I’d been looking at Cameroon for some time with its abundance of endemics and the chance at Red-headed Picathartes so got in contact with a guide and we came up with an itinerary that would give us the chance for most of what I was looking for.
Logistics and considerations:
Cameroon is a third world country and as such there are some considerations to make. The roads were not always paved but we went when it was dry so didn’t have too many problems. When it rains the mud roads can become impassable. Hotels are not always to western standards but most of the places we stayed had a clean room but little hot water. Electricity can be a bit spotty too. That said if you are prepared for a bit of rough roads and one star rooms then there is an abundance of amazing bird life to be had.
Our guide was very good and knew the bird vocalizations and our driver Earnest was very good and quite funny. He always handled the Gendarmes with a cool head and most police checkpoints were only a few minutes each time. Though there is a problem with corruption and bribery we only ran into problems on a few days where we were delayed with the checkpoint police coming up with some story about why this wasn’t right or something needed to be paid. Inevitably the money ends up in their pocket.
The people of Cameroon are very friendly and always quick with a smile and we were never bothered by anyone and most took little notice of us even with all our gear. The food is not really suited to western diets so we ate mostly chicken and rice and plenty of bread and cheese. The bread here is fantastic, a holdover from French colonial days, and we visited the patisserie many a time for the quality breads.
We arrived and checked through customs and were out into the heat and humidity of the airport to collect our luggage. Our guide was waiting for us and we were soon loaded up and off to the hotel for the night. We stayed at the Foyer du Marin and after dinner and a cold beer we got a good night’s sleep and were ready the next morning.
Waking in a foreign country is always fun with the first hints of bird song you’ve not heard in ages to get the blood pumping. I was out in the predawn heat recording African Thrush and Common Bulbul in the grounds of the hotel. Our guide soon showed up and we loaded up the car while the sounds of Brown-throated Wattle-eye came from a large tree next to the parking lot.
We drove through the morning traffic heading south along the road to Edea. Our guide knew of a roadside pond where we would stop and soon enough we were overlooking it. Surrounded by woods this small pond didn’t look like it held much on first inspection from the road. We did chance upon a Piping Hornbill in a tree overlooking the pond and a flyby of a Grey Parrot was nice. We decided to walk down to the water where we spooked up a Senegal Thick-knee. Scanning the water we began to find birds, African Darter, Squacco Heron and Malachite Kingfisher. A Western Nicator sang from somewhere deep in the forest surrounding the water and the sudden flap of wings drew our attention to a pair of Hartlaub’s Ducks as they flew away from us and onto a dead snag in the middle of the pond for some great scope views.
We continued south from here to Edea for breakfast crossing a bridge over the Sanaga River where there was a nice crop of Preusse’s Cliff Swallows on the wires. In the grounds of the restaurant I found a Yellow Wagtail and several Bronze Mannakins and spooked up a Blue-spotted Wood Dove that flushed from the grasses and shot away from me, chestnut wings working quickly to get it to cover.
After breakfast we crossed back over the river and took a road that leads along the edge of the Lac Ossa National Park. We stopped along the dirt road to check the river finding several African Skimmers, Yellow-billed Kites, Grey Heron, Common Greenshank and Barn Swallows. A large colony of Village Weavers chimed in from above us before we crossed over through some farm land to the forest. Once at the edge of the forest the birds came thick and fast. Little Greenbul, which would be the most vocal bird of the trip, chimed in while a Western Nicator sang from deeper in the forest. We found a spot where we could get into the open understory and soon found a Rufous-vented Paradise Flycatcher.
We followed some noise till we came across a group of Red-tailed Greenbul a lovely female Chestnut Wattle-eye, Yellow-lored Bristlebill, Icterine Greenbul and a Western Bluebill singing from cover. We followed a trail that lead us out to some open grassy/bush area where we found several Chattering Cisticola and a Little Bee-eater resting on a palm. Some playback drew in the noisey Cisticolas and we had them dancing all about us making a racket.
Back out on the road we found an Olive-bellied Sunbird singing in a roadside tree and while recording that I picked up the song of a European Reed Warbler singing in the riverside vegetation.
We met up with Earnest and climbed into the car for the drive down to Kribi now that it was becoming too hot. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant overlooking an inlet where we had some wonderful fish and watched as Malachite and Pied Kingfishers eyed the water and plenty of Yellow-billed Kites meandered around waiting for a morsel.
We continued south after lunch to Campo with a few gendarme stops along the way we arrived and dropped of our stuff then went to meet our guide who was running late. Once he arrived we drove for a while as it became darker and darker. By the time we stopped it was almost dark and by the time we got to the rock where the picathartes nest, it was night and we’d either spooked them on the way in or they were somewhere else. We waited for a bit but to no avail so we headed back to our hotel for the night.
We started out early this morning and headed into the park where we spent some time walking the road with nice jungle on either side. Soon as we got out we were surrounded by the song of Little Greenbul and Western Nicator. In the distance the wailing call of Black-casqued Wattled Hornbills became evident as they flew towards us and past. A female stopped for a scope view and continued to call while an African Pied Hornbill joined the chorus flying over the canopy.
We moved down the road a bit till the calls of several Spotted Greenbuls got our attention. They passed by with the ‘poop….poop…poop’ song of a Blue-headed Wood Dove coming from the thick forest in front of us. More hornbills joined the fray with several Piping Hornbills coming close in the tree behind us. A lone Woodland Kingfisher added his color to the surroundings as several Olive-bellied Sunbirds chimed in as we closed on the village.
