Today we started at Brufut Woods. Surprisingly, the drive to the woods in open landrovers was quite cool and some people even experienced goose-bumps. This was not to last!
OK, we'd only been in Africa two days so there's lots of new stuff still to see. However, to experience in a very short time our first ever African Golden Orioles, Fanti Saw-wings and African Paradise Flycatcher plus good views of Beautiful and Splendid Sunbirds, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Bearded Barbet, Pearl-spotted Owlet and another Grey Kestrel, was terrific. One of those times when one does not know which way to look first. There are some birds which one expects to see but which wouldn't make it onto a most wanted list. We have found such birds are often far more enjoyable and good-looking than the guides suggest – one of these was Mottled Spinetail. The white that runs all around the rump was obvious and the bird is a very distinctive shape and surprisingly large and bulky.
We had a few minutes break as we walked along a narrow wood-surrounded path then things picked up again: a pair of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters were first, 'scoped at close range, soon followed by a Fork-tailed Drongo, Black-billed Wood-doves, Abyssinian Roller and a Pallid Swift. Birds seen feeding on the path ahead turned out to be male and female Pin-tailed Whydahs, including some fine full-tailed males. Solomon then found a cuckoo (as I said, great eyes – it was very hard to see) which turned out to be Klaas's. This was quickly followed by a skulking Grey-backed Camaroptera which most managed to see (we saw more later in the trip).
As the woods opened up a bit we came across Dark-chanting Goshawk, singing Tawny-flanked Prinia and Whistling Cisticola and a juvenille Gabar Goshawk flew overhead. A shout caused us tail-enders to hurry forward to view a Brown-backed Woodpecker after which Helen spotted a small bird on a branch which was our first Striped Kingfisher. A short walk later we saw the welcome sight of two landrovers and a cool box containing drinks. As we were enjoying a break we had to put in a bit more effort to ensure we all saw the Yellow-fronted Canary found in a nearby tree.
Next stop was a short drive away, a group of small pools and woodland where we hoped for Black Crake – the first bird we saw was Black Crake although it was not seen by everyone. We were all then distracted by a beautiful African Pygmy Kingfisher which spent time sitting near an equally beautiful Malachite Kingfisher.
Walking through the woods we picked up an African Harrier-hawk in a tree, an adult Gabar Goshawk flying through the woods, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, both Blue-spotted and Black-billed Wood-doves and Green Wood-hoopoe. Back at the pools we all managed to see the Black Crake and then admired 50+ Bronze Manakins balancing on grass stems and drinking from the poolside.
All this and we hadn't yet stopped for lunch. That was the next thing and we had food and a rest in a nice shady area. Naturally it wasn't long before we began to wander about in case there was anything about, despite being aware that the usual situation is for birds to cease being active lunchtime to late afternoon. It was a good thing we didn't really consider this since, despite the heat, we found a good patch full of birds: Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, a male and two female Northern Puffbacks, a pair of Grey Woodpeckers, a showing-well Grey-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-billed Shrike, Common Bulbul, Red-billed Firefinch, Black-necked Weavers and two African Thrushes.
After a few days up-river we were back on the coast and back at Brufut Woods. Just as we stopped a Tawny Eagle flew overhead and we heard Whistling Cisticola. The woodland birds were pretty much the same as we had had before; the highlights being Northern Puffback, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, 12 Pin-tailed Whydahs, again including some full-tailed males, a heard-only Common Nightingale, a Pearl-spotted Owlet (we actually saw six Pearl-spots here) being mobbed by African Thrushes, Senegal Eremomela and Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Blue-bellied Roller, Shikra, Violet Turaco, a Common Redstart and a Pied Hornbill.
In this area, but in an unnamed place, perhaps still part of Brufut Woods, we walked through a grassy field for no apparent reason. We found a Long-crested Eagle as it came into roost in a palm tree and saw a Grey-backed Camaroptera and Palmnut Vultures. We also heard, and finally saw, at least two Oriole Warblers, a bird we had heard before but had yet to see. Also here were Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Senegal Parrot, Tawny-flanked Prinia and Senegal Coucal and heard-only Stone Partridge.