Tag Archive | Vagrants

Cinereous Vulture in West Africa: from vagrant to regular visitor?

Cinereous Vulture is considered a rare vagrant to sub-Saharan Africa, with just a handful of observations from the western Sahel, mainly from Senegal but also at least one from Mali. Last winter several new records were obtained from the region, including two from Senegal and the first observations from The Gambia and Mauritania.

Last winter’s records from Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania were described in a series of three posts on the MaghrebOrnitho blog (highly recommended for anyone interested in birds of NW Africa!), while the previous record, from 2013, was reported on SenegalWildlife. However, the first Senegalese record of the species was never published and it’s only recently that it was uploaded onto eBird, now also with photographic documentation. It was seen north of Diourbel on 6 January 1987 by a British group. As such, it’s probably a good thing to set the record straight, and recap all known records from Senegal.

 

CinereousVulture-photo-Senegal-Jan1987

Cinereous Vulture / Vautour moine, January 1987 (P. Thompson)

 

The 1987 observation was reported to François Baillon, who at the time was running the French overseas research institute (ORSTOM, now IRD) in Mbour. In a hand-written letter he confirmed that there were no previous records from Senegal, adding that he has seen a great diversity of raptors in this central region of Senegal, including Egyptian Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, White-headed Vulture (now very rare here!), Lanner, Peregrine, Lesser Kestrel, Short-toed Eagle, Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle, Booted Eagle & Bonelli’s Eagle. Of note is that the same group also saw a group of Mottled Swifts during their tour, right by the Gambian border on January 3rd 1987 (“20+ feeding over bush fire. The birds were seen immediately after crossing into Senegal and may well have crossed into Gambia as well.”) – prompting Baillon to mention that he has regularly seen Mottled Swifts in the Niokolo-Koba in January & February 1986 as well as in February 1987 near the river Gambia. Anyway, back to our vultures…

As it turns out, this first country record was also the first for Africa south of the Sahara, given that it predates the record of a Spanish-ringed bird found dead in Mali’s Sikasso region on 19 January 1995. This means that there are now at least seven observations from Senegal, listed here in chronological order:

1) 1987: an immature north of Diourbel on 6.1.87, pictured above (N. Lethaby,  P. Thompson et al.)

2) 2005: a bird ringed in Spain was recovered in Senegal in January 2005 (in HBW; no precise date is given and no further location info is available, though I assume that it’s the Mbour area as shown on the map with ring recoveries in this publication by de la Puente and colleagues, 2012).

3) 2005: an immature between Louga and Touba on 23.2.05, reported by Vroege (2013): Immature Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus in Senegal in February 2005. ABC Bull. 21: 223-224. See also this article, in Dutch with English summary.

Vroege - Cinereous Vulture Louga-Touba 20050223

Cinereous Vulture / Vautour moine, February 2005 (K. de Vet)

 

4) 2007: an immature photographed at Nianing (south of Mbour), on 13.1.07 by Talamelli (2007a, 2007b). This observation was incorrectly assumed to be the first record for Senegal.

5) 2013: an immature near Tiom in the Khelcom area (north of Kaffrine) on 23.1.13, with a hundred or so other large vultures at a carcass (L. Majorel, L. Puch et al.),  reported on this very blog here though at the time incorrectly referred to as the second record for Senegal.

Black Vulture / Vautour moine

Cinereous Vulture / Vautour moine, January 2013 (L. Puch)

 

6) 2018: one near Fatick on 30.1.18, photographed by Julio Rabadán González (two photos on observation.org), see also last picture in this post.

7) 2018: one at Sagata (east of Kebemer, along the road to Doyene Dakhar) on 26.2.18 photographed by a Dutch tour group, different from the Fatick bird – see the MaghrebOrnitho post for more details on this and the previous observation.

Just two days prior to the Sagata observation, a Cinereous Vulture was filmed and photographed while feeding with other vulture species at a vulture feeding station run (apparently illegally so!) by a Spanish group, the first record for Gambia. And the first for Mauritania was photographed just a couple of months earlier, on 9.12.17 in the Banc d’Arguin area. The latter was ringed as a chick in the Sierra de Guadarrama near Madrid on 13 July 2017.

The map below shows all of the above observations, i.e. all records from sub-Saharan Africa plus the one from Mauritania (the location of the Malian record is approximate as no precise locality was given).

CinereousVulture_Map_WestAfrica

Records of Cinereous Vulture in West Africa (map data: OpenStreetMap 2018)

 

With at least three birds involved between The Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania, last winter’s records likely reflect a real increase in numbers rather than just an effect of any hypothetical better observer coverage. This trend is fairly obvious in Morocco, particularly at Tanger on the African side of the Strait of Gibraltar, where no less than four birds were seen on a single day last year, on November 10… Even more impressive, the same day the team counted some 2,700 Eurasian Griffons here – that must have been quite a sight!! Further details here. It’s actually quite possible that some of the recent West African sightings were of one or several of these four birds seen at Jebel Moussa. Formerly considered an accidental visitor to Northwest Africa after going extinct as a breeding bird, Aeypius monachus is now seen as “a regular migrant and wintering species in small numbers” according to MaghrebOrnitho.

Cinereous Vulture – formerly often referred to as Eurasian Black Vulture – is classified as Near Threatened, mainly because the global population is relatively small (7,800-10,500 pairs, roughly equating to 15,600-21,000 mature individuals) and because there have been continued declines in the Asian parts of its range. In contrast, the European population is doing pretty well it seems, particularly in Spain which has seen increases possibly over 30%, with estimated total breeding population of some 2,440 pairs. After having seen the species for the first time in northern Greece many years ago, I was fortunate to see some of the Spanish birds during a visit to Madrid last January, right on the outskirts of the city while waiting for the local Spanish Imperial Eagles (which eventually did show up – a long overdue lifer… and a potential vagrant to West Africa!). A reintroduction scheme in southern France lead to the establishment of a small population there, and the species is becoming a regular summer visitor to the western Alps during post-breeding dispersal.

This massive all-dark vulture is pretty straightforward to identify and should be easy to pick up among the local vultures and wintering Eurasian Griffons, which they often seem to associate with. The few records so far show that the species can show up pretty much anywhere north of The Gambia, though the “Vulture Triangle” centered roughly on Louga, as well as a central belt stretching from Mbour to the Khelcom, are clearly more likely to yield more observatins. Let’s see if the current trend continues, which given the increase in Western European populations seems rather likely.

