Senegal 2016

...with Mark Finn

February 26th - March 10th

This was the premier tour visiting the little-known SE Senegal, Wassadoo and the Saloum Delta. A hugely diverse area and poorly visited by birding groups from Europe. Highlights in SE Senegal included the nomadic Fox Kestrel, Kulikoro Firefinch and the localised Rock Martin. Wassadoo held good numbers of Egyptian Plover, White-crowned Lapwing and Red-throated Bee-eaters. A flock of over 25 Greater Painted Snipe was unexpected especially during the middle of the day and in the open.

My thanks go to Ass and local guides during the tour who without their local knowledge and skills the tour would not have been the success that it was. Exceptionally hot weather made birding tough at times but in the end we succeeded in seeing most of our target birds.

The next SE Senegal tour will take place in 2018.

February 26th/27th: London, Madrid, Dakar, Popenguine, Sarene.

Weather: Warm and sunny 32 C.

The majority of the group met at Heathrow for the flight down to Dakar via Madrid. John and Lou arrived in Dakar ahead of us via Brussels. We met up in the restaurant of the Ocean Hotel (27th) for breakfast with a steady passage of birds offshore which included White-breasted Cormorant, Royal and Caspian Terns, Western Reef Egrets, Yellow-billed Kites and Pied Crows. After breakfast we headed towards the village of Popenguine via the reserve with habitats of a small lagoon, acacia scrub and crumbling sandstone cliffs. In and around the lagoon Long-tailed Cormorant, Grey and Striated Herons, Great and Intermediate Egrets, Senegal Thick-knee, Black-necked Stilts, Spur-winged Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Malachite Kingfisher and in the reeds Village and Little Weavers, Red-billed Quelea and Senegal Coucal. On a hillside a group of Helmeted Guineafowl and several Ospreys eating fish atop Baobab trees. A walk around the acacia forest produced a Croaking Cisticola, Black-crowned Tchagra and Little Bee-eater. On the cliff a Peregrine Falcon perched looking for suitable prey. Back to the hotel for lunch followed by a visit to the wetlands of Sarene a little-known area of the coast. On arrival White-billed Buffalo Weavers, Pin-tailed Whydah and a group of Common Waxbills. The lake was full of birds with outstanding numbers of Greater Painted Snipe numbering around twenty-five birds. Other highlights included Little Grebe, Garganey, Pink-backed Pelican, Little Ringed Plovers, Common, Wood and Marsh Sandpipers, Common Greenshank and Ruddy Turnstones flicking over cow pats for insects. Gulls present included Grey-hooded, Black-headed, Slender-billed and Lesser Black-backed. A section of grassland added a pair of Collared Pratincoles and Western Yellow Wagtails. On the return journey a stop at another lake with colonies of White-breasted and Long-tailed Cormorants, various egrets, Hamerkop, Squacco Heron, Ruff, European Reed Warbler, White Wagtail and overhead Barn Swallow, House Martin, African Palm Swift and Yellow-billed Kites gathering to roost.

February 28th: Popenguine, Kaolack, Tambacounda, Wassadoo.

Weather: Hot with dusty skies 36 C

Today was a travelling one towards eastern Senegal and our base at Wassadoo for four nights. The hotel ground had the usual birds including singing Western Olivaceous Warblers, Red-billed Firefinches and parties of Long-tailed Starlings foraging around the litter bins. The road to Kaolack is thankfully being upgraded and re-laid after many years of neglect. A stop by the road added African White-backed and Ruppell's Griffon Vultures, African Swallow-tailed Kite and Abyssinian Rollers. Lunch taken in Kaolack followed by the long journey east to Tambacounda. A walk into the bush was productive for a male Montagu's Harrier, Beaudouin's Snake Eagle, African Grey Hornbill, Woodchat Shrike, Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark and a party of Cut-throat Finches. Filled up in Tambacounda and purchased water and headed south to Wassadoo. A Dark Chanting Goshawk was seen on top of a tree. On the entrance road several species were noted going to roost including Hadada Ibis. It was good to reach base which is situated in a beautiful location by a tributary of the Gambia River.

