25, 27 and 28 January 2018

Our second visit to The Gambia and an excellent three days birding with Lamin. First up was a visit to Brufut Woods where we were immediately in front of a male Klaas’s Cuckoo and a juvenile showing well in a nearby tree. It was interesting to walk by the village allotments and see the locals tending their vegetables bound for the markets. We saw several species of Sunbird close together in one area followed by good views of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, African Grey Hornbill and Yellow-throated Leaflove, and some smaller birds such as Black-necked Weaver, Yellow-fronted Canary, Northern Red Bishop, Northern Crombec and Red-billed Firefinch. Lamin found us some flycatchers, namely Red-bellied Paradise and Northern Black and, as we settled down for a well-earned refreshment stop Violet-backed Sunbird and Blue-spotted Wood Dove entertained us. A Long-tailed Nightjar was waiting for us asleep in some cover.

At this time of year a lot of the low-growing vegetation has died down and views of the birds are much easier.

In the afternoon we were guided around the Tanji area and were able to get very close to a pair of Veillot’s Barbets and a Woodchat Shrike and also to have a good look at the shore birds and were amazed to see a Short-eared Owl perched on a rock on the beach.

On the second day we headed for Abuko Nature Reserve, one of the region’s best birdwatching areas. We spent about an hour in the hide by the pool surrounded by an assortment of wildlife including Crocodile and Bushbuck. Giant Kingfisher, Shikra, Western Plantain-eaters, Squacco Heron and Great Egret all settled close by and, further away, we could see Violet Turacos and Palm Nut Vultures. Eventually we dragged ourselves away as Lamin was keen to show us more birdlife along the trails. A good find was a colourful Western Bluebill. Amongst the birds I managed to photograph were Snowy-crowned Robin-chat both adult and juvenile, Black Crake, Common Wattle-eye, Fanti Saw-wing and both Red-bellied and African Paradise Flycatchers.

After a delicious lunch at Lamin Lodge where we wandered around the Lamin Rice Fields where, again, the local people grow their vegetables. Here were able to have good views of water birds such as Greenshank, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Long-tailed Cormorant, Western Reef Egret, Jacana, and Painted Snipe.

On our final day with Lamin we were accompanied by his excellent trainee guide Alimatou. We started at Marakissa Wood and had a very productive morning finding Blue-bellied, Abyssinian and Broad-billed Rollers, Bearded Barbet, African Pied Hornbill, Malachite and Woodland Kingfishers, Greater Honeyguide, Bronze-winged Courser, Lizard Buzzard and African Harrier Hawk.

A relaxing lunch stop at Marakissa River Camp was accompanied by Purple Glossy Starlings, Blackcap Babblers, Greater Honeyguide and Piapiac on the feeders, and in the surrounding area were Yellow-billed Kite, a Pied Kingfisher in action, Palm Nut Vultures and a few Senegal Thickknee.

We then drove around the area with a stop on the way to witness the amazing spectacle of a group of Black-crowned Cranes flying into bare trees.

Altogether we had three very full days of birding which we thoroughly enjoyed, we got some good photos and memories and would have no hesitation in recommending Lamin as a hardworking and pleasant birding guide in The Gambia and surrounding areas.

Gambia Trip Report 30th November to 13th December – Alan & Di Kydd

This was our second visit to The Gambia after a two week trip in 2003. Our plan was to have relaxing time and spend some days birding with a local guide. We stayed at Farakunku Lodges, run by Moses and Heather which was excellent. They organised a local guide Lamin K Njie for us and we spent several days with him during the trip including 3 days up river spending two nights at Tendaba camp.

Thursday 30th November

We spent much of the day relaxing at the lodge but managed a walk around the shorter marked footpaths near the lodge and also spent time in the walled bird garden nearby. We recorded 35 birds including a black morph Gabar Goshawk (bathing in a pond in the garden),  a juvenile Dideric Cuckoo, Fine Spotted and Grey Woodpeckers, Common Gonolek, Bronze-tailed and Long-tailed Glossy Starlings and the colourful Blue-cheeked Cordon Bleus, Red-billed Firefinches and Lavender Waxbills. There was also a very obliging wintering Chiffchaff in the garden.

Having been to The Gambia before, we were soon able to recognise many of the more common birds ourselves so were well prepared for our first outing with Lamin

Friday 1st December Abuko and Lamin Rice fields with Lamin

We seemed to have Abuko to ourselves and spent a very fine morning there. Highlights for us were a pair of very obliging Hamerkop, Palm Nut Vulture, fantastic views of Western Bluebill and Yellow-breasted Apalis. After a good lunch at Lamin Lodge we spent the afternoon at the nearby rice fields. By the end of the day we had recorded 66 species.

Saturday 2nd December Brufut Woods and Tanji Fields with Lamin

We spent quite a while just near the entrance to the woods where Klaas Cuckoo, Little Weaver, Grey Woodpecker, Northern Puffback and White-crowned Robin Chat were showing really well, not to mention a wintering Blackcap! We spent the morning here and had grand views of Violet and Green Turacos and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters. Other highlights included Pearl Spotted Owlet and both Standard Winged and Long-tailed Nightjars at their daytime roost sites.  Standard-winged Nightjar was the first of 6 new birds for us on this trip but the highlight was great views of a perched Lanner Falcon.  After lunch at the lodge, Lamin took us to Tanji fields for a late afternoon session where Osprey together with lots of gulls, terns and other shore birds were recorded. We only managed a brief view of Four-banded Sand Grouse here but got a good photo of the head pattern on one of them.   93 species were recorded today.

Sunday 3rd December

Today we decided to walk from the lodges to the nearby beach. This is a very pleasant walk through the local countryside and over the main road to the beach. We expected the beach to be busy but it was pretty well deserted. Behind the beach is a good wetland area which gave us our first views this trip of Senegal Thickknee. Here we saw our only Yellow Wagtail of the trip and our first Whistling Ducks. Only 48 birds were recorded today but then we were mostly sunbathing!

Monday 4th December to Kartong with Lamin

Having been to Abuko, Lamin, Brufut and Tanji back in 2003, we were looking forward to Kartong as we’d not been there before. This lies on the coast on the southern border with Senegal by the Allahein river. We weren’t disappointed! Here we added birds such as Black Egret, Pink-backed and Great White  Pelican, Spur-winged Goose, Purple Swamphen, Gull-billed Tern, African Reed Warbler, Sacred Ibis, Wood Sandpiper, Knob-Billed Duck, Malachite Kingfisher, African Spoonbill and Crested Lark to our list. After lunch at Sala, we took a boat trip up and down the river, pleasantly extended when the outboard broke down and we had to send for a replacement! On our return to the lodge Lamin showed us where to find the White-faced Owls which roost in a tree in Heather’s garden at the lodge. Another good total of 87 birds today – African Red Warbler being the second new bird for us.

Tuesday 5th December Tujareng and Kotu Creek with Lamin

Tujareng gave us our first views this trip of Dark Chanting Goshawk, which was showing really well. Another first was Common Redshank – hard to get too excited about that! Other additions to the trip list were Namaqua Dove, Blue-breasted and Striped Kingfisher, Veillot’s Barbet, Rufous-crowned Roller, Senegal Eremomela, Melodious Warbler, Variable Sunbird, Whinchat, African Silverbill and Northern Crombec. After lunch back at the lodge we spent the late afternoon at Kotu Creek. This was near the hotel where we’d stayed back in 2003. The highlight here for us was getting fantastic views of a singing Oriole Warbler from the hide. Among the many birds to be seen on and around the creek were Giant Kingfisher and Double-spurred Francolin. We recorded 94 birds today but sadly no new ones for us.

