This is only my second Salop Snow Bunting after an individual showing a lot better that this one on the Long Mynd over ten years ago.
Yesterday, David Stafford found a 1st winter maleSnow Bunting at Titterstone Clee. So this morning I set off just after 08.00 as news came out on shropshire Bird News WhatsApp group that it was still present as I drove towards the highest point in Shropshire. I arrived to find Rob Dowly and who had it first thing this morning, Dave Western, searching for the bunting as it had gone missing. In the next hour more local birders turned up and it was relocated in the car park very close to my car. It proved to be a very flighty bird in the blusty wet conditions and it wasn’t long until it got caught by the wind and was gone. I went in the direction that it had disappeared and refound it on a slope where I could see it was not goin to stick. Sure enough it flew off again, taking by the wind, over the brow of the hill and out of sight. It was now 11.30, the weather had approved to bright spells and my next stop was the ten minutes drive down road to twitch a Black Redstart that was discovered last week.
Snow Bunting is no longer the mega bird it used to be in the county as Titterstone Clee is being more watched now.
After spending 30 minutes at Whitcliffe Common, Ludlow, dipping out on the 2 Hawfinch that were seen a few days ago, I made the short drive to the Clive Arms, Bromfield to see my firth Salop Black Redstart. Birders leaving told me and others that it was just seen by the post office. It was almost an hour later when I could hear it nearby calling and found it on the roofs before it touched the ground very briefly only to disappear again. I called the other birders but we had to wait another twenty minutes when Andy Lathem and I could hear it in the courtyard and this time the ten birders present all connected with it. Not surprising really as the redstart hoped around on the deck for good ten minutes in the courtyard before moving off. That was enough for me and thirty minutes later I was at Horderly Wood where there has been up to 10 Hawfinch regularly seen, including yesterday, in the last month. I didn’t see one and returning home I stopped off at Venus Pool where the only birds of note were a single Brambling and Lesser Redpoll. A quick scan at the River Severn floods at Buildwas produced 2 Oystercatcher and 24 Goosander.
A very confiding Black Redstart that spent most of it’s time while observing it in the shadow of the building despite the sun being out.
Male Brambling and Lesser Redpoll at Venus Pool
I had this Chiffchaff a few days ago at Allscott Sewage Works
Return from Gambia, go to Trench pool the following morning and find thatthe near adult Yellow-legged Gull is still present. There was also an adult on the roofs of Hortonwood.
‘Morning’ I said to the manager pf Bintang Bolong Lodge as I passed him and guess what? He said nothing! As I finished my breakfast and returned to my room, I overheard the manager say ‘We made a mistake!’ to two of the guests. Were they complaining about something. If they were, his behavior was more considering than his immature behavior towards me. At least he was making an effort to communicate with them. I wanted to ask them what it was they were upset about but all I wanted to do was get out of the lodge as fast as I could and get on a Bus-taxi to my next detestation, Tendaba Camp. For some reason I couldn’t book online and took the chance in hoping that there will be vacancies when I get to camp. In the bus-taxi, I started off, squeezed in at the back, when the side-kid that collects the money, told me to get in the front when someone got out. For over an hours drive for 75 dalasi, in the front was where I wanted to be, driving further east inland continuing along on the South Bank Road and as a result I got a Batlier following the road ahead of us. Through two of the villages I saw large flocks of Little Swift and on the wires, Rufus-crowned Roller. After the Kalaji checkpoint, where I was fully hand searched and held up for twenty minutes, after crossing the river, there were 60-70 African Griffon Vulture circling low next to the road with others on the ground. Finally I arrived at Tendaba and started making the five kilometer walk towards the camp in the intense heat. Less than two kilometers away and I jumped on the back of a motor bike and was dropped at the entrance gates. Immediately, I discovered that it was Students Week 2020 and the rooms were fully booked! Also, they don’t supply tents as you are meant to bring your own! Shite!! I’m sure I didn’t see that on their FB page? Fortunately the boatman, Chris, said that he would put me up for the night. Early evening and I had a stroll around the area where I had some 30 European Bee-eater and a small flock of Black-rumped Waxbill. I would of seen more birds but I found myself being asked to be the sport photographer for a football match with the home team playing against the top of the league, Serrakunda. It was 2-1 to the league leaders and now I’ve got every email, mobile number, FB friend, twitter friend, Instagram, addresses of every footballer, manager, the bus driver, ball boy, groundsman wanting me to send the photos that I had taken of the game to them. From both teams!
