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Technopole updates – waders, gulls, and a hybrid heron

It’s been a while since I last talked about Technopole on this blog, so here’s a quick update on recent sightings at our favourite Dakar hotspot. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times in the last few weeks, most recently on August 22nd and September 2nd. At the end of August, the site was the driest it’s been in many years: barely any water left on what I usually refer to as the “central lake”. Only some shallow water remained on the far south end along the main road, and even less in the north-east corner close to the golf club house. Even the level of the large reed-fringed lake on the north-east side has dropped substantially.

As a result, there are far fewer birds around than would usually be the case at this time of the year, when the first rains start filling up the lakes again. There are now very few waders, herons and cormorants, hardly any ducks and fairly few gulls and terns (which is more usual during late summer). With the rains finally arriving in Dakar – though just four or five decent showers so far – the site has rapidly started filling up in the past two weeks and is becoming more attractive once again.

This is what it looked like roughly between June and the end of August: hardly any water!!

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Despite the low water levels, diversity remains pretty high, with still some 70-75 species typically seen on recent visits. The highlight on Aug. 22nd was yet again a Franklin’s Gull among the flock of Slender-billed Gulls, most likely the same 2nd c.y. bird as in May and June, seen here for the fourth time (see this piece about the species’ status in Senegal and more broadly in West Africa).

Great White Pelicans are particularly numerous this year, with an impressive 650-700 birds present at the moment. They most likely come from the Djoudj colony; unlike in previous years the species is also present daily at Ngor, though in much lower numbers than at Technopole. And a few days ago I even had four flying over the house at Almadies, yet another garden tick.

Besides the ever-present Black-winged Stilts and Spur-winged Lapwings, (both still with several older chicks and quite a few locally hatched juveniles), Ruff is now the most numerous wader, though there are 30-40 birds only… compare with the ∼500 Ruffs counted last year in August! Also just four Black-tailed Godwits (also a Bar-tailed on Aug. 12th), single Whimbrel, Marsh Sandpiper, Dunlin, 4-5 Little Stints and just a handful of Sanderlings, while the first Curlew Sandpipers were seen on Sept. 2nd. On the same day, a Little Ringed Plover was present near the fishermen’s hut – there don’t seem to be many “autumn” records at Technopole of this species. A Kittlitz’s Plover was seen again on Aug. 22nd, following several records in previous months: could the species have bred at Technopole? In June we found a nest containing two eggs and several additional terrtitories near Lac Rose.

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Marsh Sandpiper / Chevalier stagnatile

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Scruffy Sanderling…  a moulting adult (Bécasseau sanderling ad. en mue)

 

On July 7th, a presumed hybrid Little Egret x Western Reef Heron was seen along the track leading to the golf course: interesting bird, as it may mean that there are mixed broods at the Parc de Hann colony, unless of course it was born in the Somone or another heronry. Or that it may be breeding there at the moment, as our bird was obviously an adult in breeding plumage, judging by the pink-reddish feet, bluish lores and long feathers extending from the back of the head. While difficult to judge, the bill length and shape also seems to be more like Little Egret. In addition to the features in the pictures below – in particular the whitish head, central neck and lower belly – we noted a fair amount of white on the wing, mainly towards the base of the outer hand.

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Presumed hybrid Little Egret x Western Reef Heron / probable hybride Aigrette garzette x Aigrette des récifs

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Head shot of same bird

Now compare with this typical Western Reef Heron, photographed during my most recent visit to Technopole:

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Western Reef Heron / Aigrette des récifs

Our bird corresponds to presumed hybrids found in southern Europe and in Morocco, though we can’t rule out the possibility that it is in fact a rare dark morph Little Egret, as these do seem to exist… mcuh remains to be learned about these egrets! For more on the identification of Western Reef Heron and Little Egret, see Dubois and Yésou’s article in British Birds (1995).

Talking of herons, here’s a breeding-plumaged Great Egret: note the entirely black legs and feet as well as the mostly dark bill, with just the some yellow still apparent on part of the lower mandible. The bare skin around the eye and on the lores could be described as pale turquoise, though it transitions from light green to more bluish tones. Quite amazing how these birds completely change the colour of their bill and legs during breeding season!

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Great Egret / Grande Aigrette

 

Besides the above waterbirds, Technopole of course holds lots of good other birds: at the moment, there are a few Broad-billed Rollers that appear to be breeding, and other wet-season visitors such as Woodland Kingfisher and Diederik Cuckoo are also around. And while breeding wasn’t confirmed this year, Red-necked Falcon is still seen on most visits, usually flying around or actively hunting. Zebra Waxbill was more of a surprise, as I’d only seen this species on a few occasions in winter. The lack of rain may have prompted these birds to wander about and somehow make it to Technopole.

Last Sunday I paid an early morning visit to Yène-Tode, but despite the recent rains the lagoon is still largely dry and didn’t hold many birds… The first few puddles had formed, but I reckon it’ll take several more decent showers before the lagoon fills up again. The highlight were two Spur-winged Geese, a species that is rarely seen in the Dakar region and that somehow manages to largely avoid Technopole. To be continued!

 

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White-faced Whistling-Duck / Dendrocygne veuf (Technopole 2.9)

 

 

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Unseasonal visitors…

During our most recent excursions, we obviously looked out for those colourful Afro-tropical migrants that typically arrive in June-July, moving north with the rains – think cuckoos, rollers, kingfishers, etc. We saw some of course, especially at Wassadou but even in the bone-dry landscapes of Gossas and Diourbel, where we had migrants such as Diederik Cuckoo and Grey Hornbills.

Less expected were a number of breeders from the Western Palearctic that are now supposed to be in full breeding mode, so I thought it would be interesting to review these here. Of course, numerous “WP” species that winter in Senegal can be seen here year-round, but these are mostly waterbirds such as Eurasian Spoonbill, Black-tailed Godwit, Audouin’s Gull and other waders, gulls and terns. Many young birds of these species will actually remain in West Africa during their first summer, and from the end of June it’s quite normal to see early returnees, particularly for waders that failed their breeding season and left Europe early.

