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

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Not sure that (m)any get killed. They gradually disperse to breeding areas in Senegal and most are gone by January.

Rob

I hope you're right, but Ebrima certainly seemed to think the numbers were dropping off earlier than he expected. With any luck his efforts to involve the locals to their own benefit may sort out this particular problem.

John
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
After lunch we started back and though it was really an afternoon of driving - and a long one at that, dark well before we got back to the hotel - we did fit in one short walk which turned into chasing a feeding flock through farm bush, off tracks and doing the thing I like least abroad: going quickly through long grass where I can't see where I'm putting my feet or for that matter, on what!

It was quite successful though, providing us with views of uneven quality of Senegal Batis (tick), White-crested Helmetshrike, Brubru and a Vieillot's Barbet that sat up in the open for ages. Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and a Purple Roller also provided us with photo-opportunities that were much appreciated, while a male Pygmy Sunbird just teased.

Then it was back in the car and onwards, pausing at a roadside village for our guides to opportunistically stock up on rice and charcoal, both much cheaper in the sticks than the city. Springs much lower than previously, we went on into the lowering sun. A pick-up turned onto the road in front of us and we gradually eased up behind it to realise three coffins were stacked and lashed down in the back. Not the most formal hearse I'd ever seen. We'd not long passed a recently sawn out of the way very thick tree that had fallen across the road and a couple of simply annihilated vehicles that seemed to have met it in the dark without realising at all that it was there. Possibly that was the origin of the requirement... Eventually Karanta decided to overtake the pick-up and we then left it behind quite quickly.

The last part of the journey was a truly awful city traffic experience in the dark. How Karanta avoided collision with the unlit cyclists and donkey carts using any bit of road they felt like, randomly crossing pedestrians, single-headlighted cars whose dark sides suddenly loomed in front of us and so on, is beyond me, and beyond any praise of mine, I'll just say I don't believe I could have done it. The only one he shouted at (and I was right behind his action) was one of those dothery old gits that can't recognise a gap when they see one - or doesn't recognise they aren't going to get a bigger one - and even when they do go, achieves a maximum cruising speed of 18 mph when all you want is to get home....

Anyway, we made it back, had dinner, got a rubbish photo of an African Common Toad on the way back to the gaff and slept like logs. Tomorrow's another day: 0730 pick-up.

John

Scarlet-chested Sunbird
Termite mounds
Purple Roller
Vieillot's Barbet
Hearse
 

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dandsblair

David and Sarah
Supporter
Really jeaous

Well done on the Egyptian Plover.
A real bogy bird for us - missed twice in Gambia, and in Ghana and Ethiopia multiple sites, despite being told it is easy to see, but missed due to weather (too dry and too wet), local disturbance and birds haven't arrived yet.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Day 6: 12 January

Up and out in the early dawn. Dust as ever in the atmosphere - though not falling on the landscape in the quantities it had been when we arrived - most of the cars across the city had been thickly, redly coated then, but had since been swept clean and stayed that way apart from the no-hoper scrapyard candidates. We stopped near the SeneGambia hotel complex while Ebrima went to the bank, and then we were off in a different direction, South along the coast road.

First stop was a spot which in my mind is "the raptor sandpit" because it was a just a small area of sandpits with a bit of water in the bottom of some, no obvious reason for it to be a focus for birds in general or raptors in particular, but there you are....

Hooded Vultures drifting about low were not unusual anywhere around the city but the early morning light was nice and they were close so a few shots were expended. Yellow-billed Kites also circled low overhead and dipped down into the sandpit below us, one or two landing to drink. Topside photos are always welcome so I had a go at that, also taking the birds as they drank. Among them were one or two Palaearctic migrant Black Kites and one of those landed on a bush quite close to us, giving another excellent photo-opp.

A Fanti Saw-wing that was a tick broke the string of birds of prey for a minute before disappearing behind the trees, but our interest was then grabbed by a Lanner that shot into the sandpit intent on mayhem but, catching nothing, zoomed up out of it and then turned back to give us a superb flyby on the right side for the light and not too fast to follow with the camera. Fantastic! Three or four Ospreys wandered into the area and circled: clearly the water wasn't full of fish but they stayed around, giving us almost continuous flight views and one or two chances to take them as they landed to drink.

