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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
The Gambia, November 30th to December 14th 2001,
Having decided it was time to visit Africa, The Gambia with its reasonable infrastructure, good hotels and birding sites and a good field guide, seemed the logical choice. The second logical choice was to book with the Gambia Experience who offered the right service and location at a reasonable price. We made extensive use of the many trip reports available via the Internet and bought Rod Ward's excellent guide to Birding The Gambia. One concern was the amount of hassle we would get and so it seemed that we would need seek the services of a local guide, something we prefer not to do unless, as in the Backwoods set up in Goa, its gets us to places otherwise hard to spend time in. As it was we fell on our feet and fully recommend Ebrima Sidibeh. Incidentally, some birders have suggested that Gambia is out of fashion. Don't you believe it. It is an excellent place to see lots of new birds and to see just what Africa is all about.
We chose the Senegambia Hotel primarily on location. The prospect of extensive grounds in which to bird away from the pressures outside was a big factor and I would suggest that birders wishing to photograph birds add the Senegambia to their itinerary as a genuine birding site. In the two weeks we recorded 101 species including Gambian rarities such as Ovambo Sparrowhawk and Short-eared Owl. The grounds repeatedly turned up surprises and the sea birds were as good as anywhere we visited. The daily vulture feeding (11.30ish) is well worth attending, if only to say that you have had a wild Hooded Vulture try to eat your shoelaces! The Senegambia is also well placed for several visits to Bijilo Forest Park and, 300m north of the hotel, is a small wetland which holds herons, egrets, a Pearl-spotted Owlet which comes to calls and, occasionally, Greater Painted Snipe. Our total patch list, which included the Senegambia, Bijilo and the marsh was over 130 species. The hotel itself was good with comfortable rooms, friendly staff and a choice of eating places. It is also well placed for several restaurants within five minutes walking distance and there is a guides shelter outside the gates where cheap tourist guides can be hired and birding guides can also be found. The flight was with Monarch and was fine. The food was poor, the in-flight films and general entertainment good and delays of 2.5 hours were only experienced on the way home.
The Gambia Experience reps were all friendly and, importantly I feel, all local. The company genuinely seems to contribute to the local economy over and above delivering customers and we would not hesitate to use them again. The holiday price for two in a Jacana room (upgrade) was £1,142.00. If you chose this hotel ask specifically for a garden room on the upper floor. All of the blocks face good birding areas but we were particularly happy with N block which was reasonably central.
When you step off the plane and negotiate the inadequate baggage carousel the hassle starts and many of the Gambians you meet outside the hotel will wish to relieve you of your money (not violently I hasten to add). Outside all of the hotels are tourist guides and birding guides. The tourist guides will speed walk you around for a small fee and are useful if you wish to bird locally alone. The birding guides will take you to any of the birding places and, once in their company, you will not be bothered by anyone, but there are only a few decent bird guides so you need to choose carefully. We had a list of guides who people had hired and recommended and had hoped to find one of these for the trip. We were very fortunate and we met Ebrima Sidibeh and his apprentice on our first sortie to find a guide. Prior to that a trip to the supermarket had been 300m of telling people to go away and my wife, Sandra had found this hassle particularly intimidating. We negotiated a trip to Kotu and the general area with Ebrima and then, when we found him to be ideally suited to our needs, arranged further trips out including the up river adventure. Apart from visits to Bijilo, we did all of our trips with Ebrima and, as you can see from the systematic list, saw plenty of birds. The use of birding guides is something we normally steer away from, mainly because we like to be independent birders and are quite capable of sorting out the birds (eventually in some cases). In Ebrima we had a guide of nine years experience who was genuinely interested in birds and who was very easy to get on with. The price of guiding is something that you have to budget for and Ebrima is not particularly cheap. It is understandable that, with a paying season of around six months, guides try to make a salary to tide them over. There is also the costs of taxis which are high in comparison to say Goa in India. So we were not too perturbed to be paying what we did. Had we been able to fully book up our guide in the UK we would have and to this end we are creating Ebrima a website where you can see the sort of itinerary on offer and potential customers can then arrange in advance a hassle free Gambia visit, see below for contact details. Once away from the coast (except at Pirang) the only 'hassle' is from the many kids who yell 'tubab', 'minty baby' or 'any pen'. They are good fun and usually just wave and smile. If you have pens/books/sports gear etc. as gifts, take them up country and give them to one of the schools there. If you have any room, weight wise, in your cases and anything that you do not want, take it with you and give it away, it'll be much appreciated in a country where little is wasted.
Car hire is generally not recommended in the Gambia although we saw nothing to put us off driving, its no worse than Italy! Outside the Senegambia is a car hire office offering cars from a Fiat Uno to a Toyota Landcruiser. One alternative to the taxi/guide option might be to hire your own vehicle thus removing the taxi costs from the guides fee. They accept credit cards and a 10,000D deposit is required (also payable on credit card). An example of prices is, a six person Landrover for seven days costs 510D per day plus 190d per day insurance. 10% Government tax should also be added. Minimum age for hire is 23. They drive on the right (mostly). There is one set of traffic lights in the entire country and they appear to be optional.
To contact Ebrima Sidibeh e-mail or write to
c/o Paul Baldeh, Gambia Port Authority, PO Box 617, Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa.
