Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The way to Aleg

On Saturday September 30th, 6 days later than originally planned, Mohamed Vall and I made the long day trip to Aleg.

We started soon after dawn and made a short stop 90 minutes later just north west of Idini. We chose a place with more vegetation than surrounding areas otherwise it was not expected to be special.

There were warblers including lesser whitethroat and garden warbler in the shrubs. There was also a Rufous bush-robin. However the most significant finding was white-throated bee-eater.

white-throated bee-eater

It had rained in the area a week before and we suspect the white-throated bee-eater moved north in response. Eitherway, it is the furthest north than I have seen this species in Mauritania.


cream-coloured courser

Apart from a pit stop in Boutlimit, we didn't stop again until Kendolek. Kendolek is a village midway between Boutlimit and Aleg. More to the point, Mohamed Vall had learned from friends that it had a watering hole which attracted birds.

We explored the green and treed valley first before coming back to the watering hole which is close to the village.

In the valley we counted no fewer than 26 cream-coloured courser presumably attracted by the lush green grass growing after the week before's rains.

Most were resting in the shade of bushes and reluctant to move anywhere.

black kite (yellow-billed)

No much else was interesting in the valley but just before we reached the watering hole, we briefly spotted an Egyptain vulture. We though we had lost it but we caught up with it again at the pool.

It was not the only bird of prey there. There were four yellow-billed kite present.

The trees surrounding the water were good birding. Birds included a pair of African grey woodpecker. This is still the only woodpecker I have seen in the country. It is most widespread by far.

Sudanese golden sparrow

Other birds at the pool ranged from a flock of Sudanese golden sparrow to a migrant nightingale.

It was gone midday and it was already hot. We pressed on and next stop was Lake Aleg.

The obvious thing to notice was that the lake was huge. I don't think it was normal size for that time of year. There were reports a month before of a seriously large rainfall in the Aleg and Boghe areas which cost several lives. One much less serious consequence was the size of the lake.

We attempted to get close to the lake from the south side which is forested. All the forest was under water. If we had had a boat or even good wading boots, I suspect the birding in there would have been superb. However we had neither.

European turtle dove

We had to make do with walking around the muddy edges trying to look inward.

Birds easily seen included European turtle dove and black-headed lapwing. The latter is a southern bird associated with wet areas and moving north with the rains.

black-headed lapwing

We had no choice but to travel through the town and approach the lake again, this time from the north.

The northern approach is almost flat and treeless. As soon as we arrived at the north side we could see that the lake was very large. The problem was that we couldn't get close to the water's edge without going through tens of metres of muddy or very shallow water.

Even with a scope we could only make out the larger birds. There were clearly plenty of both glossy ibis and sacred ibis. Two great white egret were clear too.

A large group of black-winged stilt were the closest birds of all. There appeared to be a small number of storks but we couldn't see them well and they wouldn't fly our way even with marsh harrier occassionally stirring things up.

white faced whistling duck and fulvous whistling duck

I could see a large group of ducks but they were directly into the sun. So I elected to wade into the water to get closer. After a difficult 40 minutes I got close enough to be sure that they contained a large number of fulvous whistling duck as well as white-faced whistling duck and three spur-winged geese.

Fulvous whistling duck was an addition to my country list. It is highly localised in West Africa for reasons I don't understand. However it made the trip worthwhile for that bird alone.

Given how warm the water was and my lack of protection. I have bought anti-bilhazria pills which I will use at first sign of illness. I probably wouldn't risk this sort of wading again.


possible Seebohm's wheatear

One of the last birds seen was another difficult wheatear. The amount of grey on the back makes me support a Seebohm's wheatear rather than black-eared wheatear or desert wheatear. I didn't see it well enough to determine this one with certainty. I will say however that mud flats would favour black-throated northern wheatear (aka Seebohm's) over desert wheatear.

The trip back was long and it was way past midnight before we arrived back in Nouakchott. 


North West of Idini
White-throated Bee-eater  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Willow Warbler  
Cricket Longtail  
Garden Warbler  
Lesser Whitethroat  
Rufous Bush-Robin  

Kendolek
Egyptian Vulture  
Black Kite (Yellow-billed)  
Common Redshank      
Cream-coloured Courser     
Namaqua Dove  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Grey-headed Kingfisher  
White-throated Bee-eater  
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark  
Willow Warbler  
Common Nightingale  
European Pied Flycatcher  
Northern Wheatear  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  

Lake Aleg
White-faced Whistling-Duck  
Fulvous Whistling-Duck  
Spur-winged Goose  
Grey Heron (Grey)  
Great White Egret  
Glossy Ibis  
Sacred Ibis  
Western Marsh Harrier  
Black-winged Stilt  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Black-headed Lapwing  
European Turtle Dove  
Laughing Dove  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
White-throated Bee-eater  
Lanner Falcon  
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Willow Warbler  
Black Bush-Robin  
Rufous Bush-Robin      
European Pied Flycatcher  
Northern Wheatear  
Desert Wheatear  
Greater Blue-eared Starling  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  
Red-billed Quelea  


1 comment:

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