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GHANA

Picathartes, Pel's... and Plover

1 March – 16 March 2009

Leaders: Ken Behrens, with Robert Ntakor and William Apraku

The mysterious Yellow-headed Picithartes - Ken Behrens


Introduction:

Although Ghana is a relatively unknown destination for birding tours, it is quickly becoming the premier destination in West Africa. In contrast to most of the other countries in the region, it is safe, and the people are remarkably friendly. Its infrastructure is also exceptional, with good hotels, restaurants, and roads through most of the country. In terms of birding, Ghana a huge amount to offer. The southern rainforests are a great place to find Upper Guinea endemics (restricted to the rainforest west of Togo) as well as a full range of West African forest species. Meanwhile, the northern portion of Ghana lies in the Guinea savanna belt, with a completely different set of birds. The most exceptional thing about Ghana from a birding perspective is the list of 'marquee species' that it holds. Foremost among these is Yellow-headed Picathartes, one of the most spectacular and sought-after birds in the world. Ghana is the best place to see this species, and sightings here are virtually guaranteed, whereas stories of missing Cameroon's elusive Gray-necked Picathartes, abound. Put simply, Ghana is the best place in the world to see a Picathartes. In addition, African Finfoot is virtually guaranteed, and Pel's Fishing-Owl is found on most trips. Egyptian Plover stands to become a regular feature on this tour, after the confirmation of its presence at a new site during scouting prior to this tour. Other spectacular birds likely in Ghana include Congo Serpent-Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, White-spotted Flufftail, Guinea, Yellow-billed, and Violet Turacos, Fraser's Eagle-Owl, Standard-winged Nightjar, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Blue-headed, Red-throated, and Rosy Bee-eaters, White-crested, Black Dwarf, Red-billed Dwarf, Brown-cheeked, Black-casqued, and Yellow-casqued Hornbills, Fire-bellied Woodpecker, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Long-tailed Glossy-Starling, and Preuss's Weaver.

Chocolate-backed Kingfisher - Ken Behrens African Blue Flycatcher - Ken Behrens
Chocolate-backed Kingfisher is a beautiful bird of
southern Ghana's rainforests...
...while African Blue Flycatcher is found in its northern Guinea savanna.

This trip was highly successful, netting all of the 'marquee species' mentioned above, along with a host of others. A total of 429 species were seen, with a further 12 heard, making this the most successful trip ever run to Ghana by any tour company. However, the success of this trip was not only in the numbers. Despite spending half of the trip in challenging rainforest habitat, there were very few birds missed by any participant, and the number of heard-only birds was remarkably low. Furthermore, there were very few species not seen well by everyone on the trip. Time after time, the birds lingered just long enough for everyone to have a look in the scope, or were located a second time so that those who missed a first sighting had a second change. Ghana may be the best place in the world to see rainforest birds and to see them well; an experience here may startle those who have been to the Amazon or elsewhere in West Africa, where dozens of species may be heard-only, or perhaps glimpsed fleetingly.

The trip began in the dry savanna east of Accra, then took in a lagoon teeming with waterbirds, before plunging into the humid rainforests west of Accra. After several superb days of birding Kakum National Park and an intimate encounter with the indescribable Yellow-necked Picithartes, we headed north to drier climes. A week in Mole National Park and the Upper East region brought us a bounty of different species. Three more days in additional rainforest sites provided sightings of several species we had missed earlier. Returning to Accra, we concluded a gloriously successful trip.

Pel's Fishing-Owl - Ken Behrens Egyptian Plover - Ken Behrens
The big, ginger Pel's Fishing-Owl was voted '#2' bird of the trip. Egyptian Plover - perhaps at its most spectacular in flight.

Top ten trip species, as voted by all participants:

1. Yellow-headed Picathartes
2. Pel's Fishing-Owl
3. Egyptian Plover
4. Narina Trogon
5. Violet Turaco
6. White-spotted Flufftail
7. Red-throated Bee-eater
8. Rufous-sided Broadbill
9. Standard-winged Nightjar
10. Yellow-casqued Hornbill

Rufous-sided Broadbill - Ken Behrens Olive-bellied Sunbird - Ken Behrens
Rufous-sided Broadbill has an unusual and spectacular display,
where it flies in a tight circle while calling.
Olive-bellied Sunbird was just one of a vast array of
 beautiful sunbird species encountered on this trip.

Day-by-day account:

March 1, 2009

Although the start of the tour was planned for the evening of March 1, all of the participants had arrived by the evening of February 28, so we began the tour a day early to maximize birding time. An early departure from Accra meant that the sun was rising over the Shai Hills as we arrived. Although not high by the standards of a mountainous place, these hills dominate the horizon west of Accra, and the dry savanna and woodland that surround them  hold a range of interesting bird species. This reserve lies just inside the Dahomey Gap, the band of dry savanna that isolates the Upper Guinea forests from the rest of Africa's humid lowland forest.

Stone Partridge - Ken Behrens Splendid Sunbird - Ken Behrens
Stone Partridge is fairly common in Shai Hills. Splendid Sunbird was one many beautiful species
that we observed on the first morning of the tour.

White-crowned (Mocking) Cliff-Chat, one of our prime targets, was quickly located on a cliff face looming overhead. Shortly thereafter, we scoped a tree full of the beautiful Violet Turaco - a critical sighting, as a photo of this species graced the cover of our trip checklist! The array of striking and spectacular bird species that we encountered was staggering: Senegal Parrot, Swallow-tailed, White-throated, and Rosy Bee-eaters, Green Woodhoopoe, Double-toothed Barbet, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Splendid Sunbird, Common Gonolek, and Violet-backed Starling. Crippling views of a male Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike only a few meters away capped a tremendous morning. On the way back to Accra, we added one more special bird - the odd, long-tailed Yellow-billed Shrike, on the fence of Tema Harbor's coco storage facility!

Gulf of Guinea shore - Michael & Christine Sabyan White-fronted Plover - Ken Behrens
The tranquil Ghanain coastline. White-fronted Plover.

After a mid-day rest, we again assembled for a trip to Sakumono Lagoon, which is one of the best places in Ghana to see waterbirds despite its proximity to a vast human population. As usual, the lagoon was carpeted with Palearctic shorebirds, while terns danced over the ocean. Sakumono highlights included Western Reef-Heron, a lone Pied Avocet, the spectacularly elegant Collared Pratincole, lanky Black-tailed Godwit, and both Common and Spotted Redshanks. Even the marsh sedges held birds including Yellow-throated Longclaw. As the sun set over the Gulf of Guinea, we enjoyed our first dinner together, having thoroughly enjoyed our 'bonus day', and ready for what the rest of the trip would bring.

Collared Pratincole - Ken Behrens Black-winged Stilts and other shorebirds at the Sakumono Lagoon - Ken Behrens
Collared Pratincole is one of the most elegant birds in the world. Black-winged Stilts abound in the Sakumono Lagoon.

March 2, 2009

Along the coast of Ghana lies a narrow strip of grassland and savanna that holds some interesting birds. We accessed this biome at the Winneba Plain. The morning's highlight for many was a male Black-bellied Bustard that flushed as our bus drove into the plain, the circled and crossed the road at close range, showing off its spectacular black-and-white wing pattern. A couple members of the party who were searching for a suitable 'bathroom bush' stumbled onto an excellent flock of birds that kept us occupied for almost an hour! The skies over the plain were enlivened by the wing drumming of Flappet Larks. One can only speculate why Flappet Lark and a few cogeners diverged from the rest of the larks, which are accomplished songsters, and decided instead to broadcast their territories by rapidly snapping their wings together! As the sun warmed the air, we visited a local restaurant where a delicious breakfast buffet was waiting for us. A Shikra perched atop a nearby tree and watched us warily as we dined.

Shikra - Ken Behrens Orange-cheeked Waxbill - Ken Behrens
A juvenile Shikra. Orange-cheeked Waxbill.

Having thoroughly enjoyed some waterbirding the day before, and finding ourselves with extra time, we decided to bird the Winneba Lagoon. Maneuvering our bus along the narrow streets of a coastal village, we found ourselves in an idyllic spot between the lagoon and the sea, with towering palm trees providing shade. While some members of the group scoured the lagoon for new shorebirds and terns (of which there were several), others were more entertained by the antics of the local children. A Malachite Kingfisher dashed in, shortly followed by an equally colorful bird, the Broad-billed Roller. As we sat in the shade sipping the milk of coconuts shared by the local people, we soaked in the atmosphere of this beautiful village. Surrounded by simple houses made from palms, there was little to suggest the existence of the 'modern world'. One can't help but wonder whether concrete, rebar, and corrugated tin are really improvements after seeing a place like this.

