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Technopole update, Lac Rose & more

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Lots going on at Technopole at the moment, and hardly any time to write… pretty much as usual.

So here’s a quick update and a few pics, starting with some of the highlights:

  • The two obliging Buff-breasted Sandpipers are still present, seen each time in the area behind the fishermen’s cabin. The country’s 7th or 8th record, and also by far the longest staying birds.
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Buff-breasted Sandpiper / Becasseau rousset

  • This may be getting boring now and a bit of a déjà-vu, but yet again a Lesser Yellowlegs showed up in Dakar. This one was photographed on 8/2/18 by J. Dupuy and posted on observation.org; as far as I know this is the 8th record for Senegal and the third for Technopole (after singles in August 2015 and January 2016). Yesterday morning, a visit with French birders Gabriel and Etienne allowed us to relocate the bird, a very nice adult coming into breeding plumage:
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Lesser Yellowlegs / Chevalier a pattes jaunes

  • Almost just as good, and another first for Technopole (232 species on the list now), was this Common Shelduck – not totally unexpected given the small influx that took place this winter, but still a very good record and always nice to see this pretty duck showing up on my local patch. Unlike its name suggests, it’s definitely not common in Senegal, as there appear to be only about nine previous (published) records, two of which were also obtained this winter.
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Common Shelduck / Tadorne de Belon

  • Along the same lines, another scarce species showed up at Technopole recently, possibly still the same as the one I saw at the end of December: a Jack Snipe on 12 & 19/2. Only a few Garganeys are present at the moment, but Northern Shovelers are still numerous these days. At east three Eurasian Teal were with the preceding species (two males on 27/10, and a pair on 10/2).
  • Remember that influx of Short-eared Owls? Well it looks like it’s not finished yet, with the discovery of no less than seven (maybe even more!) Short-eared Owls roosting together, on 3/2, by Edgar and Jenny Ruiz (at least two birds were still in the same place on 18/2).

Switching categories now – ring reading! Even with such a diversity and sheer numbers of ducks, waders, terns, gulls to go through, we’re still paying attention to ringed birds. And making very modest contributions to our knowledge of migration strategies, survival rates, and much more – one bird at a time. Since the start of the year we’ve been able to read about 50 rings of more than 40 different birds, mostly Audouin’s, Lesser Black-backed and Slender-billed Gulls, but also a few more original species:

  • The flock of 170-180 Avocets that are still present contains at least two colour-ringed birds, both from SW Spain where they were ringed as chicks in… 2005! That’s nearly 13 years for both birds – a respectable age, though it seems that this species can live way longer that that: the record for a British (& Irish) Avocet is nearly 24 years (impressive… though not quite as much as a that 40-year old Oystercatcher!). Interestingly, “RV2” had already been seen at Technopole five years ago, by Simon, but no other sightings are known for this bird.
  • A few Black-tailed Godwits are still around though the majority has now moved on to the Iberian Peninsula from where they will continue to their breeding grounds in NW Europe. Reading rings has been difficult recently as birds tend to either feed in deeper water, or are simply too far to be read. This one below is “G2GCCP”, a first-winter bird that hatched last spring in The Netherlands and which will likely spend its first summer here in West Africa.  Note the overall pale plumage and plain underparts compared to the adult bird in the front, which has already started moulting into breeding plumage.
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Black-tailed Godwit / Barge a queue noire

  • Mediterranean Gulls are again relatively numerous this winter, with some 8-10 birds so far. As reported earlier, one bird was ringed: Green RV2L seen on 21 & 27/1, apparently the first French Med Gull to be recovered in Senegal.
  • The Caspian Tern “Yellow AV7” is probably a bird born in the Saloum delta in 2015 – awaiting details.
  • The regular Gull-billed Tern U83, ringed as a chick in 2009 in Cadiz province, seems to be pretty faithful to Technopole: after four sightings last winter, it’s again seen on most visits since the end of January.

A morning out to Lac Rose on 11/2 with visiting friends Cyril and Gottlieb was as always enjoyable, with lots of good birds around:

  • The first Temminck’s Courser of the morning was a bird flying over quite high, uttering its typical nasal trumpeting call. The next four were found a little further along, while yet another four birds were flushed almost from under the car, allowing for a few decent pictures:
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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

  • The now expected Greater Short-toed Larks were not as numerous as last year, with a few dozen birds seen, sometimes side by side with Tawny Pipit. No Isabelline nor any Black-eared Wheatears this time round, but one of the Northern Wheatears was a real good fit for the leucorrhoa race from Greenland (& nearby Canada and Iceland).
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Greater Short-toed Lark / Alouette calandrelle

  • As usual, a few Singing Bush Larks were about, though not very active and as always quite difficult to get good views of as they often remain close to cover, even sheltering under bushes.
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Singing Bush Lark / Alouette chanteuse

  • Quite surprisingly, we saw lone Sand Martins (twice), a House Martin, and especially Red-rumped Swallow – the latter a long-awaited addition to my Senegal list. Already on the move, or are these hirundines overwintering in the area?
  • A final stop on the edge of the plain, where the steppe transitions into the dunes on one side and a seasonal pond (now dry) on the other. Here we found a couple of species that I’d seen in the same spot before, particularly two that have a pretty localised distribution in western Senegal it seems: Yellow-fronted Canary, and Splendid Sunbird. Also seen here were another Red-necked Falcon, Mottled Spinetail, Vieillot’s Barbet, etc.
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Splendid Sunbird / Souimanga eclatant

  • And plenty of gulls by the lake! First time I see this many gulls here, with at least 800 birds, mainly Audouin’s (ca. 350) and some 500 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Lots of ringed birds of course, but most were too far and we didn’t take the time to go through the entire flock.

