Tuesday, 6 December 2016

North Bay, Nouadhibou

The area north of the airport in Nouadhibou has water bodies close to the sea just as the area south does. However these aren't refilled with every tide. The water is separated from the sea by sandbanks. This creates a difference in the two habitats.

Furthermore there is a large rubbish dump with organic waste next to the water's edge.  These factors meant the mix of species at the two locations was significantly different when visited a week ago Monday morning.

red-rumped swallow

Indeed in the rubbish dump, I added two species to my Mauritanian country list. Several red-rumped swallow were hawking for flies.

two red-rumped swallow

There were so many flies the swallows soon had time to rest. The bird on the left is an adult while the one on the right is a juvenile bird.

house martin

Not to be outdone a smaller number of house martin were hawking an adjacent part of the same rubbish dump. Occasionally the two species would overlap their flight paths. The house martin rested less often. Thanks are due to Mohamed Vall for noticing the one above.

The dump also held several white wagtail and a couple of northern wheatear. The presence of two yellow wagtail so far north surprised me.

Two Audouin's gull

Elsewhere we continued our search in Nouadhibou for rare gulls. Sadly the best we managed once again were a few Audouin's gull. There was no sign of common gull or little gull for example.

Audouin's gull

The Audouin's gull were usually easy to pick out as they mostly rested at the edge of the main groups of lesser white headed gulls.

red knot and bar-tailed godwit

There were less waders than in central bay the day before.However (at the near-by coast) we came across a nice mixed group of red knot and bar-tailed godwit. The mixing of the two knot species with the two godwit species is a well known phenomenon but it was still good to see up close with one each of the knots and godwits.

three pintail

We were still on the look out for anything different. Three pintail were the only ones seen on the trip.


A solitary ruff was the only one of that species seen just before we finished birding.

The trip to Nouadhibou had been a success. If we had had more time or in a futrue visit, the allotments and Cap Blanc would be obvious additional places to go to. The allotments might have held elusive wintering northern passerines.

I am grateful for Mohamed Vall's company and the generosity of his network of friends in Nouadhibou. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Central Bay, Nouadhibou

The single largest concentration of birds on Mohamed Vall's and my trip to Nouadhibou was undoubtably at central bay. The area is just south of the airport and just north of the fish factories.

There were literally thousands of birds. Mohamed said it reminded him of Banc d'Arguin National Park.

view of central bay

There were several hundred large white headed gulls. The proportion of yellow-legged gull to lesser black-backed gull was much higher than in the Nouakchott area, hundreds of kilometres south.

Despite an intensive look at the gulls no rarities were found.


There were nearly 100 Caspian tern present too which rested neatly adjacent to the gulls but hardly mixed with them at all.

some Caspian tern

A dozen great white pelican were a good sighting.

great white pelican

One bird was much more orange-pink than the others but it is not a pink-backed pelican which is actually a greyer bird. It bill colour didn't match either.

two great white pelican

They stayed in the bay all morning though they moved position regularly.

great white pelican

The waders were also looked at thoroughly though we regret not having a scope with us.

sanderling with a whimbrel

Little stint and common ringed plover were the most numerous waders.

bar-tailed godwit with grey plover (r)

Significant numbers of sanderlingdunlin and grey plover were present too. A few bar-tailed godwit and kentish plover were easily seen.


The inlet provided a few duck. All were northern shoveller except one common teal.

common teal

The inlet was the only place we came across black-winged stilt as well.

red knot

The mix of waders was quite different in front of the fish factories. A single red knot was seen along with several sanderling and many ruddy turnstone.

sanderling with ruddy turnstone

However it wasn't the waders that fascinated me in the fish factory area.

ruddy turnstone

Instead it was six sand martin which kept endlessly foraging for flies. I don't know whether they will winter this far north but the track they kept flying down had among the highest fly concentration I have ever experienced in my life. Birding doesn't always take you to scenic and fragrant places.

record shot of a sand martin

Ironically, central bay had the highest number of birds seen on the trip but it was the one place when I didn't add to my country list.

