The Gambia: Part 2

The Gambia ~ 17th-28th December 2018 ~ 
Part 2: 22nd-25th

Continuing on from Part 1, here is the second part of my trip to The Gambia.

Day 6 (22nd): Rainbow to Janjanbureh

After meeting him at Birdfair, my dad had booked a 4 day (3 night) birding trip inland with Yaya Barry from Kingbirders. We were picked up at 0800 and spent virtually all day on the road, stopping for some birding at various points and a bit of a wait for the ferry at Soma to get to the North Bank. Yaya is a remarkable birder and was picking birds up left, right and centre, even while driving! We ended on 67 species for the day, many of which were new for the trip. My highlights were White-throated Bee-eaterGrasshopper BuzzardWhite-backed VultureTemminck's CourserNamaqua DoveCut-throat FinchNorthern Anteater-chatExclamatory Paradise WhydahSavile's Bustard and of course Egyptian Plover (of which we saw four individuals)!

Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis
Temminck's Courser Cursorius temminckii
Cut-throat Finch Amadina fasciata
Northern Anteater-chat Myrmecocichla aethiops
Egyptian Plover Pluvianus aegyptius
Egyptian Plover Pluvianus aegyptius

Day 7 (23rd): Bao Baolong boat trip & birding around Janjanbureh

Our first boat trip started at 8.00 from the Baobab restaurant and started off pretty steadily, with some nice species to get us going: Bearded Barbet, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Grey-headed Kingfisher and Hadada Ibis.

Western Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus cinerascens
Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala
Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash
Further along the river, we came to a rather unassuming patch of vegetation on the riverbank where a few Swamp Flycatchers were foraging. Our guide then spotted a female Northern Puffback in the undergrowth, which perched out in the open very briefly. This was quickly followed by a Yellow-throated Leaflove and a very showy Oriole Warbler - one of my main targets for the entire trip! I would have been quite happy to turn around and head home right then, but we still had another hour and a half left!!
Swamp Flycatcher Muscicapa aquatica
Female Northern Puffback Dryoscopus gambensis
Oriole Warbler Hypergerus atriceps
One of the other species that I really hoped to see on my trip was African Finfoot, primarily to annoy my ringing trainer since he's been to The Gambia numerous times and never managed to see one. Finfoots are notoriously secretive and spend most of their time in the dark edges of rivers under cover. With this in mind, I really didn't expect to see one at all, so was ecstatic when our boat driver pointed one out... I didn't think the boat trip could get any better!

African Finfoot Podica senegalensis
The rest of the boat trip consisted of loads more cool birds and excellent views of some due to the great skill of our boat driver. Highlights from the rest of the trip were: Palm-nut Vultures virtually above our heads, a close Woodland Kingfisher, Long-crested Hawk Eagle, Red-throated Bee-eaters, very brief views of Shining Blue Kingfisher and a Violet Turaco. However that wasn't all... our keen-eyed boat driver had one more surprise in store for us: a second African Finfoot!! This one was much further away, but swam the width of the river in full view, before disappearing into some dense vegetation... excellent!

Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax anglolensis
Woodland Kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis
Red-throated Bee-eaters Merops bulocki
We got dropped off a little bit before where we had started the boat trip so that we could walk back through some woodland and see some different species. It was well worth it as we saw quite a lot, most of which was new for the trip. Highlights were: Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Pin-tailed Whydah (non-breeding), Black-rumped Waxbill and Senegal Eremomela.

After lunch we headed out again, this time just driving around for a few hours, stopping anywhere that looked promising. This method was surprisingly productive, with 29 species seen, including Brown-rumped Bunting, Rufous-crowned Roller, a colony of Red-throated Bee-eaters, Shikra, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Gabar Goshawk, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Four-banded Sandgrouse and a brief Long-tailed Nightjar in the last dregs of light.

Grey-headed Bush-shrike Malaconotus blanchoti
Gabar Goshawk Micronisus gabar
Bruce's Green Pigeon Treron waalia
Day 8 (24th) Janjanbereh to Tendaba and Tendaba area

We started the journey to Tendaba at 0800 and kicked the day off with Verreaux's Eagle Owl - a massive owl with pink eyelids! The next few birds were all new for the trip too - Bush Petronia, Vieillot's Barbet and Striped Kingfisher, the latter being a personal favourite for no particular reason. We stopped  few times on the way to Tendaba and saw a few more cool birds: African Pygmy Goose, Little Green Bee-eater, Rufous-crowned Roller, Dark Chanting Goshawk, White-backed Vulture, Brown Snake Eagle and my dad's only target for the whole trip besides Egyptian Plover: White-crested Helmetshrike. The undoubted highlight of the journey was non-avian and came in the form of a troop of Baboons crossing the road!

Verreaux's Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus
Striped Kingfisher Halycon chelicuti
Vieillot's Barbet Lybius vieilloti
Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis
African Pygmy-goose Nettapus auritus 
Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates
White-crested Helmetshrike Prionops plumatus
Troop of c.30 Guinea Baboons Papio papio
After lunch and a siesta, we headed out for a walk with OJ, one of the guides at Tendaba. We spent a little while in one of the hides, where Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaverBlack-rumped Waxbill, and Greater Blue-eared Starling came in for a drink from a small pool. Carrying on, we saw quite a few male Scarlet-chested Sunbirds which were spectacular, as well as a Spotted Thick-knee and lots of other species that we'd seen before.

Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser superciliosus
Greater Blue-eared Starling Lamprotomis chalybaeus
Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis
Day 9 (25th) Tendaba boat trip & journey back to Sanyang

Christmas day couldn't have been much better really - taking a boat trip on the stunning River Gambia with my dad and seeing loads more cool birds and wildlife... it's just a shame that the rest of my family weren't there too.

The boat trip lasted just under 3hrs and in that time we saw 26 species. The best of the bunch from the boat trip were: excellent views of Yellow-billed Stork, Malachite and Pied Kingfisher and Great White Pelican, a male Montagu's Harrier, a brief Mouse-brown Sunbird and a Wooly-necked Stork just as we were leaving the mangroves.

Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis
Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
African Darter Anhinga rufa
African Darter Anhinga rufa
Male Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis
Yellow-billed Stork pair Mycteria ibis
After the boat trip, we began the journey back to Sanyang, stopping off at various places, including Kampanti, a well-known raptor site. While we were there I saw one of my most wanted raptors - Bateleur Eagle! We saw quite a bit else at Kampanti, including a flock of White-crested Helmetshrikes, Pied-winged Swallows, African Yellow White-eye and great flight views of Grasshopper Buzzard. Once again we saw a remarkable amount of birds either from the car or by stopping at random places along the way, including Long-crested Eagle, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Violet-backed Sunbird and Pygmy Sunbird

Bateleur Eagle Terathopius ecaudatus
Pied-winged Swallow Hirundo leucosoma 
Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis

If you made it this far, good job! I hope you enjoyed reading it & the remaining three days of my trip will be coming soon in Part 3 so keep an eye out for that. 

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