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Petite revue de la bibliographie ornithologique sénégalaise, 2016-2019 (Troisième partie)

Cette troisième et dernière partie de notre petite série sur la littérature ornithologique sénégalaise concerne la documentation des divers ajouts à l’avifaune du pays. Les publications qui suivent décrivent donc les « premières » pour le pays, par ordre chronologique de publication.

Ces articles ont été publiés dans l’un ou l’autre des deux revues de prédilection pour ce type de notes, soit le Bulletin de l’African Bird Club et Malimbus de la Socété d’ornithologie de l’Ouest africain (à laquelle, en passant, chaque ornitho qui s’interésse à l’avifaune du Sénégal ou de manière plus large de l’Afrique de l’Ouest devrait adhérer!).

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Pour une liste complète des nouvelles espèces de ces douze dernières années, voir ce billet; voir aussi les parties I et II de notre revue bibliographique.

 

  • Première mention du Merle obscur pour le Sénégal: Benjumea & Pérez 2016. First record of Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus for Senegal and sub-Saharan Africa. Bull. ABC 23: 215-216.

Découverte fortuite incroyable, le 10/12/15 dans un jardin d’hôtel, par deux ornithos espagnols en marge d’une de leurs missions d’étude dans le PN de la Langue de Barbarie. Il s’agit de la deuxième mention de cette espèce sibérienne sur le continent africain, alors qu’elle hiverne normalement en Asie du sud-est, la première provenant de Merzouga au Maroc en décembre 2008. Comme quoi presque n’importe quel migrateur à longue distance d’origine paléarctique peut se retrouver égaré dans nos contrées… et comme quoi, ça sert de toujours avoir un appareil photo à portée de main!

 

  • Delannoy 2016. Les premières observations de l’Alouette à queue rousse Pinarocorys erythropygia au Sénégal. Malimbus 38: 80-82.

La première observation documentée de cette alouette peu connue a été faite dans le Boundou du 10 au 12 novembre 2015, suivant deux observations antérieures non encore publiées formellement, toutes deux du Niokolo-Koba: la première en février 1985, la deuxième en novembre 1992.

C’est donc une alouette à rechercher en hiver dans le sud-est du pays, mais son apparition est probablement très aléatoire, étant une espèce à caractère erratique qui se trouve ici tout à fait en limite de son aire “hivernale” régulière. Elle fréquente les savanes arborées ouvertes tout comme des zones cultivées, affectionnant particulièrement des zones récemment brûlées.

 

  • Première observation de la Bergeronnette à longue queue au Sénégal: Pacheco, Ruiz de Azua & Fernández-García 2017. First record of Mountain Wagtail Motacilla clara for Senegal. Bull. ABC 24: 88-89.

Cette mention de Dindéfélo en mars 2015 reste pour le moment la seule pour le pays, bien qu’il soit possible que cette bergeronnette soit un visiteur non-nicheur plus ou moins régulier dans l’extrême sud-est du pays, dans les contreforts du Fouta-Djallon. A rechercher aux abords du fleuve Gambie et des ruisseaux de vallons autour de Kédougou.

 

  • Observations remarquables du Sénégal, dont la première de l’Engoulevent pointillé: Blanc et al. 2018. Noteworthy records from Senegal, including the first Freckled Nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma. Bull. ABC 25: 58-61.

En plus de la description des observations de l’engoulevent, espèce maintenant considérée comme résidente à Dindéfélo et sans doute dans des milieux similaires dans les environs, les auteurs rapportent des données nouvelles concernant l’Engoulevent doré (dans le Khelkom), à Dindéfélo le Drongo occidental (encore le Drongo de Ludwig à l’époque, auparavant connu uniquement de la Casamance), le Traquet de Heuglin (nicheur sur le plateau de Dande) ainsi que le très discret Sénégali à ventre noir, et enfin le Bihoreau à dos blanc et le Martin-pêcheur azuré au bord du fleuve Gambie à Mako. Ces deux derniers sont depuis plusieurs années assez régulièrement observés dans cette région, notamment autour de Wassadou.

Avec l’espèce précédente, le Trogon narina et deux indicateurs différents, Dindefelo détient clairement la palme en tant que hotspot pour la découverte de nouvelles espèces pour le pays.

 

  • Première donnée du Fou à pieds rouges au Sénégal: Moran et al. First record of Red-footed Booby Sula sula for Senegal. Bull. ABC 25: 213-215.

Le 19/10/16, un Fou à pieds rouges immature a été photographié à environ 10 milles marins au nord de Dakar, lors d’une sortie en mer en marge du PAOC, observation que nous avions déjà rapportée ici. Depuis, pas moins de quatre mentions supplémentaires sont connues, toutes autour de la presqu’île du Cap-Vert: un oiseau en janvier 2018 au PNIM, puis trois fois à Ngor en 2018-2019 dont quelques oiseaux ayant stationné pendant plusieurs semaines ou même mois (deux ind. en mai-juin 2018, un en novembre 2018, et un vu régulièrement en juin-août 2019 dont encore ce 12/8 comme les quatres jours précédents!).

Avec l’augmentation des effectifs aux Iles du Cap Vert on peut s’attendre à d’autres observations dans le futur.

RedfootedBooby_Dakar_20161016_BarendvanGemerden - 2

Red-footed Booby / Fou à pieds rouges, au large de Dakar, Oct. 2016 (B. van Gemerden)

 

  • Première observation d’une Frégate superbe pour le Sénégal: Piot & Lecoq 2018. First record of Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens for Senegal. Bull. ABC 25: 216-218.

Notre observation de fin avril 2017 reste pour le moment la seule confirmée pour le pays. Bien qu’il puisse s’agir d’une des deux dernières femelles des Îles du Cap-Vert (où l’espèce ne niche plus depuis 1999), une origine néotropicale semble plus probable. Le site de reproduction le plus proche de l’Afrique de l’Ouest est l’île de Fernando de Noronha, situé au nord-est du Brésil à environ 2’650 km de Dakar. D’autres données de frégates dans la sous-région concernent des observations en Gambie (Frégates superbes en 1965 et 1980, puis une frégate sp. en 2005) et au Ghana (Frégate aigle-de-mer F. aquila en 2010, espèce aussi notée aux iles du Cap-Vert en 2017 et donc également d’apparition possible dans les eaux sénégalaises). A quand la prochaine mention dans le pays?

MagnificentFrigatebird_IlesdelaMadeleine_20170429_IMG_1811

Magnificent Frigatebird / Frégate superbe f., PNIM, April 2016 (BP)

 

  • Première donnée du Pipit farlouse au Sénégal: Piot 2018. First record of Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis for Senegal. Malimbus 40: 67-69.

Le 1er janvier 2018, j’ai la chance de trouver un Pipit farlouse aux abords de la lagune de Yène sur la Petite Côte non loin de Dakar. Bien que l’identification ait été confirmée par les cris caractéristiques de l’espèce, plusieurs personnes semblent toujours douter de l’identité de cet oiseau, me disant qu’il s’agit plutôt d’un Pipit à gorge rousse… Le plumage assez contrasté de cet oiseau de permier hiver peut effectivement faire penser à cette espèce, mais d’autres critères et notamment l’absence de stries sur le croupion (visibles sur photo, comme celle-ci) permettent d’éliminer le Pipit à gorge rousse, tout comme le cri d’ailleurs qui est très différent. L’espèce étant connue du sud de la Mauritanie, l’apparition d’un Pipit farlouse égaré au Sénégal n’est pas bien étonnante.