We stopped here for some tea and bread while another pair of Piping Hornbills entertained us from a tall tree behind the village. Spotted Greenbuls drifted past along with several Swamp Palm Bulbuls. A lone African Pygmy Kingfisher eyed us from the washing line in someone’s front yard while we sipped our tea.
After breakfast we ventured through town to try and find the Great Blue Turacos we’d heard earlier. With some playback they soon turned up and gave us a great show of bowing and lifting tail as they called and moved about the palms and trees to the back of one of the houses that butted up against the forest. Behind us a male Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill called constantly before flying off into the jungle.
We went back to the hotel after this and loaded up before heading to another part of the park on the way back where we found a small canopy flock consisting of Grey Longbill and several sunbirds and a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. A Rufous-vented Paradise Flycatcher moved through the farmbush palms in front of us but we were running out of time and needed to get on the road so we climbed in and began the journey north.
The rest of the day was spent on the drive up to Beua with stops in Kribi for lunch and some afternoon traffic in Douala. We arrived in the evening at our hotel ready for some rest.
Woke before sunrise and listened to the birds outside our room. Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Splendid Starling and Pied Crow all called from the open grass and palm trees behind the hotel. We could see Mt Cameroon from our room as it was not covered in cloud which was nice.
After breakfast we got our stuff and drove to the foot of the mountain where we met our guide for the day. Then we began the slow hike up the steep slopes of this massive volcano.
We hiked through open farmland picking up some good initial species like Whinchat, Long-legged Pipit and a surprise Brown-backed Tchagra. Several Mackinnon’s Shrikes were calling and as we approached the edge of the forest we heard our first Grey-crowned Negrofinch. A circling Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle was a nice find and a Brown-throated Wattle-eye called from the cover of a wooded gulley. A hidden sunbird sang up slope in a flowering tree and we later figured out it was an Johanna’s Sunbird from the song I recorded. Another hidden singer turned out to be Mountain Robin Chat which responded well to the playback of its own song and it came in for some close views.
From here we continued up into the forest proper and began to pick of some fantastic birds. A pair of Mountain Sooty Boubous sang from an area of open forest. Grey Apalis sang noisily while a Cardinal Woodpecker drummed and called from the canopy above us. A small group of African Yellow White-eye’s called and moved through the canopy the first of many Western Greenbuls were heard calling and moving through the understory. They were joined by the first of many African Hill Babblers and the constant, repetitive single note of a Thick-billed Honeyguide led us to its location. While we were enjoying this bird the loud burst of song and call from a group of six or more Yellow-billed Turaco got our attention as they bounded through the understory and canopy in front of us. We followed them up hill for a while to where the trail opened up and spooked a Banded Apalis that rattled on for a while.
In a banana plantation we found two small grey flycatchers that at first thought was Dusky and didn’t pay too much attention to, but I did make a recording. The recording didn’t sound at all like Dusky and we think it might have been two Yellow-footed Flycatchers. Didn’t notice the yellow feet but we were looking almost directly up at them.
Continuing on we headed up hill again till we leveled off on a small flat part of trail that was under a huge tree and surrounded by thick understory. Here we encountered a small flock of birds, prize among which was a pair of Green Longtails that sang well and moved about above us for some nice looks. A White-bellied Crested Flycatcher was seen briefly and a Cameroon Sunbird put in an appearance.
Moving past some Western Greenbuls and a singing Brown-throated Wattle-eye we came to another steep section and once to the top of this it mercifully leveled off for a bit. We took a break here for a minute with the constant serenade of Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. Our guide disappeared downhill for a few minutes and came back saying he’d seen a pair of Bar-tailed Trogons. Excitedly I put on some playback and within seconds we had a pair moving through the canopy next to us. We enjoyed some great views of these birds while they flew around in the understory before we left them to continue on upslope to camp 1.
Along the way there were stops for two very nice Shelly’s Olivebacks, Oriole Finch, Black-winged Oriole, Northern Double-collared Sunbird and Cameroon Montane Greenbul. Near a particularly thick patch of understory brush and bamboo we heard a very loud song so stopped to check it out. It was distant and with the constant calls of other birds around us the recording I made wasn’t very good and with no response from the bird I waded into the bush. I came out at a small clearing with waist high ferns and across this small gap I could hear the bird singing clearly. I recorded a few minutes of song then hit the playback. Within seconds the bird shot across the gap into the ferns in front of me. It moved furtively through the understory and my looks were limited to a small brown blob moving quickly through the greenery.
I moved back to the trail and used some more playback and the bird came to the edge of the trail but was never more than just some movement. A long brown tail here, a bit of brown body there. It sang constantly and I was able to figure out later it was a Cameroon Scrub Warbler (Evergreen Forest Warbler).
After this bird we moved up through a narrow section of trail where we had Chubb’s Cisticola, Black-billed Weaver and some more Western Greenbul before emerging at Camp 1. We stopped and had some lunch here and when I disappeared into the bush for a bathroom break I was soon surrounded by singing and calling Brown-throated Wattle-eye. An African Hill Babbler came in to inspect me at one point for a nice close look.
Back at the camp we saddled up and continued on up through the thick ferns and vine tangles that dominated the side of the trail. We encountered several Yellow-breasted Boubou up here and as we were going up a particularly narrow section of steep trail we found a Cameroon Olive Pigeon perched up above us. It sat long enough for us all to get a look but became nervous as I pulled up my camera so I got a shot as it began to move to take off cutting off the head. When we came out of the forest here we could see where it opened up at the tree line above us. We tried here for Mt Cameroon Speirops and soon had a small group moving past us at eye level in the trees below us. They made their way across the gap and uphill into the foliage so we followed around the bend and up. Where the trees began to clear out we had several Mountain Sawwings wending their way through the canopy and Yellow Bishops moved about us in the ferns.
