A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about robin chat

Tanji Beach and Bird Bath

Last morning at Tanji


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

With no early morning bird trip booked today, we have a lie-in this morning and don't rise until 07:15. Luxury. It is also the first time in the four nights we've stayed here that we've had breakfast in the lodge.

After a lovely omelette, we go back to the room and pack for today's transfer to our next lodge, then take a long, leisurely stroll along the beach.

Tanji Beach

Tanji Bird Eco Lodge borders what could be a nice beach with a bit of TLC. As it is at the moment, it is littered with all sorts of rubbish washed up or discarded by fishermen. Other than the locals who are either using it as a short cut from one place to another, or are here to look for bait for their fishing trip; the beach is deserted.

large_ae5fb7e0-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_043825e0-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_2c70c760-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_3c35f300-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_d8274150-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

It could be so nice.

large_4aac7e90-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_78184d50-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

The beach is suffering badly from erosion

large_7fa39570-95bf-11e9-a803-f1bfd7174cdb.jpg

large_937dd420-95bf-11e9-a803-f1bfd7174cdb.jpg

large_9d3cf220-95bf-11e9-a803-f1bfd7174cdb.jpg

I was hoping to find some sea birds along the coast, but the only one we see is a lone Whimbrel.

large_efccd550-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

Instead I try my hand at some creative photography using the crashing waves as my subject.

large_28d9a170-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_429d6510-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_5a9e6a10-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_6d860b60-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_7e4611c0-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_89c1faf0-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_9bf148c0-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_a89fe590-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

We return to the lodge and spend the remainder of the morning by the birding pool.

large_2061f030-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_99e4b310-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

With a drink, of course

large_68872d30-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_26df3b90-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Black Necked Weaver enjoying a splash in the bird bath

large_34f77a80-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Red Eyed Dove

large_61638c80-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Village Weaver

large_76f1bcc0-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
African Silverbill

large_99cc2960-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
African Silverbill

large_c64840f0-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Common Bulbul

large_28debfa0-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Black Necked Weaver

large_594cf8f0-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Western Bluebill

large_8ce2b100-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Pied Crow

large_9f4f55f0-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch

large_ba796050-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Common Wattle Eye

large_83318040-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Agama Lizard

large_d7c51230-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Western Red Billed Hornbill

large_f0402930-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
White Crowned Robin Chat

large_05da8e70-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher

large_ab7397a0-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Yellow Throated Leaflove

large_c1553f10-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat

large_d70d6580-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
A Green Vervet Monkey tries to muscle in on the scene too

large_fed60720-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Bronze Mannikins

large_1e126570-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Blue

large_387c5420-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Grey Headed Bristlebill

large_af8ef6d0-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Senegal Coucal

Lunch

During our long chat with Haddy yesterday, we were asked what time we would like to arrange the transfer from Tanji to Bakotu for today. As we love it so much here, we decided we'd like to have one last lunch at this place before moving on.

large_fff0f790-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Fish and chips

large_0e0cb8f0-8ef4-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
One last coffee under our favourite umbrella

It is always hard to say goodbye when you have been treated like part of the family as we have here. Spending four nights in the same hotel is rather unusual for us, so we have really got to know the staff quite well.

The driver who picks us up for the transfer is the most miserable Gambian we have met to date, and a poor driver to boot. His driving style is jerky and aggressive and he travels much too close to the vehicle in front. Thankfully the journey to Bakotu only takes half an hour.

Posted by Grete Howard 06:49 Archived in Gambia Tagged beach monkey waves rubbish crow lunch lizard birding trash coffee erosion pollution flycatcher dove fish_and_chips west_africa weaver bulbul finch gambia omelette bird_watching hornbill eco_lodge coucal cordon_bleu the_gambia tanji robin_chat bristlebill cordon_blue mannikin firefinch tanji_bird_eco_lodge bluebill leaflove tanji_beah creative_photography slow_shutter_speed silverbill wattle_eye verver_monkey saying_goodbye Comments (3)

Afternoon at Tanji Bird Eco Lodge

Finally: the Bluebill.


