Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Not the River Lee, 18th October.

The usual ‘elf and safety we have become accustomed to was not apparent as, without a lifejacket in sight, we steamed up the mighty River Gambia towards Janjanburay. 'Balance, balance, or we overturn' shouted the Captain, as we all went to starboard to look at a snoozing Hippo. We eventually glided gracefully into the riverbank and leapt off into Kunkilling forest. Within 5 minutes the main target, Adamawa Turtle Dove was posing for photographs. Klass's Cuckoo, Swamp Flycatcher, Violet Turaco, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Greater Honeyguide and White-backed Vultures on the nest, all showed well within the next hour or so.
We returned to the rather shambolic Bird Safari Camp, where we were staying for 4 nights during this short, hastily arranged trip to The Gambia. Although the birds were good, notably Verreaux's Eagle Owl, African Scops Owl, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike and Standard-winged Nightjar, the camp has long passed its glory days. Having stayed at the coastal sites in my previous trip 15 years back, I was keen to explore along the length of the river, starting inland and sailing down to the coast. These higher reaches, beyond the tidal influence, were swollen with muddy water and the margins supported good areas of hot and humid forest.
The journey along the river by boat and minibus provided good numbers of the usual species. Egyptian Plovers were the highlight at two wetlands on the north bank. This excellent site held huge numbers of waders and herons, with Senegal Thick-knees, Pratincoles, Squacco Herons and Greenshanks everywhere.

Cruising along the upper reaches of the river provided close views of Black-headed Herons, Striated Heron, Osprey, African Fish Eagles, Martial Eagle, Red-necked Falcons, Hammerkop, Hadada Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, White-faced Whistling-duck, Broad-billed Rollers and Woodland Kingfisher. Chimpanzees, Baboons, Red Colobus and Green Vervet Monkeys appeared at intervals along the banks.

It's always good to have the lady along to help find birds.
"I've got a large orange and blue bird at the back of the wetland" she said.
"okay, whereabouts?" said I.
"oh it's washing".
"okay, but whereabouts is it?"
"it's washing"
"Yes, I heard you, but where is it?"
"No, it's washing, on a line."

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