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks to Mohamed Amezian (MaghrebOrnitho) for making available a great deal of info on the species, and to Nick Lethaby and Paul Thompson for sharing their 1987 observation.

 

 

 

 

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Of lists, listing and listers: how many bird species in Senegal?

I have a bit of a confession to make. I’m a bit of an obsessive lister, always counting and collecting birds, new ones if at all possible. Or rare ones. I have a Life List, a Senegal List, Africa, Western Palearctic, a Technopole list. A list of colour-ring recoveries. And so on. Maybe not as far as keeping year lists or garden lists or self-found lists or lists of birds seen while writing up blog posts, but still I’m pretty much counting species all the time. I won’t go through great lengths to “tick” new birds and I don’t take the whole listing thing too seriously, neither will I keep track of my buck-per-bird expenditure rates (yes, it seems that some birders calculate this), but still… lots of obsessive listing.

I’m sure that some of our readers will recognise this – do we need group therapy? Maybe it’s just human (male?) nature, to be collecting and classifying things. Some of these lists may actually be quite useful especially when covering little-known regions as I sometimes get the chance to do on my work trips (think South Sudan, Somaliland, Burundi…), but for the most part they’re just my own little checklists sitting in an old Access database… time to upgrade, right?

Baird's Sandpiper / Becasseau de Baird

Baird’s Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird, Technopole – Senegal’s second record (and first documented) and a personal lifer

 

Luckily there’s still lots of new species to be counted, we’re not quite done yet – I’ve only seen less than a quarter of the world’s birds, mostly in Africa (ca. 1,370 species, Wilson’s Indigobird a couple of weeks ago near Lac Togo being the most recent addition), so there are still many new ones to discover.

By now, my Senegal list stands at about 495 species, after three and a half years of pretty active birding in the country. But how “good” is 495? How many species have been reliably recorded in Senegal? This may be an easy question, but the answer is certainly not so straightforward. First of all, what taxonomic reference to follow? Depending on which reference one uses, certain subspecies are elevated to species rank while others are not, and with current tendencies to split species it can be hard to keep up with the understandably dynamic nature of bird taxonomy.

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Adamawa Turtle Dove / Tourterelle de l’Adamoua, one of Senegal’s “specials” that can reliably be seen in the south-east

Several years of “service” in the Swiss national rare bird committee and a French regional records committee taught me a bit of discipline in keeping count of records and numbers for rare or scarce species, in ensuring appropriate documentation, in reassessing status of vagrants and scarce migrants, keeping track of changes in taxonomy and advances in identification criteria, and so on. And then there’s the status categories: “A” (species occurs naturally in the wild, seen at least once in modern ornithological history, eg. since 1950), “B” (same as A but not recorded since the cut-off year), “C” (introduced exotic species that have established autonomous breeding populations), “D” (the dreaded uncertain origin category), and finally “E” (escapes). Only species that are in the A, B or C categories are part of a country’s national list. In Senegal, the only established exotic species appears to be House Sparrow (unless Eurasian Collared Dove is also introduced or escaped, though this is far from certain; wild Rock Doves apparently still exist in the Kédougou escarpments).

So, in order to answer our question of the number of species occurring in Senegal, let’s start by identifying an appropriate taxonomic reference. The IOC (International Ornithological Committee) is nowadays usually considered the standard authority, being followed by many countries and authors. The Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) is another reference, I guess a bit more progressive than IOC, and was adopted by BirdLife and the IUCN. I won’t go into reviewing the differences between these and other lists such as Howard & Moore or Sibley, though we should mention that the African Bird Club follows IOC which as such should be an obvious choice here. Unfortunately, the ABC is not very good at remaining up-to-date to the extent that the current version dates back to 2010 – and at the time of writing, the page to download country checklists was non functional… The ABC now also has new “Dowsett country lists” which are largely based on the more conservative Howard & Moore taxonomy. More than anyone else, the Dowsetts are of course a major reference in their own right when it comes to African birds, and it would be great to have up-to-date checklists for each country. To make matters more complex, the ABC also links to checklists by their “partner” iGoTerra; unfortunately, their Senegal list is highly unreliable as it contains about a dozen species that have never been recorded in Senegal as well as several obvious missing species… and I assume that it’s the same for other countries. Really surprising (and disappointing) that the ABC endorses these lists. Similarly, other country checklists, e.g. the Avibase list, contain several serious errors and should be avoided. As such, we hope that the Senegal list that we’re making available here will be of use to local and visiting birders alike.

Either way, we settled on the IOC list – the choice of which can of course be debated, but it seems to make sense given that ABC is following it and that there is no proper reference committee for Africa (such as the AERC for Europe, though they’re not quite as authoritative as they ought to be, with many national committees following different standards). Anyway… let’s move on.

PelsFishingOwl_Wassadou_20180616_IMG_2615

Pel’s Fishing Owl / Chouette pecheuse de Pel – one of the most recent additions to my own Senegal list, and a much anticipated lifer.

 

So, I took the African Bird Club country list for Senegal as a starting point, and updated it as per the latest IOC version. As our regular readers will surely know, quite a few species have been added to the national list in recent years, so these were of course included in the list. Several species on the ABC list are marked as uncertain, since at the time no proper documentation existed, such as Blue-throated Roller and Black-and-white Mannikin. I’ve removed those that seem unlikely, as well as Tropical Boubou which is yet to be confirmed (and I replaced Red-fronted Warbler, which was included in error, by Cricket Warbler). I’ve added Vieillot’s Black Weaver based on the account that Lesson described this species in 1840 based on a specimen from Casamance (it’s on the Gambian list, but not on the ABC list for Senegal). Here again, in the absence of a national or regional rare birds committee, these are personal choices and I’d be happy to revise these if there’s a good case to do so.

Below are the new species seen in the last 12 years, in chronological order. Those  marked with a * were formally documented, typically through publications in the ABC Bulletin or in Malimbus; records with a ° symbol await publication or will be written up shortly:

2018 01 5, 14h38. Doué de Gamadji Saré. © Photo par Frédéric Bacuez, IMG_7122 (3)

One of the Horus Swifts / Martinet horus found in January 2018 at Gamadji-Sare (F. Bacuez)

 

On average, that’s just one or two additions per year – though note how 2012, 2016 as well as 2018, only half-way through, already stand out with no less than three new species. Also note how four out of these 18 records were also new to sub-Saharan Africa or even the African continent as a whole: Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Black Guillemot, Eyebrowed Thrush. The records of Eurasian Collared Dove and Horus Swift, both possibly/probably breeding, constitute major range extensions in West Africa. The fact that another four of the above records are from the Dindéfélo area is also quite remarkable: it just shows how a previously largely ignored border area harbours several species that just creep into the country. Dakar, being relatively well watched in recent years, also stands out as a national “hotspot”, as is the Gandiol/Langue de Barbarie area to a lesser extent.

