With much rain during this year's Cameroon tour the weather was quite different from what we've become accustomed to and
it seemed as though birds in the southern forests were less responsive, perhaps having commenced breeding earlier.
Add to this the fact that our participants were banned from travelling to the Far North Province (Waza National
Park and Mora) by their respective governments due to a recent tourist-kidnapping, and the result
was a rather atypical trip. Despite this, we felt safe throughout and did exceptionally well with the
birds, seeing among the more than 550 species - all the hoped-for families of our family hunters and
almost all Cameroon Mountain Endemics.
Enthusiastic birders together with Michael Mills, leader of Birding Africa Cameroon Tour 2013.
We started in the Bamenda Highlands where noteworthy birds included perched Cameroon Olive Pigeon, a family of Banded Wattle-eye, Bannerman's Turaco and Bangwa Forest Warbler, plus Yellow-breasted Boubou, fantastic views of Grey-chested Babbler (a new family for all participants), Cameroon (Montane) Greenbul, Cameroon Sunbird, Western (Mountain) Greenbul, Mountain Robin-Chat, Redfaced Crimsonwing and Oriole Finch.
Then in the Kupe/Bakossi area successes included several noisy flocks of the charismatic White-throated Mountain Babbler, fantastic views of Green-breasted Bushshrike, repeat views of the often-missed White-tailed Warbler, Greyheaded Greenbul, Crossley's Ground Thrush (actually seen!), Alexander's Akalat (sometimes treated as a subspecies of Bocage's Akalat), Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye, Black-necked Wattle-eye, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Green Hylia, Southern Hyliota, Cameroon Olive Greenbul, excellent views of a male Buff-spotted Flufftail on its call perch at night, Tit Hylia, Woodhouse's Antpecker, Grey-headed Broadbill and Rufous-sided Broadbill displaying side-by-side, Forest Swallow and Ursula's Sunbird.
Our final destination in the southern highlands was Mount Cameroon where Little Oliveback, Brown-chested Alethe,
Mount Cameroon Speirops, amazing views of a male Red-chested Flufftail, Mountain Saw-wing
and Evergreen Forest Warbler were among the most memorable sightings. A quick visit to
the Sanaga River before flying north produced Grey Pratincole, Carmelite Sunbird,
Reichenbach's Sunbird, Hartlaub's Duck, Rufous-vented Paradise Flycatcher and a surprise
pair of Egyptian Plover that allowed close approach. The Garoua area allowed us to catch up with
some species missed by not going to Waza and Mora, such as Yellow-crowned Gonolek and
Rock-loving Cisticola and added to our lists Dorst's Cisticola, Yellow Penduline Tit and Fox
Kestrel. In the Poli area we were pleased to find the seldom-seen Chad Firefinch, the only
Dybowski's Twinspots of the trip, Fox Kestrel and our first and most cooperative Grey-headed Olivebacks.
Then at Benoue we found Oriole Warbler, Bat Hawk, White-throated Francolin, White-crested Turaco,
Red-winged Grey Warbler, Violet Turaco, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Senegal Thick-knee, Pel's Fishing Owl during the day and a superb herd of Lord Derby's Eland! The good birding continued at Ngaoundaba Ranch where highlights included
Spotted Thrush Babbler, Bamenda Apalis, mesmerising Standard-winged Nightjar in display, Brown Twinspot, Yellow-winged Pytilia, Blue-bellied Roller, Gambaga Flycatcher and Brown-rumped Bunting. The final section of the trip took us to Campo Ma'an in the southern lowlands, with Gabon Batis, White-spotted Wattle-eye and Bates's Swift seen well en route. At Campo the undoubted highlight was watching Red-headed Rockfowl around their breeding caves, but other noteworthy species included Sjostedt's Greenbul, unbeatable views of Forest Robin and a singing male Yellow-throated Cuckoo. The last new bird of the trip was the shimmering Violet-tailed Sunbird!
The top 10 birds of the trip as voted for were:
|Lord Derby Eland photographed
the 2013 Birding Africa Cameroon Tour.
