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ULTIMATE GHANA

Saturday 19th November - Friday 9th December 2016

Nik Borrow

The little known and rarely photographed Brown Nightjar allowed some superb and totally unprecedented views at Bobiri Forest
Reserve during this tour and was deservedly one of many trip highlights. (Nik Borrow)

The little known and rarely photographed Brown Nightjar allowed some superb and totally unprecedented views at Bobiri Forest Reserve during this tour and was deservedly one of many trip highlights. (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 ‘Ultimate’ 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. We only had to wait for 30 minutes or so before the first furtive birds hopped into view and our success with this charismatic species was total and absolute with prolonged views of at least eight posing individuals at remarkably close range and this event was voted the highlight of the tour! Our tour started with a bang at Shai Hills where we managed to see the scarce Etchécopar’s Owlet in the thickets that surround the base of the rocky outcrops frequented by White-crowned Cliff Chats and noisy Stone Partridges. Sadly the Winneba Plains have largely recently been destroyed and turned into a solar energy plant but even so we enjoyed terrific views of African Hobby here.

At Kakum National Park with its famous canopy walkway we were introduced to a mindboggling array of forest species that included Upper Guinea endemics such as Brown-cheeked Hornbill, Little Green, Fire-bellied and Melancholy Woodpeckers, West African Wattle-eye, Red-billed Helmetshrike, Sharpe’s Apalis, Copper-tailed Starling and Buff-throated Sunbird as well as some spectacular mammals with wonderful views obtained of Long-tailed Pangolin, Pel’s Anomalure and West African Potto. In the surrounding farmbush and forest we were treated to excellent views of mouth-watering species such as Ahanta Francolin, Long-tailed Hawk, Congo Serpent Eagle, Black-throated Coucal, Akun Eagle Owl and Rosy Bee-eater. Travelling westwards we paid a visit to the remnant forest at Nsuta that added the diminutive African Piculet, Kemp’s Longbill and an impressive Fraser’s Eagle Owl to the list. The coastal strip gave us Mangrove, Reichenbach’s and Carmelite Sunbirds as well as a pair of dapper White-browed Forest Flycatchers. The superb evergreen forest at Ankasa was hard work, we lost half a day through rain and frustratingly missed views of Nkulengu Rail by seconds as a pair dropped from their roost tree before we could reach them but we also had successes with great views of the Upper Guinea endemic Rufous-winged Illadopsis, a glittering White-bellied Kingfisher and some nervous Hartlaub’s Ducks. 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, two separate Rufous-rumped Larks and several Sun Larks, as well as colourful Bearded Barbets, Brown-rumped Bunting and a secretive White-throated Francolin.

Even further north we searched out Fox Kestrel, Rockloving Cisticolas and Gosling’s Buntings in the boulder-strewn Tongo Hills. Sublime Egyptian Plovers obliged along the banks of the Volta River on the borders of Togo and Burkina Faso. Here we also found the resident African form of Rufous Scrub Robin, which is sometimes considered to be a good species in its own right. Returning south we visited the butterfly sanctuary at Bobiri where both Black and Red-billed Dwarf Hornbills showed themselves well, a Red-chested Owlet glared down at us from a tangled vine and the views of Brown Nightjar could not be beaten. The threatened habitat that covers the Atewa Hills did not give up its treasures easily but the views of a stunning male Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and some beautiful Blue-moustached Bee-eaters did not disappoint. We also experienced some difficult birding in the gallery forest at Kalakpa, which was deadly quiet but most of us managed views of the ultra-skulking Capuchin Babbler. At night a male breeding plumaged Standard-winged Nightjar was a real star and we also added Blackshouldered Nightjar. The final goodie of the tour was a dapper Pied-winged Swallow on the banks of the Volta River on the way back to Accra. Amongst the many other wonderful specialties encountered during this tour were Latham’s Francolin (heard only), Spot-breasted Ibis (heard only), Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, Red-chested Goshawk, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Grey-throated Rail, Violet Turaco, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Black Spinetail, Blue-bellied Roller, Yellow-casqued Hornbill (heard only), Bristle-nosed Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Spotted Honeyguide, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Brown-necked Parrot, Senegal Batis, Dusky Crested Flycatcher, White-throated Greenbul, Green-tailed Bristlebill (heard only), Grey-headed Bristlebill, Western Bearded Greenbul, Yellow Bearded Greenbul, Fanti Saw-wing, West African Swallow, Preuss’s Cliff Swallow, Rufous Cisticola, Black-necked Cisticola, Puvel’s Illadopsis, Violet-backed Hyliota, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Finsch’s Rufous Thrush, White-tailed Alethe, Forest Scrub Robin, Little Grey Flycatcher, Ussher’s Flycatcher, White-crowned Robin Chat, Forest Robin, White-fronted Black Chat, Pygmy Sunbird, Orange Weaver, Heuglin’s Masked Weaver, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Red-vented Malimbe, Red-winged Pytilia, Black-faced Firefinch, Magpie Mannikin, Wilson’s Indigobird and Exclamatory Paradise Whydah.

The sublime Egyptian Plover seen here aggressively displaying to another individual in a territorial dispute. (Nik Borrow)

The sublime Egyptian Plover seen here aggressively displaying to another individual in a territorial dispute. (Nik Borrow)