Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Yet another success at the waste water site

On Saturday October 7th, the previous record number of species at the waste water site was beaten by one. There were 51 species observed. This is a very large number for a small site away from the sea. It speaks volumes for what a migrant trap the place has become.

Almost straight from the start, there was good birding. As well as warblers foraging in the dead branches near where the car dropped me, I soon spotted the first of two wryneck.

wryneck

I lingered at this western edge of the avenue of trees for a long time. White wagtail and northern wheatear were present in the more open areas away from the cut branches.


white wagtail

Yet again for the fourth week running in the Nouakchott area, there were European pied flycatcher passing through in numbers.
.
European pied flycatcher

I don't normally photograph the ever-present crested lark but finding one with such a juicy catch was too good an opportunity to miss.

crested lark

Also for the fourth week, spotted flycatcher were also still coming through.

I have no idea whether some of these flycatchers linger or whether these are new birds each time.  Mauritania is still well north of both species' wintering grounds so they may well be fresh birds on each occasion.

spotted flycatcher

The story is different with hoopoe. Nouakchott is at the northern edge of their wintering range and the birds I am seeing may well stay.

hoopoe

Common redstart numbers started low in late September but became numerous by early October. Most of them prefer to keep close to the avenue of trees.

common redstart 1

Going inside the mini woodland created by the avenue is where I am most likely to see them.

common redstart 2

Once again there were large numbers of European turtle dove present. I can't really count the exact number as they are so flighty and sometimes fly to the far end of site when approached.

European turtle dove

As is my routnie now, I don't get to the water until I have comprehensively looked at the western side of the avenue of trees. On October 7th that was two hours after I arrived.

dunlin

The types of waders were still pretty much the same as they had been for the previous month.

marsh harrier

However, the birds of prey at the site were a little different. At one stage there were five marsh harrier. Three of them moved on southward rapidly but two remained all session. In the distance I picked out an osprey. I think it was just passing and the pools were of no consequence to it.

A common buzzard was more significant. It hovered over the pools for a short time before moving on. Common buzzard are quite rare in Mauritania. The only other one I have seen was at the same place and at the same time of year, last year.

ruff 1

Near the water, I reviewed the ruff as has become a habit over the past few weeks at this site.

I couldn't make any of the young female ruff into anything more exotic.

ruff 2

Close to the ruff, I found another bird of prey. This time it was a kestrel and it was sitting on a small bush right over the water. Kestrel are not resident to Noaukchott or most of Mauritania further south. Indeed I have seen a few more lanner in the country than kestrel. So this was passage bird. This must be a good spot for tired migrants and potential food sources though I didn't see any predatory action from the kestrel.

kestrel

I moved away from the water briefly to track a common redstart with odd behaviour. It was away from trees in very short scrub. It was out in the open much more than is typical. 

common redstart 1

However, I simply could not make it into anything else.

common redstart 2

After this short detour I returned to the water.

marsh harrier

A female marsh harrier was flying ominously overhead.

purple heron

It wasn't just small birds that bolted. A purple heron went up.

European spoonbill

Three European spoonbill which I hadn't noticed before, reacted as well.

A glossy ibis joined them. Indeed ibises often have a preference to associate with spoonbills when theirown kind aren't around. For one moment, I thought the foursome were going to fly straight at the marsh harrier by mistake. They survived their mistake.

teal

Though duck won't take to water here. It's too polluted for them. Nevertheless, they are still attracted to the site on passage.

This time there were garganey and teal.

common snipe

Common snipe was the last of the more interesting waders I saw before I finally moved away from the main pools.

At the eastern end of the site are some minor pools which have more cover near them than the main pools. They tend to be rich in warblers. However on walking towards the minor pools, I observed a whinchat.

whinchat

In one small corner of the minor pools, I decided to just stand still for half an hour or so and see what would come out.