10. A Cameroon Montane Greenbul (thanks Rob!) and a male Buff-spotted Flufftail watched in the spotlight beam on its call perch at Nyasoso; as well as the herd of majestic Lord Derby's Eland at Benoue.
9. The duo of Rufous-sided Broadbill and Grey-headed Broadbill watched displaying
from the same place at Mount Kupe!
8. Wonderful views of Green-breasted Bushshrike in the Bakossi Mountains.
7. Unbeatable, on-the-ground views of a male Red-chested Flufftail at Mount Cameroon.
6. Great day-time views of Pel's Fishing Owl at Benoue.
5. Several flocks of characterful White-throated Mountain Babbler in the Bakossi
4. Point-blank views of the usually-invisible Grey-chested Babbler in the Bamenda
Highlands, a new family for everyone!
3. A mesmerising display around us by Standard-winged Nightjar at Ngaoundaba Ranch.
2. A graceful pair of Egyptian Plover, very surprisingly first seen at the Sanaga River where
admired at point-blank range and seen again at Benoue.
1. The desirable Red-headed Picathartes seen at their breeding caves in Campo Ma'an.
As has now become custom our tour kicked off with the transect from Douala to the Bamenda highlands, passing initially through degraded lowland forests and then alongside the forested peaks of Mount Kupe and the Menanguba Mountains before finally climbing up into the heavily populated highlands of the Bamenda area. En route we paused for lunch with Singing Cisticola, African Grey Woodpecker, Yellowbilled Duck, a surprise Common Nightingale and the resident kumboensis subspecies of Red-rumped Swallow, but the best birds of day 1 were at Bamenda town itself where we spotted our first Fox Kestrel and White-crowned Cliff Chat and the only Neumann's Starlings of the trip.
Early the next morning we watched Cabanis's Bunting in the gardens of our well-situated lodge before climbing up to Ijum Ridge, seeing Double-spurred Francolin and African Firefinch en route. Our first stop in the forest immediately produced one of the trickiest endemics, Banded Wattle-eye, with a male, female and juvenile bird showing well. During the course of the day we worked the ridge-top forests and surrounding grasslands. The striking and Critically Endangered Bannerman's Turaco took some persuasion to show but when it finally did we all enjoyed great views. Bangwa Forest Warbler was easier than normal and sat up and sang for us. Western (Mountain) Greenbul was common and easy to see and we also saw our first Cameroon (Montane) Greenbuls. Other forest birds included bright Yellow-breasted Boubou, a surprise female Petit's Cuckooshrike (unusual at this altitude), thicket-loving Red-faced Crimsonwing, Elliot's Woodecker, snappy Black-collared Apalis, dark-headed Ruwenzori Hill Babbler, localised Bannerman's Weaver, Thick-billed Seedeater and lovely Oriole Finch. The trickiest bird of the day, however, was the scarce Cameroon Olive Pigeon; after flushed views of at least two birds we were relieved to see one perched long enough for everyone to study it in the scope. Overhead we spotted soaring Red-necked Buzzard and Lanner Falcon and a couple of Mottled Swift among the many Common Swifts. In more open areas we enjoyed good looks at Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat and Darkcapped Yellow Warbler, and nearby found Cameroon Pipit (usually treated as a subspecies of African Pipit) and Bannerman's Pipit (usually treated as a subspecies of Long-billed Pipit) in their respective habitats.
Bannerman's Turaco spotted in the Bamenda Highlands
during the 2013 Birding Africa Cameroon Tour.
It was now time to move on to the other highland areas, but not before a quick visit to Lake Awing. Here we found a pair of Blue-breasted Bee-eater at the forest edge, our first Mountain Robin-Chat and Cameroon Sunbird showed well, Greyish Eagle-Owl was seen in the distance and, best of all, an incredibly confiding Grey-chested Babbler; a new family for everyone!
Good views of the seldom seen Grey-chested Babbler - and a new family (Promeropidae) for all participants.
