This tour to Senegal concentrated on the poorly known east of the country around Wassadou and the National Park of Niokolo Koba and ended at the bird-rich Saloum Delta in the west of the country. Our main interest was locating Egyptian Plovers which was highly successful with over 80 sightings of this beautiful bird. Other interesting species included Stone Partridge, Scissor-tailed Kite, Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, African Finfoot, White-headed Lapwing, Adamawa Turtle Dove, Red-throated and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Blue-bellied Roller, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Oriole Warbler and Swamp Flycatcher. The Saloum Delta had a wide-range of waders from further north, wintering Ospreys in high numbers and in the bird rich savannah grasslands up to twenty species of birds of prey.
Our next visit to Senegal is planned for the early part of 2012.
January 6th/7th: Heathrow, Lisbon, Dakar, Kaolack, Tambacounda, Wassadou.
Weather: Warm with clear skies 34 C.
We met up at Heathrow for our flight with TAP to Lisbon and onto Dakar the capital of Senegal. This went smoothly despite strong headwinds and a delay in Lisbon. On arrival we were met by Ass our guide and transferred to a hotel near the city centre. After a few hours sleep we exchanged money at a local bank and set off through the heavy traffic of the city. Species seen within the city limits included Hooded Vulture, Yellow-billed Kite, Pied Crow, Cattle Egret and both House and Grey-headed Sparrows. Towards the outskirts of Dakar we came across Little and African Palm Swifts, Long-tailed Starling and Laughing Dove. Our journey took us towards the regional town of Kaolack which is surrounded by salt pans and baobab forests. A bonus here was a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites hunting insects by the road, excellent views of this nomadic species. On the pans, Little and Western Reef Egrets, Spur-winged Lapwings, Crested Lark and White Pelicans using the warm thermals to gain height. Kaolack was reached where we had lunch with a pair of African Silverbills nesting in the gardens. The journey east to Tambacounda was long with a couple of birding stops producing Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, African Mourning and African Collared Doves, Greater Blue-eared Starling, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Bush Petronia and male Sahel Paradise Whydahs in breeding plumage. Our last birds were a pair of Northern Ground Hornbills roosting in a large tree. Tambacounda was reached where we turned south to the remote encampment of Wassadou our base for three nights.
January 8th: Wassadou, Wassadou Village.
Weather: Hot and sunny before cooling off late afternoon 38 C
Dawn in the east of Senegal is just after 7am so we agreed to meet up at 0715 hours for a pre-breakfast session. Outside the restaurant several fruiting trees attracted a wide range of species notably Greater Blue-eared, Long-tailed and Purple Glossy Starlings, Senegal Parrot, Western Plantain-eater, Grey Woodpecker and Northern Black Flycatchers. In the River Gambia we located African Harrier Hawk, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Blue-breasted, Giant and Pied Kingfishers, Red-throated Bee-eater and White-headed Lapwing. Breakfast at 0800 hours and then a slow walk was taken along the river-side with fruiting trees again attracting Green Woodhoopoe, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, African Yellow White-eye and a range of sunbirds including Scarlet-chested, Beautiful and Varied. Beyond the cabins another set of birds were recorded including Little Bee-eater, Senegal Coucal, Black-necked and Black-headed Weavers, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, African Blue Flycatcher, Fine-spotted Woodpeckers in display, Brown and Blackcap Babblers, Western Red-billed Hornbill and brief views of the skulking Oriole Warbler. From 1000 hours more fruiting trees attracted Cardinal Woodpecker, Bearded Barbet, Red-billed Firefinch, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, African Grey Hornbill, White-crowned Robin Chat, Black-crowned Tchagra and a juvenile Klaas’ Cuckoo. We walked to an open area dominated by borassus palms which attracted African Palm Swifts and several Alpine Swifts. Also present were a Grey Kestrel, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier and Hadada Ibis. At mid-day we stopped and sat underneath the shelter of a huge tree with cold beers and non-alcoholic drinks. From this idyllic spot more views of kingfishers, bee-eaters, Hadada Ibis and a Broad-billed Roller perched high in a tree. At 1600 hours we set off to discover another area of Wassadou village. Before reaching the main road a stop was made for Lizard Buzzard, Blue-bellied Roller, White Helmetshrike and Red-cheeked Cordonbleau. Once on the main road we noticed that a large area of grassland was being burnt attracting huge numbers of birds. Highlights included dozens of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Broad-billed, Abyssinian and Blue-bellied Rollers, Fork-tailed Drongo and hundreds of Little and African Palm Swifts. In the distance could hear the calls of a Pearl-spotted Owlet. Returned to Wassadou to visit the watch-point into the Gambia River. This proved to be a good choice as a pair of Egyptian Plovers showed down to a few metres in front of us. A little later a female African Finfoot showed well before going back into the cover of the river bank vegetation.
