Northern Senegal, 2022
This was the first birding trip to Northern Senegal of 2022 and it produced a few surprises as usual. The summer rain was the best for several years which resulted in large areas of seasonal wetlands. Interesting species around Podor included exceptionally close views of Long-tailed and European Nightjars and at dusk the poorly known Golden Nightjar. Other species of interest on the trip included several pairs of Red-billed Tropicbirds, a male Red-footed Falcon near Djoudj, out of range Red-throated Bee-eaters, Little Grey Woodpecker, River Prinia, Greater Swamp Warbler, and high numbers of Cut-throat Finches. I am sure the following trip report and bird list will help bring back memories of an excellent tour to Senegal.
October 22nd-23rd: London, Madrid, Dakar, Popenguine, Saint Louis, Ranch de Bango, Marigot 1, Mauritania Border Road
Daily 79 New 79 Running 79
Weather: Hot and sunny with little wind 30c-34c
The group arrived on time into Dakar airport although there were a few problems with luggage which delayed our departure to Popenguine. On the 23rd a short seawatch from the breakfast tables revealed Osprey, Caspian, Gull-billed and West African Terns and in the garden Common Bulbul, Village and Black-headed Weavers, White-rumped Seedeater, Red-billed Firefinch and overhead Little Swifts. Loaded up and on the road passing through the village where we found Grey-headed Kingfisher, Purple and Abyssinian Rollers, Greater Blue-eared Starlings and the ever-present Yellow-billed Kites. The Thies road is badly potholed in places with another stop adding Crested Lark, Black-headed Lapwing and Long-tailed Starlings. The road beyond Thies to the north becomes quieter with traffic allowing several birding stops en route. The first of these had Hooded, White-rumped and Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures, Lanner Falcon, Western Red-billed Hornbill, Brubru and several Eurasian Hoopoes. A village with scattered baobab trees was next where we added Dideric Cuckoo, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Little Green Bee-eater and Namaqua Doves. Arrived at Ranch de Bango for lunch and afterwards a visit to Marigot one. The grasses held Northern Red and Black-winged Bishops, and in seasonal pools Dunlin, Temminck’s Stint, Senegal Thick-knee and Spur-winged Lapwings. Once at Marigot One the seasonal pools we added Western Cattle and Western Reef Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Egyptian and Spur-winged Geese, Reed and White-breasted Cormorants, African Darter, Ruff, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper and Western Yellow Wagtails and in the bushes Woodchat Shrike and Northern Anteater Chat. Further on a single Squacco Heron and a pair of Black-crowned Cranes. We ended the day birding along the Mauritania road in a habitat of acacia trees. This proved to be good for sightings of Grey Woodpecker, Striped Kingfisher, Black Scrub Robin, Western Subalpine and Western Bonelli’s Warblers, Northern Crombec and a flock of Yellow-billed Storks flying above us.
Mammals: Patas Monkey (2), Slender Mongoose (1), Gambian Ground Squirrel (3)
October 24th: Ranch de Bango, Djoudj
Daily 102 New 60 Running 139
Weather: Sunny with cloudy spells 32c-36c
The group met up at 0715 hours for a walk around the grounds. A wintering Common Redstart was by the rooms and a non-breeding Pin-tailed Whydah showed in a bare tree. By the horse paddock we located Red-eyed, African Mourning and Laughing Doves and in a large tree a pair of African Fish Eagles these being one of the most northerly pairs in Africa. In the acacia trees we located a singing Western Olivaceous Warbler, African Silverbill, Beautiful Sunbird and above us Rose-ringed Parakeets. After breakfast we had an enforced change of plan due to a driver shortage so we headed north to Djoudj National Park on the border with Mauritania. The entrance road is rough in places and the adjacent areas were flooded in places thus dispersing many bird species. On the first pond we located Greater Flamingo, White-faced Whistling Duck and on the mud dyke walls Northern Wheatear and Black-crowned Sparrow Larks. A single Blue-naped Mousebird was also noted in an acacia bush. On the wires it was obvious that a fall of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters had taken place in the last few days. In a roadside pool close views of Common Redshank, Dunlin, Wood Sandpiper, Western Yellow and White Wagtails plus a few Barn Swallows. The pools near the park entrance were excellent for birds with sightings of Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Pied Avocet, Ruff, Kentish and Common Ringed Plovers, Little and Temminck’s Stints, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Little and Whiskered Terns and a calling Zitting Cisticola. On entering the park by paying our dues and the boat trip we headed towards Grand Lac and the smaller Lac Khar. The latter was better today as we pulled up by the hide with the small pools attracting Kittlitz’s Plover and the uncommon Vitteline Masked Weaver. A lot of activity on the lake with sightings of Great and Little Egrets, Sacred Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill (hundreds), Fulvous Whistling Duck and a thermal attracting up to twenty Black Storks. At Grand Lac we added a single Fulvous Whistling Duck, Common Sandpiper, Caspian, Sandwich and Black Terns, Garganey, Northern Shoveler and Northern Pintail. Lunch consumed and then towards the quay for our boat trip. On the way we located African Stonechat, Black-headed Weaver and Senegal Coucal. In the quay area we had views of the localised River Prinia, Eurasian Reed Warbler and Senegal Coucal. The boat trip was good with African Darters being abundant and several terns hunting for fish including Little Terns. Great White Pelicans continued to impress with the colony holding c20000 birds. Also in the area were Common Moorhen, Striated Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron and a steady stream of Barn Swallows and Sand Martins. Time was pressing as we headed home a contented and happy group with Black Crake being seen near an old bridge.
