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Sierra Leone Birding
By Jon Hornbuckle
1-18 December 2006
I visited Sierra Leone with my friends Rich Hopf and Frank Lambert to try to see as many of the West African specialities as possible. 16 of the 17 Upper Guinea endemics occur, along with at least 4 other species also found only in Nigeria. We saw 13 of these, including White-necked Rockfowl and White-breasted Guineafowl, plus other rarely seen birds such as Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Kemp's Longbill, Ussher's Flycatcher, Lowland Akalat, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Red-fronted Antpecker, Crimson Seedcracker and for some, Spot-breasted Ibis and African Pitta. Sierra Leone is a safe, if under-developed, country now after 10 years of bloody civil war and the best place to see these birds now that Ivory Coast is unsafe to visit. Few birders have been to Sierra Leone other than South African tour-leaders and a few employed by the RSPB to do detailed surveys of Gola Forest and Rockfowl sites, a highly commendable extension to the RSPB's previously rather insular activities.
A visa must be obtained before departure for £50. See slhc-uk.org.uk. The application requires a "letter of invitation", but a copy of an email will do.
There are a few Internet cafes in Freetown, and there is fairly wide mobile phone coverage. The unit of currency is the Leone, the exchange rate in Dec 2006 being 5,200 to the £ at the airport.
Hotel accommodation is usually of a good standard but quite expensive in the cities, basic elsewhere; restaurants are basic outside of the cities. Bottled water, soft drinks and tasteless local beer are fairly cheap and widely available, with European lager also available but about £1 a can.
People are very friendly, many speaking English, the official language. Birding was not easy, being mostly in tall rain forest where trapping is rife, with not much vocalization, owls being notably silent. Insects were surprisingly scarce, especially mosquitoes.
We flew to Freetown with Astraeus for £480 including departure tax (booked direct by phone 01293 874380). They fly twice a week, Monday and Friday, from Gatwick -- OK but said to be often late. BA also fly there but are more expensive. Freetown airport lies on the far side of the bay, a long way by road from the town. Occasional ferries cross the bay cheaply; helicopter ($40 or $50) is quicker and best when arriving in late evening / early morning on Astraeus, but it looks like a Vietnam veteran. According to Jeremy Lindsell, Family Kingdom Hotel near the Freetown helipad is comfortable (about $60 per night). +232 76 777949 / +232 77 850466 / +232 33 371027 or stay at the Mahera Beach Hotel (+232 76 611775) near the airport and cross over to Freetown in the morning.
The ground arrangements were well-organised by Kenneth Gbenga, factsfinding[.at.]yahoo.com, who accompanied us throughout. He had taken Ian Sinclair (IS) on a tour about 2 weeks before us, and quoted an all-in price of $8000 for a 21 day tour for 4 people, using an a/c 4 X 4 with a support vehicle. As our 4th member dropped out and we had to reduce to 18 days, a non-a/c bus was used and the cost reduced to $6000 for 17 days. The only problem with this was that the roads were mostly very dusty and as open windows were a necessity due to the heat, we were frequently covered in red dust when traveling. Vehicle-hire is very expensive due to the UN and aid agencies, the main renters, paying high rates. Locals travel in crowded vans or on the back of motorbikes. Back-country roads are badly pot-holed, and some have dangerous bridges.
The weather was hot, humid and dry throughout, the rainy season having ended late in mid-November, after starting in April. December to February is the best time to visit but may not be the best time for bird vocalization. Jeremy found September-October to be the best, although it can still be pretty wet at this time.
There are no worthwhile trip reports, but visitsierraleone.org has quite a lot of useful info. It's worth taking both Birds of Western Africa (Borrow and Demy) and Birds of Africa South of the Sahara (Sinclair and Ryan), as some illustrations differ greatly for the same species.
We are most grateful for help from Erik Klop, Jeremy Lindsell, Arnold Okoni, Simon Wotton and Ian Sinclair.
