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GAMBIA - Dec - 2004

266 Bird Species recorded

Leaders   Nick Bray & Solomon Jallow 

Photo: Egyptian plovers

 Egyptian plovers

Day 1   Friday 3rd December

The small West African republic of The Gambia has been popular with birders for many years and our 9th tour to one of my favourite destinations was eagerly anticipated. One of the advantages of a holiday here is the availability of flights from regional airports around the UK, so this year our group arrived at Banjul Airport from Manchester and London Gatwick. Unfortunately both flights arrived a little later than expected and at more or less at the same time, along with a Bristol flight, which resulted in baggage chaos. However it was all eventually sorted out and everyone finally met in the gardens of the excellent Senegambia Hotel. Our list was already up and running with Hooded Vultures, Cattle Egrets, and some White-billed Buffalo Weavers seen on transit to the hotel. After everyone had settled into their rooms, we still had a little time to add a few more species to our life lists. The gardens were full of people due to an outdoor buffet in honour of the president, but still produced Grey Woodpecker, Grey-headed Sparrow, a female Northern Puffback, several Bearded Barbets, African Harrier-Hawk, as well as the ever present Red-eyed and Laughing Doves. So with a few goodies under our belts, we really enjoyed our buffet dinner tonight and the chance for the group to socialize over a few Julbrews!

Day 2   Saturday 4th December

After breakfast our guide and good friend Solomon met us, and we were driven to Kotu Ponds by our ever reliable driver Aladdin. There is no better feeling than your first morning in a new country, and we were not to be disappointed. On arrival we scanned the first pool, which held a flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks. Also present were Little Grebe, Squacco Heron, Long-tailed Cormorant, Black-winged Stilt, and good comparisons of identification features were made when a Wood and Green Sandpiper were seen side-by-side. There were birds appearing all the time and soon Western Grey Plantain-Eater, Red-billed Hornbill, Vinaceous Dove, and a fine pair of Shikras had all made it onto our lists. Other good raptors included a Yellow-billed Kite, Lizard Buzzard, and an African Harrier-Hawk. Overhead, SacredIbis and Hammerkop gave us a true feeling of what African birding is all about, meanwhile a Double-spurred Francolin gave excellent views to a few of the group as it crept surreptitiously through some nearby scrub. The next pond held more stilts, as well as Common Sandpiper, Common Redshank, and plenty more Wood Sandpipers. But it was the White-winged Tern that deserved its moment of glory as it flew around the pond, occasionally dipping down to take something from the water's surface. Also, SenegalCoucal and Grey-headed Gull both showed very well, before our first African Jacana was spotted. So with nothing else immediately visible, we walked through the scrub down towards Kotu Creek. Some time was spent near the creek scanning the surrounding area of bushes, revealing Rose-ringed Parakeet, BronzeMannikin, Laughing Dove, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu, White-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Red-billed Firefinch, and a few Yellow-billed Shrikes. A large acacia tree proved particularly attractive to some warblers, with Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, and