In Association with:
GAMBIA – Dec - 2005
284 Bird Species recorded
Leaders Nick Bray & Solomon Jallow
Day 1 Friday 2nd December
With flights from Manchester and Gatwick Airports departing this morning for Banjul Airport, it wasn’t until late afternoon that everyone eventually met up in the large gardens of the Senegambia Hotel. Finally after several hours travelling, it was great to do some proper birding, and you can’t go wrong here as the grounds of the hotel are a birder’s paradise. In the space of about an hour and walking no more than a couple hundred metres we clocked up some real goodies, with pride of place going to the Pearl-spotted Owlet that remained motionless in a tree above us, calling all the while. And then there were the gaudy Bearded Barbets, exotic-looking Red-billed Hornbills and Beautiful Sunbirds, glamorous Greater and surprisingly a solitary Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling, confiding Broad-billed Rollers and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds, and more sombre African Thrushes and non-breeding Village Weavers. A Palm-nut Vulture appeared overhead, as did a surprise find in the form of a pair of Mosque Swallows, plus the usual Hooded Vultures, and both Little and African Palm Swifts. Other birds seen this afternoon included Wattled Lapwing, Black Kite, Speckled Pigeon, Laughing, Vinaceous and Red-eyed Doves, Western Grey Plantain-eater, Senegal Coucal, Common Bulbul, Northern Black Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Shrike, Piapiac, and Grey-headed Sparrow. So not a bad haul and everyone was soon ready for the first of many delicious buffet dinners we were to experience this week, washed down with the local Julbrew beer.
Day 2 Saturday 3rd December
Our first full days birding was greeted with much expectation and excitement as we sat down to a buffet breakfast shortly after 7am. The famous Kotu sewage ponds were our first stop of the day, and immediately upon arrival we were confronted with lots of new birds. A perched male Shikra in a large Baobab tree got the ball rolling, followed by an Intermediate Egret, the first of many Spur-winged Lapwings, and 3 Bearded Barbets. It probably took us a couple of hours to slowly walk around this small area as new birds kept appearing all the time, and pretty soon we were watching Pied Kingfisher, African Palm and Little Swifts, and several Yellow-billed Kites in the clear blue sky above us. Walking along the far side of the pools, a scrubby area held Western Grey Plantain-eater, a gang of noisy Green Wood-hoopoes and a Brown Babbler, whilst a Double-spurred Francolin was seen calling from a post. More Bearded Barbets followed, whilst a pair of African Jacanas showed well at a small pool below us, before we reached the second pool that was filled with water (and birds). The edges were littered with birds, most of them being Wood Sandpipers, with smaller numbers of Green and Common Sandpipers, plus Black-winged Stilts, Common Greenshank, and loads of Spur-winged Lapwings. Several Little Grebes and our first Grey-headed Gull were present, and as we watched all the activity here a Tawny-flanked Prinia began calling behind us and eventually showed really well amongst the tall grasses. Just then a pair of Red-necked Falcons was spotted in a distant tree, so we walked a little closer to get better views, and along the way saw Rose-ringed Parakeet, African Mourning Dove, many Village Weavers, a close Abyssinian Roller and our first Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu.
After getting much better views of the falcons, we walked down towards Kotu Creek, where a Western Olivaceous Warbler eventually showed really well after it was first heard singing. Also at this one spot we found several Beautiful Sunbirds and a cracking pair of Levaillant’s Cuckoos which flew in and landed in a bare tree. Just a little further on, a Variable Sunbird was seen alongside a Splendid Sunbird, and in the same tree a Common Chiffchaff appeared, before we arrived at the creek. Here, several Little Bee-eaters gave us a fine display alongside the mangroves, and as we followed the stream downriver a Squacco Heron flew into a dried up rice paddy beside us, and there were also several Whimbrels, Wattled Lapwings and our first Senegal Thick-knees present. A Western Reef Egret was seen alongside the path, and a Blackcap appeared in the mangroves before we reached Kotu Bridge, where a Subalpine Warbler greeted our arrival. From the bridge we saw another Pied Kingfisher, and out on the exposed mud a Grey Plover fed, and was later joined by a Common Ringed Plover, whilst a couple of Long-tailed Cormorants were sunning themselves nearby. From here we walked towards Fajara Golf Course and ordered our lunch at a beachside restaurant, before heading out to check the ‘fairways’. A pair of Yellow-crowned Gonoleks showed pretty well on the golf course, as did a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird that stayed at the very top of a large tree for ages. However it was really hot by now, so we retreated to the restaurant, seeing House Sparrow (hooray!) and a Grey Woodpecker along the way.
