Au revoir la Teranga
Our regular readers will have noticed that it’s been very quiet on this blog in recent months, so it’s about time I published an update here. There’s a simple reason for the lack of recent posts: after just over five years in Dakar, it was time to move on. Three weeks ago we landed in Laos where we will be based for the foreseeable future, marking the start of a new adventure here in Vientiane. And the end of a pretty amazing experience living in Senegal.
Moving on is of course bittersweet, as I will certainly miss the fabulous bird life that Senegal has to offer, yet at the same time I’m excited to discover the birds and culture of Laos. Even if we’re currently living in rather unsettling and unpredictable times, to say the least. Many of you will be reading this while confined at home, but being extremely busy with my work here I’ll need to keep it short… somehow writing this post is actually the one that I’ve struggled the most with so far – it’s been sitting in my drafts for about three weeks now.
Over the past five years I managed to visit all but one of the country’s regions – sadly I never made it to Matam! – and was lucky to see a good deal of its birds, 530 species to be precise, 527 of which I saw during 2015-2020. A few other numbers: some 52,500 records “collected”, four additions to the country list, about 1,040 sound recordings posted on xeno-canto, tons of poor quality bird photographs, countless happy hours in the field…
There are of course a few specials that I didn’t get to track down, such as Golden and Egyptian Nightjar, White-throated Francolin or Denham’s Bustard to name but a few, and I somehow managed to never visit Kousmar (pretty unbelievable right?) and the Niokolo-Kobo proper (I was happy enough exploring Wassadou on three occasions), but these are all good reasons to one day come back of course. That said, I’m not very optimistic about the state and future of Senegal’s environment, and while this is not the time to expand on this, there have been many frustrating, sad and upsetting moments when confronted on an almost daily basis with the ongoing destruction of natural habitats, with the ever-increasing pollution levels, and with the population’s general indifference and ignorance when it comes to nature and wildlife conservation.
Senegal certainly has treated us well and I feel privileged to have had the chance to explore the country these past few years. I tried to promote birding in Senegal and think I made some modest contributions to the “body of ornithological knowledge” both through this blog (149 posts!) and through a number of papers, 14 to be precise, something we’ll try to continue doing in coming months (years?). The absence of recent posts on SenegalWildlife is definitely not for a lack of ideas or material… just need to find the time to write up stuff, be it here in these pages or elsewhere.
Lots of good memories, of encounters with birds of course but also of places and people, too many to start listing here. Unexpected finds, and some unexpected birding settings.
Despite the crazy busy few weeks leading up to our departure from Dakar, I was of course keen to go back out to some of my favourite spots: Popenguine, Technopole, Mbeubeusse, Lac Rose, and of course Le Calao for my daily dose of seawatching.
And as always there were some good birds to be seen here, some of which were quite unexpected. During my last visit at Technopole on the morning of our departure (8.3), a pair of Eurasian Teals was a nice find. My final ring reading here was of a French Eurasian Spoonbill ringed in the Camargue colony in 2016… with now +600 ring readings in my little database, there’s definitely enough material to write up another post on this topic. An immature Brown Booby on 21.2 and 5.3 at Ngor was pretty classic at this time of the year. Much less expected was a fine Cream-coloured Courser on the steppe near lac Rose on 20.2, apparently the first record for the Dakar region. It was loosely associating with a few Temminck’s Coursers, a classic species here, just like the handful of Greater Short-toed Larks that were present the same day. A few days earlier, a Temminck’s Stint at Mbeubeusse (16.2) was yet another scarce migrant to show up at this prime location for waders. And during our last visit to Popenguine (23.2) a Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver was a good record from this location, of a species that is rarely reported away from the south-east and that in fact I’d only seen once before in Senegal, near Kedougou.
Thanks to our followers and regular readers.
Take care, stay safe, flatten that curve.
Au revoir le pays de la Teranga, à la prochaine!