TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

The Gambia and Senegal

26th November to 10th December, 2004


Leaders:
Tim Earl
Local leader: Dembo Sonko

Driver: Baba Nyassi


Daily diary


Friday 26th November
Hotel Senegambia


The flight to Banjul was uneventful except that clear conditions gave stunning views of snow-topped Atlas Mountains and the seemingly endless Sahara Desert.
Our arrival in Africa was, as ever, chaotic, colourful, hot and vibrant. Dembo met us full of excitement and enthusiasm. We had seen Cattle Egrets, a Hooded Vulture and several Pied Crows before reaching the car park.
Yellow-billed Shrikes were on the roadside wires along with Laughing Doves, Red-billed Hornbills, a flock of Piapiacs and Village Weavers. Huge nests of White-billed Buffalo-weavers were seen in the trees along the route to the Senegambia Hotel.
No organised birding was done as rooms had to be sorted out before meeting for a pre-dinner drink but Colin, Roger and Kim got cracking and started a great list including Grey Plantain-eater, Grey Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Gonolek and Broad-billed Roller.
Tim had a shock when two friends of his from Guernsey greeted him with a ‘cooee’ from the balcony of their room. It is a small world (and getting smaller as we were to discover).
Our dinner guests were several Gambian Epauletted Fruit-bats which were feeding on flower nectar above our heads.

Saturday 27th November
Bijilo Forest and the Kotu area


Birding in the Gambia is a little like walking through a sweet shop with permission to sample anything one fancies. Even at Bijilo, chosen because it is a good place to see the more common birds of the coast, we were kept busy for the morning until midday heat slowed things down.
Fun started before we even left the hotel when a shopkeeper presented Tim with a Barn Owl which had somehow entered his premises during the night. Holding it carefully, the bird was introduced to our group before being released. Happily, it was unharmed and flew off strongly.
The forest is a delightful cool reserve running parallel to the nearby beach. It is popular with tourists who bring peanuts and bananas for the monkeys but we got there early before the animals (or the monkeys) were awake.
Charming Red-billed Firefinches and a Red-cheeked Cordonbleu feeding in a ditch started the list before we even disembarked the bus. African Thrush followed soon afterwards.
Walking the well kept path we were soon ticking off Common Bulbul, several dove species and more Grey Woodpeckers. A short look into the sky revealed White-rumped Swift, Pallid Swift, and a little later Mottled Spinetail.
An Oriole Warbler sang for us before three were spotted in deep foliage. The local Harrier-hawk was seen several times during the morning as it furtled its long feet in fissures looking for lizards. A flock of White-throated Bee-eaters was a good, if brief, call but their cousins Little Bee-eaters put on a spectacular show all morning. A Swallow-tailed Bee-eater was also seen.
Adrian was on great form and besides finding a number of birds also put us on to a Gambian Sun Squirrel, while Margaret found the first Senegal Coucal and Daphne earned points with the first of many Bronze Mannikins.
Brown and Black-capped Babblers were seen as was a wintering Blackcap. Roger had excellent views of Grey Kestrel and later in the morning a Lanner was found circling with the ubiquitous Hooded Vultures. Several Yellow-billed Kites were seen but it was not until the afternoon that we were able to study a perched bird.
After climbing the only hill in The Gambia we walked back to the bus and drove the short distance to the Kotu Beach where we enjoyed a beer or two, lunch and a snooze. Daphne went for a paddle in the sea – we really should have taken bathing costumes – and was rewarded with a flock of about 25 Pink-backed Pelicans passing overhead.
A roost formed as the tide dropped and we had fun sorting out Sandwich and Common Terns, Sanderlings and a Lesser Crested Tern. An Arctic Skua was spotted as it passed.
Our bus was fated, Baba managed to get it stuck in sand over lunch but it was towed out before we left the restaurant… only to find the road blocked by a huge crane which was unloading heavy equipment for a building site.
Tim called for an Osprey and after getting out to watch it we decided to walk the old Casino Cycle Track to the Kotu sewage ponds rather than wait. It was a great decision – the track had been paved using the £5 entrance taxes tourists are charged at the airport and provided a delightful walk.
A Pearl-spotted Owlet was calling and we managed to find it with wonderful views as a reward, Great, Intermediate, Western-reef and Squacco Herons were seen in the rice fields while great views of Long-tailed Glossy Starlings and Northern Crombecs were also had.
White-faced Whistling Ducks were waiting at the Kotu ponds to greet us which the Spur-winged Plovers also did rather more noisily. The ponds are not foul-smelling and we enjoyed watching Giant Kingfisher, African Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Little Grebe and Rose-ringed Parakeets which reminded some of us of home.
A search along the banks revealed Greenshank, Common, Wood and Green Sandpipers, while at least four Pied Kingfishers were vying with each other for the right to fish the best spots.
We returned to the hotel tired and a little later than planned due to the extra walk but all agreed that it had been a wonderful day.

Sunday 28 November
Abuko, Lamin and the Yundum fields

A Spotted (Greyish) Eagle-owl and its youngster vied with Brown-backed Woodpecker for the ‘Bird Of The Day’ title. The owl won by a pair of ear-tufts.
Our first big Abuko excitement came as we reached the hide when one then several Red Colobus Monkeys were spotted in high trees. A female decided to move off and after crossing a couple of high palms leapt, arms outstretched into the air dropping 30ft before landing in a tangle of lianas which broke her fall. Her mate followed a few minutes later making the same heart-stopping leap.
We were fortunate to find a feeding flock, every birder’s dream in gallery forest, in which more than 30 birds of 10 species were seen.
Highlights were Western Bluebill, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Common Wattle-eye, Spectacled Weaver, Collared Sunbird and Pygmy Kingfisher. It was difficult birding with things popping up in front of us and disappearing quickly. We gave up trying to use ‘scopes.
Little Greenbul had proved difficult early in the day but thanks to Dembo’s persistence we all had good views.
It was easy to linger by the hide which overlooks the pond at Abuko, A constant stream of birds popped up giving us the feeling of being in a David Attenborough documentary. It was a beautiful setting too with pristine jungle, dripping with lianas and a tranquil pool with floating pond lettuce and water-lily blooms.
The trees around had lots of Black-headed Herons while a Grey Heron was patiently fishing in the pond where it was later joined by a Striated Heron. Grey Plantain-eaters were gleaning something on the bank and several Violet Turacos were seen in the trees.
A pair of Black Crakes walked up the bank but the second was spooked by something and dashed back into cover. Soon after a Palm-nut Vulture flew over Kim found a Black-crowned Night-heron roosting, while two passing Hammerkops distracted some from seeing three Yellow-throated Leafloves which Dembo found perched at the top of a palm, briefly.
Kingfishers were well represented with Blue-breasted, Woodland and Grey-headed seen and a Giant Kingfisher heard.
One of the star birds was a Black Egret, an unusual species in Abuko, which Pat found perched next to a Hammerkop. It was a stunning bird in full breeding plumage and almost luminous yellow feet.
We visited another hide to admire a family of Jacanas picking in the vegetation and then set off through the main forest. A couple of smaller feeding flocks contained Senegal Batis and Common Wattle-eye with a Bleating Warbler (Grey-backed Camaroptera) and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher for good measure.
A seemingly bare dead tree held a stunning Klaas’s Cuckoo which was admired in the scope but a Greater Honeyguide was less obliging, some people seeing only its tail. A Long-tailed Beautiful Sunbird which perched in the same tree gave equally fleeting views.
A couple of juvenile Snowy-crowned Scrub-robins and a pair of Fanti Saw-wing Swallows completed the morning’s exciting list.
A happy lunchtime was had in the airy Lamin Lodge where we were raided by hungry Green Vervet Monkeys as European Bee-eaters, Yellow-billed Kites, two Whimbrel and a Sandwich tern were flying over the creek. Several Olivaceous Warblers were seen in the mangrove trees.
We started a fish list with Mudskippers but could not identify the tiddlers with bright blue eyes.
A small tree in fields near the airport had been used as a roost by a Spotted Eagle-owl for some time and by good fortune the bird was in occupation for our visit. It was difficult to see between the leaves but we all had adequate views. Tim decided to get a better angle and set up his ‘scope a little closer for the group to gaze upon… a second bird roosting below the first. This was a juvenile and gave wonderful views. It was a most exciting event as this is an extremely rare bird in The Gambia.
Our last stop was at the Yundum fields where again good fortune shone on us in the form of a Brown-backed Woodpecker which posed while we all watched it through ‘scopes. A Black-crowned Tchagra was less obliging but Pied-winged Swallows and a wintering Whinchat compensated us.
A close runner for ‘bird of the day’ was a stunning Dark-chanting Goshawk which posed for us, even showing its barred pantaloons which did nothing to cover bright red legs. It provided a great ending to a wonderful day.

