Senegal 2017

...with Mark Finn

February 27th - March 11th

Senegal in late February and early March once again proved to be very good. In the north we encountered many specialties of the region including Golden Nightjar, Savile's Bustard, Lesser Moorhen, Cricket Warbler, River Prinia, Little Grey Woodpecker and the sheer spectacle of thousands of migrant waterfowl notably Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler and Garganey. Further south at Kaolack the group witnessed Lesser Kestrels and African Swallow-tailed Kites going to roost. At Keur Saloum itself a boat trip was good for wintering Osprey, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, White-fronted Plover and other shorebirds. An early morning foray out into the bush produced Greyish and Verreaux's Eagle Owls. Wassadou was our final destination which again proved to be exceptional. On the river and its associated sand-bars we located high numbers of nesting Egyptian Plovers, Wattled and White-headed Lapwings, Blue-breasted and Shining Blue Kingfishers and the scarce Adamawa Turtle Dove. Passerines were few this year mainly due to the drought and failure of the rains. Despite this a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen near the viewing point (3rd Senegal record). Oriole Warblers gave us the run around until the final morning. Other notable sightings in the area included Yellow Penduline Tit, White-shouldered Black Tit, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Blue-bellied Roller and Red-winged Pytilia.

My thanks to Lamine for driving us around Senegal and Ass for his guiding particularly in the forest areas.

The next scheduled Senegal tour will take place in January 2018, although private and custom tours can be arranged through Birdwatching Breaks.

February 27th: Dakar, Ranch de Bango, Marigot 1.

Weather: Sunny with light west winds 28 C.

We all met at 0700 hours for a pre-breakfast seawatch over the Atlantic Ocean. The wintering Peregrine Falcon perched on a hotel block which it has been using for many years. On the beach area Western Reef Egret, Common and Green Sandpipers, Whimbrel and several Ospreys hunting for fish.

At sea a wide range of birds included Northern Gannet, Great and Long-tailed Cormorants, Pomarine Skua, Caspian, Gull-billed, Royal, Sandwich and Common Terns. In the grounds common birds included House Sparrow, Village Weaver, Red-billed Firefinch, Sudan Golden Sparrow and Western Red-billed Hornbills. At 1030 we headed north towards St Louis passing through the towns of Louga and Thies. Stops at road kills along the way produced close views of Hooded, Ruppell's Griffon and White-backed Vultures and attentive Pied Crows. Near the old railway line Wattled Lapwing, Abyssinian Roller, Greater Blue-eared and Chestnut-bellied Starlings fed on discarded grain. In the villages Speckled Pigeon, Laughing Dove and African Mourning Doves were quiet common. The outskirts of St Louis has many areas of mud and water which are affected by rubbish and pollution. However this awful mix attracted hundreds of birds including Cattle Egret, Yellow-billed Kite, Spur-winged Lapwing and the commoner town birds. Arrived at Ranch de Bango where the grounds attracted Grey Woodpecker, Viellot's Barbet, Beautiful Sunbird and both Sudan Golden and Northern Grey-headed Sparrows. After arranging transport we headed out to Marigot 1 with my old friend Ibrahim as the driver. From the road we entered an area of acacia woodland and lakes the latter being dry in many areas. From an elevated position in the van acacia trees attracted Woodchat Shrike, Striped Kingfisher, African Silverbill, Red-billed Quelea and on the ground itself Northern Wheatear, Western Yellow Wagtail and the local race of Crested Lark. The little remaining water attracted many egrets and a sizeable flock of Eurasian Spoonbills. Another highlight was close encounters with Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse sitting on the ground and flying in to drink. Ass then picked up a hunting falcon which turned out to be another Peregrine Falcon which eventually settled on the ground. Little Green Bee-eaters were added to the list sallying for insects before heading back to the ranch at dusk.

Mammals: Gambian Ground Squirrel (2) Green Patis Monkey (6).

February 28th: Ranch de Bango, Djoudj National Park.

