Sunday, August 15, 2010

Last post from Bafia

DISCLAIMER: views expressed are my own and not that of Peace Corps

It's been a whirlwind ten weeks of training here in Bafia! I can't believe it's over. We have been so busy between lesson planning, cross-cultural projects and language training (among other things) that there was little time to think about doing anything else. Yet we closed model school on Friday, and swearing-in is Wednesday, and then we go to post after that. So now we wait!


Start with birds of course. I'm going to be posted to Bandjoun in the Western province to teach ICT (computer literacy) at the lycee classique. That's basically a 7-year junior high/high school. I had the opportunity to visit the site in July, and during this brief visit, I noticed a few birds:

- Eurasian Kestrels: a pair in a Eucylyptus by my house
- Red-eyed Dove

In the corn and flowering bushes:

- Northern Double-collared Sunbirds (female in thumbnail image above, male spectacular iridescent green with red breast)
- Black-capped Waxbills: red rumps that flash as they fly!
- Yellow-fronted Canary: beautiful song
- Baglafecht Weaver: cute little black and yellow tweeties

On the road:

- Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus!! Adorable little powder-blue guys with red spots on their cheeks

On the wires:

- Fiscal Shrikes. Handsome black-and-white shrikes; one was feeding a youngster on my visit in early July.


Bafia has been spectacular for birds. I was fortunate to live behind the sous-prefecture, toward the end of a dirt road surrounded by lush agricultural land. There are African Gray Parrots and African Pied Hornbills that frequent the Acacia trees adjacent to that sous-prefecture. I was even able to show these parrots to Levis, a gentleman who is working on the Protect Parrot Project for the Cameroonian government. We did find 6 of them: 3 eating Acacia flowers in the treetops by the sous-prefecture and 3 doing the same at the prefecture across the street. This of course aroused the attention of the police who were wondering why we were staring at a government building with binoculars!!! Fortunately, Levis spoke to them and told them we were just birdwatching. This apparently was OK with them :)

The African Pied Hornbills have made appearances even at the lycee bilingue! They came flying in one morning and swooped very low, calling loudly. Even non-birders were curious and fascinated. Ovambo Sparrowhawks, Striped and Woodland Kingfishers have also been conspicuous at the lycee, even though most questions are about the Village Weavers that have a Mangier completely indundated with their nests (and are still building even now!

This morning (Sunday the 15th of August), Levis and I met at 7:00am to look for Red-faced Lovebirds that I had seen several times by the lycee classique. I was a bit worried since I hadn't seen them on a perch in a few weeks. They were usually flying away, and I couldn't relocate them. Then 4 of them flew directly overhead and out of sight. But then they circled back! And they landed in an Acacia right by the road! Spectacular experience, and two of them even carried on as in the photo, faithfully living up to their name.

This was very good news: they are apparently not commonly seen in the area. We ran into a neighbor (the father of the host family of another Peace Corps volunteer) and he said he had seen African Gray Parrots but never lovebirds. Then 10 minutes later we saw four of them. Go figure!

Other tidbits of interest: a pair of Spectacled Weavers also built a nest behind my host family's house in the Cissongo grass (these were a bit more interesting than the abundant Village Weavers that nest in practically EVERY tree!). They worked very hard, and impressively built it in 1-1/2 days. Yet I didn't see them after that except between 6-7pm when they seemed to come back to inspect the nest. Then about 2 weeks later, I spotted a huge Senegal Coucal also eying the nest. The parents were very upset, swooping and attacking it. Now, I have no information as to whether coucals eat bird eggs (they are HUGE and predatory after all) or whether there were any offspring in the nest: the nest itself disappeared completely the next day. Just reporting what I observed...

All told, I was able to observe 115 species for Bafia in 2-1/2 months. That is pretty good, considering I had no mode of transportation other than the mountain bike, and I didn't go anywhere outside the residential quartier. Yet some other great sightings:

- A Hammerkop, flying over a small stream

- Cattle Egrets, hanging around actual African cattle. Interestingly, these have dark rather than yellow lets

- African Palm-nut Vultures flying overhead in the northern part of Bafia

- Gymnogene, several excellent looks near the lycee bilingue. There was an adult and a juvenile in the area.

- Fire-crowned Bishops, and was able to observe them molt fully from juvenile to adult plumage (very handy considering it was a tentative ID at first!)

- Viellot's Barbet. They appeared to be looking for a nesting site (in at a hole at the top of a utility pole), but I didn't see them after that time in mid-June.

- African Paradise Flycatcher. Gorgeous, flying with such a long tail!

- Cardinal Quelea. Just saw several today: beautiful red head

I'll post more from Bandjoun, and should have more photos at that time.

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