Working for birds in Africa


Wed, 02/06/2013 - 15:37 -- abc_admin

Sierra Leone Tingi Hills River

Image Credit: 
Andrew Hester

Sierra Leone Kambui Hills

Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

Sierra Leone Bumbuna area

Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum

Image Credit: 
John Caddick December 2009

These are largely unconfirmed records published in recent Bulletins of the African Bird Club for information only.

from ABC Bulletin 22.1

Two nests of Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus with two chicks and two eggs, respectively, were found at Tissana village, near the main peninsular road leading to Freetown, in mid-January 2015; although the species is known to be resident in the country, breeding had not been documented previously. An African Pitta Pitta angolensis was photographed at a mining site at Kono, in the east, on 27 April.

from ABC Bulletin 21.1

A female Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus was observed at Guma Dam, Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve, near Freetown, on 14 March 2013; there are few records in the country.

from ABC Bulletin 18.2

The following records, from February - March 2011, were made in the north-eastern part of Gola Forest. A singing Yellow-throated Cuckoo Chrysococcyx flavigularis was seen at the forest edge near Mogbaima on 1 and 6 March. A Brown Nightjar Veles binotatus was singing in forest near Congo on 10 - 11 March. A male Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata was observed bringing food to a sealed-up nest in a large tree adjacent to the Moro River on 28 February - 5 March. A singing Yellow-footed Honeyguide Melignomon eisentrauti was near Mogbaima on 6 March, with another daily at exactly the same spot in the Congo / Levuma area on 7 - 11 March. Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni was observed once near Mogbaima, in a mixed-species flock.


A presumed Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris was photographed at Kenema rice fields on 11 November 2010; if accepted, this would be the first record for Sierra Leone and one of only a handful records in West Africa.

During a visit in February 2010 the following records were made. A flock of 40 African Openbills Anastomus lamelligerus was found at Bumbuna on 17th; there appear to be no previous records from this area. The same day, a Beaudouin's Snake Eagle Circaetus beaudouini was near a bush fire north of Mile 91; this is slightly south of the range given in Borrow & Demey (2004. Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa). Cassin's Hawk Eagles Spizaetus africanus were observed at Guma Dam on 6th and at Tacugama on 19th; although the species has been noted there in recent years, there are apparently no historical records from the peninsula. A Great Snipe Gallinago media was noted in a swamp in Gola East and another in the rice fields at Kenema. Two Brown Nightjars Veles binotatus were seen at Tiwai on 10th; this species was only recently discovered here. Three Red-throated Pipits Anthus cervinus were at the Kenema rice fields on 12th, where it seems to be regular. A pair of Gola Malimbes Malimbus ballmanni with two full-grown young were seen in Gola North.

A flock of 15 – 20 swifts, identified as African Black Apus barbatus and Bates’s Swifts A. batesi, flew over the Kambui Hills, near Kenema, on 14 May 2009.

Records from February - June 2008 include the following. In ricefields at Kenema, a Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis was found on 7 June; there is apparently only one previous record for Sierra Leone. Also there, on 12 - 13 March, were two Great Snipes Gallinago media. A Rufous Fishing Owl Scotopelia ussheri was flushed at very close range from dense shrubbery on Tiwai Island on 10 March. Also at Tiwai, two singing Brown Nightjars Veles binotatus were seen in flight on 13 - 14 February; the species was also heard there on 9 March; these records constitute the first for Tiwai and the westernmost to date. The species was only recently discovered in Sierra Leone, in Gola Forest. A European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus was photographed at Tiwai on 15 February. Records of Dusky Crested Flycatcher Elminia nigromitrata and Superb Sunbird Cinnyris superbus at Guma Dam, on the Freetown peninsula, on 10 February, appear to be new for the area and represent westward range extensions.

During a survey of the Loma Mountains, from 14 February to 2 March 2008, 257 bird species were recorded, which brings the total number known from the site to 332, i.e. more than 50% of the species recorded in the whole of Sierra Leone. Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata was still relatively common at low and mid-altitudes and Baumann’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni was found both at high (1,300 - 1,400 m) and low altitudes. Several Black-headed Rufous Warblers Bathmocercus cerviniventris were singing. Three family parties of Sierra Leone Prinias Schistolais leontica were encountered in bracken and shrubbery at forest edge at 1,300 - 1,400 m. White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus and Emerald Starling Lamprotornis iris were also observed and excellent views were obtained of the shy and little-known Grey Ground Thrush Zoothera princei.

Records from a visit in November - December 2007 include the following. A juvenile Long-tailed Hawk Urotriorchis macrourus was seen on Tiwai Island on 4 December. A Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo was chasing cliff swallows near Bumbuna Dam on 12 December. A pair of Grey-throated Rails Canirallus oculeus was observed at Lalehun, Gola North, on 7 December. Ricefields near Kenema held four Great Snipe Gallinago media on 6 December. A male Yellow-throated Cuckoo Chrysococcyx flavigualis was seen at Kambui North on 10 December. A Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum found in the Bumbuna area on 11 December is outside the range indicated in Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa (Borrow & Demey 2004). In the forest near Lalehun, Gola North, an adult and a juvenile Olivaceous Flycatcher Muscicapa olivascens were seen on 8 December, whilst a Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni was found nest building on 26 November.

