Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Gambia Birding day cotd

On Friday we moved into a park area called Eagle Heights which has been a nature reserve for along time and has significant areas of woodland and scrub.  It has had a little work to enable you to get around and there are some rest areas but by and large its pretty much wild. A new management has taken over here in the past year or so and has raised the price to 400 dalasi (around 8 uk pounds) but I suppose cash is needed to maintain the place.

giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) (M)
Shortly after entering the area we arrived at a small lake which was a little overgrown but right on the edge of the lake was this male Giant Kingfisher.  It was in the bushes which made photography a little tricky but managed to get this snap
giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) (F)
On the opposite branch was his mate, only slightly easier to get a photo of but further away.  I was surprised by both of these as they seemed to be quite happy to allow humans to get pretty close.

Now I thought he was joking when he said watch out for the Crocodiles in the lake, it was a smallish lake and did not look like it would sustain many however, as you can see it does, this guy was about 8ft long.  Lesson!! Listen to the guide ;-)

grey heron (Ardea cinerea)
The Grey heron was fishing in the lake, presumably keeping one eye on the Crocodile or maybe he was watching us.

African darter (Anhinga rufa),
The African Darter could easily be mistaken for a member of the Heron family but its quite separate.  They often inhabit the same habitats as herons and sometimes nest in the same areas.  They swim very low in the water like Cormorants with literally their head and neck showing above the water. They also have little waterproofing on their feathers which means they have to get out and dry off like this one is doing.

black-necked weaver (Ploceus nigricollis)
These little guys were pretty active around a little pond alongside the path about 40m further along from the lake.  I think this is a Black Necked Weaver but need to verify that, there are a number that look fairly similar.
red-bellied paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone rufiventer)
In the bushes to the side of the pond was the Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher, nearby there was also an African Paradise Flycatcher and a Hybrid was also spotted, unfortunately I could not get a useful photo of these at the time.

grey-headed bristlebill (Bleda canicapillus)
Very active in the undergrowth was an Oriole Warbler and a Grey Headed Bristle Bill (above), so active in fact that it took 10 or 15 shots to get a half decent photo of this guy.

blue-spotted wood dove (Turtur afer)

Nearby also was a Blue Spotted Wood Dove.  My photo is not great as in the woods its hard to get focus on anything but the trees.  These are fairly common in the Gambia but not that easy to see due to their favoured habitat.

grey woodpecker (Mesopicos goertae)
Working away in a tree close to the pond was a Grey Woodpecker with his bright red rump and head

western plantain-eater (Crinifer piscator),
Then High in a tree was a Western Grey Plantain Eater, a member of the Turaco family although slightly less brightly coloured than its relatives.


violet turaco, (Musophaga violacea),
and that cousin, the Violet Turaco.  This photo does not do it justice as it was quite far away but these really are quite spectacular birds.


snowy-crowned robin-chat (Cossypha niveicapilla)
Deep in the undergrowth thee was a pair of Snowy Crowned Robin Chat, there are two types of Robin Chat in the area, the Snowy crowned and the White Crowned.  The latter I have many photos of from around the hotel, they have a duller white crown and are more visible in the open, the Snowy Crowned tend to reside in the woods and are a bit more difficult to spot.
Finally just a random photo of a Black Crowned Night Heron which was perched on a tree by the roadside, busily preening.

My friend and guide Musa Jatta at the wheel.

Turaco Birding's steed.

My thanks to Musa for all his help and his keen eye especially in the forest.  As I have mentioned a dozen or more times I would definitely recommend a trip to Gambia for any birder, its second to none and when you consider its relative tiny size its bird population is in the region of 550 species, more than countries 20 times its size.  Unlike some places in West Africa there is no Ebola as a result of their stringent protection measures.  So back to KSA and the spring migration!!!!

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