Swifts (Apodiformes) in the family Apodidae are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 13 species occurring in Cameroon. In a Rockjumper trip to Cameroon in April 2017, swifts were encountered almost every day with Little swift (Apus affinis) and African palm-swift (Cypsiurus parvus) being by far the most common. The best shots of Swifts and Swallows during the trip you will finde in the gallery “Swift and Swallows over Sanaga River in Cameroon” .
Common Swift (Apus apus) are probably the 3rd most abundant and could be seen and photographed especially in the lowlands near the Sanaga River close to Edea in the south-west corner of Cameroon. A gallery of flying birds of Sanager river – Swallows and Swifts – show the great potential for birders and photographers.
Numbers of Common Swifts are declining throughout Europe. A third of British Swifts e.g. have been lost since 1995. But the reasons underpinning this decline are unclear. Scientists of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO ) are involved in a project aiming to address Continue reading Swifts over Sanager River/ Cameroon
Arriving from the Northern Extension of the Rockjumper Rainforest & Rockfowl 2017 – tour we were more than tired as we had arrived on a late flight from Garoua via Yaoundé. To postpone the breakfast to get some sleep was not advisable. The birds do not sleep during the day. And: the morning hours are the most productive. We had a very good breakfast and shortly later our Rainforest & Rockfowl started off with a visit to Mount Cameroon. We were delighted to have a beautiful morning, after heavy rain the previous night, and there was an excited buzz in the air for the anticipation of great birding which lay ahead. We were not to be disappointed and the forest was alive and active throughout the day but especially in the morning.
For 10 minutes we entered the vans to get the first kilometers uphill done before we saw the fields below Mount Cameroon in front of us. We then headed up the mountain on muddy – and in cases – some slippery trails. In comparison to other trails this route is not as steep and narrow. Fortunately the climate is more comfortable here than in the lowlands.
Right in the beginning we had several brown-headed beauties, which show well after a while. Behavior and my anticipation looked for Grey Apalis. But the chestnut-browns color of the head did not seem to fit the description of a grey-brown head. The „Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa“ (Helm Field Guides) von Nik Borrow and Continue reading Mount Cameroon: a heaven for little birds
A dark olive-brown bird moves between twigs and branches. The trees are on the slope above the crater lake are not so high. This allows for very nice pictures of birds, which would otherwise be rather up in the canopy – largely invisible from the ground. This time, the brown bird with the striking beak is not a banded wattle-eye. At first sight it reminds me of an Terrestrial Brownbul (Phyllastrephus terrestris). But this Brownbul is a bird more confined to a variety of thickly vegetated habitats in evergreen forests mostly in the lowlands and coastal scrub of southern and eastern Africa. This medium-sized, relatively elongated, simple-looking bird is a Greenbul with a relatively long and fine beak. Lores, throat and the side parts of the face are light grey. While the tail appears rather brown, the predominant color of the wings and the back is olive. This is the Cameroon Olive-Greenbul (Phyllastrephus poensis), which is – unlike the previously seen Cameroon Montane Greenbul (Andropadus montanus) – not particularly olive green. We are lucky, because the species is limited in its distribution only to the ecoregion of the Cameroon mountains although the bird is not so rare in its distribution range.
The trip to the crater lake Lake Awing was already very productive. A young Banded Wattle-eye (Platysteira laticincta) and one of the parents could already be seen along a ridge above the lake. A very Continue reading Cameroon Olive-Greenbul (Phyllastrephus poensis) near Bamenda in the Cameroon Highlands
Driving from Edea down to Kribi in April 2017 we managed to catch a bird, unobtrusively crouching on a branch of a medium-sized tree right along the road. The bird had large eyes, but was sitting right in the open. Wow, this was the Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis) is a medium-sized eagle that occurs in densely forested areas throughout western and central Africa. Normally prey is spotted in dark forest, either on a tree trunk, in foliage, or on the ground. But they also hunt along roads and forest clearings and may perch over rivers.
The Congo Serpent-Eagle is part in the family Accipitridae, and is classified in the monotypic genera Dryotriorchis. This species is found in West and Central Africa, with its range stretching from Sierra Leone south to Angola and west to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis spectabilis) is found in upper Guinean forests of Western Africa, while Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis batesi) is found in lower Guinean forests in the south of Cameroon and Gabon.
Although monotypic, it seems to be closely related to Circaetus- Snake-Eagles like the Short-toed Snake-Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and is possibly a link between these and the Asian genera Spilornis – Serpent-Eagles like the Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela). This Continue reading Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis) in the Cameroon lowlands
To discover a Fiery-breasted Bushshrike (Malaconotus cruentus) in the mountain rainforest of south-western Cameroon is a very special privilege of a birding trip. As soon as we started to climb a hiking trail at Mount Kupe, we saw the mountain chain of Mt. Kupe, Mt. Oko near Kumbo and Mt. Cameroon. A beautiful chain of mountain rainforests.
Right in the beginning we could observe some of the primeval forest specialists, such as Speckled Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus scolopaceus) or the Yellow-billed Barbet (Trachyphonus purpuratus) in the canopy. Impressive birds. Especially when you can see them in the spotting real good. The view up into the canopy is quite exhausting – if you perform it for a while. But when our bird guide was able to detect a large, powerful bird high up between epiphytes and mosses of the canopy, all eyes were directed upwards again. These plants occur only in areas with frequent rainfall and high humidity. For this purpose, the light tropical rainforest of Mount Kupes is predestined. It is a Fiery-breasted Bushshrike, a colorful bird from the family of Bush shrikes (Malaconotidae). The Fiery-breasted Bushshrike first stands on a thick branch and moves there without great haste. Despite its striking colors, it still looks very unobtrusive and can easily be overlooked. He reminds me a bit of a Cutia (Cutia nipalensis), one member of the Shrike Babblers from the Continue reading Fiery-breasted Bushshrike in the Cameroon Highlands
Having been in Campo Ma’an National Park in southern Cameroon already the 2nd day, we experienced a heavy thunderstorm with endless rain. Probably not the first front of the rainy season brought heavy rain and thunder – and myriads of flying insects.
