Martin in the Mist: First Impressions

Jul 8, 2013
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We have arrived safely in Odzala-Kokoua National Park and will be initially based at Lango Camp nestled in dense gallery forest overlooking the productive Lango Bai, bais being nutrient-rich grassy clearings interspersing the forest areas. The birding, people, and experience in West-central Africa has been pretty amazing so far. Birds found in the forest cosseting Lango have included Guinea turaco, a wealth of tinkerbirds (Yellow-throated, red-rumped), barbets (grey and streaky-throated), lowland sooty boubou, red-tailed ant-thrush, white-browed forest flycatcher, blue malkoha and the amazing violet-tailed sunbird. Lango is certainly the place if you are into greenbuls and allies with spotted, eastern bearded and swamp palm all common. Little grey, little and red-tailed greenbul and yellow-lored bristlebill were also seen. 

Amongst the vast tracts of forest, Odzala also has these moist savannah areas that have been equally amazing for birds.  What got me excited? How about the delightful orange-cheeked waxbill, sooty chat almost on every small bush, black-backed and short-winged cisticola, broad-tailed warbler (surprisingly common in rank grass areas), black-rumped buttonquail, blue-breasted bee-eater, African crake, long-legged pipit and square-tailed saw-wing (wet grassland adjoining forest).

Photography has been tough though. ISOs are pushed to the max and light (or rather lack thereof) is a constant challenge. Early morning sees the forest blanketed in mist.

Towards the end of the week, we explored some of the forested tracts within the immediate Lango area, including two separate forest pockets set amongst savannah grasslands. It was simply incredible to walk amongst towering trees with various sounds emanating all around you. Primates included grey-cheeked mangabey and putty-nosed monkey. The highlight though had to be finding a central chimpanzee, her presence betrayed by the banging of a stick (used as an tool) against a tree. We also saw sleeping platforms made by chimpanzees, some very fresh having been used from the night before. The views of the primates thus far have been rather fleeting though but incredible none the less. A family group of red river hogs was another great encounter and it was amazing to hear how noisy they feed and move in the undergrowth.

The birding continues apace too. New for the list were great views of western nicator, western oriole, white-thighed hornbill and the immense black-casqued wattled hornbill. The bizarre call of olive-green cameroptera is something to hear and speckled tinkerbird called incessantly from the forest canopy. Some time spent with a marching ant ‘carpet’ revealed white-crested hornbill and our first forest robin and red-tailed ant-thrush again.

The bai in front of Lango Camp is visited daily by forest buffalo and harnessed bushbuck. Sightings of forest elephant are also becoming more regular, albeit mostly at night so far. A morning walk through swamp forest east of Lango revealed different facets to the park’s plant life and the birding highlight had to be a displaying lyre-tailed honeyguide that generates this bizzare ‘honking’ sound with its equally bizarre tail! Sabine’s puffback, grey longbill and yellow-throated leaf love were also all new as were chattering cisticola in the grassy bai. There is also a shot of Lango Camp, my current home.


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By Martin Benadie

Martin is our birding expert and shares his wealth of avian knowledge with us, as well as tips on photography, safari optics and environmental news.

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