Friday 25 November 2016

Lovely ducks at the lake

This morning was a holiday from work. I took the opportunity to visit Nouakchott lake which is within walking distance of my house.

I have said in previous posts that I expected more types of ducks to appear as the winter progressed.

This morning I found out it had happened.

marbled duck

In among the many predominantly northern shoveller were a group of six marbled duck. They spent most of their time sleeping but would occasionally move particularly if a coot encroached on them.

marbled duck early morning

The world population of this species is vulnerable but the western population is in a worse position. Only about 100 pairs are believe to breed in Spain these days and the north west African breeders have declined too.

four marbled duck and a coot

They are known to winter in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa where they can find water. However, it is classified by most sources as a vagrant in Mauritania. All records I can find are from the Senegal River delta. I suspect, though, that these birds will stay.

all six marbled duck sleeping

Marbled duck was a lifer and species 177 on my Mauritanian list.

a pair of common teal

The second new duck for me in Mauritania was common teal. This one had really been expected for some time. 

common teal

Two wigeon first seen two weeks ago are still present and the lake.

male wigeon

Pintail numbers have dropped, at least temporarily.

northern pintail

Mallard is usually the last dabbling duck to arrive at southern places and I have yet to see one. The diving ducks: Pochard and Tufted duck are also usually late arrivals or at least that was the pattern in Dhofar, Oman which is at a similar latitude. So there may be more ducks yet.

Some birders had commented previously that the swamphen at the lake didn't obviously look like African swamphen. Well at least some most definitely do. One I saw today was classic with its large area of green on the back.

African swamphen

Others though are more ambiguous and there may be some western swamphen genes in the local population.

less obvious swamphen

I was on the look out as normal for anything unusual. One grebe caught my eye. The bill looked exceptionally long.

little grebe 1

However, I couldn't make the bird into anything other than an immature little grebe.

little grebe 2

Elsewhere the spur-winged lapwing were ever present. The little swift were joined by two common swift.

spur-winged lapwing

I didn't spend much time warbler hunting this time round. Chiffchaff don't require a close look at the reed beds as most of the others so a few were easily encountered despite special attention.

chiffchaff 1

More surprisingly one of the warblers in the open was a lingering willow warbler.

chiffchaff 2

I hope to go to Nouadhibou in the north of the country this weekend. I don't know the best places around that city but there must be possibilities of some more northerly species if I can get to them.

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