 

And elsewhere in Dakar…

  • A “Pallid HeronArdea (cinerea) monicae was found by Gottlieb and Cyril at Parc de Hann on 13/2 (but not relocated yesterday…). A rare Dakar record!
  • Seawatch sessions at Ngor continue to deliver good species, most notably good views of several European Storm-Petrels these past couple of weeks. Lots have been seen along the Petite Cote (Saly, Somone, Toubab Dialaw) recently, and especially at the Gambia river mouth where several dozen birds were counted.

 

 

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And we’re off to a good start… with a new species for Senegal

New Year, New Birds! Apparently I found another new species to Senegal – needless to say that this resulted in a rather successful day out birding. Which left me wondering, rather pointlessly, how many country firsts have been found on the first day of the year.

Lac Rose

So I first went to Lac Rose, and more specifically the steppe to the NE of the lake as this area had produced a lot of good birds last winter, including three or even four Buff-breasted Sandpipers. I was keen to go back and see if any of the “specials” were around again this winter. One of the first birds I found in the short grass was Greater Short-toed Lark, so things were off to a good start.

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Greater Short-toed Lark / Alouette calandrelle

As I started walking on the far end of the steppe, I found a very pale wheatear: a textbook Isabelline Wheatear, just like last year in January.

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Isabelline Wheatear / Traquet isabelle

The same area held three Tawny Pipits and a few other birds, though not the hoped-for Temminck’s Coursers.

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Tawny Pipit / Pipit rousseline

Towards the end of my visit I came across this Southern Grey Shrike – cool bird, but a bit too flighty to allow for decent pictures.

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Southern Grey Shrike / Pie-grièche meridionale

Also around were several Kittlitz’s Plovers (+ Common Ringed and Kentish on the lake shores), at least four Quailfinches thus confirming the species’ presence in the Niayes IBA, a Black-headed Heron, Vieillot’s Barbet dueting in the distance, and so on.

Yene

Next up: the Yène-Tode lagoon. While on my previous visit, barely two weeks earlier (17/12), there was still a good amount of water, by now the lake has all but dried up: just a little trickle here and a small pool there, with just a handful of Black-winged Stilts, Spur-winged Lapwings, a lone Knot, Common Sandpiper and a few other waders. With all the waterbirds gone, I didn’t think I’d see much on this visit, but was soon proved to be very wrong!

Shortly after getting out the car, I located a small flock of Yellow Wagtails feeding on a green patch in what used to be the lagoon just a few weeks earlier. A pipit amidst the wagtails was either going to be a Tree or (more likely) a Red-throated Pipit, so I got the bird in the scope… and was a bit puzzled at first that it didn’t fit either species?! As I approached, it flew off and called a few times, confirming my suspicion: a Meadow Pipit!! It landed a hundred meters or so further in more dense vegetation. I knew this was a good species for the country and wanted to get better views and maybe even a few pictures (I didn’t quite realise it had never been confirmed in Senegal before!), so I went after it, flushed it and again heard the diagnostic hurried hiist-ist-ist-ist flight call. It returned to the original spot, and this time round I got really good views plus a few record shots:

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Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse

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Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse

Note the dense streaking on a pale buffy background with streaks clotting together on middle of breast, general lack of warm tones (as would be the case for Tree Pipit), fine bill with diffuse yellowish base, absence of clear pale lines on the mantle (as in Red-throated), the “gentle” expression with fairly pale lores, an indistinct supercilium and narrow-ish submoustachial (what a word!) stripe. The rump was clearly unstreaked (thus ruling out Red-throated Pipit) and while I didn’t manage any good pictures of the hind toe, it did appear quite long and pictures show it to be only moderately curved (ruling out Tree Pipit). These pipits are no easy birds to identify on plumage, but luckily the call is so typical and unlike any other pipit that it allowed for a safe ID while I was watching the bird, and I was lucky to get a few decent shots. A few people have asked me to provide more pictures, so here they are – all are originals without any editing except for cropping.

This bird was obviously in a fresh plumage, and can be aged as a first-winter bird based on the shape and colour of the median coverts: the ‘tooth’ on the dark centre with a clear white tip (Svensson 1992) is quite visible in the pictures.

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Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse

Meadow Pipit is of course a common species throughout much of Europe, be it as a breeding bird or on passage or as a winter visitor. Its non-breeding range covers western Europe and most of the Mediterranean Basin, extending along the Atlantic coast down to the Canary Islands and Morocco. In Mauritania it is considered to be scarce but regular, reaching as far as the Senegal river delta, more or less as shown on the map below (borrowed from xeno-canto). Surely it must occur at least irregularly in northern Senegal, given its status in nearby Mauritania?

MeadowPipiMap_XC.PNG

 

While relocating the Meadow Pipit, I also flushed no less than eight Red-throated Pipits as well as three Common Quails. Two Collared Pratincoles were hanging out by the last puddles; the Marsh Harriers and most of the Ospreys are now gone, but there were still at least two Short-toed Eagles in the area, with another two along the track back to Rufisque. Two Mosque Swallow were also around, while two Zebra Waxbills were rather unexpected, given that they’re not supposed to occur in the Dakar region (see last year’s post on the sighting of a group at Technopole). Tawny Pipit was another addition to the site’s ever-growing list.

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Collared Pratincole / Glaréole à collier

 

Technopole

Following a very successful morning yesterday at Technopole (Short-eared Owl! Iberian Chiffchaff! Jack Snipe!) I stopped by to have a closer look at the numerous waders, given that yesterday I’d forgotten my telescope at home… Nothing out of the ordinary to report today, just tons of waders, gulls (incl. two Mediterranean Gulls) and lots of Caspian Terns (+150, and now also 27 Greater Flamingos (nine were present yesterday). And I relocated the Iberian Chiffchaff quite easily as it’s singing regularly, and tends to keep to a single bush – more on this in another post.

 

Oh and happy new year!

