Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Kakum TickFest

Have been struggling to come up with a way to adequately describe todays proceedings but suffice to say it was, for me, one of the finest days birding I have experienced for quite a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the tours I lead (and I wouldn’t do them if I didn’t!) but I’m just looking at this personally because I had 47 lifers today! That is probably more than I’ve had for the past 3 years combined!

Anyway, what to say about Kakum Canopy Walkway, apart from it being an engineering masterpiece? Whilst perusing other trip reports I have to say I was in no way prepared for the walkway and didn’t know what to expect and i think most other trip reports just gloss over or take a swift detour when it comes to the facts. Here is what I observed today: this walkway is suspended up to 40m above the forest floor, it consists of a series of wooden platforms fixed around some pretty thick tree trunks (all very safe and well maintained), joined by a series of walkways. These walkways are basically what seemed to me super long aluminium ladders fused together for say 200 yards (the distance between each platform) with planks of wood bolted over the rungs of these ladders, all surrounded by a thick rope mesh. So you can’t fall and it is perfectly safe, however the walkway moves and is UNDULATING, which means that certain parts, usually near each end, are on a little incline. There you go. Maybe I’m a big girl, maybe not but that’s how I saw it today.

Kakum Canopy Walkway
If you can overcome your nerves then the view amongst the canopy is superb and the birding is fantastic. I spent over 4 hours and notched up a lot of great birds, but I did sneak off trail and grab some delightful views of my Desirable Species No 1 – Rufous-sided Broadbill in the gloom of the forest first. Anyway, personal favourites from my time here were a gang of Red-billed Helmetshrikes, the stunning Preuss’s Golden-backed Weaver, Black Dwarf-Hornbill, Brown-cheeked Hornbill, White-crested Hornbill complete with an extraordinarily long tail, Violet-backed Hyliota, Sabine’s Puffback, the really cool Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Naked-faced Barbet, Finsch’s Flycatcher-Thrush feeding on berries just below the walkway, Rufous-capped Eremomela, Yellow-billed Turaco, and a pair of totally awesome Black Bee-eaters. This latter species may well be a “tarts tick” but I was over the moon to have caught up with it and spent a magical 20 minutes scoping them from one of the platforms. Oh and I didn’t carry the scope up here, my amazingly sharp local guide Victor did!

Black Dwarf Hornbill
Other species I saw up here included: Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Fire-bellied, Little Green and Melancholy Woodpeckers, Black-winged and Western Black-headed Orioles, Grey Longbill, Crested and Blue-billed Malimbes, Little Green, Johanna’s, Collared, Blue-throated Brown, Western Olive and Tiny Sunbirds, Red-tailed, Yellow-whiskered, Honeyguide, Little Grey, Ansorge’s, Western Bearded and Slender-billed Greenbuls, Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher, a distant Piping Hornbill, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Green Hylia, Cassin’s Spinetail, Speckled Tinkerbird, Palm-nut Vulture, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Ussher’s Flycatcher, West African Wattle-eye, Yellowbill, Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, Forest Chestnut-winged Starling, and both White-breasted and Grey-headed Negrita. Phew – good birds huh?

Fraser's Forest Flycatcher
Green Hylia
Red-tailed Greenbul
We walked along some of the trails on the way back to the parking area and managed to see Swamp Palm Greenbul, a pair of Sharpe’s Apalis, Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher, a cracking White-tailed Alethe skulking in the leaf litter, and an even more skulking Western Forest Robin that took me ages to get a good view of. Leaving here we drove to the Pra River and saw Rock Pratincole and White-bibbed Blue Swallow straight away, and driving back to the lodge a mixed flock of Preuss’s Cliff Swallows and Ethiopian Swallows on some telegraph wires in a village.

After lunch and a bit of a rest back at the lodge we drove to a different section of Kakum Forest and despite high temperatures this afternoon I was very pleased to get decent, albeit neck-breaking, views of an Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo overhead. There was also Black-winged Red Bishop, Black-and-white Mannikin, Cassin’s Honeybird and a Blue-headed Wood-Dove. Moving to another open area at the edge of the forest we had a Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Little Greenbul, Whistling Cisticola and Orange-cheeked Waxbill. Whilst waiting for the sun to set, which seemed to take ages, several Black-throated Coucals were calling but we were unable to get a decent view of them. 

Fraser's Eagle-Owl
Then just after dusk Victor played the call and in flew a Fraser’s Eagle-Owl, which landed above us and remained long enough for me to get my usual standard of owl photo ie not sharp. But whatever, I was so excited to see this beauty and was a great way to end a stunningly great day’s birding.

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