Birding in The Gambia
February 2nd - 9th 2004
Authors: Chris Cameron and Julie Dawson
This was our first trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Following our time in Costa Rica in 2003 we decided that we wanted to spend more time in the tropics. With a long trip to South Africa in 2005 in the planning stages and a wedding in Italy, not to mention a return to Barcelona's Merce festival, both time and money were at a premium. The Gambia seemed the obvious choice. It is easily accessible from the UK (a six hour flight from Manchester) and if you're not too fussy about where you are staying and can be flexible about dates there are usually reasonably priced late breaks available on Teletext or similar. We booked about 3 weeks before we went and managed to find a week at the Palma Rima Hotel, with breakfast for not much more than £250 each.
We had decided that we didn't want to have a guided tour in Costa Rica, because a) we like finding and identifying birds ourselves, and b) Costa Rica is an easy country for DIY travel. After reading various reports on the Internet we decided that having a guide would make life in The Gambia much easier. We found details for a local guide named Tijan Kanteh from Bob Bigg's useful 2003 report, contacted him via e-mail and arranged to meet on the morning of our first full day.
From our experiences with Tijan we would recommend this approach. He is an excellent birdwatcher (he has been watching birds since the 1980s), has a good eye and a detailed knowledge of places to find birds and is also very well connected in fact he seems to know everybody. He will take you to places that you would be very unlikely to find on your own.
By Gambian standards, he is not cheap. He charges £10 per person per day for coastal zone trips, £15 pppd for excursions up country, plus running expenses for his vehicle. This works out at about between £40 & £50 per day for a couple. He may be prepared to negotiate, especially for larger groups or bookings spanning several days, but we feel he represented excellent value for money. We spent 3 days with him and he recommended a fellow Gambian guide for our up country 2-day trip, because he was already booked on those days by some other bird-watchers.
There are other, cheaper guides available. Local people have picked up on the idea that tourists are prepared to pay for information and the money is good and the work easy, compared to the lot of the average Gambian. In our limited experience, most of these guides will be good for finding local sites that they know about but may not really know the birds all that well. At Abuko Nature Reserve one guide identified a swallow that was quite clearly mainly blue and white as Fanti Saw-wing, one of our target species. CC took issue with this (politely) and after a short debate he backed down and suggested Pied-winged Swallow. To be honest, we didn't see it well enough to be certain, as it only visited for seconds, but it definitely wasn't the latter species either. I suspect that this is either laziness or a genuine desire to show visitors the birds that the guides know they want to see. A different guide arrived at a small mixed flock we were watching, also at Abuko, later that same day with clients. He quickly identified Brown-backed Woodpecker, but I could only see Grey Woodpecker and he agreed that he had got it wrong. I don't think he had used his binoculars at this point. To give him his due, he did spot a Grey-headed Bristlebill that we'd overlooked, so he seemed to have good eyes, but perhaps anyone using guides that they meet whilst out birding should ensure that they identify any tricky species themselves rather than just take everything on trust.
Having said that, we quickly realised that Tijan and his recommended up-country guide JJ really did know their stuff and we were quite happy to accept, for example that the Lesser Honeyguide that Tijan IDed as it flew across the road was exactly what he said. Mind you, it was 10 minutes after he had found us the much scarcer Spotted Honeyguides!
Some useful tips
We took a pocket dictation machine with us for field notes, having used one successfully in Costa Rica. With Tijan around we used this rather differently in The Gambia and our nightly review and write up often consisted of transferring lists of birds from tape to notebook. However we did have a few sessions of birding on our own and therefore used it to take proper fields notes several times.
Insects weren't too bad. We wore repellent pretty much all the time and hardly saw any mosquitoes. We also took malaria tablets and got Yellow Fever inoculations, in case we needed to enter Senegal (we didn't have time). JD got a few nasty bites on the first evening when she had not put repellent on her legs before a flying visit to Bijilo NP, but they went down after a couple of days.
Telescopes proved useful at wetland sites, less so in the bush, although we did get some memorable views of a Long-crested Eagle on one occasion. On balance, if you have a 'scope, then we would say that it's worth taking with you.
Left Manchester at about 09:30 - arrived Serrekunda about 6 hours later. The Gambia is on UK time, but is quite a bit further west, so it gets light late (about 7:30 a.m.) and stays light until after 7 p.m. Anyway, we had a couple of hours of daylight left by the time we'd got through airport formalities (European Hoopoe from the coach the only one of the trip) and sorted our room out, so we grabbed a taxi outside the hotel and had a short walk in the Bijilo NP (known by almost all the locals as Monkey Park). Return taxi was £3 and our driver walked round the park with us. Lots of common birds about, but mostly quite exciting ones for people who had not been to West Africa before plenty of Red-Billed Hornbills, Western Grey Plantain Eaters, Green Wood-Hoopoes and lots of Little Bee-Eaters along the coastal edge of the reserve.
We got back to the hotel just as the sky was darkening and were delighted to find large numbers of impressive fruit bats returning to roost in the tall palm trees to the north of the hotel. The best place to see them was from the side of the swimming pool.
We had arranged to meet Tijan at 10 a.m. outside the hotel, so we did a half an hour of birding around the hotel grounds, had breakfast and then walked out of the back of the hotel and along a track to the beach, which we followed north for a short distance before retracing our tracks and carrying on to Solomon's Beach Bar, from where we returned along the road to the hotel. There were plenty of birds which we were to see frequently over the next week, most of which were new to us.
We met up with Tijan at the agreed time and he suggested a reasonably short drive to a place where we might have a chance of finding Spotted Honeyguide, so we drove down to Marakissa on the Allahein river, a couple of miles north of the Senegalese border, stopping at a few places along the way when Tijan spotted interesting birds. We parked up at the Marakissa River Lodge and went to look at a nesting Barn Owl with chicks, in the roof of the lodge's bar/restaurant.
The Lodge is delightfully situated on a bend in the river. There is a roof terrace where you can sit and have a drink whilst different species of birds pass by. The rooms looked rather nice clean, basic, with cold water and prices were very reasonable. Definitely an option for a couple of nights for anyone travelling independently
After finishing our drinks we started walking southwards, down the dirt road outside the lodge. JD saw something odd in a tree by the roadside and through the binoculars we could see that this was a chameleon, which Tijan said was an unusual sighting at this time of year. To our surprise, the reptile fell out of the tree (it was climbing rather gingerly from thorn to thorn) and landed at our feet. We found a stick to pick it up with, took a few photographs and returned it to a bush.
