Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Congo January 2014

This next trip to RNT and Conkoati NP was with my old chum Dr Stuart Sharp from Lancaster University who was awarded a small grant from the African Bird club to do some surveying by conducting a series of point counts.
Very soon we had a line of nets up at the sanctuary and a nice surprise and a new one for the reserve were Great Reed Warblers! Amazing that they were absent from September to December, makes one think about their route.
We also got a good few Garden Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers and new ones being, Black-faced Canary, Black-bellied Seedcracker, an awesome looking bird, 
and a real bogey bird for me later that morning, a female Black and White Flycatcher!
A Bat Hawk went over in the morning mist which was a great lifer for Stuart. We tried another area below the sanctuary and got a pair of Black Coucals very interested in the sound system as did a couple of African Crakes which had until now not been seen on the reserve. A lifer for both of us was a Black-collared Bulbul.
That night a spot of dazzling with the landing net produced a Square-tailed Nightjar and a Swamp Nightjar.
Went to Mpili putting 14 African Crakes up along the way and ringed in the forest there and were rewarded with a new one for RNT, a Fire-crested Alethe and another Blue-breasted Kingfisher, that’s 3 from the same spot!
Next spot were the 3 islands. We set our usual nets in their rides and got some crackers, Chestnut-breasted Nigrita, Red-chested Goshawk, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird. Nkulengu Rails calling in the night!
Took a canoe up the Ntombo River, tributary of the Kouilou and got Black Bee-eater, Finfoot, Cassin’s Spinetail, White-throated Blue Swallow and Cassins Flycatcher.
At the river mouth we got a real surprise lifer each by finding several Grey Pratincoles on the sand! Amazing little birds, so well camouflaged. As usual there were 10,000 plus Royal Terns and this time a good 60 odd African Skimmers.
Conkoati National Park
After an interesting and serious 4x4 hour drive of 4 hours, we got to camp in a fantastic setting on the banks of the Lanumbe River.
In the night we heard African Wood Owls and a pair of Vermiculated Fishing Owls, close to camp! With Black-casqued Wattled Hornbills and African Grey Parrots flying overhead, we set a line of nets and soon got busy. New birds included Black-capped Illadopsis, Sabine’s Puffback, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Golden Greenbul and the usual Yellow-lored Bristlebills and Yellow-whiskered Greenbuls.
I set a cheeky net up over the river stretching from an old sunken tree to the bank and after a while were rewarded with a White-throated Blue Swallow, extracting it from a Pirogue required some dexterity and balance! What a stunner! We also caught a pair of equally smart White-bellied Kingfishers.

In the evening we set a big net across the old rotten road bridge and played the call for Vermiculated Fishing Owl. At one stage we had a bird either side of the net, but no luck in bringing them down out of the trees.
Next morning we did a walk from camp and came across fresh Elephant tracks where our nets had been! Also got a lifer, Joanna’s Sunbird whilst waiting for the Land Cruiser. On the way back we set a few small single panel nets at the Kouilou River mouth and after a few hours of twinkling and gently herding a load of Grey Pratincoles, we got one!
Doing some of the point counts we got a few new birds for the reserve list. Fan-tailed Grassbird, Great Snipe, Thick-billed Cuckoo and a Brown Snake Eagle (new to the country!).
Totals were 163 birds ringed of 60 species!

That’s it for the Congo for now. Will be back in June and July this year, a different season, let’s see what new species turn up then.

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