a smart Western Olivaceous Warbler all being found. Meanwhile a large flock of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters made for particularly pleasant viewing as they flew overhead! Closer to the creek, we got superb views of Intermediate Egret, Senegal Thick-knee, and Wattled Plovers, whilst Tony picked up our first Little Bee-eaters. At the bridge we saw Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Broad-billed Roller, Malachite Kingfisher, with a confiding Grey-backed Cameroptera and Subalpine Warbler in some nearby bushes. A Western Reef Egret showed well, as did a Wire-tailed Swallow, whilst Pied Kingfisher, Zitting Cisticola, and several Blue-cheekedBee-eaters perched on some nearby telegraph wires. From here we headed up to Fajara Golf Course, where Beautiful and Copper Sunbirds were seen, whilst a row of bushes held several Tawny-flanked Prinias, and a rather uncooperative Northern Crombec. With Green Wood-Hoopoe, Greater Blue-eared and Bronze-tailed Glossy Starlings, and a Black-billed Wood Dove to keep us entertained, time passed all too quickly. A Yellow-crowned Gonolek was a crowd pleaser as always, whilst a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird was also well appreciated. With our stomachs telling us it was approaching lunch time, an excellent meal was consumed at the nearby Paradise Beach Club, where from our beach-front vantage point some distant Arctic and PomarineSkuas made it onto our ever increasing day list, as did some Little and Sandwich Terns.After a lengthy rest we drove through the large town of Serekunda to a new birding site called Mandinari, which is an open woodland consisting of grass and low bushes, punctuated with large acacia and other trees. In a word, it's ideal for scanning across large open areas and picking out birds perched on the tree tops, and we got off to a good start with Abyssinian Roller, Mottled Spinetail, and Black-shouldered Kite all seen before we had even left the bus. So expectations were high as we all left the bus and a quick initial search of the area produced Pied-winged Swallow and Red-billed Hornbill, whilst Palearctic migrants included Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail, Northern Wheatear, and several Woodchat Shrikes. Some interesting calls picked up by Solomon eventually led us to getting great views of Singing Cisticola and Red-winged Warbler, and whilst watching these a Levaillant'sCuckoo flew over. Following the dusty track was proving very productive, with Grey Kestrel, Purple Glossy Starling, Little Weaver, distant Blue-bellied Roller, and a fine Wahlberg's Eagle putting in an appearance, and other new birds included Western Marsh Harrier, Bush Petronia, Scarlet-chestedSunbird, and Yellow-fronted Canary. A small dead tree held a pair of tiny Brown-backed Woodpeckers, and whilst admiring these little gems a couple Vieillot's Barbets appeared in the same tree, just before two Namaqua Doves joined them! Next up, a very flighty Senegal Batis gave us the run around before we got fantastic views at the top of a huge tree. Then both Dark-chanting Goshawk and African Palm Swift appeared, before we had superb scope views of what was arguably bird of the day. A pair of Greyish Eagle Owls had taken to roosting in a roadside tree, and gave incredible views. What a bird to finish an already superb day on, with a creditable 114 species seen and was just the tip of the iceberg regarding what else we were going to see during the rest of the week

