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Baird’s Sandpiper – Second Record for Senegal

This post – including its title – was modified on 8/4 after we found what is supposed to be the same bird, and re-identified it as Baird’s Sandpiper rather than White-rumped. 

Last Sunday (25/3), during a routine Technopole visit with Miguel and Antonio, we picked up an odd looking sandpiper among a group of Common Ringed Plovers. Slightly yet noticeable larger than the numerous Little Stints that are currently present, it mainly stood out by its peculiar elongated shape, due to its long wings projecting well beyond the tail tip: could it be a Baird’s or White-rumped Sandpiper?

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Spot the intruder

 

Adrenaline levels rising fast, we quickly tried to get some pictures while studying the bird. When it moved next to a Little Stint, we could clearly see that this was not just another oddly shaped Little Stint but something different, and that it could only be one of those two American waders. It was closer in size to Common Ringed Plover, appearing intermediate between Little Stint and Dunlin. The bird was actively feeding now, probing for food in the mud, and we could see the moderately long and clearly down-curved bill (longer than Little Stint, but shorter than Dunlin), a faintly streaked breast, white underparts, brown-grey upperparts with some new scapulars in an otherwise seemingly very worn plumage. And then that elongated body shape combined with short black legs giving it a silhouette and posture unlike any other calidrids I’d seen thus far.

Then it took off – maybe because of yet another Peregrine blitz – and even though views were brief and quite distant, we each thought that we saw that the rump was mostly white (in fact it’s the uppertail coverts, but “White-uppertailcovered Sandpiper” somehow doesn’t sound quite right). This clinched the id for us even though none of use were fully familiar with the subtle differences between Baird’s and White-rumped, other than the difference in uppertail / rump pattern. I found what was most likely the same bird again on 8/4 (after not seeing it on two previous visits), and this time got much better views including of the rump in flight, which was not white at all: Baird’s Sandpiper!! So not a White-rumped after all… It just shows how one false impression in the field can lead to wrong conclusions, and that you should not take our id’s for granted! And that we still have lots to learn. It also explains why we were confused and felt that the bird looked more like Baird’s, but given that we thought we saw a white rump we could only announce it as a fuscicollis… Maybe when we saw the bird flying, rather in the distance, we were in fact somehow looking at a Curlew Sandpiper.

The distant pictures that follow show an overall fairly brown sandpiper with a diffuse yet clearly demarcated breast band and otherwise white underparts, a feature that actually fits Baird’s more than White-rumped. However, the pictures may be somewhat misleading as the impression in the field was of a slightly paler and colder-toned bird with less uniform plumage – for instance, the upper breast was finely streaked, incl. on the upper flanks. Some mantle feathers had already moulted and the crown was very finely streaked. That said, it appears that White-rumpeds in winter can have quite a bit of variation, some birds being browner overall and (almost) lacking any streaks on the flanks that are otherwise considered to be typical of the species – we found pictures of a few such birds online, e.g. here (IBC) as well as in this useful series of Baird’s and White-rumped from their wintering grounds in Argentina (beware though of the second Baird’s picture, which I think is actually a White-rumped Sand’). We suspect that this was a first-winter bird starting to moult into its first summer plumage, though without better pictures we can’t rule out that it was a full adult.

The bill shape appears subtly different from one picture to another, but the first photograph is probably the most accurate: fairly thick at the base and slightly curved. This fits Baird’s quite well, though many birds appear to have a more straight bill than this one (another reason why we were lead to believe it was White-rumped!).

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Baird’s Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird

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Baird’s Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird

 

The long wings, crossed like scissors, are quite well visible on this picture, as is the overall “flat” appearance of the species. The whitish supercilium extends well beyond the eye, a pro-fuscicollis feature, but apparently still ok for Baird’s. One may expect the primary projection to be longer, but there again there seems to be quite a bit of individual variation.

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Baird’s Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird

 

Unfortunately, the rump can’t quite be seen in this picture:

WhiterumpedSandpiper_Technopole_20180325_IMG_1451

 

A useful discussion on separation of Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers, even if it mainly focuses on birds in summer and autumn when most likely to show up in the UK, is to be found here. The European and North American field guides were surprisingly unhelpful when it comes to describing the variation in winter plumage of both species. I thus turned to Faansie Peacock’s excellent field guide to the Waders of Southern Africa, which provides a more relevant Southern Hemisphere perspective on wader identification. Along with the author’s other publications (LBJs, Pipits of Southern Africa) this easily ranks among the finest bird guides that are currently available¹. Let’s just hope that ornithodippiasis doesn’t get the better of him and that he can author many more books.

Anyway.

We moved to the main track as we were hoping to relocate our sandpiper given that it seemingly had landed in the area. After careful scrutiny of the numerous Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Common Ringed Plovers (and finding a Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the process!), we ended up seeing it just as we were about to give up. Even worse pictures followed (distance, heat haze are the usual excuses) and the bird settled down to sleep, so we eventually moved on as we still wanted to check the other side of the main lake (where we saw Short-eared Owl and Copper Sunbird; other good birds at Technopole included an imm. Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill, and Mediterranean Gull).

