Monday, 2 February 2015

Goodbye Tendaba and back towards the coast. Day 5.

I didn't realise it when I woke up but today wasn't going to be my best of the trip. Mostly my fault of course, but when you are as inexpert as me with a camera these things happen.
The day started well enough. Having survived a second night without having been eaten either  by mosquitos or the preventative net over the bed it was time for another good breakfast before heading off for our second boat trip.It had made sense to me to have an evening and a morning trip, I wasn't sure which would be the better but having had poor visibility and light for our evening trip on the first night I had rather wished we'd gone 24 hours later when the sun was superb and the evening light absolutely gorgeous. 
Tendaba Camp  Gambia
Alas that wasn't the case on our final morning, the view from outside our rooms rather drab.
Tendaba Camp  Gambia
However, we had the trip to look forward to and we were soon ready for our departure. This time we were not alone though ! The previous evening we had been asked if we minded sharing our private boat with two others as we had booked the only boat that was in service, actually it wasn't the boat that was the problem. They only had one engine available.
Fortunately Heather at Farakunku who booked the trip for us had already sent me a note telling me not to accept a shared boat but on the other hand it seemed extremely miserable of us to leave others behind, especially as they might not get another chance. We agreed with the Tendaba management that they could come, along with their guide provided we had pole position at the front of the boat. By breakfast time I realised that it wasn't 2 people and their guides but 4 who between them had 3 guides as well as ours, the boats and the driver. A fair old crowd ! Again, some negotiation and it was agreed we'd get a 3 hour trip instead of the usual 2 and Lamin our guide actually got us a 600 delasis refund which at least covered tips and a beer each !
I doubt the others were even aware that we had agreed to any of this, well with the exception of one rather miserable and ungrateful German lady. I had had the misfortune of inviting her to join us for a drink the previous meeting as I recognised her from our stay at the Sunset Beach. All I got was an ear bashing. Moan,moan,moan. Not what I needed but I did have a certain sympathy. Her guide had turned up at the Sunset Beach 3 hours late that morning to bring her up to Tendaba in a battered old taxi which was incapable of going off road to some of the places we'd been. She had a agreed a fee of 500 euro for the two night trip which was what Alan and I were paying for the two of us, including a good vehicle and the two boat trips. The latter were extras for her. This is another example of the Bird Guide Association at it's worst and offering poor value, extracting maximum payment for minimum return. Fortunately we had managed to show enough disinterest that she had gone off to complain to someone else.
The following morning she was waiting for the trip and I thought I would at least let her know we were helping her out. Rather dismissively she asked what would have happened if we had refused to share our boat to which I was happy to reply "You'd be waving goodbye from the jetty!" We are not like that though, and unlike the others we gave the boat crew a tip too !
Anyway, loaded with hopeful birders off we went, once more heading for the mangroves across the water. The light was poor and the birding poorer still. Yes we did get good views of a Hamerkop with prey.
Hamerkop  Gambia
A Black-crowned Night Heron so close I couldn't focus properly
Black-crowned Night Heron
And a passing Montague's Harrier with gathered nesting material.
Montagu's Harrier  Gambia
The numerous Darters from the previous trip were largely missing as were the giant Crocodiles.
Even the Great Cormorant roost and nesting site poorly inhabited. The first evening they had been everywhere.
White-breasted Cormorant Gambia
In the trees and one the banks
White-breasted Cormorant Gambia
OK, we had one or two decent opportunities for photographs
White-breasted Cormorant  Gambia
but not many and those I had I got wrong. As we neared the end of the trip which had taken longer than the first, probably as it was so overloaded and thus slower, we had failed once again on Finfoot and this time there was to be no White-backed Night Heron or the Pel's Fishing Owl either. As we neared the entrance of the mangroves at least we had one welcome sight.
The Goliath Heron sat where the previous trip had been a Grey Heron.
The Goliath noticeably different in profile.
Goliath Heron   Gambia
to the smaller Grey.
Grey Heron  Gambia
Would the Goliath fly as we approached as the Grey had done ? Yes and no. We did get a much better opportunity but the result still didn't please me much.
Goliath Heron   Gambia
So that was Tendaba over. An enjoyable visit but to be honest I'm not in a hurry to go back there. No instead I would carry on further inland and head to Georgetown given the opportunity again.
As the Trip Advisor reports have all seemed to say, Tendaba could be so much better. It seems strange that they are building new additions 
Tendaba Camp  Gambia
but failing to properly maintain what they already have. They don't seem to realise their own folly.
Anyway, we headed to the nearby "airfield" which is a large expanse of dried out mud flats and managed to add some good raptors to our list. Long-crested , Wahlberg's and African Hawk-Eagle. Despite good views I totally messed up with the camera. Don't ask why I was set at f32 & 1/2500 sec. No wonder the auto iso shot to 10,000 ! No wonder the photo's were dreadful ! It just wasn't going well that day but I'm sure I'm not the only one to experience off days !
The African Hawk-Eagle
African Hawk-Eagle   Gambia
One final look for the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill drew yet another blank but at least on the way home we did get to see some great views, firstly Tawny Eagle
Tawny Eagle  Gambia
and soon after Vultures.
We has seen high flying White-backed Vulture on the way up to Tendaba, this time one was sat in a tree.
White-backed Vulture  Gambia
With the sun lighting from behind I got out of the car to try another angle and that's when I realised there were quite a few more in a field further along at the side of the road .
Amongst these there were Rupell's Vultures,  much bigger than both the White-backed and the Hooded Vultures that had all congregated to feed on a dead cow.
Rupell's Vulture  Gambia
for comparison here's a Hooded Vulture....and you think they are big when you see one.... in the foreground.
Hooded Vulture  Gambia
It was a great sighting to finish our up river trip but Lamin had another idea up his sleeve.
As we neared the coast he gave his contact a ring and discovered the Greyish Eagle-Owl was showing reasonably well. We made a stop and went off to search. Sure enough the Owl was there, if you looked for long enough. Once again the guides demonstrated their superior vision. I had made the call not to take my tripod, a mistake I regretted. Trying to hand hold a large lens with a converter attached, slow shutter speed etc not easy. In fact it can drive you slowly mad trying. Still I had something and as we were due to return I'd come back with my tripod.
Like most Owl opportunities you often have to settle for partial views, still it was another lifer and one to add to the trip list. 
Greyish Eagle-Owl  Gambia
Yes the day hadn't panned out as well as it could have done photographically but it had been enjoyable all the same. Another 14 species added, our list now at a commendable 189 !
I wondered what Farakunku Lodges would be like, after Tendaba, well who knows ?
We had another good day planned tomorrow and, tomorrow is another day !

No comments:

Post a Comment