Sierra Leone  Dec 1 - 18, 2006

I visited Sierra Leone with my friends Rich Hopf and Frank Lambert to try to see as many of the West African specialities as possible. 16 of the 17 Upper Guinea endemics occur, along with at least 4 other species also found only in Nigeria. We saw 13 of these, including White-necked Rockfowl and White-breasted Guineafowl, plus other rarely seen birds such as Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Kemp's Longbill, Ussher's Flycatcher, Lowland Akalat, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Red-fronted Antpecker, Crimson Seedcracker and for some, Spot-breasted Ibis and African Pitta. Sierra Leone is a safe, if under-developed, country now after 10 years of bloody civil war – the best place to see these birds now that Ivory Coast is unsafe to visit. Few birders have been to Sierra Leone other than South African tour-leaders and a few employed by the RSPB to do detailed surveys of Gola Forest and Rockfowl sites, a highly commendable extension to the RSPB’s previously rather insular activities.

A visa must be obtained before departure - £50 –, Web: The application requires a “letter of invitation”, but a copy of an email will do. There are a few internet cafes in Freetown and fairly wide mobile phone coverage.

The unit of currency is the Leone, the exchange rate in Dec 2006 being 5,200 to the £ at the airport.

Hotel accommodation is usually of a good standard but quite expensive in the cities, basic elsewhere; restaurants basic local outside the cities. Bottled water, soft drinks and tasteless local beer are fairly cheap and widely available, with European lager also available but about £1 a can.  

People are very friendly, many speaking English, the official language. Birding was not easy, being mostly in tall rain forest where trapping is rife, with not much vocalization, owls being notably silent. Insects were surprisingly scarce, especially mosquitoes.

We flew to Freetown with Astraeus for £480 including departure tax (booked direct by phone 01293 874380). They fly twice a week, Mon and Fri, from Gatwick – OK but said to be often late. BA also fly there but are more expensive. Freetown airport lies on the far side of the bay, a long way by road from the town. Occasional ferries cross the bay cheaply; helicopter ($40 or $50) is quicker and best when arriving in late evening/ early morning on Astraeus but looks like a Vietnam veteran. According to Jeremy Lindsell, Family Kingdom Hotel near the Freetown helipad is comfortable (about $60 per night). +232 76 777949/+232 77 850466 / +232 33 371027 or stay at the Mahera Beach Hotel (+232 76 611775) near the airport and cross over to Freetown in the morning.

The ground arrangements were well-organised by Kenneth Gbenga who accompanied us throughout.  He had taken Ian Sinclair (IS) on a tour about 2 weeks before us, and quoted an all-in price of $8000 for a 21 day tour for 4 people, using an a/c 4 X 4 with a support vehicle. As our 4th member dropped out and we had to reduce to 18 days, a non-a/c bus was used and the cost reduced to $6000 for 17 days. The only problem with this was that the roads were mostly very dusty and as open windows were a necessity due to the heat, we were frequently covered in red dust when traveling. Vehicle-hire is very expensive due to the UN and aid agencies, the main renters, paying high rates. Locals travel in crowded vans or on the back of motorbikes. Back-country roads are badly pot-holed and some have dangerous bridges. 

The weather was hot, humid and dry throughout, the rainy season having ended late in mid Nov, after starting in April. Dec-Feb is the best time to visit but may not be the best time for bird vocalization, Jeremy found September-October the best, although it can still be pretty wet at this time.

There are no worthwhile trip reports but has quite a lot of useful info. It’s worth taking both Birds of Western Africa (Borrow and Demy) and Birds of Africa south of the Sahara (Sinclair and Ryan) as some illustrations differ greatly for the same species.


We are most grateful for help from Erik Klop, Jeremy Lindsell, Arnold Okoni, Simon Wotton and Ian Sinclair.