Looking north across the River Gambia from Tendaba Camp
Black and Yellow-billed Kite
Some of the action during the first half of the football match
The second half and Serrkunda, not only changed their strip but also all 11 players as well to win 2-1 against the home side, Tendaba.
Looking across the River Gambia from Tendaba Camp
The boatman, Chris joined me for dinner at the camp and it was while were chatting that he got a message saying that his step-father had just died. He left me to be with his wife and son and asked me to come to the house later. I wasn’t goin to that as he needed to be alone with his family. At 01.00 I was given a blacket as I decided to sleep outside. Shortly before I was goin to sleep,tables and 100s of chairs were being put outside close to where I was sitting. I thought that they were preparing for a conference tomorrow. It wasn’t as I was told that the students, all 400 of them, were having a gala from 02.00 on wards! I was invited to stay at Gabreil’s house in the village instead and I slept like a log under a very noisy but very thankful fan. A few hours later I was having breakfast at the camp and Chris turned up and asked me, if I wanted to go out on the boat with him and two bird tour leaders. At 08.30 we set off across the two kilometer stretch of water to the north side. A Gambian Mongoose was spotted searching for crabs and as we diverted off the Gambian River onto a smaller river the first bird of note were Brown Sunbird followed by an African Fish Eagle. Naturally when I saw a bird first before anyone else, I called it out before it moved on out of sight. I found it amusing when I would call out and point to where it was ‘Ring-necked Parakeet‘ This would be repeated by one of the bird leaders to his two clients ‘Look, Ring-necked Parakeet’ This continued throughout ‘Wholly-necked Stork‘ and as expected ‘Look, on the bank, Wholly-necked Stork’ However, I was very pleased when I heard one of them shout Goliaf Heron‘ In fact they hardly spoke to me although I was almost sitting on top of them in the boat.
African Fish Eagle
We saw 2 GoliafHeron
And also 2 Wholly-necked Stork
There were up to 4 Montague’s Harrier all distant except for this individual
Along with Great Cormorant, Afrian Darter were all over the shop on the river
Returning to Tendaba Camp after being on the river for three hours
The Birdguides not making any conservation didn’t bother me but what really pissed me off is when we were traveling down a narrow part of the river. As we turned the corner, there was a boat, length ways across the water, blocking our way. I thought they were stuck and were revving the engine trying to break free but I soon discovered that it was another birdguide making sure that his client comes away with the photo he wants with his long lens by trying to get as close as they could to where the White-backed Night Herons were roosting. They were almost up on the bank smashing into the mangroves with the boat up the herons butt!! As they passed us, the bird flusher pointed in the direction to where the herons had been. I asked one of the leaders on our boat if they had just pushed the herons deeper into cover? He just said ‘Just look’ We were wasting our time and that was a species that Chris said we would see. Well I guess you would, if you had more bird tour leaders who thought about the welfare of the birds instead of their pocket and their clients. If only we were a few minutes earlier we would of seen the herons.
Chris did a great job boating us around for three hours and he wouldn’t let me pay him. Also, the birdguide did make an effort to talk to me but very briefly.We had dinner with the photographer who wanted to get every feather detail on the White-backed Night Herons. Talking to the German photographer I discovered that he’s just a ticker and hasn’t really got an idea about birding or what he’s looking at. I guess that’s when you hire a birdguide but for one that doesn’t care how much he disturbs the species they are after. He also showed me the photos he took on his trip on the river and for some reason didn’t show me the night herons. Chris and I had to hit the highway as I was goin back to Mamuda and Chris was making his ways to his mothers near to Brikamma. He had organised a car to take us up road to the junction to hop onto a bus-taxi. It was the bird leader that had flushed the herons with his client that was taken us the 5 kilometer to the highway. ‘How much will it be?’ I asked him. 200 Dalasi! For a few minutes up road, 200 Dalasi! If this was someone from the village or was skint, then I wouldn’t hesitate to give them that sum and also pay for Chris but this was a guy whose doin pretty well with tips added on. ‘I’ll hitch mate’ As I walked away Chris called and said that he will take us for nothing. As we approached Kalji checkpoint, I got out just before the river as it looked a good area for larks. I wasn’t disappointed and got 3 male Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark. The Savannah had been burnt to cinder waiting for the rainy season to arrive when it all grows back again. Smoke was still smoldering as I walked through and inside I saw a single Grasshopper Buzzard, 6 White-helmeted Bush-shrike and a female Redstart of note. After an hour I returned to the highway, put my arm up and five minutes later I was on my ways to Brikamma on a bus-taxi. 24 people like sardines in the wagon that would be 15 in the UK and the return drive was pretty dangerous with close encounters involving other cars and lorries. Typical travelling in Gambia I’ve learned while being here.
