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    • ElenaH
      I love Bare-faced curassows (Male & female) ! The feathers on the face look funny. Very interesting bird. The doves are also very unusual. Thank you for sharing the pictures with us, @Bush dog
    • kilopascal
      The next day was the golden monkey tour. To be honest, I was not that excited about this but it turned out to be incredibly fun. It was a fairly easy hike of about  90 minutes 1 way along pretty flat terrain. The head guide was excellent, talking about many of the plants that we passed and had the added plus of a great sense of humor. We had lots of kids trailing along with us wanting to say "Hello, how are you" which was also fun. There were about 20 people, maybe a little more in this tour but the guides did an excellent job splitting up the group once we reached the monkeys and helping us move to spots where we could get the best view. The weather was perfect and the monkeys were very active. There were several very young infants and some wildly active teenagers. According to the guide, it is when they start leaving mom and are learning to jump from branch to branch that they are at high risk of being picked off by eagles. I was praying this didn't happen while I was there. The video of one is quite short because I couldn't keep up!   The return trip was through a beautiful bamboo forest with monkeys searching the ground for young bamboo shoots.   We finished around noon and went back to the hotel for lunch. Then a short walk down to the Ellen Degeneres center. Interesting but not a must see, for me anyway, and even though the walk down was quite short, we drew a never ending number of followers wanting us to exchange email or What’s Ap numbers which we politely declined. They were persistent and friendly in their tag along but not aggressive and did save us on one occasion from getting smacked by a speeding car coming around a corner. The next morning was a beautiful drive back to Kigali. Herbert drove us back and is a wealth of information about the country, including the genocide and what has gone on since. Not in any political or taking sides kind of way, although he has his own very dramatic experience during this with he and his brother walking to Uganda to take refuge when he was only 12. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Rwanda. I had read all the reports on ST and viewed the photos but was stunned by how beautiful it is. Thus the return this year, mid-May.  First to Akagera and then back to Volcanoes for take 2. We had originally included Nyungwe but we will only be there 8 days and it was just too much moving about. So a night in Kigali, 3 nights in Akagera, and 3 nights back at Ingagi Park View lodge. Well that’s it. What to move to next? Apparently Feb 27 is National Polar Bear Day so maybe Svalbard.
    • inyathi
      Grant’s Gazelle   In 2013 the Grant’s Gazelle was treated as a superspecies comprised of three distinct allopatric species, Grant’s or Southern Grant’s Nanger granti, Bright’s or Northern Grant’s Nanger notata and Peter’s Gazelle Nanger petersii, as with Thomson's Gazelle they were originally included in the genus Gazella.    The IUCN gives the distribution as follows     The map very clearly shows the distribution of the three species    Distribution map     Southern Grant's Gazelle at Ndutu in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area    Grant's Gazelle with wonky horn, Ndutu     With newborn kids at Ndutu       Ngorongoro Conservation Area       Grant's with a Thomson's Gazelle      Thomson's and a Grant's Gazelle   The two preceding photos, illustrate well the difference in size, between Grant's and Thompson's whilst the Grant's in those photos don't, as the next photos will show, Grant's Gazelles can have a dark flank stripe, this can make them look very similar to Thomson's, so their larger size is a good way to tell them apart, also as is clear in the photos above, Grant's has a white rump patch above the tail, whereas Thomson's have no white over the tail, also if you compare the horns of the Grant's in this post with the horns of the Thomson's in the preceding post, you will see that the shape is noticeably different.        Ndarakwai Ranch, Tanzania         Impala and Grant's gazelle   That last shot isn't the best shot of an impala but it shows the difference in colour, and that a Grant's Gazelle has far more white on it, their horns are also an entirely different shape, so you're unlikely to confuse them.    The Grant’s Gazelles in Ruaha NP in Tanzania are an isolated population separated from the main population in the north of Tanzania and are the most southern gazelles in Africa, they are not found throughout the park and are best seen in the Mwagusi area       Ruaha National Park       According to this taxonomy, the gazelles I saw in a Nechisar National Park in Ethiopia are Bright’s Gazelles, but when I saw them they were still Grant’s Gazelles, as indicated on the distribution map, Bright's Gazelle should occur in Kidepo NP in Uganda but none have been seen there in a long time, suggesting that the species is likely extinct in the park, they may still occur further south in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve and perhaps other reserves in eastern Uganda.        