Friday 9 March 2018

Akjoujt to Atar

On the way to Zouerat last weekend, Mohamed Vall and I stayed at Atar on Friday night and again on Saturday night on the way back.

We managed a birding session on the west side of the town on the Sunday morning before the main journey back to Nouakchott.

Twenty-two species were seen. These are listed at the end of the blog.

black bush robin

Black bush robin were singing and paired off. The song is every bit as beautiful as European blackbird.

record shot of eastern olivaceous warbler

It only took fifteen minutes of birding before I made an addition to my country list. An Eastern olivaceous warbler was hopping around in a tall tamerisk bush at the side of a dry river bed.

I have seen tens of western olivaceous warbler in Nouakchott but eastern olivaceous warbler is only seen further east in the country. Actually eastern olivaceous warbler is a misnomer. While 90% of the population breeds in Eastern Europe and the Near East, 10% breed in North Africa away from the Atlantic.

It is on average a shorter distant migrant than western olivaceous warbler so birds can winter in places like Atar.

The constant dipping of its tail helped separate it easily.

roosting laughing dove

There were not as many species observed as in April last year on my previous visit but then passage was in full flow. Doves were very common this time and laughing dove in particular.

On the last visit we didn't seen a single house bunting in the town (though we did outside). This time they were everywhere.

house bunting

White-crowned wheatear were plentiful last time and again this.

young white-crowned wheatear

Some of both the white-crowned wheatear and the house bunting were very tame.

house bunting

We saw bar-tailed lark again. However, it was two crested lark that took my attention for a while.

crested lark 1

Crested lark are not at all common in Adrar. I have read in apparently authoritive sources that the dominant clade of crested lark in Mauritania is relatively long billed. These birds were not and that assumption is clearly too simple.

crested lark 2

Despite the short bill, no other characteristic fitted thekla lark which is a rare visitor to Mauritania.

crested lark

We managed some birding in the area on the way up on the Friday evening just before dusk. Indeed the stop at the wadi east of Yagref was our only stop that day.

The wadi is just below the Adrar hills. Desert lark which we had only seen up in the hills in April was down in the wadi in March. I suspect some altitudinal movement with temperature.

desert lark

Two species normally associated with further south were present. These were Namaqua dove and blue-naped mousebird.

Namaqua dove

Blue-naped mousebird was reported in the last blog even further north in Choum where it has made it into the western palearctic.

Along with the discovery of African grey woodpecker at Ouadane, these two species draw hard-core western palearctic listers to Adrar as the only place in that ec0-region where these species are found.

blue-naped mousebird

Nearer to Nouakchott is Akjoujt. It was not visited on the way up but was on the way back.

On the Sunay, we stopped at the east side allotments for the first time. These watered parcels of land surely have great potential as a migrant trap in passage.

barn swallow

They were a magnet for early migrating barn swallow.

woodchat shrike

A migrating woodchat shrike had found the place too.


A more local southern grey shrike was also observed.

southern grey shrike

A small number of sardinian warbler and chiffchaff were present.

Our last stop on the way back was a large woodland 30 kilometres south of Akjoujt. It had been good birding a previous visit last April and again in October. However, it appears to be much better in the passage seasons. This time Sudanese golden sparrow and European collared dove were the only numerous birds. A tawny pipit was most significant migrant.

tawny pipit (courtesy of Mohamed Vall)

It was an ambitious trip. Going to Zouerat and back in two and a half days meant we had to make some hard decisions. We got enough right and I got two additions to my Mauritanian list. Only two species remain before I break the elusive 300. I am not sure anyone has done that in Mauritania before.

Special thanks are due to Mohamed Vall who did all the driving.

Species seen at Atar on 4th March
Feral Pigeon  
Collared Dove  
Laughing Dove  
Blue-naped Mousebird  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Woodchat Shrike  
Brown-necked Raven  
Bar-tailed Lark  
Crested Lark  
African Rock Martin  
Barn Swallow  
Red-rumped Swallow  
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler  
Lesser Whitethroat  
Fulvous Babbler  
Black Scrub-Robin  
White-crowned Wheatear  
Northern Wheatear  
White Wagtail   
House Bunting  
House Sparrow  
Sudan Golden Sparrow 

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