Le weekend dernier, c’était la grande fête de la Tabaski ici. Les villes du pays se vident, tout le monde rentre au village, et un demi million de moutons sont sacrifiés. Nous en avons donc profité pour s’éclipser pendant quelques jours dans le delta du Saloum, plus précisement à Palmarin où nous avons passé trois nuits dans l’agréable écolodge à Diakhanor. Petit récit en images.
D’abord les limicoles, avec ce couple de Rhynchées peintes vues dans une flaque d’eau douce dans le secteur des lagunes. De l’eau, il y en a cette année! Bien plus que l’an dernier à la même époque, au point où les quelques villages de la commune sont en grande partie inondés… L’oiseau très coloré de gauche est la femelle: le dimorphisme sexuel est inversé chez cette espèce si particulière, le mâle se chargeant de l’incubation pendant que Madame va voir ailleurs.
Comme toujours, les limis sont nombreux: quelques centaines de Bécasseaux cocorlis, dizaines de variables, quelques Sanderlings, les Chevaliers gambettes, guignettes, aboyeurs, sylvains et stagnatiles, Grands Gravelots, Barges rousses et à queue noire (dont deux hollandaises avec bagues couleurs), quelques Tournepierres, un Huîtrier pie, 2-3 Courlis cendrés et beaucoup de corlieux.
Chez les laridés, c’est bien sûr le Goéland brun qui domine, suivi de près par les Audouins dont une estimation grossière résulte en un total respectable d’au moins 400 oiseaux dont pas moins de 32 (!) individus bagués. La plupart sont espagnols, mais cette fois je trouve aussi trois italiens et cinq portugais. Je reviendrai sur l’évolution de la distribution de cette espèce au Sénégal dans un autre article, disposant maintenant d’une bonne centaine de données de lectures de bagues.
Suite à la saison de nidification, il y a à cette époque de l’année enormement de Sternes caspiennes à Palmarin, avec par exemple environ 3’100 individus dans la lagune de Diakhanor le matin du 2/9 – et c’est sans compter les centaines voire milliers d’oiseaux dans les lagunes juste au nord de Ngallou au petit matin du 4/9, dont une partie est visible sur la photo d’en-tête.
Assez peu de rapaces sont vus: 2-3 Faucons chicqueras, un Elanion blanc, onze Vautours de Ruppell au dortoir à Ngallou, un Gymnogène le long de la route Joal – Samba Dia (où l’on voit également une Ombrette, exactement au même endroit que l’an dernier en novembre).
Ensuite quelques passeraux, à commencer par cette Veuve dominicaine en plumage nuptial, tout comme les autres viduidés (veuves) et les plocéidés (tisserins, euplectes). Les rectrices de cet individu sont encore en train de pousser et peuvent facilement atteindre le double de la longueur de l’oiseau.
Deux Gobemouches noirs seront les seuls passereaux migrateurs nordiques que j’observe, dont un individu qui m’a paru assez inhabituel car présentant un plumage encore très “jeune”, étant nettement tacheté, et avec pas mal de blanc au bout des moyennes couvertures: Gobemouche noir classique, ibérique, de l’Atlas? Difficile à dire à ce stade, mais je vais essayer de creuser la matière un peu plus lorsque j’en trouverai le temps. (J’écris ces quelques lignes depuis Bamako, où il y a visiblement pas mal de Gobemouches noires en escale en ce moment!)
Pour terminer deux reptiles fort sympathiques: une femelle d’Agame des colons (ou “Margouillat“), et ce qui semble être une Couleuvre sifflante, trouvée dans un arbre de l’écolodge grâce au vacarme des Bulbuls des jardins, Souimangas à poitrine rouge et autres Barbions à front jaune.
Et pour une fois, on finit par un poisson… sauf erreur une espèce de la famille des Tetraodontidae, qu’on trouve assez régulièrement échoué sur les plages sénégalaises.
A pleasure of Technopole for Dakar birdwatching is the easily visible, sometimes unpredictable change in birds. Some of this is seasonal, with regional and continental migration, but I suspect there is also a lot of local movement of birds between here, the other nearby lakes of the Niayes and the coast. The first visit of the year on 8 January also produced four puzzles.
On our last visit all the gulls were inter-African migrants. Today, they were all of European or at least Mediterranean origin; several hundred lesser black-backed and black-headed gulls and 40+ Audouin’s gulls. The Audouins were a mix of ages, though mostly first and second calendar year birds, with only one adult. The preponderance of young birds around Dakar is also noted by observers at the seawatching point of Ile de Ngor, whilst adults dominate the large roost at Palmarin, 100km to the south. This split of age classes is a mystery.
Amongst the usual wader species five avocet were new and c350 black-tailed godwit was a good count. The godwits were ignoring the water and feeding on short, dry grassland. The current knowledge is that most of the godwits wintering along the West African coast, mainly Dutch breeders, move rapidly to the rice fields of Casamance and Guinea Bissau and remain there until moving back to the Netherlands via the Iberian peninsula rice fields, so it is interesting to find hundreds in Dakar in January, not feeding on rice grains. Interest in the species has grown recently due to its population decline and classification as globally Near Threatened.
The Technopole list increased to 164 with three not very surprising additions; woodchat shrike, chiffchaff and redstart. More interesting was this lovely southern grey shrike. This is a species that is probably being seen more often south of 15 degrees north than formerly in Senegal – Morel has only two records up to 1980 from these latitudes, when it was frequent further north. From the limited literature to hand here, it is difficult give this bird a sub-specific identification. Three sub-species breed in Mauritania. Senegal birds are assumed or known to be elegans of the central and northern Sahara. Our bird would fit this with the lack of a strong white line above the black mask (white is confined to a small eyebrow), but not with elegans’ pure white underparts. This bird is grey at least on the side and the white eyebrow is not a feature visible in the field. This would point to algeriensis, the breeding species of NW Africa down to coastal NW Mauritania, not yet recorded in Senegal. This will need further checking!
