It seemed as if we had been in The Gambia for an age already when we woke up to Day 4. Following the 95 species seen at Kotu we had already moved on up to 146 with an incredible 51 species added on the journey up to Tendaba and during the previous evening's boat trip. As a return visitor I was still adding lifers to my bird list at a fairly steady rate, Alan was firmly remained in birding heaven !
Today was to be spent in and around the Kiang West National Park. What exactly defines a National Park in the Gambia I'm not sure, the surrounding countryside was very much like everywhere else.
After a decent albeit slightly weird breakfast ( delicious fried eggs and freshly made bread with a mixture of cold baked beans and pasta, some salad and some spam like creation I didn't care to try) taken in the communal dining area and then off we went in the car.
First stop was to view some Bruce's Green Pigeons sitting high up in the trees.
There are a fair number of pigeons and doves to be seen in TG, as many as 15 species, but they do tend to get overlooked despite the fact that some are very attractive, particularly this one.
As we were getting in to the car a couple of Double-spurred Francolin started to cross the road up ahead. This is a common bird but they are very elusive when it comes to photographing them as they stay in deep cover most of the time, they are also exceptionally well camouflaged too.
A big crop of a shot but my best yet !
Continuing on we arrived in a field where hopefully we would catch up with the Ground Hornbill but first we spotted some Yellow-billed Oxpeckers that were sitting on a herd of cows whilst the latter were being miked. We were able to get pretty close and capture some decent images.
Superb little birds
They are almost comical the way they pop up to take a look at what's going on.
The day had got off to a brilliant start but our stopping near human habitation drew the inevitable attention of the local kids.
Wherever you go in TG the local children will shout "Toubab" at you. There are various interpretations of what it means but basically, it's aimed at white foreigners. It can get a little wearing but they are only kids, once they get to a certain age they seem to stop. Adults make no attempt to stop them in the meantime though and although it wouldn't be tolerated in today's political climate here in the UK, you just have to put up with it.
I don't think that the locals dislike us, quite the contrary, we were given big smiling welcomes everywhere we went, however, looking at the photo might raise a few doubts !
Moving away, we parked up and went on with the search for the Hornbills. No luck that first morning but we did get some great views of a pair of Striped Kingfishers.
Not all Kingfishers need to be near water, these are happy to live on a different diet than fish.
Also in the vicinity we had lots of other smaller birds, none particularly close.
Woodchat Shrike was a pretty common species in many places.
Others more of a rarity, well at least we didn't notice them in the way a Shrike stands out, but provided first ever record shots for me.
and Bearded Barbet
All examples of my idea of a record shot, none being too satisfactory but it was an enjoyable experience seeing something different. What was less enjoyable was fighting our way through undergrowth of thorny bushes, one plant being a particular nuisance as it leaves barbed burrs attached to clothes and socks. Particularly sharp and nasty, even removing them can be painful.
We returned to Tendaba camp for lunch and the guide and driver to have a siesta. The morning hadn't been too bad, added to the Kingfisher and Oxpeckers I was also pleased to capture some Grey Kestrel images I was happy with too.
Lunch at Tendaba was superb ! Once again those Trip Advisor reports brought in to doubt.
We ordered Fish and Chips ! How very British ! Well, not quite. A large steak of unknown, possibly fresh water fish, in a thin crispy batter served piping hot and with equally delicious chips could not be faulted. Priced at 500 delasis it wasn't cheap by Gambia standards but they were the best I have tasted in years. Strange though, I was persuaded to have the same for my evening meal as there wasn't much chicken on the buffet menu. The same dish was terrible as it had probably been cooked at lunchtime and kept warm. Soggy fish in a leathery batter served with sad chips. Just shows how different the same experience can be !
Anyway, despite the sun being high i wasn't ready for a siesta. I wandered down to the pier to take some shots of Gull-billed Terns hunting the mudflats.
And one of the villages Yellow-billed Kites was scavenging the rubbish.
I can't help myself, I still call them Yellow-billed Black Kites !
The siesta period over we first went looking in a local field for Coursers. It didn't take Lamin long to find some.
They favour recently burnt fields but they are well camouflaged in the bits that are unburnt. It's a dirty business wandering around in the ashes but I got the shot I was looking for eventually after having played a game of cat and mouse with this bird.
Time then to take another look for the Ground Hornbills, and this time we enlisted extra help in a local guide too. Everyone else seemed to tick the Hornbills with ease, but not us. Once again we failed but our guide did find us Black-bellied Bustard, Four-banded Sandgrouse and Long-tailed Nightjar. It wasn't for lack of trying either. It was dark well before we got back to camp. Alan and I lost enthusiasm before our guides did which says a lot in their praise. Their determination to please their clients is most admirable.
That evening meal of disappointing fish and chips was at least accompanied by some ice cold beers and we still had much to celebrate with another 29 species added to out list which, now standing at 175 in four days was looking pretty impressive. Of course this couldn't continue at this rate and personally I was more interested in getting decent views for photography than counting numbers but I enjoying the challenge of seeing how far we could push it. I presumed I had already broken my species list record for the Gambia and probably any other trip I have ever made and we had only had 4 days so far.
Tomorrow we had our second boat trip, hopefully it would tick some of my boxes as well as the list !