A Western Marsh Harrier (Busard des roseaux), probably a young female, flew over the flock of Greater Flamingos and other waterbirds that we’d just been counting at Lac Mbeubeusse, one of the niayes wetlands on the Cap-Vert peninsula, then landed in a reedbed. Some summer observations are known from both Senegal (“a few birds summer”, Morel & Morel) and Mauritania (June-August; Isenmann et al.), and Barlow & Wacher mention that occasional non-breeders are seen “during the rains” (a rather vague way to refer to summer, which doesn’t really tell us whether the records were actually during summer or whether they refer to regular migrants in September & October!).

Also here on the same day (23.6) was at least one immature Purple Heron (Héron pourpré) which may be either an oversummering bird of European origin, or a wandering African bird – I’m yet to figure out whether the species breeds anywhere nearby, though it’s clear that in potential breeding areas such as Technopole the species is absent during ~March to early August (further south, I have records from May-June, in Kolda and Toubacouta).

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Purple Heron / Héron pourpré imm., Mbeubeusse, June 2018

 

Still at Mbeubeusse – a decent birding site I’d never visited before despite being not far from Dakar! Never too late… – we also saw a winter-plumaged Knot (Bécasseau maubèche), feeding together with a group of Grey Plovers and a handful of Greenshanks and Redshanks. (Pluvier argenté, Chevaliers aboyeur et gambette). While the latter three species are more or less to be expected at this time in Senegal, the summer record of Calidris canutus may be noteworthy.

Two subadult Yellow-legged Gulls (prob. 3rd c.y.; Goéland leucophée) were at Lac Rose on 23.6, resting together with a group of some 500 Lesser Black-backed and 200 Audouin’s Gulls (Goélands bruns et d’Audouin), several of which were ringed including a Portuguese bird that I’d already seen back in April at Technopole. Also in the group were two or three Kelp Gulls (Goéland dominicain). Yellow-legged Gull is rather scarce here at any time of the year so it was a nice surprise to see these; apparently the species has been “recorded in all seasons” in Senegambia (Barlow & Wacher). Both birds seemed to be typical nominate birds (i.e. from southern Europe) rather than atlantis birds from the Macaronesian islands.

A week earlier at Wassadou and along the road from Tambacounda to the Niokolo-Koba, we noted a good presence of Common & Pallid Swifts (Martinets noir et pâle), which appears to be not unusual at this time of the year since non-breeding birds are said to move north with the rains from their “wintering” grounds over the forest zone of West Africa. There are however few June records (e.g. Barlow & Wacher give a presence of Pallid Swift from July-September and November-January). Even more exciting was the presence of several Mottled Swifts (Martinet marbré) at Wassadou, the first June record of a “difficult” bird in the region – there appear to be less than 10 records for Senegal in total, all of which are from the Niokolo-Koba area. The one below was seen by my Swiss friends in the PNNK earlier this year.

Mottled Swift, P.N. N. K., Sénégal-6277 - Patrick Albrecht - small

Mottled Swift / Martinet marbré, Niokolo-Koba NP, 20.2.18 (P. Albrecht)

 

Perhaps more surprisingly than the preceding species, two European Bee-eaters (Guêpier d’Europe) were feeding and flying around pretty much all afternoon on 23.6 in Almadies, Ngor, regularly calling in the process and as such giving away their presence above and near my house. I’d never seen the species before in Dakar (though I have seen them not far, along the Petite Côte in autumn), so this was a highly unexpected record. Paul Isenmann and colleagues mention that the species is present in Mauritania from July/August to October, and March to May/June, but I didn’t find any references to summer records in Senegal or Gambia. Probably just a coincidence, but earlier the same day we saw our first Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters in the Dakar region, at Lac Rose (Guêpier de Perse). Perhaps these were birds en route to their breeding grounds in northern Senegal?

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European Bee-eater / Guêpier d’Europe (seen here on wintering grounds in coastal Casamance, March 2017)

 

A single House Martin (Hirondelle de fenêtre) at Wassadou on 15 & 16.6 was also remarkable: a very late migrant, an oversummering bird, or a wanderer that decided not to bother going all the way to Europe? The species has been recorded Oct. – June and I’ve seen birds as late as 28/5 at Technopole, but it’s clear that there are very few records from late June and July.

A Melodious Warbler (Hypolaïs polyglotte) photographed by Gabriel in the Niokolo-Koba park, at campement du Lion, on 17.6 is another rare mid-summer record of a species that typically arrives from mid-August and depart by May at the latest. Gabriel recently saw the species in the Boundou community nature reserve as well, so it seems that quite a few are staying around during summer. More generally, one can only wonder how many of these Palearctic passerines are here at the moment. Putting things in perspective, the observations in this post are all by just 3 active resident birders in the country…

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Melodious Warbler / Hypolaïs polyglotte, Niokolo-Koba, June 2018 (G. Caucanas)

 

A few kilometres further north, Miguel and I observed a Western Olivaceous Warbler (Hypolaïs obscure) at Wassadou, feeding in bushes on the edge of the Gambia river, on 16.6. This is of course a common to very common winter visitor throughout the country, and there are records from all month, so maybe not as surprising as the previous species. Now often called Isabelline Warbler, it is also known to be summering at Nouakchott (June-July) with no noticeable break between pre- and postnuptial passages (spring: March – May/early June, autumn: July-October; Isenmann et al. 2010).

A couple of days later near Diourbel, we had a Woodchat Shrike (Pie-grièche à tête rousse), apparently a first-summer male: the forehead is extensively black and mantle seems mostly jet-black (both features indicative of males), while the moult limit between the adult-type dark wing feathers and juvenile brownish unmoulted primary coverts and flight feathers are typical of 2nd calendar year birds (more on ageing & sexing the species here, from Blasco-Zumeta & Heinze’s excellent series on the topic). The presence of this species in Senegal is fairly similar to Western Olivaceous Warbler. An adult Great Spotted Cuckoo (Coucou-geai) earlier that day near Gossas was assumed to be an African rather than a northern migrant, though we can’t be sure of course; the date is consistent with the arrival of this cuckoo on its Sahelian breeding grounds (a couple of weeks later I had another adult, actively calling, though a bit further east: along the Niger river near Niamey).

WoodchatShrike_Diourbel_20180618_IMG_2810.

Woodchat Shrike / Pie-grièche à tête rousse, near Diourbel, June 2018

 

Voilà for now; for me it’s time to migrate north for a couple of weeks (though no breeding for me this summer); I’ll be back towards the end of the month. And maybe find some time to finish a few blog posts that have been dormant in my draft folder for a while now… Thanks for reading!

