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A Report from

The Gambia: 28th November – 12th December 2003,

Julian Hughes

My wife, Sandra, and I spent two weeks in The Gambia in late 2003, our first visit to Africa, so we anticipated seeing a considerable number of species that we had not seen before.  We were not disappointed – lots of good views of wonderful birds, some great people and, by visiting sights away from the coastal strip, an insight into rural Africa.  Even in two weeks in this small country, we did not have chance to visit all the places we wanted to, and The Gambia is definitely on our list of places to return to.  I now understand why so many European birders make several return visits!

1. Getting there and getting around

Sources of Information

Rod Ward’s A Birdwatchers’ Guide to The Gambia (Prion 1994) remains a crucial source of information, and is a must-buy for any visitor.  However, remember that it was written ten years ago and some of the information is now dated, though most remains valid.  We supplemented the information with trip reports from the internet, particularly and, and in this report I have endeavoured to highlight facts that we noted have changed since publication.

As a field guide, we used Barlow et al.’s A Field Guide to Birds of The Gambia and Senegal, which we found to be pretty good, though we became aware of some of its limitations and a small number of errors (e.g. the flight illustration of “Beaudouin’s Eagle” Circaetus gallicus beaudouini on plate 12 is wrong).

We also used the CD set, Bird Song of The Gambia and Senegal – an aid to identification by Barlow, Hammick and Sellar (, taking a portable CD player with external speakers and using the recordings to gen up in our hotel (but not using them for tape-luring in the field).  The CDs are an invaluable companion to the field guide.

For other background information, we used The Lonely Planet guide to The Gambia and Senegal, though this was published in 1999, so some of the information is no longer valid.

None of the information that we could find in advance contained a decent map and, as it turned out, the completion of a network of new roads along the coast means that there currently is no up-to-date map.  The best you can do is use the Macmillan Traveller’s Map to The Gambia.  However, a map is not crucial unless you are planning to hire a vehicle and drive yourself, in which case it most definitely is, since road signs away from the new Kuwaiti-funded coastal roads are non-existent.

Travel and accommodation

We booked through The Gambia Experience, and were impressed with their organisation, the information sent in advance and the local reps.  We flew with Monarch, from Gatwick to Banjul, taking about six hours – there are currently flights from Gatwick on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with additional flights direct to Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow.  There are also direct flights to Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Holidays to The Gambia

A new terminal at Banjul International Airport was opened in the late 1990s.  Not included in the cost of your package is a tourist tax of £5 (or €5, US$10) per person, payable on arrival, just after the passport booth.  Unless there’s a problem with immigration, you won’t see much of the airport as you arrive except while you wait in the passport queue, but you may see a lot more of it before you depart if your flight is delayed, as most of the British charters were, for several hours, in the week that we left.  The airport duty-free shop and bars accept both Dalasis and sterling.

We stayed in The Senegambia Hotel, not the cheapest option, but we had read about the suitable habitat around the gardens, and it proved to be a good choice, not just for its birding opportunities but also because there seemed to be a much wider choice of bars and restaurants than around the hotels at Kotu.  It was also a good choice because it seemed to be the hotel of choice for most other birders (around 40 others while we were staying there!), providing an informal network of bird news, site information and general advice each morning at breakfast.  For independent-travelling birders, this also meant that we could join up to share taxis (and, importantly, an up-country trip), thus reducing the costs.

All rooms at The Senegambia have a roomsafe, though this is only just large enough to take a couple of pairs of binoculars, a non-SLR digital camera and passports etc.  It is too small to take any telescope larger than an Opticron Mighty Midget, or an SLR with a big lens, and there are no alternative security arrangements.

Travel in The Gambia is very straightforward, though the state of the roads away from the coastal resorts and Banjul means that it takes a long time to go anywhere.  Car hire is not really necessary: not only do the lack of signs make it difficult to go anywhere off the beaten track, but concentrating on driving around the potholes and avoiding other vehicles, especially donkey/horse/ox carts would make for a stressful experience.

Bush taxis are certainly the cheapest way to travel, but as first-time visitors we didn’t have the confidence to work out the routes and flag one down.  Anyway, we found that hiring a driver and taxi for the day (D800/£16) or half-day (D500/£10) was not too expensive, especially if shared between three or four people.  For a day-trip to Marakissa, five of us booked a Land Rover (with room for eight) for D1500/£30. 

The taxis vary in their quality/state of dilapidation, and unless you have a recommendation from someone who has been before, it is pot luck.  But if you find a taxi driver that you like, it is usually easy to book him for the travel you need for the remainder of your trip.  We would recommend Sarjo Jabby (car reg: KM8726A, home 370432, mobile 906790).

Money and costs

The Dalasis has continued to fall in value in recent years, and we found that both the Senegambia Hotel and the nearby banks and exchange bureaux were offering D49-50 to the pound sterling (€=D34), although the Paradise Beach Hotel near Kotu was offering only D45 to the pound.  On arrival at the airport, have a couple of pound coins ready as this is the preferred currency for tipping by the porters at both the airport and the hotels.  Note not having a porter at the airport is not an option: one will just pick up your bags, ask where you’re going and demand that you follow them.

Compared to Europe, travel and food are cheap, though they are – not surprisingly - more expensive around the hotels than elsewhere.  We ate at a range of restaurants – Indian, Asian, Mediterranean, Lebanese, African – and typically paid D500 (£10) for a main course and a couple of drinks for two of us.  A bottle of Banjul, the local beer, costs D30 (60p) and a four-pack of 1.5 litre bottles of water costs D150 (£3) from one of the three mini-markets close to the Senegambia.

You can use sterling in shops and restaurants, but don’t expect to get such a good exchange rate.  Many of the bird guides prefer to be paid in pounds, though will accept Dalasis if that’s all you have.  We took our money as a mix of cash and sterling travellers’ cheques – cashpoints are becoming more numerous (for use with credit cards), though you can withdraw a maximum of D2000 (£40) at a time, and the power cuts seem to put them out of action regularly.

Food and health

We took the usual precautions for eating in a tropical country (avoiding ice cream, ice in drinks and unpeeled fruit) and had no problems with ‘Banjul belly’.  All the food we ate was excellent and well-cooked.  We are not vegetarian, but visitors who are vegetarian or vegan will have a limited choice over two weeks, though there is plenty of choice for fish-eaters, with some fine freshly-caught fish.

We found that the heat meant that, after a 7 am buffet breakfast at our hotel, we didn’t need lunch, and usually crashed out under a tree or with large glasses of fruit juice for a few hours in the middle of the day.  Along the coast, there are plenty of places to get a snack (the challenge is usually getting past them without the staff trying to persuade you that you really need a drink/meal), but at the inland birding sites, opportunities are more limited, except at Marakissa and Abuko.  We generally bought bananas, oranges and mangos to keep us going, though the fruit stall outside the Senegambia/ Karaiba Hotels is not much cheaper than our local Tesco, even after you’ve bartered the price down!

