Just a Typical Tropical Paradise

Because Accra is located right on Ghana’s coast, about five degrees north of the equator, the local temperature stays pretty well flat-lined in the mid to upper eighties.  Most ten-day forecasts feature just a couple of degrees of variation from the nightly low to the daytime high; the monthly average high temperature never leaves the eighties and the monthly lows range all the way from 72 to 75 degrees.  In all of recorded history, it has never been below 59 degrees here.  Local expats claim that there really are no seasons; it is just a perennial Groundhog’s Day experience, with the same weather for weeks and months on end.   Actually, we do have the annual Harmattan, where prevailing breezes drift south from the Sahara between December and February, bringing a dry, dusty haze across Western Africa coating every surface with brown.

Fortunately, that aberration is now behind us; the skies are blue, and when blended with periodic early morning showers coming in from the gulf, this whole area is a profuse explosion of dense vegetation in a vibrant portfolio of green hues.  The birds that thrive in this climate seem to be competing to outdo each other with brilliant plumage displays that cover the full spectrum of the rainbow.

In the past couple of weeks, Michelle and I have been taking occasional early morning walks in the neighborhood.  Between 5:30 and 6:30, just before and after sunrise, we have a wonderful diversity of birds, busily chattering to each other as they wing their way through the trees. It also helps that most of the crazy (aka Ghanaian) drivers are not on the roads yet, because sidewalks are clearly the exception, not the rule here and instead of shoulders along the roads, we have sudden open concrete trenches for waste water that you REALLY do not want to drive or fall into.

Following are some of our favorite “bird shots” we captured recently, either right in our neighborhood, or shots Michelle got walking around the grounds at the Area Office right after our arrival at about a quarter to eight each day.

Two Barbets
These Double-Toothed Barbets are some of our favorite local birds.  They look almost clownish with their brilliant red chests, black wings and heads, accented with bright yellow masks.  These two are perched on a blossoming tree right outside the Ghana temple.
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This shot was taken in our neighborhood.  I love the detail on this little guy’s claws gripping the young green branch.  It seems to be a popular roosting spot, judging from all the scratch marks up and down the branch.
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One of the interesting features of the Double-Toothed Barbet is the little tufted beard they often have. Michelle got this one silhouetted perfectly to show of his whiskers.
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It is really easy to pick out the Grey Plantain Eaters around our apartment.  They are about 20 inches long, jabber incessantly and eat the local fruit voraciously.

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This is my favorite shot of a punk Plantain Eater.  This was a perfectly still morning, that is not the wind blowing the feathers on his head, he just likes the cool swept-back look.

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I generally prefer a natural setting for bird shots, but this Cape Starling, with his bright yellow eyes perched on an orange antenna right behind our apartment was too good of a color contrast to pass up.
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When we first walked out of the apartment one morning, we could see the silhouettes of a couple of good-sized parrots talking up a storm in a palm tree right above us.  Fortunately, this one stayed about fifteen minutes and we caught the first shafts of light illuminating his bright red tail feathers.
Kingfisher
This Miniature African Kingfisher is recognizable by his white body, two-toned blue wings and two toned orange and black bill.  We have watched them dive-bombing fish at Legon Gardens; they are incredibly precise and fearless.  For a little guy, he has s serious bill and definitely puts it to good use.

 

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