Saturday, 8 July 2017

Westward in early June

I am well behind with my blogs but I am on summer holiday now so I have time to catch up. I have two to post and both are from June. 

These recount observations during Ramadan when I was restricted to walks out of the house.

I had expected June to be dull as it is an in-between month. That is to say most Palearctic migration is over for a couple of months and no rains are usually expected for the same period. The rains often bring intra-African migrants. August in particular is an exciting month in southern Mauritania even in Nouakchott apparently for such birds.

I must admit my walk out westward on June 4th was relatively dull with only a couple of bright points. There is no escaping that. However the next walk two weeks after was a complete surprise and birding was unexpectedly good.

Sadly, this blog covers the duller (relatively) walk. 

I went out to the fishing port via the central lake (freshwater) and west Nouakchott  pools (saline).

Starting at the end first, the sea around the fishing point was extremely quiet. Only a small number of over-summering lesser black-backed gull were seen. 

I soon retreated from the coast and went to look close to the fish dump. This smelly place often attracts interesting land birds.

Thekla lark has been claimed in this area on about three occasions in recent years though I remain skeptical even having seen the photos.

crested lark 1

Nevertheless I will still inspect as many of the crested lark as I can especially on quieter days.

There was one candidate which had a short bill. It caught my attention. It was also relatively streaked on the breast too.

crested lark 2

However despite its plumage, I believe this is a young bird and I can see the remains of juvenile yellow gape. This explains the short bill to me.

crested lark 3

What kept my attention for so long was not a plumage feature though, it was its feeding action. I never saw it dig for food once. It pecked. However one feature out of three in favour is not enough. 

I will keep looking but remember I have visited this site more than 15 times now in nearly all seasons. I am pretty sure thelka lark is not resident. If it is ever here at all surely it must be an occasional dispersal from much further north.

white wagtail

Arguably the best sighting near the fishing port was a white wagtail. What is one doing here in June? It should have migrated many weeks ago.

cattle egret

Pretty much all of the cattle egret that frequent the fish dump were in breeding plumage.

Kittlitz's plover

This dump is a good place to find Kittlitz's plover all year except the winter months of December to February inclusive. The city is denuded of this species then. They undertake a short distance migration south probably no further than the Senegal River delta where records show them all year round.

slender-billed gull at central lake

Earlier I had walked past the central lake. It is best not to loiter too long here as it is ear-marked for the new Senegal embassy and patrolled.

moorhen at central lake

I finally managed a photo of one of the common moorhen which are always to be found there. it is one of only three places i know in the city where they can be seen.

black-winged stilt

It is the only place in the city where black-winged stilt can be guaranteed on every visit.

speckled pigeon

It's also a good place to find speckled pigeon in numbers.

black-tailed godwit

The west Nouakchott pools are midway between the central lake and the fishing port. They are undoubtedly the best place in the city to see the largest numbers of waders.  I really don't know where the black-tailed godwit and the two curlew sandpiper there were coming or going. It was an odd time for migrants. Over-summering is a possibility especially as the latter birds had virtually no summer plumage.

plenty of common ringed plover

Common ringed plover were once again numerous on site. I broke the e-bird filter which thinks it is rare to see three or more in June. Here were 23. All observations add to knowledge.

The next blog looks at my birding in the city over the weekend of June 16th and 17th. To my great surprise I added two species to my Mauritanian list. The birding couldn't have been different actually and psychologically. I went on my summer break on a high.

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