White-throated Bee-eater - Ken Behrens Preuss's Swallow - Ken Behrens
White-throated Bee-eater is common all along Ghana's coast. The highly local Preuss's Swallow.

A short drive along the coast brought us to Cape Coast, then north to our hotel for the next four nights. Our target for the afternoon was African Finfoot, a highly elusive bird that many travelling birders have missed on multiple trips to Africa. Ghana is surely one of the best places on the continent to see this species, and Brimsu Reservoir is Ghana's premier site. As soon as we reached a viewpoint, we spotted a Finfoot calmly paddling across the middle of the reservoir! We soon spotted a second Finfoot, and enjoyed long looks of this normally furtive bird.

Dusk found us at a roosting site for the local Preuss's Swallow, which made an appearance after a brief wait. An evening rain shower held the promise of good birding in the rainforest of Kakum National Park, as a bit of precipitation during the night is always good for the next day's birding.

shorebirds at the Winneba Lagoon - Ken Behrens Bar-tailed Godwit - Ken Behrens
Shorebirds on the Winneba Lagoon Bar-tailed Godwit in flight

March 3, 2009

Morning dawned with the prospect of a bounty of rain forest birds. Our birding site for the whole day was the canopy walkway of Kakum National Park, in the heart of the great Upper Guinea forest. Kakum's walkway is unique in Africa, and offers unparalleled chances to see forest canopy species at eye level (or below!). We were able to enjoy both sunrise and sunset from the heights of the walkway, and spotted an incredible list of species. One undoubted highlight was a Congo Serpent-Eagle that flew by at close range with a snake (or serpent...) in its talons. Blue-throated Rollers sat in the same tree on which our platform was anchored, and quickly chased away the Red-fronted Parrots that tried to supplant them. A small colony of Yellow-mantled Weavers is suspended close to one of the towers, and we enjoyed extensive looks at this richly-colored species. Sunbirds were in profusion, and included Scarlet-tufted, Little Green, Green, Olive-bellied, Tiny, and Johanna's. Scarce species we sighted included Wilcock's Honeyguide, Square-tailed Saw-wing, and Pale-fronted Negrofinch. At dusk, a large flock of Black-casqued Hornbills flew in - a spectacular sight in itself that was made even more remarkable by the presence of a Yellow-casqued Hornbill with the  Black-casqued. What could be better than a flock of two species of massive hornbill perhed atop towering rain forest trees of up to almost 200 feet tall! What a wonder that such primeval giants persist in the age of the tractor and the chain saw.

Sabine's Puffback - Ken Behrens Ussher's Flycatcher - Ken Behrens
The well-named Large-billed Puffback. Ussher's Flycatcher is an Upper Guinea endemic.

Chestnut-winged Starling - Ken Behrens Fanti Saw-wing - Ken Behrens
Chestnut-winged Starlings often creep about the branches of the
trees that support Kakum's canopy walkway.
Fanti Sawwing is extremely long-tailed.

Other highlights of our first day in the rain forest included Palm-nut Vulture, Blue-headed Wood-Dove, African Pygmy Kingfisher, White-crested Hornbill, Bristle-nosed and Naked-faced Barbets, Speckled and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, Yellow-spotted and Hairy-breasted Barbets, Fire-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Green and Lemon-bellied Crombec, Gray Longbill, Ussher's Flycatcher, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Black-headed Paradise-Flycatcher, Large-billed Puffback, Chestnut-winged Starling, Red-headed Malimbe, and Gray-headed Negrofinch. The birding on the trails below the canopy walkway was more challenging but equally rewarding. We sighted a wide range of greenbuls, and enjoyed a Rufous-sided Broadbill doing its 'fly-in-a-tight-circle-while-calling' display flight.

Our birding didn't stop at sunset, as Kakum holds some desirable nocturnal species. A Brown Nightjar was spot-lighted, as was a Fraser's Eagle-Owl, that flew in and sat a few feet over our heads - a great day to end a spectacular day!

Chestnut-capped Flycatcher - Ken Behrens Golden-mantled Weaver - Ken Behrens
Chestnut-capped Flycatcher: a dapper monarch. The richly-colored Golden-mantled Weaver.

canopy walkway - Michael & Christine Sabyan big tree - Christine Sabyan
Kakum NP's canopy walkway. Michael in front of a massive Kakum tree.

March 4, 2009

A morning of birding at a remote section of Kakum was highly productive. As we ate our packed breakfast and waited for some fog to clear, we caught up with Red-rumped and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds and Yellow-spotted Nicator. With the sun burning through the fog, we quickly located Gray Parrot, Buff-throated and Superb Sunbirds, Gray's Malimbe, and White-breasted Negrofinch. A small group of Black Bee-eaters flew in and were watched through the scope for 15 minutes. This species may be the most beautiful Bee-eater, though the competition is fierce!

Blue Cuckoo-shrike - Ken Behrens Tit-hylia - Ken Behrens
The gorgeous Blue Cuckoo-shrike is fairly common in Kakum NP. Tit-hylia is Africa's smallest bird!

A short walk brought us to a clearing in the forest that was buzzing with birds and had a comfortably shaded bench-like downed tree. This is where we spent almost the whole morning, as new bird after new bird appeared. Another Congo Serpent-Eagle flew by at close range, then attacked two Pied Hornbills, one of which became its next meal! A pair of Dwarf Kingfishers appeared, offered great looks, then vaporized. One tree in particular kept attracting great birds, including Eurasian Wryneck, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Violet-backed Hyliota, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Tit-hylia, Bioko Batis, and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch! A pair of Buff-spotted Woodpeckers flew into the shade tree right over our heads, while Rosy Bee-eaters circled through the clearing.

Chestnut Wattle-eye - Ken Behrens Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird - Ken Behrens
A female Chestnut Wattle-eye. Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird was a breakfast bird.

Along the road on the drive out, a Bat Hawk circled, and this scarce bird was seen by all. A late morning stop at a large river held the promise of two special species - Rock Pratincole and White-tailed Blue Swallow. Both were quickly located and seen well, along with bonuses Sabine's Spinetail and Cassin's Flycatcher.

The evening was spent on trails in Kakum National Park. The birding here was challenging, though persistence gave us Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, which was the 'bird of the day' for most of the group. Another highlight was the secretive Forest Francolin.

Blue-throated Roller - Ken Behrens Rosy Bee-eater - Ken Behrens
A pair of beautiful Blue-throated Rollers. Rosy Bee-eaters seem perpetually airborne on the
non-breeding grounds in Ghana.

March 5, 2009

This day was reserved for catching up with species we hadn't yet encountered in Kakum, and we spent the morning and afternoon hiking trails. Two beautiful canopy species were seen after a bit of maneuvering - Yellow-billed Barbet and Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike. Extended scope views of a White-crested Hornbill at eye level were a highlight for many. Other special species included Levaillant's Cuckoo, Forest Wood-hoopoe, Fanti Saw-wing, Finsch's Flycatcher-Thrush, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher, and Shining Drongo. Telescope views of a Forest Robin at close range were a satisfying end to a long struggle to see this gem of a bird. We even saw another Yellow-casqued Hornbill!

The middle of the day was a chance for some to photograph the Village, Vieillot's, and Orange Weavers around Hans Cottage. Others opted for a visit to the Cape Coast Castle, one of the most active slave dungeons during the hundreds of grisly years during which Western Africa was torn apart by the slave trading industry. The peace and friendliness of modern Ghana stands in contrast to its often brutal past.

Orange Weaver - Ken Behrens Village Weaver - Ken Behrens
An Orange Weaver doing some weaving. A Village Weaver about to do some weaving.

Cape Coast Castle - Michael & Christine Sabyan street vendors - Michael & Christine Sabyan
The Cape Coast Castle. Cheerful Ghanain street vendors.

March 6, 2009

Although this day dawned with the prospect of the Picathartes, we enjoyed a full morning of forest birding in another section of Kakum before pursuing the mythical beast. Soon after stepping off the bus, we spotted a Black-throated Coucal, which sat in a bush and offered fantastic views. Soon thereafter, we had a tremendous encounter with a White-spotted Flufftail at no farther than 10 feet, at a spot that is uniquely suited to viewing this shy bird. A Congo Serpent-Eagle called and flew by, making this the third day in which we saw this rare species! Other raptors included a perched Long-tailed Hawk and a Black Goshawk. Although it wasn't easily seen, we eventually all had great views of the frenetic African Piculet. A tree full of the Upper Guinea endemic Copper-tailed Glossy-Starling was a fine sight, as was a flock of Narrow-tailed Starlings that flew by. Just as some were thinking of lunch and the air-conditioned bus, a Black Dwarf Hornbill dashed in. Other highlights of a remarkably productive morning included African Emerald Cuckoo, Black and Cassin's Spinetails, White-headed Woodhoopoe, Cassin's Honeyguide, Whistling Cisticola, African Forest-Flycatcher, Blue-headed Crested-Flycatcher, Superb Sunbird, another flock of Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrikes, and Red-vented Malimbe.

