26th Nov-3rd Dec 2019 – The Gambia, Part 4

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…part 4 of the photos from our recent trip to The Gambia (ahead of a tour there in 2020), the final part of the week.

Day 6 – 1st December, afternoon

After our morning boat trip, we packed up and left Tendaba Camp late morning. After crossing the new Senegambia Bridge over the Gambia River, we stopped for lunch in an area of peanut fields. When an Abyssinian Ground Hornbill flew up out of the vegetation in the middle of the fields, we nearly spat out our sandwiches! We hurried over and found a family of 3 of them, hard birds to find here these days.

We made several more stops as we made our way further inland along the North Bank Road. We watched birds coming down to drink at a couple of waterholes. The marshes at Kaur failed to find out main target species, but did produce three Black-crowned Cranes instead, another difficult bird to catch up with here. Thankfully, we found two Egyptian Plovers a little further along at another site – a bird I have dreamed of seeing since I saw them in a book as a boy. Mission accomplished!

Our last stop was at a quarry, where we stood in the middle of clouds of Red-throated Bee-eaters visiting their nest holes as the sun started to drop. Magical! Then we drove on to Janjanbureh (Georgetown) for the night.

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill – wins the prize for the oddest looking bird of the trip!
White-rumped Seed-eater
White-rumped Seedeater – another surprise, in a tree by the road where we stopped for lunch
Red-billed Quelea
Red-billed Quelea – common, a serious agricultural pest, we saw one flock of several thousand
Sahel Paradise Whydah
Sahel Paradise Whydah – one of several we saw at the waterholes
Black-headed Lapwing
Black-headed Lapwing – we found a small flock at one waterhole
Black-crowned Crane
Black-crowned Crane – these three were at the marshes at Kaur, but very wary
Egyptian Plover
Egyptian Plover – the key target species upriver in The Gambia – Mission Accomplished!
Red-throated Bee-eater
Red-throated Bee-eater – we finished the day in a breeding colony with them all around us

Day 7 – 2nd December

In the morning, we took a boat from Georgetown along the Gambia River. The key target species here was African Finfoot – we were frustrated at the first creek by a tangle of fishing nets blocking the way, but eventually found one further downriver just as we got to the end of the second creek. There were several other good birds here to keep us interested though, while we were looking.

After the boat trip, we left Georgetown and headed over the bridge to the South Bank Road for the long drive back to the coast. We had several stops on the way, for raptors perched by the road and at a couple of small lilypad-covered wetlands. It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the Senegambia.

Oriole Warbler
Oriole Warbler – we had great views of a pair of this secretive species at a nest by the river
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Grey-headed Kingfisher – the commonest kingfisher along the river here
Palm Nut Vulture
Palm Nut Vulture – we saw several along the river, including this one which flew over the boat
African Fish Eagle
African Fish Eagle – we saw a couple in the trees on the bank of the river
Guinea Baboon
Guinea Baboon – we saw three species of primate on the boat trip this morning
African Finfoot
African Finfoot – we eventually found this young bird at the mouth of one of the creeks
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Dark Chanting Goshawk – our best views of this species, on a roadside pylon on the way back
Brown Snake Eagle
Brown Snake Eagle – we stopped to photograph a pair in the trees by the road
African White-backed Vulture
African White-backed Vulture – circled low overhead while we were watching the eagles

Day 8 – 3rd December

Our last day, we had to check out at midday to make our way to the airport for our afternoon flight home. Rather than have a relaxing morning, we managed to squeeze in a couple of very quick visits to two coastal sites we had not managed to get to before our trip upriver.

We started at Tujareng, an area of peanut fields and overgrown cultivations. With the change in habitat-type, a quick walk round here produced several species that we had not seen elsewhere. After that we were pretty much out of time, but we still managed to have the briefest of stops at Brufut woods after cutting across country on dirt tracks to avoid the traffic. In about 45 minutes we added a few more species to the list, including the last new bird of the trip just as we were walking back out of the trees – Black Scimitarbill, a scarce species which we thought we were going to miss.

Four-banded Sandgrouse
Four-banded Sandgrouse – we found three hiding in a field by the track
Wattled Lapwing
African Wattled Lapwing – our best views of this species this morning
White-fronted Black Chat
White-fronted Black Chat – one of the highlights at Tujareng, not easy to catch up with
Long-tailed Nightjar
Long-tailed Nightjar – pointed out by the forest guide, roosting in the bushes at Brufut
Black Scimitarbill
Black Scimitarbill – a tricky species to find, and a very welcome last addition to the list

It had been a great week, a whistle-stop tour of The Gambia (you could really allow more time to try to do the whole country!). We managed to see 275 different species (with two more added since we started writing this blog, which we had missed off the list, plus a few more we only heard), including some scarce ones we hadn’t expected to catch up with. It was very easy birding, with some fantastic photo opportunities too.

We can’t wait to go back again next November!

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