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Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR - DAY 11

TRANSFER FROM TENDABA TO SENEGAMBIA HOTEL WITH STOPS AT TENDABA 'AIRFIELD' - KIANG WEST BUSH TRACK AND NATURE RESERVE HEADQUARTERS

WEATHER: Another scorcher with temps above 35C

After checking out of the Tendaba Camp for the second time on this tour we stopped a couple of kilometers along the road at the post-war aerodrome site. Our target was the Plain-backed Pipit which failed to show but we enjoyed the early morning temperature and a good number of species too.

From there we drove to the KIANG WEST Bush track where we had enjoyed good sightings last night. It was equally as good this morning, birds seemed to be everywhere.  We relocated the White-shouldered Tit and in the same tree we found Striped Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted Canary, Yellow-breasted Eremomela and Pygmy Sunbird. Further along the track we saw a couple of Black-crowned Tchagras, Four-banded Sandgrouse and our first White-crested Helmet-Shrike. Senegal Batis was a show-stopper, we had much better views of it this morning.

White-crested Helmet-Shrike

A Bateleur Eagle was a great sighting it flew right over us, smashing! Dark-chanting Goshawk, African Harrier-hawk, Lanner Falcon and Grey Kestrel were some of the other raptors seen.

For the rest of the morning we drove round to another Bush track a few kilometers further west but still in the reserve, this track led us to the park headquarters and a group of bird-ringers were operating a temporary ringing station. We stayed for an hour or so watching them process a number of species.

Lizard Buzzard in the hand

A Lizard Buzzard was a superb catch for them and a little beauty in the hand, the guys pointed out the extraordinary large legs and feet on this species. Grey-backed Cameroptera, Common Bulbul, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu and Vinaceous Dove were some of the birds ringed. Ray Marsh, one of our group was also a ringer and he handled a couple of species too, particularly doves, he loved ringing a Black-billed Wood-Dove.

Ray Marsh - doing what he loves best, ringing a bird, in this case a Black-billed Wood Dove

Well, we had to leave the ringers and continue our drive to Banjul, we stopped a couple more times to look at Long-crested Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard and Abyssinian Rollers for photographic opportunities and we got out to stretch our legs at a raptor watch-point. We added Booted Eagle and Common Swift to our trip list before setting off again.

The remainder of the journey was a bit of a nightmare and it reminded me of a 'movie scene'. The election results were in and the current President of 22 years had been toppled! The population were ecstatic and took to the streets in their thousands. Each village we came to had large cheering, gatherings of exuberant youths either in the road or along it, we had to trickle through some very rowdy mobs, the closer we got to Banjul the bigger the mobs, they surrounded the bus bashing on windows and side panels, climbing on the roof!

the most common bird of prey in the Gambia - Yellow-billed Kite

Ali our driver took us through side tracks to avoid the main road areas as we approached KOLOLI where our hotel was, we made it back around 3pm, a little late but all in one piece. We called it day after that and didn't venture out of the hotel grounds for the rest of the day.

Senegal Batis

The bird-log revealed that our total stands at 286 species recorded, we have 3 full days to look for another 30+ species or at least crack the 300 target we have set for ourselves.

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR - DAY 10

TRANSFER FROM GEORGETOWN ISLAND TO TENDABAAMP WITH STOPS AT JAHALLY RICE FIELDS AND KIANG WEST BUSH TRACK

WEATHER: our hottest day yet, 39C and humid.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION-DAY IN THE GAMBIA

Our air-conditioned bus was a saviour today and it was hard to get the group off it at times. We set off at 8am and travelled westward back to Tendaba, we crossed onto the south bank of the river from Georgetown on the 'new' bridge and stopped just after to look at a pair of Verreaux's Eagle Owls. The owls were in their usual baobab tree and showed very well, we also found Gabar Goshawk, Marsh Harrier, Senegal Parrot, Mosque Swallow and a few common weaver's.

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl

After another 20km we stopped to look at a colony of Maribou Storks, these huge, ugly birds are holding up  well in the Gambia. Modou, our guide, took us to another Verreaux's Eagle Owl site a little further on where we had much better views especially good for photography.

