Jinack Island in The Gambia offers a diverse range of habitats for birdwatching, including intertidal flats and marshlands. The island’s geographical diversity and unspoiled beauty provide unique opportunities for studying and researching not only bird species but also other wildlife, flora, and fauna.
Inter Tidal Sand and Mud Flats
The bolongs (tidal creeks) along the island’s coast, such as Masarinko and Niji Bolongs, reveal numerous mud banks during low tide. These mud banks lack vegetation, likely due to the tidal surge within the creeks. The mangrove fringe of the bolongs is accompanied by extensive salt pans (bare tannes), where hyper-saline conditions limit plant growth.
Halophytic plants, such as Sesuvium portulacastrum, Philoxerus vermicularis, Paspalum vaginatum, and Sorobolus spp., are mainly found on the peripheries of these salt pans.
Inter Tidal Marshes
Inter tidal marshes and seasonally flooded areas on Jinack Island exhibit halophytic vegetation associated with salt pans. The island’s low-lying nature results in seasonal flooding through rainfall. The salinity of these areas gradually increases due to evaporation during the dry season, leading to the dominance of halophytic vegetation. Rainfall swamps, utilized for rice cultivation, occur on the eastern side of the island. Some areas of the seasonally flooded regions also experience periodic flooding during spring tides. Salt marshes are typically fringed by Tamarix senegalensis, occasionally accompanied by Avicennia africana. The edges of the marshes are lined with Adansonia digitata, which grows on slightly elevated land.
Inter Tidal Forests
Mangrove forests dominate the fringes of the bolongs within Niumi National Park on Jinack Island. The park contains approximately 800 hectares of mangroves, with six woody species identified: Rhizophora harrisonii, Rhizophora racemosa, Laguncularia racemosa, Avicennia nitida, Conocarpus erectus, and Rhizophora mangle. Different mangrove community types have been identified, including fringe forest, riverine forest, basin forest, scrub or dwarf forest, and overwash forest within the Tanbi Wetland complex.
Fringe mangrove forests, composed mainly of Rhizophora mangle, are found along waterways where the shoreline elevation is slightly higher than the mean high tide level. Basin mangrove forests occur in areas subject to tidal inundation during spring tides, dominated by Avicennia nitida. Scrub or dwarf forests are found in areas with limited tidal inundation and high salinity levels, often backing the fringe forest. Riverine mangrove forests are found in the mid to upper tidal reaches of the Masarinko Bolon.
The creek systems within Niumi National Park provide habitat for a variety of bird species. During low tide in January, extensive mud flats are exposed, attracting feeding shorebirds. African Fish Eagle (Haliaetus vocifer) and Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath) are commonly observed, while Ble-cheeked Bee Eater (Merops persicus) is particularly abundant in January. The creek systems also serve as habitat for various kingfisher species, both resident and migratory.
Gambia Bird Watching Holidays, Trips & Tours
To learn more about the birding and birdwatching opportunities available throughout the year, follow the provided link for a brief outline of the options – African Bird Watchers Calendar