About Me

I am a novice to birding and have become interested since walking Frank our dog, a cross Flat Coat / Springer around Hastings Country Park and the surrounding area, I realised the little brown birds weren't just sparrows.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Birding The Gambia The Travel Bits

I heard of the Farakunku Lodges from some old friends who weren't birders but had travelled to The Gambia and struck up a friendship with the owners Heather and Moses. After visiting their stand at the 2017 Rutland Bird Fair I decided to go for it. Having not travelled out of Europe for 40 years this was a big challenge for me especially as I was travelling alone.

I travelled with Thomas Cook Airlines from Gatwick leaving at 06.45 on Friday 26th Jan, returning Friday 2nd February. Flights leaving were on time coming back delayed by 45minutes, cost including extra baggage ie 20kg meals on board and seat choice was about £280.

Staying at Farakunku the cost was £845 which included Dinner, bed and breakfast for a single in a double lodge. Plus 6 days full birding with a one to one guide and a driver 2 lunches and a boat trip.
I spent another £120 on Water, Beer, Wine with all my evening meals, plus Lunches and tips.
The Lodges

The Dining Room

Gardens at Farakunku Lodges

Patio around the Plunge Pool

Solar Hot Water Heater

Todays Menu

The Plunge Pool
I had excellent food and service and will definitely return, hopefully next winter!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Birding The Gambia Day 1 Arrival at Farakunku Lodge

Friday 26th January 2018, Departed Gatwick on Thomas Cook airlines at around 7.00am arriving in Banjul early at 12.30 due to a strong tail wind. After a lengthy queue at passport control my bags were soon off loaded and I met Moses in the arrivals hall. A 40 minute drive on god tarmac roads and then a couple of minutes along a rough dirt track I arrived at the Farakunku Lodges which was to be my home for the next 7 nights.

After unpacking and downing a beer I went off into the gardens where there are drinking pots waiting for my first Gambian bird.other than the Cattle Egrets, Pied Crows and Hooded Vultures seen on the way from the airport.
First to greet me were a pair of Western Plantain Eaters
 Then a Western Red Hornbill
 An African Thrush
 Finally some Bronze Manikins

These birds I was able to ID with the help of my field guide but now In need of a shower and another beer I retired to my lodge to get ready for dinner.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Birding The Gambia Day 2 Brufut Woods and Tanji Bird Reserve

Saturday 27th January An early breakfast at 7.00am (normal time 7.30) with a selection of cereals, juice, bread, marmalades, and cheese. I dipped on the eggs menu and Moses and I set off at 8.00am. At Brufut I met my bird guide Ebrimah Njie who was to be my guide for the next 6 days. Into Brufut Woods I was appalled at the amount of rubbish there despite it being a nature reserve and parcels of land being claimed for future development. However it wasn't long before I was shown species after species and found it hard to keep up with Ebrimah. I managed to get some shots of some of the birds, while doing so missed others Ebrimah was pointing to, however a great morning's introduction to birding in The Gambia. Starting with

African Wattled Lapwing

African Green Pigeons

Green Wood-hoopoe

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Beautiful Sunbird

Namaqua Dove

Senegal Eromomela

Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu

Black-necked Weaver

Black-winged Bishop

Greater Honeyguide

Lavender Waxbills

Long-tailed Nightjar

Orange-cheeked Waxbills

Senegal Coucal

Village Weaver and Speckled Pigeon

Variable Sunbird (I think)

Yellow White-eye

Swallow-tail Bee-eater

Swallow-tail Bee-eaters with a possible Splendid Sunbird

I found it very hard to keep up, but around 12 we went back to Farakunku for lunch. Around 2.30 we set off again to Tanji and a walk along the beach before going into the Bird Reserve.

Once again the birds kept coming with Grey Headed Gulls, Slender-billed Gulls Caspian and Royal Terns not to mention a Sandwich Tern and Lesser black-backed gull.

