Seawatching Ngor – September 2019
I count myself extremely lucky to live just a few minutes away from what must surely be one of the best seawatch sites in the world. What other capital can compete with Dakar on that front? It does make it hard not to go out there every day, especially at this time of the year when so many migrants can be seen from this privileged spot. And I’m fortunate to have a very flexible work schedule that allows me to spend an hour or so counting seabirds before heading to the office! I’m obviously spending too much time at the Calao at the moment… but then again it’s always better being out birding in the field than sitting behind a desk (especially when The Field is a comfortable terrace, sat under a sun umbrella with a cup of decent coffee).
Anyway, time for the September numbers:
- 25 days
- 38 hours
- 20,109 birds belonging to 36 species counted (total so far: 27,303 birds!)
This is a much better coverage than in previous years, and as a result the number of birds counted is higher for most species; Lesser Crested Tern is the main exception due to a later than usual passage, which only started properly at the very end of the month, picking up rapidly during the first few days of October (Sterne voyageuse).
As usual, here some of the highlights: good numbers of Manx Shearwater (also two possible Balearics… unfortunately too distant and poorly seen), and several Macaronesian Shearwaters including at least one that seemed right for Boyd’s (Puffins des Anglais et de Macaronésie). Sooty Shearwater passage was clearly more intense, or at least more visible, than last year, probably because of more favourable winds (Puffin fuligineux).
Numerous terns were counted of course, with the four most common species – Common & Arctic, Sandwich, Black Terns – accounting for nearly 90% of the twenty thousand birds counted this month (Sternes pierregarin et arctique, caugeks, Guifette noire). Roseates continued to pass through almost daily, up to 12 BPH (that’s birds per hour!), and so did Little Tern: with 304 birds in September, far more were seen than in previous years (and the passage continues: on 5.10 a total of 31 birds were seen in one hour, including a flock of 22) (Sternes de Dougall et naine). A Bridled Tern on the 4th is so far the only one of the season (Sterne bridée).
September is also peak month for Sandwich Tern (Sterne caugek), which passes through daily in double or even triple digits (that’s BPH). The peak at the end of the month is clearly visible on this chart combining 2017 and 2018 data:
Now for some slightly more advanced data viz’ fun: I tried to find a clever way of visualising the intensity of bird migration at Ngor alongside wind speed and wind direction. The chart below shows average “BPH” per day as histograms (primary axis: number of birds) and wind speed as the dotted line (secondary axis: knots), while the colour represents the wind direction: dark green for WNW to N winds, pale green for SW to W winds, and orange for SSW to ENE. One would expect the highest number of birds during the favourable winds, i.e. higher wind speed from a WNW to N direction, and less so on days with little wind and/or with winds coming from the “wrong” side. That does seem to be the case on most days, but not always… though in general it’s fair to say that days with stronger NW winds usually see the highest number of birds, and also a higher diversity of species. Shearwaters, skuas, Sabine’s Gulls and most terns are largely influenced by these conditions, which can rapidly change from day to day or even within the same day. A good site to check out wind forecasts is Windguru.
Arctic Skuas continued to pass through on a daily basis, and Long-tailed Skuas were seen on 13 dates, mainly at the start and at the end of the month, with a max. of 61 birds in 2h15′ on the 4th (Labbes arctique et à longue queue). The four Catharacta skuas were seen in the last week of the month but as usual could not be identified down to species level (Great or South Polar Skua, Grand Labbe/Labbe de McCormick).
A usual, waders were fairly well represented this month: Whimbrel and Oystercatcher remain the most frequent migrants and thanks to the regular rains this autumn there has been a good diversity of waders in general, including my first Grey Plovers here and regular sightings of migrating Turnstones (Courlis corlieu, Huîtrier pie, Pluvier argenté, Tournepierre). Red Phalaropes were seen on five occasions in relatively modest numbers (Phalarope à bec large).
