Monday, 12 September 2016

Rosso before breakfast

Rosso is in the south of Mauritania. It is a border town with Senegal on the north side of the Senegal River. There is very little information on the town on the travel websites and I could find no previous birding records. However, the Diawling National Park is only 90 kilometres south west and is reasonably well documented.

I visited Rosso over the weekend staying Friday and Saturday nights with a reasonably full day's birding on Saturday. However I had to stop in mid afternoon because of the heat and humidity.

I travelled down by shared minibus with a visiting American friend. We stayed at the Hotel Bowbe which is very basic. However it is within walking distance of both the bus drop off point and walks along the Senegal River and neighbouring wetlands.

While my friend was still resting early on Saturday I got up at dawn and birded immediately around the hotel.

beautiful sunbird

Almost the first bird I saw I a male beautiful sunbird in the front garden of the hotel.

Looking up, a flock of grey heron moved over the hotel heading towards the river.

red-billed firefinch

All around the hotel were laughing dove. While this bird has spread far and wide in recent decades, Rosso is part of its historical range.

laughing dove

Rosso is a vibrant town but it is not pretty. In places there are pools and even lakes of stagnant water. These are apparently more prevalent now as it is still the rainy season. Indeed on Saturday there was a heavy storm in the middle of the night.

In one of the smaller pools behind the hotel a lone cattle egret was walking.

cattle egret

In bushes near-by were a few black-headed weaver

black-headed weaver

Around all buildings are house sparrow. Once again I have been asked to explain my high count of them when I input the data into e-bird. As I wrote before, their expansion in the country is relatively recent and e-bird has not caught up with this yet.

house sparrow

Certainly the best sighting of the pre-breakfast session was a barbary falcon. This was my first sighting of a bird of prey in the country and it was a rare one. My first edition of Birds of Western Africa shows only seven sightings outside two highly localised areas in west Africa. However all their records are in band of southern Sahel running from west to east. Rosso would fit in that band.

barbary falcon

I suspect this particular bird was following around the huge flock of red-billed quelea which had been in the same tree and near-by ones.

red-billed quelea

In the lane leading to these trees I came across common bulbul.

common bulbul

On a circular route back to the hotel I took in more of the pools mentioned earlier. They are a magnet for spur-winged lapwing.

spur-winged lapwing

One of the largest pools had encroached on a sand-based football pitch.

speckled pigeon

On the pitch was the only speckled pigeon seen all weekend. This was the last addition to the list before arriving back at the hotel.

I didn't venture more than 250 metres from the hotel before breakfast yet the birding was diverse.

In the next blog I will write about what was seen further afield, after breakfast, and including along the river.

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