Monthly Archives: November 2014

Gambia Part 3

Our last planned day out was with Muttar Barry and we were to be heading around the Mandina Ba/Farasuto Forest and Bonto Woods area, Muttar along with his driver Abdoulie arrived on time at 7am for our pick up at Farakunku Lodge. On the journey out we saw Double spurred  Francolin and Stone Partridegs around the Farakunku Lodge area, near Tanji we saw Giant Kingfisher, Whimbrel, Grey headed Gull and Kelp Gull, also added to the day tally were White billed Buffalo Weaver and Rufous Crowned Roller.

Our first port of call Mandina Ba and we were soon into the herons and egrets, Cattle Egret, Great White Egret and Squacco Heron were abundant, Blue Cheeked Bee eaters overhead with Hooded Vultures and Black Kites. On walking around the rice fields sat on one of the fence posts was a Woodland Kingfisher, but always a little distant for a decent photo, a flock of starlings came into view settling in one of the nearby trees giving us good views of Lesser Blue eared, Greater Blue Eared Glossy Starlings, Long tailed Glossy Starling were around the area too. Looking above again a Wahlberg’s Eagle drifted into view followed shortly after by a Short toed Eagle, Shikra and Grey Kestrel were also around giving brief glimpse now and again. We wandered into the bushy area next having a productive time around one particular bush/tree seeing things like,  Red bellied Paradise and African Paradise Flycatcher’s, Green Pigeon and Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Yellow throated Leaflove, Yellow Breasted Apalis, Melodius Warbler, and hearing once again a Grey headed Bush Shrike

Our next port of call was Farsuto Forest, a place we hadn’t visited before as it came about in about 2009 and is a community Nature Reserve near Kuloro, it is best described as a ‘wet evergreen forest’, more on the story at the Farasuto Website, Here. On approach to the reserve we saw Dark Chanting Goshawk and Abyssinian Roller. It’s a great place around the entrance area, where there is a small feeding area we saw Red billed Firefinch, Black Rumped Waxbill, Lavendar Waxbill, African Thrush, White Crowned Robin-Chat, Red cheeked Cordon Bleu. We walked further  into the forest, where it eventually opened up into a pool area where we saw Common Sandpiper, Senegal Thick Knees, Blue Bellied Roller, Tawny Eagle, Black Kites, African Palm Swift, Wattled Plover and a splendid male White backed Night Heron. With further guidance we also saw at Farasuto African Wood Owl and Greyish Eagle Owl

Our final stop was at Bonto Woods, disappointed we were in this place seeing only four species Yellow Fronted Canary, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Common Wattle Eye and Black Billed Wooddove.

That was our day if you’d like to see the full list of the day press THIS and to round off the day a quick note about Muttar, he is a polite, knows the area’s and his birds, and to date has been the only guide who has supplied cold drinks for the day that I have used and if we do manage to get back will use him again, plus he has been the only guide who has used a book where the negotiated price has been written down and signed upon.

To round off the trip when using a guide always negotiate the day, where you would like to go, what you’d like to see (you might not always get to see what you want to see but you might get more) , negotiate the price and what’s included in the price i.e driver, drinks, lunch, petrol, fees to reserve’s etc

Other bits of wildlife we saw that gets a mention of course are the Dragonflies and Butterflies there are an abundance of both at this time of year and can easily be seen anywhere espeically around the rice fields i.e Lamin Rice Fields and Kotu creek area. Field guides are available for the butterflies one worth a mention is “The Field Guide to the Butterflies of the Gambia” by David Penney, which can be found on Amazon for about the £15 mark,  one on the Dragonflies has proven difficult but there is also another Field Guide again by David Penney about the wildlife of the Gambia and again can be found on Amazon for about the same price and this has a few Dragonfly photos as well as other interesting insects of the Gambia. A couple of other wildlife bits to include here were the Fruit Bats and Chameleon both found around the Farakunku Lodge area. More pictures of birds and the wildlife can be seen on my Flickr site HERE (if you know any pictured that are still unknown and you know please drop a note Thanks)