Table with September totals for 2019, 2018 and 2017:
|Common Ringed Plover||0||2||0|
|Grey (Red) Phalarope||163||133||1|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull||1||15||1|
|Large gull sp.||1||5||0|
|Lesser Crested Tern||61||147||95|
|African Royal Tern||295||305||219|
|Great/South Polar Skua||4||1||2|
|Number of days||25||17||15|
|Number of hours||38h35′||24h50′||20h30′|
In addition to the seabirds, as usual a few other species were noted on active migration: a Purple Heron on 10.9 and more surprisingly two Squacco Herons the next day coming from out at sea. Common Swifts were spotted on at least three occasions (max. 66 on 11.09, migrating low over the ocean), while a Hoopoe was seen on 8.9 and a Sand Martin on 12.9 (Heron pourpré, Crabier, Martinet noir, Huppe fasciée, Hirondelle de rivage). What appeared to be a juv. Barbary Falcon was seen several times from 4 – 12 Sept., with a Peregrine also here on 9th (Faucons de Barbarie et Pèlerin). This provided for some action as both birds were regularly seen hunting pigeons and other birds; on the 6th it was a juv. Common Cuckoo (or at least I assumed it to be this species and not African Cuckoo) which was seen coming on land from Ngor island or islet, chased by the Barbary Falcon only to disappear into the Calao gardens and never to be found again… (Coucou gris).
That’s all for now – let’s see what October brings (Pomarine Skuas! Sooty Shearwaters! Sabine’s Gulls!). Conditions are expected to be good in the next few days.
The August report can be found in this post.
Seawatching Ngor – August 2019
An update on this autumn’s seabird migration at Ngor is long overdue, so here we set off the season’s summary with the month of August. I managed to count migrants during 18 hours spread out over 16 sessions, starting with the first on August 9th, straight after coming back to Dakar from a short break Up North. As usual I tried to do relatively brief sessions (usually about an hour) as often as possible, typically early morning about an hour after sunrise. And always from the Club Calao terrace, of course.
With some 7,100 birds counted, numbers passing through during August were about average in comparison with previous years. The few highlights so far were a Great Shearwater (Puffin majeur) flying SW on the 10th which I believe is the first August record, more than usual ‘Macaronesian’ Shearwaters (=Boyd’s or Barolo, Puffin “de Macaronésie”) with no less than 21 birds spread out fairly evenly throughout the period, and again a decent amount of Long-tailed Skuas (Labbe à longue queue). So far, 226 of these elegant pelagic skuas passed through, compared to 213 in August 2018; last year a record 500 were logged during the entire season. Top day was the 20th when I counted a very honorable 84 birds in just one hour, surprisingly during modest NNW wind – always impressive seeing loose flocks of up to 15-20 birds, usually including several adults. None were seen the following two days but during 24-26th there were 89 in 4h35′. Last year the peak passage was during the first decad of September when no less than 217 were counted in just 75′ on 2.9.18, so it’s possible that quite a few more Long-tails will pass through in coming weeks, though this will in part depend on wind conditions: moderate to strong winds from W to NW are usually required to see this species in double or even triple digits (in 2017, hardly any were seen, as shown in the chart below where the dashed line is 2017 and the dotted line 2018; solid line is hourly average per decad).
Other pelagics included early Sooty Shearwaters (Puffin fuligineux) with seven birds during 24-26 August, and three Sabine’s Gulls (Mouette de Sabine) on the 20th. September and October should see many more of these two species! In contrast with last year when more than a thousand birds were seen in August when conditions were good for this species, just three Red Phalaropes (Phalarope à bec large) were detected this past month, though I had the first small flock this morning Sept. 1st, about 15 towards the SW and one coming in from the N and landing at sea. Of course many must have passed through these past few weeks, just too far off-shore for them to be seen from the coast.
What was most likely the same Red-footed Booby (Fou à pieds rouges) was seen daily from 9th-12th, usually flying past at close range and sometimes feeding just behind the surf, with two birds together on Aug. 17th. I also twice saw one in July so it’s quite possible that at least one of these two immatures – both dark morph, as all others seen so far – oversummered around the peninsula.
As usual, the most frequently seen wader was Whimbrel, with just a handful of Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits each (Courlis corlieu, Huîtrier pie, Barge rousse). The lower number of waders compared to the past few years is probably due to the late arrival of the rains and a four-day gap in my presence during the last week of the month (waders tend to be seen mostly during and just after spells of rain here).
The table below lists all species with totals for the month, with 2017 and 2018 numbers to compare with. Note that the vast majority of the ‘Comic’ Terns were Arctic, and the higher number of Roseate Terns is possibly explained by the fact that I may feel more confident identifying these birds (Sterne arctique/pierregarin, Sterne de Dougall). Oftentimes, Roseates are migrating 2-3 birds together, usually mixed in with Arctic Terns.