Velvet-mantled Drongo - Ken Behrens Long-tailed Hawk - Ken Behrens
Velvet-mantled Drongo is the most
common drongo in the rainforest.
Seeing a Long-tailed Hawk perched was a special experience.

hairstreak - Ken Behrens Yelowbill - Ken Behrens
This hairstreak from Kakum National Park is one of the most
 remarkable butterflies I have ever seen.
Yellowbill is a common and vocal in Ghana's forests.

Yellow-headed Picathartes (or White-necked Rockfowl, if you prefer) is one of the prime reasons why most birders visit Ghana. Few creatures have captured birders' fascination like Africa's two species of Picathartes, which comprise their own family. Since the recent rediscovery of Yellow-headed Picathartes in Ghana, the country has emerged as the most dependable and comfortable place in the world to see a member of this legendary duo.

Our Picathartes quest started in a small village where we were warmly greeted by friendly local children. After picking up our local guides, we began the one-hour hike to the nest site. This hike is very easy except for the last 100 yards, which is a steep ascent. Thankfully, we arrived early, and there was plenty of time for the whole group to climb the hill at their own pace. We viewed and photographed the Picathartes nests - mud cups plastered to a sheer rock face, then settled onto a rock with a good view of the area. 45 minutes later, a Picathartes appeared in typically silent manner, then sat in the tree in front of us preening for 15 minutes! It is difficult to describe what is like to see this bird. Few creatures whisper so poignantly of past ages of the earth. There is something in the secretive nature of the bird and its uniquely beautiful face that closely matches the deep rain forests from which it arose. How long have Picathartes been quietly carrying out their lives on this same piece of rock - thousands of years, tens of thousands, or perhaps much longer?

Satisfied with our tremendous experience with this incredible creature, we began the hike down so as to arrive well before dark and to beat a rain storm that was bearing down on the area. A short drive brought us to our hotel in Kumasi, where we found Ghanain independence day festivities in full swing. Thankfully, rooms on the back side of the hotel ensured a peaceful night's sleep!

Yellow-headed Picathartes - Ken Behrens Yellow-headed Picathartes - Ken Behrens
The remarkable Yellow-headed Picathartes (or White-necked Rockfowl). Another look at the Picathartes.

March 7, 2009

This was mainly a travel day to the north and Mole National Park. As the kilometers rolled by, we watched the humid forests and plantations of Kumasi transition into much more arid broadleaf Guinea savanna. We were driving into the heart of the savanna belt that we had tasted during our first day's visit to Shai Hills. With the change of landscape came new roadside birds like Grasshopper Buzzard, Wahlberg's Eagle, Red-throated Bee-eater, and Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned Rollers.

Arriving at Mole National Park's lodge in mid-afternoon, we enjoyed a rest, then gathered to watch the sunset. The Mole Lodge is perched on a bluff with a great view of a wetland below. We saw several new species here including Wooly-necked Stork, Spur-winged Goose, Senegal Thick-knee, Wattled Lapwing, and Long-tailed Glossy-Starling. A nest of Pygmy Sunbird dangled a few feet over our heads, and was attended by a female who dashed back and forth feeding the young while a glittering male supervised from the treetop.

Grasshopper Buzzard - Ken Behrens Pygmy Sunbird - Ken Behrens
The trim and attractive Grasshopper Buzzard. Male Pygmy Sunbird: supervisor of nesting operations

March 8, 2009

We began what was to be our routine for the next three days in Mole: early morning coffee and biscuits on the terrace overlooking the waterhole, a morning hike, brunch, a long mid-day rest, then an afternoon drive and hike. On the morning walk, the profusion of new birds was almost bewildering. One after another, we found Greater Painted-Snipe, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Red-billed Hornbill, Gray Woodpecker, Northern Crombec, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Gray Tit-Flycatcher, European Pied-Flycatcher, Senegal Batis, Scarlet-chested and Beautiful Sunbirds, Purple Glossy-Starling, Red-winged Pytilia, and Yellow-fronted Canary. Our main target for the morning, and perhaps #2 target for the trip (after Picathartes) was Pel's Fishing-Owl. Although it is always present, it can be difficult to see, and I was keen to locate it on our first morning. At mid-morning, we were delighted to encounter the big, ginger owl, perched in a tree over our heads. This incredible bird was thoroughly enjoyed, observed, and photographed.

African Elephant - Ken Behrens White-throated Francolin - Ken Behrens
Some of Mole's African elephants are impressively huge. White-throated Francolin, with the legs of one of our
scopes in the background!

As the dry savanna heated up in the late morning, we continued to spot new birds, including a juvenile Martial Eagle that dwarfed the African Harrier-Hawks soaring with it. A dapper Lizard Buzzard was seen well and enjoyed by all. Although the Pel's was unanimously voted 'bird of the day', we also enjoyed an owl at the other end of the size spectrum, the Lilliputian Pearl-spotted Owlet. As we made our way back to the lodge, we came upon a group of elephants bathing in a marsh. The elephants in Mole are among the largest I have seen in Africa, but also the most approachable, and experiencing these massive animals on foot was a memorable experience.


A well-earned brunch was enjoyed on the terrace, with raptors, swifts, and swallows zooming overhead. Afterwards, most of the group retired to their refreshingly air-conditioned rooms for a mid-day siesta.

White-backed Vulture - Ken Behrens Red-billed Hornbill - Ken Behrens
White-backed Vulture is a classic species of the African Savanna... ...as is Red-billed Hornbill.

An afternoon walk in a different area brought us views of several new birds, such as Square-tailed Drongo, Lavender Waxbill, and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. As the sun set, we were in place at the Mole airstrip - a prime place for nocturnal species. Stone Partridges called from all around, and one was eventually seen well. At some exact moment rooted deep in the evolutionary biology of the species, five Standard-winged Nightjars began displaying on the tarmac. A scan down the airstrip revealed what appeared to be 15 birds, but was actually 5 nightjars with standards bounding irregularly behind them! This is one of the strangest and most spectacular birds in the world, and we were lucky to observe and photograph them from as close as 10 yards. The last bird of the day was a White-throated Francolin that dashed out of the gloom and into the beam of a spotlight.

Standard-winged Nightjar - Ken Behrens
The wings of the Standard-winged Nightjar are anything but standard.

March 9, 2009

Birding an area at the edge of the national park gave us a range of wonderful birds. Abdim's Storks and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters floated overhead, as did a striking adult Bateleur. Bruce's Green-Pigeons perched for long looks, while Red-headed Lovebird was more elusive, but was eventually seen well by most. An undoubted highlight of the morning was an African Blue-Flycatcher that greeted the morning sun with its tail characteristically fanned, snatching insects from branches only a yard over our heads. The elusive White-crowned Robin-Chat was finally scoped and thoroughly enjoyed by all. A pair of Green-headed Sunbirds showed well; the female of this species is surely one of the world's most colorful female sunbirds! Blackcap Babbler had been vocal but elusive at Shai Hills on the first day, so we were delighted to have a whole group fly in and babble at us.

Blackcap Babbler - Ken Behrens Blue-breasted Kingfisher
A juvenile Blackcap Babbler. Blue-breasted Kingfisher.

Oriole Warbler - Ken Behrens Bar-breasted Firefinch - Ken Behrens
'Moho' is a much more interesting name for
 this bird than Oriole Warbler.
A bathing flock of Bar-breasted Firefinches.

Our terrace brunch was enhanced by two handsome raptors that flew by: African Hawk-Eagle and Eurasian Hobby. An afternoon excursion was made to a waterhole where dozens of Red-throated Bee-eaters nest; a tree full of these stunning birds is an exhilarating sight. Other striking species we located included Blue-bellied Roller, Black Scimitar-bill, and Red-headed Weaver. As dusk fell, we sat in an open area and enjoyed a proper South African 'sundowner' drink. African Scops-Owls started singing around us as we drained the last of our Guinness and Stone (the best of Ghanain beers in my opinion!). A pair of Spotted-Thick-knees jumped off the road as we drove back to the hotel.