 

bram

 

Le PNOD, le PNLB, la RNICS & la RNP en images

Si vous arrivez à déchiffrer les acronymes du titre, alors chapeau! Faute d’un meilleur intitulé pour ce billet, et faute de temps pour écrire un long article sur tout ce qu’on a pu voir ces huit derniers jours, je vous présente ici quelques images prises lors de notre virée dans le Djoudj (le PNOD – parc national des oiseaux du Djoudj), le PN de la Langue de Barbarie (PNLB), la réserve naturelle d’intérêt communautaire de la Somone (RNCIS), et la réserve de Popenguine (RNP). Huit jours a se ressourcer en pleine nature, en agréable compagnie de nos amis Jan, Maria, Kajsa et Marnix venus découvrir le Sénégal – le bonheur.

PNOD

A commencer par ces Courvites isabelles vus vers le Grand Mirador du PNOD, trouvés par l’excellent guide Vieux Ngom (qui en passant salue toute l’équipe de Genevois!), dans une atmosphère poussiéreuse comme je l’ai rarement vue. Les courvites aussi j’en avais rarement vus, même jamais en fait! Belle coche donc pour commencer les vacances de fin d’année, d’une espèce régulière dans le nord du pays mais qui jusqu’ici m’avait toujours échappée, ici comme ailleurs d’ailleurs.

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Cream-coloured Courser / Courvite isabelle

Voici pour vous faire une idée des conditions météo, qui se résument tout simplement en “vent + froid + sable + poussière”, mais que notre ami d’Ornithondar a très bien expliqué ici. Jamais eu aussi froid au Sénégal… A peine 15 degrés au petit matin… suffisamment peu pour justifier au moins trois couches pour sortir.

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Aussi vus dans le Djoudj, dans le désordre: les habituelles Grues couronnées, une ou deux Talèves d’Allen, deux couples d’Anserelles naines, Sarcelles d’hiverPie-grièches méridionales, Glaréoles à collier, Tarier d’Afrique, Prinia aquatiquePygargue vocifère, Fauvette orphée, Alouettes calandrelles, et j’en passe. (Pygmy-Goose, Common Teal, Southern Grey Shrike, Collared Pratincole, African Stonechat, River Prinia, African Fish Eagle, Orphean Warbler, Short-toed Lark). Par contre peu de canards et très mauvaise visibilité sur le Grand Lac, mais Jean-Louis et Maha ont tout de même eu quelques Sarcelles marbrées deux jours plus tard, tout comme l’Outarde arabe et plein d’autres choses (Marbled Teal, Arabian Bustard).

Mais aussi Loup africain, Phacochères à volonté, un Crocodile du Nil, et pas moins de trois Pythons de Seba pour le grand bonheur de tout le monde mais peut-être surtout pour mes amis Jean-Louis et Maha, à peine arrivés au Sénégal.

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Warthog / Phaco

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African Rock Python / Python de Seba

PNLB

Passons maintenant au PNLB, ou l’on a passe deux nuits dans notre lodge favori au Senegal: le Zebrabar, niche entre lagunes et ocean, un petit havre de paix qui invite à la relaxation et au far niente… si ce n’était pour tous les oiseaux qu’il y a à découvrir! Même le jour de Noël on ne chôme pas, bien au contraire: en fin de matinee je passe d’abord à la STEP de St. Louis qui comme toujours grouille d’oiseaux, dont le Prinia aquatique, la Rousserolle des canes, plusieurs centaines de Dendrocygnes veufs et fauves tout comme quelques Canards souchets, et une bonne diversité de limicoles (River Prinia, Greater Swamp Warbler, White-faced & Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Northern Shoveler). Mais surtout, je tombe sur une belle surprise sous la forme d’une Marouette de Baillon que je lève en bordure du sentier entre les deux plans d’eau principaux. Et que j’aurai ensuite le plaisir d’observer et de photographier pendant plus d’une demie heure – quel bonheur! Seulement ma deuxième obs de l’espèce, mais bien meilleure que la première, il y a près de 10 ans aux Pays-Bas.

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Baillon’s Crake / Marouette de Baillon

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Baillon’s Crake / Marouette de Baillon

Au retour de la STEP, brève escale au bord de la piste qui mène au Niokobokk: une Pie-grièche mériodionale (ou doit-on dire Pie-grièche du désert maintenant? voir cet article sur Ornithondar). J’essaierai de revenir sur la question des (sous-)espèces en 2018…

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Southern Grey Shrike / Pie-grieche méridionale

En fin d’après-midi, je pars dans la plaine et la brousse derrière Mouit, là où j’avais eu entre autres Outarde de Savile, Coucou-geai, Oedicnème tacheté et cie. lors de mes précédentes visites. Parcourant la steppe à la recherche de fauvettes (le site me semble idéal pour la Fauvette à lunettes notamment) ou autres pipits, je tombe sur ce Hibou des marais – le sixième au moins depuis début novembre au Sénégal, confirmant ainsi le petit (?) afflux qui a visiblement lieu encore en ce moment. Combien passent inaperçus? J’ai donc une fois de plus dû mettre à jour l’article que j’y avais consacré il y a quelques semaines, avec l’image en plus et quelques obs supplémentaires (dont une de la lagune de Somone).

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Short-eared Owl / Hibou des marais

Ci-dessous le biotope:

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RNICS

Ensuite, après un crochet par Lompoul (Outarde de Savile, Oedicneme tacheté, Petit Moineau, Guêpier d’Orient et j’en passe; Savile’s Bustard, Spotted Thick-knee, Bush Petronia, Little Green Bee-eater), on pose les valises au Dalaal Diam près de la lagune de Somone.