Here’s a picture from this morning 8/4, where the bill appears less curved and thinner at the end, and it clearly is all black (which all fits Baird’s perfectly):

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Baird’s Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird

Baird’s is a rare vagrant to Africa, with just a single claim from Senegal (Dec. 1965 in or near the Djoudj, as per Borrow & Demey, but I could not find the original reference so far), one from The Gambia (Nov. 1976), plus a record from November 1987 in Nouakchott but which was not retained by Isenmann et al. As such it seems that our bird is the first record for the subregion.

White-rumped Sandpiper is equally rare, with most continental records from South Africa during winter. In West Africa, there appear to be just a handful of records: one from Cote d’Ivoire (Oct.-Nov. 1988), and two from Ghana (Dec. 1985 & 2012). Given that it’s relatively frequent in Western Europe in autumn, and that in the Cape Verde and other East Atlantic islands the species is also quite regular, surely they must be pretty much annual visitors to West Africa. More generally, one can only speculate how many American and other vagrants truly pass through Senegal each year.

Both species are long-distance migrants, breeding in the Nearctic tundra, and spending the winter in South America.

The same goes for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper; this bird was likely one of the two that were seen on most visits between 13/1 and 19/2, but then again it may also have been a new bird that was just passing through.

 

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Buff-breasted Sandpiper / Bécasseau rousset

 

So now we just need to find a proper Calidris fuscicollis, and finally add it to the national list.

In fact, how many bird species have been sighted in Senegal thus far? We’ll try to answer that question in a future blog post!

 

¹ Peacock, F. 2016. Chamberlain’s Waders. The Definitive Guide to Southern Africa’s Shorebirds. 256 p., Pavo Publishing. See the author’s website for more info. 

 

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Technopole update, Lac Rose & more

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Lots going on at Technopole at the moment, and hardly any time to write… pretty much as usual.

So here’s a quick update and a few pics, starting with some of the highlights:

  • The two obliging Buff-breasted Sandpipers are still present, seen each time in the area behind the fishermen’s cabin. The country’s 7th or 8th record, and also by far the longest staying birds.
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Buff-breasted Sandpiper / Becasseau rousset

  • This may be getting boring now and a bit of a déjà-vu, but yet again a Lesser Yellowlegs showed up in Dakar. This one was photographed on 8/2/18 by J. Dupuy and posted on observation.org; as far as I know this is the 8th record for Senegal and the third for Technopole (after singles in August 2015 and January 2016). Yesterday morning, a visit with French birders Gabriel and Etienne allowed us to relocate the bird, a very nice adult coming into breeding plumage:
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Lesser Yellowlegs / Chevalier a pattes jaunes

  • Almost just as good, and another first for Technopole (232 species on the list now), was this Common Shelduck – not totally unexpected given the small influx that took place this winter, but still a very good record and always nice to see this pretty duck showing up on my local patch. Unlike its name suggests, it’s definitely not common in Senegal, as there appear to be only about nine previous (published) records, two of which were also obtained this winter.
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Common Shelduck / Tadorne de Belon

  • Along the same lines, another scarce species showed up at Technopole recently, possibly still the same as the one I saw at the end of December: a Jack Snipe on 12 & 19/2. Only a few Garganeys are present at the moment, but Northern Shovelers are still numerous these days. At east three Eurasian Teal were with the preceding species (two males on 27/10, and a pair on 10/2).
  • Remember that influx of Short-eared Owls? Well it looks like it’s not finished yet, with the discovery of no less than seven (maybe even more!) Short-eared Owls roosting together, on 3/2, by Edgar and Jenny Ruiz (at least two birds were still in the same place on 18/2).

Switching categories now – ring reading! Even with such a diversity and sheer numbers of ducks, waders, terns, gulls to go through, we’re still paying attention to ringed birds. And making very modest contributions to our knowledge of migration strategies, survival rates, and much more – one bird at a time. Since the start of the year we’ve been able to read about 50 rings of more than 40 different birds, mostly Audouin’s, Lesser Black-backed and Slender-billed Gulls, but also a few more original species:

  • The flock of 170-180 Avocets that are still present contains at least two colour-ringed birds, both from SW Spain where they were ringed as chicks in… 2005! That’s nearly 13 years for both birds – a respectable age, though it seems that this species can live way longer that that: the record for a British (& Irish) Avocet is nearly 24 years (impressive… though not quite as much as a that 40-year old Oystercatcher!). Interestingly, “RV2” had already been seen at Technopole five years ago, by Simon, but no other sightings are known for this bird.
  • A few Black-tailed Godwits are still around though the majority has now moved on to the Iberian Peninsula from where they will continue to their breeding grounds in NW Europe. Reading rings has been difficult recently as birds tend to either feed in deeper water, or are simply too far to be read. This one below is “G2GCCP”, a first-winter bird that hatched last spring in The Netherlands and which will likely spend its first summer here in West Africa.  Note the overall pale plumage and plain underparts compared to the adult bird in the front, which has already started moulting into breeding plumage.
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Black-tailed Godwit / Barge a queue noire

  • Mediterranean Gulls are again relatively numerous this winter, with some 8-10 birds so far. As reported earlier, one bird was ringed: Green RV2L seen on 21 & 27/1, apparently the first French Med Gull to be recovered in Senegal.
  • The Caspian Tern “Yellow AV7” is probably a bird born in the Saloum delta in 2015 – awaiting details.
  • The regular Gull-billed Tern U83, ringed as a chick in 2009 in Cadiz province, seems to be pretty faithful to Technopole: after four sightings last winter, it’s again seen on most visits since the end of January.