Add to this list the Canary Islands endemic Plain Swift, which thanks to geolocators was recently shown to transit through Senegal on its way to the newly discovered wintering grounds in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea (Norton et al. 2018) – a nice example of modern technology solving one of the many remaining mysteries in the field of migration. Eleonora’s Falcon is another species that was confrmed to occur thanks to satellite tracking programs (Gschweng et al. 2008) but that is yet to be seen in natura.

Then there are two special cases, both of hybrids: a Greater x Lesser Spotted Eagle, that was GPS-tracked from its Central European breeding grounds into Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia; neither of the parents have been confirmed from Senegal as “pure” birds, but does this mean that this bird somehow needs to make it to the national list? To a lesser extent, the probable Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike seen last year is also an interesting case since the latter parent species has never been recorded in Senegal, though there are records from nearby Mauritania. Logically, hybrids should not be included on the national list, but I’d be happy to be convinced otherwise (in this specific case though, we cannot be 100% that the second parent of the hybrid shrike was indeed a Red-backed Shrike).

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

Presumed Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike / Pie-grieche à tête rousse x écorcheur, Lac Tanma, Aug. 2017

 

So now for the list: with the recent additions, and following the latest IOC taxonomy, we end up with at least 671 species. The full list is available HERE as a handy Google spreadsheet  – of course it’s work in progress and I’d be happy to receive contributions. You’re more than welcome to download the list as an Excel file and use it as a checklist for the country. I did include a small number of species for which there are unconfirmed older records but that are likely to be present; these are marked with a ? in the list, and if confirmed would bring the total to 676 species. One of these is likely extinct in the wild by now: Common Ostrich, marked with an “E” (and Secretarybird probably shares the same fate though could still show up as a wanderer). Vagrants are listed as “V” in the list; for some of these – e.g. Little Gull – it’s not quite clear whether they should be considered as true vagrants or whether they are merely rare migrants that do in fact make it to Senegal on a more or less regular basis.

For those who tend to prefer the HBW/BirdLife taxonomy, the Senegal list should be at least 664 species – quite surprisingly this is quite a few species less than the IOC list, due to several splits that aren’t recognised by HBW (Boyd’s & Barolo Shearwaters are treated as part of Audubon’s Shearwater, White-breasted Cormorant is a ssp. of Great Cormorant, Yellow-billed Kite is rather suprisingly considered conspecific with Black Kite, Barbay Falcon part of Peregrine Falcon, African Reed Warbler a ssp. of Eurasian Reed Warber, and Atlas Flycatcher a ssp. of Pied Flycatcher). The only additional species is Seebohm’s Wheatear which surprisingly is not recognised by IOC, despite it being very distinctive from Northern Wheatear. Other splits do not directly affect the number of species on the Senegal list, though names may differ (e.g. Black-faced Firefinch is now known as Vinaceous Firefinch Lagnosticta vinacea, endemic to West Africa). When I find the time, I’ll also include a link to the HBW country checklist.

There are probably a few other species missing from the list, as not everyone goes through the effort of writing up notes or publishing pictures of potential first records. For instance, what would be the first record of Cinereous Vulture was only just recently uploaded to eBird and while it certainly seems like a credible observation, I’m awaiting further details from the observers. Likewise, there’s only one formally published record of Citrine Wagtail, but I found a reference to another observation that pre-dates the 1999 Technopole bird, which was mentioned along with a succinct (but in my view sufficient) description in the waterbird expedition report by Schepers and colleagues (27.1.97 at Djiffer, Saloum), and found out recently that a British tour operator that regularly visits Senegal has a few records of the species from Nianing. Once again, a real shame that the commercial birding companies rarely contribute to our knowledge of the areas that they visit. Corrections are more than welcome of course.

MeadowPipit_Yene_20180101_IMG_7903

Senegal’s first Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse (Yene-Tode, 1.1.18)

 

What will be the next species to be added to the country list? One can surely make a few predictions in terms of what species are likely to be added in the future – think various American vagrants with Ring-necked Duck and White-rumped Sandpiper being the most obvious candidates (and why not Wilson’s Phalarope or Solitary Sandpiper, or a Forster’s Tern or maybe even a Stilt Sandpiper), tropical seabirds such as Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, Fea’s and Black-capped Petrels or Masked Booby, various desert passerines (Dunn’s Lark in particular should be sought for in the far north, White-crowned Wheatear is also a good possibility in winter), songbirds from northern Europe and Siberia such as Richard’s and Olive-backed Pipits or even Little Bunting, all of which have been reported from Mauritania. The lists goes on and on really – lots of potential to find new stuff!

Key areas to search for northern and American vagrants are of course the coastal wetlands, while the northern border regions should be targeted for winter vagrants and desert species. Finding new seabirds will likely require pelagic trips and a decent amount of luck¹ – and it’s likely that seabird monitoring programs that use satellite tracking will turn up some new species in Senegalese waters. For those lucky to go out birding in Casamance, chances are that Turati’s Boubou and Preuss’s Cliff Swallow are already established in a few localities and that they are just waiting to be discovered. Quailfinch Indigobird may well occur but apparently remains to be confirmed. And for those making it to the far south-east, why not search for Rock Pratincole which should occur at least occasionally along the Gambia river (or even along the Falémé), or try for low-density species that occur not too far out in Mali or Guinea of the likes of West African Seedeater and Cabani’s Bunting, and that may well just creep over the border into Senegal.

And then there are of course those species that one may expect the least, such as our Horus Swifts earlier this year – an incredible range extension (if confirmed to be regular) of some 1,600 km at least. Or Damara Tern, known from a single recent record from Mauritania (in 2006, Isenmann & Benmergui 2018). Only time will tell – what’s clear is that there’s still lots to discover.

Now, time to get out there and find new birds. And keep listing.

Thongbird

 

Bram, with useful contributions by Simon and Frédéric – merci à eux!

 

¹ and chum.