|Cape Verde Shearwater||0||100||1|
|Grey (Red) Phalarope||3||1,123||0|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull||0||0||1|
|Large gull sp. (prob. Kelp Gull)||1||0||2|
|Lesser Crested Tern||4||40||41|
|African Royal Tern||342||585||166|
|Catharacta Skua sp.||0||0||1|
|Number of days||16||22||13|
|Number of hours||18h05′||26h20′||17h05′|
Meanwhile at Technopole, the lagoons are finally starting to fill up again now that we’ve had a few decent showers, though a lot more will be needed to ensure that the site remains wet all through the dry season. There’s a good diversity of waders again and breeding activity is at its peak for many of the local species. Striated Heron for instance is now very visible, and last Sunday I saw a pair feeding a recently fledged young at the base of one of the Avicennia stands on the main lagoon, while Spur-winged Lapwing juveniles are all about, Zitting Cisticolas are busy tending their nest, and this morning a small flock of juvenile Bronze Mannikins was seen (Héron strié, Vanneau éperonné, Cisticole des joncs, Capucin nonnette).
Several wader species are starting to pass through again, such as Common Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper (Grand Gravelot, Bécasseau minute, Bécasseau cocorli, Chevalier stagnatile). It’s also peak season for Ruff, with a very modest max. so far of 148 counted this morning (Combattant varié).
On the gulls & terns front, a Mediterranean Gull was still around on 18 & 25.8, probably one of the two immatures that were seen in May-July and apparently completing its summer stay here (these are the first summer records for the species in Senegal), while the first juvenile Audouin’s Gulls of the year were also seen last Sunday, Aug. 25th (Mouette mélanocéphale, Goéland d’Audouin, . This morning a White-winged Tern was of note, as were 24 Little Terns resting with the other terns or feeding above the main lake (Guifette leucoptère, Sterne naine). Three Orange-breasted Waxbills and three Long-tailed Nightjars on 11.08 were far less expected (Bengali zebré, Engoulevent à longue queue).
This morning’s eBird checklist has all the details.
Suivi de la migration d’automne à Ngor: août et septembre 2018
Depuis un peu plus de deux mois on a repris nos habitudes au Calao de Ngor cet automne (ai-je vraiment arrêté depuis l’an dernier?), pour voir ce que donne le cru 2018 pour ce qui est de la migration d’automne des oiseaux de mer. Le printemps avait déjà été pas mal, avec entre autres de beaux passages de Sternes voyageuses et de Dougall, de Mouettes de Sabine, et quelques espèces plus rares comme le Fou à pieds rouges, le Puffin de Macaronésie / de Barolo ou encore le Puffin majeur. Ayant eu un peu plus de temps libre et moins de voyages que d’habitude, j’ai donc repris le suivi régulier depuis fin juillet. J’étais curieux notamment de mieux suivre les mouvements en août et septembre, et finalement j’ai un peu mieux pu suivre ces deux mois que l’an dernier: entre le 30/7 et le 30/9, j’ai pu assurer une présence lors de 41 jours, pour environ 55 heures de suivi (2017: 40.5 heures sur 31 jours). A propos de notre suivi de l’an dernier, un article sur le suivi de la migration en 2017 est en cours de rédaction et sera partagé ici en temps voulu!
Les années se suivent mais se ne ressemblent pas: certaines espèces sont visiblement plus communes certaines années, et les conditions météo varient pas mal également. Ainsi, le mois d’août 2018 a été marqué par plusieurs jours de vent favorable (= vent soutenu de l’ouest a nord-ouest), et notamment le Labbe à longue queue a été bien plus nombreux a passer devant les cotes dakaroises qu’en 2017 et 2016. Idem pour les Phalaropes à bec large qui comme le labbe voient eux aussi s’établir un nouveau record journalier.
Comme d’hab’, voici donc une liste comme toujours un peu longue et ennuyeuse, agrémentée de quelques photos d’archives.
Océanite de Wilson (Wilson’s Storm Petrel): au moins 159 oiseaux sont vus entre le 31/7 et le 23/8, avec un max. de 105 en 30′ de suivi le 13/8.
Puffin du Cap-Vert (Cape Verde Shearwater): 97 ind. passent le 11/8 en 2h40′, suivi d’un isolé sur place le lendemain et deux oiseaux le 20/8.
Puffin fuligineux (Sooty Shearwater): comme en 2017, les premiers oiseaux apparaissent des les premiers jours de septembre, mais cette année les effectifs restent très modestes jusqu’à fin septembre: seulement 87 oiseaux du 2/9 au 30/9 alors que dans la même période l’an dernier il en passent 393 pour un effort comparable.
Puffin des Anglais (Manx Shearwater): seuls six oiseaux sont détectés pour le moment, sans doute en raison de l’absence de bonnes conditions météo pour les puffins courant septembre, mois qui devrait marquer le pic du passage de cette espèce.