A morning out to Lac Rose on 11/2 with visiting friends Cyril and Gottlieb was as always enjoyable, with lots of good birds around:

  • The first Temminck’s Courser of the morning was a bird flying over quite high, uttering its typical nasal trumpeting call. The next four were found a little further along, while yet another four birds were flushed almost from under the car, allowing for a few decent pictures:
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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

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Temminck’s Courser / Courvite de Temminck

  • The now expected Greater Short-toed Larks were not as numerous as last year, with a few dozen birds seen, sometimes side by side with Tawny Pipit. No Isabelline nor any Black-eared Wheatears this time round, but one of the Northern Wheatears was a real good fit for the leucorrhoa race from Greenland (& nearby Canada and Iceland).
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Greater Short-toed Lark / Alouette calandrelle

  • As usual, a few Singing Bush Larks were about, though not very active and as always quite difficult to get good views of as they often remain close to cover, even sheltering under bushes.
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Singing Bush Lark / Alouette chanteuse

  • Quite surprisingly, we saw lone Sand Martins (twice), a House Martin, and especially Red-rumped Swallow – the latter a long-awaited addition to my Senegal list. Already on the move, or are these hirundines overwintering in the area?
  • A final stop on the edge of the plain, where the steppe transitions into the dunes on one side and a seasonal pond (now dry) on the other. Here we found a couple of species that I’d seen in the same spot before, particularly two that have a pretty localised distribution in western Senegal it seems: Yellow-fronted Canary, and Splendid Sunbird. Also seen here were another Red-necked Falcon, Mottled Spinetail, Vieillot’s Barbet, etc.
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Splendid Sunbird / Souimanga eclatant

  • And plenty of gulls by the lake! First time I see this many gulls here, with at least 800 birds, mainly Audouin’s (ca. 350) and some 500 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Lots of ringed birds of course, but most were too far and we didn’t take the time to go through the entire flock.

 

And elsewhere in Dakar…

  • A “Pallid HeronArdea (cinerea) monicae was found by Gottlieb and Cyril at Parc de Hann on 13/2 (but not relocated yesterday…). A rare Dakar record!
  • Seawatch sessions at Ngor continue to deliver good species, most notably good views of several European Storm-Petrels these past couple of weeks. Lots have been seen along the Petite Cote (Saly, Somone, Toubab Dialaw) recently, and especially at the Gambia river mouth where several dozen birds were counted.

 

 

Yène 17/12: a rare duck, more waders & migrants

And Yène delivers again!

I went back to our little hotspot on Sunday morning to see what new there was to be found – and whether I could relocate three vagrant ducks that Miguel and colleagues spotted here the previous weekend (my first proper Sengalese twitch!). The lagoon is quite literally shrinking by the day at the moment, so not very much water is left by now – meaning that all waders and other remaining water birds were fairly concentrated in a small-ish area, not all of which is visible from the main viewpoints.

There were tons of waders so it took some time to go through them and count or estimate each species, resulting in the following totals:

  • A few hundred Black-winged Stilts (2-300?), still five Avocets
  • More than 320 Common Ringed Plovers, again at least two Little Ringed Plovers, but also a couple of Kentish and at least 39 Kittlitz’s Plovers; also several Grey Plovers
  • At least 70 Marsh Sandpipers was a pretty high count, even for Senegalese standards (I actually can’t remember ever seeing so many – at one point, about 50 birds were feeding in a single group). Unusually, Marsh Sandpiper was actually the most abundant Tringa wader. Technopole also has more than usual at the moment. There were about 30 Wood Sandpipers, and a handful each of Greenshanks, Redshanks, and Green Sandpipers.
  • About 60 Ruff scattered throughout
  • 200 Sanderling, 120 Little Stints, ca. 30 Dunlin, one Curlew Sandpiper
  • One Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit each
  • Three Common Snipes

The Pintails, Garganeys, Shovelers and even the White-faced Whistling Ducks seem to have left as the lagoon is probably too shallow now. Instead there are now three Common Shelducks! I didn’t see them at first, but after about half an hour of sifting through the waders, they were suddenly there, actively feeding on the opposite end of the lagoon and seemingly feeling quite at home here! Maybe they’ll end up staying for a few more days or weeks, until the lagoon dries up.

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Common Shelduck / Tadorne de Belon 1st c.y.

 

Not a species I thought I would ever see here: despite its name, it’s definitely not common in Senegal! With only six published records it should be considered a real vagrant to the country. The regular winter range of Tadorna tadorna extends along the Moroccan coast, with very small numbers reaching as far south as Mauritania, though apparently the species remains pretty rare even in the Banc d’Arguin NP. Olivier Girard very conveniently summarised the status of the species in West Africa, in a short paper published in the African Bird Club Bulletin in 2009¹. In his overview, he lists 28 records, almost half of which are from Mauritania, and just five from Senegal. One was apparently overlooked despite being published in the well-known “Annotated check-list of birds occurring at the PNOD, 1984-1994” by Rodwell and colleagues, while the location of another record is incorrect.