MeadowPipit_Yene_20180101_IMG_7862 (2)

Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse, Yene, Jan. 2018 (BP)

 

En plus de ces sept publications, plusieurs autres sont sous presse ou sont sur le point d’être soumis et seront publiés dans les mois à venir : l’Indicateur de Wahlberg vu plusieurs fois en 2018 (Caucanas et al.), le Gonolek de Turati en 2018 (Bargain & Piot) et l’Anomalospize parasite en février 2019 (Bargain, Caucal & de Montaudouin) tous les deux découverts en Casamance, et enfin la Tourterelle turque en 2016 (BP).

Il y a aussi quelques premières obs encore non encore publiées formellement, notamment nos Martinets horus (rédaction prévue!) de l’an dernier et l’Indicateur de Willcocks de février dernier. Tout comme des mentions un peu moins récentes d’oiseaux qui pour le moment ont été observés une seule fois dans le pays (Epervier d’Europe, Milan royal, Grue cendréeBécasseau d’Alaska) mais dont je doute qu’une publication verra un jour le jour, bien malheureusement…

Quoiqu’il en soit, je vous tiens bien entendu au courant de la suite!

 

Je me permets de terminer en faisant un peu de pub pour une autre publication sur les oiseaux du Sénégal, dans un tout autre registre de celles qui précèdent mais toute aussi intéressante : un recit de voyage naturaliste sous forme de magazine auto-édité par mes amis Frédéric et Jérémy. Truffée de superbes photos, des textes riches en informations pertinentes et anecdotes diverses, c’est bien plus qu’un simple rapport de voyage, où chacun trouvera quelque chose à son goût. De Dakar au Djoudj en passant par les Trois-Marigots, le Gandiolais, et bien d’autres encore!

A decouvrir (et à commander) ici

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Petite revue de la bibliographie ornithologique sénégalaise, 2016-2019 (Deuxième partie)

Si les publications passées en revue dans la première partie étaient en grande partie issues d’études scientifiques menées par des chercheurs académiques, les articles présentés ici sont pour la plupart rédigés par des ornithologues de terrain et de passionnés d’oiseaux fréquentant régulièrement le pays ou qui, comme moi, ont la chance d’y résider et de pouvoir apporter des contributions, certes modestes, à nos connaissances de l’avifaune. Finalement il y aura encore une troisième partie, sinon cet article serait un peu trop long et risquerait de devenir un peu trop ennuyeux!

On s’intéresse ici donc essentiellement au statut et à la répartition des oiseaux du Sénégal, avec dans l’ordre taxonomique les publications suivantes, toujours pour la période 2016-2019:

  • Mortalité massive de Puffins majeurs le long de la côte de la Gambie en juin 2011, et observations récentes au Sénégal: Barlow, Piot & Fox 2018. Great Shearwater Ardenna gravis mass mortality in The Gambia in June 2011, recent observations from Senegal, and evidence for migration patterns. Malimbus 40: 10-20.

Au moins 103 Puffins majeurs sont trouvés rejetés sur 7 km de plages en Gambie en juin 2011, constituant les premières données de l’espèce pour ce pays. Les mesures biométriques à partir de 18 crânes sont présentées et nous résumons les observations publiées pour le Sénégal, la Mauritanie et les îles du Cap-Vert, tout en rapportant de nouvelles informations pour le Sénégal (issues de mes suivis de la migration devant Ngor!). Les mouvements de Puffins majeurs suivis par satellite depuis les sites de reproduction de l’Hémisphère Sud vers l’Atlantique Nord ainsi que leurs stratégies de nourrissage au cours de leur migration sont discutés. La faim est proposée comme cause probable de la mort des oiseaux échoués.

Nous avons également pu contribuer des données récentes obtenues à Ngor à deux autres articles récents traitant d’observations d’oiseaux de mer en Gambie, rédigés par nos collègues gambiens Clive Barlow et Geoff Dobbs :

  • Barlow 2017. First proof of Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus in The Gambia, May 2012. Malimbus 39: 56-58 [Première preuve pour le Puffin fuligineux en Gambie, en mai 2012]
  • Barlow & Dobbs 2019. New observations of five species of pelagic seabirds in The Gambia in early 2018, with information from previous years. Malimbus 41: 32-40 [Nouvelles observations de cinq espèces d’oiseaux de mer en janvier-février 2018 en Gambie].
GreatShearwater_Pelagic_20171115_IMG_5887

Great Shearwater / Puffin majeur, Ngor, Nov. 2017 (BP)

 

  • Le Grèbe castagneux, aujourd’hui une espèce reproductrice résidente en Gambie, avec une aire de reproduction au Sénégal étendue: Barlow, Piot & Bargain 2018. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis now a breeding resident in The Gambia, with an expanded breeding range in Senegal. Malimbus 40: 47-54.

Nous rapportons ici l’historique du Grèbe castagneux en Gambie et au Sénégal, en fournissant des données nouvelles sur la reproduction et de nouveaux sites de nidification depuis 2001. L’utilisation de plans d’eau artificiels en tant que sites de nidification contribue à l’extension de la saison de reproduction ainsi que de l’aire de répartition dans cette région.

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Sites de nidification du Grèbe castagneux au Sénégal et en Gambie

 

  • Taille de la population et phénologie de reproduction du Phaéton à bec rouge aux Iles de la Madeleine: Diop et al. 2019. Population Size and Breeding Phenology of Red-Billed Tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus) on Iles de la Madeleine, Senegal. Waterbirds 42: 100-106.

La phénologie de reproduction et la répartition dans les sites de nidification des phaétons ont fait l’objet d’un suivi du 6 juin 2014 au 18 mai 2016 dans le PN des Îles de la Madeleine, avec des visites tous les 15 jours pour enregistrer les nids actifs et leur contenu. Ngoné et ses collegues trouvé jusqu’à 76 sites de nidification mais seulement 49 étaient actifs en 2014-2015 et 45 en 2015-2016. Les phaétons se reproduisent tout au long de l’année, mais le nombre de nids actifs a culminé d’octobre à janvier, ce qui peut être lié au caractère saisonnier de l’upwelling océanique. Les nids ont été regroupés dans quatre zones et leur répartition et leur occupation peuvent être liées à la direction du vent pendant le pic de reproduction saisonnier d’octobre à mai. Le succès de reproduction était généralement élevé (62,9% en 2014-2015 et 47,3% en 2015-2016) par rapport aux autres colonies se reproduisant dans des eaux moins productives. Étant donné la singularité et la petite taille de cette population, une surveillance, une gestion et une protection stricte sont nécessaires pour garantir sa viabilité.

  • Effectif exceptionnel de Vautours percnoptères observé au Sénégal en novembre 2017, avec historique et actualisation de son statut au Sénégal et en Gambie: Caucanas, Piot, Barlow & Phipps 2018. A major count of the Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus in Senegal in November 2017, with notes on its history and current status in Senegal and The Gambia. Malimbus 40: 55-66.

