DAY 1 - ARRIVAL DAY 2 – KOTU BRIDGE & STREAM – CASINO TRACK – KOTU SEWAGE WORKS – CALYSO HOTEL GROUNDS
WEATHER: wall to wall sunshine 30C
Our arrival ON DAY 1 was at 7:30pm it was dark and hence no bird list. We did see Fruit Bats and a smaller species which was most probably a Gambian Epauletted Fruit Bat.
Today was just marvellous, I love it during our first breakfast when the group are going crazy every time a new bird flies over the hotel or lands in a nearby tree. It was quite magical sitting in 20C outside on the terrace watching dozens of birds flying around whilst tucking into our breakfast. Broad-billed Rollers joined little Swifts and Palm Swifts high up as Yellow-billed Kites, Pied Crows and Egrets drifted across the skyline.
one of the first birds I saw on this trip in the hotel grounds - Hammerkop
Many species fed in the bushes and trees of the extension gardens at our hotel, we quickly notched up quite a list which included: Common Bulbul, Hammerkop, Cattle Egret, Green Woodhoopoe, all the birds mentioned above and not forgetting the doves. Oh, the noisy doves! Red-eyed Dove, Vinaceous Dove, Laughing Dove and Spectacled Pigeon.
Modou, our guide for the trip, picked us up outside the hotel at 8am, we were watching Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starlings, Long-tailed Glossy Starlings and beautiful Sunbirds whilst we waited.
Our first trip out took us to the ‘famous’ Bridge over the Kotu Stream, we spent an hour there watching a good variety of species. Three species of swallow we sitting on the wires just in front of us, Wire-tailed, Red-throated and Barn Swallows. Pied Kingfishers sat or hovered on both sides of the bridge and Blue-chested Kingfisher made an appearance.
the group on the Bridge at the Kotu Stream
Herons, egrets, cormorants and waders all turned out for us although the views of Striated Heron and Squacco Heron were very brief. Spur-winged Lapwing, Senegal Thick-knee, Whimbrel and Western Reef Egret showed very well.
Western Reef Egret
Some goodies also pleased the crowd, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Red-billed Firefinch, Grey-headed Sparrow and many Village Weavers were ‘firsts’ for most of the group.
We walked along the road to the Casino track where more species waited for us. Modou picked out a Subalpine Warbler, Senegal Coucal, Shikra, Grey Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Shrike, Beautiful, Varied and Crimson-chested Sunbirds, whilst the sky began to fill with Little Swifts.
two pictures of the Woodland Kingfisher
At a pond we added Hadada Ibis, Buffalo Weaver, Woodland Kingfisher and noted Agama Lizard, Sun Squirrel, Water Monitor and lots of Dragonflies.
Walking back to the bus we added Green Vervet Monkeys, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Zitting Cisticola and had better views of many of our previous sightings.
Lesser Blue-eared Glossy-Starling
The visit to the Sewerage Farm didn’t produce much more, we added Black-winged Stilt, Common Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, African Jacana and lots of butterflies. The most impressive sight was that of 2-300 Little Swifts coming down to drink the foul water!
Black-winged Stilts and a Spur-winged Lapwing at the sewerage works
At we got back onto the bus Modou had a message come through of the sighting of a Casqued Hornbill!! This is a mega bird for the Gambia and tis particular individual had been seen along the coasts at various sites for the last 3 years. We were all more than happy to go and see it, so off we went to the Calypso Hotel near Banjul. The bird was magnificent, huge and strange and beautiful all at the same time!
The magnificent Black-Casqued (Wattled) Hornbill
We spent an hour at the hotel and added Senegal Parrot, Little Bee-eater and had sightings of many birds already seen today.
We returned to our hotel for lunch and a midday break, it was hot and humid by then. At 4pm we met up again and spent the rest of our birding day walking around the expansive grounds of our hotel. It was full of birds, we even spent some time on the beach watching terns(Sandwich and Lesser-crested) and distant Gannets.
New birds added to the trip list included: White-crowned Robin-Chat, Brown and Blackcap Babblers, Blue-bellied Roller and later some of the group saw a Pearl-spotted Owlet. We ended the day seeing over 80 species, a very good start to the trip.