Day 3   Sunday 5th December

The justly famous Abuko Nature Reserve was our first port of call today, and shortly after dawn we quietly entered this dense forest full of anticipation. Our walk to the first hide was initially a little frustrating as we could hear birds calling but they all seemed to be high up in the canopy. However with a little patience things started to fall into place nicely, with a Yellow-breasted Apalis being quickly followed by a gorgeous Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat. Shortly after, African Thrush, Little Greenbul, Common Wattle-eye, and a small party of Black-necked Weavers were all seen well. On arrival at the hide overlooking the Crocodile Pool it didn't take us long to find Palm-nut Vulture, Black-headed and Striated Herons, as well as a shy Bushbuck. An African Pygmy Kingfisher was a good find here, being perched right out in the open on the far side of the pool, whilst Abdullah then led us behind the hide where he had located a superb Giant Kingfisher perched on a close branch giving excellent views. Whilst looking at this, both Blue-spotted Wood Dove and Red-billed Hornbill also showed well. Walking to next hide, a Violet Turaco proved quite difficult to see high up in the canopy and it took quite a while before everyone could see it. A Woodland Kingfisher was also found in the same spot, but this bird proved very obliging as it sat motionless about 20 feet above us. With further views of LittleGreenbul and Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat to keep us occupied, time was passing all too quickly. Back on the main path, this time both Green and VioletTuraco were playing hide-and-seek in the dense canopy above us, but we eventually got to grips with both of them. There was also a small flock of Red-billed Firefinches skulking amongst the leaf litter, with a couple rather nice Lavender Waxbills amongst them. A Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher also put in an appearance, before Solomon found a huge Verreaux's Eagle Owl roosting in a large tree. As we looked through the scope, it woke up and turned to look directly at us, revealing cute pink eyelids!  This was a good sighting as it had apparently been missing for the previous three weeks! The rest of the walk was rather quiet, so once we reached the coach, had a rest and a few cold drinks, a short drive took us to Lamin Lodge for lunch. Set on stilts beside a tributary of the Gambia River, the lodge gives a panoramic view over the surrounding area. A delicious buffet lunch was consumed avidly, during which we were lucky to have superb views of a pair of Mouse-brown Sunbirds right next to us in the mangroves, being joined for a while by a couple Common Wattle-eyes. Our first Rufous-crowned Roller was also seen from here, with several Green Vervet Monkeys taking an interest in our presence, with one in particular getting rather friendly with Dan's bottle of Coca-Cola! After everyone was rested we walked along the road a short distance, finding a couple Senegal Eremomelas in a large baobab tree. From here it was a short drive to Yundum Wood, where amongst the open woodland we had a great time with birds seemingly everywhere. On arrival, African Palm Swifts, Woodchat Shrike, Yellow-fronted Canary, a distant Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Striped Kingfisher, and our first Black-crowned Tchagra were all quickly located. Moving away from the path an unexpected African Cuckoo was seen perched in an acacia, whilst a Greater Honeyguide flew into a tree right next to us, whilst overhead a pair of superb Lanner Falcons circled, and a Wahlberg's Eagle flew over.

