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Serengeti VII: lions, elephants, giraffes, zebra

From Serengeti to Ndutu


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I slept well last night, but am awake at 4:30 this morning. As usual we set off before daybreak at around 6:00.

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With no rain overnight, the roads are slightly less muddy this morning, but there are some very deep ruts. Even when it dries up completely, it is going to take some major maintenance to get all these tracks back to 'normality'.

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Safari Ants

It is still pretty dark out, so this photograph is not going to be able to show you how the soldier ants stand to one side of the 'path' created by the workers, in order to protect them as they collect building materials and food.

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David recorded a couple of videos, however.


Sunrise

The sun is just starting to make its appearance over the horizon. We are hoping for another rainless day.

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Not only does the pond provide a great setting for the sunrise, there is quite a bit of wildlife around here too.

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Hippo

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Black Crake

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Marabou Stork

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Helmeted Guineafowl

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Common Sandpiper

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Grey Heron

Elephant

We see a lone old chap in the green grass.

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And a hot air balloon on the horizon

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White Browed Coucal

Amethyst Sunbird

An exciting lifer.

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I am so busy photographing this bird, that I totally miss a hyena walking right by the car.

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Cape Teal

The newly formed puddles in the road provide a great place for various ducks to hang out.

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Elephants

Word has it there are elephants up on the hillside. We go to check it out.

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The tracks are not in a good state, however.

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The car ahead is abandoned, with the passengers rescued and taken off in another vehicle. It must be bad around here. Malisa goes off on foot to check out the conditions before continuing.

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Not even the grassy verges look solid enough to drive on. Malisa deems the risk of getting bogged down too great, and decides to turn around.

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As it is, the puddles are so deep, the water goes over the top of the bonnet of the car!

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Secretary Bird

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Lions

We see two male lions in the far, far distance, extremely well hidden by the long grass. They are watching a herd of wildebeest even further away.

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Topi

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Serengeti Visitors Centre

We stop at the picnic area for breakfast, and as usual the place is overrun with rock hyrax.

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And a pair of Marico Sunbirds – another nice little lifer.

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Lilac Breasted Rollers

We leave the picnic site and continue this morning's game drive.

Stuck Car

We see a car leaning dangerously to one side, stuck in the mud on the track. There are lots of people helping, with many hands making light work.

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They're out!

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They're a little bit muddy, but otherwise fine; and the clients are still smiling. It's all part of the fun.

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We rush through as I have some 'urgent business' to attend to. I do not understand what Malisa shouts out at the other drivers for them to move aside as you would for an ambulance; but I gather it is in the vein of “toilet emergency”. We are heading for the small airstrip at Seronera, and the same thing happens there: the gates magically open as Malisa calls out to the security guard. The toilets at the airstrip are clean, modern and there is thankfully no queue. Phew.

After my urgent visit, we are able to continue on our quest to “see what nature has to offer us”, along more muddy tracks and through more dirty puddles.

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Giraffes

I still think giraffes are my favourite animal, and seeing them close by like this is always special.

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Fan Tailed Widowbird

A colourful widowbird flits around, but never gets close enough, nor sits still long enough, to get a decent photo of him.

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Lions

As usual, a lion sighting has attracted quite a crowd, and there is a bit of a queue to get near enough to actually see these three males. While we wait for our turn, I amuse myself by taking photos of tourists taking photos of.... themselves (despite being in a prime viewing spot for the lions).

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While big cats have always been big draws, this is currently compounded by the fact that huge parts of the Serengeti is out of bounds as a result of flooding and inaccessible roads; concentrating safari traffic in a much smaller area.

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This guy decides to leave the cool shade under a tree to go and lie in the midday sun. Is he mad?

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His brother looks very old and scruffy – look at the state of his mane and the skin in folds across his torso. He seems to have lost the will to live!

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We leave the lions – and the crowds they've drawn – behind and head south towards the park gate at Naabi Hill. We had been hoping to drive down to Ndutu via Moru Kopjes, but that whole area is inaccessible at the moment, which only leaves us this one option.

Verreaux's Eagle Owl

He is one large owl!

