Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Expect the Unexpected!

When I woke up this Saturday morning I never in a million years expected to be sitting in the hide at the Lodge waiting for Bedfordshire's first Two-Barred Crossbill in over a hundred years. to show at the pool. I also didn't expect to have to get up at 5:30 (4:30 Non BST!) to have to try and see a Two-Barred Crossbil I hadn't seen the day before. Luckily at around half 7 a flock of 20+ Crossbill appeared in a tree right in front of the hide. They promptly flew off again leaving just one bird perched proudly at the top of the tree...

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Two Very Cool Birds

Yellow-Billed Shrike and Yellow-Fronted Tinkerbird.

Roller Disco

We were lucky enough to find all 4 types of the resident speices of Roller in the Gambia. The most spectacualr was the Abyssinian Roller which was thankfully fairly common and often seemed to appear out of nowhere. On several ocasions I'd find them perched in the lower branches of a tree when I was sneaking up on Bee-Eaters and the like.

The most confusing of the Rollers we saw was the Broad-Billed Roller. A chocolate coloured bird with a splash of licac on its chest and a disctinctly falcon like shape to it. I spent several minutes perusing the falcons in the field guide before the bomb dropped. From the picture above its seems obviously not to be a falcon but from a distance and when its perched on a wire next to a road it looks very much like one- or perhaps the heat was getting to me more than I'd thought.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Black Winged Stilts

I found these shockingly long legged birds beside a sewage pool near Senegambia. I'd like to say it was an wholly enjoyable expereince photographing these birds as Little Swifts swooped down to drink from the pool but 40 degree heat really doesn't do much for the smell of sewage.

The Kings of Africa

One of the big draws of The Gambia was its outstanding array of Kingfishers. I still get overly excited when I see a common Kingfisher in the UK so when I saw my first Pied Kingfisher on my first day in Africa I almost passed out! By the end of the day however, I'd seen at least 20 Pied Kingfishers and found out they were not only the most common Kingfisher here in The Gambia but also the most common bird on the tidal mangrove pools behind my beach lodgings. I could never get sick of them though.

You don't even have to have seen a picture of a Giant Kingfisher to know that they must be cool. Those two words- Giant and Kingfisher- sound mouthwatering together. I'd seen pictures but didn't have any idea of the scale until I saw my first. I'd say it was the size of a Rook (although perhaps I've got a touch of fisherman's syndrome -"it was this big!"). What an amazing bird though. I saw my first at Abuko and my second on the same mangrove pools that the Pieds seemed to like so much.

Seeing the Blue Breasted Kingfisher was a bit surreal at first. All week I'd been drinking Julbrew, the local lager with a Blue-Breast adorning the label, so my first sighting of a real one was a bit like seeing a local celeb. The best Kingfisher of all though has to be the African Pygmy Kingfisher. I was being led on a chase by a flirtacious Pied when I noticed a sparrow sized bird flutter up onto a mangrove right next to me. I gasped so loudly that I scared the little guy off and so I didn't manage a picture- I've still not got over this!

African Dinosaurs

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Nightjars in The Gambia

I found these Long Tailed Nightjars in a small patch of woodland beside an old mineral mine behind the beach lodge we were staying at. I came across them for the first time just before night fall and, as their ghostly silouhettes fluttered around the leaf litter, I dont mind saying I was a bit spooked out. I've only ever heard our own European Nightjars though so it was pretty amazing to see ones with huge tails! I went back to the woods the next morning thinking that they'd be sleepy and wouldn't notice me poking a lens in their faces- I was wrong. They were just as skittish as they had been the previous evening but at least this time I could see where they'd land. Remembering the advice my guide had given me about Puff Adders ("Don't step on their privates!), I crawled cautiously through the leaf litter to try and get a frame filler. Unfortuantley, Nightjars are a lot better at avoiding predators/photographers than I am at stalking Nightjars so I only got some simple portrait shots. What a fantastic bird though.