Archive | Cap Vert RSS for this section

Ngor seabird migration update

Fifty-one sessions, 69 hours, 23,693 birds, 54 species: this, in summary, is the result of the past three months of seawatching from Ngor.

We still have about two months to go until the end of the season (does it really ever stop? There’s always birds on the move off Ngor!), but I thought I’d give a quick update of what the season has been like so far. I did six sessions in early August, then started doing regular one to two hour spot checks from August 21st. The only interruption was from 7-17 September when I was in Mali, but other than that I managed to go on most days, usually in the morning. Miguel accompanied me on a couple of occasions and provided additional counts for two days. All observations – in the sake of consistency! – were made from the Calao terrace, which may not be as good as Ile de Ngor, but it definitely has the advantage of being easily accessible, and what’s more there’s shade and decent coffee.


I won’t go into a review for each species as I may do this at the end of the season, so here are just a few highlights so far, along with a few recycled pictures because except for a few blurry pictures of migrating Whimbrels or a Purple Heron I don’t have much to offer.

  • Shearwaters

The main species here is Sooty Shearwater, which is seen in varying numbers during almost all seawatch sessions since Sept. 18th. The first three birds are noted on 4/9, and so far there have been small peak days on 18 & 20/9, 3/10, 14 and 16/10 with a max. of 164 birds in one hour on 3/10 (out of a total of 1,411 birds counted). This morning there finally was a pretty much constant flow of shearwaters, with 284 Sooties zooming past in less than two hours (= nearly 3 per minute).

The only other regular species is Manx Shearwater, seen during 18 out of 30 sessions since 18/9 – usually between one and five birds, with a max. of 31 in 75′ on 20/9. A Cape Verde Shearwater flew past on 31/8, while 11 birds were feeding off the Calao, luckily at fairly close range, on 11/10. A Balearic and a probable Boyd’s Shearwater were seen on 23/9 and 18/9, respectively.

Sooty Shearwater / Puffin fuligineux
Sooty Shearwater / Puffin fuligineux (April 2015)


  • Storm-Petrels

A very unpredictable group of pelagic species, which occurs in highly variable numbers from year to year – at least, based on what passage can be seen from land. As already mentioned, some 50 birds were feeding off the Calao on July 22nd with 3 still there two days later. The next Oceanodroma petrels were seen on 8/10 only (4 birds during SSW winds), followed by three on 11/10, then at least 80 on 15/10 (when we counted seabirds for 4 hours and 15 minutes) and a handful on following days. Most if not all of these were Wilson’s Storm-petrel, though it’s quite possible that there were a few Band-rumped (Madeiran) Storm-petrels in the lot. We really ought to get out at sea to get a closer look at these difficult birds – hopefully something we can manage to do in mid-November when we’re planning a pelagic.


  • Sulidae (Gannets & Boobies)

An early Gannet flew past on 18/9, though I can’t say for sure it was a Northern Gannet and not the vagrant Cape Gannet; the only other one so far was seen yesterday afternoon. This species should become increasingly common in coming weeks. Single Brown Boobies were seen on 18/9, 24/9 and 29/9, though only one was flying SW (could it have been three times the same immature bird?). Haven’t been back to Iles de la Madeleine for a few months now but it’s likely that several Brown Boobies are hanging out there at the moment.


  • Waders

Though this group is not made up of seabirds (except maybe Grey Phalaropes in winter), they can often be seen migrating along the coast, sometimes up to about a kilometer out at sea. Best days for waders are early on in the season (Aug./Sept.) during the peak migration time for most species, and particularly when it’s been raining during the night and early morning.

This was the case for instance on 24/8, when a good variety of waders were seen in 1.5 hours under light rain, after a heavy shower that started around 6am and with moderate SSW winds. About 39 Bar-tailed Godwits were counted, in four groups, all except one mixed with Whimbrels; also 13 Turnstones, a Common Redshank, a Common Sandpiper, four Little Stints, 16 Sanderling, four Curlew Sandpipers, and five Ruff (with godwits).

Whimbrel is the most regular and most numerous of the waders, with 528 birds actively migrating so far. More than half of these (293) flew past on 9/8. Other species noted include Oystercatcher (regular in small numbers), Common Ringed Plover (five on 6/10), Greenshank (one on 15/10, and even Curlew (two on 5/9).

A single Grey Phalarope flew past at relatively close range on 18/9, while a flock of ca. 25 waders on 30/8 were probably this species as well.


Overexposed Oystercatcher / Huîtrier-pie sur-exposé (Oct. 2017)


  • Skuas

The first skuas were noted on Aug. 11th when four Long-tailed Skuas flew past. From Aug. 23rd the passage gradually intensifies, with just a few fairly small peak dates so far: 31/8 (13 Long-tailed Skuas, first few Pomarines), 21/9 (104 total skuas in 75′), and this morning 21/10 (171 in 105 minutes). So far, out of 1,385 skuas counted, just over half could be identified to species. Out of these, 52% were Arctic Skuas, 32% Pomarines, and the remaining 15% Long-tailed. It seems that in recent days the balance of Arctic vs. Pomarine Skuas is tilting towards the latter species, which is most numerous in November.

Sixteen Catharacta skuas (=South Polar or Great) flew past between Aug. 23rd and this morning, with seven in the past three days. At least one of these clearly was a South Polar Skua, an intermediate form; one of this morning’s birds flew quite close to the shore and looked very dark, faintly streaked, and appeared to be very bulky: features that point to Great Skua. Going by last year, more should follow in coming days.


Long-tailed Skua / Labbe à longue queue (April 2017)


  • Gulls

The first Sabine’s Gull is seen as early as August 5th, but it’s not until the end of the month that the species becomes more or less regular: two on 30/8, three on 31/8 and one the following day. The first small peak day is on 21/9 when 66 birds fly past in 75′; other good days were Oct. 10th (84 in 90′), 16th (214 in 150′), and 18th (94 in 60′). Up to now, we’ve counted 654 birds, almost all on days with moderate (20+ km/h) W to NNW winds – though it’s still quite rare to see them flying past at close range, being usually quite far out on the horizon and just about recognisable by their flashing black-white-grey plumage.

Audouin’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls are much less regular, and so are Slender-billed and Grey-headed Gulls. Probable Kelp Gulls flew past on 11/8 and 30/8.


Sabine’s Gull / Mouette de Sabine (April 2015)


  • Terns

With over 19,000 migrating terns counted, this group is by far the most numerous of all. The Arctic/Common “species pair”, often indistinguishable or too cumbersome to identify down to species level, represents nearly 50% of all terns, with just over 9,000 birds so far. Next in line is the Black Tern with 5,504 birds, with fairly consistent numbers throughout the season – often up to more than a hundred per hour. Sandwich Tern is the third most common species (3,551) followed by Royal (468) and Lesser Crested Tern (267). Little Tern is seen regularly in small numbers, not usually more than 10 on any given morning; Roseate Tern is even scarcer (97 birds so far, from Aug. 24th up to mid-October. Surprisingly, Caspian Tern is much less common than the previous species, with just 29 birds on nine dates. Whiskered Tern was positively identified just once (on 14/10) but could easily pass unnoticed among the flocks of Black Terns.