Là, j’en profite pour retourner dans mon coin à Engoulevents à balanciers: rien vu! Ils ont dû repartir sous d’autres cieux. Curieusement, comme en octobre, une Bondrée (Honey Buzzard) me passe par-dessus la tête en filant vers le sud. Vu le plumage c’était un autre individu qu’en octobre, un jeune individu assez roux. Et à la place des Petits-ducs africains, cette fois ce sont au moins deux Chevêchettes perlées (Pearl-spotted Owlet) qui se font entendre de nuit (et parfois de jour) dans le jardin du lodge. Une Cigogne noire (Black Stork) survole le site, un Busard cendré chasse en bordure de la lagune, des centaines de Moineaux dorés du Soudan se mêlent aux Travailleurs a bec rouge et autres tisserins. Et curieusement toujours, je trouve deux Hypolaïs pâles (Eastern Olivaceous Warbler) non loin de la zone où j’avais déjà observé cette espèce peu connue en Sénégambie, en mars 2016. Hiverneraient-ils dans le secteur? Les deux oiseaux évoluaient ensemble et étaient peut-être en couple, à moins qu’il ne s’agisse de deux mâles se disputant un buisson stratégique… Quoiqu’il en soit, l’identification était relativement simple car les deux oiseaux hochaient activement la queue tout en ouvrant les ailes vers le bas, et la structure (notamment le bec plus fin) et les critères du plumage concordent; le chant semblait aussi assez différent de l’Hypolaïs obscure – je dois encore traiter et analyser les quelques prises de son, qui je l’espère ne seront pas trop affectés par le vent.

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Eastern Olivaceous Warbler / Hypolaïs pâle

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Eastern Olivaceous Warbler / Hypolaïs pâle

RNP

Point de photos de Popenguine à part un jeune Circaète Jean-le-Blanc (Short-toed Eagle) un peu flou, mais à signaler notamment neuf ou dix Hirondelles de rochers (Crag Martin), deux Monticoles bleus (Blue Rock Thrush), quelques discrets Bruants d’Alexander (Gosling’s Bunting), 4-5 Beaumarquets melba, 2-3 Sporopipes quadrillés (Speckle-fronted Weaver). Visite depuis Guéréo, hier matin 29/12. Au retour, on passe par le Lac Rose, ce qui permet d’ajouter le Goéland d’Audouin à la liste.

Voilà pour ce tour d’horizon, pas si rapide finalement.

Prochaine expédition: la moyenne vallée du fleuve, dans une semaine à peine. Avant cela, on va essayer de profiter des quelques jours de congés restants pour passer au Technopole, les steppes du Lac Rose ou encore la lagune de Yene.

 

 

Les Niayes, 1/10/17

C’est à trois que nous sommes partis à l’aube dimanche dernier, destination lacs Tanma, Mbaouane et Retba (Lac Rose). Il a fait chaud, très chaud, et après six heures sur le terrain nous étions bien cuits… mais comme toujours le déplacement en valait la peine: 103 espèces notées dont quelques “premières” pour la saison, trois coches pour Miguel et quelques dizaines pour Roel, et un rapace tout à fait inattendu (qui sera un ajout à ma liste “Sénégal”!).

Lac Tanma

A commencer par le lac Tanma, un peu plus accessible qu’il y a cinq semaines, le 4×4 de Miguel aidant. On commence par explorer la brousse en bordure de la plaine, histoire de voir si les passeraux européens sont déjà arrivés sur place (lors de notre dernière visite fin août, il y avait “juste” cette fameuse pie-grièche hybride et deux Hypolaïs polyglottes) et de se positionner du bon côté pour scruter le lac. En effet, il nous faut éviter le contre-jour qui empêche de bien voir les limis, canards et autres guifettes.

Les buissons donc: d’abord une Pie-grièche à tête rousse (bien pure celle-ci; Woodchat Shrike), puis deux Erémomèles à croupion jaune (Yellow-bellied Eremomela) – espèce désormais classique au lac Tanma – et effectivement, quelques migrateurs supplémentaires: Hypolaïs polyglotte, Fauvette grisette, Bergeronnette printanière. (Melodious Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Yellow Wagtail). Un Circaète Jean-le-Blanc immature est posé sur un baobab, alors que quelques Busards des roseaux, tout récemment arrivés d’Europe, évoluent au-dessus des rivages du lac (Short-toed Eagle, Marsh Harrier).

Pour le reste, on trouve les habituels résidents ou migrateurs afro-tropicaux: un Coucou didric chante au loin, plusieurs Rollier d’Abyssinie, un Agrobate podobé, un joli mâle de Beaumarquet melba, quelques Euplectes franciscainsAlectos à bec blanc en pagaille, etc. (Diedrik Cuckoo, Abyssinian Roller, Black Scrub-Robin, Green-winged Pytilia, Northern Red Bishop, White-billed Buffalo-Weaver).

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Abyssinian Roller / Rollier d’Abyssinie

 

Côté lac, il y a bien plus de monde qu’il y a cinq semaines: environ 435 Flamants roses  (Greater Flamingo), une centaine de Sarcelles d’été (Garganey) et quelques dizaines de Canards souchets (Shoveler), et surtout: une nouvelle famille de Canards à bosse, une douzaine de canetons menés par Maman Bossue (Knob-billed Duck, aka Comb Duck). Et plus tard, neuf canetons avec deux adultes de Dendrocygne veuf (on dit alors des dendrocygnons? White-faced Whistling Duck). La reproduction du Canard à bosse n’est plus une surprise ici car on l’avait déjà confirmée en novembre 2013, puis suspectée l’an dernier, et lors de notre visite précédente une femelle est vue plusieurs fois en vol en train de crier. Celle du “canard siffleur” par contre est la première nidif que je constate ici; la date correspond tout à fait à ce qu’indiquent les Morel: “reproduction pendant les pluies de juilet à octobre (très peu de nids trouvés) et en Gambie entre septembre et novembre.” Impressionnant tout de même comment ces canards arrivent à nicher sur un plan d’eau temporaire (il y a deux mois à peine le lac etait à sec) avec très peu de végétation lacustre!