The currency is the Dalasi. Don't bother changing any until you get there. Sterling is accepted by the guides and by changing away from the hotels you can get a better rate. We got 21 Dalasi to the pound in the hotel and 25 outside, a big difference when changing several hundred pounds. Take a credit card. Hotels accept them and the Senegambia allow you to set up an account onto which you can put all your meals and drinks taken within the complex. Other restaurants accept them too and, if you run out of cash as we did, any bank will give you a cash advance. Sterling coins are also accepted. One thing to check on any credit card transaction is the rates offered. We tried to buy from a shop and they only offered 19D to the pound. Tipping is at your discretion and we tipped 50D at times which, although only two quid, is a lot to the poorly paid Gambians, some of whom only average £24.00 per month. We gave nothing to beggars and hustlers but gave odd coins to kids who could name a bird.
Around the hotel the birding was easy and we spent the first full day learning the calls of common birds such as doves, gonoleks, sunbirds etc. Wetland birding is easiest of all and Kotu Creek, Pirang and other wetland sites were very enjoyable. Woodland birding is harder. We visited Abuko once as a group with Mass Cham and Max from the Senegambia. We don't like birding in groups and this one seemed to comprise almost entirely of the chain smokers from hell. The Abuko trip also took in a set of rice fields and we saw some species on this trip that we did not find anywhere else. Others have said it but, Abuko is hard work. Visit on your own or in very small groups and go early am or late pm. There is now early access for proper birders and you pay on your way out. Also try to cover the extension which Ebrima says is the best part. Bijilo is best visited early (opens 08.00) and walked very slowly. The best bits are the first 300m of the birding path and the upper path. A walk here with little Mass, the resident birder, should reveal more birds than you might find on your own. The Basse/Tendaba trip was good for birds but, Basse is a long way and the road is crap. if you have ever been to Holme in Norfolk, imagine that access road for 300Km+, no kidding. However, the birding is good and ambition birds such as Egyptian Plover are worth the trip. At Tendaba the Pirogue trip is a must, two trips would be better. We would suggest taking three nights, four days to do it. Go to Georgetown first for two nights and then Tendaba for one night, you will certainly spend more time birding than you can on a three dayer and be less fatigued. The accommodation at Georgetown is OK but take you own Mosquito net. At Tendaba nets are provided but you do need to spray yourself in the evenings. The staff wear T-shirts stating 'Tendaba Bush Camp, 1,000,000 mosquitoes can't be wrong' its only a tongue-in-cheek joke but absolutely true.
The weather for the duration of the trip was mixed. It rained for the first two nights, the first time in 57 years that this had happened in those months in The Gambia. Most days were hot and sunny with very light cloud. Four days had heavy cloud but were still warm. On the hot days it is too hot at times and so we headed back to the hotel to bird/eat/rest. We only birded two full days straight through except when we went up country and included in midday lunch brask in both. The first time we had a lunch in Tanji and the second we had a nice stop at Lamin Lodge, we would recommend both places. If the wind blows onshore check the sea for tern and gull passage although skuas seem present offshore most of the time if distant. The day length in December runs from roughly 06.45-19.15.
At the Senegambia we had our own safe costing £13.00 per week in which we kept binoculars/cash etc. On the way to Georgetown one stroppy customs officer checked our passports so carry them up country. We took a Malaria prophylactic, Malarone, which cost us £60.00 each for the course. It was one of the drugs recommended in our MASTA report. If you need information on what injections etc. call the MASTA health line on 09068 224100 and they will send you a written report. It costs .60p per minute and for about £2.40 you have all the info you need. In the Gambia Experience Office which is just inside the Kairiba Hotel entrance next to the Senegambia you can get a good travellers map of the Gambia and occasional English newspapers. They also stock Barlow's field guide for about £30.00. The Senegambia seemed to have up to 20 birders staying there the first week with some groups arriving the second. Various birds were reported by some of these people which we did not see including Pygmy Sunbird and Yellow-throated Leaflove around the hotel grounds. The independent birders seemed more willing to chat and share info than the groups, their loss. Mobile phones do work in The Gambia but you have tobuy a local Sim card. All the bird guides seem to have a phone, as do the taxi drivers.
Despite one of us (Mark) contracting Salmonella Poisoning by eating Shrimp Cocktail (never ever eat this in The Gambia) and flying back in a semicomatose state, the holiday was excellent. The Senegambia was the perfect choice for accommodation and location and the gentle introduction to African birds that it offered allowed us to sort out the commoner species early on. The Gambian people, aside from the hassle merchants, were friendly and the country's common land philosophy meant that we could bird anywhere that was unfenced without fear of being told to 'get off my land' in Mandinka. The roads were interesting but not an impediment and the birds just superb if a little hard in some woodlands (to locate that is). We will visit The Gambia again in the future, probably during the rainy season for those missing species and breeding plumages not seen in December. In reality, there is no reason why The Gambia should not be an all year destination as the prime interest is not the winter European migrants but the African species themselves. It is probably also cheaper in the 'off season'. The bird highlights of the trip were the Egyptian Plovers, Four-banded Sandgrouse, African Finfoot and the other superb birds we saw. Its also good to know that birding is providing some Africans with an income, especially genuine African birders like Ebrima Sidibeh. It can only help to protect the wildlife.