 

Ngor spring migration: May 2018

 

Following on our April summary, here’s a brief update on results from last month’s short but regular seawatch sessions from Ngor, as usual all from the Club Calao terrace. Managed a total of 10 sessions between May 10th and May 26th, with more good stuff to report on, including a lifer!

Again, no pictures other than a few old ones that I’m recycling here… and yet again a pretty dull species list.

 

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (Océanite de Wilson): unidentified storm-petrels were regularly seen in small numbers, and most likely referred to this species.

Cape Verde Shearwater (Puffin du Cap-Vert) were seen in good numbers on most days, feeding off Ngor or flying NE, with a max. of at least 540 birds in one hour on 26th. Not as many as last year when the maximum counted on a single day exceeded 5,000 birds (!), but the pattern of appearance and behaviour of birds is very much in line with the previous season.

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Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert, off Ngor, April 2018

 

Cory’s / Scopoli’s Shearwater (Puffin cendré / de Scopoli): at least three on 26th when there was a remarkable diversity of shearwaters, with five species noted. Probably also a few on 11th, 14th and 15th but too far or seen too briefly to positively identify.

Two to five Great Shearwater (Puffin majeur) seen flying NE amidst the other shearwaters on 26th – remarkably similar to last year’s record of two birds on May 25th, noted as “apparently migrating north” and thought to be the first May record – see the short paper we published in the latest volume of Malimbus on a “wreckage” of Great Shearwater in the the occurrence in Senegal & Gambia (Barlow et al. 2018), PDF available here on my ResearchGate page.

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Great Shearwater / Puffin majeur, off Kayar, Nov. 2017

 

Sooty Shearwater (Puffin fuligineux): a few seen on 18th, 21st and 26th, with at least 12 birds on the latter date: these records suggest that this Southern Hemisphere breeder is slightly more numerous later in spring.

Boyd’s / Barolo Shearwater (Puffin de Boyd / Macaronésie): one on 21st seen at fairly close range was identified as  Barolo Shearwater – for once it was close enough and I was able to follow it over quite a distance. Probably a bird en route to its breeding grounds. Another one, also flying north-east, was either baroli or boydi. The taxonomic situation of these small black and white shearwaters is complex and seems to be constantly changing. with BirdLife and HBW now treating both taxa as subspecies of Audubon’s Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri). Either way, these are apparently quite rare spring records, though Dupuy (1984) lists what was then known as “Little Shearwater” as an uncommon offshore “summer” visitor. Boyd’s Shearwater breeds exclusively on the Cape Verde islands (only about 5,000 pairs!), while Barolo’s breeds further north on the Macaronesian islands where it is known from Madeira, the Azores, the Selvagems, and the Canary Islands, with a total breeding population of the same order of magnitude.

Northern Gannet (Fou de Bassan): seen in small numbers on most days; all but one were immature birds (and one on 15th may actually have been a Cape Gannet, but I couldn’t rule out a 4th year Northern Gannet as I didn’t see the underwing pattern…).

Red-footed Booby (Fou à pieds rouges): a species I’d never seen before but somehow expected to show up one day at Ngor, two were seen feeding in the surf just beyond the Ngor islet on 17th, nicely showing their pink (not red!) feet, bluish bill and uniform brown plumage. One was seen again the following day and what I assume are the same two birds (both dark morph adults or near-adults) on 22nd, when they appeared to take off from the islet where they may have spent the night. Third record for Senegal! More on this species, which will likely show up more frequently in coming years, in this recent post.

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Red-footed Booby / Fou à pieds rouges off Kayar, Oct. 2016 (B. van Gemerden)

 

Brown Booby (Fou brun): just one record so far, of an immature (2nd c.y.) on 14th. Looks like the Iles de la Madeleine birds – if they are indeed still present – don’t wander around the peninsula too much.

A few Great While Pelicans were regularly seen, flying about or resting out at sea (and once on the islet), and on 26th a Pink-backed Pelican made an appearance (Pélicans blancs et gris).

Other than an Oystercatcher on 20th and three Whimbrels on 11th (and a few Common Sandpipers), no more waders were seen during May (Huîtrier pie, Courlis corlieu, Chevalier guignette).

Long-tailed Skua (Labbe à longue queue): following several records in the latter half of April, at least three were identified on 11th, one on 18th, and one on 26th – confirming that spring migration of this species occurs up to the end of May off Senegal. Pomarine and Arctic Skuas were much scarcer than in April, with just three records for the former and five for the latter species.

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Long-tailed Skua / Labbe à longue queue imm. off Ngor, April 2017

 

Audouin’s Gull (Goéland d’Audouin): up to three birds seen in any one session, though no notable active migrants as was the case in April; all were immature birds.

Sabine’s Gull (Mouette de Sabine) were recorded up to May 22nd, with four records of 1-9 actively migrating birds. Other gull species included 10 Grey-headed Gulls flying NE on 20th, and three Slender-billed Gulls on 22nd. A single Lesser Black-backed Gull was seen on 22nd, when a probable Kelp Gull was also present.

Single Bridled Tern (Sterne bridée) were seen feeding and flying around quite close to shore on 11th and 15th, bringing the total to three birds so far this season.

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterne voyageuse): seen twice (17th & 20th), unlike African Royal Tern (Sterne royale) which remained present in decent numbers throughout. Caspian Tern (Sterne caspienne) was seen just once, on 22nd.

Roseate Tern (Sterne de Dougall): following a decent passage in April, just one seen on 17th, though others may have passed through further offshore amidst Common and Arctic Terns (Sternes pierragarin et arctique). These two species were seen almost daily, but again in much smaller numbers than in April.

Three Whiskered Terns (Guifette moustac) flew past on 11th, followed by two White-winged Terns (Guifette leucoptère) on 21st. Black Terns (Guifette noire) were less numerous than in April, except on May 11th when about 300 birds were counted.

Let’s see what June brings! Assuming that I manage to make it out to the Calao…

 

Franklin’s Gull in Senegal & West Africa

A new observation of a Franklin’s Gull at Technopole, on May 20th, prompted me to have a closer look at the records of this American species in Senegal and more generally across West Africa. I’ve been compiling records of Nearctic vagrants for some time now, which I may use one day to write up a formal publication on the topic – the list currently includes 83 records of 18 different species and some patterns are starting to emerge.