Palm-nut Vultures too lumbered past, circled back, lumbered past again: sat up in palm trees, generally did what you would hope and expect. A few other birds performed to a greater or lesser extent, a Senegal Coucal being particularly co-operative but Wire-tailed Swallow and Cardinal Woodpecker not quite as forthcoming. Common Sandpiper and Greenshank in the pits gave a familiar flavour.

Eventually it was time to move on to Kartong Bird Observatory, where we went for a short walk among dunes, pools and reedbeds: though the first bird to show well was an Abyssinian Roller that was hunting from some very uneven fenceposts adorned with unsightly plastic remnants that took a bit of manoeuvring to compose out. Quite a few of the birds here were brief or even passing flight views, which for some was certainly a pity: African Swamphen and Squacco Heron were definitely in this category! The next tick, an airborne flockette of five Quailfinches was much the same but we were so relieved to see those at all that we were not inclined to look that particular gift horse in the mouth. They gave us a couple of passes so we did manage to get a few features in our bins before they rocketed off over the horizon.

More compliant was a flock of White-faced Whistling Duck that wheeled around us for some time and occasionally settled back on a fairly difficult pool to observe without flushing them again. Luckily a flock generally has one dimwit and so it proved with this one, a single bird remaining on the water for us to photograph while the others circled above us.

A pool we reached later had an African Spoonbill on an island (sadly some distance from us, but with all our sightings to that point European Spooners we had no room to complain); a couple of Sacred Ibis; one of my favourites, the intriguingly-named Knob-billed Duck and, wandering about, a complete Egret combi: Great, Intermediate, Little and Cattle. Whoopee...

Then two Pink-backed Pelicans arrived and dropped briefly onto the relatively small pool before deciding this was ridiculous, thundering back into the sky and giving us a fine display of individual and formation manoeuvres prior to soaring away on the increasing thermals. Watching them was interspersed with observing a Mosque Swallow that was flycatching along the near edge of the pool. At this point Karanta arrived with the car and we piled in to be transported further out along the reserve - right out to the coast - for another short walk along the edge of the mangroves that backed the beach.

Having parked next to the beach café (OK, a shack) we set off along the sand but at the first opportunity diverted slightly inland to take a path between two lines of mangroves, the ground being thankfully firm slightly muddy sand. It was a little surprising to find a Crested Lark trotting before us along this substrate but clearly the lark species regarded it as normal because it wasn't alone - very soon we had two having a fine old barney right in front of us, and took advantage of their distraction to take some pictures. We - and I mean me in particular - were then distracted by Ebrima mentioning that he was looking at a Northern Carmine Bee-eater. Gangway..... I'd been promised this and then been disappointed on several African trips, and it was not only a bogey bird but also a real smasher - in fact look out Egyptian Plover, this is going to be close for bird of the trip and the final outcome is by no means certain!

We closed the distance and began to really admire the plumage, elegance and aerial abilities of this fabulous, quite large bee-eater. At one point it was sharing a bush with an Abyssinian Roller and two Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters!!! Mind-boggling. It was a confiding creature and seemed blithely indifferent to our cautious approaches to its favourite hunting perches. We shot a whole load of photos of this awesome bird and I could quite cheerfully have watched it all day, zooming and swooping between mangroves to snatch bees and other large flying insects from the air. It was with a good deal of reluctance that I allowed myself to be led away in search of our next target birds.

Which were, as it happens, not very far away. We walked out to the beach proper and along the strand line, just above where the high tide had cut a distinct shelf in the beach sand, a small flock of plovers rested among shells, pebbles and horrible amounts of beach plastics - bags, bottles, bits of rope and twine. Among the Ringed Plovers present were a very few White-fronted Plovers that I gleefully ticked, only to find back home that I'd seen them in Namibia years ago. Cracking birds that let us up quite close to study them and take pictures, without apparent stress. When we left in search of lunch, they were still in the same place.

