Senegal and Gambia

17 November 2019 – 12 December 2019

Stéphane Aubert

Participants: Tom Carrard

Birding in Senegal and Gambia offers a nice introduction to African birds as well as the opportunity to see some Sahelian and West African specialities. In addition, it is a great way to experiment the West African culture in these safe and really welcoming countries. 

We spent more than three weeks in those two countries, travelling mainly by public transportation, and we could see most of our targets including Golden nightjar, Egyptian plover or Scissor-tailed kite. We didn't try to see the sought after Quail-plover due to the lack of up-to-date informations and the potential difficulties to reach possible sites without a private car. 

We mainly organised the trip by ourselves except for 5 days in Gambia where we booked a guide to go upriver (2 nights in Tendaba and 2 nights in MacCarthy island). We chose the company Turaco Birding and our guide was Pa Jallow. Everything was well organised for a fair price and we really enjoyed our time with Pa Jallow and Aliou, his driver. I would highly recommend using the services of Turaco Birding for such a trip.

This report is deliberately short and details are given only about sites for which I couldn't find the informations I was hoping for while preparing the trip. For more informations do not hesitate to contact me on my mail (aubert.s2701@gmail.com).

Visited Sites

General Travelling Information

Transport

We arrived at Dakar airport which is located next to the big city of Thies. From Thies it is easy to find a shared taxi going to the Gambia border in Karang. We had no problem crossing from one country to the other on both occasions but had to pay 50 euros to obtain our Gambian visa at the border. The process didn't look really official. 

We mainly used shared taxis to travel between cities or villages and we didn't encounter too much difficulties. It is a rather cheap option and it is quite reliable even if it doesn't seem at first sight. The main downside of this travelling mode is definitely the lack of comfort but at leat it allows a more authentic experience. Speaking french was of course really useful while in Senegal and made this way of travelling easier. We also regularly used private taxis to reach more remote places. Private taxis are easy to find everywhere and are reasonably cheap for short rides. 

Budget

We easily found basic accomodations (10-20 euros for a double room) in most of the places visited. Local restaurant are present everywhere and often prepare lunch or dinner for around 1 euro or less. It was for us a good way to spare a bit on our budget and accomodations targeting tourists often seemed overpiced. It is definitely possible to organise a birding trip for cheap in these countries even though most of the visiting birders seem to use the services of local guides or agencies to organise their whole trip.

Farasuto Forest

We slept two nights next to the forest in a small lodge which is still in building phase. We camped there with our own tent and the team from the lodge provided us with excellent food. The lodge will probably be finished in a few months and is being built by Modou Barry and his friends (he owns a travel agency called Tour Gambia). A more conventional accomodation called Sita Joyeh is located a bit further from the forest and seems to be a good place to stay. During our stay there we were always accompanied by Mustapha, a young birdguide from the village. He was of great company and accompanied us during our night walks. 

The advantage to stay next to Farasuto was the proximity to Pirang forest (at walking distance) and most of all the possibility to do some night birding easily by foot. During night sessions we had some great sightings of Northern white-faced owl, Arabian scops owl and Standard-winged nightjar (the big quarry at 13.296710, -16.572528 is probably the best place to find it at night). 

Farasuto forest offers the possibility to see several species difficult to see elsewhere in the country, like African wood-owl, Greyish eagle-owl (both species have a known roost place) or White-backed night-heron. Some year, the local guides also find roosting Standard-winged nightjar. 

Pirang forest, situated approximatively 2km from Farasuto, allows good views of skulking species like White-spotted flufftail and Ahanta francolin, thanks to local guides. A roosting Verreaux's eagle-owl is also realiably seen in the forest.

Tendaba

We stayed at Tendaba camp which is a correct place. From there we had a great boat trip organised by the lodge. We explored the mangroves on the North bank and highlights included African blue flycatcher, African finfoot, White-backed night-heron and White-throated bee-eater. 

Having heard about a potential nest site of Pel's fishing-owl being accessible in the mangroves, we tried our luck with an evening boat trip. We didn't see anything but it is worth asking the boatmen what are the latest informations about this species which is sometimes seen there. 

