Monday, 19 March 2018

Stanwell Moor GP - 16th March 2018

The morning was earmarked for planting some Elder plants and doing some maintenance in the reedbed rides. It didn't take too long so we also put up four nets. We didn't get a great deal, although we were pleased to catch four Chiffchaff. The only other captures were a Great Tit and retrapped Long-tailed Tit.

Chiffchaff aged 6

High water levels at the lake are flooding the rides

Totals: 5 (1)

Chiffchaff - 4
Long-tailed Tit - 0 (1)
Great Tit - 1

Thursday, 15 March 2018

End of an era, Pitsea Tip Gull ringing - 13th March 2018

Adult Med Gull colour ringed 2H73 (black print on yellow)

It's a long time since we first ringed with PR at Pitsea tip, in fact looking at my personal data, just two of my Herring Gulls ringed in Oct 2008 and Jan 2009 and seen in France during 2017 are the only colour rings on my birds resighted. But, there's still plenty of time for more birds to be seen. Chris has been more recently than I have, usually to accompany trainees or other RRG group members for experience of this type of operation. So, we dusted off the steel toe-capped and soles boots, hard hats and high- viz jackets and made our way to the far side of London for 8am.

Chris and I joined the team today as we are reliably informed that this is definitely the last session on the tip. There have been previous last sessions, as organic matter coming in has reduced and gull numbers with it, but now there is a final date for when this nature of operations will close for good.

Gulls above Pitsea tip

 It was a large team and we were ferried up onto the tip, in three trips, in PR's 4x4. Gulls were showing interest in some rubbish close by and a fresh delivery awaited. My first impression was that the gull numbers were well down and stink of rubbish was much reduced to past years, a result of less organic waste on site.The net was set quite quickly, with four cannons as I recalled. The final adjustments were made as the rest of the team took up position behind the equipment trailer while the rubbish was dumped and then spread in front of the net.

Setting the net.

The first catch was a good number of  mainly Lesser Black-backed Gulls, some Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls. Second and third catches took a few more gulls but the numbers were far reduced to the classic four to five hundred catches in the group's heyday.

Adult LBBG

Age 5 Herring Gull

Adult Black-headed Gull with emergent summer plumage

The team processed all birds just metres from the catching area. 
Full biometrics were taken for all large gulls.

Although relatively few Mediterranean gulls are ringed, they have an extremely 
high rate of resightings. MS was fortunate to be the ringer of this stunning individual.  

We would like to extend our thanks to Paul Roper and all those who have kept the efforts running throughout the lifespan of the North Thames Gull Group.

A link to the group's blog entry for the day.

Catch 1

Species                             Ringed          Retraps        Controls        Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull                 44                    3                    2                          0
Lesser Black-backed Gull      17                    0                    0                        17
Herring Gull                           16                    0                    0                        16 
Hybrid                                      1                    0                    0                          1
Total                                       78                    3                    2                        34

Catch 2

Species                             Ringed          Retraps        Controls        Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull                  6                   0                    0                          0
Lesser Black-backed Gull       1                   0                    0                          1
Herring Gull                            2                   0                    0                          2 
Total                                         9                   0                    0                         3

Catch 3

Species                             Ringed          Retraps        Controls        Colour ringed
Black-headed Gull                  6                   0                    0                          0
Mediterranean Gull                 1                   0                    0                          1
Herring Gull                            3                   0                    0                          3 
Total                                        10                 0                    0                          4

Trip total                                97                 3                    2                          4

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Broadwater GP - 11th March 2018

There was a threat of rain this morning, but apart from a few spots there was nothing to trouble us and we even got the chance to enjoy a spell of spring sunshine. There was plenty of birdsong and even 'though we didn't get that many birds, we did at least get up to double figures. Some birds were caught in pairs, including Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Bullfinch.

Male Bullfinch Y823988, ringed when a juvenile in 2016

Female Bullfinch aged 5

Totals: 6 (7)

Wren - 1
Dunnock - 1 (2)
Blackbird - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (2)
Blue Tit - 1 (2)
Bullfinch - 1 (1)

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Staines Moor & Reservoir - 5th March 2018

We decided it was time to get out of the house and get some fresh air, with the weather, since being back home, rather too windy to do much.

