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The diaries of James Chapin

Book 2: (July 18, 1909 to October 31, 1909)

July • August • SeptemberOctober

Diaries List

DATE: 8/1/1909 (Sunday)
LOCALITY: Stopped at one wood post today, and reached Isangi late in the afternoon.

Today we saw the first cormorants (P. africanus) we have noticed on the Congo. There were three of them perched on posts along the bank, and one flying. The two in brightest plumage were shiny black all over, with the exception of the bill and the naked skin of the face, which were brownish yellow, and the back, where the feathers were margined with gray. The other two were much grayer, with a tinge of brown about the head. Fully 10 hornbills were seen today from the steamer, at least 4 of them being the same as the one collected at Bumba, July 29. Black and white vultures were rather common -15 or 20 of them in all, today. Three great plantain-eaters (C. gigantea) were observed, 20 or 30 gray parrots, 3 green fruit-pigeons, three lapwings (Xiphidopterus albiceps), and five crows, with white breasts (at Isangi). At Isangi there were also a few resplendent starlings. At the wood post where we stopped today -Yambingi(?) it is called- there were two wagtails, and a number of weavers, the little long-tailed black and white one being especially conspicuous. There I also saw a long-tailed flycatcher, but this one had the tail brown, the same color as the back, and the black plumage of the head was continued down on to the belly (female or male immature). Several toads were singing this evening. Along this part of the river, and further down, as well, the natives have very interesting drums, made of hollow logs, usually from 4 to 6 feet in length, which are used for signaling and communicating with other villages. These drums are often placed upon special supports, as indicated, and are beaten with two short sticks, which have sometimes pieces of rubber bound to the end. They are struck on both sides of the long slot, one side producing a somewhat higher tone than the other.

DATE: 8/2/1909 (Monday)
LOCALITY: Left Isangi this morning, and stopped for the night at an island "Ile de Berthi", a few hours sail from Stanleyville.

At about 6pm we saw a flock of some 20 or 25 rollers (Eurystomus), and a great many large fruit-bats (Eidolon belvum) (1000 to 1500?). The latter were flying high overhead, in a westerly direction, as tho going out from their roost to feed. They kept passing over for at least 10 or 15 minutes, and as it grew dark a few lit in trees near where we were standings.

Book 2: Page 6

DATE: 8/3/1909 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: Arrived at Stanleyville about 11am.

The birds in Stanleyville are quite tame, for no shooting is allowed. Weaver-birds are numerous, including the small red-rumped species (like nos. 172-3), the red-faced one (like no. 93), two black-headed ones, one larger (like no. 113), the other small (like nos. 170-1). These small ones have nests here now, built of grass, and other similar material, and placed some 8 or 10 feet from the ground. The small short-tailed weaver (nos. 122-3) are very numerous, and very tame. A few of the large yellowish weavers, with black heads (nos. 139 to 144) have been seen. Finches, like nos. 109-110 are numerous, and bulbuls (no. 107) are one of the common birds here. Crows, with white breasts and necks, the same as those seen at Isangi and a few other places down the river, are numerous, and very tame, sitting in the trees and feeding, on the sand, along the shore. Five or six are sometimes seen in company. Only one kind of kingfisher, a Halcyon (like nos. 161 to 163) has been seen at Stanleyville, tho one or two black and white Ceryles were seen a little way below, on the river, in the morning of the 3rd.

DATE: 8/4/1909 (Wednesday)

Spent the day arranging our outfit.

DATE: 8/5/1909 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: The Minister of Colonies

arrived in Stanleyville today, reaching the railroad station, on the other side of the river about one o'clock, and crossing over to our side about 5:30pm.

This morning I shot two little red-rumped weavers and two warblers, the first we have seen of the latter, except perhaps at Ile de Berthe. They are common in the high grass and brush near the shore at Stanleyville, and have a little trill, with slight musical quality, to do duty for a song.

