American Museum of Natural History Logo link: Congo Expedition Main Page
The diaries of James Chapin

Book 3: (November 1, 1909 to February 5, 1910)

November • December • JanuaryFebruary

Diaries List

DATE: 12/1/1909 (Wednesday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

A male sun-bird of the same species as no. 249 was seen feeding at the flowers of a rubber tree this morning, and later in the day a female of the same sort (birds of this sex can be identified by their streaked breasts) was seen fluttering about the trunks of another kind of rubber tree, evidently looking for insects in the bark. These are the first of these sun-birds I have seen at Avakubi. The doctor brought back several skins from Makala, and reports that they are numerous there.

DATE: 12/2/1909 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

This morning there were two terns (Hydrochelidon) flying about over the banana plantation and neglected grassy field by the house of the Chef de Zone. One of them was shot and its stomach was found to contain insects, which I should say were caught on the wing, judging from the aimless way the birds were flying back and forth. About noon three more were noticed. The doctor brought the skins of two of these same terns from Makala. Two white herons were sitting on a tree over on the island this morning and in the afternoon the doctor shot two, very likely the same ones, on the bank of the river near the post, and brought them to us. Both were females, but I should be inclined to believe, after examining the ovaries, that no.[?], which has the crown yellowish brown, was adult, and no. [?] with the crown wholly white was immature. I had not seen the black weaver-birds near the post for some time back until late this afternoon, when I happened to pass by, and saw six or seven of them about their nests again.

DATE: 12/3/1909 (Friday)

One tern like that collected yesterday was watched today as he flew back and forth up and down a stream near the village of the workmen at Avakubi, apparently catching insects in the air, like those of yesterday.

DATE: 12/4/1909 (Saturday)

Book 3: Page 10

DATE: 12/5/1909 (Sunday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

About a dozen gray parrots were feeding in the trees near the Mission, and two pipits (Anthers sp.) were also observed, they being the first seen, with the exception of one noticed near our house a few days ago. One small gray flycatcher (s. no. 468), and a warbler were among the other birds seen. This morning the doctor shot two sun-birds, one like no. 249, the other a large one.

DATE: 12/6/1909 (Monday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

Packing for the trip to Nepoko.

DATE: 12/7/1909 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: We left Avakubi about 4pm and stopped overnight at the Succursale, where an immerse clearing has been made and planted with rubber trees, which are mostly a little younger that those in Avakubi.

Here two black hawks (see no. 695, Dec. 28) were seen sitting on old dead trees, the crest on the head showing very plainly. Some pipits were noticed, and an immature specimen of the small rusty breasted kingfisher (no. 508) secured. Near the village of the Bangwana or Arabises a sun-bird, the first and only one seen in this vicinity (no. 507) was shot while feeding at some flowers. A little way before the Succursal we passed the camp of the Controleur forestier who is clearing a long lane thru the forest. There one of the long-tailed hornbills (s. no. 279) was sitting on a fallen log.

DATE: 12/8/1909 (Wednesday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi Succursale - The house where we stopped last night is near the bank of the Ituri, but at a considerable elevation above the level of the stream.

Five or six dark shiny blue swallows, with white throat patches were flying about, sometimes alighting on the ground, and sometimes on the top of the flag pole. Several of the large brown breasted swallows were also present. Starting off about 9am, we reached Bosabangi, where the Ituri is crossed by canoe, about 2pm. Only one village (Mongalulu) was passed on the way, the rest of the road running thru forest which is often interrupted by areas of cultivated land and of brush. Just after we left the Succursale some fruit pigeons, and two green parrots (s. no. 273) were noticed. The latter resemble gray parrots very much in flight and other actions, even their harsh cries recalling the voice of the gray species, but with the more pleasing whistles left out. Two of the brown swallow-like flycatchers (nos. 513-14) were collected, as well as an oriole (no. 516). A couple of these orioles were noticed at Avakubi, and three were observed today. Near Mongalulu four or five small resplendent starlings were feeding in some low trees. (See no. 721, Bafwaboka, Dec. 31, 1909). Dr. Rosati brought one of these birds back from Makala. At Bosobangi, in the late afternoon, the call of some lapwings (s. nos. 792-7) was heard across the river.

