The Gambia

December 19th 2000 - January 2nd 2001

Simon Woolley and Julia Casson

See photo page here

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  • Gambia has long been a popular destination for British birders, notably in winter, and our research prior to booking suggested a bird-filled trip with lots of new species, easy transport and pleasant weather in a small, friendly contry. We had travelled to Kenya in August 1997, and so had a grounding in the more widespread Afrotropical species. Nevertheless, we felt we could realistically aim for something close to 70 new species in a total list of 230+ in a fortnight's visit.

Timing and time needed

  • Being school teachers, we were tied to the high tourist season of Christmas and New Year. This is a good time for birding, however, representing a compromise between the frenzied breeding activity of the late wet season (November) and the unbearable heat of the April/May period. Two weeks is normally regarded as the ideal period for a Gambian trip, since it allows time for acclimatization and relaxation, as well as for days off for Banjul belly! Many birders do go for a week or ten days, and as long as you're happy to go at a fairly hectic pace and bird all day, you might well see 200 species plus and visit most of the best sites once.
  • For any up-country trips, however, a fortnight is pretty much essential. Three days is the minimum time needed to cover the interior at all sensibly, and really four days would be ideal, especially if a trip to Basse for Egyptian Plover is to be included. We decided, for a combination of reasons, to go for a three day trip, and to take a chance on the Plover being present at one of two sites near Georgetown where it was being seen regularly. As you will read, we dipped, but we did not regret our decision - as you will also read later!


  • Great! Constant sunshine and birdable from 0700 to 1900. The temperature peaked at about 25°C around lunchtime, and cooled to around 17°C at night. Light sea breezes make birding fairly comfortable throughout the day near the coast.


  • We booked with The Gambia Experience - but which hotel to pick? We looked very hard at the quality of the gardens at each hotel. We knew from past trips that we often want a quiet afternoon or lunchtime birding and photographing near to cool drinks and showers, so this was a big factor for us. In the end, we chose the Senegambia. It is the largest hotel in the country, and won't suit everyone for that reason.
  • But the site is low density, with c. 15 two storey blocks of 16 rooms set in c. 20 acres of mature gardens with lots of trees and ponds. There are lots of leaky taps for sprinklers, and dense shrubberies and bamboo thickets too. It is widely acknowledged to be the best bird garden of all the hotels, and is a major stake out for several otherwise tricky species, such as Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, and a great place to photograph otherwise shy birds such as Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Gymnogene, Purple Glossy Starling and Lavender Waxbill.
  • The Senegambia is one of the more expensive hotels, but the quality of the rooms, gardens and especially the food made it justifiable - and we did actually want a holiday too!


  • There is lots of good gen. available from the usual sources. We used the following :
  • A Field Guide to the Birds of The Gambia and Senegal (Barlow, Wacher & Disley 1999 [amended]) - utterly crucial and very good indeed
  • A Birwatchers' Guide to The Gambia (Ward 1994) - still very accurate and indispensable
  • Birding in the Gambia (Mills 1990) - privately acquired
  • The Gambia 17.10.96-31.10-96 (Browne, Ganney & Corbett 1996) - privately acquired
  • Gambia 1998 (Dodds 1998) - from Urs Geiser's site
  • We were impressed that a lot of the older gen. still seemed to be accurate, so do gather up as much as you can before you go. The only updates we found were that (1) Violet-tipped Courser is no longer seen in the coastal areas, and (2) entrance fees have increased : D31.50 for both Abuko and Tanji (where before there was no charge), D20 for Bijilo and D10 for Kotu Sewage Ponds. Please ensure that you get a ticket at all but the last of these sites to prevent corruption. Not that any of the entrance fee goes to the parks, apparently.....


  • There are masses of guides about the place - many are excellent, and many are very poor. For local guides, 'ask a few questions with your bird book open' is the standard advice!
  • We decided to book up in advance with Solomon Jallow, a highly recommended guide who has worked in the field for some years, and someone you may have met at the Bird Fair at Rutland Water - he'll be there again in 2001. Solomon is by no means the cheapest guide in The Gambia, but he is without a doubt one of the very best. He is razor sharp in the field, especially on calls and songs, and to go with it all, he's a genuinely nice bloke whom I'm proud to count as a friend. We paid 60 UKP per day for our up country trip, which included all accommodation, meals, transport, reserve entry fees etc. Our day trip to Abuko and neighbouring sites was 25 UKP.
  • We should also like to express our thanks to Mass Cham, the birdman at the Senegambia Hotel. He was very helpful and keen to assist us as we fumbled our way throught the commoner species at the the start of the trip.

Living expenses and hassle

  • Gambia is not a very cheap destination. You do tend to stand out as a tourist, and the prices are all inflated accordingly. In a country where 20 dalasis (1 UKP) is a good wage, 10 dalasis for a warm Coke is not a recipe for an ultra cheap break! The tourist taxis are notably expensive, but much better deals can be had from the yellow bush taxi drivers. Do be prepared to haggle hard - there are lots more taxis than potential customers!
  • However, you will not be spending a fortune day to day - try to focus on the quality of your spending, directing it to the good guides and drivers, and explaining all the time why you have come to Gambia, and how important the bird life is to the sustainable development of tourism. The hassle really is appalling, but take heart - it almost disappears away from the hotel areas and the big towns, and up country there is no problem at all beyond smiling kids.


19th December : 0915 charter flight with Monarch, delayed by about 2 hours. Arrived Banjul about 1600, and transferred to the hotel. A few common birds seen around the airport

20th December : Morning around the hotel. Afternoon in Bijilo Forest Park

21st December : Morning at Kotu Creek and sewage ponds. Late afternoon at Casino cycle track

22nd December : Morning at Bijilo. Afternoon at Cape Point and Camalou Corner

23rd December : Morning at Bund Road. Afternoon around the hotel gardens

24th December : Pirang, Bamakuno Forest, Tendaba. Evening river trip up Tendaba creek

25th December : Tendaba airport, north bank of the Gambia River, Baobolong Camp, Georgetown

26th December : Bansang, various sites south of the river, Bamakuno Forest

27th December : Morning at leisure! Afternoon at Bijilo

28th December : Kotu Creek, sewage ponds and fields

29th December : Abuko, Lamin, Yundum, Abuko rice fields, Casino cycle track

30th December : Day off - we went to a wedding!