Mosquitoes are, often, not a major problem in November/December, at least on the coast, but the rains in 2003 were heavier and lasted longer than for more than a decade, resulting in plenty of mosquitoes still around.  They were not a serious irritant, except during the evening at the riverside camps up country, where dinner is taken outside.  We opted for Malarone as an anti-malarial, having known several people who have had some nasty side-effects with Larium (though I know others who have taken it without any problems).  We discovered, from talking to other British birders, that the price you pay for a course of Malarone depends on where you live: in some health authorities it is free, we paid £55 per person, while some paid upwards of £70 each for a course to cover a two-week trip.


Mobile phones have revolutionised communications in The Gambia, in a country where most homes do not have a landline (because Gamtel, the state-owned phone/tv/radio company, cannot afford the infrastructure costs).  Almost everyone has a mobile, at least on the coast and in the big towns, and network coverage seems good in most places, even inland – the antennae are solar-powered, thus avoiding the problem of frequent power cuts.  This means that all the taxi drivers and bird guides can be contacted directly when you’re in the country, and most also have e-mail addresses if you want to arrange something in advance.

You can buy a local Simcard in order to use your own mobile (though you’ll need one with a triband facility), but we found it just as easy to call from the hotel.  Short local calls to taxi drivers’ mobile phones cost just D6-15 (12p-30p), though we didn’t call the UK, so have no idea what the bill would be.

Hustle and hassle

Around the hotels, you can expect progress to be slow as everyone wants to shake your hand and offer you something.  It takes a couple of days of getting used to, but you soon work out some patter of your own in response.  If it doesn’t work, a firm “No, we’re not interested” is usually sufficient.  For the first 24 hours I could have done with a t-shirt stating “My name is Julian, I am from England, I am staying at the Senegambia for two weeks and this is my first visit to The Gambia”.  The hustlers are never original in the questions used to engage you…  The sight of your binoculars is usually enough for anyone to tell you that they “know a really good place to see lots of birds”.  Don’t believe them, unless they really are a bird guide, most of whom wear a West Africa Bird Study Association badge and are usually only found at Kotu Creek or outside the Senegambia/Kairaba Hotels.

The children, on the other hand, are – mostly – just pleased to see you, and smile and wave and call ‘toubab’.  They might ask for a pen, a mint or your empty water bottle (which they use to take water to school).  We took some packets of biros with us, but rather than dishing them out from our vehicle, asked our up-country guide, Lamin, to give them to local schools around the Kiang West National Park, where he worked.

If you’re birding from a track when the schools empty, you can expect to be surrounded by kids.  If you’re concentrating on birding, ignoring them seems not to be a problem, though on one occasion, Adam Rowlands and I pretended to be French and managed to walk back to the taxi engaging in a stilted French conversation, much to the frustration of the kids around us!  On another occasion, while waiting for the Georgetown ferry to be fixed, we spent an hour and a half letting the schoolkids use our bins and ‘scopes to look at birds (and the moon), and they were genuinely fascinated.  In return, we got to learn the Mandinka names for several of the commoner species.

Bird guides

We had expected that the only way to visit most of the birding sites was with a guide, though we generally prefer to find and identify our own birds (accepting that we’ll miss a greater proportion).  If you do want a guide, there are plenty to choose from, and they quickly recognise new faces and offer their services, often starting at £50 a day.  However, if you make it clear that you prefer to go birdwatching without a guide, word gets round and they generally leave you alone after several days of trying as you leave the hotel.  Abuko was the only site that we visited where there were guides at the site, and it took a few minutes to convince them that we wanted to birdwatch without a guide.  However, there is much to be said for taking a guide during your first few days, both to get used to some of the commoner bird songs/calls and to prevent hustle from other Gambians.  You should expect to pay £15 per person per day, including the taxi, driver and guide.  Most WABSA guides are good at identifying birds by sight and have extraordinary eyesight, though do not believe that they are infallible, especially on calls/songs, at which some are much better than others.  As a benchmark, we saw 264 species in two weeks (though we didn’t go birding every day), whereas four birders from Dorset had arranged a guide in advance for their whole trip and they saw 300 species in the same two weeks, visiting most of the same sites.

2. Sites

2.1       Abuko Forest

We made two visits, and even this was not enough.  A taxi from The Senegambia cost D800 (£16) for a full day and D500 (£10) for a half day, taking about half an hour depending on traffic in Serrekunda.  We got there at 8 am, when the park opens, on both occasions, as the first three hours are the best by far – late afternoon was much less productive for the canopy dwellers.  Entrance cost D31.50 (£0.65) per person and, on the full day, we paid an extra D50 (£1) flat-fee in order to use the ‘photographic hide’ near the animal orphanage.  Guides – based at both the entrance and the Education Centre - will offer to take you round, at c.D300 (£6) for two hours, but most seem to focus on the highly-visible birds and monkeys, and some of their claims on bird calls was rather suspect.  The kiosk near the orphanage sells cold(ish) soft drinks, cake, bananas and hard-boiled eggs.

The southern section, either side of the Crocodile Pool, was the most productive area – on our first visit, it took us four hours to walk as far as Post 29, the start of the cross-track.  On our half-day visit, we only had time to do these same few hundred metres, and didn’t even get time to look at the pool itself.  This lower section – the most pristine gallery forest – held little greenbul, snowy-crowned robin chat, greater honeyguide, lesser honeyguide, violet turaco, green turaco, buff-spotted woodpecker, red-bellied flycatcher, African paradise flycatcher, common wattle eye, yellow-throated leaflove, black-necked weaver, western bluebill, yellow-breasted apalis and a poor view of green hylia.  A Verreaux’s eagle owl was roosting on an open branch above a side track to the right of the main trail, just before post 27.  The best views of both turacos and the woodpecker were in the tall trees around the Education Centre, which also provided good views of giant kingfisher, hamerkop, black-headed heron and white-faced whistling duck, while a small number of black-crowned night herons roosted in the evening.

The section to the north of the cross-track was less productive, but it was early afternoon, though we did see African golden oriole, variable sunbird and swallow-tailed bee-eater, as well as more snowy-crowned robin chats.  We spent two hours in the photographic hide, which overlooks a concrete drinking pool, and was the best D50 we spent all trip (note that the map in Ward is wrong: the photo-hide is on the south side of the orphanage compound, not the north side).  As well as close-up views of many common birds, African paradise flycatcher, levaillant’s cuckoo and western bluebill all made visits to the pool, while a pair of displaying African pygmy kingfishers just a few metres in front of us was a memorable moment.  Watching while the spotted hyenas were ‘laughing’ made for some surreal video footage!

We attempted to follow the bird trail through the reserve extension but found that it was too overgrown after the first 200 metres, with the grass too tall to permit viewing.  An alternative would have been to walk around the perimeter of the extension, but we had insufficient time to do this.

