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TonyQ

@@inyathi

The quelea flocks are amazing - you can see why they would be compared to locusts and why they would be a problem in agricultural areas. I enjoyed seeing the experiments with still photography - I think the blur effect works well. The videos are awe inspiring - and it is great having the sound as well (good not to have the smell!)

 

The bee-eaters are beautiful.

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inyathi

Red-throated Bee-eaters

 

Last year we had excellent views of red-throated bee-eaters Merops bulocki at Tinga because they are habituated to people so there were almost always one or two flying around in front of the lodge. We didn’t see them as well this time because they are primarily a woodland bird that like the carmines require sandbanks to nest in so they are a lot more common along the Salamat than elsewhere. While carmines can form huge colonies of anywhere from 100 to 1,000 red-throateds generally only form relatively small colonies of around 50 or so though they can go up to at 150.

 

There was a small colony on the opposite bank from the big carmine colony that we camped next to

 

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When they are away from the colony they forage singly but keep in contact with each other so unless you are at the colony you tend to just see single birds or in this case a pair.

 

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inyathi

African Green Bee-eater

 

The only other bee-eater I photographed is the African green (Merops viridissimus) a very common bird in Zakouma, that is distributed across the Sahel region from Senegambia to Eritrea and on across Asia to China and Vietnam. The little bee-eater (Merops pusillus) is also very common and we saw a good few of them, but I didn’t get a picture of any.

 

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inyathi

Abyssian Roller

 

In this part of Africa, the ubiquitous lilac-breasted roller (Coracius caudatus) that almost anyone who’s ever been on safari, must be familar with is absent, replaced by the beautiful Abyssinian roller (Coracius abyssinicus), these birds are very common in Zakouma. After you’ve admired the first few as with LBRs you then start to ignore them, unless they’re obliging enough to pose for a photo.

 

 

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inyathi

Doves

 

Returning briefly to the big flocks, it’s not unusual in many places to see big flocks of doves coming to drink at waterholes in the dry season so the flocks of doves in Zakouma are not perhaps quite as exceptional as the waterbirds nevermind the queleas but the size of some of them was still very impressive.

As to which doves these are in the following photos and whether they are all the same I’m not certain as we saw European turtle doves, African mourning doves, African collared doves, vinaceous doves, laughing doves, black-billed wood doves and Namaqua doves. However I suspect they are at least predominantly vinaceous doves Streptopelia vinacea

 

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inyathi

Raptors

 

One of the many great things in Zakouma is the abundance of raptors a sure sign of a good healthy ecosystem by the end I’d identified over different 20 species. The following are just the ones I managed to take reasonable photos of.

 

Fish Eagle

 

The receding pools on the floodplains at Rigueik and elsewhere are not just a magnet for pelicans, storks and egrets but also for African fish eagles Haliaeetus vocifer there were almost a good few visible when we were watching the big flocks of waterbirds. Sat on the ground they didn’t bother the other birds but when they took of an flew this would cause some panic amongst the herons and egrets as shown earlier. The whole length of the Salamat also provides ideal habitat for these magnificent birds whose call is so evocative of the African wilds.

 

 

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Here’s one at Machtour

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inyathi

Martial Eagle

 

The martial eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) is Africa’s largest eagle and a formidable predator, feeding primarily on game birds and small mammals, they have been known to kill prey as large as an adult duiker. This time we saw this one juvenile bird, as we drove over to explore Maniam, this is where we also saw a single adult bird on last year’s safari.

 

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inyathi

Wahlberg’s Eagle

 

Common across Sub-Saharan Africa Wahlberg’s eagle (Aquila wahlbergi), is similar in appearance to the somewhat larger more robust tawny eagle (Aquila rapax)but has a slight crest and when flying a noticeably long square ended tail.

 

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This one was perched beside a pool at Rigueik

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Soukous

wow @@inyathi, I wish I could discipline myself to record and retain as much detail as you have achieved here.

The cataloging of species is truly impressive.

For me the highlight is the huge concentrations of birds: I've seen the queleas flocking before but never seen them as close up as you managed and I've never seen a red throated bee-eater before. beautiful.

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inyathi

Western Banded Snake Eagle

 

On our game drives I was on the lookout for snake eagles, there are 4 different species on the park list,perhaps the most common and one that I saw several times is the brown snake eagle (Circaetus cinereus) the most widespread of the snake eagles, found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Not quite as widespread is the western banded snake eagle (Circaetus cinerascens), this species can be seen in Uganda and western Kenya and also in Malawi and Zambia where I’ve seen them before, it does also occur in Zambezi Valley and in the Okavango Delta. The one bird that we spotted in Zakouma was beside a pool on the Bahr Dikere, it's not the greatest of photos, but it is recognisably a western banded because of its tail markings.