Monday 29th November
Marakissa Forest and Marakissa River


Another super day with the added bonus that we were getting used to the heat and found the going easier. Bird of the day was probably hard to pin down but Lizard Buzzard, Tawny Eagle and Pomarine Skua all found favour with some. Indeed, the two birds of prey were among nine raptor species seen in the day.
Our drive to Marakissa was full of colour and life as we drove through Brikama, The Gambia’s second largest town, and Marakissa itself.
A stop on the outskirts of the latter gave us great views of Pied Hornbills – four were in a lofty Mahogany tree. A couple of Egyptian Mongooses ran across the roads in front of us.
The forest is an experiment in eco-tourism and our entrance fees went towards maintaining the habitat and ensuring that local people benefited from our visit.
It was great for us too with Marsh Harrier, African Golden Oriole and Levaillant’s Cuckoo being seen soon after getting off the bus.
We did the morning Gambian style… slowly, slowly, allowing the birds to come to us rather than cover miles on foot. A superb Lizard Buzzard gave us a great start soon to be followed by Northern Puff-back Shrike and White-crested Helmet-shrikes.
A search for sandgrouse was unsuccessful but we came across half a dozen Fork-tailed Drongos which confused us as we looked for a Northern Black Flycatcher that had popped up briefly and then disappeared.
A Stunning Tawny Eagle came over close to us – the same bird was seen later in the morning a few fields away – giving great views. The same could not be said for three flighty Senegal Parrots which remained hidden although we could hear them squawking.
A family of Wattled Plovers kicked up a row as we walked to close to ‘their’ dried-up rice field but could not be bothered to move off far.
A search along the river for kingfishers was unproductive although there was some mirth when the leader’s fondness for several puddings resulted in a bridge almost collapsing under his weight.
Not put off by the experience he led the group to Marakissa River Lodge where we ate a picnic while he had the picnic plus a bowl of boiled rice.
And as he snoozed off his lunch the group grappled with identifying African Anhinga, Senegal Thick-knees and another Lizard Buzzard.
We left the lodge a little early at 2.15pm – it was still very hot – and walked a short way along the river. It was productive with Malachite Kingfisher, several Squacco Herons, a Harrier-hawk, the Tawny Eagle and a male Marsh Harrier for our reward.
Local people started clapping in an unsuccessful attempt to drive a huge flock of Village Weavers and Bronze Mannikins from their rice crops. Flocks of Greater Blue-eared Glossy-starlings were flying over as we left for the hotel.
A quick trip to the beach by some added Pomarine Skua to the list – we had great views of it and a second bird which was an Arctic Skua – for comparison. They had no doubt been attracted by the hundreds of terns fishing, some in a huge flock.

Tuesday 30th November
Camalou Corner, Cape Creek, the Bund Road, Brufut Forest and Madiyana

It was almost cool when we got out of the bus at Camalou Corner, a grubby unpromising area of mud flat overlooking mangrove swamps. How deceptive appearances can be… we had a great morning.
Practically our first bird was an African Hobby which streaked through in impressive style. It was closely followed soon after by a Red-necked Falcon which perched for us to note its characteristics.
The mud flats had a variety of by-now familiar waders while above lots of Caspian Terns were passing. A couple of Gull-billed Terns repeatedly swooped down to pick insects from the sand.
A search for Subalpine Warbler was successful for some, and the first of several Abyssinian Rollers was watched at a distance – until one came over and perched a few yards away as if inviting us to admire it.
Walking out towards the sea we came across a mud-flat which held Grey and Ringed Plover, Redshank and a few Whimbrel.
Dembo saw some small finches a few fields away and a walk resulted in good views of Red-billed Quelea, Village Indigobird, Cut-throat, a few Red Bishops and our first House Sparrows.
We stopped at a restaurant for a comfort stop and drinks during which Tim pointed out a passing Slender-billed Gull.
Appetites for sea bird wetted we set off for the busy Bund Road where an amazing number of Pink-backed Pelicans were sitting on the remains of wrecked shipping. One Yellow-billed Stork and lots of terns roosting on the high tide were among them.
We went for a better view of the terns, walking between sacks of dried fish on a jetty to see them. The smell was terrible but the rewards made it worth while with Lesser Crested (Swift), Royal and Sandwich Terns, several Turnstones and White Wagtails and brief views of a Peregrine.
Our next stop was at a wader roost, an excellent site on the high tide. But what a cost we paid to get there tip-toeing down an ally along an open sewer… not nice.
Once again the bountiful Gambia rewarded us with our first Woolly-necked Stork, lots of Bar-tailed Godwits, a huge flock of what were probably Curlew Sandpipers (difficult to identify due to the distance and heat shimmer) a lone Little Stint and many Little Terns. Several Avocets were found along with a juvenile Greater Flamingo.
Compensation for the rather smelly end to our morning was had in the delightful surroundings of the Bacchus Bar where a delicious lunch had been prepared for us. And as some slept the keener members of the group watched the tide drop and waders pour into the lagoon in front of the bar.
Marsh Sandpiper, White-fronted Plover, Oystercatcher and Gull-billed Tern were enjoyed as the birds came to us.
It was with reluctance that we tore ourselves away to pack for tomorrow’s journey and allow our local friends to prepare the bus. For the first time on a Travelling Naturalist tour led by Tim a guest decided not to tear himself away… Kim stopped for a further hour before getting a taxi back to the hotel.
His tales were one of the highlights of the evening’s call-over. All agreed that it had been another super day.

Wednesday 1st December
To Senegal


And what a journey it was. Our departure was delayed by an urgent medical case, we missed the first ferry to the north bank of the River Gambia by just two vehicles, Dembo had his mobile phone stolen by a pick-pocket and crossing the border into Senegal was an unforgettable experience.
We ate breakfast and bought souvenir shirts and scarves while waiting for the 8am ferry. Once aboard we joined the milling, colourful, vibrant, throng to enjoy the crossing. For company we had a few Pomarine Skuas which looked menacing as they eyed up the local Grey-headed Gulls, Caspian and Lesser Crested Terns.
We set off for the Senegal border after a comfort stop and were pleased to find a small flock of Chestnut-bellied Starlings which, as often happens, led us to other birds. They were feeding in the road but flew up into trees each time a vehicle passed.
As we were patiently ‘scoping them Dembo called out for a pair of Pygmy Sunbirds which showed well, Colin found an African Green Pigeon and a Northern Anteater-chat,
Border crossings are always interesting as one has to go through the formalities of leaving one country and entering another. Add to that the markets which gather around the border posts, crowds of cashew-nut sellers, and the general confusion and there is a recipe for a fascinating hour or so. Which was about how long it all took.
After stopping at a would-be game park for a comfort stop (we had given spare food to their workers the year before and were given a warm welcome) and admiring the comfortable pot-hole free Senegal roads, we pulled up at a likely looking lily pond and started our new-country bird list.
Senegal has more large animals that The Gambia and vultures thrive as a result. We were soon treated to reasonable views of adult and immature White-backed and a lone Rüppell's Griffon plus a few Hooded Vultures.
A pair of African Hobbies came steaming around the trees and then whizzed back through again before disappearing, but a Lizard Buzzard was more obliging perching in a tree close by.
A Beaudouin's Snake-eagle, looking very similar to its cousin the Short-toed Eagle, drifted past while Variable Sunbirds fed in flowers along a stream. A short walk produced good views of Malachite and Woodland kingfishers and a Black-billed Wood-dove.
Lunch was eaten under a vast tree which gave us and the bus shade but did not prevent eager eyes picking up ma Brown Snake-eagle and an African Golden Oriole. Spare food was given to the local children and we set off for Keur Saloum River Camp, arriving just 10 minutes later.
A boat trip was arranged for later in the afternoon which was spent unpacking and swimming in the beautiful pool.
The pirogue took us on a delightful journey through mangroves and along the creek’s mud banks. We saw a succession of great birds, one of whom yelled ‘Hello Tim!’ from a passing canoe – she was one of his former students from Guernsey. The world seemed even smaller somehow. It was to get smaller still.
A Common Kestrel was the first new bird of the trip but we also enjoyed good views of roosting terns and waders, including our first Curlew. A diversion up a creek (happily we had a paddle) resulted in great views of Mouse-coloured Sunbird for most of us. We were blessed with a sympathetic captain who often cut the engine and allowed us to drift silently through this fascinating habitat. It was a super time.
A pair of resting raptors turned out to be Palm-nut Vulture and African Fish Eagle respectively, but the species of the afternoon was Goliath Heron. The first we saw was at some distance but the second, on a mud bank, stayed put as we chugged past giving extraordinary views.
We joined a group of tourist boats at a once-productive heron and egret roost but few birds settled on the mangrove island although we saw plenty fly past. Over-eager exploitation had finished a once fascinating roost site.
Several flocks of Western Reef-herons, Long-tailed Cormorants and Pink-backed Pelicans plus one or two Black Egrets came past and the number of Pied Kingfishers around the island built up to about 15 so we all left delighted.
Keur Saloum was voted a hit early in our stay.