No less than 21 of these records are of Franklin’s Gulls, though these correspond to at least 36 different observations (one record can refer to a bird seen over several dates). As such, this is by far the most frequent American vagrant seen in Senegal. It’s actually been annual at Technopole since 2011, year that saw the arrival of three different birds. In the following three years, at least five different birds were regularly seen, to the extent that Franklin’s Gull became an expected feature at Technopole during that period (I was lucky to see one of these birds in July 2012, during a visit with Paul). It’s been quite difficult to determine how many records there actually are, as it’s not always clear when multiple records relate to a single bird, and whether the recent spring sightings at Technopole (2015 – 2017) may also be all of just one returning adult.

Here’s the most recent bird:

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Franklin’s Gull / Mouette de Franklin, Technopole, 20.5.18

This year’s bird is clearly not a returning adult, as it appears to be a second calendar year (“first summer”) bird. Ageing Franklin’s Gull is not always straightforward – see K. M. Olsen’s comment in this short post by Paul – but I think this bird can be fairly safely identified as a second year bird, based on the head pattern (adults such as last year’s should have a completely black hood) combined with a small amount of white in the primary tips – and note active moult of primaries.

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Franklin’s Gull / Mouette de Franklin, Technopole 20.5.18

This is what we have in terms of records so far – corrections and additions welcome!

  1. 29.5.83 Delta du Saloum, Fatick, paired with Grey-headed Gull, sitting on nest (Erard et al. 1984)
  2. 17.1.86 Ile de Gorée, Dakar, first winter (F. Baillon) (Baillon & Dubois 1992)
  3. 24.4.86 Delta du Saloum, Fatick, among Grey-headed Gulls (C. Devisse) (Baillon & Dubois 1992)
  4. 3.12.88 Plage de Hann, Dakar, adult (J. J. Blanchon, P. J. Dubois, J. P. Pillion) (Baillon & Dubois 1992)
  5. 18.2.91 Plage de Hann, Dakar, first winter (P. J. Dubois, P. Le Maréchal et al.) (Baillon & Dubois 1992)
  6. 28.2.07 Saint-Louis, adult (J. Piette; H. Dufourny; ABC Recent Reports Vol. 14(2) & 15(1))
  7. Oct. 2008 Ngor, Dakar (French seawatch team)
  8. 26.1.11 Bao Bolon, Kaolack, 2nd year (R. Ottvall et al. – trip report here)
  9. 24.7 – 1.8.11 Technopole, two 2nd year (P. Robinson)
  10. 5.8.11 Technopole, 2nd year, different from previous two birds (P. Robinson)
  11. 29.10.11 Yoff, Dakar (P. Robinson)
  12. 11.2.12 Technopole (J.-F. Blanc, S. Cavaillès)
  13. 3.5 – 18.8.12 Technopole, up to three seen min. nine times (P. Robinson, S. Cavaillès, BP)
  14. 18.5.12 Almadies, Ngor, near lighthouse Pointe des Almadies, seen from boat (P. Robinson)
  15. 16.4 – 4.8.13 Technopole, up to four seen min. eight times (P. Robinson et al.), also one on 18.8 at lac Mbeubeusse (P. Robinson, G. Citegetse et al.)
  16. 6-16.3.14 Technopole, adult (P. Robinson; J.-F. Blanc)
  17. 15-20.3.15 Technopole, adult (BP; J.-F. Blanc)
  18. 3.5.15 Technopole, adult (BP) – possibly the same as in March, or a different bird (and treated as such in this list).
  19. 13.7.16 Technopole, adult (W. Hagemeijer, M. van Leeuwen; photo on observado.org)
  20. 14.5.17 Technopole, adult (BP)
  21. 20.5, 10.6, 7.7 & 22.8.18 Technopole, 2nd year (BP, M. Lecoq, G. Caucanas)

There’s obviously a clear increase in the number of records in the last eight years, even since 2007 after which this neat gull was not seen during two years only. The arrival of up to five different immature birds in 2011-2014 is noteworthy and as far as we know this was unprecedented in Africa. With the exception of this year’s bird, it’s quite possible that the single adults seen at Technopole since 2014 all refer to one or more of these original five, spending the winter further south and moving back north through Senegal in spring.

The near-absence of records prior to 2011 doesn’t mean much, since observer coverage was much lower then, so it’s hard to say anything much about longer term trends: the increase in records is probably in a large part related to increased observer pressure, particularly in Dakar where the majority of records are from. This also makes more sense, rather than that it reflects a real increase in records, considering that Franklin’s Gull is a species that’s said to be declining, particularly in the U.S.

Below is an attempt to plot the number of observations (not records!) and the number of birds involved, based on available data up to early June 2018.

FranklinsGull_Records_Year

Here’s one of the 2011 birds from Technopole, thought to be second year:

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2nd c.y. (30.7.11, Paul Robinson)

This one is from barely a week later, and is thought to be an adult moulting into winter plumage:

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ad.? (5.8.11, Paul Robinson)

And here’s the adult in full breeding plumage from May 2012 at sea off Almadies. Besides the all-dark hood, note the greater amount of white in the wing tips compared to immature birds:

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Franklin’s Gull / Mouette de Franklin, Almadies, May 2012 (P. Robinson)

 

Trying to unravel any seasonal patterns is tricky with so few records, though in recent years it’s clear that most birds show up between March and August, with the most recent observations all from March, May and July. There are only a couple of October records, none from September and November, and at least since 2013 there’s no evidence of wintering birds (if there were any on the Dakar peninsula, we’d probably see them at least from time to time at Technopole!). On the chart below, I’ve included birds that were seen over multiple months in each of the months’ totals, hence the sum of records exceeding 21.

FranklinsGull_Records_Month

 

The breeding record from the Saloum delta is of course intriguing, and it’s not excluded that more attempts have occurred again since the 1983 record.

