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Audouin’s Gull in Senegal (part II)

(in case you missed the first part, you may want to read this post first)

Ring recoveries

Thanks to the important research and conservation efforts targeting Audouin’s Gull, a substantial proportion of the population carry colour-rings, to the extent that in any given group one encounters here in Senegal (and elsewhere of course), there are bound to be some ringed birds, usually up to around 15% of all birds. As far as I know this is far more than for any other species that spends the winter here in Senegal; only Black-tailed Godwit comes close (often 5-10%) and maybe Osprey. For instance at Palmarin last month I managed to read 32 rings out of a total of ca. 400 birds, out of which some 200-250 were either close enough to read rings, or were standing (rather than sitting, in which case rings aren’t visible). That’s roughly 13 to 16% of individuals carrying coded rings!

The first mention that I found of a colour-ring recovery is from Delaporte & Dubois (1990) who on 26/1/88 at Saint-Louis observed a bird ringed as a chick in spring 1981 on the Chafarinas islands. Del Nevo and colleagues also noted that many of the birds they counted were ringed, e.g. on 30/9/92, no less than 24 (14%) of 167 birds were ringed: 18 had a darvic [=plastic ring with alphanumerical code] and six had a metal ring only. In 1994 in Palmarin, a Scandinavian team were able to read 16 colour-ringed birds from Spain (out of at least 456; Bengtsson 1994), while Sauvage & Rodwell mention nine colour-ringed birds originating from Spain, in Saint-Louis. The Dutch 1997 expedition managed to read nine rings, out of the 858 gulls that they counted, noting that “these birds presumably all originated from the Ebro Delta, Spain” (and certainly not from the Canary Islands as stated by Triplet 2014! The species doesn’t even breed there… not sure where this error originated).

The rings (or “bands” for our American friends) are either white with a black inscription (3 or 4 alphanumerical characters), or blue with a white 4 character code, and can often be read with a telescope or a good camera. White rings are used in Spain (starting with letters A, B, C or a number) and Italy (I or K), while blue rings are in use in Portugal (with first character P). French birds have a combination starting with F (since 2013; prior to this Italian rings were used); Moroccan ones with M.  The images below show an Italian and two Spanish birds (“BDCT” appears twice, photographed in Aug. 2016 and Sept. 2017).

 

Origin of wintering birds in Senegal

I now have close to 50 ring “recoveries” related to 44 birds, most of which are from Palmarin (39), the others being from Technopole. Adding other sightings in Senegal of these same birds (mostly by Ngoné Diop), we have a total of 103 recoveries.

Here’s a quick summary of their origin:

  • As can be expected, the vast majority are from Spain, particularly from the Ebro delta which accounts for about a third of all birds for which I know the origin (15 out of 44). Six are from Valencia (PN de l’Albufera, Salinas de Torrevieja), three from Tarragona (Salinas de Sant Antoni), three from the tiny Isla de Alboran between Morocco and Spain, and two each from the Balearic islands (Mallorca and Menorca), from Murcia (Parque Regional San Pedro del Pinatar and Isla Grosa), the Laguna de la Mata in Alicante, and the Chafarinas islands.
  • Six birds are from Portugal, but I’m still awaiting information for full details of the five most recent birds (all from Palamarin early September); thanks to Ngoné I know that at least four birds (and likely all six) originate from the colony on Ilha da Barreta (the southernmost tip of the country, near Faro).
  • Earlier this month I found my first Italian gulls at Palmarin, three adults (ICTD, ILBJ and K7T). I have not yet received details from the ringing scheme, other than that K7T was ringed in 1998 – so far my oldest bird! Ngoné kindly provided me with info for ICTD and ILBJ as these were already known to her, which allowed me to include Cagliari (Sardinia) and Isola del Giglio on the map below; I will add further info here when it becomes available [Olly Fox kindly informed me that K7T was seen at the Kartong Bird Observatory in The Gambia in November 2016; it was born on Isola dei Cavoli off southern Sardinia].

AudouinsRingSites_2017

 

At least one Corsican bird has been found in The Gambia (Recorbet et al. 2011) and Ngoné has recorded a few French birds in Palmarin. One can assume that some Moroccan birds may also winter in Senegal, and maybe Algerian and Tunisian birds as well. Not quite sure where the Eastern Mediterranean populations spend the winter, but I read that at least some remain around their breeding grounds.

Here’s an example of the “life history” of one of our oldest birds, 45P from Spain, pictured in the header image of this post. It was ringed as a chick in 1999 on the Chafarinas islands, and was seen in The Gambia during the 2004/05, 2006/07, 2007/08 and 2011/12 winters, then in October 2014, October 2015, and September 2017 it was spotted in Palmarin (plus a few times on its native island, in April-June). Could it be that many Audouin’s Gulls spend the initial 4-5 months of the non-breeding cycle in Senegal, then move to The Gambia for the remaining 2-3 months of the northern winter?

 

Age composition

The age composition of our wintering Audouin’s Gulls varies considerably between areas and apparently also through the season. This was first documented by del Nevo et al.: “Adult birds dominated both surveys and proportionately more adults than first year birds were present during September 1992 than in February 1991. Our observations are consistent with the view that adult Audouin’s Gulls tend to arrive in Senegambia before first year birds; the ratios of first year to adult were 0.1:1 in September and 0.54:1 during February.” Delaporte & Dubois reported an overall proportion of 15% of immatures. These ratios have likely changed now, at least in terms of the seasonality now that some immatures can spend their first summer in the region. Ngoné and colleagues reported estimates of 278 adults and 167 immatures (= 37,5%) in Palmarin for the 2013-2015 period. They also found that adults, 3rd and 2nd winter birds arrive earlier than 1st winter birds, a difference which “is probably due to differences in experience among age classes.”