Thursday 2nd December
Senegal

We went exploring Senegal today and were rewarded with great views of five African Swallow-tailed Kites, a great rarity seen only twice before by Dembo and never by Tim.
We drove up northwards towards Dakar, looking for marshlands discovered the year before and stopping whenever birds or likely spots were found.
Each stop seemed to produce its highlights with hundreds of Little Stints and other waders at a muddy creek inlet to start the process.
Rufous-crowned Roller was the reason for our second stop but as is often the case we enjoyed other species too – Pygmy Sunbird and African Harrier-hawk.
Ice was needed for the cool-box and while Tim and Dembo were organising that Bruce found four obliging Cut-throats and an active colony of Buffalo-weavers.
As we approached the wetlands we stopped to admire a small flock of Lesser Kestrels and were again tempted to linger by other goodies. Little Green Bee-eater was the first to captivate us followed swiftly by a pair of Little Weavers and four wintering European Turtle Doves.
As we admired a stunning male Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark (as someone said: it looked like a cross between a sparrow and a lark and had a chestnut back) Tim called, rather tentatively, for a Swallow-tailed Kite. Nobody got on to it.
We walked a few yards across a road to get a better view but it had gone. Other birds were found and we all watched a Crested Lark, several rollers and a Sudan Golden Sparrow.
As we were about to leave Dembo relocated the African Swallow-tailed Kite, a stunning bird which was swooping and hovering over the bush. It was possible to watch through scopes and we all eventually had great views. Another four were found soon after along with a Black-shouldered Kite for contrast and debate on the two species.
Unable to find the wetland, which was probably a temporary marsh due to last year’s heavy rains, we continued along the road until we reached salt-flats where a large roost of Pink-backed Pelicans had formed. To our delight, among them was a lone White Pelican.
It was getting hot and a constant stream of vultures was passing overhead. We turned our attention to them and saw Hooded, White-backed (both immature and adult) Rüppell's and a Eurasian Griffon.
A few Kittlitz’s Plovers were the last birds to be seen on the outward journey – Mosque Swallows and a magnificent pair of Abyssinian Ground Hornbills were seen on the way back for lunch.
We made a short excursion towards the fishing village of Missirah but were distracted by a productive creek and its surrounding fields where a Purple Heron, three Montagu’s Harriers, six Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, a Vieillot's Barbet and three Bruce’s Green Pigeons were all seen well.
Lads walking towards us at first made us feel uneasy – they had a huge machete – and then queasy as their method of carrying sickles was to place them on their heads. This looked for the world as if the blades had been cut into each individual’s head.
We returned for a final delightful night at the hotel, well satisfied with our stay, the comfort, food and birds of Senegal.

Friday 3rd December
Keur Saloum to Janjangburah (formerly Georgetown)


Travel days can be a pain, especially in Africa where the quality of roads can be poor, distances and temperatures high. So it was today until we hit the jackpot with one of the most beautiful waders in the world seen in numbers.
Egyptian Plover is difficult to get anywhere but its stronghold is in The Gambia… the Kaur marshes to be precise. Here we saw no fewer than 11 among a big flock of Senegal Thick-knees and hundreds of Collared Pratincoles. It was a terrific moment as we studied this beautiful bird through the ‘scopes at leisure.
Our first stop had been in a harvested ground-nut field where we searched for coursers without success. But Grasshopper Buzzard, Striped Kingfisher and Vieillot's Barbet were all admired.
Suddenly two birds drifted overhead… and came in to land. A stunning pair of Temminck’s Coursers dropped down behind us affording great views. They are brilliantly marked and we studied them at a distance until two more landed much closer. Perfect!
A few Red Patas Monkeys were seen as was a couple of Red-rumped Swallows over a pond. A marsh just before we got to Farafenni had singing Sedge Warblers, lots of Collared Pratincoles and about 50 Black-tailed Godwits. Two Whiskered Terns were feeding with Gull-billed and there was a flock of Slender-billed Gulls.
Lunch just beyond Farafenni was delicious, if a little late due to slow progress over terrible roads, made the better by a pair of African Hawk-eagles. The road from Farafenni to the Janjangburah ferry was fine and we arrived a few minutes before the 6pm crossing.
After settling in at our camp we enjoyed a fine meal accompanied by a local singer who wailed out a song about Dembo finding the Egyptian Plovers.

Saturday 4th December
Around Janjangburah

A quiet day was spent on the island which is home to Janjangburah but there were still some excellent birds seen with Long-crested Hawk-eagle topping the list.
It got off to a great start when a pair of Fine-spotted Woodpeckers flew in to trees above our heads just after breakfast. There were a few male Village Indigobirds for added interest.
The first part of our morning was spent searching rice fields for Painted Snipe without success although we did see Red-necked Falcon, African Hobby and several wader species as compensation. We had great views of Double-spurred Francolin with chicks which Colin found at some distance – so much better than the usual flight views of this species.
The end of the morning was spent near the Bird Safari Camp where a Grey-headed Kingfisher posed obligingly for us before we even got out of the bus.
A Broad-billed Roller was the next distraction perched high in a close tree before there was a scrabble to see a pair of Painted Snipe which Dembo had found in the edge of a marshy area. This was most unsatisfactory as only glimpses of the birds were seen and then just by a few people.
A Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird made up for the disappointment by sitting in a low tree singing for us – the third member of the super Barbet family we had seen.
Poor views of a sleeping Verreaux’s Eagle Owl in dense foliage of a Mahogany tree were obtained after Dembo found the bird with some skill. Shortly after a Marabou Stork appeared circling in a thermal with two young Tawny Eagles bringing the morning to a close.
We had a relaxed lunch and did the call-over for yesterday (poor light had stopped play the evening we arrived at Baobolong) before most of retired to study the inside of our eye-lids.
We walked out of the camp and through the outskirts of the town to bird nearby fields looking for sandgrouse, again unsuccessfully. But as ever in this fantastic birding country other things were found.
Foremost among them was a magnificent Long-crested Hawk-eagle which flew into a nearby tree and posed for us. A Garden Warbler was chasing an Olivaceous Warbler around in the company of a pair of African (Black-bellied) Paradise-flycatchers and we had great views of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers among grazing cattle.
The path we took ran along a narrow pond where at least 12 Jacanas were disturbed (perhaps we had herded them to one end) flying off like rusty Moorhens, legs dangling. The walk ended at a site where Pin-tailed Whydahs could be heard. They were finally picked up by Bruce and admired by all despite being in non-breeding plumage.
The town was full of life with football being played hard in bare feet (and with goal posts only a metre wide), women cooking supper in black cauldrons and young girls mashing maize under the supervision of their father as we returned, pleased with our day.

Sunday 5th December
Basse Santa Su and back


Plenty of birds today as we explored the farthest reaches of the River Gambia. Our main quarry – Red-throated and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters were seen brilliantly as were other local specialities.
The quarry at Banseng was visited as we drove up the much improved road to Basse and was immediately voted one of the country’s top sites.
A few Red-throated Bee-eaters were seen although the number of holes in their sand-bank colony hinted at more.
Exclamatory Paradise Whydahs, with tails thicker than their northern counterparts, were one of many species using a tree as a vantage point. Bush Petronias, Northern Red Bishops, Yellow-fronted Canaries and a variety of starlings were all present, although sorting them all out was difficult.
Beneath, among the sandstone boulders were Cinnamon-breasted Buntings and a House Bunting, the latter a new species for the area and, indeed, The Gambia. It looked unlike the more familiar northern race found in Morocco having a much plainer head.
Drama was added to the scene when a Dark Chanting-goshawk, swooped in clutching a White-crested Helmet-shrike it had just killed. Within seconds a Lizard Buzzard swept in as if to challenge the bird for its kill. Nothing happened but shortly after the Buzzard departed so too did the Chanting-goshawk still clutching its prey.
We returned to the road and made excellent time up to Basse where we arrived two hours ahead of last year’s trip. We had a swift comfort stop at Traditions Club and walked down onto a nearby jetty which we used as a spotting base for Egyptian Plovers – four were found feeding along the opposite bank.
A short drive took us to rice fields where we walked out to distant trees in search of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters with complete success. A total of five was seen, most in excellent light allowing good pictures and film to be taken of this uncommon species. The contrast between them and the Abyssinian Rollers which were also feeding over the fields was fascinating – surely two of the most dramatic and colourful species in Africa.
We returned to Basse for our picnic lunch surrounded by Little Swifts, Hooded Vultures and with the stunning Egyptian Plovers to watch on the far bank. As we were preparing to leave two of the birds flew across onto the jetty where we were able to approach within a few feet of them.
A stop at the quarry on the way back paid dividends with hundreds of bee-eaters in residence and scores of smaller birds dropping in to drink in the small pools. No new birds were added to the list, although Wood Sandpiper and a Fork-tailed Drongo were new for the day.
The finches were again difficult to sort out, particularly non-breeding Paradise-whydahs which are similar to Bush Petronias, but we sorted them in the end. It was the Red-throated Bee-eaters which stole the show as they clung to the cliff-sides inspecting their nesting holes. They are a stunning bird and we all looked forward to their next appearance on television – the site is often used by wildlife documentary makers.
A troop of Red Patas Monkeys wanted to drink from the pools but lacked the courage and so hung around the top of the quarry nervously. The male, a great and glorious leader if ever we saw one, was stunning with white hind legs and what appeared to be a coiffured moustache (missing only the waxed twists).
We returned to the ferry and back to the Baobolong for drinks and dinner.
Mention must be made of the African experience we had today and on many others while up-river. The ferries we used were bustling with people crossing the river and markets lined the sides of the roads when we arrived at the other side.
A couple of policemen begged a lift to their check-post just down the road (on being told we were allowed to carry only policemen, the second non-uniform man looked hurt and solemnly told us he was a detective).
We paid a visit to a brilliant street-market in Basse where anything needed in rural parts of The Gambia was on sale. Travellers’ cheques were cashed in a general store with some difficulty but a good exchange rate and later a donkey-cart was hired to return Daphne to the bus in great style. It was an exciting, bustling, vibrant, sometimes smelly, colourful, noisy, dusty, poignant, fascinating experience which added a great deal to our holiday.

