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johnweir

WESTERN SAHARA. 21st - 28th MARCH 2019.

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johnweir

In Autumn 2013 the Cat specialist Group (IUCN) reported on recent Sand Cat sightings in the Moroccan Sahara. (Hereafter referred to as Western Sahara, out of respect for the views of several persons I spoke to during my visit). The article was my first real exposure to this fascinating and highly specialised small cat. In early October  2017 Panthera released possibly the first footage of Sand Cat kittens taken in the wild. The clip immediately went viral and propelled these diminutive little cats to superstar status. At this stage I knew it was one species I very much wanted to observe in the wild if at all possible although I realised it was probably going to be difficult. It wasn't their apparent 'cuteness' that appealed to me but the fact that they survive and are adapted so well to living in a very harsh and unforgiving environment that moved them quickly to the top of my 'must see list'. I have a very real interest in desert adapted mammals and really enjoy spending time in desert environments searching for them.

The IUCN presently recognise two subspecies of Sand Cat , the one found in Western Sahara and across the North African Sahara is the nominate form Felis m. margarita, the second subspecies is found across the Middle East (incl. Arabia) and into Pakistan. In 2002 the IUCN classified the cats as near threatened but in 2016 lowered the status to of least concern, I am not exactly sure why as sightings of this cat are generally rare,  however ongoing research since 2013 by the group who took the kitten footage (ISEC) did locate a sightings 'hotspot' in Western Sahara which has produced relatively reliable sightings up to the present day. In other parts of its range it has only been documented anecdotally and even these records date to ten years or more. A recent report (2/3/2019) confirmed the first sighting in more than twenty years of a Sand Cat in Morocco at Merzouga on the Algerian border. 

My research into a possible trip to the region drew to my attention the fact that several birding tours had been visiting Western Sahara regularly since as early as 2010. Several of the birding operators produce very detailed trip reports and it became apparent that Sand Cats were being observed on many of the trips, particularly over the last five years. As I am becoming increasingly interested in birds I had virtually made up my mind to do one of the trips and hope for a Sand Cat sighting, when in early 2018 Wise Birding released details of a 'Mostly Mammals' trip to Western Sahara which would concentrate on the nocturnal mammals of the region with some birding. That was all I needed I signed up immediately for a March 2019 departure. However it wasn't until late November that I learnt sufficient numbers had signed up to make the trip viable.

In August 2018 @Antee's excellent trip report 'Western Sahara - In Search for Sand Cat' was published on Safaritalk, his experiences confirmed I had made the right decision to go, many of my observations and experiences in this report mirror his and my itinerary very much followed his although it was slightly longer. I apologise in advance for the repetition, but hope my report will complement his and add to the information available on a fascinating region and its fauna.

I flew from Manchester to Casablanca (3 hours) and then on to Dakhla a further 2 hour (return £268), Royal Air Maroc. We met up in Casablanca and the group consisted of 5 members, the group leader was Chris Townend of Wise Birding. We arrived in Dakhla around 24.00 and the first and last night of the trip was spent in a very pleasant small hotel in Dakhla.

The first morning was spent on a catamaran cruising in Dakhla Bay we were hoping for a sighting of the critically endangered Atlantic Hump-backed Dolphin which are regularly seen in the bay, however not on this occasion. The bay proved to be very interesting to the experienced 'birders' in the group the highlight appeared to be several Royal Terns, I particularly enjoyed adding to my list of Gulls and observing a very large flock of Spoonbills which I have seen before but never in such numbers. Generally the bay was a very productive area for bird watching, 40 different birds were recorded in around 3 hours at the coast, many of which I had not seen before.

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The coast supported several businesses a thriving oyster farm operated very close to where the catamaran was moored, at low tide racks on which the oysters develop were exposed.

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Oyster racks, just visible on the sand (red bill) Caspian Tern and to its left (yellow bill) Royal Tern.

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Greater Flamingo on a sand bank in Dakhla Bay.

