Guinea Bissau and Casamance 2022

Mark Finn
October 31-November 11

This was our second tour to Guinea-Bissau and Casamance with a few changes made from our visit in 2021. The group had notable sightings of species which are rare in West Africa or simply have not been recorded in Guinea-Bissau before because of lack of coverage. Interesting species included Bat Hawk, Black Cuckoo, White-spotted Flufftail, White-headed Vulture, Western Banded Snake Eagle, high numbers of migrating White-throated Bee-eaters, Willcock’s Honeyguide, the rare Timneh Parrot in one of its last strongholds, near endemic Turati’s Boubou, Yellow-whiskered Bulbul, West African Swallow, the poorly known Black-backed Cisticola, Black and White Flycatcher Shrike which appears to be well out of range, Mangrove Sunbird and an extraordinary mixed colony of weavers within Cantanhez National Park. Casamance once again provided us with a good range of species which added to the tour. The following report and bird list should help relive an enjoyable tour.

My thanks go out to Hamilton and his knowledge of forest birds in Guinea-Bissau and for Sadjo in driving us around on some truly awful roads. The next visit to this unknown part of West Africa is in November 2023.

October 31st: Popenguine, Dakar, Bissau, Buba
Daily 47 New 47 Running 47
Weather: Hot and humid 36c

A change of flight time meant an earlier departure down to Bissau the main city of Guinea-Bissau. On arriving we obtained our entry visa and were met by Maria and Hamilton my contacts. In the airport buildings we found good numbers of Red-chested Swallows and Little Swifts. The road to Buba is long and rough in places which meant slow going even in a 4x4. On the outskirts of the city Blue-bellied Rollers and Hooded Vultures the latter has a high density in the country. A stop in one of the many villages added Mosque Swallow, African Palm Swift, Brown Babbler and huge colonies of Village Weavers. The road runs through several rice paddies where Northern and Black-winged Bishops, Yellow Mantled Widowbird and Pin-tailed Whydah were seen. In the fields we watched Yellow-billed Stork, Grey Heron, Great Egret and a roost of migrant Black-crowned Night Herons. In another village we were fortunate to find the rare White-headed Vulture among Hooded and African White-backed Vultures. Towards Buba the habitat changes into secondary forest where migrant White-throated Bee-eaters perched on dead trees with lesser numbers of Little Bee-eaters. Buba was eventually reached where the riverside habitats attracted Striated Heron, Whimbrel, Common Ringed Plover, Tawny-breasted Prinia, Red-billed Firefinch, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau, Bronze Mannikin and Grey-headed Sparrow.

November 1st: Buba, Cantanhez
Daily 54 New 28 Running 75
Weather: Hot and sunny 32c

At dawn we could hear Common Bulbul and Whimbrel along the driver. As we walked towards the breakfast area a Bat Hawk sailed over our heads and into cover. Also present were Black Heron, Senegal Eremomela and African Thrush in addition to the species seen on our arrival. After breakfast we joined the road towards Cantanhez with a perched Palmnut Vulture and dozens of Red-chested Swallows perched on telephone wires. A few kilometers from Buba another stop was productive for Yellow-throated Leaflove and Slender-billed Greenbuls perched on wires. In the thick cover a pair of Turati’s Boubou showed well along with a male Northern Puffback. A bonus came when a male Black and White Flycatcher flew in and perched on top of a bare tree. Also present in the area were White-throated Bee-eater, Wire-tailed Swallow, Fanti Sawwing, and Mottled Spinetail. A pair of Stone Partridge was an unexpected bonus running along the roadside edge. Checked in at Cantanhez and out again at 1630 hours to explore an area of secondary forest. It was quiet to start with but eventually the group found the uncommon Olive-bellied Sunbird, Striped Kingfisher, Glossy-backed Drongo, and calling Ahanta Francolins and Blue-breasted Kingfisher.
Mammals: Gambian Ground Squirrel (2), Slender Mongoose (1)

November 2nd: Cantanhez
Daily 59 New 29 Running 104
Weather: Hot and sunny 25c-34c