John
 
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Farnboro John

Well-known member
Some photos in order at this point I think. Daybreak to the raptor sandpit first.

Daybreak by the bank
Senegal Coucal
Hooded Vulture
Western Osprey X 2
 

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Farnboro John

Well-known member
Raptor sandpit 2:

Palm-nut Vulture
Western Osprey
Lanner
Yellow-billed Kite X 2
 

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Farnboro John

Well-known member
Raptor Sandpit 3:

Black Kite X 2
Palm-nut Vulture X 2
Abyssinian Roller at Kartong
 

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Jon Turner

Well-known member
Can't understand why I haven't seen this thread before! I've done 'go-rounds' a couple of times: once at Bristol Airport, for no apparent reason. The lady beside me grabbed my arm so tight I had to prise her fingers apart! I said it was a normal procedure and not to worry.
The other times were at Gibraltar - the shear around the rock is legendary. So is the delay when you have to end up in Malaga (or Tangiers as some have!)
Went to the Gambia some few years ago. Best time was the middle weekend of the fortnight when everyone went off home to have a feast weekend, so no locals to bother us!
Loving the pics - brings back great memories!
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
And a bit more from the walk, plus on the road:

Namaqua Dove
Speckle-fronted Weaver X 2
Male Sahel Paradise Whydah
Plain Tiger

Hi John,
I was curious about this having been to Gambia many years ago and thought I'd try and nick an armchair tick, which I can't.

Sahel orientalis as opposed to Exclamatory interjecta, is supposed to have a pale, straw coloured nape per HBW?

HBW states for interjecta

'Breeding male has most of head black, nape dark brownish-red,'.....doesn't this description fit your bird better or is the other race of Sahel, aucupum similar?

This is what I'd expect Sahel to look like?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/23312915204
 
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Farnboro John

Well-known member
Hi John,
I was curious about this having been to Gambia many years ago and thought I'd try and nick an armchair tick, which I can't.

Sahel orientalis as opposed to Exclamatory interjecta, is supposed to have a pale, straw coloured nape per HBW?

HBW states for interjecta

'Breeding male has most of head black, nape dark brownish-red,'.....doesn't this description fit your bird better or is the other race of Sahel, aucupum similar?

This is what I'd expect Sahel to look like?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/23312915204

As far as the description goes, no, I don't think it does. The nape was if anything orangey, dark brownish red is not the colour I would call it at all. I looked at HBW and the photos there seem quite variable and mine well within that. I imagine age and time of year cause some of the variation, let alone race.

John
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
As far as the description goes, no, I don't think it does. The nape was if anything orangey, dark brownish red is not the colour I would call it at all. I looked at HBW and the photos there seem quite variable and mine well within that. I imagine age and time of year cause some of the variation, let alone race.

John

The bird at the link I posted, has a nape which is the same colour as it's belly which is what I'd expect, not the rich colour that yours is but, as you say, there are images which appear at odds with this and I have to ask if they're correctly ID'd?

I just lifted the following from a Flicker post and it seems to confirm my suspicions that this is a fraught ID. I don't know this bloke but he's clearly switch on to the potential pitfalls.

'Possible conflict about species, incidently. Among both the guidebooks and the guides. If I'm remembering correctly from the guides, the pic taken near Bansang Quarry, should be more likely that of the Sahel Paradise Whydah (Vidua orientalis). But the two birds photographed between Farifenni and Wassu might be the Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua interjecta).

Problem: in breeding plumage, the Sahel P-W (Vidua orientalis) is almost identical to the Exclamatory P-W (Vidua interjecta), expecting the Sahel P-W has slightly shorter tail steamers -- up to 24cm or almost twice the normal size of the bird at 12.5cm.

In contrast, the Exclamatory P-W (Vidua interjecta) typically has tail steamers greater than 27cm: distinctly although perhaps not dramatically over twice the length of the bird's normal 12.5cm size.

I confess that (1) I can't tell the difference in the three pics I have here. And (2) although Barlow and Wacher list the Exclamatory P-W (Vidua interjecta) for Senegambia as more common, Clements 6th lists only the "S-P Whydah" or "Northern Paradise Whydah" (Vidua orientalis).