  • Others

As on every migration watch point, every now and then an unexpected migrant shows up. In Ngor, I’ve had Grey and Purple Herons (both on 24/9, arriving from out at sea!), a Marsh Harrier (12/10), one or two Lesser Kestrels (15/10), but also a Turtle Dove and twice a Hoopoe flying in from sea.

Songbirds are seen occasionally, such as Common Redstart or Northern Wheatear, both of which were seen in recent days on the volcanic rocks, just about sheltered from the waves, of the islet in front of the Calao.


Purple Heron / Heron pourpré (Sept. 2017)


Surely there are lots more exciting birds to come and I hope to get out there regularly throughout November. Next update towards the end of the year!

La Garden Liste

Tout birder qui se respecte tient une petite liste des oiseaux qu’il ou elle a vu ou entendu dans son jardin: la garden list.

Après deux ans et demi passés dans notre quartier aux Almadies, et avec plusieurs firsts pour ma liste ces dernières semaines (dont trois dimanche dernier!), je me suis dit que c’était l’occasion de faire le point. Ne tenant pas de liste proprement dite – autrement que dans ma tête – j’ai donc fouillé dans mes archives et j’en ai profité pour extraire mes données brutes, les rattacher aux lieux-dits moyennant quelques operations dans QGIS, puis de les synthétiser afin de les présenter ici pour la postérité, rien que ça.

Pour se situer, voici une petite carte de l’Ouest dakarois avec mes observations de ces deux dernières années, soit plus de 5’000 données pour la zone montrée ci-dessous (toutes saisies avec l’excellente application Naturalist, cela dit en passant) :


Résultat des courses, sur la base de mes quelques 1’800 observations “jardin”, je peux vous annoncer que j’ai pu rencontrer quelques 71 espèces autour de chez nous. Je dis bien “autour” car n’ayant pas vraiment de jardin, je considère tout oiseau vu ou entendu depuis chez moi comme faisant partie de ma garden list.

Tout d’abord un oiseau vu et surtout entendu de temps en temps, généralement de nuit ou tôt le matin: le Dendrocygne veuf (White-faced Whistling Duck), survolant la maison (avril et deux fois en septembre, en 2016). Deux autres espèces qu’on voit parfois passer en vol sont le Cormoran à poitrine blanche et le Cormoran africain (White-breasted, Long-tailed Cormorants), ce dernier ayant été vu une seule fois pour l’instant (2 inds.  le 11/5/16). De même, peu d’ardéidés sont vus, principalement le Héron gardeboeuf (Cattle Egret), suivi par le Bihoreau gris (Black-crowned Night-Heron) qui semble régulier en migration au printemps (mi-février à début avril), quand on peut entendre son cri de contact caractéristique, toujours de nuit comme il se doit. Le Héron pourpré (Purple Heron) quant à lui a été entendu le soir du 17/9/17, certainement un voire plusieurs oiseaux en migration active.

L’une des grandes surprises de la liste est un oiseau qui n’a rien à faire à Dakar, étant restreint au tiers méridional et oriental du pays: l’Ibis hagedash (Hadada Ibis): le matin du 23/8/17, j’entends un oiseau passer pile au-dessus de la maison, puis j’ai pu le voir dans le jumelles in extremis, avant qu’il ne disparaisse derriere les immeubles. Heureusement qu’il a crié celui-là, sinon je l’aurais loupé… Ma seule autre observation dans la région est celle d’au moins deux oiseaux le 9/8/15 au Lac Rose.

Les Vautours charognards (Hooded Vulture), je vous en ai déja parlés ici et , mais je rajoute tout de meme une petite photo histoire d’aérer un peu cet article un peu. Ci-dessous, un adulte (à droite) et un jeune.


De temps en temps, un ou deux Balbuzards (Osprey) tournoient au-dessus de la maison, alors que le Milan à bec jaune (Yellow-billed Kite) est évidemment très commun; il y a certainement plusieurs couples aux alentours. Debut janvier 2017, c’est un rapace bien plus imposant et tout a fait inattendu qui a fait escale dans les eucalyptus juste derrière la maison: un Aigle ravisseur (Tawny Eagle)! Arrivé en fin d’après-midi du 5/1 (alors non vu, mais le boucan énorme des corbeaux a annoncé sa présence), c’est le lendemain matin que je me rends compte qu’il est toujours là et qu’il a dû passer la nuit à moins de 50 mètres de la maison! Du côté opposé du spectre des rapaces, l’Epervier shikra (Shikra) est vu de temps en temps: à part un ind. le 2/12/15 toujours en septembre et octobre, dont ce jeune individu photographié tout récemment depuis le balcon:


Dernier rapace sur la liste, le Faucon chicquera (Red-necked Falcon) qu’on voit parfois chasser à toute vitesse dans le quartier. Il semble nicher non loin, vers la Pointe des Almadies où il y a beaucoup de vieux cocotiers.

Le Vanneau éperonné (Spur-winged Lapwing) est présent en petit nombre dans le quartier, mais ce sont surtout les bruyants Oedicnèmes du Sénégal (Senegal Thick-knee) qui se font bien remarquer, des la nuit tombante et jusqu’au petit matin: à écouter ici! Voila un chant que j’associerai sans doute pour toujours avec notre sejour au Sénégal. Viennent deux limicoles migrateurs ensuite, chacun vus une seule fois pour le moment: le Courlis corlieu (Whimbrel) vu le 11/9/15; le Chevalier culblanc (Green Sandpiper) le 17/9/17 lorsqu’un oiseau survole la maison en criant. Certainement un migrateur qui a dû se poser quelque part dans les environs en fin de nuit, puis qui s’est fait déranger.

L’océan n’étant qu’a quelques pas, de temps en temps j’entends ou je vois des sternes survoler la maison: la Sterne royale (Royal Tern) à plusieurs reprises entre mars et juillet; la voyageuse (Lesser Crested Tern) uniquement le 17/3/17 (3 inds.).

Le Pigeon roussard (Speckled Pigeon) est commun et niche quelque part dans le bâtiment (sous le toit?). L’autre jour j’ai pu contstater la présence d’au moins un gros juvénile, à comparer avec le parent (photo du bas):



Encore plus commune, la Tourterelle maillée (Laughing Dove); par contre la présence d’une Tourterelle rieuse (African Collared Dove) les 16 & 18/12/15 était tout à fait inattendue (après coup je me demande s’il n’a pu s’agir d’une Tourterelle turque, option que je n’avais même pas considérée à l’époque car c’était bien avant la découverte de la petite population du parc de Hann).

Si la Perruche à collier (Rose-ringed Parakeet) n’est vue que de temps en temps (2-4 fois par mois peut-être), le Perroquet youyou (Senegal Parrot) s’observe quasi quotidiennement, généralement tôt le matin lorsqu’ils quittent un dortoir dans les environs, ou encore le soir survolant la maison en criant.

Senegal Parrot / Perroquet youyou

Le Touraco gris (Western Plantain-eater) est courant à toute saison, et toujours bien bruyant! Généralement 2-3 oiseaux ensemble, rarement plus.

Trois coucous se trouvent sur ma petite liste: le Coucal du Senegal (Senegal Coucal) bien sûr (surtout entre juin et novembre? Présence variable d’une année à une autre), mais aussi une fois un Coucou didric (Diederik Cuckoo) entendu chanter le 28/7/17, puis – grosse suprise! – un jeune Coucou-geai (Greater Spotted Cuckoo) entendu puis vu le 21/6/17.

