Saturday, 2 September 2017

F-Nord lake: not dead yet

So F-Nord lake isn't completely pumped out. I went there on Friday to see what remained of the best and only fresh water birding site in the city.

The authorities had started pumping it out. The level had reduced and I had assumed it would all be gone as part of the drive to remove standing water throughout the city.

Whether the heavy rain last week (when 40% of a year's rain fell in one day) has topped the water up or the authorities have decided to allow the lake to remain at the new lower level, I still don't know. I can see that the three low lying houses have already repainted their walls suggesting they believe levels will never rise again.

Either way, I enjoyed the birding while I could.

squacco heron

Large birds are generally the most easily seen and there was some variety of heron family members. Three squacco heron may not sound many but it is the largest number I have observed at this site.

little egret

There are often a reef heron or two on site but rarely do I see its close cousin, little egret.

glossy ibis

Two glossy ibis and a single grey heron were the other members of the extended heron family present.

coot chicks

This may be the only place south of the Sahara in West Africa where coot are present all year round and where they regularly breed. There doesn't seem to be a set breeding season. I have seen young chicks in February, other spring months and now again at the beginning of September. 

It is not the only place in sub-Saharan Africa where they have bred. I am told that they have bred in Northern Senegal though I don't know the scale or regularity. I wonder if sub-Saharan breeding is actually wider spread. It would be interesting to know whether any of the pools off the Niger river in Mali support them too. It is a known wintering ground and I would imagine the conditions are similar.

several coot

There is a high probability that the coot seen at this time of year where born here.

little grebe (left)

Little grebe prefer water at least one metre in depth. I predict they will be the first of the four breeding water birds to leave here if the water goes lower.

African swamphen

None have left yet. African swamphen can still be seen in or close to the reeds.

garganey (left) and moorhen (right)

Moorhen are still present in seemingly their usual numbers too. The one above was swimming next to a garganey. Indeed the garganey was not the only duck on site.

northern pintail

There was also a northern pintail. Before I left for the summer in June, one of each of these species had been seen during that month and I speculated whether they would over-summer. I don't know whether this were the same two birds or not. However, I saw neither species on my first visit back after the summer.

marbled duck

One duck that is definitely new was a marbled duck. The lake had up to six in the early winter last year so this species wasn't a surprise though the timing was. There again no two years are the same.

mostly little stint

Given the lower levels of the lake, a larger number of waders was expected this cycle. There were certainly larger numbers of little stint and even wood sandpiper than I have seen before.

common ringed plover

Several common ringed plover and the odd common sandpiper added to the mix.

common greenshank (left)

Common greenshank and ruff are not observed so commonly at the lake. This is particularly true of ruff.


Woodchat shrike was expected and seen. Southern grey shrike was much less expected. This one looked like the sub-species algeriensis. As I observed last winter, a few seem to migrate across the Sahara to here. 

southern grey shrike

There were a small number of terns and gulls present. Three black tern were hawking over the water. This is by far the most common marsh tern to migrate along the coast near Nouakchott.

black tern

I was most surprised to see two juvenile black-headed gull.

black-headed gull 1

Last year it was four weeks later until I noticed the first one.

black-headed gull 2

I spotted four types of warbler. More than half were willow warbler. These were mostly out in the open.

first year willow warbler

Deep in one of the few trees that overhang the water I found a western olivaceous warbler. In some reeds I fleetingly saw a European reed warbler.

sedge warbler

I got prolonged views of two sedge warbler albeit from distance and in two quite different parts of the lake. Last winter I saw one or two all winter long. I study them all for aquatic warbler but I have always drawn a blank. I think I deserve one for the effort especially as thier main wintering ground worldwide is only 200 kilometres way on the Senegal River delta.

In birding, everything comes in the end if you are patient and persistent enough.

Species seen at F-Nord lake on September 2nd
Northern Pintail  
Marbled Duck  
Little Grebe  
Grey Heron 
Little Egret  
Squacco Heron  
Glossy Ibis  
African Swamphen  
Common Moorhen  
Eurasian Coot  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Common Ringed Plover  
Little Stint  
Common Sandpiper  
Common Greenshank  
Wood Sandpiper  
Black-headed Gull  
Black Tern  
Speckled Pigeon  
Laughing Dove  
Little Swift  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Woodchat Shrike  
Willow Warbler  
Western Olivaceous Warbler  
Sedge Warbler  
Eurasian Reed Warbler  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
House Sparrow  

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