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A Tale of Two Go-rounds:Gambia January 2020 (1 Viewer)

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Back at the Bakotu Hotel:

Green Vervet Monkeys X 3. In the third one, yes, it has dropped off to sleep.
Gambian Epauletted Fruit Bat singing and displaying
 

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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
A terrific day's birding - and what a way to spend a birthday! Those nightjars are fabulous - and to have both in the same wood truly defines the term abundance of riches.

Add to that a bat with white and pink shoulder pom poms sining outside your window is utterly surreal - and definitely needed photographic evidence.

Cheers
Mike
 

JWN Andrewes

Poor Judge of Pasta.
A belated happy birthday mate, sounds like one to cherish.

My best birthday for ticks was my 39th, in Belize. Common Black Hawk, Mangrove Warbler (gifted to me by IOC some years later), Wilson's Plover, American Pygmy Kingfisher and Hooded Oriole. Also came across a fall of migrant Warblers in the mangroves, Black-and-White, Common Yellowthroat, Prothonatory, American Redstart, Yellow-breasted Chat, many in full breeding finery, with a nearby lawn crawling with Palm & Myrtle.

That Standard-wing is the absolute business, and the turd-mounted Bee-eater is also a fabulous shot!

Looking forward to the rest.
 
Great stuff, Gambia is on my list of places to visit once the world returns to normal... As for go-arounds, I’ve experienced one, at the old Quito airport in bad weather. Go-arounds are usually due to wind-shear, bad weather or another aircraft not vacating the runway in time.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Thank you all! I should get back to this tomorrow afternoon, yesterday and today have been a bit busy one way or another.

The go-round stories are fascinating, do keep them coming! :t:

Cheers

John
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Supporter
Great report

Our worst go around was in Buenos Aires, we were taking off on flight to Ushuaia when the tyre burst and the wheel developed a problem and couldn't be moved up or down, we flew round for two hours burning fuel before we did an emergency landing. We were on local TV and on our phones we could see fire crews and ambulances all getting ready for us to land, on board lots of people were praying and crying as we entered the brace position before landing.
The pilot brought us down very smoothly on the remaining wheels and we actually took off again 3 hours later after some repairs, albeit with a half empty plane (they held our ship for an extra 5 hours at Ushuaia fortunately, so we boarded and went straight to bed, we awoke in the drake passage with Sarah being very ill as she forgot to take her travel sickness pills in all the excitement).
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Thank you Richard!

Time for another instalment.

Day 3: 9 January

At least one bat was still singing when we got up but had stopped by the time we were outside and heading for breakfast. For some unaccountable reason I had a slightly thick head this morning but it didn't put me off my food: I probably did drink more tea than the previous day though.

Another tussle with the rush hour and we were once again on the road out of town past the airport. Unfortunately I still don't know where we made our first official stop, but almost as soon as we were out of the car we hit a mixed species feeding flock and for a few minutes it was absolute bedlam. Not only that but the light was as usual coming from an awkward direction so I moved away from the group to improve it and just shot photos of as much as possible as fast as possible while listening all the while for Ebrima calling species names so I could make sure of not missing any ticks.

A fly-by African Harrier-Hawk (for me you can take "Gymnogene" and stuff it) was immediately followed by a fly-through African Golden Oriole, perpetuating that species' habit of being unphotographable (by me, anyway). Then in quick succession a Northern Crombec bounced up into a dead tree, joined by a Little Weaver (tick) male Splendid Sunbird that actually sat in the right light for a picture, Beautiful Sunbird, Red-winged Warbler (tick), Black-crowned Tchagra, Yellow Penduline Tit (tick) and at least one Double-spurred Francolin (tick) that legged it off down the track nearby and vanished into the bushes. There were also Tawny-flanked Prinias and other common species such as Grey-backed Camaroptera, and a Senegal Eremomela that was another tick. As things calmed down we headed off down the track led by Ebrima who then found us a Singing Cisticola (tick). I've heard some very disparaging words about Cisticolas but personally I quite like them - the worst is still miles better than a Blyth's Reed Warbler.

Following the Cisticola as we proceeded on our first "short walk" of the day we turned off the track and then came upon a large flock of assorted Bishops that included both Northern Red Bishop (a tick, my only other one having been years ago at Stanpit while dipping a Little Crake) and Black-winged Red Bishop, as well as a number of Northern Grey-headed Sparrows (whoopee - no, only joking. They were a tick though.) A Glossy-backed Drongo (recent split and therefore a tick) sat above them watching for insects. The Bishops seemed settled but a Gabar Goshawk flashing into the middle of them fixed that! It also fixed one of the Bishops and took it up into a nearby tree to eat, which it proceeded to do without actually finishing it off first, so that for the first part of the meal it was still moving feebly. Slightly gruesome. Didn't stop us photographing this fine raptor, though.

