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A Tale of Two Go-rounds:Gambia January 2020

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Old Wednesday 15th April 2020, 12:25   #76
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Originally Posted by Farnboro John View Post
But presumably that wouldn't necessarily apply out of the breeding season? Remember Ebrima's presumption was that the birds had come down a little early.

In addition, thanks to the prompt of Andy's additional comments, I can confirm that both Ebrima and Steve (who has far more African experience than I have) both confirmed in answer to my question about why it was one, that the tail was not ("nothing like" was Steve's phrase) long enough for Exclamatory. Personally I will take structure over plumage any day of the week.

Every day a school day, anyway.

John
Forgive my scepticism John but I remain far from convinced that it's so simple.
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Old Wednesday 15th April 2020, 14:47   #77
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Forgive my scepticism John but I remain far from convinced that it's so simple.
Forgiven....

John

Following which, time for the last batch of the morning photos.

White-faced Whistling Duck
Northern Carmine Bee-eater X 3
White-fronted Plover
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Old Wednesday 15th April 2020, 15:09   #78
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Northern Carmine Bee-eater X 3


Fantastic bird: truly mind-boggling!
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Old Wednesday 15th April 2020, 17:00   #79
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Fantastic bird: truly mind-boggling!


All right, just for a laugh then:
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Old Wednesday 15th April 2020, 19:27   #80
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All the colours of the rainbow! 🌈
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Old Thursday 16th April 2020, 13:04   #81
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Love the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater even more.
Gorgeous birds!
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Favourite birds:- Pallid Harrier, Hen Harrier, Monty, Gyr, Great Grey Owl, Snowy Owl, Wryneck, Blue-Cheeked Bee-eater, Sib Rubythroat, Firecrest, Nightjars, Hawfinch, Bearded Tit, Smew, Divers, Pom Skua, Warblers especially colourful American ones.
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Old Monday 20th April 2020, 08:33   #82
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Simply extraordinary, John. Never before have I enjoyed a trip report with such vicarious pleasure as this. You truly are a soul brother! With your permission I might intersperse a few of my people pics and maybe one or two insects, when I get the chance.
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 17:02   #83
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Belatedly, you are most kind, Graham, thank you!

We were whisked away to yet another location where lunch could be combined with watching birds at a bathing pool and water bowls. The thatched open dining area was inhabited by some quite nervous Agamas that flicked out of sight at the slightest interest from a camera, but we did manage to get some shots eventually. Unusually the water didn't produce any ticks but photos of Black-necked Weaver and a male Red-billed Firefinch compensated and the food was very good indeed.

After lunch we hit Tangi, another coastal site with a mixed gull and tern colony. We walked around the dunes and bushes behind the coast first, looking for something that we didn't see - I can't remember what now!

Close views of the seabirds were limited to flybys but we did have very good scope views of birds in the colony itself. Gulls were mostly Grey-headed with just a few Slender-billed and a single Lesser Black-back looming over the others. Good numbers of massive Caspian Terns stood in small groups - family groups in some cases - on the island colony and in the shallows next to it, with individuals pounding past us from time to time. Caspos are always enjoyable, they are so ridiculously huge and solid compared to other terns, and gained quite a bit of our attention despite the other main attraction, which was what we must now call a decent number of West African Crested Terns (aka African Royal Tern). These were mostly spread along the water's edge in an erratic row, with a few sitting on the and a bit further back. Work with a scope eventually produced a single Lesser Crested Tern in among them. We spent a good deal of time photographing all the terns that came near us, but found that as the tide state in the shallow channel changed a little, all except the Caspian Terns took to flying coast-wise of us- it being the afternoon that meant in less favourable light. Eventually we felt we had done as well as we were going to, but just before we left we had an unexpected flyby from a Sandwich Tern that must have been roosting out of sight behind the island: it was nice to see this familiar bird in its winter quarters.

Walking out we had a really nice Blue-cheeked Bee-eater sitting up for a portrait. By the time we had made our way back into the city it was knocking off time: the traffic was really dreadful to the point that Karanta left the ring road and zig-zagged his way skilfully through untarmacked back streets, saving us some frustrating queuing. It was hot and dusty and we were really quite glad to stop still in daylight.