Nous rapportons l’observation d’un groupe de 30 Percnoptères d’Egypte le 26/11/17 dans la RNC du Boundou, soit le groupe le plus important jamais documenté au Sénégal et en Gambie et l’un des plus importants pour le Sahel. En déclin rapide dans la plus grande partie de son aire de répartition, nous dressons un état des lieux des observations et données obtenues par suivi GPS depuis la première mention en 1913, et nous proposons qu’elle soit considérée comme migratrice peu fréquente ne nichant pas dans ces deux pays, étant régulière seulement dans l’extrême est du Sénégal.

  • Déclin d’une population urbaine de Vautours charognards sur 50 ans à Dakar: Mullié et al. 2017. The decline of an urban Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus population in Dakar, Senegal, over 50 years. Ostrich 88: 131-138.

A Dakar, comme dans de nombreux centres urbains de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, les Vautours charognards ont toujours été des charognards urbains caractéristiques. Le récent déclin dans d’autres parties de l’Afrique a motivé, en 2015, son inscription sur la Liste rouge de l’UICN comme espèce menacée « En danger critique d’extinction ». Comme nous l’avons déjà rapporté, nous avons mené une enquête sur son statut actuel à Dakar afin d’effectuer une comparaison avec les données disponibles depuis un demi-siècle. Une forte baisse (>85%) a été notée, la population estimée passant de 3’000 individus en 1969 à seulement 400 en 2016. Ce déclin correspond aux chutes constatées ailleurs en Afrique mais contraste avec les populations apparemment stables de la Gambie à la Guinée. Les causes probables sont 1) une urbanisation galopante entraînant une perte de sites d’alimentation et une réduction de la disponibilité de nourriture, 2) un empoisonnement accru de chiens sauvages due à une recrudescence de la rage et 3) une disparition accrue des arbres appropriés pour la nidification et le repos.

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Hooded Vulture / Vautour charognard, Technopole, June 2019 (BP)

 

  • Voies de migration de la population méditerranéenne de la Sterne voyageuse: Hamza et al. 2017. Migration flyway of the Mediterranean breeding Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis emigrates. Ostrich 88: 53-58.

Un programme de baguage a été mis en place de 2006 à 2012 dans les colonies de Libye, soit les seules sites en Méditerrannée. A partir d’un total de 1354 couvées baguées à l’aide de bagues métalliques et/ou couleurs, 64 ont été retrouvées le long de leur voie migratoire ou sur leur aire d’hivernage.

Cependant, les auteurs écrivent que « le Sénégal et la Gambie sont au cœur de l’aire d’hivernage, » affirmation erronée rectifiée par Dowsett & Isenmann 2018 (Wintering area of the Libyan breeding population of Lesser Crested Tern. Alauda 86: 65-68) qui démontrent que la principale zone d’hivernage se trouve en Guinée-Bissau et en Sierra Leone. Bien que quelques dizaines à quelques centaines d’oiseaux hivernent bel et bien en Sénégambie, l’essentiel des nicheurs libyens hiverne donc un peu plus au sud. Cela n’enleve cependant en rien la conclusion de Hamza et collègues, comme quoi « la conservation de cette population particulièrement localisée et menacée ne réclame pas seulement une protection des sites de reproduction mais également celle des escales migratoires et des sanctuaires d’hivernage»

Lesser Crested Tern / Sterne voyageuse

Lesser Crested Tern / Sterne voyageuse portant une bague posée en Libye, Ngor, May 2013 (P. Robinson)

 

  • Un afflux de Hiboux des marais en Afrique de l’Ouest pendant l’hiver 2017/18: Piot 2019. An influx of Short-eared Owls Asio flammeus in West Africa in winter 2017/18.  Bull. ABC 26: 206-212 [publication prévue dans le prochain numéro, en septembre].

Pendant l’automne 2017 et l’hiver 2017/18, un afflux sans précédent a eu lieu en Afrique de l’Ouest et particulièrement au Sénégal ; des observations ont également été réalisées en Gambie, en Guinée-Bissau et en Mauritanie. Entre début novembre 2017 et mi-avril 2018, 22 observations concernant au moins 24 oiseaux ont été rapportées: ceux-ci ont peut-être hiverné plus au sud que d’habitude en raison des rudes conditions hivernales en Europe de l’Ouest. Les effectifs fluctuent probablement aussi en fonction des densités d’acridiens au Sahel, où une part importante du régime alimentaire peut être constituée d’insectes. L’espèce devrait y être considérée comme un migrateur régulier et un hivernant localement peu commun en petit nombre, avec des variations interannuelles importantes. La rareté des observations dans la région est probablement due aux habitudes crépusculaires et nocturnes de l’espèce, et aussi à une présence très limitée d’observateurs.

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Short-eared Owl / Hibou des marais, Technopole, Dec. 2017 (BP)

 

  • L’étude par géolocalisateurs révèle que le Martinet unicolore des Canaries hiverne en Afrique de l’Ouest équatoriale: Norton et al. Geolocator study reveals that Canarian Plain Swifts Apus unicolor winter in equatorial West Africa. Publié sur le site de l’African Bird Club (je suppose qu’un article formel suivra; cliquez le lien pour obtenir le PDF).

Même s’il ne s’agit pas d’une étude sénégalaise, elle a toute son importance pour nous: en effet, le suivi par géolocalisateurs a montré que le Martinet unicolore hiverne dans la zone forestière de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, et que l’espèce fait partie de l’avifaune du Sénégal. C’était sans doute l’une des grandes découvertes de ces dernières années – tout comme nos Martinets horus, dont un article portant sur notre étonnante trouvaille de janvier 2018 est en cours de préparation.

En juillet 2013, 16 Martinets unicolores, espèce endémique des Canaries qu’on pensait lagement sedentaire (ailleurs, vu seulement dans les régions cotières du nord-ouest de l’Afrique), ont été équipés de géolocalisateurs dans deux colonies de reproduction sur Tenerife. (Un géolocalisateur, minuscule appareil électronique pesant moins d’un gramme, mesure l’intensité du rayonnement solaire et l’heure, et enregistre ces données pendant une année; au retour de l’oiseau, celles-ci permettent de reconstituer son itinéraire). Parmi ces 16 individus, deux ont par la suite été retrouvés dans la colonie. Les deux oiseaux ont passé la majeure partie de l’hiver dans les forêts de l’est du Libéria. Ils ont quitté la colonie en octobre et novembre respectivement, et ont parcouru au moins 2’600 km pour hiverner, passant toute la période d’hivernage jusqu’en mars-avril 2014 dans les forêts de la Haute-Guinée au Libéria, en Guinée et en Côte d’Ivoire. La route migratoire prénuptiale comprenait le passage dans plusieurs pays où l’espèce n’avait là non plus jamais encore été signalée, dont le Sénégal, la Gambie, la Guinée-Bissau et la Sierra Leone. L’étude souligne l’importance de l’écosystème forestier de la Haute-Guinée pour au moins certains Martinets unicolores, les oiseaux passant plus de la moitié de l’année dans ce hotspot de biodiversité. Elle montre également qu’il devrait donc être possible d’observer cette espèce in natura au Sénégal, notamment en automne et au printemps, même si l’identification sera forcément délicate.

  • La Fauvette de Moltoni au Sénégal et en Afrique de l’Ouest: Piot & Blanc 2017. Moltoni’s Warbler Sylvia subalpina in Senegal and West Africa. Malimbus 39: 37-43.

