Water Thick-knee Burhinus vermiculatus, Cotonou, western harbour, southern Benin, 5 June 2011
Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis Cotonou, western harbour, southern Benin, 17 October 2011
Ship-assisted Indian House Crow Corvus splendens Cotonou, western harbour, southern Benin, 06 April 2011
Grey Pratincole Glareola cinerea Cotonou, western harbour, southern Benin, 25 September 2010
The following records are largely unconfirmed and were published for interest only in the Recent Reports section of the Bulletin of African Bird Club (Bull. ABC).
from ABC Bulletin 23.1
The following records are based on nearly three months spent in the field between late August and mid- December 2015. On an island of mangroves in the Mono River at Avlo, near Bouche-du-Roy, local protection of roosting birds led to six species now breeding: Long-tailed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca, Western Reef Egret E. gularis, Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia and African Openbill Stork Anastomus lamelligerus (October). Intermediate Egret is not known to breed on the West African coast any nearer than Guinea-Bissau, and this is the first confirmation of coastal breeding for Openbill Stork; by 31 October it was estimated that >15 pairs of Openbills were breeding, with at least one still incubating, while others had young of different sizes. In Pendjari National Park (=NP), a nest of Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis contained two small young on 28 November; two African Spoonbills Platalea alba at a pan on the same date represent the first record for Benin. New localities for Red-chested Flufftail Sarothrura rufa (only discovered in March 2015, cf. Bull. ABC 22: 236) include Lake Toho near Lokossa, Bassila and Nikki dams (which have permanent water), while a male was singing persistently at Plaine du Sô on 4 October. Stripe-breasted Flufftail S. boehmi, already known from several localities in the north-west, was heard in a grassy hollow in the Pendjari, a first for the park. An African Finfoot Podica senegalensis with a small chick was observed in the Mékrou River west of Kérou on 9 September. Savile’s Bustard Lophotis savilei was frequently singing in the rains and was identified not only in ‘W’ NP, but in any dense bush throughout the north-east, from Guéné to Karimama and Loumbou- Loumbou, reaching its southern limit south of Banikoara at 11°13’N. A Grey Pratincole Glareola cinerea, a rare vagrant to Benin, was at Nikki dam on 25 September. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, seldom reported, was at Bouche-du-Roy on 31 October. A begging juvenile African Cuckoo Cuculus gularis was attended by a group of Yellow-billed Shrikes Corvinella corvina in farmland near Gogounou on 29 August. The range of Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus was extended north to Affon, on the Ouémé River, while a vagrant was singing on the Alibori River in ‘W’ NP on 5–6 September. An immature Pel’s Fishing Owl Scotopelia peli was calling at Chutes de Koudou, ‘W’ NP, on 17–18 November, confirming the species’ presence in the park. An African Barred Owlet Glaucidium capense was heard in forest in Pénessoulou Forest Reserve on 13–14 October, a first for Benin. A Finsch’s Flycatcher Thrush Stizorhina finschi was calling in swamp forest on the Iguidi River, south of Pobè, on 11 December; this is only the second locality for Benin. A Heuglin’s Wheatear Oenanthe heuglini was in a burnt boval in ‘W’ NP on 16 November (a first for the park), while several were singing and defending territories in burnt plains in Pendjari NP later that month. Singing Olivaceous Warblers Iduna pallida or opaca were discovered in the far north-east, in riparian vegetation on the Sota River near Malanville and on the Niger near Karimama at Bello Tounga, as early as August–September, but their specific identity was not confirmed. The area was invaded by undoubted Western Olivaceous Warblers I. opaca in mid/late November. Moltoni’s Warbler Sylvia (cantillans) subalpina was identified (and photographed) in the far north-east at Kandi, Kargui and Karimama (Bello Tounga) on 18–21 November, with singing individuals producing the characteristic rattle call—this is another new species for Benin. A singing Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita was watched at close range at Mare Yangouali, Pendjari NP, on 29 November—yet another new species for the country. A group of Capuchin Babblers Phyllanthus atripennis was located in thickets along the Ouémé River west of Savé on 9 December; this is just the second locality for Benin. A Sahel Paradise Whydah Vidua orientalis, a species with a very limited distribution in the far north-east, was displaying at Point Triple, ‘W’ NP (next to several Exclamatory Paradise Whydahs V. interjecta), on 16–17 November. Barka Indigobirds V. larvaticola were located at several new sites, from ‘W’ NP (Point Triple) south to Bétérou, and Wilson’s Indigobirds V. wilsoni at c.10 new sites, being especially common south of 9°N, but also found north to 10–11°N (Oli and Mékrou rivers).
Noteworthy records of migrants include the following. Passage of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster started as early as 6 September (‘W’ NP and surroundings) and continued until the end of October, all the way to the coast. White-throated Bee-eaters M. albicollis crossed the country throughout November, whilst African Grey Hornbills Tockus nasutus were still returning in numbers in mid November (e.g. 43 flying south at Alibori on 14 November). Thousands of Common House Martins Delichon urbicum appeared over water on 10 November (Ndali to Nikki). The first Whinchats Saxicola rubetra were noted on 22 September in Pendjari NP (two), Common Redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus on 13 November on the Alibori River at Alibori (several), the first Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus on 29 September at Bétérou, the first Garden Warbler Sylvia borin on the exceptionally early date of 6 September on the Alibori River, ‘W’ NP, while small groups of Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus appeared in ‘W’ NP on 5–6 September, and the first Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca on 24 September at Béléfoungou. Great Reed Warblers occurred in substantial numbers in some damp sites in the north in November, e.g. in green thickets on the Sota River near Malanville and in the marsh below Tanguiéta dam. Common Nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos also appeared to have autumn quarters in the north, with many singing on the Sota River near Malanville, on the Alibori River at Alibori and in ‘W’ NP, in November.
