Ventures Birding Trip to Ghana
Dec 28, 2011 to Jan 12, 2012
With our Ghanaian guides and driver:
James, Victor and Solomon
We all arrived safely in Accra on the 28th December and, and all but Mark who arrived later than everyone else, got some afternoon birding in!
December 29th saw us visit some inselbergs knows as the Shai Hills, highlights included Bearded and Double-toothed Barbets, Violet Turaco, Northern Crombec, a very obliging African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Klaas's Cuckoo and limited views of a Mocking Cliff-chat. Travelling south away from Accra we also visited coastal lagoons at Sacamono and saw Blue-bellied Roller, one of only two for the trip, and Western Reef-heron and numerous western palearctic migrant waders. From here we drove to Kakum.
By the end of birding the Shai Hills, Mark was suffering from a severe allergic reaction to some contact lens saline solution and was incapacitated. Thankfully with Linda's help we purchased some eye drops and Mark was able to bird again the next day. After a good night's rest we birded the magnificent Kakum walkway in the early morning of December 30. And what a treat it was! Highlights included Long-tailed Hawk, Violet-backed Hyliota, many greenbul pecies, Sabine's Puffback, Tit-Hylia, and Sharpe's Apalis. Walking the trails also yielded Fanti Saw-wing and the simply amazing Rosy Bee-eater. Returning in the afternoon to the canopy walkway we also got White-crested, Brown-cheeked and Black-casqued Hornbills, Congo Serpent-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture and incredible views of Chocolate-backed Kingfisher to mention just a few.
The next day, Dec 31, we birded the road north of Kakum NP and got more greenbuls, Red-chested Goshawk, Preuss Cliff Swallow, and White-spotted Flufftail. At the Pra River we got a lone White-throated Blue Swallow, one head view of a Rock Pratincole and several Little Bee-eaters. In the afternoon we returned to the Kakum forest and got a very energetic Rufous-sided Broadbill, several Red-fronted and Gray Parrots, we also heard an Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo and on our return to our hotel we saw 3 Plain Nightjars and heard one Brown Nightjar and 2 Black-shouldered Nightjars.
January 1st saw us return to the Kakum forest for one last hooray, where highlights of our morning birding included Simple Leaf-love, Western Bluebill, Gabon Woodpecker, both male and female Johanna's Sunbirds and a Red-billed Dwarf-Hornbill. We then packed and left for more western Ghanaian birding. In Takoradi we saw our first Piping Hornbill and had a great lunch, complete with watching many of the local Ghanaians all dressed up in the Sunday best. After lunch we continued west and at a mangrove lined river we saw White-faced Whistling-Ducks, Africana Jacana and a Brown Sunbird. A few miles down the road we stopped for petrol and got a Northern Gray-headed Sparrow, five Mottled Spinetails and several Orange Weavers. An initial and short-lived visit to Ankasa Conservation Area got us Cassin's Flycatcher, White-tailed Alethe and a Gray-headed Bristlebill. We then proceeded to our hotel in Half Assini.
After an early breakfast on Jan 2nd we returned to Ankasa forest. As we drove in we saw Blue-headed Wood-dove and the first of many greenbuls. Driving and walking the logging road we got Blue-bellied Kingfisher at the first pond as well as Blue-billed Malimbe and a White-bellied Kingfisher.
At the second pond, we had Hautlaub's Duck, more greenbuls, two Red-vented Malimbes, a Square-tailed Saw-wing, and Mark glimpsed an African Finfoot! Later we ventured along a 50 year old logging trail and poor views of Green-tailed Bristlebill and (Western) Forest Robin. Back along the main road we got poor views of Pale-breasted Illadopis and a Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, and a good look at an Olivaceous Flycatcher.
After another early breakfast Jan 3rd, we returned to Ankasa and got more greenbuls (arg!), a Brown-eared Woodpecker and great views of a Rufous-winged Illadopis. Along the road we got Spotted, Yellow-bearded and Ansorge's Greenbuls and a Blue-headed Bee-eater. At the entrance at the bridge we got fantastic views of a Black Bee-eater. As we left Ankasa we also got both male and female Reichenbach's Sunbird in a palm-oil plantation. Returning toward the Rain forest lodge near Kakum we stopped at a small section of savannah and got Marsh Tchagra, Red-winged Warbler, great close-up views of a Singing Cisticola, two Black-rumped Waxbills and African Wattled Lapwing. By now we were over 200 bird species for the trip.
We left the Rainforest lodge and birded another section of Kakum forest getting a very obliging African Piculet, Dusky-blue and Tessman's Flycatchers and White-headed Woodhoopoes. We then drove to the Bonkro Forest in search of the very special White-necked Picathartes. After a long forest walk and a short ascent we all got to the overhang that this weird bird uses to roost and breed in. After an hour and a half wait we were richly rewarded with fantastic views of this pre-historic looking bird. It was particularly good to see Linda get this great bird after her climb up the last steep stretch.