31st December : Brufut Woods and Tanji NR

1st January : Morning at Abuko NR

2nd January : Birds & Breakfast tour at Lamin Lodge. 1330 bus to airport

Blow-by-blow birding account

Day 1

I won't drone on about the flights - suffice it to say that we were delayed, and only had about an hour of daylight after leaving the airport at Banjul. A few Cattle Egrets, Pied Crows and doves were about the sum total of day one - so we concentrated on vast quantities of food and a good sleep instead!

Day 2

Straight out into the gardens at dawn, and instantly we were soaking up the tropical African avifauna - Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Bronze Mannikin, African Thrush, White-crowned Robin-chat, Splendid and Beautiful Sunbirds, Western Grey Plaintain-eater, Senegal Coucal, Lavender Waxbill, Piapiac, Village Weaver, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Yellow-billed Shrike and various doves all seemed common and easy (they were!), and we had bonus species such as nesting Senegal Parrot, 2 Harrier-hawks (Gymnogenes), Fine-spotted Woodpecker and gathering numbers of Hooded Vultures. They get fed in the hotel garden at 11.30am - try having a vulture land on a park bench next to you!

After lunch, and the first tricky species in the shape of a singing Oriole Warbler in the Bouganvillea near the pool, we headed off for Bijilo Forest Park, just a few hundred metres to the south. Two more Oriole Warblers showed well, plus Black-necked Weaver, Greater Honeyguide, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Green-backed Eremomela, both commoner Hornbills, Little Bee-eater and a troupe of Western Red Colobus monkey. Bijilo Forest is a strange and lovely place - dense stands of ancient palms on fixed sand dunes, reminding me of nothing less than a hyper-arid Kingley Vale Yew forest!

Day 3

An early start again and off to Kotu Creek for more acclimatization and common bird finding! We scored instantly with Senegal Thick-knees on the mud, and, shaking off various insistent potential guides, we explored the creek and sewage ponds, swiftly finding Hamerkop, Intermediate Egret, Grey Kestrel, Blue-bellied Roller, Green Wood-hoopoe, Lanner Falcon, Lizard Buzzard, White-faced Whistling Duck and Red-chested Swallow. With lots of familiar European gulls, terns and waders around, we weren't too surprised to find a 1st winter Little Gull - but we should have been taking a description. See the systematic list for details…. The Fajara golf course turned up African Golden Oriole, Senegal Wattled Plover and Bearded Barbet.

By noon it was getting too hot, so we retreated for a snooze and some drinks. By 4ish, it was cooler again, and we tried the Kotu area again, this time concentrating on the casino cycle track end. We scored with feeding Black Egrets, doing their famous umbrella routine - though we thought they looked more like evil Victorian arch-villians with cloaks! Also Variable Sunbird and the Little Gull again.

Day 4

With a mild attack of Banjul belly, we stayed close to home this morning, and reworked Bijilo. As ever in forests, the going was slow at times, but four hours of careful searching turned up some real quality birds in the shapes of Levaillant's Cuckoo, Red-necked Falcon, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Blue-spotted and Black-billed Wood Doves, Stone Partridge, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Snowy-crowned Robin-chat.

Lunchtime was again a medicinal recovery session, but I felt fine for a trip to Cape Point in the late afternoon. This was a lovely quiet area, with tons of good species such as Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (at last!), Abyssinian Roller, Striped Kingfisher, Pink-backed Pelican and more.

Day 5

We chose to do Bund Road today, but judged the tide rather poorly - it was high, and so we saw few waders. Nevertheless, there was plenty of activity, with Royal Tern, Slender-billed Gull, Avocet, Malachite Kingfisher, and lots of the commoner waterside birds and raptors.

In the afternoon, we met up with Dusty Gedge, a London-based birder, at our hotel, and we did the "dude's bird walk" around the garden with him and Mass Cham. Excellent views of Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Bearded Barbet, Gymnogenes and various Glossy Starlings.

Day 6

Now the serious birding begins! Solomon Jallow picked us up at 7.30am, along with his friend Foday Chorr and our driver, Kamara. We picked up Steve and Teresa Isaacs from the Palma Rima Hotel, and headed off up country. First stop was Pirang former shrimp farm - lots of dried out lakes and mud flats, and perfect to warm up. Plain-backed Pipit, Mosque Swallow and Quail-finch were the best birds.

Next, on to Bamakuno Forest, where an hour in the woods produced some great birds such as the very tricky Yellow Penduline Tit, White-fronted Black Chat, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Vielliot's Barbet, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Little Weaver, Village Indigobird and Julia's 1000th species, Black-rumped Waxbill.

En route to Tendaba, we had several stops for goodies like African Cuckoo, Martial Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard and Wooly-necked Stork, but by our 2pm arrival it was getting hot and uncomfortable again!

A lengthy lunch was followed by our pirogue boat trip up the mangrove creek on the opposite side of the Gambia River, which is about a mile wide at Tendaba.

This was a fantastic experience, with Crocodile, Mouse-brown Sunbird, African Blue Flycatcher, African Darter, Striated Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Spur-winged Goose, African Hobby and Blue-breasted, Woodland and Malachite Kingfishers. But about 200 metres from our re-emergence onto the main river, the engine stopped…and the spare didn't work! Our skipper cheerfully encouraged his mate to start paddling while he tinkered and fiddled. Still nothing! We drifted silently towards the river - and suddenly a White-crowned Tiger-heron crossed the creek, right in front of us! Crippling! Sadly, the boat was crippled too, and we gamely headed out onto the river in failing light with only about 5% power (in fact, I think we were in reverse, with the engine turned round!).

Things started to look a bit hairy, as we hit the main stream and failed to keep our heading for the camp on the south bank. We started blowing SOS on our whistles, and shouting a lot, but no-one seemed to be hearing us. By now it was virtually dark, and we were in mid-river. Then we noticed that a largish boat had turned around in the river, and had dropped anchor. Were we saved? A flare went up and we cheered! The skipper gratefully headed for the boat, but as we approached, it became clear that they hadn't heard us at all - this was a tourist boat, and the flare had been their dinner gong!

