Sunday 19 January 2014

A trip up river.

We crossed the River Gambia via the dreaded ferry crossing from Banjul to Barra and headed along the north bank of the river heading for our first destination at the Kaur Wetlands. We were a little low as we already knew the bird we were seeking, Egyptian Plover, had already gone from there. As we rumbled along through what seemed like endless fields interspersed with degraded savannah suddenly Modou Saidy, our guide, asked the driver to stop and reverse up the road a little. Elis and I anxiously sat and waited to find out what he had seen and eventually he joyfully announced that he had found a Temminck’s Courser. Quite how he had seen this bird from a moving car I’ll never know, I still couldn’t see it even when we were half way across the field in which it was hiding from the sun under a small shrubby plant. Eventually of course we did get onto the bird and were delighted to find there were actually two of them.
Temminck's Courser Cursorius temminckii; in heat haze The Gambia.
From here we continued on our way feeling slightly lighter at heart and even optimistic that the plover might just have returned to the site which we were heading for. Sadly it was not to be so we headed to Georgetown for the night.

In the morning we set off directly to Basse Santa Su. We knew now that the plovers had been seen there the previous day, so we were highly charged. As we got out of the car we almost immediately saw two Egyptian Plovers on the jetty, unfortunately they didn’t stay there long as they were scared off by a fisherman who ignored Modou’s pleas not to walk towards them.
Egyptian Plover Pluvianus aegyptius; our first sighting at Basse, The Gambia.
Fortunately they didn’t go far and we relocated them slightly downriver on the bank. Here we watched them for a short time before once again the hubbub around them scared them off and they flew across the river where it was much quieter and soon they were out of sight.
Still on the jetty before it got scared off.
We ruminated on the fact that had we arrived some ten minutes after we did, we may well have dipped on these birds, now that would have been depressing to say the least. But, putting these upsetting thoughts aside we then trundled back to the coast very happy bunnies indeed.
In a more natural habitat on the muddy Gambia riverbank.
We didn’t get a full house on this trip, but we did get five out of the six possible species here, missing only Bronze-winged Courser and felt very satisfied with this outcome. The two more difficult species we saw as a result of Modou’s good eyes and up to date information so we were really glad we had him along with us.

With no new birds now possible we can safely say that we will be leaving The Gambia tomorrow with 170 species under the belt and hope that when we next check our emails we see the good news that we are also a step or two nearer to our donation target.

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