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FORESTS OF GHANA

Wednesday 16th April - Friday 25th April 2014

Nik Borrow

The sighting of a Yellow-headed Picathartes or White-necked Rockfowl in Ghana will be a memory to be cherished forever! (Nik Borrow)

The sighting of a Yellow-headed Picathartes or White-necked Rockfowl in Ghana will be a memory to be cherished forever! (Nik Borrow)

This was the thirteenth BirdQuest tour to Ghana, once known as the Gold Coast and situated in the very heart of West Africa. The country’s growing tourist industry has much to offer to visitors with its colourful and vibrant culture, a turbulent history and a coast lined with beautiful beaches and numerous slave forts still left standing to remind visitors of a grim past. However we were here to discover the countries avian riches and this short and sweet tour focused on a great selection of Upper Guinea forest endemic birds and one very special species in particular, the strange and bizarre Yellow-headed Picathartes or White-necked Rockfowl. This year the birds were present on our arrival and we were able to watch them for a constant 75 minutes whilst they bounced around on the rocks in front of us, visited their mud-cup nests or stood and preened. Therefore our success at seeing this often elusive and furtive creature was absolute with prolonged views of posing individuals at remarkably close range and this event was undoubtedly the highlight of the tour! Our itinerary included the savannas of Shai Hills and Winneba Plains and the forests of Kakum National Park with its famous canopy walkway, Ankasa, the butterfly sanctuary at Bobiri and the hills of the Atewa range. It was very hot and humid, as the rains had come early this year. The group’s number one bird of the trip was uncontested and was of course the bizarre Yellow-headed Picathartes (which many lists insist on naming White-necked Rockfowl despite the fact that the neck is strikingly yellow and only white in the desiccated corpses of old museum specimens!). In second place was a very recently hatched Nkulengu Rail with its parent that we found at Ankasa and in third place were the Fraser’s Eagle-Owls seen extremely well at both Kakum and Ankasa. Other popular choices included a White-spotted Flufftail that flaunted itself in front of the group at Aboabo. We watched a displaying male Black-bellied Bustard on the Winneba Plains. At Bobiri an angry Red-chested Owlet was scoped. The male Rufous-sided Broadbill twirling on his perch in the early morning at Kakum entertained and a Yellow-footed Honeyguide searching for ants, colourful Black Bee-eaters and a male Narina Trogon made up the remainder of our top ten. Other specialties recorded during the tour included Hartlaub’s Duck, Stone Partridge, Latham’s and Ahanta Francolins (both heard only), Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Red-chested Goshawk, Red-thighed and Ovambo Sparrowhawks, Violet Turaco, Black-throated Coucal, Yellow-throated Cuckoo (heard only), Fraser’s and Akun Eagle-Owls, Etchécopar’s Owlet (heard only), Brown Nightjar (heard only), Blue-bellied Roller, White-bellied Kingfisher, Forest Wood Hoopoe, Black Dwarf and Black-casqued Hornbills, Bristle-nosed and Hairy-breasted Barbets, Yellow-footed and Least Honeyguides, African Piculet, Melancholy and Fire-bellied Woodpeckers, Brown-necked Parrot, Senegal Batis, West African and Red-cheeked Wattle-eyes, Red-billed Helmet-shrike, Lowland Sooty Boubou, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Forest Penduline Tit, White-throated, Western Bearded and Yellow-bearded Greenbuls, Green-tailed and Grey-headed Bristlebills, Fanti Saw-wing, Preuss’s Cliff Swallow, Kemp’s Longbill, Sharpe’s Apalis, Rufous-winged and Puvel’s Illadopsises, Violet-backed Hyliota, Copper-tailed Starling, White-tailed Alethe, Finsch’s Flycatcher Thrush, Forest Scrub Robin (heard only), Tessmann’s Flycatcher (heard only), Ussher’s Flycatcher, Western Forest Robin, White-crowned Cliff Chat, Mangrove, Reichenbach’s, Buff-throated, Tiny and Johanna’s Sunbirds, Maxwell’s Black and Preuss’s Weavers, Red-vented Malimbe and Red-fronted Antpecker.

Black Bee-eaters can be found in the farmbush surrounding Kakum National Park. (Nik Borrow)

Black Bee-eaters can be found in the farmbush surrounding Kakum National Park. (Nik Borrow)