Welcome to Birdquest
Sunday 6th September - Friday 25th September 2015
MARK VAN BEIRS
We did it! All participants of our very unorthodox Congo Peafowl expedition had brilliant views of a female Congo Peafowl on the eighth day of our stay in the Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve, deep in the ‘heart of darkness’. We knew it was not going to be easy, and although the logistics went smoother than expected, the quest for the Afropavo was more difficult than most of us had anticipated.
When I was a burgeoning naturalist teenager, my father gave me a book that reviewed several of the most amazing animal discoveries of the past century. One of those was the story of how the Congo Peafowl was found and described by the American ornithologist James Chapin, who authored the four volume “The Birds of the Belgian Congo”. It related how in 1913 he came across a feather of an unknown bird in the headdress of a Congolese chief and how he, 20 years later, in the Africa Museum at Tervuren in Belgium, found two stuffed birds in a disused closet and how that led to the official description of Afropavo congensis. Not even in my wildest dreams I had thought I would ever get the opportunity to visit the remote haunts of that truly enigmatic Congo endemic. But things started to look up when, two years ago, a good friend of mine showed me an exciting bit of video of a family of Congo Peafowl taken by a camera trap set up by a famous couple of American researchers in a remote stretch of the Congolese rainforest. I showed the video to the boss and he was immediately wildly enthusiastic, so I started seriously researching the matter. Months later, another good friend got me in touch with a very efficient, Belgian, ex Bonobo researcher, who had seen the Congo Peafowl during his year studying Bonobos, really knew his way around Congo and knew how to deal with Congo’s idiosyncrasies. He convinced us we could truly set up this expedition with the help of the Africa Wildlife Foundation. So we did and the rest is glorious history.