On a la chance d’avoir au moins un couple d’Effraies des clochers (Barn Owl) dans le quartier, oiseaux qui ont du nicher dans une maison voisine l’an dernier car les jeunes une fois émancipés se sont installés sur (et sous?) le toit de la maison d’à coté: à écouter ici; bref article . Plus étonnant, un Petit-duc à face blanche (Northern White-faced Owl): se fait entendre le soir du 24/1/17, alors que Simon et moi sirotions tranquillement une biere sur la terasse… probablement dans les eucalyptus derrière la maison.

Les Colious huppés (Blue-naped Mousebird) se font souvent entendre lorsqu’ils rôdent dans le quartier. Le Martinet des maisons (Little Swift) niche bien sûr dans les environs et s’observe régulierement au-dessus de la maison; le Martinet noir (Common Swift) par contre n’a été vu qu’une seule fois pour le moment, le 3/5/16. Il faut dire que cette espèce est étonnament peu vue à Dakar, sans doute parce que la plupart des oiseaux en transit passent plus a l’intérieur du pays, ou longent la côte mais couperaient alors à travers la péninsule du Cap-Vert (hypotheses et spéculations! il se peut aussi qu’ils migrent simplement trop haut dans le ciel pour les détecter). Le Guêpier nain (Little Bee-eater) s’arrête parfois quelques jours sur les terrains vagues aux alentours de la maison (notamment entre la mi-mars et mi-mai 2016); un Rollier d’Abyssinie (Abyssinian Roller) a fait escale le 18/8/16.

Aussi bien le Calao à bec rouge que le Calao à bec noir (Western Red-billed & African Grey Hornbills) sont présents dans l’agglomération, mais ne sont pas communs et semblent surtout fréquenter les parcs et grands jardins: dans notre quartier, je ne les vois que de temps à autre, et plutot celui à bec noir, hors période d’hivernage. Le petit Barbion à front jaune (Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird) est un visiteur occasionnel chez nous, avec pour l’instant juste une obs auditive le 29/8/17; je l’entends de temps à autre du côté de Fenêtre-Mermoz vers l’école des enfants, et ce uniquement en saison des pluies. Le Pic gris (African Grey Woodpecker) fait des incursions de temps à autre et se fait lui aussi remarquer par son cri caractéristique, et semble assez repandu dans les quartiers les plus arborés.

Les Hirondelle de Guinée (Red-chested Swallow) font désormais partie du paysage aviaire du quartier, alors qu’en 2015 cette espèce faisait plutot défaut. Elles doivent nicher dans les environs immédiats car elles chantent, viennent chasser, se posent sur les fils… et le 3/6/17 il y avait au moins deux jeunes recemment émancipés; l’Hirondelle rustique (Barn Swallow): janvier, février, octobre 2016. Autre migratrice, la Bergeronnette printanière (Yellow Wagtail) survole la maison le 24/11/16.

Présent tout au long de l’année et souvent le première espèce à chanter le matin, parfois avant meme l’aube, le Bulbul des jardins (Common Bulbul) mérite bien son nom. Le Gonolek de Barbarie (Yellow-crowned Gonolek) se fait bien plus discret et a besoin d’un peu plus de buissons.

La Fauvette passerinette (Western Subalpine Warbler) ensuite, vue plusieurs fois au printemps 2015 dans ces mêmes arbustes, puis le 4/3/17 dans les fourrés en face du portail. Le Pouillot fitis (Willow Warbler) s’observe irrégulièrement, surtout depuis que les gros buissons sur le terrain voisin ont été coupés pour y construire encore une grosse baraque (+ 17/9/16); le Pouillot véloce (Chiffchaff) a fait une escale, en chantant, le 1/12/15.

La Cisticole des joncs (Zitting Cisticola) ensuite: un chanteur lance son tsit!…tsit!…tsit!… explosif les depuis dimanche dernier dans le terrain vague juste à côté. C’est lors de la saison des pluies que les oiseaux sont les plus vocaux ici, et je l’entends souvent p.ex. aux abords du futur ex-aéroport, ou encore entre les Mamelles et Ouakam, mais c’est la première fois que j’ai un oiseau en pleine zone résidentielle… faut dire que l’espèce est vraiment peu exigeante ici! Ceci vaut encore plus pour les Prinias modestes et Camaropteres à dos gris (Tawny-flanked Prinia, Grey-backed Camaroptera), deux piafs omniprésents sur le continent et que je vois tout au long de l’année. Le Crombec sittelle (Northern Crombec) par contre est bien moins typique des jardins urbains, mais en 2015 de temps en temps je l’entendais chanter dans les arbres aux environs. On le trouve fréquemment au Parc de Hann ainsi qu’au Technopole, par exemple. Le Gobemouche noir (Pied Flycatcher) s’arrête parfois dans les grands arbres aux alentours, notamment en septembre quand il se fait remarquer par ses cris de contact constants.

J’ai encore un peu de mal à saisir les mouvements des souimangas ici, avec deux espèces régulieres et une occasionnelle (le Souimanga cuivré Copper Sunbird est vu le 5/9/15 mais plus jamais depuis): le Souimanga à longue queue (Beautiful Sunbird), plutot visible en fin de saison sèche et début d’hivernage, et le Souimanga variable (Variable Sunbird); qui lui semble plutot arriver en septembre/octobre, timidement d’abord, pour rester tout au long de la saison sèche, jusqu’à début juin.


Les Choucadors à longue queue (Long-tailed Glossy Starling) se font très régulierement entendre, parfois – comme ce fut le cas lors de l’hivernage 2015 – de nuit, lorsque certains oiseaux se mettent à chanter à tue-tete pendant des heures et des heures (oui on a souffert!!). L’autre représentant des sturnidés sur notre liste est le Choucador à ventre roux (Chestnut-bellied Starling), avec une observation étonnante d’onze individus passant en vol devant la maison le 25/3/16. Cette espèce ne se rencontre pas habituellement en ville, mais il y a visiblement une petite population (résidente?) dans les jardins de l’hôtel King Fahd où ils fréquentent les pelouses du terrain de golf.

Ensuite deux espèces commensurales, omniprésentes à Dakar: le Corbeau pie (Pied Crow) et le Moineau domestique (House Sparrow). L’histoire de ce dernier est fascinante, ce petit moineau ayant réussi à conquérir une bonne partie de la planète – une progression qui d’ailleurs est toujours en marche, du moins sur le continent africain où il reste encore beaucoup de villes à coloniser. Arrivé sans doute au tout debut des annees 1970, “provenant vraisemblablement de l’Afrique du Sud” (Morel & Morel 1990), Passer domesticus a petit à petit conquis les villes et villages du nord du pays (premier couple nicheur à Saint-Louis en 1979), le long de la Petite Côte et même jusqu’à Tambacounda où sa présence fut confirmée tout récemment. Si le corbeau niche dans un palmier juste en face, les moineaux s’installent dans des trous dans les murs ou dans le toît, sous les tuiles (3-4 couples dans notre maison). Le Moineau gris (Grey-headed Sparrow) par contre ne semble pas très bien se maintenir en ville, car je ne l’observe que de temps en temps et jamais plus de deux oiseaux (des couples?) ensemble. Le petit Moineau doré (Sudan Golden-Sparrow) se montre plus rarement encore, généralement associé à des groupes de Travailleurs à bec rouge (Red-billed Quelea) et plutôt en saison sèche (surtout février – mai). Toujours dans le meme registre, les Tisserins: le minule est vu de temps en temps, alors que le gendarme et surtout celui à tete noire sont bien plus courants, nichant à proximité de la maison (Little, Village, Black-headed Weavers).