Un nouveau fou aux Iles de la Madeleine…

Les fous des Iles de la Madeleine, j’en avais déjà parlé ici, en décembre 2016, pour faire le point sur le statut du Fou brun dans la région. Ce superbe oiseau marin est, depuis, signalé quasiment lors de chaque sortie au “PNIM” et plus particulièrement entre octobre et mai, et on le voit de temps en temps passer ou pêcher devant Ngor. Pas encore d’indices probants de sa nidification, mais ce n’est peut-être qu’une question de temps… voir plus bas.

Cette fois, c’est d’un autre fou dont il s’agit, et pas de celui que vous pensez – des Fous de Bassan, il y en a plein qui passent l’hiver dans les eaux dakaroises, et en ce moment même on les voit facilement de part et d’autre de la péninsule, que ce soit à Ngor ou devant les Mamelles.

En effet, il s’avère qu’un fou photographié le 26 janvier dernier par un groupe d’ornithos canadiennes (équipe 100% féminine, c’est assez rare chez les ornithos pour le souligner!), était en fait un Fou à pieds rouges (Red-footed Booby), et non un Fou brun (Brown Booby) comme initialement identifié. C’est grâce à une remarque laissée par un utilisateur d’eBird ayant mis en doute l’identité (« semble avoir les pieds étonnamment rouges pour un Fou brun! »), que la donnée est passée dans la liste à valider sur eBird, liste que je scrute de temps en temps en tant que vérificateur pour le Sénégal.

Et effectivement, l’oiseau pris en photo montre bien un Fou à pieds rouges, un individu de forme sombre – et qui du coup ressemble pas mal au Fou brun (et dont un oiseau était présent le même jour). Il se tenait sur la fameuse balise rouge et blanche qui sert très souvent de reposoir au Fous bruns, situé un peu au nord-est des îles.

RedfootedBooby_IlesdelaMadeleine_20180126_MarieONeill - 2

Red-footed Booby / Fou à pieds rouges (D. Thériault)

 

L’identification est relativement facile ici, d’une part parce qu’on voit encore tout juste les pattes roses, d’autre part parce que le plumage est brun uniforme y compris sur le ventre, sans contraste (même flou) comme chez les Fous bruns immatures. De plus, le bec relativement court et peu épais pour un sulidé, avec une base rosée et un cercle orbital bleu, est typique pour l’espèce. Notre oiseau montre également un front légèrement bombé, alors que chez le Fou brun il n’y a quasiment pas de front: la base du bec épais est dans la prolongation directe de la calotte, rendant la tête moins rondouillarde que chez le brun.

L’âge par contre est moins facile à déterminer: très probablement un immature, car le bec n’est pas bleu mais plutôt gris sur fond rose et peut-être que la couleur des pattes (rose et non rouge vif) est également un signe d’immaturité.

RedfootedBooby_IlesdelaMadeleine_20180126_MarieONeill - 1

Red-footed Booby / Fou à pieds rouges (M. O’Neill)

 

A comparer maintenant avec le Fou brun immature : ci-dessous, un oiseau d’un voire deux ans, ici en avril 2017 en compagnie de deux adultes. Les critères le distinguant du Fou à pieds rouges de forme sombre sont notamment la couleur des pattes et du bec, le contraste entre d’une part le ventre plus clair et d’autre part la poitrine et le dessus sombres, ainsi que la coloration générale plus sombre et moins pâle que son cousin à pieds rouges.

BrownBooby_IlesdelaMadeleine_20170429_IMG_1850 (2)

Brown Booby / Fou brun imm. (gauche) et adultes (avril 2017)

 

C’est seulement la deuxième donnée de l’espèce au Sénégal, donc c’est loin d’être anodin comme observation! La précédente date d’octobre 2016, lorsqu’un oiseau est observé au cours d’une sortie en mer en marge du PAOC, à une vingtaine de kilomètres au large de Yoff – les détails de cette première observation pour le pays seront publiés dans le prochain bulletin de l’African Bird Club, à paraitre en septembre et que l’on partagera en temps voulu (Moran N. et al., First record of Red-footed Booby Sula sula for Senegal, voir photo ci-dessous).

 

RedfootedBooby_Dakar_20161016_BarendvanGemerden - 2

Red-footed Booby / Fou à pieds rouges, oct. 2016 (B. van Gemerden)

 

Le Fou à pieds rouges est une espèce marine tropicale plutôt répandue, et est classée non menacée par l’UICN bien que la population globale soit considérée comme étant en déclin. Les colonies les plus proches se trouvent sur l’île d’Ascension dans l’Atlantique Sud et sur l’archipel Fernando de Noronha (NE du Brésil). Il hiverne sur des îles tropicales sur tous les océans, en gros entre les deux tropiques.

Jusqu’à récemment l’espèce était un visiteur rare aux Îles du Cap-Vert, mais en octobre 2016, au moins 17 individus étaient présents à Raso, puis en octobre 2017 apparemment une centaine!! Autant dire que c’est l’explosion des effectifs, même si aucune nidification certaine n’a été rapportée pour le moment – du moins pas à notre connaissance. On peut donc s’attendre à d’autres observations dans les eaux sénégalaises à l’avenir, et j’espère bien sûr le voir un jour passer devant le Calao ou encore au PNIM. [addendum du 17/5/18: ce matin j’ai eu la chance d’en voir deux en train de pêcher longuement devant Ngor, non loin du rivage! Je ne pensais pas que je verrais l’espèce aussi rapidement…]

Ailleurs dans la région, Sula sula a été vu devant les côtes mauritaniennes (au moins un en oct.-nov. 2012), et des individus ont été signalés aux iles Canaries, aux Açores, et à Madeire. L’espèce est très rare plus au nord, avec p.ex. tout juste deux observations en France (un sur le lac de Sainte-Croix dans les Alpes-de-Haute-Provence en juillet 2011, puis un en juin 2017 en Bretagne dans la colonie des Fous de Bassan des Sept-Iles – voir l’article sur Ornithomedia). Ou encore cet oiseau trouvé épuisé sur une plage de l’East Sussex en septembre 2016, le premier pour la Grande-Bretagne.

