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More records from Diembering, Casamance

Early March we went back to Diembering (or Djembering, Diembereng, Djembereng…), six months after our first visit back in October. We once again stayed at the excellent Akine Dyioni Lodge nested in the dunes between the village and the ocean, just a stone’s throw from the beach.

Among the ca. 140 species that were seen during our stay, some of the highlights included Buff-spotted Woodpecker at the Ecoparc, Yellow-throated Longclaw in the fields to the NE of the village, Oriole Warbler in the lodge gardens though far more discrete than back in October when they were regularly seen and heard, and last but not least the unusual Capuchin Babbler in the Ecoparc (links will take you to my recordings on xeno-canto, all from Diembering). Our visit to the Ecoparc was much appreciated by the entire family, expertly guided by Jean-Michel. If you ever make it to the Cap Skirring area, make sure to visit the forest, and why not try their delicious thiebou diene or even stay the night there to fully take advantage of the forest life! Find out how one visionary community member achieved this rare conservation success story here.

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Yellow-throated Longclaw / Sentille à gorge jaune

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Yellow-throated Longclaw / Sentille à gorge jaune

Two species that I’d suspected last time but heard only too briefly were now confirmed: Green Crombec, Yellow-breasted Apalis – plus other forest “specials” already seen or heard last time, such as Ahanta FrancolinPied Hornbill, Little Greenbul, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Green Hylia and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher.

During a very pleasant bike tour in the Cap Skirring and Kabrousse area, two raptor species that are apparently scarce in Casamance were seen: a male Pallid Harrier seemingly migrating north along the coast, and a small group of Lesser Kestrels feeding high up in the sky, possibly also on the move. Other raptors of interest include Palm-nut Vulture, Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle (carrying a small snake, barely visible on the picture below), Lizard Buzzard, and Red-necked Falcon.

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Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle / Circaète de Beaudouin

Most birds were far less conspicuous, and singing less frequently, compared to our previous visit which was towards the end of the breeding season for many species. Short-winged Cisticola is one of these, which was only heard once this time, just like Yellow-throated Leaflove.

This female or young Northern Puffback was one of several seen in the area.

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Northern Puffback / Cubla de Gambie

Palearctic migrants included Red-throated and Tawny Pipit and of course Yellow Wagtails (iberiae mostly), Common Redstart, Common Whitethroats and several other warbler species: a single Subalpine, a couple of Bonelli’s, lots of Willow, a few Western Olivaceous and at least one Eurasian Reed Warbler. European Bee-eaters were seen daily in small numbers.

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European Bee-eater / Guêpier d’Europe

All four local roller species were around, and unlike in October there were now lots of White-throated Bee-eaters; also a pair of Giant Kingfishers near the lodge.

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White-throated Bee-eater / Gueêpier à gorge blanche

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Blue-bellied Roller / Rollier à ventre bleu

 

Lavender Waxbill was a long-awaited addition to my Senegal list. Also lots of Black-rumped Waxbills (one flock was made up of more than a hundred birds!) and perhaps more surprisingly Quailfinch (up to about a dozen in the dry rice paddies) and a few Cut-throats.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning here that a pretty interesting – and ambitious – atlas project is under way for Casamance, by the French association Apalis: find out more on the Oiseaux-Casamance website. Below are a couple of screenshots of the the maps that are now available online, which should soon incorporate my records from Diembering and elsewhere in the region. The first map shows overall coverage with number of species per atlas square, whereas the second is an example of a species’ distribution and breeding status, in this case Palm-nut Vulture. If you have any data from Casamance, please make sure to contribute! There are still lots of gaps and even in fairly well covered areas such as Cap Skirring (red square on the coast, near the Guinea-Bissau border) there’s a good chance that you will have seen additional species.
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CasamanceAtlas_VautourPalmiste_Capture

 

Maybe one day we’ll have an online atlas for all of Senegal… I’ll keep you posted 🙂

 

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Hooded Vulture / Vautour charognard

Casamance trip, 11-15 October

No time for an extensive trip report, but still wanted to share a few of the highlights and a number of pictures from our recent family trip to coastal Casamance. We first spent a night in the town of Ziguinchor, then moved to the village of Diembering just north of Cap Skirring where we spent 3 nights in the excellent Akine Dyioni ecolodge, set in a perfect spot in the dunes between the village and the beach. Lots of great birds, good food, a private (well, almost) beach… what else can one wish for?

