Gambia 17th – 24th November 2005
Due to circumstances and bringing up family I have wanted to get to the Gambia for 16 years. So it was that 2005 would be the year. Due to a non-birding wife, things had to be planned around birds/beach and tourist things. So it was planned to do two full days and two half days birding around the coastal sites only, with the rest of the time for beach and tourist things.
I myself love birding and getting out and seeing various birds. I’m no expert but I love birds and birding.
We booked our holiday through Thomson Holidays and stopped at the Kombo Beach Hotel on a half board basis for 7 nights which cost £950-00 for two. Food was good and the hotel staff brillant
We took the advice of Malcolm Rymer and booked the help of Yaya Barry for our 4 days birding. Yaya cost £250-00 for 4 days which included driver, entrance to reserve when necessary. Yaya was a great help good at finding birds in a instant and has great patience when I wasn’t as fast as him at finding the birds. I would recommend Yaya to anybody not only did he show us the birds but told us a lot more about the Gambia and its culture. Which to us made it more of a holiday, especially for my wife (Liz) when she was getting bored of the birding. Not to forget Abdoulie his driver, great driver whom we took to, instantly.
We did need vaccinations since it was our first trip to the tropics. Yellow fever at a cost of £75-00 each. Tetanus,Typhoid and Hepatitus A which came free. We also took Malarone, anti-malaria tablets 36 in total at a cost of £82-00 from Tesco. We did try shopping around and got around the £80 to £90 mark.
Flying to the Gambia took us about 6 to 6 1/2 hours. We left from Manchester at 09:15am and arrived at 03:45pm. Flight was on a 737-700 and there was no in flight entertainment, which was a big let down to us on such a long flight.
We decided on travellers cheques and a small amount of cash. The exchange rate at the time was 50 Dalasi to the pound. I got 40 Dalasi to the pound in England at Thomas Cook (hence the small amount of cash in Dalasi). At the hotel we got 46 Dalasi to the pound, with between 46 and 50 Dalasi out of the hotel at the bureau down the road.
Sites and Highlights
Thursday 17th November
Landing at 04:00pm brief birding to the Hotel and Hotel gardens up to 06:45pm produced my introduction to Gambia birds with birds such as Little Swift,Cattle Egrets, Blue Bellied Rollers, Abysinnian Rollers, Grey Hornbill, Pied Crow,Village Weavers,Grey Headed Gulls,Red Billed Hornbill,Western Grey Plantain Eaters, African Thrush, Red Eyed Dove, Laughing Dove, Common Bulbul, Grey Headed Sparrow, Red Billed Firefinch
Friday 18th November
We picked up our bird guide for the day, Yaya Barry, at the hotel reception at 07:30am and decided to go round the Kotu Creek area to start our Gambian holiday and get a feel for the climate.
This produced various birds as we stood at the bridge and went round the various tracks along the mangroves i.e Pied Kingfishers, Hammerkop, Shikra, Yellow Crowned Gonolek, Wire Tailed Swallows, Senegal Thick-Knee, Long Tailed Glossy Starlings, Yellow Billed Shrikes, Palm Nut Vulture, Black Headed Herons. Our first day in the Gambian heat we decided on a break about 01:00pm and then head out again about 04:30pm after a rest in the Hotel. About 04:30pm we started again around the Golf Course. This produced such birds as Splendid Sunbird, Senegal Parrots, Broad Billed Rollers, Brown Babblers, Green Wood Hoopoe, Black Headed Plovers, Purple Glossy Starling, Fork Tailed Drongos, Spur Winged Plovers, Piapiac, and Striated Heron. Day Total = 66 Birds
Saturday 19th November
Picked up again by our bird guide Yaya Barry at 07:30am for a full days birding this time heading out to Mandina Ba and Pirang.