Et bien sûr pas mal de limicoles, bien que pour la plupart un peu loins: Chevaliers aboyeur, stagnatile, gambette, sylvain, guignette, culblanc (Greenshank, Redshank, Marsh, Wood, Common, Green Sandpiper) ; trois Gravelots pâtres et quelques Grands Gravelots, une poignée de Courlis corlieux et Barges à queue noire, plein d’Echasses et 5-6 Avocettes, quelques Combattants, Bécasseaux variables… (Kittlitz’s & Common Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Ruff, Dunlin). Une Sterne caspienne se tient parmi les Sternes hansels et Goélands railleurs; cette fois on n’identifie qu’une seule Guifette leucoptère parmi les dizaines de noires, mais la plupart des laridés se tiennent sur l’autre rivage, un peu loin donc (Caspian & Gull-billed Tern, Slender-billed Gull, White-winged & Black Tern).

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Greater Flamingo / Flamant rose

 

Pendant qu’on observe tout ce beau monde, un cri attire mon attention et je vois alors deux oiseaux passer derrière nous: des Coucous-geais (Great Spotted Cuckoo), apparemment un adulte et un jeune. Un peu plus tard un autre immature arrive en vol et traverse lui aussi le lac: oiseaux en migration active, ou nicheurs locaux? Mes amis genevois avaient vu un jeune nourri par des Choucadors à longue queue, le 12/11/16 au même endroit.

La surprise du jour viendra sous la forme d’un rapace passant haut dans le ciel que je tiens d’abord – à défaut d’autres options logiques – pour un Circaète brun… mais qui s’avère rapidement être un Aigle huppard (Long-crested Eagle)! Heureusement que Miguel était plus réveillé que moi. Arrivé du côteau de Pout, il cercle dans la zone tout en criant. Il y a bien une ancienne donnée non loin à Thiès (en décembre 1979!) sur eBird, mais actuellement cette espèce est restreinte, au Sénégal, au tiers méridional du pays. On s’attendra donc plutot à le voir à Toubacouta, en Casamance ou dans le Niokolo-Koba, mais certainement pas près de Dakar!

Lac Mbaouane

On rebrousse chemin pour se rendre du côté du lac Mbaouane et pour visiter un petit marais derrière le village de Beer, où l’on ajoute le Heron pourpré, un couple de Talèves d’Afrique, 2-3 Guêpiers perses, un Martinet des baobabs, des Hirondelles des mosquées, 3-4 Rousserolles des cannes et quelques autres à la liste (Purple Heron, African Swamphen, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Mottled Spinetail, Mosque Swallow, Greater Swamp Warbler). Plusieurs Balbuzards (Osprey) et quelques limicoles lointains fréquentent le lac lui-même, très peu profond comme le lac Tanma.

Lac Rose

Il nous reste un peu de temps et un (petit) peu d’énergie, donc on fait encore un crochet par le lac Rose où je voulais parcourir la steppe au NE du lac, ces pelouses halophiles qui avaient produit quelques surprises l’hiver dernier. D’abord quatre superbes Courvites de Temminck (Temminck’s Courser) au bord de la piste, puis plus tard encore un qui passe en vol, et encore trois individus levés alors que nous étions en train de rechercher l’Alouette chanteuse (Singing Bush Lark). Visiblement la zone est un bon “spot” pour ces deux oiseaux qui peuvent être difficiles à trouver ailleurs dans la région. Une voire deux Alouettes seront vues, dans la même zone que l’hiver dernier (et en plein chant de parade, tournant haut dans le ciel telle une Alouette des champs).

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

 

Sinon assez peu d’oiseaux sont vus dans ce secteur, mais on entend deux Outardes de Savile (Savile’s Bustard) chanter au loin dans les dunes – une première pour moi si près de Dakar. Un petit groupe de limicoles passant en vol est composé de six Corlieux et quatre Barges rousses, deux espèces que je vois de temps en temps migrer ensemble devant Ngor (Whimbrel & Bar-tailed Godwit). Un Héron mélanocephale (Black-headed Heron) passe lui aussi en vol: une fois de plus, cette espèce semble bien régulière dans les Niayes, ce qui ne ressort pas sur la carte de répartition du Borrow & Demey. Les rives nord du lac sont fréquentées par des dizaines de Bécasseaux minutes et quelques sanderlings, avec en prime deux Pluviers argentés, mais point de laridés (Little Stint, Sanderling, Grey Plover).

 

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Technopole & Lac Rose (again)

Back in town after a trip to Niamey (Cricket Warbler! Egyptian Plover! Greater Swamp Warbler and more!) we headed out to Le Calao du Lac Rose where we spent the weekend. No birding on Saturday, but as is often the case hotel grounds have some good stuff to offer.

There are the usual Senegal Parrots, Little Bee-eatersRed-billed Firefinches, Beautiful Sunbirds and so on, but this time it was a small mammal that stole the show: two ochre-coloured, medium-sized bats with huge ears and a distinctive “nose”. I found them while walking past a bougainvillea bush in which they were roosting, where they allowed for real good views in broad daylight. They turned out to be Yellow-winged Bats, a widespread species that I’d already seen roosting in bamboo growth in the Plain du Sô near Cotonou. More on bats will follow here in due course.

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Yellow-winged Bat Lavia frons

While looking for the bats after they’d moved to a Casuarina tree, I spotted a Northern White-faced Owl observing us from a bit higher up. Seen first in fading light (1st picture) we found it again in the same place the next morning (2nd picture). Somehow this bird had extremely long eartufts and was much greyer in the face than what I’ve seen on other individuals; see also the species gallery on the African Bird Image Database hosted by the ABC.

