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The diaries of James Chapin

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

July • AugustSeptemberOctober

Diaries List

DATE: 7/18/1909 (Sunday)
LOCALITY: Coming up the Congo.

Stopped overnight at Lukolela, where we arrived at noon, so we had all afternoon to go ashore. Below Lukolela this morning, in one place we saw some six or seven hippopotami in shallow water on a sand bar, sitting so that just the tops of their heads stuck out of water. We also saw many monkeys, mostly pure black ones (Cercocebus), but a few black and white, in some very high trees just above the BMS Mission at Lukolela. One Haliaetus vocifer seen today. I went on shore about three o'clock. Mr. Van de Kerchove (Substitute) had just sent back a female red monkey (Colobus) he had shot. In the forest along the telegraph line to the north of the post we came upon a band of these same red monkeys, but I only succeeded in killing one very young one with my shot-gun, tho they were not very shy, and stayed around even after I had fired a number of shots. Later in the afternoon, near the same place, I saw some 6 or 7 plantain-eaters (Corythacola cristata gigantea), with a tuft of feathers on the crown, and yellow on the basal half of the tail feathers. When flying the crest is inclined backwards, but it stands up straight as soon as the bird alights. these birds made a loud cuckoo-like noise, "cow-cow-cow..." I wounded one, but it fell in the bush, and must have run off immediately. There were also 6 or 8 hornbills there, and one of them I succeeded in shooting. It was a male, with testes enlarged. Its stomach contained fruit, a very large dragon-fly, and a large ant-like insect. At Post 34 yesterday afternoon, we saw 5 or 6 of these same hornbills. As I was coming back to the steamer, soon after sunset, I saw a goat-sucker (Macrodipteryx vexillarius) flying around high over the forest. It had some of the wing-feathers greatly elongated, giving it a curious, most un-bird-like appearance in the twilight. I think it had white spots on the wings like the nighthawk, in America. (See Illustration)

DATE: 7/19/1909 (Monday)
LOCALITY: Left Lukolela early this morning and stopped late in the afternoon at Irebu. We touched at one wood-station about noon, but did not have time to go shooting.

This morning I saw a jacana (Metopidius africanus?) fly up out of some grass in a swamp. It was brown on the back, with blackish wing tips, and some white around the neck. I remember seeing the same bird on an island in Stanley Pool on July 12, but I was not sure at the time that it was a jacana. We saw one snake-bird today, one Haliaetus vocifer, several black and white kingfishers, some hornbills, and three geese. At Irebu I took a little stroll around the town, seeing 5 fruit pigeons (Vinago) and a number of other birds that have been common all the way up the river. These fruit pigeons are found at Leopoldville, tho we saw none, but I found a single feather on the ground. They are known as "pigeon vert". Ario Guyon came aboard, with soldiers for Bumba. Also an Italian Captain

DATE: 7/20/1909 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: We landed this afternoon at Inkingi (=Ikengo?), a wood station a little below Bolengi, and tied up for the night.

Today I saw two Haliaetus vocifer, two or three snake-birds, two white herons (Cosmerodius albus), and a flock of some 30 skimmers, on a sand bar. I shot two long-tailed weavers, a flycatcher, a dove, and one of the same goat-suckers (M. vexillarius) that Isaw at Lukolela.

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Unfortunately it was so close by that the shot carried away its whole tail. I saw a paradise flycatcher, with black head, brown back, and two elongated white tail feathers, but could not get a shot at it. (Terpsiphone viridis).

DATE: 7/21/1909 (Wednesday)
LOCALITY: We stopped at Coquilhatville about noon today.

There I shot a very large resplendent starling, and s sun-bird, and saw a crow with a white band on its breast and the back of its neck. Later in the day we touched at a wood-post, where I saw a green fruit-pigeon, but shot nothing. On the river, from the steamer, we saw two skimmers today. In the early evening we tied up along the shore, but the forest was so dense, that at this time of day, it was too dark to hunt. At Coquilhatville Mr. Lang bought two large lung-fish from a native. As we were passing a swampy part of the shore today, I saw a jacana, walking on some dead grass. It was the same kind I saw on the 19th, with a white neck and brown back

DATE: 7/22/1909 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: Stopped at a wood station today for a very short time.

No birds were collected. 3 or 4 Haliaetus vocifer, 4 black and white vultures, and 4 anhingas were seen today. One of the anhingas was very prettily marked, with a white line running down the side of the neck, a light brown patch on the breast, and the feathers on the back streaked with whitish. Most of those we see are probably immature, for they have the neck merely grayish brown, and the rest of the plumage black. (See Illustration) I saw a dove flying across the river today, rich light brown, with a gray head (Calopelia brehmeri). We stopped for the night at Malele, a small native village. Just before reaching there, we saw a flock of large red-breasted bee-eaters flying about over the river and dipping in the water like swallows. At Malele there was a flock of 150 or 200 sitting in the top of a dead tree, and we shot 8 of them. We have seen these bee-eaters almost every day since we passed Yumbi. In the top of a large tree on the shore today we saw 5 black monkeys (Cercocebus), with tufts of hair on the tops of their heads. they were of various sizes, and, I suppose, of various ages. Mr. Lang said he had seen one of the same sort in Lukolela, and that they have grayish beards. At malele I saw one of the metallic blue swallows (H. nigrita) that I saw at Kinshasa on the 12th. A day or two ago I saw 2 flying about over the river.