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Franklin’s Gull outnumbering Slender-billed and Lesser Black-backed Gull on 23.7.13 at Technopole! (Paul Robinson)

 

Records from elsewhere in West Africa are much rarer than in Senegal: in Mauritania, one was seen on 27.1.06, followed by a second record on 17.4.16, both at Banc d’Arguin (Bull. African Bird Club 23: 238), then a third on 23.4.17 in Nouakchott (see Robert Tovey’s account on the find here). In The Gambia, Franklin’s Gull was seen in 1984, on 17.1.02, and again on 8-9.2 until 15.3.05 at least; all records are from Banjul. The first for Ghana was an adult on 8.5.11 on the Sakumono lagoon on the outskirts of Accra.

Nine records are known from Morocco, the most recent one being a first-winter bird on 12.2.16 at Oued Souss (Agadir) – so clearly not one of the Senegal birds as these were all adults by then.

Elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are several records from South Africa, at least two from Mozambique, one from Congo-Brazzaville (one on 14.11.15 at the Kouilou-Niari River), at least one from Burundi, UgandaMalawi, Namibia and Zambia, and the species is also listed as a vagrant to Ascension island and Tristan da Cunha. And the first for the Seychelles was seen on 7.5.17. They really do wander about!!

FranklinsGull_rangemap_xenocantoFranklin’s Gull – now known as Leucophaeus pipixcan –  is a widespread colonial breeder on the prairies of northern North America, wintering mainly in coastal regions on the Pacific coast of South America (Colombia – Chile; range map xeno-canto). It’s a regular vagrant to Europe, and stragglers have been recorded as far as Kazakhstan, Australia and New Zealand, even Antarctica.

 

A few references

Baillon, F. & P.J. Dubois, 1992. Nearctic gull species in Senegal and The Gambia. Dutch Birding 14:49-503

Érard, C, Guillou, J.-J. & Mayaud, N., 1984. Sur l’identité spécifique de certains laridés nicheurs au Sénégal. Alauda 52:184-188

www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Franklins_Gull/lifehistory

 

 

Ngor spring migration: April 2018

Quick update on this past month’s seawatch sessions from Ngor, as there have been a few good species lately. As usual, most of these are from short sessions at the Calao, with a few from Pointe des Almadies and from a mini-pelagic on April 22nd. Here’s a rather dull species list, but given that still fairy little is known about the phenology of spring seabird migration off Dakar, I thought it would be worthwhile reviewing them here. I don’t really have any recent pictures to illustrate these records, except for a really poor header picture of a Sabine’s Gull actively migrating past the Pointe, and a few older pics that I’m recycling in this blog post.

So here we go:

Cape Verde Shearwater (Puffin du Cap-Vert): the first few birds were seen on 3.3 (min. 2), then ca. 20 on 16-17.3, and a regular presence was noted throughout April when seen during most sessions from 4th, typically 50-100 birds feeding offshore, at most ca. 490 birds on 27th (but just a handful the next day and none seen on 29th!).

Scopoli’s Shearwater (Puffin de Scopoli): at least one during our boat trip on 22.4, with Cory’s or Scopoli’s noted from Ngor on 28th (as well as on March 3rd & 11th).

Sooty Shearwater (Puffin fuligineux): first seen on 16.3, then again singles on 31/3 and 7/4, and at least three birds on 20th. Not much… and note that we didn’t see a single bird  during our boat trip.

European Storm-Petrel (Océanite tempête): after a good presence during the first half of February, the species was seen again on 22.4 from the boat, with a minimum of two birds.

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (Océanite de Wilson): at least six were seen on 22.4, again during our boat trip. Unidentified storm-petrels migrating past the Calao on 7th (min. 8), 11th (3), 20th (3) and 29th (1) were likely this species, though others can’t be ruled out – when seen from land, these birds can be incredibly difficult to identify due to either the distance or the very brief sightings as they always fly low over the water surface and are typically seen only for a second or two before they disappear again in between waves.

Northern Gannet (Fou de Bassan): at most ca. 175 on 31.3, with numbers gradually decreasing throughout April. Curiously, no marked NE-ward passage was noted.

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Northern Gannet / Fou de Bassan, Ngor, April 2017

 

Grey (Red) Phalarope (Phalarope à bec large): four migrating on 29th was a good spring record! Other than these, the only waders seen during this period were a few groups of Whimbrel (Courlis corlieu).

Long-tailed Skua (Labbe à longue queue) single adults passing through on 20, 21 & 25.4, two on 26th, and an immature flew past on 29th. Pomarine and Arctic Skuas were seen in small numbers on most days, many of which were flying NE (though rarely more than five in any one session).

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Goéland brun): usually present in small numbers, either feeding in the surf or migrating past Ngor. There was obviously a peak around mid-March, with 107 passing through in just 40 minutes on 16.3, and 52 in half an hour the next day.

Audouin’s Gull (Goéland d’Audouin): typically between one and five birds seen on any one session, but on 16.3 there were 27 (incl. three adults) migrating past in 40 minutes and 14 the following day (in 30 minutes) – thus coinciding with the peak of the previous species.

Sabine’s Gull (Mouette de Sabine): after the first five on 4.4, becomes increasingly frequent towards the end of the month, with a max. of ca. 40 during our 22.4 boat trip, and 31 on 27th in just one hour. Actual numbers must be quite a bit higher as this species mostly passes through far out, typically in small groups. Sometimes a few birds would migrate closer to shore, and occasionally some would be feeding or resting just in front of the Calao. Other gull species included a surprising flock of 31 Grey-headed Gulls flying NE on 27th, and six Slender-billeds at Pointe des Almadies the following day.

Bridled Tern (Sterne bridée): one passing to the NE at fairly short range on 26.4 was a very nice surprise, as I’d only seen the species once before here (and more generally, away from the Iles de la Madeleine breeding grounds). It also appears to be an early date for the species, as it is typically seen in May-July. My only previous Ngor record was of three birds flying SW on 10 June ’16. Sauvage & Rodwell give the range of 27/4 – 9/7 for PNIM, and A. R. Dupuy recorded the species no less than eleven times from Pointe des Almadies from 26 May to 14 July ’92.

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Bridled Tern / Sterne bridee, Iles de la Madeleine, June 2017

 

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterne voyageuse): seen in small numbers throughout the month, with a good max. of at least 178 birds passing through on 9th, in just 65 minutes. African Royal Tern (Sterne royale) was seen on most days, typically in small numbers. Much less frequent were Caspian Tern (Sterne caspienne; singles on 31.3 and 28.4) and Little Tern (Sterne naine; one on 6.4, and a group of 16 migrating on 29th).