We sang Christmas carols at the tops of our voices (it was Christmas Eve) to atrtract their attention - and that worked! We drew alongside and tied up, and boarded for a celebratory bottle of wine from the bar. The (very friendly) Swedes and Finns on board had thought we were part of the entertainment when we emerged from the darkness! Finally, we got home….150 species today!

Day 7

Christmas day started with a hour or two at the so-called 'airfield' at Tendaba, with goodies like Western Banded Snake Eagle, Mottled Spinetail, Pygmy Sunbird and White-rumped Seedeater, plus distant views of a Fish Eagle nest. Then off to the Yellitenda Ferry. This is the main crossing point for vehicles running from northern to southern Senegal or vice versa, and was thus very busy. Despite bribery and corruption, we still had to wait for almost three hours - the only good news was a distant Crowned Crane and the fact that the wait was in the poorest part of the day for birding.

Finally, we crossed, and made our way slowly, on ever worsening roads, along the northern bank of the river, making frequent stops en route for excellent species like Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, Cut-throat Weaver, Sudan Golden Sparrow, Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Black Crake, Little Bittern and African Pygmy Goose. We eventrually reached the Baobolong Camp at 8 o'clock - and the ferry was broken! So it was across the river on a passenger only pirogue, and finally into bed. 126 species in the day!

Day 8

Too much of today was spent travelling, but nevertheless we saw some real cripplers on the way back to the coast, the best by far being the Red-throated Bee-eaters at Bansang. Also Yellow-throated Leaflove, further Cut-throats and African Golden Oriole, Four-banded Sandgrouse, White Pelican, Wahlberg's Eagle, African Hobby and Marabou Stork.

Day 9

Definitely a day off required - we spent it all until 4ish in the hotel! A brief walk to Bijilo in the evening produced a singing Oriole Warbler and Snowy-crowned Robin-chat.

Day 10

We spent the morning in the Kotu area, devoting our time to photography rather than pure birding. Nevertheless, we were rewarded with 2 Barbary Falcons - this is a true mega in Gambia - plus another Levaillant's Cuckoo, plenty of Black Egrets and more besides.

Our plans for another quiet afternoon (guts again) were rudely shattered by the discovery of mobbing passerines - and their target, a fantastic Spotted Eagle Owl. We were able to watch it right round the garden, pursued latterly by Pied Crows! Amazingly, on our way back to the room, and feeling elated, I looked up and there was a Barn Owl being mobbed in a tree - ridiculous!

Day 11

Another brilliant day out with Steve, Teresa and Solomon, though also with a (frankly) rather difficult German woman whom we'd met briefly the day before. Off we went to Abuko, where our investment in Solomon's time was quickly repaid - he was fantastic, locating in short order Yellow-chested Apalis, Little Greenbul, Green Hylia, Grey-headed Bristlebill and Yellow-throated Leaflove. We also had Verreaux's Eagle Owl at the nest, both Paradise Flycatcher species, a juvenile Black Crake, Common Wattle-eye, Orange-cheeked Waxbill and a soaring Booted Eagle, plus Crocodiles, a Bushbuck and a Marsh Mongoose.

Lunch was at Lamin Lodge, with Gull-billed Tern and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater for company, and then after a White-faced Scops Owl in dense bamboo (watched, not eaten), we headed round the fields of Lamin and Yundum. Sadly, the Temminck's Coursers failed to perform, but we did score with Western Bonelli's Warbler, Pygmy Sunbird and Striped Kingfisher, plus useful 'padders' like Whinchat, Wheatear and Woodchat Shrike (the three Ws!).

Abuko rice fields next - this place was heaving with herons, egrets and more, such as our only Pied-winged Swallows, an African Pied Hornbill, and African Crake. Solomon saw the last disappearing into a rice paddy, and we assumed our chance had gone, but Julia relocated it on the earth bund a few minutes later for crippling, if brief views.

Finally, off to Kotu - no Pearl-spotted Owlet, alas, but good views of both Nightjars, and the bonus of a fly over African Scops Owl.

Day 12

An early seawatch from the Senegambia (Pom. Skua, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Crested and Royal Terns). Today we went to a wedding - a very high Roman Catholic mass, with incense and the choir accompanied by drums rather than an organ! Also a big reception at the local school, and more food and dancing afterwards in the village. Exhausting and very interesting - but no birds!

Day 13

We met up with Steve and Teresa again, and Kamara drove us to Brufut Woods for our self-guided day! The birding was excellent from the very start - Fanti Saw-wing, Black Wood-hoopoe, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Green-headed and Western Violet-backed Sunbirds, Nightingale, Northern Puffback, Pied Hornbill, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Pin-tailed Whydah, Klaas's Cuckoo, Northern Crombec, Cardinal Woodpecker, plus brief views of a dark grey/blue cuckoo with a hefty bright yellow bill - Yellowbill!

Brufut bridge produced more Black Crakes, and then Tanji turned up more goodies, such as Goliath Heron, Audouin's Gull, Slender-billed Gull, lots of terns and more Fanti Saw-wings.

Day 14

A new millennium, and our final full day - and after a late night, it was tough getting up at 6.30am! But we made it to Abuko good and early, and were rewarded with an almost empty reserve. Much the same birds as before, plus a cracking Pygmy Kingfisher, and a final flourish with three juvenile White-backed Night Herons roosting in deep cover by the main Crocodile Pool. Fantastic - and we then retreated for snoozes back at the hotel.

Day 15

We only had a half day left, and had decided well ahead of time to go on the Birds & Breakfast tour to Lamin Lodge. It is perhaps better termed 'Dudes and Breakfast', but we had a very pleasant morning at a slower pace, picking up one new species in the form of Yellow-billed Stork, plus more Mouse-brown Sunbirds, and a couple of surprise Violet Turacos.

Systematic List

Species order and names follow Howard & Moore (1994), with a very few exceptions!

