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Birds of The Gambia

Birds of The Gambia


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The Gambia, the smallest country on mainland Africa, is saturated with winged wonders. The avian delights of this beautiful nation are celebrated throughout the birding world. Your hotel garden could produce as many species in a day as you would see in a week back home. Just imagine that.

For such a small territory, the Gambian landscape includes a wide variety of habitats. The landscape is dominated by Sahelian scrub and Guinea woodland savannah, with extensive mangrove wetlands concentrated near the mouth of the river and along its lower reaches, and narrow strips of tropical forest along the banks of the creeks further east. The country’s avifauna is plentiful and conspicuous – animal-lovers visiting Africa for the first time will be dazzled by the variety of species. Wherever you go, and at whatever time of the year, the sheer difference of birdlife is utterly extraordinary.

This remarkable diversity of accessible habitats makes it an ideal birding destination. Almost 600 bird species have been recorded in the country, including Palearctic migrants that arrive in the late rainy season, and for which The Gambia is the first vital belt of green after the long flight south along the arid coast of northwest Africa. Characteristic sights are Pied Crows, urbanite magpie-like birds that are common throughout the Sahelian region; electric blue Abyssinian Rollers perched conspicuously on telephone wires and bare branches; the marvellous, lurching flight of hornbills swooping across the road in forest areas; and unmistakable gaggles of noisy, glamorous Long-tailed Glossy Starlings just about everywhere. Squadrons of Hooded Vultures ceaselessly patrol the skies overhead.

We shall spend our first three nights at the Tanji Bird Reserve Eco-lodge where we will be immersed in birdlife right on our doorstep. Here we will meet our guide, the highly regarded Malick Suso, whose passion and professionalism will no doubt leave an impression on you during your stay. We are in the best of hands. After our transfer from the airport, we shall spend the remainder of the day enjoying our surroundings and the avian activity around us. The reserve, clinging to the Atlantic Ocean, is excellent for gulls and terns, including Kelp and Slender-billed Gulls, as well as Royal Tern. There is also the chance of seeing Pied-winged Swallow, Senegal Batis and White Helmetshrike.

The following morning, we shall explore locally as we visit the small patch of dense coastal forest and savanna woodland of Brufut Woods which harbour Long-tailed Nightjar, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Blue-bellied and Abyssinian Rollers, African Pied Hornbill, Yellow-throated Leaflove, White-crowned Robin Chat, Northern Crombec, Red-winged Warbler and Copper Sunbird. There is also the chance of seeing Verreaux’s Eagle and Northern White-faced Owls, Black Scimitarbill and Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike. We then return to the lodge for lunch and spend the afternoon at Tanji.

An early start is required on day three as we head south to Kartong on the coast. This former sand mining area is home to the only bird observatory in the country. The area is a combination of extensive dunes, mudflats, reed beds, rice fields, scrub, shoreline and woodland, providing homes for a whole host of interesting species, including African Pygmy Goose, African and Black Crakes, African Swamphen, Allen’s Gallinule, Greater Painted-snipe, White-crowned Lapwing, Caspian Tern, Malachite Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Crested Lark and Eurasian Reed Warbler. After lunch at Scala restaurant, we shall spend the remainder of the afternoon birding in the Kartong area.

Having checked out of the eco-lodge after breakfast on day four, we head to the nearby Tujereng Woods – a mixture of coastal scrub, open woodland and farmland, which together produce an impressive mix of species, including Black Scimitarbill, Red-winged Warbler, Yellow Penduline Tit and Orange-cheeked Waxbill. There is also the chance of seeing Temminck’s Courser, Striped Kingfisher, Brown-backed Woodpecker, White-fronted Black Chat, White-shouldered Black Tit and White Helmetshrike. We then head a short distance up the coast to our next hotel, the Senegambia, where we will check in and have lunch. Situated on the coast at Kololi, the Senegambia has extensive gardens full of birds, monkeys and monitor lizards. After lunch, we shall explore the nearby Kotu Creek area which incorporates a cycle track, a golf course and sewage ponds, which together combine freshwater pools, mangroves, mudflats, scrub and open woodland. The mosaic of habitats found within this small area holds an impressive range of species including Black Heron, Black-headed Lapwing, Blue-bellied Roller, White-crowned Robin Chat, Beautiful Sunbird, Yellow-crowned Gonolek and water birds, including the chance of Greater Painted-snipe.

After an early start on our fifth day, we shall visit Abuko Nature Reserve – an outstanding pocket of rare evergreen gallery forest and one of the few left in the country. Here we hope to encounter Black Heron, Hamerkop, Green and Violet Turacos, Little Greenbul, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, Oriole Warbler, African and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers and Common Wattle-eye. There is also the chance of seeing African Pygmy Kingfisher, Western Bluebill, Western Red Colobus, Green Monkey, Kéwel and Maxwell’s Duiker. We shall have lunch at the nearby Lamin Lodge on the River Gambia – one of the great rivers of Africa and the lifeblood of this diminutive country. In the afternoon, we shall bird the Lamin rice fields before returning to our hotel at Kololi.

Day six requires another early start, as we shall be heading south to Marakissa Woods, close to the Senegalese border. The area offers a mixture of lush wooded areas, open savanna, rice fields and freshwater creeks which together produce a rich mix of species including Western Banded Snake, Tawny and Long-crested Eagles, Black Crake, Africa Jacana, Greater Painted-snipe, Violet Turaco, African Scops Owl, Giant Kingfisher, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Yellow-throated Leaflove, White Helmetshrike and Black-rumped Waxbill, alongside the rare and elusive Dwarf Bittern. Next a pause for lunch at Marakissa River Camp, where water jars placed in the garden attract thirsty starlings, babblers and all three species of honeyguide – Greater, Lesser and the rare Spotted. We shall bird the nearby Darsilami Swamps in the afternoon.

Our penultimate day will start with exploring the small community-run forest reserve of Pirang, comprising sixty-six hectares of excellent evergreen gallery forest. It shelters many delightful forest specialties including African Green Pigeon, Green and Violet Turacos, African Pied Hornbill, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Green Crombec and Green Hylia. There is also the chance of seeing White-spotted Flufftail, African Wood, Verreaux’s Eagle and Northern White-faced Owls and Yellowbill. We shall lunch locally before venturing down the nearby Faraba Banta bush, where we might strike it lucky with Greyish Eagle Owl. If time allows, we will venture a little further east to Sotokoi, to search for Brown-necked Parrot, and Kampanti, where a wide variety of large raptors visit the waterhole, as well as Blue-bellied Roller and Piapiac. We then return to our hotel for a farewell dinner.

Our last morning ends on a high note when we join the daily vulture feeding at our hotel at 11am. Prepare to be surrounded by hundreds of Hooded Vultures. Cameras are essential! Following our checkout, and dependent on timings, we may visit another birding site on our way to the airport.

Join us for an African avian adventure!


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Telephone from inside UK: 01473 254658 (Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm)

Telephone from outside UK: 0044 1473 254658 (Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm)