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SÃO TOMÉ & PRINCIPE African Bird Club Fundraiser

Saturday 13th January - Saturday 20th January 2018

Mark Van Beirs

We quadrupled the number of birders who have observed the undescribed ‘Principe’ Scops Owl on this tour (Mark Van Beirs)

We quadrupled the number of birders who have observed the undescribed ‘Principe’ Scops Owl on this tour (Mark Van Beirs)

The tiny and little-known archipelago of São Tomé and Principe is Africa’s second smallest country and is positioned almost exactly on the equator in the armpit of Africa. These two islands are basically two enormous non-active shield volcanoes, which rise from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, and were formed along the Cameroon Line, a line of volcanoes extending from Mount Cameroon on the mainland via Fernando Po (Bioko) and ending in the southwest in the little–visited island of Annobon. On this tour, which was run as an African Bird Club Conservation Fund Benefit Tour, we managed to observe 25 out of the 28 endemics which live on these islands. The highlight of this short trip was without a doubt the cracking observation of the only recently discovered and as yet undescribed ‘Principe’ Scops Owl. To get to grips with this beauty we had to camp for one night in the primary rainforest in the south of Principe. Our night of camping on São Tomé gave us excellent scope studies of the rare Sao Tome Ibis and other much appreciated endemics included Sao Tome Oriole, Dohrn’s Thrush-Babbler, the very rarely-seen Principe Thrush, Giant Sunbird and the unique, aberrant Sao Tome Shorttail. Both the Principe and São Tomé forms of Malachite Kingfisher showed well and the distinctive nominate race of Chestnut-winged Starling allowed nice views. Our encounter with an impressive two metre long endemic Sao Tome Cobra was memorable. We were extremely lucky with the weather and experienced very little rain. But, we also heard very little bird song as most passerines were feeding young or attending nests, which resulted in virtually no response to playback. On the other hand we were able to admire the riot of colour exhibited by the breeding-plumaged, displaying weavers, bishops, whydahs and widowbirds.

The Critically Endangered Principe Thrush showed brilliantly (Mark Van Beirs)

The Critically Endangered Principe Thrush showed brilliantly (Mark Van Beirs)