Additional records from late 2015 include the following. On 9–11 November, large mixed flocks of Alpine Swifts Tachymarptis melba and Mottled Swifts T. aequatorialis passed the north-western town of Cobly, Atacora. A Greater Blue-eared Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus was photographed in a garden in Cobly on 25 November; this is the first confirmed record for the country, earlier records now being considered very doubtful. A male Cut-throat Finch Amadina fasciata was observed at Yangou, north-west of Cobly, on 29 November. Finally, a group of >25 Anambra Waxbills Estrilda poliopareia, including at least two juveniles, was observed and tape recorded (http://www.xeno-canto. org/species/Estrilda-poliopareia) at the now well-known site near Sô-Ava in Plaine du Sô on 31 October.
from ABC Bulletin 22.2
Nearly three months of field work covering most of the country from the coast to the north-east (but not the north-west), in March - May 2015, produced the following records of interest. White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus was observed in ‘W’ National Park (=NP; Mékrou River), Alibori River (Alibori) and Ouémé River (Bétékoukou), all range extensions from Pendjari NP, where the species was found in 2010 (Bull. ABC 17: 240). Red-chested Flufftail Sarothrura rufa was heard (territorial song kuah-kuah-kuah...) and reacted to playback in three permanent marshes, near Aplahoué (Gbakpodji), Monoto (lower Mono River) and Okpara Dam (Parakou); this is a new species for the country. An African Finfoot Podica senegalensis was seen feeding on dry land, under riparian thickets, next to the nearly dry Alibori River in ‘W’ NP (16 May). In the same park, Savile’s Bustards Lophotis savilei were observed (15 - 16 May); there is only one previous Benin record (Bull. ABC 18: 150), but they appear common at this site. A pair of Rock Pratincoles Glareola nuchalis was seen on the Ouémé River (Bétékoukou, 25 March) for the first time. Guineo- Congolian forest remnants in Pénessoulou Forest Reserve (=FR), at 09°15’N, apparently hold the northernmost populations of several forest species, including Ahanta Francolin Pternistis ahantensis, Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster, Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus, Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis, Baumann’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni, Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapillus, Western Nicator Nicator chloris, Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax and Puvel’s Illadopsis Illadopsis puveli. Mottled Swifts Tachymarptis aequatorialis migrated over Kouandé hill late on 10 May, still calling into the night. A Standard-winged Nightjar Caprimulgus longipennis was still in full display in ‘W’ NP on 16 - 17 May. Plain Nightjars C. inornatus were still singing in the north-east (Gbérouboué, Sota FR and ‘W’NP) on 16 - 21 May. White-throated Bee-eaters Merops albicollis started crossing the north-east in mid May, including many feeding in ‘W’ NP after the first rains on 16 May. A Wahlberg’s Honeybird Prodotiscus regulus watched at close range in short-stature woodland in Sota FR (10°59’N) on 21 May represents another first for the country. A Least Honeyguide Indicator exilis was sound-recorded in Lama FR on 24 May, confirming previous observations from Lama and Niaouli FR. The poorly known Golden-tailed Woodpecker Campethera abingoni was heard on the upper Mékrou at Gbéba and upper Alibori near Tobré, both north of 10°N. Sun Lark Galerida modesta was found in short grassland on Banté hill, apparently at its southern range limit. Several Fanti Saw-wings Psalidoprocne obscura were prospecting potential nest sites in low cliffs of red earth in Sota FR on 20 - 21 May. Leaflove Phyllastrephus scandens seems to reach its northern limit on the upper Mékrou at Gbéba, at 10°15’N, and Tropical Boubou Laniarius aethiopicus on the Bouli River, in Trois Rivières FR, at 10°26’N. Baumann’s Greenbul, first discovered in 2009 at Lama FR, was found to be widespread, including on the Ouémé River (Bétékoukou), Okpara River (on the Nigerian border) north and south of 8°N, and in Bassila FR, north to Pénessoulou. Rufous Scrub Robins Cercotrichas galactotes were in full song in dry thickets in ‘W’ NP on 15 - 16 May. Dorst’s Cisticola Cisticola guinea was located only in Sota FR (10°59’N) on 21 May, whereas Rufous Cisticola C. rufus was widespread in woodland, from Monts Kouffé and the Okpara River, north of 8°N, to Sota FR at 11°04’N. Rock-loving Cisticola C. aberrans appears to reach its southern range limit on Savalou hill. An Ashy Flycatcher Muscicapa caerulescens was singing as far north as the Bouli River (10°26’N, Trois Rivières FR), on 22–23 May, whilst a White-browed Forest Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens was found in riparian forest on 11 April on the Okpara River at Igbodja - only its second locality in Benin. A group of Capuchin Babblers Phyllanthus atripennis was observed in Ouémé- Boukou FR, Bétékoukou, on 26 March - yet another first for the country. Yellow Penduline Tit Anthoscopus parvulus was found to be locally common in woodland, from Toui-Kilibo FR north to Sota FR, being especially numerous in Ouémé Supérieur FR (Affon). Brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus was discovered inland on rivers, including the Okpara (at Igbodja) and the Ouémé (at Bétérou), feeding on nectar of Syzygium guineense flowers. Brown-rumped Bunting Emberiza affinis was found only in the far north, e.g. in Sota FR and ‘W’ NP, where it was common.