February 29th: Wassadoo.

Weather: Cloudy followed by clear skies 36 C

We arranged to meet up at 0730 for a pre-breakfast walk in the extensive grounds of the camp. By the restaurant a Shikra, Western Grey Plantain Eaters and African Palm Swifts. By the staff quarters Lesser Blue-eared and Long-tailed Starlings, Grey-headed Sparrow, Senegal Coucal and Common Bulbuls. Further along the track a fruiting fig tree attracted an immature Dideric Cuckoo, Common Wattle-eye, Red-throated Bee-eaters, Blackcap Babbler, Vinaceous, Red-eyed and Laughing Doves. An unwelcome find was a viper hiding in the leaf litter thankfully it stayed still and we passed on our way. Near the restaurant three White-crowned Robin Chats were noted diving into reverie cover. After breakfast birding along the entrance track proved to be very productive. The first trees held family groups of Green Woodhoopoes, Purple Glossy Starlings, Lavender Waxbill, Senegal Batis and Senegal Eremomela. Overhead raptors included a European Honey Buzzard, Booted Eagle (dark phase), African Hawk Eagle and a surprise find in Alpine Swifts. Further on a Pearl Spotted Owlet showed briefly along with Yellow-billed Shrikes, African Grey Hornbill and a Fine-spotted Woodpecker. At 1115 the birds went quiet and a return to the camp was necessary. The vista downriver was fantastic and good for finding birds. A huge tree attracted African Fish Eagle, Grey Kestrel and Broad-billed Roller. In and around the river edge; Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Egret, Giant and Pied Kingfishers, Hadada Ibis, African Finfoot, Spur-winged and African Wattled Lapwings. Lunch taken and out again at 1600 hours. The weather was still very hot although a male Beautiful Sunbird appeared in a flowering tree. At 1700 hours the group joined a boat trip upriver with views of the river edge, forest, sandbars and old trees. In the first section great views of Blue-breasted, Grey-headed, Woodland, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers. The sandy islets attracted African Wattled, Spur-winged and White-headed Lapwings and the first of several Egyptian Plovers. The bare trees attracted Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Northern Black Flycatcher and a fly-by African Harrier Hawk. On the return journey we had good views of European and Adamawa Turtle Doves the latter being a highly localised West African endemic.

March 1st: Wassadoo, Dialakoto, Gamon.

Weather: Hot and sunny 38 C

Our pre-breakfast walk had similar birds to yesterday morning. I stopped at a fruiting fig tree which attracted Northern Puffback, a pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers, Northern Black Flycatcher and an immature Palm-nut Vulture. Returned for a late breakfast and travelled to the main road making stops around the village of Dialakoto. A pair of Blue-bellied Rollers was a welcome addition to the list perched in a dead tree. Just before the village a fig tree attracted Purple Glossy Starlings and among them Bearded and Viellot's Barbets. Raptors were also in the area and included Gabar and Dark Chanting Goshawks, Eurasian Kestrel, Hooded Vulture and a perched Brown Snake Eagle. In Dialakoto a walk into the bush added a mixed flock of Greater and Lesser Blue-eared Starlings, Yellow-billed Shrikes, Abyssinian Roller and a hunting Shikra. It was starting to get very hot when returning to the entrance track of Wassadoo. Along the track a party of Tawny-flanked Prinias and overhead a Bateleur. Back at base the group retired to the seats overlooking the river where we observed African Hawk Eagle, African Harrier Hawk, Grey Kestrel and a Common Sandpiper. Lunch taken and back out again at 1530 to visit habitats along the route to Gamon. The road to Gamon passes through extensive areas of savannah woodland and pastoral land used for animal husbandry. A short walk provided the group with sightings of Grey and Brown-backed Woodpeckers, Green-backed Camaroptera and the first of several Black-headed Lapwings. In another area a pair of Senegal Parrots feeding on leaves. Birds on this occasion were thinly spread so a return to base was made as the light started to fail.

March 2nd: Wassadoo.

