13th to 20th February 2007
Bill and Heather Quinn, Tolka Branch of BirdWatch Ireland

Our trip to the Gambia overlapped with other members of the Tolka Branch, who were there from 25th January until 8th February. After they had departed we went birding again with Modou Jarju – who is a first class bird guide (Tel: 7799190) based in the Birdman’s Hut in the grounds of the Senegambia Hotel at Kololi. We visited Lamin Rice Fields on 11th February. This is located directly across the main road from the entrance to Abuko Nature Reserve. We had never been there before and we were very impressed with the quality of birds there, and with Modou’s ability to call birds towards him. There were a number of artificial freshwater ponds in the area used for cultivation. In addition to the more common birds we saw Painted Snipe, Common Snipe, Moorhen, Pearl Spotted Owlet, Wood Sandpiper, Purple Heron, Zitting Cisticola, Green-headed Sunbird, Bar-breasted Firefinch. Afterwards we went into the Abuko Nature Reserve where, in addition to the always-present pair of Giant Kingfishers, we had splendid views of a Red-billed Paradise Flycatcher, a Black Crake, a Little Greenbul and a Collared Sunbird. On 12th February as darkness was falling Modou showed us a Barn Owl in a tree in the grounds of the Senegambia Hotel. It was a very good ending to two excellent weeks birding in the Gambia. 

Early on the 13th we were collected at the Hotel and transported to the Barra ferry in Banjul, where we were met with a representative from the Hôtel Domaine les Palétuviers. We crossed as foot passengers with him and were then driven up to the hotel in Toubakouta. After lunch we travelled 12 Kilometres south-westwards along the Saloum River, on a small pirogue type boat with an outboard motor, to the remote Ile de Betanti, where we stayed at the Hôtel Ile des Palétuviers for five nights. On the way we had some excellent views of Ospreys and a Goliath Heron. 
On the morning of the 14th we went birding just to the north of the hotel, where we were delighted to see a Southern Grey Shrike. For a while we thought that we had also seen an Isabelline Shrike, but it turned out to be a first winter Woodchat Shrike. 

Our first trip was that afternoon in a small speed boat along with our resident bird guide - Lamine Demba – to see a Pink-backed Pelican roost, and a tree full of Black Kites. To our amazement on our way there we came upon a rare Saddled-billed Stork about 1.5 Kilometres to the southwest on a shallow sandbank on the west side of the river (approx. location 13 degrees 41.4’N, 16 degrees 31.3’W). Even our bird guide had never seen one before! We saw Ospreys at nearly every bend in the river and a few more Goliath Herons. 
Saddle-Billed Stork

On the 15th we took a trip out to the Ile aux Oiseaux, which is just outside the mouth of the Saloum River in the Atlantic Ocean and about 19 Kilometers from the Hôtel Ile des Palétuviers. There were Caspian, Royal, Lesser Crested Terns and Sandwich Terns on the island. While the gulls were nearly all Grey-headed Gulls and Slender-billed Gulls we took one photograph through the telescope of two gulls with black wings. One of these was a Kelp Gull with a black ring on its left tarsus with 2DT on it. 

Kelp Gull (ringed)  with Slender-billed Gull 

This was subsequently identified by Didier Vangeluwe, of the Belgian Royal Institute of Natural Sciences. It had been ringed as at least a 4 year old, by Didier on the same island in June 2004. It had been recorded only once subsequently, by Clive Barlow in Banjul, in January 2006. Our boatman told us that during the breeding season you could hardly see the sun as there would be so many birds around. On the same trip we saw Greater Flamingos on a sandbar close to the mouth of the river. We also saw a Fish Eagle. 

On Betanti Island on 16th we had a splendid view of the only Palm-nut Vulture we saw in Senegal as it flew and lingered directly overhead – unfortunately with no camera to hand – another one that got away! This was such a hot day that there were virtually no birds to be seen. The only other birds worth noting were Zitting Cisticola, Yellow-fronted Canary, Yellow-crowned Gonolek and Fine-spotted Woodpecker. 

