Yène 17/12: a rare duck, more waders & migrants
And Yène delivers again!
I went back to our little hotspot on Sunday morning to see what new there was to be found – and whether I could relocate three vagrant ducks that Miguel and colleagues spotted here the previous weekend (my first proper Sengalese twitch!). The lagoon is quite literally shrinking by the day at the moment, so not very much water is left by now – meaning that all waders and other remaining water birds were fairly concentrated in a small-ish area, not all of which is visible from the main viewpoints.
There were tons of waders so it took some time to go through them and count or estimate each species, resulting in the following totals:
- A few hundred Black-winged Stilts (2-300?), still five Avocets
- More than 320 Common Ringed Plovers, again at least two Little Ringed Plovers, but also a couple of Kentish and at least 39 Kittlitz’s Plovers; also several Grey Plovers
- At least 70 Marsh Sandpipers was a pretty high count, even for Senegalese standards (I actually can’t remember ever seeing so many – at one point, about 50 birds were feeding in a single group). Unusually, Marsh Sandpiper was actually the most abundant Tringa wader. Technopole also has more than usual at the moment. There were about 30 Wood Sandpipers, and a handful each of Greenshanks, Redshanks, and Green Sandpipers.
- About 60 Ruff scattered throughout
- 200 Sanderling, 120 Little Stints, ca. 30 Dunlin, one Curlew Sandpiper
- One Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit each
- Three Common Snipes
The Pintails, Garganeys, Shovelers and even the White-faced Whistling Ducks seem to have left as the lagoon is probably too shallow now. Instead there are now three Common Shelducks! I didn’t see them at first, but after about half an hour of sifting through the waders, they were suddenly there, actively feeding on the opposite end of the lagoon and seemingly feeling quite at home here! Maybe they’ll end up staying for a few more days or weeks, until the lagoon dries up.
Not a species I thought I would ever see here: despite its name, it’s definitely not common in Senegal! With only six published records it should be considered a real vagrant to the country. The regular winter range of Tadorna tadorna extends along the Moroccan coast, with very small numbers reaching as far south as Mauritania, though apparently the species remains pretty rare even in the Banc d’Arguin NP. Olivier Girard very conveniently summarised the status of the species in West Africa, in a short paper published in the African Bird Club Bulletin in 2009¹. In his overview, he lists 28 records, almost half of which are from Mauritania, and just five from Senegal. One was apparently overlooked despite being published in the well-known “Annotated check-list of birds occurring at the PNOD, 1984-1994” by Rodwell and colleagues, while the location of another record is incorrect.
As far as we know, no other records have been published nor have any been reported to the ABC, on eBird, or on observado.org since Girard’s summary. As such, these should be all previous Shelduck records for Senegal:
- Seven, Delta du Senegal, 27/12/73 (Morel & Morel)
- Two immatures at Djoudj NP, 21/1/74 (Morel & Morel)
- Two on 12-28/2/90 in the Djoudj NP (M. Fouquet in Rodwell et al. 1996)
- 15 in the Djoudj NP, January 1996 (Yesou et al. 1996)
- One in Djoudj NP, Jan. 1997 (Triplet et al. 1997)
- Two on 5/1/97 at Yène-Todé lagoon (= in Dakar region and not “Siné-Saloum” as incorrectly stated by Girard.
And so now, more than 20 years later, we have three first-year birds from 9 to 17/12/17 at Yène-Todé, again! (see also note below for two more records in early 2018)
It’s intriguing that there are so many more old records, given that observer coverage surely must have improved in the last 20-30 years – and that mid-winter waterbird counts are systematically conducted in the Djoudj and most other large wetlands (I really ought to get access to the database with past counts, as there don’t seem to be any published reports available?). What’s more, Shelducks have been on the increase in many parts of their Western European range, so one would logically expect more birds to show up in this part of the world. Maybe milder winters push fewer birds to the southern end of their range, or the populations that have increased are more sedentary than others? In better-watched Mauritania, at least during the first decade of the 21st century, there are just six records listed since 2000, one of which was near the border with Senegal in the Aftout es Saheli in January 2007, while elsewhere in the delta, Shelducks were seen in December 1995 and three times between Nov. ’98 and Jan. ’99: not much!! Three records each are known from Mali, Ghana and Niger, with one from Guinea (January 2006).
Addendum 2/2/18: eight birds were seen at the Grand Lac in the Djoudj NP on 17/1 (C. Ruchet, Y. Menétrey, I. Ndiaye), quite possibly the same group that was sighted on 30/12/17 in the Diawling on the other side of the border. The first for Technopole was on 18-19/2/18 (E. Regala Ruiz, J. Ruiz, BP, G. Caucal, E. Rogeau), confirming the small influx that occurred during the 17/18 winter.
So what else was about? Glossy Ibis is still present (at least 3 ind.), and now no less than 28 European Spoonbills, most of which arrived from the NW and landed in the central part of the lagoon. As usual there were several Osprey and Marsh Harriers, plus an immature Short-toed Eagle hunting around the lake’s edge, a pair of Red-necked Falcons roosting on a tree, and a Common Kestrel (and on 9/12, Miguel & co. had a fine Barbary Falcon).
The flock of gulls and terns held the usual Caspian, Royal, Sandwich and Common Terns, but just a few Audouin’s Gulls, LBBGs, Slender-billed, Grey-headed and Black-headed Gulls this time round.
Just like on my last visit, Red-throated Pipit was present on the lagoon’s edge: I first heard its sharp pssiiiii call in the SE corner, then briefly saw (and heard) what was probably a second bird, a few hundred meters further. Two Tree Pipits were also present.
Other migrant songbirds included Yellow Wagtails of course, plus Northern Wheatear, Subalpine Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, and Woodchat Shrike.
All in all, another very enjoyable morning out at Yène!
A Technopole pit-stop on the way back to Dakar resulted in yet more waders, with still some 300 Black-tailed Godwits around (just one ring could be read, as most birds were feeding or resting in deeper water) and lots of other waders. On my previous visit, we managed to read six rings, mostly in this flock of BTGs feeding on land:
The water levels are already quite low and I’d reckon that they are about the same as in April 2017: let’s hope that the site doesn’t completely dry up by the end of the dry season!!
More of a surprise was an adult African Spoonbill (also two Europeans) resting on one of the islets, its deep crimson face just about visible. Surprising, because it’s not a frequent visitor to Technopole, and so far my only records have been in April and May.
A Common Moorhen with a very young chick, confirming local breeding of the species. Other than that, lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (+300), a few Audouin’s Gulls, a White-winged Tern feeding among the Black Terns, at least two Knot, lots of Ruff, etc. An adult male Peregrine Falcon may be the same bird that I see almost daily on the Diarama hotel.
¹ Girard, O. 2009. Le Tadorne de Belon Tadorna tadorna en Afrique de l’Ouest. Bull ABC 16: 180-183.