Friday 30 September 2016

Northern outskirts revisited

I walked out north out of the city again on Sunday as it was so productive on Friday. This time I walked out further too.

There was no large warbler windfall like I observed two days before. Though a small number of willow warbler were present in the short scrub.

By way of compensation I saw four adult European turtle dove in the same area. Last time there was just one juvenile mixing with local laughing dove.

European turtle dove

Just outside the city there are some bedouin camps with camels that seem to attract brown-necked raven.

brown-necked raven

Unlike Friday I walked on further into the desert.

I couldn't understand why the bird density seemd to increase rather than decrease.

speckled pigeon

A speckled pigeon was an unexpected sight.

speckled pigeon and ringed plover

Then seeing it with a flock of ringed plover in the desert was stranger still. Then a whimbrel flew by.

All became clear when I moved further into the desert. Over a sandy ridge I could see that there was a lake which had remained out of sight until then.

lake in the desert

A small flock of greater flamingo were present along with plenty of waders.

pied crow

Some pied crow were at the water. This is my first sighting of this species in the Nouakchott area.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

Blue-cheeked bee-eater are omnipresent in the Nouakchott area where they are resident.

curlew sandpiper 1

When I see waders I have learned over the years to look for exceptions. One curlew sandpiper was given special attention.

curlew sandpiper 2

It's supercilium was unusually strong and there was a hint of a second one. The bill was slightly more decurved than normal.

curlew sandpiper 3

However it was not broad-billed sandpiper which would be a major rarity this far west.

great white pelican

I was just beginning to accept there would be no new additions to my Muaritianian list when a flock of great white pelican flew over head. This was the 95th bird on the list.

This made my walk back more pleasant.

white-crowned wheatear

As I reached the first house back in the city, which is still under construction I noticed a white-crowned wheatear on the top.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Cinquieme district

Last Saturday I visited Cinquieme gardens in Nouakchott. It is unusual as it is a permenant wetland with fresh water rather than the saline pools seen throughout the rest of the city. I am not sure what geological phenomena has caused this.

Trees and bushes have grown through the fresh water and next to it. No house can be built so it has become a gardens by default.

However before I left for the gardens, I spotted my first speckled pigeon in the city next to my lodgings. I could hardly miss it with the very loud call it was making.

speckled pigeon

Cinquieme Gardens has great potential. However as soon as I arrived people were coming up to me to say the place was dangerous. After 45 minutes my confidence had waned so much I had to leave. Nevertheless my time there was interesting.

Cinquieme Gardens

One of the first birds I saw I could not identify. I thought it too large to be a female house sparrow which it quite closely resembles.

unidentified bird 1

I placed the bird on the birdforum website for identification. However for the first time since I started posting there a few years ago, no one attempted an identification.

unidentified bird 2

The wetter areas of the garden had large numbers of waders. There was also a little egret which was the first one I had seen in the city.

little stint

There were three species of wader there which were new to my Mauritanian list. As well as little stint, there were a few Temminck's stint. The latter bird was an addition to the list.

Temminck's stint

I had not observed green sandpiper either until then.

green sandpiper

While the most common wader on site was wood sandpiper.

wood sandpiper

The third addition was little ringed plover.

little ringed plover

What all three additions have in common is a lesser preference for saline water than their relatives.

I firmly beileve that Cinquieme gardens will have some special birds given its unique habitat. I am looking at ways to ensure I can visit there comfortably in the future.

After leaving the gardens I walked a short distance north to an area of west Nouakchott I had been to before. This area has several large saline lakes.

greater flamingo

Some of the lakes are deep enough for flamingo though they are mostly characterised by shallow water bodies.

blue-naped mousebird

Some the land birds were interesting too. I spotted blue-naped mousebird in a better viewing position than usual. Migrants in the scattered bushes included willow warbler and a common redstart.

ringed pied flycatcher

There are still plenty of pied flycatcher in the city. One I observed on this walk had a ring which I believe to be British.


In this salty waters I had a fourth additon to my country list. Several ruff were seen where none had been two weeks before.

On Sunday I ventured out to the northern edge of the city again. The cast had changed and I was happy with what I saw. I will blog about that next.

Monday 26 September 2016

Northern outskirts of Nouakchott

On Friday afternoon, I walked straight out of my temporary lodgings north towards the edge of the city. It isn't so far as although the city is large the development is ribbon-based along main roads. Straight out north from my district and there is no major road hence the short distance to the edge.

I had hoped the change in terrain from the tree -laced central district would produce different birds. I wasn't disappointed.

In the low scrub were many warblers. This would have been the first greenery they had seen since crossing the Sahara which opens up just north of the city.

Willow warbler was once again the most abundant warbler.

Melodious warbler 1

However I had prolonged views of two Melodious warbler.

Melodious warbler 2

There were no real hiding places for the birds and they wanted to feed too so views were as easy as they can get for this species.

