" Quand y aura-t-il des observateurs qui nous rendront compte de ce que font nos hirondelles au Sénégal et nos cailles en Barbarie ? "
- Comte de Buffon (France), 1737
" Avoir vu un éléphant n'est pas une question d'âge mais une question d'avoir parcouru la brousse "
- Roger Bila Kaboré (Burkina Faso)

mercredi 24 octobre 2012

24, un gars de Greenpeace en quête du balbuzard Einion

Ci-dessus: 2011 01. Balbuzard pêcheur sur la Langue de Barbarie, PNLB
/ Courtesy photo par John Wright pour Wrightswanderings et Ornithondar, DR
* Parc national de la Langue de Barbarie (PNLB)-

En rappel, sur Ornithondar:

Richard Page*2 (de Greenpeace), supporter du gallois Dyfi Osprey Project*1, après un conclave professionnel à Warang parmi les pêcheurs sénégalais et les activistes qui les défendent, s'est proposé de jeter un oeil sur la Langue de Barbarie, pour tenter d'observer Einion, un jeune balbuzard pêcheur (pandion haliaetus, osprey) du pays de Galles suivi par GPS depuis sa naissance. Celui-ci, comme ses congénères du même âge, devrait séjourner deux années sous nos latitudes avant de reprendre la voie de son pays natal: après plusieurs mois sans problème passés dans les Niayes de la Grande Côte, au sud de Lompoul (automne-hiver 2011-2012), Einion est remonté en mars vers l'embouchure du fleuve Sénégal. En l'occurrence sur la Langue de Barbarie (cf. carte ci-dessous), au sein du parc national du même nom (PNLB) où la concentration assez élevée de balbuzards et la petitesse de son rayon d'actions tendent à témoigner de l'hospitalité du site - ce qu'Ornithondar et le Rutland Osprey Project avaient déjà remarqué.
Ci-dessus: les mouvements d'Einion sur la Langue de Barbarie (PNLB), mars-août 2012
/ Courtesy Janine Pannett, Dyfi Osprey Project

" (...) Operation Einion proves to a rather leisurely expedition with us hooking up with our trusty guide and driver at the rather civilised time of nine in the morning after breakfast.  Driving along the coastal route out of St Louis, we stop to pick up a water melon from a roadside vendor and scan the rapidly drying out lagoons on either side for ospreys and other birds.  Cormorants sit on the gunnels of moored pirogues and on one sandbank we see three grey pelicans, the other species found in this region.  Around the edge of many of these lagoons are multiple conical heaps of salt covered in bits of sacking and other debris.  The women collect the salt which is used domestically for cooking and preserving fish.  I have seen similar piles along India’s east coast.
18 kilometres south of St Louis and we are deposited in the fishing village of Mouit.  Under a large tree (a bantaba – meeting place) a group of women dressed in brightly coloured clothes have set out items for sale and are chatting cheerfully.   It is the same scene that can be seen in countless villages across Africa and one that never ceases to make me smile.

We walk through the village stopping to enjoy the sight of a  hornbill.  Often spotted in flight from a bus or taxi window, hornbills for me always bring to mind the balsa wood aeroplanes of my childhood, with the metal weight that you had to clip to the nose in the right place to get the balance exactly right.

Five minutes later and we are on the banks of the lagoon looking at the palm fringed bank opposite.  Two small boys are taking turns with a small blunt sickle at cutting handfuls of grass, which they stuff into a sack.  The grass is to be fed to the sheep or mouton that will be killed and eaten at the forthcoming Tabaski festival.  A pirogue is pulled up on the mud and   talks to the son of the pirogue owner who is currently back home from Dakar where he is studying at University.  The pirogue owner appears and goes off again and a few minutes later comes back, shouldering a heavy outboard.
Chugging out into the lagoon it is only a matter of minutes before I spy a raptor on a dead beach on the mainland bank.  ‘Balbuzard pêcheur,’ says Yakyha. I am not so sure but once I have him in view through the binoculars it is clear that we have already seen our first osprey.  Although silhouetted against the morning sun, there’s no mistaking the bird is indeed an osprey with the scruff of feathers  that constitute the nuchal crest.  This is confirmed when he takes wing. 

Is this a good omen I wonder or perhaps this is the only osprey we will spot all day ?   The sun is blazing down on us and small fish are jumping, skimming across our bows.  I admire a little tern as it dives for fish and figure it’s going to be one of those days when the living is easy.
As it happens we have a much better view of our second osprey of the day.  Perched on a sign on an island in the middle of the lagoon which in season provides a haven for a thriving colony of gulls, we can admire the bird and its distinctive markings including the dark eye stripe.  This is a fantastic view and if this individual had been fitted with a satellite tracking device I am sure I would have been able to make out the aerial.

We travel further south, scanning the trees for more ospreys, trying not to get distracted by the other birds, a pair of spindly purple herons, a pied kingfisher skimming low across the water and a curlew which begins its mournful call which is vaguely disturbing as it is a sound that evokes chilly, rainy days, tramping across moors and mudflats wrapped in my tattered Barbour, not bright sunshine.
Another island with some tall trees proves to be osprey central, I spot one osprey and Yakhya points there is another two trees to the right.  It transpires that in fact there either four or five individuals are perched in close vicinity to each other.  As we get closer one takes wing and we watch it circle around us.  Our view is good enough for me to note that it is a juvenile with a distinctive buff colour edging the dark feathers of its upper parts.

And so it goes as we continue to slow pass along the bank of the tongue of sand.   La Langue de  Barbarie is a national park and completely protected and so is a safe environment for the many birds that make it their home for some or all of the year.
We see three more ospreys as we slowly peruse the vegetation.  One is so close I can clearly see its legs and would have spotted a band had it been ringed.  I am fully taking it in, when the pirogue owner’s mobile rings and the osprey takes umbrage and flies off with shallow but powerful wing beats at one moment it’s talons just clipping the water.

Eventually after several hours or maybe no time at all, it is suggested we land on la Langue de Barbarie itself and have a picnic lunch.  We are taken to a customary spot and make our way ashore paddling through the warm shallows.  An orchestra of small fiddler crabs, ‘crabes violonistes’ in French, pop back into their burrows as we pass and grasshopper after grasshopper springs up in front of us as we make our way to some shade under the trees.  Across the way we can hear the pounding of the breakers on the seaward shore. Stas and I are invited to explore the beach while a modest fire is built.    The white sand beach stretches for miles and is marred only by the mass of plastic debris, millions of bits of indistinguishable rubbish, cracked buckets and tangles of lost fishing net and odd sandals.  Plastic rubbish is a huge problem in Senegal and Yakhya notes that even the students who come to the island occasionally to picnic don’t take their rubbish back with them.  It is one of the many issues which needs greater ‘sensibilisation’ – a word much used by my Greenpeace colleagues and others – before an effective action plan can be developed to tackle the issue.

After a fine lunch of roast fish with delicious onion and lemon sauce followed by a pot of a tourist-lite ataaya tea, I have time to reflect on an extraordinary morning.

We didn’t find Einion, but I can’t categorically say we didn’t see him either. Our search was not systematic and it would have been good to explore the entire stretch of the lagoon to the south and north over a number of days.  What I do know is that the peaceful lagoon on the sheltered side of La Langue de Barbarie is a great place to while away the time and that for an adolescent osprey it is a good place to hang with plenty of fish to build up sufficient energy for when the time comes to make the long journey back to the equally special but palm-less estuarine habitat of Mid-Wales. "

*2 Lire : http://www.dyfiospreyproject.com/blog/2012/11/the-search-continues

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