C’est presque fini! Reste plus que les petits granivores tels que le Combassou du Sénégal (Village Indigobird), charmant petit parasite qui en ce moment, lors des pluies, est présent quotidiennement.


Je ne sais pas en fait si les Amarantes du Sénégal (Red-billed Firefinch), présentes toute l’année, s’en rendent bien compte qu’ils se font avoir par le combassou! Une seule obs de Cordon-bleu à joues rouges (Red-cheeked Cordonbleu), le 12/12/16 (il y a une petite population non loin, dans les jardins du King Fahd). Parmi les oiseaux urbains les plus répandus à Dakar figure le sympathique Capucin Bec-d’Argent (African Silverbill), voir photo d’en-tête. Le Capucin nonnette (Bronze Mannikin) est présent en nombre variable et plutôt en saison des pluies. Puis last but not least, espèce numéro 71: le Serin à croupion blanc (White-rumped Seedeater)!


p.s. du 24/9: la nuit dernière, encore une espèce est venue s’ajouter à la liste: quelques Guifettes noires passent au-dessus de la maison, en criant, peu après minuit!



Et c’est reparti…

…pour une nouvelle saison de seawatch!

Comme l’an dernier, j’espère bien pouvoir assurer un suivi modeste mais régulier de la migration devant la péninsule du Cap-Vert, et ce depuis la fameuse terrasse du Club Calao à Ngor. En fait, le suivi se fait plus ou moins en continu tout au long de l’année, car à toute saison il est possible de voir des mouvements devant ce site privilégié pour l’observation des oiseaux de mer. On l’a déjà présenté à plusieurs reprises dans ces pages, et d’autres ont fait un bon travail de compilation des connaissances sur la migration des oiseaux de mer à Dakar – voir notamment le site “Seawatching in Senegal“, qui n’est malheureusement plus tenu à jour depuis plusieurs années. Je ne résiste toutefois pas à l’envie d’inclure cette photo de la terrasse, prise hier matin entre deux averses.


La terrasse du Calao, entre deux averses…

Avant de passer au passage postnuptial (= la migration ayant lieu après le période de reproduction), faisons rapidement le point sur le cru 2017 pour ce qui est du passage prénuptial, soit grosso modo couvrant la période fin février-début juin. Le suivi n’a pas été très assidu sauf peut-être dans la 2e quinzaine d’avril, et comme toujours je n’ai généralement qu’une heure de libre avant d’aller au boulot… mais on a tout de même pu faire quelques belles obs depuis notre Calao favori:

  • Jusqu’à 5500 Puffins du Cap-Vert (Cape Verde Shearwater) sont vus le 24/4, la plupart se nourrissant ou se reposant pas trop loin de la côte (rien que ça! cet effectif représente une part non négligeable de la population mondiale). La présence de l’espèce a été notée en tout cas entre le 13/3 et le 1/5, bien que des puffins non identifiés mais de type Cap-Vert aient été vus entre le 10/2 et le 3/6.
  • Deux Puffins majeurs (Great Shearwater) sont vus le 25/5, rare donnée de mai pour cette espèce dont on ne saisit pas encore très bien les mouvements devant les côtes ouest-africaines. Un seul Puffin fuligineux (Sooty Shearwater) par contre, le 24/4.
  • Présence d’Océanites de Wilson (Wilson’s Storm-Petrel) début et fin mai avec quelques individus se nourrissant au large.
  • Des Phaétons à bec rouge (Red-billed Tropicbird) isolés sont vus devant Ngor les 26/4 et 3/6.
  • Fou de Bassan (Northern Gannet): vu régulièrement jusqu’au 1er mai (11 individus), suite à quoi des isolés sont vus (toujours le même?) à quatre reprises entre le 14/5 et le 22/6.
  • Un Fou brun (Brown Booby) passe devant le Calao le 2/6, peut-être un des individus fréquentant les Iles de la Madeleine.
  • Trois espèces de labbes dont quelques Labbes à longue queue (les 10/3, 21 et 24/4 depuis la terre ferme, et le 15/4 depuis notre mini-pélagique, photo ci-dessous) (Long-tailed Skua)
  • Passage de Mouettes de Sabine (Sabine’s Gull) les 24 et 28 avril, lorsqu’un total respectable d’au moins 48 individus passent vers le NE (le 30/4, un adulte est vu en migration lors de la traversée vers l’île de Gorée, donc dans la baie de Hann).
  • Une Sterne de Dougall (Roseate Tern) adulte est détectée le 21/4, filant vers le NE.



Long-tailed Skua / Labbe a longue queue 2nd c.y. / 2e a.c. (avril 2017)


Le passage “d’automne” a déjà bien commencé pour bon nombre d’espèces, notamment pour plusieurs limicoles comme en témoignent les beaux effectifs présents au Technopole, mais aussi pour les sternes et guifettes. Si l’essentiel est encore à venir, voici déjà quelques moments forts, d’après mes observations étalées entre le 22 juillet et le 12 août (huit séances, la plupart d’une heure environ):