Having achieved seeing the Picathartes, Linda and John decided it was too much for Linda to continue and they left the trip – all sadly missed them. So Jan 5th saw a smaller group travel north toward Mole NP. Road birding got us Grasshopper Buzzard, African Spoonbill, African Golden Oriole and Dark Chanting Goshawk. Along the dirt road to Mole NP we got Senegal Eremomela, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Abysinnian Roller and White Helmet-Shrike. In the village before the entrance to Mole we got amazing views of two male and three female Standard-winged Nightjars and at the entrance we also saw our only Grayish Eagle-Owl.
The next morning, Jan 6th, we assembled at the observation deck looking over the water pools. Here we got Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Senegal Thick-knee and Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu among others. At 7 am we went down into the park following the Samole Loop - we got Exclamatory Paradise-Whydah, many beautiful Red-throated Bee-eater, Hamerkop, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, Wilson's and Village Indigobird and many, many others. At the waterhole observation deck, we watched seven elephant bathe and enjoy themselves and one fake charge us (I think he was really after Victor! Ed's note)! Crossing the ground around the waterhole we saw Rufous-chested Swallow and Yellow-crowned Gonolek. Back at the lodge we saw a male Pygmy Sunbird and White-backed and White-headed Vulture over the pools. Later in the day, after a nap, we went down the Brugbai Camp loop and got among others Tree Pipit, White-fronted Black-chat, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Sun Lark, Forbes Plover, Long-tailed Nightjar and African Scops Owl.
Remaining in Mole for Jan 7th we drove down to a river and got Brown Babbler, Black Scimitarbill, Fine-spotted and Brown-backed Woodpeckers, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Wahlberg's Eagle, another plain flycatcher this time a Pale Flycatcher, flitting glimpses of six Red-headed Lovebirds, and great views of a typically very shy and skulking Oriole Warbler. Along the river we got great views of White-crowned and Snowy-crowed Robin-chats, African Pygmy Kingfisher and Yellow-crowned Gonolek. In the afternoon we got Lead-colored Flycatcher, Whistling Cisticola, Pearl-spotted Owlet and Black-faced Firefinch.
Although January 8th was a travel day, we did get Greater Honeyguide, Brubru and Lanner Falcon at Mole lodge before we left. Just past Tamale at a pond we got Booted Eagle and African Quailfinch. Arriving at our destination – we birded the Tongo Hills and got Fox Kestrel, Rock-loving Cisticola, Namaqua Dove and Freckled Nightjar.
After an early breakfast we visited Tono Dam and got great views of Long-tailed, Purple and Bronze-tailed Glossy Starlings, some 30 Chestnut-bellied Starlings, several Chiffchaffs, a singing European Sedge Warbler, a couple of Little Bee-eaters, three African Silverbills, Black-shouldered Kite and 13 Spur-winged Geese. From there we drove on to the Egyptian plover site, and after reaching the riverbanks we got several within a minute. What beautiful birds!! We also got a Great Spotted Cuckoo, two Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, and leaving the location two Black-headed Lapwings and seven Piapiac's.
January 10th was another travel day - but stopping at the African Quailfinch site we were rewarded with 10 Northern Carmine Bee-eaters on a powerline, an African Moustached Warbler and a Giant Kingfisher. After another early breakfast we left for Bobiri Butterfly Reserve. Our first couple of hours was pretty birdless but we heard our target bird - Afep Pigeon, got a Tiny Sunbird (!) and finally the ever evasive Western Nicator. Then things explored in 30 odd minutes near the gift shop we got Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Cassin's Honeybird, Black-and-white Flycatcher, Cassin's Hawk-Eagle, Ashy Flycatcher, Red-chested Goshawk and Least Honeyguide. From here we drove on toward the Atewa Range and from 3:45-6pm we got on the lower forest trail Black-and-white Mannakin, Grosbeak Weaver, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, amazing views of the elusive Yellow-throated Cuckoo - this was a real treat! It was then followed by another treat - a Bat Hawk that flew overhead.
On our last day in Ghana we returned to the lower Atewa trail and then ascended the Atewa ridge trail climbing ~2500ft in nearly 7 hours of birding. We got some really excellent birds including Puvell's, Brown, Blackcap and Pale-breasted Illadopis - and great views of most! We also got Gray-headed Bristlebill, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher and Willcox's Honeyguide. Near the ridge crest we also got a Red-chested Owlet, Many-colored Bush-shrike and Dusky Tit. Returning to Accra we had to spend an extra night while we waited for the plane to arrive from the US - Mark also had to spend an extra night in Washington DC. But what a great trip - 446 birds and many, many life birds for Chris, John, John and Linda.