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

After a great morning's birding at Abuko, we return to Tanji Bird Eco Lodge for the rest of the day. First of all I want to catch up on emails as I didn't really have much time last night – almost as soon as we'd got the password, we were off to the room where there is no wifi.

Communication completed, I go to my favourite seat in the house: overlooking the bird baths. The staff are busy refilling the various pools, and the birds are making a racket from the surrounding trees, excited at the prospect of a dip and a drink.

I, on the other hand, am waiting patiently for the Bluebill to appear. We saw him here on the first day, but it was too dark to take photos at the time, and he hasn't been back since. So we wait. And wait. And wait.

Our patience pays off, and just before lunch he rocks up. What a beauty!

large_fad24b10-73c8-11e9-89ab-d51e5d8da64f.jpg
Western Bluebill

Lunch

When Sarra asked last night what we wanted to eat for lunch today, we both craved curry and I suggested shrimps. The chef went out to buy them especially this morning, and very good they are too; quite spicy. Mmmm

large_46af9690-7ae6-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg

The pain in my arm - photographer's elbow – has not abated any during the morning, so I text my good friend John (who is also my chiropractor) for advice. He suggests getting a bottle of cold beer and holding it against the painful area, then drink it afterwards. Now you know why we love him so much!

large_ac6be650-7ae6-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg

large_b5698910-7ae6-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg

Being a glutton for punishment, I forego resting my arm, and head back to the bird pool. After a short while, David retires to the room for a siesta, and I ask him to grab me a bottle of water from the bar before he goes. Awa, our delightful waitress, gets him a cold one from the fridge, and he brings it over for me before he leaves.

Finding that the seal is broken when I go to open the bottle, I assume that David has taken a swig out of before giving it to me, and continue to glug around a third of a litre in one go. It is mighty hot here, and keeping up the fluids is important.

Five minutes later a distraught Awa comes running out, and with obvious horror in her voice asks: “The water? You haven't drunk it...?”

When she sees how much is missing from the bottle, she is full of distressed apologies, but promises that I won't get ill as she takes away the offending bottle (of what I now hope is 'only' tap water and nothing more sinister) and brings me a fresh, SEALED one.

With the thought still in the back of my mind of what the unclean water might do to my tummy, I concentrate on the birds again.

large_7d056e20-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
A scruffy Common Bulbul

large_979f1f60-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
African Thrush

large_52d8a850-7ae9-11e9-8e4f-fdfe903fa50f.jpg
Angry looking Black Necked Weavers

large_b6a356b0-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
Blackcap Babbler with photobombing friend

large_c883c130-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat showing off his beautiful markings

large_f3898c70-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
Village Weaver doing his best Village Idiot impersonation

Bath time Fun

large_2487f7d0-7ae9-11e9-8e4f-fdfe903fa50f.jpg

large_399dead0-7ae9-11e9-8e4f-fdfe903fa50f.jpg

large_450fe8f0-7ae9-11e9-8e4f-fdfe903fa50f.jpg

With the thought of the potentially contaminated water I drank now dominating my mind, I am becoming increasingly paranoid, and I start analysing every real or imagined 'feeling' in my stomach. As an IBS sufferer, I am used to my tummy being talkative and uncomfortable after eating, but is this something more foreboding? When after another twenty minutes or so, I hear donkey-like noises from my belly, I decide to go back to the room while I still can.

Wise move. I only just made it. A good excuse for a siesta, I guess.

Dinner

After the customary Duty Free drinks on the balcony, we head down to the restaurant for dinner. Having ordered it last night, we know exactly what's on offer this evening. Thankfully it seems that the little 'episode' earlier was just that, and I feel fine again now. Phew.

large_425feeb0-7aea-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg
Fish Dodoma - absolutely delicious!

