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The diaries of James Chapin

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

JulyAugustSeptember • October

Diaries List

DATE: 10/1 to 4
LOCALITY: We stopped in the house of the Chef de Secteur at Avakubi, but I went shooting only once, and then only a little way long the road.

Here, there were many examples of a little red-faced weaver we had not yet seen. It evidently replaces that found along the Congo (see no. 93, etc) but differs from it in having most of the plumage finely barred, and the breast suffused with rosy. The habits, however, are the same the birds feeding on the seeds of tall grasses, and usually being found in small flocks. Near some native houses a short distance south of the post there is a large tree covered with the nests of the same large yellow weavers, with black heads -in the males- that occur all the way up the river from Leopoldville at least (see nos. 293 to 299). Here at Avakubi we met again the same toad that we found all along the Congo from Leopoldville to Stanleyville. The toad of the forest, which we first encountered the second day after leaving Stanleyville, is redder, rougher-skinned, and has the parotid glands narrowed and more widely separate. At Lumatulu, however, two of the gray toads were seen, but from there to Avakubi only the other species wastaken. Late in the afternoon of the fourth, two swallows were seen sitting on a beam projecting from an unfinished house, and one of them was shot. It proved to be the metallic blue swallow, with a white spot on the throat and white patches on the rectrices, that we used to see from the boat while we were ascending the Congo.

DATE: 10/5/1909 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: We pitched our tents near the bank of the Ituri, and left the Chef de Secteur to occupy his house alone.

Yesterday, I neglected to say, we shot a yellow-breasted wagtail on the ground where we later put up our tents. It was the first of the sort we had seen. The common black and white wagtail is, of course, abundant here, as it has been in nearly all the villages along the road from Stanleyville.

DATE: 10/6 to 10, 1909

A black and white vulture, the "aigle pecheur" of the French-speaking population, has been seen several times from our camp, as well as two large kingfishers, possibly the same as that observed on July 23rd last. On the 9th our hunters brought in an ibis (no. 337), and the same day I heard their loud complaining cries, like "hak-hak-ha-ak" from the other side of the river. To judge from the voice, this is the same ibis we saw on the Congo, but beyond this I can say nothing as to their identity (see July 26 to 31, 1909).

Book 2: Page 15

DATE: 10/10 to 17, 1909
LOCALITY: Still camping at Avakubi.

I went out hunting on the 16th with some native guides, over to the opposite side of the river. Elephant tracks were extremely abundant, but not a single mammal, of any sort, presented itself for slaughter. It was no surprises for I found that I was accompanied by eight blacks. A few birds were shot, and more escaped, one of them a partridge (?) that got up within a few inches of the boys as they were catching a wounded weaver-bird, and another, a small cormorant that was seen sitting on a dead branch along the shore while we were returning in the canoes. In the afternoon of the 17th we went up the river a little way in a canoe with several officers who were going out to try to get a shot at elephants, and then walked back by land. On a tall dead tree along the road a woodpecker was working, and was mercilessly shot, for it was not only larger than the two specimens we already had, but was decidedly different in regard to the size of the bill, pattern of coloration and so on, tho it was still more or less greenish. This was only about the fourth woodpecker I have encountered in the Congo. One of our boys shot a beautiful black weaver, with the top of the head and the back of the neck bright red. Its stomach was filled with winged termites, a fact which would have surprised me, more had I not seen weavers of four different species (see catalog under no. 386), catching termites on the wing in the morning of the day previous, near our cap. Up to this time almost every weaver-bird whose stomach I had examined had been eating seeds, often of grasses, and not infrequently rice.

DATE: 10/18/1909 (Monday)

Today two flycatchers (Terpsiphone) were collected near our camp. They were both males, but not in full plumage. This is a bird I considered rather rare until I learned to recognize its song, a monotonous whistled "twee-twee-twee, twee-twee-twee, twee-twee". After that I found that they must be decidedly numerous near our camp, for after my shooting four males, two or three others can still be heard almost all thru the day. But when one tries to kill the singer, it turns out to be a rather difficult affair, so extremely shy he is. A kite (Milvus) (no. 390) was sent us today by the priest in charge of the mission. One was seen at Bafwalongo, Sept. 19, 1909, and one at Bafwasende Sept. 24.