Weather: Hot and sunny with light west winds

We met up outside the restaurant for a short walk around the grounds of the ranch. A dead tree attracted a migrant Common Chiffchaff which was catching insects in flight. Overhead a pair of Western Plantain-eaters flew into a large acacia and promptly disappeared. Near the horse paddocks a group of finches included Village Indigobird and winter-plumaged Northern Red (Orange) Bishops. A careful scan of the bushes revealed a wintering female Common Redstart and local birds including a group of Brown Babblers, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Red-eyed Dove and the gaudy looking Yellow-crowned Gonolek. Near the river Squacco Heron, African Jacana, Sedge Warbler and Little Bee-eaters were noted. Returned for breakfast and afterwards towards Djoudj NP along a very rutted route. Before leaving the ranch African Palm Swift, Subalpine Warbler and White Wagtail were added to the trip list. The entrance road is long to Djoudj and passes through rice fields and poor villages with the former attracting the declining Black-crowned Crane a party of twenty birds were observed in flight and on the ground. A stop at seasonal ponds was particularly rewarding for waders - Pied Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank, Wood, Green, Common and Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlin, Common Ringed Plover and a few Greater Painted Snipe the latter hiding in the reed edge. In the open country several male Montagu's Harriers joined the numerous Western Marsh Harriers in quartering the fields for prey. At the entrance ponds of Djoudj we were greeted by thousands of White-faced Whistling Ducks and within them a few of the scarce Fulvous Whistling Duck. The ponds also held good numbers of Pied Avocets, Ruff and three Lesser Flamingo. After picking up permits we headed towards the Grand Lac an exceptional place for waterbirds. Along the route our attention was drawn to a roadside pool full of feeding birds. A careful look produced views of Kittlitz's Plover, Spotted Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Black Crake and singing Tawny-flanked Prinias. Grand Lac was spectacular with literally no wind and perfect viewing conditions. On the lake literally thousands of Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Garganey and a surprise find by Chris - three Marbled Ducks a scarce visitor from further north. Along the shore a pair of Kentish Plovers, Glossy Ibis and Collared Pratincole. Overhead a steady stream of terns and at least two Black Storks. On our return to the main track a Beaudouin's Eagle gave great views in flight and the pond added several Lesser Moorhens a rain-related species on the roadside pool. Off the main track more pools were packed with many egrets and herons including the impressive Black Heron, Eurasian and African Spoonbills and Black-crowned Night Herons. By the dock a pair of African Stonechats. It was time to take our first boat trip which was to be an exciting experience as we cruised towards the huge Great White Pelican colony of some 25000 birds.

Along the way the group had close views of Gull-billed, Caspian and Whiskered Terns, African Darter, Great and Long-tailed Cormorants, Malachite Kingfisher and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters hunting insects from dead trees. I picked a suitable area of reeds and scrub where we encountered the rare and localised River Prinia - great views obtained. The pelican colony was impressive as it also attracted other birds notably Great and Little Egrets, Purple Heron, Grey-headed and Black-headed Gulls, lots of Osprey and Western Marsh Harriers. Returned to the dock and made a diversion down another track where three African Wolves were hunting a pack of Warthogs with young. On the return a Southern Grey Shrike of the form elegans was seen perched high in an acacia. No bustards on this occasion so I headed back to the ranch and stopped at a pool where the local children came to see us. The pool had similar birds to the morning although Ainslie located a Winding Cisticola in the extensive reedbed.

Mammals: Green Patis Monkey (6), Warthog (20), African Wolf (3).

March 1st: Ranch de Bango, Marigot 1, Gandon, Langue de Barbarie.

Weather: Hot with increasing southwest winds 36 C

The pre-breakfast walk this morning was towards the old complex which is now laying in ruins and rather overgrown with acacia. Familiar birds of the ranch were around with the addition of Northern Crombec and Black-crowned Tchagra and a party of Senegal Thick-knees by the boundary wall. At breakfast an Eurasian Hoopoe was noted feeding in the garden. At 0900 hours we headed towards Marigot along a rather rutted track recording Zitting Cisticola and three Black-crowned Cranes. Our main attention was drawn to a small flooded pool before Marigot 1 which was to be exceptional for bird life. Dozens of waterbirds were present including at least 120 Black Herons, Eurasian Spoonbill, Sacred Ibis, Purple Swamphen and a single Intermediate Egret. A lone acacia tree added the localised African Collared Dove giving its distinctive calls. Further along the track a Savile's Bustard showed at close range much to the delight of Lynda. A walk among the acacia trees added a pair of the scarce Spotted Thick-knee, Western Bonelli's Warblers and Common Whitethroat. I decided to change plans and head towards the village of Gandon with a habitat of mature acacia trees and scattered settlements. Lunch was taken followed by a walk through the trees which was rather productive with sightings of Brubru, Senegal Batis, Common and Iberian Chiffchaffs, Red-cheeked Cordonbleau, Woodchat Shrike and both Striped and Grey Woodpeckers. Next on the agenda was the Langue de Barbarie which was badly damaged a few years ago. Despite getting lost for a while due to lack of signage we found the park headquarters. Birding by the inlet here was fairly productive with Black Bush Robin in the scrub and a good range of waders on the beach - Temminck's and Little Stints, Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlin. Back to Gandon again for another walk in the trees. Birdlife was good with excellent views of Western Orphean Warblers feeding quietly in the acacia trees. An earlier return to the ranch via St Louis where the mud held Slender-billed, Black-headed, Grey-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a huge roost of Cattle Egrets.