Wednesday 6th to Friday 8th December – trip to Tendaba with Lamin

It was mid-afternoon by the time we arrived at Tendaba camp and after settling in Lamin led us up a steep track to spend an hour or so in a small hide overlooking a pool. This was extremely active and we got excellent views of many small birds coming down to drink. These included Village Indigobird, Black-rumped Waxbill, Cutthroat Finch, Veillot’s Barbet, Bush Petronia and several different glossy starlings – Greater Blue-eared, Lesser Blue-eared and Bronze-tailed showed well together to help us distinguish which was which! On our way back to the camp we found a Peregrine perched high on a pylon and a pair of Pygmy Sunbirds. We recorded 81 birds today, not bad considering this was largely spent on the road. We had now recorded 200 birds on the trip.

On our only full day at Tendaba, we spent the morning at Kiang West hoping but failing to find Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. Raptors were good here and we added Beaudouin’s Eagle, Bateleur, Montagu’s Harrier, White-backed Vulture and African Hawk Eagle to our list. Other highlights included Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Brubru, Oxpecker and Helmeted Guineafowl. After lunch at Tendaba Camp we took a boat rip with Lamin across the river to the wetland. Here are found Woolly-necked Stork, both Black and White-crowned Night Herons, Mouse Brown Sunbird and White-throated Bee-eater. Another good day with 90 birds recorded but nothing new for our life list.

Before setting off back to Farakunku we took another boat trip across the river and then more time before lunch at the hide overlooking the pool. This gave more great views of the smaller birds. Yellow-fronted Canary, Chestnut-Crowned Sparrow-weaver, Greater Honeyguide, Red-winged Pytalia, Common Redstart and House Bunting among many others were all showing really well. A very good day for us with two new birds for our life list among the 77 birds recorded by the time we got back to Farakunku.

Saturday 9th December

A rest day after our trip up river? Maybe not, we did a couple of the longer waymarked walks from the lodge which were very enjoyable. We only recorded 49 birds today but enjoyed very good views of many. These included Double-spurred Francolin, African Grey Hornbill, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Shikra, Grey Kestrel, African Harrier Hawk and Black-headed Plover.

Sunday 10th December Marakissa with Lamin

After a morning birding near Marakissa we went to the lodge there for lunch and watched the garden through the heat of the day. It seemed to be quiet everywhere today. Even the garden seemed subdued compared with our last visit in 2003. Highlights included Woodland Kingfisher and Purple Glossy Starling. During the afternoon we spent some time in a nearby woodland, the name of which escapes me! Here we had good views of African Pied Hornbill and added Tawny Eagle to our life list. 75 birds were recorded.

Monday 11th December Bonto Woods and Farasuto with Lamin

This was our last day with Lamin and once again we weren’t disappointed. We had fleeting glimpses of Brown-necked Parrots as they flashed by over our heads in the woods. Other highlights included good views of Orange-cheeked Waxbills and Grey-backed Cameroptera. We were taken to see Vereaux’s Eagle Owls, Afgrican Wood Owls and Greyish Eagle Owls at their roost sites. By the end of the day we had recorded 72 species including Bar-breasted Fire-finch, the last of the new birds for us.

Tuesday 12th December

This was our last day full day at Farakunku and we decided once more to walk to the beach. That was even quieter than last time with only local fishermen and the café staff around! We added a few new birds for the trip including Common Tern and Black-shouldered Kite. In the afternoon we were taken to Tanji for a wander round the fishing village. That was fascinating in its own right but we also managed to add Kelp Gull to our list.

Our final bird total for the trip was 234. We can recommend a stay at Farakunku with Heather and Moses and time spent with Lamin K who all provided us with a most enjoyable trip.

Looking forward to a birding trip to The Gambia, and we were wondering if we would be able to go as there was a travel ban in place. Thankfully it was lifted in time and all was well for my second trip and Hazel, my wife’s, first, with Lamin again as guide.

After picking us up from the airport we made our way to Tanji eco-lodges. We checked in and Lamin took us round the local reserve where we soon racked up a long list of species, Hazel commenting that she had never seen so many different birds.  Various bee-eaters, sunbirds and doves adding to a quick list of forty species

The nest morning and the plan was to go upriver. On the way, we stopped at Bambakuno forest and Kampanti rice fields The rice fields gave us good views of black-headed heron and Malachite Kingfisher. Birding stops were plenty. A Biang we picked up Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, White-backed Vulture, Long-crested Eagle and Palmnut Vulture. Near Brumen bridge was our first sighting of Bateleur, Booted Eagle and Griffon Vulture. A roadside stop near Kalagi to check out a flock of vultures produced White-headed , Lappet-faced  and Ruppell’s Griffon  Vulture as well as Whalberg’s Eagle.

Jabdir rice field held many wetland species, and it was the Marabou storks that were my favourite here. From where we travelled on to Banasang quarry. This is a site well known for red-throated bee-eaters, and it did not disappoint with many being seen. Also here was Little Green Bee-eater and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. The final leg of the journey was to Georgetown and would mean crossing the ferry at Farafenni. Arriving at 1630 hours it was to be more eventful than expected. Of the three ferries only one was operational and large queues had formed.  After a long wait, we were fortunate to be promoted in the queue due to Lamin and our driver Suto’e excellent negotiating skills. So, onto the ferry and the alarm was raised that a man had gone into the water in a state of distress necessitating the calling of the coastguard. A comprehensive search found nothing and we arrived on the other bank a mere five hours later.  Whilst travelling to Georgetown we saw numerous bush fires before arriving to a welcome beer or two (temperature had been in the 40’s) and very good food.

After a sound night’s sleep, we explored the local area to find many new birds including Oriole warbler, Hadada Ibis, Violet Touraco, spur-winged goose, Bruce’s green pigeon and Blue-breasted Kingfisher amongst others. Then onto Wassu quarry where we picked up Exclamatory paradise wydah and African Hawk Eagle. We took the opportunity to visit Wassu stone circle too, well worth it if you can fit it in. Stopping near Ngayen Sanjal we soon spotted Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, our target bird for the area.

Next stop the well-known Tendaba camp which hosted a welcome swimming pool and, again, very good food. Not far from here we saw many good birds, Temminck’s Courser, Martial Eagle, Long-tailed Nightjar, Brown-rumped Bunting and Striped  kingfisher being a few. The highlight for me though was a self-found Northern Carmine Bee-eater amongst the European Bee-eaters, scarce at this time of year. At the camp itself an afternoon boat trip saw us getting good views of Finfoot and White-backed Night-Heron.

Back to Tanji the next day. A very pleasant place to stay with friendly staff. Whilst sitting here having a drink you can watch the birds drinking at freshwater pools. Here we managed long views of Western Bluebill.

A trip to Brufut woods and plenty to see: Red-necked Falcon, Copper Sunbird, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Pintail Whydah, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Cardinal, Green Turaco, African Green Pigeon, White-faced Scops Owl and, my target bird, Standard-winged Nightjar

The last two days were to be spent at Mandina Lodges. A bit of luxury here, with large swimming pool and a gorgeous floating lodge, not to mention the excellent food and service, highly recommended. It was from here that we said goodbye to Lamin and Suto but not before a trip to Farasutu forest. It was here we saw Greyish Eagle-owl, African Wood-owl, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Ahanta Francolin, Spotted and Greater Honeyguide, Diederik Cuckoo and Grey-headed Bristlebill.  Again, Lamin had delivered high quality birding and a very good driver in Suto.