The Moor after the recent snow and bitter wind looked fairly quiet, though the amount of snow on the West side of London was quite limited in cover. The birds present were the usual Little Egret, Grey Wagtail, Water Pipit and Stonechat, though only singles of each. Four Dunlin were present on the Colne, presumably having been pushed off their coastal wintering area by the weather and were rather tame.


As we headed to the cafe what was supposed to be a quick visit to Staines Reservoir took longer than expected as we walked past the American Horned Lark, but it was located on the return walk along the causeway. Also present was a single Black-necked Grebe and another Dunlin.



American Horned Lark

Black-necked Grebe

Friday, 9 March 2018

Birding in the Gambia 8th to 20th February 2018 - List by date of aquisition

For the purposes of our visit we record the date and location of each species as we first see it. Therefore this list is somewhat less than systematic.
Total seen 283.

Yoba (en route to Tanji Eco-lodges)
1. Blue-bellied Roller

Tanji Bird Reserve
2. Laughing Dove
3. Royal Tern
4.Grey-headed Gull
5. Arctic Skua
6. Yellow-billed Kite
7. Palmnut Vulture
8. Lesser Black-backed Gull
9. Osprey
10. Common Bulbul
11. Storm Petrel
12. Caspian Tern
13. Grey-backed Camaroptera
14. Kelp Gull
15. Whitethroat
16. Gull-billed Tern
17. Swallow-tailed Bee-eater
18. Roseate Tern
19. Bronze Mannequin
20. Crested Lark
21. Yellow Wagtail
22. Black-billed Wood Dove
23. Brown Babbler
24. Northern Crombec
25. African Palm Swift
26. Barn Swallow
27. Red-chested Swallow
28. Western Grey Plantain-eater
29. Little Bee-eater
30. Red-eyed Dove
31. Red-billed Firefinch
32. Western Reef Heron
33. Pied Crow

Tanji Bird Reserve
34. Whimbrel
35. African Pied Hornbill
36. African Thrush
37. Blackcap
38. Snowy-crowned Robin Chat
39. Western Bluebill
40. Black-necked Weaver
41. Village Weaver
42. African Paradise Flycatcher
43. Common Wattle-eye
44. Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher
45. Hooded Vulture
46. Redshank
47. Greenshank
48. Bar-tailed Godwit
49. Sanderling
50. Grey Plover
51. Little Egret
52. Little Tern
53. Grey Heron
54. Slender-billed Gull
54. Green-headed Sunbird
56. Common Sandpiper
57. African Spoonbill
58. Red-billed Hornbill
59. Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu
60. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
61. Little Greenbul
62. Yellow White-eye
63. Lavendar Waxbill
64. Shikra
65. Pied Kingfisher
66. Common Ringed Plover
67. Turnstone
68. Blue-spotted Wood-dove

Tujereng (Farakunku)
69. Namaqua Dove
70. African Mourning Dove
71. Yellow-crowned Gonolek
72. Blackcap Babbler
73. Piapiac
74. Beautiful Sunbird
75. Long-tailed Glossy Starling
76. Grey Woodpecker
77. Vinaceous Dove
78. Senegal Parrot
79. Greater Honeyguide
80. Yellow-billed Shrike
81. Fine-spotted Woodpecker
82. Fork-tailed Drongo
83. Speckled Pigeon
84. African Wattled Lapwing
85. Green Wood-hoopoe
86. Ring-necked Parakeet

87. Giant Kingfisher
88. Senegal Coucal
89. African Jacan
90. Black Heron
91. Squacco Heron
92. Striated Heron
93. African Darter
94. Purple Heron
95. African Harrier Hawk
96. Fanti Saw-wing
97. African Pygmy Kingfisher
98. Western Olivaceous Warbler
99. Violet Turaco
100. Northern Puffback
101. Black Crake
102. Oriole Warbler