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White-breasted Cormorant.

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Yellow-legged Gull.

In the afternoon we were collected by the team from Dakhla Rovers who were to look after us for the next few days in conjunction with our own guide Chris who is very familiar with the region and an outstanding ornithologist  We used two vehicles and the team was led by Nico (owner), ably assisted by several members of his team during the trip. We drove north up the isthmus before heading east off-road for about 60 km to our camp site in a very isolated desert location (Arbt Sbeita, Dunes of Sbeita, 40km W of Bir Anazarane), the camp had been set up the day before. We were to spend 24 hours here, the location had been chosen as an excellent area for Fennec Fox sightings.

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A general view of the campsite, we slept in 2's in the smaller tents, the larger one, we ate in and the staff slept in. The food was good throughout, we had our own cook with us Amina, she did an excellent job under testing circumstances. Long night drives were very much a feature of this trip, on the second night of the trip we were out from 20.00 until 04.00, I had been told to expect to become nocturnal before departure and that is very much what happened. Most days we slept in until around 11.00.

On leaving camp a Fennec Fox was located within about 5 minutes of leaving, that was not to be the norm for sightings on this trip. We followed the Fox for quite a while before leaving it to go about its business, they are very small and have huge ears in relation to the size of the head. I had seen one many years ago in southern Tunisia.  On several outings as you would expect in the desert, hours were spent driving without seeing much wildlife. This was a very specialist trip, however patience was usually rewarded. Sightings were achieved by spotlighting using torches and each vehicle had a specially adapted sideways facing lighting system. Stress of the animals was kept to an absolute minimum at all times.

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Large spiders were very common, I do not have a clue what this one is, it was about 3 inches across.

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Lesser Egyptian Jerboa were seen most nights, this one decided to dig in close to the vehicle.

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A Fennec Fox taken from about 60 yards away, not one of my best images. Photography was very demanding on this trip. During the drive three Fennec Foxes were seen in total, so the camp location had been a good choice. The following day was spent exploring the dunes around camp with a short trip to a sparsely wooded area in the hope of locating some migrant birds. Lark's were in abundance Greater Hoopoe, Bar-tailed, Desert, Black-crowned Sparrow, Dunn's and Temminck's were all identified along with Western Orphean and Subalpine Warblers.

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Cream-coloured Coursers were vey common around the camp site and a nest was located with two chicks. They blended in very well with the desert substrate and vegetation. 

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Skinks were very common on the dunes behind camp, this species has the common name Sandfish. (Scinctus albifasciatus).

Camp was dropped after our evening meal and we packed up and headed out about 19.30, heading for the desert village of Aousserd where we were to spend 4 nights. It was a long drive circa  260km, the first 60km SW over ungraded roads before following a small section of the Paris- Dakar Rally route and joining the N3  tarmac road heading SE for the final 200km to the village. Enroute we took a detour off the N3 and followed the piste Bougoufa for an additional 20 km, this is a good area for Sand Cats but none where seen, it was very windy and there was a lot of sand in the air.

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Savannah Hares were very common in all locations except extreme desert on all night drives. These Hares were previously thought to be Cape Hares but have recently been studied in detail and assigned as Lepus microtis, their distribution is far more extensive than is shown in the current mammal guides of Africa.

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African Desert Hedgehog, only two were seen on the trip.

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Ruppell's Fox, taken from distance in poor light. Larger than the Fennec Fox, with characteristic dark whisker patches. We saw several on the night drive to Aousserd and nightly thereafter, they are not very cooperative for the camera. It was great to have seen both Desert Foxes found in the region having not seen a Pale Fox at Zakouma last February.

We arrived at the village house at 03.30, Aousserd (Awserd) proved to be a ghost town I have not got a clue what the people who live there do for a living, one can only assume they are employed in some capacity at the large military bases around the town. The UN have a base here as well. Throughout the trip the few locals we met were very friendly and we had no problems whatsoever with the police, Nico was obviously well known in the area so his vehicles are not stopped. I get the impression that wildlife enthusiasts are welcome, I never had any concerns about my own safety during the trip. The village house we used provided basic accommodation but was very clean and we had access to a hot shower each day.

