There was no new visit today, but whilst filing some photos I realised there have been three Franklins gulls, though never more than two on the same day, such are the wonders of digital photography. The top two are cut from the same photo, when they were together on 30 July. Bird 1 has much less white, but the white still extends up the forehead to level with the eye and onto the upper throat. Neither has any white pimary wing tips, hence the thought they are first summer (born 2010) birds. Bird 3, photographed on its own six days later (5 August) has much less white on the face, not extending up the forehead or down the throat and giving a distinct stripe. Also, less conclusively as it can depend on how the wings are held, it has slight white primary wing tips.
Franklins gull is a Canadian and northern USA breeder , so would be moulting out of its breeding plumage of full black hood in July and August, so bird 3 photographed later cannot be one of the other birds moving in to breeding plumage. I do not know the species well enough to say if it is another first winter or a moulting adult. Hopefully we will get an answer from North America.
It has been a strange series of records, but now the blog should move on to proper Senegalese birds!
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.