The area where the larks were hanging out
Grasshopper Buzzard hunting in the burnt out area
White-helmet Bushshrike deasting on a Preying Mantis
South Bank Road to Brikamma
Some advice If visiting the West Coast of Gambia; When you arrive at the airport, there will be some guys asking if you need a taxi? You folow them and they open the door for you to jump in the taxi and then wait for a tip. Now you can give them the tip like I did to add to the wand of money he’s already got in his hand or you can walk out of the airport and make your ways to the row of taxis that stick out like a sour thumb on the side of the road. If I had known before then I would of rather given that tip money to others that need it later on while I was in Gambia. Don’t use yellow or green taxis if you can and try and use the shared bus taxi if you want to save money that is. They mainly use the main roads from one town to the other and if you stand at the side of the road, with in five to ten minutes, you will picked up if you put your arm out. The only place that I know of where there is no use of shared taxi is from Turntable to Senegambia. If you do use a yellow taxi, then don’t ask them where your goin, ask them where are they goin and it turns out a lot cheaper.
Try to avoid travelling at night on bus-taxi. While changing at Brikamma as I was being pushed around to get onto the bus, I felt a hand reaching into my pocket but that’s as far as I got because turned around. There were a lot of younger kids, 8 to 12 years old, bare foot and dirty ripped clothes also trying to pick-pocket at the garage at Brikamma.
Like Sanyang fishing village, there a lot of westerners that your guys known as ‘bumsters’ target. They were will show you around the fishing village and how it works and then ask you for money as their boat is broken and they can’t get any food. The truth is they have no boat and never been fishing in their life. It’s not just young men. We had a woman from the village approach Graham and I and asked if we had some money for bread as there boat has not been out to catch fish for a month as it’s broken. This could be true but as I turned around, being very weary of two young boys messing about very close to me, one of them tried to reach for the zip on my back-pack. I said, I’m goin as them two just tried to pick-pocket me. She understood and replied that they’re doin no harm. They’ve just come to look at the sea. Sure they have as I observed them scanning around for their next target.
Just always be aware of your suroundings and whose following you whereever you go, especilly after dark. Again at night while walking the crowded back streets of Brikamma, I had a kid following me and I pulled over to the side to let him pass, keeping a careful eye on him.
What I did find out about being in Gambia is that most we came across were so friendly and always welcoming. Always there to help in any way they can. I was also picked up by a Gambian in his 4×4 when I put my arm up for a bus-taxi to stop. He took me from Turntable to Sanyang for nothin and also picked other folk up along the way. We noticed that the children come out to say hello when you pass and want to shake your hand. Many times, I was in a cafe getting to know a local on the other table and his mate would come in, shake his hand and as he could see I was talking to his friend, would make the effort to shake my hand. I must shake up to 10 to 20 people a day when I leave Mamuda. I had a great time during my stay in Gambia and sometime in the future I will return. However, I think that Graham and I were ten years to late, with all the destruction of the habatit being lost to housing and Cashew plantations but if we left it another ten years, then somewhere like Brufut, it wil almost be gone in most places that we visited.
I had a real bad experience staying at the lodge with the manager being rude and he gave my room away after I booked it!! I read now that someone else as recently as the 20th February who stayed at the lodge have also had the same problem as me with their room given away after they booked two months in advance!! You can read it and other comments further down this page. This Klass’s Cuckoo showed superbly at very close range but spent most of it’s time in the shade of a large tree while I was observing it.
At 08.00 this morning, I made my ways towards the breakfast area and there in the middle, was a table layed out for a single person. Everyone else were already tucking into their bread and jam and the other tables were made out for four or six people. I asked if I could please be put on the table that I should of got this morning and also asked if I could stay for another night? I offered to pay up front as that is what I was asked to do when I first arrived at the lodge but the receptionist said that I could do it later this evening when I come for dinner along with my passport details as she forgot to take them. Sound, so I thought and I got out in the field back in the Savannah and came away with ten new species. Rufus-crowned Roller was followed by a very showy Klass’s Cuckoo that I spent a good thirty minutes with. Also Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, 2 Lesser and Greater Honeyguide, 2 Villiots Barbet, 2 Yellow White-eye, 5 African Oriole and 2 Grasshopper Buzzard and the one bird that I was really hoping to see, 2 Grey-headed Bush-shrike. Of interest I also got Wryneck, Pied-winged Swallow, 5 African Golden Oriole, 2 Beaded Barbet, good numbers of White-throated Bee-eater and all four other roller species.