The usual passing Hooded Vultures were now upstaged in quick succession by a Dark Chanting Goshawk, a Western Marsh Harrier (or as we say, Marsh Harrier) and a fine local Grey Kestrel that was a much appreciated tick. All of those were then upstaged by a brief sighting of some very, very, jittery Patas Monkeys at long range (I think only I raised a camera). We never got good views of these. It appears to me that they are very nervous of humans and I must unhappily conclude that at the very least they are driven off from crops and most likely, victims of real persecution.

What was turning into another long trek under the increasingly hot sun produced another flock of seed-eating birds, this time mostly composed of Red-cheeked Cordonbleus and Yellow-fronted Canaries, some of which sat up for photos. We also encountered a quite accommodating Black Scimitarbill that foraged in some very spiny acacias enabling photos before finally disappearing behind them. A Western Bonelli's Warbler was an interesting diversion in one of those acacias.

Back at the car after our short walk we headed off with the conversation centring around spotting stuff from the car, particularly raptors. Steve as the most travelled was relating previous experiences in which people achieved legend status by picking out a special bird at sixty mph, or disgraced themselves by misidentifying something seen all the time and causing an unnecessary stop. He then saw something he thought mattered and we quickly stopped and disembarked. Would his reputation survive?

The bird had sunk below the treeline but Ebrima decided it was worth a short walk and away we went. Luckily the bird came straight for us and we had an excellent close fly-by followed by circling a little further away, from a Beaudouin's Snake Eagle. Photos an' all: cracking views, cracking pix, cracking bird, cracking tick. Steve's rep intact! Interestingly, we had seen a snake eagle at the first site the previous day but put it down as Short-toed: when I revisited the photos after returning to the UK it was apparent that it, too, was a Beaudouin's - Short-toed off the trip list!

Walking on through the woodland we could hear European Bee-eaters above us. Ebrima's attention had sharpened as a guide's will when they are onto something, and he suddenly pointed upwards. "Yellow-bellied Hyliota" he announced. Big bird for Steve, not many ticks for him in Gambia but this was one of them (and obviously for the rest of us!) and now he had one of those desperate melt-down moments before getting onto the bird as it moved slowly through the upper branches. Luckily it paused for a bit of a preen and we all had good views as well as getting a few pictures.

Not long after that we reached the edge of the woodland and beyond it, in an isolated tree among hard-baked fields with intermittent bushes, sat a huge African Pied Hornbill, which was a tick for me and also sat tight to allow photos of its curious, casqued head-shape. Excellent!

Scouring the more open ground found us little apart from fairly distant views of the European Bee-eaters, but little else till we returned to the road and managed poor views of Northern Yellow White-eye (tick) in a fruiting tree next to where we had emerged, as well as a fly-over from a Palm-nut Vulture - another tick and my second-to-last African vulture sorted (Lammergeier still required), while we waited for Karanta to fetch the vehicle up to us. Our next destination would be another sit-down one and it was rumoured lunch would also be involved.

John
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Some pictures from the morning mayhem:

Singing Cisticola
Splendid Sunbird
Yellow Penduline Tit
Northern Crombec
Senegal Eremomela
 

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Farnboro John

Well-known member
And some more as we proceeded with the short walk:

Red-winged Warbler
Black-crowned Tchagra
Glossy-backed Drongo
Tawny-flanked Prinia
Gabar Goshawk (with dead Bishop)
 

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Farnboro John

Well-known member
Last from the first short walk:

Red Patas Monkey
Western Bonelli's Warbler
Yellow-fronted Canary
Black Scimitarbill
Grey Kestrel
 

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Farnboro John

Well-known member
From the second short walk!

I didn't mention the pig in the main account: We saw two, with a single piglet, and according to Ebrima and Karanta they are domestic pigs. During the week we were in Gambia we saw a few pigs here and there, and it seems that the further inland you go, and the smaller settlements you are near, the more primitive the domestic pigs are. This one even has the remnant of a razor back!

Beaudouin's Snake Eagle
Yellow-bellied Hyliota
African Pied Hornbill
Yellow Pansy (butterfly)
Domestic Pig
 

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wolfbirder

Well-known member
Sounds amazing John, frustratingly I've no idea what many of the species are like, but those Nightjars!
What a great birthday you had.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
A couple of great days so far John. In my opinion it's always good to see a successful raptor hunt in action.

Same for me, but when a bird gets waxed from a flock in which you've just had a tick there's almost a sense of guilt.... my first Crag Martin (in Switzerland, 1985) lasted less than ten seconds before a Peregrine grabbed it. :eek!:

Fortunately it turned out there was a colony only half a mile further on.

John
 

JWN Andrewes

Poor Judge of Pasta.
Back at the car after our short walk we headed off with the conversation centring around spotting stuff from the car, particularly raptors. Steve as the most travelled was relating previous experiences in which people achieved legend status by picking out a special bird at sixty mph, or disgraced themselves by misidentifying something seen all the time and causing an unnecessary stop. He then saw something he thought mattered and we quickly stopped and disembarked. Would his reputation survive?

