26th Nov-3rd Dec 2019 – The Gambia, Part 1

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Not a tour, but a prelude to one. Next year, we are running a tour to The Gambia, so we took advantage of a quiet week to head down there for a look around. It was great – the variety of birds, with a mix of African species and Palearctic migrants, easy-going,  good logistics and with no time difference to worry about. The country is a nice introduction to Africa for anyone who hasn’t been before, as well as offering a variety of species for anyone who has been to other parts of the continent previously.

We only had a week but we packed in several days along the ‘Smiling Coast’ (which is where next year’s tour will be based), as well as two nights travelling ‘upriver’ to pick up a few specialities which are not usually seen on the coast. We managed to see 273 species in a week (with the help of several of the local guides), which was pretty impressive, including some sought after birds. The photographic opportunities were very good too – we returned with so many photos, we have had to break this blog post into four parts!

Day 1 – 26th November

By the time we got to the Senegambia resort, which is where we would be staying while we were on the coast, it was already late afternoon and we didn’t have much time to explore but we did have an hour or so in the grounds which allowed us to familiarise ourselves with some of the commoner species.

Speckled Pigeon
Speckled Pigeon – common, coming to drink from the sprinklers at the hotel
Piapiac
Piapiac – a long-tailed member of the crow family
Brown Babbler
Brown Babbler – one of two species of babbler, found in noisy groups

Day 2 – 27th November

The Kotu Creek bridge is a famous birdwatching location in The Gambia and not far from many of the main tourist hotels. We spent the day in the Kotu area, walking the ‘cycle track’ down to Kotu Creek and the bridge in the morning and then back to the bridge and round to the golf course in the afternoon.

Yellow-billed Kite
Yellow-billed Kite – one of the commonest raptors in The Gambia, seen everywhere
Hooded Vulture 2
Hooded Vulture – the other ubiquitous raptor in The Gambia
Hooded Vulture 1
Hooded Vulture – the birds come to daily vulture feeds in the tourist areas
Shikra
Shikra – the commonest of the hawks
Pied Kingfisher 1
Pied Kingfisher – the commonest of the kingfishers, very good views at the bridge
Pied Kingfisher 2
Pied Kingfisher – hovering over the creek right by the bridge
Giant Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher – the ‘daddy’ of the kingfishers and easy to see at the bridge
Black Heron 1
Black Heron – the blackest of the egrets
Black Heron 2
Black Heron – in distinctive fishing mode, its wings spread overhead like an umbrella
Black Heron 3
Black Heron – the fishing method seemed to be very successful
Beautiful Sunbird
Beautiful Sunbird – the commonest of the sunbirds
Variable Sunbird
Variable Sunbird – holding territory, singing and displaying, at a flowering tree
Long-tailed Glossy Starling
Long-tailed Glossy Starling – common, and the most distinctive Glossy Starling with it’s long tail
Red-billed Firefinch
Red-billed Firefinch – the commonest of the small, colourful Estrildid finches
Western Olivaceous Warbler
Western Olivaceous Warbler – the commonest of the European migrant warblers
Senegal Coucal
Senegal Coucal – we saw several during our stay
Yellow-billed Shrike
Yellow-billed Shrike – regularly encountered in cultivations and open savannah woodland
Fine-spotted Woodpecker
Fine-spotted Woodpecker – we found several in the cultivated areas beyond the creek
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater – a distinctive species which showed very well around the golf course
Pearl-spotted Owlet
Pearl-spotted Owlet – one of two we saw today, this one up on the golf course late afternoon

It was really enjoyable first couple of days with a fantastic variety of species seen, with more to come…

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