Wednesday, 27 May 2009

We're be ticking like Bustards

On arrival at Garoua we drove to Maroua and set about the task of ordering some baguettes to eat, a tried and tested French food product that requires little skill or indeed time to prepare. An executive decision was made to have plain Cheese baguettes made up some for now, some for later in the field plus someone who for reasons of security decided to have tomato as well!!!! A good hour and a half or so passed until eventually like a group of lost and tired long distance runners from a marathon , the historically ordered baguettes arrived, all 20 of them complete with tomato. Therein followed a ceremonial tomato de picking event that left the majority of their neatly placed tomato in the bin !!! Who wanted tomato !!!
Finally we set sail in the good ship minibus heading to ticksville and beyond. Within a few hours of birding the North one of the quarry species was found, a species I'd longed to see having missed them in Ethiopia, African Swallow-tailed Kite, and they were every bit as good as I expected them to be, both upper parts and underparts, a fantastic looking raptor. Once in position at the roadside stop we wandered as a group across the desert and scrub to an area where we were informed, the Holy Grail of North Cameroon lived........................ QUAIL PLOVER and within ten minutes or so of searching one was found, then another and following an individual to it's chosen spot of rest we papped it, 100's of shots must have been fired of this cracking little bird, a must see species that posed and wandered chameleon like around the area for a good 20 minutes or so. MEGA
Swallow-tailed Kite WOW
Quail Plover, a bird you HAVE to see
Cryptic and crippling
Black-headed Lapwing, another great bird but not in the same league as Mr QP

North Cameroon by storm

After years of waiting, the specialities of Northern Cameroon were getting closer and closer, and with a new airline working out of Douala our chances of getting to Garoua on the chosen day at the chosen time and with minimal delay were also greater. Douala airport appeared from first impressions a few days ago to be a scammers school of money making but this morning it was very relaxed, quiet and within no time at all we had secured our tickets, carried our bags unchallenged through to the departure lounge 'very small lounge' and proceeded to bird the airstrip for Pipits, Waders and Herons. Finally the time had come, we boarded the plane, and within a few hours had arrived safely in Maroua and ready for mega birding action.
The desolate desert like plains of North Cameroon, brimming with lifers and great birding
Tropical Douala airport, gateway to the North!!
Great stuff, have a pee and have a brew up at the same time in the airport toilets.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A quacker tick, wader tick and a surprise Yank?

A short distance away from Douala lies the appropriately named 'duck pond' situated right next to the main road, and a noisy, but none the less good place to stop and bird. Our early morning visit found us waiting for the sun to come up in order that we actually see the pond let alone any birds!! Eventually the sun rose and low and behold, a pair of Hartlaub's appeared then another, then several more. Hartlaub's Duck is actually a cracking looking duck, and it's always good to get a quacker as a lifer. Generally though the pond was very quiet bird wise so we headed off to the mighty Sanaga River to look for the African Skimmers and Grey Pratincoles, another lifer. These were soon located on the sand bars and reasonable views through the scope and the cloud of marauding insects!!
Hartlaub's Duck steaming into view!!
Suddenly, Simon poised ready for action on the far left with his hubble telescopic eyesight noted wader that 'didn't look quite right' for a sand bar in West Africa far from the coast!! Incredible as it may seem he'd found a Pec Sand, apparently the first record for Cameroon !!! (not bad going for day 3 in Cameroon ! As you can see below the views were simply stunning and I was fortunate enough to obtain this high resolution full feature image of the bird as it wandered along the shore! Weep, as you wonder why you're unable to obtain crisp sharp award winning images like this one !
Peter the Pec
Flushed with success we had some great birding in the forests nearby with Cassin's Malimbe, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill as seen above, Vermiculated Fish Owl 'for some' and a cracking African Broadbill. Despite only a few hours in primary forest we notched up a large number of cracking birds and so ended another good day with a surprise Congo Serpent Eagle back at the duck pond.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Cameroon 2009. Part 1 'finally'

Well, it finally happened in early March 2009...........I set foot on Cameroonian soil and it was a trip I will never forget. Cameroon had been high on my list of priorities for many years and this was my 3rd attempt at getting there and amazingly despite currency, personal, group and logistical problems we got there courtesy of Air France and a few films seen on the way. Cameroon has a bird list in excess of 900 species and as I'd only visited Gambia in West Africa before was a must visit destination full of lifers and mega birds. The first full day in the field found us making an assault on Mount Cameroon a short distance out of Douala and a steep climb to the 'Spierops' zone. We set off just after first light slowly, step by step up the well marked Guinness trail up the mountain a popular running track with the locals. Not acclimatised or of peak fighting fitness we made reasonable progress and the birds fell slowly but surely one by one.
Mountain Saw wing, Brown-backed Cisticola 'what a corker' as seen below, a good reason on it's own to visit this mega country, Little Oliveback' what a bird' as depicted in all it's finery, African Dusky Fly and much more. Following a well deserved rest/collapse at a hut we set off on the next section through the forest up a narrow steep slippery trail until we reached a viewpoint and fantastic forest slopes below. A short wait and there it was, Mount Cameroon Spierops, an aberrant White eye and endemic feeding in the trees below us. This was followed by Yellow-breasted Boubou, mega, and Yellow-billed Turaco showing well in the trees.
The walk down was slow and steady but at least it was all down hill flushed with success and a bag full of goodies plus a few sweat sodden clothes and pocket full of crunch bar wrappers.

Brown-backed Cisticola (Chubby to you and me) a 'split' from Chubb's.

Shelley's (Little Oliveback)

Yellow-billed Turaco 'noisy and nice'
Day one was a tiring but resounding success and with 22 other days birding to come, spirits were high. The stroll back down the hill was un-eventful apart from Andy D being accused of photographing near the 'prison' whilst in hot pursuit of Cattle Egret photos!!