2.2       Bijilo Forest Park

We made two visits to Bijilo, just a ten minute walk from the Senegambia Hotel.  The Park officially opens at 8 am, but is often open between 7 am and 7.30 am.  The entrance fee was D30 (£0.60) and you need to retain your ticket so that one half can be detached as you leave.  We visited on our first afternoon, and found it an easy introduction to Gambian forest birds away from the hotel, though a morning visit will produce more birds, as our second visit (on our final morning) proved.  Most of the birds we would see elsewhere, such as tawny-flanked prinia, blackcap babbler, little bee-eater, black-billed wood dove and blue-spotted wood dove.  However, it was the only place that we saw oriole warbler: two at the entrance and a second pair at the southern end of the yellow trail.  Being first down the black, ornithological trail in the morning gives you the best chance of stone partridge on the track.  We only heard them, but were more than compensated with an Ahanta francolin standing on the path before walking into long grass.  Everyone else seemed to see white-throated bee-eater here - we didn’t, but we had superb views of a troop of young green vervet monkeys feeding, playing and grooming.  Much better than the ones that seek peanut handouts near the entrance.

2.3       Tanji beach

We did not have enough time to visit Tanji nature reserve, though several birders that we spoke to had been rather disappointed at the limited range of species they had seen.  We did, however, visit the beach at Tanji fishing village – on the way back to the hotel from Brufut Woods.  The taxi dropped us at the side of the main road and we walked through the stalls and boats to the beach, where a small selection of Palearctic waders fed in the surf, down to a few metres.  The rocks and sand bars offshore held several dozen roosting lesser-crested terns, sandwich terns and a single Caspian tern.  On the water were plenty of grey-headed, black-headed and intermedius lesser black-backed gulls, which our guide tried to convince us were kelp gulls, but were clearly not (as they had streaky heads).  We did, however, find one kelp gull, though it stayed much farther out, beyond the fishing boats and away from the other gulls.

2.4       Brufut Woods

Brufut is one of several sites being managed in an agreement between the West Africa Bird Study Association and the local community.  An area of the scrub/savannah has been fenced off and so is protected from clearance for firewood and grazing, while the D50 (£1) entrance fee is divided between the village and WABSA (including the wages of the ticket issuer).  Taxis will normally drop you at the ticket-seller, from where you can walk a short distance east to a gap in the fence.  We visited twice, on the first occasion with a guide from outside the Senegambia Hotel, and on both visits followed the main east-west track, with occasional forays along the north-south tracks.  On our second visit, a waterhole appeared to be under construction (signposted from the main track), which may hold birds in future.  Generally, you will need to re-trace your steps to the entrance in order to meet your driver, and three to four hours in the morning is normally enough before bird activity starts to wane.

If you don’t go up-country during your stay, Brufut is well worth a couple of visits, as it holds many species typical of inland savannah habitats.  Among the species we saw were black-shouldered kite, pearl-spotted owlet, striped kingfisher, swallow-tailed bee-eater, viellot’s barbet, yellow-fronted tinkerbird, African pied hornbill, splendid sunbird, variable sunbird, black-crowned tchagra, red-bellied flycatcher, violet turaco, pin-tailed wydah and yellow-crowned gonolek.  We also heard green hylia on our second visit, in a habitat very different from Abuko.  It was also the only place that we saw orange-cheeked waxbill, fanti saw-wing, red-winged warbler and crested helmet shrike, and was one of the best places we found for Palearctic migrant passerines, especially nightingale and melodious warbler.

About half a mile farther along the track from the ‘reserve’ is a small wetland adjacent to an orchard, which held a reasonable range of birds, including black crake.  You will be expected to pay a small entrance fee if you want to view this wetland.

2.5       Casino Cycle Track/Kotu Creek and Ponds/Fajara Golf Course

We visited all these sites in a long day at the start of our trip, walking north along the beach from the Senegambia Hotel as far as the most substantial beach bar (i.e. it’s made of bricks and has a proper roof, rather than being a shack) before turning inland to walk up the road to the Palma Rima Hotel.  It takes around 20-25 minutes to walk from the Senegambia to the Palma Rima and then half an hour along the cycle track.  We found that the vegetation around the rice fields was high, making viewing difficult, and since it was only our second day in the field, our inexperience undoubtedly meant that we missed some birds.  The scrub held good numbers of northern black flycatchers, piapiacs, white-billed buffalo weavers, while we also saw northern crombec, African harrier hawk and shikra.

To visit Kotu sewage ponds from the north end of the cycle track (where it meets the tarmac road to Kotu), turn right for 200-300 yards and look for the sandy track (with a corrugated tin ‘ticket office’) up a slight rise on the east side of the road.  We had been warned that we might be asked to buy a ticket, but that there was definitely no charge to visit the sewage ponds.  Within moments of arriving, a teenage boy was demanding D10 (£0.20) per person, and despite our initial attempts to ignore him, in the end we gave in to his persistence.  Subsequently, Solomon Jallow (chairman of WABSA) confirmed that there is no official charge, but that it’s worth paying the small fee to the family that lives in the house overlooking the ponds, as they do ensure that no-one shoots birds at the ponds.  We spent several hours at the ponds, walking slowly around each in turn (note that the northeastern pond is no longer active, presumably having been filled with sewage, and is now a vegetable field).  When we first arrived, African jacana and black crake were on the track between the ponds, but disappeared into the riparian grasses when the first sewage lorry of the morning arrived, the latter not to be seen again during our visit.  The vegetation around each pond is quite different, presumably depending on which is being currently used for sewage disposal.  The northwestern pond had the most vegetation, and held little grebe, long-tailed cormorant and squacco heron among other things (note that bird guides tend to get quite excited about little grebe, scarce in The Gambia, and clearly no British birders have had the heart to explain quite how common they are here!).  Around 50 white-faced whistling ducks roosted on the southwestern pond, with marsh sandpiper, black-winged stilt, wood and green sandpipers feeding around them.  Plenty of egrets fed around the edge of the southeastern pond, giving a great opportunity to ‘grill’ intermediate egret.  A painted snipe had been seen here a couple of days before our visit, but we couldn’t find it.  The airspace above the ponds was full of African palm, common and pallid swifts, with a few little swifts and mottled spinetails, plus red-chested, barn and wire-tailed swallows.  As the thermals developed, we had superb views of palm nut vulture and lanner falcon among the black kites and hooded vultures.  The trees and scrub around the perimeter were also excellent, with Abyssinian roller, bearded barbet, green wood hoopoe and grey-backed camaroptera among others.

From the sewage ponds, we headed for the Paradise Beach Hotel (marked only as a beach bar on Ward’s map) and demolished several pints of pineapple juice before walking to Kotu and Fajara.  Kotu creek was a little disappointing because the tide was out during our visit, but we did see several black egrets, western reef herons and Senegal thick-knees from the bridge (and the ‘path’ along the south side of the creek, eastward from the end of the bridge).

