The day started well. We woke at 6am to have a lavish breakfast of jam on bread and bananas, then set off for the small ferry to the South of the island which was then to take us to Bansang and untold avian goodies. The ferry was an experience – sufficient room for 2 cars, and the propulsion mechanism was the strong arms of the passengers. This moved us serenely to the other bank, where we alighted waiting for the car to be driven off. Except that the ailing engine had other plans, and this time it wasn’t the battery that was the problem. The engine was dead!
Lamin had one or two cunning plans - including him catching the bus taxi to Bansang to look for a spare part (initially without us, until we explained that this would give us a chance at birding the Bansang area while he fixed the car), hitching a lift on a motorbike to look for spares, which he did when the bush taxi failed to materialise after an hour, and then phoning head office for a new car when the spare part wasn’t found. This whole procedure took about 5˝ hours.
Hence the whole of the morning’s birding was enforced coverage of the half mile or so from the ferry terminal, which if not producing the upriver specialities we had been hoping for, found enough of the more common birds to keep us going. The area consisted mainly of dry or burnt rice fields, with the odd pool here and there. A small village, with much more traditional build than the corrugated iron enclosures further down river was a little further along the road. The whole district seemed encrusted with Abyssinian Rollers, with one field holding court to 8 individuals. We also soon found many parties of Glossy Starlings, with usually contained a selection of species. Long-tailed were predictably the most numerous, and often kept their own counsel, but other groups comprised Greater Blue-eared & Bronze-tailed. Out of breeding plumage bishop types were in small flocks, but all but nigh impossible to identify (save for some which could be narrowed down to Northern Red Bishops with perseverance).
More luck was had with the birds of prey, which were reasonably common, and not too difficult to sort out (in most cases, apart from a handful of larger birds which didn’t show enough to call). First, just after we left the ferry and the dead vehicle, was a pair of Gabar Goshawks, with the similarly coloured but much bulkier Dark-chanting Goshawk showing later. A Shikra put in a few late appearances. The much larger and broader winged Harrier-Hawks were busy landing on the rice paddies looking for food, while the Grey Kestrels preferred to perch on wires and high trees. At one point, at least 3 Brown Snake-Eagles were in view around one particular field (one vacating the tree where we had our lunch). This same field also hosted fly through Marsh & Montagu’s Harriers at different times.
We did venture into the village for a short amount of time. Even at the edge of the buildings, a pair of White-crowned Robin-Chats were showy on one of the fences. Our first couple of Village Indigobirds of the trip joined a collection of Red-billed Firefinches and Black-rumped Waxbills. To the rear of the village, a quartet of Green Bee-eaters caught the morning sun.
After traipsing around the ferry area all morning, we did the unthinkable and had a rest in the room to escape the main of the heat in the day. The car was broken, and no hope of a quick taxi to a birding spot, so we took the decision to explore the area around the hotel. We made a left out of the hotel (away from the Georgetown ferry), which took us through the attached village and almost directly into an elongated marshy area. This ran adjacent to the few remaining houses of the village, and had enough water to support a decent number of African Jacanas, a few Squacco Herons, and an unexpected Common Snipe.
As we made our way further along this marsh area, it became a lot drier, and the bush a little thicker. There were reasonable sized parties of winter plumaged bishops and weavers here, which to our minds defy correct identification, but a female Cordon-bleu in one party was surprisingly the first of the trip. A Blue-bellied Roller was also the first to be seen perched. Many Western Red-billed Hornbills vied with Long-tailed Glossy Starlings to be the most common in the area, but a single Fine-spotted Woodpecker took some pinning down. This couldn’t be said of the Yellow-crowned Gonolek which was a startling red against the greenery.
This slightly enclosed area of trees gave way to more open bush and rice paddies. After a pair of Senegal Thick-knees, Senegal Coucals were seemingly everywhere. A small creek was followed for a short way, which was a good decision when a Malachite Kingfisher was disturbed. It landed on a small twig in the creek halfway up, and was still there on our return. To finish, at least 3 Hamerkops were in view at one time, and a dapper male Marsh Harrier passed by twice.