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Les oiseaux de Wassadou

Ah, Wassadou!! On a déjà parlé à quelques reprises du campement de Wassadou, site maintenant bien établi sur le circuit ornitho sénégalais, notamment ici et . Après avoir découvert trop brièvement ce coin fabuleux en février dernier, un long weekend en juin a été l’occasion d’y retourner en compagnie de Miguel puis de Gabriel qui nous a rejoint sur place. Que du bonheur! J’avais donc envie de vous présenter un peu plus ce petit coin de paradis et de partager quelques photos prises sur place.

Voici en vrac quelques espèces, à commencer par les rapaces. Il y a ici une incroyable diversité de rapaces diurnes, tous visibles depuis la terrasse naturelle du campement surplombant le fleuve Gambie. Dès le milieu de la matinée, vers 10-11h, il suffit de s’installer sur le promontoire, et le défilé commence: Aigles de Wahlberg, ravisseur et huppardPygargue vocifère, Buse d’AfriqueBusautour des sauterelles, Circaète brun, Autour unibandeEpervier shikra, Balbuzard pêcheur, Bateleur, bien sur les Gymnogènes et aussi cet autre rapace unique en son genre, le Vautour palmiste.

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Palm-nut Vulture / Vautour palmiste

Ainsi en juin nous avons pu observer pas moins de 14 rapaces différents. Sur les quelques 227 espèces contactées ces dernières années à Wassadou et dans les environs immédiats du campement, il y a pas moins de 28 rapaces, plus 4 faucons – impressionnant! Il y a d’ailleurs toujours de quoi voir lorsqu’on scrute le ciel: avec un peu de chance, on verra la Cigogne épiscopale ou un Jabiru, et parmi les nombreux martinets se cachent peut-etre quelques Martinets marbrés, espèce connue dans le pays uniquement du PNNK et dont nous avons pu voir plusieurs individus en juin.

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Wahlberg’s Eagle / Aigle de Wahlberg

Le Pluvian fluviatile est sans doute l’une des stars du site, et de plus il est généralement facile à voir ici, en train de parcourir les bancs de sable des abords du fleuve. J’imagine qu’au plus fort de la saison des pluies (août/septembre-octobre), lorsque la Gambie déborde parfois largement de ses berges pour inonder le campement même, ces oiseaux sont alors absents mais sinon le reste de l’année ils semblent bien fidèles au poste. Idem d’ailleurs pour le Grébifoulque, cet autre oiseau spectaculaire qu’on aura le plaisir de voir à Wassadou.

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Egyptian Plover / Pluvian fluviatile (A. Barbalat)

Autre spécialité locale, le Vanneau à tête blanche est plus difficile à voir et il faut parfois attendre un peu avant de le voir surgir de nulle part, lui aussi fréquentant les berges et zones exondés du fleuve. Comme le Pluvian, ce limicole s’observera le plus facilement lors d’une sortie en pirogue.

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White-crowned Lapwing / Vanneau à tête blanche

Les martin-pêcheurs sont particulièrement bien représentés à Wassadou, toutes les espèces régulières du Sénégal peuvent être vues ici. Le Martin-chasseur à poitrine bleue est commun, lançant son chant étonnant à longueur de journée. Toujours discret et imprévisible, le Martin-pêcheur azuré a été observé à plusieurs reprises ces dernières années et est à rechercher dans l’ombrage des buissons surpblombant la rivière aux alentours du campement, ou s’observera furtivement lors d’un déplacement d’une rive à une autre. Les Guêpiers à gorge rouge nichent dans les berges, et en saison sèche il est possible de voir des Guêpiers écarlates survolant la zone, parfois en effectifs impressionnants.

