Thursday, 19 August 2010

Water birds at Technopole, Dakar, Senegal

African jacana - Technopole, Dakar, August

This year I have got a six week summer holiday, the longest since I left college many years ago. Although British, my work is in Libya and my home is in Bulgaria where I am resting. Actually I'm not sure how much rest there is going to be. I  have just returned from a birding holiday in Senegal. There are six or seven blogs in the pipeline about the holiday and one or two more on Libya. I am going to be busy. So here goes.

Last week I visited Senegal for the first time in my life. And it was my first birding in sub saharan Africa. I saw some birds I knew but there were many new ones. 67 new ones to be precise.

I was guided by Moussa Diop who knows his country's birds even better than I know Libyan birds. I was very impressed. Moussa is a fellow member of the African Bird Club and is Senegal's checklist recorder.

On the first day he took me to Technopole in Dakar itself. This is a surviving wetland in the heart of the city. It's a hidden, huge wonderland.

I saw so many birds there that I am forced to split the blog on this venue into two parts - the water birds and the land birds.

landscape view of Technopole, Dakar

Technopole is larger than any wetland in Libya! And its density of birds is high. On immediate impression you see egrets and cormorants everywhere (cormorant and long tailed cormorant) everywhere (great egret, intermediate egret , little egret and cattle egret). The other most obvious bird is spur winged plover. There were literally hundreds of paired plovers near the water.

Spur winged plover, Technopole, Dakar, August

The spur winged plover are not shy but they were very protective of their territories presumably they are about to breed. Many birds breed in August as it is in the middle of the rainy season and food is most plentiful.

Mostly Long tailed cormorant (great cormorant on far left)

The great cormorant were lucidus sub species which has even more white on its front than maroccanus.

Long tailed cormorant and great egret, Technopole

There are plenty of other birds there too. I saw many african jacana (see picture at the top of the blog). 

There were also many grey heron, a bird I know well but had not seen in such large numbers in one place. I also met two species of egret/heron for the first time.

Below is a picture of a black heron. To be honest I have no idea why the bird is called a heron. Its latin name tells you its an egret and it looks like a slightly smaller but black version of a little egret even down to its yellow feet.

Black heron, Technopole, Dakar, August

The western reef egret was present too. It is only found close to the coast and is spread all down the west African coast. It is apparently an even closer relative to the little egret than the black heron but to me it was the reef egret that behaved more like a heron. It stood in the same spot for ages, presumably on the look out for food just like many herons! The one below had a pair of spur winged plover for company.

Western reef egret. Technopole, Dakar

Moving on from herons and egrets, there were quite a few other species. Pink backed pelican was quite common but shy. I have photos but there are all long distance. You will have to wait for later blogs to see reasonable shots!  Incidently while I am on a rant about bird names, this one too seems a bit of a misnomer. I really didn't see much pink. The french call it the grey pelican and I think they have got it right.

White fronted whistling duck, Technopole, Dakar

It was good to see ducks. The European migrant ducks have not yet arrived for the winter (though surprisingly some other species already have - see later blogs). The duck I saw was white faced whisling duck. This name is entirely accurate! It was another new species for me.

Purple swamphen, Technopole, Dakar

However one of the best thrills of the day for me was to see an old friend - the purple swamphenThe was my favourite bird in Azerbaijan. I used to describe it as so ugly it was beautiful. The picture above does indeed make the bird look attractive.

a family of purple swamphen, Technopole, Dakar

In Azerbaijan they were very difficult to pick out as they hid in the reeds at distance but here there were in the long grass. I got a better view here than in all my time there.

Finally there is no doubt that sub Saharan Africa has some very pretty kingfishers.

Pied kingfisher, Technopole, Dakar

Pied kingfisher are found in the western palearctic especially in Egypt but this was my first view. There are not difficult to pick out and were quite common throughout the trip!

The gery headed kingfisher seems to be equally as common.

Grey headed kingfisher, Technopole, Dakar

My next blog concentrates on the land birds seen at Technopole on the same day.  It includes one quite rare one which I photographed well. Which bird? you'll have to wait for the blog.

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