Birding Without Borders

Day 176: Touchdown in Africa

Noah touches down in Ghana.

June 25, 2015, Cape Coast, Ghana — My Dreamliner redeye touched down in Accra mid-morning, and a guy named Kalu Afasi was there to meet me with a 4x4 and a driver nicknamed “Thursday.” We’ll spend the next week birding in various parts of Ghana.

Kalu is good company and has an interesting story. He is 38, and grew up as the oldest son of a real-life king of 12 traditional villages in Nigeria. Kalu didn’t particularly want to become a king, and started playing football (soccer) instead; he played professionally in the Champions League in Nigeria, then moved to Ghana to play in the league here after a failed attempt to become naturalized in Burkina Faso for their national team. “I’ve been all over,” he said, “but not to watch birds—to play football matches.”

He got into birding by random chance when he sat down in an internet cafe one day about 16 years ago and signed up to be pen pals with a 62-year-old guy from Denmark who turned out to be a birder. The Danish guy visited Ghana a couple of times on birding trips and took Kalu with him; by the time Kalu started getting suspended from his football club for skipping practices to go birding on his own, he realized he was addicted. Pretty soon he was guiding trips, and now does it full time during the high season from October to April.

The three of us (Kalu, Thursday, and I) headed south from Accra to reach the coast this afternoon, making birding stops along the way. Virtually every species we saw was new for me—I’ve never been to Africa before! (Today I reached a personal milestone: I’ve now visited all seven continents.) Some of the highlights were Black-bellied Bustard, Guinea Turaco, Double-toothed Barbet, Splendid Glossy-Starling, Pied Cuckoo, and Malachite Kingfisher, but even the common Pied Crows and Bronze Mannikins were lifers. It seems like half the people on the street are carrying things on top of their heads. Two months in Africa has begun!

New birds today: 57

Year list: 3119

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