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Blue-breasted Kingfisher / Martin-chasseur à poitrine bleue

On continue avec une espèce phare d’un tout autre registre, la Tourterelle de l’Adamoua. Découverte en Gambie et au Sénégal il y a une trentaine d’années seulement (Baillon 1992), cette tourterelle est relativement facile à trouver lors des sorties en pirogue sur la Gambie, de préférence tôt le matin ou le soir lorsque les oiseaux viennent s’abreuver. Et avec un peu de chance on la croisera dans la ripisylve aux alentours du campement, comme l’oiseau ci-dessous:

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Adamawa Turtle-Dove / Tourterelle de l’Adamoua

Parmi les passereaux les plus remarquables, citons entre autres le Noircap loriot, l’Apalis à gorge jaune, Prinia à ailes rousses, Gobemouche des marais, Gobemouche drongo, Tchitrec bleuHyliote à ventre jauneSouimanga violet, Amarantes pointé et masqué (même celui de Kulikoro a été signalé non loin d’ici). Le Combassou de Wilson et la Veuve togolaise ont tous les deux été rapportés sur eBird. Du côté des hivernants, en février dernier on a eu entre autres le Rossignol philomèle, l’Hypolais obscure, le Phragmite des joncs, et de manière bien moins attendu un Pouillot ibérique chanteur – tous le long du fleuve. C’est là également qu’il faut rechercher la Bergeronnette pie, espèce très répandue en Afrique subsaharienne mais plutôt localisée au Sénégal, qui comme plusieurs autres espèces atteint ici sa limite septentrionale dans le pays.

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African Pied Wagtail / Bergeronnette pie

Des choucadors de toutes sortes font des va-et-vient continus en quête d’eau et de nourriture autour du campement, comme ce Choucador à queue violette photographié en juin dernier.

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Bronze-tailed Starling / Choucador a queue violette

On termine notre tour d’horizon trop rapide avec la fabuleuse Chouette-pêcheuse de Pel, phantome du fleuve qu’on pourra tenter de voir au crépuscule lors d’une sortie en pirogue, parfois à quelques centaines de mètres seulement du campement. En juin dernier, nous entendons un jeune crier chaque soir, et on a la chance de d’abord voir ce qu’on suppose être un adulte (photo d’en-tête), puis plus en aval le jeune vient se poser non loin de nous (photo ci-dessous): ces oiseaux sont présents depuis la fin de l’an dernier au moins et il donc probable qu’ils aient niché dans les environs immédiats du campement. Notons encore que parmi les nocturnes, on pourra entendre le Petit-duc africain, et à la tombée de la nuit il est parfois possible de voir des engoulevents chasser au-dessus de la rivière (à longue queue et à balanciers).

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Pel’s Fishing-Owl / Chouette-pêcheuse de Pel

Difficile de s’arrêter en fait… car comme si tout cela ne suffisait pas encore, il y a encore un autre oiseau tout aussi unique et au statut quasi-mythique au sein de l’avifaune africaine: le Bihoreau à dos blanc! Déja vu furtivement par mes amis genevois en février, il nous a fallu un peu de temps lors de notre visite la plus récente pour comprendre que les grognements et roucoulements parvenant de la végétation dense juste en bas du promontoire, là où se jette un ruisseau dans le fleuve, n’étaient rien d’autre que le cri (ou chant?) de ce héron nocturne si discret et si peu connu au Sénégal. Et dont ce cri n’est pas mentionné dans les guides de terrain (et on l’apprendra plus tard, cette vocalisation n’était pas encore disponible dans les principales banques de données de sons d’oiseaux). Je vous invite donc à découvrir deux enregistrements faits avec mon modeste Olympus LS-12, ici avec les Babouins en arrière-plan. On les attendra à la tombée de la nuit, et effectivement: trois bihoreaux quittent leur cachette en criant pour aller se nourrir au bord de la rivière – on en verra un dans la pénombre juste en face du campement, visiblement en train de pêcher à l’affût depuis une branche au bord de l’eau. Le lendemain au petit matin, les oiseaux ont déjà regagné leur “dortoir”, mais un dérangement (sans doute par des singes) fait décoller un adulte qui part alors vers l’amont. Jean-Francois Blanc et collègues ont d’ailleurs rapporté la présence du Bihoreau à dos blanc plus en aval de l’autre côté du PNNK, à Mako en mars 2016, suggérant – avec raison – que “cette espece discrète pourrait etre sous-détectée le long de la Gambie au Sénégal”. Et tout récemment, Gabriel l’a trouvé au bord de la Falémé dans la réserve du Boundou!

