A Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) is a common warbler in the Western Palaearctic. But not in February. The same is true, if you see the Common Whitethroat in in the litoral province in southern Cameroon. On a way back from a successful hike on Mount Cameroon, we were lucky to be surprised by this Western Palaearctic visitor near the foothills of the highest mountain of Western Africa.
After having spent almost the whole on the mountain, we were hiking already back through agricultural land. In a small shrub above the fist outskirtst of the local town Buea, I became aware of a bird by its movement. The rust-brown wings with the black wing edges on a gray-brown back, a gray head and a hint of an eye ring I know but somewhere. The throat looks pure white. Yes, that must be a Whitethroat. Taking a photo takes too long. Besides, I do not want to have any trouble with the officials because we are right in front of the local prison. For that I can look in the binoculars in detail what turn out to be a female of the Whitethroat.
With the ID I am fine, but the distribution map of the Whitethroat, which is shown in the book “Birds of Western Africa” by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey in the 2nd edition of Helm Field Guides, does not fit that well. Otherwise, the bird is said be stay during winter farther north. Only a few “crosses” are noted for the area south of the sahel zone (although even around Mount Cameroon seems to be a cross in the book). I’m still sure. The basic habitat description – low, sparse vegetation and gardens – also fits very well to the observation area.
At home, I do some more research in literature. The Common Whitethroat is a migratory bird that winters in West Africa from the southern edge of the Sahara to the rainforest bloc and in East Africa from about 15°North latitude south to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Transvaal.
While the eastern subspecies of Common Whitethroat (volgensis and icierop) spend a small part of the winter in the Arabian Peninsula and Ethiopia, but mainly in East Africa south of the equator, the winter distribution of the nominate form is more in the thorny scrub savanna zone between the Sahara and the rainforest bloc, more or less from Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia in the West to Sudan and the Red Sea to the east. More southern observations from West Africa from the Ivory Coast and from the coast of today’s Ghana and the lower Congo are considered exceptions. In the north of Cameroon, the native subspecies Sylvia communis communis is widespread and is considered in the Sahel zone a particularly numerous wintering inhabitant. The bird likes to snuggle in dry, open bushes, often in gardens. In Africa, the bird is found during the winter mainly in thorny scrub, in thickets along watercourses, in oases, in acacia and tamarisk stocks of desert semi-deserts, at forest edges, more rarely in papyrus marshes. With the observation on the slope of Mount Cameroon, a far southern observation has been achieved.
That should not be the only European guest on the journey. At the end of the trip, for example, a Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) was discovered on the river bank of the Sanaga River on February 23, 200m from the Hostelerie de la Sangha near the town of Edéa.
To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find not only in the western palearctic. As mentioned, I was not allowed to photograph near this sensitive installation. But the image shows the bird, I saw on the foothills of Mount Cameroon. A nice selection of birds are shown in the “Picture Shop”. But just give a message via contact form, if Bird-Lens could serve you with an image needed before more new pictures are online.