Finding Fajara golf course from the south was a challenge because a high wall has been built between the road around Bungalow Beach Hotel and the golf course.  The path to the golf course is through a narrow gap between the taxi car park and this grey wall.  It was so hot when we arrived, that we crashed in the shade of a tree for a couple of hours until mid afternoon.  However, even then, there was very little bird activity either on the fairways or in the scrub, palms or whistling pines.  Unfortunately, there weren’t enough days in a fortnight to return in a morning to do the golf course properly.

2.6       The Bund Road

We took Ward’s advice and visited on a Sunday afternoon (visiting on a weekday was described by another birder as like trying to watch from the hard shoulder of the M25).  A taxi from The Senegambia cost D400 (£8), shared with two other birders, for 2.5 hours.  We were dropped off by the Pumping Station, which wasn’t manned the day we visited, enabling us to climb the outside stairs and use the flat roof as an excellent watchpoint over the mangroves.  We then walked east towards the harbour, but the tide came in quicker than we anticipated and a roost of several thousand gulls and terns that we’d seen from the pumping station had dispersed.  We were also unable to see into the main lagoon (marked as Crab Island Ponding Area on Ward’s map) from the bund road because the mangroves have grown too thick.  Apparently, it is possible to walk along Lasso Wharf (on the north side of the lagoon) and, seeking permission from the owners of the stalls/workshops on the south side of the road, access the north bank.  We only discovered this subsequently, however.

The main surprise was a goliath heron feeding in the pool next to the pumping station, fairly scarce on the coast (and still present several days later, seen by a group of birders who had missed it upriver).  Among the other birds in the mangroves were malachite kingfisher, common wattle-eye, olivaceous warbler and yellow-backed weaver, while birds feeding in the lagoon north of the pumping station included western reef heron, black egret, striated heron, black-crowned night heron, black- and bar-tailed godwit.  At the eastern end of the Bund Road, pink-backed pelicans and lesser-crested terns roosted on the hulks in the bay and gull-billed terns and slender-billed gulls commuted from the out-of-sight lagoon.

2.7       Yundum Woods

We made only one visit, on a hot and humid afternoon, part of which we spent trying to match the map in Ward to the topography on the ground.  We spent some time searching the recently-cleared melon fields for Temminck’s coursers but found only wattled and black-headed plovers.  We walked down what we believed to be the track behind the agricultural college, along which we expected to find the deserted buildings mentioned in Ward.  The scattered acacias and scrub held good numbers of common birds, such as northern black flycatcher, fork-tailed drongo and fine-spotted woodpecker, plus little weaver, vitelline masked weaver and singing cisticola.  We also had good views of dark-chanting goshawk and black-shouldered kite, but could not find the buildings.  There is an Islamic school that is nearly completed, but it appears that most of the track and deserted buildings are on the north side of the new road between the airport and the coastal hotels – we presume that this road is entirely new and has bisected the site, but we didn’t realise this until we were sitting high up in the coach taking us to the airport on our final day!  Thus, it is probably worth exploring the scrub to the north of this new road, though be aware that this will probably take you behind a large army barracks, so be careful with cameras and binoculars.

2.8       Marakissa

Aside from Bansang quarry, this was the only place that we visited which is not included in Ward’s book.  Marakissa village is on the main dirt track due south of Brikama, on the road to Senegal, but the main birding areas are farther south, between the village and the border.  Five of us hired an open-top Land Rover for the day, for D1500 (£30) including a driver but not a guide.  It is worth spending a whole day here, because it is an hour’s drive from the coastal resorts and it is advisable to leave your hotel at or before 6.30 am in order to utilise the early light.  The Dutch-owned Marakissa River Camp provides a respite for the early afternoon, with cold drinks (D30, £0.60), food (omelette and chips for D85, £1.70) and no rush to leave.

We first visited the pools and rice fields south of Marakissa River Camp, where the road crosses the narrow river.  In the first hour, we picked up violet turaco, pied hornbills, African green pigeon, grey kestrel, black-necked weaver, yellow-throated leaflove and, a definite highlight, a family group of dwarf bitterns, possibly the first recorded breeding away from up river.  From the bridge, we walked north, taking the right hand fork into the savannah, though this area was fairly quiet.  Just after the only building on the right is an obvious track east, down which we bumped into a group of birders who had seen red-shouldered cuckoo-shrike, but we failed.  We did see levaillant’s cuckoo, northern puffback and singing cisticola, however.

Lunch overlooking the river included giant kingfisher and a frustratingly brief view of possible Ovambo sparrowhawk, after which we drove south again, stopping a few hundred yards south of the bridge where a spotted honeyguide had been seen in a mahogany tree earlier.  We didn’t get it, though a banded snake eagle was nice.  We drove on to Darsilami, turning right at the T-junction in the village and following the road west until we reached the edge of a large lake/mangrove that is bisected by the road.  In the scrub and fields to the south and east of the lake, we had superb views of a pair of ground hornbills, perched in a tree and then in flight, as well as purple glossy starling, yellow-shouldered widowbird, long-crested eagle, a pair of yellow-throated longclaws, plain-backed pipit and frustratingly brief views of quail finch.  Feeding around the water’s edge were several heron species, malachite kingfisher and waders including redshank, spotted redshank, marsh sandpiper.  The passerines took a bit of work, wading around in the mud and spartina-type grass, but the quality of the birds and the views we had made it one of the best day trips that we made.

2.9       Inland sites

Our up-river trip is the only part of our itinerary that we had arranged in advance, through Habitat Africa (; tel +220 472208, mobile 921551).  We could undoubtedly have done this much cheaper by waiting until we had arrived, but wanted to be certain that we would be able to do what we wanted, when we wanted.  For the two of us, it would have cost £400, but with more people, the cost was reduced (the minibus would comfortably have taken six and even eight).  Simon Gillings, who we had met on our second night at the hotel, joined us for the up-river trip and so it cost us £150 each for four days/three nights.  This included the cost of the minibus, driver, bird guide and accommodation, but not food or drink.  However, meals, beer and water only added an extra £20 each to the bill.  The disadvantage of booking in advance, unless you have a personal recommendation, is that you don’t know whether your guide is going to be any good.  Ours was Lamin Sanyang (head ranger of Kiang West National Park, who supplements his meagre government conservation income by leading for Habitat Africa), and he was pretty good.

If you are staying for a fortnight, a four-day trip inland is a must – it was responsible for some of the most memorable moments and birds of the trip.  The roads are in a very poor state, especially between Brikama and Soma, and there are so many places to stop and bird that it would be folly to try to do it in less than four days.  If you are only staying on the coast for a week, a trip to Basse is not a sensible use of time, but a night at Tendaba Camp (a day’s journey each way with plenty of stops) is well worth considering.  We stayed at Tendaba on the outward and return legs (with a boat trip to Bao Bolon on the morning of the outward trip) and spent a night at the Bao Bolong camp at Georgetown in between (the Bird Safari Camp at Georgetown is better placed for birding, but is twice the price of Bao Bolong and its location was largely irrelevant as we arrived after dark and left before dawn).