Monday 6th December
Janjangburah to Tendaba


We could have taken the easy route along the north bank of The Gambia River but chose to take a slower, road strewn with pot-holes. It paid off with great encounters with nightjars, thick-knees and a couple of Eagle-owls.
Our first stop on the way to Tendaba was at Fula Banta where a colony of Marabou Storks seemed to have been replaced by Black-headed Herons. Or perhaps it was Dembo’s joke for when we stopped in Brikamaba there was a Baobab tree with 30 or more nesting pairs. It was a macabre sight to see these foul-faced scavengers looking after white fluffy chicks with great tenderness.
A few yards down the road we came to a stand of enormous Mahogany trees in which two Verreaux’s Eagle-owls were happily spending the daylight hours sleeping. They woke sufficiently to blink their pink eye-lids at us.
Jahally rice fields were, as always, brilliant, teeming with birds. Our first find was four Pygmy Geese feeding happily among brilliant white and yellow water lilies. While watching them Tim called for a melanistic Gabar Goshawk, flowed soon afterwards by two of its normally coloured cousins.
A walk to find Black Coucal proved fruitless but did give us views of Common Moorhens, lots of Purple and Squacco herons, Winding Cisticola and a superb singing flock of Black Crakes (well, calling anyway).
A Western Banded Snake-eagle gave great views perched in a nearby tree but a Subalpine Warbler was less cooperative.
Bruce called for a Common Snipe which was seen by just a few people before it dropped into a rice field, Collared Pratincoles flew overhead, a Malachite Kingfisher was noted while scores of Squacco Herons made up the supporting cast.
Our last stop on this section of the southern route to Banjul was a former gravel quarry where we tried to find birds roosting under the trees and shrubs. Daphne flushed a female Standard-winged Nightjar which flopped down in shade a few yards away and allowed us to study it through a ‘scope.
Three Spotted Thick-knees were found and again allowed us good views at some distance. Two Green-backed Camaropteras kept an eye on us from a nearby tree.
It was with reluctance we dragged ourselves away to spend the rest of the bone-shaking journey watching more common birds from the bus. This was not difficult as the poor road slowed us to a crawl – a great speed for bus-birding.
We were glad to arrive at Tendaba Camp for a few beers, a good meal and an early night. Amazingly, Tim stayed up chatting to a long-standing friend of his from Washington… it really is a small world, at least for birders.

Tuesday 7th December
Terrific Tendaba


The Tendaba pirogue trip is one of the highlights of our visit to The Gambia and today’s lived up to expectations. Learning from previous years we arranged for a 7.30 start, took lots of water and sun-block, and where possible soft seating for the boat’s benches.
We had hardly entered the mangrove creeks when an African Blue (Fairy-blue) Flycatcher was located. It was difficult to find among the mangroves with no good reference points but most of us had good views after a great deal of searching.
Mouse-brown Sunbirds were quite common but as we had seen them in Senegal we did not waste too much time trying to see them again. A couple of Mosque Swallows skipped over the creek before the boatmen pointed out a Goliath Heron standing in a dead tree clearly visible for all to see.
Turning into a narrow creek we had a number of unexpected raptors starting with a small flock of Lesser Kestrels. These moved off and when we saw them again a few minutes later they we keeping company with a Booted Eagle and an African Swallow-tailed Kite to our utter surprise. This was a Gambian tick for us and the sixth we had seen on the trip – quite remarkable.
A Black-shouldered Kite was seen soon afterwards – the two species must associate – along with a Beaudouin's Snake-eagle and two Montagu’s Harriers.
A nest-site for White-backed Night-heron was occupied by two well-grown young but it was eagle-eyed experience of Dembo and the boatmen which produced reasonable views of an adult soon afterwards.
Our last great bird of the morning was an African Finfoot which swam across the creek in front of the boat giving most of us excellent views.
We returned to Tendaba Camp at 11am for a coffee and chat before lunch. It had been a great morning – one of the best boat trips ever – all agreed.
The afternoon was more difficult from a birding perspective but enjoyable in super temperatures. We worked hard for our birds in Kiang West national park but were rewarded with Brubru, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver and Scarlet-chested Sunbird as additions to our list. The most numerous bird was Grasshopper Buzzard which was seen at least 10 times although this may have involved duplicates.
A White-fronted Black-chat was seen briefly but only heard by most (perhaps it sulked because you called the bird a Y-fronted Black Cat – Ed).
We decided that the park had so much potential that a visit on our way out in the morning was called for.

Wednesday 8 December
Back to the coast

A route with bird stops was chosen with some anxiety – the reputation of the south bank road was fearsome. But in the event it was not too bad and the birds made up for the potholes.
Our main stop was at Kiang West NP once again, looking for birds we had missed the day before. White-shouldered Black-tit and Yellow Penduline-tit (seen by Adrian and Jan) were the only new birds added.
Our final walk through the African bush with its unique sights and sounds was a delight, however. Remembering the adventures, surprises, birds and people ‘up-river’ will be a frequent occurrence for all of us and we really were dragged away with reluctance.
Lunch was due to be eaten at Kampant, a well-known raptor-watching site, but we made such good progress that the journey was continued despite an hour’s stop. It was quite productive with good views of Wahlberg’s Eagle which had been missed by some earlier in the trip, White-backed Vulture and two Tawny Eagles. A Grey Kestrel sat in a palm for the whole of our stay, dropping into the grass below just as we were leaving.
Local children were holding two dead Gambian Rats which are field-rats and considered a delicacy (plus a way of getting their eaten crops back).
There was great excitement when we stopped for our third pair of Abyssinian Ground Hornbills – this was much better than the previous year when heavy rain had produced long grass which blocked views from the vehicle – and a Brown Snake-eagle was also spotted from the bus. Three Egyptian Mongooses were seen running across the road in front of us.
Our visit to Penang for Crowned Cranes was entirely successful with two seen on the shrimp-farms. A bit of a ‘soft-shoe shuffle’ by one of them raised hopes of a full crane-dance but this did not happen. Six Yellow-billed Storks, 20 Slender-billed Gulls and a vast flock of Yellow-billed Kites were also noteworthy.
Red Patas and Green Vervet Monkeys were recorded at our last stop but the hoped-for Hadada did not materialise.
Pied Crows reminded us we were back at the coast – they had been missing for the last few days – and it was with relief we checked in to the Senegambia Hotel again.





Thursday 9th December
Kotu Ponds and Makasutu

Great views of two top Gambian birds seen badly on the trip were obtained today. We started at the Kotu sewage works where Dembo found a female Greater Painted Snipe (this is one of several wader species which have sex-reversal – the females are brightly coloured while the dull males incubate the eggs and raise their chicks).
Not wanting to linger we decided to return to Abuko nature reserve where we sat in or around the hide to watch the [bird] world go by. Green-crested and Violet turacos, Giant Kingfisher and Anhinga, Palm-nut Vulture and Fanti Saw-wing were all seen again.
A Sitatunga came out into the pool to graze in front of us and Red Colobus Monkeys were seen in the jungle.
Pat and Tim were filmed by trainee Gambian news reporters and a top BBC trainer. Our views on the reserve, The Gambia and its wildlife went down on film - which might be shown in the UK.
Dembo took us to his third ‘guaranteed roost-site’ for White-faced Scops-owl but again we were disappointed. However, Tim and Daphne (who was on the 2003 Gambia tour) went into a huddle when we arrived at Makasutu for lunch, pointed into an Acacia tree and… there was a superb owl roosting. Dembo was astonished, the group delighted and the White-faced Scops-owl bemused by the activity below.
We returned to the hotel after a late lunch to pack and prepare for the journey home tomorrow.