Dec    1           Heathrow – Freetown – Mariam Hotel

          2           Freetown/Guma Valley dam road, Western Peninsula

          3           Regent Road Chimp Sanctuary, drive to Bo, hotel?

          4-5        Tiwai Island, camping

          6           Tiwai Island a.m., drive to Zimmi, UN Guesthouse.

          7-8        Gola East

          9           Gola East a.m., drive to Belebu, Gola North; night in unfinished guesthouse.

          10         Gola North till 4 p.m., drive to Kenema – Pastoral College.

            11         Kambui Hills South

            12         Kambui Hills North a.m., drive to Zimmi, Gola East 4-6.30.

            13         Gola West a.m. (JH), Gola East – RH and FL, JH p.m.

            14         Gola east a.m., drive to Magburaka – Pampana Guesthouse

            15         Bumbuna, Pampana Guesthouse

            16         Bumbuna till 10, walk & drive to Makeni, drive to Freetown – Teacher’s Union Hotel.

            17         Scrub in Eastern suburbs till 10, Chimp Sanctuary 11-1.30, No.2 River 5-7.

            18         Mt Aureal a.m., Freetown p.m., ferry to airport, fly to Gatwick.


We arrived at Freetown at about midnight, some 3 hours late, and were met by Kenneth who escorted us to the helicopter terminal. We were soon flying across the bay, crammed in with c.20 others, before safely landing and taking a short taxi ride to Hotel Miriam. It seemed no time before the phone rang at 4.40, unrequested, and we staggered down to a basic breakfast. Drove to Western Peninsula NP and birded all morning, seeing birds such as Yellowbill, Melancholy Woodpecker, Grey Longbill, Chestnut Wattle-eye and White-tailed Alethe. Lunch at No. 2 River beach resort, where many terns – mostly Royal – were in action, declined Ken’s offer of a boat trip mid-afternoon because of timing, and returned to the forest above Guma dam. A short uphill clamber saw us at a big rock where we sat down to await the Rockfowls. At 5.30 a pair duly obliged but stayed rather distant, until some 10 mins later when they came back and worked their way right past us, giving unforgettable views. A great start to the trip with the No. 1 bird in the bag!

The next day we were ready to leave at 6.0 but didn’t get away for some time as Ken was late (the only occasion). Drove to the Chimp Sanctuary road – closed but Ken called the manager to get permission for us to walk up it. Saw Forest Scrub-Robin, Finsch’s Flycatcher-Thrush, Shrike-Flycatcher, Fraser’s Forest-Flycatcher and Sabine’s Puffback. Drove to the large town of Bo, with stops for fish and chips (good), to pick up the cook Monday (Ken’s “concubine” he said) and an attempt to see the rare Black-capped Rufous-Warbler. The latter was only heard briefly, White-bellied Kingfisher being some consolation. The hotel was quite noisy and suffered a power-cut, a common occurrence in SL; we were too tired to sample the nightlife at the bar next door as it didn’t get lively till after 10 apparently.

We left just after 4 a.m. to get to Tiwai Island in good time and made a few nightjar stops, for Long-tailed and Standard-winged, the latter only a female unfortunately.  We reached the ferry at 06.45 and were soon at the campsite. Birded the rest of the morning with a local guide – Great Blue Turaco, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, and Black-throated Coucal for Frank. In the afternoon we split up and I was lucky to see 3 Spot-breasted Ibis, along with Fire-bellied Woodpecker, while Rich saw an African Finfoot and my most-wanted bird, African Pitta. Owling at night was unproductive as only African Wood-Owl was heard, although in the early hours a mobile Akun Eagle-Owl called a few times. During the next day and a half we saw a good selection of birds, including Cassin's Hawk-Eagle on the nest, 5 species of Hornbill including the impressive Yellow-casqued, Spotted Honeyguide, Little Green Woodpecker, Blue Cuckoo-shrike, Sharpe's Apalis, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, a host of greenbuls and more sightings of African Pitta for Rich and Frank. There were also a lot of monkeys, including the spectacular Diana Monkey and even wild Chimps for me; but no White-breasted Guineafowl, Rufous Fishing-Owl or Ghana Cuckoo-shrike.

At 1 pm we left for Zimmi, the gateway to Gola East and West, a 2 hour journey, and checked in at the sparsely occupied, comfortable United Nations guesthouse. Late afternoon on the road through Gola forest was disappointing. The next two and a half days were spent here, concentrating on the RSPB trail in Gola East. Highlights were Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, White-breasted Guineafowl, White-spotted Flufftail, Black Dwarf & Red-billed Dwarf Hornbills, Brown-cheeked Hornbill (RH), Rufous-sided Broadbill (FL), Kemp's Longbill, Lowland Akalat, Brown Illadopsis, Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike, lots of greenbuls and sunbirds, including Buff-throated, 4 malimbes, Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch and Crimson Seedcracker (FL). On the second morning Frank found a large bird party with greenbuls, malimbes, illadopsis, woodpeckers and a male Red-fronted Antpecker, which I was able to relocate the following morning. 

At mid-day we left for Gola North, a short distance but on a very bad road with hazardous log bridges. It was at this point our suspicions that the bus did not have 4-wheel drive were confirmed, contrary to Ken’s assurances on the first day. We made it, just, to Belebu village and were billeted in an uncompleted guesthouse, with mattresses but no protection against mosquitoes, though fortunately there didn’t seem to be any. A local youth took us into the forest on a strenuous hike to the ridge. Red-necked Buzzard and bathing Bearded-Greenbuls were the best of the few birds but on the way down we found a good fruiting tree, for staking-out on the morrow. We dined on a reasonable meal cooked in the village, washed down with the beer that Ken had thoughtfully brought with us.