Northern Carmine Bee-eater - Ken Behrens Red-throated Bee-eater - Ken Behrens
Northern Carmine Bee-eater is as beautiful in flight as when perched. Red-throated Bee-eater with a bill full of bee.

March 10, 2009

Although we had already spent two days in Mole, an excursion deep into the park ensured that the flow of new birds was uninterrupted. A grassy open area held a Banded Snake-Eagle and Red-rumped Swallows. Spotted in flight off in the distance, a White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike landed in the perfect spot and was thoroughly viewed through the scope. A strong candidate for 'bird of the day' was a stunning male Black-faced Firefinch that sallied from a thicket to drink water at a small pool. Also perched at the edge of a pool, but not so accomodating, were several Black-faced Quailfinches. After having heard several African Cuckoos, we finally enticed one into view. One of our targets for the morning was a Forbes's Plover that had been reported by another birder staying at the lodge. As we stood next to the pool where it had been seen, an initial scan did not reveal any plovers. I spotted a Swamp Flycatcher, which one group member had missed earlier. I put the bird in the scope and called her to take a look. After viewing the bird, she expressed delight and a bit of skepticism at the unexpected appearance of this 'flycatcher'. When a second member of the group looked in the scope with surprise, I decided to take a second look myself, only to find that the Swamp Flycatcher had flown off, but the Forbes' Plover had walked into the field of view! This beautiful bird, which is more different from Three-banded Plover than most books suggest, allowed close approach and good photos.

Spotted Creeper - Ian Fulton Forbes's Plover - Ian Fulton
The odd and cryptic Spotted Creeper. This is a Forbes' Plover, and not a Swamp Flycatcher!

Brunch on the terrace again gave us a good bird - White-rumped Swift this time. Although we had nearly 'cleaned up' savanna species, our afternoon walk was still highly enjoyable, with good looks at scarce birds like Brown-backed Woodpecker, Spotted Creeper, and Gray-headed Bushshrike.

Another 'sundowner' was enjoyed at a beautiful and peaceful spot in the bush, with Long-tailed Nightjars singing all around us. A brief walk and some spotlighting ensured that we all saw this species well.

Brown-backed Woodpecker - Ken Behrens White-crested Helmetshrike - Ken Behrens
Brown-backed Woodpecker. Look at the crest on this White-crested Helmetshrike!

March 11, 2009

This was another travel day, from Mole NP to Bolgatanga in Ghana's far northern Upper East region. The highlight of the morning was a White Helmetshrike that teed up nicely. In west Africa, the crest of this species reaches massive proportions, which shock those familiar with the species in eastern and southern Africa!

On an earlier scouting trip, Mark Williams, William Apraku, and I had confirmed the presence of Egyptian Plover at a new site. This spectacular species is scarce across its range, and its reliable presence in Ghana adds yet another 'mega' bird to this country's avian lineup. After arriving in Bolgatanga and dropping our bags, we headed to the plover site. Moments after arrival, a stunning Egyptian Plover was spotted. Careful scans of the surrounding area revealed the presence of at least 10 plovers! This species promises to be a regular feature of our Ghana tours in the future. The plover had a strong supporting cast of interesting species including Black-headed Lapwing, African Mourning-Dove, Eurasian Turtle-Dove, and Red-chested Swallow. Despite (or perhaps as a result of) having seen few foreigners, the local people were remarkably friendly. We can only imagine what they thought of this troop of 'obruni' scanning the water intently, but their broad smiles showed nothing but friendliness! As the sun set, we visited a colony of White-billed Buffalo-Weavers, with a bonus African Silverbill perched nearby.

Egyptian Plover - Ken Behrens Black-headed Lapwing - Ken Behrens
One of the most beautiful birds in Africa - Egyptian Plover. Black-headed Lapwing is very scarce in Ghana.

March 12, 2009

This day's birding was exclusively at the Tono Dam, with a brunch and siesta between morning and evening visits. Although this site is in the same Guinea savanna in which Mole lies, it is significantly drier, and holds lots of different bird species. The lake itself was unusually productive, with beautiful drake Northern Pintail and Garganey among the hordes of White-faced Whistling-Ducks. Water Thick-Knee was seen well and photographed. A falcon dashed by, and the consensus of the guides was that it had been a Red-necked Falcon. We were gratified when it zoomed back a few minutes later, and perched on top of a tree, allowing everyone to see it well. Starlings were everywhere, and we particularly enjoyed watching Bronze-tailed and Long-tailed Glossy-Starlings and Chestnut-bellied Starling.

Other morning highlights included Dark Chanting-Goshawk, Namaqua Dove, our best views of Mottled Spinetail, a perched Giant Kingfisher, Rufous-chested Swallow, Yellow-billed Shrike, and lots of Black-rumped Waxbills. We were fortunate to experience an overcast morning - likely a late Harmattan episode, which kept the temperatures cool and birds active throughout the morning.

Namaqua Dove - Ken Behrens Western Gray Plantain-eater - Ken Behrens
Namaqua Doves thrive in arid areas like the savanna around Tono Dam. Western Gray Plantain-eater is
 common throughout Ghana.

The unusually cool temperatures continued for our afternoon visit, when we birded a matrix of agricultural fields, marshes, and woodland that was crawling with birds. A Winding Cisticola at close range received a barrage of 'oos' and 'aahs' that is unusual for a cisticola! This is truly a beautiful bird when you see it well, and I would contend that this is the case with most cisticolas! Palearctic migrants that are scarce for Ghana were seen, including Sedge and Western Olivaceous Warblers. The marshes and canals supported lots of weavers, among which were Black-headed and Vitelline Masked-Weavers. Scope views of a female Greater Painted-Snipe at no more than 10 feet proved most satisfying for one participant who had missed the bird earlier. Lingering until dusk, we observed Four-banded Sandgrouse flying about and a displaying Standard-winged Nightjar.

Abyssinian Roller - Ken Behrens Yellow-billed Shrike - Ken Behrens
Abyssinian Roller is northern Africa's answer to the
much-publicized Lilac-breasted Roller.
Yellow-billed Shrike is quite different from any other
shrike in both appearance and behavior.

March 13, 2009

This was primarily a travel day from the Upper East back to Kumasi, but we worked in a morning stop at the Tongo Hills. This clump of inselbergs has long been the sanctuary of a tribe that resisted all attempts at religious change, and continues in the animistic beliefs they have held for countless generations. Irrespective of the deity that hovers over them, these rocky slopes are one of few places in Ghana to sight several special bird species. One is the aptly-named Rock-loving Cisticola, which was quickly spotted as it hopped from one object of its affection to another. The beautiful Fox Kestrel was also quickly located. Other sightings included African Hobby, White-rumped Seedeater, and dozens of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings.

Driving south, we observed the landscape changing back from dry Guinea savanna to lush forest. The greens of Kumasi seemed decidedly garish after the subdued grays and browns of the savanna in dry season. We checked into our hotel in Kumasi, which is one of the best of the trip, and even offers free wireless internet! An intense evening downpour provided further evidence of our re-entry to a wetter climate.

Double-spurred Francolin - Ken Behrens Pin-tailed Whydah - Ken Behrens
Double-spurred Francolin is common in Ghana. Towards the end of the trip, male Pin-tailed Whydahs
were coming into breeding plumage.

Lesser Striped-Swallow - Ken Behrens European Pied Flycatcher - Ken Behrens
Lesser Striped-Swallow is fairly common throughout most of Ghana. European Pied Flycatcher is one of a large group of
 Palearctic birds that spend the boreal winter in Ghana.

March 14, 2009

Although we had done remarkably well in the rainforest during the first week of our trip, we had two additional days to visit the forest and locate species that had been elusive earlier. We started at Bobiri Butterfly Forest, near Kumasi. Narina Trogon was one of the most-wanted birds for two of our group, so it was a high priority for the morning. Almost as soon as we exited the bus, we heard one singing, which was quickly joined by a second. A short walk and intense search brought us spectacular views of the oddly bare-cheeked constantia subspecies of Narina Trogon. Other interesting birds kept interfering as we observed the trogon through the scope. Most notable were Little Green Woodpecker and Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike. A calling Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill precipitated another dash into the forest, eventually bringing us to within a few yards of this tiny hornbill, whose bill glows as if lit from within, even in the dimmest rainforest.

skipper at Bobiri - Ken Behrens nymphalid - Ken Behrens
A spectacular skipper that landed on my scope and allowed
closeup photography at Bobiri.
Not surprisingly, Bobiri is an excellent place to see both butterflies and birds.

