Ghana Rockfowl Tour 2008

...with Simon Papps

May 6th - 13th

April 28th: Accra to Atewa.

A pre-breakfast walk along a road near the hotel produced our first African birds, with the ubiquitous Pied Crows, Little Swifts, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow and Laughing Doves joined by Senegal Coucal, Splendid Glossy and Greater Blue-eared Starlings, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Copper and Splendid Sunbirds and Western Plantain-eater. Less expected were African Pygmy Kingfisher, Heuglin’s Masked Weaver and Carmelite Sunbird.

After breakfast we set off towards Atewa. Our first impromptu roadside stop produced Grey Kestrel, Vieillot’s Barbet and Red-faced Cisticola, while a planned one at a patch of secondary forest resulted in our first sightings of African Pied Hornbill, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Red-headed Malimbe, Honey Buzzard and Northern Red Bishop, and further stops produced Didric Cuckoo and Common Fiscal.

It was late morning by the time we reached the beginning of the track at Atewa. Conditions were very hot and humid and there were many butterflies. A surprising number of birds were active, and these included Tit-hylia, Grey Longbill, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black-and-white Flycatcher and Olive and Collared Sunbirds. Further up the hill we had good views of a singing Red-rumped Tinkerbird, and the star attractions, a pair of Tessmann’s Flycatchers, were complemented by the likes of Rufous-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, Yellowbill, Grey-crowned Negrofinch and Simple Leaflove.

After lunch, where we watched red-headed agama lizards and sheltered from a sudden torrential downpour, impromptu roadside stops were made for Woodland Kingfisher, Red-headed Quelea, Pin-tailed Whydah and Black-winged Bishop. In the afternoon we walked a road through forest at Apapane. A flock of White-headed Bee-eaters provided entertainment for a while, and other new species included Red-necked Buzzard, Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch, Tambourine Dove and African Goshawk of the race toussenelii, which is known as ‘Red-chested Goshawk’ and considered a full species by some authorities. At dusk we headed to the Royal Bleumich Hotel at Tafo.

April 29th: Atewa to Kakum.

After a 5.30 am start we reached the Atewa track at 6 am and encountered a sudden rush of birds, starting with Dusky-blue Flycatcher. For the first two and a half hours we remained in the same spot and saw, in the early stages, Ashy Flycatcher, Sharpe’s Apalis, Yellow White-eye, Lemon-bellied Crombec, and Yellow-browed Cameroptera in addition to many of the species seen yesterday. A flock of 10 White-throated Bee-eaters flew in and the area got even more birdy. New species included African Emerald Cuckoo, Crested and Red-vented Malimbes, Speckled Tinkerbird, African Pied Hornbill, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Finsch’s Flycatcher-Thrush, Velvet-mantled Drongo, Spotted Greenbul, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul and Blue-throated Brown and Buff-throated Sunbirds. We also had better views Little Greenbul and Collared Sunbird, plus one or two Dewinton’s Squirrels.

As we started to walk up the track the Western Nicator that had been singing all morning was finally seen. Along the track we encountered a male Chestnut Wattle-eye, while a trio of Square-tailed Saw-wings flew overhead.

After a late breakfast we began the drive to Kakum via Accra and the coast. At a pond north of Accra we stopped and found Yellow-crowned Bishop, African Cuckoo-Hawk, African Hobby, Green-backed Heron, Malachite Kingfisher, Intermediate, Great and Little Egrets and African Jacana.

After negotiating the traffic of Accra we stopped at a lily-pond east of Cape Coast. Luckily there was a break in the (warm!) rain which had been falling steadily throughout the journey, so we were able to find Common Sandpiper, Long-tailed Cormorant, Western Reef Egret, Red-faced Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Common Moorhen, Black-rumped Waxbill, Spur-winged Lapwing, Greater Painted-Snipe, African Black Crake, Purple Swamp-hen, Grey Heron and White-faced Whistling-Duck. We arrived at Hans Cottage Botel at 5.30 pm with the rain again falling, and a welcome beer in the restaurant gave the opportunity to watch the colonies of Village and Vieillot’s Black Weavers and roost of various herons and egrets, plus a crocodile.

April 30th: Kakum.

The first stop of the day was to collect the canopy walkway key from the local village. We arrived at Kakum at 6 am, adding Little Grey Greenbul and Grey-headed Bristlebill en route to the first platform. Gabon Woodpecker (of the race lugubris which is a potential split known as Melancholy Woodpecker) and Violet-backed Hyliota were among the first birds encountered from the walkway. We settled in for an extended watch from the third platform, which affords a good panorama over the forest. A steady stream of species included African Green Pigeon, Brown-cheeked Hornbill, Golden-mantled Weaver, Cassin’s, Sabine’s and Black Spinetails, Naked-faced Barbet, Blue Cuckooshrike, Black-casqued Hornbill, Honey Buzzard (raiding a bees’ nest and dangling by its legs from a branch in the process), Sharpe’s Apalis, Yellowbill, Red-fronted Parrot, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Slender-billed and Honeyguide Greenbuls, Ussher’s Flycatcher, Green Hylia, Sabine’s Puffback and Velvet-mantled Drongo.

