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The diaries of James Chapin

Book 1: (May 8, 1909 to July 17, 1909)

MayJune • July

Diaries List

DATE: 7/1/1909 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: Left Thysville at about 6:45 this morning, and arrived in Leopoldville about 2:30pm.

The woods are much more extensive on this side of Thysville. Mushroom-shaped termites nests were to be seen almost all the way, many of them having 3, or even 4 roofs. At one stop we made Mr. Lang caught a lizard (Agama), one of the large brown-headed ones. At another place, I saw a number of toad tadpoles in a little pool. At a third I heard a couple of frogs (?) making a noise just like the song of Rana palustris. We stayed overnight at Leopoldville with Mr. Morgan, and in the evening caught a fruit bat that came into the house (No. 1).


DATE: 7/2/1909 (Friday)

This morning we went out and shot three birds, one of them a coly (No. 2) of the same species I saw in Matadi. It was, to judge by the size of its testicles, an adult male, but the skull was in exactly the condition of that of a young passerine bird. A number of other birds were collected, including a couple of sun-birds and two kinds of pigeons.

Book 1: Page 19

DATE: 7/3/1909 (Saturday)
LOCALITY: We are still staying with Mr. Morgan at Leopoldville.

We collected some more birds today. Just outside our door is the hole of a large iridescent black carpenter bee, and today we caught it, and also secured one of its young from the hole in the wood.

DATE: 7/4 to 11
LOCALITY: This whole week we stopped in Leopoldville with Mr. Morgan.

We collected some birds, insects, and a few mammals and reptiles, mainly on the west side of the town, near the shore of Stanley Pool. On Tuesday (July 6) we walked over to Kinshasa and back. Friday evening we caught a large toad on Mr. Morgan's back steps, and every night a chorus of some sort of batrachians, probably the same toad, could be heard in a swamp just across the railroad track. Around Leopoldville we saw, and collected two or three species of lizards, the brown-headed and gray kinds that we saw in Matadi, and also a long, slim brown-backed species, with yellow lines, that would run down into holes in the ground. We saw not a single snake, tho Mr. Howell, of Kinshasa spoke of "boa constrictors" (pythons?) and the spitting snake, as being found there. His wife, we were told, had the poison of the latter serpent thrown into her eye, and according to Mr. Howell, this fluid would burn like acid when it touched the skin. The country near Leopoldville is remarkable for the scarcity of large birds. The largest birds we secured were pigeons. There was a small brownish dove (Chalcopelia afra) very common, and found even on the mission grounds. We secured two specimens, an adult female, and a young female. Pigeons were not uncommon, and we secured two specimens. There was said to be a "pigeon vert" -fruit pigeon- Vinago calva I suppose- but we did not see it. Birds of prey were surprisingly scarce, the only one we saw being a kite (Milvus), single individuals of which visited the mission grounds two or three times, evidently in search of chickens (?). Two kinds of kingfishers were observed, the black and white Ceryle seen on the lower river, and a small Halcyon. Bee-eaters were not uncommon, and two examples were taken. There were at least two kinds of swifts, a medium-sized Tachornis with a long, deeply forked tail, and a larger swift, with a short stubby tail, and apparently a white rump Chaetura. The former was much the commoner of the two. No woodpeckers were seen. Colies, of the same species as those seen in Matadi were observed about three times, usually in companies of 4 or 5. Strangely enough, I saw no crows or magpies at Leopoldville, but there were at least three kinds of shrikes, and we killed one specimen of each. The only starling I saw was a small white-bellied one, with an iridescent purple head and back, that I shot near Kinshasa on Tuesday (Cinnyricinchus l. verreauxi). Of weavers there were a number of species, several of which we secured. One rather large black one, with yellow eyes (Melanopteryx nigerrimus) was observed to eat the outer coat of the palm nuts, which it sometimes dropped from the trees to the ground. There was a small brown species, that often fed, in large flocks, in the grass or on the ground. Some had black heads, and one of these we killed and found to be an adult male, but out of seven immature birds collected, those which had the greatest number of new dark feathers about the head were females. The day we went out to Kinshasa we saw a couple of large flocks of a kind of large weaver-bird, most of them in a streaky brown plumage, but two or three of them with long black tails (Coliuspasser macroura). The brown individuals as they perched on the long stalks of grass, bore the strongest sort of resemblance to bobolinks in the winter plumage. We saw at least 3 kinds of sun-birds, and secured adult males of two. The commonest was the one with the bright red breast. Its song was a warble somewhat like that of the American Goldfinch. There were a good many bank swallows near the shore at Leopoldville, but I saw no nests. The small black and white flycatcher (Nos. 12 & 13) was rather common, and had a loud song consisting of three clear whistled notes. The large brown, crested flycatcher (Bias musicus) I shot was the only one seen.