December 1 Heathrow – Freetown – Mariam Hotel
2 Freetown/Guma Valley dam road, Western Peninsula
3 Regent Road Chimp Sanctuary, drive to Bo, hotel
4-5 Tiwai Island, camping
6 Tiwai Island a.m., drive to Zimmi, UN Guesthouse.
7-8 Gola East
9 Gola East a.m., drive to Belebu, Gola North; night in unfinished guesthouse.
10 Gola North till 4 p.m., drive to Kenema – Pastoral College.
11 Kambui Hills South
12 Kambui Hills North a.m., drive to Zimmi, Gola East 4-6:30.
13 Gola West a.m. (JH), Gola East – RH and FL, JH p.m.
14 Gola east a.m., drive to Magburaka – Pampana Guesthouse
15 Bumbuna, Pampana Guesthouse
16 Bumbuna till 10, walk & drive to Makeni, drive to Freetown – Teacher's Union Hotel.
17 Scrub in Eastern suburbs till 10, Chimp Sanctuary 11-1:30, No.2 River 5-7.
18 Mt Aureal a.m., Freetown p.m., ferry to airport, fly to Gatwick.
We arrived at Freetown at about midnight, some 3 hours late, and were met by Kenneth who escorted us to the helicopter terminal. We were soon flying across the bay, crammed in with c.20 others, before safely landing and taking a short taxi ride to Hotel Miriam. It seemed no time before the phone rang at 4:40 am, unrequested, and we staggered down to a basic breakfast. Drove to Western Peninsula NP and birded all morning, seeing birds such as Yellowbill, Melancholy Woodpecker, Grey Longbill, Chestnut Wattle-eye and White-tailed Alethe. Lunch at No. 2 River beach resort, where many terns – mostly Royal – were in action. Declined Ken's offer of a boat trip mid-afternoon because of timing, and returned to the forest above Guma dam. A short uphill clamber saw us at a big rock where we sat down to await the Rockfowls. At 5:30 a pair duly obliged but stayed rather distant, until some 10 minutes later when they came back and worked their way right past us, giving unforgettable views. A great start to the trip with the No. 1 bird in the bag!
The next day we were ready to leave at 6:00 but didn't get away for some time as Ken was late (the only occasion). Drove to the Chimp Sanctuary road – closed but Ken called the manager to get permission for us to walk up it. Saw Forest Scrub-Robin, Finsch's Flycatcher-Thrush, Shrike-Flycatcher, Fraser's Forest-Flycatcher and Sabine's Puffback. Drove to the large town of Bo, with stops for fish and chips (good), to pick up the cook Monday (Ken's "concubine" he said) and an attempt to see the rare Black-capped Rufous-Warbler. The latter was only heard briefly, White-bellied Kingfisher being some consolation. The hotel was quite noisy and suffered a power-cut, a common occurrence in SL; we were too tired to sample the nightlife at the bar next door as it didn't get lively till after 10 apparently.
We left just after 4 a.m. to get to Tiwai Island in good time and made a few nightjar stops, for Long-tailed and Standard-winged, the latter only a female unfortunately. We reached the ferry at 6:45 and were soon at the campsite. Birded the rest of the morning with a local guide -- Great Blue Turaco, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, and Black-throated Coucal for Frank. In the afternoon we split up, and I was lucky to see 3 Spot-breasted Ibis, along with Fire-bellied Woodpecker, while Rich saw an African Finfoot and my most-wanted bird, African Pitta. Owling at night was unproductive as only African Wood-Owl was heard, although in the early hours, a mobile Akun Eagle-Owl called a few times. During the next day and a half we saw a good selection of birds, including Cassin's Hawk-Eagle on the nest, 5 species of Hornbill including the impressive Yellow-casqued, Spotted Honeyguide, Little Green Woodpecker, Blue Cuckoo-shrike, Sharpe's Apalis, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, a host of greenbuls and more sightings of African Pitta for Rich and Frank. There were also a lot of monkeys, including the spectacular Diana Monkey and even wild Chimps for me; but no White-breasted Guineafowl, Rufous Fishing-Owl or Ghana Cuckoo-shrike.
At 1 pm we left for Zimmi, the gateway to Gola East and West, a 2 hour journey, and checked in at the sparsely occupied, comfortable United Nations guesthouse. Late afternoon on the road through Gola forest was disappointing. The next two and a half days were spent here, concentrating on the RSPB trail in Gola East. Highlights were Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, White-breasted Guineafowl, White-spotted Flufftail, Black Dwarf & Red-billed Dwarf Hornbills, Brown-cheeked Hornbill (RH), Rufous-sided Broadbill (FL), Kemp's Longbill, Lowland Akalat, Brown Illadopsis, Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike, lots of greenbuls and sunbirds, including Buff-throated, 4 malimbes, Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch and Crimson Seedcracker (FL). On the second morning Frank found a large bird party with greenbuls, malimbes, illadopsis, woodpeckers and a male Red-fronted Antpecker, which I was able to relocate the following morning.
At mid-day we left for Gola North, a short distance but on a very bad road with hazardous log bridges. It was at this point our suspicions that the bus did not have 4-wheel drive were confirmed, contrary to Ken's assurances on the first day. We made it, just, to Belebu village and were billeted in an uncompleted guesthouse, with mattresses but no protection against mosquitoes, though fortunately there didn't seem to be any. A local youth took us into the forest on a strenuous hike to the ridge. Red-necked Buzzard and bathing Bearded-Greenbuls were the best of the few birds but on the way down we found a good fruiting tree, for staking-out on the morrow. We dined on a reasonable meal cooked in the village, washed down with the beer that Ken had thoughtfully brought with us.
