Gambia - 4th - 11th April 2012

Published by Mark Graham (helen.graham7 AT

Participants: Mark Graham


My first visit to Gambia. It was brilliant and even better than I could have imagined. The scenery, birds and people were amazing.

Stayed at the Sheraton Brufut Heights from 4/4/12 to 11/4/12. Wonderful hotel with great all inclusive food and facilities. The advantage of its location is its proximity to the Tanji Nature reserve and Brufut Forest. Both are within walking distance the hotel. These areas extend for miles to the east and south of the hotel.

In addition the hotel grounds have two wet areas to the north and south of the reception building. Just beyond the immediate grounds there are extensive scrubby areas north and south easily accessed. The terns, gulls and waders from Tanji could often be seen from the hotel grounds or by walking south along the beach.

We used the green taxis which were conveniently parked in the car parking area. The drivers and cars were very good and the prices which included at least 2 hours waiting were reasonable. I would definitely recommend them.

I like to find my own birds and armed with the trusty Helm Guide I soon worked out the commoner species and found the less common ones too in the end. I didn’t use guides. I hoped to see my 600th life species by the end of the holiday.

I knew this was not the prime time to visit Gambia but I am restricted when I can take my holidays.
Nevertheless finding birds was never a problem.I could have happily spent all week around the hotel grounds,Tanji and Brufut Forest such was the volume and quality of birds just in those areas.
I was pleasantly surprised by how close Tanji and Brufut Forest were from the hotel.Both within walking distance and hassle free.To get to the Tanji reserve wooded area to the east of the main road you have to go past Ghana Town a settlement of Ghanaians.I read in a report that I would get the life pestered out of me there.Not so!Not one person stopped me or even acknowledged me.
After a while I realised I had made a good choice staying away from the tourist strip despite its proximity to birding hotspots there.
I took one look at the area when visiting Bijilo Forest and made a swift exit thanking my lucky stars we had paid a bit extra to stay at the wonderful Sheraton.The hotels ,surroundings the eroded'beach' adjacent to the Senegambia hotel were not in the same league as the Sheraton and the walk south to Tanji.
My best finds were the two for one lifers seen at the same moment at Paradise Beach - two Hueglin’s Masked Weavers and an African Paradise Flycatcher.Similary a I saw a Brubru and a Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher together at Tanji.

The Sheraton

The grounds were full of birds. The most unusual was the Pygmy Kingfisher and Squacco Heron on the pool near the fitness club. This area was excellent as I also found a Green Sandpiper there as well as 4 Double Spurred Francolins, Singing Cisticola and a Zitting Cisticola.

There were some Black-headed Plovers and Wattled Plovers in the dry scrubby area just north of the pool as well as a Black-crowned Tchagra and Chiffchaff in the wooded area near the telecommunication mast.

Around the rest of the grounds and in the southern scrubby area I found: Little Bee-Eater, African Palm Swift, Senegal Coucal, Laughing Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Red-eyed Dove, Hooded Vulture, Palm-Nut Vulture, Black Kite, Black Shouldered Kite, Cattle Egret, Black Headed Heron, Pied Crow, Piapiac, Red Billed Hornbill, Red Chested Swallow, Common Bulbul, Brown Babbler, Chiffchaff, Copper Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Beautiful Sunbird, Splendid Sunbird, Yellow Crowned Gonolek, Yellow Billed Shrike, Yellow Billed Oxpecker, Greater Blue Eared Starling, Long Tailed Starling, House Sparrow, Yellow Fronted Canary, Grey Headed Sparrow, Black winged Red Bishop, Village Weaver, Little Weaver, African Silverbill, Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu, Red Billed Firefinch, Bronze Mannikan, Pin Tailed Whydah, and a Blue Bellied Roller.

