Thursday, 16 July 2009

Papal Power, Pick a Farties and Bushshrike bonanza

Well I've finally decided to make this my last post on Cameroon and get back up to date with sightings in North Kent and elsewhere in Kent since early April this year!!! Better late than never! The trip to Cameroon had been a roaring success and we're all very grateful to Michael Mills of Birding Africa for achieving a massive 590 species, over 130 personal lifers, some much wanted birds I've always dreamed of seeing and an opportunity to travel in safe, friendly part of West Africa. Out stay at the ranch had been superb from start to finish and as we waited at the rain station in Ngaoundere for the overnight sleeper to Yaounde we kept hearing rumours of problems on the line further South the arrival of the Pope in Yaounde and road closures, none of which bode too well for the journey South and connecting with Simon's UK flight back home............Doom had descended upon the troops!!
An overnight stay in town and an early morning visit to the Adamawa plateau allowed us to see some good birds but there was still the constant nagging doubts that we we're losing time, birds and having to potentially review the plans! We did manage to see a few new species for the trip including House Martin, Black Cuckoo, some cracking views of Fox Kestrel and a colony of Red-th Bee eater.
Finally all was looking good, we had our tickets, our reserved cabins, paked lunches and as we bid farewell to our drivers and guide Victor, the train rolled out of town and started on it's 15 hour or so journey South! It was going to be a long night! Ian looking pretty chipper above as we move a few hundred metres nearer to the South and another bag full of Endems! The journey was tedious to say the least but an experinece in itself as we stopped at many stations throughout the night and saw typical West African life. The only near miss was as we neared Yaounde Ian was taking some touristy snaps and a local evidently knowing that typically there would be tourists on board took a swipe at Ian with a long plank of wood narrowly missing his camera but turning it of......evidently a regular event in the hope of getting some tourist valuables......BEWARE
Our visit to a Picathartes site a few hours out of Yaounde initially drew a blank as the birds refused to show despite a long long wait in a cave and sitting very still and quiet. Fortunately for Volkert he'd stayed lower down the mountain at another site and scored heavily with crippling views of the Picatharties. Still there was always tomorrow!
Next morning we approached the village once again but our efforts were curtailed briefly by heavy overnight rain and a muddy road that had become decidedly dodgy to drive along. Eventualkly the vehicles got out of the mud, we rebuilt the bridge and tracked down our guide once again for another assault on the mountain, out final shot! Did we see it though?
Our second attempt at the Picathartes knoll allowed a few of us to get reasonable tickable views, but following a rest in the forest and a sweat bee feeding session we had amazing, dare I say it incredible views of a pair of Picathartes, one of the World's most exciting and spectacular birds that entertained us for over 30 mins at a range of only a few metres. MEGA

Flushed with success we headed off to various other sites Mt Oku, Lake Awing and reached our final destination the legendary Mt Kupe and Bakossi Mts home to Mt Kupe Bushshrike, a highly endangered species along with Green-breasted BushShrike and other megas such as Crossley's Ground Thrush and White th Mountain Babbler
This Yellow-throated Bold eyed Tree Snake showed well in the canopy in the Bakossi Mts, a huge snake with glistening black scales.
Before we could access the Bakossi Mts home of the Bushshrikes we had to endure a ceremony with the local village to gain permission to enter the forests. This involved taking a swig of alcohol, buying a crate of beer for the locals and a bottle of whisky!!
One of the most amazing non-avian finds in the Bakossis was this frog, with a target on it's underside but the upper parts appear nothing special as below

Walk into the Mts and Mt Kupe, following a huge breakfast at Lucy's Guesthouse, a very friendly and welcoming place to stay in Nyasosso village home of the Bush Shrike
The birders and guides cover up from the sweat bee onslaught, one of the more annoying and endless experiences of birding at Kupe!
Bakossi Mts, home to Gren-breasted and Kupe Bush Shrike, two range restricted megas that most of us managed to set eyes on having made the pilgrimage to a bird I had wished to see for over 15 years!!
Banded wattle eye endemic to Cameroon and very rare, seen well at lake Awing, along with Cameroon Sunbird below

A mega trip, I passed the 6000 mark for species of birds in the world, so only 4000 or so to go now!! Great company, and I would recommend Birding Africa without hesitation if you're thinking of visiting Africa. Birding Africa

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