DATE: 8/6/1909 (Friday)

This afternoon I walked a little way up along the bank of the river, taking my gun as well as an insect net. In a small open swamp two jacanas, the same as those seen further down the river, were walking about on the mud and decaying vegetation, while on the shore were at least 15 or 20 pigeons, with black crescents on the back of the neck -like those shot in Leopoldville and in Bumba. The song of this pigeon, which I have heard many times now, is composed of six syllables, "coo-coo, cu-cu-coo-coo." The first two "coos" are the loudest, and the whole is repeated over and over indefinitely. Further up, in some shallows on the side of the river, I shot a small cormorant (female) of the same kind as those seen from the steamer near Isangi. Its stomach contained a great many small shrimp-like crustaceans and a few small fishbones and scales. A black and white kingfisher (Ceryle) and a sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucus?) very much like our spotted sandpiper were also seen. In a small puddle in the grass I caught four rather small brownish tree-frogs. The two smaller ones -males, I suppose- had patches of green on the upper part of the back, just behind the head. There were many of these little frogs singing there, the note reminding me of that of Pseudacris triseriatus, tho not quite so much of a rattle. Some natives brought us a Genetta today, which had been killed at only a short distance. It was a female, and had two scent glands, with much the same odor as a musk rat. The stomach

Book 2: Page 7

contained the hair, bones and teeth of a rodent about the size of a small rat, and also a few pieces of a fairly large insect, with very spiny legs. We have seen many toads here lately, especially around the palm-oil lights which are set out in the evening to guide us on our way to the mess. A few of them have been collected, and they appear to be the same as those in Leopoldville. The song, at any rate, is exactly the same, a loud "cr-r-r-rk" repeated at intervals of about one second, anywhere from three to twenty or thirty times.

DATE: 8/7/1909 (Saturday)

The Minister of Colonies left Stanleyville about 9am today.

DATE: 8/8/1909 (Sunday)

In a small mango tree, a little way from our house, there were four or five bats this morning. Two were shot, and were found to be very different from all those we had already collected, the ears being very long and the nose ornamented with several flaps of skin concealing a pit of considerable size (Nycteris). One of them, a female, had one embryo in the uterus; its mammal were, as usual, two in number and on the breast. A drawing was made of this one's face. The other -a male- was so mutilated by the shot that he was put in alcohol. We caught two lizards today, and two yesterday (nos. 51 to 54). So far, this is the only species we have seen at Stanleyville. The amount of rufous on the sides varies extremely, some being entirely without it. A native brought us a Manis today, rolled up in a ball, so as to be perfectly protected by its scales. By taking hold of the end of its tail, and shaking it, one could make it unroll itself a little; and if, at this stage of the proceedings, it were placed on the ground, it would get on its feet and shuffle away. At the slightest touch, however, it turned into a motionless ball again. One coucal (Centropus) was seen this morning. Two kinds of swallows are to be seen here, one much like Hirundo rustica, the other the same as those shot in Bumba, black on the back, with a rusty brown rump, throat and breast. There are likewise two swifts, a small blackish Cypselus, with deeply forked tail, and a larger swift, also blackish, but with white rump, and short square tail. While we were hunting bats this morning, Mr. Lang caught sight of a large green snake, sitting in the branches of a coffee bush, some 6 or 7 feet from the ground. It got down into the grass, but was captured. In its stomach there was a large brown tree-frog.

DATE: 8/9/1909 (Monday)

The Manis was photographed and killed and skinned this afternoon. Under its scales were a number of ticks, some of which we preserved, and there were two or 3 rather small Nematodes in its stomach. The remains of food in the alimentary tract consisted of the shells of small insects, probably ants, mixed with a quantity of sand. It was a male, but the testes were rather small. The tongue was of extraordinary length, and seemed to be attached to the long xiphoid cartilage, which ran back as far as the pelvis. The iris was dark brown, and the ear opened into a pit situated just behind the eye, there being no external ear. A flock of 30 cormorants, two jacanas, and a squirrel, like the one collected in Leopoldville, were seen today.

Book 2: Page 8

DATE: 8/10/1909 (Tuesday)

This morning, before breakfast, I walked up along the bank of the river, seeing two jacanas in the same place as yesterday, three or four Actitis (hypoleucus?), and a large flock of the dark gray plover-like birds, of which we saw so many while coming up river. near some grass along the shore, I shot at a large rail, the same species as one that a boy of ours had the other day. They are very dark bluish, with a black head. The beak is short, like that of a Porzana, without frontal shield, and of a light yellowish green color. The iris, as well as the edge of the eyelids, is red, and the feet are also pinkish red. I did succeed in killing a small kingfisher, with red bill and feet, and barred feathers in the crest. Yesterday I saw one of the other species, with the purplish tinge on the cheeks. [See drawing].

