Friday, 2 December 2016

Ghana Day 11: Mole NP

After our usual 5am breakfast we set off into Mole National Park in our coach along the Samole Loop, complete with an armed guard. We drove down from the escarpment our lodge is situated on and into the bush country where bird activity was high – how delightful..!! The first bird of the day was party of three Stone Partridge sitting on the track in front of the coach, and not a bad way to begin. A little further along a female Abyssinian Ground Hornbill was seen perched in a tree, looking rather cumbersome. Our first walk of the morning was fascinating with birds everywhere and right in front of us we saw Bush Petronia, Little Weaver, Northern Puffback, a group of Senegal Eremomela, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, and a Willow Warbler. We followed a sandy track towards some taller trees where a Brown-throated Wattle-eye performed well, Northern Black Flycatcher was perched at the top of a tree and a pair of Oriole Warblers were seen by everyone. I think we were all amazed at the sheer numbers of Red-throated Bee-eaters here, as they were literally everywhere and we enjoyed great views of them. 

Red-throated Bee-eater

A flock of White-throated Bee-eaters were also seen flying overhead. We then drove a little further before walking again and this time we saw a cracking Violet Turaco perched in a bare tree, Beautiful Sunbird, Malachite Kingfisher, Hadada Ibis, and a singing Yellow-fronted Canary. Another short drive and we saw Callithrix Monkey and our first Kob from the coach before spending some time from a viewing platform overlooking a pool and marshy area. Our first Helmeted Guineafowl were seen on the walk in,  along with a pair of Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weavers. The trees around the platform held Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike, Brubru, Swamp Flycatcher, brief African Blue Flycatcher, and a bright African Golden Oriole

Swamp Flycatcher

We walked around the side of the marsh seeing Senegal Thick-Knee, more Hadada Ibis, African Wattled Lapwings, and flyover Bateleur and White-backed Vultures. Then we drove on to a shady area to look for firefinches, with just a few of the group seeing Black-Bellied Firefinch. There was also Hamerkop, Double-spurred Francolin, Senegal Batis, Wire-tailed Swallow and a Lead-coloured Flycatcher in the surrounding area.

So by now it was almost 10.30am and exceedingly hot so we drove back to the lodge to freshen up and cool down. There’s a great viewpoint at the lodge where you can look down on a large water hole and some scanning from here turned up a nice variety of birds with Grey-headed Kingfisher posing nicely and Anthony spotted a perched White-headed Vulture. There was also a Woolly-necked Stork, Black-headed Weaver, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, and flyover Martial Eagle and African Hawk-Eagle as well.

The view from our lodge at Mole NP

The afternoon session proved to be a mixed bag as we headed to an open area to look for Forbes’s Plover, which failed to materialise. We were a bit preoccupied with the Tsetse Flies but our new head nets did prove to be useful. However, there were several Sun Larks present to provide our first tick of the afternoon. It was then that we experienced a freaky tropical storm that came out of nowhere, turned the sky black very quickly, had gale force winds and driving rain, thunder & lightning – the works. So that put paid to any ‘nightjarring’ here and we drove off. Luckily the storm passed and we headed to another open area, arriving at the perfect time as it had just got dark. We found 2 Long-tailed Nightjars, an African Scops-Owl and a Scrub Hare, but the biggest surprise was a Common Buttonquail spotlighted from the coach. Just what it was doing here out in the open I haven’t a clue but we were thankful that our luck was changing! It was just a shame the calling Northern White-faced Scops-Owl failed to show. Driving back to the lodge there were 2 different Greyish Eagle-Owls and a White-tailed Mongoose. Other animals seen today were Common Warthog, Olive Baboon and a Waterbuck.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Ghana Day 10: Offinso - Mole NP

Early this morning we found ourselves at Offinso Forest, which turned out to be a very good couple of hours birding before the long trek north to Mole National Park. It was very busy with lots of bird activity and we began with displaying Pin-tailed Whydahs, African Grey Woodpecker and Whistling Cisticola perched and in the scope before leaving the parking area. The habitat here is much drier than we’d been used to, with more open forest and secondary growth, subsequently there was a much different suite of birds here. A pair of African Hobbies sat in a large tree looked rather nice through the scopes, whilst a reasonably showy Puvel’s Illadopsis was seen by everyone this time. We followed a wide track further into the forest seeing African Pygmy Kingfisher, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, African Firefinch, Broad-billed Roller, a pair of Black-and-white Flycatchers, Klaas’s Cuckoo and Pied Flycatcher, as well as more commoner species. Then as we rounded a corner an African Civet was walking along in front of us. Unfortunately it had an injured leg and that’s why we had such good views but it was a beautiful animal to watch for a few minutes before it slipped away into the grassland.

African Civet

At 10am we turned around and headed back to the coach and boy was it hot with the sun beating down on us from a cloudless blue sky. Yet we weren’t finished as we heard the skulky Capuchin Babbler call nearby and after a bit of manoeuvring some of us had a reasonable view. Once they had disappeared we carried on walking with only a Blue-bellied Roller of note before reaching the sanctuary of our air-conditioned coach.