Puzzle four was what hundreds (low thousands?) of yellow wagtails had found to eat. The very bad photo (mine) shows birds perched in bushes of Prosopis juliflora.
This small tree is itself interesting. It is related to acacias, but native to Mexico and further south in the New World. It is a popular, but sometimes invasive introduction to poor soils in the Sahel across to Ethiopia, with a large scientific literature on its usefulness. At Technopole, with no livestock to eat the pods, which look like green beans, it just seems to be ornamental. It had a huge number of flies, whilst most of Technopole lacked flying insects. The wagtails were feeding on, and in aerial capture from, the bushes, the leaves of which were covered with their droppings.
Yesterday morning, (August 3), as a treat I took the pirogue to Ile de N’Gor on the second day of Ramadan and sat on a favourite rock for two hours, seawatching at the famous point.
Early August is not a period people have watched here, so anything would be interesting, though my expectations were not high, having seen very few seabirds during the last three weeks from the apartment or on trips to the beach fish market at Yoff. I was unfortunately not surprised, seeing only less than a hundred royal terns flying in no dominant direction, single figures of Sandwich tern and white-breasted cormorant and no birds fishing. The tern roost at Calao remains empty.
In the early evening the first big rains of the year reached Dakar, causing a river outside the apartment. Today the morning visit to Technopole saw a big increase in water levels and waterbirds, though some of the waders might just be squeezed into fewer suitable shallow waters. Amongst the big birds, the main increases were in great white egrets (400+) and pink-backed pelicans (c80). Ruff and wood sandpiper each passed 100, though black -tailed godwits were fewer than recently.
The picture shows a typical view of wood sandpiper in the wet grassland fringing the main lake. New wader species were a juvenile kentish plover (new species for Technopole) and a female painted snipe, for which I eventually got this poor record shot.
The female is the colourful partner in this polyandrous species, laying eggs in several nests where all incubation is done by the males.
The small group of gulls and terns included the now regular two Franklins gulls, a first summer/second winter Audouin’s gull, but new for this season for me a white-winged black tern and a first winter little tern. As with roseate tern, discussed in the previous blog entry, the ageing of terns in West Africa at this time of year is not always obvious. This bird, for which I have no photo, had a strong dark carpal bar, but what would a first summer bird look like? Is there a distinct first summer plumage? There is a small breeding population, not always located each year, in the Sine Saloum, which it seems reasonable to think is the area of origin of many of the gulls and terns dropping in here. It is intriguing and frustrating to wonder what could be being seen along the rest of Senegal’s coast at the moment, while no-one is watching!
This very approachable green-backed heron in breeding plumage (red legs, yellow around eye (lores) , all black bill) fishing rounded off the visit.
p.s. This evening my first flock of returning whimbrel (18) flew high along the beach at Yoff Tonghor.
p.p.s. 5 August at Technopole produced a rather similar collection of birds, with c500 great white egrets and 150 pink-backed pelicans in the western corner, one of the Franklin’s gulls, 1 roseate tern and 2 first summer/second winter Audouin’s gulls in the gull and tern flock and a female painted snipe near where yesterday’s bird was seen.
This gallery contains 14 photos.
The big wrestling match yesterday evening lasted for 30 seconds and today’s rain was a not very much longer. The temperature continues to creep up and is now 32.5 as I type this at 17:45. I spent another scant hour this morning, in what is becoming a regular slot of 8-8.40, at le Technopole. The […]
With the temperatures rising, the other two authors out of town and work binding me to Dakar, today’s blog comes just from an hour’s visit to Technopole, Dakar’s suburban wetland, to take in some fresh air. It is always a busy scene. Jola fishermen from Casamance wade with hand nets in the lakes to catch “wase”, the fresh growth of grass is being gathered and a few fields are being prepared for vegetables, although there have been no rains this week and still only 3 dates with rain this month in Dakar. As one of the fishermen said, it is not “la verte Casamance”, but if you live in Dakar and want to birdwatch, it is a good escape.
Last weekend’s Franklin’s gulls were at the same location, associating with a few slender-billed gulls, common terns and gull-billed terns. Flemming discovered there were two when looking at his photos of the find, but I had yet to see both together, so it was nice to get them in the same picture. I am checking with colleagues, but it looks as if both are first summer (hatched 2010) birds.
Black-winged stilts are very probably breeding, though I have yet to find a nest or young. Several birds were dive bombing and feigning broken wings in the wet grassland. It is a rare and irregular breeder in Senegal and this would be the sixth documented year of attempts since the first in 1977, so another exciting find for Technopole in July.
Migrant waders are increasing. A rather lazy count today gave an estimate of 250 birds of 12 species, excluding c100 Senegal thick-knees and uncounted spur-winged plovers. In decreasing abundance, the species were black-tailed godwit, black-winged stilt, wood sandpiper, ruff and greenshank, with single figures of curlew sandpiper, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, marsh sandpiper, whimbrel, redshank and ringed plover.
Back home at Virage, the first osprey I have seen here since April flew past the house. Birds do summer in Senegal, but are not the daily sighting from the breakfast table they are in winter.
A photo from 24 July, showing one of the Franklin’s gulls with a first summer Audouin’s gull.