The bird had sunk below the treeline but Ebrima decided it was worth a short walk and away we went. Luckily the bird came straight for us and we had an excellent close fly-by followed by circling a little further away, from a Beaudouin's Snake Eagle. Photos an' all: cracking views, cracking pix, cracking bird, cracking tick. Steve's rep intact! Interestingly, we had seen a snake eagle at the first site the previous day but put it down as Short-toed: when I revisited the photos after returning to the UK it was apparent that it, too, was a Beaudouin's - Short-toed off the trip list!

I once called a stop for what turned out to be a perched up Grey-bellied Goshawk in Brazil, only the second that the guide had seen in the area. I was sitting slap bang in the middle of the minibus at the time, so wallowed in smugness for the rest of the day! (I can still summon up some residual smugness now, 15 years later, you can probably tell :king: )

Bravo Steve for his Snake-Eagle, and thanks for the report John, just what we need right now!
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Bravo Steve for his Snake-Eagle, and thanks for the report John, just what we need right now!

An absolute pleasure, I assure you :t:

There are lots more pix on my Flickr than there will be in this report but I suggest not looking till after the chronological report fills in all the anecdotes and so on.

Cheers

John
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
The next stop turned out to be a set of small pools which had quite a few dragonflies about, giving Clare a chance to indulge her wider nature interests while Steve and I focused initially on a Blue-breasted Kingfisher (tick, and a stonking bird with a huge shovel of a bill and a lovely delicate shade of sky-blue on its breast) sitting above the edge of one pool in a shady spot in overhanging bushes, and then on an accommodating Broad-billed Roller that allowed a close approach and some manoeuvring to try to improve the harsh midday light that was whitening the sky and flattening the colours. Eventually Clare left the Odonata and also got shots of the roller, but Steve caught one outstanding moment as it ejected a huge pellet of insect body-parts. Another treat here was a Jacana on the far bank in the open.

From there we drove to Marakissa rivercamp and settled into conventional moulded plastic chairs to watch the local array of drinking bowls set among trees, bushes and smaller plants. In fact it seemed there might just be too much leafery for easy photography but a bit of observation while one of the staff refilled the bowls with a hosepipe (which when dragged around behind her moved unsettlingly like a long snake!) got us onto the best lines, and we could relax and wait for birds to come in.

Which they did, though some of them seemed all too skilful in the use of dead ground and cover. Purple Glossy Starlings (tick) in particular even when showing seemed to prefer to keep out of direct sunlight, a bit of a waste of their metallic plumage. Long-tailed Glossy Starlings were more forthcoming but so long that framing them and taking pictures without strong shadows dappling them was difficult! As for the flock of Orange-cheeked Waxbills, (tick) they were so easily spooked that I began to despair of ever recording their bold face patterns.

Fortunately a male Greater Honeyguide came in and sat for a portrait with no bother at all. A Yellow-throated Leaflove (I think another of Steve's six ticks from the trip, certainly one of mine) played hide-and-seek briefly but then showed itself properly, including face-on views of the yellow throat. Eventually we also sussed the ideal spot to lurk for the Orange-cheeked Waxbills and managed to get shots that reflected their abundance and proximity rather than their behaviour. Red-eyed Doves and Piapiacs also put on a fine show for us: but all the birds were abandoned when someone announced to us that a West African Crocodile was sitting out on the bank of the creek a few metres walk away.

We scampered down to a concrete jetty and looked at the croc basking thirty yards or so away. It wasn't enormous like Nile Crocodiles can be but it was big enough that I was surprised to see someone working up to their waist in the creek, building a new footbridge across it. The books say West African Crocodile is less aggressive than its congener, but by thunder I wouldn't want to test it as thoroughly as that bloke was doing.

The croc's repertoire for photographers consisted of mouth open/mouth closed. We still took quite a few photos and were glad to have done so as we didn't see another for the rest of the trip! Nile Crocs are dark and patterned but this one seemed to be a light olive-green and more or less uniform in colour: quite elegant in appearance. Along with a Great White Egret and Grey Heron there was an African Darter sunbathing on a log in the creek between us and the croc, which was a bonus.

After lunch we went a few yards down the road to try for Black-crowned Crane, but I think Ebrima discovered someone had been cutting down a tree and flushed it, so that was that. We did see a Black Heron on a pool, though it didn't give us a display of the umbrella trick and it was quite distant. A good bird and a tick, but a little anti-climactic. There was also a flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks that flew around a lot and gave us good views.

All in all Marakissa was pretty good to us and an enjoyable stop. I have a feeling that we just went back to the hotel after that, it must have been mid-afternoon by then, but my mind's a blank at the moment.

John
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Roadside pools and start of Marakissa rivercamp:

Blue-breasted Kingfisher
Broad-billed Roller
Greater Honeyguide (male)
Red-eyed Dove
Gambian Sun Squirrel
 

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