Tag Archive | Whimbrel

Seawatching Ngor – September 2019

I count myself extremely lucky to live just a few minutes away from what must surely be one of the best seawatch sites in the world. What other capital can compete with Dakar on that front? It does make it hard not to go out there every day, especially at this time of the year when so many migrants can be seen from this privileged spot. And I’m fortunate to have a very flexible work schedule that allows me to spend an hour or so counting seabirds before heading to the office! I’m obviously spending too much time at the Calao at the moment… but then again it’s always better being out birding in the field than sitting behind a desk (especially when The Field is a comfortable terrace, sat under a sun umbrella with a cup of decent coffee).

Anyway, time for the September numbers:

  • 25 days
  • 38 hours
  • 20,109 birds belonging to 36 species counted (total so far: 27,303 birds!)

This is a much better coverage than in previous years, and as a result the number of birds counted is higher for most species; Lesser Crested Tern is the main exception due to a later than usual passage, which only started properly at the very end of the month, picking up rapidly during the first few days of October (Sterne voyageuse).

As usual, here some of the highlights: good numbers of Manx Shearwater (also two possible Balearics… unfortunately too distant and poorly seen), and several Macaronesian Shearwaters including at least one that seemed right for Boyd’s (Puffins des Anglais et de Macaronésie). Sooty Shearwater passage was clearly more intense, or at least more visible, than last year, probably because of more favourable winds (Puffin fuligineux).

Numerous terns were counted of course, with the four most common species – Common & Arctic, Sandwich, Black Terns – accounting for nearly 90% of the twenty thousand birds counted this month (Sternes pierregarin et arctique, caugeks, Guifette noire). Roseates continued to pass through almost daily, up to 12 BPH (that’s birds per hour!), and so did Little Tern: with 304 birds in September, far more were seen than in previous years (and the passage continues: on 5.10 a total of 31 birds were seen in one hour, including a flock of 22) (Sternes de Dougall et naine). A Bridled Tern on the 4th is so far the only one of the season (Sterne bridée).

sandwichtern_ngor_20160925_img_5344_edited

Sandwich Tern / Sterne caugek, Ngor, Oct. 2016

 

September is also peak month for Sandwich Tern (Sterne caugek), which passes through daily in double or even triple digits (that’s BPH). The peak at the end of the month is clearly visible on this chart combining 2017 and 2018 data:

SandwichTern-Ngor_2017-18_chart

Hourly average number of Sandwich Terns per decad, 2017 & 2018

 

Now for some slightly more advanced data viz’ fun: I tried to find a clever way of visualising the intensity of bird migration at Ngor alongside wind speed and wind direction. The chart below shows average “BPH” per day as histograms (primary axis: number of birds) and wind speed as the dotted line (secondary axis: knots), while the colour represents the wind direction: dark green for WNW to N winds, pale green for SW to W winds, and orange for SSW to ENE. One would expect the highest number of birds during the favourable winds, i.e. higher wind speed from a WNW to N direction, and less so on days with little wind and/or with winds coming from the “wrong” side. That does seem to be the case on most days, but not always… though in general it’s fair to say that days with stronger NW winds usually see the highest number of birds, and also a higher diversity of species. Shearwaters, skuas, Sabine’s Gulls and most terns are largely influenced by these conditions, which can rapidly change from day to day or even within the same day. A good site to check out wind forecasts is Windguru.

BPH-Wind_Chart_September2019.JPG

Disclaimer: nothing scientific here, just fooling around with Excel!

 

Arctic Skuas continued to pass through on a daily basis, and Long-tailed Skuas were seen on 13 dates, mainly at the start and at the end of the month, with a max. of 61 birds in 2h15′ on the 4th (Labbes arctique et à longue queue). The four Catharacta skuas were seen in the last week of the month but as usual could not be identified down to species level (Great or South Polar Skua, Grand Labbe/Labbe de McCormick).

A usual, waders were fairly well represented this month: Whimbrel and Oystercatcher remain the most frequent migrants and thanks to the regular rains this autumn there has been a good diversity of waders in general, including my first Grey Plovers here and regular sightings of migrating Turnstones (Courlis corlieu, Huîtrier pie, Pluvier argenté, Tournepierre). Red Phalaropes were seen on five occasions in relatively modest numbers (Phalarope à bec large).

