Monday 29 May 2017

Fine gulls at the fishing port

Saturday May 20th was the second exceptionally cool day in a row so I went birding for a very long session on foot.

I walked from my house to the coast. The birding was good but I will start with what was seen at the coastal lagoons rather than in chronological order as the lagoons had the most challenging and rewarding birding of the day.

At the lagoons was a remarkable mix of gulls. There were over-summering birds and summer arrivals which was a mix quite different from what I had been seeing since September.

First and foremost was a probable kelp gull.

This should not be a shock. They have been creeping up the West African coast with new breeding sites over the past 20 years. They were first spotted in the northern summer in Senegal in the 1990s. They are now known to winter, over-summer and breed in small numbers in Banc d'Arguin north of Nouakchott. They now appear to breed in western Sahara. 

probably kelp gull 1

I have asked for help on the identification of this bird which has been surprisingly difficult to obtain. There is little expertise volunteering itself which knows how to compare both northern hemisphere and "southern hemisphere gulls".

The bill is strong and the bird is robust as expected from a kelp gull which it is worth remembering is not rare in Mauritania anymore. Its just that I hadn't seen one.

Here is an extract of one set of comments which addresses the issue that a vagrant (south of Banc d'Arguim) greater black-backed gull was the other main possibility.

" the bill structure easily excludes any sort of LBBG and my interpretation of the moult is that the tertials and inner primaries look recently renewed and fresh whilst the outer primaries look rather worn - could a 3cy GBBG look as worn as this on the primaries by May? Also, the bird is very dark and grubby on the head for any summer GBBG I would think".

probable kelp gull 2

As I said the collection of gulls was really remarkable. There were at least five lesser black-backed gull present. 

lesser black-backed gull

I had only seen one grey-hooded gull at this spot since I arrived in country. On May 20th there were four. Though a few remain all winter at Banc d'Arguin it is beginning to look like most are summer visitors.

grey-hooded gull with waders

Furthermore there were six immature Audouin gull in the group alongside several Caspian tern.

E-bird does not accept any Audouin gull in May and no more than two lesser black-backed gull. These observations have broken e-bird's filters. 

Audouin and lesser black-backed gulls with Caspian tern

I also looked very hard at the terns which which were present. I was especially looking for arctic tern or roseate tern in with the common tern but I had no luck.

common tern

There was nothing unusual in the group of black tern either.


Four whimbrel were the most notable waders.

Earlier I had walked to the coast via the central lake next to the new Senegalese embassy that is still being built. The authorities are very sensitive about this site so caution is required.

house martin

Like the day before, this was a day of large-scale hirundine migration. The difference was that at this site at least the birds were mostly house martin and red-rumped swallow whereas at North Nouakchott Lake the day before they had been barn swallow and sand martin.

red-rumped swallow

Luckily for me several were resting so I got good and prolonged views.

red-rumped swallow and house martin

As well as a small number of over-summering black-headed gull, I found a single grey-hooded gull. This was my first indication in the day of their arrival for the summer. Of course, I saw the four at the lagoons later.

grey-hooded gull with an itch

This bird actually gave me the best views I have had of this species in Mauritania.

grey-hooded gull

The salt pools which I called West Nouakchott pools was the next big stop before the lagoons.It too had more birds than I had observed in recent weeks. 

common ringed plover

The numbers of the more common waders such as common ringed plover broke the e-bird filters again and I was asked by the database to justify my large numbers. What can I say but that this site is known for its high denstiy of waders and that they are still coming through.

ruddy turnstone

There was a good mix including ruddy turnstone and a single late black-tailed godwit.

curlew sandpiper

Not much summer plumage was peeking thorugh on the curlew sandpiper.

common ringed plover with sanderling (r)

On the other hand, I saw my first sanderling here in Mauritania in breeding plumage. Given the large numbers present, it was no surprise to see one this advanced.

wood sandpiper

I had not seen a wood sandpiper in three weeks in Nouakchott but one late one was one of the last birds I saw at the pools.

I made the same walking trip again on Sunday May 28th. I will blog about that next.

No comments:

Post a Comment