An easy walk down a forest road brought us to more great birding. Highlights included Afep Pigeon, Sabine's Spinetail, the rare Yellow-footed Honeyguide, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Black-winged Oriole, and Red-vented Malimbe. Although it had been glimpsed several times, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird had eluded many participants, so extended scope views were much appreciated. On the walk back, a stunning Preuss's Weaver capped a great morning's birding. A fantastic breakfast spread, including a generous heap of delicious local pineapple, greeted us back at headquarters, where it was enjoyed in the comfort of a breezy balcony.

A short mid-day drive brought us close to Accra and the end of our trip, though with much birding left to do. The afternoon excursion was to an area of farm scrub that looks unimpressive but holds great birds. Foremost among these were African Hobby, Dideric Cuckoo, Dusky-blue Flycatcher, Brown-crowned Tchagra, and Western Bluebill.

Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill - Ken Behrens Vieillot's Weaver - Ken Behrens
The Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill and its fiery bill. Vieillot's Weaver looks distinctly different in the western
part of West Africa than elsewhere in its range.

March 15, 2009

Accessing the Atewa Range, and its upper evergreen forest is a challenge that is well worth the trouble. Climbing the range on this trip involved enlisting the service of two Land Rovers and skirting some recently-fallen trees. Minor problems surmounted, we found ourselves in Atewa's beautiful forest, which has a distinctively different look and feel from that of Kakum National Park. Brown-cheeked Hornbill had been the only major 'miss' of the trip so far, and stuck out every time I reviewed the list. Although it is scarce in Atewa, we were lucky to spot a noisy pair, which came to land in the trees above our heads! Yellow-billed Turaco had been another elusive species; we had heard it many times, but not so much as glimpsed one. Again, our luck was good, as everyone enjoyed views of this gorgeous, deep green turaco. Atewa is the only known site in Ghana for Blue-headed Bee-eater, and we were glad to find a pair of this species.

At mid-morning, the sky suddenly darkened, the wind began gusting, and broad banks of misty clouds rolled in. For a few moments, I felt like I was perched in Andean cloud forest at 11,000 feet, rather than on Ghana's puny Atewa hills! We were all bracing for a drenching, but the front dispersed as quickly as it gathered, and we continued birding in renewed sunshine. Additional highlights were Bronze-naped Pigeon, Ansorge's and Golden Greenbuls, Bioko Batis, a spritely pair of Black-capped Apalis, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Ashy Flycatcher, and Maxwell's Black Weavers mobbing a green mamba. Forest Scrub-Robin called from the forest depths, but could not be lured into view.

Hairy-breasted Barbet - Ken Behrens Dusky-blue Flycatcher - Ken Behrens
Hairy-breasted Barbet is a bird of the rainforest. Dusky-blue Flycatcher caught in the act of flying.

As we plunged back into Accra, we were again entertained by the vast array of wares for sale on the streets. If the goods contained in a dozen Wal Marts were doled out to an army of street salespeople, the chaos would be no more spectacular. One gets the feeling that if stuck in traffic in Accra long enough, every conceivable product available in the world would eventually parade by!

For the afternoon, some chose to stay in the comfortable confines of our beachside hotel, while other ventured out for a final visit to Sakumono Lagoon. The birding here was again excellent. The flocks of shorebirds contained Black-tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshank, and Ruff that were in full breeding plumage, promising color and life to northern lands still locked in winter. It is hard to conceive that a shorebird picking at the mud of the Gulf of Guinea in mid-March might have a nest full of young in Finland within 8 or 9 weeks. Sighting a Black Coucal was gratifying for one participant, who had missed this species on multiple trips to Africa.

Yellow-browed Camaroptera - Ken Behrens Rufous-crowned Eremomela - Ken Behrens
Yellow-browed Camaroptera has blue sacs on the sides of its throat
that inflate when its gives its whining call!
The striking Rufous-crowned Eremomela.

Gray Longbill - Ken Behrens Little Green Sunbird - Ken Behrens
Along with the eremomelas, Gray Longbill is an Old World Warbler. Little Green Sunbird.

March 16, 2009

The final morning of the tour was spent at Shai Hills Reserve, where the tour had begun over two weeks previous. The morning was surprisingly quite, making us realize how exceptional the birding had been for most of the trip. Nonetheless, some fine species were located. Foremost among these was Guinea Turaco, which had previously only been heard. A huge covey of half-grown Stone Partridges erupted from the trail-side to the entertainment of all. Final encounters with spectacular species like Violet Turaco and Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat were also welcome.

At a final lunch, we completed the final column of our list, exchanged e-mail addresses, plotted future travels, and said our good-bys. Every member of our party had enjoyed every day of travel - amazing birds, great companionship, and the friendly and welcoming country of Ghana. For myself, I can't wait to return to Ghana and guide another trip. Although this trip sets the bar very high, I am confident that the next Tropical Birding trip to this country can do just as well!

Pel's Fishing-Owl - Ken Behrens


BIRD LIST

This list includes all the bird species that were recorded by at least one of the participants. Taxonomy and nomenclature follow: Clements, James F. 2007. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, Sixth Edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 'H' denotes a bird that was heard and not seen.

GREBES: Podicipedidae       
Little Grebe    Tachybaptus ruficollis   

CORMORANTS: Phalacrocoracidae       
Long-tailed Cormorant    Phalacrocorax africanus   

HERONS, BITTERNS AND EGRETS: Ardeidae       
Gray Heron    Ardea cinerea   
Black-headed Heron    Ardea melanocephala   
Great Egret    Ardea alba   
Black Heron    Egretta ardesiaca   
Intermediate Egret    Egretta intermedia   
Little Egret    Egretta garzetta   
Western Reef-Heron    Egretta gularis   
Squacco Heron    Ardeola ralloides   
Cattle Egret    Bubulcus ibis   
Striated Heron    Butorides striata   
Black-crowned Night-Heron    Nycticorax nycticorax   

HAMERKOP: Scopidae       
Hamerkop    Scopus umbretta   

STORKS: Ciconiidae       
Abdim's Stork    Ciconia abdimii   
Woolly-necked Stork    Ciconia episcopus   
Saddle-billed Stork    Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis   

IBIS AND SPOONBILLS: Threskiornithidae       
Hadada Ibis    Bostrychia hagedash   
Glossy Ibis    Plegadis falcinellus   

DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS: Anatidae       
White-faced Whistling-Duck    Dendrocygna viduata   
Spur-winged Goose    Plectropterus gambensis   
Northern Pintail    Anas acuta   
Garganey    Anas querquedula   
Northern Shoveler    Anas clypeata   
Common Pochard    Aythya ferina   

HAWKS, EAGLES AND KITES: Accipitridae       
Bat Hawk    Macheiramphus alcinus   
Black-shouldered Kite    Elanus caeruleus   
Black Kite    Milvus migrans   
Palm-nut Vulture    Gypohierax angolensis   
Hooded Vulture    Necrosyrtes monachus   
White-backed Vulture    Gyps africanus   
White-headed Vulture    Trigonoceps occipitalis   
Short-toed Eagle    Circaetus gallicus   
Banded Snake-Eagle    Circaetus cinerascens   
Bateleur    Terathopius ecaudatus   
Congo Serpent-Eagle    Dryotriorchis spectabilis   
Western Marsh-Harrier    Circus aeruginosus   
African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene)    Polyboroides typus   
Lizard Buzzard    Kaupifalco monogrammicus   
Dark Chanting-Goshawk    Melierax metabates   
Gabar Goshawk    Micronisus gabar   
Shikra    Accipiter badius   
Black Goshawk    Accipiter melanoleucus   
Long-tailed Hawk    Urotriorchis macrourus   
Grasshopper Buzzard    Butastur rufipennis   
Red-necked Buzzard    Buteo auguralis   
Wahlberg's Eagle    Aquila wahlbergi   
African Hawk-Eagle    Aquila spilogaster   
Martial Eagle    Polemaetus bellicosus   

FALCONS: Falconidae       
Eurasian Kestrel    Falco tinnunculus   
Fox Kestrel    Falco alopex   
Gray Kestrel    Falco ardosiaceus   
Red-necked Falcon    Falco chicquera   
African Hobby    Falco cuvierii   
Eurasian Hobby    Falco subbuteo   
Lanner Falcon    Falco biarmicus   

PHEASANTS AND PARTRIDGES: Phasianidae       
White-throated Francolin    Francolinus albogularis   
Forest Francolin    Francolinus lathami   
Double-spurred Francolin    Francolinus bicalcaratus   
Stone Partridge    Ptilopachus petrosus   

