Sunday, 28 June 2009

Emin's Shrike and Chad Firefinch GPS Birding at it's best

I've decided to stick out a few more posts on Cameroon then get back to the local Birding scene before the Autumn rush of birds......................... In my dreams !!
Two top target birds in Cameroon were Chad Firefinch a recently discovered species in N Cameroon and Emin's Shrike a scarce patchily distributed Shrike that looks a bit like a dwarf Red-backed! A few years back Nigel Voaden had discovered these species near Poli and armed with a GPS, google earth maps and our trusty drivers we set off early in the morning to reach our destination following what appeared to be a maze of dirt tracks to an road that led up into the hills. On arrival we met some guys driving back from the hills and once Michael had spoken to them we awaited a local worker to accompany us up to the site that was a mine set in the hills and guarded. Much waiting later we eventually headed off up the road a little rough in places but seemingly drivable until eventually our drivers decided the terrain was too rough and we walked the remainder of the way a few km or so in the early morning heat until we arrived at the camp. A brief stop on the way up allowed a few us to see an Ortolan Bunting probably only the 3rd Cameroon record. At the camp a few phone calls ensued whilst permission was verified and we set off further up the hill GPS in hand with the security guards until X marks the spot, distance further to travel 0 metres !! Within no time at all Chad Firefinches were heard calling and in the next hour or so we got some great views and some reasonable shots. Job done, another Firefinch under the belt and lots of back slapping much to the amusement of the locals!!!
The track up to the Firefinches, hot, dry and at times a bit steep but worth the effort

The site of the Ortolan Bunting................. You should have been here 5 mins ago, just like birding back in North Kent !!!
The troops emerge from the Chad zone, another lifer UTB and all dusted up
A short drive away down the hill and again following the magic GPS box we arrived at another indifferent site and wandered off in a rough line into the area to look for Emins' Shrike in the midday sun, very hot, sweaty, uncomfortable and generally very quiet bird wise. Eventually the shout came up from Bionic eyes Merrill, 'EMIN'S SHRIKE' and there it was Red backed Shrike minor sitting quietly in a tree. Very flighty at times it showed well through the scope and a thoroughly well deserved new bird.
Emin's Shrike

A final bonus at the Chad Firefinch site was this Adamawa Turtle Dove perched up near the camp for a few minutes a tricky bird to see and Cameroon is the best place.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Pick of the Bunch,photographing people

Over the years I've come to the conclusion that photographing birds is much easier than photographing people, unless of course they don't know that you're taking the photo 'easier said than done' !!
Above is a poor photo of the Arabian Bustard at Waza, but at least we didn't have to ask it's permission, make sure it didn't look too staged, and with 5 plus cameras all pointing at it at once, it didn't take offence and cover it's face up..............having said that I remember trying to photograph a Puerto Rican Scops Owl many years ago that kept on covering it's face with one of it's wing when we shone a torch on it!!

Anyway, above is part of the crew taking to the water at Garoua in a decidedly 'low' boat for an Egyptian Plover photo session. ............................ It didn't sink !
A local man cycles past unaware that he's being photographed, very natural and a good depiction of normal day to day life in Cameroon,
Also this chap goes about his business selling goods
Martin negotiates a rock race having just seen Rock Firefinch, little did he know that he was just about to tick off a new species for Cameroon, Jos Plateau Indigobird !!
Ian, ponders his next tick or trip as the trip is temporarily held up in North Cameroon
M. C Hemme takes a well deserved rest from ticking, he's a busy man on the World birding circuit
This lovely framed shot depicting market life in Maroua, complete with fruits, workers, and only after I looked at the photo did I notice that although taken from the cover of the vehicle and they were unaware, when a mans' got to pick their nose, who should stop them, life goes on even though it detracts from the photo. Click on the photo to see what I mean !!!
This young lady evidently has brilliant eyesight as many local do, not destroyed by viewing computer screens all day !!
When time allows I'll post more piccies but I'll leave you with this one of Andy sapping up the atmos post Emin's Shrike in intense heat, his feet needed cooling down, whilst Ian stays down wind of the exposed socks !!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Long necked mammals and Pristine Prinias

Continuing our journey around Northern Cameroon and Waza NP, the birds were falling thick and fast, tick after tick, avian and Ixodes. One of the real highlights of a trip abroad is seeing a good old prinia of which some are in particular very smart, in fact very non- Prinia like, with plumage colour other than brown, but in keeping with true Prinia fashion, River Prinia did not disappoint. An absolute belter brimming with brown tones and a super long tail, this restricted species showed iself to it's small group of admirers, overcome with excitement and in awe of it's true beauty, a species one will never forgot and worthy of a another addition to the World List. Study the picture above and weep at this fantastic avian creation, and with an excellent call as well.Always good to see a few Owls on a trip and every morning and evening we heard the distinctive snoring of the resident pair of Barn owls in one of the chalets that posed nicely one evening for a photo session in the flashguns.
A stunning male Pallid Harrier one of many seen at Waza patrolling the park, always a good bird to see, almost as good as seeing one at Elmley RSPB in Kent.
Malachite Kingfisher, a common species though not on the Elmley species list, one of the easier open country Kingfishers to see.
Namaqua Dove, scarce in Israel but abundant in Waza, seen in the hundreds.
White-bellied Bustard a territorial bird that we saw several mornings in exactly the same spot whilst looking for Arabian Bustards

Giraffes, and illustrating how they go about having a drink!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

WASSUP ....................At WAZA

I accept, I may not ever get this blog up to date or this Cameroon account written, but with a few spare minutes here's another update on Cameroon 2009, the showdown. We spent a few fantastic days up North staying in the Campament de Waza situated high above the dusty sand storm plains of N Cameroon that somewhat hindered visibilty at time and kept the 'Rocket Air' busy cleaning the camera sensor. You've heard of Gorillas in the mist well it was much Birding in the dust storms as the Harmattan blew relentlessly each day. Bird wise though this is a cracking part of Cameroon and Waza NP with it's fascinating entrance gate is a sight to behold.!
One of the many Target species here was El Big Bustard, Arabian a bird I'd seen previously in Ethiopia but was keen to see again, a handy year tick. Above, we see Victor our trusted guide and fix it man on Bustard patrol perched atop the vehicle avoiding high jumping Lions or curious Giraffes.
Above we see a peculiar furry, or mammal as their known we were struggling to identify but the plates in the book were fortunately good enough for us to identify it correctly.
The amazing campament de Waza on top of the hill complete with excellent food, a birthday party for Ian to celebrate ticking River Prinia, complete with a lovely cake and a swimming pool that provided Andy B with ample photo opportunities.

When I get a bit more time I'll post a few more piccies from Waza, other than Harriers. It's a great place to visit and always good to know that at the end of a hard days birding in the dust you could retire to the comforts of an A/C room, good food, company and a good shower to remove the multiple layers of dust. It would have nice to get closer to the Chad border but I guess that despite being late, I may not have a opportunity to post anything ever again on the blog, troubled area I'm led to believe. Having said that if you read the UK Foreign Office travel advice pages you wouldn't go anywhere, let alone 'known' dodgy areas of the World. Somalia, that sound a good place to day maybe!!