Tag Archive | American Golden Plover

AGPs again

Quick note to report Senegal’s 12th and 13th American Golden Plovers, a species that is now near-annual here but which always remains a good find.

We found the first of the season last weekend at lac Mbeubeusse (north of Keur Massar) which we visited early afternoon on our way back from a very enjoyable trip to Popenguine – more on that visit in an upcoming post. Both the date (3 November) and the location are rather typical for this wader: out of the 11 previous records, eight are from the Dakar region, and three were obtained between mid-October and mid-December. Paul had already seen a bird in the same location back in March 2013: needless to say that lac Mbeubeusse ought to be visited much more frequently than just a handful of times per year: pretty much every visit is bound to turn up something good. As always we can only speculate about the number of Nearctic vagrants that pass through Senegal every year or that end up spending the winter here…

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Lac Mbeubeuss(e)

 

After spotting what looked like a suspicious Pluvialis plover (= anything but a Grey Plover), based on the fairly contrasted plumage, seemingly long-bodied and long-legged appearance combined with a small-ish bill, we had to wait a while, gradually approaching the lake’s edge, before we could confirm that it was indeed a “Lesser” Golden Plover (= American or Pacific GP). The important primary projection with wing tips reaching well beyond the tail, bronzy rump and lower back, dark-capped head with distinctive pale supercilium and forehead, and most significantly at one point the bird stretched its wings upwards which allowed us to see the grey underwing. Everything else about the bird was pretty standard for a first-year American Golden Plover. Bingo!

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

 

To get a sense of the potential of lac Mbeubeusse for waders and other waterbirds, check out our eBird checklist: other good birds here included hundreds of Northern Shovelers and many GarganeysRuffsLittle Stints and Common Ringed Plovers, several Curlew Sandpipers and Dunlins, quite a few Audouin’s Gulls, a few terns including all three species of Chlidonias marsh terns, 124 Greater Flamingos, at least one Red-rumped Swallow, etc. etc. All this with Dakar’s giant rubbish tip as a backdrop, spewing black smoke and gradually covering the niaye in a thick layer of waste on its western edge… quite a sad contrast with all the bird life. And definitely not the most idyllic birding hotspot!

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Audouin’s Gull / Goéland d’Audouin

 

Number 13 was found by Mark Finn barely a week later, on Friday Nov. 9th, at one of the lagoons near Pointe Sarène, south of Mbour. As I happened to spend the weekend at nearby Nianing and was planning on visiting Sarène anyway, I went there the following day and easily located the bird, an adult moulting into winter plumage. Unlike the previous bird, it was actively feeding on the shores of a seasonal pond surrounded by pastures and fields, along with several other waders including Ruff, Redshank, Greenshank, RedshankWood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, TurnstoneCommon Sandpiper, and Common Snipe. This appears to be the first record along the Petite Côte south of Dakar, at a site that has great potential for shorebirds and other migrants: around Nianing, Sarène and Mbodiène are several seasonal lakes that fill up during the rains, as well as coastal saltwater (or brackish) lagoons as can be seen on the map below. The marker shows where the AGP was feeding on Saturday.

 

Despite being a bit distant I managed some decent record shots of the bird, but unfortunately my camera was stolen later in the weekend… so these pictures are lost forever to humanity. Not that I would have won any prizes with them. So no more blurred pictures from the field on this blog for a little while.

The Sarène bird looked pretty much like this one, just slightly less black on the chest:

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé (Technopole, April 2018)

 

Anyway, as I think we’ve already mentioned in the past, “AGP” is the most frequent Nearctic wader in Senegal and more generally in West Africa, followed by Buff-breasted Sandpiper (nine Senegalese records so far) and Lesser Yellowlegs (eight). See this post for a list of the first eight known AGP records for Senegal. Since then (spring 2017), the following sightings are to be added:

  • April-May 2017: an adult and two 2nd c.y. birds from 17.4 – 1.5 at least, with a fourth bird (= technically an additional record) up to 21.5., at Technopole (BP, Theo Peters, Wim Mullié, Miguel Lecoq, Ross Wanless, Justine Dosso)
  • 8 April 2018: an adult or 2nd c.y. at Technopole (BP) – photos above and more info here.
  • 3 November 2018: one 1st c.y. at lac Mbeubeusse, Dakar (BP, Gabriel Caucanas, Miguel Lecoq, Ross Wanless)
  • 9-10 November 2018: one ad. at Sarène, Thiès region (M. Finn et al., BP)

Out of these 12 records, eight are from Dakar (mostly Technopole of course!), just one from the north – the first country record, in 1979 – and two are from Basse-Casamance where the species may well winter, at least occasionally. And six of these records are from just the past four years: one in 2015, four birds in 2017, and now already three birds this year.  American Golden Plovers tend to mainly show up in spring (April-May) and in autumn (Oct.-Nov.) as shown in this little chart below; it’s also in spring that they linger the longest: in spring 2017, Technopole saw a continued presence during five weeks, involving at least four different birds. Note that birds that stayed for several days across two months are counted in both months.

AGP_Chart_Nov2018

American Golden Plover records

 

A few more hazy pictures from the Mbeubeusse bird:

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

 

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

 

 

 

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Technople 8/4: American Golden Plover again, and Baird’s vs. White-rumped Sandpiper

Routine Technopole visit this morning, with a a few good birds to report and (most importantly) a correction to be made.