I saw three European reed warbler, a western olivaceuos warbler, a sedge warbler and two ortolan bunting without moving.

garden warbler 1

However my favourite sighting at this spot was a garden warbler. It was fearless and came up right close two or three times. Sometimes, there are advantages in doing nothing but staying still.

garden warbler 2

It is the closest and longest I have ever managed to see one.

garden warbler 3

Like the common redstart mentioned earlier, I found its behaviour out in the open and foraging low rather odd but I am not complaining.

garden warbler 4

I was out in the sun for well over four hours and as normal I walked back westward to my car pick up point under the avenue of trees. Not only does this give me relief from the heat, it gives me more birding possibilities with a final change of habitat.

This time it was especially successful. I flushed two red-necked nightjar. They were tricky birds. They simply would not allow me to get close but identification was relatively straightforward. They are bigger than European nightjar and the white flashes are the wing are even more pronounced. When they land the red neck is easily apparent too.

This was an uplifting end to the session. It was also an addition to my country list.


Species seen at the waste water site on October 7th 2017
Garganey  
Eurasian Teal  
Grey Heron  
Purple Heron  
Little Egret  
Glossy Ibis  
Eurasian Spoonbill  
Osprey  
Western Marsh Harrier  
Common Buzzard  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Common Ringed Plover  
Whimbrel (European)  
Black-tailed Godwit  
Ruff  
Sanderling  
Dunlin  
Little Stint  
Common Snipe  
Common Sandpiper  
Wood Sandpiper  
Common Redshank  
European Turtle Dove  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Red-necked Nightjar  
Eurasian Hoopoe   
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Eurasian Wryneck  
Common Kestrel  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Sand Martin  
Barn Swallow  
Willow Warbler  
Common Chiffchaff  
Western Olivaceous Warbler  
Sedge Warbler  
Eurasian Reed Warbler  
Garden Warbler  
Spotted Flycatcher  
Bluethroat  
European Pied Flycatcher  
Common Redstart  
Whinchat  
Northern Wheatear (Greenland)  
Northern Wheatear (Eurasian)  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
White Wagtail 
Ortolan Bunting  
House Sparrow  

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The way to Aleg

On Saturday September 30th, 6 days later than originally planned, Mohamed Vall and I made the long day trip to Aleg.

We started soon after dawn and made a short stop 90 minutes later just north west of Idini. We chose a place with more vegetation than surrounding areas otherwise it was not expected to be special.

There were warblers including lesser whitethroat and garden warbler in the shrubs. There was also a Rufous bush-robin. However the most significant finding was white-throated bee-eater.

white-throated bee-eater

It had rained in the area a week before and we suspect the white-throated bee-eater moved north in response. Eitherway, it is the furthest north than I have seen this species in Mauritania.


cream-coloured courser

Apart from a pit stop in Boutlimit, we didn't stop again until Kendolek. Kendolek is a village midway between Boutlimit and Aleg. More to the point, Mohamed Vall had learned from friends that it had a watering hole which attracted birds.

We explored the green and treed valley first before coming back to the watering hole which is close to the village.

In the valley we counted no fewer than 26 cream-coloured courser presumably attracted by the lush green grass growing after the week before's rains.

Most were resting in the shade of bushes and reluctant to move anywhere.

black kite (yellow-billed)

No much else was interesting in the valley but just before we reached the watering hole, we briefly spotted an Egyptain vulture. We though we had lost it but we caught up with it again at the pool.

It was not the only bird of prey there. There were four yellow-billed kite present.

The trees surrounding the water were good birding. Birds included a pair of African grey woodpecker. This is still the only woodpecker I have seen in the country. It is most widespread by far.

Sudanese golden sparrow

Other birds at the pool ranged from a flock of Sudanese golden sparrow to a migrant nightingale.

It was gone midday and it was already hot. We pressed on and next stop was Lake Aleg.

The obvious thing to notice was that the lake was huge. I don't think it was normal size for that time of year. There were reports a month before of a seriously large rainfall in the Aleg and Boghe areas which cost several lives. One much less serious consequence was the size of the lake.

We attempted to get close to the lake from the south side which is forested. All the forest was under water. If we had had a boat or even good wading boots, I suspect the birding in there would have been superb. However we had neither.

European turtle dove

We had to make do with walking around the muddy edges trying to look inward.

Birds easily seen included European turtle dove and black-headed lapwing. The latter is a southern bird associated with wet areas and moving north with the rains.

black-headed lapwing

We had no choice but to travel through the town and approach the lake again, this time from the north.