Our next stop was a few yards further on where the road crossed a stream and the fields were damp and marshy. JD had a look at some rather grubby looking egrets which turned out to be African Spoonbills and a few minutes looking around produced several species of heron, including Intermediate Egret and a Blue-breasted Kingfisher skulking in the bushes by the bridge. JD's next find was a Shikra on the ground at the side of the stream, which stayed around long enough for us to get the 'scopes on it. We saw several representatives of this attractive sparrowhawk species during the day
We followed Tijan down a farm track into the bush and it wasn't long before he pointed out the call of Spotted Honeyguide. After a search we all got a brief sighting of a pair flying away from us but we couldn't relocate them and it was getting rather warm, so we returned to the lodge for drinks and some lunch. During lunch we identified more species, with a Grasshopper Buzzard perched in a nearby palm tree and a Lanner over. A Goliath Heron flew along the river and perched in the top of a tall tree, where it remained for about half-an-hour in full view
As the temperature rose we went to sit in a little gazebo, in the shade of the riverside trees. We saw a pair of Oriole Warblers from here, and a plastic container with some water in it was frequently visited by White-crowned Robin Chats, Blackcap Babblers and the monkey
Tijan wanted us to get a better look at the Honeyguide, so we went back to the site we'd visited earlier, when the temperature began to drop. The first new bird of interest that we found was Northern Puffback and then after a stroll through some fairly dense undergrowth he pinpointed a Honeyguide in a tall tree. It remained quite still and allowed us to get some good views. It's worth noting at this point that the bush frequently smells wonderful. The overall impression is of a mixture of mint and oregano and you can't help noticing this if you spend anytime walking away from roads. Sometimes the scent is so powerful that you can smell it from a vehicle with the windows closed.
We finished the day with a walk along the river, where we were able to get close to some Senegal Thicknees, compare JD's boots to a Goliath Heron footprint in the mud (the footprint was bigger, but the mud had dried, which probably means that the print had expanded) and see a pair of Barn Owls dozing in a riverside tree.
Yundum Woods, Lamin Lodge and Abuko NP
The morning was spent with Tijan guiding us around part of the area known as Yundum Woods. This is not much like northern European woodland, with the large trees of a number of species being interspersed with grass, scrub and shrubs. It's very good for birds though and a guide who knows the area well is probably essential. We saw about 40 species in three hours or so, including several Black-crowned Tchagras, African Green Pigeon, African Golden Oriole and Yellow Penduline Tit, along with some more familiar birds such as Eurasian Wryneck and Common Redstart.
Tijan then took us to Lamin Lodge, to spend the hot part of the day in the shade. We had a good lunch (the oyster stew is recommended) and saw a few birds, although Mouse-brown Sunbird was the only new species for us here. We were entertained by a Green Vervet Monkey, which had the lodge on its route. It passed us several times, commuting between the mangroves and the roof.
We finished the day off at Abuko NP and Tijan booked the private 'photographic' hide near the animal sanctuary area. This proved to be worthwhile because, apart from getting you close to several common bird species visiting the small pool for a drink, we also got to see several more interesting or scarcer birds, such as Paradise Flycatchers, Western Bluebill, Pygmy Kingfisher and Little Greenbul. It was from this hide that we also got our best views of Red Colobus Monkeys.
Drive to Tendaba
In the morning, Tijan introduced us to JJ and Buya, our guide and driver for the next two days. The first three new birds and our 135th, 136th and 137th of the trip were reasonably familiar, being Zitting Cisticola (heard from the car), Black-shouldered Kite and Marsh Harrier. Things got more exciting when we stopped after about two hours driving at a place that may have been called Kampant. It was at a point where a small stream crossed under the road and caused a damp area, with lots of open pasture and tall palm trees. Mottled Spinetails were quite common here, and there were waders, heron and woodland birds, but pride of place went to raptors, with 10 species seen in about an hour, if vultures are included. A Bateleur was seen a couple of times and a Lanner passed right overhead, immediately followed by a Peregrine, allowing good comparisons to be made. CC saw a Guinea Baboon as it dashed across an open space between a couple of trees, but no one else spotted this
We pressed on towards Tendaba, losing several pieces of the car on the way. This really is a dreadful road, with long pot-holed, unsurfaced stretches making it very difficult to make steady progress. We arrived at Tendaba in the mid-afternoon, dropped the luggage off in the rooms (pleasant, clean, cooler than you might imagine, no hot water) and after a quick snack and drink, took the boat across to the Bao Bolon NP. This trip was incredible value for money, costing only about £3 each. There were about 8 of us in the boat and we drifted along a couple of creeks, stopping for a short walk on an island to find Bronze-winger Coursers. We did find the coursers, along with most of the other species that people visit this area for. We got excellent views of African Finfoot (some British Gambian regulars told us that these are becoming more used to people, and less skulking, but one member of another group we spoke to had been to The Gambia seven times and had seen the Finfoot only once) and White-backed Night Heron and a Shining Blue Kingfisher flew very close to the boat before disappearing upstream. The Field Guide to the Birds of The Gambia suggests that this is an unusual record in February and warns of confusion with Malachite Kingfisher. This was definitely not Malachite, being considerably larger and possibly the most incredibly iridescent bird we have ever seen. Towards the end of the trip through the park we were entertained first by a Goliath Heron and then an Osprey which kept pace with the boat, allowing several good close views before being flushed and settling a short distance along the creek. Also seen was a smallish (10 feet!) Nile Crocodile, which swam directly under the boat.
At the end of the day we drove a few miles back towards the main road and the along a track heading in the direction of the Kiang West NP. We saw a few species along the track, from the car, including Four Banded Sandgrouse and Stone Partridge, but we had really come for Nightjars. JJ had borrowed Tijan's big spotlight and we quickly found a Plain Nightjar and then followed that up with several Standard-winged Nightjars before heading back to the camp for a meal and drinks under a dark and star-filled African sky. Tragically, as we were leaving the nightjar site a huge slice of the western horizon was illuminated by a bush fire that, we were told, had been burning for several days. We were close enough to here the crackle of the dry trees and bushes as they caught fire. The fire might have been set deliberately by people hungry for land.
Tendaba Camp, bush walk and Bijilo NP.
After a fairly early night, CC couldn't sleep much beyond 6 a.m. and so got up early and went down to the jetty to watch the River Gambia glide by and the sky lighten. Most people were up and about by 8, so we went for a stroll up the small hill behind the lodge (there is a rear gate). Half a dozen new birds were found, including a lovely Fine-spotted Woodpecker on the ground and a flight of 10 Sacred Ibises. A large goshawk-like bird flew very close but refused to be identified. There were a couple of Dark Chanting Goshawks about but we didn't think that this bird was one of them.
Following breakfast we drove up to the area we'd seen the nightjars on the previous night and went for a walk through the woods. This woodland was denser than Yundum Woods but most of the trees were smaller. At first it seemed rather quiet, but when the birds started to appear they appeared both in quantity and quality. We'd passed a pair of Abyssinian Ground Hornbills along the path, but most of the interesting birds this morning were passerines. White-shouldered Black Tit and White-fronted Blackchat were joined by Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark and Namaqua Dove, along with over-wintering species like Willow Warbler, Melodious Warbler and Tree Pipit.
