Herman van der Hart
THE COLORFUL WORLD OF BIRDS OF SENEGAL AND THE GAMBIA
February 2019 I visited The Gambia and Senegal . It was partly for holidays, photographing mainly birds, partly for guiding a school group through the country and, last but not least, I tried, together with my friend Burama Keita, to set up a Photo Tour for the future. One of the best places to picture birds is Marakissa River Camp. This camp offers diverse possibilities to make good pictures: during a canoe trip, during a walking trip, from a photo hide and, most simply, in the garden of the resort (Like the picture above and some more to come).
The photo hide in the back of the garden is a place where you see fewer birds, but still it can be very rewarding, because of the more shy birds that show up every once in a while....
Examples of such birds are: Shikra, both male and female regularly comes by and even taking a bath, Grey-headed Bush Shrike and Violet Turaco, to name a few.
Because the surroundings of Marakissa River Camp contains many different habitats, it is a great place for seeing and photographing many different bird species. An example of this is the variety in Kingfishers.
One of the main attractions here is to make a canoe trip and try to capture wetland dwelling birds...
Another great place to see and picture birds is Jimbana, a local harbor in a mangrove area. It is situated on the not so often visited North Bank of The Gambia River. This time we were there in the dry season, but for instance in October, just after the rainy season , many more things are possible, like photographing displaying Norther Red Bishops, leaping in the tall grass.
Our trip through Senegal brought us in the first place to the very southeastern part of the country, to the vast Niokola Koba National Park, bordering Guinee Conakry. I had been visiting this area, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, twice before. Last year together with Burama, camping at Campement du Lion, we heard Lions almost every night, but were not able to see them. This time we were very lucky in seeing two Lionesses at Mare de Simenti in late afternoon. It is a huge area but large parts were burned and those parts didn't show a lot of wildlife. Between Camp du Lion and Simenti that was different. We saw: two different types of Mongoose, two different species of Duiker, Hartebeest, Oribi, Bushbuck, Kob, Roan and lots of Waterbuck.
After visiting South East Senegal, I drove to Tambacounda and from there to Kaolack. About twenty kilometers west of this city there is an island in the Sine Saloum Delta which host 20.000 Swallow-tailed Kites and 40.000 Lesser Kestrels every night.
Besides the photo hide at Marakissa River Camp, we are working on more hides in The Gambia. Burama Keita has a hide of his own, about 30 km east of Brikama in a forest area. In a forest next to an organic vegetable garden in Aljamdu on the north bank, Musa Drammeh is busy creating a photo hide in a very promising area. Last year I stayed 5 days in his vegetable garden and saw 100+ different bird species there...!
Hopefully we can make use of these hides in the near future!