Rather than take a separate trip to Pirang, we dropped in on our journey east, spending just half an hour there, though we did see four species that we saw nowhere else: superb views of black crowned crane (which reared two chicks at the site this year), African hobby, crested lark and mosque swallow.  Even though we had our own guide, a local guide took us to the part of this vast area where the cranes were most likely – and they flew in directly in front of us about five minutes after arrival!

Pirang to Tendaba

This section of the road is in a dire state: most of the tarmac is very badly potholed, the erosion made worse by the 2003 heavy rainfall, and where there is no tarmac, the laterite or sand track is badly rutted.  As a result, most vehicles drive in the gutter (sometimes wider than the road!) and it takes a long time to go anywhere.  The advantage for birders is that shouting ‘stop’ to check a bird on a tree or a soaring raptor is easy, as the vehicle is never speeding!  A proposal is before the National Assembly to upgrade the road, but in a country with little money, it’s unlikely that it will be repaired quickly (and questionable whether this is the best use of money, rather than healthcare or education).  Most guides organise minibuses to do the journey, though a four wheel drive would probably be quicker and better able to deal with the roads.  Our minibus was in better nick than most and our driver, Cherno, was a regular on the road to Basse (though he had never taken birders out before, so it took a while to train him that ‘stop’ meant immediately!).  His knowledge meant that we had no problems finding a supply of petrol (which can be a problem for coastal-based drivers) or a replacement headlamp when we drove into a cow…

From the vehicle, we saw 19 raptor species on day 1 and a further 8 species on day 2.  Besides black kite and hooded vulture (which become much scarcer east of Bintang Bolon), dark-chanting goshawk, lizard buzzard and grasshopper buzzard are probably the commonest species, while we also saw several European griffon and many white backed vultures, pallid harrier, bataleur, African fish eagle, African hawk eagle, brown snake eagle, red-necked falcon and lanner falconRufous-crowned and Abyssinian rollers were also frequently called from the minibus, while occasional forays into the bush at random stops produced bru-bru, northern puffback, African golden oriole, bush petronia and yellow-fronted canary.

Tendaba Camp

Tendaba Bush Camp seems to have been upgraded since Ward’s book.  All the rooms now appear to have a fan and newish mosquito nets, and ours had en-suite facilities (though the shower was minimalist in design and waterflow).  The food was very good: we paid D150 (£3) each for a three-course buffet meal on one night and D93 (£2) for bushpig and chips on the second, and the usual D30 (60 pence) for a bottle of Julbrew.  A 1.5 litre bottle of mineral water was, at D30, cheaper than in the coastal supermarkets, and breakfast was D50 (£1) each.  The pirogue trip was a bargain: D150 (£3) each for a three hour trip.

We arrived at Tendaba mid-afternoon (eight hours to drive 90 kilometres!) and spent a couple of hours exploring the scrub to the south west of the village.  Even in a short walk, we found pygmy sunbird, brown-rumped bunting, chestnut-crowned sparrow-weaver, swallow-tailed bee-eater, striped kingfisher, yellow penduline tit and several four-banded sandgrouse, while redstart, olivaceous and melodious warblers provided a touch of a European summer.  It really was one of those special hours when you didn’t know what to look at next.

After dark, we drove back towards Kwinella and, on the northern outskirts of the village, took a very sharp right turn towards Batteling.  After a mile or so, we started finding nightjars on the track, and spent the next hour watching long-tailed, standard-winged and European nightjars in the headlights, or by torchlight.  The European nightjars are, supposedly, the first reported for several years, though given that we saw two without really trying, we suspect that this is not the case.  We also had reasonable views of spotted thick-knee and superb views of spotted eagle owl in the headlights, and brief views of pearl-spotted owlet and civet cat as we drove back to the Camp.

At 7.30 the following morning, we boarded the wooden motorised pirogue and crossed the Gambia river to enter the creeks of Bao Bolon National Park, a vast area of mangroves, interspersed with open grassy areas and mudflats.  With 10 species of heron (including several goliaths and a white-backed night heron), two pelicans (great white and pink-backed), two storks (woolly-necked and yellow-billed), African spoonbill, sacred ibis and spur-winged goose, we had no shortage of large waterbirds to photograph.  Montagu’s, marsh and pallid harrier all gave impressive aerial displays, while Kentish plover, ringed and little ringed plovers were among the commoner greenshanks, whimbrels and Senegal thick-kneesWoodland, malachite and grey-headed were among five kingfisher species seen, while blue-cheeked bee-eater and mouse-brown sunbirds were seen at several points.  Add to these, lots of hirundines, acrocephalus warblers and a family of five warthogs at the water’s edge, and we had a memorable punt around the creeks.

After our second night at Tendaba, we explored the old airfield and nearby dried-up river and, although less productive than the scrub south of the camp, it did produce northern puffback, plain-backed pipit, Bruce’s green pigeon, bush petronia and a nesting red-rumped swallow (few, if any, of the RRSs in The Gambia are migrants from Europe).

Tendaba to Georgetown

The road remains poor as far as Soma, at which there is a noticeable improvement for most of the journey to Georgetown.  From the road, we saw Wahlberg’s eagle, village indigobird, Namaqua dove, brown snake eagle, banded snake eagle, little green bee-eater, lappet-faced vulture and gabar goshawk.  The only prolonged stops that we made were at Soma and at Brikama Ba.

Soma wetland is a large lake just west of the town of Soma, though at least half the water had evaporated when we visited.  Viewing from the road, on a causeway across the middle of the lake, the highlights here were Kittlitz’s plover and Egyptian plover.  The latter was found by Sandra while Simon and I were trying to decide whether the sandy-coloured plover was a Kittlitz’s, after which we no longer cared!  We were able to walk out across the dried up lake bed and watch the Egyptian plover from about 20 yards – and they really are as stunning as everyone says.

At Brikama Ba, it’s worth stopping on the western outskirts of the village to view the marabou stork colony on the south side of the main road.  We also had three oxpeckers on sheep in a field on the north side of the road, a species that was surprisingly scarce (and not seen at all on cattle!).  When we arrived at the ferry at Georgetown, it was being welded back together, so we spent an hour and a half waiting on the water’s edge, adding black-headed heron and Bruce’s green pigeon to our list, as well as providing added interest to the journey home for boatloads of schoolkids…  It was after dark when we finally crossed the river, thus missing the painted snipe that (we subsequently learned) had been seen in the first rice field to the east of the Georgetown-side of the ferry the previous day.

We stayed in the Bao Bolong Camp, where again the buffet dinner and breakfast were adequate and inexpensive, and bottled mineral water was available.  There are no mosquito nets over the beds, but there are screens on the window and we had no problem in the room (though there were plenty of mozzies to eat us while we had dinner).  Toilet and shower are en-suite (though compact: the shower is directly over the toilet!) and if you find yourself in room 23, the lock works one way (i.e. it locks but doesn’t unlock) and you’ll need a pen-knife to get out!