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

A closer Swallow-tailed Bee-eater was really appreciated by all, as was an African Grey Hornbill, before a Grey-headed Kingfisher flew in and perched up nicely for us, and was joined by an equally showy Black-crowned Tchagra. Also, Black-billed Buffalo Weavers and Yellow-billed Shrikes were common, whilst we saw singles of Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and Variable Sunbird. A tree held 3 Vieillot's Barbets all sat next to each other, whilst Bearded Barbets were more numerous, and a Red-necked Falcon perched in a tree next to us. Finally, a couple Village Indigobirds showed well, with a Northern Black Flycatcher close by. Phew! We had barely had time to draw breath, when on our walk back towards the coach, Rufous-crowned Roller, Black-shouldered Kite, Shikra, Fine-spotted and Grey Woodpeckers all appeared in quick succession, and Ted found us our first Black-headed Plovers. This was Gambian birding at its best and most exciting.

Day 4   Monday 6th December

We arrived at Brufut Wood shortly after another fine buffet breakfast, to be greeted by both Violet and Green Turaco. We followed the maze of paths, firstly seeing a scarce Cardinal Woodpecker, before a couple Pin-tailed Whydahs flew in next to us. At a photographic hide overlooking an unfortunately dry pond we saw a large flock of non-breeding Northern Red Bishops, with Jim the only person to see a fine breeding plumage male, but we all saw a couple Orange-cheeked Waxbills, and the ever present Bronze Manakin and Red-cheeked Cordonbleu perched nearby. Further on Yellow-fronted Canary, Black-crowned Tchagra, Bush Petronia, and Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher all put in an appearance before we finally saw our main target bird, the delightful Klaas's Cuckoo. Other species seen on our walk this morning included better views of Copper Sunbird, a displaying Whistling Cisticola, Fanti Saw-wing, Common Redstart, African Grey Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Vieillot's and BeardedBarbets, Splendid and Beautiful Sunbirds, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, and a flyover Black-shouldered Kite. Oh, and there was a Green Mamba on the side of the track, and although quite small it just reminded us that we were in Africa! Lunch was taken at the Paradise Lodge near Tanji, where a short walk produced a flock of Black-necked Weavers, White-crowned Robin Chat, Spur-winged Lapwing, Little Swift, and TawnyEagle. Our stay here culminated in a delightful pair of Pearl-spotted Owlets which we watched being mobbed by a male Northern Puffback. From here it was just a short drive to Tanji, where at a small fishing village we scanned the ocean seeing lots of Grey-headed Gulls, as well as Kelp and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Royal and Caspian Terns, Arctic Skua, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, and Bar-tailed Godwit. On arrival at Tanji Reserve we walked quietly down to a vantage point overlooking a lagoon where a large gathering of gulls and terns could be observed. There were all the same species present as previously mentioned, so we concentrated on sorting out the few Lesser Crested Terns present amongst the more numerous Royal and Caspian Terns. Also here were a couple Yellow-legged Gulls, with good numbers of Slender-billed Gulls present in the roost, as well as a single Common Tern. Some fishermen appeared over the brow of the sand dunes and proceeded to flush all the birds, fortunately for us everything then began to settle on the near side of the lagoon, directly below us. We had great views of everything and spent a good deal of time simply enjoying the fantastic close-ups of everything. But we were not done yet, and walked down to the next beach, where we saw Crested Lark, Pied Kingfisher, and a perched Osprey. Walking inland, the resident Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrike played its usual game of `hard to see', whilst Common Nightingale, Garden Warbler, Variable Sunbird, and several Yellow-crowned Gonoleks proved much more visible.

