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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

THE GAMBIA TOUR 2:- DAY 3 - 18TH NOVEMBER 2012


ABUKO NATIONAL PARK  - LAMIN RICE FIELDS

Abuko is a place that is rapidly growing on me, the more I visit it the more I like it. You can be very disappointed with the number of species that you see if you walk round too quickly, but a slow amble along the well trodden forest tracks with plenty of stops should provided a mouth watering list.

It was a Sunday so many people were in the park and we also bumped into a couple of large English bird-watching parties, too large in my opinion, 14 people plus two-three guides, how many species does the last person in the long line get to see?

Anyway, back to birding! The Giant Kingfisher is a formidable beast and no match for any fish in the pools at Abuko, we saw a female sitting with a fish in her bill, she had already chased off the male and she sat waiting to dive into the nest hole to feed the chicks. We left her to it after taking some superb pictures. At the Darwin centre we watched a Crocodile as it snaked its’ way through the main pool, a Squacco Heron jumped from the water as it approached. The pretty little Malachite Kingfisher posed nicely for us on the fishing posts provided, as did a Forked-tailed Drongo, which spent its’ time fly-catching from overhanging branches above the pool.
After the Darwin Centre the next part of the trail takes you through some dense forest where it is possible to see the skulking Grey-headed Bristlebill and the Western Bluebill, we had good views of the former a fleeting view of the latter. The Little Greenbul sang beautifully and the Yellow-breasted Apalis drove us mad with its monotonous pulsing call, both showed well for us.
A little further on a few more mature trees appear and it was in the canopy of these that we searched for the beautiful Turacos. The Violet Turaco showed very well, we saw a few of those but the Green version was much harder to find and we had to wait until later for that one.
At the ‘Animal Orphanage’ we rested for a while and drank cold drinks then we sat in the photographic hide for an hour so, it was wonderful a whole host of species were coming down to a drinking pool. We quickly added: Lavender Waxbill, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Brown Babbler, African Thrush, Red-billed Firefinch, Black-necked and Village Weaver, Common Bubul, Blue-spotted and Black-billed Wood Dove to our day list.  Two little gems appeared and stole the show, the first was an African Flycatcher and the second was the minute Pygmy Kingfisher. A huge, menacing looking, Nile Monitor Lizard came down to drink a couple times which scattered all the birds.

We went back the way we came and the reverse route was just as good as it was on the way in, we watched Common Wattle-eye, Collared Sunbird (a family), Beautiful Sunbird, Green Turaco, Fanti Saw-wing, Palm-nut Vulture and many of the species we had seen on the way in.
We ate lunch sitting in the shade of a make-shift hut where we drank cold drinks and ate bread, cheese, fish and bananas, not altogether I hasten to add! At 3:30pm we took a walk into the rice fields at Lamin which just across the road from Abuko. Our first birds were Lesser-blue Eared and Long-tailed Glossy Starlings, then we found a Northern Black Flycatcher, which led us onto another delightful Pygmy Kingfisher, this one sat out in the open for us. It was very busy with workers out in the rice fields and so there was a lot of disturbance, consequently there were fewer birds than last week when we visited. 

However we did manage to see quite a few: Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Black Heron, Black Crake, Hammerkop, Wattle & Spur-winged Plover, African Mourning Dove, Senegal Thick-knee, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Grey Kestrel, Senegal Parrot, Rose-ringed Parakeet, to name but a few. We did see some predatory action when a Blue-breasted kingfisher was taken by a Lanner Falcon, ouch! Such a thing of beauty destroyed in seconds!

The large Splendid Sunbird was seen several times as many of them visited the palm trees to steal the palm oil that was being collected in bottles by the locals. Gangs of Piapiacs also roamed the palms as did the very common Green Wood-hoopoe.

After 2 hours of very hot and humid conditions we decided to call it a day and headed off back to the hotel as the sun began to go down.

THE GAMBIA TOUR 2:- DAY 2 - 17TH NOVEMBER 2012


KOTU CREEK – RICE FIELDS – CASINO CYCLE TRACK – SEWAGE WORKS AND BIJILO FOREST

Our first full day began at 7am with breakfast on the terrace and an early start as we left the hotel at 7:30am for the short trip to the Kotu Creek. It was a lovely temperature with a good breeze, perfect for birding. We stopped on the bridge that overlooks the creek, it was low tide so an expanse of exposed mud-flat could be seen to east of the bridge. There were many birds there, the usual Wattled & Spur-winged Plovers, Senegal Thick-knee, a single Redshank, likewise a Common Ringed Plover. Grey Heron, Western Reef Egret, Striated Heron, Long-tailed Cormorant, Grey Plover, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper. The Pied Kingfishers posed well for the cameras and entertained us as they dived into the stream catching fish. 

A walk along the ‘Casino Cycle Track’ produced a good number of species as we passed a number of flooded rice fields and thickets. Red-billed Hornbills, Senegal Coucal, Grey-Plantain Eaters, White-billed Buffalo Weavers, Green Wood-hoopoes and Yellow-billed Shrikes were all seen well. The Beautiful Sunbird, Bronze Mannikin, Red-billed Firefinch were a little harder to photograph. Several open pools of water held White-faced Whistling Ducks, Squacco Herons, Purple Heron, Great White Egret and an African Darter.

