The Gambia (page 2)

17th December

The day started with a small boat trip from the camp across the river and then through the mangroves with the intention of seeing African Finfoot. African Fish Eagle could be seen on a nest from a distance as we headed out with Ospreys over the open water. Raptors hunting over the open areas within the Mangroves included a fine adult male Montaguís Harrier, Short-toed Eagle and a dark phase Gabar Goshawk. A Fine-spotted Woodpecker also flew across the river, with large numbers of African Darters, Blue-breasted Kingfishers and 9 Wooly-necked Storks. Towards the end of the boat trip we eventually caught up with a very showy African Finfoot. We then returned to the campsite and managed to see Black-rumped Waxbill with the Red-billed Firefinch and Lavender Waxbills in the car park.  

African Darter

African Finfoot

  

African Finfoot                                                                            Red-billed Firefinch

Moving on towards George Town we came across a bird perched on the roadside wires on stopping it was obvious that it was a stunning Carmine Bee-eater, a few minutes later a flock appeared in the more distant trees behind. The flock also held European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, we ended up having a lengthy stop here near Masembe not due to the birds though our taxi had a flat tyre. Once on the road again a flock of 13 Yellow-billed Storks circled overhead at Farafenni with an immature African Fish Eagle.

Carmine Bee-eater

African Fish Eagle with Yellow-billed Storks

More random stops in the Darasoma area produced Cut-throat Finch, Northern Anteater Chat, Bruceís Green Pigeon and many Sahel Paradise Whydah. Further down the road we stopped at some large pools at Japaur. Here we caught up with another target species, Egyptian Plover. Two showed very well just on the side of the road. Other species here included Spur-winged Goose, Moorhen, Collared Pratincole, Ruff and Little Ringed Plover. Just before dusk another stop produced two more Egyptian Plovers and then 8 African Pygmy Geese.

Sahel Paradise Whydah

  

Egyptian Plover

As it was getting darker several Four-banded Sandgrouse were seen flying over the road in front of the vehicle to round off a brilliant day before arriving at George Town once we negotiated the small ferry.

 

18th December

    

Little Green Bee-eater                                            Red-throated Bee-eater         

First bird of the day was a Village Indigobird just outside the camp, then we had to catch a different ferry at Sankyley Kunda to get back off the island. Whilst waiting we managed to see Yellow-throated Leaflove, Red-billed Quelea, Lesser Honeyguide and Melodious Warbler. Just over the other side of the river we came across a large flock of Red-throated Bee-eaters along the roadside. Only to be bettered by a Little-Green Bee-eaters that showed briefly behind us completing the full set. Green-backed Eremomela and Pin-tailed Whydah could also be seen here. Next stop was Kunkiling Forest Park where we were on the hunt for a Dove. Very little bird wise in the forest apart from nesting White-backed Vultures when weird noises came from the undergrowth, around the next corner it all became clear as Baboons crashed out of the trees all around before standing their ground yelling at us. Leaving the amazing experience we wandered back towards the vehicles when our long hunt for the elusive Adamawa Turtle Dove was rewarded with prolonged views.

   

Adamawa Turtle Dove                                                                Baboon

For lunch we stopped at a quarry in search of Bee-eaters with no success but two small watering holes proved to be very fruitful. A lone Pallid Swift could be seen amongst the many Palm Swifts and Red-chested Swallows along with a couple of Mosque Swallows. The drinking holes had many of the commoner species showing very close with Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark, Bush Petronia, Cut-throat Finch and two Cinnamon-breasted Buntings.

Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark

Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark, Cut-throat Finch, Bush Petronia

The late afternoon was spent out on  another boat this time heading down river from George Town and the target this time was not a bird but an animal. On the way we picked up Swamp Flycatcher, more African Fish Eagles and then getting close to our destination there was a shout! What's that? As something breached in front breaking the flat calm water with a big blow before rapidly disappearing into the depths. A whale? No it was in fact the animal we were looking for the Hippopotamus. So once again we were successful as it continued to surface making its way towards the banking before vanishing. A little later another maybe was spotted across the opposite side breaching again and as we made our way across we found the hippo up against the banking showing well. It was time to sail back as the sun was setting but the day wasnít over until two Hadada Ibis flew over.

 

Hippopotamus

An evening out in search of the local owls was sadly unproductive with no sightings despite hearing African Scops Owls.

 

19th December

    

Pearl-spotted Owlet                                                    Gabar Goshawk                   

A fantastic start to the day when a Pearl-spotted Owlet showed stupidly well above the breakfast table. At the Laminkoto ferry we managed to get a decent view of Grey Kestrel. Once off the island and heading back down the North Bank towards Tendaba Bush Camp making several roadside stops producing a large flock of White Storks moving overhead, a group of passerines moved in front containing 10 White-crowned Helmet-shrike, a couple Black-crowned Tchagra and a Green-winged Pytilia. Stopping off at the roadside pools produced a cracking flock of 5 Egyptian Plovers, some Pygmy Geese were still present and then back at Kapaur we picked up two Marsh Sandpipers, Little Stint and Common Snipe whilst another Gabar Goshawk flew over. A stop at Panchang saw us tick off Vieillotís Barbet and Sudan Golden Sparrows dropping into a water hole and as we pulled up a group of Red Patas Monkeyís crossed the road disappearing into the scrub. We finally made it to the hustle and bustle, queues and chaos of the main ferry crossing across the River Gambia back to the South Bank where great efforts were made by Tijan and Pa resulting in moving quickly down the queue and on to the packed full ferry. A brief stop as we were getting closer to Tendaba Bush Camp coincided with a flock of birds moving through containing our first Western Violet-backed Sunbird, with Pygmy and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds. Carrying on our way now in darkness a Long-tailed Nightjar was spotted in the car headlights.

