Friday 5 May 2017

Saint-Louis, Senegal

May Day was a public holiday in Mauritania. It meant I could make a long weekend of a visit to the jazz festival in Saint-Louis, Senegal.

I was with non-birding friends most of the time. However we did separate on Sunday morning. I went birding north east of the corniche and alongside the Senegal River estuary.

I had only been birding in the Dakar area of Senegal before so it was no surprise that I added 11 species to the one hundred accumulated there some six years ago.

One of these extra species was a sand martin among the barn swallow hawking for insects under the main bridge which crosses the river.  It was seen while walking with my friends to the jazz on the Saturday. I wasn't even birding then. 

The rest of this blog recounts the Sunday morning session.

All over the city and over the mangroves are plenty of yellow-billed kite. I saw them at the start of my walk and continually after. This is in constrast from all but the most southerly parts of Mauritania where they retreat graduately after the rainy season.

yellow-billed kite

In the estuarine waters towards the beginning of my walk, they were a few pelican. They proved to be of two species. Care was definitely needed to identify which ones.

great white pelican

The pinkish hued bird above is actaully a great white pelican. The bare pink skin around the eye and the large yellow pouch are characteristic.

pink-backed pelican

This greyish bird above is a pink-backed pelican. The pouch is not as broad and it is much lighter coloured. There is a noticeable black lore in front of the eye too.

What is remarkable is that I got the identification completely the wrong way round in the field.

Great white pelican is new to my Senegal list. The sad news is I have yet to see a pink-backed pelican in Mauritania but this one was less that two kilometres from the border.

Caspian tern were observed in the air near-by. This was another first for me in Senegal.

grey heron

You rarely see grey heron wading in the sea and they weren't here either. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is an estuary and the water is not fully saline.

Turing off the corniche and walking inland down a major branch of the river with mangroves either side was my next move.

There were blue-naped mousebird in the gardens affronting the river.

blue-naped mousebird

Spur-winged lapwing were scattered along the narrow roadway running parallel with the water.

spur-winged lapwing

However much of the birding activity was not on the road or the landward side of it but on the riverward side.

Malachite kingfisher

A malachite kingfisher was seen in a small clump of reeds while a pied kingfisher flew over the water.

African mourning dove

An African mourning dove was in a tree next to the clump of reeds and a couple of namaqua dove were close-by.

pied crow

Several pied crow were on the wires next to the road or taking part in eternal battles with yellow-billed kite.

little bee-eater

On the edge of some mangroves, I came across a small group of little bee-eater.

great white egret

The deep fresh water suits gret white egret and there were plenty of them.

I ventured into the grassier parts of the mangroves but still got muddy and wet feet as well as lower trousers. However it was worth it.

I found that the mangroves were teeming with passerines. I identified two species which were probably representative of the large majority of birds there. These were African reed warbler and tawny-flanked prinia.They were several prinia nests scattered around too.

Both species were new to me in Senegal.

My road carried on straight as the river veered left. I was left to cross a main road over which there was a set of mud flats leading to an outlet to the sea.

I knew there were many waders and spoonbill there as well as a few gulls. However, I was facing directly into the sun and could not make most of the birds out. I was particularly aggreived not to be able to make out the type of spoonbill.

grey-hooded gull

I could make out the closest birds and they were a mix of black-headed gull and grey-hooded gull.

I made my biggest mistake of the session in trying to cross to the other side of the mud flats to get the sun behind me. It started well when I flush four Senegal thick-knee. However the bridge of tyres that someone had placed for people to walk on lead to nowhere. I slipped and muddied more of myself.

I never did find a way across. This still rankles as I am sure I missed alot.

I had to turn round and head back the way I came.

Sudanese golden sparrow

En route there were some Sudanese golden sparrow. This is a common bird in Mauritania but not so much in Senegal. It was another Senegalese addition.

I walked through the mangroves a second time seeing more African reed warbler though one bird had a very rusty coloured rump. I suspect, but I am not certain, that it was a late-staying European reed warbler. These are known to winter in numbers in the river delta area.


The only waders I saw in the small pools within the mangroves were common greenshank.

squacco heron

One squacco heron was observed there as well. I was very surprised when I input my sightings in e-bird that this was the first one I had seen in Senegal. I wonder if I simply forgot to enter it when I was in Dakar a few years back. An over-sight?

boat on the Senegal River

I got better views of the African mourning dove on the way back.

African mourning dove

Towards the end of the mangroves, just before the corniche was reached there is a small cluster of trees. These were teeming with house sparrow, Sudanese golden sparrow and black-headed weaver.

black-headed weaver nest

This weaver builds a very large elongated nest. Some work was being done on them so I suspect the breeding season will begin soon (and ahead of the rains).

nest with black-headed weaver

I have not been serious yet about aquiring a large Senegal list. Mauritania remains my priority yet this was still a very enjoyable session. It left me wanting more time.

Species seen at the Senegal River estuary, Saint-Louis   (L) = new to my Senegal list

Long-tailed Cormorant  4 
Great Cormorant  7
Great White Pelican  1 (L)
Pink-backed Pelican  4
Grey Heron  4
Great White Egret  6
Western Reef-Heron  4
Cattle Egret  22
Squacco Heron  1  (L)
Black Kite (Yellow-billed)  12
Senegal Thick-knee  4
Spur-winged Lapwing  6
Common Greenshank  3
Grey-hooded Gull  2
Black-headed Gull  9
Gull-billed Tern  1  (L)
Caspian Tern  3   (L)
Black Tern  12
Mourning Collared Dove  2
Laughing Dove  14
Namaqua Dove  5 (L)
Little Swift  1   (L)
Eurasian Hoopoe  2  (L)
Malachite Kingfisher  1
Pied Kingfisher  3
Little Bee-eater  5
Pied Crow  8
Crested Lark  12
Sand Martin  1  (L)
Barn Swallow  14
Common Bulbul  6
African Reed-Warbler  5 (L)
Tawny-flanked Prinia  6 (L)
House Sparrow  18
Sudan Golden Sparrow  12 (L)
Black-headed Weaver  5
Red-billed Firefinch  2

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