Thursday 30 July 2009

Gambia Trip List - part 9

A few more exotica for your perusal, though looks like I'm a bit light on decent photos. However, I'm determined to get through the list now (even if part of the motive is to clear some hard disk space by deleting duplicate / soft / appalling photos)!

112. Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird - one or two seen briefly at Faraba Banta
113. Bearded Barbet - several seen, included around the Senegambia and at Abuko. Disappointingly, no good photos, since these are rather smart
114. African Pied Hornbill - only seen at Abuko, together with...

115. African Grey Hornbill - at Abuko and Bijilo
116. Red-billed Hornbill - common, numerous around the hotel and various other sites
117. Grey Woodpecker - one very obliging bird around the hotel pool on the last day, plus others at Abuko and Brufut, for instance

118. Cardinal Woodpecker - one seen on the first day around the hotel grounds, and none thereafter!
119. Brown-backed Woodpecker - one at Tujering
120. Lesser Honeyguide - one at Abuko was another of Ebrima's good finds
121. Wryneck - one at Tujering showed briefly
122. Crested Lark - seen at Faraba Banta
123. Fanti Saw-wing - brilliant name! Seen well at Abuko
124. Wire-tailed Swallow - quite common, seen best around Kotu and the track at Pirang
125. Mosque Swallow - Faraba Banta
126. Red-chested Swallow - only noted at Kotu, though I'm sure we must have seen more than this!
127. Fork-tailed Drongo - another great name, seen at Faraba Banta and Abuko
128. Yellow Wagtail - seen at Faraba Banta and on the beach at Tanji (apparently flava race)
129. White Wagtail - also Tanji beach
130. Common Bulbul - very abundant!

131. Yellow-throated Leaflove - Abuko only
132. Little Greenbul - fairly numerous at Abuko... not the most inspiring of birds, though!

133. Grey-headed Bristlebill - almost the first bird we saw at Abuko... a good way to start
134. Oriole Warbler - rather difficult, only seen at Bijilo, and then after a struggle
135. Blackcap Babbler - easiest near the entrance to Abuko
136. Brown Babbler - common around the hotel and various other sites

137. Whinchat - a couple at Tujering
138. Wheatear - one at Tujering
139. White-fronted Black Chat - apparently quite a difficult bird to get, we saw one quite well around some partially built buildings at Tujering

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Gambia Trip List - part 8

Still off work, hacking away like a 90-a-day smoker, so I'm looking for vaguely productive things to do. The laundry basket is slowly getting emptied (still haven't discovered a way to automate the process, though), and I've actually written up a description of the Ortolan Bunting I found at Rainham, almost a year ago. This is very, very late indeed, and I have no excuse. But I do have a photo with which to wind you all up. Look, isn't it lovely?

Anyway, this is supposed to be about the Gambia, not gripping off London birders. Shocking behaviour. Where was I? Ah yes, the best bit! There may be rather a high density of photos for a while: we don't see many of these in the UK...

101. Broad-billed Roller - just one seen, flycatching from tall trees near the entrance to the Fajara golfcourse

102. Blue-bellied Roller - several seen, including a couple around the paddies near Kotu creek and one at Tujering. The flight shot isn't very good, but it illustrates just how stunning these birds are when they spread their wings...

103. Rufous-crowned Roller - one or two seen at Tujering.
104. Abyssinian Roller - stunning bird! Suzanne foundthe first one perched in a dead tree below our balcony in the hotel grounds, much to our delight, and others were seen at Tujering and Fajara.

105. Swallow-tailed Bee-eater - another gorgeous bird; I saw two or three at the far end of Abuko, beyond the hyena pens.

106. Little Bee-eater - fairly common, seen well at Bijilo and Brufut amongst other place. Rather confiding and photogenic!

107. White-throated Bee-eater - small numbers seen between the entrance to Bijilo and the beach.
108. Rose-ringed Parakeet - commonly heard screeching away in flight.... just like West London!
109. Senegal Parrot - a couple seen, unfortunately in flight only, at Faraba Banta
110. Violet Turaco - simply doesn't look real! Fairly easy to see at Abuko on both visits, an amazing sight in flight showing bright cerise primaries.