The most noteworthy Palearctic species included a late Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus on the Alibori River (at Alibori) on 19 May; an immature Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus in ‘W’ NP on 16 May; a heavy passage of Red-footed Falcons Falco verspertinus near Djougou, Kopargo, on 10 May, with c.80 feeding on flying ants, and north of Péhonko on 12 May, where c.100 flew west-northwest, with a few also near Kouandé on 11 May; three single Common Cuckoos Cuculus canorus during 22 March - 14 April; c.50 Pallid Swifts Apus pallidus at Togbin, on the coast, on 9 March, with a few over Banté on 28 March; Common Swifts A. apus still passing in large numbers between Savalou and Kouandé on 10 May, and in smaller numbers later in the north, until at least 23 May (two over the Bouli River); a heavy passage of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster throughout the centre-north from March until 19 April; a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater M. persicus at Bétékoukou on 26 March; a late Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (female, apparently thunbergi) on the Alibori River, in‘W’ NP, on 16 May; a late Whinchat Saxicola rubetra near Kouandé on 11 May; a late Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus on the Sota River on 20 May; several Melodious Warblers Hippolais polyglotta (some calling, none singing) on 11 - 12 May near Kouandé and Gbéba (upper Mékrou), and one on the Alibori River on 19 May; and several late Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata on 10 - 11 May, from Kopargo to Kouandé.
from ABC Bulletin 22.1
In the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé, a Marsh Owl Asio capensis and at least five singing Little Rush Warblers Bradypterus baboecala were observed on 30 November 2014; both species have been recorded at this site before and are probably regular there.
from ABC Bulletin 21.1
Two Lesser Moorhens Gallinula angulata were observed at Mare Bali in Pendjari National Park on 29 June 2013.
from ABC Bulletin 20.2
The following records are from December 2012 to early June 2013. During an offshore fishing trip on 4 June, a single Brown Booby Sula leucogaster was observed around abandoned oil platforms c. 10 km off the coast. An adult European Hobby Falco subbuteo, a species seldom recorded in the south of the country, was seen in a small forest near Zinvié on 18 December.
In the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l'Ouémé, several Great Snipes Gallinago media were regularly seen in the inundated fields (up to seven together on 12 January), with a noteworthy flock of 360 Common Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula also there on 9 December. A Marsh Owl Asio capensis and a non-breeding male Cuckoo Finch Anomalospiza imberbis, first encountered on 1 December were seen again on 9 December. At least two pairs of Greater Swamp Warblers Acrocephalus rufescens were also heard and photographed and two Black-bellied Seedcrackers Pyrenestes ostrinus were observed on 24 December.
At Bouches du Roy, at the mouth of the Mono River, two Long-legged Pipits Anthus pallidiventris were photographed on 26 - 27 January; this constitutes the second record for the country. On 17 May, 17 Damara Terns Sternula balaenarum were seen at the same site. On 12 January, the largest known congregation of Anambra Waxbills Estrilda poliopareia was also found in the area, with a flock of at least 100 birds, mixed with Bronze Lonchura cucullata and Black-and-white Mannikins L. bicolor; the species was tape-recorded for the first time and more photographs were obtained. In a small privately owned forest in Abomey-Calavi, only a few kilometres from Cotonou, two singing male Black-shouldered Nightjars Caprimulgus (pectoralis) nigriscapularis and a noisy group of four Leafloves Pyrrhurus scandens was observed on 3 January 2012, like the year before.
from ABC Bulletin 20.1
The following records are from June - December 2012, with a few from earlier in the year. Three species have been added to the country’s list: Wilson’s Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus, with at least three photographed during a pelagic trip c.20 km off Cotonou on 16 September; Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, with up to six photographed on ‘l’Île aux Oiseaux’ on the Niger River, in the extreme north, on 1 March; and Little Rush Warbler Bradypterus baboecala, with up to 12 singing in the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé, in December. Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis, a species awaiting confirmation for the country, was also photographed on ‘l’Île aux Oiseaux’ on 1 March, with another observed in the south on a pool along the Zou River on 28 June.
A pale-morph Wahlberg’s Eagle Hieraaetus wahlbergi, an inadequately known species in Benin, was mobbed by a Pied Crow Corvus albus over Cobly on 9 Sepember. Single White-throated Francolins Peliperdix albogularis were calling at Nanakade, east of Cobly, on 7 July and at Yangou, north-west of Cobly, on 21 July. A Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata was calling from a flooded plain north of Tanguiéta on 19 August. North of Porto Novo, a pair of Egyptian Plovers Pluvianus aegyptius was noted by the roadside north of Affamè, near the Ouémé River, on 23 May.
