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.