Sadly we had to begin to make our way back down and after an hour we were nearing the bottom. The trail down was uneventful with few birds calling in the early afternoon or they had been seen earlier so we didn’t take too much effort with them. The best birds on the way down were back out in the farm bush where we found a small group of Black-capped Waxbills, these would be a common bird in the highlands but as they were another lifer it was nice to see.
We met Earnest at the bottom with the car and we loaded up and drove to Kumba for the night.
We started the day at Lake Barombi Mbo where a trail leads to the lake. Our first birds were a nice pair of White-chinned Prinia’s in some tall grasses. Once past these noisy birds we heard the distant song of a sunbird and with some recorded playback it landed in the tree above us and continued to sing. It turned out to be an Olive Sunbird which continued with us down the pathway calling and singing. Green Hylia and Red-tailed Greenbul were heard along here and the constant ‘poop…..poop’ of a Yellow-billed Barbet echoed through the canopy.
Once at the lake we could see several Reed Cormorants and the trail the circles round the lake yielded some nice birds. In a banana grow and calling Red-tailed Greenbul came in very close and scolded us though it wasn’t until later when we found two juvenile down the slope near the water’s edge did we realize what she was angry about. A pair of Rufous-vented Paradise Flycatchers called and sang from cover and another forest ‘poop’er in the form of a Tambourine Dove sang from the thick vine tangled cover on the edge of the forest.
We returned slowly back to the overlook where we found a Grey Longbill and a juvenile African Pygmy Kingfisher flitting along the edge of the bank. A Cassin’s Flycatcher sat motionless on a log protruding from the edge of the lake and nice scope views were had of this bird. We walked the path back to the car stopping near to the end to record a distant African Emerald Cuckoo.
We drove back through Kumba and picked up some supplies before heading west towards Ekondo Titi, the heat was up by the time we got there and we decided to skip lunch as it was kinda spicy and I didn’t want to get any hotter than I already was. We continued down the bumpy road towards Mundemba eventually stopping in a nice area of forest that lined the road on both sides. No sooner had we gotten out that a Olive-green Camaroptera began its long drawn out call from the foliage beyond us. Some playback had the bird right in front of us for a long song session. So much so that it continued on for some time after we’d moved on from it.
A small bird party moved through the trees to our left and we enjoyed a small group of Red-tailed Greenbuls, a pair of Elliot’s Woodpeckers and a Red-vented Malimbe, a few small sunbirds went unidentified and a distant calling Western Nicator was seen briefly through the canopy foliage. A Yellow-lored Bristlebill sang from the deep foliage next to the road but was never coaxed out and from behind us the song of a Black Cuckoo echoed out from the top of the canopy. Once recorded I played it back and it shot right over our heads and into the forest beyond where it continued calling. We moved down the road a bit finding a Blue Malkoha feeding in the understory but as it was really getting hot now in the afternoon we decided to move on as most of the activity had stopped.
We arrived in Mundemba in the early afternoon and got settled in at the Boseme Inn, a nice little place. I decided to hit the creek next to the hotel to take some pictures of the damselflies. Soon after a huge storm rolled in and dumped a huge amount of rain on us which cooled things down a bit but everything was soggy including me as the rain had driven in sideways and was coming in under the door so I spent the shower pushing water out of the room.
After the storm abated I spent some time looking around finding Olive-bellied Sunbird, Village Weaver, Lesser Striped Swallow, Red-eyed Dove, an African Harrier-Hawk, and the local Pin-tailed Wydah that was chasing a few females around the grounds. After dinner we settled in for the night.
I’d been looking forward to today after seeing the pictures and reading the list of birds that live in Korup. We began early and arrived at the Mana footbridge to meet our porters. Once everyone was loaded up we began the hike first climbing up and crossing the suspension bridge. From the far side we looked back on the oilpalm plantations before dropping down into the forest. We spent the next five hours making our way to the camp following the narrow trail stopping for canopy flocks that included Blue-billed and Crested Malimbe, Buff-throated Apalis, Red-tailed Greenbul, African Emerald Cuckoo, Green Hylia, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Slender-billed, Icterine and Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Yellow Longbill. The forest floor was alive too with Fire-crested Alethe, White-spotted Flufftail along one of the creeks and a nice close pair of singing Pale-breasted Illadopsis. By the time we were nearing camp I was getting a bit drained as I’d gone through almost 4.5 liters of water and sweat most of that back out. We arrived at camp soon enough and I was able to drop gear and rehydrate and have some lunch.
We spent the afternoon resting while I sat and did some recording and watched as a Yellow-throated Tinkerbird excavated a hole in a dead tree next to the clearing. Around 4:30pm we loaded up again and headed out into the forest. Again activity was good and we came across an active party containing more Red-tailed Greenbuls but a noisy Shining Drongo was the main attraction. Once into an open area of forest a Yellow-casqued Wattled Hornbill erupted into song above us and we heard an Eastern Bearded Greenbul which did circles round us as I played back a recording of itself. Yellow-spotted Barbets ‘purred’ from the canopy above us as we made our way to Picathartes Knoll. Once there we settled in for the long wait. While we sat there a Rufous-bellied Paradise Flycatcher happened by the entrance and we could hear, Little Greenbul, Great Blue Turaco, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush and a Fire-crested Alethe. As it got closer to dark several Forest Swallows began to circle through this huge grotto. When it was almost dark there were about 20 in the area settling into one of the old Picathartes nests calling and jostling for position. We’d spoken to a couple of German birders who’d not seen the Picathartes and said it had not been seen in six weeks as the forest was so dry so we didn’t hold out too much hope and when one did not show we began the hike back to camp in the dark. We were serenaded on the way back by the evening chorus of insects and a distant African Wood Owl. Closer to camp we could hear a Sjostedt’s Owlet which continued on through dinner. After we’d eaten I hiked into the forest to get closer to the bird and make some recordings.