GUINEAFOWL: Numididae       
Helmeted Guineafowl    Numida meleagris   

RAILS, GALLINULES AND COOTS: Rallidae       
White-spotted Flufftail    Sarothrura pulchra   
Nkulengu Rail    Himantornis haematopus   
Black Crake    Amaurornis flavirostra   
Common Moorhen    Gallinula chloropus  

FINFOOTS: Heliornithidae       
African Finfoot    Podica senegalensis   

BUSTARDS: Otididae       
Black-bellied Bustard    Lissotis melanogaster   

JACANAS: Jacanidae       
African Jacana    Actophilornis africanus   

PAINTED SNIPE: Rostratulidae       
Greater Painted-Snipe    Rostratula benghalensis   

AVOCETS AND STILTS: Recurvirostridae       
Black-winged Stilt    Himantopus himantopus   
Pied Avocet    Recurvirostra avosetta   

THICK-KNEES: Burhinidae       
Senegal Thick-knee    Burhinus senegalensis   
Water Thick-knee    Burhinus vermiculatus   
Spotted Thick-knee    Burhinus capensis   

COURSERS AND PRATINCOLES: Glareolidae       
Egyptian Plover    Pluvianus aegyptius   
Collared Pratincole    Glareola pratincola   
Rock Pratincole    Glareola nuchalis   

PLOVERS AND LAPWINGS: Charadriidae       
Spur-winged Plover    Vanellus spinosus   
Black-headed Lapwing    Vanellus tectus   
Wattled Lapwing    Vanellus senegallus   
Black-bellied Plover    Pluvialis squatarola   
Common Ringed Plover    Charadrius hiaticula   
Kittlitz's Plover    Charadrius pecuarius   
White-fronted Plover    Charadrius marginatus   
Forbes' Plover    Charadrius forbesi   

SANDPIPERS: Scolopacidae       
Black-tailed Godwit    Limosa limosa   
Bar-tailed Godwit    Limosa lapponica   
Whimbrel    Numenius phaeopus   
Common Sandpiper    Actitis hypoleucos   
Spotted Redshank    Tringa erythropus   
Common Greenshank    Tringa nebularia   
Marsh Sandpiper    Tringa stagnatilis   
Wood Sandpiper    Tringa glareola   
Common Redshank    Tringa totanus   
Ruddy Turnstone    Arenaria interpres   
Red Knot    Calidris canutus   
Sanderling    Calidris alba   
Little Stint    Calidris minuta   
Curlew Sandpiper    Calidris ferruginea   
Ruff    Philomachus pugnax   

TERNS: Sternidae       
Little Tern    Sternula albifrons   
Black Tern    Chlidonias niger   
Common Tern    Sterna hirundo   
Royal Tern    Thalasseus maximus   
Sandwich Tern    Thalasseus sandvicensis   

SANDGROUSE: Pteroclidae       
Four-banded Sandgrouse    Pterocles quadricinctus   

PIGEONS AND DOVES: Columbidae       
Rock Pigeon    Columba livia   
Speckled Pigeon    Columba guinea   
Afep Pigeon    Columba unicincta   
Bronze-naped Pigeon    Columba iriditorques   
Eurasian Turtle-Dove    Streptopelia turtur   
African Morning-Dove    Streptopelia decipiens   
Red-eyed Dove    Streptopelia semitorquata   
Vinaceous Dove    Streptopelia vinacea   
Laughing Dove    Streptopelia senegalensis   
Black-billed Wood-Dove    Turtur abyssinicus   
Blue-spotted Wood-Dove    Turtur afer   
Tambourine Dove    Turtur tympanistria   
Blue-headed Wood-Dove    Turtur brehmeri   
Namaqua Dove    Oena capensis   
Bruce's Green-Pigeon    Treron waalia   
African Green-Pigeon    Treron calvus   

PARROTS: Psittacidae       
Rose-ringed Parakeet    Psittacula krameri   
Red-headed Lovebird    Agapornis pullarius   
Gray Parrot    Psittacus erithacus   
Red-fronted Parrot    Poicephalus gulielmi   
Senegal Parrot    Poicephalus senegalus   

TURACOS: Musophagidae       
Guinea (Green) Turaco    Tauraco persa   
Yellow-billed Turaco    Tauraco macrorhynchus   
Violet Turaco    Musophaga violacea   
Western Plantain-eater    Crinifer piscator   

CUCKOOS: Cuculidae       
Levaillant's Cuckoo    Clamator levaillantii   
Red-chested Cuckoo    Cuculus solitarius    H
Black Cuckoo    Cuculus clamosus   
African Cuckoo    Cuculus gularis   
Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo    Cercococcyx olivinus    H
Klaas' Cuckoo    Chrysococcyx klaas   
African Emerald Cuckoo    Chrysococcyx cupreus   
Dideric Cuckoo    Chrysococcyx caprius   
Yellowbill    Ceuthmochares aereus   
Black Coucal    Centropus grillii   
Black-throated Coucal    Centropus leucogaster   
Blue-headed Coucal    Centropus monachus   
Senegal Coucal    Centropus senegalensis 
 
BARN-OWLS: Tytonidae       
Barn Owl    Tyto alba   

OWLS: Strigidae       
African Scops-Owl    Otus senegalensis   
Northern White-faced Owl    Ptilopsis leucotis   
Fraser's Eagle-Owl    Bubo poensis   
Pel's Fishing-Owl    Scotopelia peli   
Pearl-spotted Owlet    Glaucidium perlatum   
Barred Owlet    Glaucidium capense    H

NIGHTJARS: Caprimulgidae       
Brown Nightjar    Caprimulgus binotatus   
Black-shouldered Nightjar    Caprimulgus nigriscapularis    H
Long-tailed Nightjar    Caprimulgus climacurus   
Standard-winged Nightjar    Macrodipteryx longipennis   

SWIFTS: Apodidae       
Black Spinetail    Telacanthura melanopygia   
Sabine's Spinetail    Rhaphidura sabini   
Cassin's Spinetail    Neafrapus cassini   
African Palm-Swift    Cypsiurus parvus   
Mottled Swift    Tachymarptis aequatorialis   
Common Swift    Apus apus   
Little Swift    Apus affinis   
White-rumped Swift    Apus caffer   

TROGONS: Trogonidae       
Narina Trogon    Apaloderma narina   

KINGFISHERS: Alcedinidae       
Malachite Kingfisher    Alcedo cristata   
African Pygmy-Kingfisher    Ispidina picta   
Dwarf Kingfisher    Ispidina lecontei   
Chocolate-backed Kingfisher    Halcyon badia   
Gray-headed Kingfisher    Halcyon leucocephala   
Woodland Kingfisher    Halcyon senegalensis   
Blue-breasted Kingfisher    Halcyon malimbica   
Striped Kingfisher    Halcyon chelicuti   
Giant Kingfisher    Megaceryle maximus   
Pied Kingfisher    Ceryle rudis   

BEE-EATERS: Meropidae       
Black Bee-eater    Merops gularis   
Blue-headed Bee-eater    Merops muelleri   
Red-throated Bee-eater    Merops bulocki   
Little Bee-eater    Merops pusillus   
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater    Merops hirundineus   
White-throated Bee-eater    Merops albicollis   
Rosy Bee-eater    Merops malimbicus   
Northern Carmine Bee-eater    Merops nubicus   

ROLLERS: Coraciidae       
Abyssinian Roller    Coracias abyssinicus   
Rufous-crowned Roller    Coracias noevius   
Blue-bellied Roller    Coracias cyanogaster   
Broad-billed Roller    Eurystomus glaucurus   
Blue-throated Roller    Eurystomus gularis   

WOODHOOPOES AND SCIMITAR-BILLS: Phoeniculidae       
Green Woodhoopoe    Phoeniculus purpureus   
White-headed Woodhoopoe    Phoeniculus bollei   
Forest Woodhoopoe    Phoeniculus castaneiceps   
Black Scimitar-bill    Rhinopomastus aterrimus   

HORNBILLS: Bucerotidae       
White-crested Hornbill    Tockus albocristatus   
Black Dwarf Hornbill    Tockus hartlaubi   
Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill    Tockus camurus   
Red-billed Hornbill    Tockus erythrorhynchus   
African Pied Hornbill    Tockus fasciatus   
African Gray Hornbill    Tockus nasutus   
Brown-cheeked Hornbill    Ceratogymna cylindrica   
Black-casqued Hornbill    Ceratogymna atrata   
Yellow-casqued Hornbill    Ceratogymna elata   

