Sunday, 6 November 2016

Outward long walk in North Nouakchott

On Saturday, my two main methods of transport for birding were unavailable. So I elected to walk straight out of my front door. I ended up walking for eight hours. 

I walked out to "teapot" roundabout and beyond before walking back. I suffered with blistered feet but I did manage to find good birds and one new very good birding spot.

This blog is about the outward journey.

The area around "teapot" roundabout was a big disappointment this time. Most of my birds on the outward walk came from two places closer to the city.

One place was the set of lakes on the north western edge which I have visited before. The water is not as saline as most and so attracts a different cross section of waders than most of the sebkhas (salt marshes) scattered around the western side of the city.

The lake held six black-tailed godwit as well as one bar-tailed godwit. The former bird has a lesser preference for salty water than the latter and its presence was indicative of the reduced salinity of the water.

black-tailed godwit

Spotted redshank also has a reduced preference to salty water than common redshank. Given that I had not seen spotted redshank in Mauritania, I meticulously inspected each redshank at the lakes.

common redshank

The good news is that I found one. They generally have longer, thinner bills with a small dip at the point. The lower mandible usually only has any red near the face.

spotted redshank 1

This sighting gave me much pleasure as I had actually set out to find this species. 

Spotted redshank was number 162 on my Mauritanian list.

spotted redshank 2

Otherwise the array of waders was quite similar to other sebkhas. Waders included little stint, dunlin, common ringed plover as well as a single grey plover.


Common greenshank and wood sandpiper were also present in numbers.

As usual in the city, blue-cheeked bee-eater were present over the water.

willow warbler 1

Unfortunately people dump garbage near water here just like they do in the Gulf. About the only positive consquence of this behaviour can be certain fly eating birds being attracted.

On Saturday at one such dump by the lakes, a first winter willow warbler was particulrly confiding. I suspect it was exhausted by its recent Sahara crossing.

willow warbler 2

Beyond the lakes towards the teapot roundabout, birds were scarse. Two speckled pigeon were helping themselves next to a camel feeder.

speckled pigeon

Another desert grey shrike looked like algeriensis sub-species rather than the two local sub-species. I see this as more evidence that some of the north African coastal sub-species migrate in winter.

desert grey shrike

The second main birding place on my long walk out of the city was a medium sized rubbish dump. It appears the city collects rubbish locally and then takes it to larger local dumps before onward transport to the main city dump in Riyadh district just south of the city.

At these medium sized holding dumps, people are at work removing all the plastic bottles by hand. Presumably these bottles have a value.

yellow wagtail

I was a little surprised to see some yellow wagtail around the dump. In my experience there is a sharp cut-off in winter where yellow wagtail will or will not winter (though dependent to an extent on sub-species). In Saudi Arabia for example I found none in Riyadh but Kharj which is barely 50 kilometres further south, there are plenty on the farms.

Likewise in Mauritania, Nouakchott is presumed north of the line but Lake Aleg which is 70 kilometres south (though a 235 kilometre ESE journey) has many.

I would expect these birds to move on soon.

White wagtail were more numerous.

white wagtail

I now understand that northern wheatear are very common in western Maurtiania in winter. The dump had attracted at least two.

northern wheatear

Willow warbler are still making their way through on passage. As well as the one next to the lakes there were two next to this dump.

willow warbler

House sparrow were the most abundant bird of all at the dump. It's difficult to imagine that southern Mauritania had no house sparrow as little as 35 years ago.

two moulting house sparrow

On the way back home I took a different route and stumbled across a very good birding site. I added two more to my country list there too. I will blog about this next.

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