First thing in the morning
There was one species I really wanted to see while I was in this area, Grey-headed Bushshrike and I found two birds hunting together
Note the green legs and feed on this Klass’s Cuckoo which is only a fraction bigger than a House Sparrow
While on the cuckoo this Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver popped up briefly just above us
If only Golden Oriole showed like this African Golden Oriole
I flushed some 70 Helmeted Guineafowl out of the Mangroves
Male Western Olive-backed Sunbird
Male Variable Sunbird
Male Splendid Sunbird
This cow was trying to get rid of it’s passenger but the Yellow-billed Oxpecker wasn’t having any of it
Later on, back at the lodge, while looking at prices of going out on a boat or hiring a bike, I stopped the manager as he passed me to ask for more information about the trip on the boat. He wasn’t interested in what I was asking with his whole body turned away from me while I was trying to get some answers out of him. He only turned around to say yes and then to return to the position he was before. I could see that I was wasting my time here and he just walked away without a word. I’m still waiting for my welcome drink when I first arrived that everyone else seems to get! mate
In the evening the electric had gone off and the girl behind the counter was too busy to do anything with my passport details as she is also a waitress. I was hungry and again as the manager passed me I said to him ‘Good evening’ He didn’t even acknowledge me. Being vegetarian there is a limited menu, which is normal in Gambia and I exspect that here. However, when I was told that there was only two dishes available then made it hard work for me. Also they had run out of lemon. How do you run out of lemon in Gambia? The food in general was pretty poor with only chips and in my case, also fish, for the second night running as that’s all I could have. After dinner, my details from my passport were taken and I reminded the girl about the extra night, thinking does she want me to pay now. She just repeated ‘Yes, it’s OK to stay’ An hour and half had passed and while relaxing, the same girl came over to tell me that ‘I’m sorry but we are full tomorrow night and you cannot stay!!’ I was taken back but was also calm about it as she walked away. I checked on Booking.com if that was the case. Was I now getting paranoid about the manager really disliking me and was trying to get me out of here anyway he could. There lodge was full on the website! I made the short walk over to where the manager was sitting and told him that I asked this morning after breakfast that I would like to stay for another night? I was told by the receptionist that it was fine that I could stay for another night. His reply was short and blunt ‘She made a mistake’ And that was it! That’s all he said and put his head down and made it clear to me that he didn’t want to continue with the conversation and carried on with his work on his laptop in front of him. I stood there waiting for a least an apology but after a few seconds it was obvious that he was not going to apologise and he was also obvious that he didn’t want anything to do with the problem that he had created in the first place. Everyone makes blunders and I am not blaming the receptionist for, as the manager put it, ‘She made a mistake’ As you can imagine, I was very upset and kind of shocked over the whole deal by the way I was being treated by the manager. He could of at least offered to help me out with somewhere else to stay in the nearby area or at least make an effort of being friendly and like he cares. But no, he couldn’t even do a simple thing like that. It’s a good thing that the Wifi was working that night or the electric didn’t go off again as I spent the next hour in sorting myself out with where I was goin to stay for the night that I had been promised in staying at Bintang Bolong Lodge. I sat at the next table from the manager and he had no intention of coming over to discuss the problem with me. He didn’t care and wasn’t interested in how I might be feeling. So I decided to go to him. What happened next was something I really wasn’t expecting. As I approached him, the creeks from the floor as I took almost every step would of alerted him of my presence but he still had his head buried in his laptop. He knew I was there because I was standing over him at his side and in a very immature fashion, he turned his head away from me just as I was about to open my mouth to speak!!I thought, was this really happening? He didn’t want to hear what I had to say and he made it clear by his very childish ways. Again I could see that I was wasting my time and said good night to him. He muttered something back under his breath.
At 24.30 I was awoken by staff having a small party more or less outside my room. There was no music but in conversation they were loud and had no consideration for the guest sleeping or in my case, trying to sleep. What else can go wrong before I get out of this place?