Tanbi Wetlands
103. Sandwich Tern
104. Western Subalpine Warbler
105. Senegal Eremomela
106. Great White Egret
107. Western Marsh Harrier

Lamin ricefields
108. Cattle Egret
109. Marsh Sandpiper
110. Hammerkop
111. Black-headed Heron
112. Intermediate Heron
113. Lizzard Buzzard
114. Senegal Thick-knee
115. Golden-tailed Woodpecker
116. Black Kite
117. Wood Sandpiper
118. Northern White-faced Scops Owl
119. Long-tailed Cormorant
120. Spur-winged Plover
121. Greater Painted-snipe

122. Purple Glossy Starling
123. White-bellied Buffalo Weaver
124. African Golden Oriole
125. African Grey Hornbill
126. Common Chiff-chaff
127. Northern Black Flycatcher
128. Copper Sunbird
129. Yellow-throated Leaflove
130. Yellow-fronted Canary
131. Variable Sunbird
132. African Green Pigeon
133. Grey Kestrel
134. Village Indigobird
135. Lanner
136. Western Violet-backed Sunbird
137. Northern Red Bishop
138. Black-winged Bishop
139. White-crowned Robin-chat

Brufut Wood
140. Little Weaver
141 .Orange-cheeked Waxbill
142. Cardinal Woodpecker
143. Splendid Sunbird
144. Long-tailed Nightjar

145. Little Swift

Tujureng Lagoon
146. Common Snipe
147. Scared Ibis
148. Little Ringed Plover
149. Broad-billed Roller
150. Black-winged Stilt
151. Green Sandpiper
152. Spotted Redshank
153. Woodchat Shrike
154. Tawny Eagle
155. Great Snipe
156. Spur-winged Goose
157. Sedge Warbler
158. Kittiltz's Plover
159. African Collared Dove

Tujereng (Frankunku)
160. Scarlet-chested Sunbird

12/2/2018Tujereng (Frankunku)
161. Northern Grey-headed Sparrow
162. African Scops Owl
163. Pearl-spotted Owlet

164. Sulphar-breasted Shrike
165. Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
166. Tawny-flanked Prinia
167. Black-headed Weaver
168. African Wood Owl
169. Mottled Spinetail
170. White-throated Bee-eater
171. Black-rumped Waxbill
172. Yellow-breasted Apala
173. Melodious Warbler

Bonto Forest
174. Verreaux's Eagle Owl

Fara Bonta
175. Dark Chanting Goshawk
176. Vielliot's Barbet
177. European Bee-eater
178. Common Redstart
179. Booted Eagle
180. Black-headed Lapwing

181. Singing Cisticola
182. Red-billed Quela
183. Pin-tailed Wydah
184. European Hoopoe
185. Western Banded Snake Eagle
186. Common Kestrel
187. African Hawk Eagle
188 .Plain-backed Pipit
189. Whinchat
190. Abyssinian Roller


191. Four-banded Sandgrouse
192. Bruce's Green Pigeon
193. Black-shouldered Kite
194. Greyish Eagle Owl
195. Black-crowned Tchagra
196. Standard-winged Nightjar
197. Pied-winged Swallow
198. Bearded Barbet

199. Rufous-crowned Roller
200. Beaudouin's Snake Eagle
201. Pygmy Sunbird
202. Long-crested Eagle

203 .Grasshopper Buzzard
204. Western Bonelli's Warbler

205. Brown Snake Eagle

206. Pink-backed Pelican
207. White-breasted Cormorant
208. African Finfoot
209. Black-crowned Night-heron
210. White-backed Night-heron
211. Goliath Heron
212. Montagu's Harrier
213. Malachite Kingfisher
214. Blue-breasted Kingfisher
215. Wire-tailed Swallow
216. White Wagtail
217. Brown Sunbird
218. Woolly-necked Stork


219. Yellow-billed Oxpecker
220. Greater Blue-eared Starling
221. Timminck's Courser
222. Flappet Lark
223. Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
224. Northern Wheatear

