Sunday 17 April 2016

Ghana 11th & 12th March 2016

Another two days from Ghana. The first half of the 11th was spent at Ankasa with the drive back to the Kakum area after lunch. It was a quite enough day but we did manage to finally see a Forest Robin after hearing a few on the trip so far. A Fraser's Eagle Owl was accidently flushed by a handful of participant's at the head to the trail but was gone in seconds. We had small numbers of Orange Weavers in amongst colony of Viellot's Black Weaver on the journey later on also.

Striated Heron

Cassin's Flycatcher on nest.

Rosy Bee-eater

Rosy Bee-eater

Rosy Bee-eater
Female Violet-backed Starling

Melancholy Woodpecker
The main target for the 12th was the White-necked Picathartes. There are only two species in the Picathartes family both of which are found in low numbers and are restricted to West Africa. This particular species is probably the main reason why most birders visit Ghana. They certainly lived to expectations and were probably the highlight for most of us on the trip. They are a truly unique bird. They are reasonably big bird that relies on good quality rainforest with rocky outcrops on which they make their mud nests. Their heads are bald and are somewhat reminiscent of a small dinosaur. We had excellent views of several birds in the area of the cliff face. The nearest village relies heavily on the income provided by visiting birders. As a result the locals can see a clear benefit in keeping the forest intact as without it the Picathartes would be lost. After a memorable time with the Picathartes it was onto Kumasi where we would spend the night before heading up the north and onto Mole National Park. There was an amazing thunderstorm on the journey to Kumasi with lighting flashing every 15 seconds, I've never seen anything like it. This continued for at least two hours and added to a highly memorable bus journey which I won't forget in a hurry...

White-necked Picathartes mud nest.
White-necked Picathartes

White-necked Picathartes

White-necked Picathartes
White-necked Picathartes

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Ghana 9th & 10th March 2016

I've had to combine two days for the one post as I managed to take very few shots over these two dates. Both were spent almost entirely in secondary and primary rainforest. We birded nearby at Kakum again on the 9th and made our way to Ankasa Conservation Area in the south west part of Ghana that evening. On our way to Ankasa we had a brief stop at an area of mangroves just in from the coastline. We were lucky here with at least five Hartlaub's Ducks along with Reichenbach's, Brown/Mangrove and Superb Sunbirds. We then spent the next two nights in Ankasa. As there are no hotels close to this area of rainforest we camped out for the two nights. Everyone really missed the air conditioning of a hotel room as it was so humid even throughout the night. Sadly Ankasa forest is the only remaining primary rainforest (never been logged) in the entire country. There are still a few Forest African Elephants in the forest but unsurprisingly are very difficult to see. Again like most of my time birding in the rainforest I found this type of birding rather frustrating. Our guide would regularly shout out wanted species that just wouldn't come close enough to be seen through the extremely thick foliage. Over the course of the two days we did manage to pick a nice selection of species included African Finfoot, Blue-headed Wood Dove, Great Blue Turaco, Shining-Blue & White-bellied Kingfishers, Blue-throated Roller, Black-casqued Hornbill, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Red-billed Helmetshrike, Purple-throated & Blue Cuckooshrike, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Olivaceous & Cassin's Flycatcher, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher and Blue-shouldered Robin Chat.

African Pied Hornbill

Rufous-sided Broadbill. One of the highlights of the trip. Very odd looking passerine and was a bird family tick for me.

Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher

Shining-Blue Kingfisher
Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, the only one of the trip and this one was right up in the canopy.

Forest road obstruction which was quickly taken care of thanks to a machete and some muscle.

Group checking out the Chocolate-backed Kingfisher. Gives you an idea of how high up in the canopy it was!

Water hole in Ankasa.

Another water hole in Ankasa.

Entrance gate to Ankasa - seen better days!

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Ghana 8th March 2016

We spent the whole day back in Kakum National Park (looking a lot cleaner!) with a morning and evening session on the canopy walkway and platforms. Even though the forest was secondary growth it still contains some massive trees. The walkway consists of aluminium ladders with wooden planks for the floor with netting along the sides and metal wires and ropes which support the whole thing. These rope bridges connect seven huge trees which have sturdy wooden platforms. At its highest its about 40 metres / 130 feet off the ground. It certainly wasn't for those without a head for heights. Even though I've done a bit of abseiling in recent years I have to say it was initially a bit unnerving when you looked down along with the bouncing of the rope bridge. One of our group was particularly nervous and spent most of his time literally hugging the tree trunk when he finally reached each platform. As we were right in the forest canopy we had some decent views of species which spend most of their lives in this zone. These are normally quite difficult to see well and usually result in a very sore neck from looking straight up from the forest floor.
Our evening session was delayed for an hour or so due to a very heavy rain shower, one of only two during the entire trip. Given the habitat we were in, most of the day list consisted of passerines. Some of the highlights included Yellow-billed Turaco, Red-fronted Parrot, Yellowbill, Sabine's & Cassin's Spinetails, Chestnut/West African Wattle-eye, West African/Bioko Batis, Sabine's Puffback, Red-tailed, Ansorge's & Plain Greenbuls, Grey Longbill, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Sharpe's Apalis, Little Grey Flycatcher, Finsch's Flycatcher Thrush, Violet-backed Hyliota, Tiny Sunbird, Yellow-mantled & Preuss's Weavers. It was a little disappointing when the only hornbill species of the day was the very common Pied Hornbill. I was hoping for some of the forest species which Kakum is known for. We struggled a bit with the hornbills over the entire trip as it turned out. No sign of any Long-tailed Hawks or Congo Serpent Eagles which are also a possibility here.

Cassin's Spinetail

Sabine's Spinetail

Black-winged Oriole

Little Grey Flycatcher

Female Sharpe's Apalis

Rope bridge

Kakum National Park

Kakum National Park