Thursday, 24 August 2017

Greater painted snipe north of Nouakchott

Last Saturday I went to the waste water site just north off of Nouakchott and just off the Nouadhibou road.

This is my newly favoured local site given the demise of F-Nord Lake.

It did not disappoint. I observed 35 species during a morning session there. Furthermore there was quality as well as quantity.

I had expected western paleartic migrants and I got them. However there was one Afro-tropical migrant which had arrived from the other direction which stole the show. More about that later.

spur-winged lapwing

Early on, I visited the row of trees that held so many warblers the week before. Migrant passerine windfalls can be very patchy and the week before had been a good one. On Saturday I found only one western orphean warbler in the same place as many warblers the week before. This was not a good start but things improved after this.

I moved out of the avenue of trees towards the main water body a little disheartened. As I walked there, the now usual noisy reception from a number of spur-winged lapwing greeted me.

They make it difficult to approach without scaring the other birds.

black-winged stilt

A few black-winged stilt were dotted about.

common swift

In the early morning there was alot of action above the water. A group of common swift passed through on their way south. They stayed for about an hour. A similar number of barn swallow lingered longer. Just before I left the site two more common swift arrived.

glossy ibis

There were an even larger number of redshank present than the week before. Though I spent my time trying to get a good look at a group of ibis. They all turned out to be glossy ibis but I scrutinised them thoroughly for potential northern bald ibis. The latter bird sometimes wanders into Mauritania from the north.

four glossy ibis

I admit I didn't even notice at the time that one much rarer bird had photobombed my pictures of the four glossy ibis.

greater painted-snipe on the right

Lo and behold, a greater painted-snipe had been present.

greater painted-snipe (left)

It is well out of range. The Senegal River boundary with Senegal is the normal northern extremity of their range though I do know of one previous report in Nouakchott.

greater painted-snipe (right)

The habitat reminds me of the Sabya waste water site in south west Saudi Arabia where my birding colleagues and I proved they bred.

two glossy ibis and a greater painted-snipe

They can wander as witnessed when I found one at Raysut water treatment plant in Salalah, Oman. It almost feels like deja vu.


The variety of waders contributed to the large number of species seen. Greenshank were present in deeper water as were common ringed plover on muddy sections.

blue-cheeked bee-eater 

Constant sorties from blue-cheeked bee-eater distracted me from my wader watch from time to time.

mixed waders

The picture above shown some of the variety of waders. There is a redshank, two wood sandpiper, two little stint and a dunlin all on one small island.

Having thoroughly searched for more rare waders, I moved back to the trees. This time I started my search at the far eastern end of the avenue. It was more successful than my previous look into trees that day.

western olivaceous warbler

This was the week of the western olivaceous warbler. It was the most common warbler.

close-up of the head of a western olivaceous warbler

There is a very dirty small pond which is surrounded by overhanging bushes along the avenue back towards the car. This was the place where my main variation of warbler types came from this time. There were at least two western olivaceous warbler, a reed warbler, a sedge warbler and a willow warbler there.

Near-by I was scanning the bee-eaters again and one proved to be a European bee-eater. This was only my second in Mauritania and both have been at this site.

European bee-eater 1

I saw it in four different places but I still think it was just one bird. There were no calls and no sign of two together.

European bee-eater 2

I did a second circuit of the main water body. I was happy to get close views of one of the dunlin.


Ruff were also present.

two ruff

One of the glossy ibis finally allowed me very close.

glossy ibis

A very early yellow wagtail of the sub-species iberiae was walking along the grass.

yellow wagtail 1

It is good to see grass growing in a few patches. In the last few weeks there hasn't been an off-load of really contaminated water which scorches and kills this type of green growth.

yellow wagtail 2

The last wader I saw before I left was a ruff with some remnants of breeding plumage.

another ruff

I hope to go south this coming weekend. If so there will be a good chance of finding new rainy season birds. Let's see.

Species seen at the waste water site, Nouakchott
Glossy Ibis  
Black-winged Stilt  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Common Ringed Plover  
Greater Painted-Snipe  
Curlew Sandpiper  
Little Stint  
Common Sandpiper  
Green Sandpiper  
Common Greenshank  
Wood Sandpiper  
Common Redshank  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Common Swift  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
European Bee-eater  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Woodchat Shrike  
Brown-necked Raven  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Willow Warbler 
Common Chiffchaff 
Western Olivaceous Warbler  
Melodious Warbler  
Sedge Warbler  
Eurasian Reed Warbler  
Western Orphean Warbler  
Western Yellow Wagtail  


  1. Hi Rob, I'll be in Noukachott tomorrow Monday the 28th. Unfortunately it's a weekday. I'm thinking of hiring a car and driver and going birding for the day. What locations do you recommend at the moment? Would you or anyone else you know in town be interested in coming along. I'll pay for everything. Cheers Richard (Australian)

  2. Richard,
    The 28th is tomorrow. I need some notice! We had half a year's rain yesterday so roads are bad but F-Nord lake might have been refilled just as the authoritiies thought they had pumped it away. The old birds that were there might still be hanging on and the rains will have brought some new ones. So F-Nord lake is worth a vist so is the fishing port (bird just south of the port in the man made lagoons) and so is the waster water site just north of the city. Look on e-bird for the coordinates based on my records. Those three sites should keep you busy for a day. You wont need to hire a car. Phone Malik on 41741105. He is one of the few English speaking taxi drivers. He knows how to get to the fishing village (probably knows where I bird) and the waste water site north of the city. He may know F-Nord lake but it obvious from google maps as the big water body. Tell him it is 500 metresw north east of the Mauricenter. Failing that get him to phone me for directions once he is in the area. I am at work. Good Luck. Rob