Saturday, 28 August 2010

Journey towards bushland

non-breeding barn swallow, Dakar

This blog reports on the one day on my Senegal trip when we went in-land. The idea was to head north east towards drier scrub country.  The aim was to see different birds associated with the bush. Actually as you will see the land still appeared just as green. But we saw many of the scrub birds anyway! You'll have to wait til one third of the way down the blog to see these. Stay tuned!

Before heading in-land we took the opportunity to look at the coast on the skirts of Dakar. As well as the usual spur winged lapwing (I will discuss my reason for calling it a lapwing rather than plover later), there were little egret in the mini-lagoons and silverbill in the bushes. Another northern red bishop failed my quality control for photogrpahy. Again he was moulting.

I was a bit disappointed that the main flying bird was barn swallow.  I had come a long way to see this. There was the odd mottled spinetail in the air to re-satisfy me.

We made one more short stop on the edge of Dakar before the real journey. There is a short river course which we followed north. The habitat was similar to the river course at Banda. it was no surprise that we bumped into striated heron again. I colud just about see why their other name is green backed heron.

a pair of striated heron, near Dakar

Little bee eater also seems to like river courses. I suppose there are more insects there.

little bee-eater near Dakar

Finally got a chance to photograph an African collared dove in good light. It's underside is pinker and its wings more contrasting than a Eurasian collared dove. But I can see why people in the borderline areas find them hard to separate.

African collared dove, near Dakar

Now the real fun began when we had headed in-land towards Thies. Moussa describes the place as kilometre 50. So you can guess how far out of Dakar we were.

We stopped just outside a village and walked fairly randomly.  However I was very,very happy with what we saw. Sure enough some of the birds were different. In one field we saw three different types of lapwing. There were spur winged lapwing, wattled lapwing and black headed lapwing. Its only by seeing so many types together that I realised how imperfect it is to call these birds plovers. You can call sand plovers, grey plovers and golden plovers but these birds all looked like cousins of the northern lapwing. They are also clearly not (just) water birds. Hence my rebellion against the authorised African Bird Club name!  I'm going with the Collins European guide.

wattled lapwing en route to Thies

Nice bird, the (African) wattled lapwing and it was quite friendly too. A whole family didn't seem to mind my close proximity.

black headed lapwing en route to Thies

Then it was the turn of the black-headed lapwing. It was fairly confiding too.

We continued to walk around this area and climbed up to one of the highest points in central Senegal(actually its not very high - perhaps no more than 200 metres)

We were rewarded en route by seeing a yellow-fronted canary and white rumped seed eater. Two more "lifers" for me.

Other finch relatives in the area were well-behaved too. I finally found a northern red bishop which was not moulting. Clearly this bird was first named by a catholic.

northern red bishop en route to Thies 

There was also a village indigobird which appeared indigo.

village indigobird en route to Thies

A pair of red-billed firefinch were foraging near-by. Who knows they may have been the adoptive parents of the village indigobird.

red-billed firefinch en route to Thies

Even the grey - headed camoroptera was easily seen. Actually the more I think about it prehaps the main reason for the easier viewings here was simply because there is less cover in the bush. 

grey-headed camoroptera 

In the middle of one field was an isolated big bilbao tree. It was not alone in another sense. It housed a white-billed buffalo weaver' s nest and occupants. 

white-billed buffalo weaver and nest

Foraging near-by was a small group of the same bird including the female I photographed (see below).

white-billed buffalo weaver on ground

There was another black bird which we had tracked near-by. I had hoped it was a black scrub robin. When it got close enough we saw that it was. This bird is like its cousin the rufous bush robin that I see in Libya. Both like drier scrubland. I was lucky to see one so close to the city on the southern edge of its rangeHowever that was the idea of the day's trip!

black scrub robin en route to Thies

In this area, two larger birds were also added to my list of lifers. The first one was African cuckoo which was easily seen for some time.

The second was identified by Moussa as a shikra. I misidentified it!. In my defence it didn't stay put for very long and its not my biome anyway.

African cuckoo en route to Thies

We finally moved on to Thies for lunch. After lunch we visited a local forest. OK it wasn't bush but it looked interesting. On the wy there we saw a flock of chestnut-bellied starling which are more common in north and central Senegal. This was another postive result of our decision to go in-land.

chestnut-bellied starling, Thies 

We walked deep into the forest. In the middle was a clearing. This was a good vantage point. Here were rose-ringed parakeet, both types of local hornbill and a broad-billed roller. While the rose ringed parakeet were hyper-active, the broad-billed roller chilled out on a wire. It posed nicely for the camera. 
broad billed roller, Thies

There is one more blog to come on my Senegal trip. This one will be about Pink Lake. Here I saw many old friends. There were many more western palearctic migrants already there. This was much earlier than I had expected. The resident birds sprung a surprise too.

List of birds 50 kms in land en route to Thies (thanks to Moussa Diop)

Cattle egret
Pied crow
Black kite
African cuckoo
Black-headed lapwing 
Spur-winged lapwing
Wattled lapwing
Laughing dove
Abyssinian roller
Little bee-eater
Red billed hornbill
African grey hornbill
Crested lark
Common bulbul
Black scrub robin
Grey headed camoroptera
Scarlet-chested sunbird
Beautiful sunbird
White-rumped seed eater
Yellow fronted canary
White-billed buffalo weaver
Northern red bishop
Black-headed weaver
Village indigobird

List of birds seen in the Thies area (thanks to Moussa Diop)

Cattle egret
Pied crow
Hooded vulture
Black kite
Spur-winged lapwing
Laughing dove
Black billed wood dove
Abyssinian roller
Little bee-eater
Rose-Ringed parakeet
Western grey plantain-eater
Red billed hornbill
Common bulbul
Broad billed roller
Yellow-crowned gonolek
Greater blue-eared starling
Long-tailed glossy starling
Chestnut-belled starling
White-billed buffalo weaver
Yellow-backed weaver
Red-billed firefinch
Red-billed quelea

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