111. Green Turaco - scarcer, but still seen well at Abuko (in a mixed group of turacos) thanks to Ebrima's expertise.

Monday 27 July 2009

Not birding.... even more dangerously addictive

Try this:

But don't blame me when it eats up several hours you didn't have to spare - I'm too busy trying to get past level 20.

This is what happens when you are off sick from work, and can't face daytime TV...

Sunday 26 July 2009

More butterflies

Suzanne and I spent the day round on the opposite side of London, looking for a couple of new butterflies. The weather wasn't kind (should've paid more attention to the forecast before we went!), but in a few sunnier intervals we managed to catch up with Wood White (at Botany Bay near Chiddingfold) and about 10 rather worn Silver-washed Fritillaries at Straits Inclosure in Alice Holt Forest near Farnham. We also caught up with a pretty good pub lunch at The Parrot in Forest Green... though unlike the butterflies, this didn't linger long enough for photos!

After lunch, we headed home fairly quickly, since I'm still failing to fight off a really annoying cough and feeling pretty tired. No other pork-related symptoms, fortunately, but I think a trip to the doctors is probably still in order.

Saturday 25 July 2009

No Great Spotted Cuckoos here....

Although today's trip to Norfolk didn't produce the 'big one' I was hoping for, it was still very pleasant. I came away with a whole heap of pleasing photos, a yeartick in the form of two adult Curlew Sandpipers... and sunburnt arms!

Arriving at Salthouse just after 7am, a number of birders were already scattered between the beach carpark, the coast road, and Kelling Water Meadows. I recce'd with Shaun and the Dip Monkey, and we did our bit searching the area east of the water meadows towards the Muckleburgh collection. However, despite excellent looking habitat and our collective best efforts, we couldn't find a Cuckoo of any description, let along a Great Spotted. Some other birders were trying more novel bird-finding strategies, but I feel this is probably not in the bird's best interests...

The other guys headed back home mid morning to recoup brownie points and do some window fitting, leaving me happily messing about with the macro lens again. Two species in particular were amazingly abundant: 7-spot ladybirds were just everywhere, surely numbering in the hundreds of thousands, with every fence post covered in them!

And there had obviously been a big hatch of 'new' Painted Lady butterflies, much fresher-looking than those in the initial arrival.

As I continued my walk along the north edge of Kelling Water Meadows, I very nearly failed to notice a group of Sand Martins perched on a low wire fence. Fortunately I stopped dead when the first one chirruped in alarm, and they stayed put, giving great photo opportunities. I'm really happy with the first shot in particular - one of the best I've taken, in my opinion.

All the brambles and thistles along the tracks round Kelling were covered in more butterflies than I've seen in quite a while. Gatekeepers were very abundant:

... and the supporting cast included Peacocks and many Six-spot Burnet moths.

Friday 24 July 2009

Gambia Trip List - part 7

And now we're past the rather routine selection of Western Palearctic waders, gulls and terns, onwards to some more exotic birds....

78. Laughing Dove - abundant
79. Blue-spotted Wood Dove - paddyfields near Abuko, plus other sites I failed to note
80. Black-billed Wood Dove - Bijilo, Abuko, relatively in and around woodland

81. Speckled Pigeon - common, including in the Senegambia grounds
82. African Green Pigeon - two or three at Brufut, well found by Ebrima

83. Namaqua Dove - just a couple, at Tujering

84. Red-eyed Dove - common
85. African Mourning Dove - common, and rather similar to...
86. Vinaceous Dove - common, especially around hotel grounds

87. Piapiac - several seen around town; probably very abundant, but we weren't really looking for these!
88. Senegal Coucal - numerous around the hotel

89. Klaas's Cuckoo - one showed really well by the Faraba Banta bush track

90. White-faced Scops Owl - two seen roosting in trees along Brufut entrance track
91. Long-tailed Nightjar - one of the highlights of the holiday, a local guide showed us one roosting at Brufut. Simply stunning! Click to enlarge...

92. Little Swift - Kotu
93. Mottled Spinetail - over paddyfields near Abuko
94. African Palm Swift - common
95. Green Wood Hoopoe - various sites, including small groups around the hotel
96. Giant Kingfisher - a pair seen at Abuko, very active and showing well.