Then the long, hot night in the tent began. I couldn’t sleep in the heat so lay there most of the night. I was serenaded by hordes of insects and the wailing cry of Tree Hyrax. Around 2:30am the distant bellow of a Vermiculated Fishing Owl began joined shortly after by a Sandy Scops Owl. Just before sunrise the Sjostedt’s Owlet began again not wanting to be left out of the equation.
With the sun rising the area became more lit and we could see what we were doing. The morning chorus was full of birds while eating breakfast we ran back and forth tracking down the White-browed Forest Flycatcher down near the creek and a very vocal Yellow-billed Turaco. Ansorge’s Greenbul sang from the edge of the forest and both Grey and Yellow Longbill sang from the forest interior. A distant Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill sang from the depths of the forest and a close African Green Pigeon wound up its three stooges like song, “yeoww….whoa…whoa…..purrr……..purrr….purr”, typical of the genus. Blue-headed Wood Dove was a constant companion ‘pooping’ away in the forest interior. Once we’d eaten and packed we began the day with our local guide Prince Nwese leading the charge.
No sooner had we begun the day that the local pair of Lyre-tailed Honeyguides began doing song flights from the forest near us. We stopped for my other target but the distant, descending cries of a Bare-cheeked Trogon wouldn’t come in to its own playback so we moved on. It didn’t take long though until we were onto another one. Prince scanned the mid canopy next to the trail till he had found it and we crept into the jungle till we could spot it. He kindly held the mic for me while I went back for my scope, yes I know I should have brought it in the first place but we were making a new trail through the thick undergrowth. Once back with it though I set up and watched this, my last African Trogon, sing away before it fluttered off to a new spot and began to sing all over again.
After enjoying this fantastic bird we continued on our way back to the bridge stopping for other great birds like White-spotted Flufftail, Chestnut and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye. Once at the bridge we stopped half way over to look down on the Rock Pratincoles where they were nesting. Though we did not see the nest the pair was there and we enjoyed some nice looks at them from above.
Once across we loaded up the car for the journey back to the hotel. We tipped our porters as they’d done a hell of a job carting in our stuff and setting up camp. The shower back at the hotel was a welcome sight and after some lunch we made our way to Nyasoso for the night, stopping for a group of Preusse’s Cliff Swallows on the bridge collecting water and mud from one of the pools that had collected after a rain shower.
After breakfast we began the hike up Mount Kupe. We made our way past the school and up through some farmbush and agricultural fields finding Banded Apalis and White-chinned Prinia. At the edge of the forest we craned our necks up to find a juvenile Black Cuckoo looking more like a Banded Apalis with all the bands across its body. Several African Emerald Cuckoos were seen and hear here. What sounded like the song of an Oriole turned out to be a Western Nicator and the staccato calls of a Red-eyed Puffback alerted us to its presence. A crested, brown and white bird turned out to be a female Black-and-White Flycatcher which flew to where the male was singing from in the canopy. Up in the green beyond sight was also the constant call of Yellow-spotted Barbets that remained unseen.
In a lone cecropia we found a Chestnut-bellied Nigrita building a nest and calling constantly but after a few pictures we continued up into the more forested area of the mountain. The hike was steep and tiring but we found a small plateau where we stopped for a snack and some water. The constant song of a Blackcap Illadopsis surrounded us and despite playback it would not show. A Black-winged Oriole was seen at one point and the song of a Grey-headed Broadbill was heard but only once. It too didn’t respond to playback. We heard a Mountain Sooty Boubou call once but stopped immediately and as it was already getting quiet we decided to head back down.
The butterflies on the way back down were interesting with varying colors but there was little in the way of birds. A brief stop for lunch before continuing down where we found a singing Chestnut-bellied Nigrita, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black-winged Oriole and a pair of Black-faced Rufous Warblers calling as they darted in and out of the thick understory. A few other common species were found but nothing major to report till we got back to the room. We cleaned up and rested for a bit and in the afternoon we took a walk along the fields and the nature trail.
We found Long-legged Pipit and Black-capped Waxbills in the school fields and in a stand of cane we found a singing Greater Swamp Warbler. The agricultural fields at the back held Blue-headed Coucal, Grey-backed Camaroptera and Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat as well as Village Weaver, African Bue Flycatcher and Little Greenbul. Several Scaly Francolin were heard somewhere farther off but nowhere could we get to them. As the biting insects were taking a toll on me we decided to head back for dinner.
We started along the road from Nyasoso to the next village stopping in secondary habitat and finding a Red-eyed Puffback to start and as a Grey-backed Camaroptera continued to sing we saw a juvenile Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle perched up on a stump in one of the banana fields.
Tambourine Doves sang from the thick areas of forest and close by in the grasses several Bronze Manakins jumped around. The sweet song of Brown-throated Wattle-eye echoed round while we watched a perched Black Saw-wing with its almost drongo like forked tail. A woodpecker landing in a close tree next to the road turned out to be a Gabon Woodpecker which was nice. Since we were at the town now we loaded up and continued north to Bamenda.