The differences in “immature-to-adult” ratio between Palmarin and Technopole are striking, and I wish I knew what causes this. Immatures are by far outnumbering adults at Technopole, as opposed to the high proportion (70-80%?) of adults further south, particularly in the Saloum delta. Interestingly, this may not have always been the case: Oro & Martinez mention that juveniles winter further south than older 2-3y gulls, in the Senegambia region: “After the breeding season, 2-3y and older gulls were recovered mainly at the E and S Iberian Peninsula coasts. During the winter season these gulls moved southwards, especially to the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Juveniles behaved differently, moving further south than 2-3y and 4y or older gulls, reaching the Senegambia coast in high percentages (81,8%).” Is it possible that this was at a time when a new generation of young birds was in process of establishing an overwintering tradition in Senegal and The Gambia, returning in subsequent winters? That would explain why there are currently more adults than juveniles.

Two ringed individuals show how birds wintering in Senegal will typically spend their first year around the Cap-Vert peninsula, before moving on to the Saloum delta once they are older: BNH5 was ringed as a chick in June 2011 in the Ebro delta, after which it was seen at Technopole in July 2012, but during its third winter in Dec. 2013 (N. Diop), and again in Sept. 2017, it was in the Palmarin lagoons. AWNV, born in 2010 in Mallorca, was first at Technopole while in its second summer (July 2012), while in 2015 and 2016 it was in Palmarin. Some birds already move to Palmarin during their 2nd winter (e.g. BWU9), or even 1st winter (BPZ9, seen by Simon in January 2013, then by Ngoné in December of the same year and in Oct. 2015, and last month I saw it again. Talk about site fidelity!

All ringed birds recovered from Technopole were at most two years old, though of course there are some older birds and every now and then a full adult will show up. BYPB is a typical first-year bird, seen here in March 2017.

AudouinsGull_Technopole_20170312_IMG_0486

Audouin’s, Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged & Slender-billed Gulls

 

Among the ringed birds that I have found there are quite a few old individuals, the oldest being nearly 20 years old. Indeed, Audouin’s Gull is a long-lived species with a high adult survival rate (and relatively low fertility). The oldest bird I have is from Italy, at 19 years, while from Spain there’s 45P and 66P, both born in 1999; Ngoné had already seen both in 2014 and 2015 in Palmarin; 45P and was again at Palmarin earlier this month, while I saw 66P there last year at the end of August last year.

AudouinsGull_Palmarin_20160820_IMG_4780_edited

66P, seen here in a rather unflattering position in August 2016 at Palmarin, was ringed as a chick in June 1999 in the Ebro colony

 

The little chart below shows the distribution by age at the time of the last sighting, for 43 birds for which I have the ringing year (birds are typically ringed as chicks, usually in June, so we know their precise age). One can clearly see the predominance of birds in their first year (= juveniles and 1st winter), though this is hardly surprising given that these all correspond to Technopole recoveries. I don’t know how to explain the near-absence of two- and three-year old birds.

AudouinsGull - Age graph

Ngoné’s systematic visits to Palmarin have resulted in some 500 ring readings, which of course allow for a more thorough analysis than my anecdotal observations. Through modeling the team has estimated annual survival rates and the size of the wintering population in Palmarin, which are summarised in this informative  poster presented at PAOC just about a year ago. There are of course also a few interesting individual stories in the lot, such as two Spanish birds that were ringed on the 15th and the 19th of June 2015 respectively, and that were seen within a few weeks after they left their colony (25/8/15 and 15/9/15).

To be continued…

 

Many thanks to Ngoné Diop for her input!

 

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Audouin’s Gull in Senegal: status, trends & origin (part I)

When I started birding nearly 30 years ago, Audouin’s Gull was one of those near-mythical birds, endemic to the Mediterranean and listed as an Endangered species on the IUCN Red List. Plus, it’s a real pretty gull, much more attractive than the standard “large white-headed gull”. Fortunately, this highly coastal species has seen substantial increases in its breeding population and has (re)conquered new localities, mostly during the nineties.

It is now found in Portugal (where it didn’t used to breed 30 years ago), Spain (where the bulk of the population breeds), France (Corsica), Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey. The largest colonies are in the Ebro delta (14,177 in 2007) and the Chafarinas islands off NW Morocco (2,700 pairs in 1997). The Ebro colonies now represent about two thirds of the global population, so it is particularly of note that the species wasn’t even breeding there in 1980: Audouin’s Gull established itself in 1981 when 36 pairs bred, with as many as 4,300 in 1990, +10,000 pairs in 1993… and now certainly more than 15,000 (I didn’t immediately find any recent figures).

The species’ global population is now thought to number 63,900-66,900 individuals, with 21,300-22,300 breeding pairs: to write that this is “a significant increase from an estimated population of 1,000 pairs in 1975” certainly is an understatement… This remarkable feat is thought to be a result of the increased availability of effectively protected areas during the 1980s and of discarded fish from trawlers, particularly around the Ebro delta. Although it may still be vulnerable due to its small number of colonies, it was downlisted to “Least Concern” during the 2015 revision of the Red List, previously being considered Near Threatened (2004), “Lower Risk/conservation dependent” (1994), and Threatened (1988) (IUCN). Quite a conservation success story.