Friday 10th December
To Gatwick [via the Yundum fields]


Our last morning was spent walking the fields at Yundum where we were able to see many species already recorded but added five to the list.
Small warblers were the order of the day with Singing Cisticola added early on. Glimpses were had of Red-winged Prinia (Warbler) before we discovered a Brown-backed Woodpecker pecking at the dried stem of a couscous plant… an extraordinary sight.
Dembo’s ears were sharp, as usual, and he soon had us on the trail of a Whistling Cisticola, a big bird which sat up in the grass stems for us to admire.
A Stone Partridge trotted out onto the path in front of us after Dembo whistled its call and Roger found a Common Redstart which was a surprising omission from our list.
The trip ended with two circling Lanners and a perched Dark Chanting-goshawk.
We returned to the hotel for a shower, lunch and then went down to the airport where we said farewell to Dembo and Baba.
Our return to the UK was via a hot and crowded departure hall and the charter flight with its slightly ungenerous seating. However, these were of little consequence as most of us sat with glazed looks recalling the brilliant holiday which was ending.

Annotated list of species recorded


BIRDS


GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae
1 Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Max 16 on Kotu ponds, one at Jahally on the 6th.
PELICANS Pelecaniformes Pelecanidae
2 Great white pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus
One roosting with Pink-backs in Senegal on the 2nd.
3 Pink-backed pelican Pelecanus rufescens
Seen on 10 days, max 110 on the 3rd.
GANNETS & BOOBIES Pelecaniformes Sulidae
4 Northern gannet Morus bassanus
One seen from the hotel by RP on the last morning.
CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae
5 Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
One at Bachus beach on the 30th.
6 Long-tailed cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus
Seen in small numbers on 12 days.
ANHINGAS Pelecaniformes Anhingidae
7 Darter Anhinga melanogaster
Singles at Marakissa and Abuko, six up-river.
HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae
8 Grey heron Ardea cinerea
One or two daily - max 10 on the 3rd.
9 Black-headed heron Ardea melanocephala
A few daily, more common than A. cinerea.
10 Goliath heron Ardea goliath
Total of five seen on three days – all up-river.
11 Purple heron Ardea purpurea
Seen on six days with 25 at the Jahally rice fields on the 6th.
12 Great egret Ardea alba
A few daily.
13 Black heron Egretta ardesiaca
Seen on three days with one performing ‘umbrella stance’ at Abuko on the 9th.
14 Intermediate egret Egretta intermedia
A few daily.
15 Little egret Egretta garzetta
Seen on four days with a max of six on the 3rd.
16 Western reef egret Egretta gularis
Common on the coast and a few most days up-river.
17 Squacco heron Ardeola ralloides
Abundant in every suitable marsh and rice field this year.
18 Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis
Abundant.
19 Striated heron Butorides striatus
Just four single records.
20 Black-crowned night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Seen on seven days with a max of six daily on the 4th and 5th.
21 White-backed night-heron Gorsachius leuconotus
Two chicks seen in a nest-site and a lone adult on the Tendaba boat trip 7th.
HAMERKOP Ciconiiformes Scopidae
22 Hamerkop Scopus umbretta
A couple at Abuko, common up-river.
STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae
23 Yellow-billed stork Mycteria ibis
Singles on the 30th and 2nd, six at Penang shrimp farm on the 8th.
24 Woolly-necked stork Ciconia episcopus
One at the stinky wader roost in Banjul on the 30th, six on the Tendaba boat trip 7th.
25 Marabou stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus
Three on the 4th, colony of about 30 pairs on 6th.
FLAMINGOS Phoenicopteriformes Phoenicopterid
26 Greater flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
One immature at the stinky wader roost, Banjul, on the 30th.
SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae
27 White-faced whistling-duck Dendrocygna viduata
Seen on five days with a max of 25 on the 8th.
28 Spur-winged goose Plectropterus gambensis
Seen on three days with a max of eight at Tendaba on the 8th.
29 African pygmy-goose Nettapus auritus
Four seen in the Jahally rice fields on the 6th.
OSPREY Falconiformes Pandionidae
30 Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Seen on six days with a max of 5 on 2nd at Kaur Salaum.
HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae
31 Black-shouldered kite Elanus caeruleus
Five seen on four days, two in the company of Swallow-tailed kites.
32 African swallow-tailed kite Chelictinia riocourii
Seen on two occasions – five in Senegal on the 2nd, one from the boat trip at Tendaba on the 7th. This was a highlight species, rarely seen in The Gambia.
33 Yellow-billed kite Milvus parasiticus
Common to abundant daily.
34 African fish-eagle Haliaeetus vocifer
Three individuals seen – in Senegal on the 1st, Janjangbureh on the 4th and at Tendaba on the 7th.
35 Palm-nut vulture Gypohierax angolensis
This striking vulture was seen on five occasions with a max of four on the 2nd.
36 Hooded vulture Necrosyrtes monachus
Common to abundant daily.
37 White-backed vulture Gyps africanus
Common up-river, not recorded on the coast.
38 Rüppell's griffon Gyps rueppellii
One on the 1st, 10 on the 2nd – all in Senegal.
39 Eurasian griffon Gyps fulvus
Just a single bird at the saltpans in Senegal on the 2nd.
40 Beaudouin's snake-eagle Circaetus beaudouini
Seen on six days up-river and in Senegal.
41 Brown snake-eagle Circaetus cinereus
Singles on the 1st, 3rd and 8th.
42 Banded snake-eagle Circaetus cinerascens
One near Brikamaba on the 6th.
43 Western marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus
Seen on six days, max five at the Jahally rice fields on the 6th.
44 Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus
Nine seen over six days.
45 African harrier-hawk (Gymnogene) Polyboroides typus
Common – seen almost daily with a max of six on the 8th.
46 Lizard buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus
A total of 12 seen over six days.
47 Dark chanting-goshawk Melierax metabates
Fairly common with 12 seen over six days.
48 Gabar goshawk Micronisus gabar
Three, including a melanistic bird, at the Jahally rice fields on the 6th, single at Kiang West on the 8th.
49 Shikra Accipiter badius
Common, seen almost daily in good numbers.
50 Grasshopper buzzard Butastur rufipennis
This species was a firm favourite with its showy red wings – 17 seen over four days with 10 on the 7th.
51 Tawny eagle Aquila rapax
A single on the 29th, two on the 4th and three on our drive to the coast on the 8th.
52 Wahlberg's eagle Aquila wahlbergi
Poor views of our first two birds on the 6th were compensated for with a stunner on the 8th at the raptor-watching site.
53 African hawk-eagle Hieraaetus spilogaster
Two at the Kaur marshes on the 3rd.
54 Booted eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
One poorly-marked bird on the pirogue trip at Tendaba on the 3rd.
55 Long-crested eagle Lophaetus occipitalis
The single bird we saw at Janjangburah on the 4th was a great hit with the group.



FALCONS & CARACARAS Falconiformes Falconidae
56 Lesser kestrel Falco naumanni
A flock of nine in Senegal on the 2nd and six on the pirogue trip at Tendaba on the 7th.
57 Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Five recorded on three days up-river.
58 Grey kestrel Falco ardosiaceus
Common – seen most days. One of the first group birds seen on this trip.
59 Red-necked falcon Falco chicquera
Only three seen on two days – unusually low numbers for this bird.
60 African hobby Falco cuvierii
Conversely, we did well for this species with five birds seen on four days.
61 Lanner falcon Falco biarmicus
Seven birds seen in total – the first falcon recorded on the trip and a pair at Yundum fields on the 10th were the last birds identified.
62 Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus
Four birds seen on three days including two males which shot past as we watched the Spotted Eagle Owl on the 28th.
PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae
63 Double-spurred francolin Francolinus bicalcaratus
A few seen or heard most days.
64 Stone partridge Ptilopachus petrosus
A single bird seen at Yundum fields on the last morning was a welcome addition to the list.
CRANES Gruiformes Gruidae
65 Black crowned-crane Balearica pavonina
Two birds seen at the Pirang shrimp farm almost got into the mood for a soft-shoe shuffle.
RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae
66 Black crake Amaurornis flavirostris
Seen on the 28th and 29th but the flock calling and posing for us in the Jahally rice fields put on a star performance.
67 Common moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Two juveniles seen in the Jahally rice fields excited Dembo for their rarity value but did nothing for the group.
FINFOOTS Gruiformes Heliornithidae
68 African finfoot Podica senegalensis
Great views for most as this difficult-to-see species swam across the creek in front of us on the Tendaba pirogue trip on the 7th.
JACANAS Charadriiformes Jacanidae
69 African jacana Actophilornis africanus
Common on most wetlands, abundant at the Jahally rice fields.
PAINTED-SNIPES Charadriiformes Rostratulidae
70 Greater painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis
A pair seen badly by some at Janjangburah on the 4th and a stunning female at the Kotu ponds on the 9th.
OYSTERCATCHERS Charadriiformes Haematopodidae
71 Eurasian oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Four at Bachus beach on the 30th, 11 at Kaur Salaum on the 1st.
AVOCETS & STILTS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae
72 Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus
Common to abundant on wetlands.
73 Pied avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Three at the ‘stinky’ wader roost in Banjul on the 30th; about 50 at the Kaur wetlands on the 3rd.
THICK-KNEES Charadriiformes Burhinidae
74 Senegal thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis
A few most days, max 50 on the 3rd.
75 Spotted thick-knee Burhinus capensis
Three seen well after a search on the 6th.