Stopping off firstly at Mandina Ba and walking around the various tracks gave us such bird highlights as Grey Kestrel, Black Shouldered Kite, Lanner Falcon,Mottled Spinetail, Green Pigeon, Black Crowned Tchgara, Variable Sunbird, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Lesser Blue Eared Starling, Lizzard Buzzard, Bearded Barbet, Paradise Flycatcher, Puff Backed Shrike, Ziffling Cisticola.
We then moved on to the Pirang farm area. We were allowed on to the site but restricted to the viewing hide/mound area only. There as no fixed cost but a donation was appreciated. Here we had great views of the Black Crowned Cranes along with Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbills, Palm Swift, Pink Backed Pelicans, White Pelians, Crested Lark, Yellow and White Waqtails, Curlew Sandpipers, Black Rumped Waxbills.
We moved on for dinner and a invitation to Yaya’s house, here we saw Striped (Levaillant’s) Cuckoo and Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird.
We then moved on to the Bund Road for Sea birds and saw such things as Royal Tern, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, White Winged Black Tern, Black Egret, Blue Cheeked Bee Eater, Slender Billed Gull, and Giant Kingfisher. Day Total = 104 Birds
Sunday 20th November
Another full day starting at 07:30am. Todays place Abuko Nature Reserve. Excellent birds, very hard to bird but well worth the reward. A few days here would had given it better justice not the few hours we did. However the highlights were Pygmy Kingfisher, Violet Turaco, Blue Breasted Kingfisher, Western Bluebill, Bar Breasted Firefinch, African Jacana, Harrier Hawk, Gabar Goshawk, Yellow Throated Leaflove, Little Greenbul (very hard to get onto but patience was rewarded), Yellow Breasted Apalis, Snowy Crowned Robin Chat, Black Necked Weaver, Common Wattle Eye, Greater Honeyguide, Pearl Spotted Owlet, Verruaex’s eagle Owl, Oriole Warbler, Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher.
Due to health problems we headed back to the hotel about 01:00pm. However Yaya and I decided to end the day around the Sewage Farm and Cycle Track. We added Northern Red Bishop, Woodland Kingfisher, Wood Sandpiper, Black Winged Stilt, and Olivaceous Warbler to the days total. Day Total = 80 Birds
Monday 21st November
This was to be our last day birding with Yaya. He took us on to Brufut Woods for our am session of the day. Highlights being Didrik Cuckoo, Pied Hornbill, Splendid Sunbird, Wahlberg’s Eagle, and Swallow Tailed Bee Eater.
Our pm session took us to Yundum which gave us Long Crested Hawk Eagle, Northern Crombec, Black Flycatcher, Green Turaco. Day Total = 64 Birds
Tuesday 22nd November
Today was a tourist day taking in the Schools, Distillery, River Trip to Lamin Lodge and the Beach and of course shopping. We did manage to add Goliath Heron and Purple Heron to the list.
Total Bird Tally for the Hols = 162 with 124 of those Lifers
Take plenty of water with you when you are out and about. Cost in the hotel for a 1.5 Litre bottle was 50 Dalasi. You can get this cheaper at the supermarket for 25 Dalasi, Make sure they are sealed and don’t buy any from the locals. This is probably tap water.
The weather was Hot and Sunny during our 7 day stay in the Gambia with the occasional light hazy cloud. Plenty of sun cream was needed. It was pleasant to about 11:00am and then Hot till about 04:00pm.
Biting insects were not a problem for us, seen but not bitten. We did use plug ins (Jungle) in the bedroom from 06:00pm till 07:00am the following morning and we also covered ourselves daily with insect repellent.
Gastrointestinal problems were more of a problem when we got back home for at least two weeks after.
“Bumsters” you will come across, they are a part of the Gambian culture, be polite and strong they will get the message, there is no need to be rude.
A Field Guide to the Birds of the Gambia and Senegal – Clive Barlow, Tony Disley Collins Illustrated Checklist – Birds of Western and Central Africa / Ber Van Perlo, I did a couple of errors on birds illustrated i.e Plate 76 Snowy Crowned Robin Chat and White Headed Robin Chat and Plate 46 Little and Damara Terns.