Rich set-off before dawn to look for night birds, with little success. Nkulengu Rails were heard calling and a Crowned Hawk-Eagle seen closely at dawn, perched in mid-storey by the stream. At the fruiting tree the first birds were Great Blue Turacos, followed by Yellow-casqued Hornbills and then a pair of Brown-cheeked Hornbill, the main objective. We spent the rest of the day trying to find Gola Malimbe and Nimba Flycatcher, with not a sniff of the former and 2 unconfirmed possible sightings of the latter. We did see Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Bristle-nosed Barbet (FL), Brown-eared Woodpecker, a displaying Rufous-sided Broadbill, Blue Cuckoo-shrike and Chestnut-capped Flycatcher. At 5 pm we left for the town of Kenema and negotiated the bad road with only one problem, a broken leaf-spring. We stayed at the Pastoral College -- OK but rather noisy due to a national student workshop -- and ate at a good but slow Lebanese restaurant in town.
An hour's drive in the dark saw us at Bayama village, the gateway to Kambui Hills South, the home of many good birds according to Ken. A long walk through the farmbush was unproductive, with no sign of the hoped-for Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Capuchin Babbler or Fiery-breasted Bushshrike. The forest was hot and disappointing, with only Blackcap Illadopsis, Green-tailed Bristlebill and, at the edge, Willcock's Honeyguide, of any real note. A major Rockfowl site is an hour's non-stop walk in the forest but as this is a late afternoon event, we decided against it. The walk back though the farmbush was dead, so this was a rather disappointing day.
The following morning took us to Kambui Hills North, on a barely driveable track beyond Bambawo village. Birds here included Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Naked-faced Barbet, 3 Ussher's Flycatcher, a brief Red-thighed Sparrowhawk with prey, and a close pair of Hartlaub's Duck in flight. I found a good bird party inside the forest, but it moved out of sight before I had could confirm the identity of a honeyguide, possibly Yellow-footed. We decided to return to Gola East, as Tiwai Island, my preference, was not an option since Ken had fallen out with the locals there due to excessive charges and swore he would never go there again. We arrived at 4 pm at the RSPB trail. Frank immediately walked to my Guineafowl site and had good views of at least 2! The next morning, I visited Gola West with Ken as the trail was very hard to follow. Spotted Honeyguide and Crimson Seedcracker were the only good birds, no Bristle-nosed Barbet (common according to Ken). Rich saw the Guineafowl in Gola East. My bird of the day was there in the afternoon - a brief but good view of a Forest Francolin. Frank had Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and Fiery-breasted Bushshrike in the farmbush. Back at Zimmi, a large temporary camp had appeared, for the last Liberian refugees who were returning to Liberia after 5 years in SL.
Early morning at the big marsh before Gola was unrewarding, although the sight of a Black Sparrowhawk in display flight, giving a strange, repeated short call was interesting. Frank taped out Sooty Boubou and we all had good views of Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and Fiery-breasted Bushshrike. I returned to the forest while F and R continued the search for Capuchin Babbler, with success. A party of Violet-backed Hyliota was my only new bird, but I had good views of other species such as White-tailed Alethe. At 11:30 we left for the long drive to the northwest, via Bo. A ruined tyre caused a delay as it proved to be a non-standard size, and another search for Black-capped Rufous-Warbler was unsuccessful. We arrived at Magbuaka at 8 pm, in time to watch Spurs vs a Bulgarian team live on TV, had we so wished. Dinner was rather spartan - spam and salad.
An hour's drive the following morning brought us to Bumbuna, Ken's site for Emerald Starling, Turati's Boubou and Sierra Leone Prinia. We saw the Boubou but not the others; a pair of Pearl-spotted Owlet were obliging, a species not in SL according to the field-guides. A courtesy audience with the regional chief, a ruler for life who had been elected from the heads of the ruling families, was interesting -- if all were like him, this must be a better system than "Western democracy" for Africa, but it's a big "if". Next stop was Bumbuna waterfall where we had a picnic lunch. The riparian forest looked promising but my only good sighting was a probable green mamba. We birded along the road back to Magbuaka from 3:00-5:30, seeing a distant pair of Emerald Starling and then 15 in a nearby tree along with a Jambandu Indigobird, singing like a Waxbill. Returning to the guesthouse, we feasted on fish, chips and fried plantains for dinner.
