Day 182: A Walk in the Woods

Dodging raindrops in Ghana’s jungle.

July 1, 2015, Accra, Ghana — Kalu decided we should focus on some tougher forest specialties, so we spent the day in a forest reserve called Atewa in south-central Ghana. In the morning we met another local birder named Jonathan Tsey and the three of us hiked into the forest just after breakfast, armed with enough supplies to last the day. We were on our feet for more than 10 hours, reemerging just before sunset.

Atewa is accessed by an old road cut which has grown over with weeds. Now that the wet season has set in, most of the trail was waist to head deep in thick vegetation and damp from a recent rainfall. We plunged in like jungle explorers, often holding our binoculars over our heads as we pushed through the foliage. With the encompassing warmth and humidity, it was a heavy, sticky day; when we passed through a couple of ant swarms, the ants that didn’t manage to sneak up my pants stuck to my sweat like flies on flypaper.

After a couple of hours, Kalu pointed out a group of Brown-cheeked Hornbills gliding overhead, and two of them paused long enough in a treetop for a good view. “That’s the bird of the day!” I said, happy with such a spectacular sighting. A while later, we accidentally flushed a Fraser’s Eagle-Owl off its day roost and it, too, perched in the open long enough for close looks. “That’s the new bird of the day!” I exclaimed. Then, on our way down, an Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle blasted over the trail, picked off a sunbird, and proceeded to pluck the sunbird, feather by feather, on a branch in front of us. “That’s definitely the bird of the day!” I said, and Kalu looked confused. “So many birds of the day,” he replied. “I can’t keep track!”

Fortunately, the clouds held off today as they have for the duration of my Ghana visit. We are in the beginning of the wet season here, which is why virtually nobody goes birding in Ghana in June. A couple of weeks ago, it rained so hard in Accra that 150 people died in the resulting flood—but, this week, the skies have stayed favorable. Meanwhile, it’s been interesting to see a greener Ghana than most visitors experience; landscapes which are brown and bare in the dry season are now lush and soft.

New birds today: 19

Year list: 3350

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