After departing the small but functional Tamale airport, and not realising that the first bird we saw from the tarmac was a Grey Woodpecker, we made our way North along a more than reasonable road for an hour or so. Our first birding proper was parked up next to a bridge overlooking a small lagoon, fringed by reeds, and with typical bush as a backdrop. This was to the regular noise of passing traffic, some of which find it normal to further spoil the peace by using their not too unimpressive horns. The earlier temperature of 24įC, albeit at 8am getting off the plane, was increasing, but not too much to be uncomfortable. The task here was to keep an eye on the goings on around the water and reedbeds, and also spend a little more time searching through the undergrowth and bushes nearer to the bridge.
The former was the easier task of the two, since the Marsh Harriers coursing around, along with Grasshopper Buzzards and Black-winged Kite, were simple quarries. African Jacanas on the water, and a fly through Green Sandpiper were similarly easy fare. More satisfaction came from closer to. Early Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark and bunches of Yellow-fronted Canary and Blue-cheeked Cordon Bleu prefaced a static Grasshopper Buzzard and Abyssinian Rollers on the wires. Wire-tailed Swallows plied to and fro under the bridge structure, and a group of nondescript out of breeding plumaged weavers/wydahs contained a Grey-headed Sparrow. Perhaps the major prize was a skulking African Moustached Warbler, initially behaving in a by the book skulking manor, then to defy all odds and feed in the open for quite some time. This was one of the species we had had a hopeful eye on for some time. Perhaps only because it is the first warbler in the guide books, or even that it is one of the few in the family that show some distinctive markings, the real bird is a lot more stunning than the books would suggest, with rich rufous panels on the body, and well marked head patterns. Beautiful Sunbird and a pair of Senegal Eremomelas fed actively in the larger bushes next to the road itself.
Once at the bridge, we spent two hours not moving a great distance Ė not even leaving the span of the bridge in fact. The river is quite wide even here, and there was the usual accompaniment of engines from motor scooters to lorries and buses. Why do they think itís acceptable or friendly to constantly blow horns when passing when we are obviously trying to get some peace and quiet while seeking out birds? This didnít detract from the star attractions of the site Ė Egyptian Plovers. There are one or two locations around here for these enigmatic birds, and we were lucky enough to pick up two flying over the river to land just below the bridge almost immediately. I counted 4, although there were also claims for a fifth bird. Whatever the actual number, they didnít disappoint, mainly being together on the sandy banks below the bridge, and often plying to and fro between banks on opposite sides of the river. A surprise addition while scanning through a group of Senegal Thick-knees was a lone African Skimmer further on down the same sand spit. Every now and again it would stretch the wings and head for the water, but still didnít show off its skimming skills. On the opposite side of the bank to a group of Long-tailed Glossy Starlings, a couple of Purple & single Lesser Blue-eared Glossies were up and down from the trees. Apart from the usual Yellow-billed Kites, singles of Dark Chanting Goshawk and Grey Kestrel put in appearances, with a group of 4 Senegal Parrots over in the distance. As the afternoon wore on, it was obvious that a sizeable collection of weavers/wydahs were amassing in the riverside bushes below. Unfortunately, breeding plumage hadnít yet emerged to save our identification woes, but they seemed to be mainly Village Weavers and Pin-tailed Wydahs. A skulking Yellow-crowned Gonolek was more obvious.
We left the bridge with the light starting to fade, but only 5 minutes down the road was the opportunity to get close to a colony of White-billed Buffalo Weavers which were forming the colony in one of the villages. The dying light indicated a good time to catch them returning to the trees of choice, almost directly above a busy bus stop and most definitely next to the noisy road.