Mammals: Gambian Ground Squirrel (1), Green Patis Monkey (4), Warthog (10).

March 2nd: Ranch de Bango, Marigot 1,2 and 3.

Weather: Hot and sunny with an increasing northeast wind 40 C

Our birding around the grounds produced similar birds to the last three mornings with the addition of Cut-throat Finch, Little Weaver and a wintering Western Olivaceous Warbler. The 4x4 was late in turning up as we proceeded to Marigot 1, 2 and 3. The first stop near Marigot 1 was in an area of mature acacia trees and old fence lines made of tangled wood. Brief views of Rufous-tailed and Black Bush Robins plus a Little Grey Woodpecker [perched in top of an acacia tree - an added bonus in an unexpected place. On reaching Marigot 2 the group encountered a mix of warblers feeding on the reed edge including Sedge, African Reed and Western Olivaceous. With permission from a farmer we were allowed onto the other side of the fence which gave us views over the lake complex. Careful scanning produced the commoner wetland birds and additions to the list which included African Pygmy Goose, Common Moorhen and Little Grebe. Our journey passed through a particularly arid area which was full of Greater Short-toed Larks and Chestnut-backed Sparrow Larks. Lunch was taken in the shade of the trees although it was becoming very hot. Southern Grey Shrike, Western Bonelli's Warblers and other migrants were feeding among the acacia. Best however was a pair of Little Grey Woodpeckers at their nest hole. The afternoons birding produced many waders with hundreds of migrating Little and Temminck's Stints, Pied Avocet and Black-necked Stilts. Back to the ranch for an earlier finish. Tomorrow we move on to Podor to a different habitat and birds along a section of the Senegal River and steppe-like grasslands around Richard Toll.

Mammals: Gambian Ground Squirrel (6), Green Patis Monkey (2), Warthog (6), African Wolf (2) Brown Hare (1).

March 3rd: Ranch de Bango, Richard Toll, Podor.

Weather: Rather hot and sunny with a northwest wind 38 C

We c hecked out of Ranch de Bango and headed east along the new road to the town of Richard Toll. Beyond the town is an area of heavily grazed grassland dotted with bushes. This was excellent with the enigmatic Cricket Warbler, Senegal Eremomela, Zebra Waxbill, Tawny Pipit, Desert Cisticola and high numbers of Black-headed Lapwings all present. On the move north were substantial numbers of Northern Wheatear, Yellow and White Wagtails, Sand Martin and Barn Swallow. A male Montagu's Harriers was also seen resting under the shade of a bush. Lunch was taken in Richard Toll and afterwards birding in a mature acacia forest. This was excellent for birds which included Black Bush Robins, Black-crowned Tchagra, Subalpine Warbler and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. The road to Podor had the commoner birds until Chris located a male Black-eared Wheatear by the road an uncommon migrant. Checked in at Podor which sits on the Senegal River and directly opposite Mauritania. A beautiful setting and buildings dating back to the 19th century. At 1800 hours we set off to an isolated encampment and island which is reached by boat. After a little while in the forest views of Golden and Long-tailed Nightjars were obtained before heading back to base.

March 4th: Podor, Richard Toll, St Louis, Thies, Kaolack, Keur Saloum.

Today was essentially a travel day towards the southern part of Senegal. Very little birding was done and no counts taken along the route.

March 5th: Keur Saloum, Saloum Delta, The Barrage.