As far as we know, no other records have been published nor have any been reported to the ABC, on eBird, or on observado.org since Girard’s summary. As such, these should be all previous Shelduck records for Senegal:

  • Seven, Delta du Senegal, 27/12/73 (Morel & Morel)
  • Two immatures at Djoudj NP, 21/1/74 (Morel & Morel)
  • Two on 12-28/2/90 in the Djoudj NP (M. Fouquet in Rodwell et al. 1996)
  • 15 in the Djoudj NP, January 1996 (Yesou et al. 1996)
  • One in Djoudj NP, Jan. 1997 (Triplet et al. 1997)
  • Two on 5/1/97 at Yène-Todé lagoon (= in Dakar region and not “Siné-Saloum” as incorrectly stated by Girard.

And so now, more than 20 years later, we have three first-year birds from 9 to 17/12/17 at Yène-Todé, again! (see also note below for two more records in early 2018)

It’s intriguing that there are so many more old records, given that observer coverage surely must have improved in the last 20-30 years – and that mid-winter waterbird counts are systematically conducted in the Djoudj and most other large wetlands (I really ought to get access to the database with past counts, as there don’t seem to be any published reports available?). What’s more, Shelducks have been on the increase in many parts of their Western European range, so one would logically expect more birds to show up in this part of the world. Maybe milder winters push fewer birds to the southern end of their range, or the populations that have increased are more sedentary than others? In better-watched Mauritania, at least during the first decade of the 21st century, there are just six records listed since 2000, one of which was near the border with Senegal in the Aftout es Saheli in January 2007, while elsewhere in the delta, Shelducks were seen in December 1995 and three times between Nov. ’98 and Jan. ’99: not much!! Three records each are known from Mali, Ghana and Niger, with one from Guinea (January 2006).

 

Addendum 2/2/18: eight birds were seen at the Grand Lac in the Djoudj NP on 17/1 (C. Ruchet, Y. Menétrey, I. Ndiaye), quite possibly the same group that was sighted on 30/12/17 in the Diawling on the other side of the border. The first for Technopole was on 18-19/2/18 (E. Regala Ruiz, J. Ruiz, BP, G. Caucal, E. Rogeau), confirming the small influx that occurred during the 17/18 winter.

 

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Common Shelduck / Tadorne de Belon

 

So what else was about? Glossy Ibis is still present (at least 3 ind.), and now no less than 28 European Spoonbills, most of which arrived from the NW and landed in the central part of the lagoon. As usual there were several Osprey and Marsh Harriers, plus an immature Short-toed Eagle hunting around the lake’s edge, a pair of Red-necked Falcons roosting on a tree, and a Common Kestrel (and on 9/12, Miguel & co. had a fine Barbary Falcon).

The flock of gulls and terns held the usual Caspian, Royal, Sandwich and Common Terns, but just a few Audouin’s Gulls, LBBGs, Slender-billed, Grey-headed and Black-headed Gulls this time round.

Just like on my last visit, Red-throated Pipit was present on the lagoon’s edge: I first heard its sharp pssiiiii call in the SE corner, then briefly saw (and heard) what was probably a second bird, a few hundred meters further. Two Tree Pipits were also present.

Other migrant songbirds included Yellow Wagtails of course, plus Northern Wheatear, Subalpine Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, and Woodchat Shrike.

All in all, another very enjoyable morning out at Yène!

Technopole update

A Technopole pit-stop on the way back to Dakar resulted in yet more waders, with still some 300 Black-tailed Godwits around (just one ring could be read, as most birds were feeding or resting in deeper water) and lots of other waders. On my previous visit, we managed to read six rings, mostly in this flock of BTGs feeding on land:

BlacktailedGodwit_Technopole_20171203_IMG_6580

The water levels are already quite low and I’d reckon that they are about the same as in April 2017: let’s hope that the site doesn’t completely dry up by the end of the dry season!!

More of a surprise was an adult African Spoonbill (also two Europeans) resting on one of the islets, its deep crimson face just about visible. Surprising, because it’s not a frequent visitor to Technopole, and so far my only records have been in April and May.

A Common Moorhen with a very young chick, confirming local breeding of the species. Other than that, lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (+300), a few Audouin’s Gulls, a White-winged Tern feeding among the Black Terns, at least two Knot, lots of Ruff, etc. An adult male Peregrine Falcon may be the same bird that I see almost daily on the Diarama hotel.

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Peregrine / Faucon pèlerin

 

¹ Girard, O. 2009. Le Tadorne de Belon Tadorna tadorna en Afrique de l’Ouest. Bull ABC 16: 180-183.

 

 

La lagune de Yenne-Tode

Comme je le disais déjà dans l’article sur le Chevalier à pattes jaunes de la semaine dernière, la lagune de Yenne est en ce moment un site incroyablement riche en oiseaux. Au point où l’on y trouve actuellement plus d’oiseaux qu’au Technopole¹ – autant dire que ça cartonne!

Lorsque le site est rempli d’eau comme c’est le cas cette année, on trouve là une impressionnante diversité d’oiseaux. Rien qu’en quatre visites en l’espace d’autant de semaines, nous avons pu détecter la présence de pas moins de 144 espèces… Il ne doit pas y avoir beaucoup de sites dans la région de Dakar où il est possible de voir plus de 100 espèces en une matinée! Autant dire que c’est notre site favori du moment.