Trip reports used, all via the Internet.
and Tiemen De Smedt, July 4th-19th 2001.
Simon Woolley and Julia Casson, December 19th 2000 - January 2nd 2001.
Howard Orridge, December 1st-15th 2000.
Steve Bird and Soloman Jallow, December 1st-8th 2000.
Johan Waldemarsson, October 27th-November 3rd 1999.
Stephen Mawby, November 17th-24th 1998.
Gruff Dodd, November 1st-8th 1998.
Dirk Vanackere and Marc Tailly, October 31st-November 8th 1998.
Useful phrases - they might just fend off the odd hustler
Go dem ta
I don't like you buguloma mang lafila
No thank you dedet jerajeff hani abaraka
Alone mankena nte kiling
30th Senegambia Hotel. Species day total 41
1st Senegambia Hotel. Day total 59
2nd Abuko & Ricefields am, Senegambia pm. Day total 97
3rd Kotu Creek, Casino Track, Fajara Golf Course am, Senegambia pm. Day total 92
4th Brufut am, Tanji & Senegambia pm. Day total 116
5th Bijilo am, Senegambia pm. Day total 76
6th Lamin Corner, Pirang am then on to Georgetown. Day total 129
7th Bansang Quarry, Basse then back to Tendaba. Day total 122
8th Tendaba am, Abuko & Senegambia pm. Day total 137
9th Bijilo am, Senegambia pm. Day total 74
10th Yundum am, Senegambia pm. Day total 105
11th Faraba Banta bush tracks am, Senegambia pm. Day total 103
12th Senegambia am, Bund Rd, Camaloo Corner, Palma Rima Scrub pm. Day total 114
13th Pirang, Faraba Banta am, Lamin lodge, Yundum pm. Day total 141
14th Senegambia. Day total 68
Senegambia Hotel: 20+
acres of woodland and lawns. Worth a visit for close views of some skulkers.
Kotu Creek and pools: Tidal inlet by golf course and sewage pools.
Fajara Golf Course: Trees, scrub and borders Kotu Creek.
Casino Track: Open scrub. Good lily covered pond near the road.
Abuko: Nature reserve, dense woodland. Fee payable on entry or exit if early. Rice fields opposite exit.
Lamin Corner and Lodge. White-faced Scops roost on the main turn off. Mangrove swamp and scrub around lodge. Also good agricultural fields.
Bund Road: Main road to Banjul. Busy, wetland and Mangrove birds.
Camaloo Corner: Wetlands.
Bijilo Forest Park: Fee paying park, assorted woodland. Open 08.00-18.00. Good for monkeys
Senegambia Marsh: Pools 300m north of hotel within Palm belt.
Tanji: Fee paying reserve (tickets checked), woodland, scrub, undisturbed beach and pools.
Brufut: Open savannah and woodland.
Faraba Banta bush track: Scattered trees, grasslands, woodland, crops.
Pirang: Disused Shrimp Farm, birding from bunds between pools. Scrub to the east, woodland west.
Yundum: Melon and Groundnut fields, sandgrouse drinking pool. Scrub and mature trees.
Tendaba: Tourist bush camp. Mangrove creeks, light woodland, marsh/pools on 'airfield'.
Bansang Quarry: Red-throated Bee-eater site + drinking pool.
Georgetown Birders Camp: On river bank. Can turn up good species.
Basse: Busy town on bank of river. Egyptian Plovers. To east are rice fields with Northern Carmine Bee-eater.
Brumen Bridge: Crosses tributary with extensive wetlands.
Palma Riva scrub: Behind hotel, nightjar site.
Systematic list of birds
This list uses the order and names from A Field Guide to Birds of Gambia and Senegal, Barlow, Wacher & Disley, 1997. In total 282 species are included, all observed in The Gambia between November 30th & December 14th 2001. The figures after the scientific name give the number of days that a species was recorded out of 15, i.e 7/15 = seen seven days out of 15. Bird species recorded from within the Senegambia Hotel grounds and beach (101 species) are underlined.
A Field Guide to the Birds of
the Gambia and Senegal
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1/15: Seen only at Kotu Sewage Pools.
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus 1/15: A Flock of c50 soaring and following the Gambia River near Pirang, December 8th.
Pink-backed Pelican Pelicanus rufescens 6/15: Not uncommon. Seen from the Senegambia and at most river sites. Common at Tendaba.
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta 6/15: Seen in mostly river locations, at Kotu, Tendaba and Abuko.
Long-tailed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus 9/15: Present in small numbers on the wetlands. Seen regularly from the Senegambia.
African Darter Anhinga rufa 5/15: Seen Abuko, Pirang and Tendaba. Towards the end of the trip one was seen twice over the Senegambia.
White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus 1/15: Seen roosting at Abuko only. Supposed to regular at Kotu and Tendaba but we had no luck.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nyticorax nycticorax 1/15: Good numbers seen at Abuko.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis 15/15: Very common.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides 6/15: Seen Kotu, Pirang, Tendaba Senegambia Marsh.
Striated Heron Butorides striatus 2/15: Seen Kotu, Camaloo Corner, Bund Road and Tendaba.
Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca 3/15: One seen Kotu then none until we did the Bund Road on December 12th where there were dozens. The next day more were seen at Pirang.
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 5/15: Common Pirang and other grassy, wet sites.
Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis 9/15: Common along the river and coast. Only the dark form noted. We did not look too hard for a white one.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 6/15: Not especially common but present on wetlands.
Great Egret Egretta alba 10/15: Common enough.
Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala 8/15: Common at Abuko and singles seen at several sites.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 91/5: Common in wet areas.
Goliath Heron Ardea goliath 2/15: One briefly at Tendaba Airfield and one, Bund Road showed well.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 6/15: Seen at wetland sites.
White Stork Cicconia cicconia 1/15: One seen at Pirang.
Wooly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus 3/15: Seen Brumen Bridge, Tendaba and Faraba Banta.
Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus 2/15: Seen from the road to Georgetown with several in a breeding colony at a small village and one over the road in flight.
Yellow-billed Stork Myteria ibis 2/15: Seen from Brumen Bridge and the wetlands just east of there.
Black Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina 2/15: Three seen flying over Pirang on December 6th were distant. The next day two came to roost on Tendaba Airfield at dusk giving much better views.
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis 4/15: Seen along the river from Pirang to Georgetown.
White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata 5/15: Seen Kotu Sewage Pools, Pirang, Senegambia Marsh and Camaloo Corner. Very flighty at Pirang.
Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus 2/15: One was in Kotu Creek on December 2nd. Five were in the bolong (creek) opposite Tendaba on December 8th.
Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash 1/15: One fed with Sacred Ibis at Tendaba, December 8th.
Osprey Pandion haliatus 8/15: Common enough.
African Harrier-hawk Polyboroides typus 12/15: Common and breeding at the Senegambia although secretive there. Seen on each visit into the field away from the hotel.
Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis 8/15: Not uncommon and singles seen at many sites.
Pied Crow Corvus albus 15/15: Very common, especially on the coast.
Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus 15/15: Common. The Senegambia birds are fed at 11.30. See it.
Rueppells Griffon Vulture Gyps rueppellii 2/15: Fairly common up country, often with Hooded Vultures .
White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus 3/15: Seen up country and also at Yundum and Faraba Banta.
Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus 2/15: Seen at Yundum and Faraba Banta, the latter bird showing very well.
African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer 2/15: One seen from the Georgetown ferry on December 7th. A second was seen briefly at Pirang on December 13th.
Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax 1/15: One was at Pirang on December 13th.
Wahlberg's Eagle Aquila wahlbergi 2/15: One was perched up at Tendaba on December 8th with anothe the same day at Abuko. One was seen well at Faraba Banta on December 13th.
African Hawk Eagle Hieraaetus spilogaster 1/15: One was at Faraba Banta on December 13th.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus 1/15: A pale phse was at Faraba Banta on December 13th.
Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis 4/15: One was at Abuko on December 3rd. Singles were then seen up country on December 7th-8th. Up to 15 were seen at several sites, December 13th. A good raptor day.
Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus 1/15: One was seen distantly and then slightly closer at Faraba Banta on December 13th. For some reason we had little luck with this species.
Brown Snake Eagle Circaetus cinereus 2/15: Seen up country, several individuals.
Western Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus cinerascens 1/15: One near Bansang, December 8th. We saw many raptors in the tree tops as we drove up country but did not stop for each as it took 10.5 hours as it was.
Black Kite Milvus migrans 13/15: Common. Both Milvus m parasitus the yellow-billed variety which is commonest and Milvus m migrans seen.
Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis 6/15: Fairly common up country. Also seen Faraba Banta.
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus 9/15: Fairly common in open country. Seen Bijilo.
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus 1/15: A female/immature flew over Brufut on December 4th.
Eurasian Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus 3/15: Seen at some wetland sites.
Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates 6/15: Common up country and at Yundum and Faraba Banta.
Gabar Goshawk Micronisus gabar 1/15: Seen at Basse and Tendaba on December 7th.
Shikra Accipiter badius 12/15: Common, seen most days.
Ovambo Sparrowhawk Accipiter ovampensis 1/15: On December 5th, while watching from the hotel balcony it suddenly went very quiet. An accipiter then flew into a tree about 100m from us and started to pluck a bird. We watched it for a couple of minutes before it slipped away and noted all the features of this species.
Lizard Buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus 12/15: Common and present at most sites.
Peregrine Falco peregrinus 2/15: Seen at Kotu Creek and Tanji.
Lanner Falco biamarcus 4/15: Seen on the up country trip and at Faraba Banta.
Red-necked Falcon Falco chicquera 3/15: Seen alongside the main road to Yundum and at both Camaloo Corner and Faraba Banta
Grey Kestrel Falco ardosiaceus 9/15: Not uncommon. Seen at many sites including Bijilo.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1/15: Seen only at Pirang and Fabara Banta, December 13th.
Double-spurred Francolin Francolinus bicalcaratus 7/15: Fairly common in open scrub.
Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensis 1/15: Seen three times in flight on December 9th at Bijilo. Care was taken to separate them from the commoner Double-spurred Francolins. They are much darker brown with no obviously paler underparts. The call is also different.