After breakfast we set off to visit a remote part of the forest which is littered with small villages and stands of natural forest. On the outskirts of the village Red-chested Swallows were perched on wires and Green-backed Camaroptera were calling from cover. The first stop down the track revealed an immature Black Cuckoo a rare bird in West Africa. In the same area we heard Ahanta Francolins and Klaas’s Cuckoo. A large tree attracted Great Blue Turaco, Blue-spotted Wood Dove and Tambourine Dove the latter being a recent colonist to the area. In the next section of forest a Western Nicator showed and in an open area Double-spurred Francolin, Copper Sunbird and best of all a singing African Moustached Warbler. A short walk away added Black-crowned Tchagra, Yellow-mantled Widowbird and Northern Puffback. In another clearing with large trees and ponds we were fortunate to locate Chimpanzees a rare resident of the forest. In the same area we found Village and Black-headed Weavers, Western Plantain-eaters, Woolly-necked Storks, African Harrier Hawk, Palm-nut Vulture and a single Pink-backed Pelican. The sea was eventually reached with the muddy margins holding Great, Little, Intermediate and Western Reef Egrets, West African Tern and Reed Cormorant. On the return journey Plain-backed Pipits were noted along with Northern Red and Yellow-crowned Bishops. The biggest surprise was to come when a White-spotted Flufftail rushed across the track before disappearing into cover. Before our afternoon tour a pair of Red-tailed Greenbuls showed well in the garden. Later in the day an exploration of degraded forest produced little of note except African Green Pigeon, European Bee-eater and Woodland Kingfisher.
Mammals: Gambian Ground Squirrel (3), Chimpanzee (1)

November 3rd: Cantanhez, Bissau
Daily 75 New 31 Running 135
Weather: Hot and sunny 36c

It was good to leave Cantanhez and bird in the forest habitats along one of the entrance roads which had large trees next to a degraded area. In the dead trees we located Lizard Buzzard and a Western Banded Snake Eagle. Also present were Splendid and Copper Sunbirds, Violet-backed and Purple Starlings and a female Cardinal Woodpecker. On entering the mature forest a pair of Blackcap Babblers showed briefly and the scarce Willcock’s Honeyguide showed well on the horizontal part of a tree. At lower levels we located Little Greenbul, heard Puvel’s Illadopsis and had stunning views of the poorly known White-browed Forest Flycatcher. Further along the track a Guinea Turaco showed briefly hopping along a tree branch. The road then entered a marshy area with long grasses which proved to be very productive for breeding birds including Village, Black-headed, Little, Grosbeak and Red-headed Weavers, Winding Cisticola, Striated Heron and Hadada Ibis. Our journey continued towards Bissau with further stops adding Shikra, Brown-throated Wattle-eye and Grey Woodpecker. The rest of the day was spent travelling on some of the worst roads in West Africa with an occasional stop. At a wetland a juvenile Martial Eagle was seen being harassed by African Wattled and Spur-winged Lapwings. The commoner egrets were seen and Short-toed Eagle and Yellow-billed Kite were added to the list. We entered Bissau the capital for a night stop and tomorrow to the islands.
Mammals: Gambian Ground Squirrel (4), Banded Mongoose (20), Chimpanzee (2)

November 4th: Bissau, Rubane Island
Daily 49 New 15 Running 150
Weather: Hot and sunny 37c

After spending the night in Bissau we made the short journey to Bissau docks for the crossing to Rubane Island. In the harbour itself we located Black-headed and Grey-hooded Gulls and a party of Whimbrel. At the outer limits of the harbour a small island is an important place for breeding birds with Pink-backed Pelican, Western Reef, Great and Little Egrets and Black Heron all being present. Once in the open ocean area we passed several boats and trawlers which appear to be abandoned or no longer in use. Beyond these several tern species were located including Caspian, West African, Sandwich and Little. Arrived at Rubane Island where the lodge and gardens are a magnet for birds and wildlife. In and around the cabins we recorded Red-chested Swallows. In the gardens a nice variety of birds which included Olive-bellied, Green-headed and Collared Sunbirds, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, calling Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds and a fly-by Blue Malkoha. Lunch at 1300 hours and out again at 1600 hours when the heat has died down. By the generators the tall trees attracted another Blue Malkoha and at least two Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers. The trail system is good on the island and we quickly located Mangrove and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds. In a tall palm we located the first Sacred Ibis of the tour. The ebbing tide had a few shorebirds from further north notably Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Sanderling, Grey Plover and Whimbrel. A juvenile African Harrier Hawk was seen exploring a dead tree for suitable prey. In the damp grasslands we heard several White-spotted Flufftails giving their distinctive hooting calls. The return walk added wintering Common Swifts and Copper Sunbirds.

