Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Kotu Creek and surrounds . Day 2.

We started our second day a little later than the first and that suits me. No point of getting up in the dark but I like to be up with the sun. Like the previous day it looked like it was likely to be fairly dull again but at least it was warm and dry and an escape from the British winter.
Alan decided he wanted to spend more time on the bridge getting his eye in on some African species whilst I took the opportunity to try for some more Painted Snipe shots. To be honest with the number of species in the locality I could easily spend another month just photographing them, waiting for the action instead of relying on the luck of being in the right place at the right time.
Pied Kingfisher  Gambia
That was another reason Alan was waiting on the bridge. That chance of seeing something special, the bird everyone was excited  about. I had to weigh up the odds. The Painted Snipe gave much better chances of a sighting but once again, they were very distant. After an hour with no signs they were going to get closer I returned to see how Alan was getting on on the bridge.
Then it showed! 
Literally as I arrived.
I was the first to spot it.
Finfoot  juvenile Gambia
A juvenile African Finfoot isn't the most attractive of birds but it's a bit special all the same. Especially when you can set up your camera and wait for it to reappear out of the darkness on the far side of the bridge.
It swam around the old bridge posts checking out the Oyster shells
Finfoot  juvenile Gambia
and came within a few feet of me.
Finfoot  juvenile Gambia
It swam around lazily before sailing off down the river to disappear in to the mangroves. Wow.
My luck had certainly held this time but it's strange how today's lifer is tomorrows forgotten bird. I wanted to see an adult Finfoot now !
No sooner had the Finfoot vanished when a Pink-backed Pelican came sailing upstream on the rising tide.
Pink-backed Pelican   Gambia
It's a big bird when you compare it to say a Great White Egret.
Great White Egret & Pink-backed Pelican   Gambia
and where else can you sit just outside you hotel and see sights like these in The Gambia ?
The GW Egret was standing within 20 feet of me, ignoring the fact I was sitting out in the open and my camera body makes quiet a disconcerting clicking sound.
Great White Egret   Gambia
Leaving Alan once more alone and at the mercy of the local bird guides... it was an education for him after all.... I spent an agreed couple of hours with my counterfeit Lamin guide walking the golf course. Not much was added from the previous day but I was grateful for at least a record shot of an African Golden Oriole, one that has always escaped me in the past.
African Golden Oriole  Gambia
The Yellow-billed Shrike was a bit more confiding
Yellow-billed Shrike  Gambia
as were a couple of families of Red-billed Hornbill
Red-billed Hornbill    Gambia
but the Blue-bellied Rollers, although plentiful stayed high in the palms.
Blue-bellied  Roller  Gambia
We returned to the refreshment garden via a recently constructed path that avoids making your way across the sticky mud, another indication of some of the work being done by the Birdguide Association
Path to the golf course. Kotu,Gambia
A cold Coke was most welcome, and judging by the two trainee guides I met there, some of the current ones need to hone up on their inter personnel skills.
Apprentice bird guides. Gambia
It was time to pay off Lamin the imposter and go and spend some time on my own.
I later found out that this Lamin knew damn well that he was trying to steal me from the intended Lamin. What he didn't realise of course was that I had already paid up front for all my guiding so there was no way I would have swopped guides anyway. However, fortunately I knew both the Lamins already and I was suspicious of his assertions. He could have hijacked us if he had arranged for a car to pick us up ahead of the scheduled one the next morning. That would have been an interesting scenario but thankfully one that didn't happen.
My opinions of the Birdguide Association remain mixed. On the good side their organisation and attempts to modernise are excellent. There are some talented guides in the group and all 75 authorised ones have to have a level of skill test before getting approval. 
The downside is that they refuse to publish fixed guiding costs, each preferring to negotiate their own fees. This leads to suspicion and in many cases loss of potential clients. The other thing that drives people away is the direct approach to selling themselves. Hassling anyone who walks past doesn't get you good results but many don't seem to appreciate this.
Lamin the imposter will not get my business ever again as a result of his underhand tactics, who when approached by Lamin the genuine about the event he just shrugged his shoulders and replied "that's just business".
Not with me it isn't.
Anyway, pleased to spend some quality time on my own I headed up to the sewerage ponds... where else !!
I was after some Little Grebe shots. We get them locally at home but not from the angle I was photographing them at.
Little Grebe  Gambia
If I had had more time I would have got much closer but I was happy with my efforts
Little Grebe  Gambia
Time to try some flight photography too.
African Jacana
African Jacana  Gambia
Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper   Gambia
and Spur-winged Plover
Spur-winged Plover  Gambia
all making good target species.
One particular bird though captured my attention.
Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt Gambia
This stunningly elegant bird seems totally inappropriate in a sewerage pond!
Black-winged Stilt Gambia
but I haven't found a better place for photographing them in flight.
Black-winged Stilt Gambia
A great way to end a couple of excellent birding days back on old familiar territory.
We returned to the Tandoori restaurant for another excellent meal even if the service was a bit poor that second evening. Where all the people had come from I don't know but it was packed. Good food gets a good reputation I guess. We were joined by two of Alan's non birding friends who coincidentally were staying at the Senegambia hotel, a firm favourite with many birders. They described the Senegambia Strip as Sodom and Gomorrah but were enjoying it very much ! 
Alan was working on how to entice his other half back to Kotu. It had become an instant favourite.
We would have loved to have stayed longer but we were due off to Tendaba the next morning and were equally looking forward to that as well.

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