Friday, 10 February 2017

Return to Amzela

Mohamed Vall returned from his research away and that meant transport was available for us both to venture some birding outside the city of Nouakchott. The nearest place south with natural trees and some grassland is Amzela which is 70 kilometres away.

It was there that we went last Sunday.

There was some distinct sign of passage. A barn swallow and two house martin were refuelling with food all morning while we were there.

However, a bigger indication of more mainstream passage was the presence of a rufous bush-robin.

Rufous bush robin on ground

I didn't see any rufous bush robin in autumn so it is possible they take a different route in the two seasons. I need more information to tell.

Rufous bush robin up tree

A woodchat shrike was also present. it is likely this is a passage rather than a wintering bird but not certain. They winter not much further south for sure.

distant woodchat shrike

Not to be outdone, there was also a local desert grey shrike in the area.

desert grey shrike

I was a little surprised to see some many red-billed quelea at Amzela. There presence shows how unusual Amzela is.

red-billed quelea with African silverbill 1

red-billed quelea with African silverbill 2

Flocks of red-billed quelea, African silverbill and Sudanese golden sparrow were present. They mostly mixed too.

Vieillot's barbet (left) 1

While the focus on the above photograph is on the Vieillot's barbet you can see blurred images of all three of those flocking species represented in the four birds.

Vieillot's barbet 2

I still don't know the exact ranges of many of these species but I was shocked to find a grey-backed camaroptera so far north. It needs thick under-grown to thrive and there must be very few places in the northern edge of the Sahel where that can be found.

grey-backed camaroptera 1

This species can be easily over-looked. It took me four months to see my first but now I know where to look and its habits, it is picked up on almost all my southerly visits.

grey-backed camaroptera 2

The camaroptera was seen in the last few minutes of our morning at Amzela but it wasn't the end of the drama. A male lesser kestrel flew over-head for long enough for it to be identified without doubt. This is species 223 on my Mauritanian list.

On the way back into the city, we stopped off at the water purification plant in Riyadh district.  There is some water discharge there which makes for 50 metres or so of wide stream with a side channel too.

This is only 25 kilometres from the city centre. Wood sandpiper, common snipe, little stint and even yellow wagtail were predictable. The first three had also been seen on the last visit.

yellow-wagtail (iberiae)

Little ringed plover numbers in the Nouakchott are on the rise at the moment and five were present here. A rufous bush robin was in the hedge surrounding the water plant.

little ringed plover

I knew house sparrow and Sudanese golden sparrow were found here but once again the range of red-billed quelea surprised me. Does it reach the city itself? Surely I would have seen it. At the water plant, it is at the gates.

red-billed quelea and Sudanese golden sparrow

My next blog is from the UK where I have been visiting family and friends but found time for some birding at Upton Warren.

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