A little detour on the way back to Norwich from Pulham and the Great White Egret found by Jus yesterday was present on arrival and showing nicely in flooded meadows by the River Yare. Little Egret, Common Buzzard, Wigeon, Teal and Little Grebe also present while chatting to Dave Russell (with less than welcome input from dongler!)
No camera = no photos!
Our last day so we decided to visit the gloriously appointed Lamin lodge, on stilts in the water amongst the mangroves. Birding here was disappointing however with just several White-biiled Buffalo Weavers, Red-chested Swallows and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters amongst scattered commoner terns.
The afternoon was a different story however as I decided on a return visit to Abuko NR to show Belinda, Jacob and Hannah how good a place this is. Most of the birds seen were similar to my first visit but this time I managed to photograph a perched Giant Kingfisher. Common Wattle-eye, Lavender Waxbill, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, African Thrush, Red-billed Firefinch, Black-necked Weaver, Violet Turaco, Green Wood Hoopoe and Black-shouldered Kite were all seen but this time I scored with 3 news birds as well – Little Greenbul, an amazing male African Paradise Flycatcher and a Pied-winged Swallow.
Green Wood Hoopoe
To round things off I opted for a stroll around the Kotu Bridge and Ponds area from late afternoon until dusk. Hamerkop, Black Heron, African Grey Hornbill and Little Bee-eaters entertained as did another Lizard Buzzard and then 3-4 Black Crakes and Little Grebe at the ponds. A new bird in the form of a Siffling Cisticola was a nice find as were the flock of 50+ White-faced Whistling Ducks that circled over before presumably settling on the ponds. Senegal Coucals showed nicely in the evening sun as I headed towards the bridge and my final tick of the trip – 2 glorious Blue-breasted Kingfishers! As dark descended a perched Broad-billed Roller allowed some dingy photographs to be hastily snapped.
White-faced Whistling Ducks
What a trip, 153 species including 103 lifers despite only birding for a total of about 2 days!
Today was filled with a whole day tour with Tilly’s Tours called ‘The Southern Gambia Experience’, which involved a visit to Kartong the most southerly village in The Gambia, by the river boorder with Senegal.
The drive south in the open topped Landrover gave me views of Blue-bellied Roller, Grey Kestrel, Pied Hornbill, several Bronze Mannikins and in Tanji village 2 Vitelline Masked Weavers. At Kartong I picked up a hugely impressive Long-crested Eagle amongst the soaring Hooded Vultures while the river here held Gull-billed and Caspian Terns, Little Egret and several Turnstones looking over towards Senegal. A couple of Orange-cheeked Waxbills showed nicely at Gunjur Reptile Farm and a White-faced Scops Owl was pointed out to us by helpful staff at the Tanji Village Museum. At Tanji fish catch numerous Royal and Lesser Crested Terns and Grey-headed Gulls flocked overhead looking for pickings and on the drive back I was surprised to get a Violet Turaco flying over the road and also a Black-shouldered Kite.
White-faced Scops Owl
This was the one day of the trip where we had no definite plans. It proved not to be a birding day but this being The Gambia I did manage a few interesting sightings.
A walk along the beach from Kotu to Fajara and then back through Fajara village yielded Broad-billed Roller, Abyssinian Roller, Striated Heron and Osprey but best of all was a splendid adult Shikra perched on wires in Fajara village and allowing close approach. Rather different from my previous experiences with the species in Kuwait!
I negotiated a solo walk out in the afternoon and wandered the short distance to Koto Ponds which are basically sewage ponds containing various amounts of ‘liquid’! By far the best birds here were 2 surprise Red-necked Falcons whizzing about and showing several times. Good views of a Black Crake followed before I settled into photographing the very approachable birds on the ‘mud’. Hooded Vultures, Yellow-billed Kites, Black-winged Stilts, Spur-winged Plovers, Cattle Egrets and Sacred Ibis’s were numerous and joined by a single Glossy Ibis plus Common, Wood and Green Sandpipers. In the pondside bushes I also managed to get shots of Beautiful Sunbird and Long-tailed Glossy Starling. A brief stop at Kotu Bridge on my way back and the usual species were present, Senegal Thicknees, Wattled Plovers, Spur-winged Plovers and Red-chested Swallows but also a perched Lizard Buzzard and Long-tailed Cormorant.
