Published: February 3rd 2012December 23rd 2011
Recently, I received my first visitor from the US since arriving in Senegal. A friend from the Park Service, and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer himself, Bill, had made his way to Senegal, in hopes of spending a short time here, traveling through Guinea, and ending up in Sierra Leone, his former country of service. After spending a week in Dakar, taking in the music scene, he decided it was more than enough this time around to stay in Senegal, preferring to take in one country more fully than three on the fly. His arrival was more than enough of an excuse for me to take a break during the holiday season from my typical work (Senegal schools were not in session over the holidays anyhow), and do a little bit of overdue exploring.
As is the fashion in these parts, taking visitors to see waterfalls is the thing to do. The waterfall near the village of Segou has one of the prettiest hikes along a river to the falls that I have come across in Senegal. We would make the trip over the weekend and stay at the newly constructed campement in Segou. Along the way we would bird. Bill, having served in West Africa, was familiar with many of the birds in Senegal, and the trip afforded me a chance to share birding insights with someone who, not only knows what he is talking about, but also was interested in birding.
We arrived in Segou at dusk and got ourselves set up at the campement. I got up in the morning and sat on the patio of the campement enjoying the view and taking in the birds. I checked a Bruce's Green Pigeon of my list and would have been content to sit and watch what else would roll in throughout the day. But we had a waterfall to visit, so along with the Segou volunteer, we made our way to the falls.
Upon entering the thick forest, I, more less, stashed away my binoculars, knowing that the birds would be few and far between. We stopped near a pool of water to have a quick bite. Just as we were packing up to move on, a long neck floated by in the water. What in the world was that! The three of us went down stream to get a look. Each of us caught varying glimpses of the bird before it disappeared among some rocks. Eventually, we gave up on getting a good look and made our way to the falls. Before heading out, we thumbed through my bird book and collectively narrowed it down to be an African Finfoot. This would be a first for me, but I was still not satisfied by own sighting to check it off my life list.
The water at the falls, was quite cold and refreshing. We ate a quick lunch and soon enough headed back. I was following the other two, Bill in front of me, and the other volunteer leading the way. While stepping across the river on stones, Bill stopped and pointed out the faint, damp pattern of a wing that had splashed its track onto the rock. It looked recent. Soon enough the volunteer called out ahead of us, “Finfoot!” and we rushed to get a look for ourselves. Sure enough, an immature African Finfoot.
Over the course of the weekend I checked off 6 new birds and saw some tremendous scenery. Not bad at all.