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Look at those pink eyelids.

Zebra

As we get nearer the gate, we see lots of tiny specs on the landscape: literally thousands of zebra! I don't think I have ever seen so many in one place over such a large area before.

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Naabi Hill behind

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Dust baths seem popular.

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The other three zebra seem to be looking on with bemusement

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There are not as many babies as I expected to see.

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We enjoy our packed lunch while watching the zebra.

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I love these sweet little finger-sized bananas

We do, unfortunately, have to leave this stripey spectacle in order to get to our lodge at Ndutu before dark.

Thank you Calabash Adventures yet again for all the arrangements.

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Posted by Grete Howard 05:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife elephant sunrise safari tanzania zebra birding lions hippo giraffes ants roller serengeti heron stork topi owl bird_watching game_drive sunbird teal calabash_adventures naabi_hill serengeti_visitors_centre rock_hyrax coucal secretary_bird guineafowl sandpiper naabi_gate wildlife_photography crake widowbird abandoned_car afroca toilet_emergency Comments (6)

Lake Manyara: Tree Climbing Lion, Leopard -Treetop Walkway

Some great sightings in a park without high expectations


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Breakfast Picnic, Lake Manyara National Park

We find ourselves at a large picnic site overlooking the valley below, with several picnic tables dotted about, and thankfully no other tourists.

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Last night the chef asked us what we wanted for our packed breakfast for today, and he suggested that we might like some croissants with bacon. It didn't expect three of them, plus boiled eggs and bacon, two yogurts and three bananas. We are certainly not going to starve on this trip. The croissants are, as you'd expect from an establishment such as the Kilimamoja Lodge, freshly made this morning, and were still warm when Malisa collected the boxes at 6am.

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We are joined by an army of ants.

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Later three cars with American tourists turn up. They are not the least bit interested in the view or other surroundings, they all want to see, feel, lift and have their photos taken with Big Bertha (my 600mm f/4 lens). It's a bit like having a puppy that everyone wants to stroke – she is certainly a talking point and a way of meeting people.

I use Bertha hand held to take this picture of elephants in the river way, way below us. With the 1.4x converter and the 7DII body, it makes an effective focal length of 1344mm. Bertha is really a bit too heavy to hand hold, so I used a 1/4000 second exposure, resulting in an ISO of 1000. Unfortunately the 7DII doesn't fare well with high ISO and the image is rather grainy as a result.

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Detour

Not even Malisa and his super-skilled driving can manage to get us across this ravine where the road has been washed away as a result of recent heavy rain.

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We, and the three cars behind us, have a bit of a job trying to reverse back to a place suitable for turning.

Tree-Climbing Lions

Lake Manyara National Park is supposedly famous for its tree-climbing lions. On neither of our two previous visits to the park did we see a lion, let alone one aloft any branches. Malisa hears on the radio that one has been spotted not far away, so sets off in hot pursuit.

We are not alone, and initially we can't get anywhere near the cats!

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With a bit of skilful manoeuvring, however, and the goodwill of others drivers, we do eventually get to see one of the famous tree-lions of Manyara!

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Under the tree we pick out two more. No, three. Actually, there are FOUR!

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She doesn't look comfortable in her tree, and fidgets a lot, trying out different positions.

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Neither are we. The pesky tsetse flies are irksome to say the least, and I feel like I am being eaten alive.

Leopard

So, do we hang around here, hoping the lioness will jump down, or do we follow the news on the radio that there is a leopard in a tree too? We opt for the latter.

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She is some distance away from the road (and my camera), and very well hidden in amongst the tree branches, making it very hard to focus. She too is unsettled.

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Not long after we arrive, she starts to make her way down from the tree. We are very lucky to have got here just in time. She didn't hang around for me to get a clear photo of her.

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Blue Monkey

On our way out of the park, we spot the Blue Monkey, a species that we have seen rarely on our previous safaris.

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Treetop Walkway

A new treetop walkway has opened up, just a five-minute drive from the main gate, and we stop there on our way.

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First we take a short walk through the woods, and our guide explain a few things along the way.