Oystercatcher_Ngor_20170930_IMG_4931

Oystercatcher / Huîtrier pie, Ngor, Oct. 2017

 

Table with September totals for 2019, 2018 and 2017:

Species

2019

2018

2017

Cory’s/Scopoli’s Shearwater 2 0 0
Sooty Shearwater 271 87 393
Balearic Shearwater 0 0 1
Manx Shearwater 98 6 60
Boyd’s/Barolo Shearwater 9 16 1
Shearwater sp. 51 22 34
Storm-Petrel sp. 1 0 0
Northern Gannet 0 1 1
Brown Booby 0 4 3
Oystercatcher 51 20 16
Whimbrel 211 75 78
Eurasian Curlew 0 0 2
Bar-tailed Godwit 4 1 8
Grey Plover 2 0 0
Common Ringed Plover 0 2 0
Turnstone 33 2 0
Dunlin 0 0 40
Sanderling 12 0 25
Little Stint 1 0 0
Common Sandpiper 1 0 0
Greenshank 1 0 0
Common Redshank 3 1 1
Grey (Red) Phalarope 163 133 1
Audouin’s Gull 21 1 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1 15 1
Kelp Gull 1 0 0
Large gull sp. 1 5 0
Slender-billed Gull 6 1 1
Grey-headed Gull 0 1 2
Sabine’s Gull 95 43 123
Arctic/Common Tern 11,161 4,100 4,500
Roseate Tern 144 89 35
Little Tern 304 57 76
Sandwich Tern 2,425 2,080 1,928
Lesser Crested Tern 61 147 95
African Royal Tern 295 305 219
Caspian Tern 10 13 19
Black Tern 3,870 2,187 2,342
Sooty Tern 0 1 0
Bridled Tern 1 0 0
Great/South Polar Skua 4 1 2
Pomarine Skua 13 5 35
Arctic Skua 400 172 142
Long-tailed Skua 215 265 59
Skua sp. 167 64 226
Total birds 20,109 9,922 10,472
Number of days 25 17 15
Number of hours 38h35′ 24h50′ 20h30′

 

In addition to the seabirds, as usual a few other species were noted on active migration: a Purple Heron on 10.9 and more surprisingly two Squacco Herons the next day coming from out at sea. Common Swifts were spotted on at least three occasions (max. 66 on 11.09, migrating low over the ocean), while a Hoopoe was seen on 8.9 and a Sand Martin on 12.9 (Heron pourpré, Crabier, Martinet noir, Huppe fasciée, Hirondelle de rivage). What appeared to be a juv. Barbary Falcon was seen several times from 4 – 12 Sept., with a Peregrine also here on 9th (Faucons de Barbarie et Pèlerin). This provided for some action as both birds were regularly seen hunting pigeons and other birds; on the 6th it was a juv. Common Cuckoo (or at least I assumed it to be this species and not African Cuckoo) which was seen coming on land from Ngor island or islet, chased by the Barbary Falcon only to disappear into the Calao gardens and never to be found again… (Coucou gris).

PurpleHeron_Ngor_20170924_IMG_4800

Migrating Purple Heron / Héron pourpré en migration, Ngor, Sept. 2017

 

That’s all for now – let’s see what October brings (Pomarine Skuas! Sooty Shearwaters! Sabine’s Gulls!). Conditions are expected to be good in the next few days.

The August report can be found in this post.

 

 

 

Seawatching Ngor – August 2019

An update on this autumn’s seabird migration at Ngor is long overdue, so here we set off the season’s summary with the month of August. I managed to count migrants during 18 hours spread out over 16 sessions, starting with the first on August 9th, straight after coming back to Dakar from a short break Up North. As usual I tried to do relatively brief sessions (usually about an hour) as often as possible, typically early morning about an hour after sunrise. And always from the Club Calao terrace, of course.

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View from the Calao terrace, 31 August 2019

 

With some 7,100 birds counted, numbers passing through during August were about average in comparison with previous years. The few highlights so far were a Great Shearwater (Puffin majeur) flying SW on the 10th which I believe is the first August record, more than usual ‘Macaronesian’ Shearwaters (=Boyd’s or Barolo, Puffin “de Macaronésie”) with no less than 21 birds spread out fairly evenly throughout the period, and again a decent amount of Long-tailed Skuas (Labbe à longue queue). So far, 226 of these elegant pelagic skuas passed through, compared to 213 in August 2018; last year a record 500 were logged during the entire season. Top day was the 20th when I counted a very honorable 84 birds in just one hour, surprisingly during modest NNW wind – always impressive seeing loose flocks of up to 15-20 birds, usually including several adults. None were seen the following two days but during 24-26th there were 89 in 4h35′. Last year the peak passage was during the first decad of September when no less than 217 were counted in just 75′ on 2.9.18, so it’s possible that quite a few more Long-tails will pass through in coming weeks, though this will in part depend on wind conditions: moderate to strong winds from W to NW are usually required to see this species in double or even triple digits (in 2017, hardly any were seen, as shown in the chart below where the dashed line is 2017 and the dotted line 2018; solid line is hourly average per decad).