With water levels now very low, most waders, gulls and terns are now concentrated in the SW part of the main lake and along its northern edge. After an initial scan from behind the fishermen’s cabin (African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Stork), I made my way to where most of the smaller waders were feeding, and soon located an American Golden Plover, an adult moulting into breeding plumage. The contrasted plumage, long wings (clearly extending beyond the tail tip), and smaller and more slender build than Grey Plover made the identification pretty straightforward, even at long range as in the record shot below:

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American Golden Plover & Grey Plovers / Pluviers bronzé & argentés

 

This is now the fourth record in three years at Technopole, all of which have been in spring (8/4-21/5) and all birds so far have stayed for several days or weeks, so it’s likely that this one will hang around a bit longer. And going by last year’s series of observations, it may well be joined by other AGP’s in coming weeks – no doubt are there several birds wintering in (West) Africa each year, and some of these will pass through the Dakar penninsula. Previous Technopole records were in June 2012 (M. van Roomen) and October 2005 (Nillson et al., W. Faveyts) and there’s also an observation from lac Mbeubeusse in March 2013, by Paul Robinson.

The image below is a bit less distant, and clearly shows the dark upperparts speckled with fresh golden mantle feathers, a contrasting white supercilium wrapping around the ear coverts, an “open” face due to pale lores, the thin bill and especially the very long primaries, extending well beyond the tail. Note also the black feathers appearing on the lower breast.

AmericanGoldenPlover_Technopole_20180408_IMG_1684

American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

 

Despite not having relocated the White-rumped Sandpiper during my two previous visits, I still had this bird in the back of my mind, so was pleased to see it again, this time not too far. I was determined to see the white rump as we hadn’t clearly seen it two weeks ago, and as such a slight doubt remained as to whether we could safely rule out Baird’s. It didn’t take long for the bird to fly off, and now I clearly saw the rump: no white!!! This was confirmed when the bird took off a second time. So it was a Baird’s Sandpiper after all… which means we somehow got tricked into believing we saw white on the rump during our initial observation (wishful thinking? a Curlew Sandpiper?), at least that’s assuming that we’re talking about one and the same bird here. It does explain why we felt that several features on the pictures from 25/3 were pro-Baird rather than White-rumped Sandpiper.

So, still no Calidris fuscicollis in Senegal, but we’re pretty happy with Calidris bairdii as well – I’d never seen either species before, and Baird’s has been seen only once before in Senegal, in 1965 (!), though I still need to find out exactly when, where and by whom.

I’ve updated and renamed the original post with some more details.

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Baird’s Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird

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Baird’s Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird

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Baird’s Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird

 

Other than these, there are a couple of Dunlins around, still several Curlew Sandpipers (some now in full breeding plumage), a Spotted Redshank, a couple hundred Common Ringed Plovers, a handful of Sanderling (much less than just over a week ago), a Whimbrel, a Greater Painted-Snipe, etc.

Unlike earlier in the week, I didn’t see any Mediterranean Gulls and the majority of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls seem to have left the area by now. The various flocks of terns held Arctic, Common, Caspian, African Royal, Lesser Crested, Sandwich, and Gull-billed Terns! A few Black Terns were flying around (while Roseate and Little Terns were seen in the last few days from Ngor, so that’s almost all regular tern species that are present in Dakar at the moment). A few Eurasian Spoonbills are still around, including one on 1/4 with a white ring “AVLV” from the Camargue program – awaiting details on this bird’s life history.

A Marsh Harrier hunting over the area was probably one of two birds that spent the winter at Technopole, while a kestrel passing through quite high was visibly actively migrating and may well have been a Lesser Kestrel, though not sure.

Still lots of Black-crowned Night-Herons, but with the water levels being so low there aren’t many other herons around, just a few of each of the regular species incl. a few Black Herons. And most of the northern songbirds are gone now, with just a few Yellow Wagtails still around. A pair of Copper Sunbirds was singing and feeding in mangroves not far from the Club House, and has been seen several times in the same area in recent weeks. Also still lots of Sudan Golden Sparrows, while the Black-headed Weavers are now in full breeding plumage and are actively nest-building, and Northern Crombec has been heard singing on most recent visits.

 

 

 

L’année ornithologique sénégalaise 2017 / Year in review

Comme cela semble une tradition chez les bloggeurs, je me suis pris au jeu de faire une petite revue de l’année 2017, ornithologiquement parlant bien sûr. On parlera évidemment des vraies raretés, mais aussi de l’exploration de quelques coins peu connus, des données de nidification et d’extension d’aire, et j’en passe. Pas facile en tout cas de résumer les points forts de ces douze derniers mois, non seulement parce qu’il y en a pas mal, mais aussi du fait que pour beaucoup d’espèces le statut réel au Sénégal reste encore à préciser: répartition, phénologie, statut et tendances. Difficile aussi de couvrir un pays entier quand on n’est que 3-4 ornithologues réellement actifs à y résider!! Il manque certainement des obs importantes dans ma synthèse – qui sera forcément incomplète – donc si vous avez des compléments ou des corrections je les ajoute volontiers.