Stone Patridge Ptilopachus petrosus 2/15: Seen at Tanji and Tendaba where they showed very well, Dec 7th.
Four-banded Sandgrouse Pterocles quadricinctus 1/15: A small square pool just by the Yundum turn off on the main highway attracts this species although it does not always hold water. We assembled at 18.50 and by 19.05 birds began to arrive unconcerned at our presence. Well worth seeing.
Black Crake Amaurornis flavirostris 2/15: Seen around a lily pond off the Casino Track on December 2nd and at Abuko on December 3rd.
African Jacana Actophilornis africanus 3/15: Seen Abuko rice fields, Casino Track lily pond and Pirang.
African Finfoot Podica senagalensis 1/15: Our trip out of Tendaba on December 8th in a leaky Pirogue hardly promised this species, especially as a group of noisy tourists had preceded us, however, the Tendaba guide and Sandra simultaneously spotted a female which then hung around the boat semi hiding but mostly in the open for five minutes at least.
Egyptian Plover Pluvianus aegyptius 2/15: On the way to Georgetown we stopped to scan a wetland bisected by the road causeway when our driver Armadou spotted one on the road in front of us, superb. The next day we went to Basse where seven fed along the river bank and one allowed close approach for photos.
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola 1/15: One seen at a wetland near Gerogetown.
Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis 1/15: While looking for Bateleur at Fabara Banta on December 11th Mark flushed a pair from a recently cleared Groundnut field. Shortly after a further two were found while following an Abyssinian Ground Hornbill at the same site.
Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis 7/15: Common on the wetlands though usually just as pairs.
Black-headed Plover Vanellus tectus 4/15: Seen Kotu Creek, Yundum melon fields and Senegambia Marsh.
Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus 11/15: Common, birds feed on the Senegambia Golf Course daily.
Wattled Plover Vanellus senegallus 15/15: Common, birds feed on the Senegambia Golf Course daily.
Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria 1/15: Two were on Kotu Creek on December 2nd and are a Gambian rarity. This was our first trip out with Ebrima and virtually our first birds.
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 3/15: Seen Tanji, Tendaba and Bund Road.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 1/15: Seen at Pirang.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula 3/15: Seen at a couple of wetland sites.
White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus 1/15: One was with Ringed plover at Tanji on December 4th.
Curlew Numenius arquata 3/15: Odd ones noted.
Whimbrel Numenius phaepus 7/15: Common in wetlands.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 3/15: Seen at three sites.
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 3/15: Seen at three sites.
Greenshank Tringa nebularia 8/15: Common on wetlands.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis 1/15: Seen at Pirang, December 6th.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 9/15: Common on wetlands.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 7/15: Not uncommon in creeks.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 6/15: Not uncommon on wetlands.
Redshank Tringa totanus 3/15: Odd singles seen on three dates.
Oystercatcher Heamnatopus ostralegus 3/15: Seen at Tanji and at Camaloo Corner and Bund Road areas.
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 1/15: Three were at Pirang, December 13th.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 5/15: Common Kotu and several other wet areas.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax 1/15: One near Pirang, December 13th.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 2/15: One Abulo rice fields and one Pirang.
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpes 2/15; Common from Bund Road.
Little Stint Calidris minuta 1/15: Two at Tendaba.
Sanderling Calidris alba 2/15: Seen Tanji and Bund Road.
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 2/15: Seen off Senegambia Hotel on December 5th and 14th. Both immatures and adults seen close in chasing terns.
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasitcus 3/15: Off Senegambian Hotel, commoner than poms.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 3/15: Seen Kotu Creek and odd ones off Senegambia Hotel.
Grey-headed Gull Larus cerrocephalus 12/15: Common around sea.
Slender-biller Gull Larus genei 3/15: Seen off Senegambian Hotel, at Tanji and Bund Road.
Kelp Gull Larus dominicus 2/15: Two adults seen off Senegambia Hotel on December 5th and 14th. The first date saw a good overnight onshore wind which brought heavy skua, gull and tern movements in the morning.
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4/15: Several seen.
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia 7/15; Seen at several sites.
Royal Tern Sterna maxima 8/15: Common at sea.
Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis 2/15: Singles seen well on December 2nd and 9th off Senegambia.
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 10/15; Common at sea.
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica 7/15: Common inland some seen past the Senegambia.
Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii 1/15: Single December 5th off Senegambia after good onshore winds.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 12/15: Common at sea. High numbers precluded searching for rare species.
Black Tern Chlidonias niger 1/15: One past Senegambia on December 8th.
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 3/15: Seen Tanji and off Senegambia.
Feral Rock Dove Columba livia 15/15: Present in small numbers.
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis 15/15: Common.
Eurasian Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur 1/15: One at Brufut, didn't bother looking too hard at doves.
Blue-spotted Wood Dove Turtur afer 4/15: The least common of the wood doves. Present Bijilo.
Black-billed Wood Dove Turtur abyssinicus 10/15: Common in the woods/scrub including Bijilo.
Speckled Pigeon Columba guinea 15/15: Common.
Bruce's Green Pigeon Treron waalia 2/15: Seen on the way up country and at Georgetown camp.
African Green Pigeon Treron calva 1/15: Seen en-route up country.
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis 10/15: Common.
Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata 15/15: Very common.
