Working for birds in Africa

Hotspots

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 14:49 -- abc_admin

This list is of course incomplete. Besides the well-known birding sites, there are several little-explored but potentially exciting sites to which attention should be drawn.

Comoé National Park in the north-east is the largest protected area in West Africa (c1,149,000 ha). It is mostly covered with low-lying wooded savanna, but gallery forest and bowe (lateritic plains without vegetation) are also found. It has a very rich avifauna: a published list by Salewski - ref 6 numbers 494 species, although some of them were not seen by the author himself and may have actually been misidentified. Several species are found nowhere else in Côte d'Ivoire such as Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus and Secretary Bird Sagittarius serpentarius. Large species such as Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus and Denham's Bustard Neotis denhami, which elsewhere are badly affected by hunting, still occur in good numbers here.

Taï National Park is in the south-west of the country on the track Tabou-Grabo. With 518,000 ha (including the neighbouring Nzo Faunal Reserve), it is the largest forest block remaining in Upper Guinea and the main stronghold of White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides. White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus breeds on Mt Niénokoué in the south-west of the park. Other rare species include Rufous Fishing-owl Scotopelia ussheri, Western Wattled Cuckoo-Shrike Lobotos lobatus, Nimba Flycatcher Melaenornis annamarulae (not rare), Green-Taïled Bristlebill Bleda eximius, Yellow-bearded Greenbul Criniger olivaceus, Black-headed Rufous Warbler Bathmocercus cerviniventris and Lagden's Bush-Shrike Malaconotus lagdeni.

Marahoué National Park is on the Yamoussoukro-Daloa road, some 30 km west of Bouaflé. It covers roughly 100,000 ha of which 75 per cent is semi-deciduous forest, while the rest is wooded savanna. Emerald Starling Lamprotornis iris is rather common in the savanna, while rare forest birds include Nimba Flycatcher Melaenornis annamarulae, Black-headed Rufous Warbler Bathmocercus cerviniventris, Yellow-footed Honeyguide Melignomon eisentrauti, and Black-headed Bee-eater Merops breweri (a very rare species in the country).

Mt Sangbé National Park is in the west between Biankouma and Touba. It covers 93,000 ha of hilly wooded savanna and gallery forest, and the altitude reaches 1,072 m. Emerald Starling Lamprotornis iris and Dybowski's Twinspot Euschistospiza dybowskii are locally common in savanna; White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus nests in the gallery forest but is not numerous. Other rarities include Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs (seen only once), Black-headed Bee-eater Merops breweri (westernmost site in the world), Neumann's Starling Onychognathus neumanni, Emin's Shrike Lanius gubernator and Grey-winged Robin-Chat Cossypha polioptera.

Mt Peko National Park north of Duékoué is at the south-eastern limit of the western highlands. Its 28,000 hectares are mostly old secondary forest. Submontane forest (around 1,000 m) holds some interesting species such as Baumann's Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni while Rufous Fishing-owl Scotopelia ussheri and Yellow-footed Honeyguide Melignomon eisentrauti have been seen in the lowlands. The park's most emblematic bird, however, is White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus, of which no less than four colonies are known within the park.

Azagny National Park is 90 km west of Abidjan. It covers 19,400 ha of marshy areas, swamp-forest and coastal savanna. Its avifauna is still little-known but given the habitat, Rufous Fishing-owl Scotopelia ussheri is likely to occur.

Banco National Park is just next to Abidjan, the economic capital, and covers 3,200 ha of well-preserved secondary forest. Neighbouring Anguédédou Forest Reserve covers 5,700 ha, most of which have unfortunately been cleared; the remaining are forestry plantations and regrowth with a few islets of older secondary forest. Their avifauna was little-known until recently but a list, to be published soon numbers nearly 200 species for the two sites - see News section.

Lamto Reserve is situated some 200 km north-west of Abidjan on the road to Yamoussoukro. Its 2,300 ha are mostly covered with wooded savanna. Gallery forest along the Bandama river holds rarities such as Rufous Fishing-owl Scotopelia ussheri and White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus.

Yapo Forest Reserve is situated some 45 km north-east of Abidjan on the road to Agboville. It is an ideal site for the travelling birder since it can be very easily reached and has a rich avifauna. It covers 28,000 ha, mostly of high secondary forest, and is possibly the best place in the world to see Yellow-bearded Greenbul Criniger olivaceus (surprisingly common there). More than 230 species have been recorded including Lagden's Bush-Shrike Malaconotus lagdeni and Green-Taïled Bristebill Bleda eximius.

Mt Tonkoui, near Man, is one of Côte d'Ivoire's highest summits at c1,235 m (variously reported as 1,189 or 1,293 m on maps). Forest covers most of the mountain and is in a good state, especially towards the summit, where it is submontane. Though it has been little studied by ornithologists, a large number of rare species are known from there including Baumann's Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni, White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus, Green-Tailed Bristlebill Bleda eximius, Grey-winged Robin-Chat Cossypha polioptera, Buff-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura elegans and African Black Swift Apus barbatus.

Mabi and Yaya Forest Reserves are some 90 km north-east of Abidjan along the Comoé river. They cover about 84,000 ha of very good quality forest and are one of the largest forest blocks in Côte d'Ivoire yet they are almost unexplored ornithologically (presumably because they are not easy to reach). White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides is known still to occur, and it is likely that many other rare forest species will be found.

Grand-Bassam (40 km east of Abidjan) and Dabou marshes (c45 km east of Abidjan, just before the town of Dabou) are two good places to observe Palearctic waders and have produced a number of rare vagrant sightings. Additionally, gallery forest bordering the Agnéby river near Dabou, holds Crimson Seedcracker Pyrenestes sanguineus and almost certainly Rufous Fishing-owl Scotopelia ussheri, while a heron breeding colony (active in May-July) has recently been found at Grand-Bassam.

Sassandra is a coastal town 280 km west of Abidjan at the mouth of the Sassandra river. Until recently this area had been little prospected by ornithologists, but more than 200 species have now been found in the immediate environs of Sassandra - see News section for the most interesting ones. The forests of Dassioko (to the east), Monogaga (to the west) and Niégré (to the north) are still well-preserved ; they are almost unexplored by ornithologists but are likely to produce good sightings.

Mt Nimba Strict Nature Reserve covers the Ivorian flank of Mt Nimba, culminating at 1,752 m. The lower parts are forested while the summit (above 1,600 m) is covered with montane grassland. Broad-Taïled Warbler Schoenicola brevirostris, Rufous-naped Lark Mirafra africana, Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis and Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus are restricted to this habitat (and are found nowhere else in Côte d'Ivoire), while forest rarities include Sierra Leone Prinia Prinia leontica, Western Wattled Cuckoo-Shrike Lobotos lobatus, Green-Taïled Bristlebill Bleda eximius, Yellow-bearded Greenbul Criniger olivaceus, Black-headed Rufous Warbler Bathmocercus cerviniventris, White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus and Nimba Flycatcher Melaenornis annamarulae. Only scientists are allowed to visit the site.

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