 

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inyathi

Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle

 

Although pleased to see the western banded, the bird I was really hoping to find was the Beauduoin’s snake eagle (Circaetus Beaudouini), formerly considered a race of the short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Beaudouin’s is a species that is really restricted to the Sahel region, only turning up in East Africa as a vagrant so would be an entirely new species for me. Having not seen any snake eagles last year, I knew if I didn’t see one this time, I would probably have to try my luck somewhere in West Africa. However just by pure luck this one very distinctive bird happened to show up at Rigueik, on our last full day in Zakouma, just as I was beginning to think, that I'd missed this species once again. If only I'd realised a little sooner what it was, I might have been able to get a better photo.

 

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inyathi

Grasshopper buzzard

 

The grasshopper buzzard (Butastur rufipennis)is one of Africa’s more colourful raptors, distributed from Senegal across to the Indian Ocean Coast, they seem to be very common in Zakouma as I saw them on 6 different days and it’s one of the raptor species, I particularly remember seeing last year.

 

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This one was drinking from the Salamat

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inyathi

Dark Chanting Goshawk

 

Another very common raptor species in Zakouma is the dark chanting goshawk (Melierax metabates), this species is widespread across Western and Central Africa including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique. Further south in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa it is replaced by the pale chanting (Melierax canorus) and in most of East Africa by the eastern chanting (Melierax poliopterus).

 

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Adult at Sourane

 

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A juvenile at Rigeuik

 

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inyathi

Lanner Falcon

 

Amongst African falcons the lanner (Falco biamarcus), is second only to the migrant saker (Falco cherrug) in size, lanners are very widely distributed across Sub-Saharan Africa and also occur in North Africa and Southeastern Europe. We spotted this one close to the car, while we were parked watching the cranes at Rigueik.

 

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inyathi

Grey Kestrel

 

This small all grey falcon (Falco ardosiaceus) occurs across most of West and Central Africa across to Western Kenya and Tanzania.

 

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We spotted one while driving back to Rigueik from Dikere this was the only one we saw.

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inyathi

Secretary Bird

 

This familiar long-legged raptor (Sagittarius serpentarius), occurs in savannas and open country right across Sub-Saharan Africa, I’m not sure how common they are in Zakouma, we saw none last year and only one this time, down in the south of the park close to Biherat.

 

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twaffle

I'm seriously impressed by your birding knowledge and also the great variety of raptors. Wonderful.

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inyathi

Vultures

 

As well as all of the hawks, eagles and falcons there are lots of vultures in the park, which in this day and age is always good to see. We came across a whole group of vultures, along with some marabou storks feeding on a carcass at Rigueik, most of them were African white-backed (Gyps africanus), but in amongst were quite a few Rüpell’s (Gyps Rüpellii), a couple of lappet-faced (Torgos tracheliotus) and some hooded (Necrosyrtes monachus). What was interesting is seeing Rüpell’s vultures because the eastern side of Zakouma, where we were and where all the action is at this time of year, is almost entirely flat and while white-backed vultures nest and roost in trees, Rüpell’s don’t, they nest and roost on cliffs. There are some inselbergs over in the west of the park, that could perhaps be home to these birds, but otherwise you have to wonder just how far they have come to reach Rigueik and where they do in fact breed. Adult Rüpell’s can be distinguished from the smaller white-backed, by their yellowish ivory coloured bills, also the pale cream or whitish edges to their feathers, creates a distinctly scaled appearance , the juveniles are harder to distinguish, as their bills are entirely black.

 

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Rüpell’s, white-backed and hooded vultures with a marabou stork at Rigueik

 

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Rüpell’s, white-backed and lappet-faced vultures with marabou storks at Rigueik

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inyathi

Owls

 

Last year we were unlucky and didn’t see any owls at all during our Zakouma safari this year though proved rather better for owls, I already featured two of them in my post about nightdrives in Zakouma.

 

Verreaux’s Eagle owl

 

The giant or Verreaux’s eagle owl (Bubo lacteus), occurs in savannas and woodlands throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, though it is not quite as common in the West. Curiously in the books the Birds of Africa, the Birds of Western Africa and Birds of Africa South of the Sahara, the maps all show Chad as blank, this is quite obviously wrong, much as is the case with the map for porcupines in the Mammals of Africa. Although we did see Verreaux on this trip, I have since realised with help my friends at the West African Bird Database, that the photo I had posted here was in fact not a Verreaux, but another Greyish eagle owl. I have therefore moved the photo that was here to the next post.

 

 

 

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inyathi

Greyish Eagle Owl

 

The greyish eagle owl (Bubo Cinerascens) was until recently considered to be a race of the spotted eagle owl (Bubo africanus) and is still treated as such by some of the books, it occurs north of the Equator from Senegambia to Eritrea and Somalia. The spotted only occurs south of the Equator. I was lucky to see these birds on two separate night drives one by the Salamat and one at Rigueik, as this was a new species for me, although I have seen spotted eagle owls many times.