D’abord les grosses raretés:

Ensuite, quelques autres migrateurs rares – Rare migrants:

  • Le Puffin majeur est vu à Ngor le 25/5 (2 inds.), une rare donnée “printanière”, alors qu’un passage important – et étonnant par la date – a lieu début décembre. Great Shearwater: two at Ngor on 25/5 were apparently the first May record, while a strong passage was noted early December. 
  • Un Grand Cormoran de la ssp. maroccanus était lui aussi à Ngor, sur les enrochements, les 2 et 15/12. Great Cormorant at Ngor in December. 
  • Plusieurs Bondrées apivores sont notées entre le 9/10 et le 5/11, avec un autre même à fin décembre, alors que c’est une espèce apparemment rarement vue, en tout cas dans l’ouest du pays: Dakar, Toubacouta, Guéréo/Somone et Popenguine. Several Honey Buzzards in October and early November between Dakar and the Saloum, with another bird at Somone in late December. 
  • Deux Aigles de Bonelli sont vus dans la région des Trois-Marigots en novembre-décembre, où un imm. était déjà présent en fevrier, confirmant ainsi la présence régulière en très petit nombre dans le nord-ouest du pays. Ornithondar continue avec les rapaces, sous la forme d’un Vautour percnoptère noté le 25/12, espèce qui a aussi vu des effectifs importants dans le Boundou en fin d’année. Two Bonelli’s Eagles and an Egyptian Vulture near Saint-Louis.
  • Deux petits rallidés peu vus au Senegal ensuite: la Marouette poussin surtout, trouvée à Boundou les 4-5/11, mais aussi celle de Baillon au Djoudj (7/2) à la STEP de Saint-Louis (25/12), qui pourraient bien concerner un hivernant ou un oiseau de passage et non un local. Two little marsh skulkers that are rarely reported from Senegal, though they are probably quite frequent on migration, are Little Crake at Boundou, and Baillon’s Crake near Saint-Louis.
  • Plusieurs espèces peu fréquentes dans la région de Dakar sont vues pour la première fois au Technopole: Goéland dominicain, Flamant nain, Phalarope à bec large, Bengali zebré, Souimanga pygmée, Rolle violet, Hibou des marais, Pouillot ibérique. Egalement un Bec-en-ciseaux le 4/6 et une Sarcelle d’hiver le 9/11, avec d’autres migrateurs peu fréquents comme le Goéland leucophée et la Bécassine sourde à l’appui. A number of scarce species in the Dakar region were reported for the first time from Technopole: Kelp Gull, Lesser Flamingo, Grey Phalarope, Zebra Waxbill, Pygmy Sunbird, Broad-billed Roller, Short-eared Owl, Iberian Chiffchaff. Also African Skimmer and a Eurasian Teal, while other uncommon migrants seen at the site include Jack Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull.
  • Le 29/10, un Blongios de Sturm est à la lagune de Yène, endroit par ailleurs très fréquenté cet automne par les canards et limicoles. A Dwarf Bittern, along with good numbers of ducks and waders, was seen at Yene lagoon.
  • Un Martinet à ventre blanc est vu le 13/10 à Boundou, et le 13/11 il y en avait deux à Popenguine, où jusqu’à neuf Hirondelles de rochers étaient présentes en novembre-décembre. Alpine Swift at Boundou and at Popenguine, where up to nine Crag Martins were seen in Nov.-Dec.
  • L’Hypolais pâle, un hivernant probablement régulier mais rarement détecté au Sénégal, était à Palmarin le 19/2, alors que deux oiseaux sont identifiés le 28/12 près de Guéréo (dans la même zone qu’en mars 2016 – une coïncidence?). Eastern Olivaceous Warbler – probably regular, but very rarely detected. One was at Palmarin on 19/2, while two birds were at Guereo (Somone) on 28/12 (where one was seen in the same area in March 2016 – a coincidence?)
  • Une Pie-grièche isabelle est signalée près de Gossas (vers Ouadiour) le 28/11. Isabelline Shrike near Gossas on 28/11. 
  • Un hybride Pie-grièche à tête rousse x écorcheur le 26/8 au Lac Tanma était une première non seulement pour le pays mais apparemment aussi pour le continent africain. Hybrid Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike at Lac Tanma, apparently a first such record for Africa.
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Baillon’s Crake / Marouette de Baillon

Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike / Pie-grieche a tete rousse x ecorcheur

Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike / Pie-grieche à tête rousse x ecorcheur

Quelques autres observations intéressantes: effectifs records, nouvelles donnes sur la répartition – Other sightings: record numbers and new range data