Casamance’s capital Ziguinchor is quite a birdy town: Pink-backed Pelicans are all over the place (including at least one colony near the airport), Hooded Vultures everywhere, several colonies of Yellow-billed StorkWhite-breasted and Long-tailed Cormorants, and African Darters in the middle of town, and of course quite a few birds can be seen along the Casamance river (which also seems to be full of dolphins!).

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Yellow-billed Stork / Tantale ibis

The unique Palm-nut Vulture – the only frugivorous vulture species in the world – can be seen flying over the river, such as this adult with its conspicuous black-and-white plumage.

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Palm-nut Vulture / Vautour palmiste

Several Wire-tailed Swallows were hanging out on the waterfront near our hotel in Ziguinchor, including this fine adult (presumably a female given the short tail streamers).

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Wire-tailed Swallow / Hirondelle à longs brins

Many species reach their northernmost distribution around Diembering, which has a decent coastal forest, lagoons, dunes and good farmland – and as such a good mix of birds! Especially the forest holds a few “specials” which in Senegal are largely restricted to Casamance, such as Ahanta Francolin, African Pied HornbillGreen Hylia, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, Olive Sunbird, and many more.

And of course lots of other good birds, including the neat Oriole Warbler – a “lifer” that I finally managed to see, right within the lodge gardens. The latter also had Klaas’s and Diederik Cuckoos, Yellow-throated Leaflove, no less than five sunbird species (Green-headed, Beautiful, Splendid, VariableCopper Sunbird), Brown-throated (Common) Wattle-eye, Black-necked WeaverBlue-billed (African) Firefinch, etc.

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Oriole Warbler / Noircap loriot

Every visit to the fields, rice paddies and small wetlands around the lodge yielded something new: Lizard BuzzardGrey Kestrel, Northern White-faced Owl, African Green Pigeon, West African Swallow, Short-winged Cisticola, Bronze-tailed Starling and Orange-cheeked Waxbill to name but a few. The header picture of this post shows a Northern Red Bishop displaying in one of the paddies, which also had a few Yellow-crowned Bishops. On the northern migrants front, besides the various waders, gulls and terns, there were several European Bee-eaters around, as well as Osprey, Pallid SwiftYellow Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Whinchat, Common Redstart, Western Olivaceous Warbler, and Willow Warbler.

This juvenile Rufous-breasted Swallow – my first in Senegal – was a nice treat one morning as I was heading out to the forest.

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Rufous-breasted Swallow / Hirondelle à ventre roux

A flash of red amidst a flock of Village Weavers: Vieillot’s Barbet

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Vieillot’s Barbet and Village Weavers / Barbican de Vieillot et Tisserins gendarmes

An obliging male Fine-spotted Woodpecker was seen at Djiromaithe (near Mloump). Also here were several Blue-bellied Rollers, Northern PuffbackYellow-mantled Widowbird and so on.

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Fine-spotted Woodpecker / Pic à taches noires

Below is one of many Hooded Vultures seen during our trip, often a few dozen together. On the beach at Diembering there were usually several of these vultures feeding on stranded fish – a behaviour that is not known from Dakar but which seems pretty typical further south along the Senegambian coast. A few White-backed Vultures were noted, while the much scarcer White-headed Vulture was seen at Djiromaithe.

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Hooded Vulture / Vautour charognard

We also visited the Pointe Saint-Georges, which at this time of the year involves a pleasant one-hour boat trip through a bolong and along the Casamance river. Lots of birds of course, but also several Bottlenose Dolphins swimming around the pirogue (but alas no Manatees!).

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Bottlenose Dolphin / Grand Dauphin (J. Piot)