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Day 6 (Tuesday, 23rd February)

     Mognori steel bridge, Mole


Mognori Steel Bridge Mognori Mognori

The last morning in Mole, andKalu had prepared us for a longer drive to get to the birding spot. A couple of minutes into travel, however, it wasn’t a surprise when we stopped off again at the disused airfield – naturally to look for White-throated Francolin yet again. He seemed to have a bit of a thing about finding these, but they weren’t playing ball. A pass through party of White-crested Helmet Shrikes was adequate recompense, even if they did perform true to form and stop for only seconds every 50 metres or so. The journey to the bridge was also not particularly far, and we spent the 3 hours in this area. The stagnant water next to the bridge was checked, but only a few small finches and Striped Ground Squirrel were. The main quarry was the vegetation fringed pool only a short walk through the bush, with a Northern Crombec on the way showing good signs. Creeping up to the pool still managed to flush the Hamerkops and Cattle Egrets, but these weren’t the star attraction. That honour went to the 2 Carmine Bee-eaters which hung around the pool on and off while we were there. They have a penchant for perching on the tops of larger trees, but a bit of patience rewarded closer views, including one low down just over the water. Naturally, the area was well populated with Red-throated Bee-eaters, but the Yellow-crowned Gonoleks were more of a challenge to see well (despite the loud calls). Lizard Buzzard and a perched Brown Snake Eagle were close to, with Bateleur overhead. There was a lot of activity on the mud margins, mainly from the smaller finches and Village Weavers (first full breeding male of the trip here), as well as a couple of Yellow-fronted Canaries. Sifting through them turned up a couple of Streaky-headed Seedeaters, a Eurasian Reed Warbler, and yet another African Moustached Warbler (the fifth of the trip). More typical water birds were 3 Malachite Kingfishers (with Grey-headed towards the outside just below a Broad-billed Roller), a few Jacanas, and a Black Crake.

There was another smaller pool a little further back, but didn’t have nearly the same amount of vegetation around it, or the numbers of birds. Most interest was in the birds which flew up as we approached, with a single Wooly-necked Stork amongst the Grey Herons and Hamerkops.

Hamerkop Carmine Bee-eater
Hamerkop Northern Carmine Bee-eater
Village Weaver Red-throated Bee-eater
Village Weaver Red-throated Bee-eater

The last search was in what remained of the now stagnant river to the other side of the bridge. This went on for some way, and held enough water to be of interest to species such as Finfoot and Fishing Owl. But not today. We gave it a good try, and came up with White-crowned Robin Chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Senegal Batis, and a trio of Yellow-breasted Apalis. Stars of the show remained the Carmine Bee-eaters of earlier!

Yet it wasn’t a total shock when on the way back to the hotel, Kalu tried one last time to find White-throated Fancolin. Guess what? Again, the morning’s compensation adequately delivered was a trio of White-crested Helmet Shrikes once more, but this time very much closer. Nice try Kalu but I’ll take the Shrikes!

We then set off without paying the extortionate cost for lunch at the Mole Hotel, with the intention of reaching the next destination by late afternoon when the dreaded African curse struck once again. This was our fourth birding trip on the continent, and two of the previous three had included some form of mechanical breakdown. So it was that about 2 hours on, and another 30 minutes from the lunch stop, some odd noises from the engine turned out to be a problem with the air conditioning drive belt. Up went the bonnet, and some deft work with the Jonathan the driver’s knife removed the almost shredded culprit. After a worrying lack of activity from the engine on turning the key – we were in a small village without much mechanical assistance – it started the second time. We managed to limp to the restaurant, which was only about 10 minutes short of the next big town. Kalu left us with a table and refreshments to see to the car. 4 hours later, and one visit by taxi to keep us informed, and we were then in a local taxi making the remainder of the journey (that of an hour or so, yet at the unbelievable cost of around £12!). Jonathan stayed with the van until the work was completed while we ate chicken noodles and watched a football match at the next hotel.

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