TENDABA MANGROVE CREEK CRAWL – KIANG WEST NATURE RESERVE
WEATHER: light cloud all morning, clearing later. Temp 20 – 30C
We met for breakfast at 6:30am in good time for our creek crawl boat trip at 7:30, it was dark when had breakfast and a power cut half way through didn’t help.
The cloud cover was just perfect for our boat as we were exposed to the elements once on board, no canopy, no toilet and fairly hard seats. We set off across the 2km expanse of the tidal river, it was high tide and just turning when we got to the creek entrance. During our crossing we saw several species, groups of Gull-billed Terns, a couple of Caspian Terns, Egrets and Herons, Pink-back Pelicans, African Darters and Cormorants.
HEADING INTO THE CREEK
At first the mangroves seemed to be fairly quiet but they soon livened as we ‘crawled’ deeper into the mangrove forest. Common Sandpipers and Whimbrels were very common throughout the trip and we started to see lots of Darters, Intermediate, Great, Little and Western Reef Egrets. Mouse-brown Sunbirds we seen dashing across water ahead of us and their hanging nests were built just above the high tide line.
African Darter - you can see why they call it a 'Snake Bird' - by Tony Moore
The highly sought-after African Blue Flycatcher was seen by some of the group, but most of us just fleeting views of it. The same went for our first sighting of White-backed Night Heron, a single bird was spotted by the captain but it flew out sight fairly quickly.
White-throated Bee-eaters seemed to be very common and later we found a lot of European Bee-eaters too. Some smaller birds were found in the bushes such as Subalpine Warbler, Wattle-eye, Brown Babbler and Yellow-crowned Gonolek.
White-throated Bee-eater - taken by Tony Moore
It was the water birds that kept us alert, scanning all the time near and far, we added Spur-winged Goose, African Spoonbill, Great White Pelican, Striated Heron and Modou pulled out a pair of Black-crowned Cranes (distant but nice to see). Woolly-necked Storks were relatively common, along with Hammerkop, African Sacred Ibis, Black Heron, Squacco Heron and Pink-backed Pelicans.
Woolley-necked Stork - by Tony Moore
My star bird of the trip was the magnificent Goliath Heron, it allowed quite a close approach once we had tracked it down, the photographers were going bonkers! Birds of prey were few and far between apart from Yellow-billed Kites. We saw one each of Bedouin’s Snake Eagle, Shikra, Osprey and a Palm-nut Vulture.
two shots by Tony Moore of the Goliath Heron
Mosque Swallows were new for our list we also saw Wire-tailed Swallows, Barn Swallows, Little Swifts and lots of European and White-throated Bee-eaters up in the sky with the hirundines. The sky always birds flying in all directions, egrets, cormorants, geese, spoonbills, kites and doves.
A Palm-nut Vulture poses for the cameras
Palm-nut Vulture taken by Tony Moore
On the return trip we stopped to get a better look at the White-backed Night Heron, we noticed that there were two young on or around the nest with the female adult in attendance, we didn’t stay long and left them undisturbed.
African Spoonbill - Tony Moore
A second chance at seeing the African Blue Flycatcher occurred when we heard one calling close the riverside. A few of the group saw it briefly and one or two had good views of it, but some of us, including me, missed it altogether.
Other interesting observations were of Banded Mongoose, a Crocodile and one or two Hamerkop’s nests. These huge, domed constructions have an entranceway near the bottom which prevent predatory birds from getting in.
We got back to the camp before 12 noon and had some free time before lunch was served at 1pm. After lunch we reconvened at 3:30pm for a visit to the Kiang West Forest Reserve. This is delightful place which is criss-crossed with sandy tracks which lead you through secondary woodland, some open fields and lots of barren land.
record shot of the Brubru
Modou is in his element in this kind of habitat his keen eyesight and sense of hearing is phenomenal he started calling out species within minutes of dismounting from the bus. The was flurry of activity after he whistled the call of the Pearl-spotted Owlet. A small flock of Yellow Fronted Canaries showed well, then a couple of Pygmy Sunbirds followed with a Violet-chested Sunbird, both sunbirds were stunning males.
A Black Scimitarbill flew over, a few African Golden Orioles called but we did not see them. Then we heard a Fine-spotted Woodpecker before we tracked down a singing Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver. A small group of White (yellow-eyed) Helmet-Shrikes delighted the group and another bird tracked down by Modou was the Brubru, it showed well in the scope for all of us to see.
We boarded the bus and drove to another area and spent sometime looking at Starlings. In one field we saw Purple Glossy, Long-tailed Glossy, Greater and Lesser Blue-eared Glossy and Splendid Glossy Starling. Wow! There was a lot glossy out there!
We had sightings of Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grasshopper Buzzard, Mottled Spinetail, flyover Senegal parrots, all the doves know to mankind and lots more doves!!!
Sightings began to reduce as the afternoon wore on, we searched for Spotted Thick-knee without success, I can’t remember recording any other new species for the list, we called it day around 6pm and drove back to the camp in the twilight of the setting sun.