These are by Malcolm Rymer and are a must before you go a great introduction. There is three in all 1. Sorties around the Smiling Coast 2. Forays Further Afield 3. Upriver Odyssey These can be bought through his web site at :-
Useful Web Sites
camacdonald Gambia Sites
Okay not as good as birdfinders who got 161 birds in a day not 162 birds in 4 days. Lots missed but a great excuse to go back and experience more wonderful birds. Here’s to next time
17th November Airport to Hotel
Little Swift, Cattle Egret, Blue Bellied Roller, Abyssinian Roller , Grey Hornbill, Pied Crow, Village Weaver, Grey Headed Gull, Red Billed Hornbill, Western Grey Plantain Eater, African Thrush, Red Eyed Dove, Laughing Dove, Common Bulbul, Grey Headed Sparrow, Red Billed Firefinch, Vinaceous Dove.
Kotu Creek – AM
Pied Kingfisher, Western Grey Plantain Eater, Reef Heron, Red Eyed Dove, Common Sandpiper, Pied Crow, Common Bulbul, Red Billed Hornbill, Beautiful Sunbird, Hammerkop, Shikra, Village Weaver, Vinaceous Dove, Whimbrel, Grey Headed Sparrow, Red Billed Firefinch, Yellow Crowned Gonolek, Grey Headed Gull, Wire Tailed Swallow, Osprey, Spur Winged Plover, Grey Heron, Broad Billed Roller, Speckled Pigeon, Great White Egret, Long Tailed Cormorant, Greenshank, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Senegal Thick-Knee, Green Wood Hoopoe, Northern Red Bishop, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Long Tailed Glossy Starling, Black Headed Heron, Palm Swift, White Faced Whistling Duck, Ring Knecked Parakeet, Senegal Coucal, Palm Nut Vulture, Little Bee Eater, Yellow Billed Shrike, Abyssinian Roller, Bronze Manakin, Little Swift , Wattled Plover, Hooded Vulture, Northern Crombec.
Golf Course PM
Splendid Sunbird, Long Tailed Glossy Starling, Senegal Parrot, Broad Billed Roller, Laughing Dove, Western Plantain eater, Red Eyed Dove, Vinaceous Dove, Cattle Egret, Brown Babbler, Puff Backed Shrike, Green Wood Hoopoe, Black Headed Plover, Blue Bellied Roller, Yellow Crowned Gonolek, Common Bulbul, Pied Kingfisher, Red Billed Hornbill, Hooded Vulture, Common Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Intermediate Egret, Long Tailed Cormorant, Purple Glossy Starling, Fork Tailed Drongo, Blue Breasted Kingfisher, Piapiac, Reef Heron, African Darter, Wattled Plover, Spur Winged Plover, White Faced Whistling Duck, Squaco Heron, Little Egret, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, Greenshank, Little Bee eater, Ring Knecked Parakeet. Striated Heron, Black Headed Heron.
