Tanji Reserve and Beach
Tanji Bird Reserve is situated on the coast and comprises both dense and open woodland and beach and sand spits. It is split by a road that runs along a ridge right through it. We stopped on this road and scanned from our raised vantage point. Yellow-crowned Gonolek could be heard (a statement true of a lot of The Gambia) and a pair of noisy Senegal Parrots flew over. A sunbird landed on top of a tree and I managed to 'scope it. Unfortunately it almost immediately flew off. This was not good news because it was a male Green-headed Sunbird – another difficult bird to get. Sadly it was not refound. Also here I saw a brief view of a pair of Yellow-backed Weavers.
We entered the reserve proper and began seeing some of the usual woodland species: Vieillot's Barbet, African Golden Oriole, Northern Crombec and Variable Sunbird. A Double-spurred Francolin flew up suddenly from the path and Western Olivaceous Warbler was heard. Solomon stopped and scanned a large leafy tree and announced he had found African Green Pigeon – two birds were eventually seen by all; their colouring is very good camouflage.
More common species were found: Red-eyed and Vinaceous Doves (usually not mentioned because they are everywhere!), Northern Black Flycatcher, Grey and Red-billed Hornbills, Common Bulbul and Osprey. Wintering Yellow Wagtails flew over now and then, and Little Bee-eaters were seen fly-catching from bushes (these are The Gambia's commonest bee-eater). Black-billed Wood-doves were common here.
By now we had reached the coast and could see a sandbar with a great number of birds on it. I did some estimates of the numbers seen: 350 Caspian Terns, 700 Royal Terns, 900 Common Terns, both races of Lesser Black-backed Gull, about 75 in total, a probable juvenile and two adult Kelp Gulls, 30 Sanderlings, 12 Whimbrels, 16 Bar-tailed Godwits, a lone Grey Plover, four Slender-billed Gulls, a few Ruddy Turnstones and a lifer for many in the form of an Audouin's Gull. I didn't bother counting the number of Grey-headed Gulls! Black Kites cruised over the tideline and a Pomarine Skua appeared from behind a sandbank and headed out to sea.
Back at the landrovers we crossed the road to check out the other side of the reserve. Not much about since it was quite late in the morning but we did get Variable, Splendid and Beautiful Sunbirds together in one tree, a female Northern Puffback, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and a Bearded Barbet.
Nearby, at another part of Tanji, we found another sandy beach, this time with the ocean one side and a lagoon the other. The lagoon held the birds. Terns were abundant with Sandwich, Royal, Caspian, Lesser Crested and Gull-billed. Waders were also present with Common Ringed Plover, Eurasian Whimbrel, Sanderling, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Redshank and Ruddy Turnstone, plus, of course, African Wattled Lapwings and Kentish Plovers. As we scanned the area we found, on the other side of the lagoon, a small, unfamiliar wader. Is it or isn't it we thought. It turned to face us and the forehead was shockingly white – it was a our main target species here, White-fronted Plover. We admired this fine-looking bird until it flew. However, it flew towards us and landed quite close. It was then joined by another and both proceeded to walk towards us as they fed!
Also here we had Pied Kingfishers hovering and plunging into the water, many Grey-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, 21 Slender-billed Gulls and two Kelp Gulls (our other target species), an adult and a juvenile.
As we walked back towards the landrovers, rather plagued by hordes of local children, Peter Mitchell stopped to scan some small islands off shore and announced he had both Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans in view. These were duly admired despite the constant quiet 'hello's from the children and pleas for addresses, sweets, pens or money. They can seem a bit of a problem but are generally friendly. However, they don't seem to know the meaning of 'no' – it seems to mean go away so another can replace you then come back soon after!