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis Up to three at Kotu sewage ponds
(Great) White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus One flying overhead and another on the river at Brumen Bridge
Pink-backed Pelican Pelecanus rufescens About 100 noted, with most around the mouth of the Gambia River and at Tendaba. Most were in heavy wing moult
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus Eleven noted offshore on 3 dates. All were first year birds
Long-tailed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus Noted in small numbers on 10 dates, with 25+ at Bund Road
African Darter Anhinga rufa One at Cape Point, 10 at Tendaba, and up to 4 at Abuko
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Noted in single figures on 11 dates. The local African form seems much more washed out and paler headed than European birds
Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala 23 seen on 6 dates - max. 10 at Abuko. Often quite far from water
Goliath Heron Ardea goliath One in the creek at Tendaba, and another in the coastal lagoon by Tanji bridge
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea Ten noted, with a max. of 4 at Lamin Lodge. Most of those seen well were first-year birds
Great White Egret Casmerodius alba Noted on seven dates, always in low numbers. Most around Kotu Creek and Lamin/Abuko
Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia Seven noted on 6 dates, most often at Kotu Creek
Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca 36 sightings overall, with the most reliable site being Kotu Creek, especially the rice fields towards the Palma Rima
Little Egret Egretta garzetta Only 11 seen, and never more than 2 in a day
Western Reef Egret Egretta schistacea The commonest 'water heron', with almost daily sightings of good numbers in saline and brackish habitats. Virtually all were wholly dark birds, but there were two white birds together at Abuko rice fields
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Abundant throughout
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides 20 noted on 8 dates, with most around Tendaba and Kotu Creek
Striated Heron Butorides striatus Fifteen recorded, mostly at mangrove sites, but also in rice fields at Abuko and Kotu Creek
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax Three at Tendaba, singles over Kotu Creek and Lamin Lodge, and up to six roosting at the Crocodile Pool, Abuko
White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus The final flourish of the trip was provided by three juveniles roosting in deep cover at the Crocodile Pool, Abuko. These were locally bred birds - the nest could be seen on an overhanging branch to the right of the main photographic hide
White-crested Tiger-heron Tigriornis leucolophus This near mythical species was not even on our wish list! And yet a single bird flew across the creek at Tendaba just as dusk was falling, less than 100m from the main river. Although a nest was located two seasons ago, this remains a virtually impossible species to see - Solomon hadn't seen one for over a year
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus An adult male, apparently of the migratory European race, was at a pond near Georgetown
Hammerkop Scopus umbretta Noted almost daily at a variety of sites, max. 10 at Kotu Creek. A pair was nest building near to the island 'brown' at Fajara golf course
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis Not seen until the final day, when four flew over the mangroves at Lamin Lodge
Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus Eight on swampy grasslands near Tendaba
Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus Ten adults and 2 ugly juveniles in a large tree near Brikama
Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus Five flew over at Kotu Creek, and another did the same at Lamin Lodge
African Spoonbill Platalea alba One at Pirang, then four at Tendaba and another four at Brumen Bridge
White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata A resident flock of about forty birds was at Kotu sewage ponds
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis Two juveniles and eight adults at Tendaba
African Pygmy Goose Nettapus auritus Six at a pond near Georgetown provided a real bonus
Osprey Pandion haliaetus About 30 sightings recorded, with most at the coast and Kotu Creek
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus Fourteen noted, with a max. of 7 around Lamin and Yundum on one day
Black Kite Milvus migrans Omnipresent. Both the local 'Yellow-billed' and the nominate European forms were present, but the latter was very much rarer
African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer Two at the nest at Tendaba, and another flying along the river at Yellitenda Ferry
Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus Very common - almost always on view near the coast
Rüppell's Vulture Gyps rueppellii Four noted at the roadside inland from Tendaba
African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus Thirteen seen at inland sites
Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis Nine sightings noted, at Bijilo, Abuko and upriver
Brown Snake Eagle Circaetus cinereus Four noted around Tendaba and Georgetown
Western Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus cinarescens Two at Tendaba, at least one of them a juvenile
Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus Distant views only of one at Brumen Bridge
Dark Chanting-goshawk Melierax metabates Twelve noted on four dates, with all but 2 at Yundum well inland
Gabar Goshawk Micronisus gabar One at a water-hole near Georgetown
African Harrier Hawk or Gymnogene Polyboroides typus Two noted on several occasions in the Senegambia Hotel gardens - their nest failed in 2000, but they continued to roost in the same tree every evening. Also a few singles at other sites
Lizard Buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus Eleven noted on 7 dates, with the best areas being Bijilo, Brufut and Abuko rice fields
Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis Eleven along the roadside inland
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus Two juveniles at Tendaba
Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus Thirteen noted at various wetland sites. Interestingly, most were adult males
Shikra Accipiter badius Seventeen seen on 9 dates, almost all singly
Wahlberg's Eagle Hieraaetus wahlbergi Five inland, and another at Brufut
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus One dark phase bird soaring with vultures over Abuko
Martial Eagle Hieraaetus bellicosus A superb juvenile was seen soaring over the savannah about 80 km inland
Grey Kestrel Falco ardosiaceus Eleven seen on 7 dates, and often in pairs
Red-necked Falcon Falco chicquera A single flew quickly north along the beach at Bijilo, giving excellent but brief views
African Hobby Falco cuvieri Three seen, at Tendaba, Bansang and Abuko. Two were perched up, showing the deep rufous underparts to good effect
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus Singles at Kotu Creek, Bijilo and Pirang
Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides Two were at Kotu sewage ponds 28th December. They were first seen distantly in flight, possibly hunting cooperatively, and left unidentified, but they circled back and perched in full view in a large Baobab. Their distinctive 'whippy' flight action and small size, combined with the correct head pattern, left no doubt over the identification. This species is at best very rare in Gambia, and has been recorded only as a vagrant in Senegal.