Mammals: Patas Monkey (10), Warthog (14)
October 25th: Ranch de Bango, Marigot 1,2,3 Gandon
Daily 91 New 16 Running 155
Weather: Hot and sunny with occasional cloudy spells
Our usual walk around the grounds added new birds including Viellot’s Barbet, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and Black-billed Wood-doves. After breakfast we headed towards Marigot 1 where the drier areas held African Wattled Lapwings, Senegal Batis, the uncommon Savile’s Bustard and singing Black-crowned Tchagra. We drove around the area on sandy tracks searching for birds and eventually a Short-toed Eagle was found sitting on top of a baobab tree. Further down the road lunch was taken and the added bonus of observing migrant White-throated Bee-eaters. A stop at Marigot 3 added African Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Winding Cisticola and the commoner wetland species. At the bridge a bonus in the form of Common Coot a very rare bird south of the Sahara Desert. Our journey took us through areas cleared for vegetable production which is not good for Sahalian birds although we clocked a female Montagu’s Harrier and several wader species on seasonal pools. Gandon was visited without much success so we headed back to base for the night.
October 26th: Ranch de Bango, Richard Toll, Podor
Daily 77 New 14 Running 169
Weather: Hot and sunny with light NE winds 34c-39c
I checked out of Ranch de Bango with the commoner birds in the garden which included close views of Western Olivaceous Warbler. The group was soon on the road to Richard Toll which can be basically termed a frontier town with Mauritania and the under-populated areas of NE Senegal. I filled up with fuel and purchased water for the next few days. The first birding stop was at a seasonally flooded rice paddy where we added Spotted Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper and many Curlew Sandpipers. Overhead a pair of Black Storks migrated southwards. Once in Richard Toll I proceeded to the old airport which is rarely used today. On the entrance track a stop for Temminck’s Coursers feeding on short cropped grasses. The radio mast held a Dark Chanting Goshawk. Beyond the runway we spent time walking around acacia trees bordering a wet area. This proved to be very productive with sightings of Green and Common Sandpipers, Woodchat Shrike, Black Bush Robin, Western Orphean Warbler, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea in breeding plumage and Red-cheeked Cordon Bleau. Back to Richard Toll for lunch and then an exploration of the area near the radio masts. After a few attempts Cricket Warbler gave us great views in this arid habitat as it perched and sang in bushes. Next was an area of mature acacia trees where we found Black Scimitarbill, Black-winged Kite, Gabar Goshawk, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and calling Sennar Penduline Tits although they were not seen. The road east to Podor passes through many villages and can be slow at times our base on the river.