From the lodge, whilst walking to breakfast one morning I had close views of Golden-tailed Woodpecker-a hard bird to find. We also disturbed a Finfoot from beside our lodge the same day. That was two sighting for this elusive species on this trip. A Goliath heron was patrolling the Mangroves by the bar, and Mangrove Sunbirds and Blue-breasted Kingfisher were commonly seen. A walk near the lodge and I managed to see a Green-headed Sunbird, one I had missed when Hazel found one at Farasutu the day before.  At Mandina a personal guide is provided and ours was very good at explaining local customs and traditions whilst we were out walking.He was also good at pointing out animal tracks, such as the Puff adder ones we followed. Perhaps it was a good thing we didn’t find one though.

We both had a very enjoyable trip and hope to return, perhaps in autumn next time when we would wish to have Lamin as our guide again.

Gambia trip report 14th November 2016 Alan and Caroline Quirk

We had already been in The Gambia for several days, and had been to many of the popular birding sites by the time we met Lamin. As we had mainly recorded birds the first time we saw them or when we photographed them we do not have a complete list of everything we saw with Lamin.

14th Nov 2016
Our first outing with Lamin was on 14 November 2016 to Tujereng Woods where we noted Little Bee-eater, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Whistling Cisticola, Yellow-fronted Canary, White-fronted Black Chat, Striped Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Double-spurred Francolin, Senegal Eremomela, Veillot’s Barbet, Rufous-crowned Roller, Red-chested Swallow and Whinchat. Lamin considered that the conditions were not ideal for birding that morning, otherwise we would have seen even more.

We met up again late afternoon when we enjoyed some spectacular sightings at Kotu Bridge and Ponds and the nearby golf course. After a quick visit to the hide where we saw at close quarters a Blue-breasted Kingfisher devouring a good sized crab, and also a Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, we made our way back to the bridge where there was some excitement amongst the gathered bird guides at a very close sighting of a Golden-tailed Woodpecker in a tree and subsequently on a telegraph pole. Also in the vicinity were Broad-billed Roller, Shining Blue, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers and a Long-tailed Cormorant. Making our way around the ponds we noted Yellow-billed Kite, Black-winged Stilt, Common Redshank, Grey Heron, Bronze Mannikin, Pied-winged Swallow, Senegal Parrot and Western Reef Egret. Crossing the golf course we had excellent views of Red-billed Hornbills and, as the sun was going down, a Double-spurred Francolin wandered very close to us.

15th Nov 2016
We spent the following day with Lamin in the Marakissa and Darsilami areas in the south of the country, close to the border with Senegal. Along the way we saw Pin-tailed Whydah, Pied Crow, Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Yellow-billed Kite, Brown-backed Woodpecker and Northern Crombec. At one point there was a group of Piapiac with juveniles and various Starlings on the road just in front of us. Close to the lake were Palm Nut Vulture, Woodland Kingfisher, Greenshank, Great Egret and Caspian Tern and, after a determined search, Lamin successfully tracked down a Giant Kingfisher. We then headed for an excellent lunch stop at Marakissa River Camp where the first bird we saw was another Giant Kingfisher! We had some close-up views of fairly common birds on the feeders and birdbaths there, amongst them Purple Glossy Starling, Brown and Blackcap Babblers, Red-billed Firefinch, Piapiac, Western Plantain Eater, Common Bulbul and Snowy-crowned Robin Chat. During the afternoon we walked some footpaths where Lamin found a beautiful Pearl-spotted Owl high up in a tree, closely followed by a Black-winged Bishop in a nearby hedge. Shortly afterwards we enjoyed good views of a few White Helmetshrike and a Fine-spotted Woodpecker. On the way home we couldn’t miss a Lizard Buzzard on a roadside wire and a distant Lanner Falcon. At our final stop we added Green-backed Heron and Blue-spotted Wood Dove to the day’s tally. This had been a most enjoyable day and one we would repeat if we visited The Gambia again.

18th Nov 2016
After a couple of days on our own, Lamin then accompanied us on a three day trip to Tendaba. On the way we stopped at Tanneh where we were rewarded with the sight of Brown-necked Parrots flying overhead, African Harrier Hawk and Bronze-tailed Starling. A little further along we saw Shikra, Grey Kestrel, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Lizard Buzzard and Rufous-crowned Roller and, at the Kampanti roadside stop, a juvenile African Harrier Hawk, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Palm Swift, African Golden Oriole, Bearded Barbet and a Yellow-crowned Gonolek doing its best to not be seen. A late afternoon walk uphill behind the camp, through the schoolyard and to the hide yielded Village Indigobird, Peregrine Falcon, Black-billed Wood Dove, Yellow-fronted Canary, Bush Petronia, Vitelline Masked and Little Weavers, Black-rumped Waxbill, Purple Glossy Starling and Grasshopper Buzzard. It was extremely hot in the hide so we called it a day and returned to camp for a rest in the shade.
The following morning was spent at Kiang West National Park. Walking amongst the partially harvested Peanut crop we noticed a large mixed flock of Senegal Parrots and Purple Glossy Starlings feeding on the ground, and nearby a Black-headed Lapwing scuttled away to hide under a hedge. Also in the area Lamin pointed out Mosque Swallow, White-rumped Seedeater, Yellow Wagtail, Veillot’s Barbet, Striped Kingfisher, Namaqua Dove and Dark Chanting Goshawk. On the return to the park entrance Lamin was pleased to see a pair of Four-banded Sandgrouse on the road and he followed them with my camera to get some good close-up photos. Also along this road we saw a very close Grasshopper Buzzard, also Brown-rumped Bunting, Yellow Penduline Tit and Cut-throat Finch.
Later that day we were taken on a boat trip across the River Gambia to one of the creeks inhabited by numerous water birds such as Squacco Heron, Great White, Intermediate and Western Reef Egrets, Long-tailed and Great Cormorants, African Darter, Hamerkop, Woolly-necked Stork, Hadada Ibis and Greenshank. Up in the trees were a number of White-throated Bee-eaters, Blue-breasted and Pied Kingfishers, Brown Sunbird and high up a Martial Eagle on a nest. The highlight of this afternoon must have been a White-backed Night Heron skulking in the dense undergrowth accompanied by two small chicks. We returned across the river admiring a spectacular sunset to the west.

19th Nov 2016
We were treated to another boat trip the next morning, our last day at Tendaba. This time we added Grey and Green-backed Herons, Pink-backed Pelican, a mixed group of Sacred Ibis and African Spoonbills, European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Subalpine Warbler, Bruce’s Green Pigeon and Red-chested Swallow. After lunch it was time to leave Tendaba but there was still plenty to see on the way back, including African Jacana, Brown Snake Eagle and the magnificent Bateleur.

As mentioned earlier, we saw many birds not mentioned here, but that had been earlier in the trip.

We found Lamin to be extremely hard working and thorough in his search for new birds for us, and also very patient when faced with our inexperience. We have learned a lot and have been inspired to include birdwatching in our future holidays.

Gambia  Trip Report: 6th - 16th  November 2016 by Alan Boothroyd

After a second visit to Gambia in the month of January, Dave Williams and myself decided to do a trip "upriver" in November, with the dual purpose of seeing the specialities and also the likes of the Weavers and Bishops in breeding plumage. We finalized a trip of ten days, two nights at the Bakotu Hotel in Kotu, followed by two nights at Tendaba, two nights at Baobalong Camp at Janjanbureh, a further night at Tendaba on our way back to the coast with finally three nights again at the  Bakotu.The upriver part of our stay was organized by Lamin K Njie, vehicle, accommodation, and also taking care of items like getting a local simcard for our phones. 
 