After lunch we returned to the hotel for a couple of hours, with the intention of having a rest but the lure of more good birds proved too compelling for some of us. An excellent time followed here, starting with a pair of White-crowned Robin-chats chasing each other around some bushes right in front of us, followed in quick succession by a couple of Yellow-crowned Gonoleks seen at very close quarters, an unexpected Black-necked Weaver coming down to drink at a dripping tap, and a confiding Snowy-crowned Robin-chat perched in the shadows to finish off the proceedings. Once everyone was ready we drove down to Tanji and checked out the coastal lagoon, where just a few birds were present. Several Lesser Crested Terns were loafing at the edge of the lagoon, along with some huge Caspian Terns, and a few Slender-billed Gulls were also found amongst the commoner Grey-headed Gulls. We then decided to drive further along the coast to try and find some more gulls and terns, and as we walked back to the coach an Oriole Warbler began singing across the road. We never saw this, but instead a fine Western Banded Snake-eagle was spotted perched in a distant tree, and through the scope the views were pretty reasonable. So we left this bird alone and drove down to a nearby village where we could view the bay, and what a good move this turned out to be. Aladdin drove us down through a very narrow lane from where we could walk out onto the sandy beach and scan the area, where several Ruddy Turnstones, a Bar-tailed Godwit and a few Sanderlings were immediately visible, along with an Arctic Skua out to sea, but our attention was drawn to the large congregation of gulls on a sand bar. Several huge, dark backed Kelp Gulls stood out amongst the smaller Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls, with several Royal Terns also present. From here another short drive to a wooded area once again proved very worthwhile, with our first Lavender Waxbills seen amongst some Red-billed Firefinches perched on a wall, and there was also a Double-spurred Francolin flying away from us. A path through an area of head-high grassland produced a pair of Singing Cisticolas in a close bush, a Pearl-spotted Owlet above us in a huge tree, and another Levaillant’s Cuckoo. An African Green-pigeon was scoped once we had reached a broad sandy track, but all these soon paled into insignificance a few minutes later, as amazingly we found a pair of incredibly confiding Abyssinian Ground Hornbills walking across a field. They disappeared quite quickly, but all of a sudden both of them flew up into an Acacia tree where they stayed for a little while before flying closer towards us and landing in some bare trees. Here we watched them in awe, with the female holding a frog in her bill which we surmised was intended for a youngster somewhere close by. What views we had of these normally shy birds, and after watching them for quite a while we reluctantly had to leave and return to the coach. That evening after dinner we reflected on the days events over some much appreciated cold drinks. I personally cannot remember a better first day’s birding, not only for the quality of sightings and good views, but for the several hard to see and unexpected sightings we were all privileged to witness.
Day 3 Sunday 4th December
Our arrival at Pirang this morning was exceedingly well timed, as practically the first birds seen from the newly-constructed overlook were a pair of scarce Black Crowned Cranes perched in a distant Baobab tree. As is the norm here, birds were literally everywhere and from our vantage point we scoped a huge congregation of birds, all feeding avidly in a shallow pool. Immediately obvious were numerous Pink-backed Pelicans, whilst both African and Eurasian Spoonbills were also conspicuous, feeding in typical side-swiping fashion. Amongst them were Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets, along with Western Reef Herons, and we eventually picked out both Sacred Ibis and Black Heron as well. As we watched all this activity, a flock of White Pelicans flew in and settled amongst the Pink-backed Pelicans, not only dwarfing them in size but also looking extremely clean compared to their dirtier cousins! Closer at hand Wire-tailed Swallows were perched along the channel below us, and were joined briefly by a Malachite Kingfisher, whilst a Spur-winged Goose was spotted on a distant raised embankment. A flock of White-faced Whistling-ducks wheeled around the sky, and we also saw a flock of Pallid Swifts overhead, 3 Greater Flamingo’s flying over the pools, and a single Palm-nut Vulture. Walking along the embankment skirting the southern boundary produced Willow Warbler, Zitting Cisticola and a Plain-backed Pipit, whilst a small pool held Black-tailed Godwit, Garganey and 6 Northern Shovelers. We had closer views of all the pelicans, spoonbills and cranes before heading back along the same path, seeing Purple Glossy Starling and several Blue-bellied