We had planned to go to Lompoul to the Camp du Desert on Saturday morning (16th). However, there was a slight hiccup in the plans, related to a vehicle issue, that meant we did not leave until Sunday evening! Thus, we had to stay an extra night at Les Manguiers de Guereo, and spend a bit more time at the river mouth watching Ospreys (not a bad thing)! We eventually arrived at the Camp du Desert in the dark at about 9pm, where we had dinner and settled into our respective tents. It’s a super place to experience the wilder, rural side of Africa. There is no electricity in the camp, and the toilets and showers are all outdoors!
On Monday morning we rose early and headed off to find 30(05)! As we drove steadily up the beach towards 30’s wintering area, we suddenly spotted an Osprey on the sand to our left. John exclaimed, “There she is, that’s her!” and immediately raised his camera. I excitedly lifted my binoculars to my eyes and looked at 30 in close-up, I could see the satellite-transmitter’s aerial on her back! It was a great moment.
We parked the car and got out, heading up towards the trees to get a good look at 30, who had returned to her perch and sat there quite happily. We stood there for quite a while, watching 30 and hoping she might go fishing.
We didn’t see her fish, but later we saw her flying around carrying of a needle-fish!
We stood in the shade of the trees and looked around at the area. It’s a perfect area for Ospreys to winter, a lovely long beach (if you ignore all the litter), the sea in close proximity for fishing purposes, and acres of woodland behind. It’s no wonder this coastline is packed with Ospreys!
After spending some time with 30, we headed north up the beach to look for more colour-ringed birds, of which we found many! As the birds are less likely to spook and fly off at a vehicle than at people on foot, we drove along the shore with John and his camera hanging out of the window! We saw around 100 Ospreys, some of which were ringed. Most of the ringed Ospreys were from Germany, and some from Scotland. It isn’t easy to capture the ring numbers, especially from a moving vehicle, but John is a whiz with the camera! It was a great day – to see so many Ospreys all in one place, some catching fish, some perched, some flying.
Being able to see colour rings and find out where some of the Ospreys are from, was brilliant, not to mention seeing 30(05), an Osprey whom I have seen in England at Rutland Water! It was also interesting to see some of the locals using the beach!
We did have a few car issues during the day – despite letting some air out of the tyres it kept stuck in the deep sand! The tide did not help much, as it was so high it forced us to drive further inland in the softer sand.
As we arrived at the desert camp a day late, we stayed an extra day and night, and spent Tuesday there too. Tuesday morning was much the same as Monday, with some of the same birds, some different ones. We avoided high tide on Tuesday though, and headed back to the camp for a walk through the desert in the afternoon. It was brilliant walking through the desert! It was so vast and unspoilt, apart from a few footprints!
We were surprised, as we stood on the highest sand dune, to hear an Osprey calling. John picked it out in the trees behind us, perching, and then he spotted another one sitting on the sand eating! We couldn’t believe it – that woodland must have been at least 5km from the sea, which means there must be a lot of Ospreys in the area.
On Wednesday we had to leave the desert camp to head back down to Gambia, a journey which took us 9.5 hours! We stayed one night in Tendaba camp, then moved onto Tanji on Thursday. News from Tanji will follow at the weekend!
All of the above photographs were taken by Field Officer John Wright.