Another family trip to Palmarin, another report with a few interesting observations and some pictures to share. To start, a pleasant surprise was a pair of Four-banded Sandgrouse that were flushed from an uncultivated field, then landed just a few meters away and allowed for close-up views (but alas no picture). Could they be breeding here? This is the first time, in five visits (August, twice in November, January, and now February), that I’ve seen the species in the Palmarin area or anywhere in Senegal for that matter.
The same goes for a first-winter Southern Grey Shrike which is another addition to my Palmarin list, and which is more likely a scarce or irregular winter visitor here. Typically seen in the north – Djoudj, Ndiael, Richard-Toll etc. – it is apparently scarce this far south. Even around Dakar there seem to be only a handful of records, including one at Technopole a few years ago that was found by Paul Robinson. However, Simon Cavaillès and friends regularly see the species in the Ndiafatte / Kousmar region and it’s been reported as far south as Tambacounda, but there are only a couple of records from The Gambia.
We’ll try to get back to the topic of subspecies identification in this taxon as it’s not a straightforward matter. According to what can be seen on the pictures below (on which the bird appears somewhat darker than in the field) my bird from Palmarin would fit ssp. elegans which breeds across the Sahara: pale plumage, lots of white in wing, grey rump, large size.
My second Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in Senegal was seen early Sunday morning while feeding in a tree, tail flicking and nicely showing its narrow bill and overall pale appearance. See this post for a discussion of the my first record (in French)
Numerous Common Whitethroats, a few Barn Swallows which are obviously on the move and should have started heading back to Europe. A male Whinchat was near Joal: are they already on the move, or would they winter in this area? Most of the Yellow Wagtails that were seen appeared to belong to the Iberian subspecies, such as this male:
A few Ospreys, Montagu’s and Marsh Harriers were around and a Short-toed Eagle was near Samba Dia, but in general not many raptors were seen. Single Grey and Common Kestrels, and also what appeared to be a family of Black-winged Kite with at least one young.
Waders were as usual well represented, though many were in distant flocks which I didn’t have the time to check thoroughly: Grey Plover, Common Ringed Plover, numerous Bar-tailed Godwits and Avocets, a single Oystercatcher, a few Turnstones and Whimbrels plus the usual Greenshanks, Redshanks, Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, hundreds of Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers, etc.
On the local front, Bruce’s Green Pigeons, Purple Rollers, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers were around, while a few Sudan Golden Sparrows at Diakhanor were also a first for me in Palmarin. Red-billed Queleas were particularly numerous, just like in Dakar at the moment, with low thousands moving south at Diakhanor on 19/2 and several smaller flocks scattered throughout the area (though considering that this is supposedly the most abundant bird species on the planet and that they can gather in huge flocks, these numbers are still on the low side!).
Below is a small sample of some of the local birds seen during the weekend.
(Header picture by Jane Piot!)