Birding Senegal: Costco adverts and Scissor-tailed Kites

Hannah Buschert began birding in school because of a required Biology of Birds course and a professor who included Sir David Attenborough’s Lifetime of Birds to punctuate classes. Nearly as if accidentally, Hannah landed the dream job of Park Ranger within the Rio Grande Valley at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park the place she guided many birders who stuffed her head with far-off locations and unimaginable birds. Known as house to the Oregon Coast to function the household motel, in her free time she leads Tufted Puffin walks and escapes to information at birding festivals and discover the world as usually as doable. Hannah is obsessed with journey, tourism, and birding and hopes to encourage others by her podcasts: Hannah and Erik Go Birding, Girls Birders (Comfortable Hour), and Fowl Nerd Ebook Membership.

For myself and my husband, journey is versatile. There are some locations we wish to see in our lives, birds we wish to get, however we’re additionally pushed to go to locations the place we all know few individuals who have gone. eBird is a large assist with that. Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa are closely eBirded as a result of People often go to. So, when looking out information, we observed an absence of eBird experiences in Senegal and The Gambia. There are some lists there from the few People which have visited and the rogue European birder that has taken to utilizing eBird, however in any other case, it’s pretty below eBirded. Based on Google, Senegal is about the identical dimension as South Dakota. eBird exhibits that as of this writing, 9479 have submitted 142.2K lists in South Dakota and Senegal has had 757 eBirders submit 12.1K lists. In fact, there are components in play, a obtrusive one being itemizing platform desire (eBird vs. BirdTrack, for instance).

With a heat, dry tropical local weather, it’s no shock that Senegal is a well-liked West African vacation spot for European vacationers as it’s a comparatively brief flight to flee winter climate.

To achieve Kaolack, you’ll possible both fly into Dakar or Banjul, Gambia. Kaolack is a couple of three-hour drive from both place to begin (nevertheless with the Banjul route you get to take a wild ferry journey and undergo a maze of border verify stations). Driving by Senegal, you see dusty village streets with small, clay homes and girls sitting out entrance promoting watermelons, bananas, or oranges. Sahara mud is heavy and really noticeable because it obscures the dawn and colours the sundown – to not point out fixed mud in your sneakers. However one of many actual treasures of Senegal lies close to a city known as Kaolack. That is the place you discover a birding phenomenon that makes the annoyances of standard highway checkpoints with both army officers or native legislation enforcement, whizzing scooters, and bumpy roads well worth the effort.

We ended up within the space simply south of Kaolack at round 4:00 pm the place we headed off the freeway right into a small village alongside the Saloum River. There, we picked up a neighborhood information from the village with dozens of wide-eyed youngsters shouting “toubab” on the automotive (interprets from Wolof to “white particular person”) and drove off in the direction of the river. I didn’t have an important thought of what we have been doing, however I used to be alongside for the journey, so I used to be a bit confused once we first parked, and the river was not in sight. I quickly understood that we had arrived a bit early so we might wander by a dusty, shrubby discipline to spook up a Savile’s Bustard. Bustards are awkward birds who bounce round within the brush. To me, their silhouette seems to be like a big shorebird or miniature Ostrich, they’re good-sized birds with skinny necks and legs and huge heads. Numerous species may be present in dry grassland habitats in Africa, Eurasia, and Australia, so it’s enjoyable for a North American to come across this not frequently-seen-bird. After scouring the terrain for about one-half mile we have been fortunate to have one flush up after which trot awkwardly away whereas donkeys appeared on and brayed in our path. Then off in the hunt for the primary occasion!

The Saloum River floodplain is vast, salty, and muddy, so rain boots are extremely really helpful. The native information paddled us throughout the brief, slow-flowing river in a slender canoe after which we sloshed by the mud in the direction of the tree-lined oasis throughout this hazard.

Our two native guides didn’t hassle with boots and easily walked barefoot by the thick mud which diverse from a stupendous deep indigo coloration when you broke the floor to a boot-sucking chocolate mess. As this can be a roost website, one of the best time to take this journey can be the most well liked a part of the day and with the issue of slogging by the mud with caked boots, I contemplated telling my group to proceed with out me.