The long drive back involved a stop to replace the bumper that the car had shed on the trip out, but we got back to the hotel with plenty of time to visit the Bijilo NP again. We had been told that there were White-throated Bee-eaters on the reserve but the gatekeeper said that we were most likely to find them in the most distant part of the reserve and wouldn't have time to get there and back before the park closed. We decided to see how far we could get but were captivated by a large group of Green Vervet Monkeys and the only new bird we added was a stunning Snowy-crowned Robin Chat. We got back to the hotel just as it was getting dark and saw several Long-tailed Nightjars over by the palm trees just north of the hotel
Mandina Ba, Pirang and nearby bush track
We met Tijan again after breakfast and joined Lennart and Rosita from Sweden. Tijan suggested that we should try Pirang for Crowned Cranes, so we took the short drive, firstly to Mandina Ba where there were plenty of nice birds, but no new species and then to the Pirang pools. There were no cranes about but no shortage of other birds, including a variety of hirundines and raptors. A Lanner rested on a bank not far from us and African Hawk Eagle flew overhead. We decided to move on to another likely spot for cranes but CC realised he'd left his day sack behind. As we nipped back to retrieve it, first a Yellow-billed Stork and then a Long-crested Eagle came into sight from behind the nearby woods.
The move to a different area proved unsuccessful, so we relocated again to the bush track near Bangtang, which Tijan said would be good for raptors. He was right, and we added Lesser Kestrel, Booted Eagle and Tawny Eagle to the trip list and after a long search found four Temminck's Coursers.
Our hunt for Martial Eagle drew a blank (some birdwatchers staying at Palma Rima saw one at the same spot the following day) so we returned to the pools at Pirang. Still no cranes and our 198th and 199th birds of the week were very familiar species indeed Yellow Wagtail and Crested Lark. There were a few waders about, and Tijan eventually located a Plain-backed Pipit on the grass just in front of us.
Kololi, Katchicalli Crocodile Pool, Cape Point Rd, Bund Rd and Bijilo.
We agreed with Tijan that we would have only a half-day tour because we wanted to have another try for the White-throated Bee-eaters, so we explored some sites near the coast and within a short drive of the hotel. We started off about 200 metres north of the hotel, just off the dirt road that runs parallel to the beach where Tijan found our 202nd bird of the trip, African Silverbill a rather charming species. Surprisingly, the next new bird was House Sparrow. They were quite common here but we didn't see them anywhere else in The Gambia. We moved inland slightly and explored a flooded area just north of the hotel, where new birds for the trip were again quite familiar Little Egret and Black-winged Stilt. Senegal Parrots, Great White Egrets, African Jacanas and White-billed Buffalo-Weavers were abundant and a single Sacred Ibis probed the mud.
Our next stop was Katchicalli Crocodile Pool where we quickly found a Black Crake. In the small fields adjacent to the pool a Klaas's Cuckoo showed very well and there were a number of small birds in the dense undergrowth, including a couple of Olivaceous Warblers.
We moved on to the Cape Point Road and stopped on the seaward side of the football pitch. There were plenty of birds around and we got prolonged views of Abyssinian Roller on the telegraph wires, but most of the new birds were, again, species we knew reasonably well, such as Eurasian Curlew, Little Ringed Plover and Marsh Sandpiper. After a search, Tijan finally found the bird that he's brought us here for, a splendid Yellow-throated Longclaw that performed superbly for us and allowed us to get a handful of good photographs using the telescope.
Another short drive took us to the Bund Road, where there were numerous Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters on the wires and hundreds of Pink-backed Pelicans roosting on the rusting, wrecked ships just off shore.
We said farewell to Tijan, Lennart and Rosita in the early afternoon and returned to Kololi for lunch at the lively Solomon's on the beach. We then grabbed a taxi and went back to Bijilo, allowing ourselves adequate time to walk all the way round. We didn't find the White-cheeked Bee-eaters in the expected area, but did finally locate them from the path on the sea-ward side of the park, in the area that was popular with Little Bee-eaters. As the day drew to a close, large numbers of Village Weavers, probably well over 1000, appeared to be settling themselves down to roost in the shrubs in the area behind the coastal dunes.
For dinner we went to the Village Gallery in Kololi village. This is away from the Senegambia strip which is the location of most of the eating places for people who aren't dining in their hotels and we would heartily recommend it. The taxi drivers know where it is. The food is excellent and fresh, from a limited menu.
Our flight home was scheduled for mid-afternoon, so we decided to make the most of the morning and found a taxi to take us to Abuko. We spent an hour or more at the pool where we finally caught up with Black Egret and managed two fairly unusual raptors. The first was an Ovambo Sparrowhawk which flew out of a tree and then swooped low over the water rather like a swallow, before returning to sit for half-a-minute in the front of the tree, thus enabling us to get a positive identification. The second was a fine adult male Pallid Harrier that looked rather out of place as it drifted between the trees and then over the pool, flushing all the egrets and herons.
We nearly didn't find our taxi back to the hotel. The driver was waiting in a small cafe near the exit, although we had asked him to pick us up at the main entrance. On balance the exit would have been better as we would have seen slightly more of the park, but we'd walked along the main road to find him. We got back to the hotel just before our airport coach arrived.
The last bird of the trip was Common Swift. There were a few of these around the airport, along with much larger numbers of Little Swifts. There is a bar area in the airport which has access to the outside, so we sat there for a couple of hours waiting for the flight, watching large numbers of Black Kites and vultures. Could have been worse.
In the following list, the birds English and scientific names are used. The details in brackets indicate the order in which the birds were seen, where possible the number of days on which it was recorded and for species that were found/identified for us, either by a guide, the letter G. Thus, African Hobby - Falco cuvierii (68,1,G) was the 68th bird seen , was seen on only one day and was identified for us by Tijan.
LONG-TAILED CORMORANT - Phalacracorax africanus (53,5) - common at riverine and coastal sites.
AFRICAN DARTER - Anhinga rufa (51,3) - also quite common at wetland sites.
PINK-BACKED PELICAN - Pelecanus rufescens (152,4) seen around Tendaba/Bao Bolon. Numerous at Pirang and Bund Rd.
WHITE-BACKED NIGHT HERON Gorsachius leuconotus (158,1) a pair seen at close quarters from the boat at Bao Bolon. An odd looking bird.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON Nycticorax nycticorax (129,2) one only, by the main pool at Abuko.
SQUACCO HERON Ardeola ralloides (78,4) fairly common. Seen at Marakissa, Abuko, Bao Bolon and Kololi.
CATTLE EGRET - Bulbulcus ibis (4,7) very common and widespread. Seen daily in large numbers.
