RIVER GAMBIA BOAT TRIP – JAKHALY RICE FIELDS
This was our second boat trip of the tour and our main targets birds were Finfoot and Shining Blue Kingfisher, however, we added an extra species to the wanted list when we heard that it was possible to go a little further up river and visit a government nature reserve to look for the rare Adamawa Turtle Dove.
With ate breakfast at 7am and we all ready, standing on the jetty at the back of the camp waiting for our boat just before 8am. Whilst waiting we logged a few species: Black-headed Heron, Hamerkop, Plantain Eater, Gonolek and just as the boat was arriving Modou shouted out ‘Finfoot’. Sure enough a Finfoot was swimming upriver along the far bank, I got it in the scope for everyone to see.
We quickly loaded up the boat and headed off across the river, then disaster struck! The engine cut out and the captain could not restart it, we drifted down river and watched the Finfoot disappear into the distance. Surprisingly, within fifteen minutes a second boat arrived, it pushed us to a jetty where we all transferred to our new boat and off we went. I couldn’t believe how efficient the whole process went, you get that back in the UK!
Volet Turaco - taken by Tony Moore
We never saw the Finfoot again, but plenty of other species kept us happy and the photographers happy. We found our first Grey-headed Woodpecker of the trip, we had great views of Violet Turaco (an adult with a chick), plenty of raptors were seen to keep us happy.
African Fish Eagle - taken by Tony Moore
Other kingfishers appeared, we saw Blue-breasted, plenty of Pied and a Woodland Kingfisher but not the Shining Blue! At one point we drifted close to a small inlet where two hamerkops sat on a concrete wall and two Spur-winged Plovers stood on the bank. As we got closer a Finfoot came out of cover and swan across the inlet giving us all fantastic views, wow!!
Finfoot with Spur-winged Plover - by Tony Moore and again below
We continued upriver noting more Violet Turacos and some interesting birds of prey. We saw White-backed Vultures perched in a palm, a Palm-nut Vulture eating palm nuts, what else?? A Western Banded Snake Eagle and a beautiful African Fish Eagle. Harris-hawk and Shikra made up the rest of the raptors.
Western-banded Snake Eagle - by Tony Moore
Small passerine sightings included waxbills, weavers, bishops, babblers, bulbuls and larger ones included rollers, starlings and doves. Interestingly, we found an Adamawa Turtle Dove before we got to the reserve where they are supposed to be. At the reserve we took a short walk and quickly located another Adamawa Turtle Dove, we got it in the scope for all the group to see.
Adamawa Turtle Dove by Tony Moore
Job done, we set off back down river heading for the camp for lunch. We stopped to watch a Swamp Flycatcher, which was a new bird for the list and in the same bush we saw an Olivaceous Warbler.
Straited or Green-backed Heron - by Tony Moore
Red Colobus Monkey - Tony Moore ( I mean taken by Tony Moore not a picture of him)
We were back at the camp buy 12:30 and lunch was taken at 1:30. We then had a couple of hours siesta time, in the heat of the day, before we reconvened at 4pm.
For our evening session we drove back along the main road towards Banjul for an hour to visit some rice fields looking for Greater Painted Snipe. We stopped to log our first Yellow-billed Oxpecker along the way and for reasons only known to Modou we also stopped the bus at the Marabou Stork nest, the birds were silhouetted and no good for photographs.
Yellow-billed Oxpecker and an ass
At the rice fields we had very little time before dark to find the elusive Painted Snipe. We saw plenty of birds, the whole places was full of herons, egrets, jacanas and we also found Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers. Black Crakes showed well, Senegal Coucals were very common as were African Grey Hornbills.
Black Crake by Tony Moore
After an hour or so we finally found a few fields that looked just right. Within a minute a Painted Snipe flew up and dropped back into the field a little further away. We searched but could not re-find it. Other snipe took off during the next half-an-hour we saw Common Snipe and more Painted Shipe. Eventually Modou found one on the ground and viewable in the scope. Everyone got to see it, not well, but enough to identify it. Phew!
Cattle Egrets at dusk
The sunset was magical, thousands of egrets gathered to roost, it was a spectacular sight and worth the effort of getting there. We left at dusk and drove back in the dark arriving just before 8pm and into good time for dinner.