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  • Writer's pictureEbrima Sidibeh

Marsh Owls Return Early Ahead of Gambia Senegal Tourist Season

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

I am constantly putting in effort to research new birding sites here in The Gambia and Senegal, so that I can always be offering the best chances for my guests to see the targets that they wish to see. The typical tourist season runs from October to March, and so now is the time when I really step this work up. I've recently returned from a trip out to a number of locations in The Gambia with a small group of close bird guide friends, where we worked together to discover new, and confirm regular spots for some of the iconic birds of Gambia that are to be seen here. This trip lasted a week and saw us heading along Gambia's river.


Marsh owl at Karafi Farm , Gambia

Marsh Owl standing

Our first stop was at Karafi Farm. This site has always shown promise, and a few years ago I was lucky to find Marsh Owls using it during the start of the dry season. The presence of this scarce bird in The Gambia has continued since then, so it was great news to confirm that they are still making use of the rich feeding grounds here, and should hopefully stay for my guests to observe them in the coming months. Also present were Plain-backed Pipit, Black-bellied bustard and Pin-tailed Whydah in its full breeding plumage which is always a joy to see.


Brown-rumped Bunting at Killy Woodland

Brown rumped Bunting

This is becoming an increasingly popular site for birders due to the variety of uncommon birds which are always present. On this visit, we found Brown-rumped Buntings which are often hard to find here, so a regular site is always good to find. White-fronted Black Chat, African Cuckoo, Klass' Cuckoo and Yellow Penduline Tit were also found in this open woodland.


Exciting Raptors at Kampanti Ricefields

african hawk eagle

I discovered this site many years ago, and despite looking similar to the rest of the surrounding farmland, this site holds a secret. As it often remains wet through the dry season due to a small around of marshland supplied by ditches, it plays an important role in acting as a drinking station for the raptors in the local area. They can sometimes be seen to fly in from miles around, and close views are always guaranteed. On this visit, we got great views of Bateleur Eagles, Martial Eagle, Brown Snake-eagle, Long-crested Eagle, African Harrier Hawk, and many more. It is truly the best spot for any raptor loving guests.


Black Scimitarbill at Kiang West National Park

Black Scimitarbill

This is a new site that we visited that none of us had ever visited. The habitat was open scrub and so we spend a good few hours carefully making our way around searching for anything of interest. We quickly picked up a Black Scimitarbill which is easily missed during a tour of Gambia. The abundance of birds here really impressed us, and other birds recorded included Grasshopper Buzzard and White-shouldered Black-tit.


Spotted Thick-knee near Tendaba Camp

Spotted Thick-knee

Again, we visited a new site that we had scouted out on Google Maps as being potentially suitable. It wasn't long until we found a Spotted Thick-knee resting up beside the river. Here in The Gambia, Senegal Thick-knee is by far the most common species of Thick-knee, and so this sighting at the new site was exciting to find, and hopefully it stays to be seen by my guests over the next few months. Other species seen here included Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Bateleur Eagle, Violet-backed Starling which always impresses, and Green winged Pytilia.


We've got a few other research trips planned over the next few weeks, including a trip to research new sites for wildlife tours in Senegal, so I will report back with our findings from these trips. It's definitely looking like a promising season ahead for guiding my guests for the very best wildlife tours in Gambia, and I look forward to welcoming you.


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About the Author

ebrima sidibeh

Ebrima Sidibeh leads professional tours for birdwatching in Senegal and The Gambia. He has been a tour guide for 30 years and is an expert in shooting trips. He knows a lot about the birds and animals of The Gambia and Senegal.

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