Thursday, 19 January 2017

Some changes at the fishing port

My second most visied birding spot in Nouakchott is south of the fishing port where sandbanks have been made into a small artifical lagoon by the environment minstry. It is a very inexpensive but innovative way of creating some sort of natural refuse even though there are no accompanying bushes or other cover.

I was pleased to see a pied avocet there almost on my arrival.

pied avocet

It spent much of its time sleeping. I took this as an indication that it had travelled some distance very recently.

sleeping pied avocet

Terns have been very scarse in the past six weeks or so. It was good to see a couple of Caspian tern also present.

Caspian tern

The weather in Noaukchott has been calm all winter. However on Sunday it a little bit rougher on the ocean than usual though nothing fierce. This increased the number of gulls on shore. The majority were lesser black-backed gull and black-headed gull.

resting Audouin's gull

Once again I was looking for exceptions. One was a resting Audouin's gull.

Mediterranean gull

Most of the few Mediterreanean gull were first winter though a smart second winter one caught my eye. As usual they were mixing mostly with the black-headed gull. Six slender-billed gull were in the same area. I have been seeing around this number on every visit since September.

grey plover

Among the waders, grey plover have been present all winter alongside sanderling and little stint.


Other waders have been more variable but usually included one or more greenshank.

I had not seen a curlew sandpiper at the site for over two months until Saturday.

curlew sandpiper

They are generally more easy to separate from dunlin in Mauritania than those in the Gulf. This is partly because the predominant sub-species of dunlin that passes down through West Africa is relatively short billed.

curlew sandpiper

This curlew sandpiper was unmistakable with its long legs, long bill and good views of its obviously pure white tail and rump.

crested lark

Birding the lagoon and ocean was halted for a short time when I saw a lark on a bush. Crested lark rarely sits on bushes but thekla lark does more often. Since there have been a few reports of the latter around the fishing port over the years, I investigated. A quick look at the paucity of streaking on the upper breast and the shape of the crest (peaked not fanned) and I gave up interest in this bird being other than a crested lark. I am still a little cynical about the thekla lark sightings but I would love to be proved wrong.

western reef heron

A western reef heron, two grey heron and twenty-five cattle egret in near-by scrub were the members of the heron family observed on Sunday.  Indeed I don't recall seeing any other heron species at this site since I started visiting.

great white pelican

Two great white pelican flew along the coast briefly. These are another regular observation.

gulls on the beach

Given the larger number of gulls on land than usual, I searched those on the beach thoroughly for any exceptions. I don't particularly enjoy this type of birding. I probably don't enjoy it because I have yet to find a rare gull among the many seen so far in Mauritania. A grey-hooded gull must be the most likely at this coastal setting but it hasn't happened yet.

Audouin's gull

The best I managed among the hundred or so on the beach was two Audouin's gull.

black-headed gull on the beach

Despite the sighting of the pied avocet I left the fishing port area slightly disappointed. It was made worse by my usual in-town driver not making the pick-up point. 

I elected to take the long walk home. Things have improved even since.

First I found that West Nouakchott pools, en route home, had not dried up since the end of the rainy season (four months ago) as I had presummed. These salty pools were full of waders and will be well worth more prolonged looks especially with a scope in the coming weeks.

common redshank and other waders

Things improved more dramatically when I went to North Nouakchott lake mid-week after work. I will blog about what I saw next.

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