The jewel in the crown of Tanji Bird Eco Lodge is undoubtedly its staff. Awa and Adama, who are gorgeous inside and out, are twins and have only recently started working here at Tanji, but have already carved out a little niche for themselves with their bubbly personality and service mindedness.

large_cab9f030-7aea-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg

Another highlight this evening is the resident spider in the toilet by the restaurant, about the size of my splayed palm.

large_c1f430e0-7aeb-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg

large_ccfee1b0-7aeb-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg
He's a beauty!

The lodge is situated inside a bird reserve of the same name, and with no other habitation for miles around, there is next to no light pollution here and the stars are really out in force this evening. Despite feeling decidedly tipsy, I attempt some astrophotography before going to bed.

large_5ef4de40-7aeb-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 12:53 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds beer africa dinner stars west_africa siesta bulbul astro gambia bird_watching eco_lodge shrimps night_photography upset_tummy starry_night astro_photography astrophotography thrush the_gambia tanji babbler robin_chat tanji_bird_eco_lodge abuko gambia_experience bluebill photographer's_elbow water_bottle fish_dodoma starry_sky Comments (2)

Afternoon at Tanji

Making a splash


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

Afternoon at Tanji Bird Eco Lodge

As soon as we get back to Tanji Bird Eco Lodge from our birdwatching at Brufut this morning, we head for the bird baths, of course.

large_cb393b60-7270-11e9-b9dd-9fa932472dbf.jpg
Black Necked Weavers

large_30b62640-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
African Silverbill

large_57449a30-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Common Bulbul

large_7f86d8a0-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher

large_9a71b720-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat

large_b5e1cb30-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Western Red Billed Hornbill

large_fa9030f0-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Common Wattle Eye

large_113f6190-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch

large_2f31b3b0-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Village Weaver

large_425154f0-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Grey Headed Bristlebill

large_5df968f0-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
African Thrush

Lunch

As I said yesterday, we are the only overnight guests at the lodge, although other visitors come for a drink or just to watch the birds at the bath; including the two Dutch ladies we saw this morning at Brufut. For lunch, however, there is just the two of us, and we sit at one of the tables on the ridge overlooking the sea beyond.

large_cd150370-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_24799a40-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_d93fca40-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_e5592bf0-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_f4bdc100-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_356d33c0-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Fish with spicy sauce

After lunch I return to the paddling pool while David goes to the room for a siesta. The girls have been in to make the bed and have lovingly created some more designs with flower petals.

large_8847fcb0-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_c1be11f0-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Black Necked Weaver

large_d91f2d70-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Blue

large_f0eaa380-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Village Weaver

large_023d7400-7276-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
There is quite a pool party going on.

large_39cacc10-7276-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Black Billed Wood Dove

All through the afternoon, birds come and go, different species, some of which are familiar to me, but many of whom I'd not seen before this morning. I am absolutely captivated by the goings-on and can't tear myself away.

large_86cbee90-7276-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
This poor little bulbul has a bent beak, and I am not sure if it is a birth defect or whether he has collided with a window or similar. He is still alive, so is presumably able to survive on soft fruits and suchlike.

large_c32a56b0-7276-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
The Little Bee Eaters dart in from the confines of the trees, swoop down for a brief dip in the cool water and once again return to the safety of the woods. All in the blink of an eye.

large_0c735330-7277-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Blue Spotted Wood Dove

I am particularly fascinated by the splashing in the shallow water. Dialling in rapid shooting on my camera, I fire off picture after picture after picture of the weavers (mainly) cleaning their feathers.

large_d2321e60-7279-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_e8ebaf40-7279-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_2eb85640-727a-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_6b0f2170-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

There is even a squirrel who makes a brief appearance at the water hole.

large_0ae0c4f0-727a-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

Feeling a slight twinge in my elbow from spending the last ten hours or so photographing birds (taking nearly 5000 pictures in the last 24 hours while holding a heavy lens in the air); I figure it is about time to call it a day. Popping into the bar on the way back to the room, I grab the last three Cokes to go with the Duty Free rum for me, and the last beer for David; for us to enjoy a little snifter in the room before dinner. It looks like we have drunk the bar dry. Again. This seems to be a fairly regular occurrence on our travels.

