Wednesday 2 November 2016

Lake Mey Mey

On Sunday morning, Dr Mohamed Vall and I left Aleg soon after dawn and headed south towards Bogue.

Bogue is on the border with Senegal so more southerly species were expected. Actually we turned off just before the city and took the new road westward towards Rossso. This road was built in 2011 and opens up the northern side of the Senegal valley for birding as well as transport.

However time was short as we had to be back in Nouakchott in the evening. So our birding only gave us a flavour of what is present down there.

Near Bogue itself, southerly species such as Abyssinian roller were seen as we travelled even without stopping. Sudanese golden sparrow abound.


Hoopoe from Europe winter here mixed in with the local population.

grasshopper buzzard

As we travelled a grasshopper buzzard was seen on a wire. This was a lifer for me and the first addition to my country list of the day. Soon after a pallid harrier was observed flying over a field close to the road. This was the second addition.

blue-naped mousebird

Other large birds such as blue-naped mousebird and yellow-billed kite could also be seen from the car.

Though we made a couple of short stops in this area we were looking for sites next to water. These were expected to be richer in species and a better use of time given our long journey home.

black-winged stilt on Lake Mey Mey

Some 35 kilometres west of Bogue on the Rosso road we came across such a lake and wetland. We discovered from locals that it was called Lake Mey Mey.

The place also had quite dense woodland in patches, some of which sheltered smaller lakes and pools.

We didn't have to walk far from the car before addition number three was observed. There were several black-headed lapwing on the edge of the main woodland.

black-headed lapwing

The woodland was teeming with birds and some of the sounds were beautiful. Black-bush robin is particularly so.

black bush-robin

Tens of sudanese golden sparrow were coming forward to drink at one of the pools.

red-billed quelea (above)

A close inspection of other birds drinking with this sparrow revealed a few red-billed quelea and two northern grey headed sparrow.

northern grey sparrow

However it was under the trees near-by that we walked into more additions.

long-tailed glossy starling

In quick succession we noticed a small flock of long-tailed glossy starling and a pair of western red-billed hornbill.

western red-billed hornbill

Abyssinian roller was very common there.

Abyssinian roller

We decided to spend some time walking round the main lake even though we could see it was not plentiful with birds. Indeed a local had told us "the birds had left". We took this as a reference to the larger birds such as storks and herons which are known to move north into southern Mauritania just for the rainy season.

Even before we had gone out of the wood and closer to the main lake, we picked up another addition. This time it was little green bee-eater.

little green bee-eater

When we got close, the main lake did indeed prove to be underwhelming.

spur-winged lapwing

Spur-winged lapwing and cattle egret were the main inhabitants along with a few wood sandpiper wading near the muddy edges.

cattle egret

Undaunted, we moved back away from the main lake into some woodland on a different side of the lake.

red-cheeked cordon blue

Here we added red-cheeked cordon blue to the list. They kept coming.

We couldn't effort more than two hours at the site, so we headed back towards the car going through the same piece of woodland as we first arrived.

However we found a large freshwater lake within that wood which we had missed first time round by taking a slightly different route out.

Knob-billed duck

Two Knob-billed duck were swimming in the water. This was another addition and a lifer.

Two common kestrel were relentlessly mobbing a bird of prey there and elsewhere in the wood.

African harrier-hawk

This was later identified as an African harrier-hawk. It was yet another addition and lifer.

Lake Mey Mey had proved a goldmine for my Mauritanian list.

We wanted to stay longer but time was our enemy on Sunday. We had to press on towards Rosso (and on to Nouakchott).

This was a real shame because the Bogue to Rosso road looks extremely good birding with wetlands and green fields along a major part of the route.

Even while on the move we could see some good birds. As we crossed a bridge with water either side I could see pratincole. We stopped the car to investigate. 

collared pratincole

Luckily one of the pratincole flew up and I was able to see its deep red underwing. This helped identify it as a collared pratincole. This was necessary as both it and black-winged pratincole are known in the region in winter. They are difficult to separate on the ground at distance. Naturally this was another addition to the last but not quite the last one.

That title went to a hamerkop which flew across the road directly in front of us.


We really had no spare time to stop. However other noticeable birds picked up on the move were one more each of booted eagle, pallid harrier and osprey.

Sunday had been a fine time and it had been a small window on the opportunities in the south.

I am very grateful to Dr Mohamed Vall once again not least for the very long drive we undertook to get back from Aleg via Bogue and Rosso.

Addendum on 7th November

Thanks to John in the comments section who noted that the bird picture I orginally posted above as an osprey was in fact a short-toed eagle. I have replaced that picture (see above) with a real osprey photographed very near-by.

Here is the picture of the short-toed eagle along with a second picture of it which was not orginally published.

short-toed eagle 1

The correction of my misidentification means I can add one more to my country list.

short-toed eagle 2

So the trip was even better than orignally thought.


  1. Hi Rob, what an amazing blog and amazing country you're living in!! I just wanted to say that I believe your 'African Pygmy Goose' is in fact a female Knob-billed Duck, another fantastic species. I see both species here in Kenya, and am very confident about this! African Pygmy Goose would show a chestnut breast and tiny yellow bill along with a 'cuter' facial appearance. I look forward to finding out more about Mauritanian bird life!!

  2. You are absolutely right. I have corrected this. Rob

  3. Hi Rob,
    this is indeed an amazing blog!
    I think that the Osprey in the photo of this article is in fact a snake-eagle (propably a shot-toed)
    I'm looking forward to read more

  4. Thanks John. I have published a correction including a replacement picture of a real osprey taken very near-by. Rob