Rollers at the edge of the forest. At the entrance track a few Black-rumped Waxbills flew in whilst we were trying to locate a typically elusive African Quailfinch, and also at the same spot a few Gull-billed Terns were seen flying over the dried out pools. Along this track we could scan the partially drained ponds, seeing Hammerkop, Ruddy Turnstone, several Pied Avocets, Little Tern, a couple of Crested Larks, Sand Martin and our first Yellow Wagtail. A suprisingly short drive from here took us to our lunch spot at Marakissa, where in the huge tree overlooking the restaurant a Lizard Buzzard and an African Grey Hornbill were welcome diversions from our cold drinks. Whilst here we also disturbed a Barn Owl from its daytime roost, and during our siesta time following the meal we actually racked up a few good species. From the seating area overlooking a narrow river we saw Striated Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Senegal Thick-knee, Giant and Woodland Kingfishers, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, and White-crowned Robin-chat, whilst Chris was unfortunately the only one to see a Long-crested Eagle flying over. Meanwhile Ian and I flushed a pair of Ahanta Francolins from across the road, so once we were joined by a few other foolhardy souls we braved the midday sun and walked through the grassland in an unsuccessful search, but did see a very inquisitive Yellow-throated Leaflove and a pair of Northern Puffbacks for our efforts. Then once the temperature had dropped slightly we drove down to the bridge, where a few Black Crakes showed really well at the edge of the marsh, and a couple of Blackcap Babblers also put in an appearance. However the sighting of Malachite and African Pygmy Kingfisher side-by-side in the shade of a large tree overhanging the marsh was also very good! Walking into the forest initially produced just African Harrier-hawk, Dark Chanting Goshawk and a Fork-tailed Drongo, but things soon picked up and as so often happens when birding, once you see one good bird then others quickly follow and this was just the case when firstly an absolutely stunning African Golden Oriole flew in and landed directly overhead, and was followed by our first African Pied Hornbill landing on top of a close palm tree. Just around the corner we saw more Yellow-throated Leafloves and Northern Puffbacks, plus our first Fine-spotted Woodpecker, before being swamped by several new birds. In one set of trees we saw Senegal Eremomela, Melodious Warbler, Northern Crombec, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, African Golden Oriole, yet more puffbacks, and a superb Violet Turaco. Wow!
Leaving here we made an abortive attempt at finding some coursers, but our stop paid off when a pair of distant Lanners was seen to round off another good day.
Day 4 Monday 5th December
Our first Little Greenbul and nice views of a Violet Turaco got the ball rolling for us in Abuko this morning, and were quickly followed by Black-necked Weaver, Red-bellied Paradise-flycatcher, and some more views of an African Pygmy Kingfisher which was perched high up over our heads. Not a bad start at all, and this was just a little taste of the good sightings that were to follow including superb views of a Blue-breasted Kingfisher perched at the edge of a small pool.
Nearby a Hammerkop was seen standing on its huge nest, plus a fine pair of Yellow-breasted Apalis that flew in to check us out. At the Crocodile Pool we had a good view over the area from the first floor of the hide, with Black Crake, African Jacana, Black-headed Heron, Giant Kingfisher, Palm-nut Vulture, African Grey Hornbill, and several Black-crowned Night-herons all immediately visible. At the second smaller hide we struck gold with a perched Oriole Warbler sunning itself on a palm frond, plus another Giant Kingfisher and excellent views of a Lesser Honeyguide. All this plus brief views of a Western Bluebill on the track near the hide as well! Moving along the main path we found an immature male Greater Honeyguide next, followed by a pair of great little Buff-spotted Woodpeckers and a Common Wattle-eye. We slowly and surely worked the trails, taking our time, and our patience was being rewarded in full as you can see! A Blue-spotted Wood-dove appeared next, but as we watched a pair of Collared Sunbirds feeding just a few feet off the floor on some flowers, a Green Crombec appeared and we were treated to superb views of this little mega. Once the crombec had disappeared we finally nailed an African Paradise-flycatcher which flew in above our heads showing its black belly. But we were not finished yet, as another Lesser Honeyguide preceded David’s great find of a Spotted Honeyguide which remained motionless in the shadows next to the path as we all soaked up the close views for maybe 20 minutes. As we neared the Animal Sanctuary, Soloman showed us a roosting Verreaux’s Eagle-owl in a palm tree, with a female sat on a huge nest close by.