STRIATED HERON - Butorides striatus (125,3) seemed quite common in some wet areas with cover, such as Lamin Lodge and Bao Bolon and may have been under-recorded.
BLACK EGRET Egretta ardesiaca (217,1) the bird seen well at the main pool at Abuko on our second visit was the only Black Egret seen.
WESTERN REEF HERON Egretta gularis (55,4+) quite common and widespread. Seen at Marakissa, Lamin Lodge, Bao Bolon and Kololi and probably under-recorded.
LITTLE EGRET- Egretta garzetta (204,1) rather surprisingly only one was identified, at the flooded area north of Palma Rima Hotel on the last full day.
INTERMEDIATE EGRET Egretta intermedia (63,3) fairly common around Marakissa and Abuko.
GREAT WHITE EGRET - Egretta alba (60,4) common at wetland sites.
PURPLE HERON Ardea purpurea (124,1) one seen from Lamin Lodge.
GREY HERON Ardea cinerea (222,?) Seen in several wetland areas but 1st record not added to field notes.
BLACK-HEADED HERON Ardea melanocephala (127,3) not uncommon in several wetland areas. Large roost in tree near Lamin Village. Also seen at Abuko.
GOLIATH HERON Ardea goliath (76,2) superb views of this species at both Marakissa and Bao Bolon.
HAMERKOP Scopus umbretta (38,5) the first bird was seen behind the hotel and thereafter this unusual species was encountered just about anywhere where there was water.
YELLOW-BILLED STORK Mycteria ibis (191,1) single birds seen on both visits to Pirang.
SACRED IBIS Threskiornis aethiopicus (171,2) a flock of 10 flew by on our morning walk from Tendaba Camp.
AFRICAN SPOONBILL Platalea alba (61,1) several on pool just south of Marakissa River camp.
BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE Elaneus caeruleus (137,3) quite numerous around farmed areas, especially in areas around the airport.
BLACK KITE Milvus migrans (39,7) seen every day except the day of arrival.
PALM-NUT VULTURE Gypohierax angolensis (70,5) always seen in singles, at lots of locations including Bijilo and Abuko NPs, Pirang and others.
HOODED VULTURE Necrosyrtes monachus (41,7) - very common and widespread.
WHITE-BACKED VULTURE Gyps africanus (3,4) - not quite as common as Hooded Vulture but seen quite frequently.
RUPPELL'S GRIFFON VULTURE Gyps ruepellii (141,2,G) seen during the trip to Tendaba.
BROWN SNAKE EAGLE Circaetus cinerus (189,1,G) Mandina Ba.
WESTERN-BANDED SNAKE EAGLE Circaetus cinerascens (140, 2) Kampant and Mandina Ba.
BATELEUR Terathopius ecaudatus (145,1) Kampant and from road west of Tendaba.
AFRICAN HARRIER HAWK Polyboroides typus (57,6) common and widespread.
PALLID HARRIER Circus macrourus (219,1) one adult male over pool at Abuko.
EURASIAN MARSH HARRIER Circus aeruginosus (138,2) seen from road east of Brikama and around Cape Point Road.
DARK CHANTING GOSHAWK Melierax metabates (150,2) quite common away from the coast.
SHIKRA Accipter badius (45,3+) common around Marakissa. Also seen in Bao Bolon NP and at Kololi.
OVAMBO SPARROWHAWK Accipter ovambensis (218,1) good views were obtained at Abuko of this uncommon Sparrowhawk.
GRASSHOPPER BUZZARD Butastur rufipennis (147,3) several seen at Kampant, Tendaba bush track and Bangtang bush track.
LIZARD BUZZARD Kaupifalco monogrammicus (48,5) one of the commonest raptors, the first one of which sat obligingly in the top of a nearby palm tree when we were at Marakissa allowing excellent views.
TAWNY EAGLE Aquila rapax (197,1,G) Bangtang bush track.
WAHLBERG'S EAGLE Aquila wahlbergi (144,2) Kampant and Bangtang bush track.
AFRICAN HAWK-EAGLE Hieraaetus spilogaster (191,1,G) Pirang.
BOOTED EAGLE Hieraaetus pennatus (196, 1,G) Bangtang Bush Track.
LONG-CRESTED EAGLE Lophaetus occipitalis (193,1) Pirang and Bangtang bush track, where the bird alighted in a tree, allowing us to get a number of photographs through the 'scope.
OSPREY Pandion haliaetus (122,4) rather common and widespread, with birds seen at Lamin Lodge, Bao Bolon, Pirang, Bijilo and Cape Point Road, and with several birds being seen on some days.
LESSER KESTREL Falco naumanni (195,1,G) Tijan picked up a Lesser Kestrel quite easily at Bangtang bush track. Although we have seen this species several times before we might have struggled with the ID without his help, as the view was distant and quite brief.
GREY KESTREL Falco ardosiaceus (103,4) may have been under-recorded as this bird seemed quite common. Seen at Yundum, east of Brikama, Kololi and Mandina Ba.
RED-NECKED FALCON Falco chiquera (59,1,G) a single bird flew overhead at Marakissa.
AFRICAN HOBBY Falco cuvieri (68,1,G) one bird definitely identified and another probable at Marakissa.
LANNER FALCON Falco biarmicus (73, 3) birds seen at Marakissa, Kampant and at Pirang where one was settled on top of a bank for the duration of our stay.
PEREGRINE Falco peregrinus (148,1) - a single bird seen immediately after the Lanner at Kampant allowed us to make an interesting comparison of these two species.
STONE PARTRIDGE Ptilopachus petrosus (166,3) seen along the bush track near Tendaba on the nightjar drive, and very easy to see in Bijilo NP where several family groups were observed.
DOUBLE-SPURRED FRANCOLIN Francolinus bicalcaratus (13,4 ) recorded at Bijilo, the bush track near Tendaba, and Bangtang bush track but hard to get a decent view of as they seem very skittish and head for cover at first sign of disturbance. One seen quite well at Bijilo, along the path on the coastal edge of the reserve, which seemed the best place for this species.
BLACK CRAKE Amaurornis flavirostris (206,2) only a couple seen towards the end of the week at Katchicalli crocodile pool and Abuko.
AFRICAN FINFOOT Podica senegalensis (155,1,G) a pair seen from the boat at Bao Bolon. According to one birdwatcher we spoke to, these birds are becoming conditioned to disturbance in this area and are less likely to disappear into the mangroves when approached. However another birdwatcher we saw had visited the area seven times and seen Finfoot only once.
AFRICAN JACANA Actophilornis africanus (62,5) common at most marshy sites.
GREATER PAINTED-SNIPE Rostratula benghalensis (56,1,G) rather unsatisfying views of two birds skulking beneath overhanging foliage at Marakissa. Despite moving to a viewpoint from where we had hoped to get a better view we were unable to see these birds heads and necks!
BLACK-WINGED STILT - Himantopus himantopus (204,1) several around the marshy area north of Palma Rima Hotel, Kololi.
PIED AVOCET Recurvirostra avosetta (214,1) a flock of 23 seen from the Bund Road.
SENEGAL THICK-KNEE Burhinus senegalensis (71,2 ) quite common along the Allahein River at Marakissa River Camp, and in Bao Bolon NP, where close up views can be had from the boat.
TEMMINCK'S COURSER Cursorius temminckii (194,1,G) several birds found by Tijan around the Bangtang bush track.
BRONZE-WINGED COURSER Rhinoptilus chalcopterus (157,2) several on Tunku island in Bao Bolon NP and more in the woods from the bush track near Tendaba. On return from the nightjar drive one of these birds was caught in the car headlights, allowing good views.
LITTLE-RINGED PLOVER Charadrius dubius (210,1) Cape Point Road.
RINGED PLOVER Charadrius hiaticula (163,1) seen at Bao Bolon.
GREY PLOVER - Pluvialis squatarola (162,2) common in Bao Bolon and present around Cape Point Road.
WATTLED PLOVER Vanellus senegallus (52,4) common around Marakissa River Camp and at Bao Bolon and present at Mandina Ba and Abuko.
BLACK-HEADED PLOVER Vanellus tectus (169,3) where present, seemingly quite common, as at the bush tracks at Tendaba and Bangtang. Very definitely a bird of arid places, despite its similarity to Northern Lapwing.
SPUR-WINGED PLOVER Vanellus spinosus (31,6) a very common bird seen in most damp locations. Present in the small wet area between Palma Rima Hotel and the beach.
WHIMBREL Numenius phaeopus (37,3) fairly common, seen on the beach at Kololi, at Lamin Lodge, Kotu Creek, Pirang and probably several other locations.
EURASIAN CURLEW Numenius arquata (209,1) single bird at Cape Point Road.
COMMON REDSHANK Tringa tetanus (156,2) Bao Bolon and Kololi.
MARSH SANDPIPER Tringa stagnatilis (211,1) single bird at Cape Point Road.
COMMON GREENSHANK Tringa tetanus (84,4) common, with birds seen at Marakissa, Bao Bolon, Kololi & Cape Point Road
GREEN SANDPIPER Tringa ochropus (142,1) a couple seen at Kampant.
WOOD SANDPIPER Tringa glareola (201,2) small numbers at Pirang and in the wet fields north of Palma Rima Hotel.
COMMON SANDPIPER Actitis hypleucos (75,2) along the river at Marakissa and at Lamin Lodge.
RUDDY TURNSTONE Arenaria interpres (154,2) a small flock was found around the jetty at Tendaba Camp and more were seen along the Bund Road.
GREY-HEADED GULL Larus cirrocephalus (20,6) very common both at the coast and upriver and a very attractive gull, particularly in flight.
YELLOW-LEGGED GULL Larus cachinnans (36,1) the only other gull seen was a single representative of this species just off the beach at Kololi.
GULL-BILLED TERN Gelochelidon nilotica (121,2) Lamin Lodge, Tendaba and Cape Point Road.
CASPIAN TERN Sterna caspia (123,2) Lamin Lodge, Pirang and Cape Point Road.
ROYAL TERN Sterna maxima (55,3) seen from the boat to Bao Bolon on the River Gambia.
FOUR-BANDED SANDGROUSE Pterocles quadricinctus (165,1,G) several seen in flight during the drive to the nightjar site, Tendaba.
AFRICAN GREEN PIGEON Treron calva (102,2) Yundum woods and Tendaba.
BRUCE'S GREEN PIGEON Treron waalia (177,1,G) bush track near Tendaba.
BLUE-SPOTTED WOOD-DOVE Turtur afer (130,1) only recorded once, from Abuko, where photographed, but was probably seen elsewhere.
BLACK-BILLED WOOD-DOVE Turtur abyssinicus (67,4 ) Marakissa, Yundum, Tendaba, and Palma Rima Hotel.
NAMAQUA DOVE Oena capensis (149,2) the first of these birds was seen near the hospital as we drove through the town of Bwiam, and we saw several more over the next couple of days around the Tendaba area. We were particularly pleased to identify this species as we had probably seen one on the River Nile in 2002 but only in silhouette.
SPECKLED PIGEON - Columba guinea (40,3) - seen in several around the airport and probably under-recorded, with the best views of this quite attractive bird being obtained from the airport bar area on the final day.
RED-EYED DOVE Streptopelia semitorquata (7,6) probably the most frequently seen pigeon, with good numbers in and around the Palma Rima Hotel grounds.
VINACEOUS DOVE Streptopelia vinacea (58,4+) seen most days around coastal areas.
LAUGHING DOVE Streptopelia senegalensis (9,7) almost as common as Red-eyed Dove and very numerous around Palma Rima Hotel.
SENEGAL PARROT - Poicephalus senegalus (79,5) seen frequently in ones and twos at several sites including Marakissa, Kololi/Palma Rima Hotel and the bush track near Tendaba.
ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET Psittacula krameri (82,5) seen more often and in larger numbers than Senegal Parrot, and at same sites, but also seen in Tendaba area.
GREEN TURACO Tauraco persa (80,3) fairly common in suitable habitat, recorded at Marakissa and Abuko (both visits) and seen in close up from the Abuko hide.
VIOLET TURACO Tauraco violacea (87,3) seen at the same locations as Green Turaco, but probably in larger numbers. A group of 6 were at the main pool at Abuko on our 2nd visit.
WESTERN GREY PLANTAIN-EATER Crinifer piscator (11,8) very common, widespread and noticeable because of its size and unusual structure. Flies frequently between large trees and is easily identified from moving vehicles.
KLAAS's CUCKOO Chrysococcyx klaas (207,1) one well seen and photographed in the small fields behind Katchicalli Crocodile Pool.
SENEGAL COUCAL Centropus senegalensis (16,7) very common and seen in a number of different habitats.
BARN OWL Tyto alba (49,1) two separate records, one of a nesting pair with chicks (one adult seen) in the roof space in Marakissa and the second a roosting pair in a tree along the river.
PEARL-SPOTTED OWLET Glaucidium perlatum (54,4,G) heard in several locations during daylight, including Marakissa, Yundum woods and Palma Rima Hotel, but never actually seen.
LONG-TAILED NIGHTJAR Caprimulgus climacurus (188,1) several seen around the palms behind Palma Rima Hotel just after sunset (in the area where the fruit bats return to roost) but none seen the following night at the same time.
PLAIN NIGHTJAR Caprimulgus inornatus (167,1,G) a couple observed during the evening trip from Tendaba Camp.
