Senegal North and Pelagic 2023

Mark Finn
October 1-8

This was the first of several trip to Senegal planned for the winter season ahead. It was again a great trip and we managed to observe most the sub-Sahel species including Cricket Warbler, Sennar Penduline Tit, River Prinia and Little Grey Woodpecker. Torrential rain and treacherous mud made finding Golden Nightjar an almost impossible mission in these conditions. Further south we had an excellent pelagic off Dakar and an unexpected bonus in African Skimmer on an inland lake. Below is the diary format for the trip with the next tours in January 2024

October 1st: Popenguine, St Louis, Ranch de Bango, Marigot 1
Daily 65 New 65 Running 65
Weather: Hot and sunny NW wind 40c

The group met up at breakfast with the dining area facing the Atlantic Ocean. Offshore there was a steady passage of terns, pelicans and gulls, but our main aim was to make progress north to the old city of St Louis which was once the departure point of the slaving industry. The motorway was taken towards Thies and the main road north with several stops en route. The first of these witnessed large numbers of Hooded Vultures and lesser numbers of White-backed and Ruppell’s Griffon. Best of all were up to four Lappet-faced Vultures a scarce and vulnerable species anywhere nowadays. Other species in the vicinity included Yellow-billed Kites, Pied Crow, Abyssinian Roller, Western Red-billed Hornbill, Vinaceous and Namaqua Doves, Eurasian Hoopoe and a tree full of Greater Blue-eared Starlings. St Louis was reached a bustling city situated close to Langue de Barbarie. A late lunch with calling African Fish Eagle, Viellot’s Barbet and Little Swifts inspecting an old building as a nesting site. Around 1600 hours we set off towards Marigot 1 a large expanse of seasonal pools. Near, the ranch boundary a group of migrating White-throated Bee-eaters a rather localised and scarce migrant. The first pools attracted a wide range of species including Reed and Great Cormorants, Glossy Ibis, Marsh and Common Sandpipers, Little Stint, Ruff, Black-necked Stilt, White and Western Yellow Wagtails. It was time to visit Marigot 1 with the first stop producing several Crested Larks, Little and Black-headed Weavers and Zitting Cisticola. In the muddy area we located a few Spur-winged Geese, Slender-billed Gulls, Western Cattle Egret and Senegal Thick-knees. Further along the track another wetland was productive for Common Coot (very rare here), African Wattled Lapwing, Senegal Coucal, Northern Anteater Chat, Yellow-crowned Bishop and Desert Cisticola. At 1830 we headed back to base after a productive day in the field.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

October 2nd: Ranch de Bango, Marigot Lakes 2 and 3
Daily 90 New 53 Running 118
Weather: Hot and sunny with NW winds 39c

Pre-breakfast walk by the buildings and mature gardens which were attracting African Palm Swifts. New species observed included Western Plantain-eater, Long-tailed Starling, Senegal Batis, Black-crowned Tchagra and Grey-headed Sparrow. Returned for breakfast and out again at 0900 hours in a 4x4 to visit Marigot 1 and 2 wetlands. In the acacia trees a migrant European Turtle Dove and Wood Sandpipers feeding on the muddy sections. At the village a pair of Chestnut-backed Sparrow Larks and Sacred Ibis plus the birds from yesterday in lower numbers. It was time to visit Marigot 1 where similar birds to yesterday were observed plus Caspian and Whiskered Terns, Black-crowned Crane and at least two Woodchat Shrikes. Migration from further north was starting to happen as Little, Blue-cheeked and White-throated Bee-eaters were numerous with Common Kestrel, Short-toed Eagle and African Mourning Dove. A stop at a bridge and wetland added African Swamphen, Common Moorhen, African Jacana, Black Heron and a hunting male Western Marsh Harrier. Lunch was taken in the shade of a large tree where we found Grey-headed and Striped Kingfishers, Melodious Warbler and European Pied Flycatcher. On the way home another stop provided views of Red-necked Falcon, Black-headed Lapwing, Dideric Cuckoo and Black Bush Robin. A tough day in the heat of Northern Senegal.