225.Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark
226. Tawny Pipit
227. West African Swallow
228. Bush Petronia

229. Red-winged Warbler
230. Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver

231. Great White Pelican
232. Bronze-winged Courser
233. Black Scimitarbill
234. White-shoulder Black Tit
235. Vitelline Masked Weaver
236. Cut-throated Finch
237. White-rumped Seedeater


238. Yellow-billed Stork
239. African Hobby
240. Helmeted Gunieafowl
241. Stone Partridge
242. Common Sand Martin
243. Zitting Cisticola
244. Lead-coloured Flycatcher
245. Grey-headed Bush-shrike
246. Red-headed Quelea
247. Red-necked Falcon
248. Gabar Goshawk
249. Little Stint
250. Mosque Swallow
251. Yellow-crowned Bishop
252. Brown-rumped Bunting


253. Lesser Kestrel
254. Common House Martin

255. Marabou Stork
256. African White-backed Vulture
257. Bateleur
258. Martial Eagle
259. Wahlberg's Eagle
260. European Golden Oriole


261. Striped Kingfisher
262. Brown-backed Woodpecker
263. Eurasian Wryneck
264. White-fronted Black-chat
265. Rufous Cisticola
266. Chestnut-billed Starling

267. Hadada Ibis
268. Double-spurred Francolin
269. African Silverbill
270. Little Grebe


271. Common Moorhen
272. Lesser Moorhen
273. Allen's Gullinule
274. Purple Swamphen
275. Tree Pipit
276. Reed Warbler
277. House Bunting
278. White-fronted Plover
279. Eurasian Oystercatcher
280. Curlew Sandpiper
281. Dunlin
282. Kentish Plover

Banjul Airport 

283. House Sparrow

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Birding in the Gambia 8th to 20th February 2018 part 2

Wednesday 14th depart for Tendaba

We travelled via Farasutu as the Greyish Eagle Owl had been relocated. We had sightings of Four-banded Sandgrouse, Bruce's Green Pigeon and Black-winged Kite before reaching the tree where the owls had chosen to roost.

Greyish Eagle Owl

Black-winged Kite

As a bonus, a Standard-winged Nightjar had been found by the local rangers, so we next set off in the direction of that bird. On the way a Black-crowned Tchagra was seen

Black-crowned Tchagra

On arriving at the site, we were told that the Nightjar had been flushed earlier. Being ever positive, we all began searching the leaf litter beneath the sparsely leaved bushes. A short while later a female was located a short distance from the male’s usual roosting spot. 

Standard-winged Nightjar female

We continued our journey taking a lunch stop by the road where birds of prey are often seen.

Rufus-crowned Roller

We drove on to Tendaba, where we looked around the camp, until it was time for a boat trip through the creeks in the late afternoon. We had close views of many of the specialities including African Finfoot and Goliath Heron.

Crossing the Gambia River

White-throated Bee-eater

African Finfoot

Pink-backed Pelican

Blue-breasted Kingfisher

There was a large pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins moving down river as 
we neared the jetty at the end of our boat trip.

The sun was close to setting and with a lot of dust in the air there was an unusual diffuse quality to the light. We were looking forward to another boat trip the next morning and made arrangements for an early breakfast to catch the tide.

Thursday 15th - Tendaba

Overnight a tremendous blow was evident with debris falling from the trees above onto the corrugated iron roof. We were due to go out on a second boat trip close to first light, but this seemed impossible. The river was very choppy and our plan had to be postponed. Added to that, there was an awful lot of dust in the air, exacerbated at the camp by particles of sand being blown up from the recently reclaimed beach area.

We changed our plans to work some local fields in the morning with an afternoon spell at the photographic hide.

First we walked through Kwinella looking for Temminck's Courser.

Temminck's Courser pair

There were other great birds around including Abysinnian Ground Hornbill and Yellow-billed Oxpecker on the back of a couple of Donkeys. We also found a Flappet Lark, a bird not seen too often on this side of the Gambia River.

