Friday, 30 November 2012

The Gambia November 2012



On 12th of November the wife and I jetted of to The Gambia in West Africa. A place I have visited on many occasions, 15 including this trip, since 1997 and I am good friends with Clive Barlow the author of the Field Guide to the Birds of the Gambia and Senegal. I have been on several field trips with him and also spent many an hour drinking the local beer, Julbrew with him. This was my wife’s first visit and found the country, the food and the beer very nice but not overjoyed by the ever friendly, perhaps too friendly, local “bumsters”, who were constantly approaching us trying to get you to visit ‘their’ restaurant or be your ‘guide’. Being a little agoraphobic meant this was a tad too much for Debs but over the years I have learned to ignore it, they soon leave you alone once you show you’re not interested. As mentioned in my last post this was meant to be a NBA holiday (if you haven’t worked it out yet, it means No Birding Allowed!) to spend time with the wife but, I did get out in the mornings and Debs did come along on a couple of birding trips with Clive and me. I did notice on this trip that there seemed to be a lot less birds about than the last time I was here although the numbers of Black Kite seemed to me incredibly high, both facts confirmed by Clive. On the morning of the 13th Debs and I were picked up from in front of our hotel and were taken to Clive’s house before moving on to Brufut for the first days catch up and birding with some of the first birds seen were Fanti Saw-wing, Levailant’s Cuckoo and Klass’s Cuckoo.
Record shot of Fanti Saw-wing in Brufut

Levailant's Cuckoo under a bush at Brufut

Klass's Cuckoo Brufut
Some other birds seen around here included Hooded Vulture, Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Vinaceous dove, Senegal Coucal, Little Swift, and Blue-breasted Kingfisher and not far down the path a family of Gambian Mongooses were frolicking in a family group of at least 16 animals, a rarely seen spectacle in daylight. There were also birds such as Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Whistling Cisticola, Double-spurred Francolin, Greater Honeyguide, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Western Grey Plantain-eater, Fork-tailed Drongo and Pygmy Kingfisher. Later on in the afternoon I took a walk down to the beach where Royal and Caspian Terns were passing offshore while on the beach were Whimbrel, Speckled Pigeon, Pied Crow, Wattled Plover and Black Kite. I did notice throughout the day an inordinate amount of Butterflies present, it looked as if someone was sprinkling (throwing even) confetti in the air non-stop.
Gambian Mongoose Brufut

Western Grey Plantain-eater in Brufut

Red-billed Hornbill Brufut
On the 14th Clive and I took a trip to Tanji where we spent a great deal of time scanning through the Gull & Tern flock looking for colour rings finding a fair few Sandwich Terns and Lesser Black-backed Gulls bearing Scottish and Danish rings respectively. Birds encountered at Tanji included Osprey, Long-tailed Cormorant, Lanner Falcon, Spur-winged Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Grey-headed Gull, Red-necked Falcon, Red-billed Hornbill, Olivaceous Warbler, Little Bee-eater and Northern Puffback Shrike. As well as Red-eyed Dove, Pied Kingfisher, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Bronze Manikin, African Thrush and White-billed Buffalo Weaver. While among the plethora of Butterflies there were Caper White, Common Grass Yellow, White-lady Swallowtail, Dark Blue Pansy and Spotted Acraea plus Common Wall Dragonfly, Red Basker Dragonfly, Gambian Stripped Squirrel, Agama Lizard, Green Vervet Monkey and Red Colobus Monkey.
Caper White at Tanji

Dark Blue Pansy at Tanji

Spotted Acraea in Brufut
The 15th saw us back at Tanji and once again checking rings on Gulls as well as taking in the surrounding avifauna with such species as Great-white Pelican, Great-white Egret, Shikra, Oriole Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Variable Sunbird, Red-billed Firefinch, Senegal Parrot, African Grey Hornbill, Green Woodhoopoe, Piapiac, Gull-billed Tern and Kelp Gull all noted. Also Audouin’s Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Black-winged Stilt, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Red-chested Swallow, Northern Wheatear and Blue-spotted Wooddove all made the list. The rarest sighting was of a Cape Hare in the forested part of Tanji on a track leading to the beach, in 30 years of residency in The Gambia Clive has never seen one in the day, only at night in headlights or dead on the road. I managed a record shot before it disappeared into the undergrowth.

Cape Hare in Tanji a rare daylight sighting

Hooded Vulture on beach at Bijilo

Grey-headed Gull at Tanji


  1. Nice birds Martyn, for a NBH you saw quite a few lol.

  2. Nice stuff Marc, you did do well for not birding!

    1. Apologies MARTYN, I think senility is closer than I thought!!!

  3. Great stuff Martyn! Gambia is brilliant even when you're supposedly not bird watching.

  4. A nice read Martyn, sounds like you made the most of your visit.