November 5th: Rubane Island, Joao Viera
Daily 53 New 11 Running 161
Weather: Hot and sunny 35c

An early breakfast this morning in order to arrive at the isolated island of Joao Viera. Overnight a few of us heard the calls of African Wood Owl a scarce bird in West Africa. The journey to Joao Viera was uneventful for birds although we did come across a flock of Little Terns. On arrival we were met by the ranger and started our exploration for birds. In a few minutes I had achieved our main objective in locating the rare Timpeh Parrot of which several were in a fruiting tree with Purple and Lesser Blue-eared Starlings. Along the beach waders were busy feeding including Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Sandpiper and Senegal Thick-knees. On the forest edge a wintering Common Redstart, African Grey Woodpecker, African Green Pigeon, Senegal Parrot and a calling Dideric Cuckoo. A walk into the interior produced familiar birds of Guinea-Bissau. The beach had sightings of Eurasian Curlew, Dunlin, Osprey and a singing Brown-throated Wattle-eye. A short boat trip to a sand island revealed high numbers of Caspian, West African and Sandwich Terns. Lunch was taken with the extraordinary sight of up to fifty Palm-nut Vultures literally sitting around on rocks. In the afternoon the only birds of note were Tambourine Dove and a Red-chested Cuckoo.

November 6th: Rubane Island, Bissau, Portobello
Daily 65 New 14 Running 175
Weather: Hot and sunny 35c

Today we left the island and went back to Bissau for the night. The crossing was largely devoid of birdlife until we entered Bissau harbour where similar birds were around from a few days ago. Checked in at the hotel where Green Woodhoopoes were in the garden and showing well. Late morning the group set off to Portobello a large marsh area used for rice production and more importantly it attracts birds to the large trees. On arrival a family party of Piapiac in a palm tree and a few migrant Barn Swallow flying about. In the open waters a pair of Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Woodland and Pied Kingfishers and a calling Dideric Cuckoo. On the way to our lunch spot a pair of Mosque Swallows, Whistling Cisticola and a party of Yellow-billed Shrikes. The lunch area was next to a mangrove stand with many trees attracting Splendid, Collared, Green-headed and Beautiful Sunbirds and Yellow-fronted Canary. It was getting hot so we stayed put until 1600 hours and returned to Portobello. The birds here were good compared to the morning with sightings of Gabar Goshawk, Shikra, Purple and Broad-billed Rollers, Purple Starling, Brown Babbler, African Golden Oriole and Senegal Parrot. Out in the marsh several egret and heron species, Winding Cisticola, Yellow-crowned and Black-winged Bishops, White-faced Whistling Ducks and African Jacana.

November 7th: Bissau, Sao Domingo, Ziguinchor
Daily 58 New 9 Running 184
Weather: Hot and sunny 33c

Our last day was in Guinea-Bissau with the journey north to Casamance. The road is poor in places and goes through several small towns and passes seasonal lagoons. Birds of note included high numbers of Black Egret, African Spoonbill, herons, egrets and exceptional numbers of wintering Whimbrel. At the border we quickly passed customs and passport formalities and travelled to the hotel in Ziguinchor. The hotel is surrounded by impressive colonies of Yellow-billed Stork, Reed and White-breasted Cormorants and ever-present Yellow-billed Kites. A late lunch was taken and out again at 1630 hours to an area of rice fields and forest on the city limits. On arrival we could hear a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird calling from high in the canopy. The rice fields held many birds including Black-tailed Godwits, Striated Heron, African Sacred and Glossy Ibis, Broad-billed Roller, African Grey and Piping Hornbills, Yellow-crowned and Northern Red Bishops and Zitting Cisticola.

November 8th: Ziguinchor, Niassia, Pointe St Georges
Daily 105 New 20 Running 204
Weather: Rather cloudy and warm 30c

After breakfast I picked up supplies and headed towards Cap Skerring. Our first birding stop was the wetlands near the village of Niassia. The common wetlands species were seen including Western Marsh Harrier, Western Osprey, Gull-billed Tern and new trip birds including Goliath Heron, Giant Kingfisher and Abyssinian Roller. In a section of marsh further along the road a mixed flock of Eurasian and African Spoonbills along with many egrets and herons. Waders were plentiful and included scarcer species in Eurasian Curlew, Grey Plover and Common Redshank. The road towards Pointe St Georges can be good for birds especially the first section near the village which has large trees and areas used for food production. In the larger trees we located Piping, Western Red-billed and African Grey Hornbills, and in the smaller trees Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Striped Kingfisher, Piapiac and Glossy-backed Drongo. A pool attracted Pied Kingfishers which were nesting in a sandy bank, Green and Common Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plover and on the dirt road migrant White-throated Bee-eaters. Next was a remnant area of mature forest where we located singing Oriole Warbler, Woodland and Malachite Kingfishers, Palm-nut Vulture and overhead European Honey Buzzard and Lizard Buzzard. Further down the track a wetland held Intermediate Egret and Glossy Ibis plus a pair of Plain-backed Pipits on the track itself. Lunch was taken by the Casamance River where the group found Black, Caspian and West African Terns, Ringed Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and a pair of Wire-tailed Swallows. On the return journey further stops added Namaqua Dove, Four-banded Sandgrouse and a hunting Black-winged Kite.

