Friday 3 September 2010

Lac Rose (Pink Lake)

greater Flamingo, Pink Lake

Pink Lake is a popular tourist day-trip destination about 50 kilometres north of Dakar. Its popularity has declined recently since the road there has degraded recently and  is now one of the worst I have ever been on.   This is thanks to months and years of convoys of very heavy lorries sending tons of sand from a local quarry to the city. 

The lake is very large. We chose to investigate the side away from the tourist haunts.

Two of the first birds seen were a pair of greater flamingo.  There is a Senegalese resident population which is reinforced by winter migrants from Europe.

In fact this lake has thousands of migrant birds in winter. However, what surprised me was how many migrants had started to arrive in early August. One of the most obvious was the whimbrel

Whimbrel, Pink Lake

As the day progressed we saw more and more of these birds. I assume they had arrived that day, finishing their main migration!  By the end we were seeing a flock of 49 birds.

Some of a flock of 49 whimbrel, Pink lake

The other northern migrants (which made me feel at home) were common greenshank, and its smaller cousin the marsh sandpiper. There were also common redshankwood sandpiperdunlinruff, and ruddy turnstone.

Some were in their winter (or non-breeding plumage) presumably because they had over-summered in Senegal. 

In most cases, I find winter plumage less helpful than breeding plumage for identification purposes. The dunlin below is a classic example. There are few useful colour features! 

Waders are common birds on the Libyan coast in winter. It's the same problem. You have to rely relatively more on shape and behaviour more than colour.

Probable Dunlin, Pink lake

Of course, the migrants didn't have the lake to themselves. There were plenty of  local grey headed gullslender-bill gull and caspian tern. The latter two can be found "up north" but these were almost certainly local birds.

There is no segregation of local and migrants!  Below is a picture of a common greenshank walking next to a Senegal thick-knee. Sadly the greenshank collapsed on the shore just after the photo was taken presumably because it was exhausted by its migration. I hope it recovered.

Greenshank meets Senegal thick-knee, Pink lake

At this time of year it would appear that you often see Senegal thick-knee in pairs. This was no exception.

two Senegal thick-knee

On the margins of the lake we saw more than Senegal thick-knee. In the more vegetated areas were two more species. I hadn't known that the common moorhen is just as common in parts of sub Saharan Africa as in the western palearctic.

The other bird was a black crake. This is solely an African bird and was yet another "lifer" for me.

common moorhen, Pink lake

The area around the lake was a mixed habitat. There are reeds in places, woodland, coastal dunes and at least one stream providing a green corridor through the dunes. 

There were plenty of birds here too.  One interesting sight was a distant view of an osprey. Moussa told me there are more in winter though a sighting in summer wasn't so rare. 

distant view of an Osprey, Pink Lake

I managed to get some good photographs of zitting cisticola   Libya is one of a few places where it is found in the western palearctic but it is much more common south of the Sahara and I managed to get much clearer views of this bird than back at Wadi Kaam, Libya.

Zitting Cisticola, Pink Lake

On some flat well-drained  ground we saw another "lifer" for me and the only "lifer" on the trip for Moussa. It was a plain-backed pipit. It was a slightly tricky ID because it was not a sub species (ansorgei) illustrated in our combined field guides. It was incredibly confiding. It was much more interested in catching flies than running from me.

Plain-backed Pipit, Pink Lake

Having spent a week trying to find a non-moulting northern red bishop, suddenly all of them seem to be camera-ready. Here is another one below. This was near the water at Pink Lake.

northern red bishop, Pink Lake

My run of good luck on finding birds which had evaded me all week continued with a good view of a grey headed camoroptera.

Grey-headed Camoroptera

Pink Lake was the last venue on my first birding trip to Sub Saharan Africa. I am indebted to my guide Moussa Diop and, of course, the birds of Senegal.  I shall certainly visit sub-saharan Africa again. I have set my heart of being a capable bird watcher in TWO world regions now.

List of birds found at Pink Lake (thanks to Moussa Diop)

Long-tailed cormorant
Cattle egret
Striated heron
Purple heron
Great flamingo
White-faced whistling duck
Pied crow
Black kite
Common moorhen
Black crake
Senegal Thick-knee
Spur-winged plover
Common greenshank
Marsh sandpiper
Common redshank
Wood sandpiper
Black-winged stilt
Ruddy turnstone
Grey headed gull
Slender-bill gull
Caspian tern
Laughing dove
Grey headed Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
Little bee-eater
Red billed hornbill
Crested lark
Plain-Backed pipit
Common bulbul
Zitting cisticola
White-billed buffalo weaver

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