Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Gambia Birding day 1

Odd title but this was the first of two mornings where I went out birding, the others were birding done while hanging around the hotel or whatever.  Up at 6.30am, try to sneak out without waking Mrs B and head off out to meet Musa. The weather was pleasant at about 12 degrees C and blue Sky.

Collared Sunbird
Before the light got up we spotted our first little beauty, the Collared Sunbird with his lovely yellow breast getting ready for a days foraging among the flowers.

northern white-faced owl (Ptilopsis leucotis)
We then spent some time in the woods where we spotted a good number of species but the Northern White Faced Owl was the most exciting by far for me.

northern white-faced owl (Ptilopsis leucotis)
So much so that your getting two photos of him :).  My reasons, well as some of you may know I have been spectacularly unsuccessful at spotting Owls in the wild, this being only my second, but isn't he a cracker.  Anyhow they are fairly widespread in the Gambia though not at all easy to spot.  We did spend some time chasing a potential sighting of a Barn Owl and had lots of sign that it was about but, well maybe next time.

Senegal parrot (Poicephalus senegalus)
A Senegal Parrot was preening away in the woods and not really paying much attention to us, that said trying to get focused on it was not an easy task with bits of branches attracting the auto focus attention.
grey kestrel (Falco ardosiaceus)
All the while a Grey Kestrel watched us from a high perch.

fine-spotted woodpecker (Campethera punctuligera)
Slight tapping in a nearby tree attracted our attention to a Fine Spotted Woodpecker working away at trying to find a meal in the bark.

hamerkop (Scopus umbretta),
Literally feet away from that tree was a pair of Hamerkop just standing there.  Unlike ones I have come across in Saudi these guys were not overly bothered by our presence but then there are a fair few people working out in the fields so they are probably more accustomed to movement, plus there are fewer people shooting at them.

black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax),
A Black Crowned Night Heron was very focused on something in the little pool of water just out of shot.
pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
Guess you might have an idea what these are if you have been reading previous blogs, just took this as it was a pretty picture with a pair of Pied Kingfisher resting on a bush.

lizard buzzard (Kaupifalco monogrammicus)
Back in the hedgerow was a Lizard Buzzard watching for something to pop up for breakfast.

spur-winged lapwing or spur-winged plover (Vanellus spinosus)
and below was a small group of Spur Winged Lapwing feeding in the rice fields.

reed/ long tailed cormorant (Microcarbo africanus),
with a Long Tailed Cormorant looking on curiously.

Wood Sandpiper
A Wood Sandpiper foraged through the reeds and rice stems for morsels of food with a Common Redshank not very far away but out of usable camera range I'm afraid
African jacanas (Actophilornis africanus)
Another first for me was the African Jacana which I missed on my last trip to the country, in all I think there were about half a dozen of these in the rice fields we visited.

spotted thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
Then in the reeds off to our left was yet another first, the Spotted Thick-Knee, at first we spotted one which I could not get focused on and thought I had lost my chance but thankfully there were a few about and managed to get an ok shot of these two.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
An other familiar friend from my adopted home in Saudi is the Squacco Heron which was quite happy here despite the presence of quite a lot of competition

African green pigeon (Treron calvus)
Just hanging upside down in a nearby tree was yet another first for me the African Green Pigeon, this was proving quite a day for firsts.

piapiac (Ptilostomus afer)

And yes you guessed it, a few meters further on was a young Piapiac, a member of the crow family.  The young ones have a pink beak which eventually turns black as they get older.  The last two species are fairly common in the Gambia but I did not get to see them last time I was here.

black-headed heron (Ardea melanocephala)
A little further out in the rice fields was a Black Headed Heron.

Abyssinian roller (Coracias abyssinicus)
and another nearby tree had an Abyssinian Roller just perched on top watching the world go by.

grey-headed kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala)
Then yet another first, the Grey Headed Kingfisher.  For someone who had never seen a kingfisher at all until three years ago this place was certainly making up for lost time.  I was always one of these people who seemed to be in the right place at the wrong time as far as these birds are concerned, then one day I saw two together on a riverbank, since then, they are everywhere.

village weaver (Ploceus cucullatus)
All around were loads of little sparrow sized birds of many species which were all a little too quick for me in the woods but next time they are on my radar, this Village Weaver is just one handsome member of that contingent.

All in all this was a fabulous day and such a wide range of birds from a relatively small area.  Definitely this place has so much more to offer the birder.

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