Il semblerait cependant que la situation soit très variable d’une année à une autre, comme en témoignent les deux articles de Paul dans lesquels il est question de cette zone: lire ici (octobre 2011) et là (octobre 2013), deux visites lorsque le site était largement en assec. Quoiqu’il en soit, cette lagune mérite bien d’être protégée et préservée, alors qu’actuellement elle ne bénéficie d’aucun statut de protection… ce qui vaut bien malheureusement pour la plupart des zones humides autour de la capitale: Technopole, les lacs de Malika et Mbeubeusse, les niayes du secteur Lac Rose – Kayar – Tanma, etc. A Yenne, les travaux routiers ont visiblement changé la dynamique hydraulique, et les premiers signes annonciateurs d’extension de la zone d’habitation à venir sont déjà là, y compris DANS une ancienne partie de la lagune.

Pour s’y rendre, voir Google Maps. A noter que le nom du site peut aussi s’écrire comme Yène Tode, Yene-Todé, et autres variantes. La visite pourrait se faire en combinaison avec une virée du côté de Popenguine ou de Toubab Dialaw, voire avec le Lac Rose qui n’est pas très loin, mais il faut prévoir 2-3 heures au minimum.

Yenne_20171113_IMG_5712

 

Dans cette vaste zone humide on trouve en ce moment des canards en nombre, avec plus d’un millier d’individus de six espèces en tout lors de nos quatre visites ces dernières semaines: Dendrocygne veuf (plus de 500 le 18/11!! Et deux canetons âgés de deux semaines le 21/10, ML), +90 Canards souchets, +420 Sarcelles d’été, même des Canards pilets (env. 20 le 13/11). Le 29/10, Miguel a eu la chance de trouver une famille (locale?) de Canards à bosse et, surtout, une Oie-armée de Gambie, palmipède visiblement rare dans la région dakaroise. Mais ce sont donc surtout les canards européens dont les effectifs sont impressionants: à mettre en relation avec le manque d’eau sur d’autres zones humides, comme le lac Tanma mais surtout le Bas-Delta du Sénégal, qui connaîtrait un déficit pluviométrique important cette année?

Yenne_20171113_IMG_5743

 

Les limicoles aussi profitent de cette grosse mare temporaire: plus d’une douzaine de Jacanas à poitrine dorée se nourrissant sur les nénuphars (y compris deux jeunes probablement nés localement), bien entendu les éternels Vanneaux éperonnés mais aussi à tete noire, ces derniers dans les parties plus sèches de la zone. Samedi dernier il y avait aussi cinq Avocettes, et de nombreuses Echasses blanches bien sûr, tout comme les Grands Gravelots mais aussi pour une fois des Petits Gravelots ainsi que quelques dizaines de pâtres, tout comme un Gravelot à collier interrompu vu samedi dernier. Les vasières abritent aussi pas mal de Pluviers argentés, quelques Barges à queue noire et une rousse, 5 Courlis corlieux le 29/10, des Becasseaux sanderlings, minutes, variables, cocorlis, et même maubèches… Cette dernière espèce semble d’ailleurs plus fréquente que d’habitude cet automne. Les sympathiques Tournepierres à collier se baladent entre tout ce beau monde, cherchant un caillou ou un coquillage à retourner… tandis que Chevaliers stagnatiles, aboyeurs, gambettes, sylvains, culblancs, et guignettes fréquentent les secteurs légèrement plus profonds du plan d’eau principal, tout comme plus d’une centaine de Combattants variés. Quelques Bécassines des marais se cachent dans la vegetation, tout comme au moins trois Rhynchées peintes.

Soit pas moins de 29 (!) espèces de limicoles pour l’instant, et je suis sûr qu’il nous en manque encore des réguliers, comme l’Huîtrier pie ou le Vanneau caronculé.

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African Jacana / Jacana a poitrine doree

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Avocet(te)

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Marsh Sandpiper / Chevalier stagnatile

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Ruff / Combattant varié

Du côté des laridés et des sternes, on trouve un peu de tout: quelques Mouettes à tête grise et surtout des rieuses et des Goélands raillers, parmi lesquels samedi dernier se trouvaient au moins quatre Mouettes mélanocéphales; le Goéland d’Audouin tout comme quelques Goélands bruns doivent être réguliers ici. Plusieurs centaines de Sternes caugeks semblent régulièrement utiliser le site comme reposoir, accompagnées par quelques royales, voyageusescaspienneshansels, naines et pierregarins en petit nombre. Les Guifettes noires étaient assez nombreuses fin octobre surtout, lorsque Miguel a aussi pu identifier une leucoptère.

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Caspian & Sandwich Tern, Slender-billed & Mediterranean Gull / Sterne caspienne & caugek, Goélands railleurs, Mouette mélanocéphale

 

Les grands échassiers ne sont pas en reste: hérons et aigrettes de toutes sortes bien sûr, dont les Herons pourpré et mélanocéphale et le Crabier chevelu, et même un Blongios de Stürm (Least Bittern!), à ma connaissance la première obs dakaroise. C’est Miguel qui a eu la chance de se retrouver nez à nez (à bec?) avec ce minuscule héron, un jeune individu, juste le temps de faire une photo témoin. Samedi dernier il y avait également au moins trois Ibis falcinelles – mes premiers de l’automne – et 1-2 Spatules blanches sont observées lors de nos deux dernières visites.

