The Gambia

10th – 24th December 2007

Wanting some winter sunshine I decided along with Nicola & Mark Breaks to take a two week holiday to The Gambia. We booked a package holiday flying from Manchester to Banjul airport staying at the famous Senegambia Beach Hotel. Prior to traveling we made contact with a local bird guide and made plans for a five day trip up river, as recommended by many trip reports our guide was Tijan Kanteh (email - tijanthebirdmand@yahoo.com ), with help of Pa Yallow (email - pajallow1978@yahoo.com ).

10th December

   

Black Kite                                                                                        Bearded Barbet

We arrived on time and were quickly through the airport and were sat on the transfer bus that was to take us to our hotel by 2pm in the sweltering heat. First birds noted were Cattle Egret, Black Kite and Speckled Pigeon. Arriving at Senegambia we were welcomed by a Green Vervet Monkey sat on the path to our room, after settling in the last few hours of daylight were spent wandering around the hotel grounds getting to grips with the commoner species. Hooded Vultures and Yellow-billed (Black) Kite’s were always soaring overhead. We were amazed by the stunning garden residents including African Oriole, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Bearded Barbet, Red-billed Hornbill, Green Wood-Hoopoe’s and then our first Kingfisher perched over a sprinkler turned out to be our only Woodland Kingfisher of the trip. At dusk more new birds included a fly over Wattled Plover, Red-necked Falcon, African Harrier-Hawk and Broad-billed Rollers sat in the palm trees.

 

Woodland Kingfisher                                                                    Red-billed Hornbill

11th December

Green Vervet Monkey

For our first morning we decided to walk the short distance to Bijilo Forest Park (also known as the ‘Monkey’ Park), which was definitely true as like the hotel grounds there were groups of Green Vervet Monkeys going about their business ignoring all the tourists. On arrival a guide joined us and showed us around the trails spotting in the undergrowth our first Double-Spurred Francolin, Black-billed and Blue Spotted Wood Doves and Vinaceous Dove. Raptors in the forest area included Palm-nut Vulture, African Goshawk, Shikra, Lizard Buzzard and Common Kestrel. Towards the woodland edge a pair of African Grey Hornbill showed well plus our first Striped Kingfisher and a Little Bee-eater sat out in the sun.

  

Little Bee-eater                                                                    African Grey Hornbill

Striped Kingfisher

Whilst relaxing in the pool around lunchtime our first Blue-breasted Kingfisher of the trip flew in showing well in the palms. Then we decided to go back to the outer edge of the Bijilo Forest to look for White-throated Bee-eaters which arrive in the afternoon so we were told. On arrival we were instantly successful with two White-throated Bee-eaters in the tall trees then over into the reserve a tree held two more along with two Swallow-tailed and Little Bee-eaters. Fanti Saw-wings flew above the forest, female Northern Puffback popped up with a Woodchat Shrike also present. The road to the forest also produced Variable, Splendid and Beautiful Sunbirds.

   

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater                                                            White-throated Bee-eater

Variable Sunbird

12th December

   

African Silverbill                                                        Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu

We decided to walk the Casino cycle track to Kotu Creek. Before getting to the track though we had to walk through the rice fields near our hotel. These held sizable flocks of Northern Red Bishop, Bronzed Manikins with the occasional African Silverbill and Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu. Kotu Ponds were alive with water birds, White-faced Whistling Ducks roosted at the side of the pools with a lone Hamerkop. A Caspian Tern dropped in to get a quick drink, numerous Spur-winged Plovers were present with Black-winged Stilts and four Jacana’s walked about on the Lilly pads. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters hunted above our heads and Grey-headed Kingfishers sat on electric wires down at the Kotu Creek Bridge. Pied Kingfishers hunted the waters for fish, as did the two Wire-tailed Swallows for insects. The Creek held many Palaearctic waders including Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, 150 Ringed Plovers on the mud with the odd Greenshank and Grey Plover amongst them. Whilst in the mangroves Senegal Thick-knees hid with Fiddler Crabs and Mudskipper Fish around their feet. 

Hamerkop

  

Mudskipper                                                                    Fiddler Crab

Next we walked up to the Fajara golf course now in the heat of the day but after searching nearly every hole we caught up with three Black-headed Plovers

  

Black-headed Plover                                                                    Intermediate Egret

As we headed back south our first Great White Pelican was found flying in the distance, once back near Badala Park Hotel a small area of water held many Black Egrets, Sacred Ibis, Little, Great White and Intermediate Egrets also with Western Reef, Black-crowned Night, Squacco and Black-headed Herons making a great spectacle. On the other side of the track a Malachite Kingfisher was spotted in a reedy area. Around the other side of the hotel a small pond off the cycle track held many more African Jacana and our first African Darter. When we got back to the hotel in the evening we achieved our best views of Oriole Warbler that skulked in the undergrowth along side was an Olivaceous Warbler and Purple Glossy Starling.