Book 3: Page 11

DATE: 12/9/1909 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: Bosobangi to Boquandia.

The road traversed today is one of the worst we have yet encountered, passing three forest all the way, and intercepted by a large number of streams and mud-puddles, which were not made less unpleasant by a light rain this morning. We met a large ivory caravan, some 200 tusks, which were being brought by some Arabs from the Uele, to be shipped out thru East Africa. But few birds were seen on the road today, the loud mournful cries of two of the large black hornbills being heard not far from Bosobangi. This bird was first seen between Stanleyville and Bafwaboli; a male (no. 255) was shot at Batama; and a female (no. 288) at Avakubi. From the few times we have seen it, it is probably not very common in this region. At Boquandia, in the afternoon, three pipits, probably the same as those noticed recently at Avakubi and the Succursale, were walking about on the ground in a banana plantation, and one of them (no. 519) was collected. A fruit pigeon was seen sitting on its nest of sticks in the top of a thickly leafed tree some forty feet high, in the same place. [See sketch of a map: Avakubi-Bosobangi 26km.; Bosobangi-N'Gayu 30km {Copy of map in "Gite d'Etap" at N'Gayu}]. At Bosobangi yesterday evening and this morning, and late this afternoon at Boquandia we were greatly annoyed by some small flies, so very tiny as to be almost overlooked as they attack one, hovering about one's head as he works, and alighting not only on his hands and face, but even getting down thru the hair on the back of his head. Each point where one bites becomes the center of a little swelling, which itches out of all proportion to the size of the insect. At Avakubi we saw a few of these pests, but were indeed very disagreeably surprised at their extreme abundance here.

DATE: 12/10/1909 (Friday)
LOCALITY: Boquandia to N'Gayu.

Another stretch of muddy road thru the forest was completed about noon today when we arrived at the N'gayu River, on the further bank of which is situated the post of the same name. We installed ourselves in the gite d'etape and started collecting at once. Mr. Planche was in the forest visiting the natives, but returned the following day, and during the rest of our stay did his utmost to assist us. The rest-house, of the usual two-roomed type, is situated in the village of Bangwana or "Arabises". A little distance downstream Mr. Planche has made a clearing and built houses for himself and his soldiers, and some three or four minutes walk in the opposite direction brings one to the Washenszi village, whence a tortuous path, sometimes thru deep mud, and sometimes along the trunks of fallen trees, leads off to the village of the Mambuti (pygmies), in the forest. There were about twenty of these diminutive savages, and their wooden-belled dogs. Their assistance was later found to be not so valuable as we had expected, tho they did bring a few very interesting beasts. In this interesting village (N'Gayu) we stayed until Dec. 26th, and as this was our first real stop in the forest, the additions made to our collections were both numerous and extremely interesting.

DATE: 12/10 to 26

One of the interesting mammals captured by the Mambuti was a large light-colored hyrax, which is said to be the animal so often heard at night, with each successive cry, it seems, to judge from the sound, to become more and more excited. This characteristic nocturnal noise was heard not only at N'Gayu, but also very frequently along the road from Stanleyville to Avakubi. Mr. Planche's native hunters were of much greater service than the pigmies, and thru them we