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Approaching Aousserd, military vehicle in front, police car parked up in the shade.

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The only shop in the village, I had to buy a traditional head dress here as my cap was lost during the catamaran trip. They also sold a thirst quenching fizzy apple drink (Poms), none alcoholic, this trip was dry. I was rather surprised I couldn't get any Yorkshire teabags, I need to speak to their export manager in Harrogate!

The weather throughout the trip was fine, mild to warm during the day (max 28˚C) and relatively cold at night (around 3˚C) and it was usually 10.00 before it warmed up, I was cold in my sleeping bag whilst camping in the desert. Generally it was calm with some wind and sand in the air on a couple of nights. On the last morning we experienced very hazy conditions almost like a sea fret.

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Big brother is watching you. If Land Rover Defender 110's are your thing this is the town for you!

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 Village housing.

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The desert scenery around the village was quite beautiful .

In the afternoon (3rd day) we visited the Derraman region close to the village as Golden Wolves have been seen here during the day, our luck was out again but we did record two interesting raptors Long-legged Buzzard and Lanner Falcon, (pale form erlangeri). The focus for the night drive was to be to try and locate a Sand Cat, I must admit three nights in and no sighting as yet, I was beginning to worry. 

 

I would stress that in my own opinion a trip to Western Sahara should only be considered using a reputable guide and I believe Dakhla Rovers (not sure who or what is responsible for their name I should have asked) to be market leaders in this field the whole trip was extremely well organised. Although wildlife tourists are visiting the region on their own and driving off-road in increasing numbers, it still remains one of the heaviest land mined areas in the world, extreme caution should be exercised at all times to avoid an unfortunate accident. 

 

Part 2 to follow.    

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Kitsafari

@johnweir fennec fox! sand cats! have been on my dreamlist (as opposed to wishlist which is more attainable  in my case!) for  a long time, as I often wonder if I would ever get myself to the desert. but the temperatures you had mentioned are mild and tolerable. I just wonder if it is secure and safe for a single lady traveller? 

 

One could never repeat too much TRs of a sand cat or a fennec fox or about sahara safaris/birding tours.

 

It sounds like you had an awesome trip. 

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lmSA84

Fascinating report, thanks for sharing. Great shot of the hedgehog

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Seniortraveller

A really interesting report. Am I the only one to be astounded......a hedgehog in the desert!

You really do learn something new everyday🙂

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wilddog

What an intrepid traveller you are . It sounds as though the traveling was quite arduous. 

 

But already some fascinating and rare sightings. I wonder if @Zarek Cockar would be able to identify the spider....

 

Really looking forward to the next section of your report and fingers crossed, you got your target species.

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kittykat23uk
13 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

@johnweir fennec fox! sand cats! have been on my dreamlist (as opposed to wishlist which is more attainable  in my case!) for  a long time, as I often wonder if I would ever get myself to the desert. but the temperatures you had mentioned are mild and tolerable. I just wonder if it is secure and safe for a single lady traveller? 

 

One could never repeat too much TRs of a sand cat or a fennec fox or about sahara safaris/birding tours.

 

It sounds like you had an awesome trip. 

 

I'd do it!  :)

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Kitsafari
41 minutes ago, kittykat23uk said:

 

I'd do it!  :)

 

 

and I'll do it with you, if the opportunity arises!!

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johnweir

@Kitsafari, I need to catch up on your last trip report, decided to leave it until you had finished and read it in one go. Just as I was about to start the site went down, so will enjoy it when I get this trip report finished. The Striped Hyena and Zorilla sightings were amazing. I was hoping to see the North African equivalent of the Zorilla, the Libyan Striped Weasel on this trip but unfortunately it didn't happen. They are regularly sighted in the region.