Rich set-off before dawn to look for night birds, with little success. Nkulengu Rails were heard calling and a Crowned Hawk-Eagle seen closely at dawn, perched in mid-storey by the stream.  At the fruiting tree the first birds were Great Blue Turacos, followed by Yellow-casqued Hornbills and then a pair of Brown-cheeked Hornbill, the main objective. We spent the rest of the day trying to find Gola Malimbe and Nimba Flycatcher, with not a sniff of the former and 2 unconfirmed possible sightings of the latter. We did see Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Bristle-nosed Barbet (FL), Brown-eared Woodpecker, a displaying Rufous-sided Broadbill, Blue Cuckoo-shrike and Chestnut-capped Flycatcher. At 5 pm we left for the town of Kenema and negotiated the bad road with only one problem, a broken leaf-spring. We stayed at the Pastoral College – OK but rather noisy due to a national student workshop – ate at a good but slow Lebanese restaurant in town.

An hour’s drive in the dark saw us at Bayama village, the gateway to Kambui Hills South, the home of many good birds according to Ken. A long walk through the farmbush was unproductive, with no sign of the hoped-for Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Capuchin Babbler or Fiery-breasted Bushshrike. The forest was hot and disappointing, with only Blackcap Illadopsis, Green-tailed Bristlebill and, at the edge, Willcock's Honeyguide, of any real note. A major Rockfowl site is an hour’s non-stop walk in the forest but as this is a late afternoon event, we decided against it. The walk back though the farmbush was dead, so this was a rather disappointing day.

The following morning took us to Kambui Hills North, on a barely driveable track beyond Bambawo village. Birds here included Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Naked-faced Barbet, 3 Ussher's Flycatcher, a brief Red-thighed Sparrowhawk with prey, and a close pair of Hartlaub's Duck in flight. I found a good bird party inside the forest but it moved out of sight before I had could confirm the identity of a honeyguide, possibly Yellow-footed. We decided to return to Gola East, as Tiwai Island, my preference, was not an option since Ken had fallen out with the locals there due to excessive charges and swore he would never go there again. We arrived at 4 pm at the RSPB trail; Frank immediately walked to my Guineafowl site and had good views of at least 2! The next morning, I visited Gola West with Ken as the trail was very hard to follow. Spotted Honeyguide and Crimson Seedcracker were the only good birds, no Bristle-nosed Barbet (common according to Ken). Rich saw the Guineafowl in Gola East. My bird of the day was there in the afternoon - a brief but good view of a Forest Francolin. Frank had Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and Fiery-breasted Bushshrike in the farmbush. Back at Zimmi, a large temporary camp had appeared, for the last Liberian refugees who were returning to Liberia after 5 years in SL.

Early morning at the big marsh before Gola was unrewarding, although the sight of a Black Sparrowhawk in display flight, giving a strange, repeated short call was interesting. Frank taped out Sooty Boubou and we all had good views of Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and Fiery-breasted Bushshrike. I returned to the forest while F and R continued the search for Capuchin Babbler, with success. A party of Violet-backed Hyliota was my only new bird but I had good views of other species such as White-tailed Alethe. At 11.30 we left for the long drive to the northwest, via Bo. A ruined tyre caused a delay as it proved to be a non-standard size, and another search for Black-capped Rufous-Warbler was unsuccessful. We arrived at Magbuaka at 8 pm, in time to watch Spurs vs a Bulgarian team live on TV, had we so wished. Dinner was rather spartan - spam and salad.

An hour’s drive the following morning brought us to Bumbuna, Ken’s site for Emerald Starling, Turati's Boubou and Sierra Leone Prinia. We saw the Boubou but not the others; a pair of Pearl-spotted Owlet were obliging, a species not in SL according to the field-guides. A courtesy audience with the regional chief, a ruler for life who had been elected from the heads of the ruling families, was interesting – if all were like him, this must be a better system than “Western democracy” for Africa, but it’s a big “if”. Next stop was Bumbuna waterfall where we had a picnic lunch. The riparian forest looked promising but my only good sighting was a probable green mamba. We birded along the road back to Magbuaka from 3.0-5.30, seeing a distant pair of Emerald Starling and then 15 in a nearby tree along with a Jambandu Indigobird, singing like a Waxbill. Returning to the guesthouse, we feasted on fish, chips and fried plantains for dinner.

Back to Bumbuna the next day, we birded from 6.40-10.0: Blackcap Babbler, Vanga Flycatcher, West African Seedeater, lots of Red-collared Widowbirds and good but distant views of Chimps, but no SL Prinia or Baumann’s Greenbul. We took the slow road to Makeni, walking/birding some of the way, seeing Ayres’ Hawk-Eagle, Guinea Turaco, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, White Helmet-shrike. The bus broke-down after Makeni but was repaired by cleaning the petrol filter. An afternoon walk in forest near Freetown was birdless. Reaching Freetown at 6 pm, we checked into 5-10, the Teacher’s Union Hotel, where a noisy wedding reception looked troublesome but our 4th floor rooms were fairly quiet.