John
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 17:07   #84
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Lunchtime photos:

Bronze Mannikin
Red-billed Firefinch
Agama (Agama agama)
Black-necked Weaver
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 17:12   #85
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Tangi (pronounced Tanjee) seabirds:

Caspian Tern
West African Crested Tern - here's a thing, this is the only picture worth showing that I'm sure is one of these in flight, because my best run from a tern was the one which included the next shot, which is:
Lesser Crested Tern - grey rump, right? Only realised after we had left, obviously not chimping enough.
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Old Sunday 26th April 2020, 17:16   #86
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Last few from Tangi:

Caspian Tern
Fiddler crab sp
Sandwich Tern
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
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Old Saturday 2nd May 2020, 16:37   #87
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Hey John.

Haven't had much chance to showcase my Gambia photos since I got back, so here's a few to complement your report - 'complimented' and 'complemented' in the same report: how about that!

Can't work out if the drinking pools where you had lunch before hitting the beach were the Tanji Bird Reserve drinking pools or not? The village I was living in for three months was about 7-8km from Tanji and I had occasion to visit the place at least once a week, usually on my way up to get cash or food at the Brufut markets. Western Bluebill, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat and both Paradise Flycatchers were my avian highlights at the pools...though all eclipsed by a fantastic encounter with my very first Chameleon one extremely hot afternoon.

On the beach I had Black, Little and Common Tern at various times; as well as some familiar waders in a very unfamiliar setting: Sanderling, Turnstone, Barwit and co. I did have over 100 Slender-billed Gulls on one occasion, but never did see a Lesser Crested Tern amongst the hundreds of Royal and Caspians. I did take my scope on the trip but never actually got round to using it.

If only you'd gone another three miles south of Tanji you would have beaten me to the Gambia's very first Caspian Plover I came across with KW a week after you'd left!
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Old Saturday 2nd May 2020, 16:39   #88
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Are we limited to four shots per post. I'm not really sure?

Here's some more anyway.
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Old Saturday 2nd May 2020, 16:42   #89
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One of my favourite bands growing up in the 80s were the Chameleons, adding even more value to seeing this
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Old Saturday 2nd May 2020, 18:46   #90
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Hi Graham,

Ha ha - elegant wordage!

Enjoying your shots - the ones I always forget to take.... Chameleon is lovely!

Five shots a post is the limit. Feel free.

I intend to finish this up in the next couple of days, but I have some new photos (mostly helicopters and airliners) to deal with tonight.

Cheers

John
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 11:40   #91
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Day 7: January 13

Our last full day started with a brief view of Giant Kingfisher on wires as we crossed the Kotu Creek en route to Brufut Woods.

The name evoked a picture of pristine wilderness, but this is wide of the mark as the area is rapidly being developed, enveloped, suburbanised - it's hard to see how it won't be destroyed in the process. But it is still more or less there and we began with a wander round the sprawling haphazard compounds of the burgeoning village. A small group of Senegal Parrots teased from trees but refused to be photographed, ducking and weaving through the branches before flapping away with a derisive note to their calls. A Green Turaco, while a welcome tick, proved at least as difficult and got away untouched by Canon lens.

A Yellow-crowned Gonolek gave itself up a bit better, certainly my best effort with this species: a soaring Shikra did us a real favour and a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, though not close, at least sat in the open for a while, as did yet another female Northern Puffback - on past African trips all my puffbacks have been males, but the reverse this time! Ebrima was working quite hard to try to find a Pearl-spotted Owlet and eventually managed it, which was a good effort: from the wandering about grilling trees and profuse use of imitation it obviously wasn't where he expected it. It was high in a tree and not too obvious (obvious enough to a bunch of Common Bulbuls that they were giving it a right nagging, which also helped reveal it I guess). The same tree had a Fine-spotted Woodpecker at the top - right into the sun - giving better views than the species had to date so we just had to do our best with it.

Meanwhile there was an enormous Swallowtail sp flapping round our feet and I took a couple of secs out to grab some quick shots of it on the one occasion that it stopped. Post-holiday I established it was Citrus Swallowtail. Further walking didn't get us anything extra and soon we were back in the van and transported to the Brufut Woods reserve itself, with benches and drinking bowls - we all knew the drill by now, settled ourselves with cameras ready and waited for the birds to come in.

Northern Grey-headed Sparrows, Village Weavers and even Blackcap Babblers were old hat, so too were Orange-cheeked Waxbills and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus but I didn't let that get in the way of taking photos of them, pending the arrival of anything new - such as the Copper Sunbird that whisked in, drank and whisked briskly out again. Tick but no photo!