The hill south of the camp offers some good birding (13.431268, -15.807473). There is a small hide with a drinking pool and around there we got our only views of the trip of several species like White-shouldered black tit, Brubru, Chestnut-crowned sparrow-weawer, Striped kingfisher or Greater honeyguide. It is also a known spot for Bronze-winged courser. 

Maccarthy Island

The island is a nice place with some interesting birding close from the village. We stayed at Baobolong lodge which is a nice accomodation. From there we had some great birds in some semi-open habitat east of the village (13.533511, -14.743871). In the end of the afternoon, we saw our only Four-banded sandgrouses of the trip. Several birds were seen in a short amount of time, suggesting that it is a quite reliable site for this species. Two night walks in the same area allowed us to encounter four species of owls (Northern white-faced owl, Arabian scops owl, Pearl-spotted owl plus Verreaux's eagle-owl calling), several Long-tailed nightjar and a great surprise in the form of two Bronze-winged coursers. 

From the lodge, we also took a boat trip to see Hippos and we actually saw one, as well as several crocodiles. The boat trip also allowed us to see African finfoot (1 female with 2 chicks), Swamp flycatcher or Hadada ibis. 

Ile de Kousmar

We easily reached the village of Ndiaffate (14.090307, -16.165091) from Kaolack by taxi. We had a local contact (Pape Seydou, he can be contacted by whatsapp +221777515496) who arranged us an option to sleep in the village in one of his friends house where they also provided us with water and food. Boubacar, the villager who hosted us, also accompanied us on the island to see the kites coming on their roost. It is possible to camp on the island where there are good chances to see hyenas. 

The main reason to go to Kousmar is of course the raptor roost which is an incredible experience. We also birded by foot the area situated between the village and the island where we found White-bellied and Savile's bustards. The acacia forest there was full of passerines with especially a great diversity of Palearctic migrants.

Richard Toll

The general area is good for Sahelian specialities and two sites situated really close to the city are worth visiting. The first (Piste des antennes, 16.471999, -15.634933) is an area with acacia forest where we easily found Little grey woodpecker and Sennar penduline-tit. Other interesting species seen there were Temminck's courser, Blue-naped mousebird, Vieillot's barbet or Black scrub-robin. 

The second good area we visited is situated between the city and the airport stripe (16.447261, -15.662459). Here we easily saw several Cricket warbler and other species during the end of the afternoon, including several groups of Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse before dusk. 

Suitable and less disturbed habitats for the typical Sahelian species seems to be easy to find further from Richard Toll which is a rather unpleasant city. 

We also visited the area north of the sewage pond (16.479265, -15.732655). There we found the localised River prinia as well as Zebra waxbill and Winding cisticola. There is also a great diversity of waders with for instance Marsh sandpiper and Kittlitz's plover. The marsh area was unfortunately not visible and we could not find any rallids. 

Podor

Podor is the lonely place we struggled a bit to reach with public transportation but with a bit of patience it is not a problem at all. Once there we arranged with a taxi at the garage to bring us to the Golden nightjar spot and then to pick us up a few hours later. We saw and heard several Golden nj after dusk on the big tracks east and west from the crossing (16.625194, -14.914445). The nightjars are easy to spot with a torch as they sit most of the time in open places. The place is also really good for Long-tailed nightjars with 10+ birds seen.

We didn't tried at dawn but it must be a good option to find where the nightjars roost during the day. 

Oiseaux de Djoudj NP

Djoudj NP is an impressive place with a crazy number of water birds. Entrance fees and accomodations are however really overpriced. We stayed at the Campement Njagabaar which is rundown and far from what you would expect for the price.

We entered the park only on one day as we saw all our targets easily. We had booked a guide with a car in advance and it proved to be a good idea. The park is too big to be explored by foot and our guide, Vieux Ngom (he can be reached on whatsapp +221771188327), was an excellent birder and most of all a passionate birder. He found us some great birds like Egyptian nightjar and Allen's gallinule. Apart from the great number of birds, the park hosts some species difficult or impossible to see elsewhere in the region like Black-crowned crane or Arabian bustard (apparently only 4 individuals in the park, some of the last in western Africa ?). 

Species List

Order: systematic | alphabetic | highlights first
Published: 18 January 2020
Last updated: 18 January 2020
Orniverse: Senegal and Gambia (17 November 2019 – 12 December 2019)