Sunday 18 December 2016

Lake Ganky

Last Sunday afternoon, Mohamed Vall and I were at furthest distance from Nouakchott on our birding trip to the south.

We took the Mbout road east out of Kaedi. We knew there was a large lake to the south east of this road and visited it three times in three different places. I call the lake Lake Ganky after one of the towns near-by. I don't know it's real name.

We also birded close to the road, stopping off several times. Indeed our first stop by the side of the road was still in the early day light. It was made because we saw a mixed flock foraging.

Three birds were speckle-fronted weaver.

speckle-fronted weaver

These were the tamest birds there. The main flock was a mix of chestnut-bellied starling and white-billed buffalo weaver. Though some long-tailed starling were seen briefly.

white-billed buffalo weaver

Both weavers were additions to my Mauritanian list. Speckle-fronted weaver was also a lifer.

woodchat shrike

The south of Mauritania is part of the range for wintering woodchat shrike. Woodland east of Kaedi has a significant concentration.

Soon after this top by the road, we headed south towards the lake for the first time. We soon found that it was impossible to reach the shore line as the receeding water has created mud falts which are deep in places.

Nevertheless, we observed three new birds for me in Mauritania there. These were Egyptian goose, black-headed heron and great white egret. None were photographed though opportunties occured later.

Rather surprisingly a large white headed gull was seen. This is unusual so far in land.

lesser black-backed gull 1

It was identified as a lesser black-backed gull when I referred it to Birdforum though that was own initial idea too.

lesser black-backed gull 2

Close-by was a group of waders, terns and spur-winged lapwing.

wood sandpiper 1

I really don't undstand why I haven't seen marsh sandpiper in Mauritania yet. This looked another good spot. However a potential bird I tracked turned out to be a thin wood sandpiper.

wood sandpiper

Our second foray towards the lake was no more than 6 kilometres further down the road. We learnt yet again that we couldn't get to the shore line. However it was the birds back away from the shore that held our interested there.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

Blue-cheeked bee-eater is resident in the Nouakchott area. I am not so sure about Kaedi but I do know it is a wintering area for some from north of the Sahara.

Great spotted cuckoo is both resident and wintering (again from north of the Sahara) in the far south of the country. We saw one briefly at this stop but couldn't re-find it.

flock of white-billed buffalo weaver

We caught up with white-billed buffalo weaver again in a sizable flock.

red-billed quelea

However, nothing can beat red-billed quelea for flocking. We observed our only red-billed quelea flock of the trip here. It was relatively small. There were only about 200 birds in it.

We didn't travel more than 50 kilometres out of Kaedi. At our furthest point out of town, our attempt to find the western edge of the lake failed. We walked off the main road southwards as we had done for the previous two stops. We never found it. Prehaps it had already ended further east. Prehaps it was just further back. 

African fish eagle 1

However, we were rewarded by finding an immature African fish eagle. There also a fly-by of an African harrier-hawk too.

African fish eagle 2

It took us over one and a half hours to walk off the road, looking for a lake we could not find and returing to the car. The find of the African fish eagle just about made it worthwhile.

black-headed lapwing

Seeing a small party of black-headed lapwing added some interest on the way back to the car.

long horn cattle

The people in this area speak minority languages especially Pula. Pula speakers typically keep long horn cattle and around Kaedi they are usually pale coloured.

After this long stop, we headed back towards Kaedu stopping briefly a couple of times near the road.

speckle-fronted weaver

We caught up with some more speckle-fronted weaver at one of these.

Finally, we made one last attempt to visit the lake as the day was ebbing away. We chose a point where we could see the lake close to the road and the land near the lake looked relatively less muddy.

I think we wish we had found this access point earlier. Long-tailed cormorant were coming in to roost along with a much smaller number of great cormorant. Waders numbers were high. Little stint, wood sandpiper and greenshank were the most numerous. Caspian tern were plentiful.

Egyptian goose

Both Egyptian goose and great white egret seen at the beginning of the day were finally photographed there albeit as record shots.

great white egret

Black-headed heron again evaded our cameras.

The final moments of daylight were metaphorically lit up with a display from a pied kingfisher diving relentlessly for fish.

On Monday we made the very long journey back to Nouakchott. However we did have time for one reasonable birding session between Boghe and Rosso. I will blog about this next.

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