Mountain Robin-Chat on red ants road at Mount Cameroon

During the night, a heavy thunderstorm had fallen with heavy downpours over Douala and the southwestern province. Now in the early morning a few birds are on the hiking trail. In an open site, some specialists have found themselves plundering an ant-train. Unlike in South America, these birds actually seem to eat the ants themselves. Anyway, I quickly see at least 4 Garden Bulbuls (Pycnonotus barbatus gabonensis), at least 2 Mountain Robin-Chat (Oreocossypha isabellae or Cossypha isabellae) and at least 1 Brown-chested Alethe (Chamaetylas poliocephala). The Brown-chested Alethe is much shyer than the other birds. Nevertheless, she can be photographed perfectly on a perch. A young Mountain Robin-Chat is so engaged in his search for food that it lets me easily approach up to 6 meters. The Mountain Robin-Chat proceeds always in the same way. First it walks to an exposed part on the side of the ant trail, lowers the head as if it should think, and then pecks in a fraction of a second. Whether picking was successful, I cannot judge at the minuteness of the loot. All the while, I have to make an image at a time. Sometimes the Garden Bulbuls approach this site after disappearing and try to move the Mountain Robin-Chat away from its best place. In the short term, that also has success. But quickly, the young Mountain Robin-Chat is back in place and just keeps going. However, the Brown-chested Alethe of the local subspecies – called Chestnut-backed Alethe (C.p.compsonota) – cannot be seduced. The bird stays in the shades of bushes and just twitches its wings once in a while. The ants – as far as I can tell – are really tiny. That one perceives as a bird at all. A wonder!

The Mountain Robin-Chat occurs in the undergrowth of the mountain forest at an altitude of about 1,100 – 2,700 m above sea level. Particularly low – down to about 800 m – it comes at Mount Cameroon. The Mountain Robin-Chat feeds on insects, including beetles and small seeds, which are picked up from the ground and in low undergrowth. The Mountain Robin-Chat perches on shrubs, fallen trees, tree stumps in the shade of the forest interior.

Mountain Robin-Chat and Brown-chested Alethe are not the only inhabitants of this biodiversity-rich moutain forest. Other birds of the Mount Cameroon – shots from a trip with rockjumper from April 2017 – you will find in the gallery.

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