Tuesday 29 August 2017

Away from Keur Macene

Keur Macene is three hours drive away from Nouakchott but it is only 200 kilometres distance. This is because the road south of Nouakchott is truly appalling. We got two flat tyres on our journey on Saturday.

Although the entrance to Diawling National Park is only 30 minutes further on from Keur Macene, the two places are connected by a road which is almost as bad as the main Nouakchott-Rosso road. This makes Diawling just too far for a day trip from Nouakchott even with the 6 a.m start we made. 

There are a few large water birds that only Diawling National Park or the area around the border crossing at Diema can give. These are most notably lesser flamingo and pink-backed pelican. Neither are yet on my country list.

The question was, other than these two, can Keur Macene provide the same water birds as Diawling? Well, from yesterday's blog you can see I saw no yellow-billed stork, Marabou stork or giant kingfisher. Of course we could just have been unlucky. So they are still not yet on my country list.

However, looking at woodland birds we did much better.

I reported on the dideric cuckoo, seen on the way out, in the last blog.

On the way back home, we stopped three times within 15 kilometres of Keur Macene at places which looked like the most natural woodland habitat.

white-throated bee-eater

The best stop was 13 kilometres out of the town. However before then we had stopped 9 kilometres out. A typical bird was white-throated bee-eater there but the special one was dark chanting goshawk. We flushed a pair as we walked around.

dark chanting goshawk

This is classically one of the target woodland birds of visitors to Diawling. It was my first sighting in Mauritania.

beautiful sunbird

In the woodland at the 13 kilometre marker, the diversity of birds was good. There was a high density of beautiful sunbird. This appears to be the favoured host for Klaas cuckoo in Mauritania. Indeed we saw two cuckoos fighting over head but which moved off too fast for us to be assured that they were Klaas cuckoo rather than Dideric cuckoo. The former is extremely likely but not at a high enough confidence level for me to add to the list.

buffalo weaver

Also at the same place were buffalo weaver, Vitelline masked weaver and the only red-billed quelea of the trip. All three species were in breeding plumage.

Buffalo weaver was one of three different essentially black birds observed at there. The other two were black bush robin and northern ant-eater chat.

Tawny-flanked prinia

We had been hearing prinia calls all day in different places. It was only here that I finally saw one. It was the expected tawny-flanked prinia.

More generally, small passerines were difficult to locate all day. Two others seen were northern crombec and a migrant spectacled warbler.

greater blue-eared starling

The dominant starling of this area is greater blue-eared starling.

grey-headed kingfisher 1

Arguably the best bird in woodland at the 13 kilometre mark was a grey-headed kingfisher. It is known that this bird breeds in countries further south and pushes up into Mauritania as a dispersal in the rainy season. No breeding apparently takes place here. This bird made number 267 on my Mauritanian list.

grey-headed kingfisher

Based on the sightings of dideric cuckoo, grey-headed kingfisher and dark chanting goshawk, it appears it is not necessay to go as far south as Diawling for most of the National Park's woodland birds. Some large water birds and small land-based passerines such as quailfinch and African stonechat are another issue.

Overall, it had been a successful day and much was learned about the range of some birds.

Species seen North East of Keur Macene
Dark Chanting-Goshawk    
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Dideric Cuckoo  
Western Red-billed Hornbill  
Grey-headed Kingfisher  
White-throated Bee-eater  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Abyssinian Roller  
Woodchat Shrike  
Pied Crow  
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Northern Crombec  
Spectacled Warbler  
Black Scrub-Robin  
Northern Anteater-Chat  
Greater Blue-eared Starling  
Yellow-billed Oxpecker  
Beautiful Sunbird  
White-billed Buffalo-Weaver  
Vitelline Masked-Weaver  
Red-billed Quelea  

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