Following a good harvest of ring readings a few weeks ago in the Saloum delta, I wanted to find out a bit more about its history, trends, abundance and distribution in Senegal – and decided to turn it into a blog post here. This wasn’t too difficult given that a ton of research has been done on Audouin’s Gull, resulting in decent knowledge on its population dynamics and structure, distribution, breeding ecology, dispersal, feeding and migratory strategies, etc. The main challenge was to identify the most relevant resources and to distill everything into something relatively concise. And for once there’s even fairly abundant literature on the species in its wintering grounds here in West Africa.

First, let’s have a look at historical records of Audouin’s Gull in Senegal, and see if we can reconstruct the trends for the country.

audouins

Part of a flock of Audouin’s Gulls at Technopole (P. Robinson)

 

The ’60s and ’70s – the first records for Senegal

We automatically turn to our rapidly deteriorating copy of Morel & Morel (1994), who only list a handful of records – essentially, the first four records for the country:

An immature collected at Saint-Louis, 11/5/61 and an adult seen on Gorée island (Dakar) on 13/3/64; one photographed at “the entry of the Sine-Saloum” [wherever that may be! I assume near the Saloum river mouth?] on 1/2/75, and one record near Dakar at the end of December 1981.

Dupuy (1984) adds the observation of an adult in the north of the Saloum delta on 13/12/80 but this record was either overlooked, or not retained by M&M. Interestingly, De Smet & Van Gompel (1979) did not encounter the species even though they covered large chunks of the coast between lac Tanma and the western Saloum delta, as well as the Senegal river delta, during the 1978/79 winter. This seems to confirm that Audouin’s Gull at the time was still a rare or very scarce visitor here – something which was about to change very soon.

The ’80s and ’90s – establishment of a wintering tradition

Moving on, Sauvage & Rodwell (1998) consider Audouin’s Gull to be “frequent at PNLB (Langue de Barbarie NP) and Saint-Louis, Jan.-Apr. with max. 17 birds, Jan. 1994, nine ringed in Spain. Up to 10 were wintering around Saint-Louis, 1990-91.” It is “frequent to common Dakar off Pointe des Almadies and Toubab Dialao, Jan.-Mar., max. 104 (four ads.), Toubab Dialao, Jan. 1992. Frequent to abundant Saloum delta. Max. 321 wintering.” The latter figure, obtained in 1985 (Baillon 1989) is significant as it is the first mention of a substantial number of birds in Senegal, and can likely be linked to the “explosion” of the Ebro delta colony. In Jan.-Feb. 1988, Delaporte & Dubois counted gulls all along the Senegambian coast, from the Mauritanian border to Casamance, and counted 81 Audouin’s Gulls (6 near Saint-Louis, 3 along the Petite Cote, 72 around Palmarin) though they estimate a total of 130 birds. They also mention the presence of 185 in the northern Saloum (probably Palmarin/Joal-Fadiout) on 6/12/88. Del Nevo et al. (1994) conducted counts in February 1991 and in September-October 1992, noting a total of 459 birds in Senegal and 72 in Gambia (1991), and 276 in Senegal the following year, mainly at Sangomar and Joal-Fadiouth.

A few eBird records from the early nineties provide some more context for that decade, in particular the count of no less than 470 birds at the Somone lagoon on 28/2/91, with two at Mbodiene (south of Mbour) a couple of days earlier, and 12 at Plage de Hann (Dakar) on 18/2/91 (O. Benoist). Bengtsson (1995) reports a minimum of 456 near Palmarin in Nov.-Dec. 1994. Based on these records, it looks like the species became a regular winter visitor to Senegal in the early to mid ’80s, and rapidly established a number of traditional wintering areas during that decade.

The next comprehensive figures are reported by Schepers et al. (1998) based on waterbird counts from January 1997 in the Saloum delta and along the Petite Côte. The team counted a total of 858 Audouin’s Gulls between Dakar and the delta, with the majority (673) found in the Saloum, and 185 along the Petite Côte. They estimated the wintering population to number around 1,000 birds, while in 1988 the same areas (incl. Saint-Louis) held at least 80, but more likely at least 130 Audouin’s Gulls (Delaporte & Dubois 1990, though Baillon & Dubois in 1991 estimated the number of wintering birds to be around 500, without providing further details). Regardless, these numbers suggest that Ichtyaetus audouini continued to increase in numbers throughout the late eighties and nineties, and confirmed that Senegal plays an important role for the species during its non-breeding cycle.

AudouinsGull_Palmarin_20170903_IMG_4366

2000 – 2017 – stability

Fast-forward a few years to the first decade of the 21st century: hardly any published data! The only citations of the species that I could find are from seawatch sessions and a few trip reports. For instance from 2006, when a Swedish team counted migrating birds off Ngor, from 10–14 and 25–26 November: 28 Audouin’s Gulls were noted on three separate days (Strandberg & Olofsson 2007). A year later, a more comprehensive migration study at Ngor, with impressive numbers of seabirds counted from 5-28 October, resulted in a total of 692 birds. In the Senegal delta, a maximum of c.15 birds were counted in 2002 (Triplet et al. 2014).

In January 2011, some 50 Audouin’s Gulls were counted by Ottvall et al. at Lac Rose, providing “more evidence of the increasing numbers […] wintering along the coast north of Dakar.” Later that year, Paul Robinson reports two 2nd calendar years from Lac Tanma, which seems to be the first mention of the species here (I’ve seen two birds on 28/8/16 here, but not during other visits in 2015-17). Paul also recorded the species in Popenguine, where on 12/2/12 the pond had “a few” Audouin’s gulls amongst the gulls.

