Sunday, 28 December 2014

Nearly Done

This bird (QEII Lake) did its best to keep on the wrong side of 
the light. Might need a few trips inland next spring to get a decent shot.

Chevington (apart from the dog-walkers) is always worth a visit. 100+ Goldeneye now on the N Pool a smart pair of Pintail and a male Long-tailed Duck the highlights. The sudden cold snap also means the feeders at the N end are attracting more birds. 50+ visited whilst I was there, nothing scarce but the antics of birds at the feeders can keep you entertained for ages.

Widdrington Moor
Also worth a visit. Today the Peregrine sat in the field, a magnificent bird and although there was little else on show it was a treat. Maiden's Hall Lake is still losing water but the Geese are enjoying the grazing around the edges.

So almost ready for 2015 .. even got the microscope out and ready for some new ideas?

Monday, 22 December 2014

Little Changes

Well back more than a week now and still photographing Stonechats.

The initial weather shock is over and today it was positively balmy. Just a few 'April' showers and some nice rainbows. One Stoat had a similar reaction to the cold snap and ended up with a tri-coloured tail (black tip white middle and brown base).

Raptors are the highlight presently with Hen Harrier (even visible from the front room), Peregrines, Buzzards, Kestrels and Sparrowhawk.

Not much action on the bird feeders?

Finally a whinge.
Twitter can be really good, and there are some witty people out there. However many will tick the favourites box (and I've done it myself) for no logical reason. Also people are a bit like sheep praising good causes without taking time to eplore the arguments. When it comes to promoting wildlife 'causes' the example below has to be the worst. Self-promoting, retweeting, favouriting etc have led to the book below getting rich praise from a host of people and press.

I bought the book, read the book and was utterly amazed at how bad it was.
Please if you are going to 'favouite' a book read it first.
I haven'y read a single negative review so maybe it is just my lone opinion but it has to the worst book I've read in many years.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Gambia List

Link to Gambia List

1 = Bird Seen

Some birds were seen by other birders on the trips, not included.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Gambia 1 (3rd December)

Gambia 3rd – 10th December

Well a break from the patch last week. The offer of a trip o Africa in December was quickly snapped up. The travelling there was a bit of a pain but all was forgotten when we walked across the runway at Banjul Airport a warmish 30°C (compared with -3°C  and the iced windscreen before we set off.).

First photo of the trip, Plantain-eater.

Spur-winged Plover

Greeted by Tijan Kanteh our friend (and guide for the week), we dropped off bags and headed straight back out.
Kotu Sewage Works ..
.. herons, waders and much more to get the birding started.

Intermediate Egret

African Jacana

Lizard Buzzard

Kotu Bridge ..
..more waders, kingfishers and raptors

Abyssinan Roller
Can you believe that by the end of the week these hardly got a second glance?

Pied Kingfisher

Westen Reef Heron

White-faced Whistling Duck
Black Egret

Darter and Long-tailed Cormorant

Badala and the Cycle Track..
..finished the first day. All the while the ever present Hooded Vultures and Black Kites kept us company.

Finally food and chilled lager before an early night (having been awake for the last 24 hours).

Gambia (day 2) 4th December 2014

Day 2

After a good long sleep and a large breakfast it was day 2 (1st full day).

Steve and Caroline Taylor have worked for many years collecting money to help a local school. (Sifoe Primary School) Here we see the Deputy Head with a pile of cash. We met him as he banked the cash. This money is used to provide all the children in the school with a hot meal at lunch time. The food programme has been such a success that the numbers in school have risen making the charitable contributions really important. (more later ...)

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

White-fronted Black Chat

Tujereng (Orange Groove sic )

Our target birds included ‘Coursers’. It involved walking through suitable habitat in blazing heat. These walks proved to be devoid of the target birds (I’m sure they don’t exist). Fortunately there are other birds to be seen and raptors are always in the air and worth checking, although most are Vultures waiting for the mad English birders to expire.

Pink-backed Pelican

We moved on to some wetland areas and on to the coast and estuary. Here we met an expat (and wanabee ‘Bear Grylls’). Keen to make an impression on his clients and with us he reeled off lists of birds we could come across. It was a good birding area but produced few of the rarer birds we had hoped for.

During the day we managed 4 species of Kingfisher and a total of over 100 species at the end of the first two days.

Abyssinian  Roller

Namaqua Dove

Woodchat Shrike
(Aah memories of Northumberland this year)

Yellow Wagtail
(I wonder if this was at Cresswell earlier this year?)

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
(Next spring at Chevington ???)

Beautiful Sunbird


We stayed at the Senegambia Hotel, which is clean and well run. The rooms have air conditioning and there is a good restaurant and evening entertainment. Sadly the tourism industry in Gambia is suffering because of the fears of Ebola. There is good information available throughout the Gambia and there have been no cases so the fears are unfounded.

Tijan Kanteh

Tijan is a friend and a great guide. A jovial chap with a huge list of contacts. He has visited the UK several times and hopes to be at the Birdfair 2015 (RSPB stand). Here he is at the smoke house and sorting out his tea.

Rufous-crowned Roller

African Green Pigeon

The Senegambia Hotel suffers also because the prices (for meals and drinks) in the current climate are not competitive with the restaurants nearby. Hence we ate out every evening.

A typical meal would cost c400 Dalasi (£6) and  beer (70p 330ml bottle). My biggest disappointment was the lack of authentic African/Gambian food and music. It might be worth searching for a different area for future visits.

Starting Day 3

Gambia this side, Senegal opposite. Lots of police checkpoints in his area, but little hassle.

Tijan's new van. (thanks to the contributions of Steve Taylor) 

Day 3

Day 3
Fill up van with petrol after an early breakfast. Fill the cool box with ice and water (you need lots on this trip, probably 3 litres a day per person, every day).

Birds (day 3) on next posting!

Gambia (Day 3) 5th December

Speckled Pigeons

Day 3

This was my first trip inland. This trip is a must if you are doing a 10+ day trip. (Egyptian Plover, Goliath Heron, Finfoot etc are possibilities, especially if you do the boat trip.

Grey Hornbill

The roads to Tendaba Camp are very good. Until recently it was a long and bumpy ride. We took our time birding along the way.

Mendina Bar Rice Fields, Farasuto, Kampant, Kanlagi and Bateling Track.

African Wood Owl

Greyish Eagle Owl

These Owls were at their roosts and with a quiet approach were easy to see (if not photograph). The Wood Owl was a little flighty so we didn't linger too long.

Blue-bellied Roller

Lizard Buzzard
One of the most common raptors of the trip which led to frequent calls to the driver to stop only for Tijan to call out Lizard 'Boozard' ... go man go!

Our Driver Aloo (or Alex) was brilliant,a very careful driver! 

Not another ...

Senegal Thick-Knee

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill


When you arrive at Tendaba Camp be realistic about your expectations. Remember the villagers: queuing for water, selling bags of charcoal and piling onto mini-buses, so when you enter your VIP room and there is no electricity or hot water you are not surprised.  Actually the electricity comes on for long enough for the AC to cool the rooms. The lack of hot water in this climate is no big deal.
The biggest disappointment was that the beer was warm on the first night .. boo hoo

Senegal Batis