The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Africa

SWIFT SENEGAL

Quail-Plover, Egyptian Plover & More

Monday 25th January – Sunday 31st January 2021

Leaders: Nik Borrow and a local bird guide

7 Days Group Size Limit 9

SWIFT SENEGAL: OVERVIEW

Birdquest’s Swift Senegal birding tours explore one of the safest and most easy-going countries in West Africa in search of a host of Sahelian and more widespread West African specialities, some of which can be seen on no other tour. Our Senegal birding tour goes in search of many sought-after and/or rarely observed species. These include White-crested Tiger Heron, White-backed Night Heron, Scissor-tailed Kite, Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, Fox Kestrel, Savile’s and Arabian Bustards, African Finfoot, Black Crowned Crane, Quail-Plover (sometimes treated as a monotypic family), Egyptian Plover (a monotypic family), Four-banded Sandgrouse, Adamawa Turtle Dove, African Collared Dove, Golden Nightjar, Little Grey Woodpecker, Sun Lark, Black Scrub Robin, Dorst’s Cisticola, River Prinia, Cricket Warbler, Sennar Penduline Tit, Neumann’s, Long-tailed Glossy and Chestnut-bellied Starlings, Pygmy Sunbird, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Mali (or Kulikoro) and Black-faced Firefinches, Lavender Waxbill, Sahel Paradise Whydah, White-rumped Seedeater and Gosling’s Bunting.

In the peaceful, democratic nation of Senegal, situated at the very western edge of the African continent and surely the antidote to the stereotypical view of African states as both authoritarian and dysfunctional, you can enjoy Sahel birding, seeing numerous specialities that are restricted to this arid zone immediately south of the Sahara, while travelling through a safe, friendly country where French baguettes feature on the breakfast menu.

Only a few hours flying time to the south of Europe there is a very different world – a tropical yet generally arid African world at the southern edge of the great desert. To the north lie the vast and empty wastes of the Sahara, the formidable barrier which all Europe’s summer migrants have to cross before coming to the safe haven of West Africa, where a rich landscape awaits those birds that survive the desert crossing, while to the south lie the rainforests and other humid tropical habits that characterize the ‘armpit’ of Africa.

In between is the Sahel, a vast arid zone of partly semi-desert country that extends right across the continent between about 10° and 18° degrees North latitude. The northern part of this huge dry zone, that receives only a comparatively short rainy season between about June and September, is known as the Sudan Savanna and is characterized by dry grasslands and rather open acacia woodland. Further south this very dry habitat gives way to a mix of moister, richer forest and savanna, known as the Guinea Savanna.

Even if you are well travelled south of the Sahara, this very accessible corner of the continent offers a very enjoyable birding tour that includes many exciting Sahelian specialities that cannot be seen, for example, in Ghana or Cameroon. Indeed, the Birdquest Senegal birding tour itinerary, which was pioneered by us, is unrivalled in the number of Sahelian specialities that it produces. Senegal offers easy, enjoyable birding, good photographic opportunities and an easy-going atmosphere. At this season the local avifauna is further enriched by the presence of numerous winter visitors from Europe and North Africa.

Throughout francophone Senegal the former French colonial influence is strongly to be felt, with the locals carrying home baguettes from the bakery, excellent French food and French architecture evident in the dusty towns. Northernmost Senegal, where we will be spending part of our time, lies close to the Sahara than the and the arid landscapes of the Sahel contrast greatly with the much more verdant scenery of the far southeast and the Saloum Delta. While Dakar is a cosmopolitan city with many inhabitants who would be quite at home in Paris, it lies in stark contrast, however, to the simple village life that typifies much of the country. Age-old tasks such as fetching and carrying water, washing and cooking continue in traditional fashion in mud hut villages that look almost unchanged for centuries, while ancient Peugeots are pressed into service as ‘bush-taxis’ for a day out at the local market.

We start our Senegal birding tour at Dakar, strategically positioned on Cap Vert, the westernmost projection of the African continent and once a stronghold of the transatlantic slave trade.

From Dakar we head for northernmost Senegal, where we will explore the Sahelian habitats around Podor on the border with Mauritania, picking up our first Sahel specialities like Long-tailed Glossy and Chestnut-bellied Starlings along the way. Once we are deep in the Sahel, we will explore the arid landscapes in search of a suite of mega-specialities, including African Collared Dove, Golden Nightjar, Little Grey Woodpecker, Black Scrub Robin, the attractive little Cricket Warbler, the tiny Sennar Penduline Tit and Pygmy Sunbird. Western African endemics include Vieillot’s Barbet, Senegal Eremomela and Senegal Batis.