  • Parmi les autres “premières” pour la réserve naturelle communautaire du Boundou se trouvent bon nombre de migrateurs paléarctiques comme la Spatule blanche (Eur. Spoonbill) ou le Becasseau cocorli (Curlew Sandpiper) et même un Fuligule nyroca (4-5/11; Ferruginous Duck), mais aussi quelques africains, migrateurs (Blongios de Sturm, Least Bittern), erratiques (Courvite à ailes bronzées, Bronze-winged Courser) et résidents (Gladiateur de Blanchot, Grey-headed Bush-shrikeBruant à ventre jaune, Brown-rumped Bunting).
  • Le Puffin du Cap-Vert est présent en fin d’hiver au large de Dakar, comme d’habitude, mais un effectif important est noté le 18/4 lorsque pas moins de 5’500 oiseaux se nourrissent devant Ngor. Cape Verde Shearwater: a max. of ca. 5,500 birds were feeding off Ngor on 18/4.
  • L’observation d’un Phaéton à bec rouge adulte sur l’Ile aux Oiseaux de la Langue de Barbarie les 7-12/4 était pour le moins insolite. Red-billed Tropicbird on the Langue de Barbarie’s “Bird Island” on 7-12/4.
  • Un Ibis hagedash survole la maison aux Almadies, Dakar, le 23/8, alors que l’espèce semble toujours présente sur la Petite Côte avec plusieurs observations en octobre. Hadada Ibis: one on 23/8 flying over Almadies, Dakar, and several observations at Somone and Saly. 
  • Le Marabout d’Afrique est vu aux Trois-Marigots (14/4), soit dans une région du pays où l’espèce est maintenant très rare semble-t-il. Marabou Stork at Trois-Marigots. 
  • Un Aigle huppard adulte a survolé le Lac Tanma tout en criant, le 1/10, donc hors de son aire regulière dans le pays. A Long-crested Eagle flew over Lac Tanma while calling, away from its regular range in Senegal
  • L’effectif d’environ 300 Foulques macroules le 16/5 à Ross-Bethio (près du Djoudj) est surprenant à cette période de l’année. A Dakar, il y en a eu deux au Lac Mbeubeusse le 7/10 et autant à Yène-Todé les 21-29/10. Around 300 Eurasian Coots were at Ross-Bethio on 16/5, a high count especially at this time of the year; in the Dakar region, two records of two birds. 
  • Un Trogon narina est de nouveau observé dans la réserve naturelle de Dindéfello (16/2), soit le seul site d’où l’espèce est actuellement connue, suite à sa découverte en 2010. J’allais aussi ajouter deux Bulbuls à queue rousse signalés dans la forêt de galerie au même endroit (3/2) et publiés dans le Bulletin de l’ABC, mais à en lire le rapport de voyage des observateurs on constate que l’identification est loin d’être certaine. Narina’s Trogon was seen again at Dindéfello, the only site in Senegal where the species, which was first recorded here in 2010, occurs. Two Leafloves were reported from the gallery forest here, but it seems that identification is far from certain despite being published in the ABC Bulletin.
  • Le Moineau domestique est maintenant bien implanté à Tambacounda semble-t-il, et l’espèce est vue pour la première fois au Boundou: l’expansion continue! House Sparrow now well established in Tambacounda and reported for the first time at Boundou. 
  • A Lompoul, le Petit Moineau est vu début janvier puis de nouveau confirmé à la fin de l’année, avec plusieurs oiseaux dont des chanteurs, bouchant ainsi un trou dans l’aire de répartition connue. Bush Petronia was found early January and confirmed again at the end of the year, thus filling a gap in the known distribution range.
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Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

Quelques donnees de nidification intéressantes – Interesting breeding records:

  • Le Canard à bosse a de nouveau niché au Lac Tanma (f. avec 12 canetons le 1/10); le Dendrocygne veuf a niché au même endroit et à la lagune de Yène. Knob-billed Duck noted breeding again at Lac Tanma, where also White-faced Whistling Duck, which also bred at Yene. 
  • Pas encore de nidification, mais des observations intriguantes de plusieurs Fous bruns dont des couples visiblement formés et montrant un comportement territorial, aux Iles de la Madeleine en avril-mai surtout – à suivre! Au même endroit, 5-6 couples de Sternes bridées étaient présents en juinBrown Boobies showing signs of breeding behaviour (but no confirmed breeding) at Iles de la Madeleine, where 5-6 pairs of Bridled Tern were present in June.
  • La nidification de la Gallinule poule-d’eau est confirmée au Technopole, tout comme celle – déjà constatée dans le passé – de la Talève d’Afrique. Moorhen confirmed breeding at Technopole, where African Swamphen was also seen breeding once again. 
  • Les Echasses blanches ont eu une très bonne année au Technopole, alors que la nidification a été attestée de nouveau dans le Djoudj. Black-winged Stilts had a bumper year at Technopole, while breeding was noted in the Djoudj. 
  • Toujours pas de preuve de nidification (faute d’avoir investi le temps qu’il faudrait!), mais les Tourterelles turques du parc de Hann sont toujours présentes – avis aux amateurs! Still no proof of breeding, but the small population of Eurasian Collared Doves in Dakar is still around. 
  • Un jeune Coucou jacobin vu en octobre près de la Somone constitue une rare donnée de nidification certaine (voire la première?) pour le pays. Un autre juvenile est vu à Patako début novembre Jacobin Cuckoo fledgling near Somone. 
BridledTern_IlesdelaMadeleine_20170624_IMG_2788

Bridled Tern / Sterne bridee

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Jacobin Cuckoo / Coucou jacobin

Et enfin, parlons un peu des coins peu connus ou peu explorés – Little explored areas:

  • L’un de ces sites est la forêt de Pout près de Thiès, que nous avons visitée en juin (Circaète brun, Pintade de Numidie, Oedicnème tachard, etc.), et plus encore la forêt de Patako près de Toubacouta, explorée par Miguel en novembre.
  • En Casamance, nous avons pu faire des observations à Kolda en mai, avec observations entre autres du Grébifoulque et du Rale perlé, deux especes rarement notées en Casamance même si elles doivent y être régulières. Egalement en Casamance, on a pu voir des Faucons crécerellettes et un Busard pâle en migration active près de Cap-Skirring, alors qu’à Diembering on a pu confirmer p.ex. la présence de l’Apalis à gorge jaune (+ Phyllanthe capucin et quelques autres spécialités forestières à l’écoparc). Gabriel de son côté a pu visiter la région de Vélingara, avec notamment l’observation d’un Bihoreau à dos blanc. African Finfoot & White-spotted Flufftail at Kolda in Casamance. There appear to be very few, if any, recent records from Casamance even though the species is likely to be widespread. Also in Casamance: Cap Skirring – Lesser Kestrel and Pallid Harrier; ecoparc near Diembering: Yellow-throated Apalis, Capuchin Babbler, etc. Also a White-backed Night-Heron near Velingara. 
  • Quelques visites dans la steppe, les dunes et les niayes près du Lac Rose, trop peu visitées par les ornithos, ont produit des observations d’hivernants peu courants à cette latitude, comme l’Alouette calandrelle, le Traquet isabelle, ou encore le Traquet oreillard A few visits to the steppe, dunes and niayes near Lac Rose, rarely visited by birders, yielded several interesting records of winter visitors that are reputed to be mostly restricted to northern Senegal: Greater Short-toed Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear.
  • Enfin, en 2017 nous avons pu mener ce qui doit être le premier suivi systématique sur l’ensemble de la saison de migration d’automne des oiseaux de mer, devant Dakar. Les faits marquants comprennent notamment un effectif record de Mouettes de Sabine, un passage impressionnant de Puffins cendrés et de Scopoli, un Puffin de Boyd et un Puffin des Baléares, et bien plus encore – résumé complet iciLast but not least, in 2017 we conducted what was the first extensive seabird migration monitoring effort in Senegal (and more generally in West Africa it seems), with regular observations made from the mainland at Ngor between the end of July and the end of December. Highlights included a record number of Sabine’s Gulls, strong passage of Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwater, a Boyd’s Shearwater, a Balearic Shearwater, and much more. 
African Finfoot / Grebifoulque

African Finfoot / Grebifoulque

Que nous apportera 2018? Dans tous les cas, avec un nouvel ajout à la liste nationale des le 1er janvier, l’année a bien commencé!

 

 

 

Technopôle numéro 221…

…un Phalarope à bec étroit!

Je m’attendais bien à voir un Phalaropus un jour au Technopole, mais je pensais logiquement que ce serait celui à bec large, dont la présence au Sénégal et particulièrement à Dakar n’aurait rien de vraiment exceptionnel puisqu’il est régulier en tout cas lors du passage d’automne. De temps en temps, le Phalarope à bec large se montre dans les lagunes et marais salants un peu à l’interieur des terres, comme p.ex. en novembre dernier à Palmarin. Son cousin à bec étroit par contre est une vraie rareté en Afrique de l’Ouest… inutile de dire donc que j’étais bien content quand je me suis retrouvé devant un des ces oiseaux, de surcroît en plumage nuptial. La derniere fois que j’ai vu un phalarope nuptial c’était en… mai 1995 lorsqu’une femelle avait fait escale dans mes terres natales, près d’Anvers.

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Red-necked Phalarope / Phalarope à bec étroit

La photo ci-dessus est prise à bonne distance (80-100m?), avec le zoom digital poussé au maximum… mais on reconnait bien l’oiseau: plumage gris/blanc à l’exception de la bande marron partant de derrière l’oeil et descendant par les côtés du cou vers les flancs, contrastant avec la gorge blanche; même à cette distance on distingue le bec fin et assez long. Lors de ses quelques nerveux deplacements en vol, j’ai pu voir la barre alaire étroite mais assez nette. Il s’agissait probablement d’un mâle car la coloration ne me paraissait pas très vive (les phalaropes font partie des rares espèces d’oiseaux dont la femelle a un plumage plus coloré que les mâles). Mais apparemment il est aussi possible que ce soit une femelle de 2e année, car certains individus acquièrent déjà leur plumage nuptial lors de leur 1er été – difficile donc d’en dire plus à cette distance.

Curieux d’en savoir plus sur son statut dans le pays, j’ai fouillé les sources habituelles… mais n’ai trouvé que quelques mentions d’apparitions du Phalarope à bec étroit au Sénégal:

  • Morel & Morel ne mentionnent qu’une seule donnée, de “8 sujets à l’embouchure de la Somone, 9 déc. 1983 (A. Dupuy)”. La localité, la date, et surtout le fait qu’il y avait huit individus ensemble, plaident bien plus en faveur du Phalarope à bec large. En l’absence de documentation mieux vaut donc ne pas prendre en compte cette observation ancienne.
  • Sauvage & Rodwell incluent deux observations bien plus plausibles dans leur mise à jour de 1998: des isolés le 30/10/91 à la Pointe des Almadies et le 13/4/92 au Lac Retba (=Lac Rose).
  • Un individu est signalé par un observateur de passage lors du PAOC, pendant une séance de seawatch à Ngor le 18/10/16: “1st-winter bird came in and landed just past breaking waves […]. Smaller; more dainty than Red [=Grey Phalarope] with finer bill, darker underwing in flight, less contrasting wing stripe. Appeared darker overall, even when distant and coming in” – cette obs semble donc plutôt crédible.
  • J’attends des infos pour 10 individus signalés eux aussi sur eBird par deux ornithos espagnols, il y aurait des photos… mais me semble peu probable vu l’effectif.

Et ailleurs?