Either looking out to sea or walking south along the beach I saw Grey Headed Gulls, 3 Gannet, 1 Osprey, 2 Peregine Falcon, 2 Slender Billed Gull, 1 Long Tailed Cormorant, 1 Sanderling, 1 Bar Tail Godwit, Western Reef Heron, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, several Ringed Plover, Turnstone, and numerous Caspian Terns and Royal Terns.

Tanji Nature Reserve

Wonderful! The lagoons were full of birds including: Pied Kingfisher, Little Egret, Western Reef Heron, Grey Heron, Black Headed Heron, Cattle Egret, Spur Winged Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Sanderling, Common Sandpiper, White Fronted Plover, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, Long Tailed Cormorant, Lesser Black Backed Gull, and Grey Headed Gull.

The wooded area to the east of the main road was easily accessed from the police checkpoint area just after Ghana Town. I walked from the hotel. I took an easterly path till I reached a walled area then followed the main sandy track south to a small mosque. There was a wonderful patch just past the mosque which was covered in birds. It was just where the path took a turn to the east.

The woods were heaving with birds. African Grey Hornbill, Red Billed Hornbill, Western Grey Plantain Eater,White Shouldered Black Tit, Red Bellied African Paradise Flycatcher, Brubru, Rose Ringed Parakeet, African Thrush, Brown Babbler, Yellow Fronted Tinker Bird, Red Billed Firefinch, Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu, Bronze Mannikan, Yellow Crowned Gonolek, Piapiac, Little Green Beeater, Yellow Billed Shrike, Village Weaver, Laughing Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Pied Crow, Grey Headed Sparrow, Senegal Coucal,and Black Crowned Tchagra.

Brufut Forest

I wouldn’t attempt to find this place alone! It was well hidden behind Brufut Village.I walked through the village and eventually found a helpful chap called Moses who led me to the promissed land aka Brufut Forest. Again a fantastic habitat.

Birds seen: Lavender Waxbill, Villiage Indigo bird, Western Grey Plant Eater, Green Backed Eromola, Grey Backed Camaroptera, Yellow Crowned Gonolek, Palm Nut Vulture, and my 600th life species – a Blue Spotted Wood Dove, Senegal Coucal, Laughing Dove, Specled Pigeon, Pied Crow, Yellow Billed Shrike, Grey Headed Sparrow, Western Grey Plantain Eater, and Village Weaver.

Abuko Nature Reserve.

I loved this place too. We asked the taxi driver to drop us off and meet us after 2 hours.This was sufficient time to get around the reserve.Again didn’t bother with a guide.

Giant Kingfisher, Osprey, Hooded Vulture, Black Kite, Palm Nut Vulture, Vinaceous Dove, African Jicana, African Harrier Hawk, Shikra, Yellow Billed Shrike, Violet Turacoa, Green Turacoa, Western Grey Plantain Eater, Wattled Plover, Night Heron, Laughing Dove, Specled Pigeon, Pied Crow, Purple Heron, Black Headed Heron, Western Reef Heron, Senegal Coucal, Village Weaver, and Common Bulbul.

There was a good view of a crocodile in the pool and we encountered some monkeys along the way.

Paradise Beach

Probably my favourite area. The beach just goes on for miles with just a few beach shacks along the way. The taxi driver dropped us off just north of Sanyang Point.We walked south the fishing centre and the lagoon.

Apart from the usual species there were Hueglin’s Masked Weavers and an African Paradise Flycatcher in some shrubs just south of Sanyang Point. Along the way to the lagoon we saw a Black Shouldered Kite, African Palm Swift.Whimbrel, Ringed Plover, Bar Tail Godwit, Sanderling, Turnstone and Grey Plover.

The Lagoon was full of birds including, Caspian Tern, Grey Headed Gull, Lesser Black Back Gull, Ringed Plover, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, Black Headed Heron, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Spur Winged Plover, Long Tailed Cormorant, and a Pied Kingfisher

Bijilo Forest Park

Had a taxi trip to see the monkeys. Also spotted some White Crowned Robin Chats as well as a Broad Billed Roller in Kololi.