Book 3: Page 12

secured two red buffaloes, male and female, some red-river-hogs and a black forest-hog, our first specimen of which was a gift of the controleur forestier at Avakubi. they also brought in an antelope or two, and one of these men was a most expert hunter of guinea fowls. But the finest of their mammals was an old male chimpanzee, killed two days before our departure. Three nights in succession a leopard was seen near Mr. Planche's little two-story abode, but in spite of its eating a piece of strychnine poisoned meat on the third occasion, its carcass was not recovered. Two new squirrels were added to the three species we already had, one being very large with the tail ringed with gray, and the other the smallest of the lot, with a striped back. Here too, our first flying-squirrels (Anomalurus) were obtained, the first being shot by Mr. Planche after the dead tree which harbored it had been cut down, and the second being taken alive by the pygmies. This animal's habits are apparently somewhat similar to those of our flying squirrels at home, and tho it also resembles them in its large eyes and soft fur, it differs in the face, in the form and attachment of the "flying" membranes, and in the shape of the tail, on the under side of which is a patch of scales. On this organ it rests, while climbing, much as a woodpecker does on its tail. Many rats were caught at N'Gayu, but none of them were of very great novelty. A few large bats of the same kind we saw in Avakubi (no. 237) were brought to us by natives who had caught them in a hole in a tree, during the day. Some smaller bats, and of these a few new to the collection, were likewise obtained from the blacks. Our bird-collection was very greatly improved here, 173 specimens being added, of which there were approximately 37 new species, or to be more correct, species new to the collection. As usual there were some interesting ones observed that could not be killed, one of them the black crested hawk seen at Avakubi. On Dec. 11, two gray pratincoles (Glareola emini) were noticed sitting on a rock in theriver, the water of which, by the way, was very high at the time. The large kingfisher we saw and heard at Avakubi was seen once at dusk, but its loud notes were heard a number of times. On Dec. 22, Mr. Lang shot our first adult specimen (no. 675) of the black and white vulture, probably the most common large bird to be seen in ascending the Congo. From the afternoon we arrived at Banana until we were near Stanleyville, hardly a day was passed on the river without seeing some, either flying over the water, sitting on some tree along the shore, or standing on a sand bar. From Stanleyville to Avakubi only one was noticed, but at the latter place there were two or three which were seen at frequent intervals. At N'Gayu a single individual was observed a couple of times before this specimen was secured. The voice of this vulture I have never heard. It is known among the white population as the "aigle pecheur", and one morning at Matadi one which was flying overhead dropped a fish of medium size, that fell to the ground not far from where we stood. An immature brownish specimen shot on July 27, 1909 had the pulp of palm nuts in its stomach, and at Avakubi they were seen to fly out of oil palms on an island in the river. Some of our black boys also asserted that the bird was fond of palm nuts, but the contents of the stomach of this specimen, a mass of unidentifiable green vegetable matter, would indicate that these are not the only vegetable food taken. Two species of guinea fowls were collected at N'Gayu. The commoner one was black, with small white spots edged with blue. A tuft of long black feathers adorned the head, which was otherwise naked, and grayish black, with orange patches in front of the ear and on the back of the neck. At the sides of the mouth were small wattles, still smaller in the female, this being the only noticeable external difference between the sexes, there being no spurs, as in the following species. The other guinea fowl was black, with a longitudinal line of short feathers on the top of the head. The rest of the head was naked and red. The large gray pigeon, of which we had as yet no specimen was not uncommon, and here our first examples of the dark "pigeon noir" were taken. The great plantain-eaters (Corythaeola) loud call was occasionally heard, and one individual shot. Three of the small green plantain-eaters were also noticed, but none taken. Both green and gray parrots were present, the latter of course far more numerous, and the harsh cries of rollers (Eurystomus) were heard morning and evening from some trees where perhaps they were nesting in a hollow. The common blue-gray and black Halcyon was naturally common. Hornbills were not particularly abundant, the large black and white one proclaiming its presence occasionally by its noisy flight, and a few specimens of the common smaller blackish species (with white belly) being noticed. One long-tailed hornbill, shot

