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Shearwaters off Ngor, 15/04

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

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

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

Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii

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

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Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

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

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Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

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

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Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

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

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

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

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Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

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

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

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Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea

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

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

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

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Scopoli’s Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli

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

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

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

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Scopoli’s Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli

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

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

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

Scopoli's Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli

Scopoli’s Shearwater / Puffin de Scopoli

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

(post updated 24/4)

La semaine de l’ornithologie africaine: Dakar à l’honneur!

Comme déjà annoncé dans des articles12931175_1561013300863033_7092239335486732336_n précédents, le congrès panafricain d’ornithologie (PAOC) s’est tenu le mois dernier à Ngor. Comme l’évènement a eu lieu à deux pas de chez moi, c’était une opportunité unique de participer à cette conférence qui ne se tient que tous les 4 ans (comme les JO !), d’autant plus que c’était le premier congrès à se tenir dans un pays francophone de l’Afrique de l’Ouest. Plus de 200 ornithologues se sont retrouvés à Dakar, qui fut donc l’espace d’une semaine la capitale de l’ornithologie africaine.

Beaucoup de présentations et de discussions intéressantes bien sûr, et aussi l’occasion de rencontrer des passionnés des quatre coins de l’Afrique, d’Europe et des Etats-Unis. Malheureusement, les chercheurs africains restent sous-représentés et on s’y rend bien compte que beaucoup de travaux scientifiques en Afrique se font toujours par les occidentaux… A souligner tout de même une bonne présence sénégalaise, notamment de la part de NCD, les divers doctorant(e)s de l’UCAD, les dames de la nouvelle structure Ornitourisme Sénégal, et les équipes régionales d’Alcyon et de BirdLife. Et bon nombre d’officiels qui ne se sont pointés que pour la séance d’ouverture présidée par le Ministre de l’Environnement, M. Abdoulaye Baldé.

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Cérémonie d’ouverture du 14e PAOC

Un programme très chargé pendant 5 jours donc bien trop de matière pour énumérer ici, d’autant plus que je n’ai pu assister qu’a certaines séances faute de temps… mentionnons tout de même que les rapaces, et en particulier les vautours, étaient à l’honneur pendant toute la conférence. Je me contenterai ici de reprendre quelques présentations et posters traitant d’études interessantes menées au Sénégal, pays particulièrement bien représenté lors de cette édition du PAOC :

  • Etat de conservation des oiseaux marins du Parc National des Iles de la Madeleine, Sénégal (S. Ndiaye et al.)
  • Dynamic of the black-tailed godwit, Limosa limosa and fidelity to Senegalese wintering grounds (K. Gueye et al.)
  • Feeding ecology of red-billed tropicbirds on two islands in the tropical Atlantic (N. Diop)
  • Discharge from future oil production facilities off Senegal: Is the Royal tern Thalasseus maximus albidorsalis at risk? (W. Mullié & J. Veen)
  • Population Structure, Movement and Survival of Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouini) in the Wintering Area (Palmarin, Senegal) (N. Diop et al.)
  • Perceptions of Senegalese fishermen regarding interactions between seabirds and industrial fisheries (A. Badara Marone et al.)
  • Seabird interactions with small-scale fisheries in Senegal (M. Diop et al.)
  • Reproduction de la grue couronnée Balearica pavonina pavonina en Casamance, Sénégal (I. B. Sanné)
  • Monitoring of Birdlife by the Guides and the Guards of Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal (S. Souané et al.), disponible sur le site du GIE NIOKOLO.
  • Exponential decrease of an urban Hooded Vulture population in Dakar, Senegal, over 50 years (W. Mullié et al.). Un article sur ce travail collectif entamé en début d’année suivra prochainement sur ce site.
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Wim en train de présenter notre travail sur les Vautours charognards

C’est aussi l’occasion de partager le poster que j’ai présenté sur xeno-canto car il me tenait à cœur de faire la promotion de cette fabuleuse ressource encore trop méconnue en Afrique (attention fichier PDF au format affiche A0!).

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J’ai eu le plaisir de rencontrer plusieurs personnalités de l’ornithologie africaine, dont Jean-Marc Thiollay, Fleur Ng’weno du Kenya qui organise depuis plus de 45 ans les fameux bird walks hebdomadaires à Nairobi, le Colonel Abdoulaye Ndiaye (chairman du PAOC), ou encore les amis de l’African Bird Club.