Parmi les autres oiseaux d’eau, citons les deux espèces de pélican, la Talève d’Afrique (une le 29/10), même la Foulque macroule (deux les 21 et 29/10, ML) et le Grèbe castagneux qui est nicheur ici. Et il doit bien de temps à autre se cacher une marouette dans la végétation palustre!

Il y a aussi les Balbuzards bien sûr, mais aussi plusieurs Busards des roseaux, un Circaète Jean-le-Blanc (13 & 18/11), Shikra (29/10), et samedi dernier aussi ce que nous avons identifié comme un jeune Circaète de Beaudouin, un Faucon lanier, et un Faucon chicquera.

Les passereaux migrateurs paléarctiques abondent en ce moment, que ce soit dans les acacias et tamaris (Rougequeue à front blanc, Fauvettes passerinette et grisette, Hypolaïs polyglottePouillots véloce et fitis) ou dans les scirpes et les abords du plan d’eau (Phragmite des joncs, Bergeronnettes grise et printanière, Pipit des arbres, Traquet motteux). Des visites régulières lors de l’hiver nordique révèleront sans doute d’autres passereaux encore.

Parmi les locaux, citons entre autres l’Alouette chanteuse, le Moinellette à oreillons blancs, la Veuve à collier d’or ou encore l’Astrild cendré. Le Cou-coupé semble relativement commun, y compris dans le village même. Deux Pipits à dos uni sont identifiés par Miguel le 29/10. Et aussi, bien curieusement, le Bruant d’Alexander! Le 18/11 nous avons eu la surprise de voir un jeune oiseau posé au bord de la lagune, bien loin de ses milieux de prédilection rocailleux. Sans doute un individu en dispersion depuis les collines de Toubab Dialaw (où il pourrait nicher) ou les falaises de Popenguine.

Enfin, une mention speciale pour le Coucou-geai et le Martinet pâle vus le 29/10, et cette Tourterelle pleureuse le 18/11.

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Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark / Moinelette à oreillons blancs

 

 

¹ Et justement au Technopole, quoi de neuf me demanderez-vous? Rien de bien exceptionnel lors de mes trois dernières visites! Tout de même un ajout à la liste: le Souimanga pygmée vu le 8/11 près du Club House. Des ornithos de passage y ont récemment noté la Rhynchée peinte que je n’ai pas vue depuis un bon moment ici, et aussi et surtout le Faucon de Cuvier qui ne figurait pas encore sur la liste. Le niveau d’eau est déjà assez bas, ce qui fait que les conditions sont bonnes pour bon nombre de limicoles (dont 10 Maubèches le 19/11) et de laridés (première Mouette mélanocéphale de la saison le 19/11) mais aussi pour les canards qui sont présents en nombres plus importants que ces trois dernières années: jusqu’à 45 Sarcelles d’été, 90 Canards souchets (premiers le 8/10), et même cinq Pilets dimanche dernier. Par contre, ça risque de s’assécher rapidement au cours des prochains mois, donc je doute qu’il restera beaucoup d’eau au printemps prochain… à suivre.

 

 

A New Shade of Pink (Technopole #222)

Yesterday’s weekly Technopole visit once again turned up a new species for the site. I’d been scanning and counting the numerous waders on the SW end of the main lake for over an hour, when I turned my attention the flock of Greater Flamingos that were feeding nearby. Two ringed birds proved to be tricky to read, one ring being very faded and the other one, also on an adult bird, was largely covered in mud – more on this further down in this post. I then started to count the flock, and after reaching the 200 mark (there were a total of 289 birds, so nearly 120 more than last week), I noticed a much hoped-for different shade of pink, darker and more intense: an adult Lesser Flamingo!

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Lesser Flamingo / Flamant nain

 

The noticeably smaller size, bright orange eye, and largely uniform dark crimson bill (or is it vermilion?) bill quickly confirmed the ID.

As far as I know, this is the first record of the species at Technopole, though of course that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t already occurred here: it may well have gone unnoticed or else unreported (which given the lack of any sort of bird observation recording system or central database would not be surprising! More on that in another post…)

It’s definitely not an unexpected addition (as predicted a few months ago), given that the species must regularly migrate along Senegal’s coast between the  Senegal and Saloum deltas. However, neither Morel & Morel nor Sauvage & Rodwell mention the species from the Dakar atlas square. This bird obviously got mixed in with a group of Greater Flamingos, possibly on their way down to the Saloum or moving between post-breeding dispersal areas in the region (Lac Rose, and soon maybe Lac Tanma when it will start filling up).

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Lesser Flamingo / Flamant nain

Lesser Flamingo is listed as a Near-Threatened species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In short, the “NT” category typically includes declining or otherwise vulnerable species that in the medium to longer term are faced with the risk of extinction; as such they are likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future. Despite having a vast range in the Old World, covering large parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent, Phoenicopterus (or Phoeniconaias) minor breeds only in a handful of sites in the world, with just six main colonies located in Mauritania, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, the Tanzanian Rift Valley, and NW India. Other sites may be used irregularly, e.g. in Kenya and Pakistan.