Eventually we moved two platforms further along to take up another vantage point. From here we added Tit-hylia, Chestnut-capped Eremomela, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, African Harrier-Hawk, Palm-nut Vulture, Least Honeyguide and Yellow-billed Turaco (heard only).

Brunch was taken in the hotel, and once again the restaurant on stilts above the lake proved to be excellent for wildlife, with Orange Weaver, Woodland Kingfisher, Lesser Striped Swallow and Nile Crocodile among the many photogenic species encountered. In the afternoon we took a walk through forest near the canopy walkway and, despite the heat and humidity meaning that it was rather quiet, we did see Ansorge’s Greenbul, Grey Longbill and White-throated Bee-eater and hear White-tailed Alethe. After a cold drink we drove to the edge of the park and walked near the village of Antwikwaa, finding Black-winged Oriole, Naked-faced Barbet, Whistling Cisticola, Ussher’s Flycatcher and Red-fronted and Grey Parrots and hearing White-spotted Flufftail. A fabulous Blue-throated Roller looked like being the star bird but was trumped at the last moment by three Black Bee-eaters – a species high on the ‘wanted list’ – which showed beautifully in the evening light and to the background noise of drumming from the village.

May 1st: Kakum and Cape Coast.

Weather: Hot and humid 32 C.

It was another early start this morning – we left the hotel at 5.30 and reached the canopy walkway at 6 am. The first Piping Hornbills of the trip and an African (or Red-chested) Goshawk were seen from the car park. Kemp’s Longbill was heard and Little Grey Greenbul was beside the track in exactly the same spot as yesterday. From the walkway we had good views of drumming Fire-bellied Woodpecker, a pair of Black-casqued Hornbills, Forest Chestnut-winged Starling, African Emerald Cuckoo, Grey Parrot and many of the species seen yesterday. A real bonus was a quick fly-past by a Long-tailed Hawk, a species which rarely ventures away from dense cover. A party of Mona Monkeys and one or two Dewinton’s Squirrels added mammal interest. On the second platform we found Least Honeyguide, Blue Cuckooshrike, Little Grey Flycatcher and heard Rufous-sided Broadbill, which we then caught up with on the adjacent forest track where we had stunning views of a displaying male that puffed out the white feathers on its back and performed short display flights, always returning to the same perch. Our purple patch was completed by a White-tailed Alethe which also showed exceptionally well beside the path as it sang.

Back at the hotel, brunch saw the usual accompaniment of raptors – African Harrier-Hawk, Hooded Vulture and Yellow-billed Kite – but a Lanner was a new bird for the trip. In the afternoon we headed to the coast, where a visit to Fosu lagoon produced a variety of herons and waders along with about 30 Little Grebes, Common Kestrel and Black and Royal Terns. A Grey Plover was found on a nearby beach.

The remainder of the day was spent at Brenu Road where we saw good numbers of Preuss’s Cliff Swallows coming into roost. A small pond on the way yielded White-rumped Swift, Mottled Spinetail, White-throated Bee-eater, Common Wattle-eye and Singing Cisticola, while in the area around the swallow site Oriole Warbler and Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike were heard and sightings of Yellow-mantled Widowbird, African Grey Hornbill, Wood Sandpiper and Double-spurred Francolin rounded off the day.

May 2nd: Kakum to Kumasi.

We returned to Antwikwaa at first light and found the Black Bee-eaters in the same place we had seen them on Wednesday. Other highlights here included a pair of Red-thighed Sparrowhawks performing around a dead tree, Swamp Palm Bulbul, a flock of more than 20 Naked-faced Barbets and calling Ahanta Francolin. Further along the track we came across a pair of White-crested Hornbills, along with Cassin’s Flycatcher and a pair of Forest Chestnut-winged Starlings, while Kemp’s Longbill, Olive-green Cameroptera and Brown Illadopsis were all heard. Back at the hotel we had a final look at the weaver colonies and Malachite, Pied and Woodland Kingfishers around the lake, while two Western Grey Plantain-eaters, Shikra and Squacco Heron were also seen.