Among unusually large numbers of Sanderlings Calidris alba at Cotonou in September (with groups of up to 200), two individuals that had been colour-ringed in Ghana up to two years earlier were observed. At Togbin, c.10 km west of Cotonou, five Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus flew west along the beach on 25 November. Single Damara Terns Sternula balanearum headed west off Cotonou on 30 June and 11 September; a group of >60 was reported from the ‘Bouche du Roy’ on 14 October, among Royal Thalasseus maximus and Sandwich Terns T. sandvicensis.
In the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé, six Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea and a Little Stint C. minuta were noted on 15 December, with a Marsh Owl Asio capensis and a Parasitic Weaver Anomalospiza imberbis also there on 1 December.
Two Bronze-winged Coursers Rhinoptilus chalcopterus were observed near Sini, Atacora region, on 29 December. A juvenile Jacobin Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus was being fed by a Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus at Datori, west of Cobly, on 5 August; this appears to be the first breeding record of the species for Benin. Near Bantè, in the central Département des Collines, three Piping Hornbills Bycanistes fistulator were observed in a degraded riverine forest on 13 June; the species is seldom recorded outside protected forest sites. In the adjacent wooded savanna White-breasted Cuckooshrike Coracina pectoralis and Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster were seen. Black-backed Cisticolas Cisticola eximius were identified in floodplains south of Cobly on 29 July, 12 August and 1 September, and north of Tanguiéta on 19 August. More records of Zebra Waxbill Amandava subflava and Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia were reported from Sô-Ava with 15 and six individuals, respectively, on 3 June. On 20 September, adult and juvenile Wilson’s Indigobirds Vidua wilsoni were photographed at Abomey-Calavi, near Cotonou, next to their host, Bar-breasted Firefinch Lagonosticta rufopicta.
from ABC Bulletin 19.2
Records from the period November 2011 - May 2012 include the following. In the north, a late male Garganey Anas querquedula was observed on Djougou Lake on 13 March and a male Common Teal A. crecca on Mare Fogou, in Pendjari National Park, on 14 March; the latter represents confirmation of the species for the country’s list, as previous claims have been rejected. Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio madagascarensis, for which there are few confirmed records, was seen regularly in March - May on three Typha-bordered ponds in or around Cotonou, where two large chicks with two adults on 30 March confirmed breeding. Two Rock Pratincoles Glareola nuchalis were incubating two eggs on an isolated rock in the Mono River near the Chutes d’Adjarala, on the south-west border with Togo, on 24 March; two birds were seen there again on 29 April.
Cotonou harbour, visited on a weekly basis during the period, produced waders seldom reported previously, such as Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres and Red Knot Calidris canutus. Late records include two Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus migrating west on 18 April, a Ruddy Turnstone in full breeding dress on 1 May, a Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola on 5 May, four Common Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula until 13 May, four Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola until 27 May and a few late Sanderlings Calidris alba, with ten until 14 May and one still present on 27 May. A Great Snipe Gallinago media was photographed at Sô-Ava on 22 January and two were seen at Djeregbé, c.06°25’N 02°38’E, on 1 April. The second record of Slender-billed Gull Larus genei for the country was an adult at Bouches du Roy, east of Grand-Popo, on 12 December, at exactly at the same place where one was found a year previously. In Cotonou, an immature Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus was reported on 13 November. An aggregation of c.200 Black Terns Chlidonias niger was observed in front of the Hôtel du Lac, Cotonou, on 10 April, with numbers progressively decreasing in the following days until the 16th.
At Grand-Popo, a Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius was seen on 31 December. In Abomey-Calavi, in a small privately owned forest near Cotonou, two singing males and a female Black-shouldered Nightjar Caprimulgus nigriscapularis were observed on 24 January, with a noisy group of four Leafloves Pyrrhurus scandens also there. Two White-rumped Swifts Apus caffer were seen near Dassa on 12 March and a European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur in Pendjari National Park on 14 March. An Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssinicus observed on 1 May in Cotonou may represent the first coastal record.
A brief visit to Niaouli Forest on 17 May produced a male Narina’s Trogon Apaloderma narina, a Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis, several singing Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds Pogoniulus subsulphureus, 1–2 pairs of Black-winged Orioles Oriolus nigripennis, a pair of Forest Chestnut-winged Starlings Onychognathus fulgidus and a female Thick-billed Weaver Amblyospiza albifrons. In the Lower Ouémé River basin, Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus scutatus was seen at Azowlissé on 23 February, and near Djérégbé on 6 May.
A flock of c.50–60 Anambra Waxbills Estrilda poliopareia, including at least three individuals with dark bills presumed to be juveniles, was encountered at Sô-Ava on 22 January; this is the largest flock recorded for the species. Zebra Waxbill Amandava subflava was noted for the first time in Cotonou, with six birds in the western harbour area on 2 March, and was encountered more regularly at Sô-Ava, north of Nokoué Lake, in May - early June.
Over the period extending from June 2011 to November 2011, the following noteworthy records are reported from southern Benin.
