Wednesday 18 October 2017

Yet another success at the waste water site

On Saturday October 7th, the previous record number of species at the waste water site was beaten by one. There were 51 species observed. This is a very large number for a small site away from the sea. It speaks volumes for what a migrant trap the place has become.

Almost straight from the start, there was good birding. As well as warblers foraging in the dead branches near where the car dropped me, I soon spotted the first of two wryneck.


I lingered at this western edge of the avenue of trees for a long time. White wagtail and northern wheatear were present in the more open areas away from the cut branches.

white wagtail

Yet again for the fourth week running in the Nouakchott area, there were European pied flycatcher passing through in numbers.
European pied flycatcher

I don't normally photograph the ever-present crested lark but finding one with such a juicy catch was too good an opportunity to miss.

crested lark

Also for the fourth week, spotted flycatcher were also still coming through.

I have no idea whether some of these flycatchers linger or whether these are new birds each time.  Mauritania is still well north of both species' wintering grounds so they may well be fresh birds on each occasion.

spotted flycatcher

The story is different with hoopoe. Nouakchott is at the northern edge of their wintering range and the birds I am seeing may well stay.


Common redstart numbers started low in late September but became numerous by early October. Most of them prefer to keep close to the avenue of trees.

common redstart 1

Going inside the mini woodland created by the avenue is where I am most likely to see them.

common redstart 2

Once again there were large numbers of European turtle dove present. I can't really count the exact number as they are so flighty and sometimes fly to the far end of site when approached.

European turtle dove

As is my routnie now, I don't get to the water until I have comprehensively looked at the western side of the avenue of trees. On October 7th that was two hours after I arrived.


The types of waders were still pretty much the same as they had been for the previous month.

marsh harrier

However, the birds of prey at the site were a little different. At one stage there were five marsh harrier. Three of them moved on southward rapidly but two remained all session. In the distance I picked out an osprey. I think it was just passing and the pools were of no consequence to it.

A common buzzard was more significant. It hovered over the pools for a short time before moving on. Common buzzard are quite rare in Mauritania. The only other one I have seen was at the same place and at the same time of year, last year.

ruff 1

Near the water, I reviewed the ruff as has become a habit over the past few weeks at this site.

I couldn't make any of the young female ruff into anything more exotic.

ruff 2

Close to the ruff, I found another bird of prey. This time it was a kestrel and it was sitting on a small bush right over the water. Kestrel are not resident to Noaukchott or most of Mauritania further south. Indeed I have seen a few more lanner in the country than kestrel. So this was passage bird. This must be a good spot for tired migrants and potential food sources though I didn't see any predatory action from the kestrel.


I moved away from the water briefly to track a common redstart with odd behaviour. It was away from trees in very short scrub. It was out in the open much more than is typical. 

common redstart 1

However, I simply could not make it into anything else.

common redstart 2

After this short detour I returned to the water.

marsh harrier

A female marsh harrier was flying ominously overhead.

purple heron

It wasn't just small birds that bolted. A purple heron went up.

European spoonbill

Three European spoonbill which I hadn't noticed before, reacted as well.

A glossy ibis joined them. Indeed ibises often have a preference to associate with spoonbills when theirown kind aren't around. For one moment, I thought the foursome were going to fly straight at the marsh harrier by mistake. They survived their mistake.


Though duck won't take to water here. It's too polluted for them. Nevertheless, they are still attracted to the site on passage.

This time there were garganey and teal.

common snipe

Common snipe was the last of the more interesting waders I saw before I finally moved away from the main pools.

At the eastern end of the site are some minor pools which have more cover near them than the main pools. They tend to be rich in warblers. However on walking towards the minor pools, I observed a whinchat.


In one small corner of the minor pools, I decided to just stand still for half an hour or so and see what would come out.

I saw three European reed warbler, a western olivaceuos warbler, a sedge warbler and two ortolan bunting without moving.

garden warbler 1

However my favourite sighting at this spot was a garden warbler. It was fearless and came up right close two or three times. Sometimes, there are advantages in doing nothing but staying still.

garden warbler 2

It is the closest and longest I have ever managed to see one.

garden warbler 3

Like the common redstart mentioned earlier, I found its behaviour out in the open and foraging low rather odd but I am not complaining.

garden warbler 4

I was out in the sun for well over four hours and as normal I walked back westward to my car pick up point under the avenue of trees. Not only does this give me relief from the heat, it gives me more birding possibilities with a final change of habitat.

This time it was especially successful. I flushed two red-necked nightjar. They were tricky birds. They simply would not allow me to get close but identification was relatively straightforward. They are bigger than European nightjar and the white flashes are the wing are even more pronounced. When they land the red neck is easily apparent too.

This was an uplifting end to the session. It was also an addition to my country list.

Species seen at the waste water site on October 7th 2017
Eurasian Teal  
Grey Heron  
Purple Heron  
Little Egret  
Glossy Ibis  
Eurasian Spoonbill  
Western Marsh Harrier  
Common Buzzard  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Common Ringed Plover  
Whimbrel (European)  
Black-tailed Godwit  
Little Stint  
Common Snipe  
Common Sandpiper  
Wood Sandpiper  
Common Redshank  
European Turtle Dove  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Red-necked Nightjar  
Eurasian Hoopoe   
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Eurasian Wryneck  
Common Kestrel  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Sand Martin  
Barn Swallow  
Willow Warbler  
Common Chiffchaff  
Western Olivaceous Warbler  
Sedge Warbler  
Eurasian Reed Warbler  
Garden Warbler  
Spotted Flycatcher  
European Pied Flycatcher  
Common Redstart  
Northern Wheatear (Greenland)  
Northern Wheatear (Eurasian)  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
White Wagtail 
Ortolan Bunting  
House Sparrow  

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