Roseate Tern (Sterne de Dougall): first seen on 31.3, then regular until the middle of the month with a max. of no less than 56 on 9th in just over an hour. Also singles on 26th and 28th. Most birds were actively migrating, with a few feeding locally with the mixed tern flock.

Arctic Tern (Sterne arctique): the first four birds were seen on 16.3, becoming regular from the end of March and seen on most sessions in April, max. ca. 70 on 24th though numbers probably higher as 1) species difficult to count, and many common/Arctic terns noted.

White-winged Tern (Guifette leucoptère): one flew past on 16.3, and a fine adult in summer plumage was feeding among the numerous Black Terns on 28.4 (Guifette noire). The latter species is seen pretty much during every session, with a maximum towards the end of the month: probably more well over 1,200 birds on 28th. An adult Whiskered Tern (Guifette moustac) was seen on 22nd, flying NE.

That’s about it for now.

On the raptors front, Osprey has been a regular sighting, as always during winter, until 31.3 at Ngor, after which one was seen on 13.4 at Mamelles and on 14.4 at PNIM. A few young birds may still hang around of course. The wintering pair of Peregrines was last seen on 20.4 roosting on the Diarama hotel, and two birds were seen roosting in the Mamelles cliff on 22.4 – pretty intriguing!

 

 

Technopole 29/4: Goélands dominicains & co.

Sortie dominicale de routine au Technopole avant-hier 29/4, avec comme presque toujours quelques observations intéressantes à la clé.

A commencer par ces trois Goélands dominicains (Kelp Gull), espèce rarement observée au Technopole et à Dakar de manière générale : en scannant un groupe de laridés essentiellement composé de Goélands d’Audouin (quelques 85 inds. en tout, un bel effectif pour le site; Audouin’s Gull), un oiseau costaud sort du lot et lorsque j’arrive à voir son bec massif, je peux confirmer qu’il s’agit bien de Larus dominicanus, pas de doute possible cette fois. Un individu adulte ou presque, de taille nettement supérieure aux quelques Goélands bruns (Lesser Black-backed Gull) dans le même groupe, au bec énorme, un manteau bien sombre, et des pattes grises très claires tirant vers le vert. L’iris sombre est conforme à la ssp. vetula (Goéland du Cap, Cape Gull). A côté de lui se tiennent deux immatures avec la même structure et des pattes de la même couleur que l’adulte, soit trois Dominicains en tout. Les deux jeunes ont un âge similaire, ayant un plumage de type “2e cycle”, donc dans ce cas précis ce seraient des oiseaux nés en 2016. A part la taille et la forme du bec, la couleur des pattes est diagnostique et permet de rapidement repérer l’espèce au milieu de groupes de Goélands bruns, qui ont des pattes jaunes (adultes et subadultes) ou roses (immatures). Les trois oiseaux sont visibles sur la photo ci-dessous.

Pour plus d’infos sur l’identification des Goélands dominicains, voir notamment cet article de Jiguet et al. paru dans Birding World (2002), et aussi ici pour ce qui est des oiseaux de premier cycle.

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Audouin’s, Lesser Black-backed & Kelp Gulls / Goélands d’Audouin, brun & dominicain

 

Clive Barlow et Tim Dodman se sont penchés sur la population ouest-africaine, dont le petit noyau se trouve dans le delta du Saloum où l’espèce niche de manière régulière depuis 1980 au moins, lorsqu’un couple présumé mixte G. dominicain x G. brun fut trouvé sur l’Ile aux Oiseaux. Par la suite, des nidifications par des couples purs sont prouvées dès 1983 par Erard et al. Quelques individus fréquentent régulièrement la Gambie et la Mauritanie, et s’y reproduisent parfois, peut-etre aussi en Guinée-Bissau? Et avec l’intérêt grandissant que portent les ornithos européens au Sahara occidental – ou Sahara atlantique marocain, selon quel point de vue politique on adopte! – l’espèce est vue plus ou moins régulièrement en très petits effectifs plus au nord sur le continent, et il y a même quelques observations récentes au Portugal et en France. Clive et Tim émettent l’hypothèse que notre petite population isolée soit établie par quelques oiseaux égarés depuis l’Afrique australe (Afrique du Sud / Namibie), et que cette population soit maintenant autonome sans qu’il n’y ait de mouvements réguliers entres les populations australes et celle d’Afrique de l’Ouest. Il y aurait ainsi entre 20 et 50 couples dans la région. Une étude génétique est en cours ou du moins est-elle prévue, sauf erreur.

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Kelp Gull / Goéland dominicain

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Kelp Gull / Goéland dominicain ad. & imm. (même oiseau que sur la photo précédente

 

En région dakaroise, ce goéland hautement côtier est assez régulièrement signalée par des observateurs de passage, mais je ne suis pas sûr que toutes les observations soient réellement fiables… D’après mes propres données de ces trois dernières années le Goéland dominicain est très peu fréquent. Cela dit, je ne suis pas un larophile et si je faisais plus attention à ce groupe difficile que sont les grands goélands, j’en verrais probablement plus souvent!

Ainsi, Niklas Holmström et collègues en signalent pas moins de 20 entre le 13 et le 27/10/03 devant Ngor, mais un seul entre le 3 et le 16/10/05. Une équipe danoise en compte même 57 en « en migration vers le sud » du 22 au 29/10/04 – vraiment étonnant vu que l’espèce n’est présente qu’en très faibles effectifs plus au nord, et qu’en plus ils ne signalent aucun Goéland brun alors que c’est l’espèce dominante à cette période. En 2010, on passe à des effectifs plus raisonnables me semble-t-il, avec trois individus entre le 30/9 et le 8/10 (R. Lebrun) et autant du 25 au 31/10/10 (P. Crouzier & co.). Plus récemment, un Goeland dominicain est rapporté le 24/2 de Ngor par un groupe de naturalistes belges.

Pour ma part, ma seule autre observation au Technopole datait du 6/8/17, d’un immature que j’avais identifié comme dominicain et dont je reprends une des photos floues ci-dessous (l’autre est ) – commentaires bienvenus! Puis avec Manuel en février dernier on a également soupçonné un dominicain, mais trop loin et pas de photos pour confirmer l’identité de l’oiseau. Idem les 11 et 30/8/17 lorsque des probables dominicains passent devant Ngor.

