November 8th-9th: Dakar Airport, Popenguine, Thies, Saint Louis, Ranch de Bango
Daily 57 New 57 Running 57
Weather: Hot and sunny on an E wind 37C
Late on the 8th clients were picked up from the new airport and transferred to the village of Popenguine. The only species seen were a group of Black-headed Lapwings disturbed from the road. On the morning of the 9th the group met at 0700 hours and observed White-breasted Cormorant, Osprey, Caspian, Sandwich and African Royal Terns. Within the gardens brief views of Common Gonolek, Long-tailed Starlings, Common Bulbul and overhead Little Swifts. Packed up for the journey north to Saint Louis via Thies the second city of Senegal. Our first stop was an area close the hotel with broken water pipes which attracted Laughing Dove and Long-tailed Starlings. Further along the road another stop added the uncommon Cardinal Woodpecker, Speckled Pigeon and three Cut-throat Finches. The reserve at Popenguine was next on our agenda with a walk through the acacia scrub and along the crumbling cliff habitats overlooking the sea. Recent rains had flooded the pool attracting Grey Heron, Little Egret, Reed Cormorant, Grey-headed, Woodland and Malachite Kingfishers, Little Bee-eater, Red-billed Firefinch and a bonus in breeding plumage Red-billed Quelea and Northern Red Bishops. Walking along the paths added Red-billed Firefinches, White-rumped Seedeaters, Namaqua Dove and eventually a Blue Rock Thrush. On the return walk a Mottled Spinetail was located among the Little Swifts plus Common Sandpiper and Black-necked Stilt. The journey north proved to be long with a major diversion due to a religious festival. Despite this another stop added two male Sahel Paradise Whydahs and a group of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers feeding on a distressed donkey. After a late lunch further stops added Ruppell's Griffon and Hooded Vultures, African Grey and Western Red-billed Hornbills, Viellot's Barbet, Greater Blue-eared and Chestnut-bellied Starlings, Northern Anteater Chat and Grey-headed Sparrows. The tide at Saint Louis was in with many egrets and gulls present. Good to arrive at Ranch de Bango our base for three nights.
Greater Blue-eared Starling
November 10th: Ranch de Bango, Marigot Lakes 1,2 and 3
Daily 84 New 55 Running 112
Weather: Hot and sunny with NE winds 25-35C
A later start today with a walk around the lodge grounds. The first sound was African Fish Eagles calling just after sunrise. Trees in the garden attracted Senegal Parrot, Viellot's Barbet, Scarlet-chested Sunbird and African Mourning Doves. After meeting up with the others we quickly located wintering Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff and Common Redstart. A walk along the road towards the old ruins added Double-spurred Francolin, calling Grey-backed Camaroptera and Village Weavers. In the newly tilled fields Western Yellow Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Senegal Thick-knee, Red-billed Firefinch and Village Indigobird. Back to base for breakfast and then out for the day visiting the Marigot Lakes complex which have changed since last year. Marigot 1 was first on the agenda and the group quickly racked up sightings of Great, Little and Western Cattle Egrets, Grey Heron, Spur-winged Goose, Sacred Ibis, Black Stork, Black-crowned Cranes and a wide range of shorebirds; Common Ringed, Kittlitz's and Spur-winged Plovers, Common Snipe, Marsh and Common Sandpipers, Ruff, Common and Spotted Redshank the latter two being fairly scarce in Senegal. A pair of Gull-billed Terns flew-by and several Western Marsh Harriers were also present. Back on the 4x4 along sandy tracks into a habitat of thorny acacia forest. Birding was challenging in this habitat and we had brief views of the uncommon Savile's Bustard. Marigot 2 added African Wattled Lapwing, Common Moorhen, African Purple Swamphen, African Jacana, Wood Sandpiper, and in the trees Western Subalpine Warbler, Red-billed Quelea, Village and Black-headed Weavers. Further on a small seasonal pool attracted Green Sandpiper and Speckled Pigeons coming down to drink. A diversion towards a village had a single Short-toed Eagle, Common Kestrel and four Temminck's Coursers. Back to another wetland where a colony of African Spoonbills was a welcome sight plus Black Egret, Sacred Ibis, Senegal Thick-knee and overhead a lone Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. Before returning to base Ass spotted an African Black Crake hiding in a dyke which allowed very close views, a fitting end to a days birding in the north.
