Saturday, 28 February 2015

My Scaly Friends Are Back

Normally I like to see my first adders of the year before my birthday which was last week, however the weather and being on-call last Saturday prevented that. It didn't look like the weather was going to be any good this weekend either. However after doing the Hillsborough park run this morning (23.10) the sun started to appear so I shot up onto the moors. It was quite windy so I went to the best place when the weather isn't great. I started to work, I know within about 5 feet square where they should be. First square = nowt,  second square = nowt, third square = nowt, 4th square an old friend and probably the most handsome male adder in the land toughing it out in the cold. I managed to find another 3 males which considering the weather was quite pleasing. All photos are in situ, only 1 of the 4 was relatively clear of the vegetation because he had found a nice little spot out of the wind.

Handsome Chap

 Very Big Male

 3rd one another bluey/green male
 Little male in the warmest spot

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Gambia February 2015.


Hmmmm where to go in February, that's warm and I can see some decent wildlife. What about The Gambia? it has always been on my wish list but never got around to it. No sooner had I thought of it Ebola struck in nearby countries and because I was taking my daughter Sasha I thought I better not risk it. So I then thought perhaps I could combine a wildlife/cycling trip and so started to consider the Canary Islands with Lanzarote or Fuerteventura my favourites, the problem here is I wasn't likely to get many new species. Anyway I put it on hold for a few weeks because I couldn't make my mind up. Gambia had closed it's borders, to Ebola affected countries and hadn't had any cases (compared to 2 in the UK). Also the price of the holiday had come right down so I booked it flying from Birmingham (considerably cheaper than from Manchester) staying at the Senegambia Hotel. Cost with extra baggage, plane meal and transfer was £580 each. Add on £100 for Yellow Fever jabs and £80 for Malarone malaria tablets a cost of £1340 for 2 people seemed good value.

Gambia in February is coming towards the end of the dry season, so I knew reptiles and amphibians would be thin on the ground, but I'm not a one trip pony so there would be plenty of birds and mammals to point my camera at and most would be new species.

3rd February 2015 sunny 30c

A 4am start for the 8am flight. A 6 hour flight going over the vast Sahara desert and we were in Africa, The Gambia (hooded vulture spotted circling below the plane). We seemed to wait for ages for our bags, the local bag guys were jostling for business and before we knew it, one was wheeling ours to the transfer coach, 2 English pounds down already!. The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of people milling around, selling everything you could think of next to the road, the next thing was the amount of plastic litter everywhere, and the next my eyes were trying to pick out birds, lots of Black Kites, Hooded Vultures, and lots of smaller stuff that were too distant to identify from a moving vehicle. Another tip to the smiling chap at the hotel who took us down to the apartment.

Species Seen Around the Hotel

There was still plenty of light left so I had a wander around the hotel gardens, lots of unfamiliar bird calls coming at me from every angle and lots of birds to photograph, most were a case of photograph, identify later. I think as far as this post is concerned I will break it up into wildlife seen around my hotel, the hotel next door the Karaiba and around the allotments next to the hotel. I did 3 trips out to Abuko reserve, Kotu bridge area and Pirang Forest but more about these later.

Whilst Sasha was still sleeping I was up keen to spot some more stuff, it didn't really get light til 8am but gets light quickly. Again there were birds everywhere and I saw my first herps of the trip, firstly Nile Monitor Varanus niloticus, Agama or Rainbow lizard Agama agama (but not very colourful at this time of the year) Brown Flanked Skink Mabuya affinis and Groove Crowned Bullfrog Hoplobatrachus occioitalis . Birds included Blue Breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica, Red Billed Hornbills Tockus kempi, White Crowned Robin Chat Cossypha albicapillus etc etc. Over the week with an hour here and there I built up a good list of species around the hotel and a lot were easier to photograph around the hotel.

All photos © Carl Corbidge

African Paradise Flycatcher
African Thrush
Agama or Rainbow Lizard

Bearded Barbet
 Beautiful Sunbird Male
Sub adult male

Black Kite (blacked billed)
Black Kite (yellow billed)

Blue Breasted Kingfisher
Bronze Winged Mannikin

 Brown Babbler
Brown Flanked Skink

Buffalo Weaver
Cattle Egret
Common Bulbul
Green Vervet Monkey

Grey Woodpecker
Groove Crowned Bullfrog 
Hooded Vulture
Laughing Dove
Little Bee-eater

Lizard Buzzard

Nile Monitor

Northern Black Flycatcher
Pied Crow
Western Plantain Eater
Purple Glossy Starling
Red Billed Hornbill
Red Colobus Monkey
Red Eyed Dove
Senegal Coucal
Speckled Pigeon
Splendid Sunbird
Village Weaver
Vinaceous Dove
White Crowned Robin Chat
Thread Snake
Yellow Billed Shrike