DATE: 10/19/1909 (Tuesday)

A female falcon (Tinnunculus) was sent to us today by the priest, but we shot no birds ourselves. A goliath beetle was brought by a native, who said he had caught it on the way from Mawambi. When released from its bonds and placed on the ground, it was a great surprise to see how it spread out its legs and kept its body close to the ground, instead of walking in a more graceful and energetic fashion as expected. Almost every day since we have settled on the bank of the Ituri, some large bee-eaters have been heard, and sometimes seen, out over the river. The call is exactly like that of the large red-breasted bee-eaters collected at Malele, on July 22nd, and the bird is of about the same size, and has the middle tail feathers elongated. But the breast, instead of being rosy, is green.

Book 2: Page 16

DATE: 10/20/1909 (Wednesday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

A pitta, the first one we have seen, was brought to us alive today by a native. It was wounded, and died before it could be photographed, but we had the opportunity to observe that it hopped, instead of walking, as one might expect from such a terrestrial bird. A number of green fruit pigeons were seen today, and several long-tailed flycatchers were heard singing.

DATE: 10/21/1909 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

A kite (Milvus), a black and white vulture, two small cuckoos (like nos. 317 and 373), were among the more interesting birds seen today. Two plovers, a male and a female, were shot on the open square at the post, where they were walking on the ground together. When they took wing they uttered a whistled call almost precisely the same as that of the semi-palmated plover (Aegialitis semipalmata) which they also resembled somewhat in their size and plumage.

DATE: 10/22/1909 (Friday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

No birds collected today, for we are preparing for our trip to Macaba. Yesterday a female Terpsiphone was killed near our camp, where we have already collected four male examples, each one in a plumage a little duller than the one preceding. The plumage of this female was almost exactly like that of the last male collected, while the colors of her bill, eyelids, feet and iris were practically identical. She was accompanied by a male with a long white tail, and today a male, with a tail of the same size -probably the same bird- was back in the same place with another female.

DATE: 10/23/1909 (Saturday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

Today I found a nest of the common little red-breasted sun-bird in a young rubber tree, and directly over a path. It was suspended from the end of a small branch, about 17 feet from the ground. The entrance was at the side, and the interior was lined with some very soft white material, while the outside was woven of strips of soft bark. [See drawing]. Only the female was seen near the nest, but she even entered it once, tho there were no eggs as yet.

DATE: 10/24/1909 (Sunday)

This afternoon, near the mission, a pigeon (no. 401), of the species so common at Stanleyville, with a black crescent on the back of the neck. It was sitting alone in a high tree overlooking a banana plantation, and was heard to sing once, the notes being the same as with those observed in Stanleyville. This is the first pigeon of this species seen at Avakubi, and, in fact, the only one noticed since two or three days after we left Stanleyville. Its crop contained rice, with the hard outer covering still on, and four or five small empty snail shells, probably intended to aid in

Book 2: Page 17

crushing the food. The gizzard also contained rice and a few small stones. Several rollers (Eurystomus), a great many small black swallows, like no. 205, and one flock of large swallows, like no. 389 were also seen near the mission late in the afternoon. Between there and the post a flycatcher (Terpsiphone) was heard singing, and a pair of coucals (Centropus) were both seen and heard.

DATE: 10/25/1909 (Monday)

Two of the large swallows, such as were seen yesterday were shot today by the priest and sent over to us. One was a young male and the other a young female, the latter still exhibiting some brownish plumage on the crown.