November 11th: Ranch de Bango, Djoudj National Park
Daily 91 New 27 Running 139
Weather: Sunny with a NE wind 40C
A pre-breakfast walk around Ranch de Bango with African Palm Swifts flying overhead and Black-billed Wood-doves along the mud walls. The interesting area was a small river inlet which attracted African Black Crake, Malachite Kingfisher and wintering Willow Warblers. Around 9am we set off in a northerly direction to Djoudj National Park. The entrance track was badly rutted in places so progress was slow. At the first junction a party of Eurasian Spoonbills were feeding in a shallow pool with egrets and herons. Further stops produced sightings of Black-crowned Crane, African Purple Swamphen, Glossy and Sacred Ibis and a pair of Montagu's Harriers. The pools near the park entrance were productive for Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Northern Shoveler, Pied Avocet, Black-headed Gull, Black Stork and a single Yellow-billed Stork. Once in the park I headed towards Grand Lac which was overflowing with water which made the birds more widespread and distant. On the entrance track Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Western Subalpine Warbler and Chestnut-backed Sparrow Larks. Lunch at the hides when Emily flused a Barn Owl which was nesting in one of them, it flew into nearby cover. Grand Lac was fairly thin on the ground for birds with Common Greenshank and Sandwich Tern being noted among the more widespread species. It was time for the boat trip with sightings of Collared Pratincole en route and a few wintering Purple Herons. Once on the boat the quay area attracted Whiskered and Black Terns plus two Little Terns in winter plumage. In the reeds good numbers of Black-crowned Night Heron, Pied Kingfisher and exceptional views of River Prinia a scarce West African endemic. The finale was the Great White Pelican colony along with sightings of Western Yellow Wagtail and Sedge Warblers in the vegetation. Back to the quay and towards Ranch de Bango for our last night near Saint Louis.
November 12th: Ranch de Bango, road to Richard Toll, Richard Toll including Sand Quarry and Ariel Mast areas, Podor
Daily 72 New 13 Running 152
Weather: Sunny with a NE wind 37C
This morning the group headed towards the rice fields. The usual birds along the path until reaching the fields where we located Zitting and Winding Cisticolas, Northern Red Bishop, and in a muddy pond Green and Wood Sandpipers. Checked out of the ranch and headed eastwards towards Richard Toll. Stops at roadside pools added nothing new so I headed towards the old sand quarry east of town. In no time at all we had located Cricket Warbler and the uncommon Fulvous Chatterer. Back to the town for lunch which was followed by a visit to the aerial tower. A slow walk around here is always productive with the first acacia trees holding Western Red and African Grey Hornbills, Sudan Golden Sparrows, Willow Warbler, Common and Iberian Chiffchaffs and several Green Bee-eaters. Further along the tree-line Ass located Striped Kingfisher, Cut-throat Finch and Abyssinian Rollers. A bonus came when a Sennar Penduline Tit was found collecting nesting material. Back to the bus and eastwards to Podor where a stop produced views of Beaudouin's and Martial Eagles two scarce species of the region. Travelled down to Podor adding Hamerkop along the way.
November 13th: Podor, Barrage de Podor, Foret de Golette
Daily 62 New 17 Running 169
Weather: Sunny with a NE wind 37C
Today was set aside for visiting the many and varied sites around Podor and the Senegal River. Above average rainfall during the wet season made our task more difficult as the birds were more widespread and scattered in distribution. A few birds were around the hotel garden including a singing Western Olivaceous Warbler, Long-tailed and Greater Blue-eared Starlings, Red-cheeked Cordonbleau and African Silverbill the last two species coming down to drink. After breakfast I headed out of town towards the barrage. The wetter areas attracted the uncommon Striated Heron, Little Egret, Hamerkop, Village and Black-headed Weavers and Village Indigobirds. In the shade of large trees the first of many Black Scrub Robins (we observed over 30 today) and a moulting male Pin-tailed Whydah. The barrage also had above average numbers of Blue-cheeked and Green Bee-eaters, Ruff and the commoner egrets. Foret de Golette is an important area for migrants and a walk around the habitat of old trees, scrub and sandy patches proved to be productive. A Eurasian Hoopoe was noted feeding on the ground along with a group of splendidly plumaged Pygmy Sunbirds and our first Blue-naped Mousebirds arid loving species. A bonus came when a Eurasian Wryneck popped into view. Next stop was the main road of sorts where we located Brubru giving its distinctive trim-phone calls. A bonus came when Ass found a pair of Red-throated Bee-eaters in the shade of a dense tree, out of range and out of season here. The older trees with holes attracted Green Woodhoopoe and Black Scimitarbill in family parties and a stunning Abyssinian Roller. The weather was by now very hot so a return to base and out again in late afternoon. A return to the forest looking for Golden Nightjar a difficult and rare species of the sahel. Ass went walkabout looking for it in a sandy habitat as it likes to roost under mature trees. No luck on this occasion although we did connect with waders around a seasonal pond including Little Ringed Plover, Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers. The highlight here was an immature African Harrier Hawk attempting to catch a ground squirrel. The group wandered around and located an immature Didric Cuckoo on the ground an excellent sighting to end the day.