Puffin “d’Audubon” (Audubon’s Shearwater): à l’inverse, ce puffin généralement très pélagique a été vu bien plus que ces dernières années, avec 19 oiseaux pour le moment. Le premier oiseau passe le 11/8, puis le lendemain c’est un Puffin de Barolo qui est observé en migration active, assez près du rivage permettant son identification. Encore un Barolo ou Macaronésie le 28/8, et le 17/9 il y en a pas moins de 14 qui défilent en deux heures dont quelques groupes de 3-4 oiseaux migrant ensemble. Encore deux le 28/9, et peut-être qu’il en suivra encore quelques-uns dans les semaines à venir.
Fou de Bassan (Northern Gannet): un oiseau de 1ère année passe le 23/9 déjà (2017: premier le 18/9, puis un seul en octobre avant le véritable debut du passage début novembre).
Fou brun (Brown Booby): deux le 26 (un adulte et un imm.) et un imm. les 28 et 29/9 étaient probablement des oiseaux locaux en excursion de pêche depuis les îles de la Madeleine.
Comme je le disais dans l’intro, l’une des surprises de cette saison a été le passage important de Phalaropes à bec large (Red Phalarope) en août: alors que je n’avais noté aucun oiseau avant le 11/8, ce jour-la j’en dénombre pas moins de 825 en 2h40′ de suivi le matin, plus encore 35 en 40′ le soir – apparemment un nouveau record journalier pour le Sénégal, à en croire les chiffres a notre disposition. Plus rien les jours suivants, jusqu’au 18/8 lorsque quelques 65 oiseaux passent en deux groupes – toujours aussi difficiles à estimer! – 37 le 20/8, etc. jusqu’au 2/9. Encore 55 le 17/9, pour un total tout à fait honnête de 1256 oiseaux. Sans doute que plusieurs milliers sont passes au total, loin au large ou invisible entre les vagues. Parmi les autres limicoles, retenons le Courlis corlieu (Whimbrel) avec 415 ind., deux Barges rousses (Bar-tailed Godwit), 28 Huîtriers pies (Oystercatcher) dont 13 ce matin, deux groupes de Bécasseaux maubèches (Red Knot), quelques Tournepierres (Turnstone), un Combattant varié (Ruff), deux Grands Gravelots (Common Ringed Plover) et quelques Chevaliers gambettes et guignettes (Common Redshank & Common Sandpiper).
Mouette de Sabine (Sabine’s Gull): un avant-coureur passe le 30/7 déjà, constituant peut-être bien la premiere observation de juillet pour le site. Passage plus ou moins régulier bien qu’en effectifs très faibles – comme il se doit en août et septembre – du 11 au 22/8 lors d’une période de vents favorables, puis sept le 1/9 et en tout 31 en 2h45 de suivi les 17-18/9. Encore cinq le 24/9 puis plus rien depuis! On attendra donc le gros passage de la deuxième moitie d’octobre pour cette espèce. Peu d’autres laridés pour le moment, mais tout de même à signaler un Goéland leucophée adulte (ou presque) le 23/8.
- Sternes & Guifettes
Sterne naine (Little Tern): 129 individus pour le moment, soit le même ordre de grandeur que l’an dernier à la même periode (idem pour la Sterne caspienne (Caspian Tern), avec 27 oiseaux au compteur).
Guifette noire (Black Tern): avec 4402 oiseaux, c’est pour l’instant la deuxième espèce la plus nombreuse: pas mal d’oiseaux vers la mi-août, puis petit max. horaire de 460 le 18/9. Au moins une Guifette leucoptère (White-winged Tern) est identifiée le 11/8.
Une Sterne bridée (Bridled Tern) est vue en vol vers le NE le 9/8, suivi d’un individu vers le SW deux jours plus tard, et deux oiseaux (adulte et juv.) sur place le 22/8 – probablement des oiseaux ayant niche aux iles de la Madeleine ou au moins 3-4 couples ont été vus en juillet dernier. Plus surprenante, une jeune Sterne fuligineuse (Sooty Tern) passe vers le SW le matin du 17/9, ma première obs de l’espèce ici et en fait première obs tout court – coche √ 🙂
Sterne de Dougall (Roseate Tern): avec 133 Dougall dénombrés, on dépasse déjà d’un tiers l’effectif total de l’an dernier, avec un maximum de 41 oiseaux en 2h de suivi le 17/9. Toujours sympa de voir cette belle espèce, dont le statut de conservation en Europe est plutôt précaire avec des effectifs ne dépassant pas les 1900 couples au début des années 2000, essentiellement aux Açores et en Irlande.
