The Red-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi), also known as the Jardine’s parrot, is a medium-sized mainly green parrot endemic across wide areas of Africa. It has three subspecies. The extent and shade of the red or orange plumage on its head, thighs, and bend of wings vary depending on the subspecies.
These two photos are a juvenile Jardine’s Parrot at Birds of Eden.
Although I saw a Jardine’s zoom by at Arusha NP I didn’t get a photo of an adult so I will fall back on the Wikipedia one.
They have a huge range across Africa in separated areas but many of these would be difficult for a tourist to access. The best places are Arusha NP in Tanzania and Kakum NP in Ghana.
Seeing wild African Grey Parrots is a holy grail for many people. They are not only popular as pets worldwide but famous for their intelligence due to Dr Irene Pepperberg’s work with Alex. I had such high hopes for Kakum as they are commonly reported being seen there and Ghana is a very easy country to get to and travel in. Many people see them from the Canopy Walkway but we didn’t. I was really disappointed as they were the main reason to visit Ghana. In the evening, back at the lodge, I spoke with the guide of the organized group who were staying there and he said they saw them around 7am-ish from the car park at Kakum.
The next day, we went back and staked out the car park. At first we saw lots of hornbills flying past but no Grey Parrots. Our guides from the previous day showed up for work and sat with us while waiting for their clients to arrive. Around 7:30, I was ready to give up and go back to the lodge when one of the guys said “There”! He was pointing at a clearing through the trees over the park. Two Grey Parrots in flight! I grabbed my camera, said a quick Hail Mary and took aim.
I missed! They were flying towards the left side of the photo and had cleared the tall tree in the middle and were heading behind the thick clump of trees on the left. A blink of an eye, they were gone! That was all I was going to get for African Grey Parrots after traveling all this way. That’s how birding is, sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. In a way I was lucky, at least I DID see them for a split second, but I had wanted more time to enjoy watching them and their behaviour.
The best I can do are these photos I took at Birds of Eden, South Africa. Many more African Grey photos can be found in the links below.
For birders, seeing wild African Grey Parrots has the same problem as most African birds. A potentially large range but many areas difficult to get to or unsafe to travel in. Independent birders should try Kakum but expect the sighting to be brief and far away. Uganda has better possibilities now that World Parrot Trust has released some Grey Parrots who were rescued from a poacher, rehabilitated and released at Ngamba Island, a chimpanzee sanctuary located in Lake Victoria. Kibale National Forest in Uganda is also a good place to see them.
African Geographic Magazine – This is a must read article about the tragedy of wild African Grey Parrots being captured by poachers and the horrible fate they suffer. Eco-tourism encourages locals to leave the birds in the wild!
There is no shortage of videos showing wild African Grey Parrots! Many are filmed by researchers who can access areas that independent travelers would have trouble with.
These first two are what I was hoping to see in Kakum. The videographer doesn’t say where he filmed them but this may be because he is protecting them from poachers.
World Parrot Trust Documentary – shows actual poaching technique which is horrible to see!
The journey to freedom of rescued African Grey Parrots. They start out in such heartbreaking condition, the trapping methods and transportation by poachers is extremely cruel.
The Red-headed Malimbe (Malimbus rubricollis) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family. This little beauty is easy to spot even in thickly forested areas because of their brilliant red heads. This one is from Kakum National Park, Ghana. You can see the distance the bird was but zooming in shows his real beauty.
They have a very large range throughout West and Central Africa. Not many people report seeing them because many of these countries are difficult to get to and travel in. For ease of logistics, Kakum in Ghana is really the easiest place to get to with miles and public transport. They frequent the trees surrounding the canopy walkway.
Firstly, we actually SAW a lot more than I could get photos of. These birds are camera shy and they are fast! The few bird pics I got are terrible to the point that I can’t match them to a pic in the bird book other than the red bird (Red-headed Malimbe) and the blue bird (Splendid Glossy Starling). I will try to make up for it with photos of the actual canopy walkway.
The trail leading up to the canopy walkway, see how dark it is? We saw a Paradise Flycatcher along the way but the photo didn’t come out – too dark.
These are our guides. Only one was the real paid guide, the other one was his friend who just tagged along, I think he is in training.
Some independent birders already there.
The organized birding group who are also staying at the Rainforest Lodge. I noticed they were watching something very intently so I followed their gaze but couldn’t see anything. All of a sudden, a small bird flew out of the foliage very quickly and the group burst into applause. What WAS that bird? We caught up to them and found out it was a Rosy Bee-eater, one of the target birds in Kakum! At least I caught a glimpse of him!
They are really beautiful, check out this video!
At this point my husband is bored and just having fun with the walkways.
Splendid Glossy Starling
See how beautiful he is!
A lizard walking in front of us.
Back at the reception, the shop was finally open.