The trip/expedition starts in Dakhla but members tend to meet up in Casablanca. The trip is totally safe for a single female traveller, if I had any concerns I would not make this statement. Chris and Nico are both excellent at ensuring their clients are well looked after. The trips usually go in mid March when the climate is pleasant. If you need any further details send me an email.

@wilddog, thank you, hopefully @Zarek Cockar, will get this notification at some stage and see the image and offer his thoughts, it would be gratefully appreciated. Thank you also for drawing my attention to the South Sudan clip, it does appeal, it would be an amazing experience. I am meeting up with a guy from the States I met in Zakouma in 10 days time in Central African Republic and I know he has been trying to go for several years, so we will no doubt have the conversation, I know he has had one costly failed attempt. The list keeps growing.

NB.

The final image on part one of my trip report is of a FAT-TAILED GERBIL. Pachyuromys duprasi. The image was taken during the 2nd night drive from the desert camp to Aousserd.

Not entirely sure how it got dragged in to my report, I was however going to use it at some stage. I do have a problem with this happening occasionally.

 

 

 

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Atravelynn
Posted (edited)

I'd trade the lack of Yorkshire teabags for a fat-tailed gerbil any day.  This is one fascinating adventure you undertook.

Edited by Atravelynn

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Kitsafari
16 hours ago, johnweir said:

@Kitsafari, I need to catch up on your last trip report, decided to leave it until you had finished and read it in one go. Just as I was about to start the site went down, so will enjoy it when I get this trip report finished. The Striped Hyena and Zorilla sightings were amazing. I was hoping to see the North African equivalent of the Zorilla, the Libyan Striped Weasel on this trip but unfortunately it didn't happen.

 

 

 

 

well then, you need a repeat trip, this time for the libyan striped weasel!

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Antee

Oh, I saw the trip report from Chris on this tour. Nice to see more ST:ers visit the barren deserts!

 

It´s a fascinating part of the world.

 

Fennecs and Sand cat are a must see for every "nature geek" out there :) 

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michael-ibk

Some awesome sightins, I´ve loved Fennec since I was a child, and what a great photo of the Hedgehog. Really appreciate this report, thank you for sharing with us John.

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johnweir
Posted (edited)

On  the third night drive we drove around 70km east from Aoussed towards Dakhla on the N3 (tarmac road) the idea was to turn round and then slowly return to Aoussed spotlighting in the hope of securing some interesting sightings. The N3 corridor to the east of Aousserd  is possibly the best place in the world to spot a Sand Cat, over the last few years numerous Sand Cats have been recorded in this region and several tagged and studied, the road could almost be renamed, 'Sand Cat Alley'.The important factor in spotlighting is eyeshine, usually green in cats. Just before we decided to turn we had success, a mammal was spotted about 50 metres from the road, I was convinced it was a Sand Cat, I was beginning to see Sand Cats in my sleep, it turned out to be a Ruppell's Fox. Then (22.55) 200 yards further down the road more eyeshine about 30 yards from the road and this time bingo it was definitely what I had come for, a Sand Cat. It was sat upright between two tussocks of coarse desert grass (favoured habitat), but it immediately moved away from us and eventually disappeared from view at speed. This was a very small individual we assumed it was a juvenile but it was definitely a Sand Cat, cream coat, dark banded legs, comparatively large head and ears. I tend to think they look as though they have got a severe case of mumps.  What a beautiful and highly specialised little cat. Due to everything happening so quickly as it usually does and poor lighting it was not possible to secure an image, but that seemed unimportant, I was just really delighted to have seen a Sand Cat.

We decided to turn  and begin the slow drive back to the village, 40km's out an African wildcat was located (01.30) right at the side of the road. That also disappeared quickly but we managed to relocate it and follow it from distance for about 400 yards before it settled under a bush about 100 yards from the road. Spotting scopes were employed and we watched if for around 20 minutes. The technocrats in the group managed to get some interesting video footage of it using an adapter and a mobile phone. As we progressed another Wildcat was seen crossing the road in front of the vehicle but disappeared into some long grass and could not be found.

