Sunday, 15 October 2017

Bonanza at waste water site

On Saturday September 23th, I set off to the waste water site again. This has become my local patch since F-Nord lake became compromised by water being pumped away.

To the contrary, the waste water site is getting bigger as more tankers turn up to pour their waste water away.

Of course, this site has much dirtier water than F-Nord lake but flies can attract birds too. 

While I was waiting for my driver to take me to the site, I looked over a few trees in my road for the illusive Iberian chiffchaff which had been a target species for me in September.

You may recall that all the population must fly Mauritania to reach their wintering grounds. And yet precious few have been seen anywhere outside spring and summer.

willow warbler outside my house

There were willow warbler but nothing that looked like the chiffchaff.

northern wheatear

I knew it was going to be a good day as there was so much bird activity right where the car dropped me at the waste water site.

There were northern wheatear in the semi desert around the site.

house sparrow

Willow warbler, European reed warbler, garden warbler and house sparrow were making forays out of deep cover into the piles of cut branches. Of course the house sparrow were the least shy.

European turtle dove

This site is clearly very attractive to migrating European turtle dove. Visit after visit during the autumn they have been present in numbers though usually really shy.

southern grey shrike (algeriensis) 

Another less well know migrant is the what I believe is algeriensis sub-species of southern grey shrike. I see a few throughout the winter in the Nouakchott area. These birds are dark like algeriensis but have a slight hint of an eyebrow which is not shown in the major European guidebook. What is certain is they are not the local sub-species which has almost white lower parts.

Namaqua dove

There are very few resident birds at the site. One is Namaqua dove.

spotted flycatcher

Wave after wave of both spotted flycatcher and European pied flycatcher keep coming through.

spotted flycatcher in flight

No obvious atlas flycatcher has been seen. I suspect I will need to wait until the spring to find one. They are more difficult to pick out in non-breeding plumage which they have at this time of year.

European pied flycatcher

It is hard to believe that I failed to see even one garden warbler in my first year in Mauritania. Yet I have been picking them up on every trip to the waste water site since my first one on September 9th. They can be overlooked but not once one makes an effort to look hard at the warblers.

garden warbler

Further on among the walk down the avenue of trees, I got even better views of a spotted flycatcher and a European pied flycatcher.

spotted flycatcher

Not only are the pied flycatcher worth looking at for atlas flycatcher but spotted flycatcher are worth looking for the poorly marked Mediterranean flycatcher. However ebird and Clements do not yet classify the latter as a separate species. It must surely come this way to winter though.

European pied flycatcher

There was a huge number of willow warbler at the site on September 23th. However I was after Iberian chiffchaff which probably migrates through at the same time. I have been searching for this species on every visit during the autumn.

Iberian chiffchaff 1

I was armed this time with a taped call. At one place two birds seemed to come closer when the tape was played. I got photographs of one. The first picture is a bit blurred.

Iberian chiffchaff 2

I submitted the photos to Bird Forum as I had done twice before. The first two times, the verdict was willow warbler. However for this bird the feedback was that it was indeed an Iberian chiffchaff.

This species simply had to be here. It migrates through Mauritania to winter just soth of the Senegal River.

European turtle dove

All of these sightings that day and I still hadn't arrived at the pools. More European turtle dove distracted me.

common redstart

A detour under some trees delayed me further. The flycatchers were sharing the low levels with common redstart.

white wagtail

Finally I arrived at the pools for a first encounter. Yellow wagtail and white wagtail fringed the water on the adjacent wetland.

A very confiding collared pratincole was a pleasant surprise.

collared pratincole 1

This is the first one I have seen in the Noaukchott area.

collared pratincole 2

There is a muddy area on the western edge of the pools. This is usually good for ringed plover.

common ringed plover

Over the water is most likely place to see the few summer-breeding blue-cheeked bee-eater. Back on September 23rd, there was no sign of any passage from north of the Sahara. The behaviour of these birds was residential.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

I got my usual reception from the spur-winged lapwing. They always make me feel unwelcome with their noise and vague attempts to mob me.

spur-winged lapwing

This was the day when I saw the largest number of glossy ibis at the site that I have ever seen.

glossy ibis

After a first pass at the pools, I ventured out into near-by scrub land. There was a wheatear I struggled to identify. It appears to be a Seebohm's wheatear (also known as Black-throated northern wheatear).

male Seebohm's wheatear

Most of the population of Seebohm's wheatear winter in southern Mauritania or northern Senegal. However most birds are likely to be mistaken for a desert wheatear or black-eared wheatear.

male Seebohm's wheatear 2

The bill in a seebohm's wheatear has been described as thin like a hooded wheatear. This is a helpful feature. I also think I can see considerable grey in the back of this bird. The jizz doesn't match the other two species either.

sedge warbler

I don't particulrly enjoy seeking out rare warblers on days when there are so many about or when it is hot. It's seriously hard work looking through many tens to find the Iberian chiffchaff or in the case of sedge warbler looking for aquatic warbler. The Senegal River delta is a major wintering place for European-breeding aquatic warbler so some must come this way. I studied this sedge warbler for several minutes. This was not least because its central crown had paler and stronger streaks than most sedge warbler. However I could n't make these into a single strong pale crown stripe. The overall upper parts colour was too dark for aquatic warbler as well.

willow warbler

I continued to search the willow warbler not realising I had already found a probable Iberian chffchaff.

Before I returned to the car, I made one more pass by the pools.


I picked up a whinchat near the water.


Good views of some dunlin didn't lead to an identification of anything rare.

sub-alpine warbler

At a bush near the water was sub-alpine warbler.

wood sandpiper

Once again a review of the female and juvenile ruff didn't lead to spotting any similar looking American vagrants.

dunlin (l) and ruff (r)

The pools are getting larger. If this continues and the cover keeps growing this place is going to be extremely good birding into the future.

the pools

Species seen at the waste water site on September 23rd

Grey Heron 
Purple Heron  
Glossy Ibis
Western Marsh Harrier  
Black-winged Stilt  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Kentish Plover  
Common Ringed Plover  
Curlew Sandpiper  
Little Stint  
Common Snipe  
Common Sandpiper  
Common Greenshank  
Wood Sandpiper  
Common Redshank  
Collared Pratincole  
European Turtle Dove 
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Lanner Falcon  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Willow Warbler  
Common Chiffchaff
Iberian Chiffchaff
Western Olivaceous Warbler  
Sedge Warbler  
Eurasian Reed Warbler  
Eurasian Blackcap  
Garden Warbler  
Western Orphean Warbler  
Subalpine Warbler  
Spectacled Warbler  
Spotted Flycatcher  
Common Nightingale  
European Pied Flycatcher  
Common Redstart  
Northern Wheatear     
Western Yellow Wagtail  
White Wagtail     
Tree Pipit  
Ortolan Bunting  
House Sparrow  

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