Sternes pierregarin et Sterne arctique (Common & Arctic Terns): 8760 ind., en flot plus ou moins continu depuis le démarrage du suivi. La Sterne arctique était visiblement l’espèce dominante en août et début septembre, mais actuellement la tendance est en train de s’inverser, et la Pierregarin devrait logiquement être la plus commune courant octobre et novembre.
Sterne voyageuse (Lesser Crested Tern): au moins 187, généralement en groupes de 2-3 oiseaux suivant les Sternes caugeks, rarement plus d’une dizaine par heure.
Sterne caugek (Sandwich Tern): Troisième espèce la plus nombreuse, avec 2429 migrateurs pour le moment, dont 2000 passent dans la 2e moitié de septembre.
Sterne royale africaine (African Royal Tern): déjà 897 oiseaux, soit un peu plus du double de l’an dernier. Environ 45% de cet effectif défile pendant la dernière décade d’août, avec des maxima de 136/heure le 25.
Labbe à longue queue (Long-tailed Skua): au moins 478 individus! Le passage débute soudainement le 10/8 – jour d’observation des premiers labbes – avec au moins neuf en 1h30, suivis le lendemain par un bel effectif de 70 oiseaux en 2h40 de suivi et quasiment tous les jours par quelques-uns ou quelques dizaines de migrateurs jusqu’au 22/8. Ensuite rien pendant quatre jours, puis reprise modeste tout à la fin du mois pour culminer le 2/9 avec un effectif impressionant de 217 individus en 1h15 de suivi. Sauf erreur c’est un nouveau record journalier pour le Sénégal, établi en à peine une heure d’observation: combien sont passés en tout ce jour-la? Sans doute plus d’un millier… Cette espèce est bien connue pour ses fluctuations d’effectifs d’année en année: sur les sites de nidification en fonction de l’abondance de nourriture, et visiblement sur les sites d’observation côtiers comme Ngor en fonction des vents pouvant pousser les migrateurs plus près des rivages. En 2017, je n’avais eu que 126 individus; même en prenant en compte l’absence de suivi à la mi-août et pendant plusieurs jours en septembre, il est clair que c’était une “petite” année à Labbes à longue queue, contrairement à 2018.
Labbe parasite (Arctic Skua): 266 individus au compteur, auxquels il convient d’ajouter sans doute une bonne partie des 82 labbes “sp.”; Seuls six Labbes pomarins (Pomarine Skua) pour le moment, avec le premier certain le 30/8.
Labbe de McCormick (South Polar Skua): un oiseau typique passe assez près du bord le 20/9.
Pendant les trois mois qui restent pour cette saison 2018 j’aurai un peu moins de temps que l’an dernier pour suivre ce spectacle de la migration: avis aux amateurs qui souhaiteraient venir en renforts!
Puis il faudrait que je trouve le temps de vous parler de nos sorties récentes au lac Tanma, à la lagune de Yène, et le lac Rose… Mais avant toute chose, demain matin on a prévu une sortie en mer au large de Ngor! Compte-rendu et photos à suivre, si tout va bien.
Ngor spring migration: May 2018
Following on our April summary, here’s a brief update on results from last month’s short but regular seawatch sessions from Ngor, as usual all from the Club Calao terrace. Managed a total of 10 sessions between May 10th and May 26th, with more good stuff to report on, including a lifer!
Again, no pictures other than a few old ones that I’m recycling here… and yet again a pretty dull species list.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (Océanite de Wilson): unidentified storm-petrels were regularly seen in small numbers, and most likely referred to this species.
Cape Verde Shearwater (Puffin du Cap-Vert) were seen in good numbers on most days, feeding off Ngor or flying NE, with a max. of at least 540 birds in one hour on 26th. Not as many as last year when the maximum counted on a single day exceeded 5,000 birds (!), but the pattern of appearance and behaviour of birds is very much in line with the previous season.
Cory’s / Scopoli’s Shearwater (Puffin cendré / de Scopoli): at least three on 26th when there was a remarkable diversity of shearwaters, with five species noted. Probably also a few on 11th, 14th and 15th but too far or seen too briefly to positively identify.
Two to five Great Shearwater (Puffin majeur) seen flying NE amidst the other shearwaters on 26th – remarkably similar to last year’s record of two birds on May 25th, noted as “apparently migrating north” and thought to be the first May record – see the short paper we published in the latest volume of Malimbus on a “wreckage” of Great Shearwater in the the occurrence in Senegal & Gambia (Barlow et al. 2018), PDF available here on my ResearchGate page.