  • Puffin sp.: deux puffins le 22/7 et quatre le 5/8 étaient trop loin au large pour pouvoir les identifier; les premiers étaient “des petits” genre Puffin des Anglais, alors que les seconds étaient des oiseaux de type cendré (Scopoli / cendré / Cap-Vert)
  • Océanite de Wilson: le matin du 22 juillet, par fort vent d’ouest, au moins 50 individus se nourrissent pas trop loin du rivage; deux jours plus tard, par mer calme, il n’y avait plus que trois océanites appartenant très probablement à cette espèce.
  • Passage important de Courlis corlieux (Whimbrel) le 9/8, avec en tout au moins 292 individus de passage en trois heures de temps… le suivi était intermittent, donc certainement que j’ai loupé des groupes. Plusieurs groupes de 50, 60, 80 courlis: impressionnant! Certainement que la pluie intense en fin de nuit devait y être pour quelque chose, car c’est la première fois que j’en vois autant en une matinée (le 5/8, deux vols totalisant 65 individus, en deux heures de suivi).
  • Un Huîtrier pie (Oystercatcher), assez rarement vu à Ngor semble-t-il, au milieu d’un vol de courlis le 5/8.
  • Quatre Labbes à longue queue le 11/8, dont deux adultes clairs, un probable adulte sombre, et un subadulte. Le petit groupe est passé assez près, avant de s’éloigner au large plein ouest – très belle obs comme on en veut encore! Sinon deux obs de labbes sp. loin au large ces derniers jours.
  • Une première Mouette de Sabine adulte le 5/8; comme toujours avec cette espèce elle passe bien au large, mais heureusement elle reste assez facilement identifiable grâce à sont pattern noir/blanc/gris “flashant” si caractéristique.
  • Un possible Goeland dominicain (Kelp Gull) immature est vu le 11/8 – le même que celui (encore non confirmé) du Technopole la semaine dernière?
  • Sterne arctique (Arctic Tern): min. 448 en 3h15 hier matin (mais à noter que la moitié du temps il pleuvait assez fort, stoppant largement le passage en mer). Plusieurs groupes de 50, 60 individus dont plusieurs haut dans le ciel et au moins un groupe qui m’est passé derrière, donc sur la terre ferme: j’ai dû en louper pas mal! Bien entendu difficile d’identifier chaque individu et il y avait certainement quelques Pierregarins (Common Tern) dans le tas, mais pour l’essentiel il s’agissait d’Arctiques adultes. Situation similaire la veille lorsque je dénombre au moins 106 individus en une heure.
  • Les Sternes caugeks et dans une moindre mesure les voyageuses ont commencé à passer ces derniers jours, avec en plus une Sterne naine bien seule au milieu d’un groupe d’Arctiques le 12/8 (+ trois le 28/7). Une Caspienne passe le 11/8, alors que pour les Royales il est toujours difficile de distinguer entre les migrateurs et les oiseaux locaux en vadrouille, même si hier matin l’essentiel des 67 individus filaient bien vers le SO  (Sandwich, Lesser Crested, Little, Caspian, Royal Terns)
  • Guifette noire: au max., une centaine le 11/8 en une heure de suivi.
  • Un Martinet noir (Common Swift) survole l’océan le 5/8 et deux au-dessus du Calao, entre deux averses, le 12 (en Gambie, Clive Barlow rapporte les premiers retours dès le 30/7).



Sabine’s Gull / Mouette de Sabine (avril 2015)


L’an dernier je n’avais fait qu’une poignee de pointages courant septembre et j’ai pu faire vingt-huit séances entre début octobre et fin novembre, totalisant près de 28 heures de suivi… mais je n’ai jamais trouvé le temps d’en faire une petite synthèse. On garde tout ça au chaud et j’espère bien pouvoir compiler ces résultats un jour.

Mais d’abord faut que je retourne suivre le passage 2017… retour à Dakar le 21 pour la suite!


L’îlot devant le Calao, avec au fond l’ile de Ngor



Magnificent Frigatebird – first record for Senegal

Birding in Dakar just seems to be getting better by the day at the moment: after the American Golden Plovers and Red-necked Phalarope at Technopole, a record number of Cape Verde Shearwaters and lots of other good birds at Ngor (incl. 40 Sabine’s Gulls a few day ago), on Saturday morning we were fortunate to see a new species for Senegal: Magnificent FrigatebirdFrégate superbe.

Miguel Lecoq and I started our morning at Technopole (where else?) where we enjoyed the waders, terns and gulls that are still present in good numbers. We found all three American Golden Plovers, plus a new bird (we saw all four birds simultaneously) as well as several other good ones including Peregrine Falcon causing havoc among the waterbirds – at one point chasing one of the AGPs over a long distance, with several extremely close failed attempts at catching this bird – and Lesser Crested Tern.

We then made our way through the Saturday morning traffic to the plage de Soumbedioune as we wanted to visit the Iles de la Madeleine national park, mainly to see what was going on with the Brown Boobies. The park staff was exceptionally efficient this time round, and in no time we were on the boat making our way to the island. A Sandwich Tern, then an Arctic Skua flying close by the boat, a bit further a group of feeding Cape Verde Shearwaters, and then…. a bird high up in the sky which I initially took for a skua because it appeared all dark with a long tail. When I got my binoculars onto it, I immediately recognised the distinctive silhouette of a frigatebird and called it out, though I couldn’t quite believe what I saw. Miguel quickly got onto it while I fumbled with the camera to get a few desperate pictures to make sure that we could document the record and to aid with identification, as this is not always a straightforward matter with these birds. We got as close as possible to the bird which was soaring quite high up, and ultimately managed to get a few distant and mostly blurry record shots:


Magnificent Frigatebird / Frégate superbe

After we arrived on the island, we picked the bird up again as it was still patrolling the area between the Madeleines and the mainland. Luckily we had a telescope with us which allowed for slightly better views, although it remained far out. Towards the end of our tour of the island we spotted it once again, meaning that it had been hanging out in the area for at least two hours. This morning I also learned (by chance) that a visiting birder saw it yesterday, behaving much in the same way as it did on Saturday. It would be great if someone could make it to the islands one evening or early morning to find out whether it spent the night in one of the baobabs there.


Four species of Frigatebirds should be considered as options off West Africa, though two of these (Greater and Lesser Frigatebird) are Indican Ocean species that are yet to be recorded along Africa’s western coastlines. The two others are Magnificent and Ascension Frigatebird. Luckily this was a female bird; males of the latter two species and of Greater Frigatebird may be impossible to identify given how close they are in plumage, requiring detailed and close-up views.

While its size was difficult to judge, the impression was of a large, heavy bird with a distinctive silhouette formed by the long, narrow wings and a long and deeply forked tail. Barely beating its wings, it soared and glided slowly between the island and the mainland, every now and then “dipping” down a short distance. Our bird appeared entirely black except for a contrasting white breast and pale bill. The breast patch did not visibly extend onto the underwing, and while it seemed rather rounded in the field, pictures show that its shape is very much in line with what is typical for adult female Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens.


Magnificent Frigatebird / Frégate superbe


Status & Distribution

Magnificent Frigatebird is a fairly widespread tropical seabird, occurring both in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Unlike Ascencion Frigatebird which only breeds on one island, there are many colonies of Magnificent throughout its range, including in the Caribbean Sea, along the coast of Brazil, the Galapagos Islands, etc. The nearest site is on the Cape Verde islands, but it appears to be all but extinct there now: it used to breed regularly in small numbers, but now there are said to be only two females left at this relict site (maybe even just one at the moment, in the event that our bird came from Cape Verde!). Given how few birds remain there, a Neotropical origin is more likely. The second closest site to West Africa is Fernando de Noronha NP (Pernambuco, NE Brazil), which lies about 2,650 km from Dakar.

Outside the breeding season it is largely sedentary, with some dispersal of immature and non-breeding birds. It has reached Western Europe on a number of occasions, including Ireland, the UK, Denmark and Spain; there even are records from Alaska and Newfoundland which shows how far this ocean wanderer can disperse.

In West Africa, there are 2-3 older records from The Gambia, and there’s an unconfirmed record at sea off Nouakchott in April (year?) but this was not retained by Isenmann et al. in their Birds of Mauritania (2010). Likewise, the species is said to have been seen a few years ago in Dakar off Cap Manuel but this record has not been published and as far as I’m aware there are no photographs – trying to find out more about this. The Gambian records are from March 1965 and October 1980, with an additional unidentified Frigatebird seen from the coast in 2005. I could not find any records from Guinea-Bissau, Guinea or Liberia. As such, our sighting may represent the third record only for mainland West Africa, though it’s very likely that the species shows up from time to time in these waters without being noticed.