The northern approach is almost flat and treeless. As soon as we arrived at the north side we could see that the lake was very large. The problem was that we couldn't get close to the water's edge without going through tens of metres of muddy or very shallow water.

Even with a scope we could only make out the larger birds. There were clearly plenty of both glossy ibis and sacred ibis. Two great white egret were clear too.

A large group of black-winged stilt were the closest birds of all. There appeared to be a small number of storks but we couldn't see them well and they wouldn't fly our way even with marsh harrier occassionally stirring things up.

white faced whistling duck and fulvous whistling duck

I could see a large group of ducks but they were directly into the sun. So I elected to wade into the water to get closer. After a difficult 40 minutes I got close enough to be sure that they contained a large number of fulvous whistling duck as well as white-faced whistling duck and three spur-winged geese.

Fulvous whistling duck was an addition to my country list. It is highly localised in West Africa for reasons I don't understand. However it made the trip worthwhile for that bird alone.

Given how warm the water was and my lack of protection. I have bought anti-bilhazria pills which I will use at first sign of illness. I probably wouldn't risk this sort of wading again.


possible Seebohm's wheatear

One of the last birds seen was another difficult wheatear. The amount of grey on the back makes me support a Seebohm's wheatear rather than black-eared wheatear or desert wheatear. I didn't see it well enough to determine this one with certainty. I will say however that mud flats would favour black-throated northern wheatear (aka Seebohm's) over desert wheatear.

The trip back was long and it was way past midnight before we arrived back in Nouakchott. 


North West of Idini
White-throated Bee-eater  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Willow Warbler  
Cricket Longtail  
Garden Warbler  
Lesser Whitethroat  
Rufous Bush-Robin  

Kendolek
Egyptian Vulture  
Black Kite (Yellow-billed)  
Common Redshank      
Cream-coloured Courser     
Namaqua Dove  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Grey-headed Kingfisher  
White-throated Bee-eater  
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark  
Willow Warbler  
Common Nightingale  
European Pied Flycatcher  
Northern Wheatear  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  

Lake Aleg
White-faced Whistling-Duck  
Fulvous Whistling-Duck  
Spur-winged Goose  
Grey Heron (Grey)  
Great White Egret  
Glossy Ibis  
Sacred Ibis  
Western Marsh Harrier  
Black-winged Stilt  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Black-headed Lapwing  
European Turtle Dove  
Laughing Dove  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
White-throated Bee-eater  
Lanner Falcon  
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Willow Warbler  
Black Bush-Robin  
Rufous Bush-Robin      
European Pied Flycatcher  
Northern Wheatear  
Desert Wheatear  
Greater Blue-eared Starling  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  
Red-billed Quelea  


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Instead of Aleg

On Sunday 24th October, the idea was to start very early and make a day trip to Lake Aleg. This is 230 kilometres south east of Nouakchott. I was hopeful for rainy season birds there.

However we didn't get more than 5 kilometres out of the city before the clutch mechanism broke.

Despite this set back, Mohamed Vall and I managed some local birding.

We limped in second gear to Mohamed Vall city home and near-by Boudida allotments.

common whitethroat

The birding was not wonderful there as Sunday morning seems to be peak time for people to work on their allotments and so there was much disturbance.

Nevertheless in the short time there, we saw a common whitethroat which despite its name isn't common in Mauritania.

western olivaceous warbler

Other warblers included western olivaceous warbler and garden warbler.

After that, in third gear, we drove to a garage in Ksar. Here a mechanic tried to replace part of the clutch mechanism.

By pure fluke there was a deep but small urban pool at the end of the garage complex.

It is like a mini F-nord lake. It is one fiftieth of its the size but complete with reeds and deep water. It was also full of trash.

little grebe

While the mechanic spent two-three hours trying to replace the car part, I stayed at the pool, seeing what would appear.

Early on, I noticed a little grebe with a juvenile. This close to proof that it had bred there.

juvenile little grebe

Clambering over an island mostly made of trash were two squacco heron.

squacco heron 1

They didn't notice me but carried on clambering for a while before flying round the corner. I could not see them then as a partly submerged building blocked my view.

squacco heron 2

There is one large tree at the left side of the pool. This held reasonable birds too. A willow warbler and a garden warbler hopped around it. There were also a laughing dove and a turtle dove in there from time to time.