Black-headed Lapwing

October 3rd: Ranch de Bango, Djoudj
Daily 94 New 28 Running 146
Weather: Cloudy and humid followed by sunny spells on a NW wind 39c

Breakfast was taken earlier today and afterwards the journey to Djoudj National Park which is on the border with Mauritania. The commoner birds were seen along the way with the first stop producing sightings of Black-crowned Night Heron, Pied Kingfisher and a male Shikra perched in an acacia tree. Waders were widespread and numerous in numbers including Wood, Green, Curlew, Common and Marsh Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Little and Temminck’s Stints and a rather scruffy looking Collared Pratincole. Outside the main park entrance we encountered Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Northern Shoveler, Kentish Plover, Black and Whiskered Terns. I paid the entrance fees and headed towards the quay but advice was no boats today because of rising water levels. Despite this advice the area around the quayside held at least two River Prinias a scarce West African endemic. Other species present included White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, African Fish Eagles, Malachite Kingfisher and European Pied Flycatcher in the reeds. It was time to retrace our steps to a sheltered spot for lunch, en route Caspian and Whiskered Terns. After lunch another stop had Eurasian Spoonbills, Yellow-billed Stork, Little Bittern, Black-crowned Crane and Kittlitz’s Plovers. On arriving at the last hide a Barn Owl was flushed giving great views. On the muddy edges a variety of terns including White-winged, Garganey and Chestnut-backed Sparrow Larks. It was time to head back towards Ranch de Bango after an excellent day in the park.

Cricket Warbler

October 4th: Ranch de Bango, Richard Toll, Podor
Daily 81 New 14 Running 160
Weather: Cloudy with sunny spells on a SW wind 37c

A walk around the grounds before breakfast was god for sightings of Common Gonolek, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Little Bee-eaters and a Grey-backed Camaroptera which sang and showed well in a tree. At the old restaurant gardens the reeds had Northern Red and Yellow-crowned Bishops and a singing Winding Cisticola. In the pools we located Black-necked Stilt, Wood Sandpiper and Little Stint. Back within the garden complex Viellot’s Barbet and a calling Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird. At 0900 hours back on the road east towards Richard Toll and a stop along the road for migrant Barn Swallows and Blue-naped Mousebirds. After passing through this bustling and rather run down place we headed towards the abandoned airport which has several pools and mature acacia trees. The trees were full of White-throated, Blue-cheeked, Little and West African Green Bee-eaters, Woodchat Shrikes, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau, Dideric Cuckoo and Red-billed Quelas. Lunch was taken in town and afterwards an exploration of the extensive grassland habitats dotted with acacia bushes. After searching several areas we eventually had views of Northern Wheatear, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Cricket Warbler and Temminck’s Courser. Next on the agenda was the acacia forest near the telegraph mast. The group was lucky here as within a few minutes we located Little Grey Woodpecker, Brubru and Sennar Penduline Tit. It was soon time to head eastwards to Podor with sightings en route of Dark Chanting Goshawk, Hamerkop and African Mourning Doves.

October 5th: Podor including the airport and entrance road, rice fields
Daily 68 New 10 Running 170
Weather: Hot and sunny with light W winds 41c

It was to be a rather hot day in and around Podor. In the gardens and adjacent Senegal River we located Pied Kingfisher, Long-tailed and Chestnut-bellied Starlings, Red-billed Firefinch and Northern Red Bishop. Our first destination was around the little used airport. The numerous acacia trees attracted European Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Common Redstart, Willow Warbler and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau. Near the airport fence two Common Scimitarbills were a welcome addition. The group headed back towards the main road where a roadside pool had Black Heron and Western Marsh Harrier. The rest of the morning we searched for nightjars and eventually Long-tailed were recorded in flight and roosting on the ground. Out again at 1600 hours with a visit to an area of rice fields and an old camp ground bordering the river. The acacia trees were productive for African Grey Hornbill, Green Woodhoopoe, Red-throated Bee-eater, Woodland and Grey-headed Kingfishers, Western Subalpine Warbler and the commoner species. In and around the village we located Greater Blue-eared and Chestnut-bellied Starlings, Black Bush Robin, Village Indigobird, African Silverbill. Bushes on the river edge attracted Viellot’s Masked Weavers. Tomorrow we head south to Popenguine our last base in Senegal.