It’s not every day that one gets to add a bird species to a country list, so one can only imagine our excitement! In addition, this was a very unexpected “lifer” for me (I had seen Greater and Lesser Frigatebird before, but each only once); Miguel had his lifer with the American Golden Plovers earlier that day. Even Falou, the eco-garde that accompanied us, seemed pleased with seeing a rare bird that he only knew from wildlife documentaries on TV.

Prior to Fregata magnificens, the most recent additions to the Senegal list were Red-footed Booby (Oct. 2016), Eurasian Collared Dove (May 2016), Freckled Nightjar (March 2016), Eye-browed Thrush (Dec. 2015), Mountain Wagtail (March 2015, see the latest Bulletin of the African Bird Club), and Short-billed Dowitcher (October 2012). Maybe one day I’ll find time to update the list with these and other additions… if only I could take a few months off work!

And the Brown Boobies? Well we saw at least seven birds! More on these in another post. Other birds seen on or around the island are the following:

  • Cape Verde Shearwater
  • White-breasted Cormorant (still a few juvs. on nests, but most of the breeding activity is over now)
  • Long-tailed Cormorant (four birds)
  • Northern Gannet (at least one imm., far out at sea)
  • Red-billed Tropicbird (a few birds flying around; we didn’t seek out any nests so as to avoid disturbance)
  • Osprey (at least four birds)
  • Yellow-billed Kite (a few dozen birds, including one on a nest in one of the cliffs)
  • Whimbrel
  • Common Sandpiper
  • Ruddy Turnstone (like previous species, just one bird)
  • Pomarine Skua (2-3 birds)
  • Arctic Skua (4-5 birds)
  • Royal Tern
  • Sandwich Tern
  • Arctic Tern (ca. 5 birds migrating)
  • Laughing Dove
  • Speckled Pigeon
  • Western Red-billed Hornbill
  • Pied Crow
  • Northern Crombec

What next? It’s hard to imagine that things will get even better henceforward, but surely there will be more surprises and more additions to the bird list in coming months and years.


Shearwaters off Ngor, 15/04

First of all let me apologise for the stream of mostly blurred pictures that is about to follow. I’m pretty pleased with the picture above, but found it really difficult to get decent shots of moving birds from a moving boat, one hand on the camera and the other holding on to the boat… and this despite the fact that the ocean was really quite calm when we set out on a mini-pelagic last weekend.

We didn’t see a huge variety of birds but what lacked in diversity was made up for by the quality of our encounters and by the good numbers of shearwaters – mostly Cape Verde but also quite a few Scopoli’s Shearwaters and probably some Cory’s too. Three species of Skuas (Long-tailed, Arctic, Pomarine) were seen, but only a few Northern Gannets are left, while four storm petrels were seen too briefly to be sure (probably Wilson’s). Other than that a single Audouin’s Gull, two migrating Black Terns and of course Royal and Sandwich Terns, albeit in small numbers. Oh and a lone Barn Swallow migrating low over the waves. In 2015, a similar boat trip on almost exactly the same date (18/4) produced quite a few more storm petrels (European, Wilson’s, Madeiran), two additional shearwater species (Manx and Sooty) as well as several Sabine’s Gulls.

I should really go out more on these boat trips as there’s always something interesting to see, and it really is a unique experience to find oneself surrounded by seabirds feeding around you. Last week’s trip is also a good opportunity to review some of the ID challenges with our Calonectris shearwaters, so here we go:

Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii

By far the most numerous bird of the trip, with at least 200 birds spread mostly between two groups. When seen at close range this is also one of the easier ones to identify: a medium-sized shearwater superficially similar to Cory’s/Scopoli’s, but clearly smaller and more slender, with a longer tail and overall plumage being more uniform brown and darker above. Its bill is rather fine, mostly grey without any yellow tones; some may even appear almost pinkish (see 3rd picture down).


Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

The upperparts aren’t as contrasted and largely lack obvious grey in the wings and back compared to Cory’s/Scopoli’s, and do not display a distinctive dark “M” (or W, depending how you see things!) across the wings as on Scopoli’s, only a slightly darker band across the arm:


Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

Under strong light they do sometimes look paler and may show a slightly mottled back:


Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

Especially on swimming birds, the dark head can be fairly distinctive and may even be reminiscent of Great Shearwater. The size difference with Cory’s is striking when seeing the two species together but of course this is much harder when watching these birds from land while they are feeding out at sea or flying a kilometer away from the shore. The Cory’s Shearwater in the picture below (yellow bill with dark tip, pale grey head) looks huge compared to the Cape Verdes, which suggest Cory’s rather than Scopoli’s – but see further down for a discussion on separation of these two closely related (sub-)species.


Cape Verde Shearwater (& one Cory’s / Scopoli’s) / Puffin du Cap-Vert (& un P. cendré / de Scopoli)

Cape Verde’s underwing pattern is intermediate between Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters, usually showing a sharp demarcation between the dark primaries and underwing coverts. The paler inner webs on the primaries make the hand look more grey than black, though this is visible only under good light conditions and is less distinctive than on Scopoli’s.


Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

Cape Verde Shearwater considered a globally threatened species, under the category Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, owing to its moderately small population and range size. There are said to be around 10,000 breeding pairs (= ca. 30,000 birds in total), largely limited to just three islands of the Cape Verde archipelago. The population is thought to be declining owing mainly to uncontrolled levels of harvest. Indeed, “present-day harvests for food and bait have reached unprecedented levels and the threat this poses is augmented through motor-vessel use by fishermen […]. Currently, an estimated 5,000 chicks are taken from their nests on Raso and Branco each year. The species may also suffer predation from introduced species such as cats.” (BirdLife International, 2016).

If the 2001 estimate of 30,000 Cape Verde Shearwaters still holds true, then I saw about 18% of the world population this morning (24/4) while having coffee at the Calao terrace in Ngor, when at least 5,500 birds were visible from the Calao terrace, either passing through towards the NE, or feeding out at sea. A week ago I estimated about 1,100-1,200. Sure, some of these were Scopoli’s Shearwaters, though based on the few birds that were close enough to identify and going by our sightings from the boat about a week earlier these would account for 5-10% only. The species arrives on its breeding grounds from February-March, but egg-laying and incubation take place in May-July so the birds that are at Ngor at the moment may still head to Cape Verde – unless they’re all non-breeding birds of course. The species’ presence off Dakar seems rather unpredictable, but late winter and spring (Feb.-May, even June) is obviously the most reliable period to see them here; in certain years there are also good numbers in November (cf. Senegal Seawatching website).


Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea

There were probably 10-20 birds in total, mixed in with the Cape Verde Shearwaters and mostly seen sitting on the ocean surface, and as such I have less useful pictures to share here. A shame because I’m not entirely sure that there weren’t any Cory’s Shearwater C. borealis as well, given that some birds looked really large and heavy-billed. Both species – formerly considered subspecies of Cory’s – share the same overall appearance of a large, grey-headed shearwater with a flashy yellow bill. Differences between the two are subtle and as such one would require good views or photographs in order to positively identify these birds; those see at a distance or under poor conditions are best left as Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwater.

The underwing pattern of Scopoli’s Shearwater is probably the most reliable field character, with the hand being less black and lacking the clear demarcation between the withe primary coverts and the dark primaries, which have white inner webs. This is often hard to see as flying birds are constantly shifting and often hold their wings down, hence the need for good pictures. Another feature of Scopoli’s is that is has a single black spot near the base of P10, whereas Cory’s has two on the outermost primary coverts (the 2nd one being detached from the dark edge of the wing – again, difficult to see other than on photographs). The size difference between Cory’s (which is slightly larger) and Scopoli’s is not very useful given that there is overlap and apparently much variation.

