Monday 21 November 2016

Back to the fish market

I didn't have too much expectation before my visit to the lagoons south of the fish market yesterday. These small man-made lagoons have no vegetation and are fed with saline water pumped out from the near-by areas of the city. It is hardly Banc d'Arguin. Nevertheless it has previously exceeded my expectations with a variety of waders as well as a chance to seawatch albeit without a headland.

Once again I came away more satisfied than expected. The last few minutes provided arguably the highlight but more about that later.

My main plan was to observe as many gulls as possible looking out for common gull, sabine gull and grey-hooded gull which are all much rarer than the others I have seen so far.

northern gannet diving

This meant looking out to sea for part of the time as gulls moved backwards and forwards from the coast to ocean.

As I was doing this on one occasion, an immature northern gannet flew across and dived.

northern gannet rising

The young birds can look very similar to young brown booby. The streaks on the breast are one of the features that separates them.

black-headed gull (l) and Mediterranean gull

My gull watching did not pay dividends this time. The medium sizes gulls were all slender-billed gull, Mediterranean gull or black-headed gull. Many of them were in moult. Most large gulls were lesser black-backed gull with a small number of yellow-legged gull.

Caspian tern

This was a little disappointing. I was also slightly disppointed only to see Caspian tern. The number of tern has decreased steadily since my first visit in September.

On the other hand, I hadn't expected to see any ducks in the lagoons.


However there were seven northern pintail and one northern shoveller. These have proved to be the two common ducks in Nouakchott at other water bodies so far this winter.


Whimbrel have been present on every visit.

whimbrel (l) with grey plover

Nine grey plover were counted this time.

seven grey plover

Other waders included several little stint, many common ringed plover and a few greenshank, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper and common sandpiper. I really don't understand why I have yet to see marsh sandpiper in Mauritania.

little stint

Two sanderling were on site of which one spent most of its time sleeping.

resting sanderling

Walking round the sandy and barren edges to the lagoons were two yellow wagtail. These are late migrants and the place is unsuitable for them other than as a one day stop over.

yellow wagtail

The most ironic part of this birding session came when I had run out of time and starting walking back to where a car was waiting to pick me up.

I had not added any new bird to my country list.

Then I noticed a lonely lark flying high above me and away. I wasn't going to let this opportunity go. I tracked it in my binoculars to see it land. It landed over 50 metres from me and hid in a very low bush.

I slowly walked towards it and luckily it walked into the open. 

greater short-toed lark 1

It was a lone greater short-toed lark. More to the point it was my first in Mauritania.

greater-short toed lark 2

I had gone to the coast to seek sea birds and had ended up with a lark.

In some ways this is a metaphor for why I love birding.

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