Friday, 25 November 2016

Gambia 2016. Part 7. Back to Tendaba and another boat trip.

The stay at Baobalong was all over too quickly, with hindsight and with 5 nights to arrange I would have stayed there for 3 and just 2 at Tendaba. If there is a next time I will probably do it that way. Some choose to cut out Tendaba altogether and if you stick to the south bank road you can do it with ease in a day as you don't need to catch a ferry, the road is good and there is little traffic. You would then of course have to make the return journey from Baobolong to Farafenni if you wanted to catch up with the Egyptian Plover and Hornbill site and there is the's as much distance doing that as the whole route to the coast.
Anyway, we had a second boat trip out of Tendaba to look forward to in the evening and there were a couple of places to visit on the way there too. We took the easy route over the bridge to leave the island.
Janjanbureh     Gambia 2016
First stop was to a Marabou Stork nesting site,
Marabou Stork    Gambia 2016
The views were obscured, the surrounding grassland difficult, the sun was in the wrong direction but the worst bit we had become surrounded by children!
The Gambia 2016-14
Those are just a few of them! In many places you are a star attraction, obviously tourists and with some incredibly strange long lenses, tripods and cameras. You can't blame them really, I'd have done the same in their position.
We moved on again, this time driving through a crowded, busy market town. Sharing narrow passageways with pedestrians as well as donkey drawn carts is challenging for any driver, one of several reasons the the advice not to try self drive.
The Gambia 2016
Parking the car we walked to a large tree. More Verraux's Eagle Owls and showing oh so well too.
Verraux's Eagle Owl  Gambia 2016
I was pleased that Alan would get a photo opportunity after all.
Verraux's Eagle Owl  Gambia 2016
Moving on we were soon in an area rice fields and once again, Black Coucal was the target. Once again we failed to locate one but we did come across a Black-faced Quailfinch which was a good find.
Black-faced Quailfinch   Gambia 2016
It was getting hot, very hot. With no cover whatsoever we were glad to abandon our search after a good hour.
Being bitten!
That's me scratching my mossy bites! The Gambia is a fairly high risk zone when it comes to malaria, so those minute insects are Africa's biggest killer . Taking anti-malarials is a must.
What we did find though was evidence of one of the few mammals you might come across in The Gambia.
Hippo footprint      Gambia 2016
It's Africa's deadliest mammal apparently with more fatalities caused than any other species.
You don't try to shoo it away if you find it munching your crops, you have to accept the devastation I guess.
Hippo damage      Gambia 2016
Depending on which way you look at it and how close you were at the time, we fortunately didn't see a Hippo in the flesh on our walk about.
Next stop was when our driver spotted some Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on some roadside cattle.
Did we want to stop?
You bet we did!
One of my favourite species to photograph if you get lucky with a pose.
Yellow-billed Oxpecker   Gambia 2016
That's the nearest I got , it wasn't to be my lucky day.
Yellow-billed Oxpecker   Gambia 2016
Neither cow nor bird were prepared to co-operate with the latter flying off to find a new friend to feed on.
We were pleased to have stopped though as while we were there a Long-crested Eagle flew in to view.
Long-crested Eagle   Gambia 2016
Then another big bird appeared to land in a distant tree.
"African Harrier Hawk!" said our guide.
Alan wanted a view through the telescope.
What he found was a magnificent Martial Eagle. The view through the 'scope was fabulous but we had to try and capture it on camera.
We set off through the undergrowth once again, fighting our way through the usual long grass and barbed bushes. The Eagle flew as we approached but headed to a distant tree that was within the possibilities of reaching. We carried on.
Then we saw it!
Dark-chanting Goshawk     Gambia 2016
Not the Eagle unfortunately but a juvenile African Harrier Hawk which is what our guide had probably seen in the first place.
Dark-chanting Goshawk     Gambia 2016
It didn't hang around long and neither did the Martial Eagle. The latter was destined to be nothing more than a memory, but what a memory. In Alan's opinion it was the bird of the trip and I wouldn't dispute that.
There was one more notable site to visit en route to Tendaba and that was a place noted for Spotted Thick-knee. We found them without too much problem but they too were camera shy. Bigger and longer legged than previous Thick-knees I have seen they couldn't half run fast through the bushy scrub. I managed no more than a record shot as the two we found took flight when I didn't expect it.
Spotted Thick-knee   Gambia 2016
Won't win any prizes with that one!
Back at Tendaba we didn't have long to wait before we set off on our boat trip. This time there were just five on the boat and our views were unobstructed.
The last time we had been at Tendaba, the evening boat trip had been far better than the morning one. Regrettably that wasn't the case this time around. There was an even bigger lack of birds than a couple of days previously.
By far the greatest numbers were African Darters.
African Darter   Gambia 2016
They look sleek when they are sat on a branch but, unusually sighted on the muddy bank, not quite so!
African Darter  Gambia 2016
They are pretty ungainly when they drop like a stone in to the water too, but once in they are superbly designed for underwater hunting.
On this trip there wasn't a Cormorant to be seen, the Storks had all left too, it was very disappointing.
One of the problems was it was low tide, yes the river drops a few metres even this far up stream. Many of the back channels were too shallow for our boat. No way could we go the route that took in the view of the distant Martial Eagle so hopes of one sat outside the nest were gone too.
Our biggest hope was left in a better sighting of the White-backed Night Herons. Very skittish this time they vanished as soon as we approached and we told our boatman to leave them alone as we didn't want to be responsible for the disturbance. 
Probably our best views were of a displaying Blue-breated Kingfisher

Blue-breasted Kingfisher   Gambia 2016
Blue-breasted Kingfisher   Gambia 2016
At first glance they are very similar to the Woodland Kingfishers too.
Woodland Kingfisher    Gambia 2016
Similar size, similar colours but quite distinctive differences around the head.
Woodland Kingfisher   Gambia 2016
So that was it really, oh except for this monster, a West African Crocodile!
West African Crocodile    Gambia 2016
They can be skittish too, this one headed for the water long before we got very close.
It was back to Tendaba Camp then. The sun setting over the river was a stunning sight.
Alan tried to make me a saintly figure.
While I was trying for something a bit arty with the aid of a waterproof camera!
Gambia 2016
Our last night up river then.
Another iffy meal, some more tepid beer and off to bed.
Tendaba Gambia 2016
The shower was oddly placed so that you struggled to get under it, especially as there was a big hole where it drained away. However, the good news was there wasn't a ceiling fan in this room, instead a nice quiet stand up one!
Tendaba Gambia 2016
The strange thing is they leave the generators running all night but turn them off at 6.30am leaving you to get up and dressed in the dark!
Still, you can't really complain, from what I can gather it only costs about £12 a night for half board!
At that price, a bargain!

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