The final two days were rather an anti-climax and would have been better spent back in Gola. We visited a site on the eastern edge of Freetown to look for a few species, notably Crimson Seedcracker and Western Bluebill, which had eluded Rich, and Dybowski’s Twinspot. The Seedcracker duly appeared at 7.30, as predicted by Ken, but there was no sign of the others. Then we went back to the Regent Road Chimp Sanctuary, mainly so I could look for Capuchin Babbler and Rich for Forest Scrub-Robin. R was successful, I was not. A long drive around the Western Peninsula showed there was still plenty of forest there. After fish and chips at No. 2 River resort, we took a 2 hour engineless boat trip on the river to look for White-crested Tiger-Heron and White-backed Night-Heron in the mangroves. There was surprisingly little life at all, not even mosquitoes, the only notable birds being 2 probable White-backed Night-Herons in flight when almost dark. Heavy traffic delayed our return to the hotel till 8.30 by which time the restaurant was virtually shut and only some rather indifferent fare on offer.

As Ken told us our last day was not included in his tour, inexplicably, I just taxied to nearby Mt Aureal to explore the botanic gardens, a worthwhile site according to Rockjumper’s brochure. It was badly degraded and teeming with people but big trees near the top held some birds, including Wood Warbler, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch. A walk down to the congested city centre was enlivened by conversation with a friendly Muslim leader. A huge cotton tree there held 1000s of fruit bats. Traffic was almost grid-locked – it took me over an hour on a public minibus to travel less than 1 km en route to the small, national railway museum, which I visited. The hotel was a pleasant relief from the heat and heavy traffic. We left at 4 with Ken for the ferry across to the airport. A long wait for its departure gave opportunity to check the terns – all Sandwich here – and a variety of common waders flying past. The journey was less than an hour and check-in at the airport trouble-free. The Astraeus flight left on time, to everyone’s surprise, but early morning touch-down at Gatwick was foiled by fog, leading to diversion to the well-known international airport at Bournemouth! Here we waited on the tarmac for over 3 hours before the 2 immigration staff were ready for us and then for a further 2 hours before everyone was through immigration and aboard the 3 coaches bound for Gatwick. Welcome to Great Britain, I’m sure Kenneth would have done a much better job than our bureaucrats! 



There is good forest on the Western Peninsula, most accessible at Guma Dam. Can be birded along a quiet road there and a trail to the coast. A short steep walk up from the road above the dam takes you to a Rockfowl site where we had excellent views at 5.30-45 pm. The Regent Road Chimp Rehab Sanctuary has good secondary forest with Forest Scrub-Robin and Capuchin Babbler on the entrance track, although officially closed at present due to a chimp going berserk and killing one of its guards. White-crested Tiger-Herons can be found in the mangroves along No. 2 River and near the airport according to Ken, but our 2 hour evening boat trip was unproductive.

Mount Aureal, a university campus with a botanic gardens, now over-run with locals, has some big trees and a lot of scrub but is only worth visiting in a spare hour or two.

Gola Forest Reserve is the largest area of Upper Guinea rainforest in Sierra Leone. It occupies the south-eastern edge of the country and is divided into four sections: Gola North (45,800 ha), Gola East (22,800 ha) and Gola West (6,200 ha) are Forest Reserves, while Tiwai Island (1,300 ha) is a Game Sanctuary. Tiwai Island is situated in the Moa river, 10 km north-west of Gola West. Gola West and East are contiguous, separated only by the Mahoi river and a road, while Gola North lies about 5 km north-east of Gola East. Gola North is fairly hilly, with most land lying above 300 m.

Tiwai is a good site, run by a local NGO who can provide camping equipment and a cook. It can be reached by motorbike and ferry from Bo.  We found the best of the many trails to be one running left from the far left corner of the research station, eg with Spot-breasted Ibis and African Pitta flushed from near the stream crossing and Spotted Honeyguide near the river, reached from the first trail on the left after the stream. IS saw Gola Cuckooshrike and Rufous Fishing-owl here.

Gola East and West can be birded from the main road north of Zimmi, 30 mins away. There is only one obvious trail going into the East forest, about 1.5 km from the Reserve boundary. This has been cleared by the RSPB, safely to a shortish swamp crossing, rather dangerously beyond it with numerous saplings cut-off some 30cm above the ground so that a slip could find you impaled on several sharp spikes. We saw Wb Guineafowl 3 times about 500+m beyond the swamp (where Crimson Seedcracker sometimes responded to tape), either in mid-afternoon or mid-morn, and the only sizeable bird-party held Red-fronted Antpecker on consecutive mornings. Also the road and a farmbush trail on the right, just after the big swamp before reaching Gola reserve, were good for Fiery-breasted Bushshrike, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and Capuchin Babbler. The one trail going into Gola West was difficult to follow and Spotted Honeyguide the only notable bird seen.

