The birding began early with a walk to the hotel restaurant for breakfast – a couple of singing male Beautiful Sunbirds were first, then Common Bulbul and Vinaceous Dove, and, in the carpark as we waited gathered together, a Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling.
Now to our first site, the not-as-smelly-as-expected Kotu Pools (for Pools read sewage ponds). Black-winged Stilts were very common and amongst them we found Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers and Black-tailed Godwit. Spur-winged Plovers were also easy to see and classy-looking birds in flight. Just try getting a photo of one flying past though! Two Black Terns showed well over the first pool and we had various good flyover-species: Red-billed Hornbill, Western Grey Plantain-eater, Black-shouldered Kite and Senegal Parrot. Of course, Pied Kingfisher was found here as were Grey-headed Gulls showing their obvious white feathers in the wings.
One of Kotu Pools
As we walked around we picked up more new species: Splendid Sunbird, Intermediate Egret, African Mourning Dove, Bronze Manakin, Senegal Thick-knee and Long-tailed Cormorant. At the edge of one pool we found our first African Jacana and nearby marshy land added African Wattled Lapwing and Blue-bellied Roller, plus wintering Western Olivaceous Warblers, more Northern Crombecs, and Village Weavers. As we reached the road a small raptor appeared and was identified as a Grey Kestrel. It kindly landed in a nearby palm and everyone had great views, even those who had gone ahead and had to rush back!
Next stop was the nearby Kotu Bridge, crossing Kotu Creek. Mudflats and mangroves characterized the area and we picked up Greater Ringed Plover, Hamerkop, a pair of Variable Sunbirds and a very red Northern Red Bishop. We also tracked down a calling Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird right at the top of a tree. Then, as the group stood on the bridge, an almost-disaster occurred. The single slab of unreinforced concrete our intrepid leader, Vaughan, was standing on cracked and gave way, crashing down into the river below. Vaughan disappeared down the resulting gaping hole! Fortunately he managed to cling to the next slab with his finger tips and the rest of us dived to his rescue. Apart from being shaken and somewhat cut on his left leg he was OK but had to head back to the hotel for treatment. We hastily cleared the bridge, using the road, not the pavement!
The group, less three members, headed off to the golf course getting a flock of nine African Silverbills on a telegraph wire on the way. The golf course is a watered area that held some excellent birds such as Bearded Barbets, Green Wood-hoopoes, a close and very accommodating Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling, Blue-bellied Roller, Little Bee-eater and Red-chested Swallow. Part of the golf course is edged by part of Kotu Creek. Here we added Black-headed Lapwing, along with Senegal Thick-knees, various egrets and 50+ Grey-headed Gulls. Also here we heard Yellow-throated Leafloves and a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird. It is worth pointing out that the temperture had increased and we were all feeling it. Fortunately some locals appeared and offered to get us drinks. We put in an order and soon were lounging in the shade with cool drinks reviving our flagging physiques.
After a late lunchtime break (thank goodness for the hotel's ability to supply chips!) we again headed out along the cycle track. Although it was about 4pm the heat was still present but bird activity was picking up after the midday inactivity. Birds we now refer to as 'usual' were seen, you know the kinds, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Northern Crombec, Red-billed Firefinch, Bronze Manakin, Beautiful Sunbird – birds that yesterday were lifers but today are relegated to common Gambian species – still very nice though.
As well as the 'common' stuff we added a Fine-spotted Woodpecker feeding on the trunk of a palm, and a small pool held a fine Black-headed Heron – a very classy looking bird. Another pool with high grass looked quiet until we reached it when it erupted with Great, Squacco and Black Egrets. Fortunately the birds flew only a short distance and then settled on trees and bushes. The Black Egrets are very special birds; not truly black, more very dark slaty-blue.
The afternoon walk continued down to the beach where we viewed an ocean almost devoid of birds – one Gull-billed Tern flew past. However, looking inland brought us a family of at least eight Piapiacs, four African Grey Hornbills and a Senegal Coucal – all close and showing very well. Continuing on we had another two Blue-bellied Rollers, more Little Bee-eaters, a silouette of a Black-crowned Tchagra, Shikra and a very good-looking Lizard Buzzard. The walk and the day's birding ended with a surprise (at least to me), a Levailliant's Cuckoo, and a couple of African Thrushes.