Récemment élevée au rang d’espèce après la révision taxonomique du complexe des Fauvettes passerinettes, l’aire d’hivernage de la Fauvette de Moltoni était en grande partie inconnue. A la suite d’observations récentes au Sénégal, où sa présence a été enregistrée annuellement depuis 2013, nous avons passé en revue les observations faites en Afrique de l’Ouest : celles-ci suggèrent que l’espèce est largement répartie dans le Sahel, du Sénégal au Nigéria. Il semble que l’espèce soit plus abondante à l’est de cette zone, cependant l’aire de répartition précise et son abondance nécessitent plus de recherches, tout comme ses stratégies de mue et de migration.

  • Rose et al. 2016. Observations ornithologiques au Sénégal. Malimbus 38: 15-22.

Cinq observations d’espèces rares ou peu communes sont décrites, toutes de janvier 2015, dont on peut cependant se poser la question si une publication était réellement nécessaire, car leur simple inclusion dans la rubrique des observations récentes de l’ABC aurait sans doute suffi. Quoiqu’il en soit, les auteurs relatent les observations d’un Onoré à huppe blanche dans le delta du Saloum (où l’espèce est maintenant assez régulièrement vue, à Toubacouta), d’un Hibou des marais aux Îles de la Madeleine, d’un Engoulevent du désert au Djoudj, d’un Martin-pêcheur azuré au Niokolo-Koba, et d’un Sirli du désert dans le Ndiael. La prédation d’un Héron garde-bœufs par un Aigle martial, ainsi que l’histoire de vie d’une Barge à queue noire baguée, sont également rapportées.

Black-tailed Godwits / Barges a queue noire

Dutch and English colour-rigned Black-tailed Godwits / Barges à queue noire baguées aux Pays-Bas et en Angleterre, Technopole Jan. 2016 (BP)

 

Deux autres notes courtes sont également à mentionner ici, la première traitant de notre observation d’une pie-grièche hybride du lac Tanma en 2017 (Piot & Caucanas 2019. A hybrid shrike Lanius in Senegal; publication prévue dans le prochain bulletin de l’ABC), l’autre d’une observation de plusieurs Travailleurs à bec rouge à env. 100 km au large de la côte sénégalaise, soit la donnée la plus éloignée du continent jusqu’à présent (Quantrill, R. 2017. Red-billed Queleas Quelea quelea at sea off Senegal. Bull. ABC 24: 216).

Puis au moins deux articles supplémentaires traitant du statut et de la distribution d’oiseaux au Sénégal sont prévues pour publication ces prochains mois, dans la revue Alauda : le premier sur les quartiers d’hiver et les voies de migration du Pouillot ibérique (Isenmann & Piot), le second sur les résultats de nos suivis 2017 et 2018 de la migration des oiseaux de mer à Ngor (première partie prévue en décembre, 2e partie en début d’année prochaine).

La troisième et dernière partie de notre petite série sur la literature ornithologique sénégalaise concernera la documentation des divers ajouts à l’avifaune du pays.

 

 

Birding the forests of Basse-Casamance: of Cuckoos, Boubous, Bulbuls, Illadopsises & co.

Once again I recently had the chance to spend a few days in Casamance. In Bruno’s expert company, we targeted a number of little-explored forests in the south-west of the region, hoping to find some of the region’s special forest dwellers. Many of these are active and very vocal at this time of the year, and intra-African migrants such as cuckoos are now moving north with the rains. With the national park still being off-limits, we concentrated on some of the smaller forest in the Ziguinchor and Oussouye areas. We weren’t disappointed: in just three days in the field, we recorded no less than 186 species, not bad considering that we spent most of our time in various forests where diversity is not generally very high and birds can be difficult to detect. Our surveys also allowed to fill in a few more gaps in the distribution maps of the Casamance bird atlas, and we collected some interesting breeding records for a number of species.

In order of appearance:

Shortly after my arrival, a late afternoon stroll around the village of Kantène, just outside Ziguinchor, turned up the usual suspects as well as a couple of Pale Flycatchers and the first of many cuckoos of the trip: singing African and Diederik Cuckoos, both recently arrived in anticipation of the raining season, during which they breed in Senegal. Just warming up, getting ready for the next few days!

 

July 4: the forests around Oussouye

The next morning we got up ridiculously early so as to be in the Boukitingo forest shortly after dawn, the start of a full day out birding pretty much non stop around Oussouye. A pre-dawn pitstop at the Etome bridge brought a surprise under the form of a singing White-backed Night Heron, a poorly known species here that Bruno had already seen on a couple of occasions around Ziguinchor, even managing to find a nest at a disused gravel pit. The forest itself held cool birds such as Ahanta Francolin, White-spotted Flufftail, Black-throated Coucal, Puvell’s and Brown Illadopsis, White-tailed Alethe, Green Hylia, Green Crombec, Olive Sunbird – all species that in Senegal are largely restricted to the westernmost forests of Casamance. The flufftails, coucals and illadopsises were particularly vocal, as were African, Klaas’s and Diederik Cuckoos. We got decent views of the two illadopsis species, both usually difficult to see, and even the Alethe made a brief appearance! Perhaps best of all in terms of new records was at least one White-throated Greenbul, one of these very little-known species in Senegal that apparently hasn’t been reported for many years. Difficult to spot in the dark understorey of the forest, we only good poor views but luckily the bird was quite vocal, allowing us to confirm its identity later on (listen here). A pair of Red-breasted Swallows was a bonus as we emerged from our 3-hour tour of this part of the forest – eBird checklist here..

Moving on, a few stops en route to Elinkine produced several additional species including Piping Hornbill, Whistling Cisticola, Northern Black Flycatcher, two Lanner Falcons, Plain-backed Pipit (a small group with several juvs.). Mid-afternoon we visited the wetland near Kagnout where Cuckoo Finch was found last winter, and added more good stuff to the list: African Hobby, Greater Painted Snipe, Collared Pratincole, our first returning Wood Sandpipers of the season as well as five Black-tailed Godwits, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Quailfinch, and an adult Lesser Moorhen soon followed by two Red-headed Queleas – for both species, my first records in Senegal and just two of several additions to my country list. The queleas were in a large flock of Yellow-crowned Bishops, while two Yellow-mantled Widowbirds were seen on the edge of the marsh. Alas no Cuckoo Finches, maybe next time!

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Red-headed Quelea / Travailleur à tête rouge

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Yellow-crowned Bishop / Euplecte vorabé

 

Next stop was a protected forest patch roughly half-way between Mlomp and Oussouye and located just witin one of the lesser explored atlas squares. Here we again had White-spotted Flufftail and Black-throated Coucal singing and more of the same as around Boukitingo, plus a pair of Western Square-tailed Drongos, Blue Malkoha, African Emerald Cuckoo, and Red-tailed Leaflove. This site clearly has a lot of potential and will hopefully be further explored in coming months.

 

July 5: Kamobeul/Essil forest, Boutoute wetland

There wasn’t a great deal of activity in the forest, but we did see or hear some good species such as Ahanta Francolin, African Emerald Cuckoo, Piping and African Pied Hornbills, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Western Nicator, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Puvel’s Illadopsis, and the unique Capuchin Babbler (nest-building; the westernmost race is now often considered a separate species, aka Grey-hooded Capuchin Babbler, Phyllanthus atripennis). Full list here.