There are more bays north of the airport which collectively I describe as north bay. We visited there last Monday morning. Here two birds were indeed added to the list. I will blog about there next.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Cansado beach

Another area visited in the Nouadhibou peninsula last weekend was the beach north of Cansado towards the main city of Nouadhibou.

This is a stretch of coast which doesn't have low lying cliffs like Cansado itself. It is also has some strips of worn-down rock.

The beach had many lesser black-backed gull and yellow-legged gull like the rest of the peninsula.

one oystercatcher

However, given the terrain, it was not surprising to see several ruddy turnstone and a few oystercatcher.

another oystercatcher

Other waders included kentish plover, common ringed plover, grey plover and whimbrel.

caspian tern and sandwich tern

While Caspian tern are very common in the Noaudhibou area, this was the only place Mohamed Vall and I saw sandwich tern too.

common tern

Yet it was a single common tern which attracted our interest.

Many thousands migrate from northern and western Europe down the Western African coast towards the tropics and southern hemisphere for winter. However this was the first one I have seen in Mauritania. It looks like they don't stop off but prefer non-stop flying. This is the only reason I can think of as to why I haven't seen any before. Indeed the bird we observed at Cansado was not in good condition and this would explain why it came to coast.

common tern stretching 

This is in stark contrast to birds seen in the Gulf and which do linger on the coast on migration down East Africa. Indeed a few winter and over-summer in Oman on the same latitude as the parts of Muaritania where I have been searching for this species.

In the next blog we look at central Noaudhibou bay where there were literally thousands of birds.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016


Last weekend was a long one as Mauritania celebrated its independence day on Monday. This was an opportunity to take a birding trip away from Nouakchott.

I travelled with Dr. Mohamed Vall to the north western coastal city of Nouadhibou. We travelled by bus and walked some potential birding sites around the city.

The trip got off to a good start when the bus made a ten minute stop at the midway town of Chemi. I spotted an usual sparrow some distance away and headed towards it. I was very happy to find a small number of desert sparrow.

desert sparrow at Chemi

This was a lifer and an addition to my country list before we had really started birding. 

The only other birds seen in the town were house sparrow and brown-necked raven.

Our bus journey had taken up much of Saturday though we had some time left in the day. We birded the suburb of Cansado just outside the main city of Nouadhibou until it got dark. It was a dull and cloudy late afternoon so we came back again around midday on Sunday too. This blog reports on findings from both days there.

black kite

Much of the birding at Cansado centred around the rubbish dump not least because we spotted three black kite as we pulled up in the small town. They were at the dump.

a second black kite

These birds were not yellow-billed kite which is the resident sub-species in the south of the country. Instead they were nominate birds which are migrants from further north in the Maghreb and Spain.

Egyptian vulture courtesy of Mohamed Vall

During our Sunday visit they were joined briefly by a sub-adult Egyptian vulture. This was my first sighting of this species in Mauritania. Thanks are due to Mohamed Vall who obtained photos and has given me permission to reproduce noe here.

grey heron

Other larger birds in the area were a flock of cattle egret and a single grey heron. Three little egret were seen at the near-by coast too.

cattle egret

Dotted around the town were several European collared dove and a smaller number of laughing dove.

European collared dove

Clusters of trees and bushes are very scarse in the town. However one such cluster held three European turtle dove.

European turtle dove

In the same cluster, a male sardinian warbler made a brief appearance. It was the only warbler we saw all trip.


Nearly all the other birds on land were passerines. A single hoopoe was an exception.

male northern wheatear

White wagtail were everywhere. Northern wheatear was also common especailly near the rubbish dump but not only so.

Nouadhibou is the southern most place in the range of black wheatear but it overlaps there with white-crowned wheatear.

juvenile white crowned wheatear

We found a bird on Sunday but it turned out to be a juvenile white-crowned wheatear. The black on the under-belly does not extend beyond the legs. The tail pattern does not include a black hortizontal line at the bottom. These features rule out black wheatear.

white-crowned wheatear

Black-wheatear would not be expected at sea level anyway.

very young house sparrow

Spanish sparrow is probably a rare visitor to Mauritania and all house sparrow were studied carefully but with no success.

Cansado town was one of three areas birded around Nouadhibou. There will be a blog for each one. These will follow next.