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Fleur Ng’weno en train d’observer un Faucon chicquera dans le jardin du Calao

Bien sûr, le PAOC c’est aussi l’occasion de faire un peu de terrain, et tout le monde a été d’accord pour dire que Dakar n’a pas déçu ! Le Technopole aura rarement été aussi bien couvert, et tous les matins et soirs il y avait du monde à scruter l’océan. Voici quelques highlights de la semaine :

  • Tout d’abord ce Fou à pieds rouges vu – et photographié – pendant une sortie en mer organisée par le congrès… que j’ai malheureusement loupée car trop de boulot… Une première pour le Sénégal ; une note est en cours de préparation et paraîtra dans un des prochains bulletins de l’African Bird Club. Les participants à l’excursion se sont visiblement régalés par les centaines de Puffins du Cap-Vert, mais aussi Puffins majeur, cendré, des Anglais, Océanites de Wilson et autres labbes (5 espèces !)
  • Passage assez important de “grands” labbes, dont le statut ici n’est toujours pas clair : probablement en majorité des Labbes de McCormick, mais certainement aussi des Grands Labbes.
  • Une Foulque macroule égarée a été trouvée le 16/10 au Technopole par Marshall Iliff et Chris Wood d’eBird; toujours présente lors de ma dernière visite la semaine passée (franchement je ne pensais pas un jour aller cocher cette espèce !)
  • Toujours au Technopole, une nouvelle espèce est venue s’ajouter à la liste déjà considérable : la Chevechêtte perlée, observée par Evan Buechley et Wouter Vanseelant le 26/10.
  • Trois Cigognes épiscopales vues au Lac Tanma lors d’une sortie avec Jean-Marc Thiollay et Evan Buechley le 16/10 étaient tout à fait inattendues ici.

September Seabirds

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

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

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

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

Shearwaters

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

Waders

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

Skuas

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

Gulls

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

Terns

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

Others

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

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

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

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

 

Le “seawatch” à Dakar en septembre

Dakar est bien connue, depuis une vingtaine d’années, pour sa position stratégique pour l’observation de la migration des oiseaux de mer. Sa situation unique, au bout de la presqu’île du Cap-Vert à l’extrémité occidentale du continent africain, en fait sans doute l’un des meilleurs spots de « seawatch » au monde.

Fraîchement arrivé à Dakar en début d’année, j’étais donc impatient de voir par moi-même ce spectacle de la migration des oiseaux marins tel que décrit notamment sur le site très instructif de Seawatching in Senegal. Le passage d’octobre et début novembre est bien documenté, mais il y a eu peu d’efforts de suivi plus tôt dans la saison (août/septembre) et au printemps. Quelques séances d’observation entre notre arrivée en février et la mi-avril m’avaient déjà mis l’eau à la bouche, bien que la migration postnuptiale soit réputée bien plus spectaculaire que celle du printemps. J’avais notamment fait quelques heures d’observation depuis la Pointe des Almadies et depuis la terrasse de l’hôtel Le Calao à Ngor, ainsi qu’une sortie en mer bien mémorable. Les photos ci-dessous ont été faites depuis le bateau au large de Ngor et des Almadies à l’occasion de cette sortie le 18 avril: Mouette de Sabine, Fous de Bassan, et Puffin fuligineux (tout en bas de l’article).

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Au cours du weekend dernier, les vents avaient enfin tourné vers le Nord / Nord-Ouest, après un mois d’août très humide et avec des vents dominants du sud et donc peu propices à l’observation des oiseaux de mer depuis la terre ferme. Une brève séance le samedi matin depuis la Pointe des Almadies n’avait produit que quelques labbes, la plupart lointains, et un peu de sternes et guifettes,  mais dimanche matin je suis donc parti plein d’anticipation en direction du Calao. Arrivé sur place à 7h30, une forte averse éclate et j’attends donc la fin des pluies diluviennes. J’hésite même à rentrer bredouille mais au bout de 40 minutes la pluie s’arrête enfin, et à peine sorti de la voiture je vois rapidement les premiers labbes passer à bonne vitesse, pour la plupart bien loin.

Je m’installe donc sur la fameuse terrasse puis je commence le suivi. Au bout d’une heure, après bientôt 200 labbes, un océanite sp., un Puffin des Anglais, un autre de type cendré, une Mouette de Sabine, plusieurs petits groupes de Guifettes noires et autres sternes, je décide de me déplacer sur l’île de Ngor car les oiseaux passent bien plus près de l’île que de la terre ferme. Vu l’intensité du passage, le déplacement vers l’île devrait valoir le coup. En quittant le site, je suis très surpris de voir débarquer deux toubabs avec des jumelles au cou, télescope et trépied à la main ! Il s’avère que ce sont deux hollandais de passage pour leur travail avec Wetlands International, arrivés la veille depuis les Pays-Bas. Je les convaincs (très facilement !) de partir sur Ngor ensemble. La plage où l’on prend le bateau pour l’île est à 5 minutes de là, mais toute la procédure – paiement de la taxe de 500 CFA, enfilement du gilet de sauvetage plus ou moins obligatoire, chargement du premier bateau assurant la navette avec l’île, débarquement sur la plage – prend un peu de temps. On s’installe sur la côte nord de l’île, à l’abri du soleil, et on commence le suivi à trois.