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The nest was located right at the base of the lowest branches, center of image

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Grey-hooded Capuchin Babbler / Phyllanthe capucin

 

The grasslands held several pairs of African Wattled Lapwings including at least one with a young chick. Also here were a flock of Pin-tailed Whydahs, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, two Violet-backed Starlings, and this beautiful snake, Philothamnus irregularis, aka the Common Bush Snake or Irregular Green Snake.

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Philothamnus irregularis

 

A short visit late afternoon to the wetlands near Boutoute just outside Ziguinchor – a local hotspots that would merit proper protection – was quite rewarding, and the 76 species that we recorded in less than an hour nicely illustrate the sheer diversity of its birdlife. Two of these were very much unexpected here: first a small group of obliging Bar-breasted Firefinches feeding near the cultivated plots at the entrance of the area, and towards the end of our small tour a Great Spotted Cuckoo. A singing African Emerald Cuckoo was also a nice addition to the site list.

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Boutoute marsh / marais de Boutoute

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Bar-breasted Firefinch / Amarante pointé

 

Waterbirds were plenty, likely because there aren’t many places with fresh water left at this time of the year, and included several Allen’s Gallinules, Moorhens, African Swamphens, Greater Painted-Snipes, Spur-winged Geese and a Green Sandpiper to name but a few. A few West African Swallows (sometimes considered a race –  domicella – of Red-rumped Swallow) were feeding together with Wire-tailed and Red-chested Swallow, as were some 15 Fanti Sawwings. Short-winged Cisticola and Oriole Warbler were also noteworthy.

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Allen’s Gallinule / Talève d’Allen imm.

 

July 6: Mpak bush, farmland and remnant forest

A cool Long-crested Eagle was one of the first birds that we saw after reaching this largely unexplored site – just a stone-throw away from the border with Guinea-Bissau – shortly after dawn. We soon encountered some similar forest dwellers to those seen in other locations the previous couple of days: Western Nicator, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Puvel’s Illadopsis, Yellow-breasted Apalis etc. A Western Bluebill was heard only, singing just one of its characteristic strophes in thickets but remaining invisible. In the same area we enjoyed watching a pair of Blue Malkohas, for once rather well showing themselves and possibly nesting in a vine-covered tree, while Diederik, Klaas’s, African and Red-chested Cuckoos were all singing around us.

Making our way through a small patch of secondary forest, we heard a now familiar sound: Turati’s Boubou! This was actually one of our targets, keen to find out whether it occurs away from Djibelor. Check. We even ended up with some decent views but boy are these birds secretive and difficult to spot, in stark contrast with their vocal activity. In typical Laniarius fashion, pairs were actively dueting, sometimes even three birds together. On the sonogram, one can clearly see the double low plaintive whistle given by the male, and the female “responding” with a harsh slow chatter. Listen here and here to get an idea. With at least 3 or 4 pairs/territories in the area, we more than doubled the known population of the species in Senegal. It’s highly likely that more searches between Ziguinchor and the border will reveal more territories.

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The overgrown farmland held a good variety of birds, including Red-winged Warbler, Whistling & Singing Cisticola, and a rather unexpected Moustached Grass Warbler that revealed itself only later, thanks to Miguel who correctly identified what we assumed was Whistling Cisticola singing, on this recording. African Firefinch was seen in two locations; this is one of those birds that up to recently was still considered as unconfirmed in Senegal, but which in fact appears to be rather widespread (though nowhere common) in Casamance and possibly the Kedougou regions. New birds kept popping up left and right, and we ended up with a very respectable 80 species in this area.

Our excitement was only tempered by the sad state of the forest here, much degraded and still actively being logged and cleared for agriculture. At one point as we were heading towards a remnant patch of large trees, a couple of villagers (hunters? contraband loggers? rebels…?) made us turn back, maybe not wanting any intruders to see the forest being cleared right there on the spot. Probably best not to argue when one of them is carrying a gun… On the flip side, it’s probably as a result of the ongoing logging that suitable habitat is created for Turati’s Boubou, allowing it to gradually spread north from Guinea-Bissau whereas up to 10-20 years ago most areas between Ziguinchor and the border were proper forest.

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Turati’s Boubou habitat, Mpak

 

These depressing Google Earth images illustrate how much has changed in recent years in this very area: note how in March 2008 there’s still a continuous dark belt of what seems like largely healthy forest running diagonally from SW to NE, while in April 2019 there are only a few patches are left in the SW corner of the area. Unfortunately this is the sad state of many of Senegal’s forests, protected or not, and more widely throughout the region. We roughly covered from the top right corner (close to a small village) to the central part of this area, which is where the boubous were found.

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At this point, the rains arrived, concluding our highly satisfying and pretty successful exploration. Hopefully there’ll be more opportunities in the near future to investigate other forests and further our knowledge of Casamance’s birdlife.

 

 

Yellow-throated Longclaw in Dakar – irregular visitor or an overlooked resident?

There’s a handful of bird species here in Dakar that remain rather enigmatic, and whose status and patterns of occurrence remain to be fully understood. One of these is the Yellow-throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus), a member of the pipits and wagtails. Longclaws are a genus that is entirely restricted to Africa where eight different species are known, some of which have small or patchy distribution ranges. The Yellow-throated Longclaw is certainly the most widespread species, but here in Senegal we’re right at the edge of its range: while nowhere common, it’s probably quite widespread in Basse-Casamance (Ziguinchor, Oussouye, Cap Skirring/Diembering, Kafountine/Abene… even Sedhiou a bit further inland). There are just a handful of observations from north of the Gambia, where the species is apparently on the decline, at least in coastal areas where very few recent sightings it seems. The scant information that we have is mostly based on old records from the Dakar peninsula, more on these later. It’s clear though that this is a very little known species that at best is obviously scarce and localised, and while I certainly have it somewhere in the back of my mind when visiting lac Rose, I didn’t think I’d ever see it here.

Until yesterday morning, when I came across not one but two of these cool “sentinels” as they’re called in French: first one on the margins of the Mbeubeusse wetlands (99% dry now!), a bird flying over a reedbed and landing out of sight quite a distance away. A rather frustrating sighting but just decent enough to confirm the id: broad wings, medium-long tail with white corners, vivid yellow throat and breast with black markings on side of throat. I may have heard it singing shortly before I saw it but not sure as it called only once and Crested Larks can sound a bit similar!

The second bird was found barely an hour later at lac Rose, right at the Bonaba Café on the northern shores of the lake, and “performed” much better than the first! Upon arriving at this site, I could clearly hear it singing for several minutes on end; it even allowed me to get quite close so I could document this bird on camera (and on sound recorder: a sample of its simple yet rather melodious one-note song here.