PRATINCOLES & COURSERS Charadriiformes Glareolidae
76 Egyptian plover Pluvianus aegyptius
One of the major birds of the trip with about 11 at the Kaur wetlands on the 3rd and four at Basse, including two which flew to the jetty we were watching from on the 5th.
77 Temminck's courser Cursorius temminckii
Another brilliant species with six seen in flight and on the ground in a harvested peanut field on the 3rd.
78 Collared pratincole Glareola pratincole
A few in several up-river sites but hundreds at the Kaur wetlands on the 3rd.
LAPWINGS & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae
79 Spur-winged plover Vanellus spinosus
Common daily.
80 Black-headed lapwing Vanellus tectus
Eight at Janjangburah on the 3rd, a few daily for the next three days.
81 (Senegal) Wattled lapwing Vanellus senegallus
Seen on five days with double figure counts on three.
82 Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola
Seen daily in the coastal mangrove swamps.
83 Greater ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula
Seen daily in the coastal mangrove swamps, 15 on the Tendaba pirogue trip on the 7th.
84 Kittlitz's plover Charadrius pecuarius
About 10 at Kaur alaum on the 2nd, one on the 7th.
85 White-fronted plover Charadrius marginatus
Four at Bachus beach on the 30th.
SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae
86 Common snipe Gallinago gallinago
One bird at the Jahally rice field seen briefly in flight.
87 Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa
A flock of 40 at the Kaur wetlands on the 3rd, two on the 6th.
88 Bar-tailed godwit Limosa lapponica
Good numbers in the coastal mangrove swamps.
89 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
One of the most common waders, seen and heard most days.
90 Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata
One on the Kaur Salaum pirogue trip on the 1st.
91 Common redshank Tringa totanus
One or two seen on five days.
92 Marsh sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Two seen by one group member only.
93 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia
Common – a few most days.
94 Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Seen on six days with a max of 10 at the Kotu ponds.
95 Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common daily in wet places.
96 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Common daily in wet places.
97 Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres
A few seen on three days – max eight at Banjul fish jetty on the 30th.
98 Sanderling Calidris alba
Three at kotu beach on the 27th, one at Bachus beach on the 30th.
99 Little stint Calidris minuta
Hundreds on up-river wetlands such as the Kaur marshes.
100 Curlew sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
A large flock of waders at the ‘stinky’ roost in Banjul was probably this species; two at Kaur Salaum on the 3rd.
101 Dunlin Calidris alpina
Two in Senegal on the 2nd.

102 Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Two on the 30th, one on the 3rd.
SKUAS Charadriiformes Stercorariidae
103 Pomarine skua Stercorarius pomarinus
One from a seawatch at the hotel on the 29th four from the Banjul ferry on the 1st.
104 Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus
Singles off Kotu beach on the 27th and at the hotel on the 29th.
GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae
105 Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus
Four in Banjul on the 30th; 50 from the ferry on the 1st.
106 Grey-headed gull Larus cirrocephalus
A few daily on the coast, 10 at the Kaur wetlands on the 3rd.
107 Slender-billed gull Larus genei
Three on the 30th; flocks in wetlands on the 2nd, 3rd and at Pirang shrimp farm on the 8th.
TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae
108 Gull-billed tern Sterna nilotica
Common inland, seen on seven days.
109 Caspian tern Sterna caspia
Seen in good numbers on six days.
110 Lesser crested tern Sterna bengalensis
Seen on four days, max 6 on the 30th.
111 Sandwich tern Sterna sandvicensis
Common on the coast.
112 Royal tern Sterna maxima
Seen on three days at the coast. Max 10 on the 27th.
113 Common tern Sterna hirundo
Seen on four days only.
114 Little tern Sterna albifrons
About 20 at the ‘stinky’ wader roost in Banjul on 30th.
115 Whiskered tern Chlidonias hybridus
About 15 at the Kaur marshes on the 3rd.
SANDGROUSE Pterocliformes Pteroclidae
116 Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse Pterocles exustus
Small flocks seen near the pans in Senegal on the 2nd.
117 Four-banded sandgrouse Pterocles quadricinctus
A few in the drier areas around Tendaba on the 6th, 7th and 8th.
PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae
118 Rock dove (feral pigeon) Columba livia
A few in villages and towns.
119 Speckled pigeon Columba guinea
Common daily on the coastal strip.
120 Eurasian turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur
Seen on three days around Janjangburah. Max 4 on the 2nd.
121 African mourning dove Streptopelia decipiens
Common daily.
122 Red-eyed dove Streptopelia semitorquata
Common daily.
123 Vinaceous dove Streptopelia vinacea
Common daily.
124 Laughing (Palm) dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Common daily.
125 Black-billed wood-dove Turtur abyssinicus
Common daily.
126 Blue-spotted wood-dove Turtur afer
One on the 28th at Abuko, three on the 9th, also at Abuko.
127 Namaqua dove Oena capensis
Common most day often with counts in the teens.
128 Bruce's green-pigeon Treron waalia
Seen on five days up-river; max six on the 6th.
129 African green-pigeon Treron calva
Far less common with one on the 1st and a flock of 10 on the 2nd.
PARROTS Psittaciformes Psittacidae
130 Rose-ringed parakeet Psittacula krameri
Common daily.
131 Senegal parrot Poicephalus senegalus
Common daily up-river.
TURACOS Musophagiformes Musophagidae
132 Guinea (Green-crested) turaco Tauraco persa
Singles seen badly in Abuko on each visit.
133 Violet turaco Musophaga violacea
Seen on five days – always thrilling – max six on the 9th.
134 Western plantain-eater Crinifer piscator
Common to abundant daily.
CUCKOOS & COUCALS Cuculiformes Cuculidae
135 Levaillant's cuckoo Clamator levaillantii
One seen in Marakissa on the 29th.
136 Klaas' cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas
One seen in Abuko on the 28th.
137 Senegal coucal Centropus senegalensis
Common to abundant daily.
BARN-OWLS Strigiformes Tytonidae
138 Barn owl Tyto alba
One caught in a shop and handed to TE flew off strongly on 27th.
OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae
139 African scops-owl Otus senegalensis
Heard commonly, seen in trees in the Baobalong camp on the 4th.
140 Northern white-faced (scops-) owl Ptilopsis leucotis
One found finally on our last full day at Makasutu.
141 Greyish eagle-owl Bubo cinerascens
Adult and immature roosting in a tree at the Lamin fields on the 28th were a highlight.
142 Verreaux's eagle-owl Bubo lacteus
One seen badly at Janjangburah; an adult and a young bird seen stunningly well at Brikamaba on the 6th.
143 Pearl-spotted owlet Glaucidium perlatum
Heard commonly and found on a number of occasions. Common at the hotel.
NIGHTJARS Caprimulgiformes Caprimulgidae
144 Standard-winged nightjar Macrodipteryx longipennis
A brilliant female found when we were searching an area at Kudang on the 6th.
SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae
145 Mottled spinetail Telacanthura ussheri
Common, seen on four days but overlooked on others.
146 African palm-swift Cypsiurus parvus
Common to abundant daily.
147 Pallid swift Apus pallidus
Seen on only two days with 10 over Bijilo forest on the 27th.
148 Little swift Apus affinis
Seen on three days with max of 50 at Basse on the 5th.
149 White-rumped swift Apus caffer
Common to abundant daily.
KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae
150 Malachite kingfisher Alcedo cristata
Singles seen on four days – always a delight.
151 African pygmy-kingfisher Ispidina picta
One seen at Abuko on the 28th.
152 Grey-headed kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala
Singles on the 28th at Abuko and the 4th at Janjangburah.
153 Woodland kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis
Singles seen in Abuko and Marakissa, plus one in Senegal.
154 Blue-breasted kingfisher Halcyon malimbica
Singles in Abuko and Yundum with one in Senegal.