Leaving here a roosting White-faced Scops-owl proved a little tricky to pick up amongst the dense foliage of a roadside tree in Lamin Village, but everyone eventually managed to clearly see its face through the telescope, plus a high flying Wahlberg’s Eagle, before we drove the short distance to Lamin Lodge. After lunch overlooking the river we had a late afternoon session at Yundun Wood where a pair of Diederik Cuckoos showed incredibly well as soon as we left the coach. Then a Whistling Cisticola flew into the same tree and promptly proved why it’s called whistling (!), whilst Red-chested and Pied-winged Swallows were seen overhead. A perched Grey Kestrel was a nice sighting in an acacia tree, as was a summer-plumaged Northern Red Bishop, whilst the Eurasian Wryneck was a surprise find, being a scarce winter visitor. As we watched this last bird, a Swallow-tailed Bee-eater flew in and perched close by, a pair of Striped Kingfishers displayed at the top of another Acacia tree, raising their wings and ruffling their mantle feather amidst a cacophony of loud whistles, a Black-crowned Tchagra began singing in a bush behind us, and a superb Scarlet-chested Sunbird flew into the tree right next to us. What a mad ten minutes! With all these species showing really well and the light beginning to fade, we returned to our coach where our driver Aladdin began to dish out some much-needed cold drinks.
Day 5 Tuesday 6th December
This was the day of our big inland adventure, so after collecting the packed breakfast we headed to Banjul and waited for the 7.00am ferry. Our coach for the next couple of days was already safely parked up on the other side of the river, having been taken over there the previous evening. So we had to unload the current bus and travel across as foot passengers, which was fine and not a problem except for the ferry being delayed by nearly three-quarters of an hour. Anyway, once aboard we went straight to the front upper deck section and scanned the wide Gambia River, getting the ball rolling with a Black-headed Gull, which was followed by Caspian, Royal and Lesser Crested Terns all flying past the ferry, plus a couple of Arctic and a single Pomarine Skua, before arriving at Barra on the north bank after a decidedly choppy and chilly crossing. Once everything was loaded onto our new coach we set off on the long drive inland, with a couple of great looking White-crested Helmet-shrikes causing the first of numerous roadside stops today. A Grasshopper Buzzard perched on a haystack and another Striped Kingfisher were then both seen before stopping at a small village, where 3 Northern Anteater-chats were scoped on top of some Termite mounds. Whilst watching them, a pair of Bruce’s Green-pigeons flew in and landed right in front of us in a small bush, and were quickly followed by a couple of Vieillot’s Barbets showing off their mottled crimson faces to full effect in the clear morning light. Then a male Namaqua Dove was seen nearby, a few Mottled Spinetails flew over, a Village Indigobird was perched on a fence post, a couple of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers gave a classic pose perched on the backs of some cattle, and the picture was completed with a large flock of White-billed Buffalo Weavers noisily feeding in a nearby field. Next up was a small pool that held a flock of White-faced Whistling-ducks and a few Purple Herons, before a pair of Black-headed Plovers were seen in a small field. Our first and overdue Rufous-crowned Roller was much appreciated, before stopping to look at a stunning male Pygmy Sunbird at the top of a small tree. As we watched him a fine male Yellow Penduline-tit flew in to check-out our mimicking of a Pearl-spotted Owlet call, and was joined by a flock of non-breeding Sudan Golden Sparrows in the same tree, and there was also a flock of Northern Red Bishops feeding low down amongst the tall grasses that contained several Red-billed Queleas. Further along the road a spectacular Exclamatory Paradise-whydah was perched on top of a dead tree showing off its long tail streamers, the first of several Eurasian Griffon Vultures flew low over the road in front of us, along with several White-backed Vultures and a few Chestnut-backed Sparrow-larks were all seen at various points, along with a huge kettle of thermalling White Pelicans that must have numbered in the several hundreds. At a large wetland there was a flock of over 50 Slender-billed Gulls sitting out on the water, plus lots of roosting egrets and herons, as well as several Great Cormorants of the white-breasted form. The first of only two Kittlitz’s Plovers to be seen today was really appreciated, and as we watched this little beauty at least 2 Whiskered Terns were picked up quartering the marshes, and a flock of over 500 Collared Pratincoles took to the sky in a superb aerial display. Next up was a Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle flying over the road, before we stopped for our picnic lunch, being joined by some local villagers with whom we shared our food. However we didn’t stay long for the prospect of yet more good birds had us packing up and driving the short distance to the Kaur wetlands where we had good views of the much-wanted Egyptian Plover, and there was also a bunch of waders that bumped our list up nicely including Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Ruff. A major surprise was the Ferruginous Duck out on the lake, however a perched Brown Snake-eagle was more expected but equally appreciated, and Andy then picked up a couple of Comb Ducks amongst the White-faced Whistling-ducks before we left and headed west. A Cinnamon-breasted Bunting singing from the top of a roadside tree caused the next unscheduled stop before we reached a small waterhole that was positively teeming with birds. A Grasshopper Buzzard was causing a commotion amongst the flock of non-breeding bishops, before a fine