Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Papua New Guinea

I have been asked if i can organise a trip to Papua New Guinea for late June/early July 2016 and am in the process of compiling an itinerary. If anyone is interested then just fire off an email to and I can send you more information.

Of course this tour is all about those Birds of Paradise such as King, Blue, Superb and Magnificent BOP's, Queen Carola's Parotias, Black Sicklebill and many more. There's also a bunch of endemic families with such delights as Wattled Ploughbill and Blue-capped Ifrits on offer, and what about Barred Owlet-Nightjar..... Oh and a visit to New Britain is on the cards as well....

Brehm's Tiger Parrot

Brown Sicklebill

Karawari View from our Veranda

King of Saxony BOP

Mountain Firetail

Raggiana Bird of Paradise

Ribbon-tailed Astrapias

Monday, 5 October 2015

Bobiri Forest

My last morning’s birding was at nearby Bobiri Forest and as soon as I stepped out of the minibus a Blue Cuckooshrike was calling and we had good scope views as it sat calling from a tall tree. The surrounding area was very active and we also had great looks at the superb Buff-throated Sunbird, which is a really rubbish name for such a stunning bird. Also seen here was a pair of Little Green Woodpeckers, a flock of Red-billed Helmet-Shrikes, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Slender-billed Greenbul and a pair of Tit Hylias. Working our way slowly along the forest track I think the low cloud, mist and drizzle was literally dampening down bird activity as we saw not a lot else for quite a while until entering a clearing where we had the first Green Sunbird of the trip, along with a Hairy-breasted Barbet and Grey-headed Negrita. So we decided to retrace our steps and along the way a burst of activity produced Sharpe’s Apalis, West African Wattle-eye, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, and best of all a pair of African Piculets. And that was a fitting end to an all too brief six and a half days birding of Ghana’s forests that had given me 88 lifers amongst 233 species seen but above all that some much needed and valuable experience. 

To sum up, I think Ghana is a fantastic birding destination with many potential lifers even if you've visited The Gambia and Kenya before. My visit to Kakum canopy walkway was awesome, the Yellow-headed Picathartes experience was also awesome and the potential of Ankasa Forest was mind-blowing! Yes it's hot and humid, but the accommodation and food were both much better than I expected and I didn't get crowds of kids following me around when out birding like in The Gambia. Overall, the birding is excellent, of course there are some tough skulking species, and it would be difficult for an individual to see 100% of the species seen on a bird tour. But you'd see most of them with a little effort. 

So what's to come back for? Well how about Capuchin Babbler, Congo Serpent-Eagle, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Egyptian Plover, Forbes's Plover, Pel's Fishing Owl, Nkulengu Rail, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Akun Eagle Owl, Black-shouldered Nightjar, Rosy Bee-eater, Blue-Moustached Bee-eater, Yellow-footed Honeyguide, Black-Casqued Hornbill, Many-coloured Bush-Shrike, Green-tailed Bristlebill and so much more. I can't wait...!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Day of the Picathartes

Drove the short distance to the Abrufo section of Kakum forest and spent a productive and very nice few hours birding the farmbush and then taller, mature forest a bit later. First goodie of the day was a Red-cheeked Wattle-Eye giving the best views yet and I liken this species to a miniature Bird-of-Paradise as it is so stunning. You just have to see it….! At the same spot a Puvel’s Illadopsis skulked, but not that well and I got bins on it, but a Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat was a true arch-skulker and never showed but sang away from a dense area of brush. Nearby a Brown Illadopsis showed briefly, and then a Black Bee-eater posed on top of a bush – just a shame it was so overcast and dull as the photo doesn’t do the bird justice at all. 

Black Bee-eater

A West African Wattle-Eye also appeared, and there was a Guinea (Green) Turaco and some Western Bluebills around as well. Then a Honeyguide Greenbul sat out in the open, a Superb Sunbird appeared, and both Green Crombec and Red-rumped Tinkerbird gave repeated views. 

Honeyguide Greenbul

Then we followed a trail into the forest and had excellent views of a Western Nicator right out in the open. But I most remember this trail for the huge antswarm I stood way too close (hence the burning sensation up my legs) to whilst trying to get a photo of one of the four White-tailed Alethe’s feasting on huge numbers of bugs, crickets and some really ugly spiders all fleeing the maelstrom of ants. 

