BLACK HERON IN THE ISLAND OF BIRDS, DELTA DU SALOUM.

One afternoon, i spoke with the guesthouse owner.He told me about the island of birds, a small islet that many birds come to roost late evening.I felt very curious to explore it and i decided to arrange a boat with him.It costed about 30 euros.

Around 4 o’clock we met again and we went to find the boat, about 500 meters from my guesthouse.It took about 30 minutes to reach the main island and once there we passed along many of the streams that penetrate inside the island.It was very quiet and calm and the views were nice.We were surrounded by mangrove trees in each side of the streams and soon we started to see some birds.

Some of the birds we spotted around this area were pink-backed pelican, african darter, little egret, great egret, yellow-billed kite, whimbrel, lesser-crested terns, rose-ringed parakeets, Senegal coucal and pied kingfisher.

About 5 pm we arrived at the “mysterious island”.We were waiting there for quite a while until the first individuals made its appearance.Sooner the small islet began to fill with many birds.The most noisy and common were long-tailed cormorants ( see picture above ).Solitary western reef egrets landed in some branches as well.

But the bird that caught most of my attention was the black heron.Its plumage is dark blue blackish with some distinct long feathers hanging from the nape.It’s a sub-Saharan species found mainly in lakes, ponds, marshes,rice fields, grasslands and tidal rivers and flats.

But the interesting thing about it is its peculiar antics that perform to catch fish.It displays its wings like an “umbrella” to attract fish.This bird has been documented by the BBC in its Life of Birds series.

I wait patiently to photograph him while hunting but unfortunately he didn’t.I added a footage of this bird filmed by Earth Touch where you can see him in action:

We wait there until very late afternoon.About 6:30 pm we decided to come back.The driver ran out of fuel and we had to wait for some help from other boat drivers until got dark.Inconveniences can be sometimes part of the adventure.Finally we arrived in the pier late evening.

This sought-after bird made my day !!!

Next stop, Salemata, a town not well-known for its birdlife that delivered some interesting bird species. See you soon my friends !!

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BIRDING AT TOUBACOUTA AND SURROUNDINGS

Toubacouta is a small pleasant town located in the Delta du Saloum.It took my a long time to get there from Saint Louis.I spent one day to reach Touba,by a combination of sept-place and buses.Touba has one of the most impressive mosques i have seen in Western Africa.I spent a night there and next day i continue my trip to Toubacouta.

Once there, I found a simple guesthouse, just a few 100 meters away from Keur Saloum Hotel, a good place for birdwatching.The guesthouse lays near the shore of one of the multiple branches of the Saloum river.Around the guesthouse there is a cultivation area with some trees and grasslands that are very good for birding.

Next morning i started my birding near the guesthouse.Early morning Senegal Parrots were highly active flying.These birds were truly a delight to see although difficult to photograph due the poor lighting at 6 am and that they were moving fast.

Little Bee-eaters were quite abundant in this area,perched or flying in circles looking for small insects to hunt.

I spotted a group of red-cheeked cordon-blue feeding on seeds on the ground.This finch is one of the most beautiful finches i have seen in Western  Africa.

The Abyssinian roller is another colorful remarkable bird native of the Sahel area that i could have great views just a few meters from the guesthouse.See the picture on top of the post.

Western Red-billed Hornbill was a daily visitor that i could spot at different times of the day in this area.

Rose-ringed Parakeets,Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and Red-billed Firefinch were other colourful birds spotted in this area in the morning.

In front of Keur Saloum Hotel i spotted a grey woodpecker on the lower part of a trunk.Once inside the hotel, i could find a few green monkeys strolling near the rooms and under the trees near the veranda.

The following afternoon i went around the village and I found a bird guide named Carlos.We were chatting about birds for quite a long time and i felt quite impressed about his knowledge of the birds of this area.Finally we arranged the price for a birding day, including car and driver.It costed about 150 euros.I was a bit reluctant about the price but finally i accepted.

We met early morning, around 7:00 am.We drove along the Sandicoli road.It was a semi-arid area with some woodlands, grasslands and a few swamps.I wanted to maximise the amount of species seen, so i stuck to my binoculars most of the time.

However, we spent some time looking at a Pearl Spotted Owlet.We could approach close enough to photograph this beautiful owl that was staring at us with curiosity.

This diurnal little owl is a sub-Saharan species.It has a long tail and two characteristic eyespots on the nape.These “false eyes” are used to discourage predators and for surprise attacks, confusing its prey.

Lavander waxbill was another bird seen in this area in shrubs.This species is a common species native of Central Africa, from Senegal to Chad.

Other highlight species seen or heard during the day were giant kingfisher, blue-breasted kingfisher, blue-bellied roller, bearded barbet, greater honeyguide, fine-spotted woodpecker, wire-tailed swallow, white crowned and snowy crowned robin chat, tawny flanked prinia, grey-backed camaroptera, yellow crowned gonolek, piacpiac, white-billed buffalo weaver and red-billed quelia among others.

We came back about 3 o’clock. I spent late afternoon walking around the garden and the pier area that is in front of Keur Saloum Hotel.Senegal thick-knee was a lifer that i found walking among the mangroves, near the river.

It was a very satisfying day ! Although there is nothing comparable to find species by your own, the amount of species that i saw thanks to Carlos guidance was very impressive !!

If you would like to contact him this is his phone number: 775541645 and his email carlostoubacouta@yahoo.fr.

