Friday 29 December 2017

Back in Nouakchott

It has been notably cooler in Nouakchott this winter compared with last. This is following the weather pattern down western Europe from the UK southward through Spain and the Canary Islands to Mauritania. Here in Nouakchott, this has also included sand in the air straight off the Sahara for days on end.

My first birding back in Nouakchott after my holiday was in one such sandstorm taking place at the waste water site.

It was tough birding with poor visibility and difficult on the throat. After finishing the session, I went out and bought some surgical masks for future birding this winter.

One difficult bird was a first winter wheatear. I took it to birdforum as I suspected it was an Isabelline wheatear.

There was mixed opinion there but most of the expert opinion supported my view.

probable Isabelline wheatear 1

Here are links to pictures to a heavyweight supporter of Isabelline.

Here is a comment from a bird illustrator who is one of the best identifiers in the game "The centres to the coverts and tertials seem to be a touch too brown for Northern and the primary tips can fall closer to the tail tip on Isabelline".

Mauritania falls within the wintering range of Isabelline wheatear but I suspect it is quite scarse as this is my first probable sighiting in two winters. I am surprised how often it is claimed in western Sahara though it is has much more birding.

The day after day of (sandy) winds from the east would make sightings more likely too.

probable Isabelline wheatear 2

I am very confident now that the majority of chiffchaff wintering at the site are actually Iberian chiffchaff.

Iberian chiffchaff 1

Not all Iberian chiffchaff are as apparently obvious as the one shown. It has the beautiful lemon on the front end of its supercilium and a lemon sprinkling on the top half of its undersides.

Iberian chiffchaff 2

If it weren't for the sandstorm, the lemon would be clearer still.

southern grey shrike

Most of the time even the southern grey shrike stayed out of exposed positions.

spur-winged lapwing

Two guarenteed birds over the summer and autumn have been spur-winged lapwing and blue-cheeked bee-eater. The former were present but surprisingly quiet. The latter, as predicted, have left and I don't expect them back until July next year. 

As I have said before, blue-cheeked bee-eater is not resident in Mauritania contrary to the distribution map in Birds of Western Africa.

Kentish plover

A large flock of Kentish plover were present. For once they exceeded the numbers of common ringed plover.


Other waders on the main pool included ruff, wood sandpiper and dunlin.

Eurasian teal

Before I left for my break in early December, there were 16 Eurasian teal at the site. There were exactly the same number of the same species present nearly three weeks later.


Some birds were difficult to identify than usual for another reason other than the visibility. Some were adopting unusual poses to reduce exposure to the wind.

The ruff were mostly in a hunched posture. The usually long neck was nowhere to be seen.


The chiffchaff were in two clusters. In the second cluster I found them more difficult to separate. I suspect a mixed group.

little ringed plover

Little ringed plover is nowhere near as common as common ringed plover but two were observed.

At times they were being bullied by a lone common ringed plover. As it was not with the main group of common ringed plover and because its supercilium was weak I spent a lot of time trying to see if I could make it a semi-palmated plover.

common ringed plover

It was not. There was no sign of a yellow eye-ring and the webbing on the feet did not match. I am not particularly fond of tracking waders but it can be rewarding.

wood sandpiper

It was not an easy day for the waders as this close group of wood sandpiper (and a dunlin) will testify. It was not easy for this birder either.

I am hoping for more comfortable birding this weekend Mohamed Vall and I go south.

Species seen at the waste water site on December 23rd
Eurasian Teal  
Common Moorhen  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Kentish Plover  
Common Ringed Plover  
Little Ringed Plover  
Little Stint  
Green Sandpiper  
Wood Sandpiper  
Laughing Dove 
Namaqua Dove 
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Common Kestrel
Southern Grey Shrike  
Crested Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Common Chiffchaff  
Iberian Chiffchaff  
Sardinian Warbler  
Fulvous Chatterer  
Northern Wheatear  
Isabelline Wheatear  
White Wagtail (alba)  
House Sparrow  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  

No comments:

Post a Comment