Mandina Ba – AM
Grey Kestrel, Black Shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Yellow Billed Kite, Lanner Falcon, Pied Crow, Spur Winged Plover, Wattled Plover, Laughing Dove, Mourning Dove, White Billed Buffalo Weaver, Mottled Spinetail, Grey Hornbill, Green Pigeon, Black Crowned Tchagra, Pied Kingfisher, Lizzard Buzzard, Bearded Barbet, Green Backed Eremomela, Paradise Flycatcher, Blackcap Babbler, Puff Backed Shrike, Ziffling Cisticola, Hooded Vulture, Tawny Flanked Prinia, Palm Nut Vulture, Black Billed Wood Dove, Variable Sunbird, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Purple Glossy Starling, Lesser Blue Eared Starling
Crested Lark, Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Striated Heron, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Black Rumped Waxbill, Yellow Wagtail, African Spoonbill, Pink Backed Pelican, Great White Pelican, White Faced Whistling Duck, Great White Egret, Sacred Ibis, Osprey, Black Winged Stilt, Grey Heron, Wire Tailed Swallow, Black Crowned Crane, Palm Swift, Fork Tailed Drongo, White Wagtail, Hooded Vulture
Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird, African Striped (Levilliants) Cuckoo, Abyssinian Roller
Bund Road – PM
Redshank, Black Egret, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Great White Egret, Giant Kingfisher, Fan Tailed Warbler, Senegal Coucal, Sandwich Tern, Royal Tern, Caspian Tern, White Winged Black Tern, Sanderling, Bar Tailed Godwit, Black Tailed Godwit, Slender Billed Gull, Blue Cheeked Bee Eater, Blue Bellied Roller,
Abuko Nature Reserve – AM
Lavender Waxbill, Pygmy Kingfisher, Hooded Vulture, Hammerkop, Violet Turaco, African Thrush, Blue Spotted Wood Dove, Red Eyed Dove, Blue Breasted Kingfisher, Black Crowned Night Heron, Giant Kingfisher, Striated Heron, Squacco Heron, Black Headed Heron, Wattled Plover, Afican Jacana, Western Grey Plantain Eater, Pied Crow, Harrier Hawk, Black Kite, Gabar Goshawk, Oriole Warbler, Western Bluebill, Bar Breasted Firefinch, Yellow Fronted Leaflove, Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Little Greenbul, Yellow Breasted Apalis, Snowy Crowned Robin Chat, Paradise Flycatcher, Black Necked Weaver, Common Wattle Eye, Greater Honeyguide, Fanti Saw-Wing, Orange Cheeked Waxbill, Pearl Spotted Owlet, Verreaux’a Eagle Owl
Kotu Sewage Farm and Cycle Track
Pearl Spotted Owlet, Wood Sandpiper, Black Winged Stilt, Spur Winged Plover, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Grebe, Squacco Heron, Mourning Dove, Greenshank, Speckled Pigeon, Woodland Kingfisher, Olivaceous Warbler, Shikra, Northern Red Bishop.
Brufut Woods – AM
Osprey, Western Grey Plantain Eater, Grey Kestrel, Slendid Sunbird, Little Bee Eater, Variable Sunbird, Red Billed Hornbill, Didric Cuckoo, Pied Hornbill, Common Bulbul, Bearded Barbet, Pygmy Kingfisher, Lizzard Buzzard, Harrier Hawk, Hooded Vulture, Gabar Goshawk, Swallow Tailed Bee Eater,
Yundum – PM
Long Crested Hawk Eagle, Northern Crombec, Black Flycatcher, Melodius Warbler, Pearl Spotted Owlet, Grey Hornbill, Grey Backed Cameroptera, Green Backed Eremomela, Senegal Coucal, Blue Spotted Wood Dove, Brown Babbler, Senegal Parrot, Green Turaco, Red Billed Hornbill, Broad Billed Roller, Double Spurred Francolin, Vinaceous Dove, Red Eyed Dove, Long Tailed Glossy Starling, Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu, Bearded Barbet,Gabar Goshawk.
Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Grey Headed Gull, Yellow Crowned Gonolek, Reef Heron, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Black Headed Heron, Purple Heron, Goliath Heron, Pied Crow, Northern Red Bisop, Blue Bellied Roller, Broad Billed Roller, Abyssinian Roller, Pied Kingfisher, Blue Cheeked Bee Eater, Bronze Manakin, Hooded Vulture, Lanner Falcon, Black Kite, Grey Heron, Little Swift, Palm Swift, Specled Pigeon, Red Eyed Dove, Vinaceous Dove, Mourning Dove, Red Billed Firefinch, Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu, African Thrush, Village Weaver, House Sparrow, Common Bulbul, Grey Headed Sparrow, Long Tailed Glossy Starling, Western Grey Plantain eater, Beautiful Sunbird, Pink Backed Pelican, Hammerkop, Red Billed Hornbill.