Bansang Quarry

Just 20 minutes east of Georgetown, the quarry is no more than quarter of a mile to the south of the main road on the edge of Bansang village, and is clearly signed.  As at Brufut, the West Africa Bird Study Association has signed a management agreement with the local community, so that the eastern half (hosting the red-throated bee-eater nesting colony) is fenced off and stone can only be taken from the western half.  Birders are asked to pay D25 (£0.50) each, of which 60% goes to the local village.  We visited early in the morning and for an hour in mid afternoon, and it was possibly our favourite place in the whole country, with a pool on the quarry floor attracting birds from the surrounding countryside.

The red-throated bee-eaters are the big draw, and they (perhaps 50-70) really are stunning, but the supporting cast was pretty impressive: cinnamon breasted bunting, purple glossy starling, black-rumped waxbill, exclamatory paradise wydah (in full breeding regalia), Namaqua dove, double-spurred francolin, red-rumped swallow and zitting cisticola.  Thanks to Simon’s hawk eyes, we also saw and photographed ortolan bunting, only the third record for The Gambia according to Barlow et al.  Given more time, we are sure that Bansang can produce a whole lot more.


En route to Basse, somewhere along a randomly-selected bush track, a pair of cut-throats perched twice briefly in the top of a bare tree, though were only seen by one of our group.  From the ferry ‘terminal’ in Basse, we ‘scoped four Egyptian plovers, though these views were quite disappointing after our experience at Soma.  We concentrated our time around the scrub and rice fields at Prufut, to the northeast of Basse.  We arrived at around 9 am and already the day was hot and the birds becoming difficult.  In the scrub west of the rice cultivations we found scarlet-chested sunbird, yellow-crowned bishop and plaintive cisticola, and gabar goshawk, short-toed eagle (Beaudouin’s eagle) and black-shouldered kite among vultures on the thermals.  The main target here is, of course, northern carmine bee-eater and it took us a while to find them, feeding from the top of bare trees on the east side of the rice fields.  The heat haze made viewing less satisfactory than if we had been there earlier (but then we wouldn’t have had the excellent hour at Bansang just after dawn).  Black-headed heron and black-headed plover were among the herons and egrets feeding around the rice fields.

Basse to Tendaba

The journey takes around seven hours, even without stops, and we limited our ‘stop’ calls to a troop of 40+ baboons (just five minutes west of Basse), red patas monkeys, four-banded sandgrouse and – after dark – spotted eagle owl, pearl spotted owlet and mongoose in the headlights.

Tendaba to the coast

This was a fairly relaxed return journey, starting with a pink-backed pelican colony in the middle of Kwinella village, and including striped kingfisher and four sunbird species.  The only new bird was a white-headed vulture, perched on top of a tree very close to the road, though other birders saw Rueppell’s griffon vulture.

3. Birds

The following checklist is not exhaustive, and any errors are the result of me not scribbling notes quickly enough at the time.  The number indicates the number of days on which we saw a species (not necessarily the number of sites).  Unusually heavy and late rains in 2003 would appear to have made some of the sightings/ locations less typical than in recent years.

Little Grebe

2: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Pirang

Long-tailed Cormorant

4: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Pirang, Bund Road, Marakissa

African Darter

5: Pirang, Bao Bolon, Bund Road, Abuko. Marakissa

Great White Pelican

1: Bao Bolon

Pink-backed Pelican

6: seen regularly, usually within a few km of sea or river

Dwarf Bittern

1: Marakissa

Black-crowned Night-Heron

3: Bao Bolon, Bund Road, Abuko

White-backed Night-Heron

1: Bao Bolon

Squacco Heron

4: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Bao Bolon, Basse, Marakissa

Cattle Egret

9: seen regularly in rice fields

Striated Heron

3: Bao Bolon, Bund Road, Abuko

Black Egret

3: Kotu Creek, Bao Bolon, Bund Road

Western Reef Heron

6: dark morph seen regularly around ponds and rivers

Little Egret

2: only specifically noted at Bintang Bolon and Darsilami

Intermediate Egret

3: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Bao Bolon, Darsilami

Great White Egret

9: seen regularly in rice fields, mangroves and along river

Grey Heron

5: small numbers around most wetlands and some rice fields

Black-headed Heron

3: Georgetown, Basse, Abuko

Goliath Heron

2: Bao Bolon, Bund Road


6: seen daily inland, only at Abuko and Marakissa near coast

Yellow-billed Stork

3: over Senegambia Hotel, Bao Bolon, Marakissa

Woolly-necked Stork

1: Bao Bolon

Marabou Stork

2: Sofanyama Bolon, Brikama Ba

Sacred Ibis

1: Bao Bolon

African Spoonbill

3: Bao Bolon, Tendaba Airfield, Darsilami

White-faced Whistling-Duck

2: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Casino Cycle Track, Abuko

Spur-winged Goose

1: Bao Bolon

Black-shouldered Kite

3: Brufut Woods, Basse, Yundum Woods

Black Kite

14: daily, though less abundant east of Bintang Bolon

African Fish-Eagle

2: Bintang Bolon, Bao Bolon

Palm-nut Vulture

11: widespread, in small numbers

Hooded Vulture

14: daily, in large numbers

White-backed Vulture

4: seen daily inland

European Griffon Vulture

1: several seen between coast and Tendaba

Lappet-faced Vulture

1: c.10 miles west of Georgetown

White-headed Vulture

1: between Tendaba and the coast

Short-toed Eagle

1: several (of sedentary African form) around Basse

Brown Snake-Eagle

2: Kiang West National Park, Sofanyama Bolon

Western Banded Snake Eagle

2: Sofanyama Bolon, Marakissa


1: between Sibanor and Bintang Bolon

African Harrier-Hawk

8: common in savannah, also seen in grounds of Senegambia

Pallid Harrier

1: Bao Bolon

Montagu's Harrier

2: Bao Bolon, Tendaba Airfield

Eurasian Marsh Harrier

2: Bao Bolon, Brufut Woods

Gabar Goshawk

2: Sofanyama Bolon, Basse

Dark Chanting Goshawk

5: common inland, also at Yundum Woods


6: common inland, also Casino Cycle Track and Marakissa

Ovambo Sparrowhawk

1: possible, at Marakissa

Grasshopper Buzzard

3: common inland

Lizard Buzzard

7: common inland, also Brufut Woods and Marakissa

Wahlberg's Eagle

2: Tendaba to coast

African Hawk Eagle

2: Kiang West National Park, Sofanyama Bolon

Booted Eagle

1: Basse

Long-crested Eagle

1: Darsilami


5: Brufut, Tendaba, Bao Bolon, Bund Road

Grey Kestrel

6: Senegambia Hotel, Casino Cycle Track, Marakissa, inland

Red-necked Falcon

1: Kiang West National Park

African Hobby

1: Pirang

Lanner Falcon

4: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Kiang West NP, Basse, Marakissa