Yellow Crowned Gonolek
 Blue Bellied Roller
Abyssinian Roller
 Long Tailed Starling
Sasha Polishing off a Cocktail
Abuko Reserve Feb 5th Sunny 30c +
For today I booked a guide to take me to Abuko it's possible to go yourself via taxi but you will possibly get talked into the using a guide at the reserve. Anyway I booked the guide from my hotel Modou Jarju (I will put his contact details at the bottom). Sasha came as well and considering the entrance fee has recently gone up up to 400 Delasi (about 6 quid) and the guide price for 2 included a taxi, £50 quid for 5-6 hours wasn't bad. Modou was very good and knew his stuff, as soon as we met I told him I was interested in snakes and he reeled off the species that can be seen in the local area, they mainly take out birders so maybe it was a welcome change to have a mad Yorkshireman who wanted to catch snakes. There is a general problem when locals see cameras and binoculars they all become experts in the things you want to see, by hiring an official guide you know you are getting someone who will know what they are talking about and it stops you getting pestered.
My main reason for wanting to go to this reserve was I thought I was guaranteed to see Nile Crocodile and it was one of the few places where it seemed snakes were seen. At the main pool there was a Nile Crocodile lurking on the surface, a pair of Giant Kingfishers (the world's biggest) Palm Nut Vulture, African Jacana, Bushbuck (too quick for pic) and Modou picked out one bird after another. I wouldn't have seen half the species without him and he used various calls and whistles to bring some of the small species closer for photos.

 Crocodile Pool
 African Darter
 Black Crake
 Giant Kingfisher

Great White Egret
 Hooded Vulture
 African Jacana
 Me and Modou
 Black Crowned Night Heron
 Nile Crocodile
 Palm Nut Vulture

African Pied Hornbill
 Western Plantain Eater
 Red Billed Firefinch

 Red Colobus Mum and Baby
 Swallow tailed Bee-eater
 Excitable Green Vervet
Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird
Sasha and Modou
 Pale Phase Booted Eagle
 Lavender Waxbill
Pink Backed Pelican
Kotu Bridge and Sewage Ponds
No trip is ever complete without a visit to the local sewage ponds. Again I went with Modou and another chap Mal from Chester who was after getting some photos to show to his local photography club. First stop was a smallish pond quite with a quite a few White Faced Whistling Ducks, Long Tailed Cormorant, Spur Winged Lapwing and some other stuff. Onto the Casino cycle track, with good views of Lizard Buzzard, Blue Cheeked Bee-eater and Broad Billed Roller. Onto Kotu bridge itself where there is a resident birdwatching presence with a latest sightings board. Here we had good views of Hamerkop, Pied Kingfisher, distant Malachite Kingfisher, African Wattled Lapwing, Senegal Thicknee and a host of other stuff. Onto the sewage works with lots of Black Winged Stilts, Grey Headed Gulls, Wood Sandpiper and Squacco Heron. Modou then heard a Pearl Spotted Owlet which he managed to whistle in a bit closer but wouldn't really close as it was being mobbed by a host of small birds.
 Black headed Heron
 Black Winged Stilt
 Blue Cheeked Bee-eater
 Broad Billed Roller
 Green Sandpiper
 Grey Headed Gulls
 Intermediate Egret
 Kotu Sewage ponds
 Lizard Buzzard
 Long Tailed Cormorant

Malachite Kingfisher
 Pearl Spotted Owlet
 Pied Kingfisher

 Red Chested Swallows
 Senegal Thicknee
 Spur Winged Lapwing
 Squacco Heron
 African Wattled Lapwing
 White Faced Whistling Duck
 Wire Tailed Swallow
 Wood Sandpiper
Pirang Forest
I went here at the recommendation of Modou who said it was a good spot for owls and raptors and he had seen a Green Mamba here two weeks previously. Again another photographer came along Liam Bunce from Herefordshire. The taxi driver drops us off next to the road and within 2 minutes we had an African Harrier Hawk. Next up Modou picked out 2 Klaas Cuckoo, then an African Oriole, Hoopoe, Lavender Waxbills. We then went looking for Brown necked Parrot, we found a few but were difficult to photograph. Along the way were more raptors, Tawny, Long Crested and Western Banded Snake Eagle, Shikra,  and Marsh Harrier.
African Oriole
African Grey Hornbill
African Green Pigeon
Black Crowned Tchagra

Brown Necked Parrots
Bruces Green Pigeon
Golden Tailed Woodpecker
African Harrier Hawk
Klaas's Cuckoo

Red Cheeked Cordonbleu and Lavender Waxbills
Long Crested Eagle
Pirang Forest
Sulphar Breasted Bush Shrike
Tawny Eagle
Yellow bellied Hyliota
 Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird
We then headed off to the next bit of woodland where the owls were, Modou got the assistance of a local who keep an eye on where the owls are roosting. This was a lovely bit of mature forest, quite dark in places and not ideal for photography but sure enough we found the owls, Verraux's Eagle Owl and Greyish Eagle Owl (again these would have proved impossible to find without a guide). There was lots of other stuff as well but not easy to photograph.
Black Billed Wood Dove
Buff Spotted Woodpecker
Green Headed Sunbird
Greyish Eagle Owl