large_711a7fa0-730a-11e9-a188-37f823c7e7f7.jpg

Dinner

By the time we wander down to the restaurant for something to eat, the bar has thankfully been restocked, and we can both enjoy a beer with our food tonight.

large_e17af630-730a-11e9-a188-37f823c7e7f7.jpg

large_f41c3fb0-730a-11e9-9292-49f7508d38ab.jpg

large_0482db70-730b-11e9-9292-49f7508d38ab.jpg

Sarra, the manager, comes over for a chat and asks: “You want wine? I'll get you wine for tomorrow”.

Followed by “We have internet, a service we offer to The Gambia Experience. 200 Dalasi for the duration of your stay”.

As I do like to be in touch with the world (really?), I reply with gusto “Great. What's the password?”

“I will go and get it”.

Sarra proceeds to walk over to a pile of papers and start to rummage. Nothing. He pokes around in the bar. Still nothing. Continuing his search in the kitchen, it is apparent he still has not found what he is looking for. Nor in the office. Eventually he wanders off to one of the bedrooms, presumably still looking for the elusive piece of paper with the code on it.

The food arrives, but still no wifi password. Oh well, it is not that important anyway.

large_2d2d6c10-7320-11e9-ac40-1b2e091db21f.jpg
Chicken and chips, Gambian style. The chicken is served in a delicious sauce, but I am missing my veggies. I find the vast majority of restaurants, both in the UK and abroad, serve far too few vegetables with their meals for my liking.

Just as we finish our food, Sarra comes back with the password and I am yet again in touch with the world.

Acutely aware that we are the only guests in the lodge, we vacate the restaurant and retire to our room for the night so that the staff can go home. Before we go, we ask for an extra duvet to put on the bed - not something I expected to do here in the Gambia.

The room is eerily dark, with the only sound coming from the crashing waves and rustling palms. Pure heaven.

Posted by Grete Howard 16:47 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds africa birding flycatcher dove wifi weaver bulbul gambia bird_watching hornbill eco_lodge thrush bee_eater the_gambia tanji robin_chat bristlebill the_gambia_experience cordon_blue firefinch tanji_bird_eco_lodge tanji_bird_reserve bird_photography wood_dove wifi_password Comments (1)

Brufut

So many lifers


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

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.

Birding Pool

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.

large_663ca710-724d-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg

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.

large_3f708680-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Yellow Crowned Gonolek

large_61229fc0-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Blue

large_74a87ce0-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher

large_871521d0-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Western Red Billed Hornbill

large_96ceb4b0-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Brown Babbler

Brufut

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.

large_9869aa90-7251-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Yellow Billed Shrike*

large_b80a9710-7251-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Stone Partridge*

large_cc462fa0-7251-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Piapiac*

large_f1062520-7251-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
White Crowned Robin Chat*

large_017d3ba0-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
White Faced Whistling Ducks

large_11e31410-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Greater Honeyguide*

large_2f4c11f0-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Village Weaver

large_40098040-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Blue Bellied Roller*

large_53f63580-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Senegal Wattled Plover*

large_cf911f70-7252-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
Black Crake

large_9ef05280-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Long Tailed Glossy Starling

large_fd5c9a60-7252-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
Fine Spotted Woodpecker*

large_1f125d20-7253-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
African Jacana

large_2d5f8ec0-7253-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
Pied Crow

large_3a9f9620-7253-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
White Billed Buffalo Weaver*

large_64a7ee90-7253-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Greenshank

large_1fa92970-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Spur Winged Plover

large_88b64750-7253-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Beautiful Sunbird (female)

large_9b74b5c0-7253-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Bearded Barbet

large_b6ec1cd0-7253-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Splendid Sunbird (female)

large_0d3fdfe0-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Copper Sunbird*

large_3a6d4610-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Intermediate Egret

large_4f158320-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Northern Red Bishop in non-breeding colours*

large_6a8e22b0-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Variable Sunbird (female) The female sunbirds all look very similar.