Gola North can be accessed by driving to Belebu. The trail up to the ridge holds Brown-cheeked Hornbill and possibly Gola Malimbe and Nimba Flycatcher. Better still is Lalehun, which could not be reached by vehicle other than motorbike in Dec. Here you can camp in primary forest inside the reserve, giving the best chance of owls, Nimba Fly, Guineafowl and Cuckooshrike.

Kambui Hills

Situated near the large town of Kenema, Kambui Hills South is accessed at Bayama village. A good trail leads through plantations and farmbush to logged primary forest and eventually to an active Rockfowl site. We found it disappointing, seeing only Willcock’s Honeyguide, Black-cap Illadopsis and Green-tailed Bristlebill of note. A morning at Kambui Hills North, accessed at Bambawo village, gave Hartlaub’s Duck, Ussher’s Flycatcher and a possible Yellow-footed Honeyguide.


This scrappy hilly area in the north consists of wooded savanna and cultivated land. We saw Emerald Starling, Blackcap Babbler, Turati's Boubou and Jambandu Indigobird, and IS saw Sierra Leone Prinia. We also had good views of Chimps here.


There is forest near Kono, very good according to Kenneth but a long walk to reach. He says this is the best site for Baumann’s Greenbul. The mountainous Loma area in the north is said to be the best for the Prinia, but takes a day to reach and two or more days may be needed to find the bird. Black-capped Rufous-Warbler occurs in a forest patch near the river bridge at Mongeri, west of Bo. We saw White-bellied Kingfisher here but only heard the warbler briefly. A better site for the latter is said to be Kangari Hills.


Sierra Leone is a rewarding but challenging country for birding. It can be done on the cheap by masochists experienced in tough conditions and own bird-finding. Best to go with a tour group – Rockjumper are starting tours in 2007, and I may do one in late 07 - or use Kenneth for logistics if you are happy to find and identify your own birds.

Allocate 24 hrs at Bumbuna for Emerald Starling, etc and a day or two at Belebu, Gola North for Brown-cheeked Hornbill, possibly Nimba Fly and, very unlikely, Gola Malimbe, unless prepared to hike to and camp at Lalehun where the best forest is.  Go to the Rockfowl site near Freetown, not Kambui Hills South as it’s a long walk to the site there although there are more Rockfowls, and Ussher's Flycatcher is on the main Kambui North track, beyond the continuous forest.

The rest of the time should be spent at Gola East and Tiwai Is. as most of the forest birds are there.


White-backed Night-Heron   Gorsachius leuconotus

2 probables in flight at late dusk on No. 2 river.

Spot-breasted Ibis            Bostrychia rara

2 flushed, calling loudly, and were followed by another a couple of mins later on Tiwai Is.

Hartlaub's Duck               Pteronetta hartlaubii

2 flew past at Kambui Hills North, and singles flew on 2 dates at Gola East, and at Bumbuna.

Red-chested Goshawk         Accipiter toussenelii

Singles at Kambui South, Kambui North and a pair at Gola East.

Red-thighed Sparrowhawk    Accipiter erythropus

A pair calling at Gola East - probably the male delivering prey to the female – and a male in flight with prey at Kambui North.

Black Goshawk                 Accipiter melanoleucus

Two early morning sightings of a bird flying high and calling repeatedly, at Gola North and over the big swamp before Gola East/West, and 1 in flight with prey at Bumbuna.

Red-necked Buzzard           Buteo auguralis

At least 3 at Gola North, quite noisy, and 1 in the quarry at Bumbuna.

Cassin's Hawk-Eagle           Spizaetus africanus

One on a big nest at Tiwai Is. on several occasions.

Crowned Hawk-Eagle          Stephanoaetus coronatus

One mid-storey early morning at Gola North (RH).

Forest Francolin               Francolinus lathami

One near the RSPB trail at Gola East (JH) was the only one identified – several probable francolins were flushed at different times, doubtless this species or F.ahantensis. Nocturnal calls at Tiwai Is. were also thought to be this species.

White-breasted Guineafowl   Agelastes meleagrides

Three sightings of up to 3 birds at almost the same place in Gola East, on 8th, 12th and 13th.

White-spotted Flufftail       Sarothrura pulchra

Two dueted pre-dusk by the stream beside the Gola Road, with 1 crossing the stream.

Nkulengu Rail                  Himantornis haematopus

Several calling early morning at Gola North and a few calls at night at Tiwai Is.

African Finfoot                Podica senegalensis

One in the Moa river, Tiwai Is (RH).

Rock Pratincole                Glareola nuchalis

5 on rocks in the Moa river, Tiwai Is.

Bronze-naped Pigeon          Columba iriditorques

Seemingly common in all rain forest and not difficult to see.

Great Blue Turaco             Corythaeola cristata

Frequently heard and quite often seen in all rain forest, with c.10 visiting a fruiting tree on the edge of Gola North forest.

