Saturday 26 May 2018

Mid-May in Nouakchott

The heavy load at work is not just affected by ability to write blogs, it is affecting my ability to find time to bird as well. However, I am going out today to try my luck at the coast. Who knows I may finally find a bridled tern.

In the meantime, here is one last blog to finally bring me up-to-date. 

I went out to the waste water site two weeks ago. It was still surprisingly cool and it was Mid-May.

There were still some warblers about though the proportion with some sort of illness was higher than peak season. I will say more about that later.

blackcap 1

There were no such worries about the health of the blackcap seen. They can be healthy and late.

blackcap 2

I suspect the reason this European reed warbler was lingering was its lack of any tail feathers. 

European reed warbler 1

It did have its white under-tail coverts though making very strange looking.

European reed warbler 2

Despite, its lose, it is always to good to see European reed warbler as clearly as I often do at the waste water site.

European reed warbler 3

The dappled look on the head of the willow warbler below is just the sun shining through the leaves.

willow warbler

However, you can probably just make out that the willow warbler has some sort of skin infection near the base of its bill. 

spur-winged lapwing

As usual I spent some time at the main body of water. The spur-winged lapwing were even more aggressive than usual. With no birds of prey to mob, they turned their attention to me a few times.

kentish plover

There were no wood sandpiper present for the first time since last summer. Kentish plover was the most numerous wader.

common ringed plover (back)

There were a few common ringed plover present too.

tree pipit

Yellow wagtail were still around as well as one tree pipit.

golden oriole

It is May and that means a good chance of seeing golden oriole at the site. Five of them did not disappoint though they were very shy. I couldn't get within 35 metres of them.

Sudanese golden sparrow

It's been a long time since I haven't seen Sudanese golden sparrow at the site.

woodchat shrike

I have commented on this before but woodchat shrike have very long passage seasons here though they are not seen mid-winter. 

spotted flycatcher

There was still the odd spotted flycatcher present.

Namaqua dove

Just occasionally there are very many of one dove species or another at the site. It can be speckled pigeon or laughing dove but this time it was Namaqua dove. There were at least 40 and most were flocking together.

I am now going out to the coast just as I post this.

Late April in Nouakchott

I managed to snatch a visit to the waste water lake in Nouakchott in late April despite it being a very heavy time for work.

It was worth the effort. The prize bird was a short-eared owl. I almost walked into it where it had been roosting in a tree. I had time to recognise it but not to get a photo as it actually flew right at me before veering late. Two hours later I once again walked into it. This time it seems to have been resting on the ground in a completely different part of the site. I am pretty upset about not getting a photo. It became species 304 on my Mauritanian list.

Altogether, it was a peak time for passage. No bird was there in great numbers but there was great variety.

spotted flycatcher

Birds included spotted flycatcher and common redstart. These are staples of the two palearctic migration seasons around Nouakchott. Common nightingale and Rufous bush-robin are less numerous. All were seen on this trip.

rufous bush-robin

Warblers were varied and quite numerous on their way north although I see fewer in spring than in autumn.


Blackcap were probably the most numerous.

willow warbler

There were several willow warbler and at least two western olivaceous warbler. There was a solitary western bonelli's warbler. The latter bird in particular has larger numbers in autumn. However, you have to come early as so many come back through in August and early September.

garden warbler

Blackcap's close cousin is garden warbler. It can be easily over-looked with its lack of really distinctive features. It's grey collar is quite apparent, though, in the bird on the left.

female blackcap

This spring has been unusually cool and some warblers have ventured out of the shade more than last year.

European reed warbler

There are no reeds on this site but European reed warbler has to land somewhere and so this is an excellent place to see them quite openly.

wood sandpiper (l) and little stint (r)

I have been disappointed in the main water body itself over recent visits. The variety of waders has been lacking. Throughout the winter wood sandpiper and little stint were the mainstays along with the seemingly resident spur-winged lapwing. However, on this visit the former two birds' numbers had started to dropped off.

spur-winged lapwing

Dunlin aren't very common in spring for some reason. Indeed the one bird below, I veer towards curlew sandpiper. It has a broad supercilium and a long bill though I can't tell the leg length.

probable curlew sandpiper

Some of the ruff had begun to show some summer plummage.


All the waders were alert and easily spooked. This is almost certainly because two marsh harrier were lingering at the site on their northern passage.

one of the marsh harrier

Most harriers of which ever type don't normally hang around. They move on fast.

the other marsh harrier

All white wagtail had gone by late April. Yellow wagtail were still coming through.

yellow wagtail

Just where do all those woodchat shrike go. They appear incredibly numerous in both passage seasons. They also winter barely 100 kilometres further south so I wonder if the numbers aren't as great as they first appear. I wonder instead if they use the Nouakchott area as a staging most in late autumn and in spring. In other words, could I be seeing the same birds time and again?

woodchat shrike

In this visit, it was the first time for six weeks that I hadn't seen a European bee-eater. Just before I left, one turned up. It was a bumper season for them this spring.

European bee-eater

The next blog will report what I saw at the same site three week's later.