A belated but noteworthy record is that of a Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti seen in December 2004 north of Freetown.

Highlights of five weeks of field work in Gola Forest, from 22 January to 28 February 2007, include the following: two large groups of White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides (one numbering c.20) in primary forest in Gola North, Black-collared Lovebird Agapornis swindernianus (first definite record for the country) also in Gola North, Rufous Fishing Owl Scotopelia ussheri on a small stream on the edge of Gola East, Brown Nightjar Caprimulgus binotatus found to be widespread and locally common, being very vocal at this season (first Sierra Leone record was in Gola in 2006), several small groups of Bates’s  Swift Apus batesi (also now confirmed for Sierra Leone, cf. Dowsett 1993, Tauraco Res. Rep. 5: 30–36), two Yellow-footed Honeyguides Melignomon eisentrauti in song (Gola East and Gola North), a male Western Wattled Cuckoo-shrike Lobotos lobatus (near Belebu, Gola North), at least three Lagden’s Bush-shrikes Malaconotus lagdeni holding territories in primary forest (Gola North), and the rediscovery of a small population of Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni (pairs in three different mixed bird parties, one with a juvenile) in unlogged primary forest in Gola North c.9 km east of Lalehun, which is not far from the site of the original sightings by Geoffrey Field in 1971-76.

A pair of Blue-headed Coucals Centropus monachus was singing in a small marsh next to a rubbish tip in the centre of Kenema, and another bird was seen flying across a marsh between Kenema and Gola; surprisingly, these are the first records for the country of what has doubtless been an overlooked species. Two pairs of Chattering Cisticolas Cisticola anonymus were holding territory in low farmbush in a forest clearing (Gola North); the more usual habitat in Sierra Leone consists of small natural swamps. Also of note were large numbers of African Black Swifts Apus barbatus (up to 100+) over forest and farmbush (identified mainly by their characteristic calls), two observations of Baumann’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni singing in low, rank Chromolaena farmbush, and a pair of Black-capped Apalis Apalis nigriceps on a hill near Belebu (new for Gola).

The most interesting record of a birding trip in November 2006 involved two Rufous Fishing Owls Scotopelia ussheri on Tiwaii Island on 14th. Other species of interest, albeit at known localities, included White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides (five at Zimmi on 15th), Sierra Leone Prinia Schistolais leontica (one at Bumbuna on 19th) and Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni (a pair with a juvenile at Gola Forest North on 17th). At Bumbuna, a male indigobird with greenish-blue gloss, white bill and pale legs, making the contact call of Zebra Waxbill Sporaeginthus subflavus, was identified as Jambandu Indigobird Vidua raricola; other indigobirds in the area, with white bills and red legs, were Village Indigobirds V. chalybeata.

During a bird census carried out in Sierra Leone's coastal wetlands in January-February 2005, four species were found that had apparently not been reported previously: five Great White Pelicans Pelecanus onocrotalus were counted at the Scarcies estuary and 253 at Yawri Bay, 12 Eurasian Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia at Scarcies, 18 Northern Shovelers Anas clypeata at Yawri, and a Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus, also at Yawri.

Among the more interesting records made during a birding trip to this little-visited country in the second half of November 2005 were a Least Honeyguide Indicator exilis, claimed from Tiwai Island, two Yellow-throated Cuckoos Chrysococcyx flavigularis in Gola Forest and, intriguingly, Chattering Cisticola Cisticola anonymus in a flooded area south of Gola; the latter would confirm the existence of an isolated Upper Guinea population of this species.

The following information from Andrew Hester and Craig Pearman gives further details of this visit.

Tiwai Island is a block of forest situated in the impressive Moa River. An afternoon walk on Tiwai produced Latham's Forest Francolin Francolinus lathami, African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis, Blue-breasted Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher Halcyon badia and Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata.

The following morning dawn chorus at Tiwai included Red-chested Goshawk Accipiter toussenelii, Great Blue Turaco Corythaeola cristata, Yellow-billed Barbet Trachyphonus purpuratus, Pale-breasted Illadopsis Illadopsis rufipennis and a number of the more common Greenbuls such as Yellow-whiskered Andropadus latirostris, Little A. virens, Little Grey A. gracilis and Slender-billed A.gracilirostris. Other species of interest included White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra, Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster, Black-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna atrata, White-crested Hornbill Tockus albocristatus, Least Honeyguide Indicator exilis, Finsch’s Flycatcher-Thrush Neocossyphus finschii and Western Bluebill Spermophaga haematina.

In the Bumbuna area, there was Turati’s Boubou Laniarius turatii as well as a plethora of dry country birds, including an obliging Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum which conveniently brought in Double-spurred Francolin Francolinus bicalcaratus, Vinaceous Dove Streptopelia vinacea, Black Scimitarbill Rhinopomastus aterimmus, Senegal Eremomela Eremomela pusilla, Northern Black Flycatcher Melaenornis edolioides and Emerald Starling Lamprotornis iris.

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