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Mauritania, we found the huge flocks.

Goodbye Oumar, Nouakchott experience and moving to the next country.


Diam Waali from the Drioli brothers, which means “Good Morning” in Pulaar, one of the languages spoken in Mauritania.


Our time in Mauritania has been one of the most emotionally challenging, we are quite tired but it’s been also one of the most rewarding. Before jumping into the summary we have to say a huge thank you to all of you who participated in the fundraising for Oumar’s family. We raised 375 euros in total, an amazing amount which will hopefully help his family for a bit. We withdrew the money and went to meet his mother and wife at their place in the capital Nouakchott accompanied by Nouma Watt from Nature Mauritanie. We explained how Oumar was a beautiful person, and this is a contribution from our “tribe”, and our community. Because of religious reasons we couldn’t talk directly to his wife who is in a “mourning period”, but we gave the money to his mother directly, who was so appreciative and thankful.


We felt emotional for Oumar and his family, we feel we are part of a strong digital community of people who want to help others, and we couldn’t be happier to realise it. Thank you again for showing your kindness towards Oumar’s family, and thank you from us to trust us and showing us we’re part of this wonderful community.


We would like to mention a quote from Axel Munthe’s book “The Story of San Michele”:


“What you keep for yourself you lose, what you give away you keep forever.”


We are currently in Senegal, just finished our work in Djoudj and taking some well-deserved rest. Even sending the newsletter was a time-consuming task over the last weeks.


We would like to wish you a lovely New Years Eve and a wonderful start of the year, make sure to make it wild!


 



Trip Summary: Got the work done!


That authorisation from the Park National of Banc d’Arguin felt like it took a lifetime to arrive, but it did in the end. After two weeks of waiting we got it and managed to do 5 days of filming. We do prefer to work on our own as we have different working times and approaches, but this time we had to have someone with us at all times. This is the reason why we only spent 5 days filming and recording as we didn’t have a lot of budget available, but we spent 2 weeks scouting the area so we knew exactly what we were looking for, the big flocks!


After filming, getting stuck a few time in the sand, zero showers for three weeks and rice with sardines or tune being our main meal of the day, we finished our work in the Banc d’Arguin: it’s time for the Immersive Experience. We met again with the great Nouma Watt, who understood what we were going to bring even though we didn’t show him the full experience with the loudspeakers. We organised three different events, one day of Immersive Experience at the University of Nouakchott “Al Aasriya”, one at the beautiful Terjit Camping (apologies for the live streaming, we had some tech issues then) and one presentation to the Noura school with students from the secondary and high school classes. Nature Mauritania has been supportive and determined to collaborate. We clearly stated our intention of doing these experiences to start something new, a long-term collaboration to inspire people to tell their own stories about their nature, and the call has been heard. We have kickstarted a discussion with the students from the University to create a project, which we would help to develop, to connect birdsongs from Mauritania with Mauritanian music. It is an ambitious project, but these students are determined, full of ideas and willing to bring concepts to life.


We spent another couple of days in the capital, connecting with some friends we made in Banc d’Arguin, Lucia and Riccardo. The funny story is that Riccardo is from a village not too far from our hometown, and meeting in the middle of the Banc d’Arguin was a real surprise! But there was a reason why we met, everything happens for a reason. Lucia, who works for a Spanish humanitarian NGO, has introduced us to the team of the first school of music production in the country. Do you see the connection? Well, we’re working on it.


Leaving Nouakchott was emotional, it was a place with so much meaning, so many beautiful and generous souls, great achievements, and established strong connections, but also difficult situations. We will be back, this is just the beginning of our connection with the Mauritania people and wildlife.


On the way to Senegal, we had to stop at the Diawling National Park, a freshwater wetland towards the end of the Senegal River, a natural borderline between Mauritania and Senegal. Driving south we left the dunes behind, meeting the first small forests, and taller trees, until we reached the national park, where life exploded in every direction. The amount of birds there is incredible at this time of the year, we saw and heard so many familiar and new species, and things are going to get wild here. We didn’t stop for long as we planned to work on the other side of the river, on the Senegalese side, called Djoudj Bird Sanctuary.


A tipical fisherman boat going back to the village after a full day of work

in Banc d’Arguin coast.



The Sounding Wild Experience at Terjit Camping, Nouakchott, Mauritania.



Big group of dromedaries in Diawling National Park, Mauritania.


 

Wild Encounters: the big flocks!