We retraced our steps back to the bridge and then turned onto a small track that took us into the rice fields to the east, we passed close to the mangrove swamp where we found a small party of Little Bee-eaters, these colourful little darlings allowed close approach if you were willing to get your feet wet, which two of the group were more than happy to do! We watched a pair of the iridescent Long-tailed Glossy Starlings feeding young in the hole in a palm tree, we also ‘scoped’ a Grey Kestrel and a Red-necked Falcon flew over us being chased by Pied Crows.  

Next we walked up the sewerage works which sits above the rice fields?? The filter beds are a mass of flowering yellow lilies, a bit too overgrown these days, but we did manage to see some birds. A throng of Little Swifts and a few Palm Swifts were coming down to drink and a number of waders joined the masses of Cattle Egrets in lily beds. We saw Common & Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Squacco heron, White-faced Whistling Duck but no African Jacanas were on show.

The heat was now intense so we walked back to the bus and drove back to the hotel for a long siesta. We re-emerged at 4pm and visited the Forest at Bijilo for the rest of the daylight hours.

The forest walk has a nice hide near the entrance, we crept into the hide had a nice surprise as a dozen or so birds were bathing and drinking in the small pool. A flock of Black-capped Babblers, a few Black-necked Weavers and several red-billed Fire Finches were joined by Bronze Mannikins around the pool edge. To our great delight a pair of Snowy-crowned Robin-chats perched nearby, the male was in full song giving all the mimicry it could muster.

Many Green Vervet Monkeys littered the path hoping for tit-bits and a few Red Colobus monkeys sat upo high in the trees, we also saw a Monitor Lizard, Sun Squirrel and many butterflies. Back to the birds spent some time watching Swallowtail Bee-eaters, Little Bee-eaters and a single White-throated Bee-eater. A couple of Yellow-crowned (Common) Gonoleks showed well as did Brown Babbler, Common Bubul, Palm-nut Vulture and Blue-bellied Roller. A Grey-backed Cameroptera proved elusive for most of the group but some of us saw it. The best bird was the Ahanta Francolin, we found two of them walking noiselessly through the undergrowth, it was our guide Modou who first got on to them, what a great find they were.

The light began to fade so we turned around and walked through the forest back to the bus, we were back at the hotel for 7pm, tired but well pleased with our first full day, we now had 80 species in the bag (and most of them were photographed).

THE GAMBIA - TOUR 2 - DAY 1 - 16TH NOVEMBER 2012


BANJUL AIRPORT TO THE SENEGAMBIA HOTEL – KOLOLI DISTRICT

The  group arrived later than scheduled by 40 minutes and there was a delay coming through baggage collection, so it was 4pm before we set off for the hotel and not 3pm.  We saw our first birds of the tour from the car park, Speckled Pigeon, Hooded Vulture and Pied Crow. As we drove towards the hotel we logged Dark Chanting Goshawk, Blue-bellied Roller, White-billed Buffalo Weaver and the usual doves, laughing, Red-eyed and Vinaceous. 

A fter checking in we settled in our rooms and met up again for a walk in the hotel grounds. It wasn’t long before had 10 species in the bag. A pair of White-crowned Robin Chats guarded their nest in a palm tree and nearby a pair of Hammerkops were still building theirs. From a vantage point near the edge of the grounds we saw: Piapiac, Broad-billed Roller, Rose-ringed Parakeets, Yellow-billed Black Kites, Red-chested Swallows, Wire-tailed Swallows and Palm Swifts. 

Near the centre of the grounds we stopped to watch a Woodland Kingfisher, Grey Woodpecker and a Beautiful Sunbird flew in and perched near the woodpecker. We also noted 5 species of butterfly, a Nile Monitor Lizard and a couple of Red Colobus Monkeys.

We called it a day at 6pm and with 30 species in the bag we realised the wonderful potential of the Gambia for seeing large number of species during our stay.

THE GAMBIA TOUR 1 - DAY 12 - 16TH NOVEMBER 2012


BIJILO FOREST - MORNING WALK

Our very last morning attracted just over half of the group for a walk to the nearby Bijilo Forest. We set off at for the short walk, during which, we saw Greater and lesser blue-eared Glossy Starlings, Village Indigobird, Grey and Red-billed Hornbills and lots of attle Egrets on the golf course.

The walk through the forest began with a close encounter with a Snowy-crowned Robin-chat and its cousin the White-crowned version. We then went on to find Bearded barbet, Shrikra, Little and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Green Woodhoopoe, Double-spurred Francolin and a host of common birds. Two Gonoleks gave great views and so did Brown Babbler, further along the track we photographed a Grey-backed Cameroptera and heard an Oriole Warbler.

Soon it was time to return to the hotel, we decided to walk back along the beach which was crowed with sunbathers but we still saw several good species. A group of Piapiacs showed well and a Green Woodhoopoe searched a small play area for insects. Out at sea we saw Sandwich and Caspian Terns, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and some distant skuas which were too far out to identify.

Well that was the end of the tour, the rest of the day was spent relaxing around the hotel grounds, some of the group went into Banjul whilst others roamed around with cameras at the ready.