In July 2012, Paul counted c.150 Audouin’s Gulls at Technopole, noting that these were “all sub-adult birds from 2010 and 2011, represents a real increase in summering birds south of the Sahara and a West African summer record count. Several had Spanish rings.” Indeed, Audouin’s Gull can now be seen year-round in Senegal.

Ngoné and colleagues estimated the Palmarin “winter” population to number 445 individuals (278 adults, 167 immatures) based on the modelling they performed on their monthly counts and ring recoveries from the end of 2013 up to end 2015. This seems rather on the low end given that at peak times in October they recorded up to around 700 birds, and that in recent years it’s easy to find more than 300 birds together in the lagoons along the Samba Dia road – surely there are many others scattered throughout the western Saloum delta, e.g. around Sangomar and further south. More on the findings of their study, which was presented under the form of a poster at last year’s PAOC, will be discussed further down.

Current distribution in Senegal

The winter range of the species in Senegal probably hasn’t changed much in the last 20-30 years, with the following areas being regularly used by Audouin’s Gulls:

  • La Grande Côte: Langue de Barbarie and elsewhere in the Senegal delta around Saint-Louis (shores, beach and lagoons), though never in large numbers, with a maximum of c.65 birds in Jan. 2013 (Triplet et al. 2014). On the southern end of the coast, the species is regularly seen at Lac Rose and sometimes at Lac Tanma. It probably also occurs along the beach throughout (I need to ask Wim about this!), especially around the larger fishing towns and villages: Kayar, Mboro, Lompoul, etc.
  • Cap-Vert peninsula: Regular at Lac Rose (e.g. c.60 on 8/8/15, 2 on the beach on 22/1/17, 5 on 14/5/17) and Technopole, where most numerous in January-March, but records from all months except for September (when I rarely visit Technopole); so far my highest count has been a modest 50 birds on 12/3/17. Birds are also regularly seen from Ngor, either migrating or, more often, feeding out at sea. In autumn and winter, one should be able to see Audouin’s Gull pretty much all along the coast from the Pointe des Almadies along Yoff all the way to Lac Rose. I really need to check out the Hann bay from time to time, as there are often lots of gulls and terns. The species has also been reported from Yene-Bargny where is likely still a regular visitor, and may well be numerous at times (in autumn maybe? Birds may favour Technopole later in winter).
  • La Petite Côte: the Somone lagoon seems to be the most regular site, but birds also show up at least irregularly at Popenguine and Mbodiene, and likely feeds off-shore along the entire coast here.
  • Saloum delta: this is of course the main wintering area, that likely holds about 80% of the Senegalese wintering population. Birds are typically concentrated in the lagoons to the north of Palmarin, and do not gather far inland. It should also occur further south in the delta but I have no data from there.
  • Coastal Casamance: the only record I know of is of two birds on 12/10/16 flying north along the beach at Diembering. There certainly are more records (though none on eBird nor observado.org) as Casamance must be the far end of their regular range, given the absence of sightings in nearby Guinea-Bissau.

In terms of population size, my own conservative guestimate puts the current number on 800-1,000 birds, so not any different than the 1,000 birds estimated to winter in Senegal in January 1997, which logically reflects the species’ stable global population trend.

AudouinsGull_Palmarin_20170903_IMG_4376

Audouin’s & Lesser Black-backed Gulls with Caspian Terns at Palmarin, Sept. 2017

 

Elsewhere in West Africa

Isenmann et al. (2010) enumerate lots of records for Mauritania, but little or no info is provided on the evolution of the wintering population in the country, probably because of a lack of historical data. The current status is that of a regular migrant and wintering bird, with at least several hundreds of birds along the coast. Far more birds are said to winter along the Western Sahara coastline. The Gambia is also part of its regular winter range, mainly on and around the Bijol Islands, Tanji Bird Reserve. In 2007/08, about 500 Audouin’s Gulls were counted there. The first Gambian record, as per Morel & Morel, is of a bird at the Bakau Lagoon on 21/2/82.

Surprisingly, the species hasn’t yet been seen in Guinea-Bissau, which is most likely right outside the regular winter area, but surely a few individuals must reach the NW corner of the country, and particularly the Bijagos, given that they are recorded at least from time to time (it would seem) in Casamance and that Gambia is less than a 100 km away from the border. My Oct. 2016 observation near Diembering was barely 20 km from the border and both birds were moving north… In Guinea, the first record was obtained just last year by gull expert Peter Adriaens, a first-winter near Cap Verga on 28/10. The lack of other records from Guinea (and Guinea-Bissau) most likely reflects the absence of observers in the country, rather than a real absence of Audouin’s Gull which surely must at least from time to time reach Guinean waters. This is not the case in relatively well-watched Ghana, where the species is a true vagrant: a first-winter on 13/1/14 was quite an unexpected first for the country, as it had not previously been reported south of Senegambia (Kelly et al. 2014). [note that the species certainly doesn’t winter in Gabon, contra BirdLife International’s species fact sheet].

AudouinsGull_Palmarin_20170903_IMG_4329

 

Now, I still wanted to talk about the origin of wintering birds in Senegal and summarise current knowledge based on ringing recoveries, but my blog post is already getting a bit long… that part will have to wait for a second installment, hopefully a week or two from now.

 

 

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) :

Blog_Dakar_obs_carte

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.

HoodedVulture_Almadies_20160303_IMG_2341

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:

Shikra_Almadies_20170916_IMG_4653

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):

SpeckledPigeon_Almadies_20170916_IMG_4662

SpeckledPigeon_Almadies_20170916_IMG_4660

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.

VariableSunbird_Almadies_20160502_IMG_3150

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.

VillageIndigobird_Almadies_20170829_IMG_3927.

