Thursday, 22 March 2018

Out and about away from Kotu. Part 4.

There isn't a lot more to add to my trip report really. I did as you can see and read, I spent most of the two weeks in the locality of our hotel but, it being a popular birders hotel, I managed to find two like minded guys who invited me to join them for a half day trip which they had negotiated at an affordable but still expensive £35 per person. We left the hotel at 7.30 and returned by 1.00pm. Where we went I can't be sure, all I know was it was inland somewhere and we spent our time walking across dry and dusty peanut growing fields and along an even dustier back road. However, this trip added 12 new species to my list, none of which I saw elsewhere, but it was more a birders trip than a photographers which isn't anything I was bothered about, I already knew what to expect having done similar in the past.
Typically the views would be distant with little time spent hanging around for better views or discovering territories. The photos more likely to be record shots than prize winners.
Yellow Penduline Tit   Anthoscopus parvulus
Still those Penduline Tits were "lifers" and likewise, the Brown-backed Woodpecker was one I had never seen before either.
Brown-backed Woodpecker Dendropicos obsoletus
and not all the shots were taken at distance either, our guide Mustapha Manneh certainly knew how to lure out numerous species by imitating an Owlet calling.
This Senegal Batis was a favourite.
Senegal Batis   Batis senegalensis 52018-01-29

As the three of us had enjoyed each others company, and we were pleased with our guide, we decided to take another trip. They told me Mustapha had mentioned a boat trip so I told them I would find out where he was talking about. I thought perhaps one on the River Gambia but no, it was the one I have done previously near Kartong. I was certainly up for that!

Kartong is probably my favourite place in The Gambia, well on the coast anyway.Although it's near a village it's largely undeveloped and the sand mines and surrounds offer brilliant birding. The day didn't quite turn out as expected though, Mustapha had a few stopping places on the way and we saw some cracking birds as we drove along.
The White-crested Helmetshrike is one I hoped to photograph on this trip and although I only had a brief attempt I was reasonably happy with the result.
White-crested Helmetshrike   Prionops plumatus
A herd of cattle produced one of my favourites. Yellow-billed Oxpecker.
Yellow-billed Oxpecker   Buphagus africanus
No problem getting close there then!
Mustapha was particularly delighted to find a trio of White-fronted Black Chats
White-fronted Black Chat. Oenanthe albifrons
Me? I was happy with everything!
African Golden Oriole  Oriolus auratus
African Golden Oriole was nice but a bit distant, the Woodchat Shrike was a full framer out of the car window.
Woodchat Shrike   Lanius senator
I guess the real irony though was that both the Kartong area and the boat trip didn't deliver as I thought they might!
We didn't really have time to spend getting nearer to species in the old sand pits so photos were distant but we saw plenty of new species. Likewise the boat trip didn't deliver it's star bird, the Goliath Heron. All we saw was a very distant and very fleeting glimpse.
Goliath Heron  Ardea goliath
Barely recognisable isn't it!
We did have compensations though. A fabulous view of African Fish Eagle form the boat.
African Fish Eagle  Haliaeetus vocifer
and of a Long-crested Eagle as we left Kartong.
Long-crested Eagle   Lophaetus occipitalis
and the day wasn't finished yet. We stopped off at Tanji beach, a great spot for some wader and seabird shots.
Caspian Terns
Caspian Tern  Hydroprogne caspia
Slender-billed Gull
Slender-billed Gull    Larus genei
Sanderling   Calidris alba
and one of the best places for photographing Godwits.
Bar-Tailed Godwit  Limosa lapponica
It was a truly fabulous day out adding some great photo opportunities and another 26 species to my trip list.
It demonstrates just how much more you can achieve with transport and some local knowledge.
I have used several guides in past years and Mustapha is as good as any but in fairness they all know their stuff. I have questioned how much they charge in the past too. Their demands are usually too high in my opinion compared to the average Gambian wage. I  know they have a short season but.....
Anyway, for our full day out and including the boat trip we paid a fraction more than our half day.
How come? Because I negotiated and as I have the experience I know what is realistic.They will take as much as they can get out of you, they too are persuasive negotiators who will prey on the lack of knowledge new comers might have!
Mustapha was still happy with his pay day and so were we.