Et puisqu’on parle de nocturnes, voici les Mégadermes à ailes orangées vus en février dernier à deux pas du resto du campement.

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Yellow-winged Bat / Mégaderme à ailes orangées

Wassadou c’est donc bien plus que les oiseaux! Deux Hippopotames ont élu domicile devant le campement, tout comme quelques Crocodiles du Nil. A l’aube et au crépuscule, avec un peu de chance on verra le Guib harnaché, le Céphalophe à flancs roux voire d’autres ongulés venir boire. Les Singes verts sont omniprésents, deux troupes de bruyants Babouins de Guinée rôdent dans la ripisylve et passent la nuit dans les fromagers au bord de l’eau. Le Colobe de Temminck (Piliocolobus (badius) temminckii), taxon classé En Danger par l’UICN, endémique à la sous-région puisqu’il est restreint à la partie occidentale des forêts de la Haute-Guinée: le sud du Sénégal, la Gambie, la Guinée-Bissau et le nord de la Guinée. Au Sénégal, il y aurait “probablement moins de 400-500 individus dans le PN du Delta du Saloum, et probablement moins de 100 dans la population du PNNK et du nord-ouest de Guinée” (IUCN).

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Western Red Colobus / Colobe de Temminck

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Western Red Colobus / Colobe de Temminck

Où observer?

C’est simple: en vous posant sur la terrasse, une bière ou un jus dans la main, les jumelles dans l’autre, le téléscope posé devant la chaise longue. Ou à côté du hamac, c’est selon les envies. On peut donc facilement passer quelques heures ici, mais une ballade dans la brousse environnante permettra de pleinement apprécier la richesse du coin: en suivant le sentier longeant le fleuve en partant vers l’amont du campement, on pourra trouver toute une série d’oiseaux, notamment divers passereaux, et il est possible d’accéder au bord de l’eau à quelques endroits. Et bien sûr, ne pas oublier de prévoir au moins une sortie en pirogue!

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Il faut prévoir un minimum de deux nuits sur place, plus si possible – d’autant plus si on a envie de faire une excursion dans le parc du Niokolo-Koba (où l’on pourra également passer une ou deux nuits, au campement du Lion ou à Simenti).

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Green Monkey / Singe vert

 

Comment rejoindre Wassadou?

Le campement se situe juste en face du Niokolo-Koba (la Gambie fait office de frontière du parc ici), à 2-3 kilomètres du goudron Tambacounda – Kédougou, plus précisément ici. Et contrairement au PNNK, pas besoin de 4×4 pour rejoindre le site! Par contre, il faut bien compter 8 heures de route depuis Dakar. L’établissement dispose d’une dizaine de cases simples mais corrects (ne vous fiez pas à l’apparence du site internet du campement, qui a besoin d’un serieux relooking).

 

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Unseasonal visitors…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

First records of Brown-backed Honeybird in Senegal

Yet another species was added to Senegal’s bird list recently. What follows is an account of recent observations of Brown-backed Honeybird by Gabriel Caucanas and friends, with some edits and additional information I managed to dig up – merci Gabriel!

January 20th 2018. We arrived in Dindefelo after 3 nights inside the Niokolo Koba National Park. Our team of French naturalists (Solenne Lefevre, Carine Lelaure, Geoffrey Monchaux, Valentin Motteau, Eric Sansault and myself) arrived at dusk at the “campement villageois” where our guide, Banna, had booked us for the night. The journey Simenti-Dindefelo was very long and we had many expectations for this wonderful place, as usual for birders. Will we find everything we are supposed to see, in just a single morning? No stress!

