Friday, July 31, 2015

Winter Birding trip to Tchimpounga National Nature Reserve, and Conkoati National Park, Republic of Congo, June to July 2015

June and July saw me back in the Congo again to guide two groups of Canadians.
This time of the year is the ‘winter’ or dry season and as such not the best time for birding, as many species lose their breeding plumage and migrants are absent.

However, there were some really good highlights and I did manage to get the usual line of nets up in the reserve as well as a morning in Conkoati Nat park to see what was about.
The netting area is one of thick scrub and rank grass, with quite a few introduced Lantana bushes. The latter is a real magnet for the many frugivorous bird species in the area and which turn up most regularly in the nets.
It was quite the time for Tinkerbirds, with one net round producing a full flush of four! Different species, Yellow-rumped, Yellow-throated, Speckled and a new one for me, Red-rumped Tinkerbird!

As well as these were Little Greenbuls, Little Bee-eaters (including 4 in one net round!),  a pair of Klass’s Cuckoo, Pygmy Kingfishers, Green Crombec, Common Bulbul (ssp gabonensis) and a few Green-headed Sunbirds.

Conkoati National Park
This was a quick overnight trip to visit the Mandril release program that JGI have been running. Many individuals rescued from bush meat markets have been given a second chance and are now actually free roaming again in the forest.
It was an opportunity for me to put some nets up in the forest for the afternoon and morning!

I got a total of 36 birds, the highlight for me, was a lifer in the form of a Fraser’s Sunbird! Others were Fire-crested Alethe, Yellow-lored Bristlebill, Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Camaroon Sombre Greenbul, Western Bluebill and Red-tailed Greenbul (which I thought could be White-bearded Greenbul for a while, but RT’s were calling in the area). I also got a gorgeous Blue-headed Wood-dove!

One net round, I disturbed a Long-tailed Hawk! This awesome forest raptor had nailed a Yelllow-whiskered Greenbul in the net!! Oh my!! If that had only stayed in!! The greenbul was ok!
Ntombo River Camp is a fantastic site in this park. At night there are Vermiculated Fishing Owls, Wood Owl, Nkulengu Rail, White-crested Tiger-heron and probably so much more. During the day, squadrons of the massive Black-casqued Wattled Hornbills cruise overhead making such a noise with their wings. There were Shining-blue Kingfishers and White-bibbed Swallows zipping up and down the river, Black-headed and Black Bee-eaters along the banks. There were Great-blue and Yellow-billed Turacos calling all the time and Rosy Bee-eaters over the canopy all day. For the first time here, I saw at least 7 White-crested Hornbill’s in the forest, such a stunning bird. Elephant, Buffalo, Gorilla and Chimpanzee frequent the area around the camp, so opening the net at dawn is always charged with a bit of excitement!

Tchimpounga NR
Back at the sanctuary, I took guests on a series of hikes in the reserve and found saw a
single Wattled Starling, being the country’s 3rd record of this Afro-tropical migrant!

Round the house a great flock of swallows were feeding on a hatch of small flies. Included in these were Black Saw-wing Swallow (subspecies ‘pettitti), Red-throated Cliff Swallow, Lesser-striped Swallow, Grey-rumped Swallow, Red-chested and Mosque Swallow!
A boat trip up to the islands in the Kouilou River made a great day out. First off, getting a pair of African Spoonbill flying south over the river constituted a new record for the reserve, with only a couple of previous records for the country. Also a group of Banded Prinias in some herbage along the banks was also new, but expected for the reserve, also previously thought as rare in this part of the world was a single Ayre’s Hawk Eagle. There were a couple of over summering Ospreys on the river and at the mouth, a roost of some 200 Royal Terns, with several Sandwich (new for RNT), Common and Little Tern (also new) along with 50 or so African Skimmer. In among the debris on the beach were a few Grey Pratincole.
A trip out to Lake Foni produced 2 more Black-headed Bee-eaters, now seen regularly here, 3 Pygmy Geese of note. In the forest, we saw Moustached and Putty-nosed Monkey’s.

Looking forward to November 2015 when we go back to ring the Rosy Bee-eaters and African River martins, the latter being the focus of the first ever research done on the species!!

Always looking for people to join us!!

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