Don't misunderstand me, Baobalong Camp is pretty basic but I was loving it. Maybe it was because it was an all new Gambian experience after many previous visits. Maybe it was because I was seeing new birds. I'd already clocked up 3 out of 5 of my top targets, the Ground Hornbill,Egyptian Plover and the Red-throated Bee-eater which when added to the new "lifers"of Spur-winged Goose,Martial Eagle,Red-winged Pytilia and the Exclamatory Paradise Whydah represented a pretty decent haul.
Alan was adding even more new species to his life list but talking of lists we hadn't actually updated ours for a couple of days.
What was happening to my enthusiastic birding mate?
He was morphing from a ticker to a clicker !
He'll deny it of course but he has caught the bug, actually it's worse than a bug, it's a full blown disease. He has a bad case of lens lust and I know he's eyeing up a Canon 400mm f4 DO Mk2 lens. This disease won't kill you, it just wipes out your bank account. "Shrouds don't have pockets" was a regular expression from a recently deceased pal of mine.
Having departed this world prematurely, for him it was the right choice to live life to the full.
Anyway, back to the trip.
We were in with a chance of further increasing the score by firstly returning to Wassau and the sand quarry. Another target the Carmine Bee-eater was to be found there, but only in the morning apparently.
First we went in search of another species, the Black Coucal. We failed on that but added Black-headed Weaver. Another lifer, great start!
The main event of the morning though was to be the Bee-eaters and luckily they didn't let us down.
There weren't many, maybe a dozen and they were located some way from the Red-throated Bee-eater colony.
One or two were sat in a nearby tree.
Giving me the best photo opportunities I have had with the species.
They were burning rubbish not far away and the smoke and burning surrounds sends up the insects which is perhaps what the Bee-eaters were waiting for, but they weren't alone. Abyssinian Rollers were flying in in greater numbers than I have ever seen before.
Both were flying too high to get the detailed shots I was after but it was at least something.
Flying much higher was a Beaudouin's Snake Eagle
Legs dangling, he looked ready to swoop down on a victim but changed his mind and drifted higher in the thermals.
We moved on the the Red-throated Bee-eater colony.
The nest holes were all vacated it seems, they were certainly not feeding youngsters at this time. The weather was a lot brighter than the previous day but the photo opportunities were still rather poor. They were all do distant high in the sky flying or sat in trees.
In fact I had more luck with a fly past Mottled Spinetail.
I decided to concentrate on another species I had only just seen for the first time , the Northern Anteater Chat.
Alan had seen one the previous day, so I was pleased to have caught up with one myself. In fact today there were three of them!
I imagine they are a family.
We spent quite some time in the sand pits, long enough for our driver to make a brew of his favourite green China tea!
There's a lot more to preparing it than simply pouring water from a boiling kettle too. Very sweet and syrupy it's not my favourite tipple, give me a Julbrew any day!
Having had our fill, and with the sun getting hotter we retreated back towards camp with a quick stop to see the stone circles, a World Heritage Site, on the way.
Getting back to camp involves taking the ferry as Janjanbureh is actually on an island in the middle of the River Gambia but there is a bridge conneecting the other side of the island, the way we would be heading back to Tendaba the following day.
I wasn't exactly elated with my mornings results with the Bee-eaters but there again at least I'd seen them. Another couple who went the following day only saw two Carmine's and they were very distant so I have no right to complain. I must admit though, having photographed European Bee-eaters from hides with purpose built perches well situated I think that they are missing a big opportunity at the quarry. There again it's pretty typical of the approach in The Gambia. Maybe the biggest problem is that none of the guides there actually takes photographs and they need some one experienced that has the time to put a suitable plan in to action.
Anyway, it was siesta time back in camp, well for some anyway. I went off in search of the Owls I had seen the previous evening. It was a long hot walk and my reward was zilch, however, when I was almost back in camp I did get a shot of a Little Green bee-eater that was better than anything I had seen earlier... you get them in the quarry too.
We all met at the river bank in camp at 3.30pm for the next little escapade, another boat trip. The small boat was big enough for 6-8 people but there were just four of us including the boatman and our guide. It took the boatman 10 minutes to get the engine started but we eventually moved off only to pull in to shore about 100 yds down river.
Why ? To refuel of course !
We then had problems getting the engine started again. This was getting a bit frustrating as we would be missing the best light of the day soon. 30 minutes had already passed by and we had gone nowhere. Once again, so typical Gambia. This should have been done before picking us up, the boatman had been sat around doing nothing while waiting for us.
Finally on our way we passed by a few familiar species sat in branches over hanging the river. The engine stalled a few times, we inhaled lots of fumes every time it was restarted. However, we were getting really annoyed when we sailed past what was a first for both of us, a Pygmy Goose.
Slow down I cried, the engine was going flat out to stop it stalling I guess.
By the time we turned around we had gone well past it, I had grabbed a couple of shots but over exposed them far too much.
We requested another drive past which the boatman attempted to do but stalled the boat in the process. Too far away for a decent shot we could only look on as the goose got fed up of the disturbance from the coughing , spluttering boat.
Breakdowns were a feature of the trip. That and the driver spending more time looking at the cigarette he was rolling than keeping an eye out for something to see.
We did manage some half decent views though.
African Fish Eagle,
Palm Nut Vulture
Black-crowned Night Heron
but best of all, another first for me, Swamp Flycatcher.
We did get views of both Grey-headed and Woodland Kingfishers but the highly desired Shining Blue Kingfisher stayed well out of sight as did my only unseen Top 5 target... the African Finfoot.
Still, I would have settled for 4/5 before we set off so I was still happy, well with the birds anyway.
The boat was something else.
On the way back we put in on the opposite bank where you catch the ferry and our man disappeared off to buy some new spark plugs. Hey, ho, the boat now started first time. Why hadn't he done all this in the first place? To make matters worse he actually had the nerve to ask Alan, who was last off the boat,for a tip. Alan being Mr Nice guy obliged.
Oh well, it was only a few pounds, didn't exactly break the bank but it doesn't encourage better service for those who follow either.