Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Cameroon birding by Keith Valentine & Markus Lilje

Africa boasts a unique and rich assemblage of wildlife that rivals any other region of the world. From the savannas of East Africa, the unique Cape Floral Kingdom to the mighty rainforests of West Africa, there is something exotic and special about traveling and exploring this wonderful continent. Its no wonder so many people consider themselves Afrophiles and return trip after trip! The country of Cameroon is without a doubt one of the finest birding locations on the African continent and every year the birding tours that visit this extraordinary destination just keep getting better and better. The birds have always been fabulous however the logistics are continually improving and Cameroon offers one of the world’s premier birding tours.

The endangered Bannerman's Turaco by Markus Lilje

This year’s first Rockjumper tour (guided by Keith Valentine & Markus Lilje) was once again a great success and our highlights included fabulous views for over an hour with at least five Grey-necked Rockfowl in the depths of Korup National Park. The lowland rainforest site of Korup is without a doubt one of the most exciting places to bird in Africa due to the presence of so many highly sought-after lowland forest species. It also has a fantastic network of trails and we get to camp for a couple of nights in the heart of the rainforest, a special experience indeed! Korup always produces some first class birds and we particularly enjoyed the rare Vermiculated Fishing Owl, Bare-cheeked Trogon, White-spotted Flufftail, African Dwarf, White-bellied, Shining-blue and Chocolate-backed Kingfishers, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Yellow-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Brown-chested and Fire-crested Alethes, Woodhouse’s Antpecker and the scarce White-spotted Wattle-eye. In the cool Bamenda Highlands we enjoyed some of the country’s most wanted near-endemics; the critically endangered Bannerman’s Turaco, Banded Wattle-eye, Bangwa Scrub Warbler and Bannerman’s Weaver were all seen exceptionally well. We also enjoyed a couple of good surprises in the form of a Fraser’s Eagle Owl that was found roosting in a small gully and the gorgeous Dybowski’s Twinspot.

 Yellow-casqued Wattled Hornbill by Markus Lilje

Other montane sites that we birded included Mount Cameroon, Kupe and Bakossi, which continually produce some of the greatest birding in the region and with a wonderful variety of specials and endemics on the menu, its no surprise that these areas are so highly regarded by the birding fraternity. Time spent wandering these forest trails produced outstanding views of Green-breasted and Fiery-breasted Bushshrikes, Shelley’s Oliveback, White-tailed Warbler, Mount Cameroon Spierops, Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye, White-throated Mountain Babbler, Yellow-breasted Boubou, Black-capped Woodland Warbler, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Grey-headed Broadbill, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Yellow-footed Flycatcher and Preuss’s Weaver. A tour to Cameroon would not be complete without visited the broad banks of the Sanaga River, one of Africa’s largest and most beautiful waterways. Here sandbars held healthy numbers of beautiful Grey Pratincole and African Skimmer while the nearby forests produced the sought-after Cassin’s Malimbe, Black Bee-eater, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Blue Cuckooshrike, Tit Hylia and African Piculet. The north of Cameroon allows access to some prime Guinea Savanna sites and also takes you into the Sahelian Savanna zone in the Waza region at the very northern tip. Here a completely different array of species occurs. At sites including Waza and Benoue National Parks and Ngaoundaba Ranch we enjoyed specials such as Egyptian Plover, Fox Kestrel, White-throated Francolin, Spotted Thrush Babbler, Oriole Warbler, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Bearded Barbet, Yellow-winged Pytilia, Cricket Longtail, Rock and Black-faced Firefinches, White-collared Starling, Grey-headed Oliveback, White-fronted Black Chat, Blue-bellied Roller, Spotted Creeper, Scissor-tailed Kite, Masked Shrike, River Prinia, Black Crowned Crane, Grey-winged Robin-Chat and Bamenda Apalis. Wow, what quality birds!

Black Crowned-Crane by Markus Lilje

West Africa’s birding potential is massive and Cameroon is without a doubt the premier location to view the largest variety of the region’s special birds. With ever improving infrastructure and solid logistics, Cameroon is beginning to stand out as THE place in Africa to go birding and should be high on the radar for those keen on exploring the wonders of tropical Africa.

 The near-endemic Yellow-breasted Boubou