I told other guests of my experience throughout my two day stay and they told me, as I expected, that they all got a free welcoming drink each and felt very welcome when they arrived. they also told me to contact the owners of my experience by the manager. All of this could of been avoided if the manager was not unprofessional and I guess that vibe I had on the first encounter with him was spot on!
Here are other peoples views of their stay at Bintang Bolong Lodge and it seems as though the lodge also gave rooms away in some cases. It appears that if you have any problems at this lodge, even though they created the problem, they are just not interested and don’t care.
Reviews from Trip Advisor and Booking.com The first two comments are from February this year
What a rip off, crappy breakfast well if you class chicken and bread, no eggs rubbish. Unhelpful staff, gave our room away even though booked two weeks prior. Wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Rooms ok but no electricity overnight
Poor experience, rude management
The staff, on the whole, seemed tired and unenthusiastic – which is perhaps a reflection of the tone set by the manager who was most impolite – even hostile – when we mentioned the difficulty we were having getting water in our bathroom. if you’re looking for a place with friendly customer service, look elsewhere.
Nice place, dishonest managment
Booked 5h boat trip for 5000 to Bao Balon. Got 3h visit to empty forest an 1h bird watching trip. Was done on purpose to waste my time and money. Was told that this is not the first time.
Do not pay anything in advance if you feel you need to go there !
This is just what I’ve pointed out from out of the many that give it a good thumbs up for mainly the settings of where the lodge is. You can make your own minds up with my experience and the reviews above.
Pygmy Sunbird, including this male, are pretty widespread in this area as they buzzed past me throughout the day while I was out in the field
The idea of coming to Gambia was for Graham and myself to do ‘Workaways’ with a family of Gambians. This involves us working 4-5 hours a day, five times a week with weekends off and in turn we get free accommodation and food. That’s the way it has gone at other ‘Workaways’ I’ve done in the past. Are work here in Gambia would of involved building a house from scratch. However, the family are very poor, something we didn’t know about until we first met them and as a result we decided to pay for the accommodation and food. This would help them to immediate effect as now they could not just buy food but they also now had the funds to buy tools. My plan was to stay with the family for three weeks and help on the construction site and then I was going to move away from the west coast and head inland. I’ve been at the digs for over a month now and they’ve only just begun building and I’ve only got a week left before I return to the UK while Graham is staying on into March.
From the well in the garden is where we get are water from to wash, boil water, water the garden and to use as a flush for the toilet. Also, sometimes you have to wait your turn to use as the children and women from the village also use it.
Uasiff looking after the bananas that Graham and I water most mornings.
This is his step-brother Muhammad
And here they both are with their uncle, Dembo
So after I had been put on the wrong bus taxi from Brikamma, I was finally dropped off at the entrance of Bintang Eco-lodge where I’ll be staying for a few days. It took about an hours drive and only cost me 50 Dalasi (33p) to get there. It would of taking longer in getting to the lodge if it wasn’t for the police, who stopped us at a checkpoint on the South Bank Road. This is where I found out that I was goin towards the south Senegal border and not to Bintang. The police were very helpful and put me on the right track and organised for me to be picked up by another bus-taxi to my destination.
I was dropped off at the entrance of Bintang and introduced myself to the manager of the eco-lodge and asked if he had vacancies? He didn’t let me know what his name was and from that moment on, he was extremely cold with me and I felt a bad vibe and something wasn’t right.. I think he might of judged me already by what i was wearing. Very worn faded out brown jeans with one large slash on my left thigh. Everyone else that I could see were casually smart. Maybe it was just in my head. The rest of the staff were sound and the room was very clean and spot on. I returned to the reception to find out about where I could venture to in the area and about dinner tonight. As I approached, a new couple had just arrived and they were given a free welcome drink each and boy, he had totally changed with all smiles and showing them around. A complete contrast to my welcoming I got. It didn’t bother me at all but what did annoy me was when the manager, now focused on his new guests, rudely interrupted me and the receptionist four times in the space of two minutes while I was attempting to get some information out of her. The poor girl had to restart over and over again in what she was trying to tell me and I thought that if he interrupts us again, I was goin to say something as the receptionist and I weren’t getting anywhere. He had no consideration and really didn’t care how rude he was. I left and went through the back door into the mangroves as the girl instructed me to.