Weather: Hot and sunny with west winds 39 C

The group met up on the veranda at 0730 hours and started a short walk around the village. Few people were around as Rose-ringed Parakeets and Senegal Parrots left their roosts and landed in fruit bearing trees to feed. An adult Shikra was sitting quietly on an exposed branch looking for prey. In mature trees we located Black-billed Wood-dove, Northern Puffback, Pygmy Sunbird and a fly-by Yellow-billed Shrike. In the distance a Pearl-spotted Owlet called but it did not respond on this occasion. Overhead a light passage of Pallid Swifts and House Martins travelling slowly northwards. Back for breakfast and then onto a boat for a tour into the delta and mangrove stands. The exposed muddy islands attracted Eurasian Oystercatcher, Grey, White-fronted and Ringed Plovers, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Caspian, Royal, Sandwich and Gull-billed Terns. On the mangrove edge up to three Goliath Herons were noted along with Osprey, European, Blue-cheeked and a single Swallow-tailed Bee-eater. On another island Palm-nut Vulture was noted. A diversion into the mangroves was productive for Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron and Greater Honeyguide the latter being a surprise find. The weather was getting hot as we returned to the port and travelled back to base for lunch. At 1600 hours we met up again and headed towards The Barrage an interesting place for birdlife. On arrival the lake had completely dried out so I set off on a walk into the nearby countryside for birds. Almost immediately a Broad-billed Roller, Gabar Goshawk and Shikra were noted along with White-billed Buffalo Weavers and Bush Petronias. A small area of water attracted several Hamerkop, Wattled and Spur-winged Lapwings and Yellow Wagtails. The next hour or so was taken up by two trees which were a magnet for birds. A rather dead tree with few leaves gave us excellent views of European Turtle, Vinaceous, Red-eyed and African Collared Doves, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Tree Pipit and raptors including Grey Kestrel, Dark Chanting Goshawk and African Harrier Hawk. In the distance a Fork-tailed Drongo was noted along with African Grey and Western Red-billed Hornbills, Green Woodhoopoe and a melanistic male Montagu's Harrier. Another excellent day in Senegal.

Mammals: Green Patis Monkey (2).

March 6th: Keur Saloum, Coular Sosse, Ndiafatte.

Weather: Hot and sunny with light west winds 38 C

An early departure from Keur Saloum at 0530 hours to visit the remote village of Coular Sosse. A short distance from the village we were lucky to find a Greyish Eagle Owl sitting in a roadside tree. After several kilometres a stop in an area of grassland dotted with large trees attracted an adult Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Eurasian Kestrel, African Harrier Hawk and European Bee-eaters. The barrage at Coular Sosse was also good for birds as we recorded Rufous-crowned Roller, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Lavender Waxbill, Red-rumped Swallow, Subalpine, Willow and Western Bonelli's Warblers and in the open areas Black-headed Heron. A visit to the market garden area of the village produced the commoner birds and great views of Senegal Parrot, Brown Babbler and Fork-tailed Drongos. The wetter areas attracted Hadada Ibis, Black Crake, Great and Intermediate Egrets. Earlier we had brief views of Giant Kingfisher and a variety of starlings including Bronze-tailed. Further exploration of the area produced a flock of the declining Spur-winged Goose, Pink-backed Pelican and Osprey. The journey back to Keur Saloum was largely uneventful apart from an adult Martial Eagle hunting for prey along the route. The weather was by now very hot and we arranged to go out at 1600 hours to Ndiafatte an exceptional place for roosting birds of prey. On arrival the distant baobab trees held Brown Snake Eagle and Osprey and later on substantial numbers of Lesser Kestrel and Scissor-tailed Kites. Tomorrow we travel east to Wassadou.

March 7th: Keur Saloum, Kaolack, Tambacounda, Wassadou.

Weather: Hot and sunny with little or no wind 41 C

Checked out of Keur Saloum and travelled towards the chaotic junction town of Kaolack. En route an enforced stop produced a Snowy-crowned Robin Chat by the road. The route east towards Tambacounda passes through a few small towns and a rather flat landscape. Most of the waterholes were completely dry and the only bird of note was a rather lost-looking White Stork. Filled up with fuel in Tambacounda and went south towards Wassadou our base for the next four nights. Outside a village we had the extraordinary sight of three Brown Snake Eagles in the same tree. At the encampment we set up our scopes and cameras to look over the Gambia River with this stretch being a magnet for birds. On the river edges Black-crowned Night Heron, Pied, Giant and Blue-breasted Kingfishers and up to five African Finfoots. The islands held Wattled Lapwing and many doves which in turn attracted a Lanner Falcon. Near the restaurant the distinctive calls of Grey-headed Bushshrike and a pair of Grey Woodpeckers. The finale was a group of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters hawking for insects.

Mammals: Hippo (3), Olive Baboon (40).

March 8th: Wassadou.

