Gambia trip report 5th - 22nd March 2014

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.

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