So many lifers
06.04.2019 - 06.04.2019
Yet again Lariam (malaria prophylaxis) upsets my sleep with a series of bad dreams: while faced with a plethora of colourful birds, my camera refuses to operate despite repeatedly and frustratingly pressing the shutter. I wake up agitated and distressed, realise it is thankfully just a dream and return to sleep. And the dream. The same horrid dream. This repeats itself time and time again and by the time the alarm goes off at 6am, I am exhausted.
Knowing we are too early for the breakfast, and will be out for most of the morning, we grab some snacks from our bags and head to the bird pool to wait for the guide to arrive.
As it is still fairly dark, photography is almost impossible, so we just sit and enjoy until Malick turns up.
Police Check Point
We pre-booked Malick – Chris Packham's birding guide of choice - through The Gambia Experience before we left home, just to make sure we had a couple of days of serious birding organised. Having someone who knows where to go and the transport to take us there is half the battle.
As with so many African countries, The Gambia has its fair share of Police Road Blocks where they check the drivers' paperwork. It also acts as an opportunity to investigate the birds that hang around here, feeling on rubbish left behind.
Yellow Crowned Gonolek
Red Cheeked Cordon Blue
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher
Western Red Billed Hornbill
Our destination for today, however, is Brufut, a community-organised bird sanctuary protected by the West African Birds Study Association.
Before we reach the woods themselves, we stop near some habitation at the edge of a few plantations and take a short walk to see what species can be found around here. We are very excited to spot so many 'lifers' (species new to us, indicated by * below) in such a small area.
Yellow Billed Shrike*
White Crowned Robin Chat*
White Faced Whistling Ducks
Blue Bellied Roller*
Senegal Wattled Plover*
Long Tailed Glossy Starling
Fine Spotted Woodpecker*
White Billed Buffalo Weaver*
Spur Winged Plover
Beautiful Sunbird (female)
Splendid Sunbird (female)
Northern Red Bishop in non-breeding colours*
Variable Sunbird (female) The female sunbirds all look very similar.
Black Headed Heron
The plantations include such crops as cashew nuts and mango trees.
Unripe cashew fruits with the nuts not yet having developed - they will be hanging down below when ripe
Brufut Woodland Bar
We continue to an area known as Brufut Woods, where there is even a bar serving drinks. Fearing that they may not be open this late in the season, Malick had already contacted them by phone earlier, to make sure they put the kettle on.
A number of benches are set out, overlooking an area with several bird baths in the trees and on the ground. I notice that rather than putting out food for the birds so that they become dependent on humans for feeding, only water is provided. I like that.
This is the civilised way of photographing the birds.
We spend the next couple of hours watching, photographing, and listening to the birds, seeing their family squabbles, how they interact with each other and some obvious pecking orders.
As before, any lifers are denoted with *
Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu
Black Billed Wood Dove*
I usually have a wish list of birds (or animals) I wish to see when we travel, and this is one of only three on my list this time:
Western Plantain Eater*
Yellow Throated Leaflove*
Red Billed Firefinch (female)
Black Necked Weaver*
Orange Cheeked Waxbill*
We employ the services of a local guide to help us go in to the woods to look for the Long Tailed Nightjar which is often found in this area. After a short moment of concern when the bird is not where he saw it half an hour earlier (as nocturnal birds, nightjars don't tend to move far during the day unless they are spooked), he spots it on the ground, very well camouflaged.
We start making our way back to the main road, along dirt tracks frequented by more animal carts than vehicles.
But first, Malick wants to check out some palms on the way.
Having seen them here in the last couple of days, this is what he was looking for:
Red Necked Falcons*
And so ends a very productive morning's birdwatching. Now back to the lodge for the rest of the day.