October 6th: Podor, St Louis, Popenguine
Daily 52 New 5 Running 175
Weather: Sunny with a NW wind 41c

Basically a travel day back towards Popenguine with several stops en route including Ranch de Bango. The first stop was before Richard Toll when Ass located a pair of African Harrier Hawks by the road a species which is rare in the north of Senegal. In the same area we could hear the distinctive calls of European Bee-eaters and we had sightings of Lesser Kestrel, Dark Chanting Goshawk and a migrant Tree Pipit. A walk around an area of trees produced sightings of Western Olivaceous and Western Bonelli’s Warblers, Grey-headed Sparrow and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau. Lunch was taken at the ranch with the unusual sighting of two White-backed Vultures above the lodge. In the afternoon we headed south towards Dakar passing the river area of St Louis which had an array of herons, gulls and waders. Not much to report on our journey to Popenguine where we arrived in time for showers and an enjoyable meal.

Red-billed Tropicbird

October 7th: Popenguine, Dakar, Atlantic Ocean pelagic
Daily 24 New 10 Running 185
Weather: Hot and sunny on a NW wind 40c

From the hotel breakfast area we watched several Ospreys catching fish offshore plus a steady flow of pelicans, terns and other seabirds. After breakfast we headed off towards the chaos of Dakar and our boat trip into the warm water and shelf which is just off Dakar. The first birds seen were Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Sandwich Terns. A circumnavigation of Isle de Madelaine was good for Red-billed Tropicbirds, White-breasted Cormorants and Yellow-billed Kites. It was around an hour later that we observed the first of several Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Pomarine and Arctic Skuas plus at least two Great Skuas, Cory’s and Sooty Shearwaters and masses of Sandwich, Common and Black Terns. Our intention was to visit Technopole in Dakar but the heavy traffic problems put paid to that idea so we headed back to Popenguine.

African Skimmer

October 8th: Popenguine, Naniang, Somone
Daily 81 New 9 Running 194
Weather: Hot and sunny with a NW wind 38c

Our last full day in Senegal was spent visiting sites in the Petit Cote an important area for birds which is under pressure from development and tourism. I started with a visit to the sandstone cliffs a rare habitat in Africa. Close to the beach sightings of West African and Sandwich Terns, Whimbrel, Osprey, Common Sandpiper and a build-up of Pink-backed Pelicans and Grey Herons. The path toward the cliffs was tricky due to lack of maintenance of acacia bushes. Once we had passed this obstacle scanning the cliffs produced a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes, Northern Wheatear and several Ospreys perched in trees. The lush grasses had Zitting Cisticola, Village and Little Weavers, African Grey and Western Red-billed Hornbills. It was time to head south along the auto-route to Mbour a lively place which is situated just inland. Naniang was our main birding area a low-lying wetland by the sea. Literally thousands of birds were present including Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Sanderling, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Grey Plover and lots of terns including Caspian, West African, Sandwich, Common, White-winged, Black and Little. A wide range of herons were also present. Further down the road we had a major bonus when I located an African Skimmer flying around a seasonal lake, first record in the area for many years. Also present on the pond were the African race of Little Grebe, White-breasted Cormorants and Great White Pelicans. The road towards our usual lake of interest was impassable after heavy rains so I headed towards the coast. It was here that Eurasian and African Spoonbills were huddled together in a flock. Lunch was taken at Warang and an afternoon boat trip in Lac Somone. The latter was a great way to end the trip with close views of everything that we had seen earlier in the trip. Bonus birds came in an adult Black-shouldered Kite, Bar-tailed Godwit and migrant Willow Warbler catching insects within the mangrove stands.

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