Monday, March 17, 2014

The Crocodile Watchman

My burgeoning backlog of bloggable booty is growing daily, and I may soon get to it all. But first I must share today's exciting find. Mich took me to a site in south-central Togo where he found Egyptian Plover a couple months ago, and this was my most-wanted bird on my six-week visit here (shockingly already half over).

Check out this beauty!

This bird is common nowhere, and most birding tours spend at least a couple days to drive to where they can see it. Where we saw this bird and three others (!) is a mere three-hour drive from Lomé, the capital of Togo Рwhich may make it the easiest place to see it anywhere. One of its English nicknames, Crocodile Bird, echoes the German name Krokodilwächter, from old, unreliable observations that they picked teeth of Nile Crocodiles. It does look kind of like a plover, but is only distantly related and is now in its own family, Pluvianidae.

It used to be considered a relative of pratincoles and coursers, and at the very same reservoir we had about 200 or so Collared Pratincoles in all directions, once a large group in a single flock. Like a cross between a swallow and a shorebird, these are also handsome birds.

These fine birds came at the end of what had already been a fantastic day of birding on our way home from what were an incredible two days at Pendjari National Park in far NW Benin (another blog or two to come). We stopped at a rocky ridge south of the Togo city of Kara just to poke around and found six lifebirds for me, including these gorgeous Violet Turacos. Even Mich had never seen them perched.

I look forward to getting in a few more mornings of birding in while here in Togo, but now it's back to catch-up time on the computer while Kate and Mich are at work.

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