After driving up into the highlands via Baffousam, to see the fon palace, we arrived in the afternoon and had some time to relax on the back porch and listen to the birds in the forested patch behind the hotel. Red-faced Cisticola was common along with Splendid Glossy Starling and a Snowy-Crowned Robin-Chat. As dusk descended on us the huge colony of bats near the city took to the darkening skies. These impressive bats looked quite large and were fun to watch as they circled the huge massif to the left of us. In the gulley below us came an occasional whistled phrase which I thought might be a frog as I only heard it a few times before we headed down for dinner I couldn’t figure it out.
Today we started off with a drive to the Mankon Sacred Forest where we spent the morning birding. We arrived to a chorus of birds as soon as we stepped out of the car. We began the trail that rings the forest with several Copper Sunbirds moving about a flowering bush while a Brown-throated Wattle-eye sang from cover in the forest behind. We could also hear several White-throated Bee-eaters calling in the early morning light. As we walked along the first section of trail we could look up into the forest and we must have birded along here for an hour and only moved about 100 yards it was so birdy. While Lüdhers Bushshrikes continued to call from just out of visual range in the back of the forest we found a pair of Grey-headed Olivebacks flitting around a vine tangle with several Black-necked Weavers. A pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers called and hammered away on the vegetation above us while a Common Bulbul called from the edge of the forest in the more open vegetation. The raucus calls of a Square-tailed Drongo alerted us to its presence which was joined soon by the duet of a pair of Tropical Boubous, that most typical of African sounds, always seems to make its way into movies especially of east Africa. This pair continued to sing in this area for hours and was seen well on a couple of occasions. Next the flutey song of a Black-winged Oriole came from the top of the canopy along with the constant ‘poop…..poop….poop’ of a Yellow-billed Barbet. While we were enjoying the antics of a pair of White-chinned Prinia several Guinea Turaco burst into song and gave us some great looks as they moved through the tops of the trees in front of us.
From this area of thick trees the trail wound past an open area of farmbush where we found Brown-crowned Tchagra, White-bellied Tit, Red-faced Cisticola, Yellow-fronted Canary and several small groups of White-throated Bee-eaters.
We continued to the end of the forest where we found a singing Superb Sunbird and finally located the Oriole we had heard earlier. Little Greenbul accompanied us while we were here singing constantly. Out in the open areas of forest we found several Square-tailed Saw-wing when from behind us a mechanical note let us know a Grey-headed Broadbill was doing displays behind us. It continued to do this for some time and eventually it landed on branch where I could see it through the window into the trees that I had. Just as quickly as it had landed it was off again doing a circle of its lek and landing close by again but this time not in view.
We made our way back to the Mankon Fons palace birding along the way. New stuff we encountered in the fields and farmbush on the way back was a Johanna’s Sunbird, Singing Cisticola and some Speckled Mousebirds while at the forest edge we found Thick-billed Seedeater, Grey-headed Nigrita and Green-throated Sunbird.
We arrived back at the palace for a quick tour before we headed for lunch. After lunch we spent the afternoon at the Bafut Fon palace which was quite interesting. We returned in the late afternoon to get some more rest but this time I was prepared and as night fell I got one recording of the mystery whistle I’d heard the night before. I attached a speaker and played back the song and out of the night sky, flying towards me was a huge nightjar that turned from me heading down the length of the hotel singing this whistled song once more before disappearing into the night. So shocked that it came in on the first playback that I didn’t have a flashlight handy so never got a great look at the bird but it does not sound like any nightjar I’ve listened to before on either the Chappuis or Cleere CD’s of nightjar sounds. It still remains a mystery.
We started today early and began the climb up to the Oku region. We ascended the rolling hills with their grass cover and sparse trees. Rocky outcrops were common and boulder strewn slopes would occasionally dotted with a village. We arrived at the Kilum Ijum protected forest and got out at the beginning to bird along the road. Yellow-breasted Boubou was one of the first birds we encountered and a noisy party of Chubb’s Cisticola. Black-collared Apalis was common here along with African Stonechat.
From up the slope we were walking next to I heard a distant Bannerman’s Turaco which got my heart racing. We proceeded up the road after it and once round a bend in the road the forest changed to lichen and moss covered trees with thick foliage. As Bannerman’s Turaco continued to bang away in the distance we were surrounded by birds with Senegal Coucal and several White-headed Wood Hoopoes calling as a light rain began to fall. Ruwenzori Hill Babblers sang intermittently with the call of the Stonechats a constant. An endemic Banded Wattle-eye called once but was not seen while a Mountain Robin-Chat voiced its rather odd unRobin-chat like song. Eventually several Bannerman’s Turaco began to sing at once and one came in quite close flashing its crimson colored wings as it glided across the road in front of us. They spent a while surrounding us with their loud songs only giving us a brief look before they were moving out of view in the canopy.
Grey Apalis began with their loud songs accompanied by the deeper song of Yellow-breasted Boubou. We continued down the road looking where we could for birds in the thick roadside forest. Black-capped Woodland Warblers sang intermittently mixed with Northern Double-collared Sunbirds.
We arrived at the overlook to Lake Oku and had some food before we decided to head down to the lake itself. The steep trail wound its way through the damp forest and before we were at the lake we could hear the numerous calls of Little Grebes all across the lake. Once at the shore we could see the multitude of grebes out on the water. There was little else here though so we hiked back up to the car. From here we made our way round to Oku and our lodge for the night. We spent the late afternoon around the lodge as it was raining so thought it best to stay inside with the cooler temps than what we’d been used to in the lowlands.