Cotonou harbour (c. 06°21’N 002°25’E) was again a very productive hotspot with interesting records. Damara Tern Sterna balanearum, a near-threatened species breeding on the south-western African coasts (Namibia, Angola and South-Africa) was noted at sea on 30 August, 5 and 8 September with respectively 2, 1 and 2 birds migrating eastwards. Several Caspian Terns Sterna caspia, usually an uncommon species in the south, were seen in Cotonou and neighbouring lagoon west of the city on 29 October, 13 and 20 November with respectively 1, 1 and 2 birds. Many Black Terns Chlidonias niger were present in Cotonou in late August, with a maximum of at least 242 individuals counted above the ‘old bridge’ just in front of Hotel du Lac (06°21'27''N 02°26'42''E), while entering the Nokoué Lake at high tide. Good numbers of waders were encountered on beaches and mudflats of the harbour during the migration months with three new records of Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres (discovered in Benin only in 2010) and large groups of Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (up to 50 on 14 November) and Sanderling Calidris alba (up to 81 on 25 October). Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, a species awaiting confirmation in the country, was seen and photographed on two occasions with one juvenile on 17 September and subsequently three adults on 17-21 October together with a Little Stint Calidris alpina and a Redshank Tringa totanus, both seldom recorded in the country. The highlight of the period is doubtless the exciting discovery of two Buff-breasted Sandpipers Tryngites subruficollis found in Cotonou harbour on 16 October 2011 by Wouter Plomp and photographed by Bruno Portier the next day. One bird was still present on 20 October. This near-threatened nearctic vagrant is new to Benin and this finding has to be considered in the context of a massive influx of American vagrants in Europe in fall 2011, among which a remarkable flock of 23 Buff-breasted Sandpipers seen together on 25 September 2011 in Tacumshin, County Wexford, Ireland, is the largest ever congregation of this species in the Western Palaearctic Region (Source: Rare Bird Alert – UK and http://www.netfugl.dk).
Water Thick-knees Burhinus vermiculatus, first discovered in the country in May 2011, were seen again regularly in Cotonou harbour, with up to 8 birds on 26 October and some young (immature) birds photographed on 30 August and 26 October, bringing breeding proof for the species.
Just outside Cotonou, another addition to the country list was the Swamp Nightjar Caprimulgus natalensis with one adult female flushed from Paspalum vaginatum wet grassland in the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé on 19 June 2011 (06°29'34''N 02°23'31''E).
In the “Département des Collines” in the centre of the country, several African Rock Martins Hirundo fuligula were seen on escarpments of Kpataba cliff (c. 08°04’N 01°58’E) and Dassa-Zoumè (c. 07°47’N 02°11’E) with respectively 6 on 7 June and 8 on 28 October. On top of Dassa-Zoumè hill, a pair of White-crowned Mocking Chat Myrmecocichla cinnamomeiventris coronata was also seen on 28 October.
Other noteworthy records include an interesting flock of c. 30 Zebra Waxbills Amandava subflava in Sô-Ava on 19 June 2011 (06°29'34''N 02°23'31''E). Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia, a near-threatened species discovered in the country in August 2010, was found near Zinvié, an additional locality for this species in the Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé, with 6 birds seen on 9 October 2011.
Records from the period November 2010 to May 2011 are as follows. At least 40 - 50 Black Herons Egretta ardesiaca occurred at Ganvié on 22 - 23 November. On a small pond surrounded by dense Typha beds in the suburbs of Cotonou, an adult Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio feeding two large chicks was seen on 30 January; this appears to be the first certain record for the country as the species has been widely confused with Allen's Gallinule Porphyrula alleni in the past. One or two Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis and up to 1,200 White-faced Whistling Ducks Dendocygna viduata were also present. A Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta was photographed at Bouche du Roy, east of Grand Popo, on 12 November. A pair of Water Thick-knees Burhinus vermiculatus, well seen in low vegetation behind the beach at Cotonou on 8 May, with several other thick-knees, probably all of this species, calling at night during the same month, constitutes the first record for Benin. A calling Forbes's Plover Charadrius forbesi flew over Houndodji lagoon near Togbin, c.12 km west of Cotonou, on 28 November. An American / Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva / dominica was foraging with two Grey Plovers P. squatarola at Bouche du Roy on 12 November; it was first seen from a dugout, but unfortunately could not be found again when the observer went ashore. A pair of Lesser Black-winged (=Senegal) Lapwings Vanellus lugubris north of Ganvié on 22 November would be an addition to the Benin list.
In the vicinity of Cotonou harbour, two adult Red Knots Calidris canutus were seen on 30 November; this appears to be the first country record. Subsequently, a first-winter was seen at the same site from 27 April to 5 May. In the same area, a Little Stint C. minuta was seen on 14 November and a Common Redshank Tringa totanus on 21 - 26 November. A Dunlin C. alpina was at Bouche du Roy on 12 November; there are very few records from Benin. Great Snipes Gallinago media were found in Pendjari National Park on 19 November (one), Plaine du Sô on 10 January (one) and near Domè (c.07°03'N 002°19'E) on 17 April (two). An adult Slender-billed Gull Larus genei photographed at Bouche du Roy on 12 November is a first for Benin. At Cotonou, two immature Lesser Black-backed Gulls L. fuscus were seen on 30 November and 1 December, with a second-calendar year there on 9 May. An African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris was in front of the Hotel du Lac, at Nokoué Lake, on 4 May, while on the same day an Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea moulting from first-winter plumage, rested for a few hours on the beach west of the harbour. A late Arctic Tern, an adult in full breeding dress, flew west on 22 May. Four Damara Terns S. balaenarum were photographed at Bouche du Roy on 12 November.
A Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti was seen again in Gbadagba Game Ranch on 15 April (c.07°36'N 001°58'E) where it was found in April 2009; the species was also heard in the Domè area (c.07°03'N 02°19'E) on 17 April. Four Pallid Swifts Apus pallidus with Little Swifts A. affinis and African Palm Swifts Cypsiurus parvus were claimed from Abomey on 13 November. At least 40 Mottled Swifts Tachymarptis aequatorialis were seen within a large group of c.700 Alpine Swifts T. melba above Bali pond, Pendjari National Park, on 17 November. An adult female Golden-tailed Woodpecker Campethera abingoni was well seen on 18 May in the Forêt classée d'Atchirigbé (c.07°33'N 02°07'E); this is the southernmost record in the country. On 6 March, a male Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster was observed in a mixed-species flock south-west of Cobly. Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta, for which there are only two previous records in Benin, was found at a few locations in the south and appears not uncommon in suitable habitat. The ship assisted Indian House Crow Corvus splendens found in the Cotonou harbour area in February 2010 was seen again on several occasions. Forest Chestnut-winged Starlings Onychognathus fulgidus were noted at the southern localities of Ouidah, Pahou and Covè; there are few previous records for Benin. Four colonies of 4 - 6 pairs of Slender-billed Weavers Ploceus pelzelni were found at Grand Popo on 10 - 13 November, with a female at Ganvié on 22nd; this species appears far commoner than previously thought. A male Black-bellied Seedcracker Pyrenestes ostrinus was observed in a riparian forest near Domè on 13 April. Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia, discovered in Benin in August 2010, was found at some additional localities in the Basse Vallée de l'Ouémé, even in Sô-Ava,<10 km from Cotonou, and 10 - 20 were seen at Ganvié on 22 - 23 November. A four-day visit to Monts Kouffé and Tobé forest, respectively north and south-west of Banté, in mid-April 2011 produced many species of interest, including Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus (one failing to catch a Rock Hyrax Procavia ruficeps on Tobé rock), White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra (Tobé; current northern limit), Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis (Tobé; current southern limit), Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster (both sites; current northern limit), Verreaux's Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus (Kouffé), Narina's Trogon Apaloderma narina (Kouffé), Piping Hornbill Bycanistes fistulator (common at both sites), Baumann's Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni (common in transition woodland at Tobé), Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapillus (both sites; current northern limit), Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax (Tobé; northern limit), Green Crombec Sylvietta virens, Rock-loving Cisticola Cisticola aberrans (Tobé rock), Rufous Cisticola C. rufus (common at Kouffé; current southern limit), and Puvel's Illadopsis Illadopsis puveli (Tobé; current northern limit).
On the coast, exploration of Pahou, the last remnant of coastal forest, on 10 April produced several Sabine's Puffbacks Dryoscopus sabini (previously known only from Niaouli) together with Leaflove Pyrrhurus scandens and Square-tailed Drongo Dicrurus ludwigii (the latter two absent from Niaouli-Lama, to reappear further north). At Grand-Popo a Buff-spotted Woodpecker Campethera nivosa was seen in a thicket, and at least two male Wilson's Indigobirds Vidua wilsoni were in full breeding dress and singing, feeding with their host Bar-breasted Firefinch Lagonosticta rufopicta, on 28 - 29 April. A female or immature Cuckoo Finch Anomalospiza imberbis near Domè on 17 April is only the second record for the country. Both Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensis and Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster were found to be common in thicket along the lower Mono River on the Togo border. On 11 - 26 April, a Western Bronze-naped Pigeon Columba iriditorques was singing at Niaouli, with a few also in Lama forest.
Migrants observed in April include the following. Flocks of Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus were near Dan and Tobé on 11 - 15 April, including c.100 hunting termites at dusk around Tobé rock on 14th. Several Common Cuckoos Cuculus canorus were seen between 13 and 26 April, from Kouffé to the Lama. At least six African Black Swifts Apus barbatus, a new species for Benin, flew over Tobé rock, calling, on 15 April. Mottled Swifts passed north to north-west in large numbers from the 12th (Kouffé) to the 19th (Niaouli), often in flocks of c.50. There was sustained passage of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster until 19 April over Niaouli, with up to thousands daily over Kouffé and Tobé mid month. The last Rosy Bee-eaters M. malimbicus (two) flew east over Niaouli on 10 April. White-throated Bee-eaters M. albicollis started passing north over Kouffé and Tobé on 13 and 16 April. Exceptional numbers of Wood Warblers Phylloscopus sibilatrix were grounded in woodland and dry forest at Kouffé and Tobé on 13 - 16 April.
Records from October 2009 - June 2010 include the following. A visit to the 'W' National Park on 3 - 10 February 2010 produced the following new records for the W complex: Ovambo Sparrowhawk Accipiter ovampensis (one near Mare 25), White-throated Francolin Francolinus albogularis (one seen at close range in the Mékrou Reserve), African Moustached Warbler Melocichla mentalis (Mare Boni), Yellow-breasted Apalis Apalis flavida (riparian forest on the Mékrou River), Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca (regularly encountered in riparian vegetation), Yellow Penduline Tit Anthoscopus parvulus (southern woodland), Western Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei (Mékrou River at Mékrou), Emin's Shrike Lanius gubernator (a female in open wooded grassland, Mékrou Reserve), Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes melanotis (two nests near Kérémou), Black-winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus (flocks near Mare 25 and Point Triple), Bar-breasted Firefinch Lagonosticta rufopicta (in riparian woodland at Chutes de Koudou), Barka Indigobird Vidua larvaticola (in breeding dress, near Mare 25).