Sunday 6th November 2016
After an uneventful flight, we were able to get in a bit of birding around the Kotu Creek area before dark. Our first impression was that there were fewer birds in the area, both numbers and species, compared to previous visits in January. The main birds of note being Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Blue-bellied and Broad-billed Rollers and a few Fanti Saw-wing Swallows. We met up with Lamin who informed us that he would meet us at 07.30 on Tuesday for our upriver trip
 
Monday 7th November 2016
The day was spent around the Kotu Creek atea, taking in the sewage ponds and a walk around the golf course. The sewage ponds have been cleaned up to such an extent that the bird activity is a poor shadow of what it was in January, Little Grebe, Common and Wood Sandpiper, a few Black-winged Stilts and the odd Spur-winged Lapwing  were around and a flock of Little Swifts dropped in for a drink. There is now a charge of 50 Dalasi for birdwatchers viewing the pools, at first we thought this was a scam until the site manager appeared, explained the situation and issued us with a receipt. The golf course was as empty of birds as it was players, a few Piapiac, Green Wood-hoopoe, Red-billed and Grey Hornbills being of most interest. Please note that this is purely a personal observation over a couple of days, numbers / species could well have increased after our visit.
 
Tuesday 8th November 2016
Lamin and driver Cham picked us up at 07.30 and we started our journey to Tendaba, our first stop being at Tanneh, where last time we had seen Brown-necked Parrot. Lamin thought that it was a bit late in the day to catch up with one but he soon saw one fly in to some dense cover. We quickly added Brown, Western Banded, and Beaudouin's Snake Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle and a life bird for me, Levaillant's Cuckoo. Our next stop produced male Northern Red Bishop, Yellow-fronted Canary, Variable Sunbird, but not the desired Black-faced Firefinch. Another stop at a bush track yielded Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Copper Sunbird and another Levaillant's Cuckoo. A short visit to a waterhole at Kampanti was quite productive for raptors, African Harrier-hawk, Grasshopper Buzzard, Afrian White-backed Vulture, Lanner Falcon, also Bearded Barbet, and yet another Levaillant's Cuckoo. We had a brief stop just outside Tendaba where we picked up Village Indigo Bird and a White-rumped Seedeater. Our final visit of the day was to a small hide at Tendaba, on the way there we had Bearded Barbet and Grey Hornbill. At the hide there is a small drinking pool, various finches and weavers were coming down to the perches placed around. 
 
Wednesday 9th November 2016
A boat trip across thee river was the start of the day, as we made our way to the boat we had a flyover of a few Spur-winged Geese. As we entered the mangroves a large flock of White-throated Bee-eaters flew over. Numerous African Darters lined the banks, either taking flight or literally dropping into the water. The Great Cormorant colony was empty and there seemed to be less waders than January, particularly Senegal Thick-knee, Sacred Ibis and Whimbrel, although Common Sandpipers were plentiful. A large pair of Nile Monitors draped along an overhanging branch gave an alternative photographic exercise. In the top of a distant Baobab tree, amongst the nests of White-billed Buffalo Weavers, sat a barely visible Martial Eagle on its own nest. A highlight of the trip was seeing White-backed Night Herons with young in a low-lying nest.During the afternoon, we went back to the Tendaba photo hide where once again we had good views of the finches etc., but added Cut-throat Finch and Red-winged Pytilia, both lifers for me. Later on, we drove out to some fields and soon after exiting the vehicle Lamin called out Bateleur, this was a much wanted bird, I had only ever seen one, a distant immature bird. This adult was circling at some distance but gradually came closer until it was virtually overhead, and not too high up either. This started a run of good birds for us, Rufous-crowned Rollers, Red-billed Quelea, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Northern Wheatear and many Grey Hornbills. I saw what I first thought was a windblown piece of grass which turned out to be a male Exclamatory Paradise Whydah! As the sun lowered Lamin found a Striped Kingfisher and we also had Black-headed Lapwing. A search for Nightjars drew a blank, but we did see a couple of Four-banded Sandgrouse.
 
Thursday 10th November 2016
Leaving Tendaba in the morning for Janjanbureh, we had only gone a few yards when Lamin had spotted some Bruce's Green Pigeons high up in a roadside tree. We got out to take some pictures and then Lamin quickly called us away to a Grey-headed Bush-shrike, as high on my  wanted list as it was in the tree. Getting the ferry across the river at Farafenni proved to be a bit of a drama, Dave was innocently taking photos or the very colourful goings-on at the approach to the ferry. He inadvertently included a policeman in a shot, who was not best pleased to having his picture taken. Dave had to accompany him to the police station, all turned out well eventually, but it could have been very different if we didn't have Lamin and Cham with us. We eventually got across without further incident.Lamin called a stop under some shade and whilst we had some much needed watermelon he went out into the fields in pursuit of Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. After some time he signaled us to follow him, he had found three birds which we saw both foraging and in flight, albeit at some distance. To top that, as we were taking photos of the Hornbills he flushed,  then tracked down a female Standard-winged Nightjar, both species were lifers for me. Our next stop was Kaur wetlands, hoping for the Egyptian Plover, we were not to be disappointed, two birds were on the mud just yards from the roadside, we also scored with Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Black Crake, Mosque Swallow and a nice male Yellow-crowned Bishop. Onward to Wassu, as we arrived at the sand pits, large numbers of Red-throated Bee-eaters were perched in the surrounding vegetation, a remarkable display of colour, we spent quite some time taking photographs. The day ended for me after settling in to Baobolong Camp for much needed shower, meal and refreshment (beer).
 
Friday  11th November  2016
The day's birding began with a visit to a site for Black Coucal, we failed to connect with this bird but had good views of a nest-building Little Weaver, very close Malachite Kingfisher and Winding Cisticola. We then returned to Wassu for the Northern Carmine Bee-eater, several of which were seen along with a flyover Beaudouin's Snake Eagle. Another visit to the Red-throated Bee-eaters also gave us Little Green Bee-eater, Shikra, Ruppell's Vulture and three Northern Anteater Chats. In a small tree were several Red-throated Bee-eaters, Village Indigo Bird, Grey-headed Sparrow, Mourning Dove and a superb male Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, a real mix of species.In the later afternoon, we had a boat trip, hoping for African Finfoot and Shining Blue Kingfisher, but missed out on both although Lamin sighted one kingfisher briefly. We did rack up a few good birds, African Fish Eagle, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Palm-nut Vulture, and Swamp Flycatcher. A single African Pygmy Goose was a much wanted but brief encounter.
 
Saturday  12th  November  2016
We left Baobolong Camp after breakfast, on our way back to Tendaba, and went to a site for Marabou Stork, there were several high in the trees, but did not give good photographic opportunities, also in the area was African Fish Eagle, Blue-bellied and Abyssinian Rollers in good numbers. Further on, in some tall trees in a field, Lamin pointed out two Verreaux's Eagle Owls, posed nicely. Black Coucal evaded us once more at a site which did give us a very confiding Black-faced Quailfinch. A brief stop at some wetland produced Grey Kestrel, Shikra and Gabar Goshawk. As we were driving along, Lamin called a halt to have a look at a large raptor that he saw land in a tree, what he thought was a Snake Eagle turned out to be an adult Martial Eagle. This gave great views but when we made an attempt to get pictures it flew off and we were unable to find it again. Further on we stopped at a roadside site for Spotted Thick-knee, which we saw but proved to be very wary and flighty.      We paused to view some wetlands and saw our only Goliath Heron and a flyover Long-crested Eagle, I am sure the site could have produced much more if we could have stayed longer. Not long after we settled into our rooms we went on an afternoon boat trip which didn't yield anything that we hadn't seen before but we had good views of the White-backed Night Heron.
 