BARBETS: Capitonidae       
Yellow-billed Barbet    Trachyphonus purpuratus   
Bristle-nosed Barbet    Gymnobucco peli   
Naked-faced Barbet    Gymnobucco calvus   
Speckled Tinkerbird    Pogoniulus scolopaceus   
Red-rumped Tinkerbird    Pogoniulus atroflavus   
Yellow-throated Tinkerbird    Pogoniulus subsulphureus   
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird    Pogoniulus bilineatus   
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird    Pogoniulus chrysoconus   
Yellow-spotted Barbet    Buccanodon duchaillui   
Hairy-breasted Barbet    Tricholaema hirsuta   
Vieillot's Barbet    Lybius vieilloti   
Double-toothed Barbet    Lybius bidentatus   
Bearded Barbet    Lybius dubius   

HONEYGUIDES: Indicatoridae       
Cassin's Honeyguide    Prodotiscus insignis   
Yellow-footed Honeyguide    Melignomon eisentrauti   
Wilcock's Honeyguide    Indicator willcocksi   
Least Honeyguide    Indicator exilis    H
Lesser Honeyguide    Indicator minor   
Spotted Honeyguide    Indicator maculatus    H
Greater Honeyguide    Indicator indicator   

WOODPECKERS: Picidae       
Eurasian Wryneck    Jynx torquilla   
African Piculet    Sasia africana   
Fine-spotted Woodpecker    Campethera punctuligera   
Little Green Woodpecker    Campethera maculosa   
Buff-spotted Woodpecker    Campethera nivosa   
Fire-bellied Woodpecker    Dendropicos pyrrhogaster   
Gray Woodpecker    Dendropicos goertae   
Brown-backed Woodpecker    Dendropicos obsoletus   

BROADBILLS: Eurylaimidae       
Rufous-sided Broadbill    Smithornis rufolateralis   

PASSERIFORMES: Alaudidae       
Flappet Lark    Mirafra rufocinnamomea   
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark    Eremopterix leucotis   

SWALLOWS: Hirundinidae       
Fanti Sawwing    Psalidoprocne obscura   
Square-tailed Sawwing    Psalidoprocne nitens   
Barn Swallow    Hirundo rustica   
Red-chested Swallow    Hirundo lucida   
Wire-tailed Swallow    Hirundo smithii   
White-throated Blue Swallow    Hirundo nigrita   
Ethiopian Swallow    Hirundo aethiopica   
Rock Martin    Ptyonoprogne fuligula   
House Martin    Delichon urbicum   
Lesser Striped-Swallow    Cecropis abyssinica   
Rufous-chested Swallow    Cecropis semirufa   
Red-rumped Swallow    Cecropis daurica   
Preuss' Swallow    Petrochelidon preussi   

WAGTAILS AND PIPITS: Motacillidae       
Red-throated Pipit    Anthus cervinus   
Tree Pipit    Anthus trivialis   
Yellow-throated Longclaw    Macronyx croceus   
African Pied Wagtail    Motacilla aguimp   
Yellow Wagtail    Motacilla flava   

CUCKOO-SHRIKES: Campephagidae       
White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike    Coracina pectoralis   
Blue Cuckoo-shrike    Coracina azurea   
Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike    Campephaga phoenicea   
Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike    Campephaga quiscalina   

BULBULS: Pycnonotidae       
Common Bulbul    Pycnonotus barbatus   
Little Greenbul    Andropadus virens   
(Little) Gray Greenbul    Andropadus gracilis   
Ansorge's Greenbul    Andropadus ansorgei   
Plain (Cameroon Sombre) Greenbul    Andropadus curvirostris   
Slender-billed Greenbul    Andropadus gracilirostris   
Yellow-whiskered Greenbul    Andropadus latirostris   
Golden Greenbul    Calyptocichla serina   
Honeyguide Greenbul    Baeopogon indicator   
Simple Greenbul    Chlorocichla simplex   
Yellow-throated Greenbul    Chlorocichla flavicollis   
Swamp Greenbul    Thescelocichla leucopleura   
White-throated Greenbul    Phyllastrephus albigularis   
Icterine Greenbul    Phyllastrephus icterinus   
Common (Red-tailed) Bristlebill    Bleda syndactylus   
Yellow-spotted Nicator    Nicator chloris   
Red-tailed Greenbul    Criniger calurus   
Western Bearded-Greenbul    Criniger barbatus   

THRUSHES: Turdidae       
Finsch's Flycatcher-Thrush    Neocossyphus finschii   
African Thrush    Turdus pelios   
Fire-crested Alethe    Alethe diademata    H

CISTICOLAS AND ALLIES: Cisticolidae       
Red-faced Cisticola    Cisticola erythrops   
Singing Cisticola    Cisticola cantans    H
Whistling Cisticola    Cisticola lateralis   
Rock-loving Cisticola    Cisticola aberrans   
Winding Cisticola    Cisticola galactotes   
Croaking Cisticola    Cisticola natalensis   
Siffling Cisticola    Cisticola brachypterus   
Zitting Cisticola    Cisticola juncidis   
Tawny-flanked Prinia    Prinia subflava   
Red-winged (Warbler) Prinia    Prinia erythroptera   
Black-capped Apalis    Apalis nigriceps   
Yellow-breasted Apalis    Apalis flavida   
Sharpe's Apalis    Apalis sharpii   
Oriole Warbler    Hypergerus atriceps   
Green-backed Camaroptera    Camaroptera brachyura   
Yellow-browed Camaroptera    Camaroptera superciliaris   
Olive-green Camaroptera    Camaroptera chloronota   

OLD WORLD WARBLERS: Sylviidae       
Sedge Warbler    Acrocephalus schoenobaenus   
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler    Hippolais pallida   
Melodious Warbler    Hippolais polyglotta   
Senegal Eremomela    Eremomela pusilla   
Rufous-crowned Eremomela    Eremomela badiceps   
Green Crombec    Sylvietta virens   
Lemon-bellied Crombec    Sylvietta denti   
Northern Crombec    Sylvietta brachyura   
Kemp's Longbill    Macrosphenus kempi    H
Gray Longbill    Macrosphenus concolor   
Green Hylia    Hylia prasina   
Willow Warbler    Phylloscopus trochilus   
Wood Warbler    Phylloscopus sibilatrix   
Violet-backed Hyliota    Hyliota violacea   

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS: Muscicapidae       
Pale (Pallid) Flycatcher    Bradornis pallidus   
Northern Black-Flycatcher    Melaenornis edolioides   
African (Fraser's) Forest-Flycatcher    Fraseria ocreata   
Spotted Flycatcher    Muscicapa striata   
Ussher's Flycatcher    Muscicapa ussheri   
Swamp Flycatcher    Muscicapa aquatica   
Little Gray Flycatcher    Muscicapa epulata   
Dusky-blue Flycatcher    Muscicapa comitata   
Ashy Flycatcher    Muscicapa caerulescens   
Cassin's Flycatcher    Muscicapa cassini   
Gray-throated Tit-Flycatcher    Myioparus griseigularis   
Gray Tit-Flycatcher    Myioparus plumbeus   
European Pied Flycatcher    Ficedula hypoleuca   
Forest Robin    Stiphrornis erythrothorax   
Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat    Cossypha niveicapilla   
White-crowned Robin-Chat    Cossypha albicapilla   
Whinchat    Saxicola rubetra   
Forest Scrub-Robin    Cercotrichas leucosticta    H
Familiar Chat    Cercomela familiaris   
Mocking Cliff-Chat    Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris   

WATTLE-EYES: Platysteiridae       
Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher    Bias musicus   
Brown-throated (Common) Wattle-eye    Platysteira cyanea   
Chestnut Wattle-eye    Platysteira castanea   
Senegal Batis    Batis senegalensis   
West African Batis    Batis occulta   

MONARCH FLYCATCHERS: Monarchidae       
Chestnut-capped Flycatcher    Erythrocercus mccallii   
African Blue-Flycatcher    Elminia longicauda   
Blue-headed Crested-Flycatcher    Trochocercus nitens   
Black-headed (Red-bellied) Paradise-Flycatcher    Terpsiphone rufiventer   
African Paradise-Flycatcher    Terpsiphone viridis   

ROCKFOWL: Picathartidae       
White-necked Rockfowl (Yellow-headed Picathartes)    Picathartes gymnocephalus   