 

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This one was seen by the Salamat

 

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This is a different shot of the one seen at Rigueik shown earlier in the report

 

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When I first posted this photo from Rigueik I thought it was a Verreaux, but on closer inspection since I realise that was wrong and it is a greyish

 

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inyathi

African Scops Owl

 

Occasionaly as with some nocturnal mammals, you get lucky and happen to spot an owl during the daytime, just by pure chance while we were watching Zakouma’s elephant herd, we noticed that there was a scops owl (Otus senegalensis), roosting in the tree right next to the car. The African scops is widespread across Sub-Saharan Africa, although slightly smaller, it is still considered by some to be conspecific with the European Scops (Otus scops).

 

 

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inyathi

All of the bird entries so far have been for species I saw on this trip, but I am now going to include one that I didn't see, three owl species, was a definite improvement on last year’s none, but there was one species that we regrettably missed, one that is perhaps Africa’s most charismatic owl.

 

Pel’s Fishing Owl

 

During one of the earlier guide’s recce trips Rod Tether and Alex Edward’s of Natural High Safaris, had the extreme good fortune to spot a pair of these beautiful owls, in some palm trees along the Salamat. This was a remarkable discovery, because this was not only the first ever record for Zakouma, but also the first for the whole of Chad. There have been records from northern C.A.R. and Pel’s does occur in Northern Cameroon and Nigeria and also further west, but still it’s not often, that someone scores a whole new country record. Of course, it’s not actually that surprising, that these birds occur in the park, as there is ideal habitat for them and no shortage of fish, their discovery is just further evidence of how little explored Zakouma has been by serious naturalists. Or indeed Chad generally, as illustrated by the fact that the books don’t even show Verreaux’s owl occuring in Chad. Pel's fishing owl is in fact just one of eight new species added to the park’s bird list this year, so one has to wonder, what other species might turn up, if a few more serious birders get a chance to explore the park.

 

Proper exploration, adding the Pel’s Fishing Owl to the Chadian list

 

During our drive down to the south of the park, we did stop in the area where they had seen these owls and Darren, Squack and I had a very cursory look around, but we didn’t have time for a proper search. I have had the good fortune to see Pel’s fishing owls a number of times in Tanzania, so while it would have been great to see one in Zakouma, it wasn’t worth devoting time to searching for them, as there was no guarantee that we succeed in finding the owls.

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Marks

I'm seriously impressed by your birding knowledge and also the great variety of raptors. Wonderful.

 

I must agree. I also really appreciate the notes on the various species' distribution in Chad vs elsewhere in Africa.

 

This thread has become an incredible catalogue of what Zakouma has to offer.

 

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inyathi

Long-tailed Nightjar

 

There are 3 species of nightjar on the Zakouma list,  of which this one the long-tailed (Caprimulgus climacurus) is the most common on our night drives we saw masses of them. We also saw a few of the plain nightjar (Caprimulgus inornatusbut not unfortunately the extraordinary bizarre looking standard-winged nightjar, I had the good fortune to see one of these birds in Uganda, in the breeding season the males have these elongated shafts on their second primary feathers with ‘flags’ on the end of them. When they’re flying they look a little bit like one bird being chased and mobbed by two much smaller birds. The long-tailed is primarily a Central and West African species, that occurs in wooded savannahs, grasslands and clearings in lowland forest, in East Africa it is only found in Uganda and the far northwest of Kenya

 

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By the Salamat

 

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Although the tail of this bird at Rigueik, does not appear that long, it has the wing markings of a long-tailed, these would be absent from the plain nightjar, 

this as its name suggests is very plain with few obvious markings, the female and non breeding male standard-winged does not have the white bar on the wing. The female long-tailed, does have a shorter tail so perhaps this is a female I'm not sure.

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inyathi

Spotted Thick-knee

 

Most birders in Southern Africa, probably still refer to these birds as dikkops, but due to the standardisation of bird names around the world thick-knee is now the official name, as this is the name that is most commonly used elsewhere, for the 9 different species found worldwide. The spotted (Burhinus capensisis found throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa in dry open woodland and arid areas. It is a mostly nocturnal and crepuscular species, hiding itself away under shadey trees or bushes during the daytime. Zakouma is also home to the smaller Senegal thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis) a predominantly riverine species, that occurs across the Sahel region just reaching East Africa in the north of Uganda and northwestern Kenya, it is also found along the length of the Nile to the delta in Egypt. We saw Senegal thick-knees mainly along the Salamat, but I wasn’t able to photograph any of them.

 

 

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Spotted thick-knee at Rigueik, these birds have very large eyes typical of nocturnal species

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