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!

 

 

A Mystery Shrike

Yesterday, Gabriel and I paid a visit to Lac Tanma – our first of the season and of what will hopefully be a series of regular visits there.

We’d barely arrived near the lake, after a couple of failed attempts to find a driveable track towards the lake (too muddy!), when we noticed a shrike sitting on top of a thorny bush. The overall appearance was that of a fairly large, greyish shrike, but quite a few things were just wrong for a Southern Grey Shrike (which given the time of the year would have been surprising to see here, as it typically shows up between December and February/March).

Suspecting a hybrid, we took a number of pictures before the bird flew off, which allowed us to compare with photographs and descriptions of known hybrids. I vaguely remembered that a few years back (it turns out this was in 2010) a similar hybrid had been reported from the French Jura, and that there was a drawing of another French bird in the excellent Shrikes – A Guide to the Shrikes of the World (Lefranc & Worfolk 1997).

This is what our bird looked like:

WoodchatxRedbackedShrike_LacTanma_20170826_IMG_3911

 

In typical shrike fashion, this bird had a distinctive black “Zorro mask” with an otherwise grey head and largely grey back (faintly mottled brown); white scapulars; black wings with a fairly large, elongated off-white patch at the base of the primaries; entirely pale salmon-pink underparts (from the throat all the way to the vent); and a white rump contrasting with its long black tail. In the field we noted some narrow pale borders to tertiaries, but these are not well visible in the pictures.

While a lot of hybrids between two bird species typically resemble both parents in one way or another, showing intermediate characteristics, this is not the case here. Our bird superficially looks like a Southern Grey Shrike, but clearly isn’t one: the buffish underparts especially, but also the seemingly all-dark tail (no white outer rectrices) and the lack of distinct white markings on the tertials and secondaries. Moreover, the structure and size – even though our bird seemed quite large – were not right for Southern Grey which is larger and more powerful (cf. a couple of pictures taken last winter in Palmarin). The same pretty much applies to Lesser Grey Shrike, which in addition has a black mask that extends to the forehead and lacks the white scapulars.

So who are the parents? Based on comparisons with pictures of hybrid shrikes and with the drawing and description in Lefranc & Worfolk, these types of birds are considered to be hybrid Woodchat x Red-backed Shrikes. The former is the most common Palearctic shrike species in Senegal, while the latter doesn’t usually occur in West Africa. The black mask, grey head, and “pinkish-white” underparts are typical of Red-backed, while the white scapulars, rump and wing patch are indicative of Woodchat. The grey back is a bit odd but has also been observed on other presumed hybrids with these two species as parents, and the faint brownish mottling hints at a hybrid origin. Another option would be a hybrid Woodchat x Lesser Grey Shrike, though there’s apparently only one such suspected bird that has been observed, in Hungary in 1979 (Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, McCarthy 2006). Much less likely, and one would expect at the minimum a black front on such hybrids¹.

WoodchatxRedbackedShrike_LacTanma_20170826_IMG_3916

Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike / Pie-grièche à tête rousse x écorcheur

WoodchatxRedbackedShrike_LacTanma_20170826_IMG_3921

Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike / Pie-grièche à tête rousse x écorcheur

WoodchatxRedbackedShrike_LacTanma_20170826_IMG_3917

Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike / Pie-grièche à tête rousse x écorcheur

 

Now compare our bird with the painting of a hybrid noted in France in 1995, fig. 26g:

IMG_3926

Source: Lefranc & Worfolk (1997)

Comments on the identification of this bird are more than welcome of course!

As far as I know, this is the first record of such a hybrid in (West) Africa; all other published data are from birds on migration or on breeding grounds in Europe. In recent years there’s been one such bird in Switzerland (April 2014), one in the French Lot department (May 2014), while hybrid males have bred (successfully!) with female Red-backed Shrikes in  2005 in South-East Belgium (short note available in PDF here), and in 2010 and 2011 in France. Pictures of the 2010 Jura bird can be found e.g. here and here. At least 12 mixed pairs have been found in France, but it seems that nothing is known on the whereabouts of these birds outside the breeding season: do they migrate to East Africa just like Red-backed Shrikes, or can they be found anywhere in Woodchat Shrike’s wintering grounds? Lefranc & Worfolk describe the latter as “a vast belt running across the African continent just south of the Sahara and largely north of the huge forest areas”. Our observation would suggest that they can show up anywhere in that area.

Other than our peculiar shrike, we had a pretty good morning out birding, with close to 100 species seen. Lac Tanma didn’t hold an awful lot of waders (a few hundred only, mostly Black-winged Stilts) but we did confirm breeding once again of Kittlitz’s Plover, while a female Knob-billed Duck also showed signs of breeding as it was seen flying around several times (and sometimes calling, which is associated with courtship behaviour). There were about 250 Greater Flamingos (and ca. 220 more at lac Mbaouane), several Gull-billed, Caspian, and White-winged Terns, but very few herons. A surprise find was that of three Spotted Thick-knees on the edge of the lake’s floodplain, quite close to the main road. Several Diederik, African and Jacobin Cuckoos were seen or heard, as were a few Broad-billed Rollers (another wet season visitor) and a single Purple (=Rufous-crowned) Roller. As usual, Mosque Swallows were hawking insects above the lake shore and the baobab forest; the latter also had a singing Hoopoe and several Woodland and Grey-headed Kingfishers. Besides the shrike, the only European songbirds that we spotted were two Melodious Warblers.