Double-spurred Francolin Francolinus bicalcaratus Up to five noted at numerous sites
Stone Partridge Ptilopachus petrosus Four seen well at Bijilo, and another by the roadside at dusk near Georgetown
(Black) Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina One seen distantly and briefly in flight at Yellitenda Ferry
African Crake Crex egregia One of the highlights of the trip was brief but excellent views of one in full view on an earth bund at Abuko rice fields. Very much an 'African Corncrake', this species is hardly ever observed by visitors to Gambia
African Black Crake Porzana flavirostra Two at a pond near Georgetown, the same juvenile on two occasions at Abuko, and up to 3 at Brufut Bridge
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Four at two wet sites near Georgetown
Purple Swamp-hen Porphyrio porphyrio A single at a rapidly drying swamp near Georgetown
African Jacana Actophilornis africana Eleven seen, with a max. of six together at Abuko rice fields
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Two at Bund Road
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Frequent at all wetland sites, with particularly large numbers at Kotu sewage ponds
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Eight flew over at Bund Road
Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis Far from being tricky, as expected, this species was easy to see. Kotu Creek is a dependable site for up to a dozen, and there were smaller numbers at various other spots. But the undoubted highlight was 31 in the air together at a swamp near Georgetown
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola Ten at a swamp near Georgetown
Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus Common throughout
Black-headed Lapwing Vanellus tectus Seen in single figures on most dates
Senegal Wattled Lapwing Vanellus senegallus Quite scarce, and only seen on six dates, max. 10 at Fajara
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola Nine seen on four dates
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Seventeen noted on five dates
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Eight noted at the inland sites of Pirang and Tendaba
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Two flying over Kotu Creek, and a group of 12 in damp fields near there
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica Seventeen seen at various coastal mangrove sites
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus The most frequent larger wader - up to 10 at all mangrove and coastal sites
Common Redshank Tringa totanus Fourteen seen on seven dates
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia Noted in single figures at all suitable sites
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus One at Tendaba, one at Kotu sewage ponds, and another at Abuko rice fields
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola Up to 25 at Kotu sewage ponds, and a handful at other sites
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Frequent in all mangrove creeks, with up to 10 at Kotu Creek
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Two at Kotu Creek, 1 at Bund Road, 10 at Tendaba and 10+ at Tanji
Sanderling Calidris alba 5+ on the beach at Tanji
Little Stint Calidris minuta Four at Pirang and one at Tendaba
Dunlin Calidris alpina Just one seen, at Tendaba
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea Two at Camalou Corner, eight at Pirang and one at Lamin Lodge
Ruff Philomachus pugnax Seventeen noted at four sites
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus Four noted offshore on two dates
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus Two noted offshore. Also 3 unidentified skuas seen
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii A 3rd winter flew north at the Senegambia Hotel beach, and a 2nd winter was in the Tanji roost
Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans Three noted offshore
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Eighteen noted on five dates
Grey-headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus Ever present at the coast in varying numbers
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei 10+ at Bund Road and one in the Tanji roost
Little Gull Larus minutus A first-winter at Kotu Creek raised few eyebrows until we read in the book that evening that there have been fewer than ten previous Gambian records! This bird turned out to have been present for some days, and had been twitched heavily - in Gambian terms!
Black Tern Childonias niger Just 2 noted offshore
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica Five singles recorded, at Tendaba, Kotu Creek and Lamin Lodge
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia Generally the commoner large tern offshore, with several almost daily, and 30+ at the Tanji roost
Common Tern Sterna hirundo Nine noted offshore, and just one in the Tanji roost
Royal Tern Sterna maxima Ten at Bund Road, a further thirteen or so offshore and about 100 at the Tanji roost
Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis One close inshore at the Senegambia Hotel, and a further 5 or so probables the same day there
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Twos and threes noted most days offshore, and about 30 at the Tanji roost
Four-banded Sandgrouse Pterocles quadricinctus Two at dusk near Georgetown, and two feeding on the track near there the next morning
Feral Pigeon Columba livia Not common, but a few in most settlements
Speckled Pigeon Columba guinea Common throughout
African Mourning Dove Streptopelia decipiens Present but not common near the coast, but frequent inland
Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata Common throughout
Vinaceous Dove Streptopelia vinacea Common throughout
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis Common throughout
Black-billed Wood Dove Turtur abyssinicus Seen every day bar two, but in low numbers, max. 10 in the Brufut area
Blue-spotted Wood Dove Turtur afer Two at Bijilo and three at Abuko
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis A female at Kotu sewage ponds, 41 noted inland, and a male at Lamin Lodge
Bruce's Green Pigeon Treror waalia Two flew over the road near Georgetown, then 1 at Tanji and another at Lamin Lodge
Senegal Parrot Poicephalus senegalus Seen every day bar two, max. 8. A pair was nesting in a dead palm in the 'bird garden' at the Senegambia Hotel
Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri Seen almost daily in single figures
Western Grey Plantain-eater Crinifer piscator Noted every day but one, max. 10 on two dates. Highly conspicuous, noisy and silly-looking
Violet Turaco Musophaga violacea Heard on two occasions in Bijilo Forest, and again at Pirang, and then finally seen well at Abuko (5+). Also 2 at the rather surprising site of Lamin Lodge
Green Turaco Tauraco persa 5+ seen on one visit to Abuko, but no sign the second time. This is very much the harder species to see, but we were lucky to have several of each in the same tree by the photographic hide. Both species are astonishingly beautiful
Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius An adult in flight at Cape Point was the only one seen