Bright’s Gazelles, Nechisar National Park, Ethiopia        Although I like to include links to the IUCN Red List for their distribution maps, they are not always entirely accurate, zooming in on their map, the distribution indicated does not cover Nechisar NP. Although the park has lost a fair few species, I believe there are still gazelles there now. The Bright’s Gazelles in Nechisar would be one of the most northern populations, but I think there are still some further north in Abijatta-Shalla NP, well at least some captive ones, despite them being captive and at the park entrance, I didn’t see them there, when I went. Reviews on Tripadvisor seem to suggest there are a few wild ones, but I find that hard to believe, as the park was being badly trashed in 1999, by local people who had invaded and reclaimed their land, looking at it now on Google Earth, unsurprisingly it looks considerably worse, what should be acacia woodland, between the two lakes is now all cultivation, with some sizeable villages, in fact this true for all of the land in the park, it is all now cultivated. I don’t like seeing people forcibly removed from national parks, as it always ends up being done in a heavy-handed and often quite brutal fashion, (that was why African Parks were forced to pull out of Nechisar), but it is shame, that the people couldn’t have been moved out of Abijatta-Shalla and found alternative land, it might have been possible to save the park back in the 1990s, but now there is no chance of restoring the park. After the fall of the brutal DERG regime in 1991 there was a period of lawlessness in Ethiopia, the national parks were not protected and local people moved in claiming what they likely considered was their land, Abijatta-Shalla was perhaps the worst affected, as it seems no attempts were made at all to remove the people, Nechisar whilst missing some of the big game that should be there, hasn't been destroyed in the way Abijatta-Shalla has, it looks like there are some areas of cultivation in the park, but most of the park still looks like natural bush. It may still be worth visiting Lake Abijatta for the waterbirds, but not for much else, it is fortunate that populations of Bright’s Gazelles should be well protected in some of Kenya’s parks and conservancies.    Having all three species, Kenya is certainly the place to go to see these gazelles, but obviously Tanzania is great place to see Southern Grant's.
    • Miss Biscuit
      That's so special and precious of the mama with baby and a great close-up portrait of the silverback! So worth the effort!  I did a gorilla trek in Mgahinga in Uganda last year and it was wonderful. 
    • kittykat23uk
      We've had a few in Norwich too   waxwings by Jo Dale, on Flickr   waxwings by Jo Dale, on Flickr   waxwings by Jo Dale, on Flickr   PB250221 by Jo Dale, on Flickr   PB251732_01 by Jo Dale, on Flickr   PB250098 by Jo Dale, on Flickr   PB251086 by Jo Dale, on Flickr   PB250861_01 by Jo Dale, on Flickr
    • kilopascal
      Soon the hour was up but not before a final video of a much warmer and relaxed mom.   We walked back to where we had left our belongings and it was here we said good bye to the trackers. I realize it has been mentioned on ST before, but I hadn’t remembered that they spend the entire day with the gorilla group until they nest for the night. This way they have an idea of where to find them the next day. ‘J’ asked Edward if it was appropriate to tip them and he said “absolutely”. Fortunately we had brought extra Rwandan Francs on the hike, “just in case”. Who knows where you might need extra dosh. So we proceeded to each tip them and this prompted one other couple to do the same. So, if you go, maybe keep this in mind. They are the reason that you are able to find the family in a reasonable amount of time. It had stopped raining and the sun had come out. Warming up rather nicely. Unfortunately this didn’t help the trip down which was like skiing on mud. Interspersed with periods of being trapped in a bog of it. It is to the credit of my porter and a second porter that ‘D’ didn’t need that I got down unscathed. There was at least one persistently complaining member of the group who, I suspect, regretted not hiring one. Shortly before we met back up with Herbert, there was a small stream and the porters helped us wash off the masses of mud from our shoes and gators. From here it was a short stroll back to the car where Herbert had been waiting. Edward joked that Herbert knows to stay close by and sometimes gets to see a gorilla for free. Here is where we bid the porters farewell and paid them the $10 fee along with a generous tip and ‘D’ gave back his pants. I didn’t note the ending time but the walk up was about two hours. The ski trip back a little less but miserable to be honest. We dropped Edward off then made a stop at the area where they have the naming ceremonies for new gorillas. We arrived back at Ingagi Park View Lodge to a warm welcome that included a foot massage, a shower, and a late lunch. I then retired to my room and quickly passed out. ‘D’ and ‘J’ visited the gift shop and spent time up in the lounge talking to the barman, Savieur (no idea how to spell it), who was wonderful company and took very good care of us during the stay. Ingagi Park View lodge is a mid-budget lovely choice with excellent food and service. Including returning boots immaculately clean and lighting a fire in your room each night. When I first tried contacting Umubano tours it was right after Rwanda starting letting tourists back in but Umubano’s website was down. A google search brought Herbert’s name up as the founder and site manager at the lodge and I was able to get in touch with him.  