Sunday  13th  November  2016
Leaving Tendaba, we had only gone a few hundred yards when we saw a Double-spurred Francolin walking on the road, the best view that we had. Lamin took us to Farasuto and met with Kawsu, the local guide, to show us some owls. First up was a Greyish Eagle Owl, followed by a Northern White-faced Owl. Both of these birds were difficult to see and we would never have seen them without the guide's assistance. The final owl seen was an African Wood Owl, which although originally perched in the open, moved deeper into the foliage. Next up was a walk to some ponds for a White-backed Night Heron which stayed hidden. Lamin then found us a Bar-breasted Firefinch, another lifer. This was the last birding stop of our upriver trip. Once again Lamin had found us some great birds.
 
Monday  14th  November 2016
The day was spent around the Kotu Creek area and the golf course, the Malachite Kingfisher showed well and four Oriole Warblers flew across the creek. One thing we did note is that there appeared to be an influx of Wire-tailed Swallows, on our earlier visits we hadn't seen any at the creek.Tuesday  15th  November  2016Our las full day, Lamin was unavailable to guide us but arranged a guide (Baccary) and vehicle to take us to Brufut woods. Splendid Sunbirds posed for the cameras but Red-bellied Paradise flycatcher didn't oblige so well. A much wanted Black Scimitarbill gave us good close views as did a flyover Lanner Falcon before we entered the woodland proper. We were taken to see a Northern White-faced Owl, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters and the Long-tailed Nightjar, also picking up a Woodland Kingfisher deep in a bush. The usual finches and doves were at the Woodland Bar when we stopped by for a soft drink.

Wednesday  16th  November  2016

The morning was largely spent preparing for our afternoon flight home. I hope that nobody gets the idea that I am being negative about the birding around the creek and golf course area, it is just an impression of lesser numbers and species as compared to previous trips in January as opposed to November. Maybe some of the birds were still to arrive? Dave will let me know as he returns on the 26th! All told, we saw 209 species in 10 days compared to 254 in 14 days on our last trip together.On reflection, the whole trip went very well, all the arrangements being taken care of by Lamin K Njie. He worked very hard to find us some of our "wanted" birds and with the driver Cham, led us through the minefield of checkpoints and ferry crossings. The upriver part I thoroughly enjoyed as certain birds can only reliably be seen by doing such a trip. So, once again, thank you Lamin K Njie for all your efforts and company.

Click here to view trip images

Myself and a birding friend had a two weeks holiday based at the Sunset Beach Hotel in Kotu.  We had seven days guided birding that was organized for us by Lamin K Njie, spread out so that we could also spend a lot of time around the excellent Kotu area.

Lamin met us at the hotel reception the morning after our rather late arrival, to talk us through our excursions. The drivers and vehicles that he provided for us were very good and he also arranged for another good guide to accompany us when he had additional customers. He will also sort out things like money exchange and getting a local Sim card for phones.

Sunday 17th.  January

Lamin took us around the Kotu creek area and surrounding fields seeing the usual diversity of exotic species. We picked up Oriole Warbler, Malachite, Pied, and Giant Kingfishers, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Beautiful, Scarlet-chested, and Splendid Sunbirds, SubAlpine Warbler,  African Golden Oriole, Greater Painted-snipe, Black-headed Heron plus a wide variety of more every-day species.
In the afternoon Ismaila took over from Lamin for a walk around the golf course. I soon added my first lifer when Ismaila found seven African Silverbills. More good birds followed, Rufous-crowned Roller, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Variable Sunbird, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Yellow-billed Shrike and Fork-tailed Drongo with good photographic opportunities  virtually everywhere.

Monday 18th.  January

First stop this day was Brufut Woods with good birding getting underway as soon as we got out of the vehicle with a Pearl-spotted Owlet showing well in a large tree. Grey Woodpecker, Senegal Parrot, Northern Black Flycatcher, African Pied Hornbill, Lizard Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Black-shouldered Kite, Yellow White-eye, Senegal Eremomela, Copper Sunbird, Yellow-breasted Apalis, and two immature Klass's Cuckoos were all added before we went to see the roosting Verreaux's Eagle Owl and the Long-tailed Nightjar, both of them being seen well.
During a break and cool drink at the rest point,  Lesser, and Greater Honeyguides came down to the watering place along with the numerous Finches, Weavers and Doves.
The eventful morning was followed by a trip to Tanji, to reveal Swallow-tailed, Blue-cheeked, Little, and European Bee-eaters, while overhead were several Fanti Saw-wings. A walk along the beach was disappointing in that there were no large gulls present and few waders. As always there was compensation with the great views of the likes of Caspian and Royal Terns with beautiful Slender-billed Gulls. As we were leaving the site there was a flyover by a squadron of Great White Pelicans.

Wednesday 20th.  January

A morning visit to Abuko delivered great views of the brilliant Green, and Violet Turacos which came close to the elevated watchpoint for photographs. The supporting cast consisted of African Pied Hornbill, Giant Kingfisher, Blue-bellied and Broad-billed Rollers, Senegal Coucal, and both Paradise Flycatchers. We moved into the trees to look for Western Bluebill which only put in one brief appearance despite the efforts of Lamin at several spots. Common Wattle-eye proved easy to see but the Buff-spotted Woodpecker refused to show. We then moved on to Lamin fields where we caught up with Black Heron, Bearded Barbet, Green Wood-hoopoe, Black Crake, African Golden Oriole, Lizard Buzzard, and Striated Heron.

Thursday  21st.  January

This day became one of the best birding days that I have ever had anywhere, a great variety of species plus some of the more desirable and difficult to see birds. A start was made at Farasuto, walking the Baobab punctuated fields. Three Dark Chanting Goshawks posed well to start our visit. These were followed by Pied-winged Swallows, Bonelli's Warbler, Klass's Cuckoo, Double-spurred Francolin, Rufous-crowned Roller, African Harrier Hawk, Purple Glossy Starling, Hoopoe, African Green Pigeon, Violet Turaco, Palm-nut Vulture, Little Weaver, Black-crowned Tchagra, Senegal Parrot, as well as the more or less everyday birds. We then moved to a site where we could see Northern White-faced Owl, then another short move to a site where we connected with White-backed Night Heron, one seen in flight. Also seen there were Little Greenbul and Giant Kingfisher.
The trip concluded at Bonto Forest where the usual finches etc. were coming to the drinking point, a Spotted Honeyguide providing a highlight. An African Pygmy Kingfisher also posed briefly. We then went into the forest with the local guide (Kawsu, I think), where he led us to African Wood Owl, Green Crombec, Green Hylia. The top bird of the day though, was undoubtedly the White-spotted Flufftail, which was seen at close quarters due to the efforts of Kawsu.