Its global population is still pretty substantial with some 2-3 million individuals, mostly in East Africa, but it is extremely vulnerable to changes in conditions of those very few sites, whether induced by climate change or by a range of human disruptions to the environment. For instance, the IUCN species’ fact sheet tells us that “the proposed large-scale soda ash extraction at Lake Natron, the most important breeding colony, although currently on hold, would be disastrous for this species and, were this to happen, the species may qualify for uplisting to a higher threat category.” Read up a little bit more about this conservation issue and the actions that BirdLife and partners have taken here. Excessive predation by Jackals, African Wolves and even Warthogs and Honey Badgers may result in poor or even complete failure of breeding success. And at least in Mauritania poaching is also a problem.

The West-African population is thought to number about 15,000-25,000 birds (compared to over a million for East Africa), concentrated in the lower Senegal valley with the most regular breeding site being the lagoons of Aftout es Sâheli in the Diawling NP in southern Mauritania. Up to 46,500 birds have been counted in the Senegal delta (Feb. 1990), but breeding is not annual: according to Isenmann et al. it occurred only in 1965, 1988 (though all attempts failed that year), 2000, 2005, and 2010; it was suspected but not confirmed in 1998, 1999 and 2007. More recently, the species has bred at least in 2014 (a bit more info is available on the Diawling NP’s website, and see this video from the parc).

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Lesser Flamingo / Flamant nain

Its movements, and generally speaking its overall ecology, are largely dictated by feeding conditions as it is a highly specialised species; as a result, birds tend to respond rapidly to changing water levels and food availability (spirulina and other blue-green algae, small invertebrates). Fun fact: the Lesser Flamingo’s bill contains up to 10,000 microscopic lamellae!

At least one of the ringed Greater Flamingos was Spanish: I don’t have full details as I’m yet to submit the sighting, but judging by the code (white ring with black inscription “2|CZR”) it’s a bird that was ringed in 2013 at the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra in Malaga, which is also the origin of one born in 2014 and seen in June 2015 at Technopole. Coincidentally, the three ringed birds from the Camargue that I found last year were seen on the same date as yesterday’s birds: 6 August.

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Greater Flamingo / Flamant rose

Other than that, there was an interesting gull that will require a bit more work, and probably better pictures, in order to establish its ID. I’m suspecting Kelp Gull because of the massive bill and the large, stocky appearance, but am by no means a gull expert and will want to consult a few others first (contributions welcome!). I’ll get back to this one in due time – if it is indeed a Kelp rather than Lesser Black-backed Gull, one of which was present nearby, then it would mean yet another potential addition to the site list.

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Kelp Gull? / Goéland dominicain?

 

As I mentioned, I’d been counting waders for the first hour or so, which I continued doing on the opposite end of the pool close to the golf club house, where more birds were feeding. This resulted in some pretty good numbers especially for Ruff with a minimum of 598 (!) birds, at least one of which was colour-ringed with a yellow flag in combination with other rings – unfortunately it flew off shortly after I’d found it, never to be seen again… probably a Dutch bird. Some of the males were still largely in breeding plumage, such as this one:

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Ruff / Combattant varié

 

Another wader highlight was the very decent diversity of calidris sandpipers: two summer-plumaged adult Dunlins, no less than seven Knots (my highest count here), with a supporting cast of several Curlew Sandpipers (9), Sanderlings (11) and Little Stints (12). There were now only 22 Black-tailed Godwits and just one Marsh Sandpiper, while the four Avocets seem to have finally moved on. Two Common Sandpipers on the other hand were most likely newly arrived birds.

 

[Note (13/8/17): it turns out that the Lesser Flamingo had already been photographed on August 3rd by J-M Dupart, but apparently was not identified at such at the time; I triple-checked my pictures of the flock that was present on 29/7 but it definitely wasn’t present at the time.]

Le Technopole en juillet

Ça y est, la première grosse pluie de la saison vient de tomber! Gros coup de vent avant-hier soir, puis averse soutenue pendant au moins deux heures. Le début de la saison humide (et chaude! 29°C samedi matin à 7h…) amène de nouveaux oiseaux et coïncide aussi avec l’arrivée de bon nombre de migrateurs européens.

Mon dernier post sur notre hotspot dakarois favori remonte à début juin déjà, donc il était grand temps de rattraper ce retard. Ce n’est pas faute d’observations mais plutôt faute de temps que je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de vous tenir au courant des dernières nouvelles. Bien sûr il y a eu une toute petite trêve estivale courant juillet, et j’ai dû effectuer quelques déplacements professionnels dans la sous-région, mais j’ai tout de même pu passer quatre fois au Technopole entre fin juin (le 24/6) et fin juillet (les 2, 23 et 29/7).

Rien de bien exceptionnel à vous signaler cette fois, mais le Technopole étant ce qu’il est, il y a toujours quelque chose de nouveau à voir. Juin et juillet sont généralement les mois les plus calmes ou du moins les moins suivis ici, mais les observations récentes (Phalarope à bec étroit! Bec-en-ciseaux!) montrent bien que ça vaut la peine de continuer à visiter le site régulièrement.  Il y a bien sûr les limicoles qui se font de plus en plus nombreux (les premiers retours se font déjà dans la première quinzaine de juin), mais aussi quelques migrateurs afro-tropicaux, et des espèces locales qui se reproduisent à cette période de l’année.