    • kilopascal
      The silver back presented himself but was quite amusing in his reluctance to have his photo taken. Simply shifting his position to always present his back. Almost like it was a game for him. Perhaps he considered that his best side. My favorite was a juvenile who was the character of the group and ultimately fell asleep with a stick of bamboo in his mouth in the middle of everyone.        
    • kilopascal
      I had expected to be placed in front as the slowest, but to my amazement after about 20 minutes we were lined up with me not in front, but a gentleman who was struggling a bit. Yay for me! It was modestly steep for the first 30 minutes and of course the altitude has an effect as well. It started to rain after about 20 minutes. Then rain harder. Then pour with rain. At one point everyone is lined up under some trees to get a bit of protection and we look down and the river of water coming down the hill is at the top of our boots and eventually we need to straddle each side of this to prevent water flowing into our boots. At this point people just start laughing because what else can you do. It slows a bit and we proceed but the rain now turns to sleet. And it is more than a little cold! We have all donned our rain gear. ‘D’ just had a shorter rain coat and his porter actually took off his rain pants and gave them to him. Big gratuity was coming that guys way. After about 90 minutes we are told there were 2 gorillas so to put our things down and we will proceed. We spend about 10 minutes there with some gorillas looking cold and miserable and not doing much.  Edward then stopped the clock, saying we would go find the remainder and restart the clock. This only took about 10-15 minutes and fortunately the rain/sleet had almost stopped. It was still cold and there were a lot of sad looking gorillas.  One mother just trying her best to protect a very young infant from the weather. After another 20 minutes the sun was out and it was getting warmer and there was a bit more activity with a couple of juveniles starting to get busy. As did one member in our group. Edward had his hands full with one gentleman who liked to wander energetically about on his own. Edward was polite but ultimately had to get firm about not doing this.  
    • kilopascal
      Love the scaly dove photo
    • Alex The Lion
      Hunting Dog in B&W, a little more gritty than the colour version.    
    • Bush dog
      Chaco chachalaca - Rio Cuiaba     Common piping-guan - Barranco Alto     Scaly doves - Barranco Alto     Black-bellied whistling-ducks - Barranco Alto (on the first picture with a common stilt)         Brazilian teal - Barranco Alto     Coscorobas - Barranco Alto     Muscovy ducks - Barranco Alto      
    • kilopascal
      Herbert did the same with me, politely suggesting a shorter walk might be good. Yes. I'm sure that the years of tourist restriction were very difficult and I'm happy they survived. I like being able to support a completely local company.
    • Dave Williams
      And so...we had booked a three week stay at the Bakotu Hotel, I have described the outings but only briefly mentioned everything happening around the Kotu area. The village itself remains virtually unchanged in all the many years we have been visiting which goes back maybe 15 years.   Opposite our hotel is the entrance to the craft market which is also home for three restaurants, an Indian, a Pizza plus type of place and a one that is more fish and steaks which offers a superb grilled Gambas on skewers with chips or rice for an extremely  reasonable £6.   Walk through the market and you are on the beach where beach bar/restaurant was my favourite for an early doors beer whilst watching the sun go down.   The beach is pretty quiet during the week but is very popular with the locals at the weekend , however, it goes quiet in the evening. A short walk from the hotel and further along the beach are a couple more restaurants, one of which has a large screen TV for the footy! The owner/manager is also a Liverpool supporter and if there was a game on I was given the best seat in the house to watch. The burgers are pretty good too!   You certainly won't starve in The Gambia even if the food is pretty straight forward. We ate mainly burgers, pizzas and grilled fish and prawns. The alternatives to Kotu have increased in recent years. A few new all inclusive hotels have sprung up in between Kotu and the Senegambia strip, the main tourist area which quite frankly I avoid. Not my cup of tea, too busy, too tacky for my liking. Once upon a time the Senegambia hotel was the one all birders stayed in , and some still book there, perhaps misguidedly thinking it's the best place to stay . I believe they still feed the vulture everyday in the grounds but otherwise they don't hold too much wildlife anymore. Much better , in my opinion, to be nearer to Kotu Creek. Alas though, Kotu Creek and the surrounding area isn't as it used to be. Some areas have been claimed for development, some areas, previously rice paddy fields have been left untended as salt water has flooded them and made them unusable. The famous sewerage ponds/lakes , once a huge attraction to a myriad of birds both on the water and the surrounding bushy areas, have been totally ruined from a birding perspective. Two of the ponds are covered in a large water plant which probably holds some Crakes and Jacanas but viewing is impossible. The surrounding areas are stripped of any growth and are just