Borrow and Demey are not much help either, as the range of both species overlap. The key difference in behavior: the Sahel Paradise Whydah (Vidua orientalis) parasites the Green-winged Pytilla and so mimics its call. The Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua interjecta) parisites the Red-winged (and possibly Yellow-winged) Pytilla.

Otherwise, the non-breeding male of Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua interjecta) has pinkish legs and a pale bill; female of the same, also pinkish legs. Whereas for the Sahel Paradise Whydah (Vidua orientalis), the non-breeding male and female have darker legs and bill.

Unless Martin, Buckeye, Cuckooroller or someone with more African bird expertise than myself sees it otherwise, I'm listing these all for now according to Clements 6th as members of Vidua orientalis, the Sahel or Northern Paradise Whydah. The tail streamers seem less than -- not greater than -- 2x the bird's body.



Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, looks like rather than gaining a tick, I might have to lose one as I have no idea which I saw, other that that it was at Seleti which is just, in Senegal.
 
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THE_FERN

Well-known member
The bird at the link I posted, has a nape which is the same colour as it's belly which is what I'd expect, not the rich colour that yours is but, as you say, there are images which appear at odds with this and I have to ask if they're correctly ID'd?

I just lifted the following from a Flicker post and it seems to confirm my suspicions that this is a fraught ID. I don't know this bloke but he's clearly switch on to the potential pitfalls of ID.

'Possible conflict about species, incidently. Among both the guidebooks and the guides. If I'm remembering correctly from the guides, the pic taken near Bansang Quarry, should be more likely that of the Sahel Paradise Whydah (Vidua orientalis). But the two birds photographed between Farifenni and Wassu might be the Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua interjecta).

Problem: in breeding plumage, the Sahel P-W (Vidua orientalis) is almost identical to the Exclamatory P-W (Vidua interjecta), expecting the Sahel P-W has slightly shorter tail steamers -- up to 24cm or almost twice the normal size of the bird at 12.5cm.

In contrast, the Exclamatory P-W (Vidua interjecta) typically has tail steamers greater than 27cm: distinctly although perhaps not dramatically over twice the length of the bird's normal 12.5cm size.

I confess that (1) I can't tell the difference in the three pics I have here. And (2) although Barlow and Wacher list the Exclamatory P-W (Vidua interjecta) for Senegambia as more common, Clements 6th lists only the "S-P Whydah" or "Northern Paradise Whydah" (Vidua orientalis).

Borrow and Demey are not much help either, as the range of both species overlap. The key difference in behavior: the Sahel Paradise Whydah (Vidua orientalis) parasites the Green-winged Pytilla and so mimics its call. The Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua interjecta) parisites the Red-winged (and possibly Yellow-winged) Pytilla.

Otherwise, the non-breeding male of Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua interjecta) has pinkish legs and a pale bill; female of the same, also pinkish legs. Whereas for the Sahel Paradise Whydah (Vidua orientalis), the non-breeding male and female have darker legs and bill.

Unless Martin, Buckeye, Cuckooroller or someone with more African bird expertise than myself sees it otherwise, I'm listing these all for now according to Clements 6th as members of Vidua orientalis, the Sahel or Northern Paradise Whydah. The tail streamers seem less than -- not greater than -- 2x the bird's body.



Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, looks like rather than gaining a tick, I might have to lose one as I have no idea which I saw, other that that it was at Seleti which is just, in Senegal.

Many years ago when I was in Gambia for an extended period, Melba Finch/green-winged pytilia was either rare or rarely encountered. I saw one once when with Tim Wacher up country. So makes sense if sahel paradise whydah is rarer.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Many years ago when I was in Gambia for an extended period, Melba Finch/green-winged pytilia was either rare or rarely encountered. I saw one once when with Tim Wacher up country. So makes sense if sahel paradise whydah is rarer.

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. :t:

John
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
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. :t:

John

Forgive my scepticism John but I remain far from convinced that it's so simple.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Forgive my scepticism John but I remain far from convinced that it's so simple.

Forgiven.... 3:)

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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