large_8d10ab50-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Common Sandpiper

large_b34629d0-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Pied Kingfisher

large_c07ede30-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Black Headed Heron

The plantations include such crops as cashew nuts and mango trees.

large_148ccff0-7255-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Unripe cashew fruits with the nuts not yet having developed - they will be hanging down below when ripe

large_2bb1f3e0-7255-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Mango fruits

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.

large_9e7fa7a0-725a-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg

large_28ed9500-725b-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

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.

large_176b9e30-725b-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

This is the civilised way of photographing the birds.

large_39416c10-725b-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

large_47ecc340-725b-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

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 *

large_b06b8e60-725b-11e9-837f-a9c9550f0e7c.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu

large_00899660-725e-11e9-822d-1352a03e610c.jpg
Senegal Coucal

large_1ade7670-725e-11e9-822d-1352a03e610c.jpg
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:

large_47d7fb60-725e-11e9-822d-1352a03e610c.jpg
Western Plantain Eater*

large_94fa1360-725e-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Bronze Mannikin

large_277269e0-725f-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg
Yellow Throated Leaflove*

large_e6b2d510-725f-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Laughing Doves

large_0d099730-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Common Bulbul

large_466fa6e0-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch (female)

large_705f9550-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Black Necked Weaver*

large_8ab8bb20-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Greater Honeyguide*

large_b06a1580-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Lavender Waxbill*

large_fce2a710-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Orange Cheeked Waxbill*

large_1eb20c50-7261-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
African Thrush*

large_3e2be8d0-7261-11e9-b36d-0de8a4c5fbef.jpg
Splendid Sunbird

large_51b918f0-7261-11e9-b36d-0de8a4c5fbef.jpg
Hooded Vulture

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.

large_c0fbc370-7261-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg

We start making our way back to the main road, along dirt tracks frequented by more animal carts than vehicles.

large_ec5ca700-7261-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

But first, Malick wants to check out some palms on the way.

large_1464c2a0-7262-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

large_2d282d40-7262-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg
Grey Woodpecker*

Having seen them here in the last couple of days, this is what he was looking for:

large_5c3d8d50-7262-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg
Red Necked Falcons*

And so ends a very productive morning's birdwatching. Now back to the lodge for the rest of the day.

Posted by Grete Howard 08:41 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds crow africa birding coffee mango woodpecker heron egret vulture dove malaria west_africa kingfisher starling plantations weaver falcon shrike bulbul dreams finch barbet gambia lariam nightjar bird_watching hornbill sunbird jacana cashews coucal plover thrush sandpiper life_list robin_chat mefloquine malaria_prophelaxis malaria_tablets nightmares disturbed_sleep police_check_point chris_packham malick_suso the_gambia_experience gonolek cordon_blue brufut brufut_woods piapiac whistling_ducks honeyguide crake glossy_starling greenshank red_bishop mango_trees cashew_nuts cashew_trees plantain_eater mannikin firefinch waxbill Comments (4)

Gatwick to Tanji

Better late than never


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

As expected, the hotel room was way too hot overnight (it is a common problem with Premier Inns) and I didn't sleep very well. The benefit of this is that I will then hopefully sleep on the plane, making the flight go quicker.

After dropping off the car at the valet parking, we head for the Titan check in desk. It is a number of years since we travelled on a charter flight, and I am concerned about my hand luggage which is full of camera equipment and borderline as far as the weight limit goes. To mitigate this, David is carrying one of my lenses in his backpack, and another in his coat pocket, whereas I slip all the batteries in my pocket and wear one of the cameras around my neck with yet another lens on it.

As it turns out, all this worry has been for nothing – they don't even give the hand luggage a second glance, yet alone weigh it.