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Mahogany Pod

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So this is what the baboons were picking up from the floor and eating earlier.

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Golden Orb Spider; a common insect in the forest

A gentle slope leads up to the first of ten platforms, and the start of the hanging rope bridges.

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I start off nonchalantly, almost cocky, on the first bridge. Until it starts to sway. Considerably! Fear grips my like an iron glove and I feel myself starting to panic. Concentrating on breathing heavily, I stop and let the bridge settle down before continuing, this time much more gingerly and much less confidently.

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I made it! Still shaking, only eight more bridges to go.

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Even Malisa wavers a little at the swaying. To be fair, he is carrying my big camera in one hand, David's video camera in the other and his own over his shoulder.


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It is the first treetop walkway in Tanzania and with a total of 370 metre,s one of the longest in Africa!

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There are nine bridges and ten platforms.

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By the time I get to the end of bridge number four, I have regained my confidence, and am beginning to enjoy it.

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Having been on several of these in the past, I have no expectations of seeing any animals or even birds from it; I am just here to 'enjoy' the experience. I am therefore very surprised to see a couple of Blue Monkeys.

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Look at the length of that tail!

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The walkway’s highest point is 18 metres above the ground.

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It's all downhill from now on.

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Just a short walk through the woods back to the car and we'll be on our way for the third part of today's adventures. Stay tuned!

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Thank you Calabash Adventures for arranging all this for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 13:12 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife elephants breakfast africa safari spider birding picnic lions flooding ants manyara leopard fear blue_monkey detour bird_watching panic lake_manyara big_bertha calabash_adventures tse_tse_flies big_cats breakfast_picnic ravine breakfast_box wildlife_photography picnic_site kilimamoja_lodge canon_600mm american_tourists tree_climbing_lions treetop_walkway canopy_walkway hanging_bridges rope_bridges manyara_treetops_walkway mahogany_pod Comments (2)

Marrakissa

Another heavenly place


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I slept surprisingly well last night, despite the upset tummy yesterday afternoon and several rather unpleasant dreams overnight.

We are meeting Abdoulie first thing, who will be our birding guide for the morning. He is early, and so are we.

Brikama

Heading for Marrakissa, we drive through Brikama, which is the second largest town in The Gambia, and absolute pandemonium. I try some of my usual drive-by shooting (photographically speaking) as we are stuck in the traffic jam. The following images are photographed through the window glass of the car, so apologies for the somewhat inferior quality.

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Waiting for the school bus

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Bread delivery

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Coffee on the go

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Hitching a ride

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Heading for the Laundry

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Donkey Cart

Likky Bom

The sign on the rear bumper of a bright yellow car puzzles me greatly and I ask Abdoulie what it means. He is as bemused as we are, and to our surprise pulls over the driver to ask him. “It's my nickname” says the mystified kid in charge of the adorned car “nothing more than that”. I do wonder if he realises what sort of connotations the sign has, albeit with a slightly different spelling.

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Marakissa

First we stop on a bridge to check out the birdlife along the wetlands area.

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Senegal Coucal

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Wire Tailed Swallow

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Great Egret

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Double Spurred Francolin

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Cashew fruit with the nut hanging down below

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Red Eyed Doves

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Squacco Heron

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Western Plantain Eater

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Purple Glossy Starling

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Senegal Parrot

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Red Billed Firefinch

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Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird, doing its best to hide

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Common Bulbul nest building

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Yellow Throated Leaflove

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Piapiac

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Lizard Buzzard

Ants

Abdoulie warns us to be careful when stepping over the marching ants. Too late, David has already been invaded. Lots of jumping, shouting and a few choice words later, he drops his trousers in the middle of the field to get rid of the ants. Thankfully I am too busy laughing to photograph it.

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White Faced Whistling Ducks

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African Jacana

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Fine Spotted Woodpecker

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Woodland Kingfisher

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African Golden Oriole

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White Billed Buffalo Weavers

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Long Tailed Glossy Starling

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Blue Bellied Roller

Black Faced Quail Finch

We see a number of these little birds fly out of bushes without warning, but trying to photograph them proves extremely difficult.

