Wednesday 25 August 2010

Troublesome thick knees and trouble-free terns

water thick-knee, Warang

When you go to Senegal and you see a thick-knee you expect it to be a Senegal thick-knee. Well I saw my first close up of thick knees at Warang (seen at great distance at Technopole). This is an open large lagoon with muddy flats next to the sea.

I was a bit perturbed when I saw a group of 5 birds. Only one looked like a Senegal thick-knee. The other four looked more like water thick knee.

My handbook says of the water thick-knee "greyish wing panel bordered by narrow white bar highlighted by black above". It says of the Senegal thick-knee "broad pale greyish wingbar bordered by a narrow black bar". Well for my money the birds I saw matched the water thick-knee description. In addition the water thick-knee picture in the book matches the face of the birds I saw.

zoom in on Water thick-knee, Warang

The face pattern of the bird in the book and the ones I saw shows a white strip which curves under the eye being strong and not diffuse like a Senegal thick knee. Now I am just a Western Palearctic birder who jumped over the Sahara for a break but I am quite confident about which is the better match! 

Below is a bird taken 3 days later at Pink Lake north of Dakar. I gave this one the benefit of the doubt- I think its a Senegal thick-knee - there is a much less apparent white top edge to the wing panel and the white curve under the eye is diffuse. But its not what I would call a "narrow" black bar!

Senegal thick knee, Pink Lake

I hope someone can explain my observations. Certainly Moussa agrees with me that many of the birds were water thick-knee and yet they are not really well recorded in Senegal (a case of very few birders actual record in the rainy season?) Or am I just not aware in the big variations in plumage?

Moving on. The reason we stopped at Warang was not because of thick-knees. They were a fortunate sighting. We stopped because the lagoon showed a lot of tern activity. In particular we saw many flights of the royal tern from the sea - backwards and forwards- to the far landward end the lagoon.

These birds look like a slightly larger version of lesser crested tern I see in Libya. 

Royal tern, Warang

We were only momentarily distracted from walking to the far end of the lagoon by a malachite kingfisher (too shy to be photographed well). This was another "lifer" for me.|

Many tens of royal tern and caspian tern, Warang 

When we got to the back of the lagoon we saw many tens of both royal tern and Caspian tern (and few heron and white faced whistling duck too) until wild dogs disturbed the flocks. 

Back at the seaward end of the lagoon I viewed my first striated heron of the trip. And in among the terns were a few much smaller black tern - a bird I had'nt seen since I left Azerbaijan. 

striated (green backed) heron

After leaving the lagoon, we hadn't got very far travelling back towards Dakar when we saw a pair of Abyssinian roller on the wires. The male is very distinctive. The female I can best describe with reference to the European roller (you can tell I bird in the western palearctic!). Its similar to a European roller except the dark bits are a beautiful electric blue.

male Abyssinian roller

female Abyssinian roller

Another eventful day. However it wasn't quite finished see my next blog for my first introduction to a local sparrow.

List of birds seen at Warang (thanks to Moussa Diop)

Pink-backed pelican
Long-tailed cormorant
Cattle egret
Striated heron
Western reef egret
Little Egret
Great white Egret
Pied crow
Black kite
Spur-winged plover
Black-winged stilt
White faced whistling duck
Caspian tern
Royal tern
Black tern
Laughing dove
Little bee-eater
Crested lark
Common bulbul
Pied Kingfisher
Malachite Kingfisher
Abyssinian roller
Black headed weaver
Senegal thick knee
Water thick knee

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