Guinea Turaco                 Tauraco persa

Only 1 seen, in a forest patch Bumbuna – Makeni road.

Yellow-billed Turaco          Tauraco macrorhynchus

Fairly common in tropical forest except at Tiwai.

Western Plantain-eater       Crinifer piscator

Only one at Gola East and 1 or 2 at Bambuna.

Yellowbill                      Ceuthmochares aereus

Singles in most forest including Mt aureal, Freetown.

Black-throated Coucal         Centropus leucogaster

Common on Tiwai Is. by call but only seen by FL, twice; calling elsewhere in Gola. The most frustrating bird of the trip!

Akun Eagle-Owl               Bubo leucostictus

A mobile owl calling in the middle of the first night, only, on Tiwai Is. was thought to be this species.

African Wood-Owl            Strix woodfordii

Frequently heard at night, usually the only owl heard.

Pearl-spotted Owlet           Glaucidium perlatum

A pair watched at length at Bumbuna and photo’d. Range extension as not present in SL according to all the books?

Red-chested Owlet            Glaucidium tephronotum

Heard at Gola North (RH).

Eurasian Nightjar              Caprimulgus europaeus

Nightjars on the road caused us some id difficulties but we were confident that at least 1 on the Gola road was this species.

Long-tailed Nightjar          Caprimulgus climacurus

At least 6 on the Bo-Tiwai Is. road.

Standard-winged Nightjar    Macrodipteryx longipennis

At least 1 female on the Bo-Tiwai Is. road, confirmed by photo, and another near Kenema, but where were the males?

Black Spinetail                 Telacanthura melanopygia

A few over Gola North.

Sabine's Spinetail             Rhaphidura sabini

A few over Gola East, and c.20 at Gola North (FL)

White-bellied Kingfisher      Alcedo leucogaster

One at the pool at the Black-capped Rufous-Warbler site.

Dwarf Kingfisher              Ispidina lecontei

Singles at Gola East swamp (JH) and at Kambui North (RH).

Chocolate-backed Kingfisher  Halcyon badia

Quite often heard in forest but only singles seen on Tiwai Is. and at trail entrance in Gola East.

White-crested Hornbill       Tockus albocristatus

Fairly common in forest but shy, usually feeding low down, even on the ground.

Black Dwarf Hornbill          Tockus hartlaubi

2 seen in Gola East, only once.

Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill     Tockus camurus

Quite often heard in forest but only seen in Gola East and North.

African Pied Hornbill          Tockus fasciatus

The commonest hornbill, seen throughout, sometimes in large flocks of 50 or more.

Piping Hornbill                 Ceratogymna fistulator

Fairly common in forest.

Brown-cheeked Hornbill       Ceratogymna cylindricus

2 at Gola East (RH) and several heard at Gola North but only 1 or 2 pairs seen.

Yellow-casqued Hornbill       Ceratogymna elata

Fairly common in forest.

Black-casqued Hornbill        Ceratogymna atrata

A pair on Tiwai Is.

Naked-faced Barbet          Gymnobucco calvus

At least 2 at Kambui North and along the Gola road.

Bristle-nosed Barbet          Gymnobucco peli

One calling at Gola North was only seen well by FL – supposedly common!

Speckled Tinkerbird           Pogoniulus scolopaceus

Widespread in small numbers.

Yellow-spotted Barbet         Buccanodon duchaillui

Surprisingly common once call was known.

Spotted Honeyguide           Indicator maculatus

Singles on Tiwai Is. and in Gola West.

Willcock's Honeyguide        Indicator willcocksi

One, probably 2, in big trees on the edge of Kambui South forest.

Yellow-footed Honeyguide     Melignomon eisentrauti

A honeyguide in a feeding flock at Kambui North was thought to be this sp. but disappeared before id could be confirmed (JH).

Little Green Woodpecker      Campethera maculosa

2 on Tiwai Is.

Buff-spotted Woodpecker    Campethera nivosa

Singles at Tiwai, Gola East, North and Kambui North.

Brown-eared Woodpecker     Campethera caroli

Singles at Gola East and Kambui South.

Cardinal Woodpecker          Dendropicos fuscescens

1 or 2 at Bambuna.

Melancholy Woodpecker       Dendropicos lugubris

One at Gumbo Dam on the first day was the only record.

Fire-bellied Woodpecker      Dendropicos pyrrhogaster

Fairly common in primary forest.

Rufous-sided Broadbill        Smithornis rufolateralis

Displaying in Gola East and North.

African Pitta                  Pitta angolensis

Flushed on or near 3 trails on Tiwai Is but silent and unresponsive to play-back; must have been the seldom-reported pulih form but whether resident or seasonal is unknown.

White-throated Blue Swallow Hirundo nigrita

A single bird seen on both crossings of the hand-operated ferry east of Bo.

Preuss's Swallow               Petrochelidon preussi

50-100 at Bumbuna.