155 Striped kingfisher Halcyon chelicuti
Singles daily up-river at the Kaur marshes, Bansang and on the way to Tendaba.
156 Giant kingfisher Megaceryle maxima
Six birds seen over five days. Best views in Abuko on the 28th.
157 Pied kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Common to abundant daily.
BEE-EATERS Coraciiformes Meropidae
158 Red-throated bee-eater Merops bulocki
Fantastic views of this bird at the Bansang quarry on the 5th. This was a star-species.
159 Little bee-eater Merops pusillus
Common, seen almost daily.
160 Swallow-tailed bee-eater Merops hirundineus
Seen only twice – in Bijilo of the first morning and Bansang on the 5th – neither time affording good views.
161 White-throated bee-eater Merops albicollis
Two fly-over sightings – on the 27th and 8th.
162 Green bee-eater Merops orientalis
Seen in Senegal on the 2nd and on the journey to Janjangburah on the 3rd.
163 Blue-cheeked bee-eater Merops persicus
Fairly common with a max of 20 near Banjul on the 30th.
164 European bee-eater Merops apiaster
Also quite common we enjoyed seeing and hearing ‘our’ birds on six occasions with a max of 20 at Tendaba on the 7th.
165 Northern carmine bee-eater Merops nubicus
Another star bird, perhaps because we walked quite a way in the heat to see six in the Basse rice fields on the 5th.
ROLLERS Coraciiformes Coraciidae
166 Abyssinian roller Coracias abyssinica
Common daily up-river.
167 Rufous-crowned roller Coracias naevia
Seen twice in Senegal, three birds in all.
168 Blue-bellied roller Coracias cyanogaster
Common in the coastal strip with a max of 15 on the 28th.
169 Broad-billed roller Eurystomus glaucurus
Our hotel gardens were the main roost site for this species but a few were seen elsewhere too.
HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae
170 Eurasian hoopoe Upupa epops
Strangely uncommon with just one sighting from the bus on the 3rd.
WOODHOOPOES Coraciiformes Phoeniculidae
171 Green woodhoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus
Common daily.
172 Black scimitar-bill Rhinopomastus aterrimus
Three sightings with a max of four at Marakissa on the 29th.
HORNBILLS Coraciiformes Bucerotidae
173 Red-billed hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus
Common to abundant daily.
174 African pied hornbill Tockus fasciatus
Seen only three times with seven near Marakissa providing the best views.
175 African grey hornbill Tockus nasutus
Common daily
176 Abyssinian ground-hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus
Three sightings, each good views of a pair, on the 2nd, 3rd and 8th.
BARBETS Piciformes Capitonidae
177 Yellow-fronted tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus
One taught us the song / call at Janjangburah on the 4th which we recognised on three subsequent occasions.
178 Vieillot's barbet Lybius vieilloti
One at Mandinaba rice fields on the 8th.
179 Bearded barbet Lybius dubius
Regular stunning views of two pairs in the hotel gardens allowed us to see plenty more elsewhere.
HONEYGUIDES Piciformes Indicatoridae
180 Greater honeyguide Indicator indicator
Seen on four occasions with a most obliging bird in Marakissa on the 29th.
WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae
181 Fine-spotted woodpecker Campethera punctuligera
Two in the Baobalong camp trees at breakfast on the 4th.
182 Grey woodpecker Dendropicos goertae
Common to abundant daily.
183 Brown-backed woodpecker Dendropicos obsoletus
This uncommon bird was seen on three occasions.
LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae
184 Chestnut-backed sparrow-lark Eremopterix leucotis
A spectacular and popular bird with several seen on four occasions.
185 Crested lark Galerida cristata
Singles on two days with about four at Pirang on the 8th.
SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae
186 Sand martin Riparia riparia
Seen a few times in the up-river marshlands.
187 Barn swallow Hirundo rustica
Two at Bijilo on the 27th, one over the Kaur marshes on the 3rd.
188 Red-chested swallow Hirundo lucida
Common to abundant daily.
189 Wire-tailed swallow Hirundo smithii
Three in the Yundum fields on the 28th, one on the 3oth.
190 Pied-winged swallow Hirundo leucosoma
Seen on four days, the last at Yundum fields on the final morning.
191 Mosque swallow Hirundo senegalensis
Three in Senegal on the 2nd, another three at Tendaba on the 7th.
192 Red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica
Seen commonly near bridges high up-river.
193 House martin Delichon urbica
Two seen in Senegal on the 1st.
194 Fanti sawwing Psalidoprocne obscura
Birds usually seen at Abuko were shy giving only a few of us views.
WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae
195 White wagtail Motacilla alba
A few on four days.
196 Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava
Birds recorded on seven days were usually fly-overs.
197 Plain-backed pipit Anthus leucophrys
Singles seen in Banjul on the 30th and Janjangburah on the 4th.
BULBULS Passeriformes Pycnonotidae
198 Common bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus
Common to abundant daily.
199 Little greenbul Andropadus virens
Strangely, quite a character bird making the difficulty in finding them in Abuko worthwhile.
200 Yellow-throated greenbul (leaflove) Chlorocichla flavicollis
Three sat in an Abuko palm-top for a few seconds, giving good views to the lucky, and were then gone.
THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae
201 African thrush Turdus pelios
Common in the hotel gardens at at other coastal sites.
CISTICOLAS & ALLIES Passeriformes Cisticolidae
202 Singing cisticola Cisticola cantans
Heard on the 29th but seen well at Yundum on the 10th.
203 Whistling cisticola Cisticola lateralis
Seen well at Yundum on the 10th.

204 Winding cisticola Cisticola galactotes
Two heard at Janjangburah on the 4th, three seen at Jahally 6th.
205 Zitting cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Seen (with difficulty) and heard on several occasions.
206 Tawny-flanked prinia Prinia subflava
Common most days.
207 Red-winged prinia Prinia erythroptera
(Red-winged warbler) Seen at Yundum on the 10th.
208 Yellow-breasted apalis Apalis flavida
Seen at Yundum on the 28th (four) and Marakissa the next day.
209 Oriole warbler Hypergerus atriceps
One of the must-sees, these do not give themselves up easily. We saw three at Bijilo on 27th and singles on three other days.
210 Green-backed camaroptera Camaroptera brachyuran
(Bleating warbler) Fairly common with birds seen on four days – amx of six on the 8th.
OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae
211 Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Birds seen and heard at the Kaur marshes on the 3rd.
212 Olivaceous warbler Hippolais pallida
Seen on four days with three at Abuko on the 28th.
213 Melodious warbler Hippolais polyglotta
Two seen at Basse on the 5th.
214 Yellow-bellied eremomela Eremomela icteropygialis
Two at Kudang on the 6th.
215 Green-backed eremomela Eremomela pusilla
Two at Kiang West on the 8th
216 Northern crombec Sylvietta brachyuran
The ‘nuthatch’ warbler was a popular bird with sightings on four days, the first from the old Casino Cycle Track on the 27th.
217 Western Bonelli's warbler Phylloscopus bonelli
Two in mangrove scrub on the 30th, two more on the Tendaba pirogue trip on the 7th.
218 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Singles seen on four days.
219 Garden warbler Sylvia borin
Two seen at Janjangburah on the 4th.
220 Greater whitethroat Sylvia communis
One seen in Bijilo on the 27th.
221 Subalpine warbler Sylvia cantillans
Five birds seen on four days.
OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae
222 Northern black-flycatcher Melaenornis edolioides
Singles seen on the 29th and 30th.
223 Swamp flycatcher Muscicapa aquatica
Poor views of birds at Janjangburah on the 4th.
224 Snowy-crowned robin-chat Cossypha niveicapilla
Two at Abuko on the 28th.
225 White-crowned robin-chat Cossypha albicapilla
Common in the hotel and several elsewhere.
226 Common redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Male seen in the Yundum fields on the 10th.
227 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Singles seen at Yundum on the 28th and in Senegal on the 2nd.
228 Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Singles seen at Camalou Corner on the 30th and in Kiang West NP on the 7th.
229 Northern anteater-chat Myrmecocichla aethiops
Seen in northern Gambia and southern Senegal on four days.
230 White-fronted black-chat Myrmecocichla albifrons
One seen briefly in Kiang West NP on the 7th.
WATTLE-EYES Passeriformes Platysteiridae
231 Common wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea
Six seen in Abuko on the 28th and again on the 9th.
232 Senegal batis Batis senegalensis
Two seen in Abuko on the 28th and one on the 8th.
MONARCH FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Monarchidea
233 African blue-flycatcher Elminia longicauda
Two on the Tendaba pirogue trip on the 7th.
234 Red-bellied paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer
(Black-headed paradise-flycatcher) Two briefly at Bijilo forest, better views at Abuko on the 9th.
235 African paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis
Four on the afternoon walk at Janjangburah on the 4th.
BABBLERS Passeriformes Timaliidae
236 Blackcap babbler Turdoides reinwardtii
Four in Bijilo forest, six in Abuko on the 27th and 28th.
237 Brown babbler Turdoides plebejus
Common daily, especially in the hotel gardens.
TITMICE Passeriformes Paridae
238 White-winged black-tit Parus leucomelas
Two in Kiang NP on the 8th.
PENDULINE TITS Passeriformes Remizidae
239 Yellow penduline-tit Anthoscopus parvulus
One by two members of the group in Kiang NP on the 8th.
SUNBIRDS Passeriformes Nectariniidae
240 Mouse-brown sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus
(Brown sunbird) Two from the Senegal pirogue trip on the 1st, six in the Tendaba mangroves 7th.
241 Collared sunbird Hedydipna collaris
A male and two females in the Yundum fields on the 28th.
242 Pygmy sunbird Hedydipna platura
Two in The Gambia on the 1st, one in Senegal and two in Kiang West NP on the 8th.
243 Scarlet-chested sunbird Chalcomitra senegalensis
One immature at Tendaba, adult male on the 9th.
244 Beautiful sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus
Common, recorded most days.
245 Splendid sunbird Cinnyris coccinigaster
Common in Bijilo on the 27th, two on the 8th, single on the 9th.
246 Variable sunbird Cinnyris venustus
(Yellow-bellied sunbird) Four in Bijilo forest on the 27th, two in Abuko and one in Senegal.
ORIOLES Passeriformes Oriolidae
247 African golden oriole Oriolus auratus
A total of seven seen on four days.
SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae
248 Woodchat shrike Lanius senator
Seen on seven days.
249 Yellow-billed shrike Corvinella corvine
(Long-tailed shrike) Common, one of the first birds seen and daily thereafter.
BUSHSHRIKES & ALLIES Passeriformes Malaconotidae
250 Brubru Nilaus afer
Only one seen at Tendaba.
251 Northern puffback Dryoscopus gambensis
Singles in Bijilo on the 27th and Marakissa on the 29th.
252 Black-crowned tchagra Tchagra senegala
Seen on five days.
253 Common gonolek Laniarius barbarus
(Yellow-crowned gonolek) Common, seen and heard ‘dueting’ daily.
HELMETSHRIKES Passeriformes Prionopidae
254 White-crested helmetshrike Prionops plumatus
Seen in little flocks, always with much pleasure, on four days. One in the talons of a Dark Chanting Goshawk at Bansang quarry.
DRONGOS Passeriformes Dicruridae
255 Fork-tailed drongo Dicrurus adsimilis
Common, seen most days.


