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