We stayed at the Kairaba hotel, Kololi which is literally next door to the better known Senegambia Hotel. Like the Senegambia the Kairaba has large gardens and most of my birding was done there with one brief excursion to look round the Senegambia to watch the vulture feeding. From my very limited experience the Kairaba seemed more birdy than the Senegambia despite the gardens of the latter being the larger. Now it may be that I just got more familiar with where the birds hang out at the Kairaba but one thing is certain; tree cover is far more extensive in the Senegambia so the birds I did find were mosty in the shade. This isn't just my view because I met 3 photographer/birders who whilst staying at the Senegambia had given up there and spent just about all of their time in the Kairaba grounds - the security staff by the beach entrances to the hotels do not challenge the tourists/birders who flit from one hotel to the other..
Due to how far west the Gambia it is still too dark to bird at 7.00 and photography is near impossible before 8.00. By 11.30 it's getting pretty warm and nearly everything disappeared so it was laze around the pool time until the last couple of hours of daylight though there were one or two exceptions which will be discussed.
We did have 2 x 1/2 day excursions booked with a local guide (Mustapha Manneh http://www.gambiabirdguide.org/) and we went to Kotu stream/adjacent rice fields/sewage farm (my wife liked that!!) and Fajara on our first trip out and Brufut woods the second but more about that later.
The first mornings birding was on the 1st Feb and I woke at 6.30 to near total darkness but went out in the half light of 7,30 to have a look around. With the exceptions of the bulbuls it was pretty quiet really and I saw very little until I returned to the little stream (artificial) right beside the block we were staying in.
|The artificial Stream with the sea the other side of the wall.|
Here I spotted a pair of yellow-billed shrikes (first in the small banana tree centre right, then in the dead tree on left of the stream by the back wall) and a squacco heron down by the lilies.
|White-crowned robin chat|
|yellow crowed gonolek|
The other notable find on this first morning was the beautiful sunbird. As it turned out there were probably at least 5 males (plus associated females) in the garden but they were difficult to photograph as they tended to inhabit the tree tops. This one, taken on the first morning was the only one to come low.
I was to spend a lot of time trying (and failing in most cases) to get better pictures than these.
At 10 I got the text to say it was time for breakfast. It had been an incredible introduction to the pleasures of Gambian bird watching.
A number of other birds showed that I didn't manage to get satisfactory shots of in this first session so these I'll save for another blog posting.