The forest is quieter this afternoon. I move into the forest, on my newly discovered path. I wonder if I will see any birds. As that thought crossed my mind, there comes the sound of flapping wings, and a bird moves away from me into a tangle of bushes ahead. I stare hard at the place where it had landed. I am pleasantly surprised to see a dark eye staring back at me. Perfectly still but for the craning my neck, I watch the bird. It has a beautiful blue-grey face, but I don’t see very much else of it. It takes off as suddenly as it had the first time, in a flash of rich brown and grey. I note the demarcation of grey on its head, and body shape. This is one of the doves, and a new one for me. It is a Blue-headed Wood Dove. I guess I had missed the green patch on the wing in its hurry. Already I am heartened and glad I came out into the forest this afternoon.
I spot a small bird moving around in a high shrub just ahead. It is yellow and white, and small, probably small enough to fit comfortably in my hand, and appears very immersed in its task of pecking at the trunk of the tall shrub-like tree. I move closer, and it flies off again. I have an idea what it might be, so I play the bird’s call on my phone and wait. Immediately I hear several responses to the last sound in the loop. A few minutes later the bird, or another just like it, returns. It responds to the call, twitching this way and that way to find the caller. I get a closer look at it: It is yellow, green, and white. The wings and head are olive-green, the face and derriere yellow, and the breast white. Its beak is dark and so are the eyes, and it has orange legs. I take a few shots.
I stop the call and the Yellow-browed Camaroptera remains a few seconds, then flies off again. I start to move again, but stop as another small bird flies in. It appears to have come here in response to the call, because it doesn’t seem to be feeding. It has a sunbird’s bill, but it appears quite large. The top mandible is dark, and the bottom one is a bit pale close to the head. It is completely olive-green, the belly slightly lighter than the back, and has no other colors. This is an Olive Sunbird. I look in the book, and notice an orange spot on the wing in the illustration, but when I look up again, the bird is gone.
I move on, past the small opening, and come to a stand of tall and thin trees. There are many species flying around here, and calling. I focus on the small one about half way up the closest tree. It is about the size of the camaroptera, and has a black cap, white throat and neck, and black breast and wings on a white belly. I take it for a batis or wattle eye, but the female flying next to him quickly helps me make the choice. This one has a grey cap, brown wings, a white belly, and a light dusting of rust on the throat and breast in the same shape as that of the male’s black bib. This is a wattle-eye, specifically, a Chestnut Wattle-eye. They are too far away for a picture. 😦 I focus on a bigger bird next for that very reason. This is a bird twice the size of the wattle eyes, but it looks almost three or four times the size because of its long tail. It has a beautiful rick reddish-brown body and a black head with a short crest poking off the back of it. It’s bill is a lighter shade of black, noticeable because of the strong black of its head.
This is a Red-Bellied Paradise Flycatcher. Higher up I see the Black-headed Oriole from this morning again, but it is no more willing to pose than it had been then. There is a dead stump sticking out from one of the trunks, and staring at it, I realize that what I had taken for an extension of the trunk is the breast of a woodpecker peeking around it. The green-brown blends perfectly with the rotting bark, and the light spots on it seem like fungus. It moves off, drills at a section of the tree, and returns to the dead stump. That is probably its nest. My hunch is confirmed a second later when it disappears into the stump not to return for the rest of my stay in the forest. Ah, well. I record the buff spotted woodpecker, and look for other birds in this tiny hot spot. Instead I hear the bushes ahead shift and a guttural call sounds. I move quickly towards the area, expecting a large ground-dwelling bird (Nkulengu Rail, Nkulengu Rail, I chant in my head). I get closer, and the sound comes again. A large bird flies up from the undergrowth and I see a flash of colors, green, blue, red. Wow! It lands in a tree ahead, and I notice a yellow bill on a green head. It’s color pallet already gave away its family, and the yellow bill the species. The turaco has a green head with a thin white and black line on top. The wings are blue, and the red I had seen below peek out from under the wings. Its tail is hidden, but I know it is also blue. It moves into the foliage before I can get a picture.
I hope to get a picture of the Olive sunbird, and play the camaroptera’s call again. A small bird flies past me, and lands near a vine with flowers on it. My heart leaps, but this is not the Olive Sunbird. I hold still and watch it anyway. It is a small sunbird, with a yellow belly, and a green breast and head. The green looks almost bejeweled. Two others join it and they begin to call to one another. These others have more yellow and move around a lot. I focus on the one that is sitting and take a quick shot.
I stop the call when it becomes repetitive and the three Collared Sunbirds fly off. I move on. Movement high in a tree draws my attention. A small bird which reminds me a lot of a prinia is moving around the leaves near the outer edge. I watch the area for a while, and catch several quick glances before it takes off. It has a rufous brown head and a greyish neck. Its eyes are bright in a greyish face. It has a prinia’s tail, noticeable because it swishes it around a lot. But this bird is not a prinia. The flycatchers are another species which have long tails, so I check the plate, and there! This was a Chestnut-capped Flycatcher.
I am surprised to note that I have already been in the forest for an hour and a half. I start heading back to the camp. I have As I do, a bird calls, a turaco from the sound, but unlike the turacos I know. I move out of the forest and towards the stand of trees on the road to the camp where they are moving around. They are large birds, about the size of my torso, plus their long tails. The turacos are beautiful, with their blue-green bodies. They have large crests on their heads, in a much darker shade than the rest of the body, grey faces, and it has a parrot’s yellow beak, tipped with a dash of red lipstick. I miss the lime green belly and red underparts, but there is no mistaking these birds. They fly off one, two, three as I approach, but the last one takes its time, so I snap a quick photo from afar.
I am quite satisfied with the birds of today, but even walking back to the camp, I see more. A bird peeks out from a bush close to the building which houses the offices. It has a completely grey body except for the beautifully matched shade of its green wings. I have seen this bird before, but I am surprised by how different it looks. This is a Grey-Backed Camaroptera! It moves into the bush, and familiar with this species, I move on. Another small bird flies over the roof of one of the structures to perch in a tree close by. It is a light shade of olive green, and has a dull cream colored belly and throat. The black beak blends with the thin dark mask across the eyes, and there is a light stripe above this. It looks up, and briefly appears to have an orange bill.I watch it for a little while, but conclude that this was a trick of the light. It moves around, conforming to its Warbler heritage.
I record the Green Hylia and let my mind wander, still listening and watching for other birds. I vow to go deeper into the forest on my next trip. There lie undiscovered (probably) species of birds and beasts. I turn to watch the sunset over the trees.