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Gambia Kotu Bridge Day 5

8th January 2020

Yellow-billed shrike are common in Gambia and hunt together in flocks of up to eight to twelve birds normally

Last year I went birding to Kuwait with Mashuq Ahmed and the year before I joined Martin Goodey in Thailand. So when Graham Gordon asked if I would like to visit The Gambia? I said ‘I always wanted to go there’ It was later that I discovered that Graham would be coming as well and I changed my mind as I told him ‘I want to go with a proper birder mate’ So this morning at 09.00, as planned, I met the main man, Mustapha, the taxi driver with Graham in the passager seat at the entrance of Senigambia Hotel after a few hours of Graham just arriving late last night from Gatwick. Between us we didn’t have a guide book or had not really done our homework on the country but we did have the Gosney’s guide which will come in very handy when I feel like colouring in the black and white maps inside for when I get bored. After an hour of birding the hotel garden, Graham was blown away as every bird he observed, like me yesterday,was a new species for him. The only new species that I got were 4 stunning Broad-billed Roller perched out in the sun.

4 Broad-billed Rollers showed superbly in the garden

Don’t hang around with that food in your hand mate Graham was entertained to the feeding of the vultures and kites at 11.00

Black Kite

Thanks from the help of man, Hooded Vulture is increasing every year in Gambia.

Graham looking for his contact lenses

Graham had booked two nights in the Bakotu Hotel at a cheap rate to let us have a bit of luxury before we go and start our ‘Workaways’ project in the small village of Ma muda, NW of Janbanjelly living and working with a Gambian family. We checked in at the hotel and Graham went to sleep. Not in the reception but in the bed and not in the same bed. We had twin beds. Just wanted to clear that. A lot of birders stay here, I don’t mean in Graham’s bed, but stay at the hotel as it’s a very popular area to bird. Kuto Bridge is only a five minute walk but I opted for the golf course just at the back of the hotel instaed. It didn’t take long until I was spotting more new species including, Fork-tailed Drongo, Little Bee-eater, Seganal Parrot and a flock of Yellow-billed Shrike. At the creek there were Malachite Kingfisher and Long-tailed Cormorant. Species that I had seen before were Western Reef Heron, Wire-tailed Swallow and Pied Kingfisher. The highlight for both us was the Black Heron or Umbrella bird.

Yellow-billed Shrike

Malachite Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Wire-tailed Swallow

Fork-tailed Drongo

Long-tailed Cormorant

Senegal Parakeet

The sun was goin down and I was still on the golf course and in the NW corner there were Black-throated Weaver and Yellow-throated Tinkerbird. As I returned, I joined Graham near to to the back entrance of the hotel where we got Senigal Coucal, Blue-headed Wood Dove, a showy Double-spurred Franklin and a large flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks flew overhead.

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird

Black-necked Weaver

Some 70-80 White-faced Whistling Duck flew overhead towards the sewage works that we will be visiting tomorrow.

Senegal Coucal

I’ve seen many Senegal-spurred Franklin flying away from me since arrived but this individual showed very well in the evening

Kotu Golf Course


Gambia Salagi Project Fields Day 4

7th January 2020

The fields held large numbers of plovers including this good looking Black-headed Plover

I didn’t want to venture so far today as I wanted to bird a different kind of habitat just across the road from the digs where I’m staying. I cycled the ten minutes to the entrance gate and here I found myself at the main office to get permission to walk a large area of crop fields. It wasn’t long and I was out scanning and the first species I picked up were 6 Iberian Wagtail near to the building. I continued through the main track that cuts through the center of the project fields. Black and Yellow-billed Kite and Hooded Vulture were all over shop and in all the fields, that were covered with a crop just coming through, were 150+Spur-winged and 70+Wattled Plover. In smaller numbers and favouring only the one soiled field were 13 Black-headed Plover.

Iberian Wagtail

Over 70 Wattled Plover were feeding in the fields with over 150 Spur-winged Plover.

With only 13 Black-headed Plover also present. Here being harassed by the many Pied Crows.

Walking the west primeter fence, I flushed out three Double-spurred Franklin and hiding in the shade were an equal number of Senegal Thick-knee. All along the fence were variety species of trees and here there were small groups of Western Grey Plantain-eater, four Subalpine and single African Thrush and Western Olivaceous Warbler. On the ground were flocks of finches and new ones among them were Lavender Waxbill, Village Weaver, African Manikin and Grey-headed Sparrow. On the posts were also single Abyssinian Roller with many species of dove and pigeon observed including Speckled Dove. I’ve seen Green Woodhoopoe already and 6 moved through pretty quick. It was now 14.00 and I decided to cycle further up road to the next town for a bite to eat. I returned to my digs and later in the evening I was invited to watch the United City game at Mosa’s mates house. Here I ate so much and didn’t drink as Muslims and I don’t touch the stuff. In the few days that I’ve been in Gambia, everyone is so polite and friendly and always want to help and this includes strangers I meet out in the field or on the street. On the roads, it’sorganised chaos and like Morcco, it seems to work as drivers let you in as you ease your way out on to the on coming traffic to be let in with in seconds.