Wondertree Restaurant

Duty Free purchase comes next, then breakfast.

large_Wondetree.jpg

large_99692b60-6cce-11e9-a895-df288f20f0ed.jpg
David's full English

I order pancakes with bacon and syrup.
large_af88c630-6cce-11e9-8cb3-738d8b1bd51a.jpg

Flight

Boarding is simple and straight forward and we strike lucky with a row to ourselves.

large_e775ca70-6cce-11e9-9a81-9be379f12513.jpg

As we settle in, ready to relax for the next six-and-a-half hours, our hearts sink a little when the captain comes on the intercom with an announcement: “Things don't seem to be going too well for us this morning; we have developed a technical fault and have to go back to the stand to get an engineer to check it out.”

Oh dear.

One hour later, he updates us: “We're ready to go, air traffic control is ready, but Eurocontrol is not ready”.

At this point he switches the engine off to save fuel, which of course means no A/C. The cabin becomes hotter and hotter and hotter as people's patience wears thinner and thinner. After some (uncomfortable) time, he reassures us: “I am aware that you guys are getting rather warm back there...” and switches the power back on.

More time passes before the next announcement: “A restricted no-fly zone has cropped up in the south of France, so our flight path needs re-routing.”

More waiting time.

That sorted, we are informed that “we need a courier to push us out from the stand and they are all at the other side of the airport”.

At this point the lady across the aisle from us becomes very irate, shouting obscenities, calling the captain a liar, refusing to switch her phone off etc. While I understand that nerves are getting frayed and tempers short, that sort of outburst is not doing her – or us – any favours.

We finally take off two hours and twenty minutes late. What should have been a 6 and a half hour flight, now becomes nearly nine hours of having to sit in this tin can.

The flight itself is reasonably painless after all that, with quite good food (spicy chicken noodles and a very nice chocolate and orange mousse). Wine, of course, has to be bought – and paid for – separately. I guess we have been spoilt over the years with scheduled long haul flight where everything is included.

Banjul Airport

The modern terminal building has been added since we were last here; in fact, it is not fully completed yet. We are last in the queue for immigration, but it doesn't matter as the luggage has only just started to arrive when we get out there.

Some things have never changed since we were here last, 23 years ago: porters wishing to change the British coins they have been given as tips into notes which they are then able to convert into Dalasi, the local currency. I am happy to oblige.

My bag arrives and we watch everyone else collect theirs, one after the other. Still no sign of David's. Some bags go round and round, again and again, but David's is not one of them. More and more people are leaving the baggage area and heading for the customs and exit. Still no sign of David's bag. With only a handful of passengers still remaining around the carousel, all apparently in possession of their luggage, the belt stops. Without David's case. After a few tense moments, I spot it, partly hidden by the curtain at the entrance to the belt, stopping just short of actually coming into the baggage area. Phew.

Tanji Bird Lodge

As expected, we have a private minibus transfer to the hotel. Our accommodation for the first five days is in a very small eco-lodge with just eight rooms, and it soon becomes apparent that we are the only tourists staying here for those nights.

large_05edf3d0-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

The lodge is all very open plan, with a thatch-covered bar and tables in amongst the trees as well as on a ridge overlooking the ocean for eating and drinking.

large_7dc4a9d0-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

large_a75190b0-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

large_236a52a0-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

A meandering path leads us to the four simple brick huts housing two rooms in each.

large_e7a15740-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

There is no A/C in the room, but it has been designed with a high domed ceiling to help disperse the heat, and with slatted windows, the sea breezes are allowed to flow through.

large_01f09200-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

The inside is basic but adequate, featuring a narrow double bed which has been lovingly strewn with flower petals. In all the years we've travelled and all the hotels we've stayed in, this is a first for us. We have had petals on the bed before, of course, but never has it spelled out our name – such a special and personal touch.

large_32658210-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

large_3ea72c40-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

large_5ab5f150-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg
Domed ceiling