BABBLERS: Timaliidae       
Blackcap Illadopsis    Illadopsis cleaveri    H
Puvel's Illadopsis    Illadopsis puveli    H
Blackcap Babbler    Turdoides reinwardtii   
Brown Babbler    Turdoides plebejus   

TITS: Paridae       
White-shouldered Black-Tit    Melaniparus guineensis   

TREECREEPERS: Certhiidae       
Spotted Creeper    Salpornis spilonotus   

PENDULINE-TITS: Remizidae       
Tit-hylia    Pholidornis rushiae   

SUNBIRDS: Nectariniidae       
Scarlet-tufted (Fraser's) Sunbird    Deleornis fraseri   
Little Green Sunbird    Anthreptes seimundi   
Green Sunbird    Anthreptes rectirostris   
Collared Sunbird    Hedydipna collaris   
Pygmy Sunbird    Hedydipna platura   
Green-headed Sunbird    Cyanomitra verticalis   
Blue-throated Brown Sunbird    Cyanomitra cyanolaema   
Eastern Olive Sunbird    Cyanomitra olivacea   
Buff-throated Sunbird    Chalcomitra adelberti   
Scarlet-chested Sunbird    Chalcomitra senegalensis   
Olive-bellied Sunbird    Cinnyris chloropygius   
Tiny Sunbird    Cinnyris minullus   
Beautiful Sunbird    Cinnyris pulchellus   
Splendid Sunbird    Cinnyris coccinigastrus   
Johanna's Sunbird    Cinnyris johannae   
Superb Sunbird    Cinnyris superbus   
Copper Sunbird    Cinnyris cupreus   

WHITE-EYES: Zosteropidae       
African Yellow White-eye    Zosterops senegalensis   

ORIOLES: Oriolidae       
African Golden Oriole    Oriolus auratus   
Western Black-headed Oriole    Oriolus brachyrhynchus   
Black-winged Oriole    Oriolus nigripennis   

SHRIKES: Laniidae       
Common Fiscal    Lanius collaris   
Yellow-billed Shrike    Corvinella corvina   

BUSHSHRIKES AND ALLIES: Malaconotidae       
Brubru    Nilaus afer   
Northern Puffback    Dryoscopus gambensis   
Large-billed (Sabin's) Puffback    Dryoscopus sabini   
Black-crowned (-headed) Tchagra    Tchagra senegalus   
Brown-crowned Tchagra    Tchagra australis   
Common (Yellow-crowned) Gonolek    Laniarius barbarus   
Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike    Telophorus sulfureopectus   
Gray-headed Bushshrike    Malaconotus blanchoti   

HELMETSHRIKES AND ALLIES: Prionopidae       
White Helmetshrike    Prionops plumatus   
Chestnut-bellied (Red-billed) Helmetshrike    Prionops caniceps   

DRONGOS: Dicruridae       
Square-tailed Drongo    Dicrurus ludwigii   
Shining Drongo    Dicrurus atripennis   
Fork-tailed (Glossy-backed) Drongo    Dicrurus adsimilis   
Velvet-mantled Drongo    Dicrurus modestus   

CROWS: Corvidae       
Piapiac    Ptilostomus afer   
Pied Crow    Corvus albus   

STARLINGS: Sturnidae       
Greater Blue-eared Glossy-Starling    Lamprotornis chalybaeus   
Lesser Blue-eared Glossy-Starling    Lamprotornis chloropterus   
Bronze-tailed Glossy-Starling    Lamprotornis chalcurus   
Splendid Glossy-Starling    Lamprotornis splendidus   
Purple Glossy-Starling    Lamprotornis purpureus   
Long-tailed Glossy-Starling    Lamprotornis caudatus   
Chestnut-bellied Starling    Lamprotornis pulcher   
Copper-tailed Glossy-Starling    Lamprotornis cupreocauda   
Violet-backed Starling    Cinnyricinclus leucogaster   
Chestnut-winged Starling    Onychognathus fulgidus   
Narrow-tailed Starling    Poeoptera lugubris   

OLD WORLD SPARROWS: Passeridae       
Gray-headed Sparrow    Passer griseus   
Bush Petronia    Petronia dentata   

WEAVERS: Ploceidae       
White-billed Buffalo-Weaver    Bubalornis albirostris   
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver    Plocepasser superciliosus   
Red-vented Malimbe    Malimbus scutatus   
Gray's (Blue-billed) Malimbe    Malimbus nitens   
Red-headed Malimbe    Malimbus rubricollis   
Red-headed Quelea    Quelea erythrops   
Red-billed Quelea    Quelea quelea   
Red-headed Weaver    Anaplectes rubriceps   
Little Weaver    Ploceus luteolus   
Black-necked Weaver    Ploceus nigricollis   
Orange Weaver    Ploceus aurantius   
Vieillot's (Black) Weaver    Ploceus nigerrimus   
Vitelline Masked-Weaver    Ploceus vitellinus   
Village Weaver    Ploceus cucullatus   
Black-headed Weaver    Ploceus melanocephalus   
Yellow-mantled Weaver    Ploceus tricolor   
Maxwell's Black (White-naped) Weaver    Ploceus albinucha   
Preuss' (Golden-backed) Weaver    Ploceus preussi   
Compact Weaver    Pachyphantes superciliosus   
Black-winged Bishop    Euplectes hordeaceus   
Orange Bishop    Euplectes franciscanus   
Yellow-shouldered (-mantled) Widowbird    Euplectes macroura   
Grosbeak Weaver    Amblyospiza albifrons   

WAXBILLS AND ALLIES: Estrildidae       
Pale-fronted Negrofinch    Nigrita luteifrons   
Gray-headed Negrofinch    Nigrita canicapillus   
Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch    Nigrita bicolor   
White-breasted Negrofinch    Nigrita fusconotus   
Lavender Waxbill    Estrilda caerulescens   
Orange-cheeked Waxbill    Estrilda melpoda   
Black-rumped Waxbill    Estrilda troglodytes   
Western Bluebill    Spermophaga haematina   
Red-cheeked Cordonbleu    Uraeginthus bengalus   
Red-winged Pytilia    Pytilia phoenicoptera   
Red-billed Firefinch    Lagonosticta senegala   
Bar-breasted Firefinch    Lagonosticta rufopicta   
Black-faced Firefinch    Lagonosticta larvata   
African (Blue-billed) Firefinch    Lagonosticta rubricata   
Black-faced (African) Quailfinch    Ortygospiza atricollis   
Bronze Mannikin    Spermestes cucullatus   
Black-and-white Mannikin    Spermestes bicolor   
African (Common) Silverbill    Euodice cantans   

INDIGOBIRDS: Viduidae       
Pin-tailed Whydah    Vidua macroura   
Paradise-Whydah sp.    Vidua sp.   

SEEDEATERS: Fringillidae       
White-rumped Seedeater    Serinus leucopygius   
Yellow-fronted Canary    Serinus mozambicus   

BUNTINGS: Emberizidae       
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting    Emberiza tahapisi   

441 Species, of which 12 were heard and not seen

Ghanain children through a telephoto lens! - Ken Behrens Coconuts in the shade - Michael & Christine Sabyan


MAMMAL LIST  

Based on Kingdon 1997

Olive Baboon  Papio anubis

Callithris Monkey  Cercopithecus sabaeus

Patas Monkey  Cercopithecus patas

Mona Monkey  Cercopithecus mona

Lesser Spot-nosed Monkey  Cercopithecus petaurista

Demidoff's Galago  Galagoides demidoff  H

Straw-coloured Fruit Bat  Eidolon helvum

Egyptian Fruit Bat  Rousettus aegyptiacus

Hairy Bat sp.  Myotis sp.

Scrub Hare  Lepus saxatilis

Striped Ground Squirrel  Euxerus erythropus

Fire-footed Rope Squirrel  Funisciurus pyrropus  H

Green Squirrel  Paraxerus poensis

Gambian Sun Squirrel  Heliosciurus gambianus

Giant Pouched Rat  Cricetomys sp.

Blotched Genet  Genetta tigrina

Eastern Tree Hyrax  Dendrohyrax dorsalis  H

African Elephant  Loxodonta africana

Common Warthog  Phacochoerus africanus

Bushbuck  Tragelaphus scriptus

Maxwell's Duiker  Cephalophus maxwelli

Kob  Kobus kob

Waterbuck  Kobus ellipsiprymnus


23 mammal species, of which 3 were heard and not seen

Pied Kingfisher - Ken Behrens Speckled Tinkerbird - Ken Behrens
Pied Kingfisher at an idyllic lagoon. Speckled Tinkerbird is one of many tinkerbird species in the Ghanain rainforest.