This Western Olivaceous Warbler was feeding in the sun

While just below this male Western Subalpine Warbler was feeding in the shade

Western Grey Plantain-eater

Up to 3 Senegal Thick-Knee I spooked out from the shade.

Grey-headed Sparrow

Female Red-cheeked Gordon-blew

Male and female African Manikin

Village Weaver

6 Green Woodhoopoe moved through at close range

Feeding on the tracks were small numbers of Speckled Dove

Gambia SeneGambia Hotel Day 1-3

4-6th January 2020

This male Beautiful Sunbird are pretty common in the Senegambia Hotel.

The morning of the 4th January at Gatwick Airport, an hour delayed, I got on my Titan flight non-stop to Banjul. I was the last one to board to find that there were only less than ten people also on board! I was told that it was an extra flight and a few minutes after take off, the captain came on to tell us that we were stopping off in Freetown, Sierra Leone! I had almost a plane to myself! So. instead of a six hour flight, it turned out to be a seven hours to Freetown and then another hour and half sitting on the tarmac waiting for the hundred passagers or so to hop on and join us and fly to Banjul, Gambia. Like Freetown, Banjul Airport is tiny and it took ten minutes to go straight through security and jump into the taxi and to a hostel. The next day I had to move on to an Airbnb in the suburbs of Sukuta and for three nights I had a great time with the owner and his mates. They fed me and also took me places in their wagon. The first place I wanted to visit was a ten minute drive up road to Senegambia Hotel. Mosa, the owner of the guesthouse, took me where in the hotel gardens is said to be good to see birds. Up to now the only bird of note that I had seen was Ayssanian Rollar and Lesser Whitethroat. From now on, most of the birds that I see will be new species and in the two hours of walking around the hotel gardens I got all common in Gambia.

Driving in the Taxi’s in the Banjul area I had seen the odd Abyssinian Rollar overhead and it was until my third day I got this stunner on the wires.

White-crowned Robin-chat was one of the most common species in the hotel grounds

Followed by Brown Babbler

There were 2 Beaded Barbet in the gardens

This Oriole Warbler was foraging next to a tiny pool surrounded by hotel rooms

This Piapiac was the only one I saw

There was only this single Hamerkop spending time in a sewage sream just outside the hotel rooms!

There a small group of Purple Glossy Starling

I didn’t know it at the time but at 11.30 this guy comes in and feeds the Hooded Vultures and kites for a splendid show for the guests.

Some 100 Hooded Vulture came to feed and bath

While Black (top two) and Yellow-billed Kite tried to scavenge anythin they could of the vultures by swooping down in style.

As I came out of the hotel entrance, feeding at the side of the road were from top, Village Indigobird, Red Cheeked Cordon-blew and Red-billed Firefinch

Early afternoon, I made the short walk to Bijilo Forest, just south of the hotel. Here I encountered a lot of the species that I had just seen in the hotel garden. I followed the sandy path that circles the area where you can take paths off to the beach. All I saw at the latter site were distant Caspian and Sandwich Tern. In the wood itself there were Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Yellow-billed Shrike, Double-spurred Francolin, Leaflove, Senegal Coucal and a very noisy Yellow-crowned Gonolek

Yellow-Crowned Gonolek


Red-billed Hornbill were very common at both sites

Red-colobus Monkey

Green Vervet Monkey

Marsh Harrier at Whixall Moss

3rd January 2020

At last I’ve got Marsh Harrier on my Salop list!! Two county ticks in a week including the Yellow-browed Warbler a few days ago at Shifinal.

Yesterday morning, Ed Wilson had the first site record of a Great White Egret at Trench Pool! I was so gripped off that it was on my patch when I visit Salop. I was more gripped off as I was only across the road at Middle Pool with Salop birders twitching the pair of Red-crested Pochard that I had the day before but there was no sign of them. It was only my forth for the county and if you can count them, the others were all single males. The first was in ’89, I think. I twitched it at Martin Pool and found a pair of Scaup there as well. This was followed by an individual found by Alan Heath at Whitemere with the returning stunning male Smew in the early 90’s. A few years later I made a visit to Chetwyd where I peered over the tall wall right at the north end and there in front of me were 2 redhead Smew with a male Red-crested Pochard! Where have all the Smew gone? Not just in Salop but the whole of Britian? Back at Middle Pool we did get the Yellow-legged Gull and the Pink-footed Goose came in with the large flock of Greylag Geese. I made the short journey down to Hortonwood where there were 4 Yellow-legged Gull.

