One of my favourite local places to go birdwatching is very close to Balaba Nature Camp. The Allahein River runs from the coast at Kartong all the way up to Brikama. In years gone by it used to go as far as Bakau, but development has limited its route. Down here, the river forms the border between Gambia and the Casamance region of Senegal, and in the rainy season there is a wide flood plain, so it’s difficult to walk there. But in the dry season, there is a wonderful panoramic view across the dried flood plain, and the ground is encrusted with salt.
The river here is tidal, leaving mud flats at low tide, so there are many wading birds to be seen, including Ruddy turnstones, Redshanks, and Black-winged stilts. Kingfishers, especially the Pied kingfisher, are common, and there are also bee-eaters such as the Little bee-easter, the Little green bee-eater, and the Blue-cheeked bee-eater. Birds of prey can often be seen quartering the river, including Osprey, African Harrier Hawk and the Palm-nut Vulture.
Cattle from the nearby village of Berending like to graze on the salt flats, depositing large amounts of cow dung. (Once these are dry we collect them to use as manure on our garden.) So it’s common to see Yellow-billed oxpeckers perched on the back of the cattle as they amble about.
In some areas there are freshwater pools, where you can see a great range of birds, including several varieties of heron, egrets, hamerkop and other birds.And behind the pools is the unspoilt forest, where there are many woodland birds to view. Varieties include: hornbills, Green Wood hoopoe, Yellow-billed Shrike, starlings and parrots.
Some less common birds can also be seen here. During February 2014 we saw Black-crowned cranes, Abyssinian ground hornbills and European spoonbills (rare passage migrants).
This particular spot is generally almost deserted, except for the occasional local making the journey across the river by dugout canoe, so it’s a great place for birdwatching.
You can see the bird lists for our visits to this spot below: