Dwarf Bittern and Eurasian Siskin at Nouadhibou, northern Mauritania. The latter species is the first record of the country.
The Dwarf Bittern was found on 22 January 2020 by ‘Banc d’Arguin’, a small non-commercial Dutch travel company that organises overland trans-Sahara birding trips between Agadir and The Gambia. The observers were Stephan Duynstee, Berthil Bosch, Martin van der Steen and Sylvia van der Steen (husband and wife).
The bird was discovered in the small gardens named ‘Jardins des Fous’ located in the middle of Nouadhibou close to the iron ore railroad. It’s the same site where Banc d’Arguin members Bart van Hoostraten and Wim van Zwieten found an Abyssinian Roller (Coracias abyssinicus) on 31 October 2017 (and stayed there until mid-April 2018).
The Dwarf Bittern is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa from West Africa eastward to Ethiopia and southward to southern Africa. According to the data compiled by Tarsiger.com, there are 10 previous records of Dwarf Bittern in the Western Palearctic (WP); all of them except three were recorded in the Atlantic Archipelagos (mainly in the Canary Islands). This is the 11th record for the WP and the first for northern Mauritania.
First record of Eurasian Siskin for Mauritania
On the same day, the ‘Banc d’Arguin’ group also photographed an Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) at the same site. This is the first record for Mauritania and probably the southernmost record in Africa. There is no mention of the species in the ‘Birds of Mauritania’ by Isenmann et al. (2010). And until March 2018, the species still absent from the ‘Atlas of the Birds of Mauritania’ maintained by Peter Browne, one of the co-author of the cited book.
The species is a winter visitor to the humid areas in northern Africa but rarely reaches the edge of the Sahara. In Morocco south of Draa Valley, Bergier et al. (2017) compiled only six records in four wintering season (some involved big flocks). In Algeria, there are also a few records in the northern part of the Sahara (see this recent article by Khaled Amrani).
That’s not the first time ‘Banc d’Arguin’ found a first for Mauritania. In December 2017, the group photographed the first record of Cinereous Vulture for the country in the Banc d’Arguin National Park (a bird colour-ringed near Madrid by SEO/BirdLife).
Bergier, P., Thévenot, M. & Qninba, A. 2017. Oiseaux du Sahara atlantique marocain. SEOF, Paris.
Isenmann, P., Benmergui, M. & Browne, P., Ba, A.D., Diagana, C.H., Diawara, Y. & Ould Sidaty, Z.E.A. 2010. Oiseaux de Mauritanie / Birds of Mauritania. SEOF, Paris.
Thanks to Banc d’Arguin‘s Marius Dussel for the details and to Sylvia van der Steen for the photographs.