Thursday, 10 November 2016

Swamphen in the city

I went birding today in late afternoon for the first time during the week for over a month.

It is the first time I have had the energy or the time since the beginning of semester. I had the time because the chosen site is so relatively close to my home.

The site I chose was north Nouakchott lake which I discovered last weekend. It is a fresh water body with patches of reed dotted around the edges. It seems to have drown about five or six houses over the years. Now only low walls remain from these. It is a strange sight in a residential neighbourhood.

In my last blog I said that crakes, sedge warbler and other ducks than pintail and shoveller were my future targets there.

first African swamphen 

While waiting patiently in one spot for any crakes, imagine my surprise when an African swamphen walked out.

another African swamphen

Then in an adjacent patch of thick reed, a second one appeared. What's more they weren't shy either.

I also got distracted from my target species looking at the Eurasian coot too.

It is now obvious to me that they breed here.

I saw several young birds of various ages. The youngest I didn't manage to photograph as they kept close to the reeds and were chaperoned away by parents as soon as they got an inkling of me.

young coot

The youngest bird I managed to photograph is shown below. Please note it still shows the pale throat of a very young bird.

younger coot

As far as I know this is the southern most breeding site in Africa though I stand to be corrected.

While searching for sedge warbler I came across three Eurasian reed warbler and the same number of chiffchaff.

sedge warbler

And then I spied my target. A sedge warbler came into sight. I had to be patient. It disappeared into the reeds twice before I managed a picture on its third appearance out in the open. It has the breast markings of a first year bird. It also has a buff supercilium and a brown top to the crown. All these features point to sedge warbler rather than aquatic warbler.

Sedge warbler is known to winter a little further south on the Senegal river. I wouldn't like to guess whether it could stay all winter here.

Sedge warbler is now species 166 on my Mauritanian list.

As far as other targets were concerned: I couldn't find very good habitat for crakes. I couldn't see any marshy margins that they like but I may still have missed some likely places. The ducks were still just shoveller and pintail too though that might change as the northern winter bites.

Eurasian spoonbill

There were a few other changes since last Saturday. A single Eurasian spoonbill was now on site.

 black-headed gull

A few black-headed gull have arrived. This species is more likely at inland sites than any other winter visiting gull.

possible pied wagtail

There were more white wagtail around though than could have been because it was so close to dusk.

One first winter bird was possibly the pied wagtail sub-species.The darker than average mantle, the almost black rump and some signs of a small black patch on the crown makes it a reasonable candidate.

speckled pigeon

Other birds included a high density of speckled pigeon.

grey heron

Four grey heron looked set to roost there though I don't understand any long term attraction to the site as it has no fish.

spur-winged lapwing

Just as I put my binoculars and camera away, I spotted what might have been one of the rock thrushes. I lost sight of it before I could see it properly nevermind take a picture. In my effort to re-find it I walked into three spur-winged lapwing which didn't fly away as usual. So I ended my trip with a close encounter with a bird that is normally very skittish.

It has been an enjoyable evening.

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