JAYS & CROWS Passeriformes Corvidae
256 Piapiac Ptilostomus afer
Common, seen in big parties most days.
257 Pied crow Corvus albus
Common on the coast, absent up-river.
STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae
258 Greater blue-eared glossy-starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus
Common, studied well in the hotel gardens.
259 Lesser blue-eared glossy-starling Lamprotornis chloropterus
Common, studied well in the hotel gardens.
260 Purple glossy-starling Lamprotornis purpureus
A total of 16 over five days.
261 Long-tailed glossy-starling Lamprotornis caudatus
Common to abundant – spectacular bird.
262 Chestnut-bellied starling Lamprotornis pulcher
Four on the way into Senegal on the 1st, six the following day.
263 Yellow-billed oxpecker Buphagus africanus
Common from the 2nd onwards.
OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae
264 House sparrow Passer domesticus
Uncommon – three flocks seen in the north and in Senegal only.
265 Grey-headed sparrow Passer griseus
Common, seen daily.
266 Sudan golden-sparrow Passer luteus
One seen in Senegal on the 2nd.
267 Bush petronia Petronia dentate
Forty at Bansang quarry on the 5th.
WEAVERS & ALLIES Passeriformes Ploceidae
268 White-billed buffalo-weaver Bubalornis albirostris
Common daily, their huge nests features of the Gambian landscape.
269 Chestnut-crowned sparrow-weaver Plocepasser superciliosus
Three at Tendaba on the 7th.
270 Little weaver Ploceus luteolus
Two in Senegal on the 2nd, one at Yundum on the 10th.
271 Spectacled weaver Ploceus ocularis
(Black-necked weaver) Seen at Abuko on the 28th (10), 10 on the 30th and six on the 9th.
272 Village weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Common to abundant daily.
273 Red-billed quelea Quelea quelea
The world’s most common bird was seen on only three days.
274 Orange bishop Euplectes franciscanus
(Northern red bishop) Thirty in Senegal on the 2nd, in mixed flocks on the 5th and 9th.
275 Red bishop Euplectes orix
Seen in reasonable numbers on four days
WAXBILLS & ALLIES Passeriformes Estrildidae
276 Western bluebill Spermophaga haematina
Two in a feeding flock, Abuko on the 28th.
277 Red-billed firefinch Lagonosticta senegala
Common, seen almost daily.
278 Red-cheeked cordonbleu Uraeginthus bengalus
Common, seen almost daily.
279 Lavender waxbill Estrilda caerulescens
Quite common, seen on five days.
280 Black-rumped waxbill Estrilda troglodytes
Fairly common, seen on four days.
281 African quailfinch Ortygospiza atricollis
Three characteristic ‘fly-over’ birds on the 30th.
282 Bronze mannikin Lonchura cucullata
Common, seen almost daily.
283 Cut-throat Amadina fasciata
Two on the north bank, 30th, and four in Senegal on the 2nd.

284 Village indigobird Vidua chalybeate
Quite common, seen on five days.
285 Pin-tailed whydah Vidua macroura
Four in Janjangburah on the 4th.
286 Long-tailed paradise-whydah Vidua interjecta
(Exclamatory paradise-whydah) About 20 in the quarry at Bansang on the 5th.
287 Northern paradise-whydah Vidua orientalis
(Sahel paradise-whydah) Five on the north bank 3rd.
FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae
288 Yellow-fronted canary Serinus mozambicus
Six seen at Bansang ion the 5th, six at Tendaba on the 7th and lots at Kiang West on the 8th.
TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae
289 House bunting Emberiza striolata
One of the western race at Bansang on the 5th.
290 Cinnamon-breasted bunting Emberiza tahapisi
Six at Bansang on the 5th.

MAMMALS


RABBITS & HARES Lagomorpha Leporidae

1 Cape hare Lepus capensis
Singles seen on the 6th and 7th.

SQUIRRELS Rodentia Scuridae
2 Striped ground squirrel Xerus erythropus
Seen on three days – in Abuko, the north bank and Janjangbura.
2 Gambian sun squirrel Heliosciurus gambianus
Common, seen on six days in most forests.

MICE, RATS, VOLES & GERBILS Rodentia Muridae
3 Gambian rat Cricetomys gambianus
One at the hotel on the 27th, two about to be eaten on the 8th.
4 Brown rat Rattus norvegicus
A couple of sightings.

MONGOOSES Carnivora Herpestidae
5 Egyptian mongoose Herpestes ichneumon
Two at Marakissa on the 29th, three on the 8th and two at Abuko on the 9th.
OLD WORLD FRUIT BATS Chiroptera Pteropodidae
6 Gambian epauletted fruit bat Epomophorus gambianus
Several at the hotel and up-river at Baobalong.
OLD WORLD MONKEYS Primates Cercopithecidae
7 Western red colobus Colobus badius
Several seen in Abuko.
8 Vervet (Savannah) monkey Cercopithecus aethiops
Common, seen on nine days.
9 Patas monkey Erythrocebus patas
Seen commonly up-river and in Senegal.
ANTELOPE Artiodactyla Bovidae
11 Sitatunga Tragelaphus spekii
One animal came in to the stream at Abuko as were being interviewed for Gambia TV.

AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES
1 African Toad Bufo regularis
A few at the Hotel Senegambia and Baobalong camp.

2 African Bullfrog sp Common in the hotel pools.
3 Yellow-headed Agama Agama agama
Common daily but few in their breeding attire.
4 Nile Monitor Lizard Varanus niloticus
Several around the hotel and many in the mangroves.
5 Bosc’s Monitor Lizard Varanus exanthematicus
Three on the Tendaba boat trip, one or two elsewhere.
8 Nile Crocodile Crocodylus niloticus
One in Abuko nature reserve on 28th.

Other Taxa
FISH
1 Mud Skipper sp Seen commonly on mangrove mud banks throughout the trip.

BUTTERFLIES
Some of the species seen included:

1 African Monarch Dananus chrysippus


Tim Earl, Guernsey, December 2004.


© The Travelling Naturalist 2004