En Mauritanie, il y a trois observations d’oiseaux isolés (Cap Blanc 21/10/66, Nouadhibou 7/4/80, f. nuptiale le 17/6/88 au Banc d’Arguin; Isenmann et al. 2010). Il y a une seule observation en Gambie (Banjul, octobre 1993). Ailleurs en Afrique de l’Ouest je n’ai trouvé que quelques observations: une du Niger (21/10/89), une du Tchad (22/9/14), quatre obs récentes du Ghana (janvier, juillet, deux fois en décembre). Soit moins de 15 données en tout et pour tout, c’est pas beaucoup! Plus au sud, en Namibie et en Afrique du Sud, ce phalarope est également rare, mais il y est tout de même vu assez régulièrement, peut-etre surtout grâce à une meilleure pression d’observation comparé à l’Afrique de l’Ouest et centrale.

On peut se demander si cet oiseau, et de manière générale les quelques individus observés en Afrique de l’Ouest, ne seraient pas plutôt d’origine néarctique qu’européenne, car les populations nichant en Europe passent l’hiver dans l’Océan indien, et les néarctiques se retrouvent dans le Pacifique. Notre phalarope en escale à Dakar aurait ainsi passé l’hiver de ce côté de l’Atlantique, de la même manière que les Pluviers bronzés ou Bécasseaux roussets par exemple. Et il serait donc en route de ses quartiers d’hiver en Afrique australe vers le Haut-Arctique canadien ou le Groenland (tout ça n’est que speculation bien sur – don’t quote me on this one).

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En tout, il y avait le weekend dernier pas moins de 21 espèces de limicoles au Technopole… le phalarope étant d’ailleurs la 37e espèce de limi vue sur le site. Les effectifs étaient assez impressionnants, surtout samedi en fin de journée: il devait y avoir au moins 600 à 700 limicoles de toutes sortes!

Parmi les plus intéressants, signalons un Bécasseau variable (Dunlin) tout seul parmi les minutes, cocorlis et sanderlings, deux Gravelots pâtres (Kittlitz’s Plover) parmi les nombreux Grands Gravelots (Common Ringed Plover), un Courlis corlieu (Whimbrel) passant en vol, cinq Combattants (Ruff) et autant de Barges à queue noire (Black-tailed Godwit; rare donnée d’avril).

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Et surtout, les trois Pluviers bronzés (American Golden Plover) trouvés le lundi 17/4 qui étaient toujours présents samedi 22; le lendemain matin par contre je n’ai retrouvé qu’un des deux juvéniles, l’individu le plus sombre:

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American Golden Plover & Little Stint / Pluvier bronzé & Bécasseau minute

L’adulte continue de muer vers son plumage nuptial, ayant acquis encore un peu plus de plumes noires sur le ventre et les flancs. Difficile par contre de prendre des photos l’après-midi… les visites matinales sont bien plus propices à l’observation et la photographie des limis du Technopole: pas de contre-jour, et moins de vagues de chaleur.

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

En plus de ce beau cortège de limicoles il y a toujours une bonne diversité chez les laridés en ce moment, avec sept espèces vues lors des deux visites: il reste encore quelques Goélands bruns (Lesser Black-backed Gull) immatures et encore 2 Audouins (Audouin’s Gull), ca. 250 Goélands railleurs, +50 Mouettes à tête grise et autant de rieuses (Slender-billed, Grey-headed & Black-headed Gulls), et encore une Mouette mélanocéphale  (Mediterranean Gull) le 23/4 et aussi toujours le jeune Goéland cendré (Common Gull) trouvé en février, vu le 22/4.

Egalement beaucoup de sternes et guifettes: quelques Sternes caspiennes, 30-50 hansels, plusieurs dizaines de caugeks, une dizaine de royales, une Sterne naine posée les deux jours et dix en migration active le 22/4, puis une Sterne arctique de 2e année le matin du 23/4… et de nouveau les trois espèces de Guifettes (deux Moustacs en migration active le 22/4, et au moins deux Leucoptères évoluant avec les Guifettes noires). (Caspian, Gull-billed, Sandwich, Royal, Little, Arctic, Whiskered, White-winged, and Black Terns)

Les passereaux paléarctiques semblent tous avoir quitté le site; juste encore quelques Hirondelles de rivage (Sand Martin), 1-2 Bergeronnettes printanières (Yellow Wagtail). Hier aussi au moins quatre Martinets noirs (Common Swift).

Curieux de savoir quelle sera la 222e espece!?

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Spur-winged Lapwing / Vanneau éperonné

More Americans in Dakar

Yesterday Wim, Theo and I visited our favourite urban hotspot once again. I hadn’t been to Technopole since April 2nd and was keen to find out what new birds were around with spring migration still in full swing.

Our Easter Monday visit proved to be pretty rewarding, mainly thanks to the presence of no less than three (!) American Golden Plovers, with a supporting cast of hundreds of other waders and of course various terns and gulls. Conditions are now really good for most waders. Besides the Black-winged Stilts (which seem to have started breeding again) and Spur-winged Lapwings, there were lots of Little Stints (100-200?), a few Curlew Sandpipers, a flock of ca. 40-50 Sanderlings that arrived from the south and settled on an islet), still quite a few Greenshanks but less Wood Sandpipers than a few weeks ago, a few Common Redshanks, singles of Common Sandpiper and Ruff, still two Avocets, only two Grey Plovers, several dozen Common Ringed and two Kittlitz’s Plovers.

As we were scanning through these waders, this bird popped in view:

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GOLDEN PLOVER!

But which one?