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Northern White-faced Owl / Petit-duc à face blanche

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Northern White-faced Owl / Petit-duc à face blanche

On Sunday, an early morning visit to the dunes and nearby niaye was fairly uneventful; this site is probably quite interesting during and just after the raining season when the depression fills up. Besides the usual suspects, a male Green-winged Pytillia was seen in a group of granivores, which also held a Yellow-fronted Canary, just like on my previous visit here. Other scarcer species seen were Black-headed Heron once again, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, and Splendid Sunbird.

While looking for Buff-breasted Sandpipers (no sign of them – they all seem to have left by now!), I did find a Temminck’s Courser on the NE end of the plain, not far from the dunes that I’d just been exploring. Not the hoped for Cream-coloured Courser but a courser nevertheless – and definitely my best views of the species so far. I took a few pictures after which it flew off, uttering its typical toy trumpet call… and soon to be followed by a second individual that must have been sitting in the short grass nearby. Didn’t get good views of the second courser, but it may well have been a young bird.

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

Barely five minutes later I found two more coursers, this time closer to the “sandpiper field”. Light was better by now and although they stayed within 30-40 meters I managed to get a few good pics with our trusted Canon Powershot SX60 HS:

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

At least two Singing Bushlarks and what were probably a few Greater Short-toed Larks were also around. The lake itself held a few Audouin’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, some Gull-billed Terns and a few Common Terns. Fairly few waders were around, mostly Little Stints and Common Ringed Plovers, while on the beach the main species was Sanderling. Both locations also had several Ospreys which spend the winter around lac Rose in decent numbers (15-20 birds?).

Meanwhile at Technopole – where I hadn’t been in about 3 weeks – there weren’t many new birds around except maybe for an increase in the number of European Spoonbills (ca. 35) and Little Stints (ca. 90). Other birds of note seen during my most recent visit (23/1) included a female Marsh Harrier and a White-winged Tern, the latter a “site tick” for me; the harrier is, surprisingly perhaps, only an irregular visitor to Technopole. Just like on my previous visit, a single Mediterranean Gull was present among the range of other gulls, which have finally started building up in numbers: Lesser Black-backed Gulls mostly, but also up to ca. 35 Audouin’s and a few dozen each of Black-headed, Grey-headed and Slender-billed Gulls.

Black-tailed Godwits now number around 150 which is half of the number about a month ago: it’s quite possible that part of the wintering birds have already left for the Iberian rice fields where they typically refuel before continuing to northwestern Europe. This time round I managed to read colour rings on one bird only, but on previous visits I’ve had up to nine different ringed birds within the same flock, including Dutch, English and German breeders. Two Bar-tailed Godwits seemed more closely associated with a loose group of 16 Grey Plovers, with most of the regular waders also concentrating on the pools behind the golf club house (the majority of gulls though were on the westernmost lake, which is again accessible).

The only bird I managed to get a decent picture of was this adult Red-necked Falcon perched in a baobab:

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Red-necked Falcon / Faucon chicquera

Subalpine and Sedge Warblers were actively singing, while Common Redstart, Chiffchaff, and Common Whitethroat, were far less conspicuous.

Lac Rose: Rousset, Traquets et Alouettes

Retour au Lac Rose dimanche dernier pour voir si par chance nos trois limicoles américains seraient toujours présents… On avait déjà fait un crochet rapide une semaine auparavant sans retrouver les limicoles sympathiques, mais pas eu la possibilité de scanner toute la steppe par faute de temps. Avant-hier matin par contre, j’ai rapidement retrouvé un Bécasseau rousset (Buff-breasted Sandpiper)dans la même zone que le 18/12. Tout seul cette fois, il se nourrissait tout aussi activement que lors de ma première observation. On peut supposer qu’il s’agit de l’un des 3 individus de fin décembre (mais alors qu’est-il arrivé aux deux autres? Seraient-ils toujours dans le coin, ou ont-ils continué leur chemin?).

Pour vous donner une idée de l’habitat fréquenté par ce bécasseau, voici une photo; l’oiseau se trouve tout en bas à droite sur l’image.

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Buff-breasted Sandpiper / Bécasseau rousset dans sa steppe

Avant de passer aux autres observations marquantes de la matinée – et il y en a! – c’est l’occasion de refaire le point sur les données de Tringytes subruficollis au Sénégal, car depuis mon dernier post j’ai trouvé une observation ancienne passée inaperçue, et Frédéric Bacuez a pu observer un oiseau le mois dernier près de Saint-Louis. La donnée ancienne a été publiée dans la revue Malimbus mais n’a curieusement pas été repérée par Borrow & Demey (2015) qui ne mentionnent que la première observation de 1985 (Ron me confirme qu’il s’agit d’un simple oubli). En effet, pas moins de 5 Bécasseaux roussets ont été découverts le 2 décembre 1994 par une expédition organisée par la Danish Ornithological Society, dont quatre ensemble “en train de se nourrir sur une prairie rase et dans des gouilles peu profondes proches de la plage”. Le 5e individu se trouvait environ 1 km plus au nord et a été observé simultanément par d’autres membres du groupe (Bengtsson K. 1997: Some interesting bird observations from Mauritania and Senegal, Malimbus 19:96-97).

Dans l’ordre chronologique, on a donc les six ou sept données suivantes, pour un total de 11 oiseaux:

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Buff-breasted Sandpiper / Bécasseau rousset, 8/1/17

Si le nombre d’espèces dans la steppe est assez faible, j’ai la chance de trouver encore quelques espèces intéressantes, dont deux nouvelles pour moi au Sénégal. D’abord un Traquet oreillard (Black-eared Wheatear)qui se laisse brièvement observer – mais malheureusement pas photographier – au sommet d’un tamaris et qui sera revu un peu plus loin encore, tout comme quelques Traquets motteux (Northern Wheatear). Concernant ces derniers, pas encore eu l’occasion de me pencher sur l’identification de la sous-espèce leucorhoa du Groenland ; un article paru dans le dernier Ornithos permettra peut-être d’y voir plus clair.

