Monday, September 13, 2010

Batie birding 13-Sept

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

There won't be much content to this post. Suffice it to say that I had an enjoyable 4 day weekend! I only have class Monday through Wednesday mornings (with the intention that I will work in the computer lab in the afternoon or Thursday/Friday). I left Wednesday right after class intending to return Thursday, yet there was a power outage Thursday, and then school (and everything else) was closed for the end of Ramadan on Friday. The announcement only came on Friday morning. So it was a very relaxing impromptu long-weekend!

On Sunday, I was back in Batie to do more birding with Cristina. Since the previous trip was a spectacular success, we decided to try it again, taking different routes. We saw more Guinea Turacos right away, along with a few squirrels. I have no idea what kind of squirrel, but it was cool to see a wild mammal for a change!

Actually, looking in my Audubon guide to African wildlife, it looks like they could have been Gambian Sun Squirrels. They were gray, spotty and had short ears.

Pictured is the ubiquitous Dark-capped Bulbul. That was probably the least interesting bird of the day, but it was the only one the instamatic camera I'm using decided to focus on... Two exciting lifebirds of the day were the Yellow-spotted Barbet (one bird sitting in shade and calling softly) and the Green-backed Woodpecker. Those were only the second barbet and the second woodpecker species of this journey!

Only one raptor though (a Common Kestrel being harrassed by a much larger Pied Crow!), and no migrants (yet). Very slim pickin's this time.

As for other things, I must say the scenery was gorgeous. On the left is the tree in which I first noticed the male Green-backed Woodpecker. There was another turaco bit further down the trail.

The trail was also extremely steep and muddy. I'm not sure how we got up and down it!

Wildflowers here are amazing. First and foremost because they attract birds (notably sunbirds).

And some are just plain beautiful in their own right. These look like lilies you could find in a nursery or as a potted plant. Other "house" plants I've seen growing wild here include Poinsettias, Dieffenbachia, many types of orchids, mangos, guavas, avocado, and pineapple. I'm not really up on plants, so I'm sure there are many fascinating species I have missed through ignorance!!

I just liked this picture because I think it reflects very well what the rural parts of this area are like. It's heavily cultivated (hardly an inch remains here), there are non-native eucalyptus trees planted at left for wood and erosion control, a "moto" (the default transportation, it seems) waits to be used along a red-dirt trail. And that red dirt/dust gets everywhere, and is very hard to wash out by hand.
Still, there is a certain beauty and tranquility in this scene. It was very quiet on this trail: bird song was the only thing we could hear for much of this trek. The hills just roll on and on, and get more and more beautiful.

This is Cristina photographing some local kids. At first, they were sort of curiously following us and shouting "la blanche!" ("white woman!") as nearly everyone does here for some reason. But then we started talking to them, and they shyly let us take their picture. Very cute moment!

And finally, I just love Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleus that are found all over the West, but they and my camera have not cooperated. These two photos should represent Bigfoot-like evidence of their existence here. You can clearly see there is a bird with a lot of sky-blue on it, and the little splotch on the cheek is supposed to be red! They really are beautiful (I assure you!!)

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