A Purple Heron at a small marsh near the village of Beer was my first of the season; we also found African Swamp-hen, Red-eyed Dove, and African Thrush here. Lac Mbaouane was visited only briefly and we just scanned the NW side of the lake, which had a few dozen Common Ringed Plovers and some Little Stints, while a few Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were flying over and a Red-necked Falcon dashed over the lake as it was hunting.

IMG_3923 (2)

Lac Mbaouane

 

(Regular readers will wonder what’s happening at Technopole. Well, I paid my first visit in three (!) weeks this morning, together with Theo. Water levels are rising with every shower, so conditions are getting less ideal for waders. Still a few hundred Ruffs, some Curlew Sandpipers, ca. 50 Sanderling and a few Little Stints, a handful of Black-tailed and a single Bar-tailed Godwit, Marsh, Green, Wood & Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, Redshank, a few migrating Whimbrels, etc. Also Shikra, a Hoopoe, and again a Broad-billed Roller to name but the most interesting records. The most unusual record this past week was actually one from Almadies: a Hadada Ibis flying over our house one morning! More on that one later, if I get the chance to write something up.)

 

¹ N. Lefranc mentioned that a mixed pair senator x minor was found in France last year. And that so far, no hybrid or mixed pairs senator x meridionalis have been recorded.

The Dakar Vultures once again / Les vautours dakarois, une fois de plus

(version française en bas, sous les photos)

Short post today, simply to announce that last month a paper on our study on Dakar’s Hooded Vultures was published in Ostrich, the Journal of African Ornithology.

“The decline of an urban Hooded Vulture population in Dakar, Senegal, over 50 years” describes in more detail the findings that were presented at last year’s PAOC by lead author Wim Mullié, and is part of a special vultures issue of the journal. This allowed us to further refine our analyses and to dig a little deeper into the possible causes of the important decline – which even if they remain unconfirmed hypotheses, are likely to provide better insights into the species’ requirements in terms of feeding, nesting and roosting. And which hopefully will contribute to specific protection measures.

I’m pleased to announce that I can share the paper freely through this blog, hoping that it may be of interest to some of our readers: click HERE to download the PDF version of the article (2 MB); for those with less time I’ve copied the abstract here:

As in many West African cities, in Dakar Hooded Vultures Necrosyrtes monachus have always been characteristic urban scavengers. The recent decline of Hooded Vultures in other parts of Africa, mainly eastern Africa, has been the reason in 2015 for up-listing of its status by the IUCN in the Red List of Threatened Species to Critically Endangered. As the Hooded Vulture is still common in the Lower Casamance, Senegal, in the Western Region of The Gambia and in Guinea-Bissau, without clear signs of a recent decrease, a survey of its current status in Dakar was undertaken and compared with historical data over the past 50 years. A strong decrease of >85% was noted from 3 000 individuals in 1969 to 400 in 2016. This decline is on the high end of the decline noticed over much of its range but in striking contrast with the apparently stable populations along the West African coast more to the south (The Gambia to Guinea). Likely causes are (1) exponential urbanisation resulting in loss of feeding sites and reduced food availability, (2) increased poisoning of feral dogs with strychnine sulphate due to an upsurge of rabies and (3) increased disappearance of suitable trees for nesting and roosting.

Fred Bacuez kindly informed me that the paper was also referenced on the website of the Vulture Conservation Foundation, who highlight the importance of the Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan (MsAP), which “includes all African vulture species [and which] will hopefully be approved by all signatory states in the next Conference of the Parties this fall, and will then be a significant tool to address these massive poisoning incidents and therefore revert the continuing decline of African vultures.” This is much needed of course, but ultimately it will come down to implementing substantial conservation actions – a large part of which comes down to sensitising and educating local communities, and to adequate law enforcement to stop the trade in vulture parts.

 

HoodedVulture_Almadies_20160303_IMG_2347

Hooded Vulture / Vautour charognard imm. aux Almadies

Hooded Vulture / Vautour charognard

Hooded Vulture / Vautour charognard ad. aux Almadies

 

Billet rapide (mais bilingue!) aujourd’hui, simplement pour annoncer la publication, le mois dernier, de l’article résultant de notre étude sur les Vautours charognards de Dakar, dans le journal d’ornithologie africaine Ostrich.

Intitulé “Déclin d’une population urbaine de Vautours charognards Necrosyrtes monachus sur 50 ans à Dakar, Sénégal”, l’article décrit de manière plus détaillée les résultats que Wim Mullié, l’auteur principal de l’article, avait déjà présentés lors du congrès d’ornithologie panafricain (le PAOC) l’an dernier, et fait partie d’un numéro spécial sur les vautours. Ceci nous a permis de creuser un peu plus les analyses et surtout les causes possibles du déclin important – qui même si elles restent à l’état d’hypothèses non confirmées, peuvent aider à mieux comprendre les besoins de l’espèce en matière de nourrissage, reproduction et reposoirs. Et qui, nous l’espérons, pourront contribuer à mettre en place des mesures de protection spécifiques.