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Northern Wheatear / Traquet motteux m.

Je m’attendais un peu à trouver de l’Alouette calandrelle (Greater Short-toed Lark) dans ce milieu, mais pas en nombre si important : plus d’une centaine ! Ces grands groupes sont classiques dans le nord du pays, mais ce serait la première fois qu’un tel effectif est rapporté dans la région de Dakar. Peut-être que le froid – c’est tout relatif bien sûr, mais il faisait seulement 22 degrés ce matin – les a poussés plus au sud que d’habitude. Ou bien, et c’est sans doute plus probable, la zone est un site d’hivernage régulier mais faute d’être parcourue par les ornithologues, n’a pas été détectée comme tel jusqu’à maintenant.

Je continue de parcourir la steppe : au moins deux Pipits rousselines (Tawny Pipit), deux Alouettes chanteuses (Singing Bush-Lark), plusieurs Bergeronnettes printanières (Yellow Wagtail; surtout des flavissima) et une Bergeronnette grise (White Wagtail) complètent le tableau, mais les gravelots sont cette fois moins nombreux, avec juste une poignée de Gravelots pâtres (Kittlitz’s Plover) et 2-3 Grands Gravelots (Common Ringed Plover) parcourant les pelouses rases (sur les vasières du lac, je verrai aussi quelques Gravelots à collier interrompu (Kentish Plover), tout comme des Bécasseaux sanderlings et minutes (Little Stint), deux Tournepierres (Turnstone), un Chevalier aboyeur (Greenshank)).

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Yellow Wagtail / Bergeronnette printanière ssp. flavissima, m.

La surprise du jour viendra d’un autre habitué des milieux steppiques : un Traquet isabelle (Isabelline Wheatear) ! Ce migrateur venu de l’extrême sud-est de l’Europe (Grèce/Bulgarie) ou du Proche-Orient est probablement peu fréquent au Sénégal. Hors régions frontalières avec la Mauritanie, où le Traquet isabelle est censé être régulier en hiver, Sauvage & Rodwell (1998) font état de seulement cinq données de 1-5 inds. hivernant dans les régions de Louga et Podor, une de Dakar et une de Kaffrine, entre décembre et avril. Plus récemment, Enrico Leonardi, ornitho de passage à Dakar, a pu en observer un au Technopole le 12 octobre dernier, donc à une date très hâtive pour cette espèce.

L’identification de ce traquet n’est pas forcément aisée, mais on a ici un oiseau tout à fait typique dont l’identité ne devrait pas faire de doute:

  • Coloration générale d’un beige très clair, sans contrastes importants entre le dessus et le dessous ou entre les ailes et le reste des parties supérieures
  • Posture verticale, haut sur pattes
  • Alula sombre contrastant avec les couvertures alaires pales
  • Couvertures alaires (grandes et moyennes) très peu contrastées, avec des centres à peine plus sombres
  • Lores sombres
  • Sourcil blanc bien marqué à l’avant de l’œil, mais pas à l’arrière
  • Queue relativement courte

Le seul critère diagnostique qui manque ici c’est le pattern de la queue et notamment l’étendue du noir au bout de la queue, qu’on devine toutefois sur la 2e photo (cliquez sur les onglets pour voir les images). A mon avis les photos ne sont pas suffisamment nettes pour déterminer l’âge ou le sexe, mais j’ai l’impression d’avoir affaire à un oiseau au plumage frais. Les lores ne semblent pas franchement noires, donc ce serait plutôt une femelle.

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Isabelline Wheatear / Traquet isabelle

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Qui sait, peut-être que le prochain traquet que je trouverai sera celui du désert… ou bien un seebohmi venu de l’Atlas marocain ?

Quoiqu’il en soit, le fait de se retrouver devant un méli-mélo de migrateurs venus de 3 voire 4 continents etait bien sympa! Rousset de l’Arctique canadien; Calandrelles, Rousseline et Oreillard du bassin méditerranéen; Traquet isabelle des portes de l’Asie… sans compter les afro-tropicales comme le Gravelot pâtre.

Birding the Niayes – Lac Rose, Mbaouane, Mboro

In recent weeks I’ve had the chance to pay a few visits to several of the Niayes wetlands, first at Mboro (twice, on Nov. 16 and 18), then Lac Tanma and the wetlands between Mbayakh and Kayar (Dec. 11), and finally near Lac Rose (Dec. 18). Lake Tanma has already featured several times in these pages, and Technopole is of course one of the most prominent and often visited sites, but little has been written about some of the other wetlands along the “Grande Côte”.

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A typical cultivated Niayes depression near Kayar

Since they are considered an “IBA” (Important Bird Area) by BirdLife International, there’s a pretty good description of the area on BirdLife’s website, so rather than coming up with my own overview I’ll quote from those pages. The Niayes are “a string of permanent freshwater lakes and additional temporarily wet depressions (niayes) lying along a line running north-east from the outskirts of Dakar to around 60 km south-west of St Louis. The lakes lie behind the ridge of coastal sandy dunes, in shallow depressions at 1–4 m above sea-level, over a distance of c.150 km. They are replenished both by rainfall and from the underlying water-table, which lies close to the surface. The wetlands cover 40 km² at low water [i.e. during the dry season]; at high water, all the lakes can increase their surface area five-fold.”

As is the case with many other IBAs in Senegal, the Niayes face quite a number of threats and have no legal protected status: “The whole site is threatened by human encroachment and various forms of development, particularly those niayes such as Hann Mariste and Pikine-Guédiawaye [= Technopole!] that are within or close to Dakar and to the main road leading east and north out of the capital. One of the main threats is from drainage and land reclamation for building, which is proceeding very fast. Over-abstraction of water and various forms of pollution threaten the hydrology and water quality of the underlying water-table. In addition to their immediate conservation value, the niayes represent a huge educational resource (large numbers of easily visible, interesting birds, very close to dense urban centres), which will also be lost if the site is further degraded.”