Patas Monkey

20th December

As this was our last day upriver we had to make the most of it. Early in the morning we wondered up the hill behind the camp coming across Senegal Batis, Brubru and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird but failed to find any Bronze-winged Coursers. Leaving the camp the track near the airstrip with the common sight of Abyssian Rollers perched up produced our first Black Wood-Hoopoe and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weavers. Further on down the Batalin track the habitat opened out into savannah. This was a fantastic area with lots of birds starting with Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Hoopoe then a flock held 4 White-shouldered Black Tit, a few Yellow Penduline Tits, Yellow White-eye, Rufous Scrub Robin and Western Bonelliís Warbler. Heading out over open fields in search of Coursers with no luck once again however we came across White-rumped Seedeater, Brown-backed Woodpecker and a superb Bataleur flew over. 

   

              Abyssian Roller                                                                    Bataleur

It was now getting late so we moved on and headed back to our hotel back on the coast after a truly amazing five days with Tijan who is a great birder and knows the country very well as well as being a good entertainer and always looked after use. Saying goodbye to Pa Jallow who is also a good guide knowing most of the birds and sites around the country and to our driver Kuntah who had a relatively comfortable (slightly dusty!) vehicle and was a great driver. We can't forget fellow English birders that we became great friends with over the five days, four from the Northeast and one from the Midlands who made our journey up river very enjoyable. 

21st December

 

Back at the Senegambia hotel being tourists for the day relaxing after five solid days birding and driving on those bumpy roads enjoying the hotel facilities. Whilst at breakfast we enjoyed the company of the three Cattle Egrets once again and later reacquainted our selves with the monkeys, Hooded Vultures and the resident flock of Yellow-billed Shrike. Palm Swifts and Little Swifts flew above being joined by Broad-billed Rollers in the afternoon. The only new bird today was a Lanner Falcon that flew over the hotel grounds.

      

Long-tailed Shrike                                                        Broad-billed Roller          

22nd December

 

Back out birding again with Tijan and 3 of our friends from the Northeast. Our first destination of the day was Tujering where we first looked over farmland first spotting a Wryneck and then 2 fantastic Temminckís Coursers were seen running around, further down the track in a more wooded habitat were Common Whitethroat, Redstart, Whinchat and Northern Wheatear. New birds included Whistling Cisticola, Red-winged Warbler and a pair of White-fronted Black Chat

  

Temminck's Courser

   

White-fronted Black-chat                                                    Blue-bellied Roller                              

Continuing on we came across Blue-bellied Rollers and then by sheer fluke we flushed two wader type birds from dense long grass undergrowth and were fortunate to relocate one bird which sat hiding in the undergrowth, a secretive Bronze-winged Courser. Leaving this brilliant location after picking up two courser species that we thought we had missed we moved back north to Tanji. First stopping at the bridge where Kelp Gulls were still present with several Ospreys off shore, Yellow and White Wagtails flew around. A little distance down the road we explored the reserve seeing Orange-cheeked Waxbill and Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrike. The lagoon held a mixed roosting flock of terns and gulls with our first definite Lesser Crested Tern. A well timed visit meant that the tide was low and therefore large areas of mud were visible and within seconds we found the target for this site, two White-fronted Plovers along side a lone Kentish Plover. Also here were our only Curlews of the trip with some Whimbrel. A short seawatch produced at least one Pomarine and Arctic Skua.

Bronze-winged Courser

23rd December

 

For our final day we decided to go out with Tijan again with the first port of call being some rice fields at Bonto. Our target here was Yellow-throated Longclaw, which we got flying over and perched. At least 3 were present. A short stop in Pirang resulted in an African Paradise Flycatcher in a monster of a tree quickly followed by a Klassís Cuckoo as we were followed by many children. We were next back at Pirang shrimp farm again trying for what we missed last time. New birds included a Plain-backed Pipit, African Hobby and Black-winged Red Bishop with good numbers of Black-faced Quail-Finch still. Also present were many roosting Pelicans of both species and a few Yellow-billed Storks. Over the other side of the main road we made our way slowly down Bush Track recording our only Western Banded Snake Eagle perched up, a couple of Booted Eagles. Also in this area we managed to get more Yellow Penduline Tit, Yellow White-eye, when a flock of Bruceís Green Pigeon flew over and then another flock dropped into the tree we were watching but in fact these were African Green Pigeons. Just minutes later back on the track we got brief views of yet another new bird this time a female Black-faced Firefinch with a pair of Dark Chanting Goshawks nearby. As the day was coming to an end we had a brief look back at the shrimp farm only picking up a perched Lanner Falcon before travelling back to the hotel saying our final goodbyes to Tijan.

Pink-backed Pelican

24th December

     

                                Senegal Coucal                                                African Oriole

On our last morning after packing up there was just enough time to go around the hotel grounds one final time trying to get photoís of those that had eluded us so far with the Yellow-crowned Gonolek and White-crowned Robin-Chats that always hide in the shadows along with Blackcap and Brown Babblers, some Glossy Starlings, African Oriole, Senegal Coucal and those tame Pied Crows. Lunchtime arrived as did the coach that transferred us to the airport where after a half an hour delay we were on our way back home to cold and wet England (and Wales!). So we made it home in time for Christmas after having a fantastic two week holiday in The Gambia seeing a total 288 species (3 more we only heard) of which many were Lifers!

Yellow-crowned Gonolek

Robert Hughes

(page 1)


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