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 - firstname.lastname@example.org ), with help of Pa Yallow (email - email@example.com ).
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
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
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
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.
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
Sacred Ibis African Jacana
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
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
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.
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
Nearby we achieved great views of two Senegal Parrots that were a daily sight.
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.
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