November 14th: Podor (entrance road), Foret de Amboura, Richard Toll (ariel mast area), Saint Louis, Popenguine
Daily 65 New 7 Running 176
Weather: Sunny with an E wind 38C
An early start to look for nightjars and nocturnal birds before dawn. We decided to visit an arid area near the barrage with scattered bushes. Lick was with us as the road held two Plain Nightjars plus a few Long-tailed Nightjars flying around and landing to give close views. It was to be a long day in travelling time and various stops by the gendarmerie in the Saint Louis area. Despite this our first major stop was the new reserve at Foret de Amoura which has been established for the reintroduction of mammals. The warden is a somewhat colourful character and he drove us around to show us birds and mammals. We had good views of Great Grey and Woodchat Shrikes, Viellot's Barbet and migrant waders around the waterholes. Despite a lot of searching no sign of Arabian Bustards but a nice group of Cream-coloured Coursers was most welcome. Just beyond the reserve we caught up with a pair of Dark Chanting Goshawks and a dark phase Booted Eagle perched on a pylon a scarce bird in Senegal. The arid area also had a pair of Black-crowned Sparrow Larks. Further west a return to the ariel mast area near Richard Toll, nothing new so we continued towards the town for lunch. On passing Saint Louis where many waterbirds were present we headed south to Louga, Thies and Popenguine our base for the last two nights.
November 15th: Dakar, Isle de Madeleine, North Atlantic Ocean, Point Almadies
Daily 26 New 10 Running 186
Weather: Sunny with NE winds 39C
Today the group headed back north to Dakar where a boat trip had been arranged for morning and afternoon pelagic trips. The seas off Dakar are deep and rich in fish which in turn attracts many species of seabirds. On the outskirts of the city Yellow-billed Kite, Pied Crow and several species of doves were recorded. The boat left the harbour in Dakar and headed a few miles offshore to reach the deep waters. In no time at all we were having the tricky identification of three shearwaters notably Cory's, Scopoli's and Cape Verde. Fortunately they came in very close to the boat allowing excellent views. Other species noted on the Isle de Madeleine included White-breasted Cormorant, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, African Royal Tern and Northern Gannets. On the return to land we notched up Sabine's Gull, Pomarine and Great Skuas, Roseate, Common and Black Terns. After lunch the board headed north towards Yoff where we encountered good numbers of terns. a single Sooty Shearwater and Ruddy Turnstone on the beach. Later in the day we said goodbye to Emily as she had to return home to the USA in the evening.
November 16th: Popenguine, Lac Sarene, Lac Samone
Daily 74 New 10 Final 196
Weather: Cloudy with NW winds 37C
After breakfast I headed south towards the tourist town of Mbour which is reached by a new section of motorway. This makes the journey quick and easy. The usual birds were in the hotel grounds and offshore. To the south of Mbour are several coastal lagoons which were crammed full of birds on this occasion with the best being at Nianing. Huge flocks of terns were resting on the mud and included African Royal, Caspian, Lesser Crested, Sandwich, Common, Black and Little. Gulls present were mainly Lesser Black-backed but close inspection revealed Audouin's, Black-headed and Grey-hooded. A few waders which included Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Common and Wood Sandpipers. Lac Sarene was next which was suffering from low water levels due to excessive pumping of water for crops. Careful scanning of the lake revealed Osprey, Woodland, Grey-headed and Malachite Kingfishers, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Whiskered and Black Terns, Black Kite, Western Yellow and White Wagtails, Northern Red Bishop and flocks of Great White Pelicans. I decided to check the ocean-side pools at Sarene village where we picked up Whimbrel feeding on the mud. Lunch taken followed by a leisurely boat trip at Lac Somone an interesting lagoon next to the sea.