On 17th we took a short trip by boat up the mangrove waterways on the eastern side of the Saloum River where we saw Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and a Mouse-brown Sunbird, Whimbrels, Eurasian Curlews, Common and Curlew Sandpipers. On our return trip we saw the only Knot of the trip on a sandy mudflat. We also witnessed a Fish Eagle being mobbed by an Osprey. There was also a Hoopoe beside the Hotel on Betanti Island 

     Namaqua Dove

It was cooler on 18th, and before we left the island to return to the Hôtel Domaine les Palétuviers, we walked around the Hotel. There were four African Scops Owls in a tree beside the staff quarters. We also saw our first Bearded Barbet on the island and some Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, and a large python! In the afternoon we returned to Hôtel Domaine les Palétuviers. We stayed there for two relaxing days, where we were lucky to see and photograph our last interesting bird on the trip – a Cut-throat Finch – beside the swimming pool. We left Senegal on 20th and returned to Banjul Airport, and flew home that afternoon. 

Cut-throat Finch

Birds were not present on Betanti Island in anything like the same numbers, and varied species, as in the vicinity of Kololi in The Gambia, probably because of the absence of fresh water and what appeared to us, without a thermometer, to be the somewhat higher daytime temperatures. As we noted above on one day it was so hot that there were very few birds visible on the island. We found that our best way of seeing birds was to sit in chairs under the shade of a tree and wait for the birds to come to us. 

Goliath Heron                                                                                     

On our trip to the Siné-Saloum Delta in Senegal we saw 89 species of birds, including some magnificent views of Ospreys, Goliath Herons, Fish Eagles, Terns, Black Kites, Pink-backed Pelicans, African Darters, Greater Flamingos, Cut-throat Finches, Namaqua Doves, African Scops Owls, Senegal Parrots, Sunbirds, Bee-eaters, and of course the never-to-be-forgotten Saddle-billed Stork. 

Greater Flamingos

LIST OF BIRDS SEEN IN SENEGAL: BI = seen on Betanti Island, BT = seen on Boat Trips, HDP = seen at Hôtel Domaine les Palétuviers 

Pink-backed Pelican BT

Great Cormorant BT

Long-tailed Cormorant BT

African Dartar BT

Western Reef Heron BT

Great White Egret BI BT

Black-headed Heron BT

Grey Heron BT

Goliath Heron BI BT

Saddle-billed Stork BT

Greater Flamingo BT

Sacred Ibis BI BT

Osprey BT

Palm-nut Vulture BI

Hooded Vulture BI BT

African Fish Eagle BT

Tawny Eagle BT

Black Kite BI BT

Black-shouldered Kite BI BT

Lizard Buzzard BI

Grey Kestrel BT

Double-spurred Francolin BI BT

Greater Painted-Snipe BT

Spur-winged Plover BI BT

Ringed Plover BI BT

Eurasian Curlew BT

Whimbrel BI BT

Bar-tailed Godwit BI BT

Common Greenshank BT

Common Sandpiper BT

Green Sandpiper BT

Common Redshank BT

Eurasian Oystercatcher BT

Common Snipe BT

Ruddy Turnstone BT

Red Knot BT

Little Stint BT

Sanderling BT

Curlew Sandpiper BT

Grey-headed Gull BI BT

Slender-billed Gull BT

Kelp Gull BT

Lesser Black-backed Gull BT

Caspian Tern BT

Royal Tern BT

Lesser Crested Tern BT

Sandwich Tern BT

Little Tern BT

Namaqua Dove BT

Red-eyed Dove HDP

Piapiac BI

Senegal Coucal BI

African Scops Owl BI

Little Swift BI

Black Wood Hoopoe BI

Hoopoe BI

Pied Kingfisher BT

Rufous-crowned Roller BI

Abyssinian Roller BI

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater BT

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater BT

Little Bee-eater BT

Rose-ringed Parakeet BI BT

Senegal Parrot BI BT

Western Grey Plantain-Eater BT

Bearded Barbet BI HDP

Red-billed Hornbill BI

African Grey Hornbill BT

Fine-spotted Woodpecker BI

Red-chested Swallow BI

Forked-tailed Drongo BI

Common Bulbul BI HDP

Brown Babbler BI HDP

Willow Warbler BI

Zitting Cisticola BI HDP

Grey-backed Camaroptera HDP

Pygmy Sunbird BT

Mouse-brown Sunbird BT

Beautiful Sunbird BI BT

Yellow-crowned Gonolek BI

Southern Grey Shrike BI

Woodchat Shrike BI BT

Yellow-billed Shrike BI

Long-tailed Glossy Starling BI HDP

Yellow-fronted Canary BI

Grey-headed Sparrow BI

Village Weaver BI HDP

Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu BI

Cut-throat Finch HDP 

Other Species:

Fruit Bat HDP

Python BI

Agama Lizard HDP