Arriving that evening at Nyasoso was made memorable by the mother of all storms bidding us welcome as we drove up a 'river' from Loum. We acclimatised to the forest trails and local birds with a relatively easy day up Mount Kupe and later returned for more time in this species-rich forest where the new birds just kept coming. Thereafter we turned our attention to the Bakossi Mountains. The Cameroon Mountains Endemics were our main focus. We fared well, easily seeing many noisy groups of Grey-headed Greenbul often in the company of White-throated Mountain Babbler, surely the region's most charismatic endemic, and several Green Longtail and Blackcapped Woodland Warbler. White-tailed Warbler was surprisingly easy this year, and we enjoyed at least three excellent encounters seeing both the distinctive males and females. Ursula's Sunbird also played along nicely and provided two prolonged, eye-level views in some flowering bushes. Cameroon Olive Greenbul was more challenging but gave us a couple of opportunities to see it. But best of all we were spoiled by two excellent encounters with Greenbreasted Bushshrike.
Grey-headed Broadbill seen in the Bakosi Mountain forests.
Among the other regional specialities, Grey-headed Broadbill surprised us by displaying alongside its cousin, the more widespread Rufous-sided Broadbill, giving us ample opportunity to compare the two species. Black-necked Wattle-eye was watched at eye-level. Crossley's Ground Thrush was persuaded into view after much effort. And Alexander's Akalat (usually
lumped with Bocage's Akalat) showed well. We also notched up a long list of other highlights such as: a mother and chick Scaly Francolin sitting in the track for all to admire, Cassin's Hawk-Eagle perched and in display, Buff-spotted Flufftail on its song perch watched in length in the spotlight beam, Guinea Turaco and Yellow-billed Turaco, a nice male Bar-tailed Trogon, striking Black Bee-eater, an uncharacteristically cooperative Yellow-billed Barbet, diminutive African Piculet, active Gabon Woodpecker, Tullberg's Woodpecker, dazzling Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye, brief views of Fiery-breasted Bushshrike, Bocage's Bushshrike, Pink-footed Puffback, Red-eyed Puffback, Mountain Sooty Boubou, a surprise Western (Green) Tinkerbird, rare in this region, Grey Cuckooshrike, Black-winged Oriole, Shining Drongo, Bates's Paradise Flycatcher, Western Nicator, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Green Hylia, great looks at Tit Hylia, Fan-tailed Grassbird for some, three sightings of Forest Swallow, Chattering Cisticola, Banded Prinia, Black-capped Apalis, Black-throated Apalis, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, amazingly good views of Blackcap Illadopsis,
Forest White-eye, Southern Hyliota, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, Cassin's Flycatcher, cute Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Tiny Sunbird, Preuss's Weaver, Brown-capped Weaver, popular Woodhouse's Antpecker, Pale-fronted Nigrita, Chestnut-breasted Nigrita and Western Bluebill.
Mountain Robin-Chat photographed on 2013 Birding Africa Cameroon Tour.
To complete our sweep through the highland areas we made our final assault on Mount Cameroon,
the highest peak in West Africa. Early on our walk we spotted Red-chested Goshawk displaying
in the distance but we kept on the move to make sure we reached the speirops zone before the
mists settled in. Colourful Yellow-breasted Boubou enlivened the walk, excitable White-bellied
Crested Flycatcher flitted about actively, (Cameroon) Evergreen Forest Warbler showed
exceptionally well, several pale-headed African Hill Babbler were seen, bright Black-necked
Weavers were watched in the dense tangles and Brown-chested Alethe and Mountain Robin-Chat sat in the path for us to admire at length.
The undoubted highlight of the walk up, however,
was the small numbers of Shelley's Oliveback seen at close range. As we neared the upper
treeline our first Mountain Saw-wings flitted by, but our attention was soon averted to a small flock
of Mount Cameroon Speirops feeding right beside the track. Pleased with our haul we enjoyed
our picnic lunch and then started the long walk down, pausing to look at Thick-billed Honeyguide, Redfaced
Crimsonwing and Cameroon (Montane) Greenbul on the way.
seen at close range on the way up
Mount Cameroon during a Birding Africa Tour.