Okay final note about Farakunku Lodge and it’s wildlife we enjoyed 95 species of birds from this area alone, enjoying the sound of African Scops Owl and White Faced Scops Owls on an evening, there are plenty of birds also that visit in the well kept gardens,  there many Butterflies and a few Dragonflies within the area, there are many well marked walks which Heather has marked out around Farakunku Lodge , and a beautiful beach with a large pool area nearby with many Birds, Butterflies and Dragonflies to enjoy

Finally a few photos

Village Indigobird

Village Indigobird

Little Bee eater

Little Bee Eater

Portia Widow Dragonfly

Portia Widow (Palpopleura portia) ♂

Citrus swallowtail Butterfly

Citrus Swallowtail Butterfly  Farakunku

Gambia Part 2

Our third birding trip out was out at Kartong Bird Observatory and was arranged prior to us hitting the Gambia thru Farakunku Lodge, but can be arranged once there if necessary, price for the day was £125 which included lunch and a River trip on the river Hallahin, and our bird guide for the day was Colin Cross. Abbreviations L = Lifer and NFG new for Gambia

We met up with Colin at the Observatory and after a brief introduction, Colin asked me what I was hoping to see for the day at Kartong, I didn’t know what to expect due to having nothing in mind really just a day’s birding, but he wet my appetite with White Fronted Plover (which I thought were up at Tanji but Colin said they had a few there, nice surprise) , Audouins Gull which winter, and African Fish Eagle hopefully on the river trip.

Great into the birding then which can easily be done from the observatory wall, forgot to mention that it was raining slightly at this point but Colin was assured that this would blow over and within an hour he was right, meanwhile back to why we were here birding, from the obs we saw Purple Swaphen (L), Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, African Jacana , Spur winged Plovers, Black winged Stilts and then a couple of  Common Snipe flew past and settled in the small pool in front of the obs. The rain was subsiding slightly so we ventured out along the red road with large pools mainly on our right side has we made our way to the beach, plenty of White faced whistling duck could be seen, Colin mentioned that a Northern Pintail (NFG) may be around this wintered last year and may put in appearance again, we did eventually pick this bird up in another pool further down the road, whilst looking for the Pgymy Goose (which wasn’t found), then Colin picked up a Allen’s Gallinule (L) low in the reeds which we both managed to pick up, another winter bird which Colin was very happy to see. We moved further on picking up things like Malachite Kingfisher, Grey Headed Kingfisher, Rufous Crowned Roller, African Spoonbill, Black tailed Godwits (these were a familiar sight) , we did eventually make it to the beach, we moved thru the mangroves to get to the beach scaring up Yellow Wagtails and Crested Larks as we did so, on the beach plenty of Whimbrel were easily seen along with Oystercatchers, terns a plenty and on scanning thru we could see lots of Common Terns, which Colin was surprised about but happy about , we could also see the big Caspians Terns towering over the Commons. We started scanning for smaller waders and Colin soon picked up a couple of White Fronted Plovers (L) nearby in their favourite area, it was whilst I was looking these over that Colin picked up an immature Audouins Gull (L) in the Gull/Tern pack, it was here that I found out that Colin is a patient man and didn’t give up on me as we both went over the finer details of a Audouins Gull, we hoped also that it would fly a bit which it eventually did so we could see the longer thinner wings and black bar on the tail contrasting with the white in the tail, whilst I was going over the gull Colin suddenly started shouting “Hudsonian Whimbrel(L) turning around I got sight of the bird has it passed me, differing in flight than the Eurasian, the Hudsonian was even more distinctive. The rump was completely brown, as was the tail, with no white V marking up the back or on the tail. The other difference I saw was the bird gave off a more obviously cinnamon-brown colouring on the underwing and appeared completely uniform in flight as against the Eurasian paler underwing, the bird was lost to sight as in ventured into the mangroves, I turned to try and find Colin but I couldn’t see him for his smile. A returning bird to the Gambia from last year which Colin was hoping for on that high we headed back to the obs, we walked Colin was dancing, going back thru the mangroves we stumbled upon a pair of  White Fronted Plovers , got some record photos of the pair when they slowed down a bit, I thought Sanderling were quick on their feet but these guys can certainly move.

