Birding Without Borders

Day 179: Ghana’s Two Halves

Noah heads inland, leaving the jungle behind.

June 28, 2015, Mole National Park, Ghana — Kalu and I spent the morning on a forest road outside Kumasi and turned up another dozen new birds. This road accesses an area which has been granted a logging concession; during our short visit we saw a truck full of big logs going out, and a pair of guys walked past carrying rifles (for hunting). Kalu said that one time he saw a wild buffalo here and later remarked on it to a forest guard. “You should have had a rifle—we would have had a big feast!” he replied. This time, we didn’t see any buffalo.

Kalu also told me an ironic story while we were birding along the road. Once, he said, he was here with a couple of birders and they ran into a group from one of the international tour companies. While all of them were birding along the road, a truck accidentally dropped some big logs closer to the entrance, blocking their exit. The other tour had a van with enough clearance to drive off-road around the blockage and escape, and unceremoniously left Kalu stuck in the forest. All of them planned to look for the Yellow-headed Picathartes that evening, and the other group seemed happy about the prospect of not having to share the spot. Twenty minutes later, though, a machine suddenly arrived and cleared the logs; Kalu went for a hurried lunch and then beat the tour group to the picathartes stakeout. He said they seemed “very surprised” when they arrived to find Kalu there first!

It’s interesting to hear tales of bird guiding, which is its own distinct subculture in the birding community. Kalu makes his living from showing birders around Ghana and says he will always remember 2015 as the “year of ebola” because of the terrible outbreak in West Africa earlier this year. Ghana never recorded a single case (the U.S. had more ebola than Ghana did) but Kalu nevertheless had five trips canceled by worried birders, wiping out half his season. He doesn’t blame them, but said he was so “angry at ebola” that he signed up for Ghana’s volunteer task force and went to emergency-preparation trainings; if the outbreak had reached this country he would have been driving patients to the hospital and helping fight it on the ground. Fortunately, that scene stayed far away.

This afternoon we headed north to a very different part of Ghana. This country is basically a vertical rectangle with the coast at the bottom, and so far I’ve been birding in Ghana’s southern corners, which are full of humid jungles. As we went inland today, the landscape changed dramatically—instead of lush forests, we entered a tropical savanna (more like what most people picture when they think of Africa) and, by dusk, arrived at Mole National Park. Tomorrow we will spend the full day here, trying not to get too distracted by elephants and baboons!

New birds today: 38

Year list: 3265

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