I had been hoping to see a Wildcat that lived in desert conditions as when I had been in Zakouma (Feb 2018) I had taken a very poor quality image of a Wildcat from a distance which was unlike any I had ever seen before. Briefly it was significantly larger than usual, of very slim build and of a uniform tan colour with very little if any characteristic striping. All I have been able to find out so far despite my best efforts are references to the fact that African Wildcats from areas of low rainfall can be lighter in colour than those found elsewhere. The Wildcats I saw in Western Sahara (very low rainfall area) did not agree with this statement they were very much 'typical' in all aspects and they are of the same subspecies as this Wildcat. I include the image taken in Zakouma hoping that the cat specialists/enthusiasts in this forum may have some thoughts. 'Typical' Wildcats were also seen in Zakouma.

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A very strange African Wildcat. Zakouma, Chad. February 2018.

 

We got back to the house at 03.30, had a late brunch the following day and then headed out try to Oued Jenna to try to find some interesting birds, the Golden Nightjar being high on the list. Despite several attempts during both afternoon and dusk walks during this trip none where sighted. We walked several km's, it was quite warm but pleasant and saw several Cricket Warblers, but the highlight for me was a Short-toed Snake-eagle observed on a nest with at least one egg. (Care was obviously exercised).

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Short-toed Snake-eagle.

Later that evening we again drove 80km on the N3 before turning, stopping en-route at a possible Nightjar site. Shortly after turning we enjoyed a significant Sand Cat sighting (76km), an adult was spotted resting in an arcacia tree. It immediately leapt out of the tree  and vanished before returning and showing some curiosity in our presence, we observed  it for about 5 minutes before leaving.

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Sand Cat as initially seen with very little artificial light, if you look closely it is certainly there.

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What a wonderful small cat. Twenty years ago very few people had seen one of these Saharan Tigers!

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This was the second Sand Cat we saw and the last, I feel very privileged. (All 3 images are of the same cat).

Further down the road a Horned Viper was spotted, this specimen has only one horn.

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As we got nearer Aousserd an inspired decision was made to visit Derraman, and in particular an area of rocky outcrops, eyeshine was quickly located it was clearly from quite a large mammal. Driving around the outcrop the eyeshine was again seen before a very large African Golden Wolf? came into view. We observed it moving about the rock ledges for about 30 minutes before it sat down and decided to observe us. I have seen several Golden Wolves (ex. Jackal) in northern East Africa and this specimen was nothing like those I had previously seen. Prior to being reclassified I always thought the Golden Jackal looked physically more like a small Wolf than either the BBJ or SSJ. This animal I was looking at in no way could ever have been regarded as a Jackal it simply looked like a large typical Wolf, apparently scientists in Spain are currently looking in to the status of Canids found in this and the wider region. I have read a preliminary unpublished paper which suggests these Wolves are possibly a separate species. Interestingly Nico was saying that 'locals' talk of two dog like animals living in the region, a large one and a smaller one.5H1A5920.jpeg.2caec5750918d2933bf23ede58f8482b.jpeg

African Golden  Wolf? This image and the one below have been sent to the team in Spain to add to their image database, this individual is believed to be a juvenile. For now I have recorded it as North African Golden Wolf. Canis lupaster lupaster. (Castello J.R. 2018. Canids of the World. Princeton.). This image was taken from 100 yards in poor light (01.30) and was taken handheld, so I was lucky to get anything.

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This image appears by the kind permission of Nico Calagno (Dakhla Rovers) and was taken a few days before my visit. (16 March 2019, 12.23). It is believed to be the mother of the animal in my image and is a large powerful individual. No doubt the debate will rage on but I found the Golden Wolf? sighting as exciting and interesting as the Cats and I wasn't expecting that.