Rufous-crowned Roller

It was 10:30am by the time we reached the huge rice fields at Jahally, where hot and humid conditions prevailed. We coaxed the group off the bus with the 'carrot' of Painted Snipe being our best offer! We saw a dozen snipe, mostly Common Snipe but a few were most definitely Painted Snipe, but we only saw them in flight. An hour and a half walking in the heat produced over 30 species which included a European Roller, a rare sighting, as well as Black Crake, dozens of Jacanas, our first Black-faced Quail-finch, also Red-billed Quelea, Purple, Grey, Blacked-headed and Squacco Heron.

a number of Norrhern Sahel Whydahs (males are the colourful ones) with Namaqua Dove

From Jahally we drove through Soma picking up picnic supplies before sitting in the shade of the forest to eat it. From there to Tendaba we stopped several more times to look at raptors high in the sky or perched on roadside trees. We added Tawny Eagle to our trip list and also saw Wahlberg's, Brown Snake-Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk, African Harrier-Hawk, Lanner Falcon and Grey Kestrel.

Baboons - a large troop of about 50 animals crossed the road in front of the bus

We arrived at Tendaba Camp at 3pm and decided to wait until the heat abated before we went out birding. So it was 5pm when we set off for the 10 minute drive to Kiang West Bush tracks. Our first track was excellent we saw Four-banded Sandgrouse on the track, Black-crowned Tchagra in the bushes then we added several new species in quick succession as Modou whistled the call of the Pearl-spotted Owlet. First we found a Scimitar-bill, then a Brubru, Senegal Batis and the most wanted White-shouldered Tit. It was certainly a great fifteen minutes, we also saw Yellow-breasted Eremomela and a Brown-backed Woodpecker.

Brubru

Back on the main track our sightings continued despite the fading light. We saw two more Eremomelas with a Yellow White-eye and a Brown-rumped Bunting. A Common Redstart was one of the last birds we recorded before the light finally gave way.

Back at the camp we discovered that 120 British Students had checked in, I am listening to very loud disco music as I write this at 10pm, they have promised to end the disco at midnight!

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR - DAY 9

WASSU AREA AND SAND QUARRY - 'HIPPO' RIVER CRUISE

Another fantastic morning in this birding paradise called the Gambia. After a frugal breakfast of bread, jam, cheese-triangles and an omelette we set off to the ferry for our trip back to the north shore. The vehicle queue was quite large so we went across as foot-passengers and birded around the river until the bus came over some 45 minutes later. We saw a good variety of species, the large African Harrier-Hawk flew over carrying a lizard for breakfast, Grey Kestrels dashed passed us, whilst Senegal Coucal, Yellow-billed Shrike and Vinaceous Dove sat in the same bush. We watched Grey-backed Cameroptera, Velliot's Barbet and several other species before boarding the bus.

Grey Plantain-eater

Apart from the large colony of Red-throated Bee-eaters Wassu quarry is a good place to look for Carmine Bee-eaters especially in the morning, our short search of the area produced a number of them within minutes, what a stunning looking beast. We also watched the Red-throated and the Green Bee-eaters along with large numbers of Northern Sahel Whydah, Northern Red Bishops, White Rumped Seedeaters, Cut-throats, Waxbills and weavers.

Carmine Bee-eaters, we saw only half a dozen of these beauties

The sky was full of birds too, a number of raptors began to appear and including Dark Chanting Goshawk & Grasshopper Buzzard, which were seen along the way, we listed ten species this morning.

First a pair of African Hawk-Eagles showed really well then African Harrier-Hawk came over and Beaudouin's Eagle hovered above us. A Lanner Falcon dive-bombed another Beaudouin's Eagle just before we sighted a Martial Eagle carrying prey (the prey looked like a squirrel),  phew, what a purple patch. Also up there with the eagles was Hooded, Ruppell's & White-backed Vultures as well as Sand Martin, Little Swift, Mottled Spintail and both Red-chested & Red-rumped Swallows. Abyssinian Rollers were everywhere with Rufous-crowned Roller seen on the telephone wires.