By the comparing images, you can make out that there are two different Yellow-legged Gulls visiting both Trench and Middle Pool. The adult from a few days ago and this near adult.

Two of the Yellow-legged Gull at each end of the pic at Hortonwood. altogether there were 3 adult and a 4th winter on the roofs.

So this morning I was up with the sun but there was only the Yellow-legged Gull on Trench Pool and no sign of the egret. For first time, I thought I would try out Allscott Sewage Works for any phylloscs. Driving past Shawbirch I spotted the Greylag flock flying east. I guess towards Middle Pool and with them was the Pink-footed Goose. One of the reasons I’ve never tried the sewage works is because of the access and parking. I did find a pull in and walked into a field, bordering the the perimeter fence, and stumbled upon a public footpath. Ideal! I had only walked for a few minutes and the first birds I come across is 30+Skylark and 2 Chiffchaff fly catching in the sun. However, after walking the circuit of the sewage works along the footpath, I saw nothin else of note.

The Pink-footed Goose that I had flying east over Shawbirch yesterday morning towards Middle pool where I took this pic the day before on the pool itself.

My first visit to Allscott Sewage Works produced 2 Chiffchaff. I’ll be making more returning here more times in the future.

When I lived in Salop, despite a pair just breeding down the road from my house near to Wall Farm in the 80’s, Marsh Harrier was pretty hard to see in the county with maybe one record a year. However, in the last ten plus years they are now seen both on spring and autumn passage with an occasional bird in the winter. So when Rob Dowley had an individual coming into roost at Whixall Moss yesterday late afternoon, I had to go for it. I arrived at the latter sight just after one, walked from out of the trees, on the main path from the car park, into the open of the moss to see a Peregrine dogfighting with the Marsh Harrier! I observed them for a good five minutes playing in the air together before the Marsh Harrier drifted off towards Furbers where I lost it. It was some thirty minutes later while almost stroking a very tame Carrion Crow, that I picked the harrier up in the far SE corner followed by a Merlin perched up in the distance. With good views of the harrier, I was debating if to go home and do Prisorlee Lake as John Reeves had a new 2nd winter Caspian Gull in the roost there yesterday. My mind was made up when I crossed paths with the main man of the moss, Stephen Barlow. I stayed with him til dusk as he told me that we might see the ring-tailed Hen Harrier that he saw on and off up to two weeks ago. That was only because it was his first visit since then. Also, Short-eared Owl could be on the cards. No sign of the ring-tail but we did see a single Stonechat and coming into roost, 2 Merlin and the Marsh Harrier. We also counted over 3000 Starling coming into roost nearby but this was nothin to the 100,000 that were roosting there since November onwards until last week.

In the evening, John Martin was at Prisorlee Lake roost and got a new adult Caspian Gull, adult Mediterranean Gull and the 2nd winter hybrid thing.

This 1st year male Marsh Harrier was on display over Whixall Moss for a good five minutes dog fighting with a female Peregrine. Not bad for my first Salop Marsh Harrier.

This crazy tame Carrion Crow was in the center of the moss and allowed me to approach it as close as a meter away! I started talking to it, as you do, and it seemed to be listening. Stephen Barlow told that it’s been around for awhile and very often walks infront of him when he comes across the crow.

Whixall Moss looking ESE where there has been of interest, 2 Great Grey Shrike together, Rough-legged Buzzard and Red-necked Phalarope in the past. In the Birch woods, Yellow-browed Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Firecrest and only a few year back, Arctic Redpoll have been trapped and ringed. It was in the early 90’s when I had some 100 Mearly Redpoll at the moss, during the invasion year into the UK, and I’m sure I had a Arctic Redpoll with them. They were just so mobile and also feeding above looking into the bad light. There were also a lot of Arctic Redpoll in the Midlands at the time including three spending a lot of time on the Salop side of the Wyre Forest which was ideal!

Only the second site record for me at Trench Pool, a male Teal.

We discovered that the finder of the Yellow-browed Warbler last Sunday, also had a Siberian Chiffchaff on the same day. with only one accepeted Salop record trapped at Whixall Moss, I was back again on the 2nd, searching through the tit flocks at Shifinal Sewage works. This time there were a lot more birders also present but all we could find were the 2 Chiffchaff and a very mobile Yellow-browed Warbler.

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