Looking down river with the lodge on the left
Purple-eared Glossy Starling
This Fiddle Crab was with Mud Skippers on the river bank
Eventually I found myself in Savannah habitat and could hear European Bee-eater and located over 20 with an equal number of White-throated Bee-eater. A male Pygmy Sunbird played hide and seek and I sneaked up on to 6 Helmet Bush-shrike feeding low down. The heat was so intense that I was soon heading back to the eco-lodge to have a nap. At dinner, I found my table in the middle of a small confide space surrounded by everyone else that were also eating. It was Ok i guess but I asked if tomorrow at breakfast I could be moved to a table on the outside. Also, I’ll be looking out at the stretch of the river instead of peoples heads.
This White Helmet Bush-shrike puts Creasted Lark to shame
This male Pygmy Sunbird was the only one of this species that showed out in the open
i’ve seen a lot of Black-shouldered Kite while on the West coast and by far this individual has been the show off I’ve observed so far
At 08.30 this morning I was back at Tanji Reserve with the Chris and Denise Lamsdale and their handful of Gambian trainees. I just arrived in time to see them take a Western Subalpine Warbler out of the bag but it was not a male. Later on we trapped another possible female Moltoni’s Subalpine Warbler. A fallen out feather was taken for DNA. Also ringed out of interest in the next three hours that we had the nets up were, single Melodious Warbler, Zitting Citorcola, 3 Nightingale, African Grey-headed Woodpecker, Senegal Golgol, 2 Western Olivaceous Warbler and new for me, 2 female Northern Puffbacks. Another good sessions and I’ve been invited to join them all tomorrow on the south side of Tanji. I’ll see if I can get up in time.
Female Northern Puffback
Male Grey-headed Woodpecker
Western Subalpine Warbler
This Black-shouldered Kite gave me crippling views while it was busy preening before flying directly over me
There were up to 30 Blue-cheeked Bee-eater hawking above us while we were ringing
Returning home, like yesterday, I had a Palm-nut Vulture ten minutes from the digs. In the evening, I was returning from Banjanjelly after watching Shrewsbury lose 1-0 to the youngest Liverpool team in history. The moon was so bright that it was more like daytime. Bats were easy to see and I could even make out a very pale nightjar as it came in and landed to my right on the deck. A few seconds of searching for it with the head touch and I pinned down a female Standed-winged Nightjar and got cracking views only to see it take flight as I was trying to get my mobile out to take a photo.
The kids in my village, Mumuda, playing football
The Gambians, who I was watching the Liverpool-Shrewsbury game with, couldn’t work out why I jumped up and shouted when Shrewsbury scored until I told them that I was born in that town.
I was pleased in finding this Striped Kingfisher and was told later that there are only one or two records a year in the Kartong area.
I headed south to Katong for my second visit to the reserve. At 08.00 I arrived at the first pool that is still holding water as the others, as I found out later, have almost dried up. 2 African Spoonbill were feeding with a single Snipe and female Painted Snipe. I decided to cut across following the acacias on the west side nearest to the beach but it was pretty quiet. As a result, I took to the open area and heard both Tree and Red-throated Pipit with the usual stuff seen like Blue-bellied and Abyssinian Roller and herons and egrets.
African Spoonbill glowing from the rising sun
Male Variable Sunbird
It’s hard work identifying female sunbird with no field guide
I carried on walking towards the Senegal border and after seeing one earlier, I was treated to a singing Nightingale. I didn’t venture towards the beach where I saw the Northern Carmine Bee-eater on my last visit but headed further inland following the acacias. Both Western Bonelli’s and Olivaceous Warbler were in good numbers feeding in the trees and a pair of Battis were a new species for me. I spotted a Stiped Kingfusher low in one of the acacias that showed superbly at very close range. Out in the open from the trees there were a Black-shouldered Kite perched up with Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Mosque Swallow. I finished the early afternoon in the same way that I did on my last visit with 4 Red-billed Oxpecker sounding like the rattle of the call of a Mistle Thrush, as they flew off from the donkeys that they were on.
Western Bonellli’s Warbler
Yesterday, as Graham had 2 Double-banded Sandgrouse in the same fields as last time with 4 Temmink’s Courser. I stopped off on my return just twenty minute walk from our digs and found that the the original 6 Temmink’s Courser were back together in the newly planted Cashew plantation but no sign of the sandgrouse. Also, later in the evening, while cycling back from Sanyang, I got some cracking views of a Senegal Bushbaby in the beam of my head touch.
Male Splended Sunbird
just got to the 6 Temmink’s courser lying on my belly before the sun went down.
