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 returned 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 headed 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 282 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 has 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