Back to Bumbuna the next day, we birded from 6:40-10:00 -- Blackcap Babbler, Vanga Flycatcher, West African Seedeater, lots of Red-collared Widowbirds and good but distant views of Chimps, but no SL Prinia or Baumann's Greenbul. We took the slow road to Makeni, walking/birding some of the way, seeing Ayres' Hawk-Eagle, Guinea Turaco, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, White Helmet-shrike. The bus broke-down after Makeni but was repaired by cleaning the petrol filter. An afternoon walk in forest near Freetown was birdless. Reaching Freetown at 6 pm, we checked into 5-10, the Teacher's Union Hotel, where a noisy wedding reception looked troublesome but our 4th floor rooms were fairly quiet.
The final two days were rather an anti-climax and would have been better spent back in Gola. We visited a site on the eastern edge of Freetown to look for a few species, notably Crimson Seedcracker and Western Bluebill, which had eluded Rich, and Dybowski's Twinspot. The Seedcracker duly appeared at 7.30, as predicted by Ken, but there was no sign of the others. Then we went back to the Regent Road Chimp Sanctuary, mainly so I could look for Capuchin Babbler and Rich for Forest Scrub-Robin. R was successful, I was not. A long drive around the Western Peninsula showed there was still plenty of forest there. After fish and chips at No. 2 River resort, we took a 2 hour engineless boat trip on the river to look for White-crested Tiger-Heron and White-backed Night-Heron in the mangroves. There was surprisingly little life at all, not even mosquitoes, the only notable birds being 2 probable White-backed Night-Herons in flight when almost dark. Heavy traffic delayed our return to the hotel till 8:30 by which time the restaurant was virtually shut and only some rather indifferent fare on offer.
As Ken told us our last day was not included in his tour, inexplicably, I just taxied to nearby Mt Aureal to explore the botanic gardens, a worthwhile site according to Rockjumper's brochure. It was badly degraded and teeming with people but big trees near the top held some birds, including Wood Warbler, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch. A walk down to the congested city centre was enlivened by conversation with a friendly Muslim leader. A huge cotton tree there held thousands of fruit bats. Traffic was almost grid-locked -- it took me over an hour on a public minibus to travel less than 1 km en route to the small, national railway museum, which I visited. The hotel was a pleasant relief from the heat and heavy traffic. We left at 4 with Ken for the ferry across to the airport. A long wait for its departure gave opportunity to check the terns -- all Sandwich here -- and a variety of common waders flying past. The journey was less than an hour and check-in at the airport trouble-free. The Astraeus flight left on time, to everyone's surprise, but early morning touch-down at Gatwick was foiled by fog, leading to diversion to the well-known international airport at Bournemouth! Here we waited on the tarmac for over 3 hours before the 2 immigration staff were ready for us and then for a further 2 hours before everyone was through immigration and aboard the 3 coaches bound for Gatwick. Welcome to Great Britain, I'm sure Kenneth would have done a much better job than our bureaucrats!
Comments on Localities
There is good forest on the Western Peninsula, most accessible at Guma Dam. Can be birded along a quiet road there and a trail to the coast. A short steep walk up from the road above the dam takes you to a Rockfowl site where we had excellent views at 5:30-45 pm. The Regent Road Chimp Rehab Sanctuary has good secondary forest with Forest Scrub-Robin and Capuchin Babbler on the entrance track, although officially closed at present due to a chimp going berserk and killing one of its guards. White-crested Tiger-Herons can be found in the mangroves along No. 2 River and near the airport according to Ken, but our 2 hour evening boat trip was unproductive.
Mount Aureal, a university campus with a botanic gardens, now over-run with locals, has some big trees and a lot of scrub but is only worth visiting in a spare hour or two.
Gola Forest Reserve is the largest area of Upper Guinea rainforest in Sierra Leone. It occupies the south-eastern edge of the country and is divided into four sections: Gola North (45,800 ha), Gola East (22,800 ha) and Gola West (6,200 ha) are Forest Reserves, while Tiwai Island (1,300 ha) is a Game Sanctuary. Tiwai Island is situated in the Moa river, 10 km north-west of Gola West. Gola West and East are contiguous, separated only by the Mahoi river and a road, while Gola North lies about 5 km north-east of Gola East. Gola North is fairly hilly, with most land lying above 300 m.
Tiwai is a good site, run by a local NGO who can provide camping equipment and a cook. It can be reached by motorbike and ferry from Bo. We found the best of the many trails to be one running left from the far left corner of the research station, eg with Spot-breasted Ibis and African Pitta flushed from near the stream crossing and Spotted Honeyguide near the river, reached from the first trail on the left after the stream. IS saw Gola Cuckooshrike and Rufous Fishing-owl here.