Abyssinian Roller

Flappit Lark 

On to Warokang in search of  Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark and Spotted Thicknee which unfortunately we could nto find despite some searching.

Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark

We then retunred to Tendaba and up onto the higher fields to the photographic hide where on the way we saw Bronze-winged Courser and White-shouldered Black Tit before settling down in the photographic hide.

Bronze-winged Courser

Fork-tailed Drongo

Pied Crow

Greater Blue-eared Starling

Yellow-fronted Canary and Red-billed Quelea

Yellow-fronted Canary, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-checked Cordon-bleu,
Purple Glossy Starling, Red-billed Quelea and Black-billed Wood Dove

Friday 16th - Tendaba
Morning and afternoon walks on this date, avoiding the worst of the mid-day heat. In the morning we worked farmed rice areas above the village along the river, seeing African Hobby, Helmeted Guineafowl, Stone Partridge and Grey-headed Bush-shrike.

Grey-headed Bush-shrike


Pygmy Sunbird

Abysinnian Roller

In the afternoon we did another walk, eventually reaching the airfield where there were a few common waders and our first Gaber Goshawk and African Hawk Eagle as new species.


The airfield with shallow pools

Tall hide at the airfield

Black-headed Lapwing

We were met by Babucarr, our driver, with the car and as we headed back to camp we tried the area above the camp around the photographic hide again. We managed to find a Brown-rumped Bunting and as we made our way back down a Red-necked Falcon sat in the big tree by the football field.

Brown-rumped Bunting

Red-necked Falcon

Saturday 17th - Tendaba

On the next day the weather had calmed and we got our second boat trip, although we could only pass through one of the two creeks. There were no new species that time, although it was interesting to see a local fisherman working. The current is deceptively strong in the creeks and he was fishing until the tide turned to carry him back towards his village.

Black Kite

Yellow-billed Stork

African Darter

Blue-bellied Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher

AS we heaed back to the coast we went out for another attempt at Spotted Thick-knee. There was still, no joy regarding that bird. However, large areas were being burnt off and we saw, for the first time, the phenomenon that we’d read about before, where large numbers of birds are attracted to the flames for opportunistic hunting as insects and small mammals flee from the flames. A host of birds of prey, Rollers, Bee-eaters and Hirundines were all seen flocking towards the smoke and flames.

Chris and Ebrima

Birds were drawn to the smoke and flames

Yellow-billed Kite

Grasshopper Buzzard

Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Moving on to the picnic site that we stopped at on the way up by Kampanti, there were many more birds in the air than before and Marabou Stork, Bateleur and Martial Eagles, along with African White-backed Vulture were added to the list.

African Harrier Hawk

 Grasshopper Buzzard  

Sunday 18th - Tujereng, Kotu Creek and Faraja

We stayed close to our base, first treking through the scrubby farmlands along the coast at Tujereng.

Village Weaver


Striped Kingfisher

White-fronted Black Chat

Common Bulbul

Grey Kestrel

Brown-backed Woodpecker

Chestnut-bellied Starling one of four seen

Vieillot's Barbet

Then taking lunch back at the lodges, where a very obliging Grey-backed Camaroptera, a species seen many times over the previous days at many locations, allowed some good photoes. Then, we went to to Kotu Creek and Fajara.

Grey-backed Camaroptera

Kotu Creek is where the bird guides hoping for customers hang out. It's important to choose a registered official guide (look for the dark green polo shirt and emblem) if a guide has not been booked in advance.

Hadada Ibis

White-faced Whistling Ducks and Spur-winged Plovers

Kotu Creek

Kotu Creek

The birds around the water's edge were all species, mainly waders and kingfishers, that we had already seen at other sites. Double-spured Francolin was another species found among the scrubby bushes, although elusive and difficult to see. At a small pool behind the bird guide association office we saw African Silverbill and Snowy-crowned Robin Chat.

African Silverbills

Snowy-crowned Robin Chat

There are some sewage ponds that people tend not to bother with, but we can't resist sewage ponds as birds love them so much and Little Grebe went on the list.

Cattle Egrets

Gulls congregate on the bund separating the two modestly sized ponds.

