Sunday 2 April 2017

Black-crowned night herons and more at the lake

I visited North Nouakchott Lake a week ago Saturday and six days later on Friday. There was quite a different both in terms of species seen and in temperature between the two dates.

On Friday it was very hot and dusty. The wind blew very hot air and sand in from the Sahara. 

However there was also more signs of passage while several of the wintering birds were still hanging on (black-necked grebe, black-headed gull, sedge warbler, Mediterranean gull for example).

The most obvious sign of passage were eight black-crowned night heron.

two black-crowned night heron

There isn't much tree cover round the lake but the night herons tried their best. 

The first two though were seen right across the lake before I realised more were scattered all around.

four night heron

I have only seen one tern at the lake before and that was a Caspian tern about one month ago. However another on Friday aroused my interest. It didn't look like a typical common tern. The streamers appeared very long. The overall colour is paler than average.

odd tern 1

 I have consulted quite widely on this one.

odd tern 2

I first saw it on one side of the lake and then rushed to the other side as it was closer. However the original view (see photo below) shows the primaries have quite wide white edges.

odd tern 3

Some of these features support roseate tern and hybrids with common tern are known. Nevertheless I have recorded it as common tern on e-bird as a default position.

laughing dove with Sudanese golden sparrow

Elsewhere both house sparrow and Sudanese golden sparrow were in evidence. This is the only place within the city where I can be confident of seeing the latter.

little ringed plover and little stint

The waders included the usual common ringed plover, little stint and wood sandpiper. Little ringed plover has also been regular for a month or so.

common ringed plover

Woodchat shrike was another passage migrant.

woodchat shike

The rest of the blog is about the visit six days before and you should be able to tell straightaway from the pictures that the sky was bluer and not dusty. Indeed viewing conditions were very good.

immature African swamphen 1

The group of immature African swamphen are not shy. There are no hunters in the city and very few in the country so they are comfortable with humans.

They love bull rush and eat plenty of it.

immature African swamphen 2

Some of the little stint have taken on spring plumage. They were well seen a week ago in the good light.

little stint

Two black-winged stilt were visiting though I saw no sign of them six days later.

back-winged stilt

Most of the little grebe are in breeding plumage though the odd one for some reason is not.

non-breeding little grebe

Both the cattle egret and the one usual Eurasian spoonbill are also in breeding plumage now.

Eurasian spoonbill with cattle egret

The spoonbill which breed on Banc d'Arguin are unusual in having all black bills. This means the one at the lake is almost certainly a migrant rather than a local bird.

Namaqua dove

I don't see Namaqua dove every time at the lake so this one was worth a photo.

rubbish collectors

The council's rubbish collectors asked for their photos to be taken. I have a lot of respect for these men who are trying hard to keep arguably the best birding site in the city from being trashed.

In my next blog I will write about what happened when Mohamed Vall and I went birding on Saturday in insanely hot weather. We were rewarded with two additions to my country list and both were migrants.

Full list of species seen on Friday 31st March at the lake
Little Grebe 
Black-necked Grebe  
Grey Heron  
Cattle Egret  
Squacco Heron  
Black-crowned Night-Heron  
Eurasian Spoonbill  
African Swamphen  
Common Moorhen  
Eurasian Coot  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Kentish Plover  
Common Ringed Plover  
Little Ringed Plover  
Little Stint  
Common Sandpiper  
Common Greenshank  
Wood Sandpiper  
Black-headed Gull 
Mediterranean Gull  
Lesser Black-backed Gull  
Common Tern  
Speckled Pigeon  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Little Swift  
Woodchat Shrike  
Crested Lark  
Sand Martin  
Barn Swallow    
Common House-Martin 
Sedge Warbler  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
White Wagtail  
House Sparrow
Sudan Golden Sparrow 

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