Melodious warbler 3

I made a brief birding trip in my neighbourhood on Thursday evening and here is a  closely related western olivaceous warbler for comparison which was seen then.

western olivaceous warbler

Another species in the low scrub was western sub-alpine warbler.

western sub-alpine warbler

Looking up at a group of laughing dove on a wire gave me quite a surprise when I realised one of them was not a laughing dove at all but a young European turtle dove.

European turtle dove (left)

This bird has a burr stuck above its eye. 

European turtle dove

Out in the semi-desert a little bit further out of town, I came across my first brown-necked raven in Muaritania. In the scattered trees were pied flycatcher, a common redstart and a nightingale.

spotted flycatcher

Other migrants included spotted flycatcher and three woodchat shrike. One was the only adult bird I have observed this autumn.

woodchat shrike

Woodchat shrike are at least temporarily out numbering desert grey shrike.

desert grey shrike

On Saturday I visited the Cinquieme district of the city and added four more species to my steadily growing Mauritania list.

Tuesday 20 September 2016

South of the fish market

On Sunday I made a visit to the fish market on the coast west of Nouakchott.

Hundreds of longboat-shaped fishing boats were moored up and there were plenty of fish on sale, some of which were extremely large.

Yet strangely, there was hardly a bird in this immediate area apart from a few house sparrow.

Moving south 150 metres down the coast, it was a different story with several locations producing a different array of birds.

The first location was a smelly rubbish dump based on partially on fish parts and broken shells but with pools surrounding it.

bar-tailed godwit

Bar-tailed godwit were patrolling the pools and some of the wet earth.


Sanderling were there in numbers.

ruddy turnstone

Ruddy turnstone were also present.

Welsh common ringed plover 1

Common ringed plover are proving to be abundant all over west Nouakchott including near the fish market at the coast.

One of them was ringed and flagged. If I have understood the rings correctly this is a Welsh bird. I have written to the contact sending pictures and await verification.

Welsh common ringed plover 2

A young Kittlitz's plover is good evidence that this species breeds here.

juvenile Kittlitz's plover

While walking a little further down the coast to a cleaner area, a large flock of Eurasian spoonbill flew past and laso travelling south. 

Eurasian spoonbill

In this place, there are three sand-banked small lagoons managed by the environment ministry which are designed to attract birds.

black tern

Black tern were certainly attracted to it.


Whimbrel were there.


On a small island in one lagoon, a large number of sanderling were huddled together. 

little tern

A much smaller tern was easily picked out there. Little tern is the only option.

pied avocet

Another single bird was a pied avocet which was swimming rather than wading.

I was surprised that gulls and sea-faring terns were not seen at the ocean's edge.

Counter-initutively, by scanning all around,  I found a large number 500 metres inland from the lagoons. I had been looking in the wrong direction.

greater flamingo

As I walked towards the cluster of gulls and terns, three adult greater flamingo passed over.

I used a wall as a backcloth to approach the gulls so as not to spook them.

lesser black backed gull

The larger gulls were all lesser black-backed gull.  One medium sized gull was a black-headed gull.

Audouin's gull

The big surprise was the presence of 14 Audouin's gull. Such a large number may be explained by a probably affinity to the fish port and market. This gull is unusally dependent on fish for its diet.

Sandwich tern and Royal tern

I am on the look out for lesser crested tern which are known to winter on the Mauritanian coast and in particular Libyan birds, a few of which are ringed.

They are known to associate with closely related sandwich tern. Well, I found several sandwich tern. However the orange-billed tern seen with them near the fish market were both the larger Royal tern.

Walikng back towards the fish market through the coast scrub turned up a small number of warblers, crest lark and an unexpected hoopoe lark.

hopooe lark

Two desert grey shrike were observed on bushes and they were of the expected elegans sub-species in contrast to the unexpected algeriensis seen the day before at Zaatar allotments.

desert grey shrike

At a small pool, my first curlew sandpiper in country was seen.

curlew sandpiper

The last new bird of the session was a shy northern wheatear.

northern wheatear

No fewer than 16 species were added to my country list so I was well satisfied.
List of birds seen. New additions to my Mauritiania list are in bold.

Greater Flamingo  
Grey Heron  
Eurasian Spoonbill  
Pied Avocet  
Kittlitz's Plover  
Common Ringed Plover  
Bar-tailed Godwit  
Ruddy Turnstone  
Curlew Sandpiper 
Little Stint  
Common Greenshank  
Common Redshank  
Black-headed Gull  
Audouin's Gull 
Lesser Black-backed Gull  
Little Tern  
Caspian Tern  
Black Tern  
Royal Tern  
Sandwich Tern  
Laughing Dove  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Greater Hoopoe-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Willow Warbler  
Western Bonelli's Warbler  
Spotted Flycatcher  
Pied Flycatcher  
House Sparrow