We set off towards the rockfowl site near Assin Fosu before midday, stopping briefly to fortify ourselves with roasted plantain! After negotiating a bumpy track we received a warm welcome in the village where we picked up our two local guides. They whisked us through the steaming hot forest to a rocky outcrop where we settled down to wait. White-headed Wood-hoopoes passed by and an early rockfowl appeared at 3.40 pm. In the next hour we had good views of about five Yellow-headed Picathartes, which certainly lived up to its billing of bird of the trip. We continued, in good spirits, to Kumasi for the night.

January 19th: Bobiri, Owari.

After breakfast we revisited Bobiri forest reserve. Large trees attracted feeding flocks of malimbes, weavers and sunbirds. Pruess's Golden Weaver and Bristle-nosed Barbet were seen well. Deep in the forest we heard the distinctive calls of Long-tailed Hawk, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill and Black Cuckoo. Walking along the dusty track was an enjoyable affair with excellent views of Western Nickator and Blue-throated Brown, Superb, Collared, Olive-bellied, Olive and Fraser's Sunbirds and Black-winged Orioles. In the denser forest we enticed Blue-headed Crested Flycatchers into view. At 11am we headed back to base for lunch and went out again at 1430 to visit Owari. In took ages to pass through Kumasi with its heavy traffic and air pollution. At the entrance gate of Owari a Broad-billed Roller perched in a dead tree. We straight to the dam area and started scanning the lake. Within minutes we had located the rather scarce and localised African Finfoot. Similar birds on the lake and in lakeside trees to yesterday morning. Added bonuses were Giant and Shining Blue Kingfishers near the dam, plus the commoner herons, egrets and migrant waders from further north. Tomorrow we head north to Mole National Park and a different habitat and birds.

May 3rd: Around Kumasi.

Bobiri Forest was our first stop of the day. Just after dawn we found Black Sparrowhawk, Red-headed Malimbe, Little Green Sunbird, Slender-billed Greenbul, Black-and-white Flycatcher, Olive-bellied Sunbird and Western Black-headed Oriole around the buildings, while Afep Pigeon was heard. A walk along the track produced White-crested Hornbills, Red-billed Helmetshrike, Golden Greenbul and a superb view of a singing Narina’s Trogon.

In the afternoon we negotiated the busy streets of Kumasi on the way to a forest-fringed lake where a pair of Shining-blue Kingfishers and a Giant Kingfisher showed instantly. Purple Heron, White-rumped Swift, a dozen African Pygmy-Geese, two African Pied Hornbills and a Mona Monkey were seen while we waited for the main event. Eventually, after 90 minutes of continual scanning an African Finfoot emerged from the lakeside vegetation, but then promptly disappeared again. A pair of Hamerkops – extremely unusual here – wheeled around over our heads and then settled in the trees. Then, as dusk approached, the finfoot eventually showed well. The icing on the cake came when a second bird swam across right in front of us, half paddling and half flapping, and then settled on a log – what an end to the day.

May 4th: Kumasi to Accra.

After an early start and long drive we arrived at Shai Hills, where a new habitat of wooded savannah meant that several new species were added to the trip list in quick succession. A troop of Olive Baboons greeted us at the gate, while bird additions were Blue-bellied Roller, Northern Crombec, Northern Puffback, Senegal Batis, Croaking Cisticola, Double-toothed Barbet, Senegal Eremomela, White-shouldered Black Tit and Mottled Swift. In addition we found African Pygmy Kingfisher and had best views of the trip of Red-necked Buzzard and African Grey Hornbill.

January 23rd: Mole National Park, Kumasi, Accra road south of Kumasi.

Weather: Hot and sunny 32 C.

Today was essentially a travel day back towards Accra via Kumasi. We were due to stay in Kumasi but all hotels were full due to the African Cup of Nations football competition. Before setting off from Mole we visited an area for Greyish Eagle Owls which duly obliged. The journey south was broken up by lunch at Techiman and to obtain funds at Sekondi the latter a bustling lively town. The only new birds of note were Blue-bellied Rollers north of Techiman feeding in cashew trees. After passing through Kumasi we joined the rather busy Accra road and turned off to our hotel accommodation for the night. Tomorrow should provide us with forest birds and hopefully new species for the trip.

Following a late breakfast we headed back towards Accra and stopped at Sakumo lagoon, where water levels were high and terns were much in evidence, including perhaps 200 Black Terns and a handful each of Common, Sandwich, Royal Terns. Around the shores were Senegal Thick-knee, African Wattled Lapwing, Little Bee-eater, Zitting Cisticola, Black-winged Stilt, African Jacana and many Pied Kingfishers and herons and egrets of various species. Around mid-afternoon we stopped at the hotel for a shower and a bite to eat, and to repack the cases, and then we headed to the airport to take an evening flight bound for Amsterdam.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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