LTS_Ngor_Chart2017-18

 

Other pelagics included early Sooty Shearwaters (Puffin fuligineux) with seven birds during 24-26 August, and three Sabine’s Gulls (Mouette de Sabine) on the 20th. September and October should see many more of these two species! In contrast with last year when more than a thousand birds were seen in August when conditions were good for this species, just three Red Phalaropes (Phalarope à bec large) were detected this past month, though I had the first small flock this morning Sept. 1st, about 15 towards the SW and one coming in from the N and landing at sea. Of course many must have passed through these past few weeks, just too far off-shore for them to be seen from the coast.

Red Phalarope - DSC_2276 - B Mast

Typical view of a migrating Red Phalarope, low over the waves… Off Ngor, Oct. 2018 (Bruce Mast)

 

What was most likely the same Red-footed Booby (Fou à pieds rouges) was seen daily from 9th-12th, usually flying past at close range and sometimes feeding just behind the surf, with two birds together on Aug. 17th. I also twice saw one in July so it’s quite possible that at least one of these two immatures – both dark morph, as all others seen so far – oversummered around the peninsula.

As usual, the most frequently seen wader was Whimbrel, with just a handful of Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits each (Courlis corlieu, Huîtrier pie, Barge rousse). The lower number of waders compared to the past few years is probably due to the late arrival of the rains and a four-day gap in my presence during the last week of the month (waders tend to be seen mostly during and just after spells of rain here).

Whimbrel_Ngor_20170930_IMG_4932

Whimbrel / Courlis corlieu, Ngor, Oct. 2017 (BP)

 

The table below lists all species with totals for the month, with 2017 and 2018 numbers to compare with. Note that the vast majority of the ‘Comic’ Terns were Arctic, and the higher number of Roseate Terns is possibly explained by the fact that I may feel more confident identifying these birds (Sterne arctique/pierregarin, Sterne de Dougall). Oftentimes, Roseates are migrating 2-3 birds together, usually mixed in with Arctic Terns.

 

Species

2019

2018

2017

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 0 157 0
Cape Verde Shearwater 0 100 1
Great Shearwater 1 0 0
Sooty Shearwater 7 0 0
Boyd’s/Barolo Shearwater 21 3 0
Shearwater sp. 3 6 4
Red-footed Booby 2 0 0
Oystercatcher 8 8 6
Whimbrel 127 340 437
Bar-tailed Godwit 6 1 49
Turnstone 0 4 13
Red Knot 0 28 0
Ruff 0 1 5
Sanderling 0 0 16
Curlew Sandpiper 0 0 4
Little Stint 0 0 4
Grey (Red) Phalarope 3 1,123 0
Common Sandpiper 0 7 1
Common Redshank 1 1 1
Audouin’s Gull 7 0 0
Lesser Black-backed Gull 0 0 1
Yellow-legged Gull 0 1 0
Large gull sp. (prob. Kelp Gull) 1 0 2
Slender-billed Gull 1 0 1
Sabine’s Gull 3 12 6
Arctic/Common Tern 3,878 4,500 1,399
Roseate Tern 56 44 10
Little Tern 23 56 28
Sandwich Tern 462 343 463
Lesser Crested Tern 4 40 41
African Royal Tern 342 585 166
Caspian Tern 10 14 1
White-winged Tern 0 1 0
Black Tern 1,803 2,160 774
Bridled Tern 0 4 0
Catharacta Skua sp. 0 0 1
Pomarine Skua 3 1 2
Arctic Skua 59 94 24
Long-tailed Skua 226 213 25
Skua sp. 46 18 17
Total birds 7,103 9,865 3,502
Number of days 16 22 13
Number of hours 18h05′ 26h20′ 17h05′

 

Meanwhile at Technopole, the lagoons are finally starting to fill up again now that we’ve had a few decent showers, though a lot more will be needed to ensure that the site remains wet all through the dry season. There’s a good diversity of waders again and breeding activity is at its peak for many of the local species. Striated Heron for instance is now very visible, and last Sunday I saw a pair feeding a recently fledged young at the base of one of the Avicennia stands on the main lagoon, while Spur-winged Lapwing juveniles are all about, Zitting Cisticolas are busy tending their nest, and this morning a small flock of juvenile Bronze Mannikins was seen (Héron strié, Vanneau éperonné, Cisticole des joncs, Capucin nonnette).