DATE: 7/23/1909 (Friday)

Today I saw a large kingfisher (Ceryle; Ceryle maxima gigantea?) with a slate blue back, speckled with white, a narrow white collar and chestnut belly. It was, I think, larger than our kingfisher at home (Ceryle alcyon), but reminded me of it very much. One skimmer (R. flavirostris?), one or two anhingas, and eight black and white vultures were seen today. We stopped for the night at Nouvelle Anvers.

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DATE: 7/24/1909 (Saturday)
LOCALITY: This morning we spent an hour on shore at Nouvelle Anvers, shooting.

I killed a coucal (Centropus), the first I have seen. We shot several kinds of weavers, and two finches that I think must be related to the house sparrow. In the evening we reached Mobeka, where we spent the night.

DATE: 7/25/1909 (Sunday)
LOCALITY: This morning we spent some time shooting in Mobeka.

Mr. Lang got a large frog, that was croaking in a small mud-hole. We spent the night at Ekaturaka, a large native town on the left bank of the river. Here I caught a large brownish green tree(?)-frog (Rana albolabris), in the woods behind the village. It was hopping on the ground, and when I came along jumped up onto a bush, and then down on the ground, where it sat perfectly still.

DATE: 7/26 to 31
LOCALITY: Lie - Lisala - Bumba - Barumbu - Basoko

On the 26th we stopped a little below Lie, on the 27th we reached Lisala, but spent the night further up the river, on the 28th we reached Bumba, and spent the night and part of the next morning there. On the 29th we tied up for the night along the shore, in the woods, the evening of the 30th we spent at a large native village. On the 31st we stopped at Barumbu, and Basoko, and tied up for the night along the wooded shore. During this time we saw a number of crocodiles, two or three almost everyday, sometimes swimming in the water, with just the top of the head exposed, sometimes sunning themselves on a log or a sandbank, with mouths wide open. The natives along this part of the river are great fishermen and we saw a great many fish, both fresh and smoked, but could preserve only a few small specimens because we had none of our tanks out. The natives have many fish traps in little coves along shore, and at the mouths of streams emptying into the river. Almost every evening we heard toads singing -not like they do at home, but with a prolonged croak, repeated over and over- and at one place we caught a number of them under a wood-pile. At Barumbu, on the 31st, there were many toad-tadpoles along the shore, and some young toads hopping around on the land. At Lisala two medium-sized antelopes were brought aboard. They had been skinned -with the exception of the head- but Mr. Lang secured the skulls and the skin of their heads. At Bumba two live antelopes were given to the ship, so the entire skin of both and their skulls and limb-bones, were preserved. In the night of the 31st, as we lay along shore, a hippo floated don-stream past us, coming to the surface occasionally to expel his breath with a loud snort. At these times, the top of his head, with his little ears sticking straight up, could be seen in the moonlight. Birds are not particularly abundant along this part of the river, and we found it easier to collect around villages than in the dense forest, where they are not only rather scarce, but very hard to pursue thru the dense vegetation, where innumerable vines, of incredible strength, are always in one's way. No snake-birds, or pelicans were seen at this time (July 26-31). Herons and storks were not rare, and there is a small heron here very like our little green heron at home, but of a grayer color all over, tho it has the same yellow feet. On several occasions recently, I have seen (yes) the "Hammerhead" (Scopus) flying over the river, especially in the evening. Several times, too, ibises (Hagedashia h. guincensis) of a dark brownish color would fly out of the trees along the shore uttering a loud complaining cry. (See Oct. 6-10, 1909). Black and white vultures are rather common, often being seen in groups of four to eight, walking around on the sand bars. Near Lie I shot a brown

