Tuesday 13 September 2016

The riverside and fields at Rosso

The Senegal River valley attracts several birds with ranges which are otherwise much further south. So the most southern part of Mauritania along the river adds much to the diversity of the country's birds. 

I had an early opportunity to come down there with a visit of a friend from the USA coinciding with the long weekend for Eid.

Rosso was our chosen southern town as it is well linked by buses to Nouakchott on one of only three national roads.

Having birded alone before breakfast, my non-birding friend joined me for a day time walk along the river.  Then after a siesta we walked into the fields to the west of the town. It was quite an achievement as we walked 21 kilometres in total in high heat and humidity. Luckily both of us like walking.

Having been given clearance by the local police, remember that this is a national border, we walked westward. The thick reeds mean that the river is out of sight much of the time. However in the clearings there was varied birding interest for me and human interest for my friend.

Senegal coucal

All along the river we were seeing Senegal coucal.

male village indigobird

In contrast village indigobird was only seen at the start near the town as you might expect. It's name has some truth.

yellow-crowned bishop

The rainy season is the breeding season for many birds. Yellow-crowned bishop must be among them as those that were seen were in full breeding plumage. This aids identification especially as I am new to this part of MENA (Middle East North Africa). Yellow-crowned bishop was one of two lifers I achieved at Rosso.

yellow wagtail

Another yellow bird was equally as interesting. It was a yellow wagtail. The white throat, grey-green head and thin white supercilium help identification as the sub-species iberiae.

This sub-species breeds from south east France as far south as Banc d'Arguin in Mauritania. It is known to winter as far north as The Gambia. It is probably still on passage.

black crake

One of the species which breeds along the Senegal River at the extreme north of its range is black crake. They were easily and repetitively seen along the reed beds.

We reached an interesting flooded are about 3 kilometres westward along the river. Here I spotted the only purple heron of the trip. However it was getting very hot and it was a good idea not to go further away being in mind the return walk.

On return on the outskirts of the town, more species were picked up. Two African mourning dove were on a wire. Like ones I saw in February in Khartoum, a red orbital ring round the eye is not obvious. It simply hasn't been the useful field mark that several guidebooks suggest. 

African mourning dove

Also on town wires were a pair of African silverbill.

African silverbill

We had to take a break from birding and walking during the afternoon but resumed at 4.30 pm.

Instead of going west along the Senegal River, we headed north alongside the wet fields.

black-headed weaver

The light was excellent for viewing. I obtained much better views of black-headed weaver for example than in my early morning session.

Some of the wet fields were flooded and these had attracted cattle egret, little egret and a single long-tailed cormorant.

winding cisticola

The bushes and longer grasses at the edge of the fields also produced good birding. Winding cisticola were common and helpfully they were very confiding. This species was the second and last lifer I saw on the trip.

northern red bishop

There were two types of bishop in the grass. There was yellow-crowned bishop which I had observed in the morning but also northern red bishop. Like its counter-part, the males were in full breeding plumage.

African wattled lapwing

The last addition on the trip to my small but growing Mauritanian list was African wattled lapwing. Two were sharing a field with some cattle egret.

This short trip to Rosso was a successful start to birding in the south of the country. My next trip down will probably be to the border area opposite Saint Louis or to Diawling National Park. However it most probably won't be soon. Nevertheless I have time. I work here. It isn't a tour.

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