We had gathered that this was a stakeout for turacos and after some time a Violet Turaco deigned to grace us with its insanely colourful presence and cartoonish expression, providing a more than adequate photo-opportunity and a period of pure delight. A family of Brown Babblers also put on a good performance, but the Green Turaco we hoped for remained elusive.

So we all went for a short walk, through an area of heavy scrub interspersed with trees, that had a fire still smouldering in various places including one dead tree that actually collapsed as we walked past it - had sparks ignited the dry bush all around it is hard to see how we could have escaped injury, but nothing untoward actually happened. I was rather left feeling we were getting away with it and I was very nervous until we returned to the reserve. However, before that we had great views of a Klaas's Cuckoo, whose roost in dappled light was challenging for the cameras, but efforts had to be made.

Returning to the benches we took up the stakeout again and were eventually rewarded with views of bits of the Green Turaco through the leafery and I managed to get a head shot - happy to get even that, frankly! Bronze Mannikins and Lavender Waxbills provided additional supporting cast to those species already mentioned, and our best views of Northern Yellow-White-eye were also worth the wait.

Then it was away back towards the hotel for a couple of final surprises.

John

Pix:

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
Yellow-crowned Gonolek
Northern Puffback
Citrus Swallowtail
Pearl-spotted Owlet
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 11:53   #92
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More morning pictures:

Fine-spotted Woodpecker
Blackcap Babbler
Elegant Acraea (took me ages to run this one to earth)
Violet Turaco X 2
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 12:01   #93
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And more, why not....

Violet Turaco
Brown Babbler
Glossy-backed Drongo
Black-billed Wood Dove
Laughing Dove - dirt common, but I like them.
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 12:04   #94
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Last lot from Brufut Woods:

Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu
Bronze Mannikin
Klaas's Cuckoo
Green Turaco
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 12:34   #95
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John, in post #91 you've either put up a photo of a Northern Puffback instead of Shikra or written Shikra instead of Northern Puffback.

That Violet Turaco is stunning!

You may not feel able to answer this having only seen one side of things but any input would be appreciated. The Gambia has long been on my wish list but I tend to do my trips solo and without a guide. How much of the great bird list from your trip do you think you would have missed but for Ebrima?
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 12:41   #96
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Originally Posted by foresttwitcher View Post
John, in post #91 you've either put up a photo of a Northern Puffback instead of Shikra or written Shikra instead of Northern Puffback.

That Violet Turaco is stunning!

You may not feel able to answer this having only seen one side of things but any input would be appreciated. The Gambia has long been on my wish list but I tend to do my trips solo and without a guide. How much of the great bird list from your trip do you think you would have missed but for Ebrima?
Thank you - the latter - corrected!

Violet Turaco I would describe as the most fun bird of the trip. It's so funky-looking, bonkers colours, and quite big, while not being that scarce. Any tourist would love it. We saw several during the course of a week and had good views, which was great.

As for likely misses without Ebrima's help: Egyptian Plover for a start, at least at the location we went to. Gosling's Bunting the same, unless someone has recorded the GPS data for the site, which of course is increasingly likely: I suppose if I turned it on in my camera I'd have an automatic link between birds and places! Others will have to give you the odds of finding e.g. the plover yourself in more classic venues. Painted Snipe as well, the spot for them you are not going to fall over by accident!

I'd guess with most of the other specialities being at known birding sites its more a case of how sharp are you and how long would you wander around the sites. A guide tends to go straight to the spot within the site (I think the Northern Carmine Bee-eater would exemplify this: Ebrima marched at speed up the coast then suddenly stopped, looked and located it) either from personal knowledge or because the guides in the association share up-to-the minute data: no self-researched independent trip can match that access. This not only ensures that you connect but also saves you oodles of time! Also, I'll give the guy full credit for having lynx-eyesight and excellent (though not infallible) ID skills. We corrected maybe two or three of his IDs and they tended to be airborne and not too close, while we were on them with bins.

Snowy-crowned Robin-chat and Oriole Warbler we got in the guide association's own premises and we'd walked past there several times without even picking out the Oriole Warbler's song. Minor chagrin! Maybe sums up the experience of using a guide though.