Species seen at the waste water site, Nouakchott
Western Marsh Harrier  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Kentish Plover  
Common Ringed Plover  
Little Ringed Plover  
Curlew Sandpiper  
Little Stint  
Green Sandpiper  
Spotted Redshank  
Common Greenshank  
Wood Sandpiper  
Speckled Pigeon  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Short-eared Owl  
Little Swift  
European Bee-eater  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Woodchat Shrike  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Crested Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Red-rumped Swallow  
Common House Martin  
Willow Warbler  
Common Chiffchaff  
Western Bonelli's Warbler  
Western Olivaceous Warbler  
Eurasian Reed Warbler  
Eurasian Blackcap  
Garden Warbler  
Spotted Flycatcher  
Rufous  Bush Robin  
Common Nightingale  
Common Redstart  
Northern Wheatear  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
House Sparrow  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Mid-April around Nouakchott

Mohamed Vall and I birded around Nouakchott in mid-April having returned from Kiffa.

Our first stop was at the water treatment works south of Nouakchott in a district known as Riyadh.

There is a fresh water lake there. It was not as large as on our last visit.

Nevertheless, there were some interesting findings. First of all, we found a kentish plover chick. A look at the Atlas of Mauritanian birds shows Kentish Plover has found breeding in the Nouakchott area before. However, this is the furthest south it normally breeds in west Africa.

kentish plover 1

A parent of the chick was near-by all the time.

kentish plover 2

Other interesting birds in the same stretch of water included a lone ortolan bunting

ortolan bunting

Weavers are rare in the Nouakchott area with some evidence a few move up in the rainy season. 

Vitelline masked weaver

The one most often found this far north is Vitelline masked weaver though it is never common.

little egret

I don't ever find little egret easy to separate from white morph western reef heron. Indeed their DNA arguably suggests they ought to be treated as one species.

little egret

The relatively straight bill and elegant look of this bird, leads me to believe it is a little egret.

black-crowned sparrow lark

Other birds at the water included barn swallow and black-crowned sparrow lark.

common ringed plover

Waders weren't so numerous as on the previous visit but common ringed plover and wood sandpiper supported the kentish plover already mentioned.

After 90 minutes or so at the lake we headed north west to the coast south of the fishing port.

great cormorant (white-breasted)

Sightings were a bit thin though great cormorant were seen on the old wharf. I had seen some at exactly the same place at the same time last year too but not outside April or May.

tree pipit

The large, very smelly, waste dump near the fishing port is always worth a visit. Yellow wagtail were numerous as were both barn swallow and sand martin hawking above. There was only one tree pipit though.

grey "pallid" heron

The whole city is being pumped out by the Chinese at the moment. While this means the water level is much lower overall helping residents fight rising damp, it has meant the total destruction of F-Nord lake. It has also had an effect on the man-made lagoons south of the fishing village. While it is not always the case, generally, there is less water being pumped into them. The previously guaranteed gulls, terns and waders are many fewer. A pallid heron was the best bird on this visit.

In early May I returned to the waste water site north of the city. To my surprise I added a species to my country list. I will write about that next.

Tuesday 22 May 2018


Kandra is just west of Kiffa on the way back to Nouakchott. It is the site of a permanent lake although small in the dry season.

Mohamed Vall and I stopped off there on our way back from Kiffa at the beginning of April.

It was a very hot day and partly because of this, most of the bird activity was next to the lake rather than in the near-by woodland.

black kite

The lake was a magnet for black kite.

immature Egyptian vulture

There was one other bird of prey present. It was an immature Egyptian vulture. All of these birds spent some time in the air and indeed directed us by their presence above the lake as to where to find the lake through the trees.

They were also joined by brown-necked raven.

spotted redshank

Given how little fresh water there is between the Savanna belt and the Mediterranean at this time of year, flocks of migrant water birds must love having found Kandra. There was a flock of 10 spotted redshank including one in pure breeding plumage.

black-winged stilt and spotted redshank

It is difficult to know if the black-winged stilt are passage or resident birds.

little grebe

This is likewise true with the flock of little grebe that were observed.

Abyssinian roller

Abyssinian roller is a resident though they can wander.

red-billed firefinch

While we didn't see any red-billed firefinch in Kiffa, we found them here. Like the roller it is normally a bird of the far south of the country.

red-billed quelea

They are hundreds of thousands of red-billed quelea along the Senegal River valley but you can often see ones and twos further north. We only found one there.

Also away from the water, we found a migrant lesser whitethroat and rufous bush-robin. However laughing dove and Namaqua dove were the most numerous birds.

Namaqua dove

With patience we found a group of fulvous babbler too.

fulvous babbler

I have no doubt Kandra like Kiffa are excellent birding places in the rainy season. The main problem is getting there. Nouakchott is 600 kilometres away.

After Kandra we headed west to Aleg to stay on Sunday night. I have already posted what we saw on Aleg on the Monday morning as we continued our journey home.

So I have nowhere else to report, except here, that after Aleg on the Monday, we had one final important sighting. At Boutilimit, barely 150 kilometres from home, we spotted a roaming tawny eagle high in the sky. The trip ended with me adding this to my country list making 303.

Species seen at Kandra on Sunday 1st April
Little Grebe  
Grey Heron  
Glossy Ibis  
Egyptian Vulture  
Black Kite  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Little Stint  
Common Sandpiper  
Spotted Redshank  
Marsh Sandpiper  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Blue-naped Mousebird  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Abyssinian Roller  
Common Kestrel  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Woodchat Shrike  
Brown-necked Raven  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Sand Martin  
Barn Swallow  
Lesser Whitethroat  
Fulvous Babbler
Black Scrub-Robin  
Rufous  Scrub Robin  
Common Redstart  
Northern Wheatear  
Greater Blue-eared Starling  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  
Red-billed Quelea  
Red-billed Firefinch