97. Blue-breasted Kingfisher - one briefly at Bijilo, plus another even more fleetingly at Kotu Creek
98. Striped Kingfisher - seen well at Faraba Banta and Tujering

99. Pied Kingfisher - quite common, seen well at Abuko, Lamin Lodge and Pirang

100. Pygmy Kingfisher - one seen very close, but briefly, near the entrace to Abuko

Gambia trip list - part 6

The more dedicated readers amongst you will, no doubt, have been wondering whether Suzanne and I saw just 51 species in the Gambia in February (setting some kind of anti-birding record), or whether I'm just too lazy to finish writing the report. Yeah, no contest, it's impossible to not see birds in the Gambia - I'm guilty as charged.

However, since the Great Spotted Cuckoo has disappeared from Salthouse, and it's raining cats and dogs outside, here's another instalment...

52. Grey Plover - one at Kotu Creek
53. Ringed Plover - Kotu Creek
54. Whimbrel - numerous on the beach at Tanji, plus others seen at Kotu and around
55. Bar-tailed Godwit - several on Tanji beach

56. Greenshank - around the creeks at Lamin Lodge, plus Kotu area
57. Marsh Sandpiper - one at Kotu Sewage Ponds
58. Common Sandpiper - several around Kotu area
59. Green Sandpiper - around the pool at Abuko
60. Wood Sandpiper - Kotu Creek area
61. Redshank - also Kotu!
62. Oystercatcher - Tanji beach
63. Black-winged Stilt - numerous at Kotu Sewage Ponds, plus others at the lily ponds near the Casino cycle track. Always great to photograph...

64. (Ruddy) Turnstone - Tanji beach
65. Sanderling - also Tanji beach
66. Arctic Skua - one or two, very distantly harrassing terns over the sandbar off Tanji
67. Black-headed Gull - Tanji
68. Grey-headed Gull - abundant along the coast

69. Slender-billed Gull - c10 at Tanji; about time there was another British record!

70. Kelp Gull - one of the Tanji specialities, we saw one or two, though distantly.
71. Yellow-legged Gull - Tanji
72. Lesser Black-backed Gull - common on the coast
73. Caspian Tern - most numerous at Tanji, plus single over Abuko, and several at Kotu

74. Royal Tern - common offshore

75. Sandwich Tern - Lamin Lodge and Tanji
76. Gull-billed Tern - Kotu area
77. Little Tern - few off Tanji

Wednesday 22 July 2009

KGV, Sandpipers and Bee-eater Envy

Jealousy is a terrible thing, I'm told.... but the fact that a certain Wanstead-based birder has seen a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is almost turning me green. (Or should that be turquoise?). Despite the superb run of lifers I enjoyed this spring, this would have topped the lot by a country mile, Collared Flycatcher and all.

After the news broke from Bockhill at about 10.30, I started making plans to leave work as early as possible after lunch, travel down to Kent and then complete my hours from home in the evening. In the past, this fortunate type of flexible working arrangement has done me (and my British List) proud, and I remained hopeful for quite some time while the bird was still showing and my phone was running red hot with lifts offered and wanted. One conversation concluded with something like: DB - "OK then, might see you later - good luck!"; Unnamed twitcher joining the M2 - "Cheers...... I'm accelerating nowwwwww..."

Unfortunately, the news took a turn for the worse just before I left the city, and by the time I got home there was still no sign. I opted to resume work, and took scant consolation from optimising a knotty database query involving 20 million data rows. Thrilling, I know.

By early evening, it was clear that a trip to Kent was not required (and, for my money, any readers in France, Belgium or Holland should definitely go birding tomorrow!). In a bid to see at least some birds, I wandered down the road to check out KGV Reservoir. For those who haven't visited this ornithological cornucopia, here's a panorama:

So, a big concrete basin, with another one just like to across a causeway to the north. It's not at its most birdy in July, but there were at least a few returning waders. A couple of adult Little Ringed Plovers probably hadn't come from far away, but a minimum of 21 Common Sandpipers must've been better travelled. Just to prove I can still take a bad digiscoped photo when I put my mind to it, here they are:

So, Common Sandpipers: very charismatic, and always good to see.

But they resolutely kept going 'sweesweeswee', not 'prrrruuk', and they definitely weren't turqouise. Oh well.