Square-tailed Sawwing        Psalidoprocne nitens

Fairly common near forest.

Fanti Sawwing                 Psalidoprocne obscura

Scarcer than nitens but often with it.

Blue Cuckoo-shrike            Coracina azurea

A pair on Tiwai (JH) and singles at Gola East and North.

Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike        Campephaga phoenicea

Singles at Bumbuna and the Bumbuna – Makeni road.

Little Grey Greenbul           Andropadus gracilis

Greenbuls were the most numerous forest birds, especially Little A.virens, but difficult to id unless seen or heard well. This sp. was certainly at Gola East. Small numbers of the other sp. were recorded at the following localities.

Ansorge's Greenbul            Andropadus ansorgei

Western Peninsula and Kambui North and South

Slender-billed Greenbul       Andropadus gracilirostris

Kambui North

Yellow-whiskered Bulbul       Andropadus latirostris

Western Peninsula and Gola North

Golden Greenbul               Calyptocichla serina

Western Peninsula

Honeyguide Greenbul          Baeopogon indicator

Gola East and North, Kambui South

Spotted Greenbul              Ixonotus guttatus

Gola East and North

Simple Greenbul/Leaflove     Chlorocichla simplex

Gola East and North

Swamp Greenbul               Thescelocichla leucopleura

Gola East and North, Kambui North

Icterine Greenbul              Phyllastrephus icterinus

Gola East and Kambui South

Common/Red-tailed Bristlebill Bleda syndactyla

Tiwai, Gola East and North

Green-tailed Bristlebill        Bleda eximia

Gola East and Kambui South

Grey-headed Bristlebill       Bleda canicapilla

Western Peninsula and Gola East

Western/Yellow-spotted Nicator     Nicator chloris


Red-tailed Greenbul           Criniger calurus

Gola East and North, Kambui North

Western Bearded-Greenbul   Criniger barbatus

Tiwai, Gola East and North

Yellow-bearded Greenbul      Criniger olivaceus

Gola East and North, Kambui South and North

Finsch's Flycatcher-Thrush   Neocossyphus finschii

Up to 4 daily in Western Peninsula and Gola forests.

White-tailed/Fire-crested Alethe    Alethe diademata

One or 2 daily in Western Peninsula and Gola forests, with 2 spotted juv.s seen.

Sharpe's Apalis                Apalis sharpii

Common by voice but only a few sightings as mostly high in canopy.

Kemp's Longbill                Macrosphenus kempi

Two singles in Gola East, with totally different voices – one a simple whistle, the other a Forest Robin-like song.

Violet-backed Hyliota         Hyliota violacea

A small party in Gola East (JH).

African Forest-Flycatcher    Fraseria ocreata

One in Regent Forest, Western Peninsula was the only record.

Ussher's Flycatcher           Muscicapa ussheri

3 together at Kambui North.

Cassin's Flycatcher            Muscicapa cassini

Two singles on rocks in rivers.

Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher        Myioparus griseigularis

One or 2 at Mount Aureal.

Forest Robin                   Stiphrornis erythrothorax

The commonest robin-type sp. seen or heard daily in forest.

Lowland Akalat                Sheppardia cyornithopsis

Only 1 seen, in Gola East, apparently associating with White-tailed Alethes.

Forest Scrub-Robin           Cercotrichas leucosticta

Only seen in Regent Forest, Western Peninsula.

Northern Wheatear           Oenanthe oenanthe

One in East Freetown – not mapped for SL in Sinclair and Ryan but shown as coastal only in Borrow and Demy.

African Shrike-flycatcher    Megabyas flammulatus

One in Regent Forest, Western Peninsula.

Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher  Bias musicus

A pair at Bumbuna, the mail display-flighting at times.

Chestnut Wattle-eye          Platysteira castanea

1 or 2 most days in forest.

Red-cheeked Wattle-eye     Platysteira blissetti

A pair in farmbush before Gola East, took some finding.

Chestnut-capped Flycatcher  Erythrocercus mccallii

At least 2 at Gola North and Kambui North.

Blue-headed Crested-Flycatcher     Trochocercus nitens

One at Gola East.

White-necked Rockfowl       Picathartes gymnocephalus

Two, possibly 3, at a nest site on the Western Peninsula.

Blackcap Illadopsis            Illadopsis cleaveri

One at Kambui South.

Rufous-winged Illadopsis      Illadopsis rufescens

One at Tiwai, 2 at Kambui South and heard fairly commonly in Gola.

Puvel's Illadopsis              Illadopsis puveli

One in farmbush at Gola East looked somewhat different from all illustrations in the guide-books.

Brown Illadopsis               Illadopsis fulvescens

A few in Gola East.

Blackcap Babbler              Turdoides reinwardtii

Two parties at Bumbuna.

Brown Babbler                 Turdoides plebejus

One party at Bumbuna.

Capuchin Babbler              Phyllanthus atripennis

One party in farmbush at Gola East.