We arrived at the foot of Mt Oku for our hike up into the moss draped forest. In the agricultural fields we were met by a Pectoral-patch Cisticola that circled above us doing its display flight. Several African Stonechats were seen as we hiked up through the bean fields. Near the top we encountered several Bannerman’s Pipits, these darker and more heavily streaked pipits belong to the Long-billed Pipit complex and are found only in the highlands of West African might one day be split.
Once the fields stopped the forest began and we were soon on a trail working our way through the forest. Several African Dusky Flycatchers sang above us and moved about the canopy and we enjoyed them while waiting for a group of boys going to collect wood passed us. The loud song of a pair of Black-collared Apalis got our attention next and with playback of their recording they came in close and were easy to observe.
We continued on up the slope through the forest finding African Dusky Flycatcher, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Black-capped Woodland Warbler, a group of Grey Apalis chasing each other and bill snapping. A rather loud group of White-headed Wood Hoopoe and a nice pair of White-bellied Crested Flycatchers in a bamboo thicket before the foliage began to peter our and we were on a trail with steep sides and a long drop either way we looked. We stopped here as we could hear several Bannerman’s Turacos calling in the distance. We waited while they moved closer across the gulley below us. At one point we spotted them in a gap before they disappeared back into the cover of the canopy. They had stopped calling for a while when one flew across the gap in front of us with its bright red wings. A brief cackle and the pair landed in the forest on the slope below us. We made our way back down the trail as quietly as we could. We still managed to spook it across the trail where it sat in the understory bobby its tail and head calling nervously. It eventually tired of us and dropped off the branch it was on and into the gully on the other side.
From here we continued down taking a different path where we caught up with a pair of Banded Wattle-eyes, a pair of singing Mountain Robin-chats, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler and a rather noisy and territorial Bangwa Forest Warbler that continued to circle us singing the whole time. We pushed off farther down the trail eventually stopping to check a canopy flock that contained two Bannerman’s Weavers. They were only seen briefly as they moved with the crowd and as quickly as they had come they were gone.
We continued on down the trail in hopes of finding the birds again and came across a Cameroon Sunbird singing in the understory of the forest. We stopped several times to try and find the weavers again but they always seemed to push off farther down the slope when we stopped. Our consolation was a singing Black-winged Oriole from the top of the canopy and a Western Mountain Greenbul.
Eventually we caught up with the weavers by luck when we stopped to record a Northern Double-collared Sunbird. While recording the sunbird we heard the call of several weavers and turned to see a nice pair move across the open patch in front of us to some head high bamboo where the male sang before dropping down into the tall grass then out the other side into the forest. They inspected the branches round them before disappearing back into the forest. I hadn’t realized but we were almost at the end of the trail so stopped to have some lunch. Some more of the fresh pineapple was enjoyed before we headed back out into the agricultural fields.
Here we came across a Yellow-fronted Canary and more African Stonechats before we moved through a tree line to find a Common Kestrel dive bombing another while calling aggressively. We watched this for a bit before the song of a pair of Singing Cisticolas caught our attention. We recorded the antics of these two birds as they hopped around in a line of cedars. It began to rain but thankfully Earnest was waiting with the car and we loaded up and went back to the lodge for an afternoon rest.
Once the rain had abated we headed over to the Oku Fon to look at the palace. I found a wood carving of a Bannerman’s Turaco and my ability to talk myself into wooden bird carvings saw me fork over $20 for a not great but sentimental rendition of the one bird we’d really come here to see. After our little tour of the palace we went back to the lodge and while the others rested I took a walk through the village back to the agricultural fields. I’ve always seemed to have luck going out by myself and finding a new bird for me and this time was no exception.
As I walked through the village I came across some Cameroon Sunbirds moving about some flowering bushes and some Chubb’s Cisticolas. Winding my way through the dirt streets I came to the edge of the farmland where I found a Makkinon’s Fiscal hunting for insects from a phone wire. I passed across the fields on a narrow path and followed it up to a tree line of pines where two small farms lay. The tree line headed towards the mountain and in the distance I could hear a bird singing I wasn’t familiar with. Holding up my mic I recorded the song and played it back. Though it wasn’t a great recording the bird soon appeared in the pines close by and began singing again. It turned out to be a bright yellow Cabanis’s Bunting. I’d not expected this here. It sang for quite some time moving slowly about the line of pines until it was joined by a female. The male changed his song and got more insistent about his singing getting quite close to the female. While this was going on I got a few odd looks from passersby as they would look up to see what I was taking such an interest in. Several Square-tailed Saw-wings circled over and a pair of Pied Crows joined in the noisy fray with an African Thrush adding backup from somewhere deep inside the pines. Eventually the buntings flew off and as I watched them go I caught sight of another Makkinon’s Fiscal moving through the orchard of the farm in front of me.
As the sun was beginning to dip towards the horizon I decided to make my way back to the hotel. Along the way I came across a small patch of forest and as I crossed a small bridge I stopped to check out the birds I could hear. A Bangwa Forest Warbler was singing close and with some patience I was able to find it. While looking for this bird a Bannerman’s Weaver popped down from the trees into the brush lining the creek below me. This was interrupted by the harsh calls of several Pied Crows and with that I walked back to the hotel for the evening.
Today we left the Oku area and drove down out of the highlands stopping by Lake Awing. We arrived around 10:00am and began to bird the road in. There were several Dusky Flycatchers and a pair of Banded Wattle-eyes close by. A Long-crested Eagle called from the eucalyptus trees that grew in a grove while Tree Pipits called and flew ahead of us as we spooked them off the trail in front of us.