White-tailed Alethe

Anyway, a little while later we stood out in the now beating sunshine in an open area and scoped my first Bristle-nosed Barbet and tinkered with a calling Black Cuckoo that flew low overhead a couple of times. There was also a Naked-faced Barbet here and a European Honey Buzzard flew over. 

Tit Hylia

Eventually we had to return to the minibus, but not before Victor spotted a Tit Hylia along the trail up ahead and I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see this species – the smallest bird in Africa no less! And it showed really well too. So then we set out on the two hour drive to the lunch stop and from there it was another hour to the village where we walked into the forest for one of those Holy Grail birds.

Cassin's Hawk-Eagle

Thankfully, it was a much shorter walk to the picathartes stake-out than I anticipated and after a 30 minute walk through the forest (and a Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle soaring overhead) we arrived at the small cliff and as we rounded a corned a flipping Yellow-headed Picathartes shot out from the shadows and off into the forest. Damn! So I settled into a groove behind a tree where I had a view of the whole arena below the overhanging cliff where one nest was visible. It was 3.20pm and I thought I’d made a mistake in not sitting down but at 3.50pm some movement off to the right caught my eye and I froze as sure enough there was a picathartes standing amongst the tangle of vines and leaves. Wow! I daren’t move and could hardly breathe as it made a few hops and came out into the open a bit more before pausing once again. After several minutes had passed I slowly moved the camera and fired a few shots, and the bird didn’t seem bothered by this – but it was only maybe 9 or 10 metres away. Still not moving I waited and waited and thankfully the bird moved up onto a rock in full view and began to preen – holy cow! 

Then, over the course of the next 40 minutes I was fully able to enjoy the whole ‘picathartes experience’. A second bird also came in, and I was really lucky they had arrived early as the light was still good enough to get some decent shots (well I was shooting on f2.8 at iso 1250 giving me 1/20th) but on the tripod it was good enough. At one stage, and I’m guessing it was the male, hopped right up to me until just a metre away and looked me right in the eye. How stunningly incredible was that? 

Even more incredible was that ‘he’ came back around 5 minutes later and did exactly the same thing. I must admit I thought I was being reasonably inconspicuous and barely moved the entire time I was here, and using the wireless shutter remote with LiveView worked a treat – thank you Nikon. 

Yellow-headed Picathartes

Well at 4.30pm both birds melted back into the forest and I did the decent thing and retreated as well. Walking back towards the village a Red-chested Owlet began calling and amazingly I spotted it perched high overhead in the foliage of a super tall tree. 

Red-chested Owlet

What an afternoon. All that remained was to drive a couple of hours to my last night’s hotel and count up my 86 lifers scored in just 6 days birding here so far….

Friday, 2 October 2015

Ankasa - Brenu Beach

Must be getting acclimatised as last night felt a little cooler and had a really good sleep, but woken by the raucous calls of the fabled Nkulengu Rail from the forest behind the camp. Driving along the jeep track after breakfast we had nice looks at a Blue-headed Wood Dove walking in front of us, before reaching our drop-off point deep within the forest. We were on the lookout for flocks and we did encounter a few during our morning’s walk. At an open area we had a Black-throated Coucal, a cracking Western Nicator and the extremely localised Yellow-bearded Greenbul, with a pair of hulking Great Blue Turacos flying over. I was also pleased to get better looks at a flock of Red-vented Malimbe as my views from Kakum weren’t that good. So we meandered along a series of trails and I managed to find a lovely little Buff-throated Sunbird in a mixed flock coming in to the owlet call, and I enjoyed some nice views of an assortment of previously seen species such as Icterine and Swamp Palm Bulbul, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Western Olive Sunbird etc etc. We also heard Congo Serpent-Eagle, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill and had a fleeting glimpse of a Black-capped Illadopsis, oh and a Dusky Crested Flycatcher and Buff-spotted Woodpecker were new trip birds. And just as we were walking back to the pick-up point I managed to get the mega Red-fronted Antpecker to end my time in the fabulous Ankasa forest on a huge high!

