Thursday 5 January 2017

Return to west of Rosso

Over the New Year weekend, Mohamed Vall and I visted the Rosso area.

The weekend got off to a good start on the Friday evening when we walked to our restaurant in the town. It was after dark and three barn owl flew over us and then returned a couple of times. To me, this was an omen the trip was going to be good. It was.

Early on New Year's Eve we headed to the west side of Rosso and to the fields and as close as we could get to the Senegal River bank. Thick reeds prevent clear views.

However that morning was not a morning of large water birds but mostly of passerines.

Our first addition to our country lists was zebra finch

female zebra finch

A flock was in some long grass between the river and the arable fields.

male zebra finch

I was confused at one stage by the identification. This was because a flock of black-rumped waxbill crossed their path. I was picking up both birds without immediately realising I had two species.

The distribution map in my guide to Birds of Western Africa show these two species in only the small region between Rosso and Saint Louis (Senegal) on the Atlantic coast. 

black-rumped waxbill

Potential confusion involving two similar species in the same place was a recurring issue. A little while later I was looking at two cisticola resting very near each other. However, one dwarfed the other.

zitting cisticola

It only made sense if there were also two different species. Indeed the smaller one was zitting cisticola while the larger one was winding cisticola.

winding cisticola

Zitting cisticola was new to my Mauritanian list while winding cisticola had been common in fields north of the city on my previous visit to Rosso in September.

Namaqua dove

Also close to these passerines were several namaqua dove and more squacco heron in one place than I have so far seen in all my time in Mauritania. Purple heron, cattle egret and a few Eurasian spoonbill and long-tailed cormorant had been flying over all morning too.

squacco heron

However, another interesting bird near-by was a bee-eater. It was little bee-eater. It was another first for me in Mauritania and the fourth in the area.

We found a deserted palm plantation which has started to return to nature. However this has been hampered by the planting of non-native trees. These don't attract bird or other fauna. 

Nevertheless there were a few pools inside the area which had attracted some drinkers and waders.

Sudanese golden sparrow

Sudanese golden sparrow and little weaver were drinking visitors.

wood sandpiper

Wood sandpiper was the most numerous wader. I am sure if we had waited longer then more exciting species would have been picked up.

chestnut-backed sparrow-lark

As we doubled back towards the town of Rosso, four chestnut-backed sparrow-lark were on the track. We had seen them in first light on arrival in the area but views had been poor then. 

The early morning had been eventful for much more than the sparrow-larks even though it was a lifer. It had even been more eventful than the number of Senegal coucal we had seen.

Senegal coucal

The most eventful thing was the phenomenon of tens of thousands of red-billed quelea arriving in waves to meet farmers cutting fodder.

some of many thousands of red-billed quelea

On our return to the same spot three hours later we were hard put to see any at all.

white-rumped seed-eater

At the end of the day, next to our hotel in Rosso we saw our first white-rumped seed-eater of the trip. In the meantime we had spent the afternoon well out of town and well east of Rosso at new sites.

I will blog about those next. Once again the birding was excellent.

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