Sunday, 6 November 2016

GHANA 2016: Mole National Park (4-6 November)

This is the third of four blogs covering a successful Zoothera trip to Ghana. We had arrived at Mole Hotel just inside the National Park the previous evening.

Friday 4 November. Breakfast at 05:00, we left at 05:30 driving into Mole National Park to an area of open savanna forest and pools. We birded to 10:15 seeing 40 superb Red-throated Bee-eaters, a Four-banded Sandgrouse, Senegal Thick-knees, Violet Turaco, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and a Senegal Batis but Paul seeing two fast disappearing firefinches (one which would be new for me) and Ebenezer a White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike was frustrating. It was hot and we were back at the hotel at 10:30. Lunch wasn’t until 12:00 so after a session at the viewpoint and seeing a few raptors going over (Bateleur, Martial and African Hawk Eagles) I wandered around the hotel and immediate vicinity seeing Lavender Waxbill and White-crowned Robin Chat. Being confined to camp was rather restrictive but one was not allowed to go out of the compound, presumably elephants were considered the main danger, not that we saw any. I saw little after lunch and we set off again at 15:30. We drove to some more open areas soon finding Sun Lark but failing to find Forbes’s Plover in an area where they had been seen a couple of days before. Nick kindly provided us with insect netting to put over our hats to keep off the tsetse flies and departing the bus it felt as if we were going on a bank raid rather than birding. Between plover sites the wind picked up and the heavens opened – a real tropical storm. Fortunately we were in the bus and it was short lived. Drawing a blank on the plover we drove to the old airstrip, just outside of the park and waited until dark. It was a bit damp underfoot but a circuit produced African Scops Owl (poorly for me), Long-tailed Nightjar and a superb and rather unexpected Little Buttonquail. Two Greyish Eagle Owls from the bus on our return were bettered by one on a watertank outside John and my room before dinner.

Red-throated Bee-eater
lovely birds
all Bee-eaters are good but this one takes some beating
watchout dragonfly there are bee-eaters about
Swamp Flycatcher
Senegal Thick-knee
surprisingly hard to see when they don't move

Squacco Heron
Violet Turaco
Broad-billed Roller

the view from the hotel lookout, the savannah woodland of Mole National Park, Ghana's biggest, stretched for miles
Warthog by the hotel, what they lack in looks they make up for in character
Double-spurred Francolin through the bus window
looking for larks and plovers, bad storm approaching
Sun Larks
Long-tailed Nightjar

Saturday 5 November. Breakfast at 05:00, we left at 05:35 to return to the old airfield and then birded along the dirt road beyond, ending up by some mangroves alongside a river near the bridge. We saw some good birds in the drier scattered forest responding to Pearl-spotted Owlet calls, notably Yellow-bellied Hyliota and Spotted Creeper but interestingly Pied Flycatcher did too, something to try at Beachy next autumn. Other good birds seen were Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Black Scimitarbill, Bearded Barbet, a male Senegal Batis, African Blue Flycatcher, Moustached Grass and Oriole Warblers and Pygmy and Beautiful Sunbirds. We were back at 10:15 and I wandered around the old campsite seeing little. Lunch was at 12:00 after which I labelled some photos on my computer before an hour at the viewpoint, seeing just the/a Martial Eagle. We left at 15:30 to return to the open areas, fortunately seeing White-breasted Cuckoo-Shrike and White-crowned Black Chat on the way, and five Forbes’s Plovers on arrival. Excellent. The plovers were in the area we’d looked the previous day, perhaps they’d sensed the coming storm and taken cover somewhere else? We tried, very speculatively I suspect, for Pel’s Fishing Owl (no response) then returned to the airfield seeing Long-tailed and then a Standard-winged Nightjar and 4 Greyish Eagle Owls. A very good day, we were back at 19:20.

Bearded Barbet
a rather bizarre looking bird
Black-billed Wood Dove
African Grey Hornbill, the common hornbill in drier areas such as savannah woodland
Oriole Warbler
a large warbler, if it actually is one, its alternative name Moho is perhaps more appropriate
I can see you ...
Levaillant's Cuckoo
Patas Monkey by the hotel
from the viewpoint, elephants had been seen from here earlier in the day 
Warthogs and Cattle Egrets were the best we could manage 
Pied Flycatcher, about the best that was on offer at lunchtime 
Laughing Dove
Vinaceous Dove
this White-fronted Black Chat welcomed us back into the park
Four-banded Sandgrouse on the track

camera shake and the bus window are not an ideal combination for photography 
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater
Forbes's Plovers, two adults and a juvenile


Long-tailed Nightjar
looking quite different with the flash
Standard-winged Nightjar
a male, but it was had to work out what was going on with its 'standards'
Greyish Eagle Owl
Sunday 6 November. Breakfast wasn’t until 06:00 so I was out at dawn watching from the viewpoint for half an hour beforehand although it was not very productive. We tried the airport on the way out, again seeing little of note. A somewhat disappointing end to our visit to Mole and I wasn’t alone in wishing we had gone back into the park at dawn and returned for a late breakfast before leaving. It was a long drive to Termale for lunch then we continued north, crossing the White Volta 30km or so short of Bolgatanga. A little way further north we stopped at a marshy area seeing African Pygmy Goose, Yellow-crowned Bishop and an extraordinary displaying Exclamatory Paradise Whydah. Just short of Bolgatanga we turned off to the Tongo Hills where we arrived at 16:30, quickly seeing Gosling’s Bunting, White-crowned Cliff Chat and Fox Kestrel but drawing a blank with Rock-loving Cisticola. We left there at 17:30 arriving at the Premier Hotel in Bolgatanga as it was getting dark.
birding the old airfield, I was often lagging behind. my only 'group photo', from left to right Susie, Ron, Paul (hidden), Robin, Nick, Gail, Chris, Anthony, John and Ebenezer
Pygmy Sunbird on the old airfield
Western Plantain-eater
roadside Red-necked Falcon
traditional village in northern Ghana, note ubiquitous goat
not so traditional wheelie bin
very elegant local, mobile phone and goats
Long-crested Hawk Eagle

Northern Red Bishop

distant Baobab at Tongo Hills
birding the Tongo Hills
Gosling's Buntings were common

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