Since this was my first trip to the Gambia and time was short, we decided to concentrate on exploring the immediate vicinity of the Hotel. In fact, we found that bird photography opportunities were so good in the hotel grounds (we were staying at the Senegambia) that we didn't leave the grounds for the first day and a half!
Most of the birds on this first page were fairly common in the hotel grounds, such as the White-crowned Robin-chat and the Yellow-crowned Gonolek shown above. Unfortunately, the Gonolek has quite skulking habits, keeping mainly to dense cover and shady areas, making it hard to photograph.
Two of the most conspicuous species in the hotel grounds were Brown Babbler (above) and Village Weaver (below). Both are very social species: the babblers travel around in tight-knit, noisy groups of 4-12 birds while the Village Weavers forage and roost in large flocks, often numbering well over 100 birds.
This female Village Weaver was so relaxed during its afternoon siesta that it kept falling asleep (right photo). Its head frequently nodding forward before jerking awake again like a student during a particularly boring lecture!
Another abundant and sociable species is the Bronze Manakin. These tiny estrildid finches were usually found in dense cover in the vicinity of one of the many dripping taps used to water the lawns. When not foraging or bathing they usually sat tightly together on a branch in small groups preening each other.
Rarer birds, such as the Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, can also be found at the hotel if you are lucky. It is easily separated from the more common White-crowned Robin-chat by its red neck, smaller size, and cleaner, narrow white crown stripe that lacks the scaly appearance of White-crowned. This bird was found skulking around the bottom of the hedge that borders the northern edge hotel grounds.
Another elusive bird that frequented the northern hedge was an Oriole Warbler. The same tailless individual was seen almost daily in the same spot throughout our stay.
At about 10am everyday the Hooded Vultures begin to gather in the palm trees around the putting greens in anticipation of their daily free meal that is provided by the hotel staff at 11am. At least 30 Vultures usually gather for this event and as feeding time approaches they drop to the ground and mill about on the lawns only a few feet away from the hotel guests, allowing excellent opportunities for photography.
Later, some would gather under the golf course sprinklers for a post-prandial shower...
As well as the abundant birdlife other wildlife in the hotel grounds included a troupe of Vervet Monkeys and several Nile Monitors.
Our final morning of the trip was another productive one in the Senegambia Hotel grounds, with more opportunities to get some better photos of some of the commoner species that had so far eluded my camera as well as adding another 3 species to my life list (Slender-billed Gull, Pearl-spotted Owlet and, after I had packed my camera away, a confiding Olivaceous Warbler).
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