Our two guides. Sorry I can’t remember their names but they did know the birds quite well so if you see them there, I can recommend them!
Back in the carp park a Little Bee-eater
The private bus for the tour group.
While I usually do just fine as an independent birder with a local guide, I have to say that Ghana is the first place where I got real “tour-group envy”. They got into the park much earlier, they have private transport so they can get to more remote places where I couldn’t go using tro-tros and their guide supplies them with a checklist of all the birds they saw.
I did get my guide to thumb through my book with me so I could highlight the birds we saw but I am a long way off from anything that resembles the nicely organized bird list the tour groups get. Here is an example of one for all of Ghana but they do make notes on the exact place the bird was seen.
We had lunch at the small cafe just outside the park and hung around the rest of the day for birding in the car park and surrounding areas. My cash reserves were down (when will I learn to change enough money) so we couldn’t make a second trip into the park, they charge by the hour, not the whole day!
Ghana’s Kakum National Park rates highly amongst birders for it’s impressive bird list and ease to access. For people staying independently at the Rainforest Lodge, you can get there in a 15 minute ride in a tro-tro. You don’t need to organize anything in advance, there are guides available at the gate. If you want early access (before 8am) you do need to arrange it in advance. Credit cards are not accepted for either entry or guide fees so be prepared with cash – Ghanaian Cedis.
The mini-bus/tro-tro will let you out by this sign and the one below. Walk up the path to the guard and pay 1 Cedi per person entry.
The first time we took a taxi not knowing how close the park actually was. It cost 10 Cedis.
As you enter, there are signs telling you what the park has to offer. I didn’t really look at the camping side of things as at my age I want a roof over my head!
The reception is where you pay your entry fee.
Here are the fees as of November 2014. Take note that there are higher fees for birdwatching as opposed to just visiting the canopy walkway. I can’t figure that one out. Everyone walks up the same path. Everyone enters the same canopy walkway and has access to the same platforms. So I have no idea why “birdwatching” costs more! These fees don’t include the guide, you can see the guide fees below.
In our situation, we arrived around 6:30 and the office hadn’t opened yet. A couple of guides arrived around 7am and they arranged with the guard to let us in with the promise to pay all the fees after we came back so we could enter right away. An international birding tour group was already inside, they had left the lodge around 5:30 and pre-arranged tickets and a guide. When we got back, the guide told the reception we were birdwatchers and they charged accordingly.
While we were there, a few local tour groups came through, judging by their small cameras and lack of binoculars, they weren’t bird watchers but they walked the exact same bridges we did. So it’s just strange they have higher prices, what do they do if you pay as a normal tourist and happen to see birds while you are up there? The regular tourists were looking at the same birds we were looking at. Other than lizards and scenic views, there is nothing to see BUT birds!
A snack bar
Entry gate where you show your ticket and head off to the canopy walkway.
And this is where I will leave you for now, bird pics to follow!
Yesterday I reviewed the Rainforest Lodge but I saved the best for last – the birds!
These were all seen between 3:30-5:30pm-ish. I will do my best to identify them from the guidebook. There are a few I can’t find so if anyone is familiar with Ghanaian birds and wants to help, please do so in the comments.
Typical Weaver Nest
And here’s my favourite – the Woodland Kingfisher!
Somehow my husband lost interest in the birds and decided to make friends with the mechanics across the road.
The Rainforest Lodge in the small village of Akrofrom, Ghana is about a 10 minute drive from Kakum National Park and is actually the closest lodge to the park. Both individual birders like us and people on international organized birding trips stay here.
You can get here easily by tro-tro from Cape Coast. Tell the driver where you are going, they should all know where it is but also keep an eye out on your left side as our driver forgot to stop and almost went past it!
Even before we entered the reception, we loved the African artwork on the building!
The rooms are in a circle with covered walkways to each one. It does rain here sometimes!
Here’s our room, it was gorgeous! We really felt like we were in Ghana and not some cookie-cutter room that could be anywhere.
If there was anything to complain about it would be the presence of a tv. Who needs a tv when the grounds are full of birds?
The restaurant has wonderful murals of birds and the rainforest on all the walls and windows overlooking the garden where you can watch birds while waiting for your food.
I probably should have taken photos of the food but you’ll just have to trust me, the pizza was to die for! Forget Dominoes, Pizza Hut or whatever, Rainforest Lodge Pizza rules!
Rooms are very reasonably priced at around $60 a night and includes breakfast and free wifi. Since most of the clientele are birders, they are well accustomed to providing early breakfasts or will pack one up for you. There is a swimming pool but since we got there late and then spent the whole next day at Kakum we didn’t use it.
If you are on your own, it is pretty easy to get either a taxi or tro-tro on the road in front of the lodge to Kakum.
Did I mention there were birds here? Tune in tomorrow!