The picture below shows two Scopoli’s and one Cape Verde Sheawater: note the pale “hand” on the bird in the background, and yellow bill clearly visible on the bird in the front


Scopoli’s Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli

A good feature to pick up Scopoli’s among a group of Cape Verde Shearwaters, besides an obvious size difference and the yellow bill, is the much paler appearance of the head, mantle, and side of breast.


Scopoli’s Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli (at least 5 birds here)

The upperwing is clearly more contrasted than Cape Verde, with a dark zigzag across the otherwise grey wing, and mottled brown/grey saddle. This is especially true for Scopoli’s which is said to be greyer than Cory’s:


Scopoli’s Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli

As mentioned earlier, some birds looked really massive, including the thick bill, but I could not get any conclusive Cory’s – only a few suspected birds such as the one below. A shame that the underwing pattern isn’t clearly visible on this one:


Scopoli’s or Cory’s Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli ou cendré?

Further reading on separating diomedea and borealis can be had here and here, among others. There’s nothing much to be found on the occurrence in West Africa given that most records are of “Cory’s Shearwater” in the old sense, without distinction between the two species as currently recognised. Most records are from October-November and again around April, but the numbers are quite variable from one year to another. In 2016, we witnessed a strong passage of presumed Scopoli’s throughout November, but no birds could be labelled as obvious Cory’s.

Scopoli's Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli

Scopoli’s Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli

Skuas – another tricky ID category – may follow in a later post!

(post updated 24/4)

September Seabirds

The majority of systematic seabird counts in Dakar have been conducted in October (see e.g. Dubois et al. 2009 and the Seawatching in Senegal website) when diversity and intensity of south-bound passage at sea is usually highest. Many species migrate much earlier of course, some leaving their breeding grounds already in July or early August, so it’s no surprise that seawatch sessions earlier in the season can be productive too even if the number of birds passing through is less important. Last year I made just a handful of visits to Ngor and Pointe des Almadies in September, but this year I managed to squeeze in quite a few sessions so far, often short (45 minutes to an hour and a half, usually around 8-9am) but sufficient to get a better sense of what’s passing through at this time of the year.

Below are some of the highlights, based on three visits in August (5/8, 19/8 and 26/8) and eight between 9 and 26 September.

Except for one session from Ngor island on 19/8, all observations were made from the terrace of the Calao Club Hotel just north of the Ngor bay. This spot provides a slightly elevated view point with convenient shelter from the sun, and access to decent (though overpriced) coffee. It has recently been upgraded, providing more space and a less run-down feel than before – just in time for the PAOC which will take place later this month and which should see a substantial number of birders come to the terrace throughout the week of the conference.


Best days were 13/9 for waders, after a morning of intensive showers and under continued light rain, while for true “pelagics” (Sooty Shearwater, skuas, Sabine’s Gull) best were 25 and 26/9 when winds were relatively strong (5-6 Bf?) from the NW.


  • Cape Verde Shearwater (Puffin du Cap-Vert): at least three shearwaters probably belonging to this species on 5/8, but no others so far. This species is usually more numerous in late winter and spring, though this is highly variable from year to year it seems.
  • Sooty Shearwater (Puffin fuligineux): one on 9/9 (evening), at least 61 (+ 5 sp.) on 16/9, 17 (+ 4 sp.) on 21/9, only 3 on 23/9  but then a decent 108 on 25/9 (in 85 mins.) and an impressive 131 on 26/9 in just 45 mins. On the latter date I couldn’t stay any longer unfortunately, and even if the strength of the winds gradually diminished over the course of the morning one can imagine that on 25-26/9 there must have been close to if not more than a 1000 of these neat shearwaters passing by.


  • Oystercatcher (Huîtrier pie): 8 on 18/9, 3 on 23/9
  • Common Ringed Plover (Grand Gravelot): singles on 21 and 23/9
  • Whimbrel (Courlis corlieu): 8 migrating on 13/9 and 3 on 16/9, in addition to the 2-3 local birds feeding amongst the volcanic rocks on most days
  • Common Redshank (Chevalier gambette): ca. 10 on 13/9 under light rain
  • Common Sandpiper (Chevalier guignette): no active migrants, but usually 2-5 birds feeding on the rocks in front of Le Calao.
  • Dunlin (Bécasseau variable): a flock of about 25 birds on 9/9, and 2+8 on 13/9
  • Sanderling (Bécasseau sanderling): a flock of ca. 40 on 19/8, 3 on 13/9
  • Turnstone (Tournepierre à collier): min. 5 on 9/9


  • “large” Skua sp. (“grand” Labbe sp.): one on 25/9 was too far out and too fast to say much about this bird other than that it appeared fairly slim / small compared to Great Skua. Could well have been a South Polar Skua, which is thought to be the more frequent of the Catharacta skuas off Dakar.
  • Arctic Skua (Labbe parasite): one on 19/8, 11 on 16/9, 5 21/9, 1 23/9, 26 on 25/9
  • Pomarine Skua (Labbe pomarin): at least 10 on 9/9, 26 on 16/9, 3 on 21/9, 2 on 23/9, 13 on 25/9
  • Long-tailed Skua (Labbe à longue queue): at least 4 on 9/9, 3 on 25/9
  • Unidentified skua sp. (Labbe indéterminé): 1 Arctic / Long-tailed on 19/8, ca. 15 Arctic/Pomarines on 9/9, just one on 13/9, 7 on 21/9, 44 on 25/9 (resulting in a total of 87 skuas), and 33 on 26/9 when the majority of these were probably Arctic Skuas.


  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (Goéland brun): 2 on 21/9, 6 23/9 and 25/9, 2 26/9 – always immatures either flying S or feeding out at sea.
  • Sabine’s Gull (Mouette de Sabine): 4 on 16/9, 1 on 21/9, and ca. 16 on 26/9 including a group of about 12 birds together. Almost always during W/NW winds, flying quite far out at sea and often low over the waves. Probably more numerous further out at sea.


  • Gull-billed Tern (Sterne hansel): 2 on 19/8 from Ngor island. This species appears to be rarely seen migrating at sea, preferring brackish and freshwater lakes.
  • Caspian Tern (Sterne caspienne): regularly 3-5 birds which are not necessarily actively migrating; highest count 13 on 18/9
  • Royal Tern (Sterne royale): seen in small numbers during each session but migrating birds were not always obvious as small groups and singles regularly fly past in both directions, or would feed out at sea. Low maximum of 25 on 13/9.
  • Sandwich Tern (Sterne caugek): only small numbers so far, with a maximum of ca. 40 in 40 minutes on 9/9 (evening), and 138 on 13/9.
  • Lesser Crested Tern (Sterne voyageuse): singles seen on 13/9, 16/9, 23/9 (flying NE on the latter date)
  • Arctic Tern (Sterne arctique): at least 85 on 19/8 in ca. 35 minutes, and more than 30 on 9/9; smaller numbers on other days.
  • Common Tern (Sterne pierregarin): seen in variable numbers, but difficult to count as several birds often feed out at sea and fly back and forth, and because many birds would remain unspecified Common/Arctic Terns.
  • Roseate Tern (Sterne de Dougall): regular sightings of small numbers: at least 1 on 9/9, 4 on 13/9, 1 on 18/9, 2 on 21/9 (flying NE), and 2 on 23/9.
  • Little Tern (Sterne naine): 6 on 13/9, lower numbers (1-4) on several other dates
  • Black Tern (Guifette noire): seen on most days, with a max. of at least 98 in an hour on 5/8 and 250 on 16/9 in 50 mins., 50 on 18/9.