Scarlet-tufted Sunbird       Deleornis fraseri

Singles at Gola East and North, and Kambui North at least.

Mouse-brown Sunbird         Anthreptes gabonicus

2 at No.2 River resort.

Collared Sunbird               Hedydipna collaris

At least 1 at Western Peninsula and Gola North.

Green-headed Sunbird        Cyanomitra verticalis

One or 2 at Bumbuna.

Blue-throated Brown Sunbird Cyanomitra cyanolaema

Quite common at Gola East.

Olive Sunbird                  Cyanomitra olivacea

Common in the understorey of forest throughout.

Buff-throated Sunbird        Chalcomitra adelberti

A male at a flowering tree on the Gola road on 2 dates.

Olive-bellied Sunbird          Cinnyris chloropygius

Difficult to id this from the next sp. Both were seen in small numbers at Mt Aureal, Freetown, Western Peninsula and Gola East, at least.

Tiny Sunbird                   Cinnyris minullus

See above, plus Bumbuna waterfall.

Johanna's Sunbird            Cinnyris johannae

One or 2 at Mt Aureal, Freetown, Western Peninsula and Gola East, at least.

Superb Sunbird                Cinnyris superbus

Difficult to id from the above but at least 1 was thought to be in the Western Peninsula forest.

Large-billed/Sabine’s Puffback       Dryoscopus sabini

Singles at Regent Forest, Western Peninsula and Kambui North.

Turati's Boubou               Laniarius turatii

At least 2 seen and others heard at Bumbuna, and 2 heard in East Freetown.

Sooty Boubou                  Laniarius leucorhynchus

One in farmbush at Gola East.

Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike  Telophorus sulfureopectus

One at East Freetown.

Fiery-breasted Bushshrike    Malaconotus cruentus

A pair in farmbush at Gola East.

Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike        Prionops caniceps

Parties of 4-8 at Gola East on 5 occasions.

Emerald Starling               Lamprotornis iris

Two and then 15 on the Bumbuna – Magbuaka road.

Copper-tailed Glossy-Starling         Lamprotornis cupreocauda

A few at Gola East and North.

Narrow-tailed Starling        Poeoptera lugubris

6 in a tree at Tiwai (JH).

Vieillot's Weaver              Ploceus nigerrimus

A breeding colony at Freetown East and a few at Bumbuna.

Yellow-mantled Weaver       Ploceus tricolor

A breeding colony on Tiwai and a few at Gola East and Kambui South.

Maxwell's Black Weaver      Ploceus albinucha

Breeding colonies at Tiwai, Gola East and Kambui South.

Red-vented Malimbe           Malimbus scutatus

Up to 5 in Gola East.

Gray's Malimbe                Malimbus nitens

The commonest malimbe with a few seen in forest throughout.

Crested Malimbe               Malimbus malimbicus

2 at Gola East and North.

Red-headed Malimbe          Malimbus rubricollis

A few at Tiwai and Gola East.

Black-winged Bishop           Euplectes hordeaceus

Singles at Bumbuna and Freetown East.

Red-collared Widowbird      Euplectes ardens

25+ on a hillside at Bumbuna and a fewon the Bumbuna – Magbuaka road.

Red-fronted Antpecker       Parmoptila rubrifrons

Single males in a bird party at Gola East on 2 consecutive mornings.

Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch        Nigrita bicolor

One at Gola East and 4 at Mt Aureal.

Grey-headed Negrofinch      Nigrita canicapilla

Several at Gola East.

Crimson Seedcracker          Pyrenestes sanguineus

Two singles at Gola East and 1 at Gola West and East Freetown.

Western Bluebill               Spermophaga haematina

Singles at Tiwai and Kambui North, and 2 at Gola East (FL).

Jambandu Indigobird          Vidua raricola

One singing on the Bumbuna – Magbuaka road.

West African/Streaky-headed Seedeater    Serinus gularis

One at Bumbuna (JH).


White-crested Bittern, Tigriornis leucolophus

Olive Ibis, Bostrychia olivacea

Ahanta Francolin, Francolinus ahantensis

Yellow-throated Cuckoo,  Chrysococcyx flavigularis                

Brown Nightjar, Caprimulgus binotatus

Lyre-tailed Honeyguide,  Melichneutes robustus                     

Ghana Cuckoo-shrike, Campephaga lobata

Black-capped Rufous-Warbler,  Bathmocercus cerviniventris

Nimba Flycatcher, Melaenornis annamarulae

Olivaceous Flycatcher,  Muscicapa olivascens                      

Tessmann's Flycatcher,  Muscicapa tessmanni                      

West African Batis, Batis occulta                                       

Lagden's Bushshrike,  Malaconotus lagdeni

Black-necked Cisticola,  Cisticola eximius                               

Heuglin's Masked-Weaver,  Ploceus heuglini                                


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