J’ai le plaisir de partager l’article à travers ce blog, en espérant qu’il soit utile pour nos lecteurs: cliquez ICI pour télécharger la version PDF (2 MB); le résumé est repris ci-dessous pour ceux qui n’auraient pas le temps (ou l’envie!) de lire l’article entier:

A Dakar, comme dans de nombreux centres urbains de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, les Vautours Charognards Necrosyrtes monachus ont toujours été des charognards caractéristiques de ces villes. Le récent déclin des Vautours charognards dans d’autres parties de l’Afrique, principalement en Afrique de l’Est, a motivé, en 2015, son inscription sur la Liste rouge de l’UICN comme espèce menacée « En danger critique d’extinction ». Cependant le Vautour charognard est encore commun en Basse Casamance (Sénégal), dans la partie occidentale de la Gambie et en Guinée-Bissau sans indicateurs d’un déclin de sa population. Ainsi une enquête sur son statut actuel à Dakar a été menée afin d’effectuer une comparaison avec les données disponibles des 50 dernières années. Une forte baisse (>85%) a été notée de 3 000 individus en 1969 à 400 en 2016. Ce déclin correspond aux chutes des populations ailleurs en Afrique mais contraste avec les populations apparemment stables de la Gambie à la Guinée. Les causes probables de déclin sont (1) une urbanisation galopante entraînant une perte de sites d’alimentation et ene réduction de la disponibilité de nourriture, (2) une intoxication accrue de chiens sauvages avec du sulfate de strychnine due à une recrudescence de la rage et (3) une disparition accrue des arbres appropriés pour la nidification et le repos.

Fred Bacuez vient de m’informer que l’article a été mentionné sur le site web de la Vulture Conservation Foundation, qui soulignent l’importance du Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan (MsAP), qui “inclut toutes les espèces de vautours africains [et qui] sera, on l’espère, ratifié par tous les Etats signataires lors de la prochaine Conférence des Parties cet automne, et qui deviendra alors un outil important pour remédier aux incidents d’empoisonnements massifs en vue d’infléchir le déclin continu des vautours africains.” C’est très nécessaire bien sûr, mais à la fin du compte ce ne sont que des actions concrètes qui pourront aider nos vautours – ce qui revient en grande partie à la sensibilisation et à l’éducation des communautes locales, et à l’application effective des mesures légales pour mettre fin au commerce des parts de vautours.

A New Shade of Pink (Technopole #222)

Yesterday’s weekly Technopole visit once again turned up a new species for the site. I’d been scanning and counting the numerous waders on the SW end of the main lake for over an hour, when I turned my attention the flock of Greater Flamingos that were feeding nearby. Two ringed birds proved to be tricky to read, one ring being very faded and the other one, also on an adult bird, was largely covered in mud – more on this further down in this post. I then started to count the flock, and after reaching the 200 mark (there were a total of 289 birds, so nearly 120 more than last week), I noticed a much hoped-for different shade of pink, darker and more intense: an adult Lesser Flamingo!

LesserFlamingo_Technopole_20170806_IMG_3650

Lesser Flamingo / Flamant nain

 

The noticeably smaller size, bright orange eye, and largely uniform dark crimson bill (or is it vermilion?) bill quickly confirmed the ID.

As far as I know, this is the first record of the species at Technopole, though of course that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t already occurred here: it may well have gone unnoticed or else unreported (which given the lack of any sort of bird observation recording system or central database would not be surprising! More on that in another post…)

It’s definitely not an unexpected addition (as predicted a few months ago), given that the species must regularly migrate along Senegal’s coast between the  Senegal and Saloum deltas. However, neither Morel & Morel nor Sauvage & Rodwell mention the species from the Dakar atlas square. This bird obviously got mixed in with a group of Greater Flamingos, possibly on their way down to the Saloum or moving between post-breeding dispersal areas in the region (Lac Rose, and soon maybe Lac Tanma when it will start filling up).

LesserFlamingo_Technopole_20170806_IMG_3642

Lesser Flamingo / Flamant nain

Lesser Flamingo is listed as a Near-Threatened species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In short, the “NT” category typically includes declining or otherwise vulnerable species that in the medium to longer term are faced with the risk of extinction; as such they are likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future. Despite having a vast range in the Old World, covering large parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent, Phoenicopterus (or Phoeniconaias) minor breeds only in a handful of sites in the world, with just six main colonies located in Mauritania, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, the Tanzanian Rift Valley, and NW India. Other sites may be used irregularly, e.g. in Kenya and Pakistan.

Its global population is still pretty substantial with some 2-3 million individuals, mostly in East Africa, but it is extremely vulnerable to changes in conditions of those very few sites, whether induced by climate change or by a range of human disruptions to the environment. For instance, the IUCN species’ fact sheet tells us that “the proposed large-scale soda ash extraction at Lake Natron, the most important breeding colony, although currently on hold, would be disastrous for this species and, were this to happen, the species may qualify for uplisting to a higher threat category.” Read up a little bit more about this conservation issue and the actions that BirdLife and partners have taken here. Excessive predation by Jackals, African Wolves and even Warthogs and Honey Badgers may result in poor or even complete failure of breeding success. And at least in Mauritania poaching is also a problem.

The West-African population is thought to number about 15,000-25,000 birds (compared to over a million for East Africa), concentrated in the lower Senegal valley with the most regular breeding site being the lagoons of Aftout es Sâheli in the Diawling NP in southern Mauritania. Up to 46,500 birds have been counted in the Senegal delta (Feb. 1990), but breeding is not annual: according to Isenmann et al. it occurred only in 1965, 1988 (though all attempts failed that year), 2000, 2005, and 2010; it was suspected but not confirmed in 1998, 1999 and 2007. More recently, the species has bred at least in 2014 (a bit more info is available on the Diawling NP’s website, and see this video from the parc).

LesserFlamingo_Technopole_20170806_IMG_3652

Lesser Flamingo / Flamant nain

Its movements, and generally speaking its overall ecology, are largely dictated by feeding conditions as it is a highly specialised species; as a result, birds tend to respond rapidly to changing water levels and food availability (spirulina and other blue-green algae, small invertebrates). Fun fact: the Lesser Flamingo’s bill contains up to 10,000 microscopic lamellae!

