Ghana Birding Tour Trip Report 2023

Ghana Birding Tour Trip Report
Date: January 2023

Guide: Marc Cronje
During the tour the temperature ranged from 11ºC to 35ºC. We recorded 19 mammal species, over 400 species of birds and 12 species of reptiles. The species mentioned in the daily summaries are only some of those seen.

Day 1:
Arrival in Accra
Upon arrival our group headed towards Tema village, close to Shai Hills Reserve. It was a welcome relief to check in and freshen up after the long flights.
A birding stop at Sakumono lagoon yielded sightings of Yellow-billed Shrike, Collared Pratincoles, Long-tailed Glossy Starling, White-throated Bee-eaters, African Cuckoo Hawk, Western Yellow Wagtail, Western Marsh Harrier, Western Reef Heron, Lanner Falcon and a stunning Black Heron doing its typical fishing pose. What a great start to the trip!

Waders were well represented, and we enjoyed sightings of Common Greenshank, Common Ringed Plover, Marsh, Common and Wood Sandpipers.
On our drive towards Tema village we enjoyed roadside sightings of Shikra, Western Plantain-eater and Black-winged Kite.
At dinner we chatted about the plans for the trip and had a good old catch up and chin wag as the group knows each other and we have all travelled together before.

Day 2:
Shai Hills, Sakumono Lagoon
Our morning started with us heading to the bird rich Shai Hills, north-east of Accra. Our walk and drive around the reserve rewarded us with sightings of Senegal Parrot, Violet Turaco, Blue-bellied Roller, Simple Greenbul, White-throated Greenbul, a stunning Oriole Warbler showing well, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Black Scimitarbill and Vieillot’s Barbet. Our highlight was great views of White-crowned Cliff chat amongst the rocks of one of the hills. This was a target for the morning as this is the best place to see the species in Ghana.

The grassland rewarded us with sightings of Senegal Lapwing, Flappet Lark, White-crested Helmetshrike, Short-winged and Croaking Cisticola. Other wildlife at the reserve included Kob, Green Monkey, Olive Baboon and a hefty Nile Monitor.

With it warming up and us having a good morning of birding, we started to head towards Atewa with lunch being enjoyed on route. We chatted about the trip, updated lists and enjoyed the scenery on the drive. The excitement was building for the afternoon of birding as Heidi was 3 birds short of the 2000 mark.

Our afternoon walk in the farm bush around Atewa was productive and we had sightings of: Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Grey-headed Nigrita, Superb Sunbird, Red-rumped Tinkerbird, Blue Malkoha, Red-vented Malimbe and Double-toothed Barbet. It was an afternoon for celebration as Heidi reached her 2000 bird with a stunning male Olive-bellied Sunbird.
We all freshened up and enjoyed a wonderful meal as we chatted about our exciting day in Ghana.

Day 3:
Atewa Range and Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary
This morning we had an exciting but challenging walk planned to target a few of the special birds found on top of the Atewa Range.
We enjoyed great birding in this highland upper guinea rainforest and some of the special birds we saw included Grey Longbill, Tit Hylia, West African Wattle-eye, Yellow-billed Turaco, White-crested Hornbill, great views of Tessmann’s Flycatcher, Wilcocks’s Honeyguide and Chocolate-backed Kingfisher.

We were drawn into the forest by the characteristic frog like trill “brrrt” call of a Rufous-sided Broadbill. We were treated to a great sighting of this awesome bird doing it typical display flying in a circle and calling.

As we pushed on upwards, we had heard the call of one of the main targets for the morning; the Blue-moustached Bee-eater. Soon we had views of three of these stunning birds. Other great birds included Buff-throated Sunbird, Red-headed Malimbe, Ayres’s Hawk Eagle, the Upper-guinea endemic Sharpe’s Apalis, Sabine’s Puffback, Golden Greenbul and excellent views of Nimba Flycatcher- a very special bird for the area and another Upper-guinea endemic.

We made our way down the hill and enjoyed a well-deserved lunch on route to Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary. Our travel chats revolved around new lifers for the trip, new birding destinations and learning about the local Ghanaian culture.
We arrived at our accommodation in Kumasi, freshened up and enjoyed a lovely dinner together.