Royal and Caspian Terns
Tanji fishing village with Cattle Egrets
Slender-billed Gulls
Having found a few more species including a Western Reef Heron we headed back to Tanji where Moses picked us up and took us into the Tanji Bird reserve. Where we picked up some more stunning birds including this Little Bee-Eater
Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater
Abyssinian Roller
Violet Turacco
Striped Kingfisher
Yellow-billed Bush Shrike
At the end of the day we had clocked up a respectable 94 species and I missed several others. A brilliant first full day. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Birds seen so far:- Long-tailed Cormorant, Pink-backed Pelican, Cattle Egret, Green-backed Heron, Western Reef Egret, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Osprey, Black Kite, Yellow-billed Kite, Hooded Vulture, African Harrier Hawk, Lizard Buzzard, Double-spurred Francolin, Common Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, African Wattled Lapwing, Spur-winged Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey-headed Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, African Green Pigeon, Black-billed Wood Dove, Namaqua Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Red-eyed Dove, African Mourning Dove, African Collared Dove, Laughing Dove, Senegal Parrot, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Violet Turaco, Western Grey Plantain Eater, Senegal Coucal, African Scops Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Long-tailed Nightjar, African Palm Swift, Pallid Swift, Striped Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Blue-bellied Roller, Abyssinian Roller, Green Wood-hoopoe, Western Red-billed Hornbill, African Grey Hornbill, Bearded Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Grey Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Red-chested Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, White-crowned Robin Chat, African Thrush, Western Olivaceous Warbler, Senegal Eremomela, Northern Crombec, Sub-alpine Warbler, Northern Back Flycatcher, Brown Babler, Yellow Penduline Tit, Beautiful Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Splendid Sunbird, Copper Sunbird, Yellow White-eye, Yellow-billed Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Fork Tailed Drongo, Pied Crow, Piapiac, Long-tailed Glossy Starling, Little Weaver, Black-necked Weaver, Village Weaver, Black-winged Bishop, Lavender Waxbill, Orang-cheeked Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu, Red-billed Firefinch, Bronze Manikin, Yellow-fronted Canary.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Birding The Gambia Day 3 Abuko Nature Reserve and Lamin Rice fields

Once again an early breakfast at 7.00am  and departed at 8.00am by Omah in his taxi to Serekunda where we picked up Ebrimah and went to Abuko Forest arriving around 9 due to heavy traffic. A couple of minutes walk through the woods we came to a raised hide overlooking a swamp and pool.
The first thing that Ebrimah pointed to was a Crocodile.

 And then another
 We also saw Giant Kingfisher
 African Jacana
 Palm-nut Vultures
 Pygmy Kingfisher
Plus Green-backed, Western Reef, and  Grey Herons and Little Egrets. A walk through the woods to the animal sanctuary found similar birds to those yesterday in Brufut such as Sunbirds but the highlight was a Western Blue-bill skulking in the undergrowth sadly too dark for a photo.

Lunch was delayed as Omah's Taxi had broken down but that's not unusual in The Gambia so after waiting an hour at the reserve entrance we were taken to a restaurant "Lamin Lodge" overlooking a tributary of the Gambia river. Views of a Marsh Harrier, Great Egrets, Herons and Pied Kingfishers were had while waiting for lunch. Also this Green Verved Monkey was hanging around hoping to steal our lunches

After a long lunch we went off to Lamin Rice fields which is an area of fertile wetland used as a type of allotments
Lamin Rice fields
Here there were plenty of Herons and Egrets

Black Egret

Spur-winged Lapwing

Squacco Heron


Hooded Vultures

Senegal Thick-knee

Northern White-faced Owl (obscured)
Birds added to the list today:- Squacco Heron, Black Heron, Little Egret, Purple Heron, Hammerkop,
 Palm-nut Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Shikra, Grey Kestrel, Black Crake, African Jacana, Senegal Thick-knee, Wood Sandpiper, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Rock Dove, Vinaceous Dove, Northern White-faced Owl, Mottled Spinetail, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, African Pied-Hornbill, Fanti Saw-wing, Pied-winged Swallow, Little Greenbul, Sykes Warbler?, European Reed Warbler, Oriole Warbler, Blackcap Babler, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Western Bluebill.