Sooty Shearwater (Puffin fuligineux): a few seen on 18th, 21st and 26th, with at least 12 birds on the latter date: these records suggest that this Southern Hemisphere breeder is slightly more numerous later in spring.
Boyd’s / Barolo Shearwater (Puffin de Boyd / Macaronésie): one on 21st seen at fairly close range was identified as Barolo Shearwater – for once it was close enough and I was able to follow it over quite a distance. Probably a bird en route to its breeding grounds. Another one, also flying north-east, was either baroli or boydi. The taxonomic situation of these small black and white shearwaters is complex and seems to be constantly changing. with BirdLife and HBW now treating both taxa as subspecies of Audubon’s Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri). Either way, these are apparently quite rare spring records, though Dupuy (1984) lists what was then known as “Little Shearwater” as an uncommon offshore “summer” visitor. Boyd’s Shearwater breeds exclusively on the Cape Verde islands (only about 5,000 pairs!), while Barolo’s breeds further north on the Macaronesian islands where it is known from Madeira, the Azores, the Selvagems, and the Canary Islands, with a total breeding population of the same order of magnitude.
Northern Gannet (Fou de Bassan): seen in small numbers on most days; all but one were immature birds (and one on 15th may actually have been a Cape Gannet, but I couldn’t rule out a 4th year Northern Gannet as I didn’t see the underwing pattern…).
Red-footed Booby (Fou à pieds rouges): a species I’d never seen before but somehow expected to show up one day at Ngor, two were seen feeding in the surf just beyond the Ngor islet on 17th, nicely showing their pink (not red!) feet, bluish bill and uniform brown plumage. One was seen again the following day and what I assume are the same two birds (both dark morph adults or near-adults) on 22nd, when they appeared to take off from the islet where they may have spent the night. Third record for Senegal! More on this species, which will likely show up more frequently in coming years, in this recent post.
Brown Booby (Fou brun): just one record so far, of an immature (2nd c.y.) on 14th. Looks like the Iles de la Madeleine birds – if they are indeed still present – don’t wander around the peninsula too much.
A few Great While Pelicans were regularly seen, flying about or resting out at sea (and once on the islet), and on 26th a Pink-backed Pelican made an appearance (Pélicans blancs et gris).
Other than an Oystercatcher on 20th and three Whimbrels on 11th (and a few Common Sandpipers), no more waders were seen during May (Huîtrier pie, Courlis corlieu, Chevalier guignette).
Long-tailed Skua (Labbe à longue queue): following several records in the latter half of April, at least three were identified on 11th, one on 18th, and one on 26th – confirming that spring migration of this species occurs up to the end of May off Senegal. Pomarine and Arctic Skuas were much scarcer than in April, with just three records for the former and five for the latter species.
Audouin’s Gull (Goéland d’Audouin): up to three birds seen in any one session, though no notable active migrants as was the case in April; all were immature birds.
Sabine’s Gull (Mouette de Sabine) were recorded up to May 22nd, with four records of 1-9 actively migrating birds. Other gull species included 10 Grey-headed Gulls flying NE on 20th, and three Slender-billed Gulls on 22nd. A single Lesser Black-backed Gull was seen on 22nd, when a probable Kelp Gull was also present.
Single Bridled Tern (Sterne bridée) were seen feeding and flying around quite close to shore on 11th and 15th, bringing the total to three birds so far this season.
Lesser Crested Tern (Sterne voyageuse): seen twice (17th & 20th), unlike African Royal Tern (Sterne royale) which remained present in decent numbers throughout. Caspian Tern (Sterne caspienne) was seen just once, on 22nd.
Roseate Tern (Sterne de Dougall): following a decent passage in April, just one seen on 17th, though others may have passed through further offshore amidst Common and Arctic Terns (Sternes pierragarin et arctique). These two species were seen almost daily, but again in much smaller numbers than in April.
Three Whiskered Terns (Guifette moustac) flew past on 11th, followed by two White-winged Terns (Guifette leucoptère) on 21st. Black Terns (Guifette noire) were less numerous than in April, except on May 11th when about 300 birds were counted.
Let’s see what June brings! Assuming that I manage to make it out to the Calao…
Ngor spring migration: April 2018
Quick update on this past month’s seawatch sessions from Ngor, as there have been a few good species lately. As usual, most of these are from short sessions at the Calao, with a few from Pointe des Almadies and from a mini-pelagic on April 22nd. Here’s a rather dull species list, but given that still fairy little is known about the phenology of spring seabird migration off Dakar, I thought it would be worthwhile reviewing them here. I don’t really have any recent pictures to illustrate these records, except for a really poor header picture of a Sabine’s Gull actively migrating past the Pointe, and a few older pics that I’m recycling in this blog post.