New species for Pendjari National Park recorded on 10 - 17 February 2010 include: White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus (two on the edge of Mare des Canards), Ovambo Sparrowhawk (one displaying near Mare Yangouali), Green Turaco Tauraco persa (present in evergreen riparian forest on the Atakora escarpment at Batia, likely to be the northern limit of its range), Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus (one c. 5 km west of the park entrance at Batia), Mottled Swift Tachymarptis aequatorialis (one drinking in Mare Sacrée is a first record for Benin), Preuss's Cliff Swallow Hirundo preussi (Mare Bali), Black-backed Cisticola Cisticola eximius (a pair in grassland, Circuit Fogou, first definite record for Benin) and Togo Paradise Whydah Vidua togoensis (a male at Camp des Eléphants, moulting out of dress on 14 February). Additional new species, observed on 3–5 April are White-fronted Black Chat Myrmecocichla albifrons (a male and several females along the track from Porga to the Batia entrance) and Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chalcurus (one on Circuit Fogou).
Other records from the north include Melodious Warblers Hippolais polyglotta at Didani (4 km west of Cobly, Atakora), Cobly and Touga in late November - early December, a singing Rufous Cisticola Cisticola rufus on a treetop at Didani on 6 June, and an Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana in the mountains east of Cobly on 14 November.
Records from the south include the following. On Nokoué Lake, a Ramsar Site north of Cotonou, 11 heron species were observed in noteworthy numbers, including c. 90 Black Herons Egretta ardesiaca on 17 February. A flock c.100 African Openbills Anastomus lamelligerus was seen on 25 October and c. 200 on 14 March; groups usually comprise 30–35 birds. On 17 February, a Great Snipe Gallinago media and a Marsh Owl Asio capensis were flushed at Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l'Ouémé. Another Marsh Owl was seen near the Hotel Germain at Ganvié on 23 January. On 14 and 21 March, three Forbes's Plovers Charadrius forbesi were observed at Plaine du Sô, with two Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis also there on 24 April; an African Crake Crex egregia was present on 1 - 14 May. Collared Pratincoles Glareola pratincola are common in the area, with a maximum of c.100 on 15 November. Black Chlidonias niger and Whiskered Terns C. hybridus are also frequent, with maximum of 30 Black on 25 October and at least ten Whiskered on 24 April. Flocks of Whiskered Terns were also observed on Ahémé Lake, with 21 birds on 26 February and 35 two days later; most were moulting into summer plumage, with one already in full breeding dress. A flock of up to 200 first-summer Black Terns was in Cotonou at the mouth of Nokoué Lake from 6 May 2009 until at least mid September. On 24 April, a group of 6–7 Sooty / Bridled Terns Sterna fuscata / anaethetus was seen close to the beach at Cotonou. On 21 March, two Banded Martins Riparia cincta (possibly the first for Benin) were seen amongst a flock of other hirundines. A Greater Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus rufescens was heard and seen well at Plaine du Sô on 17 February. A presumably ship-assisted House Crow Corvus splendens was discovered in Cotonou harbour on 6 February and seen again on 12 May amongst a group of Pied Crows C. albus; this appears to be the first record for Benin of this invasive species. Groups of Zebra Waxbills Amandava subflava were seen in April - May at Plaine du Sô, with up to 52 together on 14 May. Slender-billed Weaver Ploceus pelzelni was frequent at Ouidah, where birds were photographed on 4 - 5 February and at Plaine du Sô, where several pairs were regularly seen.
The following records are from 2009. Two Streaky-breasted Flufftails Sarothrura boehmi were heard and a female flushed in rice fields east of Cobly, Atacora department, on 5 September; the next day a female and two juveniles were seen at close range. These are apparently the first records for Benin. The following species were found outside the range indicated in Borrow & Demey (2004. Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa). A Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti was observed at Gbadagba Game Ranch, north of Djidja, Zou, on 11 February and 30 April 2009. Zitting Cisticolas Cisticola juncidis were observed at several localities in the communes of Cobly, Tanguiéta and Boukoumbé, Atakora, in the north-west, and also at Cotonou, in June - September. Two Whistling Cisticolas Cisticola lateralis were photographed and their song tape-recorded 8 km east of Tchaourou, Borgou, on 22 August 2009. Two male indigobirds with a greenish gloss and uttering a call similar that of Black-faced Firefinch Lagonosticta larvata near Didani, west of Cobly, on 30 August, were thought to be Barka (Baka) Indigobirds Vidua larvaticola.