Weather: Hot and sunny 39 C

This morning our walk commenced by the parking area where familiar birds were around with the addition of Northern Black Flycatchers, Senegal Eremomela and a pair of Grey Woodpeckers in a distant tree. Further along the track close views of a Blue-bellied Roller and a male Scarlet-chested Sunbird. Back to base for breakfast with views of Adamawa Turtle Dove, Cardinal Woodpecker and a party of Green Woodhoopoes. At breakfast I was surprised to find a Bronze-tailed Starling feeding on bread scraps with Long-tailed and Lesser Blue-eared Starlings. The remainder of the morning was spent walking the entrance track recording Double-spurred Francolins, Shikra, a perched African Hawk Eagle, African Harrier Hawk and a soaring European Honey Buzzard. By the river similar birds to the last few days plus an adult Palm-nut Vulture. At 1600 hours we have another boat trip only this time downstream towards The Gambia. This route is rarely open due to low water levels. In the first area we encountered high numbers of African Wattled and White-headed Lapwings and in overhanging bushes Northern Carmine and Little Bee-eaters, Red-billed Queleas and a single Lavender Waxbill. The cliffs held substantial colonies of Red-throated Bee-eaters and Pied Kingfishers. In the riverside vegetation the group located Lizard Buzzard, African Harrier Hawk, Striated Heron, Blue-breasted, Giant and Malachite Kingfishers and Fork-tailed Drongo. On the return we located several pairs of Egyptian Plovers and African Pied Wagtails. Birds of prey were also conspicuous as Tawny Eagle, Brown Snake and Banded Snake Eagles, African Hawk Eagle and African Fish Eagles were observed. A bonus along the river was sightings of African Finfoots numbering five in total including an immature bird near the lodge quay.

March 3rd: Wassadoo, Niokolo Koba, Kedougou, Guinea Road.

Weather: Hot and sunny 39 C

Today we left Wassadoo and travelled south to the border with Guinea and the town of Kedougou. Our first birding stop was at the village of Niokolo Koba which is literally a police check point. From the bridge we watched birds coming down to drink which included the localised Sun Lark and Black-faced Firefinch. The next stop was at the Gambia River which was full of people washing cloths and bathing in the river itself. Not too much here apart from a Village Indigobird perched in a dead tree. Checked in at Kedougou and after lunch a drive towards the border with Guinea. Bird life was thin on the ground apart from brief views of a Brubru, Bruce's Green Pigeon and a pair of Wire-tailed Swallows.

March 4th: Kedougou, Dindefelo.

Weather: Very hot and sunny 42 C

An earlier start today to visit the small village of Dindefelo nestling under the cliffs and forest close to the border with Guinea. On arrival we walked up the main track towards the Jane Goodall Camp. En route a flowering tree attracted Green-headed, Copper, Beautiful, Scarlet-chested and Variable Sunbirds. An African Golden Oriole flew over and a migratory Wahlberg's Eagle circled high above us. On entering the forest system we located the spectacular Violet Turaco, Black Scimitarbill, African Paradise Flycatcher and a female Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike. Further along the trail a pair of Black-bellied Firefinches and a single Kulikoro Firefinch for a few of the group (the latter a localised endemic). A tree with vines attracted African Blue Flycatcher and a Klaas's Cuckoo. Back to the centre for lunch where we were entertained by a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and a party of Piapiac. Lunch was taken followed by another walk at 1630 hours into an area known locally as 'the garden'. The highlight was a sheltered spot with a water source attracting birds down to drink. The variety was good and it was odd to see sunbirds on the ground drinking. Additional species for the day included Red-throated Bee-eater, African Thrush and Orange-cheeked Waxbills. Once in the open again Bruce's Green Pigeon, Yellow-mantled Widowbirds and the commoner species of the area. On the way back to base a Black-crowned Tchagra was briefly seen plus a rather lonely African Wattled Lapwing.

March 5th: Kedougou, Dindefelo.

