Monday 21 May 2018

Achrem and Kiffa

Much of Mauritania is flat lowland. The main exceptions are the Adrar and Zouarat areas in the north and parts of Assaba in the south. As we drove east in early April towards Kiffa, we finally started to see hills where three regions meet: Braka, Tagant and Assaba. The first hill was an isolated Inselberg at Achrem.

We took the opportunity to stop and walk off road 500 metres to the foot of the Inselberg. It was a good decision. There weren't many birds in the trees and rocks there but what there was high quality.

house bunting

There were several house bunting. This area is right on the south western extremity of their range.

distant Neumann's starling

The prize species though was Neumann's starling. Once again the pair that were seen were on the northern edge of their range. Indeed the Inselberg was north of the main road and so in Tagant region. We believe this is the first time they have ever been recorded in Tagant albeit only 400 metres into the region.

Neumann's starling

Neumann's starling became number 302 on my Mauritanian list. It had been a definite target for the Kiffa trip.

Achrem's Inselberg

Following this stop, we pressed on to Kiffa. Indeed we didn't arrive until dusk.

On Sunday 1st April, we spent all morning in Kiffa. Though the city is actually the second largest in the country, it is sprawling and rural parts impinge into it everywhere. 

The most important greenery from our perspective was the central green wadi than runs straight through the city. It was there that will did most of our city birding.

However, we didn't even have to leave the hotel for our first observations. 

little weaver

Both little weaver and pygmy sunbird were seen in the hotel's very small garden.

greater blue-eared glossy starling

On the wires before we even reached the central wadi, we saw greater blue-eared starling and pied crow.

pied crow

Plenty more pied crow were seen in the air over the wadi as well as brown-necked raven and black kite.

The best bird of prey, however, was a single gaber goshawk seen darting in and out of a large tree.

In my experience in south west Saudi Arabia this species gives weavers in particular a hard time.

Sudanese golden sparrow

We saw many more Sudanese golden sparrow than house sparrow.

In the thickest wooded area, there were common redstart in the shade and a pair of Vieillot's barbet higher up.

pair of Vieillot's barbet

The calls between pairs of this species a are often very loud and always distinctive.

Vieillot's barbet

A subsidiary wadi which had been over grazed and so most of its cover was only Sodom's apple (almost inedible), had more birds than expected.

female northern wheatear

Two northern wheatear were observed there along with hoopoe, woodchat shrike, rufous bush robin and yellow wagtail.

African grey hornbill

An African grey hornbill perched on one of the Sodom's apple too.

northern grey headed sparrow

There were a few trees in the side wadi. One was very large and several northern grey headed sparrow were seen there and which made forages out to the ground.

spur-winged lapwing

The birding potential in the rainy season must be very good in Kiffa. It gets more rain for its latitude than anywhere else in Mauritania. Despite the poor rains in 2017, there were even a few small pools left over in the main wadi. The one above attracted over 25 spur-winged lapwing. The city is definitely worth another trip in July to October.

Near Kiffa, there are two permanent lakes. We visited the smaller of the two on the way back towards Nouakchott on Monday 2nd April. I will blog about that next.

Species seen at Achrem Inselberg on Saturday 31st March
Laughing Dove  
Pied Crow  
Brown-necked Raven  
White-crowned Wheatear  
Neumann's Starling  
House Bunting  

Species seen at Kiffa on Sunday 1st April
Cattle Egret  
Gabar Goshawk  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Feral Pigeon  
African Collared Dove  
Laughing Dove  
Blue-naped Mousebird  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
African Grey Hornbill  
Vieillot's Barbet  
Common Kestrel
Black Kite 
Woodchat Shrike  
Pied Crow  
Brown-necked Raven  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Cricket Longtail  
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin  
Common Redstart  
Northern Wheatear  
Isabelline Wheatear  
Long-tailed Glossy Starling  
Chestnut-bellied Starling  
Greater Blue-eared Starling  
Pygmy Sunbird  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
House Sparrow  
Northern Grey-headed Sparrow  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  
Little Weaver  
Red-billed Quelea  

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