Gola East and West can be birded from the main road north of Zimmi, 30 minutes away. There is only one obvious trail going into the East forest, about 1.5 km from the Reserve boundary. This has been cleared by the RSPB, safely to a shortish swamp crossing, rather dangerously beyond it with numerous saplings cut-off some 30cm above the ground so that a slip could find you impaled on several sharp spikes. We saw White-breasted Guineafowl 3 times about 500+m beyond the swamp (where Crimson Seedcracker sometimes responded to tape), either in mid-afternoon or mid-morn, and the only sizeable bird-party held Red-fronted Antpecker on consecutive mornings. Also the road and a farmbush trail on the right, just after the big swamp before reaching Gola reserve, were good for Fiery-breasted Bushshrike, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and Capuchin Babbler. The one trail going into Gola West was difficult to follow and Spotted Honeyguide the only notable bird seen.
Gola North can be accessed by driving to Belebu. The trail up to the ridge holds Brown-cheeked Hornbill and possibly Gola Malimbe and Nimba Flycatcher. Better still is Lalehun, which could not be reached by vehicle other than motorbike in December. Here you can camp in primary forest inside the reserve, giving the best chance of owls, Nimba Flycatcher, Guineafowl and Cuckooshrike.
Situated near the large town of Kenema, Kambui Hills South is accessed at Bayama village. A good trail leads through plantations and farmbush to logged primary forest and eventually to an active Rockfowl site. We found it disappointing, seeing only Willcock's Honeyguide, Black-cap Illadopsis and Green-tailed Bristlebill of note. A morning at Kambui Hills North, accessed at Bambawo village, gave Hartlaub's Duck, Ussher's Flycatcher and a possible Yellow-footed Honeyguide.
This scrappy hilly area in the north consists of wooded savanna and cultivated land. We saw Emerald Starling, Blackcap Babbler, Turati's Boubou and Jambandu Indigobird, and IS saw Sierra Leone Prinia. We also had good views of Chimps here.
There is forest near Kono, very good according to Kenneth but a long walk to reach. He says this is the best site for Baumann's Greenbul. The mountainous Loma area in the north is said to be the best for the Prinia, but takes a day to reach and two or more days may be needed to find the bird. Black-capped Rufous-Warbler occurs in a forest patch near the river bridge at Mongeri, west of Bo. We saw White-bellied Kingfisher here but only heard the warbler briefly. A better site for the latter is said to be Kangari Hills.
Sierra Leone is a rewarding but challenging country for birding. It can be done on the cheap by masochists experienced in tough conditions and own bird-finding. Best to go with a tour group -- Rockjumper are starting tours in 2007, and I may do one in late 2007 with Worldbirders.com -- or use Kenneth for logistics if you are happy to find and identify your own birds.
Allocate 24 hours at Bumbuna for Emerald Starling, etc and a day or two at Belebu, Gola North for Brown-cheeked Hornbill, possibly Nimba Flycatcher and, very unlikely, Gola Malimbe, unless prepared to hike to and camp at Lalehun where the best forest is located. Go to the Rockfowl site near Freetown, not Kambui Hills South, as it's a long walk to the site there, although there are more Rockfowls, and Ussher's Flycatcher is on the main Kambui North track, beyond the continuous forest.
The rest of the time should be spent at Gola East and Tiwai Island, as most of the forest birds are there.
Bird Records of Interest
White-backed Night-Heron Gorsachius leuconotus
2 probables in flight at late dusk on No. 2 river.
Spot-breasted Ibis Bostrychia rara
2 flushed, calling loudly, and were followed by another a couple of minutes later on Tiwai Is.
Hartlaub's Duck Pteronetta hartlaubii
2 flew past at Kambui Hills North, and singles flew on 2 dates at Gola East, and at Bumbuna.
Red-chested Goshawk Accipiter toussenelii
Singles at Kambui South, Kambui North and a pair at Gola East.
Red-thighed Sparrowhawk Accipiter erythropus
A pair calling at Gola East - probably the male delivering prey to the female – and a male in flight with prey at Kambui North.
Black Goshawk Accipiter melanoleucus
Two early morning sightings of a bird flying high and calling repeatedly, at Gola North and over the big swamp before Gola East/West, and 1 in flight with prey at Bumbuna.
Red-necked Buzzard Buteo auguralis
At least 3 at Gola North, quite noisy, and 1 in the quarry at Bumbuna.
Cassin's Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus africanus
One on a big nest at Tiwai Is. on several occasions.
Crowned Hawk-Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus
One mid-storey early morning at Gola North (RH).
Forest Francolin Francolinus lathami
One near the RSPB trail at Gola East (JH) was the only one identified -- several probable francolins were flushed at different times, doubtless this species or F.ahantensis. Nocturnal calls at Tiwai Is. were also thought to be this species.
