April 2014

Odzala sees the transition period from the short dry season to the short rainy season. Most of the wildlife is slowly coming back towards the bais and rivers after having migrated into the heart of the terra-firma forest looking for some of their favoured fruits – for example, the two that are commonly called wild mango – Irvingia gabonensis and Pandaoleosa. The overcast weather accompanied by misty, cool mornings and evenings is slowly fading away and the level of humidity is rising. Heavy showers towards the end of the month settled the obvious presence of dust in the air.

 

Lango Camp, Odzala-Kokoua National Park

We experienced interesting sightings of spotted hyaena on a buffalo carcass twice this month. Since lions disappeared from Odzala in the early 1990s, spotted hyaena are on top of the food chain. Forest buffalo are the main prey of these opportunistic hunters – hyaena cover long distances throughout the night in search of wounded or unhealthy individuals. Twenty or more hyaena feeding on a forest buffalo can sometimes be seen in swampy marsh habitat, with only their necks and heads sticking out of the mud.

A great surprise was seeing a small herd of bongo during breakfast one morning, just before going out on activity. The herd was spotted north-east of the Lango Bai crossing in between two forest patches. The Lango stream is fairly low at the moment which has allowed us to reach places that are inaccessible during the wet season. During such an expedition, we had an incredible up-close encounter with a solitary bongo walking 30 metres right in front of us without him noticing our presence – unique experience!

 

Other mammals have been hard to observe, although prominent tracks and signs indicates their return in and around Lango Bai.

Ngaga Camp, Ndzehi Concession

On average, the gorilla sightings have been good although challenging for one who is unfit as lately, the gorillas have been found far from camp. To reach the gorillas involved some long hours of walking this month, as Jupiter and Neptuno are at the moment present in areas where there is a concentration of various fruiting trees – and that’s a fair distance! As we approach the gorillas, a lot of patience is required as we always try to get the most out of every experience and mostly our aim is to observe the gorillas in their natural environment without disturbing them.

 

Many chimpanzees have been heard fairly close to Ngaga Camp, increasing the opportunity of us getting a glimpse of those great apes while gorilla tracking or on our forest walks.

Sightings of the diurnal primates have been interesting, with moustached and putty-nosed monkey being curious enough to come and investigate human activity near the rooms. The night walks were very productive with sightings of the rare central potto, Lord Derby’s anomalure and many galagos.

Birding

February has been good especially for the birds of prey with sightings of black-shouldered kite, yellow-billed kite, long-tailed hawk, African harrier hawk, long-crested eagle, dark-chanting goshawk, red-chested goshawk, Cassin’s hawk-eagle, black sparrowhawk, bat hawk, and the stunning African crowned eagle.


 March 2014

January in Odzala is what is known as “the small dry season” with its vegetation slowly getting drier. Light sprinklings of rain remind us that we are in a rainforest as we move deeper into this season and the frequency of decent downpours is on the decline. Pockets of rain moving through the general area allow us to experience spectacular lightning displays, hear the trees sighing in the wind, feel the rise in temperature and humidity and even smell the fresher air, rather than actually receive the full might of a rainstorm. 

    

Lango Camp, Odzala-Kokoua National Park 
January has been a little up and down for mammals. Fewer sightings of elephants were had, but fresh tracks are a constant around Lango, Mboko and the main road out of the Odzala Kokoua National Park. 

Chimpanzees have been quite common to hear and we were even fortunate enough to see a group of five individuals composed of a male, two females and two youngsters. This took place on an expedition that we call “the adventure trail,” which is a fabulous walk that makes its way through different habitats including waist-high water near Lango Camp. 

Another highlight for this month was a sighting of the shy servaline serval (a serval with a more densely spotted coat) that often wanders along the road after a rain to scent-mark its territory. This typical behaviour of a cat as also been observed with leopards – of which we have come across many a track lately. 

    

Ngaga Camp, Ndzehi Concession 
On the gorilla news front, Neptuno has been hanging around the south-west of the trail network, happily making the walk to find his group slightly less challenging than the usual, whereas Jupiter got found relatively close to camp before heading south into more or less the same area where Neptuno is at the moment. (Clearly, the large grape-sized fruit of the Otombo trees that are found in that area are quite tasty.) 

We’ve had regular sightings of putty-nosed monkey around Ngaga Camp along with a few good glimpses of moustached monkey and Guerezza colobus. A phenomenal variety of squirrels were seen and heard including red-legged sun squirrel, Thomas's and a few I have yet to identify (but it seems impossible without expert help). An African sheath-tailed bat was given a helping hand (actually scooped up with indemnity forms) to get airborne again. 

The highlight was when we were able to get a good look at the elusive Lord Derby’s anomalure! Also known as flying squirrels, these stunning mammals climb up very high trees and then glide from one to another. 

Birds 
Our feathery friends have featured at the forefront of the first four weeks for 2014. Bee-eaters are rocking the month of January, with black, blue-headed, black-headed, blue-breasted and white-throated all on the month's list. There have been a few lesser-crested arguments about what is most probably a European honey buzzard (I conceded that one because of lack of evidence) – and fortunately we had black-collared lovebirds to distract us a bit later... life's tough in the forest, isn't it?