At Balaba Nature Camp we have worked hard to keep the environment as natural as possible. When Lamin first came to live here nearly 20 years ago he lived here alone, with no near neighbours, in unspoilt forest. Monkeys, deer and hyenas were regular visitors, and people thought he was ‘crazy’ for wanting to live here! He has managed the trees very carefully here, ensuring that they are felled when necessary, and planting fruit trees such as bananas, oranges and other citrus fruits, and straight malinas which are great for use as timber. But he has kept the trees, and the whole compound is a beautifully shaded haven.
Now there are quite a few people living nearby, and more arriving regularly (often migrants from countries such as Guinea Bissau), but sadly almost the first thing people do when they want to build a house is to clear all the trees. In the six years I have been coming here, I have seen a huge amount of deforestation, and Balaba is now an oasis in an increasingly open landscape. Many natural species are either no longer here (such as the hyenas), or much rarer (e.g. the monkeys).
We have worked hard to encourage the local wildlife, especially birds, and because we put water out regularly, we have lots of beautiful birds visiting daily, as we are now well into the dry season so water is hard to find. In fact, we have over 70 species that have been seen within the compound. But this week we had a real coup. For a couple of days, Lamin and I had noticed (separately), a small red and black bird visiting the bird bath outside our house. We looked in our field guide, and thought we knew which one it was, but the book said it was ‘elusive and seldom seen outside the Abuko National Park’ over 30km away.
So I set up guard, armed with my camera, and waited for the bird to reappear. When it did, it was very nervous and the first day it flew away too quickly to photograph. But gradually it got braver, and I managed to get some quite good photos, which we sent to Martin Goodey, a friend of Lamin’s who has a great site with photographs of birds. He confirmed it was a male Western Bluebill, which is quite rare!
It’s been coming back regularly since, and I have managed to get more photos. It even got brave enough to take a quick dip!
So far we haven’t seen the female, but we are hoping we might – it would be great to have a nesting pair!
So now I am walking everywhere with my camera in the hope of getting some even better photos!