STANDARD-WINGED NIGHTJAR Macrodipteryx longipennis (168,1,G) as for Plain Nightjar, although slightly better views obtained.
MOTTLED SPINETAIL Telecanthura ussheri (139,1) fairly numerous at Kampant, where it was the first bird seen.
AFRICAN PALM SWIFT Cypsiurus parvus (44,5+) quite common and widespread, being seen on the road to Marakissa, Kampant, Mandina Ba, Cape Point Road and probably at other sites.
COMMON SWIFT Apus apus (221,1) the last species of the trip, with several associating with Little Swifts around the airport.
LITTLE SWIFT Apus affinis (119,4) Lamin village, Bijilo, Mandina Ba and the airport. Quite large flocks seen in all these areas.
BLUE-BREASTED KINGFISHER Halcyon malimbica (64,3) a single bird seen in the undergrowth by the bridge near Marakissa, a second in Bao Bolon NP and another at Bijilo.
STRIPED KINGFISHER Halcyon chelicuti (94,3) seems fairly common in dry woodland areas, but the first records, from Yundum Woods and the bush track near Tendaba were of calling birds only, before we finally saw one along the Bangtang bush track.
AFRICAN PYGMY KINGFISHER Ceyx picta (134,1) there were probably two different birds taking insects from the small pool at the hide in Abuko NP.
MALACHITE KINGFISHER Alcedo cristata (159,1) several representatives of this species were seen from the boat in Bao Bolon NP.
SHINING-BLUE KINGFISHER Alcedo quadribrachys (160,1,G) from the description in the field guide, this was an exceptional sighting and probably the bird of the trip. The bird we saw flew alongside and close to the boat and was seen seconds after our first Malachite Kingfisher. It was noticeably larger than Malachite and an astonishing iridescent blue, on a par with the most striking hummingbirds. According to the 1999 edition of the field guide, all recent (1990s) records of this species are from the period from July to September, with some older records from June to January. It was picked out by JJ as it passed the boat and we have no argument with his identification.
GIANT KINGFISHER Megaceryle maxima (85,2) one seen along the river at Marakissa and another on the first pool at Abuko.
PIED KINGFISHER Ceryle rudis (50,6) very common wherever there is sufficient fresh water.
LITTLE BEE-EATER Merops pusillus (12,6) very common, particularly in bushes near to wetland areas. Close-up views can frequently be obtained, for example along the coastal edge of Bijilo NP and on the path to the beach just north of Palma Rima Hotel.
SWALLOW-TAILED BEE-EATER Merops hirundineus (95,1) a small flock in Yundum Woods.
WHITE-THROATED BEE-EATER Merops albicollis (215,1) Bijilo NP.
BLUE-CHEEKED BEE-EATER Merops persicus (213,1) quite numerous on the telegraph wires along the Bund Rd.
EUROPEAN BEE-EATER Merops apiaster (173,1) a small flock seen on the morning walk from Tendaba camp and possibly the same flock seen later in the day along the bush track.
RUFOUS-CROWNED ROLLER Coracius naevia (120,3+) singles seen in several locations including the track down to Lamin Lodge, on the road to Tendaba, at Pirang and perhaps elsewhere.
BLUE-BELLIED ROLLER Coracius cyanogaster (42,5) quite common and seen in a number of places.
ABYSSINIAN ROLLER Coracius abyssinica (69,5) also quite common. Photographed in rather poor light on telegraph wires at Cape Point Road.
GREEN WOOD-HOOPOE Phoeniculus purpureus (14,5+) common in wooded areas.
BLACK WOOD-HOOPOE Rhinopomastus aterrimus (109,3+) less common than Green Wood-Hoopoe but seen in several localities, including Yundum Woods, were apparently fairly numerous.
HOOPOE Upupa epops (2,1) a bird seen from the coach on the way from the airport was the only one seen.
ABYSSINIAN GROUND HORNBILL Bucorvus abyssinicus (178,1) an obvious target species. We were very pleased to see a pair near to the road, near the start of the Tendaba bush track. Tijan found a Ground Hornbill feather when we were looking for Temminck's Courser along the Bangtang bush track.
RED-BILLED HORNBILL Tockus erythrorhynus (10,8) very common. Much the commonest hornbill and seen in many habitats including the hotel grounds.
AFRICAN PIED HORNBILL Tockus fasciatus (131,3) a rather unsatisfying glimpse of one during the first visit to Abuko was followed by a longer, distant view at Kampant and finally a better view on the second visit to Abuko.
AFRICAN GREY HORNBILL Tockus nasutus (43,5) not as frequently seen as Red-billed Hornbill but nonetheless quite common.
YELLOW-FRONTED TINKERBIRD Pogoniulus chrysoconus (99,3) Yundum Woods and Tendaba and Bangtang bush tracks.
VIELLOT'S BARBET Lybius viellotti (108,2) as per Tinkerbird.
BEARDED BARBET Lybius dubius (32,3) a fairly common and rather unusual bird that was seen near Palma Rima Hotel, Marakissa, in Yundum Woods and at Katchicalli Crocodile Pool.
SPOTTED HONEYGUIDE Indicator maculatus (65,1,G) Tijan worked hard to get us a brief glimpse of a pair of these birds in flight near Marakissa, but a return to the sight after lunch was rewarded with prolonged views of one bird settled in a tree.
LESSER HONEYGUIDE Indicator minor (72,1,G) one flew across the road as we were walking back to Marakissa Camp for lunch.
EURASIAN WRYNECK Jynx torquilla (106,1) a single bird was found in Yundum Woods.
FINE-SPOTTED WOODPECKER Campethera punctuligera (170,3) prolonged views of a bird feeding on an ant mound were obtained on the morning walk from Tendaba camp, and further birds were seen from the Bangtang bush track and on the second visit to Abuko, where the bird seen was a member of a small flock of birds including another woodpecker species, two flycatcher species and Western Bluebill.
CARDINAL WOODPECKER Dendropicos fuscescens (15,3) seen at Bijilo on three different visits.
GREY WOODPECKER Dendropicos goertae (24,3) the most frequently seen woodpecker, present in the grounds of Palma Rima Hotel, from the Bangtang bush track, at Bijilo and Abuko.
BROWN-BACKED WOODPECKER Picoides obsoletus (115,1) Yundum Woods.
CRESTED LARK Galerida cristata (199,1) a single bird at Pirang.
CHESTNUT-BACKED SPARROW-LARK Eremopterix leucotis (186,1) birds of this species were seen in two locations along the bush track near Tendaba.
RED-RUMPED SWALLOW Hirundo daurica (47,3) see Red-chested Swallow. Also seen from the Tendaba bush track and at Pirang.
WIRE-TAILED SWALLOW Hirundo smithii (190,1) the commonest swallow at Pirang but not seen anywhere else.