Mammals: Gambian Ground Squirrel
October 27th: Podor, Mbantou, Guede Village (area), Podor North
Daily 86 New 19 Running 188
Weather: Hot and sunny with light NE winds 33c-39c
The hot and humid weather continued today. On the riverside we found Striated Heron and above the buildings of Podor flocks of Little Swift. After breakfast I headed towards the village of Mbantou an area of mature acacia trees and gardens used for vegetable production. A walk in this habitat proved to be successful for sightings of Piapiac, Pygmy and Collared Sunbirds, Glossy-backed Drongo, European Turtle Dove and Wood Warbler the last species being a rare migrant. High above us migrating flocks of European Bee-eaters and at ground level Red-throated and Little Green Bee-eaters, Little Weaver, flocks of finches and sparrows comprising of Red-cheeked Cordon Bleau, Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-billed Firefinch and Grey-headed Sparrows. In the acacia trees we located Common Redstart, Western Bonelli’s, Western Orphean and Western Olivaceous Warblers, Eurasian Hoopoe, Sudan Golden Sparrow and Common Scimitarbill. Luck was with us when Ass located the uncommon and localised Little Grey Woodpecker which gave us extended views. A visit to Guede Village was largely uneventful apart from a mixed flock of Cut-throat Finch and Red-billed Quelea. Our last birding session of the morning in acacia woodland added a juvenile European Honey Buzzard, Brubru, Black-billed and Vinaceous Doves. Back to base for lunch and out again at 1600 hours. I headed towards the northern part of Podor and then explored the extensive area of arid semi-desert habitats. In the next hour we were able to study Long-tailed and European Nightjars roosting on the ground at close range. This proved to be an enjoyable and testing identification period with these nocturnal birds. In the immediate vicinity we were able to find White-throated Bee-eaters, White-billed Buffalo Weavers and Blue-naped Mousebirds. Another area of seasonal pools were visited with Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper and a pair of Comb Ducks being of note. At the end of the day we cruised around the barren habitat with brief views of the poorly known Golden Nightjar.
October 28th: Podor, Saint Louis, Popenguine
Daily 63 New 3 Running 191
Weather: Hot and sunny 36c-40c
Today was a travel day back to Popenguine on the coast. The now familiar and common birds of the sahel were seen en route to Saint Louis. The only new species of note in the north were Black Egret and a male Red-footed Falcon the latter being a scarce migrant. Filled up with fuel in Richard Toll and started the long journey southwards. Just beyond Theis a Shikra was noted hunting along a line of trees. We eventually arrived at Popenguine at 1700 hours after a long and rather hot journey. Tomorrow and the next day we stay locally to explore the wildlife along the coast.
October 29th: Popenguine, Technopole, Dakar pelagic
Daily 50 New 11 Running 202
Weather: Hot and sunny 35c
This morning we headed towards the capital city of Dakar which is becoming badly choked with traffic. Our first birding stop was at Technopole which is a failed shopping and supermarket complex of lakes and islands bordered by fashionable houses and poorer homes. The first part of the track held migrating Little Bee-eaters and singing Zitting Cisticolas. The small islands attracted the commoner herons and egrets and the first Pink-backed Pelicans of the tour. A bonus came when a pair of Orange-cheeked Waxbills were located feeding within an acacia bush with Northern Crombecs and a Senegal Coucal. On the lake the group added Little Grebe to the list. At 1400 hours we embarked on a Seawatching trip to the Isles de Madelaine a group of islands around 5km offshore. En route we located a Pomarine Skua with Sandwich Terns. A bonus on the island was several Red-billed Tropicbirds which showed well in flight. On the rocks we added Whimbrel and Ruddy Turnstone to the list. Back to the mainland where Great Skua and several terns were noted.
October 30th: Popenguine, Mbour, Nianing, Samone
Daily 62 New 8 Final 210
Weather: Hot and sunny 36c
This was our final day with birding taking place along the coast. From the restaurant terrace at Popenguine we quickly located Sanderling flying along the beach. Offshore we observed several fishing Osprey, Caspian and African Terns. Our journey south towards the coastal town of Mbour and then down to Nianing which can be a good place for birds at high tide. The grass and sand islands attracted the commoner egrets, Grey and Common Ringed Plovers, Common Redshank, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Ruddy Turnstone, Common and Green Sandpipers. Due to heavy rains earlier in the year the lake had refilled but with poor access due to water levels. I decided to head towards the coastal lagoons where a migrant Common Cuckoo was seen flying in front of the bus. On arrival we located hundreds of birds including Caspian, West African and Sandwich Terns, Slender-billed, Grey-hooded, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls, Pied Avocet and a distant Marsh Sandpiper. It was getting hot as we arrived for lunch at a family run restaurant. The meals of locally caught fish went down well. At 1500 hours I set off for Samone and a boat trip into the lagoon of the same name. On the boat trip we had great views of Ospreys fishing in shallow waters and close views of wading birds found in the UK including Eurasian Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwits. Back to base at Popenguine for some members of the group whist others prepared for the journey south to Guinea Bissau.