Observations in the forest remnants of the south, from 20 January to 2 March 2009, with also a few days in Ouari Maro Forest Reserve, near Bétérou, in the north, produced many records of species new for the country or very rarely reported previously: White-crested Tiger Heron Tigriornis leucolopha (two heard at dawn in Lokoli swamp forest), Long-tailed Hawk Urotriorchis macrourus (one, probably a vagrant, wandering through Lokoli swamp forest; tape-recorded), Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus (a wanderer calling over Lama forest is a first record for the area), Cassin’s Hawk Eagle Hieraaetus africanus (one calling over Lama), Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster (common everywhere in forest; surprisingly hitherto overlooked), Vermiculated Fishing-owl Scotopelia bouvieri (at least four heard and tape-recorded in Lokoli swamp forest), Hairy-breasted Barbet Tricholaema hirsuta (a small population in Lokoli swamp forest and also in Pobè; tape-recorded), Willcocks’s Honeyguide Indicator willcocksi (seen in Niaouli and also observed in riparian forest in Ouari Maro, where tape-recorded), Green-backed Woodpecker Campethera cailliautii (in Lokoli swamp forest; tape-recorded), Baumann’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni (a large population discovered in thickets in Lama forest; mist-netted and tape-recorded), Finsch’s Flycatcher Thrush Stizorhina finschi (rare in Lokoli, where tape-recorded), Red-cheeked Wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia blissetti (locally common in thickets in Lama forest; mist-netted and tape-recorded), Little Green Sunbird Anthreptes seimundi (several seen at close range on Combretum flowers at Niaouli), Tiny Sunbird Cinnyris minullus (several singing and tape-recorded in Pobè forest), Pale-fronted Negrofinch Nigrita luteifrons (seen and tape-recorded in Elaeis palms and forest at Pobè).
Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus appeared to be the common forest tinkerbird in Niaouli, not Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird P. bilineatus as previously reported (P. subsulphureus was also heard in Pobè, where rare). The observers were able to confirm Purple-headed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis purpureiceps from Lama (where rare) and especially from Lokoli, where small flocks (tape-recorded) were feeding on figs. The common forest oriole is Black-winged Oriole Oriolus nigripennis (especially common in Niaouli, Lokoli and Pobè, where many were seen and tape-recorded), not Western Black-headed O. brachyrhynchus, as previously reported (this species is apparently absent). Also of interest are a Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis on a lagoon west of Cotonou, Greater Swamp Warblers Acrocephalus rufescens heard in Typha and mangrove near Ouidah and Cotonou, where Little Weavers Ploceus pelzelni were also seen (in swamps), and Zebra Waxbills Amandava subflava encountered in grassland near Lokoli. In the north, Rufous Cisticola Cisticola rufus, watched at close range in woodland at Ouari Maro, near Agbassa, is possibly the first record for the country. Whilst the forest remnants at Niaouli, Pobè and especially the larger Lama forest are well protected, the swamp forest at Lokoli is being cut down for gardens, and the future of several bird species in Benin confined to Lokoli, such as Vermiculated Fishing-owl and also Western Bearded Greenbul Criniger barbatus, is very uncertain.
In January 2007, a pale-morph Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus was observed in savannah woodland north of Kountori, Atacora, on 23rd. A Shining-blue Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys was noted on the stream below Tanougou waterfalls, Pendjari National Park, on 27th.
Belated reports from August - October 2003 include the following. A Dwarf Bittern Ixobrychus sturmii flew over the university at Abomey-Calavi on 4 August, one was at the Kota waterfalls on 9 October, and several were near Malanville on the shores of the River Niger on 11-13 October. An Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensiswas was seen between the villages of Hlagba Dénou and Démé on 16 September. Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata was seen a few times near Malanville on 11-13 October. A few Caspian Terns Sterna caspia were at Djacquot beach on 27 August and two were at Ouidah on 24 October. Two Speckled Tinkerbirds Pogoniulus scolopaceus were observed in the southern part of the forest of Lokoli on 8 September, and one in the northern part on 30 September.
Other records from Lokoli include a Red-winged Warbler Heliolais erythropterus, a pair of Buff-throated Apalises Apalis rufogularis on 2 October and a Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer on 26 September 2003; these species are widespread in small numbers. A male Buff-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra adelberti wasseen well on 1 September. A male Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta with a begging juvenile Black Cuckoo Cuculus clamosus was observed near Lokoli on 3 September 2003. Grosbeak Weavers Amblyospiza albifrons were seen a few times at Lokoli and a small flock was at the edge of the forest near Démé.
More belated reports include African Openbill Storks Anastomus lamelligerus, found to be common around Cotonou and Ganvié in October 2004, a Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio at Bymin, near Porto Novo, also in March 1999.
A belated report was received of a Dunlin Calidris alpina at Guézin marshes, near the Togolese border in the south, on 6 February 2003; this is the second (and possibly the first certain) record for Benin, following an unsubstantiated and rather odd claim of an exceptional 26 birds at the same locality in 1996. A male Parasitic Weaver Anomalospiza imberbis, a first record for Benin, was observed by Patrick Claffey on 1 July 2002 along the main Cotonou-Lomé road, 9 km east of the Mono River in south Benin.
Additions to the Benin list in 2001 include Yellow-whiskered Greenbul Andropadus latirostris, mist-netted in Pobé forest, c. 3 km from the border with Nigeria, on 23 March and 1 June, Western Bearded Greenbul Criniger barbatus caught on 29 September, and White-browed Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens trapped on 30 March, 13 April and 15 September.
A Red-thighed Sparrowhawk Accipiter erythropus, a species for which there are few records in Benin, was mist-netted and photographed in Niaouli forest, 60 km from Cotonou, on 5 October 2000. It did not have any white spots on the tail and its wings measured 174 mm. According to the literature, these measurements only accord with the female of the race zenkeri. This race, however, is only known to occur in the Lower Guinea forest block, westwards to south Cameroon.
A record from 1999 concerns two Grey Pratincoles Glareola cinerea on the beach in front of the Sheraton Hotel, Cotonou.