Gambia Trip Report 25th to 28th Jan 2018 by Alan and Caroline Quirk

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.