CAMEROON – March / April 2008 - Part 3
The West, again
So, at 4am on the 8th, we checked into the Ayaba Hotel in Bamenda and went
to bed. That morning was the only morning we were allowed a sleep-in on
the trip. Later in the morning, we departed for the Bamenda Highlands. In
fact, these were mostly cleared, with only a few remnant pockets of
vegetation for the mostly endangered birds to cling to. We spent the rest
of the day in one of these pockets.
We were, however, very successful, finding Bannerman’s Turaco, African
Cuckoo, Blue-headed Cuckoo, Tullberg’s Woodpecker, Black-collared and Grey
Apalis, Bangwa Scrub Warbler, Banded Wattle-eye, Ruwenzori Hill Babbler,
Neumann’s Starling and Bannerman’s Weaver.
Next day, we headed south for the fabled Mount Kupe.
Mount Kupe and the Bakossi Mountains
There are lots of endemics and special birds around Mount Kupe. We didn’t
find many of them. The habitat looked terrific, but the birds were few
and far between. The birds we did hear calling did not respond to our
tapes. In fact, at this point, on reflection, we decided that pretty much
nothing had come into our calls. And, here, that was a problem as the
terrain was very difficult and the trees quite large and tall. When we
tried to locate calling birds, we usually failed. So, after two full
days, we had quite a small bird list and not many specialities.
We did see Yellowbill, Guinea Turaco, Bar-tailed Trogon, Blue-breasted
Bee-eater, Speckled Tinkerbird, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Green-backed
Woodpecker, Grey-headed Broadbill, Preuss’ and Forest Swallows,
Square-tailed Sawwing, Mountain Wagtail, Grey and Petit’s Cuckoo-shrikes,
Yellow-whiskered and Grey-headed Bulbuls, Black-capped Apalis,
Buff-throated Apalis, Yellow Longbill, Black-capped Woodland-Warbler,
Yellow-footed Flycatcher, White-bellied Robin-Chat, African
Shrike-flycatcher, Black-necked Wattle-eye, Black-headed and Bate’s
Paradise-Flycatchers, Red-eyed and Pink-footed Puffbacks, Waller’s
Starling, Forest Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe and White-breasted and
Chestnut-breasted Negrofinches. We heard Chocolate-backed Kingfisher,
Gabon Woodpecker, Crossley’s Ground-Thrush, White-throated
Mountain-Babbler and Grey-green, Many-coloured, Mount Kupe and
Green-breasted Bushshrikes, which was extremely disappointing as many of
these were highly desirable species that we wanted to see. We saw no
mammals in what looked to be excellent forest.
Our accommodation at the Nyasoso Women’s Co-operative (I am not sure how
we qualified to stay here) was the most basic of the trip. The lack of
hot water was very noticeable as the cold water was very cold. But, the
food and beer remained presentable. However, after two days here, we left
quite disappointed and moved on to our last birding site at Korup.
Getting there, though, was a trial. It had rained heavily the night
before and the dirt track, which was marked as a major road on the map,
was in terrible condition. An accident held us up for three hours as a
log truck jack-knifed on a slippery bridge and blocked the road. And we
had to be pushed through one village as the road was so slippery with mud
over 10 centimetres deep. Driving into Mundemba, where we stayed before
heading into Korup, was also trying as it took about five hours to drive
the 140 kilometres. We did see Pin-tailed Whydah there.
Korup National Park
Korup is lowland rainforest, which looked brilliant. It was coolish but
very humid in the forest. We were to camp in Korup and you had to walk in
as there is a major river at the entrance to the Park with only a
pedestrian bridge for access and, therefore, no roads. So, quite early,
we set off on the eight-odd kilometre walk to Rengo Camp. We had about 15
porters carrying in all our gear, including luggage, tents, cooking
utensils and food and drinks (some of which were beer and wine).
There should have been lots of birds and other animals in this park but,
unfortunately, it was very quiet, like Kupe. I am not sure why, but I
have to presume it is, at least partly, because of hunting and poaching.
We were only a few kilometres from the border with Nigeria and we met
quite a few people on the forest tracks who were obviously moving through
The major target for this site, in fact for the whole trip, was
Grey-necked Rockfowl. It is truly iconic among African birds. It is a
quite large passerine which nests in mud nests on large rocky outcrops in
the forest during the rainy season. It is almost impossible to find away
from its nests and access in the wet season is extremely difficult. It
looks brilliant and you should have a look at its photos in any references
you have or on the Internet. For all the birders on the trip, including
the two guides, it was to be the bird of the trip – if we saw it.
This bird is very shy and anyone looking for it at the nest is quite
exposed. The 12 of us had to sit immovable and silent on a small rocky
outcrop near a nesting site for up to three hours, hoping a Rockfowl would
visit its nest in the evening to inspect it or perhaps refurbish it. This
was only a possibility as it was not yet the wet season.
So, on our first evening, we sat on a rock in the rain waiting …… In
fact, we were extremely lucky as, after only an hour or so, a Rockfowl
flew in, inspected its nest, hopped on the ground and gave us a good, but
brief, view for about 10 seconds before flying off. We decided to wait
longer to see if it came back and, after another hour, it duly returned
for another 10 or 15 seconds in a second showing. The whole group was
elated as the major birding highlight had been achieved.
In our two days in Korup, we did see some very nice birds, including
White-spotted Flufftail, Rock Pratincole, Black Cuckoo, Bare-cheeked
Trogon, African Pied, Piping and Yellow-casqued Hornbills, Buff-spotted
Woodpecker, Rufous-sided Broadbill, Ansorge’s, Spotted, White-throated,
Icterine, Xavier’s and White-bearded Greenbuls, Green-tailed Bristlebill,
Eastern Bearded-Greenbul, Fire-crested Alethe, African Forest-Flycatcher,
White-spotted and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eyes, Blue-headed
Crested-Flycatcher, Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Brown Illadopsis,
Scarlet-tufted and Tiny Sunbirds, Western Black-headed Oriole, Shining
Drongo and Rachel’s, Red-vented, Grey’s and Crested Malimbes. We also
heard Sjostedt’s Owlet and Red-billed Dwarf and Black-casqued Hornbills.
But, despite this list, it was very hard to find any birds with any
regularity and the number of species seen was quite low. We found no
mammals, which was quite surprising. We did hear some monkeys but they
moved away very quickly, indicating that mammals might be hunted in this
We also had close encounters with African bees here as they congregated in
quite high numbers in the clearings, particularly at our camp. If you
managed to annoy one, it stung quite quickly. Luckily, I got on better
with the bees than some of the others. Jan thinks I have understated the
bee problem. This is possibly because more of them made friends with him
than me and at least one bit him in a quite sensitive area.
I was quite keenly taking photos of birds, mammals, people and scenery on
this trip. In the first half of the trip in the north, I amassed quite a
good number of photos, including many of the birds. However, in the
second part in the west, the number of bird photos went down considerably
as the number of birds dried up and the rainforest habitat prevented me
from getting near any birds in any reasonable light. In fact, in Korup,
it was impossible to keep the camera gear dry and, when I was trying to
take photos, the lens was invariably fogged.
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