Martial Eagle circled low overhead in company with a Brown Snake-eagle and a Wahlberg’s Eagle. Amongst the flock of bishops were Sudan Golden Sparrow, Red-billed Quelea, Yellow-fronted Canary, a brief male Cut-throat, plus a probable Sahel Paradise Whydah, with a European Turtle Dove also being seen. Unfortunately time was pressing, and we would have loved to have stayed far longer than we did, but there was still one more stop to make before reaching the ferry. At a secret site discovered on one of our previous BIRDSEEKERS trips, we were fortunate to have good flight views of a pair of Savile’s Bustards, a blue-riband bird here in The Gambia and the 4th tour in a row that Nick has found it. So with smiles all round and much jubilation we headed to the Farafenni Ferry where we were unfortunately delayed for at least two hours, thus making our arrival at Tendaba Camp much later than anticipated. But we made the best of the situation, seeing a flock of Spur-winged Geese flying upriver, a huge and rather unexpected Goliath Heron crossing the channel a couple of times, a European Reed-warbler skulking amongst the bushes, a Winding Cisticola that eventually sang from the very top of some reed stems after a long game of cat-and-mouse, as well as several Yellow-backed Weavers. And eventually the ferry arrived and we crammed ourselves on and crossed the river in total darkness before driving the last couple of hours to Tendaba Camp along increasingly bad roads. On arrival there was time for a quick shower before a late dinner preceded a surprisingly quiet night drive, where we worked really hard to find just a single Standard-winged Nightjar perched next to the track to reward our efforts. So a very tired bunch of birders eventually retired some time after midnight for a well earned night’s sleep.
Day 6 Wednesday 7th December
Shortly after sunrise we were boarding our pirogue for the traditional boat trip through the mangroves on the north side of the Gambia River. As we crossed the wide river a lone Spur-winged Goose flew by, and just before entering the creek a Peregrine Falcon was seen perched on top of a dead tree. No sooner had we entered the creek than an African Hobby flew over and perched above us, whilst the first of many White-throated Bee-eaters to be seen this morning was a welcome sighting, and this preceded views of a flock of European as well as Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. However our slow cruise came to an unscheduled halt as the engine could not be restarted after we paused to check out some movement amongst the mangroves, so we lost at least an hour and a half as the boatman frantically tried to fix the problem. Not letting the opportunity pass, we managed to call in a pair of extremely obliging Mouse-brown Sunbirds, and there were also a few Senegal Eremomelas to keep us occupied, but the situation looked bleak until suddenly the engine gunned into life. So off we went further along the creek, which in places became very narrow, occasionally opening up to reveal marshes on either side, where Common Ringed Plovers, Pied Avocet and the first of 20+ Woolly-necked Storks patrolled. Also seen was a single Sacred Ibis flying over, as did a few Senegal Parrots and a Beaudouin’s Snake-eagle, before an adult White-backed Night-heron was picked up hidden deep inside the mangroves. A frustrating time ensued until everyone finally managed to get just the right angle through the leaves to get a view of this little cracker! A brief Marsh Mongoose and Nile Monitor Lizard were seen a short while later, whilst a group of Mosque Swallows gave us our best view to date as they perched on a dead snag. But a huge Goliath Heron was one of the major highlights this morning when we saw it perched on the side of the creek and allowed us to approach it quite closely before moving away, only to be relocated a short while later before flying away across the marshes. However by now it was late morning so we headed back to camp, but a short distance away from the main river an immature African Fish-eagle showed really well, along with numerous Pink-backed Pelicans. Once we had reached camp and after collecting our belongings from the rooms we drove off into a section of Kiang West National Park, where another mad ten minutes resulted in a couple of Black Wood Hoopoes being found. As we tried to get decent views of them it became apparent that a pair of White-shouldered Black Tits was also present in the same tree and as we watched these little beauties a pair of diminutive Brown-backed Woodpeckers flew in. From here we followed a track inside the forest and this produced a flyover Bruce’s Green-pigeon and a distant Bateleur, whilst further along a Yellow White-eye appeared next to the bus. Just then an adult Martial Eagle, Brown Snake-eagle and a Wahlberg’s Eagle all appeared overhead at the same time, and whilst watching these a Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling was seen. Our picnic lunch was taken in the shade of a large tree, enabling us to scan the surrounding area for raptors. And how lucky can you get, as firstly a pair of African Hawk-eagles appeared, followed by Ruppell’s Griffon and White-backed Vultures, an awesome and very close Bateleur, and a distant White-headed Vulture. In the trees next to us Yellow-fronted Canary and White-rumped Seedeater showed well, before we left on the five hour drive back to the coast. The return journey along the South Bank was broken with a stop at a school to deposit some stationery for the children and fortune was indeed on our side as a male Green-headed Sunbird was found in a large flowering tree in the schoolyard, which also held Beautiful, Splendid and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, with a Wire-tailed Swallow flying overhead. And so we eventually arrived back at the Senegambia Hotel in time for a wonderfully refreshing shower before dinner.