Long-tailed Glossy Starling
To round the day off we had a family walk to the Badala Park Hotel grounds where I scored with Black Heron and then along the Casino Cycle Track as dusk approached. 3 African Jacacas, 2 Senegal Coucals, c15 White-billed Buffalo Weavers and a solitary Greenshank were the highlights.
I was back with Ebrima for the morning again today and this time Belinda decided to join us and see what all the birding fuss was about!
The aim of the morning was to give Brufut Woods a thorough going over and this great site didn’t disappoint. After a bumpy ride along the dirt tracks we parked up in the shade of a tree and quickly had White-crowned Robin-chat and Northern Black Flycatcher as Blackcap Babblers called all around. An adult Shikra stared down at us from the top of a tree and a party of 6 Brown Babblers passed noisily by. The dense woodland here was quite difficult to bird from the paths but Ebrima was able to lead us straight to a roosting White-faced Scops Owk and then even better, mega views of a Long-tailed Nightjar sat in leaf litter under saplings. Moving into more open country made things a little easier and an into an area of scrub flew 2 Four-banded Sandgrouse, moving closer to investigate we flushed them and even though I only managed to fire off one shot it captured the species very nicely. In the open savannah woodland raptors stole the show with a Dark Chanting Goshawk flying right towards us, Grey Kestrel, 2 Ospreys and an African Harrier Hawk over. We then picked up a perched Striped Kingfisher that eventually allowed close enough approach for some photos. Green Wood Hoopoe, Green-backed Eremomela, Yellow White-eye, Little Weaver, Grey-headed Sparrow, Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling and Lesser Honeyguide followed in quick succession and I eventually got onto a singing Tawny-flanked Prinia. Sunbirds were good here too with Scarlet-chested, Splendid and Variable seen. While trying to get a picture of the latter a small bird popped into view which proved to be a lovely Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird. On the walk back Ebrima had a call which made us quickly change direction and within a few minutes we were watching a marvellous roosting Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. Back at the main track Ebrima went to collect the car while we sat and had a drink at the ‘Woodland Bar’ and I busied myself photographing Fork-tailed Drongo, Village Weavers, Bronze Mannikins, Orange-cheeked and Lavender Waxbills and both Northern Red Bishops and Black-winged Red Bishops by the feeding station. Other birds of note on the lengthy walk were Woodchat, Yellow-billed Shrike, Hoopoe, African Thrush, Black-billed Wood Dove, Black-necked Weaver and Senegal Parrot.
Black-winged Red Bishop
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Village Weavers & Northern Red Bishop
White-faced Scops Owl
A brief stop at Tanji beach after lunch revealed 2 Yellow Wagtails, White Wagtail, 2 Slender-billed Gulls, a Red-billed Firefinch, several Red-chested Swallows and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits amongst numerous Grey-headed Gulls, Lesser black-backed Gulls and Caspian Terns. To complete an excellent half day we stopped to photograph an Abyssinian Roller on roadside wires before heading back north to Kotu Beach.
For our late afternoon family walk we decided to take a taxi to Bijillo Forest Park (aka Monkey Park) and rather long and hot walk here with a resident (and not very good!) guide gave me a juvenile Shikra , Lanner, several Blackcap Babblers, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Little Bee-eaters and 2 ticks in the form of Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and 3 fantastic Oriole Warblers. Hornbills and Western Grey Plantain-eaters proved very photogenic too.
African Grey Hornbill
Western Grey Plantain-eater