Saturday  23rd.  January

Tendaba was to be our next destination, for an afternoon boat trip and birding at various sites on the way. We were joined by a trainee guide from Abuko, also called Lamin. The first stop yielded three Helmeted Guineafowl perched in a large tree. A Pearl-spotted Owlet was heard calling. Yellow White-eye, Yellow-billed Shrike, Green Wood-hoopoe, were seen before Lamin found three Brown-necked Parrots. A final bird at this site was Yellow-bellied Hyliota.
We then moved on to a site looking for the Black-faced Firefinch, which we missed, as we could not spend too much time at each site. Along the road we had perched Grey Kestrel, Dark Chanting Goshawk and Grasshopper Buzzard before our next roadside stop at a waterhole. Lamin first found a Lizard Buzzard quickly followed by African Hawk Eagle, Lanner Falcon, African Harrier Hawk, Brown Snake Snake Eagle,  Palm-nut, and  African White-backed Vultures.
Our last stop before Tendaba was at some roadside fields where Lamin soon found some Temmink's Coursers.
The boat trip along the mangrove-lined channels is, in my opinion a "must do", there is always the chance of some very difficult birds, but the variety of species is excellent. Pink-backed Pelican, Woolly-necked Storks, and White-throated Bee-eaters were seen just after entering the channels. Overhead were European Bee-eaters and a Beaudouin's Snake Eagle. A brief sight of White-backed Night Heron was followed by a Grey-headed Kingfisher and an immature African Fish Eagle. Glossy and Sacred Ibis walked the banks with Woolly-necked Storks. There are also the numerous Herons and African Darters to see and the Great Cormorant colony is a sight to behold and smell!

Tuesday  26th.  January

Marakissa was first stop this day, as soon as we exited the vehicle we saw Yellow-throated Leaflove, Northern Black Flycatcher, Grey Kestrel, and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater. Birding was quiet but we still had African Golden Oriole, Green Turaco, Purple Glossy Starling, Lizard Buzzard, immature Dark Chanting Goshawk, Violet Turaco, Broad-billed Roller, Black Crake, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Fork-tailed Drongo. Finally, Lamin found a Woodland Kingfisher before we went to the lodge. Lamin found the African Scops Owl but we could not locate the Grey-headed Bushshrike.
We then went to Peyem  and picked up Wahlberg's Eagle, Blue-bellied Roller, Violet Turaco, Lanner Falcon, and a lifer for me White Helmetshrike.

Friday  29th.  January

Last trip of our package was to Tujering, Lamin quickly found Striped Kingfisher, Viellot's Barbet, Wryneck, White-fronted Black Chat, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grey Kestrel, Pygmy Sunbird, Yellow-fronted Canary, Red-winged Warbler, Whistling Cisticola, Cardinal Woodpecker, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, White-shouldered Tit, Senegal Batis, Pallid Swift, Bush Petronia plus numerous Swifts and Hirundines. We waited by the vehicle as Lamin walked the fields looking for Black-headed Lapwing, it didn't take long before he found two birds which were very wary and kept their distance.
We had a brief stop at Kartong at the hottest part of the day so we didn't walk the site. Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron, and a lone Yellow-billed Oxpecker were added to the trip list.

A total of 205 species was seen during these seven trips, more species could have been added, but we were concentrating on trying to get some of the more "difficult" birds. Lamin K Njie took care of all the arrangements for vehicles and guiding and found us some good birds, sometimes through sheer persistence and determination!  Lamin knows all the sites, the birds, and their calls. I would recommend him to any visiting birder, whether experienced or not.

06/02/2015

My first visit to Africa, a solo trip to The Gambia. Guide for the week was Lamin k Njie and his driver Lamin.

Had been told to expect Hooded Vulture to be the first bird I saw as we landed at Banjul Airport, and so it was.  Also seen whilst waiting for the bus were Yellow-billed Kite, House Sparrow, Pied Crow and Blue-bellied Roller.

Had arranged to meet Lamin where I was staying - Bokotu Hotel at 18:00 hours.  Due to flight delays got there with three minutes to spare. A quick turnaround and out for a walk around Kotu. Plenty of new birds for me including Blue-breasted, Pygmy and Pied Kingfishers, Hammerkop, flock of Bronze Mannikins, African Jacanas, Long-tailed Glossy Starlings, Broad-billed Roller, Western Reef Egret, Tawny-flanked Prinia and Western Grey Plantain-eater.

07/02/2015

Kotu area

A walk around the rice fields and plenty more lifers, Oriole Warbler, White-crowned Robin Chat, Giant and Blue-breasted Kingfishers, Beautiful Sunbird, Olivaceous Warbler, Lizard Buzzard, Northern Crombec, Green Wood-hoopoe, Shikra, Yellow-billed Shrike, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Variable Sunbird being just some of them. I think my two favourite birds of the day, however, were Goliath Heron and the bizarre looking Bearded Barbet.

A stroll round the golf course produced Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Northern Puffback, Fine-spotted Woodpecker and Northern Black Flycatcher.  Also went underneath some trees where a horde of small black flies made a feast of my legs.

08/02/2015

Abuko Forest

Nesting Palm-nut Vultures, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, Yellow-breasted Apalis, African Grey Hornbill, Pied Hornbill, Little Greenbul, Lanner Falcon, Violet and Green Turaco, Red-bellied and Paradise Flycatchers were all seen. Our target bird was Western Bluebill and despite waiting for some time at a drinking hole favoured by them it was a no-show. Walking back to the car I glimpsed movement in the low brush. Yes, there it was, a Western Bluebill.

Lamin Rice fields

Managed a few hirundines here.  Pallid, African Palm and Mottled Spinetail Swifts.  Also Splendid Sunbird, Green-backed Heron and Pied Flycatcher.  A successful day.

09/02/2015

Faraba Banta Bush track

Two of my hoped for birds were seen quite quickly.  African Green and Bruce’s Green Pigeon together.  A flock of seven Brown-necked Parrots were also very nice.  Also seen were Senegal Eremomela, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Yellow White-eye, Sulphur-breated Bush-shrike, Booted Eagle, Red-winged Warbler, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Long-crested Eagle and Black-faced Quailfinch

Banto Forest

White-throated Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallows and Pink-backed Pelicans.

Farasutu

Some nice birds here: Wahlberg’s Eagle, Stone Partridge, Lesser Honeyguide, Ahanta Francolin, Greater, Lesser and Spotted Honeyguide, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike were all seen. The local guide was needed to see Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Greyish Eagle Owl and White-backed Night Heron

10/02/2015

Marakissa

Very nice place with drinking pools attracting plenty of birds including lots of Purple Glossy Starlings.  Yellow-throated Leaflove, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling, Abyssinian Roller, White-breasted Cuckooshrike all seen.  Nearby was an African Scops Owl. The highlight for me, however, was finding a Western Bluebill which Lamin had not heard of from here before.

Nearby Darsilami wetlands had plenty of Purple Glossy Starlings including Greater Blue-eared.  African Fish-Eagle and a party of seven White Helmetshrikes were also here.

11/02/2015

Tujureng

Woodland Kingfisher, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Black-crowned Tchagra some of those seen.

Quick look round Kartong, which was drying up. Managed Reed Warbler and Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark.  Sayang Paradise beach bar for lunch. A lovely picturesque place. Then back to Tujureng as Lamin felt we had not seen some key species. This time we picked up Senegal Batis, White-fronted Black Chat, Whistling Cisticola, Black-headed Heron, Black-headed Lapwing and Brown-backed Woodpecker.