 

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Yellow -throated Longclaw / Sentinelle a gorge jaune

 

These are the old records known from the Dakar area:

  • August 1968 – “seen several times in coastal region 20 km east of Dakar” (M.P. Doutre; Morel & Morel) – this may well be near lac Malika or Mbeubeusse
  • 9 April 1977 – 2 singing, Lac Rose (W. Nezadal on eBird)
  • January 1984 – “Dakar” (Paul Géroudet in M&M)
  • February 1990 – one seen “north of Dakar” within the Dakar atlas square, but this could be anywhere between Guediawaye and Kayar… (Sauvage & Rodwell 1998)
  • 17 February 1991 – 1, Lac Malika (O. Benoist on eBird)

More recently, there’s an observation of no less than five birds on 18 Jan. 2011 at lac Rose seen during a tour organised by Richard Ottvall for the Swedish AviFauna group. Almost five years later, another mention from the same site, unfortunately without any further comments other than that it was on 20 November 2014 at lac Rose (near the southern edge, not far from Le Calao lodge), by J. Nicolau during a scouting visit for Birding Ecotours. The only other recent record north of the Gambia that I came across was of two birds in the Saloum delta (though where precisely?) on 8 January 2017 (J. Wehrmann on observation.org). 

Could it be that there are just a few birds that are mostly escaping us – some relictual population from greener days when rains were plentiful here? It’s hard to believe though that if they were present year-round, that we haven’t come across them since we do visit Lac Rose and Mbeubeusse fairly regularly, in all seasons. Or are they present only certain years, and if so at what time of the year? The series of observations from the late sixties up to early nineties is certainly intriguing and would suggest that the species was fairly well established in the Niayes region, especially when one factors in the even lower observer pressure than currently. With records from January (2), February (2), April (1), June (the two in this report), August (1) and November (1) it seems that they can be expected pretty much at any time of the year. More investigations are needed of course and we’ll see if we can find out more in coming months.

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Yellow -throated Longclaw / Sentinelle a gorge jaune

 

 

Some other good birds from the weekend…

Also on the lake shore were a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls with a second summer Yellow-legged Gull in the mix, some 33 Audouin’s Gulls (i.e. far less than last year at the end of June), Little Terns at colony, a female Greater Painted Snipe (first time I see this species here) and a few other waders (nine Sanderling, 40+ Common Ringed Plovers. a few Greenshanks and Grey Plovers, one Redshank), as well as at least three Brown Babblers – my first in the Dakar region I believe (Goélands brun, leucophée, d’Audouin; Sternes naines, Rhynchée peinte, Sanderling, Grand Gravelot, Chevaliers aboyeur, Pluvier argenté, Gambette, Cratérope brun).

A brief walk and a quick scan of the steppe to the north-east revealed a few Singing Bush Larks and the usual loose flocks of Kittlitz’s Plovers (31 birds including at least 2 small chicks and an older juv.), though no Temminck’s Coursers were seen this time round. Also here was another Osprey and a few Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, which were also heard around the lake (Alouette chanteuse, Gravelot pâtre, Balbuzard pêcheur, Guêpier de Perse).

At Mbeubeusse, apart from the Longclaw the surprise du jour was a fly-over pair of Spur-winged Geese (Oie-armée de Gambie), no doubt looking for fresh water…

Target of the day however was Black-winged Stilt – well, in addition to a few others such as the gull flock I wanted to check on – as I was keen on gathering more breeding data. More on this in a later post, but here’s already a picture of an adult with one of its chicks, from Mbeubeusse where there’s hardly any water left in the small pond close to the main road (= near the end of the Extension VDN). Just like last year, several families and nests were found at Lac Rose, and this morning at Technopole I managed to do a fairly extensive count of the number of families and nests. The breeding season is still in full swing and I hope that many of the birds that are still incubating will see their eggs hatch: with low water levels, predation by feral dogs, Pied Crows, Sacred Ibises etc. may be even more of a risk than usual. Overall it certainly seems that there are fewer nests and fewer grown chicks than last year – again, more on this later!

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Black-winged Stilt / Echasse blanche

 

Not a target but always a pleasure to watch these highly underrated doves:

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Mourning Collared Dove / Tourterelle pleureuse

 

Other stuff of interest from this morning’s visit to Technopole – shortly after the first rain of the season (a very small shower only, but nevertheless: first rain since early October!) – were four Broad-billed Rollers which just like last year seem to favour the area to the NW of the main lake, again Diederik Cuckoo singing, the same Yellow-legged Gull as the previous day at Lac Rose, close to 1,500 Slender-billed Gulls including the first juveniles of the year, as well as the first Black-tailed Godwits of the “autumn”: these are birds that have just arrived back from western Europe, most likely failed breeders. (Rolle violet, Coucou didric, Goélands leucophée et railleur, Barge à queue noire)

Full list here.

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Red-necked Falcon / Faucon chiquera

 

Note!

Visitors to Technopole should know that there is now a poste de contrôle (check point) near the entrance, just after the Sonatel building, manned by rangers from the DPN (National Park Service). This is the first tangible sign that the newly acquired protected status of the site is actually making a difference; hopefully their presence will help prevent illegal dumping and may give potential visitors more of a sense of security. Please do stop and explain that you’re there to watch birds (they will ask anyway, and if you don’t stop they’ll tell you off on the way out). Do note that entrance remains free to all, and that there’s no entrance fee.

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Technopole – more gulls, breeding waders & more

It’s been a while since Technopole last featured here, mostly for a lack of birds… With water levels now extremely low – the main pond only has a few shallow patches of water left – and as a result bird numbers are very low. Just a few hundred Black-winged Stilts, and Spur-winged Lapwings, 100-200 Slender-billed Gulls, the odd Audouin’s and a few oversummering Black-headed Gulls, a few lone waders here and there, 6-8 Greater Flamingos and that’s about it. Luckily there’s always something to see at Technopole, and even if overall numbers of migrants are low at the moment, there’s always some of the local species for which it’s now breeding season!

But more about the gulls first.

One of the previous winter’s Mediterranean Gulls remained up to 10 June at least but only allowed for a few poor records shots, rather unusually a 2nd summer (rather than 1st summer) bird. Apparently the first June record for Senegal, of what in the past 10-20 years has become a regular winter visitor in small numbers to the Dakar region. The last Yellow-legged Gull (Goéland leucophée) was seen on 2 May, also a rather late date.

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Mediterranean Gull / Mouette mélanocéphale

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Mediterranean Gull / Mouette mélanocéphale

 

Actually I just realised that I hadn’t shared some of the better pictures of the star bird of the spring here: the 2nd c.y. Laughing Gull, which ended up staying from 25 April until 22 May at least. With the exception of the adult bird this spring (which was seen only twice by two lucky Iberian observers 🙂 on 21-23 April), all previous records were one-day-wonders.

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Laughing Gull / Mouette atricille 2 c.y. (BP)

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Laughing Gull / Mouette atricille 2 c.y. (BP)

 

And while we’re at it, here’s the stunning adult Franklin’s Gull in breeding plumage, which unfortunately didn’t linger and was seen just once, on 30 April, at fairly long range hence the hazy pictures:

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Franklin’s Gull / Mouette de Franklin ad. (BP)

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Franklin’s Gull / Mouette de Franklin ad. (BP)

 

This bird is from the following day, probably the 2nd summer seen several times between 13 April and 2 May:

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Franklin’s Gull / Mouette de Franklin, 3 c.y.? (BP)

 

Several Black-winged Stilts are still on the nest, but breeding success appears to be low (because water levels are too low, making the nests more vulnerable?). Only a handful of little stiltlets are seen on each visit, and hardly any older juvs. are around. Wondering whether those at Lac Rose may be more successful this year…

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Black-winged Stilt / Echasse blanche

 

A welcome surprise though was a tiny Kittlitz’s Plover chick (Gravelot pâtre), barely a few days old, seen on 10 June. Previous breeding records here were in June 2016 (probable) and July 2012.