Reaching the more open areas at the bottom we fairly
quickly managed to hear Red-chested Flufftail calling. On our first attempt at seeing it only some
of the group managed to glimpse the bird moving across a gap, perhaps partly due to the distraction
caused by more Mountain Sawwings feeding nearby. However, our second attempt was immeasurably more successful as
everyone clamped eyes on a striking male Red-chested Flufftail no more than ten metres away
that stayed in the open for some time. And with that it was back to the vehicles and off to Douala.
Before flying north we had time for a morning outing to the Sanaga River. Our first stop was at the
duck pond, where we enjoyed a couple of Hartlaub's Duck and watched a lovely male Carmelite
Sunbird anting (a peculiar behaviour of wiping ants through its feathers). At the Sanaga River
scanning the sandbanks produced White-crowned Lapwing that we persuaded to join us on the
road, a healthy flock of African Skimmer and several Grey Pratincole. A male Orange Weaver
displayed near us in the riverside thickets. And then one of the biggest surprises of the trip
materialised as Rob spotted an Egyptian Plover in a roadside pool, a short while later joined by a
second bird. They were clearly used to people passing by and allowed us to admire them at close
range. Before the temperatures soared too high we tore ourselves away and headed for some
nearby forests where we enjoyed good looks at Rufous-vented Paradise Flycatcher, a Yellow-browed
Camaroptera sang in the scope with its blue, inflated air sacks clearly visible, a lone
Chestnut-winged Starling flew overhead and a couple of Reichenbach's Sunbird were seen
well. Then, with a late night flight to the north ahead of us we decided to return for a relaxed
afternoon in Douala, as we had an early start the next morning.
Egyptian Plover seen at Sanaga River and again at Benoue.
With The Far North Province severed from our itinerary we took the opportunity to explore the area
north of Garoua in hope of finding some of the species that we'd have no chance of seeing
elsewhere on our circuit. Our first stop near a rocky hillside was quite birdy, large fig trees along its
base holding several noisy Rose-ringed Parakeet, shrieking pairs of Senegal Parrot and a trio of
bold barbets, White-headed Barbet, Bearded Barbet and Vieillot's Barbet. More open areas
held our first Abyssinian Roller, a welcome party of Yellow Penduline Tit, Chestnut-crowned
Sparrow Weaver and a singing Red-pate Cisticola. On the rocks themselves we enjoyed looks at
White-crowned Cliff Chat (rather distant), Stone Partridge and Rock-loving Cisticola. A little
later a walk along a wide, almost-dry river turned up some amazing views of a circling Ayres's
Hawk-Eagle (not usually seen this far north), several Little Ringed Plover, some drinking White-throated
Seedeater and a bright Northern Carmine Bee-eater. An area of thickets turned up
good views of Yellow-crowned Gonolek before we headed back to Garoua for a late lunch and
siesta, where Piapiac frequented the garden. In the late afternoon a walk along the Benoue river
added several migrant warblers to the list, plus small flocks of Black-faced Quailfinch, some low-flying
Collared Pratincoles, Senegal Thick-knee, Crested Lark, hoped-for West African
Swallow and African Pipit.
Early the next morning we made our way down the main road towards Benoue National Park,
before veering off towards Poli, an area that has now become famous in which to see the highly
localised Chad Firefinch. On arrival we wasted no time in heading for some gallery thickets where
we immediately connected with our main target. Unfortunately they disappeared into some tall
grass, but after repositioning ourselves we could watch several male and female Chad Firefinch
moving back and forth between the bushes, giving great views. From the same spot we managed
to draw in a large number of sunbirds and saw Blue-breasted Kingfisher plus two stunners in the
form of Grey-headed Oliveback, of which a pair posed in the scope while preening, and a lovely
pair of Dybowski's Twinspot. We then started our journey towards Benoue, pausing first to
admire a small group of Black-faced Firefinch and a perched Grey Kestrel, and later a couple of
Heuglin's Wheater. The clear skies were great for spotting large birds and on our route we found
a flock of circling Abdim's Stork, perched Dark Chanting Goshawk and Grasshopper Buzzard
and a very close Fox Kestrel.