Levaillant's Cuckoo Oxylophus levaillantii Two juveniles - one at Bijilo and the other at Kotu sewage ponds. The adults have all moved on by December, but juveniles continue to be fed by their hosts (apparently mostly babblers) until January
African Cuckoo Cuclus gularis Two in the same tree at the roadside near Brumen Bridge
Klaas's Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas One at Brufut Woods
Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus Very brief but diagnostic flight views of one at Brufut Woods. It was flushed from dense vegetation and disappeared into a tangled, climber covered bush thicket
Senegal Coucal Centropus senegalensis A common bird, seen daily in varying numbers. The hollow, vaguely Hoopoe-like song is a characteristic sound of drier areas
Barn Owl Tyto alba One was found roosting in a tall tree by the Z block in the Senegambia Hotel gardens, mobbed by various passerines
African Scops Owl Otus senegalensis A real highlight was good flight views of one over the Casino cycle track at dusk during a nightjar watch
White-faced Scops Owl Otus leucotis One was watched roosting in dense bamboo near Lamin Lodge. Avid world listers would do well to note that Konig, Weick and Becking (1999) treat the birds occurring in Gambia as specifically distinct from those of southern and East Africa (leucotisas opposed to granti)
Spotted or Vermiculated Eagle Owl Bubo africanus Perhaps the single most astonishing moment of the trip was the finding of this bird in the Senegambia Hotel gardens. Initially attracted by the sound of mobbing Bulbuls and Gonoleks, we followed the owl around the garden as it was chased mercilessly by Pied Crows. An incredible daylight sighting of a rare and difficult species - it was a new bird for the Hotel's (lengthy) bird list, and would have been a tick for Solomon, our immensely experienced guide! As for White-faced Scops Owl, Konig, Weick and Becking (1999) treat the Gambian form as distinct (cinerascens) from the southern nominate form
Verreaux's Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus The well staked out nesting bird showed excellently atop a palm tree beside the Abuko education centre
Long-tailed Nightjar Scotornis climacurus One flushed from the road near Georgetown at dusk, and at least 2 at dusk at the Casino cycle track
Standard-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx longipennis 5+ at dusk at the Casino cycle track. The two species of nightjar are readily distinguishable by structure and the presence or absence of white in the wing
Mottle-throated Spinetail or Spine-tailed Swift Telecanthura ussheri 3+ over the woods at Tendaba, and a further 5 at Brufut Woods
African Palm Swift Cypsiuris parvus Seen every day but one, in small numbers, always around palms
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus About 25 noted in a condensed three day period, at the coast and inland. Might this suggest a small wave of migrants?
Little Swift Apus affinis Common at Bund Road, Cape Point and Tendaba, but away from these sites, only 3 noted
Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima We held out until day 11 for this species, but were rewarded on both visits to Abuko by fantastic close range views of the regular pair at the Abuko Crocodile Pool. Huge and very noisy. Also reported from Tanji
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis Far and away the commonest kingfisher, with birds at almost all wetland sites. The best spot was probably Bund Road, where upwards of 20 were fishing from bushes and wires
Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata Two at Bund Road, 10+ at Tendaba, one near Bansang and 3 at Lamin Lodge
Pygmy Kingfisher Ceyx picta One watched for several minutes in dense gallery forest at Abuko
Woodland Kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis Brief views of one at Tendaba
Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica Singles at Bijilo and Abuko, but about 10 in the creek at Tendaba
Striped Kingfisher Halcyon chelicuti Two at Cape Point, one at Yundum, and another heard at Bamakuno Forest
Red-throated Bee-eater Merops bulocki The nesting colony at the Bansang sand quarry yielded fantastic views of upwards of 20 birds
Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus About 100 noted at a variety of sites, on eight dates. The distinctive, almost White Wagtail like call is easily learnt
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus 10+ at Bijilo Forest, 3 at Tendaba and 5 at Brufut Woods
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis Four hunting over the creek at Tendaba. Also reported from Bijilo - the species is very rare at the coast, at least at this time of year
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus 30+ at Cape Point, 25 at Bund Road, and a further fourteen noted at various sites such as Tendaba and Lamin Lodge. The call is surprisingly distinct from the European species, being less liquid and rather more disyllabic
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster About 50 noted during the trip up country
Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssinica Only six noted at the coast, notably at Cape Point, but very common inland
Rufous-crowned Roller Coracias naevia Five along the roadside inland, and one en route to the airport on the last day
Blue-bellied Roller Coracias cyanogaster Nineteen sighting recorded on seven dates, max. 6 around Lamin and Abuko rice fields. The grumbling, nasal call often attracts attention before the bird is seen
Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus 36 recorded on eleven dates, max. 10 around the Senegambia Hotel. A most confusing bird, with a habit of being called as a pigeon, raptor or something else entirely on most occasions!
Hoopoe Upopa epops One in the Senegambia Hotel gardens on one date only
Green Wood Hoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus Frequently recorded - upwards of 50 sightings on 10 dates. Usually in parties of 3-6, often feeding around tree trunks
Black Wood-hoopoe Phoeniculus aterrimus Just one found, at Brufut Woods, but also reported from Bijilo
African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus One at Abuko rice fields and 3 at Brufut Woods
African Grey Hornbill Tockus nasutus 27 recorded on nine dates at a wide scatter of sites. Also frequently heard calling
Red-billed Hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus The commonest hornbill, with daily records of up to 20 birds
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus After dipping at Tendaba airfield, we were relieved to find three along the roadside toward Georgetown, two on the deck and the other perched grotesquely in a tree! One was also reported just south of Bijilio Forest
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus Two at Bamakuno Forest, and another at Yundum
Vieillot's Barbet Lybius vieilloti Two at Bamakuno Forest, and 1 at Tendaba
Bearded Barbet Lybius dubius Ten recorded on six dates, from the Senegambia Hotel to Tendaba
Black-throated Honeyguide Indicator indicator One at Bijilo Forest and another at Bamakuno Forest
Lesser Honeyguide Indicator minor One at Brufut Woods
Fine-spotted Woodpecker Campethera punctuligera Five noted on four dates at a variety of sites
Cardinal Woodpecker Dendropicos fuscescens Onevisiting a nest hole at Brufut Woods
