The other Fauna of The Gambia

Whilst my main focus of attention on our week in the Gambia back in January was birds we did manage a few other goodies from the mammal and reptile worlds. Several Nile Crocodiles were seen at Tendaba, Farasutu Forest and Abuko NR while one Dwarf Crocodile in creeks on the north side of the Gambia River opposite Tendaba was very welcome. Nile Monitors were also common on the coast with several in the creeks around our hotel. Belinda in particular wanted to see Chimpanzee and Hippopotamus and a boat trip on the river to target these species was a great success with great views of both as well as a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins in the river there. 
Primates in general are the easiest mammals to connect with. Green Vervet Monkey and Western Red Colobus Monkey are common in wooded habitat near the coast (e.g. Abuko NR) whilst we also managed Patas Monkey further inland. On the way back from our trip up country we had the memorable sight of a troop of c40 Guinea Baboons cross the main road. Gambian Sun-squirrel was also seen and photographed at Farasutu Forest and we were treated to the huge Gambian Fruit Bat swooping over our hotel pool one night! 




Nile Crocodile

Nile Crocodile

Nile Crocodile

Western Red Colobus Monkey

Gambian Sun-squirrel

    Guinea Baboons

Weybourne and Felbrigg, 18 March 2015

Weybourne was my chosen destination today. With it's long-staying bits and bobs it seemed the obvious choice. Things didn't look good early doors as nobody had seen and and it took me some while to locate Lapland Buntings. But eventually I got onto a nice male which was joined by 4 other female types. The endless field scanning had revealed dozens of Skylarks, c30 Linnets and a couple of Yellowhammers. Just as I was leaving to walk back towards the coastguards cottages I then picked up 3 Snow Buntings.

After a walk to the beach carpark and then to the village shop for lunch I ambled back along the clifftop and after checking every gull all morning the Iceland Gull flew close right past me by the cottages and settled distantly in a field. 8 Stock Doves in the fields and a Barn Owl earlier in the morning were the only other things that bothered the scorers before I picked up a lovely male Northern Wheatear just west of the beach carpark. My first of the spring and my second earliest ever date.       

Iceland Gull, Weybourne (phone-scoped record shot!)

Northern Wheatear, Weybourne Hope

RBA was then announcing a male Black Redstart on the top of Felbrigg Hall so that was my 2nd port of call and I quickly found it, singing away in it's grand surroundings! A Common Buzzard circled over to finish things off.

Black Redstart, Felbrigg Hall

Common Buzzard, Felbrigg Hall

Lowestoft area, 11 March 2015

What I love about my job is being my own boss so when I finish a job early I can go birding!

Today was one of those days so after finishing up I headed for Lowestoft. The Glaucous Gull last seen on 8th was unsurprisingly not to be found in the Claremont Pier area so I busied myself photographing the Kittiwakes that now nest on the pier. An adult Mediterranean Gull was a nice bonus. On through the traffic to Ness Point and I was quickly watching 13 Purple Sandpipers and as ever they allowed me to get nice and close. I think 13 is a record count for me here.

Despite a look North Denes had no migrants or anything else so I opted for a drive to Kessingland for a mooch around the sewage works. 2 Chiffchaffs were my first of the year whilst the filter beds had a single Grey Wagtail amongst the numerous Pied Wagtails and a male Reed Bunting also feeding on the beds.

Back in urban Oulton Broad the wintering Common Sandpiper was still present in Mutford Lock and quickly found. A good job as I'd ditched my van in the pay and display and gambled on not buying a ticket!

Kittiwake, Claremont Pier

Kittiwake, Claremont Pier

Kittiwake, Claremont Pier

Purple Sandpiper, Ness Point

Purple Sandpipers, Ness Point

Reed Bunting, Kessingland Sewage Works

Common Sandpiper, Mutford Lock

Common Sandpiper, Mutford Lock


Lynford Arboretum/Santon Downham/Grimes Graves etc 9 &10 March 2015

After finishing off some work first thing on 9th a quick trip over to the Brecks for the rest of the day seemed in order.

Santon Downham however was a waste of time, searching for the Great Grey Shrike by the river east of the church proved a fruitless exercise and in a couple of hours all I managed were a Kingfisher, Nuthatches, Great Spotted and Green Woodeckers, Marsh Tits, 2 Bullfinches, a dodgy Canada x Greylag Goose hybrid and 3 Roe Deer. Yes, it really was that bad!

So, it was on to Lynford Arboretum where thankfully the day took an upward turn. The feeders under avenue of trees beside the main arboretum had a constant stream of birds including 2 Bramblings amongst the numerous Chaffinches, a few Siskins, Nuthatch,Yellowhammer, Marsh Tits and Coal Tits. After a little while 2 Hawfinches also put in an appearance although they never came close. c4 Hawfinches were later seen in adjacent fir trees. The wind was blowing down at the paddocks so little was doing there except a few more Siskins in the alders by the bridge and a Little Grebe on the lake.

Acting on a tip off from Mick Saunt I called in at Grimes Graves on the way back through and sure enough the Great Grey Shrike was on the clearfell there. It wouldn't let me close at all but I was treated to some nice views including some hovering feeding action. Common Buzzard was the only other thing of note there.

With the excellent weather forecast I was back in the Brecks on the morning of 10th and hiking out into territory I'd not been to for years. The walk produced plenty of singing Woodlarks and Coal Tits and a solitary fly-over Crossbill before I found a clearing with a good vista. Spending the rest of the morning here was very productive for raptors with 3 Red Kites over, c12 Common Buzzards (many in display), the dodgy Red-tailed Hawk that's been in the area for years and then the target - a superb Goshawk. Add in a plethora of Siskins and 3 Bullfinches and it all added up to a bit of a clean-up!

Canada x Greylag Goose, Santon Downham

Roe Deer, Santon Downham

Hawfinch, Lynford Arboretum 

Nuthatch, Lynford Arboretum 

Siskin, Lynford Arboretum

Coal Tit, Lynford Arboretum

Yellowhammer, Lynford Arboretum

Marsh Tit, Lynford Arboretum

Great Grey Shrike, Grimes Graves