African Mourning Dove Streptopelia decipiens 9/15: Common near water and up country.
Vinaceous Dove Streptopelia vinacea 15/15: Common
Piapiac Ptilostomus afer 15/15: Common.
Senegal Coucal Centropus senegalensis 15/15: Common.
Levaillant's Cuckoo Clemator levaillantii 2/15: Single at Pirang, December 6th and Bijilo, December 12th.
Klaas's Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas 1/15: One, bijilo, December 5th.
Verreaux's Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus 1/15: One at the nest, Abuko, December 8th.
Barn Owl Tyto alba 6/15: One heard around the Senegambia grounds, others saw it perched on buildings.
White-faced Scops Owl Otus leucotis 1/15: One roosting at Lamin corner on December 10th.
Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum 8/15: Heard on 6 occasions, whistled up by Mark into the Senegambia grounds on December 3rd and seen nearby on Senegambia Marsh, December 10th.
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus 1/15: On our last day, December 14th, we were sat on the balcony when the Pied Crows started being noisier than usual. Looking up and expecting a Shikra, we saw them mobbing a long winged pale sandy brown owl. Suspecting Short-eared but hoping for Marsh Owl we got a good three minute look at the bird which we confirmed as Short-eared Owl. According to Barlow this species was only readmitted to the Gambia list in 1990 so it was our second real Gambian rarity after the Golden Plover.
Long-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus climacurus 1/15: Several showed at the Palma Rima scrub, December 12th.
Standard-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx longipennis 1/15: Up to two showed briefly at the same site as above.
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus 6/15: Common at times on the coast and inland at Faraba Banta, especially on December 13th when there seemed to be hundreds. We checked for Common Swift but could find none at all.
Little Swift Apus affinis 15/15: Common in small numbers.
Mottled Spinetail Telecanthura ussheri 7/15: Common inland, several seen on the coast.
African Palm Swift Cypsuirus parvus 15/15: Common.
Black Wood Hoopoe Rhinopomastus aterrimus 4/15: Seen Abuko rice fields, Yundum and odd sites elsewhere.
Green Wood Hoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus 9/15: Common on the coast, breed Senegambia Hotel.
Hoopoe Upupa epops 1/15: One Brufut, December 4th.
Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima 2/15: Seen Abuko reserve and rice fields and Tendaba.
Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica 1/15: Seen on Tendaba boat trip only, up to 20 present.
Striped Kingfisher Halcyon chelicuti 3/15: Seen on the trip up country and at Faraba Banta.
Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala 1/15: One from the Tendaba pirogue
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis 6/15: Seen on all wetland sites.
African Pygmy Kingfisher Ceyx picta 2/15: One was around the grounds of the Sengambia Hotel from December 2nd-9th but was only seen twice.
Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata 2/15: Seen Pirang, December 6th and Tendaba, December 8th.
Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus 15/15: Scarce inland but very common on coast. Each night up to 30 fed nightjar like around the Senegambia Hotel.
Blue-bellied Roller Coracias cyanogaster 8/15: Fairly common and seen at several sites including Bijilo.
Rufous-crowned Roller Coracias naevia 6/15: Common up country, also seen Faraba Banta and Yundum.
Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssiniica 8/15: Scarce on the coast but very common up country.
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus 6/15: Seen at several sites including Bijilo. Rather local.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus 6/15: Common around Bund Road and Lamin.
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster 2/15: Seen up country and from the Tendaba pirogue trip.
Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus 7/15: Common woodland species, regular in Bijilo.
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis 3/15: A regular small party were around the entrance to Bijilo and best found in the mornings. The only others were seen at Tendaba.
Red-throated Bee-eater Merops bullocki 1/15: Numerous at Bansang Quarry on December 7th.
Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis 1/15: A single seen up country was the only one.
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri 5/15: Not uncommon in savannah scrub.
Senegal Parrot Poicephalus senegalensis 11/15: Common along coast and inland.
Violet Turaco Musophaga violacea 2/15: Poor views at Abuko, December 3rd. Showed well, Lamin, Dec 13th.
Western Grey Plantain-eater Crinifer piscator 10/15: Common along the coast.
Green Turaco Tauraco persa 1/15: Showed well at Abuko on December 3rd.
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus 11/15: Common, barbet like with its monotonous call.
Bearded Barbet Lybius dubius 10/15: Common, easy to see at the Senegambia.
Vieillot's Barbet Lybius vieilloti 3/15: Seen up country, at Faraba Banta and Lamin Lodge.
African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus 2/15: Seen in pairs over the Senegambia hotel on December 3rd and at Pirang, December 6th.
Red-billed Hornbill Tockus eryhtrorhynchus 15/15: Common.
African Grey Hornbill Tockus nasutus 15/15: Common.
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus 2/15: Two (a pair) were seen attending a bush fire up country on December 6th with a further male found by the roadside 'singing' on the same date. On December 11th another pair were seen at Faraba Banta.
Grey Woodpecker Mesopicus goertae 11/15: Common around the Senegambia, Bijilo and other wooded sites.
Fine-spotted Woodpecker Campethera punctuligera 3/15: Seen Brufut, Bijilo and other woodland sites.
Buff-spotted Woodpecker Campethera nivosa 1/15: One showed high in the canopy at Abuko on Dec 3rd.