White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides
Three sightings of up to 3 birds at almost the same place in Gola East, on 8th, 12th and 13th.
White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra
Two dueted pre-dusk by the stream beside the Gola Road, with 1 crossing the stream.
Nkulengu Rail Himantornis haematopus
Several calling early morning at Gola North and a few calls at night at Tiwai Is.
African Finfoot Podica senegalensis
One in the Moa river, Tiwai Is (RH).
Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis
5 on rocks in the Moa river, Tiwai Is.
Bronze-naped Pigeon Columba iriditorques
Seemingly common in all rain forest and not difficult to see.
Great Blue Turaco Corythaeola cristata
Frequently heard and quite often seen in all rain forest, with c.10 visiting a fruiting tree on the edge of Gola North forest.
Guinea Turaco Tauraco persa
Only 1 seen, in a forest patch Bumbuna – Makeni road.
Yellow-billed Turaco Tauraco macrorhynchus
Fairly common in tropical forest except at Tiwai.
Western Plantain-eater Crinifer piscator
Only one at Gola East and 1 or 2 at Bambuna.
Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus
Singles in most forest including Mt Aureal, Freetown.
Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster
Common on Tiwai Is. by call but only seen by FL, twice; calling elsewhere in Gola. The most frustrating bird of the trip!
Akun Eagle-Owl Bubo leucostictus
A mobile owl calling in the middle of the first night, only, on Tiwai Is. was thought to be this species.
African Wood-Owl Strix woodfordii
Frequently heard at night, usually the only owl heard.
Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum
A pair watched at length at Bumbuna and photo'd. Range extension as not present in SL according to all the books?
Red-chested Owlet Glaucidium tephronotum
Heard at Gola North (RH).
Eurasian Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus
Nightjars on the road caused us some id difficulties but we were confident that at least 1 on the Gola road was this species.
Long-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus climacurus
At least 6 on the Bo-Tiwai Is. road.
Standard-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx longipennis
At least 1 female on the Bo-Tiwai Is. road, confirmed by photo, and another near Kenema, but where were the males?
Black Spinetail Telacanthura melanopygia
A few over Gola North.
Sabine's Spinetail Rhaphidura sabini
A few over Gola East, and c.20 at Gola North (FL).
White-bellied Kingfisher Alcedo leucogaster
One at the pool at the Black-capped Rufous-Warbler site.
Dwarf Kingfisher Ispidina lecontei
Singles at Gola East swamp (JH) and at Kambui North (RH).
Chocolate-backed Kingfisher Halcyon badia
Quite often heard in forest but only singles seen on Tiwai Is. and at trail entrance in Gola East.
White-crested Hornbill Tockus albocristatus
Fairly common in forest but shy, usually feeding low down, even on the ground.
Black Dwarf Hornbill Tockus hartlaubi
2 seen in Gola East, only once.
Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill Tockus camurus
Quite often heard in forest but only seen in Gola East and North.
African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus
The commonest hornbill, seen throughout, sometimes in large flocks of 50 or more.
Piping Hornbill Ceratogymna fistulator
Fairly common in forest.
Brown-cheeked Hornbill Ceratogymna cylindricus
2 at Gola East (RH) and several heard at Gola North but only 1 or 2 pairs seen.
Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata
Fairly common in forest.
Black-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna atrata
A pair on Tiwai Is.
Naked-faced Barbet Gymnobucco calvus
At least 2 at Kambui North and along the Gola road.
Bristle-nosed Barbet Gymnobucco peli
One calling at Gola North was only seen well by FL – supposedly common!
Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus
Widespread in small numbers.
Yellow-spotted Barbet Buccanodon duchaillui
Surprisingly common once call was known.
Spotted Honeyguide Indicator maculatus
Singles on Tiwai Is. and in Gola West.
Willcock's Honeyguide Indicator willcocksi
One, probably 2, in big trees on the edge of Kambui South forest.
Yellow-footed Honeyguide Melignomon eisentrauti
A honeyguide in a feeding flock at Kambui North was thought to be this species, but it disappeared before id could be confirmed (JH).
Little Green Woodpecker Campethera maculosa
2 on Tiwai Is.
Buff-spotted Woodpecker Campethera nivosa
Singles at Tiwai, Gola East, North and Kambui North.
Brown-eared Woodpecker Campethera caroli
Singles at Gola East and Kambui South.
Cardinal Woodpecker Dendropicos fuscescens
1 or 2 at Bambuna.
Melancholy Woodpecker Dendropicos lugubris
One at Gumbo Dam on the first day was the only record.
Fire-bellied Woodpecker Dendropicos pyrrhogaster
Fairly common in primary forest.