The bush track leading to Wassu Quarry

A short watch at the quarry pools produced even more species as Pin-tailed Whydah, Cuthroat, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver, Red Bishop, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting joined lots of weaver's and Waxbills coming to drink and Anteater-Chat sat singing from earth mounds.

It was getting very hot so we gave up and drove back to the ferry, again there was a long delay so we hired a private boat to take us to our camp leaving Ali the driver and the bus in the queue. A long lunch ensued and we met again at 3pm back at the jetty in time to board a boat for our private river cruise, it was still stifling hot at this stage.

I couldn't resist putting another Carmine picture in

Out on the river a cool breeze was most welcomed, we relaxed and began to enjoy a series of sightings over the next three hours as we motored down the river hugging the shore on either side. Highlights during the first hour include sightings of an African Fish Eagle which dropped into the water on a fishing expedition, a Palm-nut Vulture, several Night Herons roosting and a number of Swamp Flycatchers feeding from overhanging branches.

one of the creeks we drifted into

We ventured up a side creek where Kingfishers were a prominent feature,  Malachite, Woodland, Grey-headed and Blue-breasted all made it onto the list, whilst the main target Shining Blue remained elusive. It was on the return journey from this creek visit that we made our best sighting when we joined another birding boat-party who had just seen an African Finfoot.

At this stage our engine had some trouble and for fifteen frustrating minutes we drifted away from the sighting whilst the other group were getting occasional views. Eventually we got going and returned to the site just as the other boat left and to our great relief the bird came out from hiding. We had the most fantastic views of it out in the open, what a colourful bird which looks ten times better in real life than its depiction in the field guide.

African Finfoot - both photos taken by Stephen Berry

Next we ventured further down river adding more species to the list, Yellow-throated Leaf-love, Little and Red-throated Bee-eaters, Hammerkop, Senegal Thick-knee, Wattled Lapwing and Common Gonolek. We also saw several Monitor Lizards, Red-Colobus Monkeys, Green Vervet Monkeys and a huge Hippopotomus, this beast rose up out of the water and breached like a whale with gaping jaws - I think we got a little too close so we beat a hasty retreat.

Red Colobus Monkey

The light began to fade as we returned upriver but before it was too bad we notched our second most wanted species, the Shining Blue Kingfisher. We had a number of brief views of them as they dashed from perch to perch and we did see it for a short time perched on over-hanging branches but it was difficult and you had to be quick with your bins, we all saw one but not everyone had satisfactory views before bad light thwarted our efforts.

Monitor Lizard

A beautiful sunset lit up the sky behind us as we made it back to the jetty behind our camp on Georgetown Island. We logged just over 40 species on the trip with the two main must-see birds in the bag and  a scary Hippo on the mammal list!

Dinner was at 8 pm so we had time to call the log beforehand and enjoy a cold drink at the same time. We now had 275 species on our list, tomorrow we head back to Tendaba along the south bank this time.

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR - DAY 8

TRANSFER FROM TENDABA TO GEORGETOWN ISLAND WITH STOPS AT FARA FENNI PEANUT FIELDS, KAUR MARSHES, ROADSIDE WATERING HOLES - WASSU SAND QUARRY

Weather: hot, sunny and humid, the hottest day so far 35C+

Just when you think the birding would ease off a little and finding of new species would reduce we have another excellent day full of great finds and new birds.

We ate breakfast early and was on the road by 7:15am, our ferry crossing timing was important and we needed to get there as early as possible. We crossed the river with a little delay and drove northwards on the northern shore to Fara Fenni where we bought lunch before driving a few kilometres out of town to walk in the peanut fields.

Black-headed Lapwing

It was hot already at 9am as we started our walk, the peanut harvest was well under way so many local people we out in the fields, this made our job a little harder because of the disturbance factor. We notched up quite a few local species and few migrants during the first hour such as; Northern Wheatear, Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, Crested Lark and Greater Short-toed Lark.

Spotted Thick-knee

As we crossed into some knee-high scrub we inadvertently flushed a few parties of Bustards, both Black-bellied and Savile's were identified, great birds for the list. We also saw Double-spurred Francolin and a Little Buttonquail.