barren bare soil. A walk along the nature trail revealed very very few birds and to cap it all the entry on to the golf course from the rear of the Bakotu hotel has been locked. I think there is an issue of people being discouraged from walking on the course if they are not playing which I understand but as it now takes a 25 minute walk to get there and I didn't bother after a couple of unrewarding visits. Am I painting a bleak picture? I must admit, after a 5 year absence, I was expecting some disappointment but if I'm honest the first 24 hours I was depressed about what I found! Kotu Creek itself can't be built on for obvious reasons but it can be dramatically effected by the sea. there has always been an issue of sand building up and blocking the tidal access but when we arrived it appeared the water had not been refreshed for some time and was pretty disgusting. Sewerage is discharged from one or two places, it needs a tidal clear out on a daily basis. 12 years ago when the tide ran out from the creek there was a "ferry" to take you across the outflow but nowadays it's not either strong or deep because of the sand build up.   Fortunately this sand blockage was at least partially cleared during our first week of the holiday and the creek became tidal again to a certain extent. The water was noticeably cleaner after a week or so too and the bird life started to increase. One consideration to also mention of course is the time of year. I'm told the multitude of Storks and Spoonbills would increase as the weeks go on through January to February and so it seemed to be. The missing Gulls, Terns  and waders were on the increase by the time we left so maybe my visit was a little too early this time? When I return however I plan to go in November /December to find the birds in their breeding plumage. I also intend spending less time on the coast and travelling up river, not only in The Gambia but through in to Senegal too. When that will happen, I haven't decide yet. Too many things to do and not enough time left to do them all. I have seen most of what The Gambia has to offer, so much so that I lay on my sun bed ( bored!) and using E-birder ticked off all the species I had seen without the need of a guide book. Incidentally the count was 154 so it wasn't a poor score but some birds I would have expected to see were missing, Storks, Hoopoes, Cisticolas, Bee-eater species the list goes on. However, I had already decided that this trip wasn't about collecting snaps of as many species as possible, more about trying for some better and more interesting shots. I spent a lot of time around Kotu Bridge, a popular spot for visiting birders and a hunting ground for new clients for the bird guides who have a base nearby. If you spend enough time at any one spot you increase the odds of seeing something special happening, especially when it involves predators. The Gambia might not have lions, leopards, wild dogs and cheetahs but Kotu Creek is a home to many avian predators and I was after a piece of that action. My daily routine became early breakfast, leave Claire set up on a sun bed and then I'd go wandering until as late as midday. Late afternoon I was back out for a couple of hours, early doors for a beer or two then dinner. Perfect harmony! Whilst most people just stood on the bridge I found a spot underneath it. The remains of the old bridge just in front of me maybe 30-40 feet away.   The water down there was a bit rank but if you want the shot then you have to be prepared for some discomforts. Every now and then though I'd retreat for some clean air!! On my second day I was treated to a sight and image capture I was delighted with, the downside was I would probably not better it which was a bit of a negative with 19 days left but I was determined to try. I took countless hundreds of shots everyday. It's all too easy when you shoot 20 frames a second which can't be reduced using electronic shutter on my Canon R5. It's been a tedious job sorting them in the couple of weeks we have been home but I'm nearly there now. My trip report may or may not have more additions, I think I'll try and show some of the birds and what I saw of them as and when I get the time which might be months from now! I'm off on another trip on Tuesday and that will be 12 days of birding 24/7. I'm off with a couple of friends one of whom I met under a bush overlooking the sewerage ponds  sheltering the sun in The Gambia. That was 12 years ago and we are still in touch. The other is a German buddy I met in Bulgaria on a guided birding trip 10 years ago. Some birders prefer isolation, I quite enjoy their fellowship too. Anyway, no more opinions or chat about The Gambia. I recommend to anyone who is interested in birds it's still worth a visit without a doubt. A Belgian couple I was talking to over breakfast on their last day told me how much they had enjoyed their first visit and intended to return. "lovely to visit somewhere so unspoilt" was their verdict. All goes to show what you don't know doesn't hurt you! I agree though, compared to many beach types of destination Kotu is indeed unspoilt still. 6 hours from the UK on a direct flight, virtually guaranteed winter sun what's not to like? Oh and if your curious, this is the shot I took on my second day.Did I better it, you might have a long wait to find out but we'll see! cheers Dave.   nt Kingfisher.   The Gambia 2024 by Dave Williams, on Flickr    
    • michael-ibk
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