We arrived at our tranquil riverside camp in Benoue well in time for some evening birding, having
seen Double-spurred Francolin and Red-throated Bee-eater en route. Everyone was impressed
with the great number of birds right on our doorstep, including large numbers of seedeaters. Nonbreeding
Black-headed Weavers were accompanied by more colourful Black-bellied Firefinch and Bar-breasted Firefinch. Sunbirds were also in evidence, and included Pygmy Sunbird, Beautiful Sunbird, Variable Sunbird and Western Violet-backed Sunbird. A couple of insectivores added to the mix such as Grey-rumped Swallow flitting up and down the river,
Senegal Batis and a busy group of Senegal Eremomela. However, it was the frugivores that were
most appreciated and included the trio of Western Grey Plaintain-eater, White-crested Turaco
and Violet Turaco. Just after sunset the sought-after Bat Hawk put in an appearance in front of
camp, making a great end to the day.
The rest of our time at Benoue was divided between riverside habitats and dry broad-leafed
Pel's Fishing Owl photographed
at Benoue by Rob Tizard
on a Birding Africa Cameroon Tour.
First we turned our attention to the riverside habitats. The denser, taller gallery forest
produced the best birds. Highlights here included a lovely pair of Oriole Warbler, some busy
parties of Red-winged Grey Warbler, skulking Blackcap Babbler that showed for everyone,
Black-billed Wood Dove, two separate sightings of calling Adamawa Turtle Dove and, best
of all, a lovely Pel's Fishing Owl perched on an open branch. Along the river banks we found
Swamp Flycatcher, some bright Black-headed Gonoleks and
a small group of Heuglin's
Masked Weaver, some males still almost in full breeding plumage. Along the river were some
active Egyptian Plovers and more White-crowned Lapwings.
After dark a small flock of Four-banded Sandgrouse came in to drink, a pair of Standard-winged Nightjar dazzled us briefly and a surprise female Pennant-winged Nightjar showed well.
By comparison the woodlands were quiet and unproductive, although we did enjoy good looks at Fine-spotted
Woodpecker and see a single Brown-backed Woodpecker, Moustached Grass Warbler, several well-showing Rufous
Cisticola, Red-winged Warbler and Yellow-bellied Hyliota. The undoubted highlight was two pairs of White-throated Francolin, which allowed great views, and a herd of majestic Lord Derby's Eland right next to the track and a first on a Birding Africa tour (and perhaps any birding tour to Cameroon).
Spotted Thrush-Babbler seen in the Ngaoundaba forests of Cameroon.
Then it was on to Ngaoundaba Ranch via Lake Dang which produced a perched pair of African Hobby and several nonbreeding Marsh Widowbird. Ngaoundaba's cooler weather was very welcome after Benoue and spurred us on to explore the ranch's gallery forests and woodlands, which turned up a long list of desirable birds. Right on top of the list were good views of Spotted Thrush Babbler, two excellent sightings of the localised Bamenda Apalis, a pair of White-spotted Flufftail that gave prolonged views (the third species of flufftail seen by everyone!), a singing Long-tailed Nightjar on top of a tree, a pair of bright Ross's
Turaco, the performance of the trip by a displaying Standard-winged Nightjar, displaying Bluebellied
Roller, close-up views of Sun Lark, satisfying views of Red-tailed Leaflove, several
White-collared Starling, some lovely Yellow-winged Pytilia that posed for the scope and a very
showy Brown-rumped Bunting. Other species included a surprise Red-thighed Sparrowhawk,
which was seen flying back and forth and may have had a nest nearby, great views of African
Scops Owl, good looks at Black-shouldered Nightjar, Black Scimitarbill, Double-toothed
Barbet, Willcock's Honeyguide, Western Black-headed Batis, Red-shouldered
Cuckooshrike, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Yellow-billed Shrike, Square-tailed Drongo,
White-shouldered Black Tit, Whistling Cisticola, Bronze-tailed Starling, Grey-winged Robin-
Chat, the uncommon Gambaga Flycatcher, Splendid Starling, Copper Sunbird, a single
scoped Red-winged Pytilia that unfortunately disappeared before everyone could see it, Brown
Twinspot and some non-breeding Cameroon Indigobird that sang and mimicked Black-bellied
Standard-winged Nightjar seen at Ngaoundaba
Heading back to Garoua, we made several stops along the way, the first along the Adamawa
Escarpment where Western Banded Snake Eagle was watched in display, good numbers of
Lesser Blue-eared Starling were conspicuous and we successfully tracked down White-bellied
Tit. At lunch we saw two Lesser Spotted Eagles soaring overhead and as we neared Garoua we
found Green Bee-eater, another group of Yellow Penduline Tit and Dorst's Cisticola.