Peregrine Falcon

1: outskirts of Brikama

Stone Partridge

4: heard only, at Brufut, Tendaba, Abuko and Bijilo

Ahanta Francolin

1: Bijilo Forest

Double-spurred Francolin

8: heard frequently, seen at several sites

Black Crake

1: Kotu Sewage Ponds

Common Moorhen

1: Marakissa

Black Crowned-Crane

1: Pirang

African Jacana

3: Kotu Sewage Ponds, near Kafutu, Marakissa

Eurasian Oystercatcher

1: Bund Road

Black-winged Stilt

6: at most sizeable wetlands

Senegal Thick-knee

3: Kotu Creek, Bao Bolon, Darsilami

Spotted Thick-knee

1: Batteling Track (Tendaba)

Egyptian Plover

2: Soma Wetland, Basse

Little Ringed Plover

1: Bao Bolon

Common Ringed Plover

1: Bao Bolon

Kentish Plover

1: Bao Bolon

Kittlitz's Plover

1: Soma Wetland

Wattled Plover

5: common around small pools and recently cut fields

Black-headed Plover

4: Tendaba, Basse, Yundum Woods

Spur-winged Plover

6: common around small pools and recently cut fields


1: Tanji Beach


1: Bao Bolon

Black-tailed Godwit

1: Bund Road

Bar-tailed Godwit

2: Tanji Beach, Bund Road


5: common in small numbers on beach and larger wetlands

Spotted Redshank

1: Darsilami

Common Redshank

3: Kotu Creek, Bao Bolon, Darsilami

Marsh Sandpiper

3: Kotu Creek, Bao Bolon, Darsilami

Common Greenshank

5: common in small numbers around rivers and large wetlands

Green Sandpiper

1: Kotu Sewage Ponds

Wood Sandpiper

1: Kotu Sewage Ponds

Common Sandpiper

5: common in small numbers around rivers and large wetlands

Ruddy Turnstone

1: Tanji Beach

Arctic Skua

1: off Kololi Beach

Grey-headed Gull

6: common around coast

Black-headed Gull

2: Tanji Beach, Bund Road

Slender-billed Gull

1: Bund Road

Lesser Black-backed Gull

2: Tanji Beach, Bund Road

Kelp Gull

1: Tanji Beach

Gull-billed Tern

1: Bund Road

Caspian Tern

5: Tanji Beach, Pirang, Bao Bolon, Bund Road, Darsilami

Lesser-crested Tern

2: Tanji Beach, Bund Road

Sandwich Tern

5: common along coast

Four-banded Sandgrouse

2: Tendaba, flushed from road between Bansang and Tendaba

African Green-Pigeon

1: Marakissa

Bruce's Green-Pigeon

3: Georgetown, Bansang, Tendaba Airfield

Blue-spotted Wood-Dove

5: most numerous at Bijilo Forest and Abuko

Black-billed Wood Dove

5: Bijilo Forest, Abuko, Yundum Woods

Namaqua Dove

2: Sofanyama Bolon, Bansang Quarry

Speckled Pigeon

14: common around Senegambia Hotel and forest sites

Red-eyed Dove

14: common around Senegambia Hotel and savannah

African Mourning Dove

7: most numerous in savannah and forest sites

Vinaceous Dove

4: probably more abundant, but we gave up looking!

Laughing Dove

14: common at Senegambia Hotel and probably elsewhere

Senegal Parrot

6: common inland, and also at Bijilo Forest and Abuko

Rose-ringed Parakeet

10: present at most sites

Green Turaco

1: Abuko

Violet Turaco

4: Abuko, Brufut, Marakissa

Western Grey Plantain-eater

12: common everywhere

Levaillant's Cuckoo

2: Abuko, Marakissa

African Cuckoo

1: Kiang West National Park

Senegal Coucal

14: common everywhere

African Scops Owl

1: heard only, near Tendaba

White-faced Scops-Owl

3: heard only, at Senegambia Hotel

Spotted Eagle-Owl

2: Batteling Track (Tendaba) and on main road near Tendaba

Verreaux's Eagle Owl

2: Abuko

Pearl-spotted Owlet

3: Brufut, Tendaba

Long-tailed Nightjar

1: Batteling Track (Tendaba)

European Nightjar

1: Batteling Track (Tendaba)

Standard-winged Nightjar

1: Batteling Track (Tendaba)

Mottled Spinetail

4: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Sibanor, Tendaba, Yundum Woods