Cheers

John

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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 13:18   #97
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Thanks for taking the time to reply, John, much appreciated.
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 15:00   #98
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Yes, John. The habitat at Brufut Woods was a far cry from how I'd pictured it beforehand. What a dump! Literally...did you see all the rubbish at the far end south of the drinking pools? Dreadful. It took Kris and I four or five hours over an evening and the next morning to actually find the 'Woodland Bar' described in Gosney's Where to Watch Birds in the Gambia. I had a vision of a balcony, a verandah, chilled beers, the works...After walking past it twice due to its tiny size, when we finally got our bearings, there we were sat on an old tyre with a warm bottle of sugary fruit cocktail and that was that.

But we saw some decent birds. Didn't see the Violet Turaco as well as you; but we did see what may well have been the same individual Green Turaco you saw. It didn't come in to drink but it was in the background for a good half-hour. Missing the gap through the trees to the 'bar' initially, we ended up a kilometre down the road at a wet area where we found our own Painted Snipe (3), as well as our first Oxpeckers and Palm-nut Vulture, among others.

Anyhow, can't possibly match your superb bird photos, but I can improve on your Swallowtail, as well as a few other bits from around the village.
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 15:54   #99
Farnboro John
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Originally Posted by Britseye View Post
Yes, John. The habitat at Brufut Woods was a far cry from how I'd pictured it beforehand. What a dump! Literally...did you see all the rubbish at the far end south of the drinking pools? Dreadful.

Anyhow, can't possibly match your superb bird photos, but I can improve on your Swallowtail, as well as a few other bits from around the village.
I wasn't going to post the rubbish but I did photograph it, so for the benefit of the congregation, here it is.

Cracking butties! we didn't have the time to search around, the focus in just a week had to be on birds only.

John
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 16:05   #100
Britseye
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I can't remember if I posted elsewhere about the compartmentalisation of my birding and my photography? I know I meant to, but maybe I never got round it, like I never got round to finishing an article for Birdguides last autumn on the same subject. Basically, the guy who helped me choose my first camera and lens back in the early 90s was very much a photographer first and foremost, and though I dabbled with bird photography and a 500mm lens initially, for the past twenty-odd years, I've essentially concentrated more on landscapes, abstracts and insects with a little pocket-sized compact. I even ran a successful fortnight-long exhibition at the Cork Vision Centre entitled Around the World in Eighty Images in the early 2000s, and went on to become a semi-successful amateur photographer selling 'arty' photos for a couple of years.

I've always had a background photo-journalism sort of bent to my photography, having studied it formally in Cork for a couple of months, but this recent trip to the Gambia was the first time this particular aspect to my hobby was thrust very much centre stage, to the point where birdwatching became secondary. (This is my excuse as to why I didn't end up seeing as many species as you did! ) . But boy, was it emotionally taxing! From the very start, the extraordinarily coloured clothing of the residents caught my eye, especially the women and children, occasionally the men. The light, as you'll know, John, was superb morning and evening, and to a large extent also, in the shade, all day long. The dry, dusty and sandy backgrounds also enhanced the scope for potential award-winning photos. But the drawback, of course, is that unlike buildings, sunsets and butterflies, you can't just stick your camera up and expect everyone to be okay about taking their photograph(s).

Okay, you can ask for permission from time to time, but by then, le moment juste, is often lost. Besides, in a land of such friendly people, I got enough interest from folk as it was, without wanting to draw further attention to myself and pictures of myself with arms around smiling folk were not always necessarily what I was looking for as a 'photojournalist'. I'm probably like you, John? I can be very bold and very shy sometimes, in almost equal measures. So it was very, very difficult at times; seeing half a dozen 'must have' pictures before breakfast, and yet, for various reasons, not managing to stop and take a single one. I almost couldn't bare walking through the local town between the hours of four and six pm, since in that late afternoon light, every doorway, every shop, every backyard had 'in the moment' pictures, I just couldn't bring myself to take. In the end, I was almost glad a fortnight before I came home, someone ran off with my bag and camera, and saved me the mental anguish of seeing and not being able to take so many wonderful pictures.

Luckily, the lads I was living and working with for three months, were more than happy for me to photo them in a number of different times and circumstances, and so eventually I've come back with a hundred or so people pics I'm really, really pleased with. Like you, John, my glass is nearly always somewhere between half-full to full-full, and in time, I hope to forget about the ones that got away, and just keeping coming back to the ones I was lucky enough to have achieved in the time that was available. Here's just a few of the ones I was particularly pleased with and next time I stop by, I promise I'll just stick to talking birds! (I took some notes first time I read the report of things I wanted to add to the thread)
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