Just after the Bustard excitement we heard the call of our main target species the Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, it seemed extraordinary that we had walked passed this huge bird but the call came from just behind us. We repositioned ourselves and sure enough the bird came into view but as soon as it saw us it flew off. We tracked it with our bins and managed to follow it until it  landed, but then it ran with an awkward and comical gait until we lost sight of it, an amazing bird.

so photogenic the Abyssinian Roller

After another search of the fields for Temminck's Courser, which failed to show, we walked back to the bus noting several Dark Chanting Goshawks, African Harrier-Hawk, Red-necked Falcon and groups of vultures which included both Ruppell's and White-backed Vultures.

 It was now getting on for midday so we drove a little further and stopped at a roadside pool to eat lunch and watch flocks of birds coming to drink.

Again we were amazed by the number of species listed there in just one hour. Apart from large flocks of weavers, bishops, queleas and doves we saw Bush Petronia, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Northen Sahel Whydah, Yellow-fronted Canary, Little Swift, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Black-rumped and Lavander Waxbills, Namaqua Dove and Green Bee-eater.

From the pools we drove another 20km to Kaur Marshes a very large area of reed fringed pools, mudflats and scrub. The road forms a raised causeway through the centre of the marsh which is ideal for viewing from. We found Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark just before we located our major target species of the tour, the Crocodile Bird or Egyptian Plover, what a stunner we notched up three of them in quick succession, amazing!

Egyptian Plover

Kaur Marsh is also excellent for waders especially over-wintering Collared Pratincoles of which there were about 500 in view. The Kittlitz's Plover is also a feature there, we saw about a dozen with Ringed & Little-Ringed Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and a Single Painted Snipe. Three Knot-billed Ducks landed in the reeds but were only seen by a couple of the group and many common water birds were present including Hammercop, Jacana, lots of egrets, herons and cormorants.

We left the area and continued towards Georgetown making a few stops to photograph perched raptors, rollers and we saw our first Wahlberg's Eagle circling high up.

Northern Anteater-Chat

One last stop was made at Wassu Sand Quarry, where a colony of Red-throated Bee-eaters have bred for Donkey's years, the numbers have steadily been increasing. Today over 100 pairs were present, in my opinion they are the most beautiful and photogenic of all the Bee-eater species found in the Gambia, they posed well for us.

Red-throated Bee-eater

Green Bee-eater is another beauty which was also present along with a dozen or so other species including; Northern Anteater-Chat, White-rumped Seedeater, Northern Sahel Whydah and lots of weaver species.


A short ferry ride took us onto Georgetown, which is an Island  in the middle of the Gambian River, we are now some 300km upriver from Banjul  and the river is still very wide and tidal! We settled into our rooms in the Boabolong Camp after a cold drink. A nice relaxed break was enjoyed before dinner at 8. Our list for today was the biggest of the tour so far with 119 species recorded!

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR - DAY 7

Tendaba Creek Crawl - Tendaba Camp birding - Kiang West Forest

Weather: overcast until 11am, then bright sunshine and high temp. 30C+

My absolute favourite part of this tour is the Creek Crawl into the mangroves at Tendaba. A tranquil, very enjoyable trip into the heart of the swamps with so many species to look for in superb weather condition and idyllic habitat. Previous records for this trip have topped the 70 species mark with 77 being a WINGSPAN record count.

The river at dawn this morning

We set out just after 8am and headed up river for a short distance before turning across the river and entering the mangroves. Within minutes we had logged 10 species with African Spoonbill and Pink -backed Pelican showing the best. It's difficult to describe the calming effect you feel when you drift into the mangroves as though you are entering a green open-topped tunnel, a deep silence pervades, broken only by bird song and the odd splash as Darters drop from their perches into the water.

Blue-breasted Kingfishers call out their monotonous song whilst higher pitched sounds come from Mouse-Brown Sunbirds and African Blue Flycatchers. We saw all three of those species along with a multitude of others. Our boat drifted onwards to open areas of marsh where egrets, herons and a few waders were listed.

African Fish Eagle

The strange looking Hammertoe is common there, it builds a huge nest, a domed-mound of sticks with a large entrance hole at its base. Every bend we rounded a new sighting would appear, a Martial Eagle's nest had a sitting bird but it was difficult to see it, a Dideric Cuckoo dashed across the boat and perched briefly showing well, the same happened with Malachite and Grey-headed Kingfishers.