Part of our time in the north will be devoted to the Senegal River region to the north of the historic town of St Louis. Here we shall explore the dry country inland for two more Sahel specialities, Savile’s Bustard and White-rumped Seedeater, and the extensive Djoudj National Park which is home to the endangered Arabian Bustard (which occurs in both the Sahel and southern Arabia) and the little-known River Prinia (a Sahel endemic). Western African endemics and near-endemics include Double-spurred Francolin and Western Plantain-eater. As well as seeing these specialities, we shall also enjoy some great wetland birding, for the wetlands of this region hold a remarkable variety of waterbirds, both Afrotropical species and wintering Palearctic migrants. Indeed the Djoudj is one of the most important wetland reserves in the entire African continent. Wetlands in the region offer what is perhaps the best chance in Africa for the uncommon and nomadic Allen’s Gallinule.

From the far north we head south to the Kaolack region, to the southeast of Dakar. Our major targets here are yet more Sahelian endemics and near-endemics; the dainty Scissor-tailed Kite, the strange Quail-Plover (sometimes treated as a monotypic family, sometimes placed in buttonquails) and Sahel Paradise Whydah.

Our Senegal birding tour participants will experience a complete contrast as we go on to explore the much better watered habitats of the Niokolo Koba National Park region in far southeastern Senegal. Large areas of Guinea Savanna woodland are interspersed by extensive areas of grassland and the rivers that bisect the area are often bordered by strips of gallery forest. Rocky hills add to the ecological diversity.

The mega-speciality here is Mali (or Kulikoro) Firefinch, which is restricted to southeast Senegal and Mali, while other very important specialities include Fox Kestrel, Stone Partridge, Adamawa Turtle Dove, Violet Turaco, the awesome Red-throated Bee-eater, Bearded Barbet, Sun Lark, Dorst’s Cisticola, Neumann’s, Lesser Blue-eared and Bronze-tailed Starlings, Lavender Waxbill and Gosling’s Bunting.

Western African endemics and near-endemics include Senegal Parrot, Blue-bellied Roller, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Pied-winged Swallow, West African Swallow, Blackcap Babbler, Oriole Warbler (or Moho) and Yellow-crowned Gonolek.

One of the most popular specialities with birding visitors is the beautiful Egyptian Plover, the sole member of its family, which is positively easy to find here and very approachable. We should also encounter African Finfoot, Grasshopper Buzzard and Northern Carmine Bee-eater.

Finally there will be a splendid opportunity to explore the Saloum Delta in the Kaolack region. Three stand-out species that we will be concentrating on here are the much sought-after White-crested Tiger Heron, the lovely White-backed Night Heron and Four-banded Sandgrouse. Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle is another good bird of the area. In addition, an extraordinary feature of the delta, and one of the greatest avian spectacles of West Africa (in all but years of extreme drought), is an evening roost gathering of literally thousands of Scissor-tailed Kites and Lesser Kestrels!

Join us for some of the most enjoyable, speciality-rich birding in West Africa!

Birdquest has operated Senegal birding tours since 1985.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels and guesthouses are of good or medium standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus/passenger van and roads are generally good (but some minor roads are pot-holed and bumpy).

Walking: The walking effort during our Senegal birding tour is easy almost throughout.

Climate: Generally hot and dry. It is sometimes humid. Rain is unlikely at this season.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Senegal birding tour are good.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers, boatmen and accommodation/restaurant staff.

Deposit: £310, $400, €350.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)


2021: provisional £1530, $2020, €1790. Dakar/Dakar.

Single Supplement: 2021: £120, $160, €150.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in Euros. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

SWIFT SENEGAL BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Senegal: Day 1  The tour begins late this afternoon at Dakar airport. From Dakar we will head south to the town of Kaolack for an overnight stay.

As we travel further south we will come across some impressive areas of baobab woodland. We will have time to search for the secretive Quail-Plover today, with our chances dependent both on luck and whether or not the previous rainy season has been a good one. As we near Kaolack, providing there are not a drought conditions in the area, we should see the delightful Scissor-tailed (or African Swallow-tailed) Kite hawking for insects over the dry savanna.

Senegal: Day 2  Today we will explore areas of arid grassland and bush country in the Kaolack region where we have previously found the enigmatic Quail-Plover, an unusual species which is sometimes treated as a monotypic family but now more often placed with the buttonquails. Getting a sighting, which will involve flushing a bird from the grass and low scrub, will likely take persistence. (Kindly note that this African mega-speciality becomes very difficult to find if the rains have failed.)

