Thursday, 5 March 2015

Bird watching the Gambia 2015. Day 7 Penjem Woods and Marrakissa

Thursday 5th, Penjem Woods, Marraskisssa Eco Lodge and a roadside wetland.

Today was a good day in part because the places we went had a number of new and interesting birds but also because of the way we birded – more time was spent waiting in the same place given those photographically inclined time to get some pictures. 
We spent several hours at Penjem Woods – a place that from a photographic perspective would actually be worth several repeat visits, we lunched at Marrakissa which was again excellent for birds and both on the way to Marakissa and on the way back to the hotel after "lunch" we stopped at a small wetland adjacent to the road whos name I will have to add at a later date (assuming anyone knows it).
We saw too many species in Penjem woods to list them all but notable sightings were: gabar goshawk (plus the melanistic form), pearl-spotted owlet, golden oriole, white helmetshrike, a variety of sunbirds, northern puffback, and violet turaco.

Gabar Goshawk

Gabar goshawk - melanistic form
Pearl-spotted owlet

White helmetshrike
Splendid sunbird
African golden oriole

Out the back of the woods was a damp area (which if not for the drought afflicting The Gambia would have been a wetland) where we saw several of the common herons at close quarters, plus green sandpiper (can’t remember what we were out there looking for).

Squacco heron


On the way to our lunch stop at Marakissa we stopped on a bridge to survey a small wetland. Overhead were red-rumped and wire-tailed swallow. Throughout the trip we often found hirundines but they would always disappear almost immediately so I never got time for the BIF shots I wanted. On the wetland itself we could see several of the common herons and eventually we saw both black crake and the scarcer Allen’s gallinule.

Black crake

Allen's gallinule

Several people sat (in the shade) by the pool hoping for better shots of the crake whilst the others wandered off to search the surroundings for new "ticks". Whilst sitting there I had excellent views of a long crested eagle which flew into view quite close by (its approach being hidden by the trees we were sitting under) then flew off rapidly down the road.

Long crested eagle

Lunch was at Marakissa and was superb. Whilst I didn't take lunch I was very pleased it took as long as normal for the food to be prepared.
We all sheltered from the sun under a circular, seating area overlooking the garden where a number of bowls of water had been put out and there was a constant stream of birds to these bowls. At first I was at the back of those seated and furthest away from the action (I'd sat facing the river where I thought the birds were most likely to be seen .....WRONG) but when everyone else went to lunch I had the place to myself (though another couple and their guide turned up after a while) and enjoyed myself immensely. The highlight here is the spotted honeyguide and this came in several times and stayed several minutes each time but greater honeyguide and a wide range of more common stuff came in - paradise flycatcher, black capped babbler, white-crowned robin chat, grey woodpecker, red bishop, bronze mannikin, western grey plantain eater, 3 varieties of glossy starling.

Spotted honeyguide

Greater honeyguide

Grey woodpecker (male)

Purple glossy starling

bronze-tailed glossy starling
After lunch (which was now quite late afternoon in reality) we had a walk around the scrub near the Eco Lodge seeing African scops owl, northern puffback and I found but failed to get a shot of a very close oriole warbler though a couple of the others did get shots - I was just standing in the wrong place.

African scops owl

On the way back to Kotu we had another stop at the small wetland and saw a juvenile Allen's gallinule

Allen's gallinule (juv)

and during the journey we did spotted, and stopped for,  2 more raptors  - a red-necked falcon and a black-shouldered kite. Well we actually stopped for the red-necked but I went and snapped the black-shouldered for good measure (I'd not seen one before this trip). 

Red-necked falcon

Black-shouldered kite

It didn't matter whether you were a bird watcher or bird photographer this was a pretty good day and I would recommend both sites.

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