Greater Honeyguide Indicator indicator 3/15: Seen at several sites including good views up country.
Lesser Honeyguide Indicator minor 4/15: A pair were said to breed in the Senegambia grounds and we saw singles twice there. Also one showed well in Abuko and one was at Yundum.
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark Eremopterix leucotis 2/15: Seen only at Tendaba on December 7th-8th.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata 3/15: Not common. Seen Pirang and Camaloo Corner rubbish tip.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis 1/15: Several at Faraba Banta, December 11th.
Plain-backed Pipit Anthus leucophrys 2/15: Common at Pirang.
Fanti Saw-wing Psalidoprocne obscura 3/15: Restricted to woodlands, common Tanji and Brufut.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica 3/15: Common up country.
Pied-winged Swallow Hirundo leucosoma 3/15: Seen in similar circumstances to the Fanti Saw-wings.
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii 10/15; Odd singles seen on the coast and at Pirang. Not common.
Mosque Swallow Hirundo senegalensis 6/15: Common inland and at Pirang. Regular at Senegambia.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 2/15: Picking these out from Red-chested Swallow is difficult and you need good views. We saw two definates then stopped looking.
Red-chested Swallow Hirundo lucida 15/15: The commonest swallow.
House Martin Delichon urbica 1/15: A large influx noted on December 13th when birds were present in big numbers at both Pirang and Faraba Banta
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 6/15: Present in small numbers until December 13th when many inland.
African Golden Oriole Oriolus auratus 3/15: Seen at three sites but good views only at Faraba Banta.
European Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus 1/15: A couple of singles seen.
Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis 8/15: Not uncommon in light woodland.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 6/15: Seen from Pirang to Georgetown.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 2/15: One at Tendaba.
Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus 15/15: Very common.
Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapilla 1/15: One at Abuko, December 3rd.
Oriole Warbler Hypergerus atriceps 7/15: Heard at Tanji but frequently seen well in the Senegambia gardens. Also seen at Bijilo. A noisy bird which is easy to find once you learn the call.
Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii 14/15: Common in gardens and light woodland.
Brown Babbler Turdoides plebejus 15/15: Common in gardens and light woodland.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra 2/15: Seen at Yundum and Faraba Banta only.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 2/15: Singles at Yundum and Pirang.
White-crowned Robin-chat Cossypha albicapilla 13/15: Common on the coast and very showy at the Senegambia Hotel. Elsewhere birds could be elusive.
Snowy-crowned Robin Chat Cossypha niveicapilla 4/15: Seen Yundum, Abuko and Bijilo. Scarce and shy.
Common Redstart Pheonicurus phoenicurus 1/15: A single at Yundum.
African Thrush Turdus pelios 15/15: Common.
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus 6/15: Not restricted to wetlands. Lots of singing birds heard.
Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida 4/15: Not uncommon in open scrub.
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta 8/15: Common in lightly wooded habitats and hotel gardens.
Whitethroat Sylvia communis 2/15: Singles near Bijilo and at Faraba Banta.
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans 3/15: Seen Kotu Creek, Pirang and Faraba Banta.
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 1/15: One at Senegambia on December 14th.
Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli 2/15: Singles Tanji and Tendaba.
Singing Cisticola Cisticola cantans 3/15: Common in tall grasses but not easy to see.
Whistling Cisticola Cisticola lateralis 2/15: Common in tall grasses but not easy to see.
Siffling Cisticola Cisticola brachypterus 1/15: Seen only at Faraba Banta.
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 6/15: Common in grasslands.
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenoebanus 1/15: Seen only at Pirang.
Red-winged Warbler Heliolais erythroptera 1/15: Seen well at Faraba Banta on December 13th.
Tawny-flanked Prinia Prinia subflava 10/15: Common in grassy habitats.
Green-backed Eremomela Eremomela pussila 2/15; Singles seen at Tendaba and Faraba Banta.
Northern Crombec Sylvietta brachyura 4/15: Singles along the Casino track, at Brufut and Tendaba.
Grey-backed Camaroptera Camaroptera brachyura 12/15: Common. Once you learn the single note squeak you find lots around. Responds to pishing.
Yellow White-eye Zosterops senegalensis 2/15: Singles up country and at Faraba Banta.
Yellow Penduline Tit Anthoscopus parvulus 1/15: One near the nest at Yundum, December 10th.
Common Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea 5/15: Seen three times, heard twice. Seems common at Lamin Lodge.
Senegal Batis Batis senegalensis 1/15: One flew over the road during the bush fire up country.
Northern Black Flycatcher Melaenornis edolioides 6/15: Several seen including one around the Senegambia.
Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer 1/15: One at the Senegambia on December 1st.
African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis 1/15: Seen in Abuko where several present.
Collared Sunbird Anthreptes collaris 1/15: One in Abuko, December 3rd.
Variable Sunbird Nectarinia venusta 8/15: Fairly common, like Pygmy Sunbirds without the tail streamers.
Mouse-brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus 1/15: Lots on the creek trip at Tendaba.
Scarlet-chested Sunbird Nectarinia senegalensis 3/15: Scarce, seen Yundum, Faraba Banta and Senegambia.