Le passage des labbes est un peu moins intense qu’avant, mais beaucoup passent près de nous, permettant d’en identifier une bonne partie. Ce sont donc essentiellement des Labbes parasites qu’on identifie, mais sur la petite centaine de labbes qu’on dénombre en à peine deux heures de suivi se trouvent aussi quelques Labbes à longue queue et pomarins. Comme on pouvait s’y attendre, les parasites sont visiblement bien plus nombreux à cette date que les pomarins dont la migration postnuptiale commence plus tard et qui dès octobre constitue généralement l’espèce de labbe dominante ici. A ajouter au tableau, deux “grands” labbes, loin et rapides… sachant qu’il est tout aussi possible de voir le Grand Labbe que le Labbe de McCormick on préfère donc les noter comme grand labbe sp…. Entre deux labbes, on répère à tour de rôle un océanite, un puffin, des petits groupes de Mouettes de Sabine, plusieurs Sternes de Dougall parmi les pierregarins, caugeks et royales, ou encore un vol de limicoles – Bécasseaux sanderlings, mais aussi un ou deux groupes de Phalaropes à bec large répérés par Ward. Les océanites sont trop loins pour pouvoir les identifier même si on soupçonne surtout des Wilson, alors que plusieurs puffins se laissent identifier tant bien que mal: facile pour les fuligineux même au loin, encore un Puffin des Anglais filant rapidement vers le Sud, plus délicat pour un puffin de type cendré, et carrément difficile pour un petit puffin qui est probablement un Puffin de Macaronésie (baroli). Je dois rentrer au bout de deux heures de suivi bien excitantes et en agréable compagnie mais je serai sans doute de retour très prochainement, sachant que ce n’est que le début de la saison!

Voilà pour ce premier « post » (on dit billet je crois) sur ce blog que j’ai le privilège de reprendre suite au départ de Paul qui, avec quelques collègues, avait fait vivre ce blog pendant son séjour au Sénégal. Je m’introduirai correctement la prochaine fois et j’espère pouvoir partager des nouvelles illustrées, voire sonorisées, de manière régulière ici.

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Puffin fuligineux / Sooty Shearwater, Ngor, 18 avril 2015

Ile de Ngor 1 October

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Four hours of staring at the sea, hopefully motivating a student who had seen none of her target study species for a month, produced a very short list of the two daily present terns (Sandwich and Royal) and one pomarine skua.  I distracted myself for a while by photographing sheep, then noticed a familiar looking butterfly feeding on the cliff top.

painted lady

It is painted lady, a species found throughout Europe. I had no idea, as quick Google Scholar search revealed,  that this species migrates between  Europe and West Africa, though in a rather different manner from birds. Migration is staged over several months and several generations. The species breeds throughout the year,  adults flying south from Europe in summer , breeding and dying and the next generation continuing the southwards migration.

Paul

Ngor seabirds

3 species of shearwaterThe spring seabird spectacle off Dakar seems to have truly ended for this year. My last two visits to Ile de Ngor, today (6 June) and last weekend (1 June) produced, of non-breeding birds for West Africa, only a few pomarine skuas, Sandwich and black terns, sub-adult common terns sufficiently numerous to be likely of European origin  and one sooty shearwater. A few Cape Verde shearwaters and fewer Cory’s shearwaters, the latter perhaps Canary Isles birds, still forage offshore. This photo, showing the three shearwater species, and the one below of rafting Cape Verde shearwaters, are from mid-May off Ngor, courtesy of Sharad Shridhar.

Shearwater Flock   A new species for me for Senegal today, unfortunately with no photo, was an immature brown booby that flew very close past the cliffs at Ngor. The brief, intensive seawatching weeks in October documented on the Senegal Seawatching web site have recorded between none and three birds annually and undocumented records suggest occasional individuals in the vicinity of Iles de la Madeleine off Dakar most years, so this seems to be a scarce annual visitor. The nearest breeding colonies are some 600km to the  west (Cape Verde) and 400km to the  south-east (Alcatraz, off Guinea).

Paul