January 21st. About a hundred meters after the start of the path towards the waterfall: Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Northern Puffback. Following the path inside the gallery-forest, we added Green Turaco, Narina’s Trogon, African Blue Flycatcher, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike… Even for me, living in Tambacounda for more than one year at that moment, discoveries went on as we saw Red-chested Goshawk, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Green-headed Sunbird, and even a pair of Mali (Kulikoro) Firefinches with two juveniles. What a pleasant walk!

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Red-chested Goshawk / Autour de Toussenel (V. Motteau)

 

Just like almost every wooded place in Senegal, many Common Bulbuls were foraging and singing along the path. One bulbul-like individual however attracted our attention. After a few seconds of watching the bird, we all agreed that it seemed a little bit smaller than a Common Bulbul with a bill clearly curved at the end, convex. Moreover the undertail was white and the tail seemed heart-shaped ended. Thirty meters above us, the bird sat quietly during a few minutes, looking around, perched on a thin branch. As none of us was a sub-saharan bird specialist, we were not able to identify the species. Fortunately, one of us managed to take a reasonably good picture of the bird. Nothing described in the book seemed to fit to this bird apart from Brown-backed Honeybird… but even if I knew that several new species for the country had been found recently in this gallery forest, no observation was confirmed for Senegal. Our trip in Senegal continued the following days, first around Dande, then in the Boundou Community Nature Reserve and Casamance for the luckier of us. Days were passing without giving us a chance to have time to identify the bird.

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Brown-backed Honeybird / Indicateur de Wahlberg, Dindefelo (G. Monchaux)

 

On February 4th, I visited Wassadou camp. Many interesting birds were around, as usual for this place: Adamawa Turtle-Dove, African Blue Flycatcher, African Finfoot, Cardinal Woodpecker (a pair carrying food into a hole in a branch of Ceiba pentandra) and the two regular Hippopotamus. Then around 4 pm, a strange bird, again bulbul-like, was foraging and gleaning insects from branches a few meters above me in one of the huge Kapok trees close to the “deck”. What a surprise! It looked exactly the same as the bird we saw a few days earlier in Dindefelo: black curved bill, brownish head, greyish above becoming white on belly, rounded heart-shaped tail and undertail coverts white ending more greyish… Definitely not a bulbul! I again read the page about honeyguides in the Birds of the Senegal and the Gambia (Borrow and Demey, 2011). Yes, it could fit for Prodotiscus regulus, but nothing was said about the heart-shaped tail that I noticed in both birds. How could this be? A new species for Senegal seen twice in less than twenty days, some 200 km away from each other? I was confused… maybe I was just seeing a common bird that I was unable to recognise.

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Campement de Wassadou, with the Kapok tree in the center (G. Caucanas)

 

March 10th, Wassadou one more time: White-headed Lapwing, African Pied Wagtail, Shining-blue Kingfisher, Oriole Warbler, Western Banded Snake-eagle… We decided to stay the night. Around 5pm, as I was standing near the deck, I noticed the same mystery bird foraging in the same Kapok tree! But this time, I managed to take decent pictures of it, and I had to admit it was clearly fitting Prodotiscus regulus. Back home, I sent pictures from Wassadou and Dindefelo to Bram and Simon who were able to confirm the identification. Simon added that one claim had been made by two Spanish birders on 30 Jan 2015 at Wassadou, but with no further documentation nor a formal publication (the record was mentioned with a brief description in their trip report, and was included in the ABC Recent Reports).

As such, the records from Dindefelo and Wassadou are the first documented observations for Senegal.