(Book 1: Page 20)

One of the very commonest birds was a bulbul (Pycnonotus tricolor), with a dark brown back, slightly crested head and yellow under tail-coverts. We took but two specimens. A couple of flocks of gray parrots were seen at Leopoldville, but they are said not to breed there. Of the mammals, the hippopotamus was undoubted by the most interesting. Along the shore beyond the mission there were at least three, which could often be heard grunting loudly. Mr. Lang saw one alive, and on Saturday (July 10), at the state beach, I saw the head and limbs of a dead hippo, that had probably been killed in the vicinity, some time previous -to judge from the odor. I saw two squirrels, in thick brush, and some natives brought us one alive. It had very short ears, and was striped like a chipmunk, but had a bushy tail. Mr. Morgan had one of the same kind in a cage. There were a great many rats about the houses, much like M. norvegicus, but with larger ears, I think. We saved a half dozen or more skins. Of bats we got three, representing three species. The first was a fruit bat, already mentioned. The second was a small brown bat that a chicken was carrying in her beak. The third was a brown bat, of medium size, with very broad ears, and a very queer bare space around the nose. It flew into the house in the evening. On the morning of July 4 a crocodile was seen near the shore, and a boy on the S.S. Livingstone fired at it, but missed. Just behind Mr. Morgan's house, there was a fan-palm (Borassus) under the leaves of which both paper and mud-wasps built their nests. A diagram of a nest of the latter is given on the next page. [See drawing]. In the cell marked "adult", and old wasp sat, with a white larva behind it. Frequently another adult, with much larger mandibles (?) than the first one, was to be seen sitting on the outside of the nest, but I could not catch it. A common form of termite nest at Leopoldville was a mass of dark clay, honey combed by galleries, and set up in a crotch of a tree, frequently a mango. The tree itself also bore many covered passages built by the termites. Mr. Lang took a photograph of such a nest, and I collected some of the "ants". A few mushroom-shaped termite nests were seen out toward Kinshasa. On Sunday (July 11) I found, near the shore, a large tree about the base of which was a clay structure like a termite nest; but when I pulled off some pieces of it, I found only a number of large millipedes rolled up in holes inside what was evidently an old deserted nest of "white ants". Ant lions were very abundant at Leopoldville, wherever the ground was soft enough to allow them to excavate their conical pitfalls. In one place I counted seven in a place not a foot square.

DATE: 7/12/1909 (Monday)
LOCALITY: We sailed from Leopoldville at 7:30am on the barge Ibis for Stanleyville. Passed steamer with Prince Albert in Stanley Pool. We touched at Kinshasa, and stopped for the night at Maluku, a wood station on the left bank of the river a little above Stanley Pool.

Just after leaving Leopoldville, I saw two birds very like the black skimmer, with the same coloring on the back and head, and with red bills. Unfortunately I could not see the shape of the bill, but after seeing two or three more sitting on a sand bar late in the afternoon. I was pretty certain they were skimmers (yes - Rhyncops flavirostris). At Kinshasa there was an immense flock of bank swallows (Riparia congicu, perhaps), some 8 or ten of the streak-breasted swallows (Hirundo puella), seen nesting at Boma, a couple of Hirundos very like H. rustica (=H. angolensis), and a pair of another species (Hirundo nigrita) metallic blue all over, with the exception of a small whitish spot on the throat and white patches on the tail feathers. The tail was short, and very slightly or perhaps not at all forked. These two were the first of this sort I had seen. There we also saw a black and white Ceryle, and three rather large black and white wagtails. During the day, on the islands in Stanley Pool we saw two ibises (I. sacra), with bare black heads and necks, white plumage and black wing tips, about six pelicans, a fish hawk (Pandion) standing on the sand, a jacana, and a number of unidentified birds. There were a few kites (Milvus), which sometimes lit on the sand, a few shore birds, and some large storks (?) (Leptoptilus, I believe), which circled around high in the air.

Book 1: Page 21

DATE: 7/13/1909 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: I went ashore this morning at Maluku, from 6 o'clock to 6:45.