Je reviens encore brièvement sur les Fous bruns, car samedi dernier (14/4) lors d’une visite aux Iles de la Madeleine nous avons pu observer de nouveau au moins sept individus : cinq posés dans leur falaise habituelle des îles Lougnes¹ (trois adultes, un subadulte, et un jeune au plumage similaire à celui de la photo d’avril 2017), puis encore deux adultes sur la fameuse balise marine, en train de parader lorsque nous passons à côté en bateau… Situation très similaire voire identique donc à celle d’avril-mai 2017, et toujours aussi intriguante: à quand la première nidification de l’espèce? Ci-dessous encore une photo médiocre de quatre de ces oiseaux dans leur falaise, prise lors de notre visite la plus récente, pour vous donner une idée.

BrownBooby_IlesdelaMadeleine_20180414_IMG_1794

Brown Booby / Fou brun (avril 2018)

 

Samedi dernier il restait encore quelques Fous de Bassan, deux Courlis corlieux et deux Balbuzards, mais sinon peu d’oiseaux sur l’île. Lors de la traversée depuis Soumbedioune on a pu voir un Océanite de Wilson passer tout près, un Labbe pomarin, et plusieurs sternes (Dougall, arctique, pierregarn, caugek, voyageuse et royale) ainsi que quelques Guifettes noires en migration active (Northern Gannet, Whimbrel, Osprey, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Pomarine Skua, Roseate, Arctic, Common, Sandwich, Lesser Crested, Royal & Black Terns). Et bien sûr les Phaétons à bec rouge, emblème du parc, dont la nidification bat encore son plein; on a d’ailleurs eu la chance de renconter l’experte Ngoné Diop en train de faire le suivi de la colonie, qui abriterait cette saison au moins 40-50 couples nicheurs (Red-billed-Tropicbird).

 

Merci aux observateurs tout d’abord: Hélène Gauthier, Marie O’Neill, Lorraine Plante, Diane Thériault. Et à Nick Moran et Barend van Gemerden pour avoir fourni les photos et la version finale de l’article sur la première observation sénégalaise. Et enfin, à tout seigneur tout honneur: c’est Brennan Mulrooney qui à signalé la donnée sur eBird, sans quoi elle aurait bien pu passer à travers les mailles du filet!

 

¹ Les îles Lougnes sont cees îlots rocheux inaccessibles faisant partie du parc national, photo ici.

 

 

Identification of Kordofan Lark and Status in Senegal

Kordofan Lark (Mirafra cordofanica) is a poorly documented African lark species occurring in the Sahel. In West Africa it is known from Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and its status in Senegal is considered to be that of a vagrant. A recent observation by a Belgian tour group led by Miguel Demeulemeester in March 2018 gives us a good opportunity to have a closer look at this species’ identification and its occurrence in Senegal.

Despite the quite broad range occupied by Kordofan Lark, which covers eight countries, it appears to be a highly localized resident. It is quite remarkable to note that there is not a single picture or video available on the Internet Bird Collection, nor are there any sound recordings on xeno-canto and other online sound libraries! It is probably the only bird species found in Senegal in that case. This is probably because the countries where the species is regular are not top birding destinations nowadays. A thorough internet search only takes you to a set of pictures taken in Niger by Tim Wacher, though it appears that these birds are actually Dunn’s Lark and not Kordofan as initially thought – see further down for a discussion of identification. The pictures taken by Jan Heip are therefore a very good contribution to the online presence of this scarce lark. As it turns out, they may well be the only pictures available online!

Kordofan Lark in Senegal

The first record of the species has been published by Morel & Roux (1962). Since this first observation a few more records have been added, which in most cases are not documented.

  • Collected or observed 4 or 5 times in grassland close to Richard Toll, April to June 1960 (Gérard Morel)
  • One close to Bakel, January 1983 (H. Schifter in Morel & Morel 1990)
  • At least one in the Richard Toll area, during a visit from 30 December 1993 to 5 January 1994 which “produced single records of Golden Nightjar, Little Grey Woodpecker and Kordofan Bushlark […] (per TG).” (Recent Reports, African Bird Club)
  • One record of a single bird NE of Louga (15°41´N, 16°7´W) on 30 July 2004, during North-South transects as part of a study on bird population densities along two precipitation gradients in Senegal and Niger (Petersen et al. 2007)
  • 4 individuals, Ndiaël, 4 December 2004 (Richard Cruse in Recent Reports, African Bird Club Bulletin)
  • 1 individual, southern part of Ndiaël, 14 February 2006 (Richard Cruse in Recent Reports, African Bird Club Bulletin)
  • One individual feeding close to Richard Toll, March 1st 2018 (Miguel Demeulemeester et al.)

There have been a couple of claims in the past years that refer to other lark species, and probably undisclosed genuine observations as well, as most observations of guided tours remain in notebooks. Most Kordofan Lark records from Senegal should be considered with care when they are not documented.

Kordofan Lark in surrounding countries

In Mali the species is reported as uncommon but widely distributed from 15°N to 23°N by B. Lamarche (1980), adding that the species undertakes local movements with evidence of breeding from May to July near Tombouctou. In mid-June 2004, several Kordofan Larks were in song in sand dunes south-west of Gao, where the spiky grass Schoenefeldia gracilis was dominant (Robert Dowsett & Francoise Lemaire; ABC Bulletin). Similarly, L. Fishpool recorded the song in June in NE Burkina Faso, by a bird “perched on a bush 2m above ground, on sandy soil (mainly of reddish tint)”. This recording was included in the legendary set of sound recordings of African birds by Claude Chappuis (2000).

For Mauritania the following information is given by Isenmann et al. (2010). The Kordofan Lark is thought to be a resident breeder in the Sahelian part of the country. Gee (1984) only found this lark 50-60 km north of Rosso where it was rather common and probably breeding (displaying and diversion behaviours). This location is close to the Senegalese border, and all observations of Kordofan Lark in northern Senegal most likely refer to birds breeding in this area, as there is not yet any evidence of breeding in Senegal. In fact, the species is so poorly known that its nest and eggs remain undescribed.

Identification

As written by Nik Borrow & Ron Demey in their reference bird guide, Kordofan Lark is a “small, pale sandy-rufous lark with stout whitish bill and distinctive tricoloured tail pattern (rufous, black and white). When fresh upperpart feathers fringed buff with narrow blackish subterminal crescents”. Its structure is rather similar to Singing Bush-Lark, but the plumage is noticeably different. The picture shows a head and breast pattern that nicely fits the plate in Borrow & Demey, with limited well-defined brownish streaking on the upper breast, sandy-brown head with paler supercilium and nape and a white throat patch extending below the ear coverts. The bird also shows a few fresh scapulars with a neat white fringe and a subterminal dark bar, typical of the species. Its bill also perfectly corresponds with the description given in the Handbook of the Birds of the World, describing the bill as “pale whitish horn, slightly darker tip and dorsal side of upper mandible“. The juvenile is said to have “broader pale feather fringes on back and wing-coverts, heavier dark spotting on breast“.

