I travelled to Cameroon on a birding tour in March and April this year.
Attached below is the first part of my trip report. Other instalments
will follow briefly.
CAMEROON – March / April 2008 - Part 1
Earlier last year, when our trip to Uganda (planned for early 2008) fell
through, my Boston friend, Jan, and I searched around and, after some
consideration, decided to go to Cameroon. This was to be a significant
change for us because we were about to go on the first birding trip that
had not been arranged specifically for our friends and us. This trip was
organised by Rockjumper Birding Tours, a South African company that has
considerably expanded its operations in the last few years.
I didn’t know much about Cameroon before we decided on this trip. However,
it has an excellent field-guide, “Birds of Western Africa” by Borrow and
Demey, and there is a Brandt Travel Guide that provides quite good
information about the country.
So, early on 25 March, I flew out of Melbourne and, via Bangkok and Addis
Ababa, arrived in Douala, Cameroon, on the 26th to begin the tour.
To Mount Cameroon
The whole group, minus one Brit, gathered at the Ibis Hotel at the end of
the 26th for dinner. We were a diverse range of white people, five
Americans, three Brits, two South African guides and two Australians. The
first morning, we birded at La Digue, a coastal suburb of Douala, looking
for some rarer sunbirds. We found Reichenbach’s and Olive-bellied as well
as Palm-nut Vulture, Grey Parrot, Royal Tern and Long-legged Pipit. We
then visited the excellent Limbe Botanic Gardens, which were a bit
run-down but produced a good number of birds including Red-chested
Goshawk, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, White-throated
Bee-eater, Rufous-vented Paradise-Flycatcher, Cassin’s Flycatcher,
Tit-hylia, Mouse-brown, Carmelite and Green-throated Sunbirds,
Pale-fronted Negrofinch and Western Bluebill. Richard joined us at the
end of the day to complete our party.
Very early the next morning, we set off to climb up Mount Cameroon. While
it rises to more than 4,000 metres, we were only going to climb to just
above 2,000 metres to look for some endemics. It was quite steep and long
getting up there but eventually we saw Cameroon Pigeon and Cameroon
Speirops as well as African Cuckoo-Hawk, African Green-Pigeon,
Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Turaco, Naked-faced Barbet, Western
Tinkerbird, Elliot’s Woodpecker, Cameroon Scrub Warbler, African Hill
Babbler, Orange-tufted Sunbird, Yellow-breasted Boubou and nesting
Fernando Po Oliveback.
Next day, we headed to some remnant forest near Buea, where we were
staying. It had been mostly cleared and we did not see many species but
Black Goshawk and White-tailed Warbler were bonuses and we also saw
African Bush Warbler and Black-faced Rufous-Warbler. We birded at Limbe
again and then tried to find some mangroves at a beach resort on the
coast. Unfortunately, they had been recently cleared so we returned to
Douala. On the way, we stopped at a very foul-smelling swamp forest to
look for African Finfoot, which we did not find. It must not be able to
smell if it lives there, but, as it was absent, maybe it can.
The Dry North
Catching a plane to the north of Cameroon is often a problem as the
service is very unreliable with many scheduled flights cancelled. We were
lucky. On 30 March, our flight left about on time for Garoua. We arrived
there about lunch-time and it was very hot, very dry and very arid, which
were to be constants during our time in the north. We headed south along a
quite poor, rough road to our first destination in this area, the
Ngaoundaba Ranch. It took all afternoon and into the evening to do not
much more than 200 kilometres to the ranch. We arrived there in the dark
for a late dinner.
Early on the morning of the 31st, we got up very early as we wanted to
look for some shy endemics in the remnant riverine vegetation. Over the
course of a day and a half, we saw Hooded and African White-backed
Vultures, Double-spurred Francolin, Black Crake, Vinaceous, Laughing and
Tambourine Doves, Black-billed Wood-Dove, White-crested and Ross’ Turacos,
Western Grey Plantain-eater, African Scops-Owl, Standard-winged Nightjar,
Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Broad-billed Roller, Black Scimitar-bill,
Wilcock’s Honeyguide, Grey Woodpecker, Petit’s Sawwing (a swallow),
Yellow-throated Greenbul, Grey-winged Robin-Chat, Thrush-Babbler,
Black-capped Babbler, Square-tailed Drongo, Greater Blue-eared and
Splendid Glossy-Starlings, Violet-backed and White-collared Starlings,
Grey-headed Oliveback, Brown Twinspot and Bar-breasted, Black-bellied and
African Firefinches. We also heard African Crake and saw Green Squirrel
in this habitat.
We also found Wattled Lapwing, Striped Kingfisher, African Grey Hornbill,
Sun Lark, Yellow Penduline-Tit, Pygmy, Splendid and Copper Sunbirds,
Yellow-billed Shrike, Grey-headed Bushshrike and White Helmetshrike in the
drier areas, which were being used for cattle grazing.
We had a really good night spot-lighting here and saw some excellent
animals, including Long-tailed Nightjar, Senegal Galago, White-tailed
Mongoose and African Civet.
The difficult part of birding the different destinations in Cameroon was
that, in each of them, there were several endemics or local specialities
that we had to find. So, we effectively had only one day to find the
majority of these birds and, then, a morning to try and locate the ones
that had eluded us the day before. The pressure was nearly always on,
particularly for the guides. But, here, we did very well. In fact, a
Pearl-spotted Owlet really helped on the last morning as, when it appeared
in a high tree, a number of the rarer birds we had been searching for
suddenly appeared to harass it - Red-winged Grey Warbler, Bamenda Apalis
and Oriole Warbler.
On the way to Benoue, we saw Brown Snake-Eagle in transit. We also
stopped at Dang Lake, the only decent wetland that we saw in Cameroon, and
saw a few water birds, including Africa Jacana, African Pygmy-goose,
Yellow-billed Duck, Garganey, Pied Kingfisher, Yellow-throated Longclaw
and Marsh Widowbird.
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