Banc d’Arguin was for us not about biodiversity (amount of different species), but about the high numbers of a few species, and this is exactly what we found, with some surprises. After scouting the coastal areas we decided to focus primarily on a small area with an extremely high concentration of birds just north of Iwik. We also left for a few nights a couple of recorders in another area south of Iwik, on a peninsula which was quite promising with a huge number of birds.

In this sort of scenario we prefer to stick to one location so we can learn about the behaviour in that area, to maximise the chances of getting what we are looking for. This time the mission was about the size and sound of the big flocks.


Thousands and thousands of Dunlins, Red Knots, Bar-Tailed Godwits, and Common Ringed Plover, all gather together from all over the East Atlantic Flyway to this food-rich spot. At low tide they all disperse in the vast Banc d’Arguin, whereas at high tide they start gathering in this selected area making beautiful murmurations all together. This behaviour happens because of the water coming in and forcing them to move to drier ground, or because of predators like raptors or Golden Jackals. We spent many days at the location recording for hours on end to try and capture that feeling of being inside the flock. Did we manage it? Yes we did, and we’ll share it soon on our YouTube channel! The movement they all do together is still subject to research; a paper published in 2012 states that each Common Starling inside a flock, which is very well known for their spectacular murmurations, coordinates with the seven other individuals close to it. I know it’s not one of our subject species, but we can imagine how this could also be applied to our birds.


Speaking poetically, imagine all these birds gathering together from as far as Eastern Siberia, Greenland, and the Arctic Circle, how many things they must have seen, how many sounds they must have heard, and they are all together now sharing all this. Do they bring anything they share back to their breeding grounds up north? Any dialects? Any behaviour? Maybe not these guys, but we know of other passerines which take calls from the African continents to their breeding grounds in Europe. Will we find it out? We believe our next destination, Djoudj National Park in Senegal, could start giving us some answers.


Usually the flocks are composed by multiple species of birds, in this case Sanderlings and Red Knots are the stars of the show.


Flock of Eurasian Curlew in Banc d'Arguin.



Flock of Bar-Tailed Godwits in Banc d’Arguin.


 

Sponsors Shout-out: Benro and Saramonic.


You can have the best camera on the planet, but if you don’t have a good tripod where to place it and to handle it there is not much you can do. We’re so proud of being supported by Benro! Ario is a long-time customer and relies on these tripods to get the best shots with his Sony camera and with the Zeiss telescope.


Another important aspect of our work is documenting it with good sound, a must for the team and one of Axel’s obsessions. Sometimes there is no time to take out the complex, cable-heavy kit so we felt the need for a quick solution.


Saramonic offers a great small radio microphone set Blink 500 Pro X B2, which we tried at the Global Birdfair last July and got our attention quickly after we tested it. We have been given a set by Saramonic to capture our vlog and social media videos and we couldn’t be more happy about it. You can spot the furry mic on many of our videos on our social media channels, let us know what you think about it!





 

Partners Support: SEO/Birdlife.


The beginning of the “Wings Across Continents” expedition started in February 2023 down south of the Iberian peninsula, precisely at Donana, the largest wetland close to the Strait of Gibraltar.


SEO/Birdlife is working hard to preserve and share the knowledge about birds of the area, to protect them and to make sure people realise their importance. The work the “Sociedad Española de Ornitología” is doing is so important, the Iberian peninsula is home to an incredible number of birds and preserving habitats on this vast landscape is not an easy task, but they are working hard on it. When in Donana we felt so welcomed by the team, we closely worked with Daniele Dessi who works at the Francisco Bernis Visitor Centre in El Rocio just on the outskirts of Donana, and we couldn’t be happier than starting our Wings Across Continents Expedition.


Pay a visit to their website to see their latest news.



 

Help us to spread the love for migratory birds.


Would you like to take part of the expedition by supporting us and the local nature reserves? Easy peasy, we have an online shop made just for this!


Our Interactive Postcards, Prints and Albums are available on our Ko-Fi page or Bandcamp.


By purchasing our work you support our expedition, feeding us and helping us fill up our vehicles’ tanks to reach all the migration hotspots where we bring our Immersive Experience, but not only. 10% of the profit goes back to the location where the story has been captured.


What you buy supports us and the local communities we visit, not as a one-off, but on the longer run.

If you’ve got a one Print or Postcard already, check your email inbox as you should have received the password a week ago.




 

Much love from the brothers,

Axel & Ario

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