Thursday, 29 September 2016

Cinquieme district

Last Saturday I visited Cinquieme gardens in Nouakchott. It is unusual as it is a permenant wetland with fresh water rather than the saline pools seen throughout the rest of the city. I am not sure what geological phenomena has caused this.

Trees and bushes have grown through the fresh water and next to it. No house can be built so it has become a gardens by default.

However before I left for the gardens, I spotted my first speckled pigeon in the city next to my lodgings. I could hardly miss it with the very loud call it was making.

speckled pigeon

Cinquieme Gardens has great potential. However as soon as I arrived people were coming up to me to say the place was dangerous. After 45 minutes my confidence had waned so much I had to leave. Nevertheless my time there was interesting.

Cinquieme Gardens

One of the first birds I saw I could not identify. I thought it too large to be a female house sparrow which it quite closely resembles.

unidentified bird 1

I placed the bird on the birdforum website for identification. However for the first time since I started posting there a few years ago, no one attempted an identification.

unidentified bird 2

The wetter areas of the garden had large numbers of waders. There was also a little egret which was the first one I had seen in the city.

little stint

There were three species of wader there which were new to my Mauritanian list. As well as little stint, there were a few Temminck's stint. The latter bird was an addition to the list.

Temminck's stint

I had not observed green sandpiper either until then.

green sandpiper

While the most common wader on site was wood sandpiper.

wood sandpiper

The third addition was little ringed plover.

little ringed plover

What all three additions have in common is a lesser preference for saline water than their relatives.

I firmly beileve that Cinquieme gardens will have some special birds given its unique habitat. I am looking at ways to ensure I can visit there comfortably in the future.

After leaving the gardens I walked a short distance north to an area of west Nouakchott I had been to before. This area has several large saline lakes.

greater flamingo

Some of the lakes are deep enough for flamingo though they are mostly characterised by shallow water bodies.

blue-naped mousebird

Some the land birds were interesting too. I spotted blue-naped mousebird in a better viewing position than usual. Migrants in the scattered bushes included willow warbler and a common redstart.

ringed pied flycatcher

There are still plenty of pied flycatcher in the city. One I observed on this walk had a ring which I believe to be British.

ruff

In this salty waters I had a fourth additon to my country list. Several ruff were seen where none had been two weeks before.

On Sunday I ventured out to the northern edge of the city again. The cast had changed and I was happy with what I saw. I will blog about that next.


Monday, 26 September 2016

Northern outskirts of Nouakchott

On Friday afternoon, I walked straight out of my temporary lodgings north towards the edge of the city. It isn't so far as although the city is large the development is ribbon-based along main roads. Straight out north from my district and there is no major road hence the short distance to the edge.

I had hoped the change in terrain from the tree -laced central district would produce different birds. I wasn't disappointed.

In the low scrub were many warblers. This would have been the first greenery they had seen since crossing the Sahara which opens up just north of the city.

Willow warbler was once again the most abundant warbler.

Melodious warbler 1

However I had prolonged views of two Melodious warbler.

Melodious warbler 2

There were no real hiding places for the birds and they wanted to feed too so views were as easy as they can get for this species.

Melodious warbler 3

I made a brief birding trip in my neighbourhood on Thursday evening and here is a  closely related western olivaceous warbler for comparison which was seen then.

western olivaceous warbler

Another species in the low scrub was western sub-alpine warbler.

western sub-alpine warbler

Looking up at a group of laughing dove on a wire gave me quite a surprise when I realised one of them was not a laughing dove at all but a young European turtle dove.

European turtle dove (left)

This bird has a burr stuck above its eye. 

European turtle dove

Out in the semi-desert a little bit further out of town, I came across my first brown-necked raven in Muaritania. In the scattered trees were pied flycatcher, a common redstart and a nightingale.

spotted flycatcher

Other migrants included spotted flycatcher and three woodchat shrike. One was the only adult bird I have observed this autumn.

woodchat shrike

Woodchat shrike are at least temporarily out numbering desert grey shrike.

desert grey shrike

On Saturday I visited the Cinquieme district of the city and added four more species to my steadily growing Mauritania list.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

South of the fish market

On Sunday I made a visit to the fish market on the coast west of Nouakchott.

Hundreds of longboat-shaped fishing boats were moored up and there were plenty of fish on sale, some of which were extremely large.

Yet strangely, there was hardly a bird in this immediate area apart from a few house sparrow.

Moving south 150 metres down the coast, it was a different story with several locations producing a different array of birds.

The first location was a smelly rubbish dump based on partially on fish parts and broken shells but with pools surrounding it.


bar-tailed godwit

Bar-tailed godwit were patrolling the pools and some of the wet earth.

sanderling

Sanderling were there in numbers.

ruddy turnstone

Ruddy turnstone were also present.

Welsh common ringed plover 1

Common ringed plover are proving to be abundant all over west Nouakchott including near the fish market at the coast.

One of them was ringed and flagged. If I have understood the rings correctly this is a Welsh bird. I have written to the contact sending pictures and await verification.

Welsh common ringed plover 2

A young Kittlitz's plover is good evidence that this species breeds here.

juvenile Kittlitz's plover

While walking a little further down the coast to a cleaner area, a large flock of Eurasian spoonbill flew past and laso travelling south. 

Eurasian spoonbill

In this place, there are three sand-banked small lagoons managed by the environment ministry which are designed to attract birds.

black tern

Black tern were certainly attracted to it.

whimbrel

Whimbrel were there.

sanderling

On a small island in one lagoon, a large number of sanderling were huddled together. 

little tern

A much smaller tern was easily picked out there. Little tern is the only option.

pied avocet

Another single bird was a pied avocet which was swimming rather than wading.