Greater Painted-Snipe (Rhynchée peinte) may also be breeding as a pair was seen on 23 June and a male two weeks earlier in the same area (past golf club house on edge of lake near the small baobab!).

And this year there are quite a few Little Bitterns around, quite obviously more than in previous years, with sightings including several singing birds and pairs in at least five locations. I guess the number of territories all over the Grande Niaye de Pikine could easily exceed 10-12 pairs/singing males. Here’s a rather poor picture of a pair seen on our most recent visit, just before it flew off:

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Little Bittern / Blongios nain

 

Little Grebe (Grèbe castagneux) was once again confirmed to be breeding, though later than in previous years: an adult with a still downy juv. (aged 1-2 weeks?) was on the small pond past the golf course on 10 June, in the same site as in previous years. Previous  records in central and northern Senegal were during Dec. – April (read up more about the breeding status of Little Grebe in Senegal & Gambia in this paper that we published in Malimbus last year)

Another nice surprise last Sunday (23/6) was the first Diederik Cuckoo (Coucou didric) of the season in these parts of the country: a singing bird flew high over the pond coming from the Pikine side, then was heard again later on in the tree belt near the football field. Almost as good as hearing the first Common Cuckoo in early April, back “home” in Geneva!

We’re almost there! In the end, there’s been quite a lot to catch up on since early May…

This colour-ringed Gull-billed Tern which I think I’ve mentioned before is indeed from the small colony of Neufelderkoog in northern Germany – the only site where the species breeds north of the Mediterranean region – and as it turns out it’s only the second-ever resighting of one of their birds in Africa. The first was that of a first-winter bird seen in February 2017 in Conakry, Guinea. Our bird ended up staying at least 16 days, from 13 – 28 April. It was ringed on 18 July 2017 by Markus Risch (“WRYY”: white-red/yellow-yellow) and was a late or replacement brood, and the bird was among the latest fledglings of all.

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Gull-billed Tern / Sterne hansel

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Same bird, almost 2 years earlier! (M. Risch)

 

This Common Ringed Plover was around for some time in April / early May, ringed in Norway (details yet to be submitted).

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Common Ringed Plover / Grand Gravelot

 

Also on the ringing front, we’re still waiting to hear back for some of the 40-50 Sandwich Tern ring readings Miguel and I managed to make this spring. One of the most recent birds, seen on May 1st, was ringed in June 2017 at Hodbarrow RSPB reserve in Cumbria (UK), and was already spotted on 25/11/17 at Kartong in Gambia (4,720 km, 148 days). While 2nd c.y. birds all stay in Africa during their first summer, third calendar-years such as this one may already migrate back to Europe. 

Rounding off the overview with the most recent addition to the Technopole list: African Wattled Lapwing (Vanneau du Sénégal), which surprisingly had not been seen so far, at least not as far as I know – seems like the species actively avoids dense urban areas, since they are regular just outside Dakar but obviously a bit of a vagrant here in town. One was seen flying past, calling a few times, on 10 June.

Species number 239!

Let’s see if we can manage to find 240 in the next few weeks.

 

 

Quest for a Ghost

A day off and not much going on at Technopole recently (water levels are too low, most migrants have moved on) means that I finally have some time to write up this long overdue post. At long last I managed to “catch up” as they say on a very special bird, part quail, part plover – or is it half lark, a quarter courser and a quarter chameleon? Either way, our third attempt to find the unique Quail-Plover (Turnix à ailes blanches) finally paid off with some superb sightings of two different birds, nearly three weeks ago somewhere south of Touba/Mbacke in central Senegal’s barren bush country. I’m pretty sure that this diminutive bird, which of course is neither a plover, nor a quail or lark (let alone a chameleon), easily ranks in the top 10 of most wanted birds to be found in Senegal. Secretive yet not shy, it’s notoriously hard to find in the vast expanse of suitable habitat throughout central Senegal. and earlier attempts back in February and June 2018 failed to turn up any Quail-Plovers.

So, we set off ridiculously early (well maybe not for most birders, but for me 5.30am is VERY early) one Saturday morning and took the shiny new highway to Touba (merci la cooperation chinoise, Senegal now has an additional 1 billion or so Euros in debts to reimburse). Within no time we reached Touba and zoomed through the usually very busy town of Mbacke, all being quiet as it’s Ramadan season here. A few kilometres past the surprisingly clean town of Tip, for Senegalese standards that is, we took what looked like a more or less driveable track heading in the direction of a known spot for Quail-Plover. I somehow managed to get a pretty impressive puncture thanks to a sharp piece of bone (I’m guessing a goat’s femur, see below: opinions welcome), but by 8.30 we were out in the field, birding with a purpose.

QuailPloverPuncture

 

Endlessly kicking bushes and slaloming one’s way through the bush country seems to be the only way to nail down this ghost bird. Preferably in a large group, definitely not on your own or with just one mate…

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Quail-Plover country

 

Not really sure whether we really stood any chance, and hopes slowly diminishing as we kicked along without much of a result for about an hour, Miguel finally started frantically gesturing some distance away. Sure enough, he’d found one!

A short sprint later I finally saw what must be one of the most unique birds I’ve ever seen:

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YES!!

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Quail-Plover / Turnix à ailes blanches

 

We ended up watching this bird for at least half an hour as it slowly moved from one bush to another, typically rocking back-and-forth just like a chameleon, at times feeding but always keeping a watchful eye on us. We finally moved on, both of us all ecstatic of course, like two boys who just received their most wanted Christmas present. Barely five minutes later, I flushed a second bird, which again was very cooperative and allowed for great views from close-up, though it seemed more alert and more shy than the first bird, presumably its partner.

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Second bird

 

A typical Sahel species, the “Lark Buttonquail” is indeed most closely related to the buttonquails (Turnicidae), hence its French name. It was first described in 1819 by Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot based on a specimen from Senegal; its distribution runs from here and southern Mauritania in a fairly narrow belt throughout the Sahel all the way to Sudan, with what seems like a disjunct population in southern Ethiopia and arid country in Kenya.

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Bird & Man

 

To give a sense of how little is known about the species, here are some excerpts from the HBW Alive species page:

  • Voice: Apparently silent when flushed; otherwise a very soft, low whistle given from ground has been described, but context seems unknown.
  • Food and feeding: little specific information […] at least partly nocturnal […]
  • Breeding: Little known […] possibly monogamous […]
  • Movements: Poorly understood […]
  • Status and conservation: Not globally threatened. Uncommon to locally common […] in Senegal, may have become less common since 1930s […] Perhaps only a vagrant to Gambia (three recent records) […]

Our observations don’t add much to the above; we did see one of the birds feeding as it was walking slowly and every now and then quickly pecking either small insects (ants?) or seeds or other vegetable matter from the ground. When initially flushed, both birds silently flew a short distance (10-15 meters for the first, maybe 30 m for the second bird) and immediately took cover at the base of a bush. Interestingly, we found these birds in exactly the same spot as where it was reported back in January, suggesting it is present here and highly site faithful at least throughout the dry season.