PIED-WINGED SWALLOW Hirundo leucosoma (96,2) quite common in Yundum woods and at Kampant, in much wetter habitat.
RED-CHESTED SWALLOW - Hirundo lucida (46,2) the first swallow seen, a mixed flock was picked out by Tijan as we drove to Marakissa. Palm Swifts and Red-rumped swallows were also present. Also seen at Kampant
COMMON HOUSE MARTIN Delichon urbica (146,1) several birds at Kampant.
YELLOW WAGTAIL Motacilla flava (198,1) Pirang.
WHITE WAGTAIL Motacilla alba (153,1) a few along the river bank at Tendaba Camp.
PLAIN-BACKED PIPIT Anthus leucophrys (200,1) Pirang.
TREE PIPIT Anthus trivialis (182,1) bush track near Tendaba Camp.
YELLOW-THROATED LONGCLAW Macronyx croceus (212,1) Tijan worked hard to find this bird for us in the grassy area near the road, along Cape Point Road. We finally found two that gave superb views, allowing a couple of excellent photos through the 'scope.
LITTLE GREENBUL Andropadus virens (135,1) we only had a rather unsatisfactory view of one of these birds in dense cover in Abuko.
YELLOW-THROATED LEAFLOVE Chlorocichla flavicollis (83,2) Tijan identified the call of a bird of this species at Marakissa and we saw one near the main pool at Abuko on the final day.
GREY-HEADED BRISTLEBILL Bleda canicapilla (220,1,G) a single bird in a mixed flock at Abuko.
COMMON BULBUL Pycnonotus barbatus (223,6) very common, but 1st sighting not recorded. We are quite familiar with this bird from visits to Egypt and seem to have neglected to add an entry to our field notes. Common around the Palma Rima Hotel.
SNOWY-CROWNED ROBIN-CHAT Cossypha niveicapilla (187,2) several birds seen along paths at both Bijilo and Abuko NPs.
WHITE-CROWNED ROBIN-CHAT Cossypha albicapilla (77,1) a pair of these gorgeous birds were drinking from a plastic container at Marakissa River Camp.
COMMON REDSTART Phoenicurus phoenicurus (116,1) a single at Yundum Woods.
WHITE-FRONTED BLACK-CHAT Myrmecocichla albifrons (181,1,G) one found by JJ from the bush track near Tendaba.
AFRICAN THRUSH Turdus pelios (21,7) common, particularly around the grounds of Palma Rima Hotel.
GREAT REED WARBLER Acrocephalus arundinaceus (117,1) one only, in Yundum Woods.
OLIVACEOUS WARBLER Hippolais pallida (208,1) several in dense undergrowth at Katchicalli Crocodile Pool.
MELODIOUS WARBLER Hippolais polyglotta (184,1) a few, bush track near Tendaba Camp.
RUFOUS CISTICOLA Cisticola rufus (180,1,G) - bush track near Tendaba Camp.
ZITTING CISTICOLA Cisticola juncidis (136,3) one heard, then seen from vehicle just south of Senegambia area and others heard at Pirang and Cape Point Road.
TAWNY-FLANKED PRINIA Prinia subflava (90,2) fairly common in Yundum Woods, one or two seen on Tendaba bush track.
RED-WINGED WARBLER Heliolais erythroptera (97,1) several, Yundum Woods, but rather difficult to get a prolonged view.
GREY-BACKED CAMAROPTERA Camaroptera brachyura (93,4) seen in Yundum Woods, Bijilo and from Tendaba bush track and heard in Bao Bolon NP and at Pirang.
GREEN-BACKED EREMOMELA Eremomela pusilla (107,2) Yundum Woods and Bangtang bush track.
NORTHERN CROMBEC Sylvietta brachyura (111,2) as above.
ORIOLE WARBLER Hypergerus atriceps (88,1) a pair in the riverside undergrowth at Marakissa River Camp.
WILLOW WARBLER Phylloscopus trochilus (185,1) a couple from the bush track near Tendaba. NB on nearby Tunku Island in Bao Bolon NP we heard the call of what was almost certainly Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) but could not locate the bird responsible.
NORTHERN BLACK FLYCATCHER Melaenornis edoliodes (18,5+) common in a variety of habitats, including the hotel grounds.
SENEGAL BATIS Batis senegalensis (118,2) several in Yundum Woods and a pair from the bush track near Tendaba.
COMMON WATTLE-EYE Platysteira cyanea (128,3) seen on both trips to Abuko, where it was easy to find around the toilet block near the visitor centre, along with other flycatchers (these toilets might be replaced soon) and in the mangroves along the Bund Road.
RED-BELLIED PARADISE FLYCATCHER Terpsiphone rufiventer (132,2) present in quite large numbers in Abuko.
AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER Terpsiphone viridis (216,2) although it is perhaps easy to understand how we missed our first record of, say Grey Heron it is hard to imagine how we missed this one. Seen well on both visits to Abuko but only logged on the second visit.
BROWN BABBLER Turdioides plebejus (5,7) very common.
BLACK-CAPPED BABBLER Turdioides reinwardtii (23,6) also very common, this species was another frequent visitor to the drinking vessel at Marakissa River Camp.
WHITE-SHOULDERED BLACK TIT Parus leucomelus (179,1) a definite target species, so we were very pleased to see one of these along the bush track, Tendaba.
YELLOW PENDULINE TIT Anthoscopus parvulus (114,1) Yundum Woods.
MOUSE-BROWN SUNBIRD Anthreptes gabonicus (126,2) seen in the mangroves near the causeway to Lamin Lodge and also in Bao Bolon NP.
COLLARED SUNBIRD Anthreptes collaris (34,2) one along the path to the beach from Palma Rima Hotel and a second near Tendaba camp.
PYGMY SUNBIRD Anthreptes platurus (112,2,G) Yundum Woods and bush track near Tendaba.
SCARLET-CHESTED SUNBIRD Nectarinia senegalensis (161,2) several seen from the boat in Bao Bolon NP and more seen the following morning near Tendaba Camp.
VARIABLE SUNBIRD Nectarinia venusta (91,2) seen along the track to the beach near Hotel Palma Rima (to the north of the hotel, not the road), and in Yundum Woods
BEAUTIFUL SUNBIRD Nectarinia pulchella (74,4) The most frequently seen of the Sunbirds, with singles and pairs being seen at Marakissa, Yundum Woods, on the road to Tendaba east of Brikama and at Katchicalli Crocodile Pool.
AFRICAN GOLDEN ORIOLE Oriolus auratus (104,3) seen in Yundum Woods and along the road to Tendaba and heard at Pirang.
YELLOW-BILLED SHRIKE Corvinella corvina (26,7) very common and seen in a variety of habitats with trees. Regular in the grounds of Palma Rima Hotel.
BRUBRU Nilaus afer (110,2) Yundum Woods and near Tendaba Camp.