Day 7 Thursday 8th December
After breakfast we drove south through Brikama, and walked through an area of open forest which we have not previously visited. On entering the forest, Double-spurred Francolin, Lizard Buzzard, Fine-spotted Woodpecker and African Green-pigeon were all immediately visible. Then we became aware that an Acacia tree was alive with birds, and some patient watching revealed many Senegal Eremomelas, along with Northern Crombec, Common Chiffchaff, a couple of Western Bonelli’s Warblers and a brief Wood Warbler, with a Little Weaver and a pair of Black-crowned Tchagra nearby. Our walk further inside the forest was interrupted when a bird flew into the top of a tree which set alarm bells ringing, and as we walked around to the other side of the tree, a Klaas’s Cuckoo was found. What a little beauty, with glistening metallic green upperparts, and we soaked up the views until it flew off, and we had not finished celebrating the finding of this much-wanted bird when a pair of Green Turacos was found. After a frantic few minutes they duly performed right on cue and everyone had good views. Nearby a pair of Pearl-spotted Owlets were scoped at the top of a tree, and whilst watching them a male Senegal Batis was found close by. Leaving here we checked out the beach at Tanji once again, this time getting closer views of several Kelp Gulls, as well as many Royal Terns, plus our first Eurasian Oystercatchers of the trip. Leaving here we drove to a restaurant on the beach along the Old Cape Road, where from our vantage point we were able to scope Eurasian Curlew, and a flock of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters perched on telegraph wires. After a leisurely lunch we walked across the road to view an area of saltmarsh where some commoner waders were seen, along with a pair of Giant Kingfishers, before we checked out a large lagoon. A gathering of terns and gulls on the far side held lots of Common, plus a few Little Terns, and we also scoped a Kentish Plover before finding a delightful little Black-backed Cisticola perched amongst the grass. A Red Knot was then found amongst a group of Sanderling, before Ian picked up what turned out to be an adult winter Franklin’s Gull amongst the large roosting flock. This bird was originally found a week ago and constitutes the 2nd record for The Gambia. We spent quite some time watching it, plus enjoying the spectacle of all those gulls and terns, including good side-by-side comparisons of Lesser Crested and Royal Terns, before driving back down the coast just before dusk, where we saw a fine Red-necked Falcon, and later had brief views of a Long-tailed Nightjar.
Day 8 Friday 9th December
We spent a few hours this morning in Brufut Wood, where our arrival was greeted by another Levaillant’s Cuckoo perched at the top of a large tree. As we followed the well-marked path, we
heard and a short while later saw a beautiful Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike that circled us furtively before showing really well a little later. In fact we had some excellent sightings, starting with a Buff-spotted Woodpecker, and there was also a flock of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, numerous Black-billed Wood-doves, and our first Four-banded Sandgrouse walking along the path in front of us. At this late stage of the holiday we quickly checked out the birds coming down to drink at a small watering hole in the hope of something new in vain, but still enjoyed great close views of both Lavender and Orange-cheeked Waxbills, and Red-cheeked Cordonbleu, but as we were about to board our coach a small party of Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weavers provided us with our last new bird of the trip and an unexpected finale. Eventually we had to return to the wonderful Senegambia Hotel, where our final lunch together was taken beside the pool before making the short transfer to the airport and the conclusion of a superb tour.
On behalf of Soloman and myself I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the group for making it such a pleasure to lead. Not only had we seen more birds in a week than any other British tour company (284), but we had enjoyed simply fantastic views of nearly everything. The good fun, great food and superb weather all combined to make this a trip that I’m sure none of us will ever forget.