The bathroom has a shower and toilet but no running hot water (we were fully aware of that when we booked), and we cannot seem to manage to get any water out of the shower hose, only through the tap. Cold bucket showers it is then. In this heat, that can be quite refreshing, and is an excellent way to preserve water.

large_8f1d9f60-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

Bird Baths

But first things first: bird watching. The lodge is set inside Tanji Bird Reserve, and have enticed birds to visit the grounds by providing a series of bowls and pools filled with water. To encourage human visitors, chairs and benches are available for us to sit on as we watch our feathered friends come to bathe and drink; with strategically placed tables for our drinks too of course.

large_f6436a30-6e90-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
David's preferred way to spot birds

We see a surprising amount of birds in the short time we are here this afternoon (by the time we get settled in to the room, we only have around half an hour left of daylight). They come to bathe and drink, or maybe just hang around with their mates. Here is a small selection:

large_07843950-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Blue Spotted Wood Dove

large_2acc0dc0-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Blackcap Babblers

large_6f488e10-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Red Eyed Dove

large_eb009cf0-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Village Weavers

large_fe7f2710-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat

large_143551b0-6e92-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Black Necked Weaver and Grey Headed Bristlebill

large_30e33cf0-6e92-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Laughing Dove

Dinner

As is the Howard tradition, we enjoy a Duty Free tipple in the room before going down to the restaurant for dinner. We find it surprisingly chilly, with a cool wind, to the point of wearing a fleece. We never expected that in The Gambia; in fact, while packing we contemplated whether or not to bring any type of warm clothing at all. Just as well we did.

large_cb898a20-6e92-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

As the sun goes down, some interesting clouds appear, later taking on a muted pink hue from the setting sun.

large_10aafd00-6e93-11e9-998d-7db86ed5b984.jpg

large_1c6575d0-6e93-11e9-998d-7db86ed5b984.jpg

With us being the only two guests in the lodge this evening, catering is down to what they have in the kitchen, which is fish and chicken.

large_64373ba0-6e93-11e9-998d-7db86ed5b984.jpg

We choose butter fish, which is thankfully de-boned and absolutely delicious. I have mine with rice while David orders chips.

large_955cde10-6e93-11e9-998d-7db86ed5b984.jpg

With a glass or two of the local beer, of course. While the main religion here in The Gambia is Islam, they are a secular nation and quite liberal – the country even has its own brewery.

large_f3b05be0-6e93-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg

Being situated inside a bird reserve, there is no light pollution here. Walking back to the room in almost complete darkness, we are glad to see someone has been to the room and switched our outside light on while we were eating dinner. How thoughtful.

We have only had a couple of beers each this evening, but David really struggles to get the key in the lock. s we are fiddling, a knock from behind the door makes me jump – there is someone in our room! Then it dawns on us: this is not our room. It seems we have tried to enter the room where the manager was sleeping. Oops. Sheepishly we continue to our own room and make a mental note of leaving the outside light on tomorrow night.

Being used to a super-king sized bed at home, we worry that the four-foot bed in this place is going to feel rather cramped. Surprisingly, it doesn't, but it is somewhat chilly this evening so we reluctantly grab the duvet from the cupboard and put on the bed. While the bed is narrow, the duvet is miniscule. It is basically a single quilt inside a double cover. It looks like we will have to cuddle up all night, then.

Once the lights are out, the room is pitch black. The sort of blackness that you cannot imagine without having experienced somewhere with absolutely no light whatsoever. Your eyes never get used to it. You cannot see anything. At all. I make sure my torch is within groping distance, and drift off to sleep.

The Gambia Experience featuring Tanji Bird Eco Lodge

Posted by Grete Howard 10:59 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds hotel flight airport breakfast dinner birding dove weaver gatwick titan bird_watching delay valet_parking check_in bajul charter_flight wondertree tanji tanji_bird_lodge bird-bath babbler robin_chat bristlebill butter_fish narrow_bed Comments (4)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 5) Page [1]