European, American and Asian Golden Plover are all possible here, but all three are rare to extremely rare vagrants to Senegal. European was quickly eliminated based on structure alone: long legs, elongated rear due to long wings, generally slender appearance. It then flew off a short distance and landed out of sight, but luckily we saw the bird several times at fairly close range in the following two hours.

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé (= P. dominicain)

While we were watching this bird, I spotted another intriguing plover in the background, though this one was a young bird (2nd calendar year) that lacked any black on its face or underparts: another golden plover!

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

And then a little while later this one: similar to the previous bird, but overall appearance was more uniform brown. This bird hadn’t started moulting its mantle or coverts yet, unlike the individual above.

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

Identification

Young birds especially can be tricky to separate from Grey Plovers, so we made sure to get good views of the underwing pattern even if structure alone – identical to the adult bird – made it clear that we were watching a total of three different Golden Plovers. Both youngsters lacked the distinctive black “armpit” patch of Grey Plover but rather showed pale grey axillaries as can be seen below.

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

We also paid attention to silhouette and structure in flight, and found that the adult bird had toes that were marginally (but clearly!) extending beyond the tail tip – a feature that’s typically associated with Pacific Golden Plover, but which appears to be variable and as such may not be highly useful. We heard at least one bird calling, a high-pitched kleeuu. No recording unfortunately… I should just have left the recorder on while we were watching these birds! At least we managed to get a few decent pictures (I took well over a hundred pics…).

In the end, after examining our pictures back home, we concluded that all three were American Golden Plovers: wings projecting substantially beyond the tail tip, tertials ending well before the tail tip, leaving at least 3-4 (5?) primary tips visible; relatively short and fine bill; the call which more closely resembled recordings of Pluvialis dominica. Supporting characteristics in favour of American are, for the young birds, the very limited amount of golden “spangling” on the mantle and scapulars; the broad whitish supercilium; the larger, more diffuse “ear spot” and prominent “loral smudge”. The very coarse mottling of the moulting adult is said to fit American better than Asian Golden Plover, and the blotches on the rear flank and on undertail coverts also point towards the Yankee origin.

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

Occurrence in Senegal

This observation appears to be the 9th for Senegal¹, with previous eight records listed as follows:

  • 28/05/1979, one caught on the northern shores of Lac de Guiers (Saint-Louis) by Bernard Treca (Morel & Morel)
  • 10-16 and 29/10/2005, a juvenile at Technopole (Holmström et al.; W. Faveyts; two pictures here), probably the same bird
  • 16-17/10/2006, one photographed at Ziguinchor (ABC Bulletin Recent Reports)
  • 23/6/2012, an adult in breeding plumage at Technopole (Marc van Roomen)
  • 22/11/2012, two at Lac Tanma (Thies), by Paul Robinson (detailed account and pictures here)
  • 11/02/2013, one at Diembering (Basse-Casamance), by Simon Cavaillès and Jean-François Blanc (picture here)
  • 07/03/2013, one at Lac Mbeubeusse (Dakar), Paul Robinson (details and pictures here)
  • 22/04-09/05/2015, one at Technopole, Jean-François Blanc (22/4) & Bram Piot (26/4 & 9/5; ABC Bulletin Recent Reports)

The increase in number of records in recent years is interesting of course, but most likely reflects a much better observer coverage of suitable stop-over sites for waders, particularly in the Dakar area since the start of the decade. All records are from between mid-October and the end of May, and one can assume that the species is now a regular though very scarce visitor to Senegal. With records from several other countries in the subregion, American Golden Plover appears to be the most regular Nearctic vagrant to West Africa. In neighbouring Gambia, there are at least five records (1984, 1997, 2005, 2013, 2016), while the first (and so far only?) for Mauritania was in the Diawling NP, just across the border with Senegal, in February 2004 (two birds).

The only record of Pacific Golden Plover for Senegal was from mid-May in the Saloum delta, more precisely from the Ile aux Oiseaux where Wim, Simon and others saw a neat adult on 10/5/12 (see their short note in Malimbus 35, 2013, and picture below).

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Pacific Golden Plover / Pluvier fauve, Delta du Saloum, May 2012 (S. Cavailles)

Back to yesterday’s sightings: in addition to the various waders already mentioned, other good birds included a Mediterranean Gull among the Slender-billed, Grey-headed and Black-headed Gulls (the latter now in low numbers only), as well as all three species of marsh tern: +10 Black, 3-4 White-winged, at least one Whiskered Tern – almost all still in winter plumage or moulting into 1st summer plumage. Also a single European Spoonbill, ca. 10 Sand Martins, but otherwise few other northern migrants.

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Black Tern / Guifette noire

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White-winged Tern / Guifette leucoptère

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White-winged Tern / Guifette leucoptère

Never a dull moment birding in Dakar… let’s see what our next visit brings!

 

Addendum 03/05/17: the three American Golden Plovers were still present on May 1st, and were joined by a fourth bird (another 2nd year) on 29/4 and 1/5 – unless this new bird was already present when we first found the plovers. And the next visit… well it brought a superb Red-necked Phalarope!

 

¹ Post updated 15/1/18 with the June 2012 record

18/12: Nearctic Waders

As if one Nearctic wader weren’t enough, today I was lucky to find two transatlantic vagrant species. We had planned a family weekend at Lac Rose which we haven’t visited in a long time, but a change in plans meant that we had to cancel our reservation at the Gite du Lac Rose. As I had my mind set on a few sites that I wanted to explore near Lac Rose, I decided to make the trip there this morning – and wasn’t disappointed!