Yellow-crowned Gonoleks
Yellow-crowned Gonoleks

Day 5 Tuesday 7th December

We arrived at a forested area called Marakissa, which is an area close to our hearts as BIRDSEEKERS has donated some money to help fence off and protect the area.  We took a track through the wood, firstly hearing a distant Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, before getting close views of a couple African Pied Hornbills. Then a calling Yellow-throated Leaflove could be heard, but it didn't want to play ball, however some time later we finally caught up with it or another bird perched on top of a palm tree. Raptors were much in evidence, with Palm-nut Vulture, African Harrier-Hawk, Lizard Buzzard, and a flyover African Hobby. There was also another Pearl-spotted Owlet, as well as Tawny-flanked Prinia, and several Blue-bellied Rollers. Further down the trail at the bridge we could overlook a wet area which included rice fields, a small stream and some reeds. On some posts sticking up out of the dense vegetation there was a Hammerkop, on the next post was a Squacco Heron, and next to that sat an African Morning Dove. As we scoped these three birds, a Little Bittern flew out of the reeds and gave prolonged flight views, which is a very scarce bird and the first time it has been recorded on one of these trips. A Common Moorhen, another scarce bird and only the second time we have seen it here, and an African Jacana were also seen. Further scrutiny revealed at least four furtive Black Crakes scrubbing around the muddy edge of the reedbed, and we spent quite some time watching them, finally getting crippling views of one obliging bird just a few feet away from us. Whilst here, an Oriole Warbler began singing but couldn't be enticed any closer, whilst Jim spotted our first Blue-breasted Kingfisher perched deep inside an overgrown hedge, and there was also another flight view of the Little Bittern. As if this wasn't enough, a Spotted Honeyguide began calling from somewhere in the distance, so Soloman and I left the group in the shade of a baobab tree and eventually after a thorough search, tracked it down high up in a huge tree. Collecting the group, we quietly made our way through some head high grass and had pretty good scope views, although it proved very tricky to find through binoculars! To top off our morning, a Western Banded Snake Eagle could be seen perched in a dead tree in the distance. So from here a short drive took us to Marakissa Safari Lodge for lunch, where after plenty of cold drinks some of us had a short siesta on the sun loungers. Well that was the intention, except the resident Green Vervet Monkey seemed intent on keeping us awake by being rather over-friendly! On leaving here we passed a pair of superb Long-crested Eagles perched in palm tree, and as we watched them one took flight and gave superb views overhead, showing the distinctive bright white patches at the base of the primaries. From here we headed to Pirang Forest, which was very quiet, with only Common Wattle-eye, Red-bellied ParadiseFlycatcher, African Pied Hornbill, and a singing Grey-headed Bristlebill being noteworthy. Our next destination was Pirang Shrimp Farm, where access has generally been denied this season, but we were lucky and managed to be allowed entry. Walking out between the ponds, most of them appeared dry due to the rains finishing early this year, but several still held water and were teeming with birds. Overhead Red-chested and Mosque Swallows were seen, with Wire-tailed Swallows being most obliging, whilst a few AfricanQuailfinches gave poor views, and Crested Larks were common. But it was the pools that held our attention, with a flock of waders containing Little Stints, 2 Curlew Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-winged Stilt, and Ringed Plover all being new. A few Gull-billed Terns were also found, along with Caspian, Sandwich and Little Terns, whilst a flock of Grey-headed Gulls held a few rather smart Slender-billed Gulls. On the banks Pink-backed Pelicans perched, along with many Western Reef Egrets, whilst in the distance Yellow-billed Storks and Sacred Ibis soared against a beautiful evening sky. A beautiful Malachite Kingfisher was found by Tony, whilst a mixed flock of Pink-backed and some very `clean looking' White Pelicans also flew over, along with several Black and Yellow-billed Kites. In the distance we could see a lot of birds flying into a pond to roost, so we walked on further, and sure enough there was a channel and pond brim full with Little and Great Egrets, as well as two African Spoonbills, which Dennis spotted first. As Aladdin brought the bus along, one final scan revealed a flock of Ringed Plovers, which held a pair of KentishPlovers.