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Eventually Abdoulie takes my camera and goes off stalking them.

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After a lot of time and effort, he manages to creep up on one of the quail finches on the ground to grab a quick shot. Good man – I have to say I admire his patience.

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Yellow Throated Leaflove

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Grey Heron

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Village Weaver

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Pin Tailed Whydah

What an amazing place this is turning out to be. I shall leave you here now and continue in another blog entry. Ciao.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:37 Archived in Gambia Tagged ants roller woodpecker heron starling weaver oriole bulbul gambia jacana swallow coucal francolin cashew_nut the_gambia piapiac whistling_ducks glossy_starling plantain_eater firefinch abdoulie brikama bread_delivery licky_bom bumper_sticker marakissa tinkerbird leaflove buffalo_weavers quail_finch whydah Comments (4)

Abuko

Big day today: Lifer # 1000


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I spent most of the night tossing and turning, trying to find a position that didn't hurt my arm. That'll teach me for spending so long at the waterhole photographing the birds. Not. I even struggle to bring my hand up to my face this morning, affecting washing, brushing my teeth and hair, and eating. Photographer's elbow. A bit like a tennis player having played in an all day tournament after normally just having a game once or twice a week. The pain won't stop me going out taking photos of birds though.

Abuko

This morning Malick is taking us to Abuko. He's decided that we are going to be better off walking along the plantations just on the outskirts of the woods, rather than inside the thick forest itself, where the conditions will be rather difficult in terms of photography: dark and too many branches in the way. Sounds good to me.

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Onions

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Bitter Tomato

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Sweet Potato

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Mango

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Tapping the palm toddy

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Scarecrow. Or should that be scaredog?

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I don't think the strips of cloth hung from this pole to keep the birds away from the crops are working too well.

We almost immediately spot birds in the trees and on the ground. As before, any lifers (new species to me) will be denoted with *

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Sacred Ibis

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African Grey Hornbill

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Hooded Vulture

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Blue Breasted Kingfisher*

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Grey Woodpecker*

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Woodland Kingfisher

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Spur Winged Plover

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Striated Heron

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Black Crake

Malick warns us to be careful as we step over the ants who are making their way along a well-defined path.

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African Jacana

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Senegal Coucal

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White Billed Buffalo Weavers*

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Two different species of Egrets - Intermediate and Cattle

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Squacco Heron

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Black Heron

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David testing out his directional microphone, hoping to cut out some of the "click click click" he normally gets on his videos from my photography.

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Blue Bellied Roller*

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Giant Kingfisher with a Tilapia in his beak

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Rose Ringed Parakeet

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Pied Crow

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Gull Billed Tern*

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Red Eyed Dove

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Long Tailed Cormorant

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Senegal Thick Knee*

This is a very special and important moment in my birdwatching mission – my 1000th lifer!

Ta da!

While I have been interested in seeing and photographing birds for a very long time, it is only in the last 13 years or so that I have taken it to the next level and making a point of identifying and recording the birds I see. I would not consider myself a serious birder, but I am an ardent list-maker, so to make 1000 different species makes me jubilant and proud.

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Little Bee Eater

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Hammerkop

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Broad Billed Roller

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Hooded Vulture

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Reef Heron

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Purple Heron

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Long Tailed Cormorant

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Great White Egret

I came to The Gambia with a very short wish list, consisting of only three species that I really wanted to see: Western Bluebill, Western Plantain Eater and the Abyssinian Roller. Having ticked off the first two yesterday, Malick promised me the roller today. He succeeded in spotting it, and the bird put on a delightful display for us.

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The perfect finish to a perfect morning's birdwatching. Thank you Malick.

Posted by Grete Howard 06:36 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds crow birding mango ants roller woodpecker heron egret vulture ibis parakeet dove west_africa kingfisher plantations garlic cormorant sweet_potato tilapia gambia bird_watching hornbill hammerkop thick_knee coucal tern the_gambia malick_suso crake afraica abuko bitter_tomato palm_toddy scarecrow 1000th_lifer lifer life_tick Comments (3)

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