Thursday, 16 November 2017

First mallard and other good birds

Last Saturday I went to the waste water site north of Nouakchott once again. It is now my most regular site and it has been a long time since I have failed to see at least forty species there.

Saturday was no exception. Once again it provided an addition to my Mauritanian list too.

This time it was a mallard.

mallard swimming

Mallard is extremely uncommon south of the Sahara in West Africa. Records in Mauritania have been restricted to autumn in Nouadhibou and Banc d'Arguin and winter in the Senegal River delta. It is a vagrant elsewhere in West Africa.

mallard resting

It was not the only duck at the main water area. There were three northern pintail and about 15 common teal

The mallard, however, was not mixing with them. It was actually less timid and stayed long after the other ducks had taken to the air. 

northern pintail

For the first couple of hours at the site, the weather was very dusty and visibility was very poor. However I could see, through the haze, that one of the northern pintail was more reluctant to fly than the others. I wonder if it was ill or just had a different temperament. 

Before concentrating on the ducks, I spent time observing the waders.

kentish plover

Kentish plover was the most numerous wader for the first time since parts of last winter.

thin dunlin

One dunlin caused me identification headaches. It was thinner than usual and made me consider curlew sandpiper. However it didn't have long legs and the supercilium was weak. Furthermore it's bill wasn't exceptionally long. 


Ruff were present once again.

litte ringed plover

Little ringed plover is much rarer at the site than common ringed plover. This time two of the former and around ten of the later were observed.

ringed plover

I don't recall seeing any gulls at the site before. A black-headed gull arrived and left within five minutes.

black-headed gull

White wagtail will be around all winter. I haven't seen any yellow wagtail here recently but pipits are still coming and going.

red-throated pipit

I saw one red-throated pipit and two tree pipit which was exactly the same count as two weeks ago. i doubt they were the same birds though.

three blue-cheeked bee-eater

Another similarity with two weeks ago was a wave of blue-cheeked bee-eater coming through on passage. When they passed through, I was left with the same count of around six blue-cheeked bee-eater which have been local since the summer.

namaqua dove

No turtle dove seem to be left from the autumn migration. The only doves seen this time were laughing dove and Namaqua dove.


The diversity of passerines was still high. A rather battered looking whinchat was found.

northern wheatear

Both black-eared wheatear and northern wheatear were on site. One beautiful male black-eared wheatear escaped my camera sadly.

The mix of warblers has been constantly changing all autumn. No garden warbler or willow warbler were seen this time.

It has reached the stage of the year where most warbler species now seen are those which can stay all winter.

There were many common chiffchaff. Some birds were almost certainly Iberian chiffchaff

Concernig the latter species, it now appears that it does winter in south west Mauritania as confirmed in the Atlas of Mauritanian birds and contrary to other sources which say this happens only in northern Senegal and Northern Mali. 

Iberian chiffchaff 1

The bird in this two pictures is believed to be an Iberian chiffchaff as identified by two Spain based birders. 

The leg colour is intermediate between a typical common chiffchaff and typical willow warbler as is the primary projection. Plumage colours and facial pattern are good for Iberian chiffchaff too.

Iberian chiffchaff

One or two European reed warbler still remain. However the second most common warbler at the moment is now blackcap.

blackcap 1

It is easy to see this species out in the open though they are a little more cautious than the two types of chiffchaff.


While looking at the warblers in one spot with low bushes near mud and shallow water, a very young Fulvous babbler appeared briefly. I have little doubt that the species breeds at the site and probably inside the thick bushes at that spot.

young Fulvous babbler 1

This bird looked like a fledgling.

young fulvous babbler 2

As always I went back towards the car under the canopy of the avenue of trees. Here I saw European pied flycatcher and several common redstart. There was also a sub-alpine warbler and one sardinian warbler

European pied flycatcher inside the trees

Sadly the European scops owl I had been seeing was now just a pile of feathers. It had been attacked and eaten either by a cat or bird of prey. The attrition rate of this species in winter was known to be high when I birded in Oman. It looks like it might be here too.

I won't let this sad event detract from an otherwise good birding session.

Species seen at the waste water site
Northern Pintail  
Eurasian Teal  
Glossy Ibis  
Common Buzzard  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Kentish Plover  
Common Ringed Plover  
Little Ringed Plover  
Little Stint  
Common Snipe  
Wood Sandpiper  
Black-headed Gull  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Eurasian Wryneck  
Common Kestrel  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Crested Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Common House Martin  
Common Chiffchaff
Iberian Chiffchaff  
Eurasian Reed Warbler  
Eurasian Blackcap  
Subalpine Warbler  
Sardinian Warbler  
Fulvous Babbler  
Bluethroat (White-spotted)  
European Pied Flycatcher  
Common Redstart  
Northern Wheatear  
Black-eared Wheatear  
White Wagtail 
Tree Pipit  
Red-throated Pipit  
House Sparrow 

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