We circled the grove of trees and headed into a forested area where found another pair of Banded Wattle-eye with a Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Northern Double-collared Sunbirds, a Cameroon Sunbird and several Western Mountain Greenbuls.
Once out of the forest we headed along a cattle track in open grassland that ran in between the forest and the eucalyptus grove. Several Black-crowned Waxbills were at the edge in some tall grass along with a singing African Stonechat.
Once at the edge of the lake we looked down a steep slope to the lake below. The forest here was full of birds and we managed to see both Dusky and White-bellied Crested Flycatchers, Bannerman’s Weaver, Grey Apalis, Yellow-breasted Boubou, a distant African Cuckoo calling from across the lake and several Western Mountain Greenbuls.
From here we hiked up to an overlook where we found several Pectoral-patch Cisticolas in the short grass that overlooked the valley that streamed off into the distance. We made our way back stopping in the forest again for a close singing Bannerman’s Weaver and Chubb’s Cisticola, Yellow Bishop and several singing birds that stayed in the canopy and once tracked down were found to be singing Garden Warblers, not what I was expecting. Once I’d recorded them we headed off back to the car and the long drive back to the coast. We arrived quite late in Limbe and the moist heat was palpable even at this time of night compared to the cool of the highlands.
We birded the Limbe Botnical Gardens this morning. There were plenty of Reichenbach’s Sunbirds around with a juvenile Grey-crowned Nigrita begging food from two adults. Several Black-necked and Village Weavers were above us in the trees and at one point near the river several Giant Kingfishers flew past chasing each other.
We got great looks at Western Bluebill feeding on the ground and another pair later on feeding in some vine tangles. They were accompanied by several noisy Chattering Cisticolas. The loud calls of many African Grey Parrots was heard farther up the trail and we found a huge cage where several were being raised for release after being taken from the illegal pet trade. Those that had been released were close by and flying freely around the park. At one point we found a Black Sparrowhawk sitting in the river. At first we thought it had caught a fish but it just sat in the water up to its chest possibly cooling off. When it took flight it had nothing in its talon so I can only think it needed to cool off or get some water.
From here we went over to the primate sanctuary where we enjoyed the many primates that were being cared for at the facility. We managed to get through the whole park before it began to rain. Once it opened up we headed back to the hotel to pack up. We drove to Douala later that afternoon to do some shopping and caught our flights later that night.
All my recordings from the trip can be found on Xeno-Canto
Scaly Francolin Pternistis squamatus
Double-spurred Francolin Pternistis bicalcaratus
White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata
Hartlaub's Duck Pteronetta hartlaubii
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala
Great Egret Ardea alba
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta
African Darter Anhinga rufa
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis
Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra
Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis
Speckled Pigeon Columba guinea
Cameroon Olive Pigeon Columba sjostedti
Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata
Laughing Dove Spilopelia senegalensis
Blue-spotted Wood Dove Turtur afer
Tambourine Dove Turtur tympanistria
Blue-headed Wood Dove Turtur brehmeri
African Green Pigeon Treron calvus
Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus
Great Blue Turaco Corythaeola cristata
Guinea Turaco Tauraco persa
Yellow-billed Turaco Tauraco macrorhynchus
Bannerman's Turaco Tauraco bannermani
Western Plantain-eater Crinifer piscator
Senegal Coucal Centropus senegalensis
Blue-headed Coucal Centropus monachus
Blue Malkoha Ceuthmochares aereus
African Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx cupreus
Black Cuckoo Cuculus clamosus
African Cuckoo Cuculus gularis
Sandy Scops Owl Otus icterorhynchus
Vermiculated Fishing Owl Scotopelia bouvieri
African Wood Owl Strix woodfordii
Sjöstedt's Barred Owlet Glaucidium sjostedti
African Palm Swift Cypsiurus parvus
Little Swift Apus affinis
Bare-cheeked Trogon Apaloderma aequatoriale
Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum
Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala
Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica
Woodland Kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis
African Dwarf Kingfisher Ispidina lecontei
African Pygmy Kingfisher Ispidina picta
Malachite Kingfisher Corythornis cristatus
Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis
White-headed Wood Hoopoe Phoeniculus bollei
Piping Hornbill Bycanistes fistulator
Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill Ceratogymna atrata
Yellow-casqued Wattled Hornbill Ceratogymna elata
Naked-faced Barbet Gymnobucco calvus
Red-rumped Tinkerbird Pogoniulus atroflavus
Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird Pogoniulus bilineatus
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus
Hairy-breasted Barbet Tricholaema hirsuta
Yellow-billed Barbet Trachyphonus purpuratus
Thick-billed Honeyguide Indicator conirostris
Lyre-tailed Honeyguide Melichneutes robustus
Cardinal Woodpecker Dendropicos fuscescens
Gabon Woodpecker Dendropicos gabonensis
Elliot's Woodpecker Dendropicos elliotii
Grey-headed Broadbill Smithornis sharpei
Chestnut Wattle-eye Platysteira castanea