Rufous-sided Broadbill Smithornis rufolateralis
Displaying in Gola East and North.
African Pitta Pitta angolensis
Flushed on or near 3 trails on Tiwai Is but silent and unresponsive to play-back; must have been the seldom-reported pulih form but whether resident or seasonal is unknown.
White-throated Blue Swallow Hirundo nigrita
A single bird seen on both crossings of the hand-operated ferry east of Bo.
Preuss's Swallow Petrochelidon preussi
50-100 at Bumbuna.
Square-tailed Sawwing Psalidoprocne nitens
Fairly common near forest.
Fanti Sawwing Psalidoprocne obscura
Scarcer than nitens but often with it.
Blue Cuckoo-shrike Coracina azurea
A pair on Tiwai (JH) and singles at Gola East and North.
Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike Campephaga phoenicea
Singles at Bumbuna and the Bumbuna – Makeni road.
Little Grey Greenbul Andropadus gracilis
Greenbuls were the most numerous forest birds, especially Little A.virens, but difficult to id unless seen or heard well. This species was certainly at Gola East. Small numbers of the other species were recorded at the following localities.
Ansorge's Greenbul Andropadus ansorgei
Western Peninsula and Kambui North and South
Slender-billed Greenbul Andropadus gracilirostris
Yellow-whiskered Bulbul Andropadus latirostris
Western Peninsula and Gola North
Golden Greenbul Calyptocichla serina
Honeyguide Greenbul Baeopogon indicator
Gola East and North, Kambui South
Spotted Greenbul Ixonotus guttatus
Gola East and North
Simple Greenbul/Leaflove Chlorocichla simplex
Gola East and North
Swamp Greenbul Thescelocichla leucopleura
Gola East and North, Kambui North
Icterine Greenbul Phyllastrephus icterinus
Gola East and Kambui South
Common/Red-tailed Bristlebill Bleda syndactyla
Tiwai, Gola East and North
Green-tailed Bristlebill Bleda eximia
Gola East and Kambui South
Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapilla
Western Peninsula and Gola East
Western/Yellow-spotted Nicator Nicator chloris
Red-tailed Greenbul Criniger calurus
Gola East and North, Kambui North
Western Bearded-Greenbul Criniger barbatus
Tiwai, Gola East and North
Yellow-bearded Greenbul Criniger olivaceus
Gola East and North, Kambui South and North
Finsch's Flycatcher-Thrush Neocossyphus finschii
Up to 4 daily in Western Peninsula and Gola forests.
White-tailed/Fire-crested Alethe Alethe diademata
One or 2 daily in Western Peninsula and Gola forests, with 2 spotted juveniles seen.
Sharpe's Apalis Apalis sharpii
Common by voice but only a few sightings as mostly high in canopy.
Kemp's Longbill Macrosphenus kempi
Two singles in Gola East, with totally different voices -- one a simple whistle, the other a Forest Robin-like song.
Violet-backed Hyliota Hyliota violacea
A small party in Gola East (JH).
African Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria ocreata
One in Regent Forest, Western Peninsula was the only record.
Ussher's Flycatcher Muscicapa ussheri
3 together at Kambui North.
Cassin's Flycatcher Muscicapa cassini
Two singles on rocks in rivers.
Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher Myioparus griseigularis
One or 2 at Mount Aureal.
Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax
The commonest robin-type species seen or heard daily in forest.
Lowland Akalat Sheppardia cyornithopsis
Only 1 seen, in Gola East, apparently associating with White-tailed Alethes.
Forest Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas leucosticta
Only seen in Regent Forest, Western Peninsula.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
One in East Freetown -- not mapped for SL in Sinclair and Ryan but shown as coastal only in Borrow and Demy.
African Shrike-flycatcher Megabyas flammulatus
One in Regent Forest, Western Peninsula.
Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher Bias musicus
A pair at Bumbuna, the mail display-flighting at times.
Chestnut Wattle-eye Platysteira castanea
1 or 2 most days in forest.
Red-cheeked Wattle-eye Platysteira blissetti
A pair in farmbush before Gola East, took some finding.
Chestnut-capped Flycatcher Erythrocercus mccallii
At least 2 at Gola North and Kambui North.
Blue-headed Crested-Flycatcher Trochocercus nitens
One at Gola East.
White-necked Rockfowl Picathartes gymnocephalus
Two, possibly 3, at a nest site on the Western Peninsula.
Blackcap Illadopsis Illadopsis cleaveri
One at Kambui South.
Rufous-winged Illadopsis Illadopsis rufescens
One at Tiwai, 2 at Kambui South and heard fairly commonly in Gola.
Puvel's Illadopsis Illadopsis puveli
One in farmbush at Gola East looked somewhat different from all illustrations in the guide-books.