Just outside our basic camp, birds made sallies into the air, to catch insects that started flying in the rain. It is amazing what the combination of the Canon 400mm f4.0 DO IS USM and the EOS 1DX can perform in the rainy weather. Then the question quickly arose: “What bird do the photos show?” immediately I supposed a Greenbul or Bulbul. A Common or Garden Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus) show the great flight recordings certainly not. I recalled in my notes, that besides swallows and swifts, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher (Erythrocercus mccallii) and some Sunbirds had also participated in the flycatching orgy during the rain on the clearing that day.
After consultation with an ornithologist specialized in African Continue reading Little Greenbuls fly catching insects in the rain
Now the afternoon was for the Grey-necked Picathartes or Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas). We expected an arduous trip of hiking for hours through tropical heat in the National Park. Some people say, that the bird only appears after rain storms. If this would be true, we would be unlucky, as on our first day in the park’s interior, it did not rain. We had only one more day in the park – but rain seemed likely enough for the next days. I cannot confirm, that the particiapants of the trip showed sights of anxiety and gloom. But never you know. On trips prior to ours the bird had not been seen.
But already with the hike we were lucky. We had a short, pleasant and fairly easy hike with lots of good birds to at “cave” formed of several enormous boulders where the birds build mud nests on the sides of the rocks during the breeding season. We hoped that no rain was needed as our guides told us, that this species checks on its breeding site every afternoon or during dusk. We arrived early in the hope that the birds would appear in some natural light. Maybe earlier than normally to expect. One of the local guides tried to show as the nest a bit too much. We almost shouted through the forest to keep him from removing the nest. The Continue reading Grey-necked Picathartes in Campo-Ma’an National Park/ Cameroon
Having birded the Bamenda highlands until midday, we expected an impressive rainstorm, over the buzzling town of Bamenda while admiring several Neumann’s Starling (Onychognathus neumanni) obviously feeding on the cliffs just below the plateau of the upper parts of the suburbs. Neumann’s Starling are said to be observed from some rocks in the a semi-suburban/ agricultural area above the city.
We visited a (very) little farm which offers a breathtaking view over the steep cracks – probably of clay – which make up the edges of the urban basin of Bamenda. After two short incoming flights, the last flight of a male Neumann’s Starling was shot with this photo.
Other excellent birds were breeding White-crowned Cliff-Chat (Thamnolaea coronata), which were found in the immediate vicinity Continue reading Neumann’s Starling flight along cliffs in Bamenda/ Cameroon
The Birdlife of West Africa was on the schedule for April 2017. I decided for the Africa specialist Rockjumper. Cameroon is a vast and diverse land; lying just north of the equator. This bird-rich nation forms the inter-grade between West and Central Africa and harbors a wide range of habitats, ranging from steamy lowland rainforest to Sahelian semi-desert.
By combining the Rainforest & Rockfowl tour with the Northern Extension tour of the Africa-specialist Rockjumper I was confident to book a birding tour that visits all of the area’s core ecological zones and provides a thorough coverage of this West Africa birding destination in three-weeks. Due to its wealth of habitats, over 900 bird species have been recorded, and comparable tours had been successful with roughly 550 species. This is the one side. But how about bird photography – my 2nd leg of interest.
Here the guidelines provided by Rockjumper are clear: NOTE FOR Continue reading Cameroon: bird photography on a guided birding tour
High on the list of a Rockjumper-trip in Cameroon was the Hartlaub’s Duck (Pteronetta hartlaubii). We found four on the morning going to the Sanaga River, Cameroon in April 2017. Probably they were 2 pairs in the area.
On the road from Douala to Yaoundé lies the remnant of a lake that has grown to a small, shallow pond. Probably the construction of the road has cut off the access between the water source and the lake. The lake is already fairly grown but looks still quite close to a natural habitat despite the proximity to the city. Maybe this small pond was formed by former flooding by the nearby river. Just in the early morning some very nice birds are to be found here. And promptly I have my fist liver. And it is a megabird. A male of a Hartlaub’s Duck is floating in the shallow water. Its partner is also to be seen. Then one of the Hartlaub’s ducks flies up, revealing the beautiful wing badges, which are so typical of this species. A very inconspicuous African Pygmy-goose (Nettapus auritus) floats in the water as well. In the further course there are 2 more Hartlaub’s Duck, this time swimming together with – in total – 4 African Pygmy-goose to see. In the further course, the Hartlaub’s Ducks fly a few more times. Of the 30 flight shots, 3 are acceptable enough, to be Continue reading Hartlaub’s Duck near Douala in southern Cameroon
A remembrance of a song, beautiful and both familiar and strange. It took a while until I got the clue. It was a Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) singing in a woodland in the heath on sunday. Singing now south of Berlin, seen 20 days ago in Cameroon. There the subspecies trivialis was still fairly common near the Ngaoundaba Ranch on the Adamawa Plateau of middle Cameroon in the beginning of April. Other migrant WP-birds were Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Great Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and many Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra).
The Tree Pipit is a small passerine bird which breeds across most of Europe. It is an nondescript species, similar to the Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). The Tree Pipit is brown with streakings above and has black markings on a white belly and buff breast below. It can be distinguished from the slightly smaller Meadow Pipit by its heavier bill and greater contrast between its buff breast and white belly. Tree pipits more readily perch in trees in comparison Continue reading Tree Pipit: back from Africa