However for me, the best bird there was a nightingale. It kept to the lower reaches and walked out occasionally.

common nightingale

It took me a long time to notice but on another of the trash islands, a common snipe was hiding.

common sandpiper (l), snipe (c) and litte stint (l)

As ever, the noisiest birds were spur-winged lapwing. Mohamed Vall has visited the mechanic before and can remember seeing them on previous visits. This suggests they are resident near-by.

spur-winged lapwing (behind)

Despite the small size of the plot, a western reef heron was present.

western reef heron

Yet another single bird of a species was a black-winged stilt.

black-winged stilt

I saw two common ringed plover.

common ringed plover

Towards the end of my visit, the common snipe finally moved.

common snipe

The nightingale hopped out into the open again.

\
nightingale

The water must be fresh and good enough to drink as a sucession of doves did so including three turtle dove

European turtle dove

In the end, the mechanic failed to repair the car and we had to take a taxi home.

Well, there was still a third of a day left and we had both freed up the whole day for birding. We decided to take a taxi to the fishing port.


whimbrel

There were plenty of waders. Many were sanderling and dunlin. However there were four whimbrel.

black tern (front) and white winged tern (rear)

There was a large flock of about thirty black tern at the "estuary" of the man-made lagoons. In among them two other terns stood out.

white winged tern

One was a white-winged tern while the other was a second year whiskered tern.

whiskered tern

There is some satisfaction in seeing all three marsh terns in one place.

great white pelican flying

I turned my attention out to sea for a short while. It is almost a hopeless task looking out to sea in the afternoon at the fish market. The sun is in the west as is the sea. There is very little chance of seeing anything on the water. Nevertheless, a big bird like a great white pelican can't be missed.

great white pelican swimming

After a few minutes, I returned to the lagoons and especially inwards where a few gulls and other terns had clustered together.

Caspian tern (rear) and lesser black backed gull (front)

The gulls were mostly lesser black-backed gull and Audouin's gull. Though there was also one Mediterranean gull and one lesser black-headed gull too.

mixed gulls and terns

A little tern and sandwich tern joined the cluster at one stage. The little tern was absolutely dwarfed by all the others.

After finishing with the lagoons, we walked a while down the coastal scrub. In a tretch of around one kilometre we saw no fewer than 28 European pied flycatcher. A few willow warbler, common redstart, cricket longtail and spotted flycatcher made up the rest.

Mohamed Vall and I did go to Aleg in the end but the next weekend. I will blog about that and other sessions soon.


Boudida
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Blue-naped Mousebird
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Barn Swallow  
Willow Warbler  
Common Chiffchaff  
Western Olivaceous Warbler  
Garden Warbler  
Common Whitethroat  
Spotted Flycatcher  
European Pied Flycatcher  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
White Wagtail
House Sparrow 

Ksar pool
Little Grebe 
Western Reef-Heron
Squacco Heron  
Black-winged Stilt  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Common Ringed Plover  
Little Stint  
Common Snipe  
Common Sandpiper  
Common Greenshank  
Wood Sandpiper  
European Turtle Dove  
Collared Dove  
Laughing Dove  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Willow Warbler  
Common Chiffchaff
Garden Warbler  
Common Nightingale  
European Pied Flycatcher  
Western Yellow Wagtail 
House Sparrow 

South of fish market 
Great White Pelican  
Kentish Plover  
Common Ringed Plover 
Whimbrel  
Ruddy Turnstone  
Sanderling  
Dunlin  
Little Stint 
Common Redshank  
Black-headed Gull  
Mediterranean Gull  
Audouin's Gull  
Lesser Black-backed Gull  
Black Tern  
White-winged Black Tern  
Whiskered Tern  
Crested Lark  
Barn Swallow 
Willow Warbler 
Cricket Longtail  
Spotted Flycatcher  
European Pied Flycatcher 
Common Redstart  
Northern Wheatear  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
White Wagtail 
House Sparrow