Below is a brief account of the ‘Sound Approach’ week in the Dakhla-Aousserd region.
On 10-18 December, following reports of rain from Dakhla-Aousserd three months earlier, we visited with Killian Mullarney the area to record bird sounds.
Since no birders had been in the region in the previous months and weeks, it was uncertain what we would find. We soon discovered that the rain had been very local, missing Oued Jenna and Aousserd village. Consequently, there was no water and hardly any bird activity around these well-known birding sites (as was mentioned a few days earlier by Jean), although we found good numbers of Cricket Warblers Spiloptila clamans, Fulvous Babblers Turdoides fulvus and a higher than usual number of Spectacled Warblers Sylvia conspicillata.
There was evidence of rain 150 km west of Aousserd. Here, we found a thin layer of grasses and quite a lot of larks and coursers. On three visits, we must have seen and heard a daily maximum of 20 Dunn’s Larks Eremalauda dunni, up to 14 Thick-billed Larks Ramphocoris clotbey, more than 200 Temminck’s Larks Eremophila bilopha, c 200 Bar-tailed Larks Ammomanes cinctura, a loose flock of 100 singing Greater Short-toed Larks Calandrella brachydactyla and up to 80 (many singing) Hoopoe Larks Alaemon alaudipes.
Furthermore, in the evening of 13 December, a Pharaoh Eagle-Owl Bubo ascalaphus was seen along the road at the Jmiaaya wadi. At c 120 km west of Aousserd, a Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius perched in a tree on 15 December. Single Tawny Pipits Anthus campestris were photographed at two sites at c 110 and 160 km west of Aousserd on 15 December and 18 December. Two Eurasian Stone-curlews Burhinus oedicnemus were photographed c 160 km west of Aousserd on 15 and 18 December. A Eurasian Robin Erithacus rubecula at the entrance of the Ajida chicken farm near Gleib Jediane on 18 December may have been the southernmost ever for Western Sahara.
On the Laglate mountain south of Oued Jenna, we found two Desert Larks Ammomanes deserti, five Trumpeter Finches Bucanetes githagineus, two Cricket Warblers, a family of Fulvous Babblers with a fledgling, and a pair and a flock of 10 calling Pale Crag Martins (Rock Martins) Ptyonoprogne obsoleta presaharica. A flock of five non-singing Dunn’s Larks was seen at 20 km west of Aousserd. At Aousserd village, three (sound-recorded) Thekla’s Larks Galerida theklae and a pair of Pale Crag Martins were noteworthy.
(Worth mentioning that we had some difficulties at Aousserd as, despite trying to be inconspicuous, we were said to leave and escorted out of the village by military people who told us that, for security reasons, we could not stay at Oued Jenna either)
At Dakhla bay, we sound-recorded up to 29 roosting African Royal Terns Sterna albididorsalis on 13 and 17 December. A few Dunlins Calidris alpina at Lassagare were tentatively subspecifically identified as C a arctica. Other birds we found at the beaches of Dakhla included, for instance, 500 Caspian Terns Hydroprogne caspia, 300 Sandwich Terns S sandvicensis, more than 50 first-winter Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus and 15 Slender-billed Gulls L genei.