Saturday 15 April 2017

Foum Gleita and onwards

There is a truly massive dammed lake near Mbout in Mauritania. It's called Foum Gleita and is being developed to regulate the flow of water in the region so agriculture can be better developed.

It was also just a minor detour off our route from Aleg to Selibaby last weekend. Mohamed Vall and I spent about 90 minutes there around noon last Saturday.

We parked the car close to the barrage and starting walking towards it up the river which flows down from the barrage. There is an agricultural water channel lined with reeds running parallel too.

Even on this short walk towards the barrage birding was good. A Senegal coucal was seen in the reeds. This is the first time I have seen one outside away from the Senegal River.

Black-headed lapwing

A pair of black-headed lapwing were resting under a tree. In the tree were plenty of Sudanese golden sparrow as well as red-billed quelea.

pied kingfisher (courtesy of Mohamed Vall)

Pied kingfisher are immediately in evidence near the barrage itself.

Right next to the barrage is a cave. I was really pleased to see a barn owl fly straight into it in broad daylight. It got better still. The barn owl rested inside the cave but still in public view.

barn owl

On reaching the barrage and looking over into the lake, I realised just how massive it was.

Foum Gleita

The lake would take two or three days to walk all around though the trees on the far banks looked enticing. The expanse of water itself looked surprisingly barren.

Birds were coming down to drink all the time and if we had had time we would have waited to see just how much bird diversity there was.

However we didn't have time. Even so a Gosling's bunting appeared and it was both an addition to my country list and a lifer.

gosling's bunting

Other drinking birds that we did have time to see were common sandpiper, Sudanese golden sparrow and yellow wagtail. A very interesting and plain looking pipit flew off before I could identify it. Some times the birds get away.

western red-billed hornbill

I still check all red-billed hornbill because northern red-billed hornbill is possible in Mauritania. Yet everyone I have seen so far has been western red-billed hornbill. My understanding is the easiest way to tell them apart is the orbital eye ring which is dark in the western bird but pale yellow or pink in the northern bird. Northern red-billed hornbill is mostly a bird of East Africa and as far as I can see has "normal" range which only just sneeks into the south east corner of the country. Nevertheless range maps aren't brilliantly accurate for some species in Mauritania so any visit towards the east could yield this other hornbill. 

another pied kingfisher

After visiting the barrage we investigated downstream more thoroughly though the temperature and time were major constraints.

great white egret

Several little egret were in the river or in near-by trees. I checked all the larger egrets too but found only great white egret. Once again intermediate egret was nowhere to be seen.

greater blue-eared starling

The greater blue-eared starling above caused a few identifaction headaches. The eye colour of this bird is usually pale yellow. However, having consulted with an expert from The Gambia, I am told they can occasionally be this dark and that the most fitting alternative bronze-tailed starling would have a noticeably shorter tail.

Viellot's barbet

Other notable birds included a Viellot's barbet.

woodchat shrike (courtesy of Mohamed Vall)

Almost everywhere in Mauritania at the moment the wave of migrant woodchat shrike continues.

Despite our two stops at Lake Jintu and at Foum Gleita, we made such good time last Saturday on our journey to Selibaby that we had time for two short stops in woodland just north of the town.

The first stop was not as good as we had hoped. We think it was because with chose a place with only one main type of tree.

chestnut-backed sparrow-lark

Nevertheless it was still good to met up with chestnut-backed sparrow-lark which is only present in the far south of the country.

northern grey-headed sparrow

The same can be said about northern grey-headed sparrow though it has a wider variety of habitats.

speckle-fronted weaver

Our first and only speckle-fronted weaver of the trip were seen in one of the woods.

Sudanese golden sparrow

They formed mixed flocks with Sudanese golden sparrow in places. However the best birds were a mobile small group of tawny-flanked prinia. This was yet another addition to my country list and the last of the day.

western red-billed hornbill

It became increasingly obvious that western red-billed hornbill is a very common bird in Guidimakha province.

After Saturday's long jounrney from Aleg we were all set up for the jewel of the trip which was to be a full day on Sunday  in the Gouraye area. This proved to be excellent birding. We saw 64 species within walking distance of the town alone. The next two blogs recount what we saw.

Species seen at Foum Gleita
Grey Heron  4
Great White Egret  4
Little Egret  8
Squacco Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
Common Sandpiper  2
Gull-billed Tern  2
Caspian Tern  1
White-winged Black Tern  2
Whiskered Tern  1
Laughing Dove  8
Namaqua Dove  9
Senegal Coucal  3
Barn Owl  1
Blue-naped Mousebird  8
African Grey Hornbill  3
Western Red-billed Hornbill  8
Pied Kingfisher  9
Green Bee-eater  4
Vieillot's Barbet  1
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  12
Barn Swallow  10   
Northern Crombec  1
Willow Warbler  2
Black Scrub-Robin  4
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin  1
White-crowned Wheatear  1
Western Yellow Wagtail  13
Gosling's Bunting  1
Northern Grey-headed Sparrow  4
Sudan Golden Sparrow  40
Red-billed Quelea  60
Red-cheeked Cordonbleu  14

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