Next trip a visit to the “birds island” in search of the enigmatic black heron !! See you soon my friends !!!

 

 

TOUBACOUTA BIRD CHECKLIST.APRIL 2016

Toubacouta town:

Yellow-billed kite

Senegal thick-knee

Laughing dove

Senegal parrot

Rose-ringed parakeet

Western-Grey plantain eater

Little bee-eater

Abyssinian roller

Western red-billed Hornbill

Grey woodpecker

Common bulbul

Scarlet chested sunbird

Northern grey-headed sparrow

Village weaver

Black-rumped waxbill

Red-cheeked cordon-bleu

Red-billed firefinch

Bronze manikin

Other animals:

Green Monkey

 

Toubacouta-Sandicoli/Sangor road: *

Green backed heron

Squacco heron

Cattle egret

Western reef egret

Little egret

Black-headed heron

Hadada ibis

Hooded vulture

Black kite

Yellow-billed kite

African harrier hawk

Lizard buzzard

Dark chanting goshawk

Shikra

Tawny eagle

Grey krestel

Peregrine falcon

Double-spurred francolin

Black crake

African jacana

Spur-winged lapwing

African wattled lapwing

Black-headed lapwing

Whimbrel

Common sandpiper

Speckled pigeon

Laughing dove

Red-eyed dove

African mourning dove

Vinaceous dove

Black-billed wood dove

Senegal parrot

Rose-ringed parakeet

Western grey plantain eater

Senegal coucal

Pearl spotted owlet

African palm swift

Blue-breasted kingfisher

Pied kingfisher

Giant kingfisher

Little bee-eater

Blue-bellied roller

Abyssinian roller

Western red-billed hornbill

African grey hornbill

Bearded barbet

Greater honeyguide

Fine spotted woodpecker

Grey woodpecker

Common sand martin

Wire-tailed swallow

Common bulbul

African thrush

White-crowned robin chat

Snowy crowned robin chat

Tawny flanked prinia

Grey-backed camaroptera

Brown babbler

Beautiful sunbird

Woodchat shrike

Yellow-billed shrike

Yellow-crowned gonolek

Black-crowned chagra

Piacpiac

Pied crow

Long-tailed glossy starling

Lesser blue-eared starling

Yellow-billed oxpecker

Northern grey-headed sparrow

white-billed buffalo weaver

Village weaver

Red-billed quelia

Lavander waxbill

*birds seen or heard thanks to the keen senses of Carlos, a truly birding expert of this area.

 

 

GUEMBEUL NATURE RESERVE, A PRINT FROM THE PAST.

The Gembuel Faune Reserve is one of the best places in the world to spot some of the most threatened mammal species that inhabit the Sahara and the Sahel area: damma oryx, dama gazelle, dorcas gazelle and Addax.These species have been reintroduced in the wild here.The reserve is also a good site for birding, with more than 200 species of birds: flamingoes, black-tailed godwit, European spoonbill, slender-billed gull, little stint and pied avocets among others.

This small reserve is located about 10 km from Saint Louis.I rented a taxi to get there due that there is no public transportation.The trip took about 30 minutes.The entrance fee was about 2 euros and a park guide costed about 6 euros.Once there you can see some animals in small enclosures near the entrance.

I went with a guide along a small trail that leads to the lake.Along the way we saw a warthog and a few individuals of gazelle’s dorcas.They were quite shy and difficult to capture in a shot.Once we arrived in the swamp area we saw the first individuals of oryx damma.

This species was more gregarious that gazelle dorcas, and we saw them in groups of 5 to 10 individuals.This species seemed to be a bit easier to approach and this allowed me to take some good shots.

 

Oryx Damma are very sociable and can travel in herds of up to 40 individuals.They eat mainly grass, foliage, shrubs and succulent plants.They are adapted to desert and semi-desert areas by a metabolism that enables them to function in high temperatures, without sweating.They can cool down the blood when it passes through the nasal passage before reaching the brain.Other animals like foxes and hares that live in the desert are adapted in a similar fashion by cooling their blood when circulating along their long ears and legs.

Oryx Damma,or Scimitar Oryx, was once widespread in the Sahara Desert and semi-desert areas of the Sahel.Chad and Niger used to concentrate large herds.Unfortunately, this species was hunted almost to extinction mainly for its horns and meat.Unfortunately, only very few individuals survive in Chad and Niger and some have recently been reintroduced in Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal.

Patas Monkey was another mammal that i could get close views. A small herd appeared near the lake.They were quite active running and feeding on grass and fruits on the ground.

This terrestrial species of monkey is found widespread in the Sahel zone, although in low densities.Its main habitats are grasslands and woodlands.They feed on grasses, seeds, fruits, berries and beans. They are very sociable,usually in groups of about 15 individuals.

Although my main purpose here was to see mammals, some birds caught my attention.I got great views of an African Grey hornbill perched on a tree and of a Namaqua Dove that i spotted near the trail.

An African Spur Tortoise walking near the lake was the icing on the cake ! This species of tortoise is native in the Sahara and the Sahel and its status is considered vulnerable.

The trail continue around the lake but i didn’t explore farther.Anyway, i spent a half day in this beautiful and quiet place and i got great views of some of the animals that i was looking for.

Next stop Toubacouta, a little town that i use as a base to explore the Delta du Saloum NP.See you soon my friends !!