DATE: 8/11/1909 Wednesday)

This afternoon I shot a jacana and one of the dark bluish rails such as I saw yesterday. The former was one of a pair, feeding in a little swamp near the river. These were probably the same two that I have been seeing around there lately. A striped squirrel was collected in the same place that the one was seen on the ninth, in the coffee plantation mentioned on the next page.

DATE: 8/12-13/1909

Just a little way from our house in Stanleyville is an old coffee plantation, in which grass and bushes had been allowed to grow up. A week or two ago all this vegetation was cut down, and now a gang of women from the prison are cleaning it up, under the supervision of a couple of native soldiers. Two or three snakes have been killed and brought to us, and on these two days we received a number of rats, millipedes, frogs, and three large lizards. These last are greenish brown on the back, and on the sides salmon red, barred with black. They are looked upon with horror by the natives, who will not pick them up in the hand. One of the rats was especially interesting in the way the tail varied in different individuals. (See no. 30, etc). Some had the tail complete, it being then about 70mm long, less than 1/2 the total length. Others had no visible tail at all, and a few had bob-tails, that had obviously been broken off. The whole skin of these animals was extremely tender and easily torn; and one of the bob-tailed individuals (no. 41), when brought to us, had the skin of the tail broken in a complete circle. [See drawing]. Whether this would cause a piece of the tail to drop off I do not know.

DATE: 8/15/1909 (Sunday)

This afternoon I visited the falls, which lie some half or three-quarters of a mile above the part of the town where we are staying, tho the native quarter of the town reaches, with a few interruptions to a point above the falls. The most interesting thing to be seen is the way the natives have set out their apparatus for fishing. The falls themselves have the form of an arc, with a drop of not more than 8 feet, at this season at least; and one can walk out for some distance over the rocks, which are full of beetle holes and crevices worn by the water. These cavities in the rocks allow the natives to build rough structures of long poles and logs, bound together with strong vines, stretching all across the falls, save for a few breaks where there is too much water. In the water at the foot of the falls are long conical fish-traps, from 10 to 12 feet from

Book 2: Page 9

en to end. There are also a few large nets, fastened to hoops of wood. these continuances are attached by vines to the wooden framework, about which the fishermen climb to arrange their apparatus. To paddle a canoe up to the foot of the falls must require considerable skill, but is done with great expertness by the natives, sometimes 15 or 18 in one boat. In a little pool in the grass along the shore we caught water-bugs of at least three kinds, including one like Nepa, and another resembling Ranatra.

DATE: 8/16/1909 (Monday)

This afternoon I walked up toward the falls again, and shot a few birds. Over the river below the falls there are always numbers of swallows, all of one kind, resembling Hirundo rustica, but with a less deeply forked tail. Some of these were alighting on the ground near the native houses, and one, and adult female, was collected. On the way back a small pure black swallow was also secured, one of two or three that were going to roost in some high grass near the bank of the river. A tattler (Helodromas or Totanus?) was shot at a little rocky pool below the falls, and four large resplendent starlings were seen, but not collected.

DATE: 8/17 to 21, 1909

Our time during this period, was divided between packing our outfit at the magazine and preparing the animals which were brought in so abundantly by the natives. At least seven kinds of rats were thus secured, and several specimens of the striped squirrel, the latter being caught, we were told, by being surrounded in a small tree, and then shaken out of it on to the ground. We have decided that the small brown rat, so many of which have no tails, must lose them simply by their being broken off. Not only is the skin of the tail, as well as that of the whole body, very tender, but the attachments of the caudal vertebrae are very weak, so that the tail, in a dead specimen at least, breaks to pieces very easily. On Aug. 18th a small kite (no. 209) was brought to us by the natives. This is the first specimen I have seen up here, tho on June 23rd, between Banana and Boma, a kite very much like it was seen sitting in a tree on the river bank.