Sandwich Tern / Sterne caugek


A real surprise was a juvenile Barbary Falcon which was well seen on 18/9, first hunting over the bay, then eating a prey (an unidentified passerine) on one of the cranes next to the Calao. Tricky bird to id but especially the finely streaked underparts except for lower vent and undertail covers, yellow cere, fairly narrow “moustache” and pale ear covers, and general slim structure set it apart from Peregrine, which is usually seen here from mid-October onward.

Osprey: singles seen regularly from 26/8 onward, so far only singles.

Pied Flycatchers were seen on 18/9 in the hotel gardens, which usually also hold a few good local migrants or residents, e.g. Shikra and Senegal Eremomela.

Last but not least, I had 3 sightings of unidentified dolphins moving NE – always a nice change from our feathered friends even if it’s usually pretty hard to get good views given the distance and brief (and very partial!) appearances above the surface.


Marsh Terns, Ducks & More Waders (28/8)

Last Sunday I went to Lac Tanma – first visit since January – and, of course, Technopole. I picked up Miguel Lecoq who recently arrived in Dakar to work for BirdLife (yes! a new birder in town!), and we headed straight for Lac Tanma to see what was about there at the start of the raining season. This shallow seasonal lake has started to fill up and conditions were pretty good for waders, even if some were a bit distant: a few dozen Wood Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts, several Greenshanks and Common Redshanks, a Marsh Sandpiper, a few Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Common Ringed and Kittlitz’s Plover (including a still downy juvenile, confirming local breeding), Ruff, a lone Whimbrel, and a bunch of Common Pratincoles. The latter appear to also breed in the area or at least in the vicinity of the lake: out of about 15-20 birds, at least 8 were juveniles. Also present were the resident Spur-winged and African Wattled Lapwings as well as Senegal Thick-knees, a Black-winged Kite, and a flock of about 95 Greater Flamingos including 30 juveniles.

Only a handful of ducks are present at the moment: 4 White-faced Whistling Ducks and a single Garganey, which appears to be an early date for the species in Senegal. Later on in the season, when water levels further rise and aquatic vegetation develops, the lake becomes an important stop-over site for Garganeys and Shovelers.

Best of all was at least one White-winged Tern, nicely showing its distinctive black underwing coverts as it was flying around the lake. There may have been more, though most of the other marsh terns (which mainly were roosting quite far out) were Black Terns. Besides the waders and terns (including Gull-billed and Caspian), a few Lesser Black-backed and Audouin’s Gulls and 5 or 6 Ospreys, the only other northern migrant that was seen was a single Sand Martin. Along the road back to Mbayakh, a Broad-billed Roller flew past, while Shikra was another wet season visitor that was seen near the lake.

Another surprise was this small group of what turned out to be Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starlings rather than their more widespread counterpart, Greater BEGS. Both species are extremely difficult to separate based on adult plumage (when call is the best identification feature). These birds remained silent, but thanks to the 3 juveniles in the flock it was possible to clinch the ID, as Lesser shows brownish underparts whereas Greater youngsters are entirely dark.


Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starlings / Choucador de Swainson


At Technopole, the main surprise was a flock of 11 Fulvous Whistling Ducks, a vagrant here which I hadn’t seen before in the Dakar area. It’s reasonably common in the Senegal delta (though still massively outnumbered by the White-Faced WD’s) and apparently also in the south of the country, but it’s generally absent from central and western Senegal. Hazy rarity picture below. Another good one was Whiskered Tern, with one or two birds feeding among the Black Terns. Chlidonias hat trick today!

As expected, water levels here have substantially risen in the last two weeks, leaving only small sand banks favourable for the smaller wader species. Still quite a few Ruff & co were present, but far fewer calidrids than on my previous visit. An Avocet was here again, while two Little Terns were another good record for Technopole as the species is seen only infrequently here. An Acrocephalus warbler was either a Eurasian or African Reed-Warbler. We both tended toward the latter but didn’t get good enough views, and as it turns out it seems that many Palearctic insectivores are ahead of schedule this year, as reported by Fred Bacuez from Saint-Louis. By now some at least should have reached Dakar!

Greater Flamingos are still present in moderate numbers, but we didn’t find any more ringed birds unlike the 3 French birds early August for which I now received details from the Tour du Valat research station in the Camargue: all were ringed as chicks in the sole French colony, but in different years (2013, 2014 and 2015). Ring recoveries from French birds in Senegal are apparently pretty rare, unlike in Mauritania where there are fairly regular sightings of French, Spanish, Italian and Algerian birds (and even one from Turkey!).


Fulvous Whistling Ducks / Dendrocygnes fauves


The previous morning I did a car transect from Dakar’s main slaughterhouse (route de Rufisque at Dalifort), which already early morning was bustling with activity, to Bel-Air and the Hann bay, looking for roosting Hooded Vultures. My count is part of an effort lead by Wim Mullié to get a better sense of the current status of the species in Dakar. As with almost all other vulture species, the Hooded Vulture has declined substantially in most if not all parts of its range, and is now considered to be Critically Endangered. BirdLife International recently “uplisted” the species’ conservation status as it has increasingly become clear that Hooded Vultures are declining at an alarming rate over much of its range, at the point where it is considered to be at serious risk of extinction: Hooded Vulture populations are thought to be dwindling with an estimated 83% decline (range 64-93%) over three generations, or a period of about 53 years (Ogada et al. 2015). This may be difficult to believe in places such as Conakry (where I’m writing this post from), which still has what seems to be a healthy Hooded Vulture population – e.g. this morning I counted at least 75 birds roosting in the city’s CBD, and later saw about 60 flying around in scattered groups. Same in Bissau or Banjul where the species is still very common.

There are several important sites where our local vultures spend the night – especially UCAD, Dakar’s main university campus – but it appears that there are also lots of singles or small groups that spend the night in scattered places, usually in filaos (Casuarina equisetifolia, Australian Pine Tree) or on buildings ,and almost always near the waterfront. Saturday’s little transect was moderately successful, finding a total of 15 birds in 3 sites.

More on this topic to follow in due time; the Dakar results are to be announced at the upcoming Pan-African Ornithological Congress (PAOC 14) in October, after which I’ll write more about our local vultures.


Hooded Vultures roosting on a hydrocarbon storage tank / Vautours charognards sur leur dortoir, un depot d’hydrocarbures


In Parc de Hann, the now usual Eurasian Collared-Doves were singing in their usual spots, just like a Blue-breasted Kingfisher and Splendid Sunbird which are two other “specials” of the site. The heronry is now full of young egrets and cormorants and is noisy as ever!


Cattle Egret / Heron garde-boeuf juv.