Western Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei 1/15: One posed well at Faraba Banta, Dec 11th.
Splendid Sunbird Nectarinia cocciniaster 15/15: Very common.
Beautiful Sunbird Nectarinia pulchella 15/15: Very common.
Copper Sunbird Nectarinia cuprea 1/15: Easily overlooked. One at Senegambia, December 9th.
Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala 5/15: Not uncommon at sites like Tanji, Brufut and Faraba Banta.
Sulphor-breasted Bush Shrike Malaconotus sulfureopectus 2/15: At Tanji one led us a merry dance until we saw it well on December 4th. Another was heard Faraba Banta, December 11th.
Brubru Nilaus afer 1/15: One showed very well at Brufut, December 4th.
Northern Puffback Dryoscopus gambensis 1/15: One was in the Senegambia grounds, December 9th.
Yellow-crowned Gonolek Laniarius barbarus 1/15: Common, easy to see and photograph at the Senegambia.
White-crested Helmet Shrike Prionops plumatus 1/15: A small group were seen on Abuko rice fields, Dec 3rd.
Woodchat Lanius senator 5/15: None until we went to Yundum on December 10th then birds everywhere.
Yellow-billed Shrike Corvinella corvina 15/15: Common.
Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus 9/15: The figures for recorded birds reflect the number of times we looked hard at them after the initial sightings.
Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chloropterus 2/15: Common up country.
Purple Glossy Starling Lamprotornis purpurea 15/15: Common.
Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chalcurus 6/15: All around the Senegambia.
Long-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis caudatus 15/15: Common.
Chesnut-bellied Starling Lamprotornis pulcher 1/15: One was around the Senegambia, December 1st.
Yellow-billed Oxpecker Buphagus africanus 5/15: Seen inland, rather shy.
Yellow-fronted Canary Serinus mozambicus 7/15: Common in lightly wooded areas.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 14/15: Common Senegambia, elsewhere present around buildings.
Grey-headed Sparrow Passer griseus 15/15: Common.
Bush Petronia Petronia dentata 2/15: Seen Brufut and Faraba Banta.
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser superciliosus 2/15: Good views on one at Brufut, December 4th. Another was at Faraba Banta, December 11th.
White-billed Buffalo-weaver Bubalornis albirostris 7/15: A big colony by the Casino Track was our first birds. Others were seen near Yundum and at several inland sites.
Yellow-shouldered Widowbird Euplectes macrourus 1/15: One at Yundum, December 10th.
Northern Red Bishop Euplected franscisanus 5/15: At several grassland sites. None in breeding plumage seen.
Black-winged Red Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus 1/15: Seen Bansang Quarry, December 7th.
Yellow-crowned Bishop Euplectes afer 1/15: Present at Faraba Banta, December 11th.
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi 1/15: One at Bansang Quarry, December 7th.
Vitelline Masked Weaver Ploceus vilatus 1/15: Seen Brufut, December 3rd.
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus 15/15: Seen everywhere.
Little Weaver Ploceus luteolus 2/15: Seen Tendaba and Faraba Banta.
Black-necked Weaver Ploceus nigricollis 3/15: Scarce, Seen Brufut, Senegambia and Faraba Banta.
Orange-cheeked Waxbill Estrilda melpoda 1/15: Two at Lamin took some finding on December 13th.
Lavender Waxbill Estrilda caerulescens 13/15: Common.
Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes 2/15: Seen at two sites up country.
Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu Uraeginthus bengalus 15/15: Common.
Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala 15/15: Common.
African Silverbill Lonchura cantans 2/15: Seen only at the Senegambia where they breed, ask Mass Cham.
Bronze Mannikin Lonchura cucullata 15/15: Common.
Exclamatory Paradise Whydah Vidua interjecta 3/15: Seen up country including one with a tail!
Pin-tailed Whydah Vidua macroura 1/15: Seen Brufut on December 4th.
Village Indigobird Vidua chalybeata 5/15; Several seen up country and at Fabra Banta.
Cut-throat Finch Amadina fasciata 2/15: One at Brufut and two at Faraba Banta.
Quail-finch Ortygospiza artricollis 2/15: Small numbers seen at Pirang.
Some birding thoughts
We were surprised by the general lack of palearctic migrants and had expected good numbers Willow Warbler, Blackcap and that type of thing, also hirundines in general were thin on the ground and seemingly only present in low densities except when there was an obvious influx on December 13th. Many of the woodland species were hard to find and usually only present in singles. Some species reported as common in Barlow simply were not, it was not for the want of looking. Sites like Bijilo can be frustrating and they would be better were a viewable drinking pool to be constructed. We were particularly disappointed to miss out on Temminck's Courser, especially as we learned that 14 were near to the area we had thoroughly searched but was probably just a couple of fields short of finding them. Perhaps the guide should organise a blackboard were information could be shared. Had we been restricted solely to the coast we would definitely have gone back to Tanji and Brufut but done them in reverse, we would also have gone to Marakissa. At the end of the trip the 282 surpassed the 260 we thought would be our likely trip total and so we were well pleased. If anyone has any comments on this report please get in touch.
We also saw lots of butterflies and dragonflies, three species of monkey, a rat type that steals watches! Fruit Bats and the odd small mammal. All things that add to a memorable trip.