Saturday, 21 August 2010

Parc Hann, Dakar

little bee eater, Parc Hann, Dakar

Still on my first birding day in Senegal we moved on from Technopole wetlands in the late afternoon to Parc Hann. This Park is also in the city and is named after its district.

It consists mostly of savannah woodland with a large lake and some surrounding tree-covered wetland. It is popular with local residents and tourists but this doesn't seem to disturb the birds particularly if you wander a little off the main tracks. 

One of the first sights on arrival were an abundance of little bee eater. They were not shy and I got some good photos.  This is a flocking bird and is often seen in small groups of about 4-7 birds.

little bee-eaters, Parc Hann, Dakar

Yellow billed shrike, Parc Hann, Dakar

While most visitors are happy to walk the main tracks we walked along the smaller ones often into heavily wooded areas and some times with clearances. We were well  rewarded. I saw a yellow billed shrike. This bird is pretty dull for Africa!  Its overall look is not helped by my poor photo. 

For the first time I also saw its distant cousin the much more attractive and striking bush shrike called yellow crowned gonolek

There were plenty of hornbill about - both on the forest floor if you delve deep enough and on tops of trees.  We saw both red-billed hornbill and grey hornbill. We were to encounter these birds regularly during the rest of the week.

Red billed hornbill - Parc Hann, Dakar

A disproportionate amount of the noise of the forest is caused by the starlings (and common bulbul as always).

African starlings are more colourful and tend to be a little larger than their European relatives. But they flock just the same and seem just as mischievous.

We saw two types here. One was the greater blue eared glossy starling.

Great blue eared glossy starling, Parc Hann, Dakar

However the more common starling was the long tailed glossy starling which is usually heard some time before it is seen.

long tailed glossy starling, Parc Hann, Dakar

All the glossy starlings can look very different depending on the sun light and its angle. Sometimes it looks quite blue (above) but many times it looks nearly black (see below)

long tailed glossy starlings, Parc Hann, Dakar

The woods held several birds which were elusive to my camera. Three noticeable ones were woodland kingfisher, rose ringed parakeet and western grey plantain-eater. Each one has its story.

Woodland kingfisher don't seem to need to be near water and obviously fish are are a lesser component of their diet than other kingfishers. 

The last times I saw rose ringed parakeet was in the boulevard park in Baku, Azerbaijan (where the birds semi-hibernate in tree trucks in winter)  and the ex Shah's palace grounds in Tehran. Both these groups were introduced but these birds were in their right place.

The western grey plaintain eater was seen only fleetingly on two occasions when we delved deep down a very muddy track. It was either the bird or my shoes so we had to give up watching it.

I saw a brown babbler in the forest too. This was another "lifer". It seems to be fatter and quite different than the fulvous babbler I know from Libya.

Finches and weavers were also well represented (see species list below).

I love photographing hooded vulture because they are so ugly. They were an obvious presence in the park.

Hooded vulture, Parc Hann, Dakar

Part of the park was a lake with many surrounding trees. This is the type of place that cormorants and egrets like to nest. The area did not disappoint. The trees were crowded with breeding birds. This is the breeding season for so many birds in Senegal because it is the middle of the rainy season.

There were clearly nests of long tailed cormorant, little egret and cattle egret.

long tailed cormorant nest, Parc Hann, Dakar

Other water birds included african jacana and black winged stilt. The nesting area deserved more time than we had and we would have been better served with wellington boots too.

cattle egret nest, Parc Hann, Dakar

If you are ever in Dakar on a holiday even if non-birding this is possibly the most accessible place for you. Go there!

Full list of birds seen at Parc Hann (thanks to Moussa Diop)

Great cormorant
Long-tailed cormorant
Cattle egret
Grey heron
White-faced whistling duck
Pied crow
Hooded vulture
African Jacana
Spur-winged plover
Black-winged stilt
Laughing dove
Senegal coucal
Woodland Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
Little bee-eater
Rose-Ringed parakeet
Western grey plantain-eater
Red billed hornbill
African grey hornbill
Common bulbul
Brown babbler
Yellow-crowned gonolek
Yellow-billed shrike
Greater blue-eared glossy starling
Long tailed glossy starling
House sparrow
Village weaver
Blcak headed weaver
Red-billed firefinch
Red-billed quelea

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