The two images below, taken in opposite directions just a few minutes apart, nicely illustrate the effect the presence of water has on the landscape – and by extension on its wildlife: dry dunes with sparse thorny shrubs on one side, lush vegetation and cultivated fields on the other.

 

 

Mboro

The small lake just south of Mboro (near the ruins of Hotel du Lac, a couple of hundred meters off the main Mbayakh-Mboro road) is one of several wetlands around this busy little town, and a perfect spot for a quick stop while traveling from Dakar to northern Senegal (or for the return journey!). While we only scratched the surface, the lake can obviously be a very rewarding birding site both for local and migrant species. There are impressive densities of African Swamphen, African Jacana, Common Moorhen and Squacco Heron, and several Black-headed Herons have been seen here on every visit. In November, a handful of Pintails and White-faced Whistling-Ducks were here, as were a few waders: Black-winged Stilt, Wattled and Spur-winged LapwingsWood Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Common Snipe. Several Little Grebes were around, including at least one breeding pair. During a quick stop on 4/1/17, in addition to most of the species already listed there were 8 Shovelers, a Garganey and ca. 18 Ruff here.

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Lake near Mboro (G. Dandliker)

The area is obviously quite good for raptors, with African Hobby (a presumed pair), Marsh Harrier, and Short-toed Eagle seen on both visits in November, as well as Black-winged Kite on Nov. 18th. While checking the sky for raptors, Mottled Spinetail could easily be seen among the Little Swifts, while the bushes on the slope above the lake held African species such as Purple Roller, Northern Anteater Chat, Piapiac, Yellow-billed Shrike, and Fork-tailed Drongo.

Also here was a Gambian Sun Squirrel Heliosciurus gambianus which was spotted by my friends shortly after I’d left the site. Unlike the Striped Ground Squirrel, it’s not an easy species to see in these parts of the country.

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Gambian Sun Squirrel / Ecureuil de Gambie (G. Dandliker)

 

Mbaouane

At “lake” Mbaouane (or Mbawan as it seems to be spelled locally) there are extensive moist grasslands as seen on the first picture in this post, and there’s a sort of oasis running from the town of Mbayakh to the lake. I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time but it’s only recently that I decided to head out there. That morning I first went to Lake Tanma, but this has completely dried up by now, with only the two small ponds on either side of the bridge now holding some water. As a result, all the ducks, waders, gulls and terns have left the site, with only a lone Osprey to be seen where less than a month before there were thousands of birds. We’ll now need to wait until August next year for the lake to fill up again. (Birding was still good though: a Short-toed Eagle, a pair of Temminck’s Coursers, a juvenile Green-winged Pytillia, 2-3 Purple Rollers, plus the usual suspects and a young African Wolf all made up for the lack of waterbirds).

One of the first birds I saw after getting out of the car near Mbaouane was a Blue-bellied Roller, a species that I hadn’t seen so far in the Dakar area (my only record up to now was in Casamance). It’s likely a rare resident or maybe a wet season visitor up to this latitude and surely it’s at the edge of its range here. Morel & Morel mention that they can be seen up to around Thies, which is just a bit further inland. It turned out that there were two birds here, presumably a pair (in the picture below, one can see that the bird on the left has longer tail streamers; I assume this to be the male).

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Blue-bellied Roller / Rollier à ventre bleu

Another interesting record here was that of a Quailfinch, which in typical fashion flew over hesitantly while uttering its distinctive call. This species is well known from the Saloum delta and is also present in the lower Senegal delta, albeit in lower densities it seems, but is not regularly recorded from the Niayes as far as I know (which admittedly is most likely a reflection of the absence of birders in this part of the country!). Regardless, the fact that this is largely a resident species and that December corresponds to the breeding season in Senegambia, one can assume that the species occurs routinely in the area.

Some of the other birds seen here were Purple and Black-headed Herons, while Mottled SpinetailRed-chested and Mosque Swallows were flying overhead.

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Lac Rose

Also known as Lac Retba, this is a bit of an unusual Niayes lake in the sense that it is a permanent salt water body, well known for its salt industry. As such, bird life is quite different from the other wetlands in the region: besides a few gulls, Greater Flamingos and a few waders, few birds are present on the lake itself. During my recent visit to the place, there were no flamingos – only a single Audouin’s Gull, the usual Ospreys (probably 15-20 in total), but a decent gathering of waders was found towards the eastern edge of the lake: Common Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Little Stint, Sanderling, and Turnstone. Also here was a White Wagtail, while the plains to the north-east of the lake held Singing Bushlark, Chestnut-backed SparrowlarksTawny Pipit, Yellow Wagtails, etc.

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Singing Bush Lark / Alouette chanteuse

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Tawny Pipit / Pipit rousseline

I then made my way to the edge of the seasonal lakes (now all dried up) and the dunes even further towards Kayar, where a good mix of local species was to be found: Black-headed Heron, Double-spurred FrancolinVieillot’s Barbet, Grey Woodpecker, Brown Babbler, Splendid Sunbird, White-rumped and – more surprisingly – Yellow-fronted Canary to name but a few. Common Whitethroat was the only northern migrant here.

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African Grey Hornbill / Calao à bec noir

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African Grey Woodpecker / Pic goertan male

 

On the way back, a quick scan of a grassy field produced the surprise of the day under the form of three Buff-breasted Sandpipers loosely associating with a flock of Kittlitz’s Plovers – see my earlier post on this exceptional record, plus the bonus picture below.

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Buff-breasted Sandpiper / Bécasseau rousset