I’ll report on some of the more interesting sightings in an upcoming post (think Tawny Pipit, Singing Bushlark, Brown Babbler etc.), but for now I just want to share a few pictures of no less than three BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS. I found these pretty birds while scanning a grassy plain where I’d seen a few Kittlitz’s Plovers, 32 to be precise, while on my way back to the lake (I’d been exploring the area to the north-east of the lake). The sandpipers appeared to loosely associate with this flock, and were constantly feeding in hurried fashion. I was of course hoping to find something special in this area, say a Cream-coloured Courser that came down with the cold weather of the last few days, or more Greater Short-toed Larks, but didn’t think I’d come across three of these beauties.

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Kittlitz’s Plover… and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper / Gravelot pâtre et Bécasseau rousset

Could they be new arrivals, or have they been hanging around here for a while now? It may well be that they end up spending a few weeks in the area, given the late date for passing migrants, plus the habitat here seems to be just perfect for this species, and definitely more typical than the mudflats at Palmarin where we found Senegal’s second Buff-breasted Sandpiper barely three weeks earlier. In fact, could it be that this is exactly the same spot where the country’s first record was obtained in April 1985?

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Getting decent pictures was tricky – first because of the distance (I spotted the group while counting the plovers, from the car), then because of the wind and especially the restlessness of all three birds, which just wouldn’t stop moving. The picture above is the only one of reasonable quality that shows all three birds together, and it quite nicely illustrates today’s windy conditions.

The obliging sandpipers allowed for a fairly close approach, up to approx. 20 meters at times, and the only time they flew up was when a local dog – perhaps realising that I was somehow particularly interested in these three little birds – decided to start chasing the sandpipers! Luckily it lost interest after a couple of minutes, and the trio settled again and continued feeding.

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Buff-breasted Sandpiper / Bécasseau rousset

All content to have found not one but three American sandpipers close to home, and wondering just how many vagrant waders show up in Senegal every year, I decided to make a real quick stop at Technopole on the way back home. Main purpose was to check whether I could relocate last week’s Jack Snipe, but of course things rarely go according to plan here… This time, while doing a quick scan of the waders behind the golf club house, a fairly dark Pluvialis plover caught my attention. It was partially concealed in a group of Black-tailed Godwits, but the contrasting plumage with a pale supercilium, dark cap and obvious “smudge” across the breast all shouted American Golden Plover!

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Plover sp., Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Senegal Thick-knee / Pluvier sp., Combattant, Barge à queue noire, Oedicnème du Sénégal

I eventually managed to get better views, including of the wing tip, revealing an important primary projection and primaries extending beyond the tail tip. Getting good views was tricky but I ended up getting a few usable pictures, which I thought at the time should be sufficient to document this potential 10th record for Senegal and 4th for Technopole, if I counted correctly.

However… looking back at these pictures now more than a year later (I’m updating this post in April 2018), I’m much less confident and I feel that the bird is too grey, too bulky and especially the bill is too heavy for American Golden Plover. Probably a slightly unusual Grey Plover after all?

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American Golden Plover / Pluvier bronzé

No more time to go look for the snipe, though as it turned out I ended up getting back home more than an hour later than planned thanks to two flat tires which took a while to get fixed at a local vulcanisateur in nearby Pikine. Surely the odds of getting two flat tires at the same time (and obviously with just one spare tire in the boot) are close to those of finding an American wader species in Senegal… lucky day!

I won’t be able to return to either site before the end of the year, but it may well be that both the sandpipers and the plover stick around for a while.

To be continued, hopefully.

 

…and continued it has! A few days ago (this edit was made on 25.12) , I learned that Frederic Bacuez (ornithondar) found a Buff-breasted Sandpiper on 8.12 though it was positively identified only on 21.12 when Fred saw it again in the same spot, in the lower Senegal delta close to St. Louis. Which means that in the space of 4 weeks, a total of 5 of these sandpipers were spotted in Senegal, bringing the total to 4 national records. Real influx, or just pure luck (being in the right place at the right time kind of thing)? It doesn’t seem like autumn 2016 was particularly “good” for the species in Europe, but in France, about a dozen were reported in September – slightly more than usual I believe – though there were just two (at least) in the Azores this autumn. As usual, several were reported in Spain, including at least one in the Canary Islands (Tenerife, 29.10). The Netherlands had at least 8 records between the end of July and October (as per Dutch Birding).

Another addendum (Jan. 5th) is needed here as I just came across another Buff-breasted Sandpiper record, this one from 1994, and which was overlooked by Borrow & Demey (2015) – and which probably was published too late to include in Sauvage & Rodwell’s paper (1998). Indeed, five birds were seen near Palmarin on 2.12.94 by an expedition organised by the Danish Ornithological Society, as published in Malimbus 19:96-97: “Four of them were feeding together on short grassland and in some shallow ponds close to the shore. The fifth was observed simultaneously c. 1 km to the north, by other members of our group. The birds were very unafraid and we could approach to 20 m.” (Kenneth Bengtsson 1997: Some interesting bird observations from Mauritania and Senegal). Strictly speaking, these observations would qualify as two separate records, meaning that with this new information, we now have 3 old records (1965 and 1994) and 3 from 2016, bringing the national total to 6 records involving 11 birds.