Black-headed Heron

Black Egret

  

                       Sacred Ibis                                                                                  African Jacana

13th December

 

Three days before our trip up river we meet up with Tijan who took us out for the day to Abuko nature reserve. From the first hide we picked up Pied-winged Swallow, two roosting White-backed Night Heron, Purple Heron, Striated Heron and a crocodile. Leaving the hide we crossed a small rickety metal bridge that had at least two Black Crake skulking below when a Giant Kingfisher flew into the pool making a racket. Few minutes later we managed to achieve views of the very elusive Ahanta Francolin as two ran across the path in front of us. The rest of the forest produced Green and Violet Turaco’s, Little Greenbul, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Western Bluebill, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Grey-headed Bristlebill. A small private hide behind the monkey sanctuary got us our only Levaillant’s Cuckoo and Pygmy Kingfisher of the holiday with Red Colobus Monkeys along side.

  

                        White-backed Night Heron                                                      Pygmy Kingfisher

Red Colobus Monkey

After lunch we cross the road to explore the rice fields where a flooded area produced three Greater Painted Snipe including a cracking female. The fields also held Tawny-flanked Prinia and African Mourning Doves.

 

14th December

 

After the long day yesterday and still trying to get used to the hot weather we decided that a relaxing day would be best and was spent chasing Monkeys around the hotel grounds along with the Nile Monitor Lizards followed by the vulture feeding. Where you can get up close with the Hooded Vultures and Black Kites swoop down. Only new birds added included a Pink-backed Pelican and one of very few House Sparrows of the trip.

   

             Nile Monitor Lizard                                                        Hooded Vulture

15th December

 

Today we got a green taxi and headed off to Brufut Wood for a couple of hours in the morning. The local guide at the reserve pointed out two roosting White-faced Scops Owl above the access road before taking us into the wood where he promised us and delivered a roosting Long-tailed Nightjar deep in the undergrowth on the floor. Other new species include Pied Hornbill, Cardinal Woodpecker and Stone Partridge could be heard but not seen.

Long-tailed Nightjar

African Pied Hornbill

Then we headed to Tanji beach area. On the way a fine Black-shouldered Kite hovered above the car. Upon arrival Grey-headed Gulls could be seen everywhere as we made our way to the beach. A scan through them revealed Black-headed, Lesser-black backed, Slender-billed and then the target species was located an adult Kelp Gull sat on a boat. Then a roosting group of birds across the river produced 3 more Kelp Gulls, also a few Terns were following the coast which included mostly Caspian, Royal, Sandwich and Common Terns. Sanderling, Whimbrel, Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit were also feeding along the shoreline. Nearby we achieved great views of two Senegal Parrots that were a daily sight.

Senegal Parrot

16th December

 

An early start as we were off on our trip up country being picked up at the hotel by Pa Jallow a bird guide who Tijan arranged to be our guide as he was with another group that we would join up with later and our driver for the five days Kuntah. Unfortunately not many place names can be given for the next few days because stops were basically random either when any large raptors or any thing interesting was spotted from the vehicle. The first stop was the Pirang shrimp farm where we went in search of Black-crowned Cranes but with no success however there was a very showy Long-crested Eagle, Black-faced Quail-finch were flushed from the more vegetated paths, Vitelline Masked Weavers flew over. In the dryer parts of the farm Crested Lark and a lone Northern Wheatear were observed. Red-rumped Swallows, Pied Kingfishers and Gull-billed Terns were seen in the wetter areas. Just before leaving a small flock of Greater Flamingo’s dropped in and we met up with Tijan who was present with a group of 5 birders that were going to join us for the trip up country.

Black-faced Quail-finch

   

Pied Kingfisher                                                Long-crested Eagle

We were on our way in convoy to Tendaba Bush Camp and it wasn’t long until we were getting covered in dust as from now on it was dirt roads all the way which became very poor in quality with very large potholes! Raptors seen at various stops included Rupell’s Griffon Vulture, Wahlberg’s Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Brown-snake Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, a very distant Bataleur, Grasshopper Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Dark-chanting Goshawk, Grey Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon. Smaller birds included Yellow-billed Oxpecker hitching a ride on the local donkeys, Mottled Spinetail and Rufous-crowned Roller. A single Wooly-necked Stork was also picked up in the air. After a fantastic day we still managed one more new bird as we arrived at the bush camp on dusk, a fly-by African Spoonbill just before food was served.

   

Yellow-billed Oxpecker                                                        African Hawk-eagle

(continued on page 2)

 


All Images taken by Nicola and Mark Breaks, Copyright - © Breaks Bird Photography