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Thursday 23rd July - Saturday 15th August 2009

Nik Borrow

Birdquest first visited Gabon in 1995 and this was our eleventh tour to the country and our twelfth visit to the far-flung islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. Of the 416 species of birds recorded this tour, 399 were seen, we also recorded 27 mammals. Bad weather and flight cancellations on the islands caused us problems but we managed to see most of the generally accepted endemic species on São Tomé and Príncipe and these included marvellous views of rarities such as Dwarf Olive Ibis, São Tomé Short-tail, the superb Giant Sunbird and even the heavyweight São Tomé Grosbeak!

During our time in Gabon, we were fortunate to see many of the most spectacular of all Western African birds and although some of the more expected species were missed, other unexpected things were seen! A new species for the country was recorded in the form of an immature Ovambo Sparrowhawk at la Lopé. Mammals were impressive with a jaw-dropping sighting of a Leopard bounding along the road and several encounters with Red River Hogs and Chimpanzees as well as the impish Black Colobus, delightful Elegant Needle-clawed Galago, Potto and the forest forms of African Elephant and African Buffalo. Special mention should be given to a very showy Dja River Warbler, a male Bare-cheeked Trogon with colours that had to be seen to be believed, Black and Plumed Guineafowls during the same morning, excellent encounters with Blue-headed, Black-headed and Rosy Bee-eaters, daylight sightings of Red-chested and Sjöstedt’s Owlets and São Tomé Scops Owl, a Madeiran Storm-petrel that chose to fly into our camp on São Tomé at night and the rare Loango Weaver.

Other specialities included Hartlaub’s Duck, Latham’s Forest and Finsch’s Francolins, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Barrow’s Bustard, Grey Pratincole, Forbes’s Plover, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Akun Eagle Owl, Bates’s Nightjar, Bates’s Swift, Black Dwarf Hornbill, Bristle-nosed Barbet, Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, African Piculet, Grey-headed Broadbill, Malbrant’s (split from Rufous-naped) Lark, Red-throated Cliff Swallow, Long-legged and Short-tailed Pipits, Sjöstedt’s Honeyguide, Yellow-necked, Xavier’s and White-throated Greenbuls, Black-collared Bulbul, Yellow-throated Nicator, Congo Moor Chat, Dambo and ‘Teke’ Cisticolas, Gosling’s Apalis, Salvadori’s Eremomela, Red-capped Crombec, Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Rufous-vented and Bates’s Paradise Flycatchers, White-spotted Wattle-eye, Angola and West African Batises, Forest Penduline Tit, Reichenbach’s Sunbird, Forest White-eye, Sousa’s Shrike, Fiery-breasted and Perrin’s Bush-shrikes, Sooty Boubou, Rufous-bellied Helmet-shrike, Black-chinned and Preuss’s Golden-backed Weavers, Cassin’s, Rachel’s and Red-bellied Malimbes, Woodhouse’s Antpecker, Black-bellied Seedcracker, Black-headed Waxbill, Locust Finch, Black-chinned Quailfinch, Magpie Mannikin and Black-faced Canary to name but a few.