African Palm-Swift

10: common along coast, scarcer inland

Pallid Swift

3: small numbers along coast, most at Kotu Sewage Ponds

Common Swift

3: small numbers along coast, most at Kotu Sewage Ponds

Little Swift

2: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Bund Road

Grey-headed Kingfisher

1: Bao Bolon

Blue-breasted Kingfisher

3: Bao Bolon, Abuko, Marakissa

Woodland Kingfisher

1: Bao Bolon

Striped Kingfisher

4: Brufut, several upriver from Tendaba

African Pygmy-Kingfisher

1: Abuko

Malachite Kingfisher

3: Bao Bolon, Bund Road, Darsilami

Giant Kingfisher

3: Tanji Beach, Abuko, Marakissa

Pied Kingfisher

12: common over any running water and larger wetlands

Little Bee-eater

5: Bijilo Forest, Brufut Woods, Basse, Abuko

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

3: Brufut Woods, Tendaba, Abuko

Red-throated Bee-eater

1: Bansang Quarry

Little Green Bee-eater

1: main road near Sofanyama Bolon

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

1: Bao Bolon

European Bee-eater

2: several sites around Tendaba, Bund Road

Northern Carmine Bee-eater

1: Basse

Rufous-crowned Roller

4: common inland, Yundum Woods

Blue-bellied Roller

5: Bijilo Forest, Pirang, Brufut Woods, Marakissa and inland

Abyssinian Roller

6: common inland, also Kotu Sewage Ponds, Marakissa

Broad-billed Roller

10: common over Senegambia Hotel and elsewhere

Green Wood Hoopoe

7: small number at most coastal sites, including Senegambia

Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill

1: Darsilami

Red-billed Hornbill

14: common everywhere, including Senegambia Hotel

African Pied Hornbill

2: Brufut Woods, Marakissa

African Grey Hornbill

5: Brufut, Marakissa, Abuko, common inland

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird

6: nesting on the terrace at Senegambia, also at Brufut Woods

Vieillot's Barbet

3: Brufut Woods and several sites inland

Bearded Barbet

7: Senegambia Hotel, Kotu Sewage Ponds, Darsilami

Greater Honeyguide

1: Abuko

Lesser Honeyguide

1: Abuko

Fine-spotted Woodpecker

4: Brufut, Bao Bolon, Tendaba Airfield

Buff-spotted Woodpecker

1: Abuko

Grey Woodpecker

5: Senegambia Hotel, Fajara, Abuko, Marakissa

Crested Lark

1: Pirang

Chestnut-backed Sparro’-Lark

1: main road east of Sofanyama Bolon

Fanti Saw Wing

3: Brufut Woods, Abuko

Mosque Swallow

1: Pirang

Red-rumped Swallow

4: common at wetland sites inland

Wire-tailed Swallow

4: Kotu Sewage Ponds/Creek, Pirang, Bao Bolon, Marakissa

Red-chested Swallow

8: common at wetland sites

Barn Swallow

4: specifically noted at Kotu, Bao Bolon, Bansang, Brufut

Common House Martin

2: with other hirundines over inland villages and Bao Bolob

Yellow Wagtail

1: heard only, at Bao Bolon

White Wagtail

2: Soma Wetland, Bund Road

Plain-backed Pipit

2: Tendaba Airfield, Darsilami

Yellow-throated Longclaw

1: Darsilami

Little Greenbul

2: Abuko

Yellow-throated Leaflove

3: Abuko, Marakissa

Common Bulbul

14: daily around Senegambia and at most sites


2: heard only, at Brufut Woods

Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat

3: Abuko, Bijilo Forest

White-crowned Robin-Chat

8: regularly around Senegambia Hotel


2: Tendaba and a roadside site en route to Georgetown

African Thrush

10: common around Senegambia and most woodland sites

Sedge Warbler

1: heard only, at Bao Bolon

Reed Warbler

2: heard only, at Bao Bolon and Brufut Woods

Great Reed Warbler

1: heard only, at Bao Bolon

Olivaceous Warbler

3: Tendaba, Bund Road

Melodious Warbler

5: Brufut Woods, Tendaba, Abuko, Marakissa

Singing Cisticola

2: Yundum Woods, Marakissa

Plaintive Cisticola

1: Basse

Zitting Cisticola

3: several inland sites, most common at Bansang Quarry

Tawny-flanked Prinia

8: common at woodland and scrub sites

Red-winged Warbler

1: Brufut Woods

Yellow-breasted Apalis

2: Abuko

Grey-backed Camaroptera

6: Kotu Sewage Ponds, Brufut Woods, Bund Road, inland

Green-backed Eremomela

5: Brufut Woods, Abuko, several inland sites

Northern Crombec

3: Casino Cycle Track, Brufut Woods, several inland sites

Oriole Warbler

3: Bijilo Forest, also heard at Senegambia Hotel

Green Hylia

3: seen at Abuko, also heard at Brufut Woods

Willow Warbler

2: heard at inland sites


1: heard at Bijilo Forest


1: Brufut Woods

Common Whitethroat

1: heard only, Brufut Woods

Northern Black Flycatcher

4: Casino Cycle Track, Senegambia Hotel, Brufut, Yundum

Common Wattle-eye

3: Bund Road, Abuko

Red bellied Par-Flycatcher

3: Abuko, Brufut Woods

African Paradise Flycatcher

2: Abuko

Brown Babbler

10: common around Senegambia Hotel and woodland sites

Blackcap Babbler

2: Brufut Woods, Abuko

Yellow Penduline-Tit

1: Tendaba

Mouse-brown Sunbird

1: Bao Bolon

Pygmy Sunbird

2: Tendaba, plus several sites en route to Basse

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

2: Basse and several other roadside stops

Variable Sunbird

5: Brufut Woods, Abuko, Marakissa and several inland sites

Splendid Sunbird

4: Brufut Woods and several roadside stops

Beautiful Sunbird

14: common around Senegambia and all sites

African Golden Oriole

3: Abuko, Tendaba and several seen from main road to Basse

Yellow-billed Shrike

10: common around Senegambia Hotel, Kotu, Brufut Woods


2: heard at several inland sites, but seen only at one

Northern Puffback

3: Tendaba, Marakissa and several roadside stops

Black-crowned Tchagra

2: Brufut Woods

Yellow-crowned Gonolek

9: common in Senegambia Hotel, also Bijilo Forest and Brufut

White-crested Helmet Shrike

1: Brufut Woods

Fork-tailed Drongo

5: small number present at various sites inc Yundum, Kotu


7: Senegambia Hotel and various other sites

Pied Crow

14: common everywhere

Purple Glossy Starling

2: Bansang Quarry, Darsilami

Gtr Blue-eared Gls-Starling

11: regular around Senegambia Hotel and other sites

Lssr Blue-eared Gls-Starling

6: around Senegambia Hotel, Brufut Woods and other sites

Long-tailed Glossy-Starling

8: around Senegambia Hotel, Brufut Woods, Marakissa

Yellow-billed Oxpecker

1: road between Basse and Tendaba

House Sparrow

1: noted only at Paradise Beach Hotel, near Kotu

Grey-headed Sparrow

12: daily around villages and most sites

Bush Petronia

2: Kiang West National Park, Tendaba

Chestnut-crowned Sp-Weaver

1: Tendaba

White-billed Buffalo-Weaver

8: colonies common around coastal villages

Little Weaver

1: Yundum Woods

Black-necked Weaver

5: Brufut Woods, Abuko, Marakissa

Vitelline Masked Weaver

2: Brufut Woods

Village Weaver

14: daily around villages and most sites

Yellow-backed Weaver

1: Bund Road

Yellow-crowned Bishop

1: Basse

Northern Red Bishop

5: Brufut Woods, Marakissa and various inland sites

Yellow-should’d Widowbird

1: Darsilami

Western Bluebill

1: Abuko

Red-billed Firefinch

14: daily around Senegambia Hotel and most grassland sites

Red-cheeked Cordonbleu

14: daily around Senegambia Hotel and most grassland sites

Lavender Waxbill

12: daily around Senegambia, forest and grassland sites

Orange-cheeked Waxbill

2: Brufut Woods

Black-rumped Waxbill

2: Bansang Quarry, Tendaba Airfield


1: Darsilami

Bronze Mannikin

12: daily around Senegambia, forest and grassland sites

Cut-throat Finch

1: somewhere in the savannah between Basse and Bansang

Village Indigobird

2: several in villages east of Tendaba

Pin-tailed Whydah

1: Brufut Woods

Excl’tory Paradise Whydah

1: Bansang Quarry

Yellow-fronted Canary

1: Kiang West National Park

Ortolan Bunting

1: Bansang Quarry

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

1: Bansang Quarry

Brown-rumped Bunting

1: Tendaba Camp

4. Acknowledgements

Our thanks to all the birders that provided information in The Gambia: British, Dutch and Belgian, most of whom are nameless to us as we met them briefly, either in the field or over breakfast.  In particular, thanks to Simon Gillings, Adam Rowlands and his partner Hayley, whose company we shared on several trips and many evenings, and to Andy Adcock, Sarah Thompson, Sean and Kevin Woodcock whose advice and company was much appreciated during our first few days.  Thanks too, to Solomon Jallow (and Vaughan Ashby) for fixing our upriver trip, and particularly to Lamin Sanyang and Cherno Barrie for guiding and driving us to Basse and back.

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