Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Birding The Gambia, December 2013

A Christmas break at The Palm Beach Hotel from Dec' 18th-28th.
Perfectly situated at the end of Kotu creek it's easy to see why this
hotel is a favourite among birders, where the sound of Whimbrels
and Pied Kingfishers filter through into the dining room.

I met up with Andrew Bates for a three night trip up-river with our
guide Karanta Camara. Inland, we saw nearly all of the target birds,
including; Finfoot, Egyptian Plovers, Red-throated and Northern
Carmine Bee eaters. The list of Raptors was excellent with highlights;
6 Bataleur, 7 Fish Eagles a single Martial, Pallid Harrier and Lappet-
faced Vulture.

This, my third visit to 'the smiling coast' gave me a total of 264 species
including 17 lifers. Coastal highlights being; White-spotted Flufftail,
Black-bellied Bustard and a Dwarf Bittern near Kotu bridge. And
the low price of the local beer, Julbrew at just forty five pence a bottle
in some bars!

Blue-bellied Roller

Dwarf Bittern

Andy at the track down to the Palm Beach Hotel.

Snowy-crowned Robin Chat

African Paradise Flycatcher with a Bulbul

The mighty Giant Kingfisher from the hide at Abuko.
Always a reliable site for this bird.

Paradise Flycatcher

Green vervet Monkeys

Western Blue-bill

Malachite Kingfisher

Purple Heron

Whimbrel washing a Fiddler Crab before swallowing.

Our first day we spent the morning at Abuko with lunch at Lamin Lodge
before returning to bird the excellent Kotu area later in the day. The birds 
kept coming in all varieties and it felt great to be back.

Little Bee-eater

This African Hobby flew in off the sea and over the hotel
carrying a Swallow.

This Northern White-faced Scops Owl, very conveniently,
chose to roost one day near the hotel.

Broad-billed Roller

On the morning of the 20th we left the hotel soon after breakfast and
headed for Tendaba camp making frequent stops along the way. Karanta
our guide, mimicked the call of Pearl-spotted Owlet very well and on one
occasion drew-in around fifteen species of passerines at a road-side stop.
Brubru, Black-crowned Tchagra, African Oriole, Brown-rumped Bunting and
Green-winged Pytilia being among them.

Dark-chanting Goshawk

Immature Martial Eagle


Tendaba dining area

Abyssinian Roller

African Golden Oriole

Pied Kingfisher

Spur-winged Geese

Bruce's Green Pigeon

Pygmy Sunbird with Green-backed Eremomela


Yellow-billed Kite

Grasshopper Buzzard

The road to Tendaba is no longer gravel and smooth tarmac coats the road
for the duration. It still however, takes some time to arrive with all the stops
you make along the way. And arriving late in the day we had a little time to
walk around the village before dusk.

Yellow white-eye

The morning of the 21st we left for Georgetown and again, making frequent
stops en route we saw lots of birds. Every stop you make seems to be productive
with Quail and Cut throat Finch, Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark and Northern
Carmine Bee eaters all seen before arriving at camp after an exhausting day.

Not forgetting Egyptian Plover.

Lot's of birds were taking advantage of the farmers' burning their fields. With masses 
of hirundines, raptors and Bee eaters catching the fleeing insects.

Quail Finch

This Verreaux's Eagle Owl was a superb find in the grounds of the camp
that evening and sat out for an hour in full view for everyone's enjoyment!

The river cruise was planned for the next morning and it didn't disappoint,
with Finfoot, Red-throated Bee eater, Swamp Flycatcher, Oriole Warbler
and several Fish eagles all seen well from the boat.

Olivaceous Warbler

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Palm nut Vulture

Swamp Flycatcher

Red-throated Bee eater

Striated Heron

Western-banded snake Eagle


Senegal Parrot

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Mottled Spinetail

Red-necked Falcon

African Fish Eagle

Oriole Warbler

After the river trip it was back on the road to Tendaba, again, stopping
to bird along the way.

Mainly Cut throat Finches

Red patas Monkeys

Day time roosting Verreaux's Eagle Owl

Immature White-backed Vulture, very close!

The abundant Hooded Vulture

Marabou Stork

Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Northern Carmine Bee eater with Yellow Wagtail

This Brown Snake Eagle showed superbly!

The morning of the 23rd we did the mangrove creek cruise from Tendaba. This
is allows you to get very close to the birds as you wind your way along the narrow
channels. No Finfoot at Tendaba but a superb White-backed Night Heron on the
nest, wonderful close views of all manner of Storks, Egrets, Darters and Kingfishers,
Montagu's Harriers and melanistic Gabar Goshawk.

Slender-billed Gull



African Hawk Eagle


We passed so close to this Darter i couldn't focus on it!

Great white Pelican

Fish Eagle

Yellow-billed Stork

Striated Heron

White-backed night Heron

Great Egret


Pink-backed Pelican

Time to move on again and after settling the bill we headed back for the coast
adding Grey-headed bush and White-crested helmet Shrikes, Abyssinian ground
Hornbill, Swallow-tailed Bee eater and Greater Honey guide to the list.

Yellow Penduline Tit

All smiles as the up-river trip draws to an end

A flat tyre on the way back to the hotel!

Christmas eve we visited Cape point/Bund road and Banjul ferry terminal for
close-up views of the Skuas that can be found there. Several Pomarine and
the odd Arctic could be seen harassing the Gulls and Terns. Two Kelp Gulls 
were among the Lesser-blacked and Grey-headed Gulls. In the evening we 
saw Greater Painted Snipe, Pygmy Kingfisher and Sedge Warbler back at Kotu.

Lanner Falcons

Christmas day saw me rise from bed at 9am and hung-over i took a taxi
to Brufut, met up with the local ranger who showed me both male and
female Long-tailed Nightjars roosting in the leaf litter along with Red-
winged Warbler and a Cardinal Woodpecker nest site. Afterwards Tanji
beach was the quietest i'd known, with not a single Slender-billed Gull on

Long-tailed Nightjar

Swallow-tailed Bee eater

Red-winged Warbler

Tanji beach

December 26th, Farasuto forest to pick up a few birds that were missing from
the trip list. Greyish Eagle Owl, Green Crombec and very unexpectedly, a group
of four Little Gulls on the edge of the nearby mangroves.

Leucistic Senegal Thick-knee

Blue-cheeked Bee eater
Greyish (spotted) Eagle Owl

Grey-headed Bristlebill

My last full days birding i visited Tujereng, where White-fronted Black Chat,
Black-bellied Bustard, Plain-backed Pipit and more familiar birds in the form
of Wheatear and Whinchat were seen. 

Black-headed Plover

White-fronted Black Chat

Striped Kingfisher

Laughing Dove

Back at the hotel, both Malachite and Blue-breasted Kingfisher posed in the
sunlight near the entrance. Rounding off another rewarding visit to The Gambia.

Bird guide Karanta Camara can be contacted at: karantamj@hotmail.com he is
a very experienced guide with good English skills and understands the needs of
visiting birders, i can heartily recommend him.

If you need a taxi driver when in the Gambia, who knows the birding sites then
do get in touch with Njogu Bah he has his own website: www.njogu-tours.com

Both these people made my visit so much more enjoyable.