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Probable Kelp Gull / Goéland dominicain (6/8/17)

 

Autre observation intéressante, celle d’un probable Heron « pâle », la sous-espèce monicae du Héron cendré qui ne niche qu’au Banc d’Arguin et peut-être ailleurs sur les côtes en Mauritanie et que certains considèrent même comme une espèce à part entière (“Pallid” or “Mauritanian” Heron). L’aspect très clair était frappant, et malgré la distance on arrive à bien voir les petites stries noires, fines et courtes, sur le cou qui comme le reste des parties inferieures parait presque aussi blanc que la Grande Aigrette. Le manteau était d’un gris pâle à l’exception d’une tache plus sombre à « l’épaule ». Il y a juste le dessin de la tête qui peut sembler un peu top contrasté pour un monicae classique, mais en regardant de près les quelques photos d’oiseaux mauritaniens cela semble encore rentrer dans la normale pour cette sous-espèce. Pour compliquer la chose, il y aurait des oiseaux intermediaires, et peut-être que c’est donc aussi le cas pour notre oiseau du Technopole (visibement un adulte nuptial). Bien entendu je suis preneur d’autres avis!

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Grey Heron / Heron cendré ssp. monicae (?)

 

Il doit s’agir d’un des ardéidés les plus rares au monde, la population totale ne comptant que quelques milliers d’individus, avec une aire de répartition très restreinte. Si c’est bien un mauritanien, alors il s’agirait de ma première observation d’un oiseau manifestement rare à Dakar. Ces derniers mois il y a eu au moins deux autres observations dans la région : un le 13/2 au parc de Hann (Gottlieb Dandliker, Cyril Schönbächler; photo ci-dessous) et un le 24/2 aux Iles de la Madeleine (M. Demeulemeester et al.). Monicae est plus fréquente en hiver dans les zones côtières du nord du pays, notamment autour de la Langue de Barbarie et Saint-Louis, mais même là le taxon reste d’observation plutôt aléatoire. Les observations d’Ornithondar permettent d’en savoir plus sur le taxon dans le Bas-Delta, et de comparer les photos avec l’oiseau du Technopole: articles bien instructifs ici et .

Tout cela pour dire qu’en gros, aussi bien l’identification que le statut et la distribution au Sénégal restent encore à préciser! On trouvera quelques infos résumées sur la page dédiée au Héron cendré sur le site du groupe HeronConservation.

PallidHeron monicae - Parc de Hann - 20180213 - G Dandliker

Grey Heron / Heron cendré ssp. monicae, Parc de Hann 13/2/18 (G. Dandliker)

 

Troisième espèce inattendue, vue par chance alors que j’étais en train de quitter le site : six Bengalis zébrés (Zebra [Orange-breasted] Waxbill). Ce sympathique petits passereau avait été vu pour la première fois au Technopole en janvier-mars 2017, et depuis j’ai pu en voir également à Yène, plus précisément le 1er janvier dernier. On peut donc supposer que ce nicheur du Bas-Delta sénégalais et du Saloum soit un erratique plus ou moins régulier dans la région dakaroise.

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Zebra Waxbill / Bengali zébré

 

Pour le reste, il y a de nouveau un petit groupe de Flamants roses (10 ind.), les premiers poussins d’Echasses blanches – juste trois pour le moment, déjà vus le 21/4 – et plusieurs adultes en train de couver; également un poussin de Vanneau éperonné; quelques Bécasseaux variables et surtout une bonne présence de Sanderlings (+150) et de Sternes caugeks notamment; une Hirondelle de rivage retardataire; et toujours quelques Spatules blanches et d’Afrique (Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing, Dunlin, Sanderling, Sandwich Tern, Sand Martin, Eurasian & African Spoonbill). Sinon assez peu de limicoles, la plupart des chevaliers, pluviers, combattants et autres bécasseaux étant de retour en Europe maintenant: on attend déjà leur retour, d’ici deux mois à peine pour les avant-coureurs. Par contre, il y a toujours autant de Bihoreaux gris: une bonne trentaine (Black-crowned Night-Heron).

Le Souimanga cuivré est vu à chaque sortie en ce moment, et la semaine passée il y avait également un superbe mâle de Souimanga éclatant, photo ci-dessous (Copper & Splendid Sunbird).

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Splendid Sunbird / Souimanga éclatant

 

 

Un nouveau fou aux Iles de la Madeleine…

Les fous des Iles de la Madeleine, j’en avais déjà parlé ici, en décembre 2016, pour faire le point sur le statut du Fou brun dans la région. Ce superbe oiseau marin est, depuis, signalé quasiment lors de chaque sortie au “PNIM” et plus particulièrement entre octobre et mai, et on le voit de temps en temps passer ou pêcher devant Ngor. Pas encore d’indices probants de sa nidification, mais ce n’est peut-être qu’une question de temps… voir plus bas.

Cette fois, c’est d’un autre fou dont il s’agit, et pas de celui que vous pensez – des Fous de Bassan, il y en a plein qui passent l’hiver dans les eaux dakaroises, et en ce moment même on les voit facilement de part et d’autre de la péninsule, que ce soit à Ngor ou devant les Mamelles.

En effet, il s’avère qu’un fou photographié le 26 janvier dernier par un groupe d’ornithos canadiennes (équipe 100% féminine, c’est assez rare chez les ornithos pour le souligner!), était en fait un Fou à pieds rouges (Red-footed Booby), et non un Fou brun (Brown Booby) comme initialement identifié. C’est grâce à une remarque laissée par un utilisateur d’eBird ayant mis en doute l’identité (« semble avoir les pieds étonnamment rouges pour un Fou brun! »), que la donnée est passée dans la liste à valider sur eBird, liste que je scrute de temps en temps en tant que vérificateur pour le Sénégal.

Et effectivement, l’oiseau pris en photo montre bien un Fou à pieds rouges, un individu de forme sombre – et qui du coup ressemble pas mal au Fou brun (et dont un oiseau était présent le même jour). Il se tenait sur la fameuse balise rouge et blanche qui sert très souvent de reposoir au Fous bruns, situé un peu au nord-est des îles.