Day 6   Wednesday 8th December

An early start saw us arrive at the Banjul-Barra ferry amid scenes of chaos as huge trucks and assorted vehicles were queuing, and Soloman somehow arranged for us to jump the queue, and ours was the last vehicle to board the first ferry of the day. From the top deck we scanned the wide river, seeing Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed, and Grey-headed Gulls, Royal and Caspian Terns, and large numbers of Cattle Egrets leaving their roost and flying across the wide river mouth. There were also a couple dolphins that showed briefly, but we couldn't get an adequate view of them to confirm their identification. Once safely on the North Bank, there is tarmac road for quite a way and we set off on the long drive full of optimism, and were not to be disappointed.

Beaudouin's Snake-eagle
Beaudouin's Snake-eagle

Our first stop was for a large raptor perched in a tree some way from the road, so we all piled out of the coach and it turned out to be a Brown Snake Eagle, with another stop just a kilometre further along for a Beaudouin's Snake Eagle flying parallel to us, and maybe a few hundreds yards further a Ruppell's Griffon Vulture was sat in a nearby tree. Many further stops ensued, and we all got a lot of practice jumping in and out of the coach over the course of the day. As we approached a small village we screeched to a halt when several Northern Anteater-Chats were spotted, and as is so often the case there were other good birds to look at including Grasshopper Buzzard, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Village Indigobird, and a fine male Cut-throat found by David. An expected stop was made at an area of open, partially cultivated brush land to look for some coursers, but this was unsuccessful. However, there were several Tree Pipits (a new bird for us in The Gambia), and a Striped Kingfisher, with one bush in particular attracting a flock of non-breeding Northern RedBishops, plus a superb male Pygmy Sunbird, Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling, and a pair of Sudan Golden Sparrows. We probably spent far too long in this spot, but with a couple really stunning birds to watch, sometimes it is hard to tear yourself away. So we finally left this area and had only travelled for maybe 20 minutes when Dennis shouted out from the back seat that he had just seen an Exclamatory Paradise-Whydah. So once again we stopped, and what a cracking bird it was too!  Just before the tarmac road ended we saw a Eurasian Hoopoe, and passed a small marsh that held a couple African Spoonbills amongst a throng of all the usual egrets. So next up was a large wetland, but just before it some pools had Purple Heron, Mosque Swallow, African Jacana and White-faced Whistling-Ducks, whilst overhead a huge flock of Pink-backed and White Pelicans soared over. The wetland here is always good value, and we had a great time seeing a flock of Spur-winged Geese, the white-breasted form of Great Cormorant, Black Heron, Hamerkop, lots of Marsh Sandpipers, Collared Pratincole, some exquisite Kittlitz's Plovers, plus a large flock containing Dunlin, Little Stint, and Curlew Sandpiper. Meanwhile behind us, several Gull-billed and White-winged Terns flew around. We had a bit of fun when just the head of a male harrier could be seen poking over the top of a ridge at the back of the marsh, and we all tried to guess its identity, but all was revealed when it flew, with the dark bars on the upperwing and chestnut on the underwing proved it to be a Montagu'sHarrier. Dragging ourselves away, we had almost driven past the wetland when three pale looking passerines flew right past our coach and landed in the elephant grass behind us. Soloman looked at them and said he'd never seen them before, and when I saw them through binoculars I couldn't believe my eyes. They were not like anything in the field guide, and my initial thoughts were they looked like Desert Sparrows, a bird I have seen in Morocco - but that was ridiculous as they are mainly confined to North-west Africa and I thought there must be some other possibilities. A few frantic text messages to the BIRDSEEKERS office then followed, which eventually confirmed that nothing else matched the description. Later in the evening I met Clive Barlow who had a copy of The Birds of West Africa and it stated there was a small population in Mauritania and Chad - so this record is confirmed as the first for The Gambia and Senegal! If this record is taken into context with the very early start to the dry season, and several other `desert' type species being seen in the country recently, then possibly this record isn't as bizarre as it might seem. However at the time everything was still a little up in the air, but we carried on our way, passing through Farafenni, before stopping out in the bush for lunch, and even here we saw 2 Beaudouin'sSnakeEagles and a close Tawny Eagle. Once we were finished, it didn't take long to reach the Kaur wetlands, where 9 awesome Egyptian Plovers were seen. Extremely good views were had of these birds, as one was even perched on the road - and this must be one of the best birds anywhere on the planet. As we soaked up the cracking views, White-backed and Ruppell's Griffon Vultures flew over, and a male Pallid Harrier quartered the reedbed. Leaving here, a stop at a nearby waterhole was productive with several Exclamatory Paradise-Whydahs, a superb Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, an outrageously bright male Sudan Golden Sparrow, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Red-billed Quelea, and a few Namaqua Doves. Wow!  Just when we thought the day couldn't get any better, a quick stop in some old fields resulted in up to 4 Temminck's Coursers.  Excellent birds in there own right, but I think are overshadowed by what happened next. On a hunch, Soloman and I wandered around some bushes, and out flew a Savile'sBustard, followed by 2 Little Buttonquails. Unbelievable! What a day we were having! But by now it was quite late, so we `hot-footed' it to the ferry and were in luck as one had just arrived, and with just a short time available we managed to tick some Yellow-backed Weavers in the reedbed before setting off back across the Gambia River. On Reaching Tendaba Camp, we had some dinner and a few celebratory cold beers before driving to a nearby bush track. As we slowly went along the sandy track in the coach, all eyes were strained ahead in the hope of picking something out in the headlights. We hadn't gone far when a Long-tailed Nightjar was spotted sat at the side of the track, so slowly and quietly we all got out and were treated to the most amazing views. Further along, 2 Spotted Thick-knees were stood in the middle of the track, and although a little nervous they too gave superb views, although nothing compared to the bold Four-banded Sandgrouse that just sat a few feet away from us, totally unperturbed by our presence. It was hard to call it a day after so many wonderful sightings, but eventually our beds were calling us and we retired for the night.

