Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cameroon - woodlands

This next email has us moving north away from the lush, wet coastal belt towards the interior of the country and gradually inching towards the Sahara. The forest is not as dense, nor as tall as the rainforest but becomes a mosaic or lighter woodland interspersed with some grassy or open areas with tall layered forest around permanent water, which is often referred to as gallery forest. Most of these photos are in gallery forest. A particularly interesting belt of such woodland is created by the Adamawa Plateau (Mabillia Plateau on the Nigerian side), whose slightly higher elevation produces a different temperature and moisture regime than the lowlands.

The first photo is of a male African Golden Oriole in gallery forest above a creek. Old World Orioles are not at all related to New World Orioles but closer to the crow family (Sibley and Munroe place them right within the crow family).

The next is the stunning Malachite Kingfisher, one of the many beautiful African Kingfishers. At only 14cm in length this is one of those really tiny kingfishers.

Next is a roosting African Scops Owl. I found this bird and their partner roosting in a thicket near a creek where we had seen and heard them the night before.

The Black-billed Wood Dove is one of those soft and subtly beautiful forest doves.

The barbets are related to woodpeckers but have evolved for a frugivorous diet. Unlike the Asian barbets, which are mostly green, there is quiet a variety of colours in the African barbets like this red Double-toothed Barbet (the "teeth" are useful for gripping fruit).

Next, a female Green-headed Sunbird shows that these birds do not rely solely on nectar by stealing an insect from a spider's web.

This Pearl-spotted Owlet (one of the Glaucidium "pygmy owl" group) being mobbed by a Senegal Erememola, a type of Old World Warbler, and others.

This is a Red-throated Bee-eater. The bee-eaters are just a stunningly colourful group and they often perch up showing off their colours because they like to sally out to flycatch with acrobatic style from exposed perches.

If you are not convinced that birds evolved from dinosaurs, look no further than the Ross's Turaco… ha ha… but what colour, what a face! (pity the rich purple gloss is hidden by shadow here).

This female Senegal Batis is another handsome bird of gallery forest (related to wattle-eyes and one of those groups where the females are sometimes easier to identify than the males).

The bizarre helmet-shrikes are yet another unique African family. They are characterised by bold plumage patterns, prominent eye wattles, subtly hooked bills (look close!) and the brush-like forecrown feathers that give them their name. They move through the woodland in social groups, chattering away to each other and sometimes snapping their bills. The White Helmet-Shrikes shown here were always a treat to watch and i was elated to see them!

Here is a White-crowned Robin-chat showing off a classic tail fan. The robin-chats are mostly colourful but shy forest birds so i was very happy to get this shot.

Many of these photos can be seen in larger formats in my webpage

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