Grey Woodpecker Dendropicos spodocephalus Five singles recorded on five dates
Brown-backed Woodpecker Picoides obsoletus One at Bamakuno Forest
Crested Lark Galerida cristata Just five recorded, at Pirang and Tendaba
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark Eremopterix leucotis About 10 noted along the road on the north bank of the river east of Tendaba
Sand Martin Riparia riparia Two over the creek at Tendaba
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Recorded in very small numbers at Kotu Creek and sewage ponds, and perhaps at Pirang. There is uncertainty about this species' winter status in Gambia, but it is clearly very scarce at best
Red-chested Swallow Hirundo lucida Much the commoner 'swallow', with 50+ noted, but still far from abundant
Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii 34 noted on five dates, mostly at Kotu and Pirang
Pied-winged Swallow Hirundo leucosoma 2+ were located over Abuko rice fields. Great care is required if views are brief, since several hirundines with worn or moulting wing feathers gave rise to false alarms earlier
Mosque Swallow Hirundo senegalensis Two at Pirang, 2 at Tendaba and a further 5 at the roadside near Brikama
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Small numbers around Tendaba
House Martin Delichon urbica 1+ at Pirang and a further 2 at Lamin Lodge
Fanti or Fantee Saw-wing Psalidoprocne obscura After no sightings at Abuko, we were relieved to find 5 at Brufut Woods, and a further 13 at Tanji
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava About 40 seen and others heard at a variety of wet sites. All those seen well appeared to be of the Blue-headed form flava
White Wagtail Motacilla alba Nine recorded at various sites
Plain-backed Pipit Anthus leucophrys One at Pirang and three at Tendaba
Garden or Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus Abundant throughout
Little Greenbul Pycnonotus virens Three seen and others heard singing on each visit to Abuko
Yellow-throated Leaflove Chlorocichla flavicollis One at Baobolong Camp, Georgetown and another at Abuko
Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapilla One at Abuko. This is a shy and rarely seen forest-dweller, and we were lucky to have good views on the leaf litter
Northern Puffback Dryoscopus gambensis A male at Tendaba, and prolonged views of a female at Brufut Woods
Black-headed or Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala One at Bamakuno Forest, two near Georgetown, and heard in song at Lamin Lodge
Yellow-crowned Gonolek Laniarius barbarus We found this to be a common and easily observed bird - but then we were staying at the Senegambia Hotel! Outside this site, it is a much more tricky bird to see, though its loud and mellifluous song makes location straightforward. The distinctive and loud "wee wee tchak!" call is in fact a duet between male and female
Grey-headed Bush-shrike Malaconotus blanchoti One fantastic bird at Brufut Woods. The bird has two extraordinary and different calls - a haunting and clear whistle, and a Jay-like squawk!
Yellow-billed Shrike Corvinella corvina Noted on every date but two, max. 20 around the Kotu area. Mostly in small family parties
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator A juvenile at Lamin and an adult at Yundum
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos One in full song at Brufut Woods, but as ever, hidden in dense cover
Snowy-crowned Robin-chat Cossypha niveicapilla Two at Bijilo Forest, just by the entrance gate, and two on each visit to Abuko. But again the best site was the Senegambia Hotel, where at least one was regularly present along the Bougainvillea hedge on the northern boundary, especially near dripping taps
White-crowned Robin-chat Cossypha albicapilla The same comments as for Yellow-crowned Gonolek could apply for this species. It is an easy bird at the Senegambia Hotel, but scarce and tricky elsewhere. Up to 10 in a day estimated in the gardens
Rufous Scrub Robin Cercotrichas galactotes One briefly at the roadside north of the river
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus One from the vehicle along the roadside north of the river
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra One at Lamin
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe One at Yundum
Northern Anteater Chat Myrmecocichla aethiops About five around a village well near Tendaba. this is apparently a classic nest-site habitat
White-fronted Black Chat Myrmecocichla albifrons Three sightings in two visits to Bamakuno Forest
African Thrush Turdus pelios Common in the Senegambia Hotel gardens, but rather elusive elsewhere, and seen mostly at Bijilo and Abuko
Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii Noisy and gregarious, and noted almost every day
Brown Babbler Turdoides plebejus Noisy and gregarious, and noted every day
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Two heard and one seen during the trip up country
Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus Two singing at Bund Road
(Western) Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida Two sightings in the Senegambia Hotel gardens, and another heard at Georgetown
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta About 10 heard in song and several seen at a variety of sites
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis About 10 noted, mostly around Cape Point and Kotu Creek. The lack of other Cisticola species was surprising, disappointing and a relief!
Tawny-flanked Prinia Prinia subflava 27 noted on five dates, mostly at Kotu Creek and Tendaba
Yellow-chested Apalis Apalis flavida One heard only at Abuko
Grey-backed Camaroptera Camaroptera brevicaudata Heard almost daily ('Bleating Warbler') and several seen, especially at sites like Bijilo and Brufut
(Smaller) Green-backed Eremomela Eremomela pusilla Seven noted on five dates, at sites such as Bijilo and Lamin Lodge
Northern Crombec Sylvietta brachyura One at Cape Point and another 2 at Brufut Woods
Oriole Warbler or Moho Hypergerus atriceps This is a hard bird to see, and so we were delighted when one burst into song on our first afternoon at the Senegambia Hotel, right by Mass Cham's bird-hut! It proved elusive at first, but eventually emerged from dense cover to give good views. Two more were seen at Bijilo Forest later that day, but although we heard the song on two further occasions, we never saw another Moho
Green Hylia Hylia prasina This is another difficult species to see. We heard at least two in Abuko on the first trip, and eventually saw one well - resembling an Arctic Warbler on steroids. Once we had learnt the bird's two highly distinctive calls (an insistent but quiet double whistle, and a Spectacled Warbler-like rattle), we easily located another on the next visit. Also reported from Lamin Lodge
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Four seen and another heard on five dates
Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli One in an acacia tree at Yundum, calling
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Two females recorded
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans Single males at Kotu, Cape Point and Tanji, and a female at Tendaba
Northern Black Flycatcher Melaeornis edolioides Recorded at the Senegambia Hotel gardens, where up to four were noted, and at Tanji, where there were two