Most recent observations in Senegal are made by tour groups on their regular circuit, who usually dedicate a stop (or two or three, depending on success rates!) between the north and the Saloum delta or Wassadou to their quest for the Quail-Plover. Abdou ‘Carlos’ Lo almost certainly has seen the most of these birds in the last few years, and has found the species in several spots now, so thanks certainly must go to Carlos here. There are also a few recent records from near Toubacouta, from Palmarin and from the Trois-Marigots reserve (see this post by Ornithondar, with as always a good summary of the status of not only Quail-Plover, but also its relative the Common Buttonquail). Morel & Morel mainly recorded the species around Richard-Toll, while Sauvage & Rodwell mention records from the late 80s and early 90s from Popenguine, Mbour (ORSTOM field station), the Niokolo-Koba NP, and Kaffrine. 

Here’s the second bird again, showing much less white in the wing and a very crisp plumage:

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Quail-Plover / Turnix à ailes blanches

 

Of course, there are other birds to be seen here, even if diversity is pretty low especially at this time of the year, with most migrants gone and wet season visitors not arrived yet. Savile’s Bustard, Singing Bush Lark, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, and Desert Cisticola are the most notable other inhabitants of this region (Outarde de Savile, Alouette chanteuse, Erémomèle à croupion jaune, Cisticole du désert). A single Melodious Warbler (Hypolaïs polyglotte) was the only Palearctic migrant still around. See complete eBird checklists here and here.

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Desert Cisticola / Cisticole du désert

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A silent Singing Bush Lark / Alouette chanteuse

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Chestnut-bellied Starling / Choucador à ventre roux

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Long-tailed Lizard  / Lézard à longue queue

 

Third time lucky, as they say.

 

 

Two Laughing Gulls, and other unexpected birds at Technopôle

Another visitor from North America showed up recently at Technopole: a superb adult Laughing Gull (Mouette atricille) was found by Miguel Lecoq and Ignacio Morales over the Easter weekend. First seen on 21.4, it was still present two days later when it was also heard calling. Amazingly, later that same week (25.4), Miguel found an immature (2nd year) in the same place!

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Laughing Gull / Mouette atricille (I. Morales)

 

Identification is pretty straightforward, the main field characters being nicely visible here: dark grey mantle, almost entirely black outer primaries, narrow white trailing edge to secondaries and tertials, back hood with white “eye lashes”, fairly long dark crimson red bill, and rather long dark red to blackish legs. The young bird is also very distinct and is relatively easy to pick out amongst the numerous other gulls that are present at Technopole at the moment: Slender-billed Gulls mostly, but also Grey-headed Gulls (the immatures of which superficially resemble Laughing Gull), and still some Black-headed, Audouin’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Goeland railler, Mouettes à tête grise et rieuse, Goelands d’Audouin et brun).

Proper rare bird record shot:

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Laughing Gull / Mouette atricille (M. Lecoq)

 

This is the fourth American species to be seen in Senegal in less than two weeks, once again highlighting the potential of the country to find vagrant gulls and waders: the overwintering Lesser Yellowlegs (Chevalier à pattes jaunes) was last seen on 8.4, followed by a 2nd year Franklin’s Gull (Mouette de Franklin) on 13.4, the American Golden Plover (Pluvier bronzé) from Palmarin (15.4), and now Larus atricilla. And this is by just a small handful of active observers… just imagine what else there is to be found, if only there were more birders here.

There are just five previous records of Laughing Gull:

  • An adult in the Saloum delta on 18.3.85 (Dupuy, A.R. (1985) Sur la présence au Sénégal de Larus atricilla. Alauda 53. Two years earlier, a possible sighting in the same place of a bird apparently paired with Grey-headed Gull, could not be confirmed and should thus be ignored.
  • An adult at Guembeul (near Saint-Louis) on 12.1.95 (Yésou P., Triplet P. (1995) La mouette atricille Larus atricilla au Sénégal. Alauda 63)
  • A 2nd winter in the Saloum delta on 28.12.05, see picture below (A. Flitti; Recent Reports, Bull. Afr. Bird Club 13)
  • One flying past the Ngor seawatch site on 7.10.08 (P. Crouzier, P. J. Dubois, J.-Y. Fremont, E. Rousseau, A. Verneau; Recent Reports, Bull. Afr. Bird Club 16)
  • An adult at Saint Louis on 10.1.14; a 2nd winter possibly also present (M. Beevers; Recent Reports, Bull. Afr. Bird Club 21)

 

8122 Mouette atricille_Siné Saloum - AmineFlitti (small)

Laughing Gull / Mouette atricille, Saloum, Dec. 2005 (A. Flitti)

 

Elsewhere on the continent, there are records from Morocco, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau (first records is yet to be published), and possibly elsewhere – most recently, an imm. photographed at the Bijol Islands in Gambia in December 2018. It’s an annual vagrant to western Europe, even in unexpected locations such as on this lake in the Swiss Alps where an adult overwintered in 2005/2006:

Larusatricilla_Merligen_20051226_Piot

Laughing Gull / Mouette atricille, Merligen, Dec. 2006 (B. Piot)

 

Unlike Franklin’s Gull, which has been recorded in all months except for November, with most records in May, July and August, Laughing Gull is obviously a species that is more to be expected in winter, with all records so far occurring between October and April.

Other good birds found during Miguel’s frequent visits these past few days include two other additions to the Technopole list: Golden Oriole on 25.4 (Loriot d’Europe), and Pallid Swift on 23.4 (Martinet pâle). A late Mediterranean Gull (Mouette mélanocéphale) was also a good record, as was the count of 606 Sanderlings.

 

The site list now stands at 237 species. Which one will be next?

 

Update!

I wrote the preceding paragraphs yesterday, and since then I’ve been – at long last – back to Technopole, as I was up north last weekend and travelling abroad for work this past week. Well, we got the answer: species number 238 is Plain Martin (also known as Brown-throated Martin; Hirondelle paludicole). We had a single bird feeding over the water – often at close range – along with a couple of Barn Swallows (Hirondelle rustique) and several Little Swifts (Martinet des maisons), nicely showing its features. This is a rarely reported species from Senegal, and as it turns out the first eBird observation for the country! It’s rather patchily distributed throughout West Africa, being more common in Morocco, East Africa, and Southern Africa. Considered a non-breeding visitor to Senegal and Gambia, I could only find six old records from Senegal: Morel & Morel list four, followed by one in Jan. 1992 in the Djoudj and one from Mekhe in August 1992. Last year, Bruno Bargain found several at Kambounda (Sédhiou, Casamance), on 2.12.18, but other than those there do not seem to be any recent observations. Very nice sighting and an unexpected addition to my Senegal list – and a cool lifer for Miguel!

Alas no Laughing Gull this morning, but we did see the Frankin’s Gull again. Also another Pallid Swift, as well as new sightings of a colour-ringed German Gull-billed Tern (Sterne hansel) and a Norwegian Common Ringed Plover (Grand Gravelot), plus now two different Med’ Gulls. Let’s try again on Wednesday morning, who knows maybe the gull will be back. It may actually have been around for a few weeks now, as there was a possible sighting at Technopole on March 30th. It’s quite possible that the adult is hanging out by the harbour or elsewhere in the baie de Hann or even Rufisque, and will show up again at Technopole.

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Franklin’s Gull / Mouette de Franklin (BP)