Saturday, 13 August 2016

Sao Tome & Principe Islands


David & Glen, leaders for this tour. 
Both guys proved to be pleasant company 
& great birders.
Arrived in Libreville on 5th August, met up with David & Glen & after a nights rest, enjoyed a couple of hours birding the next morning in an urban environment around the hotel. It was a mixture of large gardens & patches of forest on vacant lots. However, it was very birdy, recording 39 species, best were:

2 Palm Nut Vulture; 6 Red-headed Lovebird; 10 Swamp Palm Bulbul; 2 Chattering Cisticola; 8 Reichanbach’s Sunbird; 5 Carmelite Sunbird; 1 Copper Sunbird & 2 Orange cheeked Waxbill. I didn’t take my camera because of security issues in this area.

The Omali Hotel

My room! Nice!
Sao Tome Prinia.
Tame & confiding.





Newton's Sunbird
A cracking male!








Female & male.
Took an afternoon flight to Sao Tome which was uneventful. Just had time to get a couple of endemics before dark: Sao Tome Prinia & Newton’s Sunbird.


The area around the hotel.
White-tailed Tropicbird
Around 12 birds were flying over the
 secondary forest. Breeding in the hills?
Glen; Jean Marc & Keith.
Read the sign!
Blue Waxbill
Common Waxbill
Sao Tome Kingfisher
Immature.
Sao Tome Speirops
Flighty & difficult to photograph.
Birding around the hotel & village on the 6th August was quite productive with a nice Sao Tome Kingfisher on the beach, Sao Tome Speirops were around, but very flighty. It was a relaxed introduction to the island.

The way into the forest.


Sao Tome Green Pigeon - can you find it?
A little better!
Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.


Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers


Looking!


Sao Tome Olive Pigeon
A brilliant bird & hard to see.



On 7th we walked the Amelia Track which proved to be good. A wonderful Sao Tome Olive Pigeon sat quietly above the trail. Sao Tome Green Pigeon & Island Bronze - naped Pigeon were welcome additions to the list.

Sao Tome Scops Owl.

What a brilliant bird!



Sao Tome Paradise Flycatcher male.

Female.

Sao Tome Thrush.
Sao Tome Speriops

After much searching, David found us a wonderful Sao Tome Scops Owl roosting in the daytime, while Sao Tome Spinetails flew overhead. Sao Tome Orioles called overhead but were tough to see, but Sao Tome Paradise Flycatchers were a little easier. Sao Tome White-eyes flitted through the high canopy & Sao Tome Thrush was in the mid story.

Principe Seedeater of the Sao Tome race.
Giant Sunbird
A great bird to see.

We were lucky to see a couple of Giant Sunbirds on the forest edge while Sao Tome Weavers were quite common.

It was a good day out & we all enjoyed a pleasant meal back at our hotel.

Our inter island transport!
Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.

Principe Island
Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.

Beautiful old buildings, unfortunately in decay.
A sleepy, laid back kind of a place.

An amazing introduced 
Madagascar Palm.


Bon Bon Lodge view from the plane.
Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers
Beautiful accommodation.
Stunning location.
Walkway to the restaurant & bar.


The bar from outside.

The bar inside!
Looking at a Humpbacked Whale!




Principe Golden Weaver

Photo courtesy of  Keith Wiggers.

The next day we took the short flight to Principe & the wonderful Bon Bon Resort. 

The boat to Playa Sao Tome.
Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.

Our supply boat, which shadowed us.

This is beautiful but rugged & difficult terrain.
Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.




Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.

Our landing spot.


Reuben, David & Keith.
Home for the night!
Wading across the river.
Photo courtesy of  Keith Wiggers.

Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.

The only problem being we left & took a boat ride to Playa Sao Tome, where we camped in uncomfortable conditions. Some of the walking was quite tough, trails being narrow, slippy & treacherous. We heard the newly describe Principe Scops Owl, but couldn’t coax it into view. 

Blue-breasted Kingfisher.

Species diversity was poor but we saw a few tough species:  Blue-breasted & White-bellied Kingfishers (both ripe for splitting) & Principe Starling.

Me walking the trail.
Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.

Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.
The 10th was a tough hike up into the hills, the trail being a bit of a nightmare. We hiked up looking for Principe Thrush, but yet again only heard it. We did see the rare Principe White-eye though. 

Leaving this rugged part of the island.
Jean Marc stayed behind & was looking smug!
Photo courtesy of Keith Wiggers.


Timneh Parrot.
It was a relief to be back on the boat going back to the luxurious Bon Bon Resort & we all enjoyed a shower & then a walk around the grounds seeing Timneh Parrots & lots of Principe Weavers. The resort was a joy & I would like to come back to enjoy the facilities.

Our camp in the forest.
Sao Tome Weaver
Very active gleaners.
A terrible photo of one of the rarest birds in the world!
Sao Tome Grosbeak!
On the 11th we were once more back on Sao Tome & we drove to the Obo National Park & hiked up to the camp on the Monte Carro Trail. Once again birding conditions were difficult but we managed to get all the big five wanted species: Dwarf Olive Ibis; Sao Tome Fiscal; Sao Tome Grosbeak; Shortail & Giant Weaver.

Look at the state of us after the trail!

However, the best was at night looking for the species of Storm Petrel which breeds in the forested mountains! It is undoubtedly a new species & we did hear it calling across the night sky! A bizarre but wonderful experience.

Blurred but you get the idea!

We all had a day off around the hotel on 13th August, but went out at dusk & manage to see the local race of Barn Owl, which looks very different. This is yet another species which may be split in the future. And so ended our time on the Gulf of Guinea Islands. We had done wonderfully well, but had some tough days in the field. A great start to this trip.