NORTHERN PUFFBACK Dryoscopus gambensis (66,1) one located near the Spotted Honeyguide site.
BLACK-CROWNED TCHAGRA Tchagra senegala (98,1) ones and twos seen in several places in Yundum Woods.
YELLOW-CROWNED GOLOLEK Laniarius barbarius (19,7) very common.
FORK-TAILED DRONGO Dicrurus adsimilis (28,7) common.
PIAPIAC Ptilostomus afer (8,8) common and widespread. Referred to locally as 'Black Magpie'.
PIED CROW Corvus albus (1,8) the first bird positively identified, shortly after leaving the plane at the airport.
PURPLE GLOSSY STARLING Lamprotornis purpureus (85,2) quite common in Yundum Woods and also found along the bush track near Tendaba.
GREATER BLUE-EARED GLOSSY STARLING Lamprotornis chalybaeus (100,1) not a bad 100th bird, seen at Yundum Woods.
LONG-TAILED GLOSSY STARLING Lamprotornis caudatus (25,7) the commonest starling, noisy and gregarious.
YELLOW-BILLED OXPECKER Buphagus africanus (151,2) fairly common around Tendaba and Mandina Ba.
HOUSE SPARROW - Passer domesticus (203,4) perhaps surprisingly only seen in one places, at the same site as the African Silverbills.
GREY-HEADED SPARROW Passer griseus (30,7) common in many areas.
BUSH PETRONIA Petronia dentate (174,1) seen on the morning walk near Tendaba Camp and may have been overlooked elsewhere.
CHESTNUT-CROWNED SPARROW-WEAVER (186,1) bush track near Tendaba.
WHITE-BILLED BUFFALO-WEAVER Bubalornis albirostris (143,4) present in large numbers at Kampant and noted in several places from Tijan?s bus. Large numbers also in the farmed areas just north of Palma Rima Hotel.
BLACK-NECKED WEAVER Ploceus nigricollis (22,4+) fairly common and seen in a variety of habitats including populated areas and wooded and forested areas.
VITELLINE MASKED-WEAVER Ploceus velatus (35,1) seen on the beach path just north of Palma Rima Hotel.
VILLAGE WEAVER Ploceus cucullatus (6,8) probably the most numerous bird, seen wherever there are people. Several thousand appeared to be roosting in the area between the beach and the trees at Bijilo.
YELLOW-BACKED WEAVER Ploceus melanocephalus (113,1) Yundum Woods.
NORTHERN RED BISHOP Euplectes franciscanus (33,3+) possibly under recorded. The first of these was noted on the beach path just north of Palma Rima Hotel.
WESTERN BLUEBILL Spermophaga haematina (133,2) one or two of these were visiting the drinking pool at the photographic hide in Abuko NP and a couple more were seen on our second visit.
RED-BILLED FIREFINCH Lagonosticta senegala (17,7) very common and widespread.
RED-CHEEKED CORDON-BLEU Uraeginthus bengalus (29,7) another common bird, but no less attractive for that.
LAVENDER WAXBILL Estrilda caerulescens (92,3) first seen in Yundum Woods and then in other similar habitats.
ORANGE-CHEEKED WAXBILL Estrilda melpoda (86,1) in riverside pastures near Marakissa River Camp.
BLACK-RUMPED WAXBILL Estrilda troglodytes (175,1) quite large numbers around Tendaba Camp.
AFRICAN SILVERBILL Lonchura cantans (202,1,G) Tijan found a colony of these near the Palma Rima Hotel. It is unlikely that we would have found them without local knowledge, although the habitat that they occupy, bushes around one or two of the dwelling just behind the sand dunes, is probably quite widespread.
BRONZE MANNIKIN Lonchura cucullata (27,7) numerous in the grounds of Palma Rima Hotel and seen in many other locations.
VILLAGE INDIGOBIRD Vidua chalybeata (171,2) seen on the morning walk near Tendaba Camp and near the site for African Silverbill.
PIN-TAILED WHYDAH Vidua macroura (105,1) Yundum Woods
WHITE-RUMPED SEEDEATER Serinus leucopygius (178,1) bush track near Tendaba Camp.
YELLOW-FRONTED CANARY Serinus mozambicus (101,1) Yundum Woods.
222 species in one week compares favourably to the 305 we saw in three weeks in Costa Rica and demonstrates the value of having a guide, especially when time is limited. Of these 170 (169 CC) were new species, with the bulk of the more familiar species being herons, waders and warblers, and some of the migratory raptors. For raptor enthusiasts The Gambia seems a pretty good choice as we saw almost 30 different species, including vultures. Some quite special birds like the Robin-chats and Gonoleks are common and easy to see.
The poverty of the country should not come as a surprise to visitors and you will undoubtedly be subjected to a number of attempts to get you to make some kind of gift or buy something you really won't need. How you respond to this is obviously personal. Our preference was to encourage people who were trying to make the effort as opposed to those who wanted some cash without really trying. Some of the so-called bumsters around Senegambia had an annoying habit of trying to guide you to a restaurant and then sitting with you while you order your meal. If you don't want their company, and the time between sitting down and our food arriving was usually reserved for starting to write up our notes from that day, then it is best to say so. You will frequently see tourists looking rather uncomfortable, sharing their table with a local who they weren't expecting to pay for. Lots of local people will befriend you simply because they are interested. We talked to a couple of local teenage boys on several occasions and they 'helped' us to find the Long-tailed Nightjars. They didn't ask us for anything but we put a package of stuff together on our last night and passed it on to them. Things like trainers, shampoo and the like, which to most western tourists are insignificant seemed to be really appreciated.
Other wildlife seen
Although not blessed with any big game, The Gambia has plenty of wildlife to add interest to the birding.
Fruit Bat (possibly Epaulette Fruit Bat) numerous in palm trees over northern
perimeter of Palma Rima Hotel
African Sun Squirrel - common in areas with trees
African Ground Squirrel less common seen at Yundum woods and on route to Bao Bolon
Hare sp (smaller than UK hares)
Bushbuck - Abuko
Red Colobus Monkey - Abuko and Bao Bolon
Green Vervet Monkey - common in nature reserves/national parks
Guinea Baboon one seen, Kampant
Nile Crocodile - several locations including Bao Bolon, Abuko and Katchicalli - up to 4 metres long
Nile Monitor - similar locations as above several over 1.5 metres long
Turtle sp - Abuko
Chameleon - Marakissa
Fiddler Crab - numerous in mangrove swamps and creeks
Fireflies - at Solomon's restaurant on the beach near Palma Rima
African Monarch Butterfly
Mudskipper - numerous in mangrove swamps and creeks
Field Guide to Birds of The Gambia and Senegal Barlow, Wacher & Disley
Various trip reports from www.birdtours.co.uk and www.fatbirder.com.
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