Brown-throated Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea
Brown-crowned Tchagra Tchagra australis
Red-eyed Puffback Dryoscopus senegalensis
Mountain Sooty Boubou Laniarius poensis
Lühder's Bushshrike Laniarius luehderi
Tropical Boubou Laniarius major
Yellow-breasted Boubou Laniarius atroflavus
Mackinnon's Shrike Lanius mackinnoni
Western Oriole Oriolus brachyrynchus
Black-winged Oriole Oriolus nigripennis
Shining Drongo Dicrurus atripennis
Velvet-mantled Drongo Dicrurus modestus
Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher Trochocercus nitens
Rufous-vented Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufocinerea
Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer
Pied Crow Corvus albus
African Blue Flycatcher Elminia longicauda
White-bellied Crested Flycatcher Elminia albiventris
Forest Penduline Tit Anthoscopus flavifrons
Western Nicator Nicator chloris
Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus
Cameroon Greenbul Arizelocichla montana
Western Greenbul Arizelocichla tephrolaema
Little Greenbul Eurillas virens
Little Grey Greenbul Eurillas gracilis
Ansorge's Greenbul Eurillas ansorgei
Plain Greenbul Eurillas curvirostris
Yellow-whiskered Greenbul Eurillas latirostris
Spotted Greenbul Ixonotus guttatus
Swamp Palm Bulbul Thescelocichla leucopleura
Cameroon Olive Greenbul Phyllastrephus poensis
Icterine Greenbul Phyllastrephus icterinus
Xavier's Greenbul Phyllastrephus xavieri
Lesser Bristlebill Bleda notatus
Eastern Bearded Greenbul Criniger chloronotus
Red-tailed Greenbul Criniger calurus
Square-tailed Saw-wing Psalidoprocne nitens
Mountain Saw-wing Psalidoprocne fuliginosa
Black Saw-wing Psalidoprocne pristoptera
Lesser Striped Swallow Cecropis abyssinica
Mosque Swallow Cecropis senegalensis
Preuss's Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon preussi
Forest Swallow Petrochelidon fuliginosa
Yellow Longbill Macrosphenus flavicans
Grey Longbill Macrosphenus concolor
Green Crombec Sylvietta virens
Lemon-bellied Crombec Sylvietta denti
Chestnut-capped Flycatcher Erythrocercus mccallii
Green Hylia Hylia prasina
Black-capped Woodland Warbler Phylloscopus herberti
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Greater Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus rufescens
Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Singing Cisticola Cisticola cantans
Whistling Cisticola Cisticola lateralis
Chattering Cisticola Cisticola anonymus
Chubb's Cisticola Cisticola chubbi
Pectoral-patch Cisticola Cisticola brunnescens
Tawny-flanked Prinia Prinia subflava
Banded Prinia Prinia bairdii
White-chinned Prinia Schistolais leucopogon
Green Longtail Urolais epichlorus
Black-collared Apalis Oreolais pulcher
Buff-throated Apalis Apalis rufogularis
Bamenda Apalis Apalis bamendae
Grey Apalis Apalis cinerea
Green-backed Camaroptera Camaroptera brachyura
Olive-green Camaroptera Camaroptera chloronota
Black-faced Rufous Warbler Bathmocercus rufus
Blackcap Illadopsis Illadopsis cleaveri
Pale-breasted Illadopsis Illadopsis rufipennis
Brown Illadopsis Illadopsis fulvescens
African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica
Ruwenzori Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe atriceps
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
Mount Cameroon Speirops Zosterops melanocephalus
African Yellow White-eye Zosterops senegalensis
Splendid Starling Lamprotornis splendidus
Waller's Starling Onychognathus walleri
Red-tailed Rufous Thrush Neocossyphus rufus
Fraser's Rufous Thrush Stizorhina fraseri
African Thrush Turdus pelios
Fire-crested Alethe Alethe castanea
Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat Cossypha niveicapilla
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
White-browed Forest Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens
African Grey Flycatcher Bradornis microrhynchus
Cassin's Flycatcher Muscicapa cassini
African Dusky Flycatcher Muscicapa adusta
Little Grey Flycatcher Muscicapa epulata
Yellow-footed Flycatcher Muscicapa sethsmithi
Dusky-blue Flycatcher Muscicapa comitata
Sooty Flycatcher Muscicapa infuscata
Reichenbach's Sunbird Anabathmis reichenbachii
Green-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis
Blue-throated Brown Sunbird Cyanomitra cyanolaema
Cameroon Sunbird Cyanomitra oritis
Olive Sunbird Cyanomitra olivacea
Carmelite Sunbird Chalcomitra fuliginosa
Green-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra rubescens
Northern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris reichenowi
Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus
Splendid Sunbird Cinnyris coccinigastrus
Johanna's Sunbird Cinnyris johannae
Superb Sunbird Cinnyris superbus
Copper Sunbird Cinnyris cupreus
Bannerman's Weaver Ploceus bannermani
Black-billed Weaver Ploceus melanogaster
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Vieillot's Black Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus
Yellow-mantled Weaver Ploceus tricolor
Maxwell's Black Weaver Ploceus albinucha
Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus scutatus
Blue-billed Malimbe Malimbus nitens
Crested Malimbe Malimbus malimbicus
Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis
Chestnut-breasted Nigrita Nigrita bicolor
Grey-headed Nigrita Nigrita canicapillus
Shelley's Oliveback Nesocharis shelleyi
Grey-headed Oliveback Nesocharis capistrata
Western Bluebill Spermophaga haematina
Black-crowned Waxbill Estrilda nonnula
Bronze Mannikin Lonchura cucullata
Black-and-white Mannikin Lonchura bicolor
Pin-tailed Whydah Vidua macroura
Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp
Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx croceus
African Pipit Anthus cinnamomeus
Long-legged Pipit Anthus pallidiventris
Yellow-fronted Canary Crithagra mozambica
Cabanis's Bunting Emberiza cabanisi