Several wader species are starting to pass through again, such as Common Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper (Grand Gravelot, Bécasseau minute, Bécasseau cocorli, Chevalier stagnatile). It’s also peak season for Ruff, with a very modest max. so far of 148 counted this morning (Combattant varié).

On the gulls & terns front, a Mediterranean Gull was still around on 18 & 25.8, probably one of the two immatures that were seen in May-July and apparently completing its summer stay here (these are the first summer records for the species in Senegal), while the first juvenile Audouin’s Gulls of the year were also seen last Sunday, Aug. 25th (Mouette mélanocéphale, Goéland d’Audouin, . This morning a White-winged Tern was of note, as were 24 Little Terns resting with the other terns or feeding above the main lake (Guifette leucoptère, Sterne naine). Three Orange-breasted Waxbills and three Long-tailed Nightjars on 11.08 were far less expected (Bengali zebré, Engoulevent à longue queue).

This morning’s eBird checklist has all the details.

 

CommonRedshank-Ruff_Technopole_20190901_IMG_4541

Redshank & Ruff / Chevalier gambette & Combattant

CurlewSandpiper_Technopole_20190901_IMG_4560

Curlew Sandpiper / Bécasseau cocorli juv.

 

 

 

Les Monticoles de Popenguine (13/02)

Les falaises du Cap de Naze entre Popenguine et Guereo sont connues depuis longtemps comme site d’hivernage du Monticole bleu, cette espèce méditerranéenne partiellement migratrice qui atteint ici sa limite méridionale en période d’hivernage. C’est aussi le site le plus fiable pour l’Hirondelle de rochers hivernant dans le pays, et apparemment aussi, en saison des pluies, pour le Martinet à croupion blanc (caffre) que j’ai pu y voir en septembre dernier. Une visite sur place avec Boris samedi dernier était donc l’occasion de passer un peu plus de temps dans la réserve et de chercher les “merles bleus” (à ne pas confondre, comme le font les gens du coin, avec les Merles métalliques!). C’est depuis le village de Guereo que nous sommes partis, en fin d’après-midi, en longeant les crêtes jusqu’à Popenguine avant de regagner notre point de départ par la plage.

Avant même d’avoir commencé à grimper le chemin qui mène en haut des falaises, un oiseau de la taille d’un merle vole devant nous: un Monticole de roche! Ça commence bien… d’autant plus que cette espèce est probablement plus difficile à trouver que son cousin bleu. Hivernerait-il ici? En consultant le Morel & Morel, je constate qu’il y a déjà eu plusieurs observations sur ce site même, bien que l’espèce semble généralement très peu détectée au Sénégal: seules douze observations étaient connues au moment de l’article de Sauvage & Rodwell soit jusqu’en 1994 (et la rubrique “News” des pages Sénégal de l’African Bird Club contient une observation de début février 2005 entre Kaolack et Tambacounda). Addendum nov. 2018: j’ai trouve une vidéo sur la Internet Bird Collection d’un Monticole de roche mâle datant du 20/1/2010 à… Popenguine. Et en novembre 2018, nous avons de nouveau pu observer un individu dans la réserve – comme quoi le site semble un des meilleurs au Sénégal pour voir ce migrateur assez rare. 

En avançant, un Bruant d’Alexander peu farouche, apparemment un juvénile, se montre sur le sentier, le premier de toute une série vue pendant notre tournée. J’ai d’ailleurs pu voir ce sympathique petit oiseau a chacun de mes visites, souvent avec plusieurs males chanteurs repartis dans les éboulis au pied de la falaise. Bruant de qui au juste? Jusqu’à récemment ce taxon était généralement considéré comme une sous-espèce du Bruant cannelle (Cinnamon-breasted Bunting) qui vit principalement en Afrique australe et orientale et dans le Sud de la Péninsule arabe. Si les différences de plumage sont assez marquées, il en est moins avec le chant et le cri qui sont très similaires, sinon identiques, entre les deux espèces (j’ai récemment pu enregistrer plusieurs chanteurs près de Bamako, à écouter en cliquant ici). Alors, “simples” sous-espèces, ou réellement des espèces à part entière? Peu importe, ce sont des piafs bien sympathiques!

20160213_GoslingsBunting_Popenguine_hr

Gosling’s Bunting / Bruant d’Alexander

 

On continue de suivre le sentier longeant le sommet des falaises, et à tour de rôle on observe Circaète Jean-le-Blanc (en migration active?), Agrobates roux et podobé, un Pririt du Sénégal, un couple de Beaumarquets melba (ma première observation au Sénégal), une ou deux Pie-grièche à tête rousse et autres Fauvettes grisettes.