So after a quick shower and then lunch, we loaded our gear back into the minbus and set off to Brenu Beach. Glorious air-con felt sooo good, but I have to say that Ankasa is a great birding destination and there’s just so much to see I only felt like I had just scratched the surface. Anyway, driving along a small roadside marsh held my first Orange Weaver before reaching Brenu Beach Road. This open habitat was a complete contrast to the dense forests I’ve been birding these past couple of days and we quickly added a few padders to the list such as Purple Heron, Senegal Coucal, Black-shouldered Kite, Grey Kestrel, Northern Fiscal, Bar-breasted Firefinch and Black-rumped Waxbill. We searched for Marsh Tchagra but didn’t get a response despite staying on site until quite late but eventually had to concede defeat and drive on to our last stop of the day. 

Long-tailed Nightjar

Along a dirt track a Long-tailed Nightjar showed well down to a few metres, and with potential other goodies here such as Plain and Black-shouldered Nightjars also possible I look forward to returning here on tour next year. From here it wasn’t too long before we pulled in to the Rainforest Lodge near Kakum and a welcoming hot shower – wonderful.

Thursday, 1 October 2015


Well I survived the first night’s camping! Have to say the set up here is as good as it can be with large walk-in tents, a shower & toilet block, excellent food etc. If I could only just stop sweating! But to be woken by raindrops on canvas wasn’t what I wanted to hear and in fact we had light rain for the first couple of hours of daylight. 

Ankasa Forest from below the campsite

Birding from the jeep track at Ankasa Forest

But that didn’t stop us and we drove along the jeep track and then walked down to the first pond where our patience was rewarded with some views of a cracking White-bellied Kingfisher perched on a dead snag. What a bird, but no photos as I chose to soak up the views in my bins. There was also a pair of Chestnut-breasted Negrita, several Blue-billed Malimbe and a pair of Blue-breasted Kingfishers present. The second pool was quiet so we walked on to the third pool and turned up Olive-green Cameroptera and had seconds of the delightful Yellow-browed Cameroptera. A cracking Black-bellied Seedcracker was startlingly bright, and a Great Blue Turaco was, well great! Leaving here, I scoped a Copper-tailed Starling as it sat on electricity pylons calling away.

Black-bellied Seedcracker

The next couple of hours were rather frustrating, as is often the way with forest birding and we walked our socks off (well I would have if they weren’t fused to my skin with damp and sweat!) until we found a nice mixed flock. Pride of place went to a Shrike Flycatcher, Fraser’s and Western Olive Sunbirds, Shining Drongo and several Icterine Greenbuls in a mixed flock. So then, having already spent the best part of an hour trying to locate a constantly calling Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (in vain) another began calling nearby. 

Chocolate-backed Kingfisher

This one also played cat-and-mouse and somehow circled us unseen before it flew in and landed overhead and took pride of place on my life list. What a cool bird but it was a pity it didn’t hang around longer. Next up was a calling Rufous-sided Broadbill we tracked down to its display branch and I then spent an enjoyable half an hour scoping it and taking photos. A real privilege to watch such behaviour at leisure.

Rufous-sided Broadbill

During lunch back at the lodge, after another excellent meal, I sat around camp and enjoyed watching a nice little flock passing by that included Western Bearded Bulbul, another Fraser’s Sunbird and had really nice looks at a Yellow-billed Turaco. Then Victor and I walked some nearby trails and found the forest to be really quiet, but a family of Cassin’s Flycatchers were seen along the river, before we trudged on further into the forest. 

Cassin's Flycatcher

You just never know what is around the corner and I can only describe the forest as dead – until a Long-tailed Hawk began calling and thanks to Victor, it flew in right above our heads in response to the tape. Well it was maybe 200 feet above us in the tallest tree this side of the Sahara, in a small gap in the canopy but there it was. In fact we had several views of it, best of all when it was flying as you could really appreciate the extraordinarily long tail. It does what it says on the tin after all!

Long-tailed Hawk - honest!

And that was our day. I probably haven’t done Ankasa justice as I spent far too long waiting for kingfishers today and watching the broadbill. Just to note, we also heard Shining-blue Kingfisher, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo and Black-Casqued Hornbill today. So this forest is home to some real gems and I’m very happy with what I’ve seen. 

My Tent

Ankasa Camp

If you like the whole camping experience and can put up with the humid environment and don’t mind some mild discomfort then you are going to love it here. If you like your creature comforts, well… Stay well away..! Personally, I love it here.