Ghana Birding

Day 4:
Travel day from Kumasi to Bolgatanga

Today was primarily a driving day for us to get the Bolgatanga region located in the north-east of the country. We were on our way after an early breakfast.
A noteworthy sighting of Grasshopper Buzzards feeding in-front of a fire was a welcome sighting as it gave us great views of these raptors taking the opportunity to catch grasshoppers and insects fleeing the bush fire.

A stop after lunch at one of the pans yielded sightings of White-faced Whistling Duck, Winding Cisticola, Dark Chanting Goshawk and a stunning Malachite Kingfisher.
We arrived at our accommodation after a long drive, freshened up and enjoyed another great meal as we chatted about our exciting day coming up- tomorrow we head out in search of the Egyptian Plover.

Day 5:
Egyptian Plover Site and Tono Dam
After an early breakfast we headed of for a pre-dawn departure to White Volta river with Togo and Burkina Faso in the distance in search of the special Egyptian Plover. This special stunning bird is now regarded as the sole member of its own monotypic family Pluvianidae. Upon arrival we soon had scope views on a pair of Egyptian Plovers and the next 45 minutes was spent admiring these incredible birds and we were spoiled with some great close-up views.

We also enjoyed some other great birds in the area with highlights being: Abyssinian Roller, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, Red-chested Swallow, Bearded Barbet, West African Swallow, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Yellow-crowned Gonolek, African Silverbill, Northern Carmine Bee-eater and White-rumped Seedeater. What a satisfying morning.

We enjoyed lunch and a short break at our comfortable hotel before we headed towards Tono Dam for a stint of afternoon birding.
A few highlights from the Tona Dam area included Black-rumped Waxbill, the localised Black-backed Cisticola- offering great views, Common Whitethroat, Four-banded Sandgrouse and a very obliging African Grey Woodpecker. We then enjoyed the sunset overlooking the lake from the dam before returning to the hotel for dinner and some well-earned rest.

Ghana Birding

Day 6:
Bolgatanga to Mole National Park
A slightly later start was enjoyed by all, and we set off back down south to the more open savanna of Mole National Park.
A well planned stop at Tongo Hills rewarded us with some special birds for the trip. Some of the avian gems included outstanding views of Rock-loving Cisticola after some careful searching; White-crowned Cliff Chat, Lavender Waxbill, a stunning male Pygmy sunbird, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Fox Kestrel, numerous Gosling’s Bunting and a Booted Eagle.
We had lunch on route in the town of Tamale and we made a stop at the nearby Larabanga mud-and-stick mosque. Built in traditional Sudanese style and dating from the 14th century (the oldest mosque in Ghana and one of the oldest in all of West Africa) the mosque apparently houses one of the original copies of the Koran. The mosque has been referred to as the “Mecca of West Africa”. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has contributed substantially to its restoration and lists it as one of its 100 Most Endangered Sites.

We arrived at Mole, checked in and went straight out on a short afternoon/ evening drive to see what we could find. Highlights included Stone Partridge, African Golden Oriole, the air strip was rewarding, and we enjoyed some nocturnal species including excellent views of Long-tailed Nightjar, Northern White-faced Owl and African Scops Owl. The star gazing from the airstrip was also breath-taking.

Ghana Birding

Day 7 & 8:
We spent the next two days exploring the open savanna and forested area of the amazing birding spot in the north of Ghana. Mole National Park is the country’s premier non forest birding spot and the birding did not disappoint us at all.

Some of the noteworthy sightings included White-throated Francolin, Red-winged Pytilia, Swamp Flycatcher, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, Togo Paradise Whydah, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, multiple Pearl-spotted Owlets, Violet Turaco, Blackcap Babbler, Brown-rumped Bunting, Red-winged Prinia, Rufous Cisticola, Greyish Eagle Owl, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Lanner and Peregrine Falcon, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, White-shouldered Black-tit, Bar-breasted and Black-faced Firefinch.