At the turning point we caught sight of a pair of Black-crowned Cranes, Gambia's emblemic, national bird, which is now very rare. We then hit a purple patch when a number of new sightings came thick and fast. Marsh Harrier, Yellow-billed Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, African Fish Eagle, Mosque Swallow, Montagu's Harrier, Grest-spotted Cuckoo and 3 more Fish Eagles.

Abyssinian Roller

Our journey ended as we broke cover from the mangroves and hit the open water of the River Gambia, we crossed the river and returned to the camp at noon. It had been another fantastic trip with a superb list of 68 species, 22 of which were new for our list.

After a long lunch break we went for two more birding excursions, the first was a walk from the camp to a new site where a hide and a watering pool had been installed. It was now hot and very humid so the going was a little slow.

Village Indigobird

We found several species in the area with Village Indigobird, Brubru, Bush Petronia, Yellow-fronted Canary, Long-tailed Exclamatory Whydah, Scimitar-Bill (heard) and Northern Red Bishop forming the best part of our list.

At 4pm we jumped onto our bus and drove the short distance to Kiang West Bird Reserve where we took a Bush track and also walked across open peanut fields. Again many species were seen with several new species added to our list. A couple of migrant bird species were found in the form of Yellow Wagtail and Woodchat Shrike, we also saw Pygmy Sunbird, Violet-chested Sunbird, Spotted Thick-knee, Black-headed Lapwing and Senegal Parrot but we just missed a sighting of Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill as another group of birders saw two of them five minutes before we arrived.

Senegal Parrot

As the Sun dropped quickly over the horizon we got back on the bus only to stop after 10 minutes to look at Nightjars, we saw a couple of Standard-winged Nightjars, the male showing off its wing-pennants as it dashed through the night sky. It was a lovely ending to another bird-filled day, we had seen 115 species and our total now stands at 232, wow, still 7 days to go!

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR DAY 6

TRANSFER FROM COASTAL REGION TO TENDABA CAMP IN THE MIDDLE RIVER SECTION, CALLING AT PIRANG FOREST, FARABA BUSH TRACK AND TENDABA 'AIRFIELD'

Weather: overcast all day, lower temperature around 25C

Although we left the hotel at 7:45am we didn't actually set off for Tendaba until 3pm, this was because we spent all morning walking the tracks in the Pirang Forest, then we ate lunch and spent a couple hours birding the Bush Track at FARABA.

Pirang forest is a fine example of primary forest with some impressive 'ancient' stands of trees. We didn't arrived until 9:30am but the birding was excellent. Modou was now our guide for the rest of the trip and he led us through the forest with a local guide.

Blue-bellied Rollers seen on route to Pirang

It took a while to find our first birds but a Northern White-faced Owl showed really well before we 'chased' an African Goshawk which showed very briefly and to only a few of us. This was the pattern for the few species such as Yellowbill Coucal, Green Crombec, Green Hylia and Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, they all put in brief appearances.

Two prized birds came next, the first is making this piece of forest quite famous after its discovery in 2013. A pair of White-spotted Flufftails are seen regularly at a particular spot in the forest and today was no exception, what a cracker!

White-spotted Flufftail

We then had better views of Green Crombec and Green Hylia before being shown a Verraux's Eagle Owl, our second most prized bird.

Back at the entrance we sat drinking cold fantas whilst watching a drinking pool where a nice selection of birds were coming to drink. We added our first Black-rumped Waxbill to the list and enjoyed a good number of other species including a Pygmy Kingfisher.

From Pirang we continued our easterly journey before turning off at Faraba to explore the open forest along a Bush Track.

It was midday, hot and humid but still overcast, a hour long walk produced very little with Dark Chanting Goshawk being the most remarkable. We ate lunch in the shade of a large tree before spending an hour in a bird 'photography' hide where a selection of birds came to drink but nothing new for us.

Bruce's Green Pigeon

Our journey to Tendaba started in earnest at 3pm! We set off with no more stops planned, but of course we stopped a dozen times to look at perched raptors and other interesting species.