DATE: 8/22/1909 (Sunday)

On a long rocky point running out into the river, this morning, we watched a large flock of the small gray plover-like birds that we so often saw on sandbars down the river. The base of the bill, and the feet, we could see now, were respectively orange and orange red. There were considerably over 100 of them, sitting close together on the tops of the rocks, the posture being remarkably upright. they were not at all shy, allowing one to approach well within shotgun range before taking flight. (Glareola emini?; see august 24, 1909). Late this afternoon I walked out a little way on the road to Bafwaboli. Small black swallows, like no. 205, were common, some of them, probably immature, having very slightly forked tails. Four or five brown barbets, like no. 201, were sitting on a large dead tree, whence they flew out and returned as tho catching insects in the air. Once or twice they were seen to climb up a sloping branch in true woodpecker fashion. Five or six rollers (Eurystomus), three resplendent starlings and two large black and white hornbills were also noticed.

Book 2: Page 10

DATE: 8/23/1909 (Monday)

This evening, by the light of a lantern, we watched some toads singing in a little brook near the magazine. they were not at all shy, but continued to sing with the lantern close to them. The larger individuals had much hoarser voices than the smaller ones. During each "crrrk" the vocal sac expands, and the sides of the body contract, the mouth, of course, being kept closed. During the succeeding interval of silence the body again expands, and the vocal sac contracts a little. Almost all of these toads were males, and several times small male individuals attempted to copulate with others of their own sex. The true breeding season is probably finished now, for we have several times seen young toads that had just emerged from the water. Early in the evening the croaking in the rook was loud and unbroken; but from 10 o'clock on there were frequent intervals of complete silence, after which the whole chorus would start almost simultaneously.

DATE: 8/24/1909 (Tuesday)

Early this morning I went out on the point where we watched the gray birds mentioned in last Sunday's notes, and shot two of them. They proved to be pratincoles (Glareola), and from what the "Cambridge Natural History" says, probably G. emini. A short distance from our house a red and black weaver-bird, with an enormous beak (Pyrenestes) was also collected. A bird of similar size and color was seen in the same place a week or so ago; but I did not notice its bill particularly. Here at Stanleyville, there is a thrush, of a dull brownish color, with a yellow bill, that sings exceedingly like the American robin. It is usually heard in the early morning and late afternoon. (See Nov. 15, 1909). A thrush, of probably the same species was noticed at Barumbu, and two at Isangi.

DATE: 8/25/1909 (Wednesday)

The natives continue to bring us insects, reptiles, rats and so. Today we received three small bats of one species, and one of another. The latter had exceedingly small wings, the skin of which was black near the body, but on the outer half of the wing almost unpigmented and very translucent.

DATE: 8/26/1909 (Thursday)

Among the things brought to us by the natives today were several rats, two beautiful snakes, with a pair of horns on the nose, some large grasshoppers, and a large green mantis. When I cut open the abdomen of this last-mentioned insect, out stuck part of a large Nematode worm, which had been coiled up inside. It was between 25 and 30cm long, and of a dark gray color, mottled with black, and with an exceedingly hard and stiff skin. It was preserved in alcohol.

DATE: 8/27-30/1909

Most of the time spent arranging our outfit, tho the natives continued to bring insects, snakes and so on.

Book 2: Page 11

DATE: 8/31-9/3/1909

About 100 porters sent off on Sept. 2nd, 50 or 60 toads still remaining. Practically no collecting done. On the evening of the 2nd, about 100 feet back from the shore where the steamers land, there was an orthopterous insect, singing very loudly, a sort of a droning, buzzing hum. We finally located it -a large cricket- by lantern light, sitting at the entrance to a burrow about as big around as one's thumb. Its head was pointed toward the hole, its wings slightly opened, and apparently vibrating rapidly. It did not mind the light in the least, but when started by a slight noise, disappeared down the hole. We went off for a little while, and returning, found it singing again, but could not capture it, so that we had to dig it up. The burrow was about a foot long, running down at an angle of about 45 degree, and the insect was found at the bottom. The soil was sandy, but not very soft. Another insect of the same sort was heard near a small brook in the evening of Aug. 23, and again in the same place on Sept. 2, but the vegetation was too high to find just where it was sitting. A man at Stanleyville now has a tame monkey, of the same species of which we saw 5 or 6 in a tree near Lukolela on July 18th. There is a tuft of black hair on the top of the head and gray whiskers sticking out from the cheeks. The rest of the pelage as well as the skin of the face is black (Cercocebus -see specimen purchased at Stanleyville in 1914).

July • August • SeptemberOctober

Diaries List