12/02/2015

Brufut Wood

Northern White-faced Owl, Copper Sunbird, Yellow Penduline Tit and Violet-backed Sunbird. Again assistance from the local guide was very helpful.
Afternoon at Tanji 

The fish market is an experience not to be missed if you get the chance.  Royal, Caspian and Lesser-crested Terns are to be seen here.  Slender-billed Gulls are easily seen and there are a few Kelp Gulls too.  Lamin, though, was most excited by a Black-headed Gull I picked up.  Being from the UK I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for this one.  Whilst Lamin was looking at this I stumbled upon an Audouin’s Gull, much better for me.

A great weeks birding with an expert guide in Lamin, helpful and very knowledgeable.  Next time I may try upriver and perhaps stop at the lovely Tanji Ecolodges we visited for lunch on the last day.  A quiet haven with no hassling, surrounded by great birding and close to the beach too.

 

We stayed at Farakunku Lodges owned and run by Heather and Moses.  A little slice of heaven.  Peaceful, excellent hosts and lovely food.
Our first bird watching expedition was to Tanji, where we met up with our Guide, Lamin Nije.  Our bird list for here was impressive and Lamin was excellent, even finding us a Yellow Crowned Gonalek which we had wanted to see.  43 species in a couple of hours.

A few days later we met up again with Lamin at Kotu Creek where we saw 62 species, including Painted Snipe and Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird.

Our final outing was to Brufut Woods, where a party of bird watchers led by Chris Packham was.  This found us 47 species, with Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, White Faced Scops Owl, Klaas’s Cuckoo and Long Tailed Nightjar being the stand out birds of the day.

We would highly recommend Lamin Nije as a first class guide.  He has excellent knowledge of the areas visited and knew where to find those hard to spot birds.
This was our first trip to The Gambia and I doubt it will be our last.

Our trip to Tendaba from 8th to 10th December, 2014, 2 nights 3 days, the guide of the week Lamin K Njie.  

On the journey to Tendaba we stopped off at various places en route, birds seen included Brown Necked Parrot, Levaillant’s cuckoo, Red Winged Warbler, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard and white Backed Vulture.

Whilst at Tendaba we went on two river boat trips into the Bao Bolong Reserve with our guide Lamin, the highlights of this trip were:- Woolly Necked Stork, Goliath Heron, White throated Bee Eater, Montagu’s  Harrier, White Backed Night Heron, Mouse Brown Sunbird and African Fish Eagle. The rest of the time was spent in Kiang West National Park where Lamin was trying to find an Abyssinian Ground Hornbill for us to see, he went back to the same area three times but to no avail, but he certainly showed his dedication to his work.

Birds of note in Kiang West:- African Hobby, Bush Petronia, Brown Rumped Bunting, Bateleur, Short Toed Eagle, Chestnut Backed Sparrow Lark, Cut-throat Finch, Chestnut Crowned Sparrow Weaver and Spotted Thick Knee,

The return journey to Farakunku produced African Hawk Eagle, another Bateleur, Hoopoe, Lanner Falcon and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl.

We therefore recommend Lamin to any one wishing to go on a birding trip in the Gambia, He has good character, respected, punctual hard working guide.

We saw 119 species in all, Raptors 22, including owls.

Stephen and Heather Chippendale

Steve & Sally Keightley.
Ian & Sue Misselbrook.
Robin Bainbridge.

5/3/14   Kololi Lodge
6/3/14   Jinack Island
7/3/14 to 14/3/14    Footsteps Eco Lodge
14/3/14 to 22/3/14  Farakunku Lodge


Arrived at Banjul.  Met by guide from Jinack explaining that we could not make the crossing to Jinack Island owing to strong winds.  We therefore were taken birding around the Kotu area, and accommodation had been arranged at Kololi Lodge.

Kotu Rice fields, Kotu sewerage pools, Kotu stream and bridge.
Some of the birds seen included, Purple Swamphen, Malachite Kingfisher, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Red-chested Swallow, Buffalo Weaver, House Sparrow, Yellow-billed Kite.  We had an evening meal on the Sene-Gambia strip, and witnessed a little of the tourist scene.

6/3/14.  After breakfast we left the lodge and headed by road into Banjul, where we had a lengthy delay at a beach cafe, waiting for the boat.  Whilst waiting we saw many Grey-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Slender-billed Gulls.  Also a few Arctic and Pomarine Skuas, Royal and Caspian Terns.

The crossing to Jinack Island was still quite choppy and took about an hour, more of the above birds seen en route.  On arrival we were shown to our cabins, situated on the beach amongst the palm trees.  A quick look around, and we saw Village Indigobird, Grey-headed Sparrow, Black-billed Wood Dove, Vinaceous  Dove, Black-rumped Waxbill and Senegal Parrot.  

7/3/14.  We had arranged an early breakfast, then a brisk walk with our guide Bamba, to take a boat trip through the mangroves at first light.
Here we saw 6 Goliath Herons, 3 Woolly-necked Storks, 4 Striated Herons, Purple Heron, Night Heron, 20 Osprey, Lizard Buzzard, Darter, Long-tailed Cormorant, Sacred Ibis and Green Wood-hoopoe.  On the walk back to the lodges we also saw a White-fronted Black Chat.

We left Jinack at lunchtime by boat, back to Banjul.  We then headed to Footsteps Lodge at Gunjar.  We had stayed at Footsteps on previous trips and by now, know the area reasonably well.  Splendid Sunbird, Violet-chested Sunbird, and Pied Hornbill were highlights of birds seen.

8/3/14   We were up at first light.  Yellow-crowned Gonolek, 2 Snowy-crowned Robin Chats, African Thrush, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Stone Partridge.  All seen in the gardens around the lodges and bird hide observation tower.
Another walk after breakfast added African Black Flycatcher, Black-headed Heron, Wire-tailed Swallow.  A Pin-tailed Whydah came to the pool for a brief drink, and a male Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher showed well near the pool.

9/3/14  We were picked up by our bird  guide Lamin Njie at 07.40, then headed off to Marakissa.  Highlights were: Wahlberg's Eagle, Yellow-white eye, Gabar Goshawk, Black Crake.

We then had lunch at Marakissa Lodge, and were able to watch a few forest birds coming to the drinking water bowls.  Twenty Purple Glossy Starlings, Piapics, Yellow-throated Leaflove, White-crowned Robinchat, 20 Senegal Thick-knees, Wattled Lapwing, Woodland Kingfisher, Giant & Pygmy Kingfishers.  There were 2 roosting African Scops Owls at nearby Kingfisher Lodge, also a juvenile African Fish Eagle and Broad-billed Roller.
On the way back to Footsteps, we called in at Siffoe Pool where we saw Long-crested Eagle, Shikra, Red-billed Firefinch and Pied-winged Swallow.

10/3/14  By taxi to meet Colin Cross at Kartong.
Pygmy Kingfisher, White-faced Whistling Duck, Painted Snipe, Black- shouldered Kite, African Crake, Marsh Sandpiper.

On walking through the dunes we flushed a small quail sp on 3 occasions.  I managed to get some blurred flight shots which later confirmed ID as Little Button Quail.  On the beach there were numerous Grey-headed Gulls, Caspian and Royal Terns, also good numbers of Slender-billed gulls, and a few Audouin's Gulls, one 2nd year bird was colour ringed.
During the afternoon Colin took us on a boat trip from Stala to the Senegal border.  Highlights being White-fronted Plovers, Marsh Sandpipers, Gull-billed Terns, Lesser crested Tern, and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters.

11/3/14   Around Footsteps area 20 Pied Crows mobbing a Verreaux's Eagle Owl which flew  across the grounds and landed in a tree right next to us in the tower hide.  I took some photos, but they were into direct sunlight.  Also Red-winged Warbler, Northern Crombec, Little Swift, Black-crowned Tchagra and Northern Black Flycatcher.


