Friday 1 September 2017

Back at the waste water site

We have a long weekend this week for Eid. I took advantage of this yesterday with a Thursday morning visit to the waste water site north of the city.

There was plenty of passage and I recorded the most species I ever have at this site.

The first bird seen was a Namaqua dove which is resident. 

Namaqua dove

Moments later the fun started. I spotted a a hepatic (brown) common cuckoo. Sadly, I moved towards it too quickly and it disappeared not to be traced again. This form of cuckoo is quite common in the Middle East but much rarer in West Africa apparently.

I walked on along the south side of the avenue of trees which run west to east towards the waste water. This is my habitual route. It allows me to see towards the trees with the sun behind me. I save going under the trees until the way back when the temperatures have risen. 

spotted flycatcher

A spotted flycatcher was another sign of passage and I had barely walked 30 metres.

first year willow warbler

The first of many willow warbler was a bright first-year bird. I counted  at least 20 willow warbler by the end and yet ebird has this species down as rare in Mauritania at this time. I had to add the species to the list. Indeed more generally ebird doesn't think many types of warbler come through Mauritania in August. 

female black-crowned sparrow-lark

On my walk, as usual,  I deviated from the avenue of trees to get to the water's edge. Just before the first water is a grassy area where I can see larks and hopefully pipits and wagtails later in the year.

This time I only came across a female-type black-crowned sparrow lark.

On the way there, a European roller flew over. This was the second really good bird which escaped my camera.

spur-winged lapwing

Even before I reached the water's edge, the spur-winged lapwing had raised the alarm.

This caused a chain reaction with some common redshank panicking loudly.

black-tailed godwit

Other waders have a more placid temperament. I observed my first black-tailed godwit since retruning from my summer break. 

blue-cheeked bee-eater

Walking round the water, allowed me good views of the site's blue-cheeked bee-eater.

glossy ibis

Once again, the site held glossy ibis. This time there were two.

common ringed plover

On this visit, there were no Kentish plover or little ringed plover. A single common ringed plover was in the muddy areas. They can be many of all three species at different times in the muddy and sandy areas next to the main water.

western bonelli's warbler

By far the most numerous warbler was willow warbler, both in the trees and in the euphorbia bushes near the water. One exception in the bushes was a lone western bonelli's warbler. This was one looks to be late as that warbler was the most numerous three weeks ago.

purple heron

There were no grey heron this time but there was a purple heron. It was the first time I had seen one in the Nouakchott area.


At the eastern side of the site are three or four smaller pools. Here I finally caught up with an extremly wary whimbrel. At this eastern side, I normally turn round to walk westward along the avenue of trees. This is when I will go under the trees in places.

I have just turned to head west, when a great spotted cuckoo flew over. This was the third good bird of the day which escpared my camera and wasn't seen again. 

pied flycatcher 1

In among the trees it became obvious that several pied flycatcher were on site.

pied flycatcher 2

From the tail pattern, none of them were candidate Atlas flycatcher or even the Iberian sub-species of pied flycatcher. These birds most likely came from the UK or France.

willow warbler 1

There is a small pool actually in the avenue of trees. This continues to be a good place to stop and patiently look for warblers to appear. Willow warbler were well seen and close up.

willow warbler 2

There was at least one European reed warbler and three western olivaceous warbler there too.

western olivaceous warbler 1

The longer I stayed and without moving, the more the warblers came out. A western olivaceous warbler gave the best views of all.

western olivaceous warbler 2

I was checking all the willow warbler for the possibility of Iberian chiffchaff. All the population of this species apparently winters in West Africa yet there have been very few positive identifications.

It has a leg colour intermediate between a typical willow warbler and common chiffchaff. It has intermediate face pattern and wing length too though in all cases, on average it is closer to common chiffchaff.

Apparently it has much less buff tones on its upper parts than nominate common chiffchaff. It often has a distinctive bright yellow aspect to the front of its supercilium.

probable willow warbler 1

I understand it always has a yellow undertail and the belly is usually lighter than surrounding underparts.

The bird in the pictures above and below was a candidate for Iberian chiffchaff to me. However I really don't like the apparently pale undertail. It is in all probability a willow warbler with dark legs.

probable willow warbler 2

Having said this, either they overfly Mauritania-Senegal-The Gambia or the species is being overlooked.

Continuing my walk under the trees, a nightingale was observed. I find this bird is much easier to see on passage than in its breeding areas.


It was another good day at the waste water site. If the water stays as large an area as it is at the moment and doesn't get poisoned, the next few months could be very interesting.

Species seen at the waster water site on August 31st
Great White Pelican  
Purple Heron  
Glossy Ibis  
Black-winged Stilt  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Common Ringed Plover  
Black-tailed Godwit  
Little Stint  
Common Sandpiper  
Wood Sandpiper  
Common Redshank  
Speckled Pigeon  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Great Spotted Cuckoo  
Common Cuckoo  
Pallid Swift  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
European Roller  
Woodchat Shrike  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Willow Warbler 
Western Bonelli's Warbler  
Western Olivaceous Warbler  
Eurasian Reed Warbler  
Western Orphean Warbler  
Common Whitethroat  
Spotted Flycatcher  
Common Nightingale  
European Pied Flycatcher 
House Sparrow  

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