 

Another late night to bed 03.00, the following day (final night in the village) we decided to have quieter day and just do a couple of short drives and have an early night, on the final day we would leave early for Dakhla and try to catch a final glimpse of a Sand Cat, good sightings are occasionally recorded during the day.

Both short drives were to Oued Bolaryah, which proved to be a dried up reservoir in the desert,  but an area good for birds, the Golden Nightjar has been recorded here recently, but as already mentioned not on this occasion.

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 No trip to the desert would be complete without a few Camel images, these are domesticated! Camels and in line with most Camels, had an acute personality problems.

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The image below was described to me as "a pre-Islamic burial site",  other than that I can tell you no more.

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In this particular region there were numerous Uromastyx sp. Lizards found sunning themselves outside their burrows, this one could possibly be a Malian Dob, Uromastyx dispar. 

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The reduced night drive was relatively quiet, the Nightjars failed to turn up again but lots of Savannah Hares were about and a large Ruppell's Fox, also some smaller but equally fascinating desert critters.

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White-spotted Gecko.

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Scorpion, you don't want one of these in your shoe, check every morning when camping in the desert.

 

In the morning we left the village around 07.30 for Dakhla (Aousserd - Dakhla circa 267km) and stopped in the vicinity of our best Sand Cat sighting location and walked possibly a km down the road with no luck, but very grateful for what we had already seen.

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Typical Sand Cat habitat. These tussocks extend inland from the road gradually petering out, they maybe dependent on rain run off from the road. This particular morning (08.30) it was warm and misty.5H1A6039.jpeg.27cccc1dbd616a3c58efdbe931105d8c.jpeg

There were however Sand Cats about. Old spoor.

The drive back to Dakhla was punctuated with regular stops at known birding sites, Mijk Farm was particularly interesting, this fruit farm in the desert during its development had allowed the manager to plant significant amounts of trees and shrubs which attract lots of birds, we saw a beautiful Bluethroat just before we left. Later in the day we stopped at a wind surfing hotel in Dakhla Bay and enjoyed the only beer of the trip, it tasted great.

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A leaking water tower provided ideal conditions to attract birds but unfortunately when we arrived so did these locals who drove their vehicle straight through the shallow pond which was full of toads and frightened away most of the birds.

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 They were there to fill up some water containers.

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Adult Toad , there were thousands of toadlets and lots of spawn also in the shallow pond. Possibly Green Toad. Bufo viridis?

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The area was also carpeted in succulent plants.

 

Our final activity in Dakhla Bay was to spend some time using scopes hoping to spot an Atlantic Hump-backed Dolphin, without success again but at least I did add another Lark to the bird list. 71 species/ssp of birds were recorded on this trip without them being the main focus. Possibly the rarer ones being: African Royal Tern, Dunne's Lark, Cricket Lark, African Desert Warbler, Desert Sparrow and Lanner Falcon. (Pale Race).

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Thekla Lark.

 

The final night was spent in the same hotel in Dakhla as on the first night and we enjoyed a really good meal and a lovely clean bed and shower. All flights on my return to the U.K. ran like clockwork.

This was a fantastic short trip I would recommend it to mammal and bird enthusiasts alike. Special thanks to Nico (Dakhla Rovers), the logistics were perfect, Chris (Wise Birding) you certainly delivered what it said on the tin and the other four trip participants whose company was greatly appreciated .

In the future I hope this region will get the attention from wildlife enthusiasts it deserves and that the Saharawi people get the referendum that they were promised in 1966 by the UN General Assembly which would allow them to exercise their democratic right regarding self-determination.

 

Edited by johnweir

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Atravelynn

I'm going with North African Golden Wolf too.  Wow!

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Kitsafari

a marvellous glimpse into an area less travelled. Thank you for the hard work in putting together the report, and for the research and information as well. 

 

The sand cat image was amazing! such a stunning unique feline.