The park has great raptor diversity which the group enjoyed watching. We got some great views of birds riding thermals while having lunch. Some of the raptors we saw were Bateleur, African Fish Eagle, Booted Eagle, African-harrier Hawk, Palm-nut, White-backed, Hooded and White-headed Vulture. Sunbirds were plentiful with us enjoying great views of beautiful Pygmy, Western Violet-backed, Scarlet-chested, Copper and Splendid Sunbirds.

Mammals were plentiful and we had numerous sightings of Olive Baboon, Green Monkey, Kob, Waterbuck, Common Warthog, Bushbuck and Patas Monkey! An Elephant bull on foot a few meters from us was a definite highlight.

Our night drives were excellent, and we enjoyed sightings of Small-spotted Genet (Common Genet), Large-spotted Genet (Blotched Genet), Crested Porcupine- a lifer for me, Marsh Mongoose and Northern Lesser Galago. A highlight was a massive Puff Adder crossing the path on the hike, that we all could photograph and enjoy- this was a wish come true for Heidi.
Our time in Mole was fantastic and the group loved the diverse and bird rich park. Having Greyish Eagle Owl and African Scops Owl calling in camp was special too.

Day 9:
Travel day from Mole to Kumasi
Our morning begun with a short pre breakfast walk in camp, and this gave us a chance to photograph and appreciate the sunbird diversity in camp. Birds enjoyed included Beautiful Sunbird, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Familiar Chat, Violet Turaco, Northern Crombec, African Grey Woodpecker, Bruce’s Green Pigeon and Spotted Flycatcher.

A relaxed breakfast was enjoyed as we chatted about vulture and bird conservation and how important avian tourism is in protecting our birdlife. We were sad to leave Mole but knew we had to head south and into the special Upper Guinea forest that makes this county a must for birding. Our destination was the town Kumasi- an overnight stop on route to Bobiri and Bonkro- the famous sight for the Picathartes.

Our drive was uneventful and roadside sightings included Dark-chanting Goshawk, Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle; a lifer for the group. On the drive we updated life lists, excited for Sandy, who were only 15 birds away from reaching 6000 life birds in the world.

Some down time was enjoyed by all before dinner. We also got treated to the spectacle of thousands of Straw-coloured Fruit Bats flying from a roost to go and feed for the evening. These massive bats fly in huge flocks and block out the sun. A tasty and scrumptious meal was enjoyed by all as we chatted away and updated our ever-growing list.

Ghana Birding

Day 10:
Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary and Picathartes Nesting Site
An early breakfast was enjoyed at our comfortable accommodation before we headed off to the forest at Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary. Bobiri is a small (55 km²) forest sanctuary that is renowned for its diversity and abundance of butterflies; over 400 species have been identified here! It is the only dedicated butterfly sanctuary in west Africa. It is also home to over 100 species of native trees, some of them over 300 years old.

The birding was top notch and we had a few birding parties come in on our walk. Special birds included fantastic scope views of a Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Red-billed Helmetshrike, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Blue-throated Roller, stunning views of Yellow-browed Camaroptera, Yellow-Mantled Weaver, Blue Cuckooshrike, Fire-bellied Woodpecker, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Olive, Tiny, Superb and Little-green Sunbird.

We soon found ourselves on the road and heading for the remote village of Bonkro, close to a small upper guinea rainforest in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The village of Bonkro is famous for being the most reliable spot to see the White-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes gymnocephalus) in West Africa. The location has more nesting sites than any other in Ghana. There are around 20 nesting sites in this small forest, and we will visit one of the largest colonies that has approximately 30 nests.
We reached the overhanging rock face and small cave with mud nests where the birds come into roost from foraging for snails, frogs and insects during the day. The atmosphere was set to see these legendary prehistoric-looking birds. A slight wait and we were rewarded with exceptional views of three birds hopping and jumping on the rocks whilst preening themselves just metres from our eyes. A true and unforgettable highlight that will stay with the group for a long time- what a day! 

After enjoying the exceptional views, we left the birds in peace as we set off back through the forest to our accommodation and a well-deserved cold drink. Our hosts at the newly built Picathartes guesthouse prepared a wonderful celebratory meal and we enjoyed our evening, reflecting on one of the best birding days of our lives. Staying in this remote local community is a definite highlight as it not only benefits the protection of this forest but also allows us to enjoy the other wonderful birds and wildlife that call it home.
A wonderful meal was prepared for us by the local ladies and was enjoyed by all as we celebrated seeing such an incredible bird.