This impressive Palm Nut Vulture at the lagoons was the only individual that I saw alday.
I thought I would make a visit to the dried out lagoons at tujreng and see if the Caspian Plover was still hanging out with the Little-ringed Plover. The taxi-bus dropped me off on the dirt track leading south to the beach but I took for the first left from that track and was rewarded with 4 Pied Hornbill. Nearby there were single Violet Turuco and Palm-nut Vulture. I relocated the CASPIAN PLOVER at the beach end where it had been now since Graham and I found it 19 days ago. Some other birders turned up and they didn’t know anythin about the plover until I put them on it. One of them seemed to be pretty pleased in seeing the mega and I also put them on other birds including Western Olivacious Warbler, Whitethroat and a male Redstart. After having a good old chat with one of the birders, Colin, we discovered that we were both from Salop and he lived at Ellesmere where I lived for nearly ten years just a few mile down road at Bagley. I had a great time spending an hour with Colin and his friends but I had to get to Turntable to do shopping and hopefully use the Wifi. The Wifi let me down.
First thing this from Mamuda where were living at the moment
Two of the 4 Pied Hornbill at Tujereng Lagoons
Palm Nut Vulture
The CASPIAN PLOVER was still hanging out with the Little-ringed Plover at the beach end
African Harrier Hawk
Western Olivaceous Warbler
Returning from Turntable, I stopped off at Tanji and here I had an a few hours of light left and made the most of it by having a stroll along the shore at the fishing village. 100’s of gulls and terns were feeding close in with the fisherman still bringing the fish in while the women wait to gut and smoke the them. Although Sanyang is only ten minute up road, I gave it forty minutes before dark to get there. You don’t want to be on the road in the dark as that’s when many of the crashes occur.
Had a great time ringing at Tanji reserve where we trapped this African Pygmy Kingfisher
Two nights ago, I went for stroll, only a few minutes from the digs and heard a White-faced Scops Owl. One of the two that Graham has heard in the last few nights. As I approached the crossroads, I could hear something rustling in the Cashews and at very close range in the head touch, was the Senegal Bushbaby.
This morning at 06.00, I was making my ways to Sanyang to catch a bus taxi to Tanji Reserve where Chris Lamsdale is ringing. At the crossroads, I caught two big eyes on the deck, blinking. It had to be a nightjar as it reminded me of how I found the Poorwills on the ground in the Purivian Amazon at manu Learning Center where the so called experts, who were teaching me and other volunteers, how to identify the wildlife in the Amazon Rain forest. They couldn’t tell a butterfly from a moth, they couldn’t identify any of the birds, including in the garden where I lived for six weeks and they didn’t really care about the deforestation that was taking place all around the reserve that was being protected from slash and burn. Protected by the likes of McDonald’s. One of the main culprits of deforestation in the Amazon. Every time you spend in buying the rubbish they produce in their outlets, you contribute to the destruction in the Amazon. Now your aware of McDonald’s stripping the forest down and if you really care about the environment, like everyone says they do, then the simple solution is not to spend any money at the burger joint.
Back to the eyes reflecting from my head touch. The idea that it was a nightjarwas wiped out when it suddenly jumped onto the side of a tree and moved pretty fast through the branches and towards me as I followed it with my light. It was the Senegal Bushbaby again but I had to get a move on and every time I looked back, it was never far away until I walked out into the open again away from the trees. I also had a Pearl-spotted Owl nearing Sanyang in the head touch.
At 08.00, the tide was stopping me from getting to where I wanted to go but while on the beach there were single Oystercatcher and Black-headed Gull. I moved in land and came across a family of Stone Partidge and finally joined the ringing group at 08.30 when they had just trapped a Senegal Parrot. I left that one to them but was upset when I discovered they released a male Sunalpine Warbler ten minutes before I arrived. The same thing happened to me three year ago at Gibraltar Rock observatory when I missed out on a male Subalpine Warbler by ten minutes. At Tanji and three hours later the nets came down and up close in the hand the highlights were Caspian Tern, Senegal Coucal, 2 Nightingale, 3 Yellow-crowned Gonolek and a stunning African Pygmy Kingfisher.
Western Olivaceous warbler
Chris and the ringing group packed up and returned to the eco-lodge nearby. I continued to bird and hawking with the 30 Blue-cheeked Bee-eater were 6 Fanta Saw-wing and 2 Mottled Spinetail. I crossed the highway where I had time to see a pair of western Violet-backed Sunbird.