January 9th: Wassadou, Gambia River.
Weather: Rather overcast and humid 35 C
At 0700 hours a pre-breakfast walk around the grounds, and to observe birds in the river. The usual species were present including African Finfoot, Egyptian Plover, Senegal Thick-knee and Blue-breasted Kingfisher. On the river bank an adult Black-crowned Night Heron and Striated Herons. I decided to walk along-side the camp towards the palm area. Overhead a Black-headed Heron plus dozens of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters hunting insects. In an area of scrub a party of Red-billed Firefinches, Orange-cheeked Waxbill and Bronze Mannikin. After consuming breakfast we went on a walk to visit another sector of Wassadou. An adult Adamawa Turtle Dove dropped down to feed by the viewing point. Near the car park a lot of commotion was being caused by the presence of a Pearl-spotted Owlet perched high in a tree. The same tree held Greater Blue-eared, Bronze-tailed and Purple Glossy Starlings, African Yellow White-eye and Senegal Parrot. Nearby, an African Thrush perched on a low stone wall and a female Northern Puffback searching for food in a leafy shrub. A dripping point attracted many small birds including Pin-tailed Whydah, Village Indigobird, Red-cheeked Cordonbleau, Lavender Waxbill and Black-billed Wood-doves. Our walk took us through an area of palm with scrub and mature trees. We had fleeting views of Double-spurred Francolin and the ‘bantam’ like Stone Partridge. Returned to camp by walking along the main track recording Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike and Yellow-bellied Eremomela. Back at base we looked down the river again with a party of Wattled Lapwings being added to the trip list. Before lunch we were entertained by an Egyptian Plover which showed down to a few feet and even approached on occasions – a great birding moment. At 1600 hours a boat trip on the Gambia River. We started by slowly cruising by the near bank where good numbers of Black-crowned Night and Striated Herons were present plus the three kingfishers; Giant, Pied and Blue-breasted. Wintering birds from Europe included Common and Green Sandpipers, European Turtle Dove, Common Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher and Wood Warbler. Our journey continued passing sand bars with Egyptian Plovers and Senegal Thick-knees and a lone White-headed Lapwing. Before turning round a Grey-hooded Kingfisher was noted sitting quietly on an overhanging branch. The return was largely uneventful apart from a party of White-faced Whistling Ducks flying overhead.
January 10th: Wassadou, Niokolo Koba, Simenti.
Weather: Hot and sunny 38 C
Our last morning at Wassadou before travelling south towards Guinea Conakry and the huge National Park of Niokolo Koba. Along the entrance road Steve and Jean added Pygmy Sunbird and Senegal Eremomela to the trip list. A stop at the police post was necessary to book in for our visit to the park which is located in a remote part of Senegal. After completing the park entrance formalities we travelled 32 kilometres along some poor tracks to the Hotel Simenti. Birds were few and far between with a single Bataleur, Helmeted Guineafowl and Lesser Blue-eared Starlings being seen. On reaching the Mare Simenti we stopped to look at Little Ringed and Egyptian Plovers, African Jacana and some impressive Nile Crocodiles. Booked in at the rather run down Hotel Simenti which overlooks a section of the Gambia River. Late lunch taken and then a walk towards the marsh hide. From the hide several birds were observed including Squacco Heron, African Black Crake, Grey-headed and Malachite Kingfishers, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grasshopper Buzzard, Yellow Wagtails, Splendid Sunbird and non-breeding Southern Masked Weavers. Returned to the hotel and walked into another area of the park dominated by savannah woodland. Mature and flowering trees here held Red-necked Falcon, African Thrush, Adamawa Turtle Dove, Fork-tailed Drongo, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Northern Crombec and wintering migrants such as Common Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher and Western Olivaceous Warbler. The last thirty minutes of daylight was spent on the terrace with cold drinks looking down into the river. This was an excellent viewpoint for Striated Heron, Common Sandpiper, Egyptian Plover, Hadada Ibis, White-browed Robinchat, Woodland Kingfisher and a pair of Swamp Flycatchers.
January 11th: Niokolo Koba including Camp de Lion, Pont de Gue.