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Brown-backed Honeybird / Indicateur de Wahlberg, Wassadou (G. Caucanas)

 

Brown-backed Honeybird, also known as Wahlberg’s Honeybird or Sharp-billed Honeybird (or Honeyguide) is a widespread species across the continent, occurring throughout East and Southern Africa, with a much more fragmented distribution in West Africa. It’s known to be a local “wanderer” within its vast range and as such it’s always quite an unpredictable bird to find, and it’s not clear whether there are any regular migration patterns.

Following his observations from Mali – the first for the country – Marco Thoma identified only 10 other published records for the species in West Africa, with several new ones obtained in recent years from across the region. The closest to Senegal was a single record from Gambia in Sept. 2006, less than 100 km away from Wassadou, then three birds near Bamako in Mali (Jan. 2010), one in Liberia (Mt. Nimba, Jan. 1968), one in Côte d’Ivoire (May 1989). At least four records are known from Ghana where the species was found in 2009 for the first time, followed by singles in 2011 and 2013 (both in January), and a bird seen in Mole NP in March 2016. Further east, there are records from Togo (Aug. 1969), Benin (first record on 21 May 2015), several in Nigeria and Cameroon, etc. It was added to the Guinean list earlier this year by Simon Cavaillès, and the second record for Guinea-Bissau was obtained just recently by Gabriel Caucal and Etienne Rogeau at Madina de Boé (Gabu region), on 6 Feb 18. It’s clearly an overlooked species, and one can expect more observations to be made in years to come (Simon even mentioned this to me [BP] following his record from Guinea – look out for the species in Senegal! How right was he, as always!).

The species is thought to breed in May-September in West Africa: except for a record of a juvenile seen in Nigeria in December, we haven’t come across any breeding records from the region, and while there are observations from pretty much all months, most recent records are from January to March it seems (this could of course be largely related to the much higher observer presence during the northern winter months). Just like other honeyguides and honeybirds – the Indicatoridae – it is a brood parasite, as nicely illustrated by this picture of a fledgling Brown-backed Honeybird being fed by a Bar-throated Apalis. Besides Yellow-breasted Apalis which occurs in both Dindefelo and Wassadou, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Yellow White-eye and various sunbird species are other potential hosts for Brown-backed Honeybird.

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Brown-backed Honeybird / Indicateur de Wahlberg, Wassadou (G. Caucanas)

 

Fun fact: during the night of March 10th at Wassadou, I saw two Common Genets, an African Civet and heard Pel’s Fishing Owl calling several times. In the early morning, we saw it, from the boat!

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Pel’s Fishing-Owl / Chouette-pêcheuse de Pel, Wassadou (G. Caucanas)

 

Finally, going back to our subject of interest: I (BP) was lucky to see this elusive species on several occasions, in southern Rwanda for the first time (in a group of other species mobbing a snake, picture here), Harare, and most recently in Cape Town’s famous Kirstenbosch botanical garden, where I managed to record its song. And maybe one day I’ll get to see it in Senegal!

Addendum (4.6) – it turns out that my Swiss friends who spent several days at Wassadou in February also saw the honeyguide, though it wasn’t identified as such. A few blurry pictures taken of a brownish bird in the very same Kapok tree on Feb. 22nd, dug up by Alain, allow us to confirm that it was indeed the Brown-backed Honeybird. 

 

A few references

Albero J.C. (2015) Crónica del viaje ornitológico realizado del 23 de Enero al 10 de Febrero de 2015; available on Cloudbirders.com

Roy, K. (2009) First record of Wahlberg’s Honeybird Prodotiscus regulus for The Gambia, Bull. ABC 16(1): 90-91

Thoma, M. (2012) First records of Wahlberg’s Honeybird for Mali, Bull ABC 19 (1): 65-68

Valentine, G. (2013) First record of Wahlberg’s Honeybird Prodotiscus regulus for Ghana, Bull. ABC 20 (1): 70

 

Gabriel (& Bram)

 

 

New Trip Report – the North, Saloum, Wassadou & Dakar

It’s always a pleasure to read good trip reports by birders who visit Senegal. More and more visitors now report their sightings through eBird or Observation.org, but few go through the effort of writing up their notes – despite best intentions, as I can sadly testify to myself.

