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  • Writer's pictureEbrima Sidibeh

Exciting Discovery of New Pel's Fishing Owl Population Close To Banjul, Gambia

Updated: Mar 1

I led another research trip recently along Gambia's river in an effort to check out some new and exciting birding sites to bring my clients during this tourist season, and I can't wait to share what we found. This trip resulted in a very exciting discovery which is sure to please visiting birders over the next few months!

Pel's fishing owl not far from Banjul, Gambia

This was by far the most exciting discovery. This species is not regularly seen at all in The Gambia anymore. Instead, for a reliable chance of seeing this charismatic owl, I had to take my clients far up the River Gambia and into Senegal. However, this summer while exploring some very rare creeks between Banjul, Gambia and Tendaba and managing to get some rides with local fisherman, I couldn't believe it when I found a pair of Pel's fishing owls perched up. They hadn't been seen this far west for years.

Pel Fishing Owl

During this recent trip, I organized more exploration with my new fisherman contact and this time we found a minimum of four pairs. It seems like a good population has been established now. The fisherman is almost finished building a good quality stable boat that can comfortably take tourists and I'm really looking forward to taking my first guests out here! Also seen here were yellow-billed stork, African blue flycatcher, wooly-necked stork and lots of other waterbirds and waders.

White-crested Helmetshrike

White-crested helmetshrike

This species is always high up on my clients wish-lists, so it's always good when I find a new site that will increase the chances of finding this funny looking species.

They favor dry scrub habitat, and some habitat near Toniabata always seemed to offer a good chance of finding this shrike, however there was still a look of shock on our faces when a group of six birds made their way towards us and spent a while perched up in a nearby tree making their chattering and flute like calls. We also saw some other interesting species including brown-backed woodpecker, chestnut-crowned sparrow-lark and pale flycatcher.

Egyptian plovers in good numbers

We decided to check out a few wetlands and waterholes on the northern bank of the river to get a handle on where the Egyptian plovers are currently staying. We stopped at four usual spots and were pleased to find Egyptian plovers at three of them.

Egyptian plovers

There were even 16 at Njau! Make sure to book your visit by the second week of January to see these in The Gambia, because they move inland into Senegal at this time of year to breed, so would require a longer tour to see. Also seen at these waterholes were black-crowed cranes, Sahel paradise whydah, yellow-crowned bishop, collared pratincole and white-crowned plover.

If you would like to booking your trip, Please contact with us Gambia Bird Tour

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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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