Weather: Hot and sunny 38 C
We met up on the terrace overlooking the river with similar birds to yesterday. Breakfast taken at 0745 hours followed by a visit to Camp de Lion another remote area of this vast national park. In recently burned areas we were able to study Double-spurred Francolins and Stone Partridge. Before reaching Camp de Lion a wintering Eurasian Hoopoe was seen along with a flock of Green Woodhoopoes. On arriving at Camp de Lion we found high numbers of wintering Palaearctic migrants in the larger trees; Western Olivaceous, Willow and Wood Warblers and Common Chiffchaff. Other species present included Senegal and Yellow-bellied Eremomelas, African Paradise Flycatchers, Northern Puffback and Northern Black Flycatchers. A walk down to the river added more Egyptian Plovers, Little Bee-eater, Grey-headed, Giant and Pied Kingfishers, Bush Petronia, African Silverbill and hunting Shikra and African Harrier Hawks. It was getting hot as we visited the marshes near Camp de Lion. The main attraction here was a pair of the rare and declining Black-crowned Crane, Squacco, Black-headed and Grey Herons. Little and Cattle Egrets, Hadada Ibis, Wattled and Spur-winged Lapwings and flocks of Black-winged Red Bishops in non-breeding plumage. Raptors also featured with sightings of Grey Kestrel, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grasshopper Buzzard and an immature Bataleur. Back to Simenti for lunch and back out again at 1600 hours. The first area visited had recently been burnt and after careful scanning we located a pair of Spotted Thick-knees hiding near a fallen tree. Our main birding destination was Pont de Gue which is another remote place and towards the border with Guinea. On arrival a walk down towards the river produced an adult Palm-nut Vulture, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Red-throated Bee-eater, and the commoner birds of the park. Headed back to Simenti for the last time and bird-watched from the terrace. Similar birds to the last day or so with the addition of a hunting Lanner Falcon.
January 12th: Simenti, Tambacounda, Kaolack, Saloum.
Weather: Overcast and warm 34 C
An early start was essential from Simenti in order to arrive at the main gate at 0830 hours. At first light we encountered coveys of Double-spurred Francolins and Stone Partridges and a single male Four-banded Sandgrouse. Other species of note were White Helmetshrike and the commoner birds of the park. After leaving the park we headed north to Tambacounda for a late breakfast. I had to visit the bank and then we made the long journey westwards to Kaolack. Birds were few along the way although sightings of White-backed and Hooded Vultures, Yellow-billed Kite, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers and Namaqua Doves were made. On arrival in Kaolack a short visit to the post office and to purchase fruit. The salt pans on the outskirts of this rather run down and dirty town prove a magnet for birds. Careful scanning produced sightings of Pink-backed and White Pelicans, Eurasian Spoonbill, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Lesser Black-backed and Slender-billed Gulls, Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilts. The journey to the huge Saloum Delta was made via the ‘back’ road passing through rather arid country dotted with large trees. A few birds of note along the way including Northern Ant-eating Chat, Cut-throat Finch, Lesser Kestrel, Woodchat Shrike and a hunting Brown Snake Eagle. A stop at the delta was productive for Little, Western Reef and Black Egrets, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Spur-winged Lapwing, Greenshank, Common Redshank and Black-winged Stilts. Shortly afterwards we arrived at Keur Saloum our base for the next three nights in Senegal. From the terrace views of Blue-throated Bee-eaters and Caspian Terns a fitting end to a long travel day.
January 13th: Saloum Delta, Bandiala.
Weather: Overcast with sunny periods 34 C
We met up at 0700 hours for a pre-breakfast walk outside the hotel grounds. Mature trees had Shikra, Bearded Barbets, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Senegal Parrot, Melodious Warblers and a flock of Lavender Waxbills. From the terrace Black-rumped Waxbills coming to drink in a small water pool. At 0900 hours we set off on a boat trip into the vast and complex Saloum Delta. The first set of exposed mud flats held Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Greenshank, Common Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sandwich, Royal and Caspian Terns. The delta has extensive mangrove stands attracting Goliath Heron, and on exposed dead branches good numbers of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. The boat headed slowly westwards towards the Atlantic Ocean with another mud flat attracting Eurasian Oystercatchers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Kentish Plovers and a lone Curlew Sandpiper. We then headed into an enclosed area of mangrove where Purple Heron, African Finfoot and a singing Subalpine Warbler were located. Our next stop was at a fishing village in order to pick up permits to visit an island opposite. This took a little time to arrange and we were entertained by the local children. Moored fishing boats attracted Grey-headed and Slender-billed Gulls. Once on the other side a lunch of fresh barbequed fish and salad. Birds of note on the island included migrant Sanderlings, Mosque Swallow, Green Woodhoopoe and Senegal Parrot the last two being harassed by a juvenile African Harrier Hawk in a large baobab tree. Returned to the fishing village where we added three Ruddy Turnstones perched on a fishing boat. Another wait before setting off towards the village of Bandiala. On the way lots of wintering Osprey, Yellow-billed and migratory Black Kites, Northern Carmine Bee-eaters and a bonus in the form of African Darters. At Bandiala port new birds included White Wagtail, Red-chested and Wire-tailed Swallows. A short distance inland is another lodge where we embarked for a walk through cashew nut plantations and grasslands. Birding was slow to start with but eventually a pair of African Hawk Eagles showed above the tree line with migrant European Bee-eaters. Larger trees attracted Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned Rollers, Brown Snake Eagles and overhead a few Mottled Spinetails in their ‘fluttery’ flight mode. As the light started to fade a group of Black-headed Lapwings were found with a single Temminck’s Courser. Returned to base after an excellent days birding in the Saloum Delta.