Weather: Hot and sunny 37 C

Today a return to the habitats around Dindefelo. Just outside Kedougou a stop was made for a flock of Northern Red Bishops feeding on the roadside. Typical birds of woodland savannah were noted along the route including Bruce's Green Pigeon, African Grey and Western Red-billed Hornbills, Bearded Barbet and Blue-bellied Roller. Near the settlement of Sagna a bonus came in the form of a Fox Kestrel a species with a strong association to inselbergs. On arrival in Dindefelo a walk along the main track and towards the waterfall. Near the camp a party of Green Woodhoopoes, Common Gonolek and Beautiful Sunbirds foraging in flowering trees. A bonus came when a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird was seen at close range. In a large tree a female Northern Puffback, Senegal Eremomela and Black-billed Wood-doves. On the track a female Red-billed Firefinch was feeding a Village Indigobird. Beyond the washing area birds became quite common with sightings of African Blue Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Common Wattle-eye, Lavender Waxbill and a fly-by Gabar Goshawk. Near the waterfall we encountered Rock Martins feeding on insects along the cliff face. On the return journey our main highlight was Green Turaco perched on a large horizontal trunk. Lunch taken with Piapiacs for company.

March 6th: Kedougou, Tambacounda, Kaolack, Keur Saloum.

Weather: Hot and sunny 40 C

Today was a travelling one from the extreme southeast of Senegal back to the Saloum Delta which is just above The Gambia. An early breakfast at Kedougou where a Woodland Kingfisher was singing from the riverside vegetation. The journey north to Tambacounda was fairly uneventful apart from a male Northern Ground Hornbill close to the roadside. In Tamba we picked up supplies for a picnic lunch and filled up with diesel. A few kilometres west a stop produced White Helmetshrikes perched in a tree. Kaolack was next a busy town for traffic and huge amounts of rubbish littering the streets. It is however an important area for birds and a short stop near the old bridge produced a wide range of birds. Unusually the tide was in with rafts of White-breasted and Long-tailed Cormorants, Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans, Western Reef Egret and flocks of Slender-billed Gulls in their salmon pink breeding plumage. The road to Keur Saloum is being upgraded which is great news for the local people and tourists alike. Arrived at our final base in Senegal at a picturesque location overlooking the delta.

March 7th: Keur Saloum including boat trip and forest.

Weather: Hot and sunny 36 C

Assembled in the restaurant at 0730 hours watching Senegal Parrots flying in to feed. The common birds were in and around the garden. An hour later a boat trip into the Saloum Delta a huge area of mangroves, mud flats, fishing villages and beaches. Goliath Heron was seen flying away whilst Caspian, Royal and Sandwich Terns hunted for fish. Along the mangrove edge Striated Heron, Great Egret and gatherings of migratory Black Kites and Ospreys. Exposed patches of mud attracted Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank and both pelican species. A diversion into a mangrove area led us to a Blue-breasted Kingfisher and Broad-billed Rollers. It was getting hot as we returned to the dock where hundreds of Slender-billed Gulls were present with Long-tailed Cormorants and two White Wagtails. Back to Keur Saloum for lunch and out at 1600 hours to visit the dam area. On arrival a juvenile Dwarf Bittern showed well in a large tree, the status of this species is uncertain in Senegal but it may be resident in small numbers. In the trees around the dam we found Grey Woodpecker, Green Woodhoopoe, Lizard Buzzard and Willow Warblers. On the dam itself African Darter, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Broad-billed and Abyssinian Rollers, Little Swift and European Bee-eaters. I had brief views of a Red-rumped Swallow whilst a Black-headed Heron, Osprey and Shikra were also close by. On exiting the area a party of Black-rumped Waxbills feeding in a seed-laden weedy field. Due to disturbance from hunters we returned to the main road towards The Gambia. This produced nothing in the way of new species so a return to base was made.

March 8th: Keur Saloum, Dielmon, Kaolack Delta.