DATE: 10/26/1909 (Tuesday)

This morning a flock of large swifts, with short square tails, like those seen in Stanleyville, was feeding high in the air over our camp. Birds of the same species have already been watched here, usually in threes and fours, but almost always too high to be shot at. As in Stanleyville, there is also a smaller fork-tailed swift, but it is not very common. Three small sandpipers (Pisobia) were found feeding among the stones in a small stream this morning, where one or two Actitis (hypoleucus?) were also picking up their breakfasts. Two of the small ones, both males, were collected, one of them having three very small snails in its esophagus (nos. 406-7). These birds, I guess, and the two plover taken last Thursday, must be migrants just arriving from the North, probably from Europe. Several small flocks of yellow-breasted wagtails (the same as no. 341) have also been seen flying by recently, and I am inclined to consider this as another winter visitor from farther North. A snake-bird was sitting on a dead branch along the river bank this afternoon, with tail spread and wings hangout to dry.

DATE: 10/27/1909 (Wednesday)

Some natives brought an immature gull (no. 410) this morning, our first and only specimen as yet. No gulls were observed as we ascended the Congo, nor have we noticed any ourselves on the Ituri.

DATE: 10/28/1909 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

This afternoon the doctor and I went out toward the mission, thru part of the rubber plantation and a short bit of woods. Besides the ordinary small weavers, warblers and the like, and some birds in the woods which I could not identify, the following were seen, two gray hawks (same as no. 381), three or four green pigeons, (same as no. 392), one small hornbill (same as no. 333), six or seven hornbills like no. 379, a coucal (same as no. 359) and a number of the common small black swallows. The fruit pigeons were seen to sing, uttering a very soft whistle of several syllables, not at all like the notes of the other pigeons. The doctor shot a dove (Turtur) (no. 412), the firs one I have seen, and the only one he has shot here, tho he tells me that "turturelles" are very numerous on the plain, near Irumu and Kilo. An interesting sun-bird was also shot (no. 411),

Book 2: Page 18

one of the very common ones (Cinnyris?), but a young male, in juvenile plumage, with a few metallic green feathers just coming in, showing that in this species at least the male may pass directly from the juvenile plumage to that of the adult male, without assuming a plumage like that of the female, as appears to be the case with some other sun-birds, as for example, no. 232. From our camp, today, we saw two large birds of prey, about the size of red-tailed hawks, circling around high over the river. Above, their whole plumage was black, with the exception of a large white patch on the primaries and of the tail, which was gray, barred with darker gray or black. The under wing-coverts, throat, breast and belly were black, while the secondary from below, looked grayish. [See drawing]. The bill and feet appeared to be lighter in color than the plumage. The only notes heard sounded like "kec-kec-kee-ee-ee".

DATE: 10/29/1909 (Friday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

No birds collected.

DATE: 10/30/1909 (Saturday)

A tiny blue-backed kingfisher was seen this noon. About 2 weeks ago I saw one here, it was the species with a blue wash on the cheeks, the crown not conspicuously barred, and the bill slightly depressed, the same as no. 71. Today's example may also have been the same, but was not seen well enough for me to be sure. Early this morning, during a shower, a flock of 20 or 25 small swallows (Hirundo) lit in some bare trees near our tents. An adult male and female, and two young males were collected (no. 414 to 417). These small swallows, very much like H. rustica, have been seen flying over, on several occasions, in flocks, and are perhaps migrants from the North. A similar swallow was breeding at Stanleyville when we were there, but it differed from those collected here in the length of the tail and the amount of white on the rectrices. A small green cuckoo (no. 413) was also taken in the same place. We had already one male and one female specimen, but tho the specimen secured today was bright green on the back, it proved to be a female. However it did differ from the male in having a brown iris and gray eyelids. Its stomach contained hairy caterpillars. This small cuckoo has a song (?) of about 5 short whistles, often given while the bird is on the wing. We hear it from our camp at all times of dry, and even this female gave these notes as it came flying over.

DATE: 10/31/1909 (Sunday)

The priests at the Mission presented us with another cuckoo (no. 418), somewhat larger than the one just mentioned, and blackish on the back, with barred feathers beneath. On our return late in the afternoon, a small flock of bee-eaters was occupying the trees near our camp. These were of the large green species which we so often see flying over. Two male examples were secured (nos. 420-21), one showing the elongated middle rectrices, much worn, the other having them broken off. The blue color on the wings and tail appears to be due either to wear or fading of the feathers, for the new quills that have just come in are perfectly green without a trace of blue.

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