ABUKO NATIONAL PARK - LAMIN LODGE AND RICE FIELDS
Weather: cloudy to start with then hot and humid all day, 30C
Abuko national park protects over 100 hectares of rain forest in the midst of the Banjul urban sprawl. We arrived at 8am to begin our walk through the forest.
It was typical forest birding throughout the morning, lots of calls, plenty of waiting for birds to appear with regular triumphs and the odd disappointment. Also typical was that a number of the group missed certain birds whilst other saw them and vice versa. However we ensured that all the goodies were seen by all.
Our first good sightings were made at the Darwin centre where an elevated balcony looks over a large pool and the surrounding forest. A Palm-Nut Vulture sat nicely for us as did three Hammerkops, Squacco Heron, Black-headed Heron and our star find, the Violet Turaco.
A lovely walk through Primary Forest ensued, it was fabulous, quiet to start with but our sightings increased exponentially as time went on. We found many new species for the trip list, the best sightings were: African Paradise & Red-bellied Flycatchers, Lesser Honeyguide, Yellow-breasted Apalis, the stunning Collared Sunbird, Fanti Saw-wing, Common Wattle-eye, Little Greenbul, Swallow-tail Bee-eater and two star birds Western Bluebill and Oriole Warbler.
We reached the animal Rescue Centre in the centre of the park where we bought cold drinks and sat in the shade for a while. A superb photographic hide was where we spent the next hour or so. We had an excellent time there as many species came to drink or bath in the pool created in front of the hide. We added Lavender Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Pygmy Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat and more doves than you can shake a stick at.
Our return journey was as good as the outward one except we took it much quicker, we had in-the-scope views of Grey-headed Bristlebird, another glimpse of Western Bluebill and many more sightings.
It was 2pm by the time we got to Lamin Lodge for lunch, and what an experience! The rickety, three-storey, wooden building offered a unique venue for lunch, views over the mangrove swamp and parts of the river with a lovely cool breeze. The food was basic, the service slow and you had to 'beat off' Vervet Monkeys that tred to steal your food off the plate.
Three new species were added to the list, Lappet-faced Vulture, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Black Heron. A short walk immediately after lunch produced several species but nothing new.
From 4-6pm we walked a figure-of-eight circuit around the Lamin Rice Fields. I cannot begin to describe all the sightings, it was jam-packed with birds and all in good numbers.
Our new species seen included; Pied Flycatcher, Striated Heron, Red Quelea, Red Bishop, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Grey Kestrel, Black Crake, Wood Sandpiper, but we failed to see the hoped-for Painted Snipe, next time perhaps.
We got back to the hotel at 7pm and ate dinner at 8pm. Our bird-log produced our biggest tally yet, 98 species seen in one day, amazing!!