So here we go:
Cape Verde Shearwater (Puffin du Cap-Vert): the first few birds were seen on 3.3 (min. 2), then ca. 20 on 16-17.3, and a regular presence was noted throughout April when seen during most sessions from 4th, typically 50-100 birds feeding offshore, at most ca. 490 birds on 27th (but just a handful the next day and none seen on 29th!).
Scopoli’s Shearwater (Puffin de Scopoli): at least one during our boat trip on 22.4, with Cory’s or Scopoli’s noted from Ngor on 28th (as well as on March 3rd & 11th).
Sooty Shearwater (Puffin fuligineux): first seen on 16.3, then again singles on 31/3 and 7/4, and at least three birds on 20th. Not much… and note that we didn’t see a single bird during our boat trip.
European Storm-Petrel (Océanite tempête): after a good presence during the first half of February, the species was seen again on 22.4 from the boat, with a minimum of two birds.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (Océanite de Wilson): at least six were seen on 22.4, again during our boat trip. Unidentified storm-petrels migrating past the Calao on 7th (min. 8), 11th (3), 20th (3) and 29th (1) were likely this species, though others can’t be ruled out – when seen from land, these birds can be incredibly difficult to identify due to either the distance or the very brief sightings as they always fly low over the water surface and are typically seen only for a second or two before they disappear again in between waves.
Northern Gannet (Fou de Bassan): at most ca. 175 on 31.3, with numbers gradually decreasing throughout April. Curiously, no marked NE-ward passage was noted.
Grey (Red) Phalarope (Phalarope à bec large): four migrating on 29th was a good spring record! Other than these, the only waders seen during this period were a few groups of Whimbrel (Courlis corlieu).
Long-tailed Skua (Labbe à longue queue) single adults passing through on 20, 21 & 25.4, two on 26th, and an immature flew past on 29th. Pomarine and Arctic Skuas were seen in small numbers on most days, many of which were flying NE (though rarely more than five in any one session).
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Goéland brun): usually present in small numbers, either feeding in the surf or migrating past Ngor. There was obviously a peak around mid-March, with 107 passing through in just 40 minutes on 16.3, and 52 in half an hour the next day.
Audouin’s Gull (Goéland d’Audouin): typically between one and five birds seen on any one session, but on 16.3 there were 27 (incl. three adults) migrating past in 40 minutes and 14 the following day (in 30 minutes) – thus coinciding with the peak of the previous species.
Sabine’s Gull (Mouette de Sabine): after the first five on 4.4, becomes increasingly frequent towards the end of the month, with a max. of ca. 40 during our 22.4 boat trip, and 31 on 27th in just one hour. Actual numbers must be quite a bit higher as this species mostly passes through far out, typically in small groups. Sometimes a few birds would migrate closer to shore, and occasionally some would be feeding or resting just in front of the Calao. Other gull species included a surprising flock of 31 Grey-headed Gulls flying NE on 27th, and six Slender-billeds at Pointe des Almadies the following day.
Bridled Tern (Sterne bridée): one passing to the NE at fairly short range on 26.4 was a very nice surprise, as I’d only seen the species once before here (and more generally, away from the Iles de la Madeleine breeding grounds). It also appears to be an early date for the species, as it is typically seen in May-July. My only previous Ngor record was of three birds flying SW on 10 June ’16. Sauvage & Rodwell give the range of 27/4 – 9/7 for PNIM, and A. R. Dupuy recorded the species no less than eleven times from Pointe des Almadies from 26 May to 14 July ’92.
Lesser Crested Tern (Sterne voyageuse): seen in small numbers throughout the month, with a good max. of at least 178 birds passing through on 9th, in just 65 minutes. African Royal Tern (Sterne royale) was seen on most days, typically in small numbers. Much less frequent were Caspian Tern (Sterne caspienne; singles on 31.3 and 28.4) and Little Tern (Sterne naine; one on 6.4, and a group of 16 migrating on 29th).
Roseate Tern (Sterne de Dougall): first seen on 31.3, then regular until the middle of the month with a max. of no less than 56 on 9th in just over an hour. Also singles on 26th and 28th. Most birds were actively migrating, with a few feeding locally with the mixed tern flock.
Arctic Tern (Sterne arctique): the first four birds were seen on 16.3, becoming regular from the end of March and seen on most sessions in April, max. ca. 70 on 24th though numbers probably higher as 1) species difficult to count, and many common/Arctic terns noted.