Weather: Hot and sunny after early morning cloud 37 C

The group met up at 0700 hours for a walk adjacent to the hotel grounds. A fruiting fig tree attracted Senegal Parrots and Rose-ringed Parakeets and a female Northern Puffback. Near a walled garden we were entertained by a mixed flock of Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau, Lavender Waxbill, Red-billed Firefinch and Tawny-flanked Prinias. A Pearl-spotted Owlet showed well and gave its distinctive calls from a large tree. Further on sightings of Green Woodhoopoes, African Grey and Western Red-billed Hornbills, Little Bee-eater, Purple Glossy Starling and a confiding Western Olivaceous Warbler. After breakfast we visited two areas of forest habitats with the first one having a marshy area. African Sacred Ibis was new for the tour and a male Pygmy Sunbird showed well in the tree tops. Overhead there was a steady passage of Black Kites, European Bee-eaters and House Martins. Also present were Lizard Buzzard, Bearded Barbet, Variable and Green-headed Sunbirds and a juvenile Village Indigobird. En route to the second pond a trio of rollers; Broad-billed, Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned. A walk by the river added Malachite, Blue-breasted and Pied Kingfishers, Dwarf Bittern and the commoner egrets. By now it was nearing 1130 with the thermometer climbing and birdlife becoming quieter. At 1600 we travelled north towards Kaolack and down to an area of the delta. Parked up and crossed by pirogue (an interesting experience to say the least) to an isolated island. This is a truly remarkable place as thousands of Lesser Kestrels and African Swallow-tailed Kites came into roost on the large baobab trees. This must be one of the world's great avian spectacles. The kites and kestrels often came down from great heights before circling and dropping into roost. Lesser Kestrel here are probably from the eastern populations with many actually roosting on the salt flats like waders. Just before seven the group returned to Keur Saloum after a very enjoyable afternoon with two of Africa's charismatic bird species.

March 9th: Keur Saloum, Coular Sosse.

Weather: Cooler than of late with high cloud, sunny later 35 C

Met up for breakfast at 0530 hours and then set off along dusty and rutted tracks to the remote village area of Coular Sosse. The habitat is one of large trees, small scale vegetable gardening, rivers and an extremely dry habitat on its edges. On arrival the common birds were present in numbers and above the river itself a substantial movement of Barn Swallows and Sand Martins. On the sandy track with trees views of Bruce's Green Pigeon, African Mourning Doves and Blue-spotted Wood-doves the latter best told by the dual colour bill. White-billed Buffalo Weavers were attending their large nests lodged in trees. A walk around the area produced a Black-headed Heron, Western Yellow Wagtails, Black-rumped Waxbills and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau. In another area with water a pair of Tawny Eagles were predating the weaver colony (nests in the same tree), a calling Pearl-spotted Owlet, Hamerkop, Hadada Ibis, Black Egret (rare here), Grey Kestrel and a pair of Bearded Barbets. A walk to another area of large trees added Squacco Heron, African Jacana, and eventually a pair of Verreaux's Eagle Owls hiding among the leafy branches. The pair eventually perched in the open giving us glaring looks as we departed. The return journey was good for Black-headed Lapwings, European Bee-eaters, Montagu's, Eurasian Marsh and Pallid Harriers. Another remote village added Red-chested Swallows and a colony of Northern Anteater Chats. Back at base for lunch and an afternoon excursion to Misirah. Due to no recent grass burning the birding was slow although at an abandoned lodge we found a family party of Stone Partridge. On the way back a flock of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers an increasingly scarce bird in West Africa. Grey Kestrel was also noted along with Yellow-billed Kites going to roost and an all too brief flight view of Goliath Heron.

March 10th: Keur Saloum, Kaolack, Dakar

Final species total: 229.

Weather: Hot and sunny 36 C

Our last full day in Senegal as we headed back to the junction to of Kaolack. A roadside stop north of Keur Saloum added Gull-billed Terns, Palm-nut Vulture and a perched Dark Chanting Goshawk. Before reaching Kaolack a pair of Black-shouldered Kites were observed by the road in an acacia tree. On the outskirts of Kaolack by the old bridge a further stop added Common Tern and the commoner gulls and shorebirds. The group pressed onto Technopole a suburb of Dakar which is in effect a failed shopping and golf complex. Always good for birds the group added Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron, Audouin's Gull and Zitting Cisticola to the trip list. The traffic was heavy and slow so we ended the tour as the sun dipped into the Atlantic Ocean.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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