Too many birds, not enough time, right?

A small Danish team visited Senegal last November, and I happened to meet them while seawatching at the Calao at the start of their visit, together with guide Carlos who expertly showed them a great deal of excellent birds – and then again towards the tail end when we briefly met up in Toubacouta. I recently received their trip report, one of the few good ones that were published on Senegal recently. There are useful sections on travel arrangements, weather, timing, pets, and resources (many thanks for mentioning this site!). And very importantly, a brief review of key places visited during the trip: Dakar, Trois-Marigots & Djoudj, Richard Toll, Kousmar, Wassadou & the Niokolo-Koba National Park, Toubacouta & Delta du Saloum, and finally Popenguine. Information on key species is provided along with some info on accommodation and access, and almost all are illustrated with pictures showing local habitats. Next up are species lists by site, followed by a comprehensive list of bird and mammal species seen.

Pretty much all the “specials” were found, both up North and in the Saloum and Niokolo-Koba areas. Also a few less expected birds, such as a high count of Stone-Curlews at Richard Toll (90! with 12 more at Trois-Marigots), a slightly out-of-range African Hobby at Trois-Marigots, a couple of Temminck’s Stints, Shining-blue Kingfisher at Wassadou (though apparently it’s quite regular there at the moment), and an Aquatic Warbler seen during the boat tour to the Djoudj pelican colony (they’re present of course, but seeing one is rare!). And a good breeding record of Fulvous Babbler – apparently one of the few confirmed in the country – with a bird on the nest at Richard Toll.

Oh and I almost forgot – the report is stuffed with brilliant pictures including many of the country’s iconic birds, such as this pair of perfect Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters seen near Toubacouta, or the stunning Cricket Warbler from Richard Toll further down (all pictures in this post by Morten Heegaard, Stig Jensen & Jon Lehmberg).

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Swallow-tailed Bee-eater / Guêpier à queue d’arronde

 

And make sure to read through to the very end, where you’ll find an enjoyable bonus section on the raptor roost at Ile de Kousmar near Kaolack. To quote the authors, “Why a lot more birders aren’t visiting this roost is a total mystery to us, and that some are even spending a night in Kaolack without coming here is simply beyond belief”. I, for one, am ashamed to say I have not made it to Kousmar yet: next winter, sans faute.

 

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White-crested Helmet-Shrike / Bagadais casqué

 

The report can be downloaded directly from here (PDF, 5 MB), or from the Cloudbirders site, which contains a number of other good trip reports on Senegal, many of which are from tours combined with Gambia. Many are fairly dull species lists, but among the more recent ones this report by Birdquest from February 2017 (Podor, Dindefelo, Wassadou, Saloum etc.) is worth a read for those planning a trip to Senegal even if it fails to provide any useful information on where to find the most wanted birds (and there are a few errors as well, e.g. Mali Firefinch is not restricted to Kedougou in Senegal, and Marbled Teal is very much a regular visitor to Djoudj). I guess that’s one of the differences between commercial tours that rush from one place to another (imagine spending just a single day in Dindefelo?!) and a bunch of passionate friends who are keen to share their explorations. Dieuredieuf, Morten, Stig & Jon!

 

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Cricket Warbler / Prinia à front écailleux

 

And since we’re talking trip reports – a really enjoyable report in very much a different style is this recent one from The Gambia: BIRDBLOG GAMBIA 2018. Woodsmoke…dust…many birds!

“The ironically named Singing Cisticola showed well, but sang very, very badly, however Scimitarbill and Grasshopper Buzzard rebalanced the cool scale”

Proof that birding trip reports don’t have to be boring reads – highly recommend it, I had a real good laugh!

 

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Zebra Waxbill / Bengali zébré