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.