To sum up, the main characters to look at are the bicoloured bill, brown-rufous upperparts, pattern of fresh upperparts feathers, upperbreast streaking, pale supercilium and the tricoloured tail. These characters are a unique combination amongst larks from the desert.

KordofanLark_RichardToll_20180301-261A2963_1

Kordofan Lark / Alouette du Kordofan (Jan Heip)

Kordofan Lark / Alouette du Kordofan (Jan Heip) – with a tick hooked to the rear crown

 

The group of birds photographed by Tim Wacher show a very pale plumage without breast streaking or contrasting upperparts, an entirely pale bill except for the tip, and no rufous tones in the plumage. At first sight the tail pattern (and length) fits Kordofan, but it lacks the rufous central tail feathers that should be obvious here, and which are clearly visible on the Richard Toll bird. The central tail feathers in the birds below appear more sandy brown than rufous/rusty. These birds also don’t show any white-tipped mantle feathers. As already suspected by Tim, the features shown by these birds thus correspond much more with Dunn’s rather than Kordofan Lark – including the tail pattern, which is quite similar to what can be seen here for example. It’s important to point out (thank you Tim!) that the tail of Dunn’s Lark can apparently also show a considerable variation in length, and that the white margins visible in the photos from Niger are not always evident (or present?).

We’re including the pictures here for comparison purposes, and also because Dunn’s Lark is likely to be found at some point in northern Senegal, given its nomadic habits and that it occurs not far over the border with Mauritania.

KordofanLark_TimWacher_3

Dunn’s Larks / Alouette de Dunn, Niger (Tim Wacher)

KordofanLark_TimWacher_1

Dunn’s Lark / Alouette de Dunn, Niger (Tim Wacher)

KordofanLark_TimWacher_2

Dunn’s Lark / Alouette de Dunn, Niger (Tim Wacher)

 

Beware also of the possible confusion with rusty females of Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, which can look superficially similar, but show a different tail pattern and proportions. The shorter tail and legs combined with a proportionally large head give a plump silhouette to the bird. Sparrow-larks are also smaller and more compact, and their upper breast is not streaked.

Black-crowned Sparrow Lark / Moinelette à front blanc f., Khelkom, Senegal (Jean-François Blanc)

 

The only other Mirafra species occuring in Senegal is the Singing Bush Lark Mirafra cantillans. This species is fairly common in dry savanna and grassland, and shares some characteristics with Kordofan Lark. The bill can be similarly coloured, the tail can appear tricoloured as well (though less obviously so, and less neatly separated, than in Kordofan – check out variations below) and upper breast is also streaked. In adult plumage the upperparts of Singing Bush Lark is scaly, identification is then straightforward. But in fresh plumage Kordofan Lark shows a scaly plumage as well, thus separating both species can become tricky.

Then what to look at? Global coloration of upperparts seems to be the clue, ground colour being cold sandy-brown for Singing Bush Lark and cinnamon-rufous for Kordofan Lark. Pay also attention to the fresh upperparts feather pattern, Kordofan Lark showing a clear dark subterminal band absent in Singing Bush Lark (this dark line remains on the photographed Kordofan Lark, which shows a fairly worn plumage; this detail is probably only visible at close range). Singing Bush Lark, at least in fresh plumage, typically has a more contrasted head pattern and appears more mottled overall, especially on the mantle and shoulders, with stronger breast streaking than Kordofan.

Singing Bush Lark / Alouette chanteuse, Lac Rose, Senegal (Bram Piot)

Singing Bush Lark / Alouette chanteuse, Richard-Toll, Senegal (Simon Cavaillès)

 

Obviously, much is still to be learnt about the various Sahelian larks, be it in terms of identification, status & distribution, or ecology!

 

A few references

Fishpool L., Oueda G. & Compaoré P. (2000). Kordofan Bush Lark Mirafra cordofanica and Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti, additions to the avifauna of Burkina Faso. Malimbus 22: 49-54.

Gee, J.P. (1984). The birds of Mauritania. Malimbus 6: 31-66.

Isenmann P., Benmergui M., Browne P., Ba A.D., Diagana C.H., Diawara Y. & El Abidine ould Sidaty Z. (2010). Birds of Mauritania – Oiseaux de Mauritanie. Société d’Etudes Ornithologiques de France, Paris, 408 p.

Lamarche B. (1980). Liste commentée des oiseaux du Mali. 2eme partie: Passereaux. Malimbus 3: 73-102.

Morel G., Roux, F. (1962). Données nouvelles sur l’avifaune du Sénégal. L’Oiseau et la Revue Française d’Ornithologie 32: 28-56.

Petersen B.S., Christensen K.D., Jensen F.P. (2007). Bird population densities along two precipitation gradients in Senegal and Niger. Malimbus 29: 101-121.

 

With thanks to Jean-Francois Blanc, Miguel Demeulemeester, Jan Heip, Tim Wacher.

 

Simon & Bram

L’année ornithologique sénégalaise 2017 / Year in review

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

D’abord les grosses raretés:

Ensuite, quelques autres migrateurs rares – Rare migrants:

  • Le Puffin majeur est vu à Ngor le 25/5 (2 inds.), une rare donnée “printanière”, alors qu’un passage important – et étonnant par la date – a lieu début décembre. Great Shearwater: two at Ngor on 25/5 were apparently the first May record, while a strong passage was noted early December. 
  • Un Grand Cormoran de la ssp. maroccanus était lui aussi à Ngor, sur les enrochements, les 2 et 15/12. Great Cormorant at Ngor in December. 
  • Plusieurs Bondrées apivores sont notées entre le 9/10 et le 5/11, avec un autre même à fin décembre, alors que c’est une espèce apparemment rarement vue, en tout cas dans l’ouest du pays: Dakar, Toubacouta, Guéréo/Somone et Popenguine. Several Honey Buzzards in October and early November between Dakar and the Saloum, with another bird at Somone in late December. 
  • Deux Aigles de Bonelli sont vus dans la région des Trois-Marigots en novembre-décembre, où un imm. était déjà présent en fevrier, confirmant ainsi la présence régulière en très petit nombre dans le nord-ouest du pays. Ornithondar continue avec les rapaces, sous la forme d’un Vautour percnoptère noté le 25/12, espèce qui a aussi vu des effectifs importants dans le Boundou en fin d’année. Two Bonelli’s Eagles and an Egyptian Vulture near Saint-Louis.
  • Deux petits rallidés peu vus au Senegal ensuite: la Marouette poussin surtout, trouvée à Boundou les 4-5/11, mais aussi celle de Baillon au Djoudj (7/2) à la STEP de Saint-Louis (25/12), qui pourraient bien concerner un hivernant ou un oiseau de passage et non un local. Two little marsh skulkers that are rarely reported from Senegal, though they are probably quite frequent on migration, are Little Crake at Boundou, and Baillon’s Crake near Saint-Louis.
  • Plusieurs espèces peu fréquentes dans la région de Dakar sont vues pour la première fois au Technopole: Goéland dominicain, Flamant nain, Phalarope à bec large, Bengali zebré, Souimanga pygmée, Rolle violet, Hibou des marais, Pouillot ibérique. Egalement un Bec-en-ciseaux le 4/6 et une Sarcelle d’hiver le 9/11, avec d’autres migrateurs peu fréquents comme le Goéland leucophée et la Bécassine sourde à l’appui. A number of scarce species in the Dakar region were reported for the first time from Technopole: Kelp Gull, Lesser Flamingo, Grey Phalarope, Zebra Waxbill, Pygmy Sunbird, Broad-billed Roller, Short-eared Owl, Iberian Chiffchaff. Also African Skimmer and a Eurasian Teal, while other uncommon migrants seen at the site include Jack Snipe, Yellow-legged Gull.
  • Le 29/10, un Blongios de Sturm est à la lagune de Yène, endroit par ailleurs très fréquenté cet automne par les canards et limicoles. A Dwarf Bittern, along with good numbers of ducks and waders, was seen at Yene lagoon.
  • Un Martinet à ventre blanc est vu le 13/10 à Boundou, et le 13/11 il y en avait deux à Popenguine, où jusqu’à neuf Hirondelles de rochers étaient présentes en novembre-décembre. Alpine Swift at Boundou and at Popenguine, where up to nine Crag Martins were seen in Nov.-Dec.
  • L’Hypolais pâle, un hivernant probablement régulier mais rarement détecté au Sénégal, était à Palmarin le 19/2, alors que deux oiseaux sont identifiés le 28/12 près de Guéréo (dans la même zone qu’en mars 2016 – une coïncidence?). Eastern Olivaceous Warbler – probably regular, but very rarely detected. One was at Palmarin on 19/2, while two birds were at Guereo (Somone) on 28/12 (where one was seen in the same area in March 2016 – a coincidence?)
  • Une Pie-grièche isabelle est signalée près de Gossas (vers Ouadiour) le 28/11. Isabelline Shrike near Gossas on 28/11. 
  • Un hybride Pie-grièche à tête rousse x écorcheur le 26/8 au Lac Tanma était une première non seulement pour le pays mais apparemment aussi pour le continent africain. Hybrid Woodchat x Red-backed Shrike at Lac Tanma, apparently a first such record for Africa.
BaillonsCrake_STEP-StLouis_20171225_IMG_7089

Baillon’s Crake / Marouette de Baillon

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

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

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

  • Parmi les autres “premières” pour la réserve naturelle communautaire du Boundou se trouvent bon nombre de migrateurs paléarctiques comme la Spatule blanche (Eur. Spoonbill) ou le Becasseau cocorli (Curlew Sandpiper) et même un Fuligule nyroca (4-5/11; Ferruginous Duck), mais aussi quelques africains, migrateurs (Blongios de Sturm, Least Bittern), erratiques (Courvite à ailes bronzées, Bronze-winged Courser) et résidents (Gladiateur de Blanchot, Grey-headed Bush-shrikeBruant à ventre jaune, Brown-rumped Bunting).
  • Le Puffin du Cap-Vert est présent en fin d’hiver au large de Dakar, comme d’habitude, mais un effectif important est noté le 18/4 lorsque pas moins de 5’500 oiseaux se nourrissent devant Ngor. Cape Verde Shearwater: a max. of ca. 5,500 birds were feeding off Ngor on 18/4.
  • L’observation d’un Phaéton à bec rouge adulte sur l’Ile aux Oiseaux de la Langue de Barbarie les 7-12/4 était pour le moins insolite. Red-billed Tropicbird on the Langue de Barbarie’s “Bird Island” on 7-12/4.
  • Un Ibis hagedash survole la maison aux Almadies, Dakar, le 23/8, alors que l’espèce semble toujours présente sur la Petite Côte avec plusieurs observations en octobre. Hadada Ibis: one on 23/8 flying over Almadies, Dakar, and several observations at Somone and Saly. 
  • Le Marabout d’Afrique est vu aux Trois-Marigots (14/4), soit dans une région du pays où l’espèce est maintenant très rare semble-t-il. Marabou Stork at Trois-Marigots. 
  • Un Aigle huppard adulte a survolé le Lac Tanma tout en criant, le 1/10, donc hors de son aire regulière dans le pays. A Long-crested Eagle flew over Lac Tanma while calling, away from its regular range in Senegal
  • L’effectif d’environ 300 Foulques macroules le 16/5 à Ross-Bethio (près du Djoudj) est surprenant à cette période de l’année. A Dakar, il y en a eu deux au Lac Mbeubeusse le 7/10 et autant à Yène-Todé les 21-29/10. Around 300 Eurasian Coots were at Ross-Bethio on 16/5, a high count especially at this time of the year; in the Dakar region, two records of two birds. 
  • Un Trogon narina est de nouveau observé dans la réserve naturelle de Dindéfello (16/2), soit le seul site d’où l’espèce est actuellement connue, suite à sa découverte en 2010. J’allais aussi ajouter deux Bulbuls à queue rousse signalés dans la forêt de galerie au même endroit (3/2) et publiés dans le Bulletin de l’ABC, mais à en lire le rapport de voyage des observateurs on constate que l’identification est loin d’être certaine. Narina’s Trogon was seen again at Dindéfello, the only site in Senegal where the species, which was first recorded here in 2010, occurs. Two Leafloves were reported from the gallery forest here, but it seems that identification is far from certain despite being published in the ABC Bulletin.
  • Le Moineau domestique est maintenant bien implanté à Tambacounda semble-t-il, et l’espèce est vue pour la première fois au Boundou: l’expansion continue! House Sparrow now well established in Tambacounda and reported for the first time at Boundou. 
  • A Lompoul, le Petit Moineau est vu début janvier puis de nouveau confirmé à la fin de l’année, avec plusieurs oiseaux dont des chanteurs, bouchant ainsi un trou dans l’aire de répartition connue. Bush Petronia was found early January and confirmed again at the end of the year, thus filling a gap in the known distribution range.
CapeVerdeShearwater_Ngor_20170415_IMG_1247