Weather: Hot and sunny 38 C

At 0715 hours we met up at the restaurant and started to watch birds on the river. Striated Herons were new to the list and Ass found at Oriole Warbler a skulking and difficult species to observe (several were heard over the next hour). A juvenile Klaas's Cuckoo was noted before our walk adjacent to the river. This proved to be productive with sightings of Red-throated Bee-eater, African Blue Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Blackcap Babbler and a pair of Egyptian Plovers walking around the staff houses. Back for breakfast and then another walk along the entrance road until 1030. Interesting birds included Bateleur, African Harrier Hawk, Green Woodhoopoe, Red-winged Pytilia, Northern Puffback, Orange-cheeked Waxbill and a family of Piapiac. Returned to the viewpoint which had similar birds to yesterday with the addition of Helmeted Guineafowl. At 1600 hours a boat trip commenced on the river. The islands towards the escarpment had the usual species plus White-headed Lapwing a spectacular and uncommon bird of Senegal. We then headed upstream with African Hawk Eagles in the larger trees or flying in front of us. In the riverside vegetation the group located Shikra, Shining Blue, Pied, Blue-breasted and Grey-headed Kingfishers, Little, Red-throated and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Swamp Flycatcher and the commoner species of Wassadou. On the return journey a pair of Adamawa Turtle Doves were observed on the shingle and sand islands. The latter held at least twenty Egyptian Plovers and an African Pied Wagtail. A highlight for most of us was close views of African Finfoots both swimming and walking on the river edge. Our guide then located a Western Banded Snake Eagle perched in a large tree. The day closed with sightings of White-browed Robin Chat and a Marsh Harrier heading north overhead.

Mammals: Hippo (2), Gambian Mongoose (2), Long-snouted Mongoose (2).

March 9th: Wassadou, Wassadou Village, Gamon.

Weather: Hot and sunny with very light west winds 41 C

The normal pre-breakfast walk along the riverside path commenced at 0700 hours. The old tree by the viewing point held a pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers and a singing Oriole Warbler nearby. Along the path itself brief views of Green-backed Camaroptera. In the palm tree fields we encountered many estrilid finches including Black-rumped and Lavender Waxbills. On our return to base a Northern Black Flycatcher showed well in a bare tree. After breakfast a visit to an area of savannah dotted with large trees near Wassadou village. On the outskirts a Blue-bellied Roller was seen by a hut and on entering a dirt track a group of White Helmetshrikes. The next hour produced several good sightings including Tawny and Wahlberg's Eagles, Alpine Swift and a solitary Maribou Stork. Back at base the viewing point held similar birds to yesterday with the addition of a Black Stork. Later in the day a visit to Gamon took longer than expected due to road works. On arrival a walk through the recently burnt ground produced Double-spurred Francolins, Black-headed Lapwing, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, White-shouldered Black Tit, Pygmy, Beautiful and Copper Sunbirds. Back to base with a covey of Helmeted Guineafowl by the village a rare sight nowadays away from national parks.

Mammals: Gambian Ground Squirrel (2), Green Patis Monkey (30), Warthog (1), Bush Duiker (1).

March 10th: Wassadou.

Weather: Hot and sunny with light west winds 37 C

A different route this morning along the entrance road which was very good for birds at first light. A bonus came in the form of two Yellow Penduline Tits feeding in a bare tree with Yellow-breasted and Senegal Eremomelas. Further down the track an African Goshawk showed well as it preened itself in the early morning light. A rather leafy tree held the commoner species including Northern Crombec, Senegal Batis and Tawny-flanked Prinia. After breakfast the staff compound attracted Long-tailed, Purple and Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starlings and Senegal Coucal. By 1000 hours birdlife had almost ceased so a return to the viewing platform was made. Nothing new was added apart from three Woolly-necked Storks which appeared after lunch.

March 11th: Wassadou, Kaolack, Dakar including Technopole

Final species total: 292.

Weather: Hot inland and cooler on the coast 24 C/35 C

Today was basically a travel one back to Dakar where our flights back to Europe departed late evening. Before leaving the delights of Wassadou we had views of the elusive but vocal Oriole Warbler. The journey back to Dakar was broken up by lunch in Kaolack. Heavy traffic mainly due to international truck traffic slowed us down as we approached Dakar. Technopole is a failed shopping centre which was built on a marsh and subsequently flooded making it totally useless. The area badly needs protection and is under constant threat from development and illegal dumping. Despite this Technopole attracts many species of birds which find a safe haven here in the centre of Dakar. On the first flooded pool a flock of migrant Eurasian Spoonbills, hundreds of gulls including Lesser Black-backed, Mediterranean, Slender-billed and Audouin's. Several species of terns were also present mainly Caspian and Gull-billed. Around the numerous reed edges a wide range of herons and egrets, Garganey, Purple Swamphen and Northern Red Bishops. Time was getting on as we rejoined the manic Dakar traffic to the Caleo Hotel where we freshened up before going to the airport. We said our goodbyes whilst I remained behind for a week of exploration for future tours

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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