White-winged Tern (Guifette leucoptère): one flew past on 16.3, and a fine adult in summer plumage was feeding among the numerous Black Terns on 28.4 (Guifette noire). The latter species is seen pretty much during every session, with a maximum towards the end of the month: probably more well over 1,200 birds on 28th. An adult Whiskered Tern (Guifette moustac) was seen on 22nd, flying NE.
That’s about it for now.
On the raptors front, Osprey has been a regular sighting, as always during winter, until 31.3 at Ngor, after which one was seen on 13.4 at Mamelles and on 14.4 at PNIM. A few young birds may still hang around of course. The wintering pair of Peregrines was last seen on 20.4 roosting on the Diarama hotel, and two birds were seen roosting in the Mamelles cliff on 22.4 – pretty intriguing!
Last Wednesday morning, a small party of excited birders set off from Ngor on a much anticipated Pelagic Trip. (Yes that’s right, a PELAGIC! One of those crazy things us birdwatchers will do just to see a few special birds…)
Destination: the Kayar Canyon, some 30km ENE off the Pointe des Almadies. This area is known to hold a good diversity of seabirds, attracted by trawlers that roam this part of the ocean and by the abundant food that they provide to shearwaters, skuas and terns. This is also where last year’s PAOC excursion was headed, and where we intended to go at the end of November 2016 at the tail end of a two-week trip by my Swiss friends but which had to be aborted (too much wind…). Approximate coordinates are in the bottom right corner of the Google Earth image below:
Why a pelagic? Well, first of all there’s the opportunity to do a different kind of birding, and mostly there’s the chance of seeing 1) birds that you won’t see from the shore (or only miles away as distant dots against the waves that you can barely identify), and 2) finding oneself amidst a raft of shearwaters or a flock of hundreds of seabirds feeding behind a trawler is a really unique experience. And 3) I was particularly keen to figure out what exactly those Calonectris shearwaters that have been migrating past Ngor in recent weeks are: Cory’s or Scopoli’s?
If you still need to be convinced that such a trip is worth the effort, despite the possibility of being horribly seasick and stuck on a boat for an entire day, here’s a good read: Birdist Rule #55: Go on a Pelagic Birding Trip. Then again, some on the other hand will argue that one should not go on pelagic trips, ever: highly entertaining article from the 10,000 birds blog.
So what did we see? For the first two hours, nothing much really… a few dozen Calonectris shearwaters which proved to be mostly Scopoli’s, with 2-3 Cory’s, a probable Grey Phalarope followed by a second bird that was flushed by the boat and of which we got much better views, allowing us to confirm its ID; just a few skuas (1+1 Arctic, 1 Long-tailed, 1 Pomarine), three Black and a few Arctic Terns. Oh and lots of flying fish! And finally a few European Storm Petrels and two Sooty Shearwaters as we approached our target area. Species diversity was building up a bit by that time, and as we neared the first trawler this is what we saw:
Birds everywhere – hundreds of shearwaters!! Skuas! Terns! More Storm Petrels, including a few more European but now also several Wilson’s.
We realised that there were several Cape Verde Shearwaters flying around and resting on the surface – as it turned out this ended up being the most numerous species of the trip, with several hundreds of birds.
Also these two adult Sabine’s Gulls…
…soon to be followed by our first Great Shearwater:
The spectacle of seeing so many seabirds in a feeding frenzy was truly amazing, and much worth the time and effort to get out here. It somehow felt as if we arrived in some oasis after a long desert crossing…
A few more pictures can be found on our facebook page.
And these are the totals for the day:
- At least 6-800 Cape Verde Shearwaters (a conservative estimate… probably lots more)
- +100 Scopoli’s and 20-25 Cory’s at a minimum – good views are needed to distinguish these two species (things were easier back in the days when both were “just” Cory’s!)
- 3-4 Great Shearwaters (three single birds sitting on the water, and I found one bird photo-bombing one of my pictures),
- 2 Manx Shearwaters
- 2 Sooty Shearwaters
- +10 Wilson’s Storm Petrels
- 5-10 European Storm Petrels
- Just one Gannet
- 1 ad. Long-tailed Skua by the trawlers, plus two young birds en route.
- At least 4 Arctic and ca. 10 Pomarine Skuas
- Two adult Sabine’s Gulls, plus a 1st year on the way back to Ngor
- A few Sandwich, lots of Arctic, and probably also some Common Terns
- 1-2 Grey Phalaropes
Finally, a word of thanks for Julien and Mame from Nautilus Diving!