Sunday 20 May 2018

Aleg and Mal

At the very beginning of April, I visited Kiffa in the east of the country for the first time. It was a long journey and it required a day off work to make a very long weekend out of it.

I went with Mohamed Vall and we set off from Nouakchott on Friday lunchtime.

We got as far as Aleg on Friday night. This meant we could bird Aleg early on the Saturday morning. Of course, our first choice then was to head out to Lake Aleg. However, here we got a big surprise. The lake was bone dry and for the first time in living memory.

Last year's rains had been very weak but this proved just how weak.

Instead of the lake we resorted to birding the edge of the town, not venturing into the woodland as we hadn't time. We didn't expect much.

Seeing two male Seebohm's wheatear was more interesting than expected. There are actually not uncommon in southern Mauritania in winter. I suspect they are over-looked/misidentified for black-eared wheatear as well. 

An alternative name for Seebohm's wheatear is black-throated wheatear. This is quite helpful in separating it from black-eared wheatear. Yes, the black does run further down the throat. The back on a male is more uniformly grey or grey-brown too.

Northern wheatear (Seebohm's)

Near-by were plenty of Sudanese golden sparrow and the odd yellow wagtail.

greater blue-eared glossy starling

Aleg is about as far north in west Africa that you can expect to see greater blue-eared glossy starling.

Perhaps this isn't the perfect place to put this but we also visited Aleg on the Monday morning on the way back from Kiffa. While everything else in this series of blogs is in chronological order, it seems appropriate to put our finds from Monday in Aleg here.

So, on the way back on the Monday,we chose a completely different habitat at Aleg to go to. This proved to be very interesting.

It started out with us seeing a kestrel kill a southern grey shrike.

kestrel killing a southern grey shrike

I know that kestrels prefer to kill birds larger than sparrow sized but this is the first time I have seen or heard of them taking out shrike.

kestrel and dead southern grey shrike

What was most surprising about the woodland was the variety of birds normally expected further south except in the rainy season. This was especially true as it had been such a poor rainy season last year.

black bush robin

Black bush robin was one of those birds. African grey hornbill was another.

Long-tailed nightjar

Long-tailed nightjar was a real shock. It was well out of its recorded range.

red-cheeked cordonbleu 

Red-cheeked cordonbleu was yet another surprise.

rufous scrub-robin

There were passage birds as well. These included common redstart, northern wheatear and rufous bush-robin.

Only 80 kilometres from Aleg is Lake Mal. Until two years ago, it was a difficult cross-country journey there. However, a brand new road has been built east of Aleg going south to Mal. It was too big a target to miss on our way out to Kiffa. So we took the detour on the Saturday morning.

Lake Mal is typically five times bigger than Lake Aleg. Crucially, despite the poor rainy season in 2017, it was not empty. It pretty low though.

Nevertheless, it was worth the hiking off the road to seek out the remaining water.

part of Lake Mal

I counted at least 50 collared pratincole in the area I walked through. There must have been many more.

collared pratincole

A sign we were in the south of Mauritania was the presence of Abyssinian roller and blue-cheeked bee-eater. The latter bird is not seen in the centre of the country until July.

Abyssinian roller

Much of our effort was spent trying to see and identify the ducks which were mostly in the middle of the water. This was unfortunately separated from us by lots of treacherous mud. We couldn't approach close.

knob-billed duck

We did pick out Egyptian goose, spur-winged goose, knob-billed duck and garganey. Unfortunately, there were no ferruginous duck. This species is a known wintering bird at Lake Mal and would have been an addition to my country list. I suspect we just missed it by a week or two.

garganey and black-winged stilt

There were plenty of waders, yellow wagtail and various egret and heron but no storks.

spotted redshank

One of the waders was spotted redshank. This bird migrates in large numbers but is just as likely to be seen inland as on the coast in Mauritania.

The next blog is about going further east towards Kiffa. It was new ground for me.

Lake Mal on Saturday 31st Match
White-faced Whistling-Duck  
Knob-billed Duck  
Egyptian Goose  
Spur-winged Goose  
Grey Heron  
Great White Egret  
Little Egret  
Cattle Egret  
Glossy Ibis  
Black-winged Stilt  
Spur-winged Lapwing  
Common Ringed Plover  
Little Stint  
Common Snipe  
Spotted Redshank  
Common Greenshank  
Wood Sandpiper  
Collared Pratincole 
Gull-billed Tern  
Sterna sp.  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater  
Abyssinian Roller  
Common Kestrel  
Woodchat Shrike  
Brown-necked Raven  
Barn Swallow  
Common House Martin  
Northern Wheatear  
Western Yellow Wagtail  
Sudan Golden Sparrow

Woodlands west of Aleg on Monday 2nd April
Pallid Harrier  
Black Kite (Black)  
Laughing Dove  
Namaqua Dove  
Long-tailed Nightjar  
Blue-naped Mousebird  
Eurasian Hoopoe  
African Grey Hornbill  
Common Kestrel  
Lanner Falcon  
Southern Grey Shrike  
Woodchat Shrike  
Brown-necked Raven  
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark  
Barn Swallow  
Willow Warbler  
Cricket Longtail  
Black Scrub-Robin  
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin  
Common Redstart  
Northern Wheatear  
Desert Wheatear  
Chestnut-bellied Starling  
Greater Blue-eared Starling  
Sudan Golden Sparrow  
Red-cheeked Cordonbleu  

No comments:

Post a Comment