Me under a giant Baobab
Colourful Gambian Women
Grey Headed Sparrow and Little Greenbul
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher
Sun Squirrel
Verraux's Eagle Owl

Black necked Weaver
Western Violet Backed Sunbird
Guide Details
Modou Jardu
Senegambia Hotel
 Species List
Reptiles and Amphibians
Groove Crowned Bullfrog Hoplobatrachus occipitalis
Nile Monitor Varanus niloticus
Agama (Rainbow Lizard) Agama agama
Brown Flanked Skink Mabuya affinis
Thread Snake spp
Nile Crocodile Crocodylus niloticus
Total 6
Sun Squirrel Heliosciurus gambianus
Striped Ground Squirrel Xerus erythropus
Gambian Giant Pouched Rat Cricetomys gambianus
Bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus
Red Colobus Monkey Piliocolobus badius
Green Vervet Monkey Chlorocebus sabaeus
Total 6
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Long-Tailed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus
African Darter Ahinga rufa
Pink-backed Pelican Pelicanus rufescens
Black Crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Green Backed Heron Butorides striata
Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca
Little Egret Egretta gazetta
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia
Great White Egret Egretta alba
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Black Headed Heron Ardea melanocephala
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta
White Faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Black Kite Milvis migrans
Yellow Billed Kite Milvus migrans parasitus
Pam-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis
Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus
Western Banded Snake Eagle Circartus cinerascens
African Harrier Hawk Polyboroides typus
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Shikra Accipiter badus
Lizard Buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus
Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
Long Crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis
Black Crake Amaurornis flavirostra
African Jacana Actophilornis africanus
Black Winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Senegal Thicknee Burhinus senegalensis
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
African Wattled Lapwing Vanellus senegallus
Spur Winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosis
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Redshank Tringa tetanus
Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Grey Headed Gull Larus cirrocephalus
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
African Green Pigeon Treron calvus
Bruce's Green Pigeon Treron waalia
Blue Spotted Wood Dove Turtur afer
Black Billed Wood Dove Turtur abyssinicus
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis 50
Speckled Pigeon Columba guinea
Red Eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata
African Mourning Dove Streptopelia decipens
Vinaceous Dove Streptopelia vinacea
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Brown Necked Parrot Poicephalus robustus
Senegal Parrot Poicephalus senegalus
Rose Ringed Parakeet Psittcula krameri
Green Turaco Tauraco persa
Violet Turaco Masophaga violacea
Western Grey Plantain Eater Crinifer piscator
Klass's Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas
Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus
Senegal Coucal Centropus senegalensis
Greyish Eagle Owl Bubo (africanus) cinerascens
Verreaux's Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus
Pearl Spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum
African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus
Blue Breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica
Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata
Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus
Swallow Tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus
Blue Cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
Blue Bellied Roller Coracias cyanogaster
Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssinicus
Broad Billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus
Green Wood-hoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus
Hoopoe Upupa epops
Red Billed Hornbill Tockus kempi
African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus
African Grey Hornbill Tockus nasutus
Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird Pogoiulus chrysoconus
Bearded Barbet Lybius dubius
Golden Tailed Woodpecker Campethera abingoni
Buff Spotted Woodpecker Campethera nivosa
Grey Woodpecker Dendropicos goertae
Wire Tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii
Red Chested Swallow Hirundo lucida
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Little Greenbul Andropadus virens
Grey Headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapillus
Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat Cossypha niveicapilla
White Crowned Robin Chat Cossypha albicapilla
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
African Thrush Turdus pelios
Green Crombec Syvietta virens
Western Bonellis Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli 100
Yellow Bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster
Red Winged Warbler Heliolais erythropterus
Grey Back Camaroptera Camaroptera brachyuran
Northern Black Flycatcher Melaenornis edolioides
African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer
Common Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea
Brown Babbler Turdoides plebejus
Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii
Western Violet Backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei
Green Headed Sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis
Collared Sunbird Hedydipna collaris
Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus
Variable Sunbird Cinnyris venustus
Splendid Sunbird Cinnyris coccinigastrus
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
Yellow Billed Shrike Corvinella corvine
Sulphur Breasted Bush Shrike Chlorophoneus sulfureopectus
Black Crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegalus
Northern Puffback Dryoscopus gambensis
Yellow Crowned Gonolek Laniarius barbarous
African Golden Oriole Oriolus auratus
Fork Tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis
Pied Crow Corvus albus
Piapiac Ptilostomus afer
Purple Glossy Starling Lamprotornis purpureus
Long Tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis caudatus
Northern Grey Headed Sparrow Passer griseus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
White Billed Buffalo Weaver Bubalornis albirostris
Black Necked Weaver Ploceus nigricollis
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Northern Red Bishop Euplectes franciscanus
Black Winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus
Lavender Waxbill Estrilda caerulescens
Black Rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes
Western Bluebill Spermophaga haematina
Red Cheeked Cordon-bleu Uraeginthus bengalus
Red Billed Firefinch Laganosticta senegala
Bronze Mannikin Spermestes cucullatus
Village Indigobird Vidua chalybeate
Total 141