Cape Verde Shearwater / Puffin du Cap-Vert

Quelques donnees de nidification intéressantes – Interesting breeding records:

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

Bridled Tern / Sterne bridee

JacobinCuckoo_Somone_20171009_IMG_5155

Jacobin Cuckoo / Coucou jacobin

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

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

African Finfoot / Grebifoulque

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

 

 

 

And we’re off to a good start… with a new species for Senegal

New Year, New Birds! Apparently I found another new species to Senegal – needless to say that this resulted in a rather successful day out birding. Which left me wondering, rather pointlessly, how many country firsts have been found on the first day of the year.

Lac Rose

So I first went to Lac Rose, and more specifically the steppe to the NE of the lake as this area had produced a lot of good birds last winter, including three or even four Buff-breasted Sandpipers. I was keen to go back and see if any of the “specials” were around again this winter. One of the first birds I found in the short grass was Greater Short-toed Lark, so things were off to a good start.

GreaterShorttoedLark_LacRose_20180101_IMG_7763

Greater Short-toed Lark / Alouette calandrelle

As I started walking on the far end of the steppe, I found a very pale wheatear: a textbook Isabelline Wheatear, just like last year in January.

IsabellineWheatear_LacRose_20180101_IMG_7798

Isabelline Wheatear / Traquet isabelle

The same area held three Tawny Pipits and a few other birds, though not the hoped-for Temminck’s Coursers.

TawnyPipit_LacRose_20180101_IMG_7802

Tawny Pipit / Pipit rousseline

Towards the end of my visit I came across this Southern Grey Shrike – cool bird, but a bit too flighty to allow for decent pictures.

SoutherGreyShrike_LacRose_20180101_IMG_7819

Southern Grey Shrike / Pie-grièche meridionale

Also around were several Kittlitz’s Plovers (+ Common Ringed and Kentish on the lake shores), at least four Quailfinches thus confirming the species’ presence in the Niayes IBA, a Black-headed Heron, Vieillot’s Barbet dueting in the distance, and so on.

Yene

Next up: the Yène-Tode lagoon. While on my previous visit, barely two weeks earlier (17/12), there was still a good amount of water, by now the lake has all but dried up: just a little trickle here and a small pool there, with just a handful of Black-winged Stilts, Spur-winged Lapwings, a lone Knot, Common Sandpiper and a few other waders. With all the waterbirds gone, I didn’t think I’d see much on this visit, but was soon proved to be very wrong!

Shortly after getting out the car, I located a small flock of Yellow Wagtails feeding on a green patch in what used to be the lagoon just a few weeks earlier. A pipit amidst the wagtails was either going to be a Tree or (more likely) a Red-throated Pipit, so I got the bird in the scope… and was a bit puzzled at first that it didn’t fit either species?! As I approached, it flew off and called a few times, confirming my suspicion: a Meadow Pipit!! It landed a hundred meters or so further in more dense vegetation. I knew this was a good species for the country and wanted to get better views and maybe even a few pictures (I didn’t quite realise it had never been confirmed in Senegal before!), so I went after it, flushed it and again heard the diagnostic hurried hiist-ist-ist-ist flight call. It returned to the original spot, and this time round I got really good views plus a few record shots:

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Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse

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Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse

Note the dense streaking on a pale buffy background with streaks clotting together on middle of breast, general lack of warm tones (as would be the case for Tree Pipit), fine bill with diffuse yellowish base, absence of clear pale lines on the mantle (as in Red-throated), the “gentle” expression with fairly pale lores, an indistinct supercilium and narrow-ish submoustachial (what a word!) stripe. The rump was clearly unstreaked (thus ruling out Red-throated Pipit) and while I didn’t manage any good pictures of the hind toe, it did appear quite long and pictures show it to be only moderately curved (ruling out Tree Pipit). These pipits are no easy birds to identify on plumage, but luckily the call is so typical and unlike any other pipit that it allowed for a safe ID while I was watching the bird, and I was lucky to get a few decent shots. A few people have asked me to provide more pictures, so here they are – all are originals without any editing except for cropping.

This bird was obviously in a fresh plumage, and can be aged as a first-winter bird based on the shape and colour of the median coverts: the ‘tooth’ on the dark centre with a clear white tip (Svensson 1992) is quite visible in the pictures.

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Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse

Meadow Pipit is of course a common species throughout much of Europe, be it as a breeding bird or on passage or as a winter visitor. Its non-breeding range covers western Europe and most of the Mediterranean Basin, extending along the Atlantic coast down to the Canary Islands and Morocco. In Mauritania it is considered to be scarce but regular, reaching as far as the Senegal river delta, more or less as shown on the map below (borrowed from xeno-canto). Surely it must occur at least irregularly in northern Senegal, given its status in nearby Mauritania?

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While relocating the Meadow Pipit, I also flushed no less than eight Red-throated Pipits as well as three Common Quails. Two Collared Pratincoles were hanging out by the last puddles; the Marsh Harriers and most of the Ospreys are now gone, but there were still at least two Short-toed Eagles in the area, with another two along the track back to Rufisque. Two Mosque Swallow were also around, while two Zebra Waxbills were rather unexpected, given that they’re not supposed to occur in the Dakar region (see last year’s post on the sighting of a group at Technopole). Tawny Pipit was another addition to the site’s ever-growing list.

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Collared Pratincole / Glaréole à collier

 

Technopole

Following a very successful morning yesterday at Technopole (Short-eared Owl! Iberian Chiffchaff! Jack Snipe!) I stopped by to have a closer look at the numerous waders, given that yesterday I’d forgotten my telescope at home… Nothing out of the ordinary to report today, just tons of waders, gulls (incl. two Mediterranean Gulls) and lots of Caspian Terns (+150, and now also 27 Greater Flamingos (nine were present yesterday). And I relocated the Iberian Chiffchaff quite easily as it’s singing regularly, and tends to keep to a single bush – more on this in another post.

 

Oh and happy new year!

 

bram