Point de merle bleu par contre… pensant encore rentrer bredouille sur ce coup, ce n’est qu’en arrivant au bout de la plage de sable, avant de passer dans les rochers volcaniques, que je repère un oiseau sombre au sommet de la falaise. C’est bien lui – un beau mâle de Monticole bleu, observant tranquillement les environs depuis son promontoire surplombant la mer… La photo ci-dessous est prise depuis la plage donc à bonne distance de l’oiseau, probablement 80-100 mètres (le sommet du Cap de Naze s’élève à 74m). On fait donc un doublé inattendu avec les deux espèces de Monticola hivernants!

20160213_BlueRockThrush_Popenguine_hr

Blue Rock Thrush / Monticole bleu

 

Mais justement, qu’en est-il du statut du Monticole bleu – le “solitaire” – au Sénégal? Paul Robinson a déjà bien résumé la situation suite à une visite en 2012, donc je reprends ici l’essentiel: En dehors de Popenguine, les seules falaises côtières d’envergure sont celles des Mamelles à Dakar, ou quelques données anciennes sont connues, mais c’est peut-être faute de recherches spécifiques qu’il n’y a rien de plus récent. Morel & Morel font bien état d’une population de quelques dizaines d’hivernants sur la côte (Cap-Vert, Gorée, Popenguine), d’une présence hivernale dans le contre-bas du Fouta-Djalon à la frontière guinéenne, et de plusieurs observations isolées sur des bâtiments, faute de relief. A Popenguine, l’espèce serait présente de mi-octobre (dixit l’ornitho local Sonko) à début avril (Morel & Morel) mais des estivages ont été notées dans les années ’80. Une reproduction régulière à Popenguine serait vraiment étonnante eu égard de son aire de répartition typiquement méditerranéenne, et les seuls indices, à notre connaissance, sont anciens et n’ont pas apporté de preuve concrète. Peut-être que les observations de 1983 et ’84, même si des comportements nuptiaux ont été observés, se rapportaient à des estivants occasionnels.

Pas le temps de s’attarder beaucoup plus car le soleil se couche vite et on veut rentrer au lodge des Manguiers de Guereo avant la tombée de la nuit. On croise encore un Courlis corlieu et deux Rolliers d’Abyssinie, puis on regagne le village.

20160213_Whimbrel_Popenguine_hr

Whimbrel / Courlis corlieu

 

Le lendemain matin, on se retrouve à l’aube – malgre le liqueur de Warang de la veille – pour partir cette fois dans la lagune de Somone, facilement accessible à pied depuis les Manguiers. A peine sortis du périmetre du lodge, on repère un puis deux jeunes Loups africains peu inquiets par notre présence. Un peu plus tard, on les reverra trotter dans la mangrove.

20160214_AfricanWolf_Guereo

African Wolf / Loup africain

 

En parcourant un ilot dans la lagune, on tombe sur trois Balbuzards posés au sol. Vérification faite, l’un d’eux est bagué en couleurs et après un moment on arrive enfin à déchiffrer l’inscription sur la bague orange: “5 [point] V”. Cette femelle a ete baguée en juin 2012 comme poussin au nid par Rolf Wahl en Forêt d’Orléans (Loiret), le bastion de l’espèce en France continentaleª. Depuis, elle a été vue en janvier 2013, novembre 2013 et février 2014, à chaque fois à la Somone. Bel exemple de fidelité au site d’hivernage!

20160214085414_Osprey_Somone

Osprey / Balbuzard pêcheur femelle “5 . V orange”

 

Peu de limicoles et de laridés de ce côté de la lagune, mais tout de même quelques migrateurs à se mettre dans les jumelles: un Martinet pâle, quelques Hirondelles de fenêtre et de rivage, encore une Pie-grièche à tête rousse,… Egalement une Rousserolle turdoïde entendue dans la mangrove, espèce apparemment peu signalée au Sénégal.

 

20160214_AbyssinianRoller_Somone_hr

Abyssinian Roller / Rollier d’Abyssinie

 

Pour finir je ne résiste pas l’envie de partager cette photo d’un Sphinx du Liseron, malheureusement mourant, prise aux Manguiers de Guereo.

20160214_Sphinxduliseron_Guereo

Convolvulus Hawk-Moth / Sphinx du Liseron (Agrius convolvulvi

 

ª Pour en savoir plus sur l’historique du Balbuzard en France et en Forêt d’Orléans, lisez cette synthèse sur ornithomedia.

PS du 21.02: à propos des Balbuzards hivernant au Sénégal, voir la note de Frédéric Bacuez sur ornithondar, tombé le même jour que l’article ci-dessus.