Brown-throated or Common Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea Heard singing at Tendaba and Lamin Lodge, and six sightings at Abuko. The song is remarkably musical and attractive
Blue Flycatcher Elminia longicauda Several heard and two seen in the creek at Tendaba
Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer Five noted at Abuko, and more surprisingly one in bamboo near Lamin Lodge
African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis Two singles noted at Abuko
Yellow Penduline Tit Anthoscopus parvulus A major highlight of the trip was the location of one at Bamakuno Forest
Mouse-brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus The classic site for this species is the mangroves in the creek at Tendaba, and we succeeded in seeing up to 10 here, along with their tiny and distinctive nests. However, we were not aware that they are also found at Lamin Lodge, where we saw three on our boat trip
Western Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei A stunning adult male at Brufut Woods, initially strung at a distance as a Violet-backed Starling!
Collared Sunbird Anthreptes collaris Upwards of three at Abuko, but hard to see in the tree canopy
Pygmy Sunbird Anthreptes platurus Four around Tendaba, and a male at Yundum
Green-headed Sunbird Nectarinia verticalis Two males and a probable female at Brufut Woods
Scarlet-chested Sunbird Nectarinia senegalensis Three at Bamakuno Forest
Variable Sunbird Nectarinia venusta Seen on five dates along the coast. The song is highly distinctive, resembling a European Wren, but lacking the rattling phrase
Splendid Sunbird Nectarinia coccinigastra Up to four noted on most dates
Beautiful Sunbird Nectarinia pulchella The commonest sunbird, but scarce inland
Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting Emberiza tahapisi Two at a water hole near Georgetown, and another at Bansang sand quarry
White-rumped Seedeater Serinus leucopygius Two at Tendaba airfield
Yellow-fronted Canary Serinus mozambicus A total of 15 noted at Bamakuno Forest, Tendaba and Yundum
[Western Bluebill] [Spermophaga haematina] [Heard twice at Abuko, but sadly not seen]
Red-billed or Senegal Fire Finch Lagonosticta senegala A common species, seen daily in good numbers. Often exceedingly tame, but photographers please note - the bird is so small that you need to get very close even with a long lens!
Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu Uraeginthus bengalus Seen almost daily in fair numbers, and common around the hotel area
Lavender Waxbill Estrilda caerulescens Many birders were having trouble seeing this species, or at least seeing it well, but again the Senegambia Hotel gardens came to the rescue! The species is frequent there, and again the best spots are around leaky taps. Up to 20 present daily there, and a few at other sites
Orange-cheeked Waxbill Estrilda melpoda About 10 at Abuko on one visit, and a similar number at Tanji
Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes Five at Bamakuno Forest and 10 at Tendaba airfield
African Quail-finch Ortygospiza atricollis Two on a dry bank at Pirang shrimp farm
Bronze Mannikin Lonchura cucullata An abundant species, especially near cultivation and hotels
Cut-throat Weaver Amadina fasciata Two at water holes near Georgetown, and a further 2 at Bansang sand quarry
Village Indigobird Vidua chalybeata About 10 eclipse plumaged birds at Bamakuno, and a cracking male further along the road to Tendaba
Pin-tailed Whydah Vidua macroura Five eclipse plumaged birds at Tanji
Exclamatory Paradise Whydah Vidua interjecta Eleven noted around Georgetown and Bansang - most were superb males with long tail feathers
White-billed Buffalo Weaver Bubalornis albirostris Flocks of up to 40 birds noted on six dates at a variety of sites
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common but never abundant around habitation
Grey-headed Sparrow Passer griseus Up to 20 noted daily
Sudan Golden Sparrow Auripasser luteus Two males and a female at a water hole near Georgetown. This is a difficult and erratic species, which never seems to be found in large numbers, and is often missed
Lesser Rock or Bush Petronia Petronia dentata Fifteen noted at various dry sites up country
Black-necked or Spectacled Weaver Ploceus nigricollis Single females at Bijilo on two occasions, and rather more of both sexes at Abuko and Brufut Woods. The common English name is highly inappropriate for the West African form of this widespread African species! A potential split?
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus Abundant near habitation, especially at the Senegambia Hotel. Nearly all were in drab post-breeding or juvenile plumages
Little (Masked) Weaver Ploceus luteolus One at Bamakuno Forest
Northern Red Bishop Euplectes franciscanus Well over 150 in several large flocks in dry bush up country
Purple Glossy Starling Lamprotornis purpureus About 20 identified with certainty, the best site being the Senegambia Hotel gardens, where mixed flocks of starlings come to wash and drink by the golf course. Purple has absurd saucer-like eyes and a disproportionately large head, like something out of a cartoon
Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chalcurus About 25 noted on six dates. The short-tailed look is distinctive in flight
Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus Up to 10 recorded on 8 dates
Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chloropterus A few singles in the Senegambia Hotel gardens, and 20 near Brikama
Long-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis caudatus The commonest starling, with small and noisy parties frequently seen throughout
Yellow-billed Oxpecker Buphagus africanus One near Brikama and another two near Yundum. Almost any herd of cattle could hold this species
African Golden Oriole Oriolus auratus Single males at Baobolong Camp, the Fajara golf course and Tanji, and two at Bamakuno Forest
Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis Nineteen noted on seven dates
Piapiac Ptilostomus afer Common throughout, especially around the Senegambia Hotel and near livestock
Pied Crow Corvus albus Seen daily in good numbers


Selected species reported by others :  


Species Site (if known)
Long-crested Eagle  
Short-toed Eagle  
African Finfoot Tendaba
Egyptian Plover Basse only
Temminck's Courser Yundum & Abuko rice fields
White-fronted Plover Cape Point
Spotted Redshank  
Marsh Sandpiper  
White-winged Black Tern  
African Green Pigeon  
Pearl-spotted Owlet Kotu Creek
Brown-necked Parrot  
Willow Warbler  
Winding Cisticola  
Siffling Cisticola  
Copper Sunbird  
Heuglin's Masked Weaver  


  • And that was that - 273 species in total, 89 of them new to me. It would have been 175 had I not previously been to Kenya! We had some real megas : how many birding crews in Gambia score with more than a couple of birds like White-crested Tiger-heron, White-backed Night Heron, Spotted Eagle Owl, African Crake, Green-headed Sunbird, Sudan Golden Sparrow and African Pygmy Goose?

  • So, do we regret not seeing the Egyptian Plover? Of course we do, in many ways - but maybe we'll just have to see one somewhere else. I wouldn't have traded an Egyptian Plover for the birds listed above - would you?

  • PLEASE contact me if there are glaring errors, or if you'd like further information, or if I can help in any other way.


Simon Woolley

January 2001