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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DAY OUT - LAGUNA DULCE, RONDA, MONTEJAQUE

59 LITTLE BUSTARDS!

We picked a lovely day to make our last outing for the year, after a misty start the sun broke through and warmed us up for the rest of the day.

Myself and Tony (a local birder also from Gaucin) left the village at 8am and headed northward to towards Ronda. We stopped just passed Atajate to look for Ring Ouzel but only found Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Blue Rock Thrush and Common Kestrel.

After making a short stop between Ronda and Campillos we finally arrived at Laguna Dulce which was covered with birds. The light was now very good so we drove to the far side of the laguna to scope the open flat fields, what a good decision it turned out to be. First we found 9 Common Cranes, then a fantastic count of 59 Little Bustards appeared in the distance. many of them were males and were practicing their display jumping which looked quite commical. In the large flat fields we also found 100+lapwings, Golden Plover 7, Calandra Lark, Meadow Pipit, Corn Buntings 50+ and a Marsh Harrier.

At the waters edge we found Black Winged stilts, Greater Flamingo, Common Teal and many black headed Gulls. We then drove around to the hide at the south side of the laguna and from there we had a good hour watching many species. Common Coot numbered over 200 whilst Black necked Grebe 15, Northern Shoveler, White headed Duck 3, Common Pochard, Red crested Pochard 1 fem; Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall and Mallard.

A nice surprise was a Purple Swamphen which flew from a distant patch of reed to a tiny clump right in front of the hide! The bird looked splendid in the afternoon sunshine (shown below).




From Campillos we drove to Canete de Real where a vulture feeding station is supposed to be situated, however, there were many Griffon Vultures and Ravens loafing about but nothing was on offer for them. I thought about staking Tony out - but he was driving!

Our last stop was the lovely limestone mountains just above Montejaque, one of my favourite places. There was a surprising amount of water behind the "dam that doesn't work" at Tabniza with many Mallards sitting on the temporary laguna. In the bushes on the slopes of mountains we found Black Redstarts, Blackcap, Blackbirds, Stonechats, Black Wheatears, Rock Bunting, Chaffinch, goldfinch and Robins.

As the light began to fade we realised that it was 4:30pm so we set off back to Gaucin well satisfied with the birds we had seen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gambia part 3

3 WHOLE WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - WOW!!!!! ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! WONDERFUL BIRDING, LOVELY PEOPLE, SUPERB HABITATS AND A PLETHORA OF BIRDS.


this is the third of a series of short reports from the whole 3 weeks, many photographs and film clips will be shown - watch this space don't miss any!



Tendaba Camp & the 'Creek Crawl' in the mangrove swamps was without doubt the best part of both of the tours. It provided a list of 73 species during the trip on the 21st Nov and we thought that wouldn't be beaten! Wrong!! We amassed an incredible list of 77 species on the 28th and it was high tide during this second trip!!






The Blue Breasted Kingfisher featured strongly during both trips we saw 23 on the first trip and 25 on the second. But a mouth watering list of species was also seen try these for size;



White-backed Heron, African Scop's Owl, Ayres hawk Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Fish Eagle, banded Snake Eagle, Goliath Heron, Malachite Kingfisher, Black-crowned Crane, Sacred Ibis, Woolly-necked Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, African Spoonbill,









Kingfishers galore, waders, herons, egrets, pelicans, storks, ibis, spoonbills, eagles, hawks and vultures filled our note books, what a great couple of trips we had.




The sun set seen from the river at Tendaba was beautiful, if you look carefully you can see a Pink-backed Pelican swimming in the river.


We also saw an Otter which was very inquisitive and sat up on hind legs to watch us, the photograph was taken by Richard Headford.






























Friday, December 24, 2010

Day Tour - December 23rd - Soto Grande & Palmones

A GREAT WINTER FIND - LITTLE BITTERN AT LAGUNA TORREGUADIARO!


My last day-tour of the year began at Jimera de las Frontera where I collected Rory, a visitor from Wyoming, at 8:30am.





It was a bright morning but very windy and after 4 days of constant rain the fields, meadows and rivers were full of rain-water.


We visited Soto Grande first. Both areas of the Natural Park were flooded with large parts impassable. We found several species on and around laguna Torreguadiaro; Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard, Cetti's Warbler, Crag Martin, Chiffchaff, Crested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and many gulls.


Offshore, flying over a blustery sea, there were many Gannets feeding and hundreds of gulls milled around.


At Palomones the wind got even stronger, it was difficult to hold our binnoculars still. We watched the salt marsh at low tide from the 'Promenade', and later, from the hide on the west side of the marsh.


Redshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey, Ringed & Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Spoonbill, Sandwich Tern, Osprey, Marsh Harrier & Griffon Vulture were all seen on or near the mudflats.


At the back of the salt marsh we could see 200+ White Storks and over 50 Grey Herons.



A short stop at Pinar del Rey added Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blackcap and a few common woodland species. We popped into the fruit fields at San Enrique where we found Tree Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk and good numbers of Chaffinch.


Lastly we returned to Soto Grande to look for Purple Swamphen, but instead we found a superb adult male Little Bittern, It sat in the afternoon sun at the base of the reed-bed in a sheltered area. a great bird to finish off our day, Rory was very pleased as he found the bird and identified it, very good for an Amercian in Spain!

Monday, December 20, 2010

3 WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - PART 2

3 WHOLE WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - WOW!!!!! ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! WONDERFUL BIRDING, LOVELY PEOPLE, SUPERB HABITATS AND A PLETHORA OF BIRDS.


this is the second of a series of short reports from the whole 3 weeks, many photographs and film clips will be shown - watch this space don't miss any!




We settled into our hotel on the coast just south of Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, breakfast was taken every day on the outside terrace in a lovely morning temperature.


Daily at 8am we took our private bus to visit many local sites, on Wednesday 17th & Thursday 18th November we visited Brufut Woods, Faraba Banta, Tanjeh, Tujerng & Bijilo Forest and saw a whole host of new species.






The 'Moho' or Oriole Warbler - fantastic song but ugly looking!


Abyssian Roller

Bearded Barbet


On Friday 20th we set off very early to catch the Ferry at Banjul, what an experience that was!!! Imagine the noise, chaos, colour and confusion at Wembly just as the crowd is leaving after an international football match, well, the port at Banjul was exactly the same as we tried to load into the ferry.

The crossing was lovely, lots of gulls, terns & skuas were noted. From the Barra on the north bank we headed inland on well surfaced road. We spent all day travelling to Georgetown Island making many stops along the way to view a wide range of species in many different habitats.




Pearl-spotted Owlet


Grasshopper Buzzard



Babboon

Yellow-crowned Gonolek

Saturday 2oth was spent visiting may sites along the track to Tendaba Camp. The highlight was a visit to Jally Rice fields where we saw Painted Snipe, Black Crake, Gabar Goshawk, Pygmy Goose & African Fish Eagle.
Tendaba Camp was incredible, it sits on the bank of the river and has the most idyllic setting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

3 WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - PART 1

3 WHOLE WEEKS IN THE GAMBIA - WOW!!!!! ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! WONDERFUL BIRDING, LOVELY PEOPLE, SUPERB HABITATS AND A PLETHORA OF BIRDS.



this is the first of a series of short reports from the whole 3 weeks, many photographs and film clips will be shown - watch this space don't miss any!

Group 1 - 16th - 23rd November



African Golden Oriole

From the moment we stepped off the plane to the hour spent in the departure lounge on the last day - it was wall to wall birds.

The group was made up of 10 UK clients, myself, our local guide Modou and Noah (with his bus- the ark) our driver.

From the airport to the hotel we spent an hour stopping every few yards to look at new species:
A walk in the wonderful gardens of the hotel produced 20+ species - we logged 45 species on day 1, with only having 3 hours of daylight that was amazing!


The next 3 days was spent discovering local sites only the coast, we looked at open creeks, rice fields, coastal forest, beaches, woodland savannah and 'sewer works'!

What did we see, well, we listed 182 species in 3 days: here are some of them:



Swallowtail Bee-eater



A collection of Egrets - Cattle, Little,Intermediate & Great


Little Bee-eater

One of the first places we visited was the Koto Creek, we stopped on the famous bridge and listed about 25 species, the most common was the Pied Kingfisher:



Incredible - a flock of Pied Kingfishers

Next we tracked along the 'Casino Track' and our final destination for that first morning was the local Sewer Farm:





Red-billed Firefinch


African Jacana

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 12th - Essex Goosanders

My first Birding excursion since my return from the GAMBIA on the 7th! details of the Gambian Tours to follow.

A walk along the river Chelmy just outside of Chelmsford in Essex produced an unexpected group of Goosanders. The birds flew off when they saw me and were hardly approachable. however I noticed that the birds flew into town!!! So I walked through the busy town centre and found a boating pool in the middle of a small park. There were an amazing 12 Goosanders there, they were much more obliging and although they stayed in the centre of the partly-iced pool I managed to digi-bin a few of them.