 

and so was the canid - the golden wolf looks similar to the one that @Sangeeta and I saw in Guassa in Ethiopia as well. such a thrill to see through your eyes, species that we rarely see.  

link  : 

 

 

 

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ForWildlife

Very cool to see those cats and canids (and reptiles!). I thought the African (golden) wolf is something different than the golden jackal/wolf. Some split the golden jackal in two species, the African golden wolf, Canis anthus, and the Eurasian golden jackal, Canis aureus. But there is also, indeed, another canid in the region, which was thought to be a large species of the golden jackal, Canis aureus lupaster. However, that is now re-classified as Canis lupus lupaster. So instead of just a golden jackal, they now recognize an African golden wolf (C. anthus) and an African wolf (C. lupus lupaster). Yours look very much like C. lupus lupaster imo.

The cryptic African wolf: C. aureus lupaster is not a golden jackal and not endemic to Egypt

Reviving the African wolf, Canis lupus lupaster: A Mitochondrial Lineage Ranging More than 6,000 km Wide

Diet composition of a Newly Recognized Canid Species, the African Golden Wolf (Canis anthus), in Northern Algeria

Genome-wide Evidence Reveals that African and Eurasian Golden Jackals Are Distinct Species

 

 

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kittykat23uk

Great trip report!  Another area I need to add to my list!

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johnweir

Many thanks to everyone who has shown an interest in this report. Special thanks to @ForWildlife, for taking time to reply in such detail to the Canid taxonomy issue and providing some links to interesting, relevant scholarly articles. For the time being I will alter my records to African Wolf, Canis lupus lupaster, but would not be surprised in the future if further changes take place. 

@Sangeeta, @Kitsafari, just had a look at your 2017 Ethiopia report, I haven't seen it before, yet another good reason why older reports should not be erased from the forum. Yes the Wolf I saw in Western Sahara was vey similar to the Wolves you saw, possibly slightly larger, but neither sightings are of a Jackal in any shape or form. 

Going back to 2013 @GreenEye (not sure if they are still active members of the forum) in their Chad, Ennedi report, mention seeing a Wolf in Egypt, they were convinced it was a Wolf and not a Jackal. I have seen some footage of this Wolf species on a documentary about The Nile, it was very much smaller than the one I saw.  

Looks like I may need to go back to Western Sahara at some stage, I cannot believe I'm saying this not for Sand Cats, but the Wolves, oh yes and the Striped Weasel and the Golden Nightjar.  

 

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ForWildlife

Canid taxonomy is notoriously difficult to capture in most species concepts and we don't really have a good understanding of it all. Just look at gray wolves, red wolves, coyotes, coywolves and coyotes with red wolf genetics in the US, Himalayan wolves and even dingoes in Australia.

Until not too long ago golden nightjar was nearly impossible in the Palearctic and its discovery in the Western Sahara, which is in the Palearctic, has created a bit of rush amongst the birdwatchers which keep a Palearctic list.

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Zim Girl

Very interesting trip report to another less-visited area @johnweir,  really enjoyed reading it, thank you.

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wilddog

Terrific report . Fascinating to see the wildlife and the landscapes etc. Thanks @johnweir

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Galago

@johnweir  Great report, John, I really enjoyed it. I thought about a birding/ sand cat trip a couple of years ago (also with Wise Birding) but never made it. Love your description of the Sand Cat as a cat with mumps 🤣 And glad you raised the mystery of the very strange African Wildcat in Zakouma again. I wonder if we'll ever get a definitive id on that one?

By the way, I met Chris from Wild Birding at Birdfair in 2017 and was impressed. If any UK STers are going this year it could be a good opportunity to find out more about this trip (and if you are going we must meet up!)

Thanks, John, a very interesting report and have fun in CAR (look forward to the TR!)

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Galago

@johnweir  I've just seen in Birdguides.com a great article about finding a breeding Golden Nightjar late 2018 in the area you visited.

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