singing Bushlarks and what were probably a few Greater Short-toed Larks were also around. The lake itself held a few Audouin’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, some Gull-billed Terns and a few Common Terns. Fairly few waders were around, mostly Little Stints and Common Ringed Plovers, while on the beach the main species was Sanderling. Both locations also had several Ospreys which spend the winter around lac Rose in decent numbers (15-20 birds?).

Meanwhile at Technopole – where I hadn’t been in about 3 weeks – there weren’t many new birds around except maybe for an increase in the number of European Spoonbills (ca. 35) and Little Stints (ca. 90). Other birds of note seen during my most recent visit (23/1) included a female Marsh Harrier and a White-winged Tern, the latter a “site tick” for me; the harrier is, surprisingly perhaps, only an irregular visitor to Technopole. Just like on my previous visit, a single Mediterranean Gull was present among the range of other gulls, which have finally started building up in numbers: Lesser Black-backed Gulls mostly, but also up to ca. 35 Audouin’s and a few dozen each of Black-headed, Grey-headed and Slender-billed Gulls.

Black-tailed Godwits now number around 150 which is half of the number about a month ago: it’s quite possible that part of the wintering birds have already left for the Iberian rice fields where they typically refuel before continuing to northwestern Europe. This time round I managed to read colour rings on one bird only, but on previous visits I’ve had up to nine different ringed birds within the same flock, including Dutch, English and German breeders. Two Bar-tailed Godwits seemed more closely associated with a loose group of 16 Grey Plovers, with most of the regular waders also concentrating on the pools behind the golf club house (the majority of gulls though were on the westernmost lake, which is again accessible).

The only bird I managed to get a decent picture of was this adult Red-necked Falcon perched in a baobab:

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Red-necked Falcon / Faucon chicquera

Subalpine and Sedge Warblers were actively singing, while Common Redstart, Chiffchaff, and Common Whitethroat, were far less conspicuous.

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