Ghana Birding

Day 11:
Bonkro Forest and transfer to Kakum National Park
We enjoyed a slightly more relaxed breakfast as we were basically in the forest at the new Picathartes guesthouse. Our morning walk in this incredible forest yielded sightings of: Chestnut-winged Starling, Red-fronted Parrot, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Speckled Tinkerbird, Western Nicator, Honeyguide Greenbul, Black-throated Coucal, Melancholy Woodpecker and Forest Penduline tit.

We had to leave this wonderful area to continue towards Kakum National Park, the jewel in the crown of Ghana’s protected reserve system. A planned stop along the Pra River gave us sightings of Rock Pratincoles, White-bibbed Swallows and Striated Heron. We also got our first House Sparrows of the trip- a recent arrival to Ghana.

We arrived at our accommodation in the early evening after dodging a tropical downpour and checked in and took some down time before dinner. We enjoyed another scrumptious meal and chatted about a few of the target species for the next few days.

Ghana Birding

Day 12:
Antikwaa and Kakum National Park
After an early breakfast we headed of the Antikwaa section of Kakum in the western area of the park, hoping to add some amazing birds to our growing list. A few highlights from the busy and birdy morning included Grey-chinned Sunbird, Black Bee-eater, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Western Bluebill, Bristle-nosed Barbet, Blue-billed Malimbe, Black Spinetail, Black-and-white Mannikin and a White-spotted Flufftail showing off extremely well for the group offering some amazing photo opportunities.

A flock of stunning Rosy Bee-eaters flying into land offered great views on the beautiful bird. This was a special sighting for Sandy as this was her 6000th species seen in the world- what a milestone bird. It was cheers all around and high fives to celebrate this incredible achievement.

A few moments later an exceptional sighting of a Puvel’s Illadopsis out in the open which we got good photos of added to in incredible morning in the field. A quick stop at a small bridge got us Preuss’s Cliff Swallows near their colony. With the heat picking up we headed for our accommodation for lunch and short break before heading out again in the afternoon.

Our afternoon of birding rewarded us with views of Brown-cheeked Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Naked-faced Barbet, Copper-tailed Starling, Dwarf Bittern and a stunning White-tailed Alethe which posed for us in the open. The real highlight came as it got dark and we had top views of a Brown Nightjar. A few moments later we enjoyed a great sighting of Akun Eagle-Owl, and a great mammal highlight was Potto above the road for us to all enjoy- what an incredible day in Ghana. A lovely dinner was enjoyed as we celebrated Sandy’s 6000 bird over a few cold ones.

Day 13:
Kakum National Park, AM and PM visits to the canopy walkway
An early breakfast was on the cards, and we set off for the nearby Kakum National Park to be on the famous canopy walkway at first light. The world famous canopy walkway is a 350 metre long, 40 metre high walkway and one of only three such structures on the African continent, and by far the longest.

The birding did not disappoint, and we enjoyed sightings of Yellow-billed Barbet, stunning views of the shy White-crested Hornbill, Fraser’s Sunbird, Chestnut-breasted Nigrita, Violet-backed Hyliota, West African Batis, Sabine’s Spinetail, Black-casqued Hornbill, Congo Serpent Eagle, Rufous-crowned Eremomela and a African Hobby flying over the forest.

The group enjoyed being above the canopy and the excitement of crossing the bridges from platform to platform. We retired back to our accommodation for lunch and mid-day break before heading back to the Canopy walkway in the afternoon.

The afternoon yielded amazing sightings of Black-casqued, Yellow-casqued and Brown-cheeked Hornbills flying across the top the canopy and feeding on fruits- it’s was like being in a David Attenborough documentary. An Anomalures- pelli subspecies or known as a flying squirrel was a great mammal highlight. Dinner was once more enjoyed back at the lodge as we chatted about the amazing birding in Africa and future trips to this amazing continent.