Nevertheless, as soon as we reached the tree line, there was a well-worn path into the stake-out which was solely a few hundred ft additional. A lot to my pleasure, it was shaded and a great spot to get well from the warmth. 

Because the solar moved in the direction of the west, we started to see our goal birds swarming within the blue – 1000’s of Scissor-tailed Kites. This can be a identified website for Scissor-tailed Kites who roost nightly throughout November by March. After a day of seeking out lizards, rodents, and bugs, they in a single day in humongous baobab bushes alongside this stretch of river. After we first arrived, they have been flying excessive up however because the solar lowered, so did the swarm. With the bare eye, you may see the silhouette of the birds with their lengthy, forked tail and general white undersides. Placing up binoculars you possibly can see the black patagial patch on every wing. All of a sudden, one after one other would swoop down in the direction of the best branches of the baobab scoping out the scene. Finally, the swooping turned to perching and shortly the bushes have been loaded with kites. They’re a stupendous chicken of prey capped with grey that goes down their again and a streak of eyeliner making it look extra like a White-tailed Kite whereas perched than a Swallow-tailed Kite.

After the journey to succeed in this vacation spot and with out the noise of fixed site visitors, honking horns, and speaking within the background it was straightforward to think about I used to be within the depths of the wilderness. So, I chuckled to myself when, sitting on the base of a giant baobab tree within the wilds of Senegal in 100F afternoon warmth praying for each breath of wind as 1000’s of Scissor-tailed Kites swirl above me anticipating roosting for the night time, I received the ding of a Costco advert on my telephone. An hour into the spectacle, we had counted 2500 Scissor-tailed Kites who have been perched within the bushes or nonetheless hovering above. What an impressive chicken worthy of the wrestle to get to the location.

We walked again to the sting of the forest and scanned the river for a couple of minutes and tacked on Higher Flamingoes, 70 Lesser Kestrels, and some vultures to the listing earlier than the trek again over the mudflats to succeed in the canoe. The solar was setting, the air had cooled off, however a salt layer clung within the air as I felt some reduction that I had made it that far with out dying from the warmth. By the point we had made it again to the automotive and have been heading again to drop off our information within the village, a Lengthy-tailed Nightjar flew in entrance of the headlights and aided us in including one other lifer to the day.

Scissor-tailed Kites – whereas not threatened now – are a weak species. Habitat degradation is a large doable risk to the species. And huge congregations like we noticed, can simply be impacted by localized occasions reminiscent of harm to the roosting website. Pesticide use can be a doable risk to the inhabitants. On eBird there are solely 556 information of this species, so that you may assume they’re reasonably uncommon. Nevertheless, that merely exhibits recording bias and a must broaden utilization OR

After having birded in Senegal, listed below are some notes I’d point out to different potential vacationers:

  1. Warmth. Within the dry season, every single day is between 95-100F with clear skies and little humidity.

  2. French and Wolof are the 2 most typical languages we encountered with English being very rare. We have been greeted with “bonjour, ca va?”

  3. I like to recommend a information or a minimum of a driver. Crossing the border into Senegal is a multi-step course of that’s tremendous sophisticated with no directions. After which driving in Senegal? We have been met with common checkpoints and have been hassled by native authorities.

  4. You higher have CFA (West African Francs). We spent a couple of week in Senegal, and we had traveled there loaded with British Kilos, Gambian Dalasi, and United States {Dollars}, and a set of bank cards, and never one among these have been accepted. Drinks at lodges or at comfort shops needed to be bought with CFA, which we have been unable to order from our native financial institution.

Senegal won’t be on the high of your journey listing, however I feel there may be a number of magnificence within the hard-worked, desolate landscapes, girls wearing vivid, stunning attire, recent watermelons, donkey-drawn carts loaded with hay, folks, or watermelons, and the fascinating intersection of what French influences stays from colonization (which was comparatively latest, having solely gained independence in 1960), Islam influences, and Senegalese heritage.  To not point out 1000’s of Scissor-tailed Kites!

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