Technopole, 12 February
I went back to Technopole last Sunday, expecting some new birds to be around given that northbound migration has now picked up for several species – and wasn’t disappointed!
First stop was on the main lake near the fisherman’s cabin, where a dozen or so Eurasian Spoonbills were present. One of the first birds I checked was ringed: green “V020”, pictured below, which turned out to be a Danish bird born in 2013. Further scrutiny of the 50+ Spoonbills that were around yielded seven ring readings and a few more ringed birds that could not be read; as per www.cr-birding.org these are birds from the Netherlands, France, Spain and maybe other countries.
Continuing on the same theme, I found an adult Gull-billed Tern with a coded ring (white “U83”), a Spanish bird – and a far less common ring recovery than the spoonbills! This turned out to be only the first re-sighting of this bird ringed as a chick in 2009 at Las Mesas (SE of Madrid). The small flocks of gulls and terns also held an adult Royal Tern and a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull, a new individual this season which by the way has not seen many Med Gulls yet – more are likely to show up in coming weeks. A group of 13 Garganeys was probably refueling on its way back to Europe. The usual Pink-backed and now also ca. 50 Great White Pelicans were scattered throughout the lake, as were several groups of Little Grebe (80-100 ind.) and a handful of Sacred Ibises.
Pretty much the first bird that I saw after setting up my spotting scope behind the golf club house was a Common Sandpiper that caught my attention because of its distinctive yellowish legs and fairly uniform appearance of upperparts. Could it be a Spotted Sandpiper? It was pretty distant and soon settled partly hidden by a group of Senegal Thick-knees where it started preening, making it hard to get a good look (and pictures). After it vanished I found it again later towards the opposite end of the pool and got a few more poor shots. I never managed to see any pattern on the tertials, and it seemed to have a fairly short tail – but no spots (which would be normal at this time of the year) and didn’t get to see its wing bar and didn’t hear it call… so it will probably remain an Actitis sp. for ever after! Comments welcome of course.
A much more straightforward bird to identify was this 1st winter Common Gull roosting among the other gulls and a few terns: medium-sized, slender gull with a relatively dark grey mantle, fairly short and slim bi-coloured bill, largely white and unstreaked head and underparts; Ring-billed Gull could be easily excluded. On the picture below, note the presence of Slender-billed and Black-headed Gull, Caspian and Gull-billed Tern (and spot the Whiskered Tern!) and of course the Black-winged Stilts in the background.
Of note is its very worn plumage, which seems typical of those vagrant gulls from Europe. The first Technopole Common Gull was pretty much in the same state, and so was last year’s Little Gull. Not sure whether this is indicative of a bird’s overall physical condition, but it struck me that these worn gulls are a bit of a recurring theme here.
Apparently this would be Senegal’s 5th record only, and third for Technopole. Previous observations are from 10/1 (a 1st winter bird) and 18/1/94 (probably the same bird together with another 1st winter and an adult bird) at Saint-Louis by Pierre Yésou and Patrick Triplet, followed nearly 20 years later by a third record, this time from February 2013 (again a 1st winter) at Technopole by Jean-François Blanc (the blog post incorrectly refers to this as the second record: technically speaking the two Saint-Louis dates should be treated as two separate records given that two new birds were found on the second date). Two years later, Jean-François found another bird on 2/3/2015, again at Technopole.
There are several “occasional” sightings from Mauritania (Banc d’Arguin mainly, cf. Paul Isenmann’s The Birds of the Banc d’Arguin 2006 which I happened to come across in the library at my boys’ school today!), but it is probably not a regular visitor here given that even in much better watched Morocco the species seems to be really scarce. A couple of old records exist from The Gambia, but there don’t seem to be any recent sightings.
No less than seven gull species were present at Technopole on Sunday though I didn’t thoroughly check the large Lesser Black-backed Gull flock which was at the far end of the western pool. The Common Gull was my 10th gull species for the site; only Ring-billed Gull is missing (it’s on the list, but I haven’t managed to find out when it was sighted here).
With only 13 species, wader diversity was a bit lower than is often the case, with Black-tailed Godwits now having left the site, and none of the Calidris sandpipers except for Little Stint being around yet. Quite unusual was the sudden arrival of at least a hundred Wood Sandpipers, possibly a group of migrants that just arrived or that were disturbed in another part of the area. Most of the usual herons were seen, including a Little Bittern quickly dashing between two reedbeds east of the golf course. On the raptors front, there were singles of Osprey, Peregrine (not seen very often here) and Red-necked Falcon.
Among the wintering or migrant songbirds, there were still one or two White Wagtails around, plenty of Yellow Wags, a single Chiffchaff, several Subalpine and Sedge Warblers, and two Woodchat Shrikes.
All in all, 87 species were seen in a single morning: not bad for an urban wetland!
Back in Almadies, I once again saw the aberrant Common Ringed Plover with a leucistic plumage, just like last year on the beach near the Méridien hotel. This very distinctive individual was first seen in February 2016 (see this blog post for initial account and a picture of the bird); it was present on the same beach on 5 May and 30 October 2016. Interesting case of site fidelity in a wintering shorebird – and no need for hard-to-read colour rings or expensive geolocators or other tracking devices… Curious to see when and where it shows up again in coming years!