Ghana Birding

Day 14:
Kakum Forest and travel to Ankasa Reserve
After breakfast we packed up and started heading for Cape Coast. A birding stop along the eastern side of Kakum in some farm bush and forest edge rewarded us with sightings of Red-tailed Greenbul, Johanna’s Sunbird, Blue-headed, Black-throated Coucal, Marsh Tchagra, Swamp Bulbul, Copper sunbird, Mottled Spinetail, Honeyguide Greenbul and a stunning Guinea Turaco.

We spent some time visiting the Cape Coast Castle and were amazed to see this peculiar place where most slaves were moved out of West Africa – a real eye-opener as to our history and the atrocious conditions under which slaves were kept. We lunched next door, where our sea view allowed us to pick up Caspian and Royal Terns.
We made our way to our last destination on the trip; the incredible Ankasa Reserve, Ghana’s only wet evergreen rainforest that is in near pristine condition. An exceptional forest in a remote location, Ankasa protects many rare and sought-after bird and mammal species. We will be targeting our last remaining Upper Guinea endemics.

A stop outside the town of Takoradi rewarded us with sightings of African Pygmy Goose, Allen’s Gallinule, African Jacana, Common Moorhen and Orange Weaver – a good birding stop and leg stretch. Later on a stop at some mangrove wetlands along the Ebi river to target two special sunbirds for the trip, was successful and we had great views of Mangrove and Reinchenbach’s Sunbird. A real bonus was a pair of Hartlaub’s ducks showing well for us- a great bird for the trip and lifer for the group.
We arrived at the newly built lodge in Ankasa, checked in and enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by our local hosts. The group enjoyed this unique and new lodge that is right in the forest and within walking distance of Ankasa National Park.

Ghana Birding

Day 15 & 16:
Ankasa Reserve
The nest two days we explored the most biological diverse reserve in Ghana. We set off venturing deeper into this lush forest with our main targets being the Upper Guinea endemics. Some of the noteworthy birds seen included Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Long-tailed Hawk, White-tailed Alethe, Forest Robin, Red-chested Goshawk, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Square-tailed Saw-wing, Ansorge’s Greenbul, Western Bearded Greenbul, Yellow-bearded Greenbul, Red-chested Owlet, Great Blue Turaco, Bates Swift, White-tailed Ant Thrush, Blue-headed Wood Dove, Black Cuckoo, Green-tailed Bristlebill and European Honey Buzzard.

We did well with the Illadopsis species, with us seeing Pale-breasted, Blackcap and an excellent sighting of Rufous-winged Illadopsis singing in the open for us to enjoy. A special sighting of the Nkulengu Rail on our second evening will be a sighting that the group will remember for a long time. To hear these unique birds calling from the forest as it got dark and then find five birds roosting above our heads was just amazing.

As we approach the watering holes located deeper inside the forest we enjoyed views of Dwarf Bittern, White-crested Bittern, Shining Blue, White-bellied, and Dwarf Kingfisher. A top highlight was having two pairs of Red-fronted Antpeckers on a nest for us to enjoy and get amazing pictures of. Garden birds at this fantastic lodge included Fraser’s Eagle Owl, Black Bee-eater, Red-bellied Flycatcher, Reinchenbach’s Sunbird, Cassin’s Flycatcher and Akun Eagle Owl- not bad at all for garden birds!
We enjoyed a fantastic stay at the lodge, and the accommodation and food were exceptional, offering a relaxing and comfortable option to explore Ankasa National Park from.

Day 17:
Transfer to Accra for departure
We enjoyed our final Ankasa breakfast together and then set off westwards for Accra. We had a long drive along the coast but enjoyed the scenery passing stunning old colonial buildings, pristine beaches and other interesting sights.

The group enjoyed an early evening meal in a restaurant close to the Kotoka International Airport and we completed our final checklists before heading to the airport to catch our international flights with a wonderful Ghana birding tour fresh in our minds.

Ghana Birding

A fantastic 17 days of birding in Ghana came to an end with a wonderful group of guests. We all shared a good couple of laughs and and left with a tear in the eye after a lovely Ghana birding trip. Our guide, James Ntakor, shared his precious knowledge and put a lot of hard work into making sure we had an unforgettable time. Looking forward to the next trip together.

Ghana BIrding

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