Commençons justement par quelques données de nidification:

  • Echasse blanche (Black-winged Stilt): comme nous l’avions pressenti, la saison 2017 rentrera dans les annales comme un très bon cru, avec de nombreuses nichées réussies. Il y a actuellement des jeunes de tous âges – ceux qui ont réussi à ne pas se faire bouffer par les milans! – et hier il y avait toujours au moins trois adultes qui étaient visiblement encore en train de couver.
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Black-winged Stilt / Echasse blanche juv.

  • Vanneau éperonné (Spur-winged Lapwing): étonnamment, cette espèce omniprésente au Sénégal, et présente en bon nombre au Technopole (souvent quelques centaines), ne fournit que quelques rares données de nidification. Lors de mes deux dernières sorties j’ai pu trouver quatre familles, tous avec des poussins âges de quelques jours seulement. La période coïncide avec l’observation d’une famille début août 2015 au Lac Rose et avec celle faite par Paul au Technopole en juillet 2012.
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Spur-winged Lapwing / Vanneau éperonné pull.

  • Perruche à collier (Rose-ringed Parakeet): un adulte accompagné d’au moins un jeune, visiblement récemment sorti du nid, est vu le 24/6: le jeune se reconnaît aisément à sa queue encore très courte, le bec entièrement rose pale, et l’absence d’un collier marqué comme chez l’adulte.
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Rose-ringed Parakeet / Perruche à collier

  • Martin-chasseur à tête grise (Grey-headed Kingfisher): pas de donnée certaine mais je soupçonne la présence d’au moins un jeune. En tout cas, il y a peut-être bien trois couples répartis sur le site cette année.
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Grey-headed Kingfisher / Martin-chasseur à tête grise

  • Blongios nain (Little Bittern): là non plus, pas d’indice concluant, mais la présence d’au moins un oiseau en juin et juillet laisse supposer une reproduction locale – ce qui ne serait somme toute pas très étonnant ici, mais connaissant l’espèce un peu il faut soit un gros coup de bol, soit beaucoup de patience et de nombreuses heures d’affût pour pouvoir certifier sa nidification.

 

Les migrateurs “afro-tropicaux” ou intra-africains

Même si une origine méditerranéenne n’est pas exclue pour certains, on peut supposer que la plupart des Flamants roses (Greater Flamingo) présents actuellement au Technopole sont africains. Comme prévu, le groupe initial arrivé vers la mi-mai s’est lentement mais sûrement agrandi au fil des semaines, atteignant 173 individus hier matin (alors que j’étais en train d’observer les limis dans la zone sud du site, tout le groupe est arrivé en vol, me permettant de faire un décompte précis sur photo).

Un Rolle violet (Broad-billed Roller) vu hier matin près des jardins du côté de l’entrée du site était une petite coche locale pour moi, et du coup aussi ma première observation à Dakar. Il en va de même pour un couple de Tourterelles masquées (Namaqua Dove), elles aussi déjà inscrites sur la liste d’espèces du Technopole mais constituant une première pour moi ici.

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Broad-billed Roller / Rolle violet

Les Moineaux dorés du Soudan (Sudan Golden Sparrow), qui contrairement aux rolliers, coucous et marins-pêcheurs sont plutôt des visiteurs de saison sèche, ne devraient pas tarder à quitter le site.

 

Le retour des limis

Les limicoles les plus nombreux actuellement sont la Barge à queue noire (Black-tailed Godwit) et le Combattant (Ruff), chacun avec plus d’une centaine d’oiseaux. L’effectif de Chevaliers sylvains doit se situer autour de la cinquantaine, alors que seuls quelques culblancs et guignettes sont là actuellement (Wood, Green, Common Sandpiper).

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Avant-hier matin j’ai pu compter au moins neuf Chevaliers stagnatiles (Marsh Sandpiper), confirmant ainsi que l’été (juillet/août) est de loin la meilleure période pour observer ce limicole peu fréquent au Technopole.

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Marsh Sandpiper / Chevalier stagnatile

Trois Avocettes sont présentes depuis le début du mois; elles se tiennent la plupart du temps dans la partie méridionale du site à côté d’un groupe de sternes (caugek, voyageuse, royale, pierregarin et hansel) et de laridés (une poignée de Mouettes rieuses estivantes et quelques Goélands railleurs). Et à propos de sternes, mentionnons encore la présence continue de Guifettes noires, avec un max. d’env. 700 individus le 24/6. (Sandwich, Lesser Crested, Royal, Common & Gull-billed Terns; Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls; Black Tern)

Pas moins de quatre espèces de bécasseaux sont observés lors de mes deux dernières sorties: Cocorli (max. 12 le 23/7), Minute (2 le 29/7), Sanderling (1 le 23/7) et enfin un Maubèche le 23/7, soit à une date plutôt inattendue pour cette espèce peu fréquente ici. Il y a un seul Grand Gravelot pour le moment; l’unique Pluvier argenté du site est probablement un estivant, alors qu’un Courlis corlieu venait probablement tout juste d’arriver. Les conditions sont assez idéales pour les limis en ce moment, notamment la partie la plus méridionale (proche de la route, accessible depuis les jardins de maraîchage avant même le bâtiment de la Sonatel) et le coin nord-est du plan d’eau principal, soit juste après le virage à 90° de la piste centrale.

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Ruff & Little Stints / Combattant & Bécasseaux minutes

 

 

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