Mount Kupé Bushshrike – searching for a rare bird

HalsbandwürgerOne of the top birds of the Bakossi Mountains is Serle’s Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis) – better known as Mount Kupe Bushshrike. This fresh morning had started almost exactly like the previous, unsuccessful birding morning. But this time we take another trail. At the very beginning, we see the remains of a camp where scientists had conducted ornithological surveys (ringing schemes, etc.). In conduct of the trip, reliable locations for Mount Kupe Bushshrike should be found. We will be playing the voice of Serle’s Bushshrike (better known as Mount Kupe Bushshrike) too and perhaps lure it out. Along the way, the local guides had seen the bird at least. The bird activity is amazingly good. The Blackcap Illadopsis (Illadopsis cleaveri) or better Black-capped Illadopsis and Yellow Longbill (Macrosphenus flavicans) can be heard. The first known location of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike proves to be unproductive. We then continue along the ever-narrowing path. It is now 8:00 am and very pleasant in the forest. The sun is already shining on the first slopes. At the 2nd spot we stop to play the raucous song of Serle’s Bushshrike and maybe lure it out. The local guide had definitely seen it on this spot several times. But first we see “only” a Bar-tailed Trogon (Apaloderma vittatum), in the dense foliage. Suddenly, in the far distance, a Bushshrike answers. For a while I play the tape with its rasping calls. In between, the local guide is very good at mimicking the bird’s contact calls. Unfortunately, without further response. From the narrow path we make our way to the top of a steep slope. To do this we have to clear the way through the dense jungle with the machete. We hope to see the bird from top of the ridge in the canopy of trees standing lower down. Unfortunately, first no success.

At 8:30 am, the Bushshrike is briefly seen in the back light in a treetop of a tree below; and great to hear. But then unfortunately a flock of Piping Hornbills (Ceratogymna fistulator) flies in to feed on the figs in the canopy above us. With the incoming Piping Hornbills, Serle’s Bushshrike is completely disappeared – the local guide explains that the Mount Kupe Bushshrike is scared of the Hornbills or thinks there is an eagle around. Anyway, Piping Hornbills do not seem to move away and the Mount Kupe Bushshrike remains hidden. We then head back to the first spot. One of the guides hear the calls of another Mount Kupe Bushshrike; and it even seems to be a pair.

In the following process, we witness a “dance” described in another blog for the Mount Kupe Bushshrike. The up and down on a mossy stick goes back and forth for a while. I try to estimate approximately, when the higher of the two birds (the lower is largely covered by branches) is at the upper point again, in order to focus on this spot, the lens in advance. Unfortunately, this does not work out as I thought it would. We do not need to make a big effort with the vociferous “dance”, but the local guide urges me to play the “song” over and over again, as the duet of call-waiting-calls is said to be particularly attractive to the Mount Kupe Bushshrike.

I look at the standard works of ornithology especially concerning mating and courtship behavior. The book “Birds of Western Africa” ​​by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey in the 2nd Edition by Helm Field Guides does not even talk about the courtship and mating behavior. In the Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive by del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) from the Lynx Edicions, Barcelona (which I look at on the website https://www.hbw.com) is under the heading Breeding for the Mount Kupe Bush shrike indicated only “No information”.

There is an alternative in the form of a black throat mark instead a necklace, which you can see very well in the photos. The local guide explains that this is a local feature. At Mount Kupé, the individuals would have a brown throat spot. But here in the Bakossi Mountains the throat stain is black. In the book “Birds of Western Africa” ​​by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey in the 2nd Edition of Helm Field Guides, it is pointed out that this throat spot is at least not a gender-specific characteristic. Overall, I spend about 15 minutes on this slope and shoot with the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM on the Canon EOS 5DS R in general with 1/160 sec. Later also with 1/80 sec. a total of 183 images, of which then 26 Pictures are acceptable. That was hard work. A big compliment goes to the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM. The excellent image stabilizer made shooting from the hand with 1/80 sec. still sharp (enough). Camera vibration was the least problem given the many lianas, branches, twigs and leaves and the difficulties to focus on the object. Something out of breath, with a sore hand but overjoyed, we three congratulate each other. Even my guides had not been able to watch the drama so well and intensively, it seems to me. The local guide says that we were here in the right month as well. Between the beginning of February and the middle of March, Mount Kupe Bush-shrikes are the most active. In other months you are lucky if you could even hear them. Also, from the time of day we have met exactly the right time window. Mornings from 7:00 to 9:00 am and in the afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, Mount Kupe Bush-shrike is the best place to discover.

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 in the western palearctic.  Beside the image above you can find a nice selection of birds in the gallery or in the “Pictures Shop” very soon. Just give a message, if Bird-Lens could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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