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The Gambia: Birds and Canoe

End of February I went to The Gambia, to have some appointments with people, according to a project my school runs on the North Bank. In the meantime I had some days in Marakissa River Camp for photography. This means: mainly bird photography, due to an overwhelming number of, often colorful, species which one comes across.

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Spurwinged Plover on a little island in the river, with some mist in the background....

So, every early morning and late afternoon, I went out with a canoe the people from Marakissa River Camp, Joop and Adama, provided me. If you paddle very gentle and calm, often you can approach birds amazingly close.

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a Long-tailed Cormorant perching on a pole in the water, at 4 meters distance...

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same bird as above, in backlight....

To give an example about the biodiversity in this area: Only along this river and nearby marshes I have seen 8 different species of Kingfisher. Usually they are quite easy to find, perching on poles and branches. For the Blue-breasted Kingfisher this is not the case. They tend to hang out on branches in and under overhanging thickets.

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a Blue-breasted Kingfisher preening it's feathers in a typical habitat....

Because I know this area quite well, I'm familiar with the fact there are crocodiles in the river. Two species, as a matter of fact. Every year they seem to get lesser shy; I don't know if that is a good thing or not, because young kids are often swimming in the river and local fishermen walk in the river with their nets regularly. For photography though, it is defenitely a good thing. During a short canoetrip I saw 6 crocodiles, mostly little ones. But there was also a big fellow sunbasking on a mudflat.

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a big fellow....

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and in the water looking at this white guy in his canoe....

Most of the animals you see, however, are birds and one of the most numerous is the Senegal Thicknee. With their big yellow eyes, they usually hunt at night and at daytime they hang around a bit on the mudflats, pretending that they are not there. Instead of flying away, when I approach them, just sit still and wait.

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a Senegal Thicknee statue......

Despite that it is the dry period of the year, some bird species were already busy making pairs. One of the most beautiful and colorful of these birds are the Blue-bellied Rollers, a typical bird for West Africa. I managed to picture this pair, out of my canoe > see picture...

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a pair of Blue-bellied Rollers...

You can also picture bird as a tiny part of the landscape, like this picture of an African Darter, perching on the branch of a huge tree, without leaves at that time, but hanging full of fruits...

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African Darter.....

During a canoe trip you will always see one or mopre Spurwinged Plovers. Although they are common, they are very beautiful and nice to picture.

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Spurwinged Plover at eye level....

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Shaking feathers....

If you are tired of canoeing or it becomes too hot to go out on the water, there is always the garden at Marakissa River Camp. Joop has put various bowls, filled with sweet water in the garden for the birds to take a bath or a drink. While sitting comfortably in the shade, maybe sipping from a Jullbrew lager, you're able to see a lot of different birds come by.

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Purple Glossy Starling in the garden....