It was a long, tedious drive as we travelled north towards Mole National Park, but also interesting to see how the habitat changes from the wetter forest to more open, bush country the further north we drove. And there were some good birds seen along the road including Black-headed Heron, Bruce’s Green-Pigeon, Abyssinian Roller, Lizard Buzzard, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grasshopper Buzzard and Long-tailed Glossy Starling to name a few. 

Grasshopper Buzzard

At a marshy area we found Yellow-crowned Bishop, Black Crake, flocks of Red-billed Quelea and some cracking African Pygmy Geese. And it was just getting dark as we reached our lodge so we’ll have to wait until the morning to see what the view is like.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Ghana Day 9: Bobiri Forest

Just a short 45 minute drive from our hotel in Kumasi was Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary, an excellent patch of lowland forest. We walked along the wide track through excellent habitat notching up our first Forest Chestnut-winged Starlings. Then we took quite  a while but eventually tracked down a calling Red Dwarf-Hornbill that had been so good at eluding us, but we got it. As soon as we had scored this cracker, a Red-chested Owlet called from behind us and there it was, perched in the open underneath the canopy of a low tangle of leaves and vines. What a delightful little bird and we were able to watch it at leisure. 

Red-chested Owlet

Walking further along the track and at long last, the much-wanted Long-tailed Hawk flew across in front of us, before circling us a few times. It only gave flight views but what an exquisite bird with an extraordinarily long tail as its name suggests! We also had Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, African Cuckoo-Hawk and White-crested Hornbill. We also came across a few mixed feeding flocks, with old friends such as Sabine’s Puffback, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-mantled and Preuss’s Weavers, Western Black-hooded Oriole etc. We also tried calling in Brown Illadopsis without luck, and also only heard Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Magpie Mannikin and Afep Pigeon. Diving out of the forest a Blue-billed Firefinch, Pin-tailed Whydah, Bronze Mannikin and Wilson’s Indigobird were seen.

After lunch we returned to the forest in the late afternoon and turned up a few corkers. We saw a couple of Brown-necked Parrots flying low over the canopy and a fine African Grey Parrot flying past us as well. Then, as we were walking along the track at about 5pm a large bird walked across in front of us in a shady section under some bamboo – Nkulengu Rail..!!! I think it was true to say everyone was stunned, when we realised what we had just seen. A mega tick! And then at dusk we spotlighted a surprisingly small Brown Nightjar flying through the trees and over our heads to round off a quality afternoon session.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Ghana Day 8: Day of the Picathartes

We had a few hours to check out the Abrafo section of Kakum NP again. A Red-faced Cisticola showed well, and there were numerous White-throated Bee-eaters with several flocks flying around, with some perching in full view nearby. 

White-throated Bee-eater

And a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird also posed nicely over the track. 

Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird

But we spent probably way too long trying to get decent views of Red-cheeked Wattle-eye that seemed to have knack of eluding us pretty much every time we thought it was just about to come into view. A few of the group had reasonable sightings but it wasn’t a satisfactory experience overall. But what a stunning little bird! There was also a few other previously seen species such as Black Bee-eater…..

However, we were all distracted somewhat by the afternoon’s excursion to see Yellow-headed Picathartes. Arriving at the village around 2.15pm we walked through the nearby forest and up a steep trail into the hills, which took us about half an hour. Upon arrival we positioned ourselves on the bamboo benches and waited. Well we didn’t have too long to wait as within fifteen minutes this much-wanted species came into view and we spent a fantastically enjoyable half an hour watching it preening, stretching and feeding about 30 yards in front of us. What a bird this is and one of the highlights of most people’s birding career.

Bird of the tour....

Ghana Day 8: Ankasa - Jukwa

We took the riverside trail near camp this morning and the highlight was a fantastic Yellow-throated Cuckoo teed up in the scope – such a scarce bird and very poorly known. 

Record shot of Yellow-throated Cuckoo

A flock high up in the canopy held several Yellow-bearded Greenbuls and a Shining Drongo, whilst Rufous-winged Illadopsis and White-tailed Ant-Thrush were only heard. After this little rush of new birds there wasn’t anything else to report and after walking a few kilometres along the main track we returned to camp early and packed our belongings in readiness for our journey back to the Rainforest Lodge at Kakum. Over lunch, Richard found an antswarm which held several White-tailed Alethe, Rufous-winged Illadopsis and even a skulking Nkulengu Rail, a Shining-blue Kingfisher was seen by a few of us, whilst John saw a White-bellied Kingfisher along the stream, as the rest of us were drinking coffee back at camp! After lunch we left Ankasa and saw Both Reichenbach’s and Brown Sunbirds at the usual stake-out. The drive to Rainforest Lodge at Jukwa gave us our first Red-necked Buzzard of the tour.