There were 6 or 8 rollers (Eurystomus afer) flying about over the forest and alighting on dead branches in the tops of the high trees. While perching they sometimes uttered a hoarse cry that made one think of a parrot. I killed one. Two gray parrots were also seen, but there were also seen, but there were few small birds in evidence.

DATE: 7/13 to 16
LOCALITY: Going up the river; we stopped on the evening of the 13th along the shore a little above Lisha; on the 14th at Kwamouth; at the mouth of the Kasai; on the 15th along the shore; on the 16th at Yumbi.

On the 13th I saw an eagle (Haliaetus vocifer) sitting in a tree on the river bank. A few snake-birds and black and white vultures were seen every day. Kites (Milvus) were also noticed, but were not very common. Pigeons were very often seen, both on the sand, and in the trees. Black and white kingfishers (Ceryle) were numerous. A plantain-eater (Musophaga?), with a horny protuberance on the forehead, dark blue plumage, and red patches on its wings was seen on the 13th from the steamer. On the 15th and 16th, we saw many bee-eaters (Merops malimbicus) with bright red breasts and bellies, and some crows with a white patch on the breast that also extended around the back of the neck. These crows have a hoarse "caw". [See drawing of a Corvus albus]. Along the bank we frequently saw some sort of a large lapwing (Xiphidopterus albiceps), and at Kwamouth, Mr. Van de Kerchove, a fellow-passenger, killed a Pternistis and a Stone-curlew (Oedicnemus vermiculatus). Late in the afternoon of the 15th, I shot a monkey that was sitting motionless in a tree, some 35 feet up, in a swampy wooded place along the shore, where the steamer stopped overnight (Allenopithecus nigroviridis). At Tshumbiri, the same day, a young striped rat (No. 15) was sent aboard to us from the mission. At Yumbi, in the early evening I saw five or six large goat-suckers (Scotornis climacurus) flying around just over the bushes, and killed one, a male, which had the remains of a few beetles in its stomach. At the same place, as well as one or two places further down the river, I heard the same tree frogs with the bell-like song, that was noticed at Boma and Matadi.

DATE: 7/17/1909 (Saturday)

This morning I saw a hippo's head stick up out of the water while we were passing a low, grassy part of the shore. We also saw a crocodile, sitting on a sand bar, with its mouth wide open. Mr. Lang fired at it, but long before we were out of sight it was up on the sand again. We stopped tonight at the Telegraphic post 34, where I saw 3 or 4 hornbills, and shot 4 kingfishers, representing 3 distinct species. [See drawing]. The European in charge here was Mr. E. Antoine, who had the usual variety of wild stories on tap, but redeemed himself by presenting us with the skins of a Crocodile Bird and a Skimmer.

[Second to last page of the book: List of names and addresses]

W.T. Davis, 146 Stuyvesant Place, New Brighton, NY; AB Skinner, 50 Sherman Ave., Tompkinsville, NY; WDW Miller, 309 E. 7 St., Plainfield, NJ; C.H. Dakin, 93 Harrison Ave., Port Richmond, NY; AO Heinrich, Baldwin, NY; H.H. Cleaves, Princes Bay, NY; RP.Smith, NY Military Acad., Cornwall, NY; Thos. D. Keim, Internat. Cont. Co., Room 1104, 17 Battery Place, NY; Francis Harper,

Book 1: Page 22

College Pt., NY; Geo. E. Hix, 630 Columbus Ave., NY; W. Bush, 38 Elizabeth St., West N. Brighton, NY; Coleman Winn, c/o Redmond & Co., 33 Pine St., NY; John Treadwell Nichols, 42 W. 11 St., NY; Y. Le Boulbin, Directeur de l'Ongomo Kakamoeka par Loango, Gabon; also: Goudelin, Cotes-du-Nord, France.

[Business card (loose)]:

Mrs. A. Billington, American Baptist Missionary Union, Bwemba, Tshumbiri, Upper Congo, Congo Independent State, S.W. Africa. 15, Knatchbull Road, Camberwell, London, S.E. (Back): For the American Gentlemen who are collecting rats, etc. with Mr. Billington's compliments. If some dead rats reach the steamer, they are to show the kind found here up 15' 16 inches, nose to tip of tail.

[Last page of book]:

Carl Lophus, 70 West 109th St., c/o Magnolia Laundry; Dr. Sigmund Handler 670 St. Paul St., Rochester, NY; Mr. Axel Sahlim, 52 Rue du Congres, 72 Ave. Michel Ange, Sahlin, Brussels.

MayJune • July

Diaries List