Back on the road I managed to photo a Blue cheeked Bee eater that had settled in a road side tree, we also managed to see Black headed Heron, Dark Phase Booted Eagle, a female Marsh Harrier, Palm Nut Vulture, Lanner Falcon, Grey Kestrel, Gull Billed Tern, Slender Billed Gull, Black Billed Wood Dove, Bronze Tailed Glossy Starling, Wire tailed and Red Chested Swallows just a few birds on the way back and more besides.

We settled into the obs with a cold drink looking out over the reserve when my wife picked up a hovering bird, first thoughts were Black Shouldered Kite or a Snake Eagle this one turned out to be a Beaudouins Snake Eagle (L), what a cracking bird to watch, chocolate head, and angel wings as it started to drop, very similar in appearance to Short Toed Eagle, not an easy bird to catch up with due to the spares population , so another good one to catch up with. Well six lifers so far this morning could it get any better, off to dinner.

Dinner was on the banks of the river Hallahin which separates Gambia and Senegal, we eventually eat up and we were off again. On to the boat, life jackets supplied, and heading towards the river mouth looking for Terns’ which Colin hoped would be resting on one of the small sandbanks. On arriving there were no terns to be seen but Whimbrels, Oystercatchers’, Ringed Plovers, Bar tailed Godwit and Grey Plovers were easier to find.

Okay we decided on turning around and heading up river towards another sand bank in the hope of terns up there passing Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper as we did so, Colin then caught the sound of a bird call we he described as “catish” coming from the mangroves, these were very difficult to find and see but with perseverance we finally caught up with Splendid Glossy Starling (L), bingo another great bird to catch up with, just one more to go, the big one.

We turned around and headed back towards the landing area to moor up has the day was coming to a close, I was scanning every tree top in the vain hope that one may have landed there, and then I caught sight of a large bird sat in the tree top but at a distance white top dark body, I pointed Colin towards the bird “Em looks good, but it might be a Palm Nut” he said we edged closer and closer and then we were at a distance were I could see the white of the head flowed down the back in to a V shaped, Yes that confirms it, it looked beautiful even at this distance now I was hoping at this point we could get closer before it flew and we did right under the tree it was perched in a splendid African Fish Eagle what a sight, majestic. It let us sit and admire it taking pictures in doing so and then enough was enough stretching its wings it took to flight disappearing into Senegal and lost to sight…now that’s how you end a fantastic day’s birding and how to make a Yorkshire Man smile 🙂

A full list of the days Birds can be seen on this LINK or by visting the TRIPS tab and Gambia

A great days birding with Colin Cross from Kartong Bird Observatory,  if you get the chance get yourself down there for a good days birding plenty, not just birds about plenty of Dragonflies about too, recently 28 species were found by one of Colin’s associates, try this link to get in contact Kartong Bird Observatory

African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagle

African Fish Eagle

White Fronted Plover

White Fronted Plovers

Blue Cheeked Bee eater

Blue Cheeked Bee Eater

The view from Kartong Bird Observatory




Well its been six years since we were last in the Gambia our visit dates were to be from the 12th to the 26th of November and we would be stopping well away from the Senegambia strip this time down at Tujering and at the Farakunku Lodges, see my trip details here

We had four days out birding

Abuko and Lamin Rice Fields on the 14th

Kotu Creek/ Cycle Track and Fajara Golf Course on the 19th

Kartong 20th

Mandina Ba/Farasuto and Bonto Woods 24th

Abuko and Lamin Rice Fields

Our first days outing was arranged thru Farakunku Lodge at a cost of £75 for the day lunch not included and the guide for the day was a Lamin K Njie, who turned out to be an excellent guide and is farakunku main guide, he was used by many people in the lodges that week and he was praised by all who used him.