Brown Illadopsis Illadopsis fulvescens
A few in Gola East.
Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii
Two parties at Bumbuna.
Brown Babbler Turdoides plebejus
One party at Bumbuna.
Capuchin Babbler Phyllanthus atripennis
One party in farmbush at Gola East.
Scarlet-tufted Sunbird Deleornis fraseri
Singles at Gola East and North, and Kambui North at least.
Mouse-brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus
2 at No.2 River resort.
Collared Sunbird Hedydipna collaris
At least 1 at Western Peninsula and Gola North.
Green-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis
One or 2 at Bumbuna.
Blue-throated Brown Sunbird Cyanomitra cyanolaema
Quite common at Gola East.
Olive Sunbird Cyanomitra olivacea
Common in the understorey of forest throughout.
Buff-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra adelberti
A male at a flowering tree on the Gola road on 2 dates.
Olive-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris chloropygius
Difficult to id this from the next species. Both were seen in small numbers at Mt Aureal, Freetown, Western Peninsula and Gola East, at least.
Tiny Sunbird Cinnyris minullus
See above, plus Bumbuna waterfall.
Johanna's Sunbird Cinnyris johannae
One or 2 at Mt Aureal, Freetown, Western Peninsula and Gola East, at least.
Superb Sunbird Cinnyris superbus
Difficult to id from the above but at least 1 was thought to be in the Western Peninsula forest.
Large-billed/Sabine's Puffback Dryoscopus sabini
Singles at Regent Forest, Western Peninsula and Kambui North.
Turati's Boubou Laniarius turatii
At least 2 seen and others heard at Bumbuna, and 2 heard in East Freetown.
Sooty Boubou Laniarius leucorhynchus
One in farmbush at Gola East.
Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike Telophorus sulfureopectus
One at East Freetown.
Fiery-breasted Bushshrike Malaconotus cruentus
A pair in farmbush at Gola East.
Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike Prionops caniceps
Parties of 4-8 at Gola East on 5 occasions.
Emerald Starling Lamprotornis iris
Two and then 15 on the Bumbuna – Magbuaka road.
Copper-tailed Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis cupreocauda
A few at Gola East and North.
Narrow-tailed Starling Poeoptera lugubris
6 in a tree at Tiwai (JH).
Vieillot's Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus
A breeding colony at Freetown East and a few at Bumbuna.
Yellow-mantled Weaver Ploceus tricolor
A breeding colony on Tiwai and a few at Gola East and Kambui South.
Maxwell's Black Weaver Ploceus albinucha
Breeding colonies at Tiwai, Gola East and Kambui South.
Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus scutatus
Up to 5 in Gola East.
Gray's Malimbe Malimbus nitens
The commonest malimbe with a few seen in forest throughout.
Crested Malimbe Malimbus malimbicus
2 at Gola East and North.
Red-headed Malimbe Malimbus rubricollis
A few at Tiwai and Gola East.
Black-winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus
Singles at Bumbuna and Freetown East.
Red-collared Widowbird Euplectes ardens
25+ on a hillside at Bumbuna and a fewon the Bumbuna -- Magbuaka road.
Red-fronted Antpecker Parmoptila rubrifrons
Single males in a bird party at Gola East on 2 consecutive mornings.
Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch Nigrita bicolor
One at Gola East and 4 at Mt Aureal.
Grey-headed Negrofinch Nigrita canicapilla
Several at Gola East.
Crimson Seedcracker Pyrenestes sanguineus
Two singles at Gola East and 1 at Gola West and East Freetown.
Western Bluebill Spermophaga haematina
Singles at Tiwai and Kambui North, and 2 at Gola East (FL).
Jambandu Indigobird Vidua raricola
One singing on the Bumbuna -- Magbuaka road.
West African/Streaky-headed Seedeater Serinus gularis
One at Bumbuna (JH).
White-crested Bittern, Tigriornis leucolophus
Olive Ibis, Bostrychia olivacea
Ahanta Francolin, Francolinus ahantensis
Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx flavigularis
Brown Nightjar, Caprimulgus binotatus
Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Melichneutes robustus
Ghana Cuckoo-shrike, Campephaga lobata
Black-capped Rufous-Warbler, Bathmocercus cerviniventris
Nimba Flycatcher, Melaenornis annamarulae
Olivaceous Flycatcher, Muscicapa olivascens
Tessmann's Flycatcher, Muscicapa tessmanni
West African Batis, Batis occulta
Lagden's Bushshrike, Malaconotus lagdeni
Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx flavigularis
Black-necked Cisticola, Cisticola eximius
Heuglin's Masked-Weaver, Ploceus heuglini