12/3/14  First light at the tower hide. Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Lavender Waxbill,Tawny-flanked Prinia and Olivaceous Warbler.  At 10.00 am we walked to the wetland area along the beach in the dune system.  The pools still contained water and good numbers of birds.
Beaudouin's Snake Eagle photographed, also White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Sacred Ibis, Grey Kestrel, Lizard Buzzard, Blue-bellied Roller, Mosque Swallow, Buffalo Weaver, Whistling and Zitting Cisticola.

13/3/14  A dawn start at the tower hide. Great Spotted Cuckcoo, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Wahlberg's Eagle juv, Green-backed Eremomola, Grey Woodpecker.

14/3/14  Highlights around Footsteps Lodge in the morning: Grey-headed Bristlebill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Brown Babbler, Northern Black Flycatcher, Hoopoe, Black-crowned Tchagra.

We then left Footsteps and travelled to our next lodge, Farakunku at Tujering.
Piapic, Cattle Egret, Blue-bellied Roller, Green Wood-hoopoe, Lizard Buzzard, Osprey, Harrier Hawk.  Whilst sat chatting around the pool with a drink, we noticed a female Cardinal Woodpecker feeding in a nearby palm. Palm Swift, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Senegal Parrot, Black-billed Wood Dove, Village Weaver and Senegal Coucal.

15/3/14   Up at first light for a walk around the plantations.  Abyssinian Roller, Double-spurred Frankolin, Stone Partridge, Lizard Buzzard, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Blue-bellied Roller.

At 10.30 we went to the beach, and pools in the dunes.  Thirty African Spoonbills, 1 European Spoonbill, 3 Greenshank, 50 Jacanas, 4 Wood Sandpipers, 1 Common Sandpiper, 35 White-faced Whistling Ducks, 1 Yellowbilled Stork, 1 Squacco Heron, 10 Black-headed Herons, 12 Intermediate Egrets, 4 Great Egrets, 35 White Pelicans and 1 Pink-backed, 40 Caspian Terns, 34 Western Reef Herons, 8 Osprey, 300 Palm Swifts, 35 Little Swifts, 20 Long-tailed Cormorants and 1 Painted Snipe.
Back at the Lodge by 3 pm, 6 Little Bee-eaters in trees above the plunge pool.  Also Blackcap Babblers and Abyssinian Roller.

16/3/14  We had planned a day out birding with Maz, a guide that Ian & Sue had been with on their previous trips.
Pirang Shrimp Farm at 07.45.  From the mound at the site entrance:  Yellow-billed Stork, Black-shouldered Kite, Long-crested Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, and nearby Pearl-spotted Owlet, Striped Kingfisher, and Violet Turaco.
Faraba Banta. Bearded Barbet, and a nest site for Greyish Eagle Owl, 3 birds present.
Then on to Bontu Forest.  Verreaux's Eagle Owl, African Wood Owl and Northern White-faced Owl.   We also saw White Helmetshrike, Black-necked Weaver, Green-headed Sunbird, Black-rumped Waxbill, Greater Honeyguide and Pygmy Kingfisher.

17/3/14.
Abuko Nature Reserve, with Lamin.
Four crocodiles being very aggressive in main pool.  Also there, a pair of Hammerkops nest building and a Palm-nut Vulture sat on its nest.  Also Squacco Herons, Little Greenbul, Long-tailed Cormorant, Darter, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Olivaceous Warbler, Common Wattle-eye, (I stood on an ants nest!) and Western Bluebill.  We also found a pair of Oriole Warblers that gave prolonged views, although distant.

Lunch at Lamin Lodge.  The food here is very good.  Dish of the day was 3 huge prawns!
We then went to Lamin rice fields, where the highlights were 5 Painted Snipe, Striated Heron, Black Crake, and  number of Black Herons performing their umbrella fishing technique.

YellowbillYellow-rumped Tinkerbird18/3/14   Brufut Woods with Lamin.  We were also joined by a local guide to help us find a few species.

Green Turaco, Verreaux's Eagle Owl, 2 Long-tailed Nighjars (roosting in the leaf litter), a Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, 2 Copper Sunbirds, Rufous Cisticola, Northern-Black Flycatcher, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, Fanti Saw-wing, Little Swift, Violet Turaco, Black-necked Weaver, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Greater Honeyguide, Shikra, Lizard Buzzard.

19/3/14  Circular walk around Farakunku area before breakfast.

Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Brown and Blackcap Babblers, Blue-bellied Roller, Red-billed Hornbill, Double-spurred Frankolin, Stone Partridge, Green Wood-hoopoe, Black-billed Wood Dove, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, c 300 Northern Red Bishops, Long-tailed Glossy Starling, Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu, Red-billed Firefinch, Senegal Parrot, Northern Crombec.
Another walk around the area 1630 to 1800.  Black-shouldered Kite, African Hobby, Red-billed Quelea.

20/3/14  Tujering Woods with Maz.
European Rock Thrush, Osprey, c 20 White Pelican, Black-shouldered Kite, Pink-backed Pelican, Black-headed Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Harrier Hawk, Lizard Buzzard, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Shikra, Grey Kestrel, African Hobby, Spur-winged Plover, 2 Black-headed Plover, Wattled Plover, 2 Klaas's Cuckoo, 4 Striped Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Abyssinian Roller, Rufous-crowned Roller, Broad-billed Roller, Veillot’s Barbet, Fine-spotted and Cardinal Woodpecker, Wire-tailed and Pied-winged Swallow, Fanti Saw-wing, Yellow Wagtail (grey headed), Singing and Whistling Cisticola, Vitelline Masked Weaver.  We found a small flock of Yellow Penduline Tits, also a Senegal Batis, Brubru, White-fronted Black Chat, Northern Wheatear and Red-necked Falcon.

21/3/14   Our last full day of the trip saw us at Tanji bird reserve at 08.15.
Birds seen included, Rufous-crowned Roller, Veillot’s Barbet and a Lesser Honeyguide in same tree.  Osprey, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Caspian, Lesser-crested, and Royal Terns, Lesser Black-backed, Slender-billed and Grey-headed Gulls, Palm Swift, 25 White and 50 Pink backed Pelicans, Little Tern, Great Cormorant, Curlew, Whimbrel, Pied Kingfisher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Greenshank, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, 2 White-fronted Plover,  50 Turnstone, White Wagtail, 6 Crested Lark, Spur- winged Plover, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater.  

The total species list for the trip was 249.

View some of the birds from this trip

We stayed at Farakunku Lodges owned and run by Heather and Moses.  A little slice of heaven.  Peaceful, excellent hosts and lovely food.

Our first bird watching expedition was to Tanji, where we met up with our guide, Lamin Njie.  Our bird list for here was impressive and Lamin was excellent, even finding us a Yellow-crowned Gonalek which we had wanted to see.  Fortythree species in a couple of hours.

A few days later we met up again with Lamin at Kotu Creek where we saw 62 species, including Painted Snipe and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird.

Our final outing was to Brufut Woods, where there was also a party of bird watchers led by Chris Packham.  This found us 47 species, with Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, White-faced Scops Owl, Klaas’s Cuckoo and Long-tailed Nightjar being the stand out birds of the day.

We would highly recommend Lamin Nije as a first class guide.  He has excellent knowledge of the areas visited and knew where to find those hard to spot birds.

This was our first trip to The Gambia and I doubt it will be our last.