Tag Archive | Vagrants

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

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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:

MeadowPipit_Yene_20180101_IMG_7900

Meadow Pipit / Pipit farlouse

MeadowPipit_Yene_20180101_IMG_7884

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.

MeadowPipit_Yene_20180101_IMG_7891

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?

MeadowPipiMap_XC.PNG

 

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.

CommonPratincole_Yene_20180101_IMG_7838

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

 

Second observation of cinereous (black) vulture for Senegal

(please also see this post from 2018, with some corrections and additional information on the species in Senegal)
blackvulture
Thanks to Simon Cavaillés and the team of Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) Isère for providing a photo and account of the LPO find, during a birdwatching tour of Senegal in late January, of Senegal’s second cinereous vulture Aegypius monachus, following the first record reported in the Bulletin of the African Bird Club in 2007.  I copy the note below. The bird was with a hundred or so other large vultures at a carcass: mostly Ruppell’s and African white-backed, but also lappet-faced and Eurasian griffon.
Observation d’un vautour moine au Sénégal.
Dans le cadre du premier voyage Sénégal organisé par la LPO Isère, nous avons observé le 23 janvier un groupe d’une centaine de vautours à moins d’un kilomètre au sud du village de Tiom sur la R60 (entre Kolobane et Kaffrine).
A 100m à l’est de la route un cadavre de zébu et à 50m à l’ouest une petite mare où venaient se laver et se sécher les vautours. Parmi ces vautours se trouvaient une majorité de Vautours de Rueppel et de Vautours à dos blanc mais aussi des Vautour fauve, 4 Vautours oricou et un Vautour moine immature (voir photo L.Puch).
Un des vautours fauve était bagué couleur : patte droite, jaune CX8. Bague métal et marquage alaire pas visibles. Occupés par le vautour moine et les oricoux nous n’avons pas âgé l’individu. La recherche du bagueur est en cours.
L.Majorel, L.Puch &al, LPO Isère.
tiom
The sighting was 60km north-east of Kaolack, in the southern part of the West Central Agricultural Region, traditionally described as the most altered of Senegal’s eco-regions from centuries of agricultural expansion. However, the US Geological Services’ Gray Tappan writes that this expansion peaked in the 1980s and there is now increasingly “unplanned fallow” as the population drifts into the main cities. This may have little effect on what appears to be the best region in Senegal north of Gambia for vultures, but recently abandoned land could account for the huge numbers of large insectivores (notably lesser kestrel, swallow-tailed kite, Montagu’s harrier and white stork) in the area in recent years. There is on-going research into birds and agricultural change in this southern zone, which is well worth inclusion in a birding tour, despite is rather blasted, prairie landscape in places.
As for the cinereous vulture, although its global decline, especially in Asia, has put it on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened, the population in Spain is on the increase and one could imagine this bird tagging along with the commoner European griffon vulture, which is also on the increase in Spain and as a trans Saharan migrant to Senegal.
Paul