At least one of the ringed Greater Flamingos was Spanish: I don’t have full details as I’m yet to submit the sighting, but judging by the code (white ring with black inscription “2|CZR”) it’s a bird that was ringed in 2013 at the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra in Malaga, which is also the origin of one born in 2014 and seen in June 2015 at Technopole. Coincidentally, the three ringed birds from the Camargue that I found last year were seen on the same date as yesterday’s birds: 6 August.

GreaterFlamingo_Technopole_20170806_IMG_3596

Greater Flamingo / Flamant rose

Other than that, there was an interesting gull that will require a bit more work, and probably better pictures, in order to establish its ID. I’m suspecting Kelp Gull because of the massive bill and the large, stocky appearance, but am by no means a gull expert and will want to consult a few others first (contributions welcome!). I’ll get back to this one in due time – if it is indeed a Kelp rather than Lesser Black-backed Gull, one of which was present nearby, then it would mean yet another potential addition to the site list.

Gullspec_Technopole_20170806_IMG_3625

Kelp Gull? / Goéland dominicain?

 

As I mentioned, I’d been counting waders for the first hour or so, which I continued doing on the opposite end of the pool close to the golf club house, where more birds were feeding. This resulted in some pretty good numbers especially for Ruff with a minimum of 598 (!) birds, at least one of which was colour-ringed with a yellow flag in combination with other rings – unfortunately it flew off shortly after I’d found it, never to be seen again… probably a Dutch bird. Some of the males were still largely in breeding plumage, such as this one:

Ruff_Technopole_20170806_IMG_3674

Ruff / Combattant varié

 

Another wader highlight was the very decent diversity of calidris sandpipers: two summer-plumaged adult Dunlins, no less than seven Knots (my highest count here), with a supporting cast of several Curlew Sandpipers (9), Sanderlings (11) and Little Stints (12). There were now only 22 Black-tailed Godwits and just one Marsh Sandpiper, while the four Avocets seem to have finally moved on. Two Common Sandpipers on the other hand were most likely newly arrived birds.

 

[Note (13/8/17): it turns out that the Lesser Flamingo had already been photographed on August 3rd by J-M Dupart, but apparently was not identified at such at the time; I triple-checked my pictures of the flock that was present on 29/7 but it definitely wasn’t present at the time.]

La RNC du Boundou: observations d’oiseaux en saison sèche 2016/2017

Bien loin des portes de Dakar ou de Saint-Louis, il y a un petit coin du Sénégal qui résiste à l’indifférence environnementale généralisée: la réserve naturelle communautaire du Boundou.

Nous en avions déjà parlé l’an dernier lorsque Jean Delannoy avait établi la liste commentée des oiseaux de la réserve, agrémentée d’une petite présentation et de quelques beaux clichés d’espèces phares du site: (re-)lisez l’article ici.

Four-banded Sandgrouse / Ganga quadribande

Four-banded Sandgrouse / Ganga quadribande (J. Delannoy)

Cette fois, c’est Gabriel Caucanas, volontaire de Solidarité Internationale au Conservatoire de la RNC du Boundou, qui nous présente un rapport ornithologique de la saison sèche 2016/2017.

Si la lecture d’un tel rapport, qui se limite souvent à une longue liste d’espèces pleine de dates, d’effectifs maximaux et autres données de nidification, vous parait rébarbative, détrompez-vous! Ce rapport est vraiment très accessible et est très agréable à lire. Et de plus il est richement illustré, présentant bon nombre des espèces vues au cours de la période. Merci donc au Chargé d’appui à l’éducation, à l’environnement, au développement local et aux suivis écologiques!

De plus, une telle liste présente bien sur un intéret ornithologique certain. Pas moins de 28 nouvelles espèces ont été ajoutées à la liste des oiseaux de la RNCB cette saison. Au total, 195 espèces ont été observées du mois d’octobre 2016 au mois de mai 2017. La liste des oiseaux de la réserve compte ainsi 234 espèces au 1er juin 2017.

L’observation la plus marquante est peut-être bien celle d’un piaf plutot inattendu: le Moineau domestique! Au moins un couple a été observé et photographié dans le village de Sansanding du 12 décembre au 23 avril, ce qui semble constituer une nouvelle extension de son aire de répartition connue. Espèce commune à Dakar et dans bon nombre de localités côtières, il n’en est pas autant à l’intérieur des terres où le moineau ne semble pas encore bien implanté. Parmi les  autres “premières” pour le site se trouvent bon nombre de migrateurs paléarctiques, mais aussi quelques africains, migrateurs (Blongios de Sturm, Least Bittern), erratiques (Courvite à ailes bronzées, Bronze-winged Courser) et résidents (Gladiateur de Blanchot, Grey-headed Bush-shrikeBruant à ventre jaune, Brown-rumped Bunting).

Vous pouvez consulter le rapport complet (en format PDF) directement sur le site de la RNCB.

AfricanHarrierHawk_Boundou_IMG_1224_done-G-Caucanas

African Harrier-Hawk / Gymnogene (G. Caucanas)

 

Remarquablement bien suivi, ornithologiquement parlant, Boundou, c’est bien plus que les oiseaux: on avait déjà mentionné la présence de la Gazelle à front roux, du Lion, duLéopard, de l’Hippopotame ou encore du Ratel. Mais ça ne s’arrête pas là… preuve en est ce superbe Serval que Gabriel a eu la chance de voir en juin dernier. Que je suis jaloux! Faudra vraiment que je réussisse à me rendre sur place un de ces jours…

Serval_GabrielCaucanas_juin2017_RNCBoundou

Serval (G. Caucanas)