Black-winged Stilt female

Fajara is a golfcourse that suffers badly from lack of water. There is no watering system in place, the grass looks dead and the 'greens' are referred to as 'browns'. The area immediately around each hole is fine sand - and there are cows!

Cows on Fajara golfcourse

The only species seen here were Yellow-billed Shrike, Grey Plantain-eater and Grey Woodpecker - all previously encountered species.

Grey Plantain-eaters

Monday 19th - Kartong

Our last full day and for the first time we reached the end of the track to our lodge and turned left, rather than right along the excellent tarmac road. Kartong wasn't too far, 25km or so and the first thing that draws the attention is the reed fringed pool just metres from the observatory. Even before we had dropped into the observatory to say hello, we'd seen Allen's Gallinule, Purple Swamphen and Common Moorhen.

Purple Swamphen

We then dropped in to Kartong Observatory to donate four mistnets to support their monitoring and training programme, before continuing with the birding. House Bunting was seen on a building close to the observatory with Lesser Moorhen on the pools and Tree Pipit in a small tree along the roadside.

Tree Pipit

Moving down to the beach, there were some familiar waders and a White-fronted Plover.

White-fronted Plover

Unspoiled and beautiful, the beach at Kartong

Little Tern

Great White Pelicans

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Old signage indicates that Birdlife has had an interest here in the past, 
if not maintained to the current time.

After lunch we embarked on a rivertrip along the river separating Gambia from Senegal. This gave us a chance to get a closer look at the terns and gulls congregating on the sand banks close to the Senegal mainland.

Written in French, but still Gambian territory.

Our transport. The boatman was very accommodating, taking us back up river for a second pass of the terns when we noticed some had colour rings. Only hit a sandbank once and although the boat rolled, a lot, we didn't turn over and no-one fell out!

Amongst the Caspian, Sandwich and Royal Terns were at least six
ringed birds and three others with colour rings that we noticed.

Slender-billed Gull with Sandwich Terns

Royal Tern - Black on Yellow ARH ringed in Senegal on 1
5/6/2015 as a pulli

Sandwich Tern - White on Green K0T 

Sgarbheen, Lady's Island Lake, Wexford
Sgarbheen, Lady's Island Lake, Wexford juvenile
Allahein River, Gambia

This area is definitely underwatched with regard to gulls and terns that may carry colour ring identifation. There were also waders along the shore, Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Kentish Plover included.

We spent a short while back at the pools before returning to Farakunku and saying goodbye to our fantastic guide Ebrima.

Tuesday 20th - Local walks am. Flight departs Banjul 15:55
There were a few hours in the morning and we took a last walk around the immediate area of our lodges.

Namaqua Dove

Northern Grey-headed Sparrow

Then made one last visit to the Farakunku bird and tree sanctuary before preparing for the journey home..

Yellow-billed Shrike

African Mourning Dove

The numbers of Brown Babbler had gone up as a number of young
birds were now accompanied the group.

Green-headed Sunbird

Lavendar Waxbill

We ended up seeing 283 species and we were not heading out early, so possibly starting in the field just after 7, we may have added a few more species, but this was not a bad total for the trip. 

We would have no hesitation,at all, before recommending a birding trip to the Gambia. The number of possible species, provision of registered bird guides and relatively small size of the country make this a great choice as a birding holiday location. Further to that, it is a wonderful place for a first experience of African species. The birding season runs from October to March with most visitors there between November and February. To see birds such as Whydahs and Bishops in colourful plumage, go at the start of the season. This means there will be more foliage, it will be cooler and there should be more water and mosquitoes around. As the season progresses many leaves drop, and it becomes drier and hotter.

We booked Ebrima Njie of Bird Life Africa (Gambia and Senegal) for our trip and his expertise proven invaluable in finding and identifying birds. Contact details are as follows -

Bird Guide - Ebrima Njie
Phone: +220 9841959

Farakunku Lodges

Heather and Moses will be pleased to look after all aspects of accommodation , planning and booking of guides and drivers