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Gambia Trip report - up river section

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Old Tuesday 26th November 2013, 12:19   #1
Adare
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Gambia Trip report - up river section

Friday 8th November - road to Tendaba - Ebrima Korita guiding.

From England I had arranged with a well known guide to go on a 5 day trip up-country for birds and wildlife. The guide found a better offer and sub-contracted out to another Ebrima (It's Gambian for Ibrahim.) This was a blessing in disguise as Ebrima Korita was another superb guide – totally dedicated to our welfare and getting the birds. He was energetic and helpful and we formed a good working relationship. We headed off to Tendaba along the south bank, stopping on the way at key spots to look for birds. A raptor fest ensued with Grasshopper Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, African hawk eagle, Brown Snake Eagle and Wahlberg's. We also had excellent views of Black-faced Firefinch in beautiful wooded habitat where we also saw Grey-headed Bush-shrike.

When we got to Tendaba we had a shower and a cup of tea before heading out again to the airfield. I was very glad to see Four-banded Sandgrouse and pearl-spotted Owlet. It was an epic day – more than 100 species seen and over 30 life birds.

The night was dreadful, the bloke in the room next door snoring so loud he could have been in bed with us.

Tendaba Camp to Janjanbureh Saturday 9th November

This was another big 100+ day, characterized by 18 great raptor species including Ruppell's griffon and White-headed vulture. We also saw a Eurasian Griffon which appeared to dwarf the other vultures. Highlight of the day was Verraux's Eagle Owl, closely followed by Croaking Cisticola. The Cisticolas are difficult – but Ebrima made them easy, pointing out the calls and behavioural attributes that made them easy to differentiate. This day also featured our first Egyptian Plover – and my first since crossing a river near Wau in South Sudan in December 1983.

The evening finished by the river in Georgetown/Janjanbureh with fireflies blinking round our accommodation.


Sunday 10th November - Kunkilling Forest, Bansang quarry and Evening boat trip with Ebrima Kotori.

Driving through 8 foot high elephant grass was one of Ebrima Korita's many accomplishments. At Kunkilling forest we were assaulted by biting flies but rewarded with good views of the near Senegambian endemic, Adamawa Turtle Dove. We also had excellent close views of African White-backed Vulture. Later on Ebrima and I simultaneously spotted a Black Coucal whilst driving along. At Bansang quarry we had lovely views of Red-throated Bee-eaters as well as Martial Eagle and other raptors overhead.

The day ended with a boat trip on the river. We saw Swamp Flycatcher and I had the chance to photograph Grey-headed and Woodland Kingfisher. We also had good views of baboons. As the light failed we headed back to camp. Suddenly in the dusk, two hippopotami were in view – it was a magical end to the day.

Monday 11th November Georgetown to Tendaba via North Bank and Farafenni ferry.

This was a day of ferries – crossing to the North bank at Janjanbureh and then recrossing at the end of the day at the chaotic Farrefenni ferry crossing. In between though, we had a superb day which ended with a first Goliath heron from the ferry. I also reacquainted myself with birds that I hadn't seen for 30 years – a Crowned Crane in the distance, and wonderful viewings of Carmine bee-eaters, intimately close. We spent some time at the Wassu stone circles – a cultural emblem for the Gambia. These circles are over 1000 years old and represent burial sights from a long disappeared civilisation.
New birds were also seen, my hundredth lifer of the trip – Northern Anteater Chat, and Sudan Golden Sparrow, at a waterhole frequented by hundreds of thirsty finches, larks and doves. We also saw numerous Exclamatory Paradise Wydahs with dramtically long tails. One memorable sight was when a Montagu's harrier put up hundreds of Collared Pratincoles, the air seemed to be full of these elegant birds.

The absolute highlight of the day was looking for Bustards. We saw none! Pulling off the road and parking under a tree, Ebrima and I went route-marching across the fields. Black-crowned Tchagra was spotted, but no Bustards. It was 40 degrees celsius in the shade and there was no shade. Then Ebrima spotted two Abyssinian ground Hornbills. This was one of my target birds, and although I couldn't photograph it, I had sustained views and could see the remarkable blue and red facial skin of female and male respectively. Elated we trudged back to the car when Ebrima spotted a Temminck's courser. We had lovely views of three of these delightful birds.

Tuesday 12th November - Tendaba to the coast

The day started with a boat trip around the beautiful Baobolong wetlands. Ebrima and the boatman worked very hard to find me a viewable Mouse-brown Sunbird. The place was alive with waterbirds – common and rare. Birds I had seen before included numerous Woolly-necked Stork, a Great White Pelican (in addition to the common Pink-backed) Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Intermediate Egret, four species of kingfisher, Bee-eaters and many more. New birds included White-backed Night Heron, African Hobby, Pygmy Sunbird and seven Yellow-billed Storks.

The last bird on the boat was a Beaudouin's Snake-Eagle! On the road back to the coast we continued to see good birds, including our first White-crested Helmetshrike in a patch of woodland, where Ebrima managed to show me a superb, male Brown-rumped Bunting. The name does not do it justice!
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Old Tuesday 26th November 2013, 22:37   #2
Kev23
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Fabulous report.... I'm going for the first time in January so am reading with great interest... primarily for photography so just looked through all your Flickr pics... wow, great birds and photos, love the Goliath heron and lizard buzzard in particular.. excellent stuff!

cheers..
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Old Wednesday 27th November 2013, 08:30   #3
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Nice report. I haven't been to The Gambia but reports like yours make me think it'd make a really nice winter destination.

I have one request though: Would you mind not starting a new thread for every instalment? That way it's all in one place, and it will be much easier for people to find the whole thing.

Thanks,

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Old Wednesday 27th November 2013, 09:12   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitefarrago View Post
I have one request though: Would you mind not starting a new thread for every instalment? That way it's all in one place, and it will be much easier for people to find the whole thing.
Ditto - I was just going to say the same thing, it keep everything in order. When this eventually disappears into the archives it'll be much easier to find too.

Really enjoying your reports - great birds too (took a look through your lovely Flikr photos) !
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Old Friday 29th November 2013, 17:52   #5
Adare
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I was just concerned that the post would be colossal.
I'll bear it in mind in future.
Glad you liked the photos.

My only concerns about the Gambia were political - it's a nasty police state, but pretty safe!
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Old Saturday 30th November 2013, 12:50   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adare View Post
I was just concerned that the post would be colossal.
Just to clarify - we weren't suggesting putting it all into one post, just creating one thread, and for each additional post, use the `reply to thread' button.

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Old Saturday 30th November 2013, 13:03   #7
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How was Tendaba camp? We are going in March with trepidation after reading some bad reports of accommodation and food. Did you get a sniff of Pels Fishing Owl?
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