Both Lizard and Grasshopper Buzzards were seen on a number of occasions, as was Long-crested Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk and Grey Kestrel, We also stopped to look at Abyssinian Roller, Rufous Crowned Roller, both African and Bruce's Green Pigeons, Red-billed Oxpecker and an African Cuckoo!

African Cuckoo

At Tendaba we stopped for a walk on the old 'airfield' site looking for Ground-Hornbills without success but we did see a good number of species including the African Hobby, Pink-backed Pelican, Senegal Parrot, Gull-billed Tern, Hammerkop and a good deal more.

We arrived at the camp just before dark and dinner was taken at eight in the large covered terrace. I am please to report that the camp is going through a much needed renovation programme and the road from Banjul is tarmac all the way to Tendaba now!

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR DAY 5

Tujering open woodland - Tanji Bird Reserve

Weather: hot, dry, sunny, humid. 30C+

Tujering was our destination for this morning's outing, we arrived at 8:30am after another lovely breakfast on the outside terrace.
The flat landscape of Tujering borders the beach area and consists mainly of dense scrub up to a meter high with small stands of trees. As usual many birds called or sang from the scrub and/or trees we quickly amassed a nice list. Striped Kingfisher was one of the first with Whistling & Singing Cisticolas coming close second.

Brown-backed Woodpecker
Deeper into the scrub we found both Brown-backed & Fine-spotted Woodpeckers and a Wryneck all in the same tree! Yellow-fronted Canary, Willow Warbler, Velliot's & Bearded Barbets, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and Red-necked Falcon were further finds in the trees, whilst Osprey, African Harrier-Hawk, Black-winged Kite and Pink-backed Pelican were seen as fly-overs.
Along a track near some cultivated plots we added Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler, Northern Wheatear, Wattle Lapwing, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Viarable & Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Levaillant's Cuckoo and Red-winged Warbler, they just kept on coming.

Wryneck
The return walk back produced a few more new species for the list including yet another western Europe migrant, the Whinchat along with Wire-tailed & Red-chested Swallow, Palm Swifts and Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Weaver.

Beared Barbet
After nearly four hours of walking in the hot Sun we were flagging a bit so we stopped and drove to nearby Tangi Bird Reserve for a long lunch where we sat in the gardens watching birds coming to drink and bathe in two small pools. Even more European migrants were seen in the shape of Garden Warblers and Blackcaps. A nice couple of hours drifted by with many sightings of local common species listed, at 4:30pm we finished for the day and set off back to the hotel.

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR DAY 4

BRUFUT WOODS - TANJI BIRD RESERVE - TANJI BEACH

Weather: another full-on sunshine day, 30+C nice cooling breeze at Tanji

Another day in the birding paradise of The Gambia, another large list of species and one more rarity on the list.

A well behaved group finished breakfast on time so we were all loaded onto the bus by 7:45am. BRUFUT woods arn't very far so we arrived in less than 30 minutes and into birding mode a few minutes later.

Our walk took us along a dirt track towards Brufut Woods with open woodland and some farmland  on both sides of us, as usual birds were everywhere. It took quite a while to move more than 100 meters!


Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters

Grey-backed Cameroptera was one of the first on the list quickly followed by Variable Sunbird, Senegal Parrot, Fanti Saw-wing, Nothern Black Flycatcher, Northern Puffback and a Fork-tailed Drongo. Phew, give us a break! The birds just kept on coming, soon we added Northern Crombec, Lizard Buzzard, Singing Cisticola, Shikra, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Yellow-fronted Canary and Common Chiffchaff.

We ended up in the forest where a make-shift shelter and seating area had been built by the local guys for the purpose of serving hot & cold drinks for birds and birders. We watched dozens of birds coming to drink: Pygmy Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove and Little Weavers joined a host of common birds.


Northern Black Flycatcher

Two excursions into the forest were led by local guides who showed us Northen White-faced Owls and Long-tailed Nightjars, smashing! We heard Oriole Warbler, Common Gonolek and Black-crowned Tchagra without seeing any of them!