It was finally time to head back to the humid south, with a late night flight from Garoua depositing
us in the capitol city Yaounde. We enjoyed a late breakfast before heading out towards Kribi. A
roadside stop not far from Yaounde produced excellent views of the scarce Verreaux's (Gabon)
Batis - both the male and grey-chest-banded female were seen - and close-up views of Buff-throated
Apalis. Further along the way we paused to admire Rock Pratincole along a river, flocks
of Grey Parrot, noisy White-thighed Hornbill and Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill and a small
flock of Bates's Swift flying low over the road. From Kribi we continued south to Campo Ma'am.
The roadside forest was quite productive, so it took us a while to reach our final destination. A male
Sabine's Puffback was scoped in the canopy, a pair of White-spotted Wattle-eye was, by normal
standards, easy to see, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill perched nearby, Square-tailed Saw-wing
flitted along the roadsides, Lemon-bellied Crombec was scoped where it called from the canopy
and a bright, male Cassin's Malimbe crept through some creepers.
Red-headed Picathartes (Rockfowl) seen in Campo Ma'an.
At Campo our main focus was, of course, to see the desirable Red-headed Rockfowl. After a
short and easy walk through some dense rainforest we arrived at some large rocks,
where the mud nests had clearly seen some recent repair work. One bird was there when we
arrived but slipped away without any of the group seeing it, so we settled down to wait, loud
thunder echoing through the cave as a rainstorm passed nearby. After a lengthy period
two rockfowl appeared and there were some tense moments that passed as people battled to get on to
them, but they slowly made their way closer and over more than half an hour we enjoyed
some excellent views of them bounding about across boulders and creepers, their bright blue-and-red bald heads
shimmering in the fading light. One bird also approached from behind and hissed loudly at us,
but slipped away again before we could see it.
With the main bird well seen we could now focus on some more general birding. Initially we worked
the roadside. Several Sjostedt's (Honeyguide) Greenbul were coaxed into view for superb looks,
a bright male Yellow-throated Cuckoo sat up for the scope and a pair of Yellow-crested
Woodpecker were watched in a roadside tree, although Blue Cuckooshrike and Fraser's Forest
Flycatcher only gave flight views and Gabon Coucal skulked in the roadside thicket and was not
much more than a dark shadow. Venturing into the forest under-storey we enjoyed close-up views
of Icterine Greenbul, Xavier's Greenbul, reasonable looks at Yellow-lored Bristlebill and Blue-billed
Malimbe and unbeatable views of a lovely Forest Robin. By now it was time to make our
way back towards Douala, although several stops en route (including an overnight stay at a
comfortable beach resort) produced excellent views of White-bibbed Swallow, point-blank views
of Bates's Sunbird (even the black tail could be seen), some dowdy Long-legged Pipits and as
the last new bird of the trip; four stunning Violet-tailed Sunbird around some flowers, a species
hardly ever seen on tour in Cameroon.
Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Michael
Please click for the detailed list of bird species recorded during the 2013 Birding Africa Cameroon Tour.