As you know, one of the most fantastic things about Balaba Nature Camp is its beautiful birds. The Gambia is famous for its birds – in fact, many tourists come especially to see them. Lamin has worked hard at Balaba to maintain the trees and unspoilt forest around us, which has become increasingly important as the area around us is being deforested at an alarming rate. We have always put out containers for the birds to drink from (usually a plastic container cut in half!), but last year you may remember Lamin decided to build a larger pool next to the forest edge to encourage some of the shyer birds. This was a great success, so this year he thought it was time to build a concrete one instead.
Lamin collected everything he needed together.
He removed the plastic lining from the previous pool, re-dug it, and re-laid the plastic liner.
Then he and Sang-Marie mixed up some concrete and lined the plastic with it and we waited for it to set.
Meanwhile, Lamin used an old tin tray and created a concrete dish for the smaller birds to use.
The following day, when everything was set and the dish put in place, we created a bird hide. Lamin removed the mosquito mesh from the window in one of our guest rooms and nailed up some green mesh so we could sit inside without the birds seeing us. (We took this down quite soon afterwards as it got in the way when we were taking photos and the birds didn’t seem to see us anyway, unless we moved suddenly!
So here is the view from our bird hide. You can see the pool on the ground, and the smaller dish is on top of the fence. In fact, it’s the larger birds that seem to prefer the dish, and the smaller birds that like the larger pool, which was a bit of a surprise! You can see the forest behind the fence (which is still Balaba land), is very dense, and the birds often sit in there when they are thinking about coming down for a dip.
And here are the first birds using the bird pool…
For a while we perched on a table when we were trying to watch the birds, but last week Lamin asked one of the local carpenters to make us a seat using some of our timber, and this is the result!
It’s nice and high so you have a good view out the window and across to the pool, with a foot-rest so your feet don’t go to sleep when you are sitting. It’s also very stable so it doesn’t rock or tip when you get on and off. We’ve added cushion to make it more comfortable.
So this week I’ve spent some time photographing our birds. We have got lots coming in now – one afternoon I saw 20 species. Some of the shy birds come down when everything is quiet, and we still have our pair of Western Bluebills coming every day, which is especially great as they are not commonly seen. We’ve also had birds of prey, like the Lizard Buzzard (see photo) and an African Harrier Hawk which flew away before I could get my camera.
So we are enjoying our bird hide and pool very much and I”m hoping to get some even better photos over the next few weeks.