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.

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