We started at Abuko Nature Reserve a place we had been on all our Gambian visits and always turn out to be a good place, we had heard reports this time that it was now in the hands of some Europeans and was in the process of being tidied up, we could see the evidence of that when we hit the first pool by the bridge. It appears the pools have overgrown quite a bit and the evidence was in the lack of Herons and Egrets about the place, but there were plenty of dragonflies in evidence. Our first birds were around the Darwin Centre and these were Giant and Pygmy Kingfisher along with African Darter, Palm Nut and Hooded Vultures, a Hammerkop gave a us a brief encounter as it flew thru, Pied winged Swallows along with Blue Cheeked Bee eaters were overhead. On then into the forest were we were to see Little Greenbul, Snowy crowned Robin Chat, African Thrush to name a few, it was then onto dinner at Lamin Lodge.

Over dinner when I finally got it as the local Green vervet Monkey pinched half of it before I saw it so that had to be remade but we watched Cattle Egrets, Sandwich and Royal Terns with the odd Western reef Herons and plenty of Hooded Vultures overhead, Common Wattle Eye and Beautiful Sunbirds calling from the mangroves nearby it was then on to the Lamin Rice Fields nearby seeing Little Green Bee eaters  in the mangroves as we travelled from Lamin.

At Lamin we were blessed with an array of Herons and Egrets…. Black Egret, Cattle Egret, Great White Egret, Striated (Green Backed) Heron, Squacco Heron, Western Reef Heron, Purple Heron we were also blessed with Blue breasted Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, what a place , other waders about were Senegal Thick Knee, Common and Green Sandpipers, Greenshank, now lets add some raptors Shikra, Lizzard Buzzzard, Hooded Vulture, Red Necked Falcon, African Harrier Hawk and Osprey. What a day thanks to Lamin K Njie for being our guide for the day… see the full list visit the Trips Tab, Gambia and November 2014 or press this LINK.

Here’s a few photos of the day

Blue Breasted Kingfisher

Blue Breasted Kingfisher

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

Broad Scarlet Dragonfly

Broad Scarlet


Our second birding trip was for a half day around the Kotu Bridge area taking in the sewage ponds, cycle track with Fajara golf course as well.

Our bird guide for the day was Muttar Barry a guide we came across thru a friend and I was suitably impressed with the guy, arrived on time for the pickup, always keeping a look out for birds, and pleasant to get on with.

So our first port of call of course was the bridge where we now have a raised platform to view across the mangrove/mudflat area, all I will say about this is watch the steps it is whats makes the Gambia for us lol!. Viewing across the flats we saw Ringed Plovers, Grey Plovers, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Senegal Thick Knee, Wattled Plover and Spur Winged Plovers, leaving the platform we picked up Pied Kingfishers, Wire tailed Swallows and Hooded Vultures overhead,  we made a brief stop by a well-known tree that attracts warblers and here we saw Namaque Dove, Beautiful and Splendid Sunbirds, Olivaceous and Willow Warblers, Oriole Warbler (heard), Grey backed Camaroptera, Northern Crombec and new for me for the Gambia Sedge Warbler.

We then made our way along the cycle track picking up a Subalpine warbler, Variable Sunbird, Blue Breasted Kingfisher and Blue cheeked Bee eaters overhead, around at the ladies pond a Western Reef Heron, Great White Egret and a Long Tailed Cormorant.

Over at the Sewage ponds we saw plenty of Spur winged Plovers, Black winged Stilts, Wood Sandpipers, Cattle Egrets and a white morph Western Reef Heron, Grey Heron, Black Egrets and a Little Grebe. We then made our way over to the golf course taking in a new pit stop, this place turned out to be a where you can get to sit and have a cold drink etc step up by the bird guides of the area a nice rest up, watered we moved on to the golf course where our highlights were Violet Turaco, African Golden Oriole, Lesser Blue Eared and Long Tailed Glossy Starlings and a Striped Kingfisher .

A great days birding with a good guide who I would happily use again, for a detailed list of all the birds seen that day see this LINK

Black Winged Stilt

Black Winged Stilt

Cattle Egrets at the Sewage Ponds

Cattle Egrets