I had to go and get my visa extended at Senegambia stipe as my 28 days were up tomorrow. The policeman must of liked me as he extended my stay to March 20th at the same price as paying for a one month stay, 1000 Dalasi. With that sorted, on the return home, just before dark and a few minutes from reaching te digs at the crossroads, a Double-banded Sandgrouse flashed by at some pace and at close range heading NW.
3 Temmink’s Courser were feeding in a field just twenty minutes walk from where were living at the moment that Graham found yesterday
Early start my ass! We watered the bananas and then Graham took me to the area where he had the courser and sandgrouse and after twenty minutes of searching, we got 3 Temmink’s Courser. However, they took flight and made a short hop into a nearby field but out of sight. It took me a good thirty minutes but relocated them with 3 Wheatear and 2 Whinchat in the far NW corner of a newly planted Cashew plantation. The next hour I got crippling views as I lay down and waited for them to come to me.
Great find by Graham with these Temmink’s Courser and payed off with all his hard work in sticking to a local patch in the Mamuda area.
Also overhead at mid-day, there was a movement of 100+Hooded Vulture going east, inland, and with them were single Booted and Tawny Eagle, Honey Buzzard, 3 Osprey and good numbers of Yellow-billed and Black Kite. Other raptors in the area included 2 Dark-chantering Goshawk, Red-necked Falcon, Kestrel and a single Black-shouldered Kite while other birds of note were single Woodchat Shrike and Hoopoe and 16 Yellow Wagtail. All this and the coursers only a twenty minutes walk from where we are living at the moment!
Record shot of a high flying Booted Eagle
Up to 16 Yellow Wagtail were in the same fields as the coursers
Citrus Swallowtail Thanks for Ritchie Aston for the identification on this butterfly
At 08.30 I was jumping on board a crowded bus taxi from Banjanjelly to Brikarmma (15 Dalasi) change over to another bus to Prirang (13 Dalasi) At the latter site, the bus turned off left from the highway onto a dirt track towards the Gambian River. Over a mile down road and it stopped off at the end, dropped folk off and drove back up again. I felt that the shrimp pools I was trying to get to were pretty close to where we were and shouted that I wanted to get off. Twenty minutes after walking north from the village, I was paying 25 dalasi to enter the Prihang shrimp pools. The basins reached as far as the eye could see and immediately I picked out a single kittlitz’s Plover with 100s upon 100s of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. The next basin produced more of the latter species with lesser numbers of Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover. Black-tailed Godwit and over 40 Avocet. Mixed in with them were also 5 Ruff and a single Kentish Plover. Although I’m sure there were more but it proved hard work with the sun almost in your eyes and also I have not brought a scope with e to Gambia due to weight. 16 Gull-billed and 5 Caspian Tern were hanging out with the 200 Slender=billed Gull.
The basins where the waders were hanging out
Heavily cropped kittlitz’sPlover that I picked up on my first scan and after that I never saw another one. So pleased to get this plover after not seeing it in so many other countries before that I visited.
Mosque Swallow were abundant and Palm Nut Vulture were all over the shop including three together in a single tree. Also had a few Red-rumped Swallow. In the distance, now and then, Both Great and Pink-backed Pelican circled around with some 50 African Spoonbill and 4 Yellow-billed Stork. On the river itself there were African Darter and a single Black and Straited Heron. It was now 14,00 and it felt as though the temperature was in it’s 40’s. As I reached the western end of the pools where it meets the river, I came across some 20 Blue-cheeked and 2 Little Bee-eater and hawking with then were 9 White-throated Bee-eater. An unexpected bonus as I had no idea that they were here. At 15.30 I was back at the entrance of the pools sitting in the shade having a chat with a policeman. On the return home, I was picked up at the end of the track and changed again at Brikamma to Banjanjelly and found myself sitting in the front with another policeman by my side!
Western Subalpine Warbler
Hard work when you ain’t got a scope scanning through the waders
Maybe the policeman were told to keep a watch on my activities as I’m a member of the extreme terrorists ‘Greenpeace and The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign’ and support ‘Stop the Badger Cull, Cycling advocacy group and Vegan activists’
I thought it had been a pretty good day but when I returned to me digs, Graham had a cracking morning. He stuck around in the Ma Muda area where we are living and was rewarded with 3 Four-banded Sandgrouse and bloody 6 Temmink’s Courser on the track between the crossroads and Sanyang. Another early start it is then.