For lunch we drove back to the coast road turning southward to Tanji where we pulled into the Tanji Nature Reserve and had lunch at the lodge. During lunch we watched two pools where many birds were coming to drink and bathe.


a very wet Western Bluebill

What a show, we added a few new species such as Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Blackcap and best of all, Western Bluebill, what a gem that one is. About twenty species came to the pools it was a fantastic luncheon venue.

Tanji Beach was our afternoon birding site, we parked on the edge of town and walked about a mile to the river mouth. A dozen or so waders went onto the day list including our second rarity find of the trip; American Golden Plover, now that wasn't expected at all.


Little, Common and Sandwich Terns, all in winter plumage

A vast roost of Terns, gulls and waders were constantly flushed by Ospreys flying over, at least four of them were fishing (none had wing tags). We saw Lesser-crested, Caspian, Royal, Sandwich, Common and Gull-billed Terns as well as Grey-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Slender-billed Gulls.

American Golden Plover

Lots of Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstones and Grey Plovers were joined  by singles of; Eurasian Curlew, Red Knot, Greenshank as well as herons, Darters, egrets and a few Crested Parks found on the beach.

We left the beach at 5pm and got back to the hotel at 6pm, a relaxed dinner was eaten 90 minutes later. Our bird tally reached new heights as we topped the 100 mark for the day!, 108 to be precise! 

GAMBIA - 14-DAY TOUR DAY 3

ABUKO NATIONAL PARK - LAMIN LODGE AND RICE FIELDS

Weather: cloudy to start with then hot and humid all day, 30C

Abuko national park protects over 100 hectares of rain forest in the midst of the Banjul urban sprawl. We arrived at 8am to begin our walk through the forest.

It was typical forest birding throughout the morning, lots of calls, plenty of waiting for birds to appear with regular triumphs and the odd disappointment. Also typical was that a number of the group missed certain birds whilst other saw them and vice versa. However we ensured that all the goodies were seen by all.

Our first good sightings were made at the Darwin centre where an elevated balcony looks over a large pool and the surrounding forest. A  Palm-Nut Vulture sat nicely for us as did three Hammerkops, Squacco Heron, Black-headed Heron and our star find, the Violet Turaco.


Hammerkop

A lovely walk through Primary Forest ensued, it was fabulous, quiet to start with but our sightings increased exponentially as time went on. We found many new species for the trip list, the best sightings were: African Paradise & Red-bellied Flycatchers, Lesser Honeyguide, Yellow-breasted Apalis, the stunning Collared Sunbird, Fanti Saw-wing, Common Wattle-eye, Little Greenbul, Swallow-tail Bee-eater and two star birds Western Bluebill and Oriole Warbler.

We reached the animal Rescue Centre in the centre of the park where we bought cold drinks and sat in the shade for a while. A superb photographic hide was where we spent the next hour or so.  We had an excellent time there as many species came to drink or bath in the pool created in front of the hide. We added Lavender Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Pygmy Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat and more doves than you can shake a stick at.


Malachite Kingfisher

Our return journey was as good as the outward one except we took it much quicker, we had in-the-scope views of Grey-headed Bristlebird, another glimpse of Western Bluebill and many more sightings.

It was 2pm by the time we got to Lamin Lodge for lunch, and what an experience! The rickety, three-storey, wooden building offered a unique venue for lunch, views over the mangrove swamp and parts of the river with a lovely cool breeze. The food was basic, the service slow and you had to 'beat off' Vervet Monkeys that tried to steal your food off the plate.

Three new species were added to the list, Lappet-faced Vulture, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Black Heron. A short walk immediately after lunch produced several species but nothing new.

From 4-6pm we walked a figure-of-eight circuit around the Lamin Rice Fields. I cannot begin to describe all the sightings, it was jam-packed with birds and all in good numbers.


Little Bee-eater

Our new species seen included; Pied Flycatcher, Striated Heron, Red Quelea, Red Bishop, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Grey Kestrel, Black Crake, Wood Sandpiper, but we failed to see the hoped-for Painted Snipe, next time perhaps.

We got back to the hotel at 7pm and ate dinner at 8pm. Our bird-log produced our biggest tally yet, 98 species seen in one day, amazing!!