26th Nov-3rd Dec 2019 – The Gambia, Part 1

Not a tour, but a prelude to one. Next year, we are running a tour to The Gambia, so we took advantage of a quiet week to head down there for a look around. It was great – the variety of birds, with a mix of African species and Palearctic migrants, easy-going,  good logistics and with no time difference to worry about. The country is a nice introduction to Africa for anyone who hasn’t been before, as well as offering a variety of species for anyone who has been to other parts of the continent previously.

We only had a week but we packed in several days along the ‘Smiling Coast’ (which is where next year’s tour will be based), as well as two nights travelling ‘upriver’ to pick up a few specialities which are not usually seen on the coast. We managed to see 273 species in a week (with the help of several of the local guides), which was pretty impressive, including some sought after birds. The photographic opportunities were very good too – we returned with so many photos, we have had to break this blog post into four parts!

Day 1 – 26th November

By the time we got to the Senegambia resort, which is where we would be staying while we were on the coast, it was already late afternoon and we didn’t have much time to explore but we did have an hour or so in the grounds which allowed us to familiarise ourselves with some of the commoner species.

Speckled Pigeon

Speckled Pigeon – common, coming to drink from the sprinklers at the hotel

Piapiac

Piapiac – a long-tailed member of the crow family

Brown Babbler

Brown Babbler – one of two species of babbler, found in noisy groups

Day 2 – 27th November

The Kotu Creek bridge is a famous birdwatching location in The Gambia and not far from many of the main tourist hotels. We spent the day in the Kotu area, walking the ‘cycle track’ down to Kotu Creek and the bridge in the morning and then back to the bridge and round to the golf course in the afternoon.

Yellow-billed Kite

Yellow-billed Kite – one of the commonest raptors in The Gambia, seen everywhere

Hooded Vulture 2

Hooded Vulture – the other ubiquitous raptor in The Gambia

Hooded Vulture 1

Hooded Vulture – the birds come to daily vulture feeds in the tourist areas

Shikra

Shikra – the commonest of the hawks

Pied Kingfisher 1

Pied Kingfisher – the commonest of the kingfishers, very good views at the bridge

Pied Kingfisher 2

Pied Kingfisher – hovering over the creek right by the bridge

Giant Kingfisher

Giant Kingfisher – the ‘daddy’ of the kingfishers and easy to see at the bridge

Black Heron 1

Black Heron – the blackest of the egrets

Black Heron 2

Black Heron – in distinctive fishing mode, its wings spread overhead like an umbrella

Black Heron 3

Black Heron – the fishing method seemed to be very successful

Beautiful Sunbird

Beautiful Sunbird – the commonest of the sunbirds

Variable Sunbird

Variable Sunbird – holding territory, singing and displaying, at a flowering tree

Long-tailed Glossy Starling

Long-tailed Glossy Starling – common, and the most distinctive Glossy Starling with it’s long tail

Red-billed Firefinch

Red-billed Firefinch – the commonest of the small, colourful Estrildid finches

Western Olivaceous Warbler

Western Olivaceous Warbler – the commonest of the European migrant warblers

Senegal Coucal

Senegal Coucal – we saw several during our stay

Yellow-billed Shrike

Yellow-billed Shrike – regularly encountered in cultivations and open savannah woodland

Fine-spotted Woodpecker

Fine-spotted Woodpecker – we found several in the cultivated areas beyond the creek

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater – a distinctive species which showed very well around the golf course

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Pearl-spotted Owlet – one of two we saw today, this one up on the golf course late afternoon

It was really enjoyable first couple of days with a fantastic variety of species seen, with more to come…

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