January 14th: Saloum Delta including Bougar.
Weather: Hot and sunny 36 C
Breakfast at 0700 hours followed by a morning excursion to the remote and rarely visited village of Bougar. The first stop made was in an area of large trees dotted with a mixture of long grasses and recently burnt areas. The latter attracted migrants including Northern Wheatear and Whinchat. The tops of trees proved to be a magnet for raptors with African Hawk Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard, Brown Snake Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk and White-backed Vultures. Falcons were well represented with sightings of Lanner Falcon, Grey and Eurasian Kestrels. Further down the road another stop produced Black-bellied Bustard in flight and giving its unusual songs from the cover of long grasses. In the larger trees White-backed and Ruppell’s Vultures, Woodchat Shrike, Viellot’s Barbet and Bruce’s Green Pigeon. Another bonus came in the form of several Pallid Swifts flying overhead. The track to Bougar is both tricky and difficult to find without local knowledge. On arrival the river had Giant and Pied Kingfishers, Common Sandpiper, Osprey, Montagu’s Harrier and Palm-nut Vulture. We started a slow walk through fields with fruiting trees the latter being attractive to Purple Glossy, Long-tailed and Greater Blue-eared Starlings. Bearded Barbet, Rose-ringed Parakeet and Northern Puffback. On leaving Bougar village we encountered a male Pygmy Sunbird, Black-headed Lapwing, Chestnut-backed Sparrow Larks and Bush Petronias. Shortly afterwards a Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle was observed at close range in a stunted tree. On the way back to base a large kettle of vultures, Red-rumped Swallow and Western Olivaceous Warblers. In the hotel ground at Saloum a female Common Redstart ended our morning session. Back out again at 1600 hours to visit another area of this exceptional place. Our first stop just outside the village produced a pair of Red-necked Falcons in a palm tree. Further down the same road a small pool had African Darter, Long-tailed Cormorant, Black Crake, and overhead European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. The last birding stop was at a dam with farm land dotted with large trees. In the dam itself Little Grebe, Black-headed and Squacco Herons, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers and juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron. In the fields Cattle, and a single Intermediate Egret, Spur-winged and Wattled Lapwings and large roaming flocks of White-billed Buffalo Weavers. On the return a flock of Piapiacs crossed the road. Tomorrow we head back north to Dakar for our final day in Senegal.
January 15th: Saloum Delta, Kaolack, Dakar including Cap Vert and Technopol.
Final species total: 237.
Weather: Hot and sunny with north winds along the coast 34 C
The last full day in Senegal started with a visit to an area used for vegetable production. The commoner birds were present plus a pair of Lesser Honeyguides which showed well in flight and perched in a tree. Back to base to pick up bags and travel to Dakar via the regional town of Kaolack. The road to Kaolack was poor in places but we stopped at an area which had been recently flooded by rains. This was particularly good for Scissor-tailed Kites, Greenshank, Common and Wood Sandpipers and Red-billed Quelea. Towards the town of Kaolack a flock of forty-one Black Storks was observed by a seasonal saltpan. Kaolack was passed through and a stop for lunch was taken by the main Dakar to Kaolack road. The traffic towards Dakar was heavy and congested as usual until we turned off to visit Technopol a flooded marsh in the centre of Dakar. Careful scanning here added White-faced Whistling Ducks, African Jacana, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, a first winter Black-headed Gull, Pink-backed Pelican, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Yellow Wagtail and the commoner species. We ended the tour with a short but productive sea-watch off Cap Vert the most westerly point of Africa. Northern Gannet, Arctic and Pomarine Skuas, Royal and Sandwich Terns, Osprey and flocks of Western Reef Egrets were observed. The hotel buildings had the resident Peregrine Falcon. Later in the evening we transferred to the international airport for our flight home to England via Lisbon where the tour concluded.
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