I was surprised that gulls and sea-faring terns were not seen at the ocean's edge.

Counter-initutively, by scanning all around,  I found a large number 500 metres inland from the lagoons. I had been looking in the wrong direction.

greater flamingo

As I walked towards the cluster of gulls and terns, three adult greater flamingo passed over.

I used a wall as a backcloth to approach the gulls so as not to spook them.

lesser black backed gull

The larger gulls were all lesser black-backed gull.  One medium sized gull was a black-headed gull.

Audouin's gull

The big surprise was the presence of 14 Audouin's gull. Such a large number may be explained by a probably affinity to the fish port and market. This gull is unusally dependent on fish for its diet.

Sandwich tern and Royal tern

I am on the look out for lesser crested tern which are known to winter on the Mauritanian coast and in particular Libyan birds, a few of which are ringed.

They are known to associate with closely related sandwich tern. Well, I found several sandwich tern. However the orange-billed tern seen with them near the fish market were both the larger Royal tern.

Walikng back towards the fish market through the coast scrub turned up a small number of warblers, crest lark and an unexpected hoopoe lark.

hopooe lark

Two desert grey shrike were observed on bushes and they were of the expected elegans sub-species in contrast to the unexpected algeriensis seen the day before at Zaatar allotments.

desert grey shrike

At a small pool, my first curlew sandpiper in country was seen.

curlew sandpiper

The last new bird of the session was a shy northern wheatear.

northern wheatear

No fewer than 16 species were added to my country list so I was well satisfied.
List of birds seen. New additions to my Mauritiania list are in bold.

Greater Flamingo  
Grey Heron  
Eurasian Spoonbill  
Pied Avocet  
Kittlitz's Plover  
Common Ringed Plover  
Whimbrel  
Bar-tailed Godwit  
Ruddy Turnstone  
Curlew Sandpiper 
Sanderling  
Dunlin  
Little Stint  
Common Greenshank  
Common Redshank  
Black-headed Gull  
Audouin's Gull 
Lesser Black-backed Gull  
Little Tern  
Caspian Tern  
Black Tern  
Royal Tern  
Sandwich Tern  
Laughing Dove  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Greater Hoopoe-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Willow Warbler  
Western Bonelli's Warbler  
Spotted Flycatcher  
Pied Flycatcher  
Redstart  
Wheatear  
House Sparrow  

Monday, 19 September 2016

Zaatar allotments

On Saturday morning I went to the Zaatar allotments in an eastern area of Nouakchott. I had identified it as a potential birding site from google earth where it appears as a green mass. One of my local colleagues verifed it was a farming area and also kindly drove me there despite overnight rain causing flooding chaos on the roads. I am very grateful for this.

I then birded alone for four hours walking around the labyrinth of small paths through the allotments. Unlike farming areas in other countries I have birded, this area is very labour intensive. I felt it my duty to explain what was doing time and time again to bewildered but friendly farmers.

The allotments are almost exclusively horticultural plots with a few bushes and trees as dividers. 

I was satisfied with the results of my efforts.

I added six species to my steadily growing country list. Two of them were shrikes.

desert grey shrike

The first one was a desert grey shrike and contrary to all expectation it is clearly not of the (most interior and/or most southerly) sub-species elegans. It is too dark, lacking in white and having grey underparts. It looks a classic algeriensis. One theory, which has been put forward after consultation, is that some of that sub-species may move south for the winter. 

juvenile woodchat shrike

The second shrike sighting was more predicable. It is well known that woodchat shrike cross the Sahara and Arabian deserts on a very broad front. My first one was a juvenile.

some of the Zaatar allotments

A third addition was tree pipit. Three of them were foraging in a field. This is another broad front migrant though many stop just after crossing the deserts. I suspect I will have sightings all through the winter as well as the passage seasons.

tree pipit

Another addition was common nightingale. Although I got good views I failed to obtain a photograph. In compensation I managed photos of the distantly related common redstart. I had seen one the week before in the city but failed to photograph it then. This time there were at least seven scattered around the allotments.

female common redstart

Warblers mostly kept them selves to the bushes and trees. Once again I was privileged to get prolonged and close views of a western Bonelli's warbler.

western Bonelli's warbler

It is difficult to understand how it can be confused with a willow warbler.

western Bonelli's warbler 2

Willow warbler was actually the most common warbler on site so comparisons could easily be made anyway.

willow warbler

Two whitethroat were observed which was the fifth addition to the list. The western sub-species of this bird are so much more deeply coloured that the more washed out eastern sub species I have been more used to seeing in the gulf.

pied flycatcher (nominate)

Once again pied flycatcher were abundant. I counted no fewer than 19! Yet I checked e-bird and found that I was the first person to record this species on that datebase in Mauritania. I will soon find out wheather this is due to a unique time of year that I am birding or the unusual geography of my records i.e the city.

Most observed birds were nominate though a few had no white in their tail and are suspected to be Iberian.

susepected Iberian pied flycatcher

No candidate Atlas sub-species have been seen yet.

spotted flycatcher

Only two spotted flycatcher sightings were made. I am not used to this being a lesser seen flycatcher on migration.

namaqua dove

Another unusal aspect of the site was that Namaqua dove for once was the most common dove even beating out laughing dove.

The final addition of the day was a briefly seen squacco heron flying over without stopping. I still don't know what attracted it to this area.

On Sunday, I went west to the fishing port on the coast. Here I added a whopping 16 species to my Mauritania list. 

I will blog about that visit next.