RedfootedBooby_IlesdelaMadeleine_20180126_MarieONeill - 2

Red-footed Booby / Fou à pieds rouges (D. Thériault)

 

L’identification est relativement facile ici, d’une part parce qu’on voit encore tout juste les pattes roses, d’autre part parce que le plumage est brun uniforme y compris sur le ventre, sans contraste (même flou) comme chez les Fous bruns immatures. De plus, le bec relativement court et peu épais pour un sulidé, avec une base rosée et un cercle orbital bleu, est typique pour l’espèce. Notre oiseau montre également un front légèrement bombé, alors que chez le Fou brun il n’y a quasiment pas de front: la base du bec épais est dans la prolongation directe de la calotte, rendant la tête moins rondouillarde que chez le brun.

L’âge par contre est moins facile à déterminer: très probablement un immature, car le bec n’est pas bleu mais plutôt gris sur fond rose et peut-être que la couleur des pattes (rose et non rouge vif) est également un signe d’immaturité.

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Red-footed Booby / Fou à pieds rouges (M. O’Neill)

 

A comparer maintenant avec le Fou brun immature : ci-dessous, un oiseau d’un voire deux ans, ici en avril 2017 en compagnie de deux adultes. Les critères le distinguant du Fou à pieds rouges de forme sombre sont notamment la couleur des pattes et du bec, le contraste entre d’une part le ventre plus clair et d’autre part la poitrine et le dessus sombres, ainsi que la coloration générale plus sombre et moins pâle que son cousin à pieds rouges.

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Brown Booby / Fou brun imm. (gauche) et adultes (avril 2017)

 

C’est seulement la deuxième donnée de l’espèce au Sénégal, donc c’est loin d’être anodin comme observation! La précédente date d’octobre 2016, lorsqu’un oiseau est observé au cours d’une sortie en mer en marge du PAOC, à une vingtaine de kilomètres au large de Yoff – les détails de cette première observation pour le pays seront publiés dans le prochain bulletin de l’African Bird Club, à paraitre en septembre et que l’on partagera en temps voulu (Moran N. et al., First record of Red-footed Booby Sula sula for Senegal, voir photo ci-dessous).

 

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Red-footed Booby / Fou à pieds rouges, oct. 2016 (B. van Gemerden)

 

Le Fou à pieds rouges est une espèce marine tropicale plutôt répandue, et est classée non menacée par l’UICN bien que la population globale soit considérée comme étant en déclin. Les colonies les plus proches se trouvent sur l’île d’Ascension dans l’Atlantique Sud et sur l’archipel Fernando de Noronha (NE du Brésil). Il hiverne sur des îles tropicales sur tous les océans, en gros entre les deux tropiques.

Jusqu’à récemment l’espèce était un visiteur rare aux Îles du Cap-Vert, mais en octobre 2016, au moins 17 individus étaient présents à Raso, puis en octobre 2017 apparemment une centaine!! Autant dire que c’est l’explosion des effectifs, même si aucune nidification certaine n’a été rapportée pour le moment – du moins pas à notre connaissance. On peut donc s’attendre à d’autres observations dans les eaux sénégalaises à l’avenir, et j’espère bien sûr le voir un jour passer devant le Calao ou encore au PNIM. [addendum du 17/5/18: ce matin j’ai eu la chance d’en voir deux en train de pêcher longuement devant Ngor, non loin du rivage! Je ne pensais pas que je verrais l’espèce aussi rapidement…]

Ailleurs dans la région, Sula sula a été vu devant les côtes mauritaniennes (au moins un en oct.-nov. 2012), et des individus ont été signalés aux iles Canaries, aux Açores, et à Madeire. L’espèce est très rare plus au nord, avec p.ex. tout juste deux observations en France (un sur le lac de Sainte-Croix dans les Alpes-de-Haute-Provence en juillet 2011, puis un en juin 2017 en Bretagne dans la colonie des Fous de Bassan des Sept-Iles – voir l’article sur Ornithomedia). Ou encore cet oiseau trouvé épuisé sur une plage de l’East Sussex en septembre 2016, le premier pour la Grande-Bretagne.

Je reviens encore brièvement sur les Fous bruns, car samedi dernier (14/4) lors d’une visite aux Iles de la Madeleine nous avons pu observer de nouveau au moins sept individus : cinq posés dans leur falaise habituelle des îles Lougnes¹ (trois adultes, un subadulte, et un jeune au plumage similaire à celui de la photo d’avril 2017), puis encore deux adultes sur la fameuse balise marine, en train de parader lorsque nous passons à côté en bateau… Situation très similaire voire identique donc à celle d’avril-mai 2017, et toujours aussi intriguante: à quand la première nidification de l’espèce? Ci-dessous encore une photo médiocre de quatre de ces oiseaux dans leur falaise, prise lors de notre visite la plus récente, pour vous donner une idée.

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Brown Booby / Fou brun (avril 2018)

 

Samedi dernier il restait encore quelques Fous de Bassan, deux Courlis corlieux et deux Balbuzards, mais sinon peu d’oiseaux sur l’île. Lors de la traversée depuis Soumbedioune on a pu voir un Océanite de Wilson passer tout près, un Labbe pomarin, et plusieurs sternes (Dougall, arctique, pierregarn, caugek, voyageuse et royale) ainsi que quelques Guifettes noires en migration active (Northern Gannet, Whimbrel, Osprey, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Pomarine Skua, Roseate, Arctic, Common, Sandwich, Lesser Crested, Royal & Black Terns). Et bien sûr les Phaétons à bec rouge, emblème du parc, dont la nidification bat encore son plein; on a d’ailleurs eu la chance de renconter l’experte Ngoné Diop en train de faire le suivi de la colonie, qui abriterait cette saison au moins 40-50 couples nicheurs (Red-billed-Tropicbird).

 

Merci aux observateurs tout d’abord: Hélène Gauthier, Marie O’Neill, Lorraine Plante, Diane Thériault. Et à Nick Moran et Barend van Gemerden pour avoir fourni les photos et la version finale de l’article sur la première observation sénégalaise. Et enfin, à tout seigneur tout honneur: c’est Brennan Mulrooney qui à signalé la donnée sur eBird, sans quoi elle aurait bien pu passer à travers les mailles du filet!

 

¹ Les îles Lougnes sont cees îlots rocheux inaccessibles faisant partie du parc national, photo ici.