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vulture, evidently an immature example of the same species, for the brown individuals often accompany the black and white ones, and have the same size, proportions, and manner of flight. It was a great surprise, in the one I shot, to find the gizzard full of palm-nut pulp, certainly a strange meal for a bird of prey. There are three birds which we have seen practically all the way up from Stanley Pool, but which I have not yet mentioned in my notes. One of them is a lapwing (Xiphidopterus albiceps), with a great deal of white on it, and apparently with yellowish wattles on the throat. The other two are plover-like birds, one with a pearl gray back (Glareola {Galachrysia} cinerea, collected at Zambi in June 1915) on the wing-quills, dark lines about the head, and some pretty, buff coloration around the nape, while the other (Glareola, see Aug. 24, 1909) is a dark gray bird (Galachrysia nuchalis), with a white rump and a whitish line on the side of the head. These birds are both about the size of killdeers, with shorter tails, however; and are seen flying around the river and alighting on the sandbars, where flocks of a hundred or more are sometimes observed. On the 27th I saw another jacana fly up out of the grass in a swampy part of the shore. It had a light grayish bill and frontal shield, a feature which I had not been able to see on the others, tho they were undoubtedly of the same species. One day near Lisala we saw a flock of more than forty skimmers sitting on a sandbar. The large pigeon (Streptopelia semitorquata) with a black crescent on the back of the neck, is quite common up here, but the little brown dove like those shot in Leopoldville (Turture afra), Inkingi, etc, appears to be becomingly so. At Lie I shot a beautiful fruit pigeon, with a red frontal shield that reminds one of a gallinule, and a pretty, blue iris. On one occasion I saw a plantain-eater (C. gigantea) from the steamer, as it flew among the trees on shore. No more cuckoos or coucals have been noticed. Gray parrots are still common, and often seen from the steamer. At Barumbu two rollers, very much like the one shot at Maluku -if not the same- were seen. On this part of the river there are five kinds of kingfishers. Two of these are very small blue and brown species, with red bills and feet. One of them, Conthornis cristata (see no. 164), was nesting at Bumba, in a little burrow, some 2 feet long, dug at the side of a ditch. Then there is a larger blue and gray Halcyon, with the upper mandible red. It is fairly common, and four specimens have already been collected. Besides these species, of which we have examples, there are two others, which we see from the steamer. One of these is the black and white Ceryle, so common down the river, but less abundant up here. Lastly there is the large blue gray kingfisher (Ceryle maxima), with the belly chestnut, first observed on the 23rd. It is probably the least common of all, and thus far we have seen only about half a dozen of them. The large red-breasted bee-eater (Nos. 98 to 105) continues to be seen flying overhead, tho not in large numbers. None of the yellow-breasted bee-eaters, that were so numerous at Kwamouth have been seen for some time. Hornbills, of 2 or 3 species, are seen flying across the river, and at Bumba Mr. Lang shot a small one. The flight of these hornbills is not at all swift, but gives one the impression of extreme lightness, and this idea is strengthened when one is skinned, so numerous are the air sacs, especially in the wings, They fly in a somewhat undulating fashion, first beating the wings several times, and rising a little, then following this with a descending swoop. [See drawing]. Before alighting they often sail for a considerable distance. Several times, in the evening, we have seen large birds that many have been owls, but as yet I have seen none with any degree of certainty. Curiously enough, no woodpeckers, nor anything that looked like one, have been observed. No goat-suckers have been seen since we left Inking, nor any colies for a long time. Black and white wagtails are pretty common, and at Basoko a young one, with the tail fully grown, was sitting on a boat on the river bank. Not many swallows have been noticed recently, tho at Ekaturaka I saw a few of the short-tailed ones with the breast, as well as the back, metallic blue. At Bumba two swallows were shot, one a male, and the other a female. The latter was gathering mud for a nest. They were of a kind not previously noticed, with black head, back and wings, brown rump, throat, and belly, and deeply forked tail. Quite a few flocks of resplendent starlings (like no. 95) have been noticed lately. In the evening of July 28, as we lay at Bumba, a noise was heard from an island out in the river that sounded almost like a waterfall. From its resemblance to the noise produced by a flock of blackbirds at home, I guessed it might be a flock of starlings at their roost (probably wrong). Early the next morning the same sound was audible, and while I was on shore at Bumba, a few minutes later, an immense flock of these

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same iridescent starlings came flying from the river. After this the noise ceased. (I am not sure they were the starlings, possibly Hypsignathus). Two sun-birds have been collected here, one rather large, with a purple and red breast, and square tail, at Dobo, July 28th; and a smaller one, with the two middle rectrices greatly elongated, at Barumbu (Nectarina congensis), on the 31st Mr. Lang saw one of the latter at Bumba. Weaver-birds have been especially numerous. At almost all the villages large black-headed ones are nesting in the palms, as well as other trees, often with two or more other species. A beautiful orange and black weaver was collected at Dobo, and another seen at Bumba. At Bumba the long-tailed black and white one (Vidua macroura), was very common, and a pair was watched in the act of copulation. The brown female sat on a tall stalk of grass while the male hovered in the air besideher, with his wings beating jerkily, and his long tail hanging straight downward. Suddenly he dashed at his mate, and they fluttered down into the grass together. At most of the villages we have visited since we reached Nouvelle Anvers, we have seen a finch with gray head and brown wings (like nos. 109 and 110), that keeps near the houses, often feeding on the ground -in fact not only acting, but also chirping, just like a house sparrow, to which it must be closely related (Passer griseus).

July • AugustSeptemberOctober

Diaries List