The Gambia, February 2015

Published by Tony Benton (tonyjbenton AT

Participants: Tony Benton,


The flight from London Gatwick to The Gambia was largely uneventful, except that we were delayed for 1.5 hours by a passenger becoming ill before the plane had left the stand. Once resolved, however, we made good progress, slightly under six hours, and arrived late afternoon to temperatures of about 34 c. Glorious was the first word that sprung to mind, it was so good to leave behind the dank, sometimes cold, British weather!

Our hotel for the week was the birder friendly Bakotu, where the staff were not fazed at all by guests who seemed to be never parted from their binoculars, telescopes, or enormous telephoto lenses. They had clearly seen it all before.

We had arrived too late to really contemplate any serious birding around the grounds of the hotel, so I decided I would start in earnest the following morning. What follows is mostly a site by site listing of birds seen, some of which were actually seen at multiple sites.

Hotel grounds, Bakotu hotel and the creek from the viewing platform

• White -crowned Robin Chat
• Western Grey Plaintain Eater
• Wattled Plovers
• Spur winged Plovers
• African Palm Swift (particularly numerous towards dusk)
• Grey-headed Gull
• Whimbrel
• Black Kites (100's - what fabulous graceful birds)
• Little Bee-eater
• Speckled Pigeon
• Laughing Dove
• Red eyed Dove
• Blackcap Babblers (always in noisy, squabbling, parties)
• Common Bulbuls
• Brown Babbler
• Village Weaver
• Senegal Thickknee

Guided walk, Kotu Creek, Rice fields and the 'cycle track' area

• Beautiful Sunbird
• Blue cheeked Bee-eaters (a bird that I've wanted to see for many years)
• Common Sandpiper
• Wood Sandpiper
• Grey Plover
• Ringed Plovers
• Western Reef Heron
• Red chested Swallow
• Long tailed Glossy starling
• Wire tailed Swallow
• Golden tailed woodpecker
• Red billed Firefinch
• African Spoonbill
• Pied Kingfisher
• Grey Heron
• Great white Egret
• Blue bellied Roller
• White-billed Buffalo weaver
• Senegal Coucal
• Piapiac
• Red billed Hornbill
• Long tailed Cormorant
• Hamerkop
• Variable Sunbird
• Greenshank
• White faced Whistling Duck
• Common Moorhen
• Black Egret
• African Jacana
• Malachite Kingfisher
• Squaco Heron
• Rose ringed Parakeet
• Black Winged Stilt
• Hadada Ibis
• Green Woodhoopoe
• Black Headed heron
• Greater Painted Snipe (x13!, a good tally)
• Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
• Lizzard Buzzard
• Yellow billed Shrike
• Rufous Crowned roller
• Grey Woodpecker
• Senegal Parrot
• African Grey Hornbill
• Abyssinian Roller
• Blue Breasted Kingfisher

From the beach/sea shore

• Pied Crow
• Caspian Terns
• Sandwich Terns

Fajara golf course, and the sewage works!

• Giant Kingfisher
• Pearl Spotted Owlet
• Fork tailed Drongo
• Yellow-crowned Gonolek
• Double Spurred Francolin
• Bronze Manikin
• Vinaceous Dove
• Peregrine Falcon
• Redshank
• Little Grebe, with two ducklings
• Little Swift (really numerous)
• Grey Headed Gulls at the sewage works - several hundred washing and preening
• Little Egret
• Pelican – pink-backed
• Shikra
• Grey-backed Camaroptera
• Yellow Wagtails
• Northern Red Bishop
• Intermediate (yellow billed) Egret
• African mourning Dove
• Village Indigobird (a very scruffy male)
• Tawny Flanked Prinia

Kartong bird observatory

• Long-crested Eagle
• Harrier Hawk
• Marsh Harrier
• Common Snipe

Banjul Airport

• House Sparrow

Impressions of The Gambia

The Gambia, West Africa, is part of the smiling coast – and with good reason because the Gambian people are genuinely friendly, gentle, and smile a lot!

Tourism is really important to the country and this winter/spring, tourist numbers are down by more than 50% because of Ebola in West Africa. This is a tragedy for The Gambia, because there has not been a single case of Ebola in the country. So if you are thinking of visiting The Gambia, please go! The country needs your support, and many people personally thanked us for visiting. I’m pleased to say that our flight was full, it’s the Scandinavians and Germans that have deserted the beaches.

I felt desperately sorry for the official bird-guides, that have spent many years developing their guiding skills, and were struggling to find any customers. It’s a desperate situation and so unfortunate and unfair. My principal guide was (tel 00220 9886468). Morro was polite, reliable, and competent.

The Gambia offers some really brilliant birding, much of it within the grounds of your beach side hotel and adjacent areas. This trip was not a birding trip – it was a family holiday with just five or six hours with a guide, and trip by taxi to the Kartong Observatory down on the border with Senegal. There are, of course, many up-country (up river) opportunities as well, and the avifauna changes markedly away from the coastal strip.