Monday 3 October 2016


On Saturday I went birding with Dr Mohamed Val who is a local ornithologist. Mohamed was brought up in a village south of Nouakchott and took me to a fresh water spot he told me he used to visit in his youth.

It is off the main road to Rosso, some 70 kilometres south of Nouakchott, and behind some sand dunes so only local knowledge would tell you it was there.

It proved to be a treasure chest of birds.

On arrival at the trees and bushes next to the water, the first bird we spotted was white-throated bee-eater.

white-throated bee-eater

This species is an intra afro-tropical migrant which disperses north during the rainy season. It does so from East Africa into south west Saudi Arabia which is where I first saw it. In West Africa it moves out of Senegal into southernmost Mauritania. However it was still a surprise to see it so close to the capital city.

three white-bee-eater

There were six at the watering hole.

another white-throated bee-eater

I don't believe the water is permanent but the area probably remains green all year round with a high water table. 

water at Amzela

All around the green area is desert and semi-desert. The latter area has very large numbers of black crowned sparrow lark.

black-crowned sparrow lark

However it was within the green area of a watering hole, trees, bushes and meadow that we spent near all our time.

Just as black-crowned sparrow lark was the most common bird outside the greenery, namaqua dove was the most common bird within.

namaqua dove

I input a count of 60 into e-bird but that was a conversative estimate.

African silverbill

There were mobile flocks of passerines flitting between the trees. One of the first to be identified was African silverbill.

Vieillot's barbet 1

While tracking these flocks a single bird with a booming call diverted our attention. It was Vieillot's barbet which is the most northerly of the barbets in the country.

Vieillot's barbet 2

Returning to the mobile flocks: another one was Sudanese golden sparrow with a few non-breeding Vitelline masked weaver associating with them. Old nests of the latter bird were found scattered around the site.

Sudanese golden sparrow

The third flock was red-billed quelea. It was quite small by the standards of this bird.

red-billed quelea

Giving the watering hole an even more afro-tropical feel was the presence of some greater blue-eared starling.

greater blue-eared starling

The picture below with too much back lighting actually shows up the blue ears better than most normally exposed pictures.

greater blue-eared starling 2 

A few birds came and went quickly. Three great white pelican flew past and a gull-billed tern stayed 10 minutes.

gull-billed tern landing

The was my first sighting in Mauritania and I have yet to see one on the coast.

gull-billed tern

Four types of dove were at the site. Namaqua dove has already been mentioned but there were also small numbers of speckled pigeon, laughing dove and European turtle dove.

European turtle dove

Other notable birds near the water were tens of blue-cheeked bee-eater and four Eurasian spoonbill.

Blue-cheeked bee-eater

One of the spoonbills was ringed. It is from the Camargue in southern France.

ringed Eurasian spoonbill

Next to the water is an area best described as meadow. We birded this next.

yellow wagtail

The species here were significently different. There were several yellow wagtail.

ortolan bunting

Four ortolan bunting were also observed.


Also in the meadowland were a few northern anteater chat.

northern anteater chat

On the way back to the car in a remote tree we finally caught up with two male Vitelline masked weaver which we had glimpsed a couple of times before.

Vitelline masked weaver

Travelling to and from Amzela also provided two additions to my country list. On the way out, we spotted a white wagtail near the road in Arafat district, Nouakchott and on the way back at a short stop, five cream-coloured courser flew over.

striped ground squirrel

At the same spot, I saw three striped ground squirrel which local supersitition says is lucky. We shall see.

I thank Dr Mohamed Val for his company, driving and local knowledge in providing such an excellent birding spot.

Species and counts at Amzela
Little Egret  1
Eurasian Spoonbill  4
Common Ringed Plover  1
Little Stint  1
Common Greenshank  1
Common Redshank  1
Gull-billed Tern  1
Speckled Pigeon  2
European Turtle-Dove  3
Laughing Dove  2
Namaqua Dove  60    
Common Swift  15
Eurasian Hoopoe  2
White-throated Bee-eater  6
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  16
Vieillot's Barbet  1
Common Kestrel  1   
Southern Grey Shrike  1
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  22
Crested Lark  5
Barn Swallow  4
Willow Warbler  2
Western Olivaceous Warbler  1
Bluethroat  1
Pied Flycatcher  6
Whinchat  1
Northern Anteater-Chat  6
Wheatear  1
Greater Blue-eared Starling  3
Western Yellow Wagtail  7
Ortolan Bunting  4
Sudan Golden Sparrow  16
Vitelline Masked-Weaver  6
Red-billed Quelea 15


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