Other interesting species in the area include Savile’s Bustard, Piapiac, Sahel Paradise Whydah (a Sahelian endemic) and its host the Green-winged Pytilia.

Swift Senegal Day 3  Today we will head for the regional centre of Tambacounda and then continue to Wassadou, sitiuated at the edge of the huge Niokolo Koba National Park region in southeast of Senegal, where we will stay for three nights.

Senegal: Days 4-5  We are now in one of the richest regions of Senegal for birdlife and we are going to encounter numerous new species, but we will be concentrating on the Sahelian endemics and more widespread West African specialities.

Much sought-after is the beautiful Egyptian Plover, a bird which is still quite common along the larger rivers in this region. We can even expect to get within a few metres of this wonderful bird, which forms a monotypic family, as they seem quite unconcerned by humans in this part of Africa! The rivers also hold African Finfoot, which we have a very good chance of encountering during our stay.

Another major speciality of the area are Adamawa Turtle Dove, which is restricted to the Sahel. Other Sahelian endemics and near-endemics include Stone Partridge, the stunning Violet Turaco, the gorgeous Red-throated Bee-eater, Bearded Barbet, Sun Lark, Dorst’s Cisticola, the lovely White-crowned Robin-Chat, Lesser Blue-eared and Bronze-tailed Starlings, and Lavender Waxbill.

Much rarer and each needing a lot of luck are Yellow Penduline Tit, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, Black-faced Firefinch and Brown-rumped Bunting. We have even seen the uncommon and nomadic Rufous-rumped Lark in newly burned grassland here on one occasion. If we see any of these we can count ourselves lucky.

Western African endemics and near-endemics include Senegal Parrot, the lovely Guinea Turaco, the attractive Blue-bellied Roller, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Red-chested and West African Swallows, Blackcap Babbler, the impressive Oriole Warbler (or Moho) and the uncommon Pied-winged Swallow.

Other birds of particular interest include Grasshopper Buzzard, Bruce’s Green Pigeon and the gorgeous Northern Carmine Bee-eater, White-shouldered Black Tit and Black-bellied Firefinch are present in the area but uncommon, and if we are really in luck we will come across the awesome Pel’s Fishing Owl.

Amongst the many more widespread species we may well encounter are Striated Heron, Hamerkop, Hadada Ibis, Palm-nut Vulture, Brown Snake Eagle, Shikra, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Lizard Buzzard, African Harrier-Hawk, Wahlberg’s Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Helmeted Guineafowl, White-crowned and African Wattled Lapwings, Red-eyed Dove, European Turtle Dove, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, African Green Pigeon, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Giant, Blue-breasted and Grey-headed Kingfishers, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Broad-billed Roller, Woodland Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds, Cardinal Woodpecker, Greater Honeyguide, African Pied Wagtail, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Brown Babbler, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Familiar Chat, African Thrush, European Pied, Swamp, Pale and Northern Black Flycatchers, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, African Blue Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Singing Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Garden and Willow Warblers, Rock Martin, Wire-tailed Swallow, Fork-tailed Drongo, White-crested Helmet Shrike, Yellow-billed Shrike, Northern Puffback, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Yellow White-eye, African Golden Oriole, Purple Starling, Western Violet-backed, Green-headed and Variable Sunbirds, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Bush Petronia, Village Weaver, Northern Red Bishop, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Bronze Mannikin, Village Indigobird and Yellow-fronted Canary.

We should also come across a good number of the less common (or more difficult to find) but widespread species, which include Woolly-necked Stork, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Northern White-faced Owl, Greyish Eagle-Owl, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, African Moustached Warbler, Sulphur-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes, and Red-headed and Black-necked Weavers. Scarcer possibilities include Bateleur, Tawny and Martial Eagles, Shining-blue Kingfisher, the huge Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-winged Warbler and Yellow-bellied Hyliota.

Mammals are not conspicuous in this area, but amongst the new species we are likely to encounter are Guinea Baboon, Green Monkey and Hippopotamus.

Swift Senegal: Day 6  After some final birding at Wassadou, we will return to Kaolack for an overnight stay.

Swift Senegal: Day 7  We will have another opportunity to look for Quail-Plover, should we need to, and catch up on anything else we still need. This afternopon we will return to Dakar airport, where our tour ends in the early evening.

SENEGAL TOUR REPORT 2019

by Nik Borrow

View Report

SENEGAL TOUR REPORT 2018

by Chris Kehoe

View Report

SENEGAL TOUR REPORT 2017

by Mark Beaman

View Report

Other Western Africa birding tours by Birdquest include: