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BEST OF GHANA

Tuesday 7th March - Tuesday 21st March 2017

Nik Borrow

The magical White-necked Rockfowl aka Yellow-headed Picathartes (Nik Borrow)

The magical White-necked Rockfowl aka Yellow-headed Picathartes (Nik Borrow)

Ghana, once known as the ‘Gold Coast’ is situated in the very heart of West Africa and the country’s growing tourist industry has much to offer visitors with its colourful and vibrant culture, turbulent history and a coast lined with beautiful beaches and numerous slave forts that are still left standing to remind visitors of a grim past. However, the aim of our ‘Best of’ tour was to discover Ghana’s avian riches and our focus was on an exciting selection of Upper Guinea forest endemic birds and one very special species in particular; the strange and bizarre White-necked Rockfowl aka Yellow-headed Picathartes. Our success with this charismatic species was total and absolute with close views of at four individuals at remarkably close range and this event was voted the highlight of the tour! Our tour started at Shai Hills where, birding in the thickets that surround the base of the rocky outcrops that are frequented by colourful Bearded Barbets and White-crowned Cliff Chats we managed to hear the scarce local form of African Barred Owlet sometimes split as Etchécopar’s Owlet and see a pair of African Hobby. Sadly the Winneba Plains have recently been largely destroyed and turned into a solar energy plant but even so we enjoyed great flight views of a male Black-bellied Bustard here. Spending time at Kakum National Park with its famous canopy walkway and in the surrounding farmbush we were introduced to a mind-boggling array of forest zone species that included Upper Guinea endemics such as Fire-bellied and Melancholy Woodpeckers, West African and Red-cheeked Wattle-eyes, Sharpe’s Apalis, Ussher’s Flycatcher, Buff-throated Sunbird and Red-fronted Antpecker and other mouth-watering species such as Congo Serpent Eagle, Rosy Bee-eater, Brown, Long-tailed and Black-shouldered Nightjars, Forest Penduline Tit at its nest and Puvel’s Illadopsis as well as some mammals that included West African Potto. Rock Pratincoles and White-throated Blue Swallows showed well on the Pra River and then travelling westwards, stops along the coastal strip gave us Allen’s Gallinule, a trio of Hartlaub’s Ducks and Mangrove and Reichenbach’s Sunbirds. As usual, the superb evergreen forest at Ankasa was hard work and frustratingly we lost half a day through rain but we also had successes with views of the Upper Guinea endemic Yellow-bearded Greenbul, Red-billed Helmetshrike, Copper-tailed Starling, Finsch’s Rufous Thrush, White-tailed Alethe and Rufous-winged Illadopsis as well as White-crested Tiger Heron, Akun Eagle-Owl, Plain Nightjar, African Dwarf Kingfisher and a glittering White-bellied Kingfisher. Heading up to the north our visit to Mole National Park was a great success with close up views of the desirable Forbes’s Plover, Greater Painted-snipe, Standard-winged Nightjar, Pied-winged Swallow, several Sun Larks, Brown-rumped Bunting and some showy White-throated Francolins. Even further north we searched out Fox Kestrel, Rock-loving Cisticolas and Gosling’s Buntings in the boulder-strewn Tongo Hills. Sublime Egyptian Plovers obliged along the banks of the White Volta River on the borders of Burkina Faso and nearby we also found the resident African form of Rufous Scrub Robin, which is sometimes considered to be a good species in its own right. At Tono Dam a Yellow Penduline Tit was a great find. Returning south we visited the butterfly sanctuary at Bobiri where both Black and Red-billed Dwarf Hornbills and a pair of Forest Wood Hoopoe showed themselves well, an impressive Fraser’s Eagle Owl glared down at us from the canopy and the views of the second perched Brown Nightjar of the trip were superb! Amongst the many other wonderful specialties encountered during this tour were Stone Partridge, Latham’s Francolin (heard only), Ahanta Francolin (heard only), Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, Red-chested Goshawk, Nkulengu Rail (heard only), Violet Turaco, Black-throated Coucal (heard only), Black Spinetail, Blue-bellied Roller, Bristle-nosed Barbet, Hairy-breasted and ‘Western’ Yellow-billed Barbets, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Little Green Woodpecker (heard only), Senegal Batis, Lowland Sooty Boubou, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Dusky Crested Flycatcher, Green-tailed and Grey-headed Bristlebills, Western Bearded Greenbul, West African Swallow, Preuss’s Cliff Swallow, Kemp’s Longbill (heard only), Rufous Cisticola, Black-backed Cisticola, Oriole Warbler, Violet-backed Hyliota, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Little Grey Flycatcher, White-crowned Robin-Chat, Forest Robin, White-fronted Black Chat, Pygmy Sunbird, Orange Weaver, Maxwell’s Black Weaver and Black-faced Firefinch.

A very showy Plain Nightjar (Nik Borrow)

A very showy Plain Nightjar (Nik Borrow)