November 9th: Ziguinchor, Mpak, Marsassoum
Daily 86 New 4 Running 208
Weather: Hot and sunny 36c

The cloudy conditions of yesterday afternoon had broken up to leave a hot and sunny day. I decided to take time and explore the road to Mpak which is the border point for Guinea-Bissau. Our first stop was birding down a wide track which was flanked by large trees and scrub. The first section held Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Black-necked Weaver and the first of many African Harrier Hawks. In the larger trees we were treated to close views of Guinea Turaco, Western Nicator, Collared Sunbird and displaying Broad-billed Rollers. On the main road a stop at a roadside quarry and sand pit with islands. The latter attracted White-faced Whistling Ducks and Senegal Thick-knee. Scanning the trees added Western Cattle Egret, Woodland and Pied Kingfishers, Lizard Buzzard and the commoner wetland birds. A culvert under the road was attractive to Mosque and West African Swallows which allowed close views. Our last stop of the morning was literally the last road before the border. In the skies above us Hooded Vulture, Yellow-billed Kite, African Harrier Hawks and a Gabar Goshawk. The best bird was a Violet Turaco feeding on fruits by the road. It was getting hot so I decided to return back to Ziguinchor and out again at 1400 hours. Marsassoum is connected by a new bridge and an entry road which passes through pristine forest patches. The first stop produced Brown and Blackcap Babblers, Northern Puffback, Whistling Cisticola and a perched Shikra. On the causeway the shallow waters attracted many species of terns notably Caspian, West African, Sandwich and Little. A bonus was a Slender-billed Gull among the Grey-headed Gulls. A return to the forest produced nothing new so back to Ziguinchor.

November 10th: Ziguinchor, Kabroussa, Djirombit, Pointe St Georges
Daily 95 New 9 Running 217
Weather: Hot and sunny 37c

Today we left Ziguinchor and headed towards Cape Skerring on the Atlantic coast. The usual birds were in the wetlands and forests along the way. A stop near the town of Oussoyue was good for Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau, Red-billed Firefinch and Village Indigobird, In a flowering tree Beautiful and Copper Sunbirds. I continued towards the coast and stopped near Casamance National Park which has been closed for almost thirty years. Not too much to report so we headed to Djirombit a new destination which is further east. The habitat is mainly grassland interspersed with large trees and seasonal freshwater ponds. On arrival we located Great and Intermediate Egrets, Purple Heron and a hunting Western Marsh Harrier. At lunchtime we parked on the road which dissects large areas of grass where we located the uncommon and poorly known Black-backed Cisticola and Zitting Cisticola. Also of note were Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Northern Red, Black-winged and Yellow-crowned Bishops and a flock of White-rumped Seedeaters. It was time to revisit Pointe St Georges again although it was rather hot. Despite the heat we added Crested Lark, Blue-cheeked and White-throated Bee-eaters, Barn and Wire-tailed Swallows. The heat ramped up so we retreated to a beachside bar for drinks. Offshore a steady passage of Caspian, West African, Gull-billed, Sandwich and Little Terns, Grey-hooded Gulls and the common coastal waders including a Eurasian Oystercatcher. Back to the woodland with calling Oriole Warbler and we observed Blackcap Babbler. In dense cover Jean located a Snowy-crowned Robin Chat. Time was getting on as we left the area with fantastic views of Four-banded Sandgrouse on the track.

November 11th: Ziguinchor, Mpak, Isra
Daily 69 New 5 Final 222
Weather: Hot and sunny 37c

Our last full day in Senegal was a return visit to Mpak and the border area. A walk down the track produced a pair of Olive-green Camaropteras singing and showing well in low cover. The commoner birds were observed and included unusually high numbers of African Harrier Hawks. Returned to the main highway and scanned the wetland area for birds. Basically the same species were seen from two days before with the addition of singing Puvel’s Illadopsis. On the return Lorna located a pair of African Pygmy Geese on a small pond which was a bonus for the tour. Arranged to go out again at 1630 and visit Isra which is an agricultural research centre. The grounds are generally good for birds and we recorded flocks of Bronze Mannikin, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleau and a single Lavender Waxbill. A large tree attracted several species of note including a wintering Blackcap, Northern Puffback, Brown and Blackcap Babblers, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul and the commoner species.

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