Day 7   Thursday 9th December

This was the morning of our boat trip through the mangroves, and with eager anticipation we all met on the quay after breakfast, and were met by a lone Spur-winged Goose flying overhead, as well as several Gull-billed Terns. Once everyone was aboard safely we began crossing the Gambia River, and saw a party of Sacred Ibis flying over, and they were soon followed by a group of EuropeanSpoonbills. On entering the narrow mangrove-fringed creek we soon found ourselves in a new and exciting environment, with bird calls ringing out from the dense vegetation and we were soon looking at Malachite Kingfisher, African Darter, and Blue-breasted Kingfisher, the latter being very common here. Brief views of Mouse-brown Sunbird followed, with the lucky ones getting them perched for a few seconds. Then a beautiful African Blue Flycatcher appeared, and as we cut the engine and grounded the boat amongst the mangroves we had several more views of this little avian gem. Whilst here, a pair of small woodpeckers flew into the trees directly opposite us. At first slightly hidden behind the leaves, all we could see were densely barred underparts, but when one of them worked its way further up the branch it became apparent that they were Little Green Woodpeckers, the first substantiated sighting for The Gambia. There are one or two earlier claims including one by Serin, one of Solomon's guides, a reliable observer whose claim was dismissed as outrageous and practically impossible! So this sighting looks like being the first substantiated record and our second new bird for The Gambia in two days! With good close views of Woolly-necked Stork, Pink-backed Pelican, Squacco Heron, Wattled Lapwing, and Little Ringed Plover, our cruise through the mangroves was going well. At one point, one of our sharp-eyed boatmen had spotted an incredibly skulking and difficult to see White-backed Night Heron perched a few feet off the ground amongst the trees. We grounded the boat on the muddy bank and it took ages before we could get the scope positioned at just the right angle to get a view of its head. Another Pallid Harrier was then seen just before the first of several flocks of African Collared Doves (another new bird here for BIRDSEEKERS) moved through, and there was also a Grey-headedKingfisher, a perched flock of the sometimes difficult to catch up with White-throated Bee-eaters, some European Bee-eaters, Pygmy Sunbird,  and a pair of melanistic Marsh Harriers. Returning to Tendaba Camp we packed our luggage onto the coach and then drove a few minutes to Tendaba Airfield, where our principal target was an African Fish Eagle sitting on its huge nest. As we drove away a small flock of White-crested Helmet Shrikes flew across the track in front of us and promptly disappeared, and whilst searching for them, a Pearl-spotted Owlet appeared above us in a large baobab tree and was mobbed by several Senegal Eremomelas. Then a few minutes later another flock of White-crested Helmet Shrikes was seen nearby and this time everyone managed good views. Our next stop was at Brumen Bridge where we had our picnic lunch at a small bar next to the river. Just as we arrived, a Red-chestedSwallow was found amongst a group of Little Swifts, whilst an Osprey flew over. When we had finished eating a few of us stood in the shade of a baobab tree and scanned the river, which was dotted with dead trees, and on the far side we could just make out a series of small pools. A flock of Comb Ducks wheeled around and promptly disappeared, and overhead amongst the Hooded Vultures, both Ruppell's and Eurasian Griffon Vultures were found, along with a pair of Lanners. Searching the surrounding trees revealed Melodious Warbler, Double-spurred Francolin, and Fork-tailed Drongo, but by now it was very hot so we retired to the bar for some cold drinks. When it was time to leave and we started to board the bus, the Comb Ducks appeared again, and whilst looking at them a Yellow-billed Stork was seen, as well as a flock of Greater Flamingos giving a fly past. So by now it was now mid-afternoon and we still had a long journey back to the coast, and the deteriorating tarmac road had even more potholes than on my last visit and the going was slow. Senegal Parrots were the only noteworthy sighting on the drive, along with Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned Rollers. On arrival back at the hotel, we had some time to relax before meeting up for the evening meal where we relived a few of the highlights from our little `inland adventure' and some of the group sampled the local Gambian nightlife!

Day 8   Friday 10th December

With a couple of hours spare this morning we paid another visit to Yundum Wood. As we were driving along the track we finally caught up with an African Golden Oriole that flew in front of the bus and managed to scope it in a distant acacia tree. Following the same path as on our previous visit, we saw our first Yellow White-eye, as well as Western Violet-backed and Copper Sunbirds, Singing Cisticola, Lanner Falcon, African Cuckoo, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, NorthernCrombec, and a couple Wahlberg's Eagles. On arrival back at the Senegambia hotel we said our goodbyes to Soloman, Abdullah and Aladdin - and once again Soloman had been exceptional in finding us so many wonderful birds. With our flights departing Banjul Airport to Manchester and London Gatwick on time we were all soon heading back to a decidedly chilly welcome home!

On behalf of Soloman and myself, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in this wonderful group for making it such a pleasure to lead.



birdseekers photos