Book 3: Page 13

for us, had a shrew's skull in its stomach to prove its carnivorous propensities. At N'Gayu I shot six of the small swifts (Chaetura) with white belly and rump. This swift was seen on several occasions at Avakubi, and was common at N'Gayu, flying over the village in the early morning, and down over the river late in the afternoon. One specimen of the larger chaetura, a bird much less common there, and usually seen only in twos or threes, was also shot. The small fork-tailed swift was only seen on one occasion. Our first trogons (Hapaloderma) were shot here, as well as a brown-cheeked woodpecker. The small black and yellow barbet (Barbatula?) was very common, the larger brown one less so. One pipit, like those seen in Avakubi and Boquandia, was shot in a rice field; and the two wagtails were present, the ordinary black and white one being of course the commoner. The flycatcher with the long white tail-feathers (Terpsiphone) was heard only a couple of times at N'Gayu, but back in the forest the somewhat similar species, with orange breast, and without a pronounced crest or elongated rectrices was rather common; and the still more similar gray-breasted form, which also lacks the long tail, was seen a few times in the same place. Of other flycatchers, the small black and white wattled one was numerous, a new one with a blue wattle over the eye was also secured, and three gray species, one with a small black crest, were collected. A greenish woodpecker, with brown cheeks, was one of the new birds added to our collection here. About the village the small brownish-breasted Hirundo was very abundant, and from its aimless way of flying back and forth close down over the houses, is called by the Bangwana "kawaia-waia". The small black swallow was not often seen in the village, but was numerous down in the lower land on the way to Mr. Planche's house. The large brown-rumped swallow was often to be seen, usually two to four, but occasionally more, together; but the blue swallow with white throat patch was decidedly scarce. The ordinary Drongo Shrike was met with in the forest here, and several collected. The vicinity of N'Gayu was rather rich in sun-birds, the small red-breasted sort being very commonly noticed about the papayas and the white pea-bush said to be used to poison fish. The small yellow-bellied form is likewise common, but appears to feed mainly on tiny fruits. The large purple-throated sun-bird was frequently observed sometimes in the tops of high trees, and at other times descending to feed in the papayas. At these trees the medium-sized black sun-bird, with iridescent throat and forehead might also be seen feeding, but only in small numbers. One specimen of a gray sun-bird, with shiny blue forehead and throat, and pale yellow patches beneath the wings, which was new to our collection, was shot while feeding at some reddish flowers close to the ground. The common green sun-bird (Arachnothera?) appeared to be pretty abundant; and three specimens of a new greenish species, with shorter, straighter bill, gray head, and orange patches beneath the wings, were collected in the forest, where they were found hopping about on small branches, evidently in search of insects, some 25 feet from the ground. One greenish female example of a sun-bird much smaller than any of the above was also shot at N'Gayu, but the male has not been seen. With a few exceptions, the weaverbirds at N'Gayu were not remarkable. There was, as usual, a noisy colony of the large yellowish kind, and the larger brown-backed one, with black head and bluish mandible was also present, tho the smaller species of somewhat the same color was never seen, its place being occupied by the black-backed form with the beak wholly blue-gray. In what little grass there was, a few small red-rumped weavers, some in juvenile plumage, used to feed, but none were seen with black bellies. The red-billed weaver, of about the same size, of which we saw so much at Avakubi, was not seen at all at N'Gayu. the most striking weaver here was one with a black body and bright rd crest, and another one new to our collection was black below, with gray back, whitish spots on the wings, and a yellow iris. Only a pair or two of sparrows (Passer) were to be found in N'Gayu, and they were decidedly wary. A large part of the new birds we met with at N'Gayu were greenish and brownish affairs, with shrike-like bills, which are found not only in the forest, but some of which also haunt the brush closer to the village. A few warbler-like forms, one, which was also seen at Avakubi, having an extremely short tail, another with bare bluish skin on the sides of the neck, and a third with a very long bill and yellow eye. The peculiar green and white bird, with thick rump feathers, first met with near Bafwaboli (no. 240) was encountered again at N'Gayu. In the brush near the native village, Mr. Planche shot a peculiar dark gray cuckoo, with yellow bill, of which I saw a single example in Avakubi, and of

Book 3: Page 14

which Dr. Rosati brought back one specimen from his trip to Makala. N'Gayu was not very productive of reptiles, probably because there was little clearing or planting going on; but for amphibians it was somewhat better. Two new toads, one very large and extremely smooth, the other of medium size, but very rough-skinned, and with curious round parotids were brought by the Mambuti, who also secured for us a peculiar frog-like creature, with nails (or claws?) on the hind feet, and an almost salamandrine head. Two specimens of Polypterus were the only fish collected. Mr. Planche fired two tonite cartridges in the river, but they failed to bring up a single fish. The natives brought us many insects, among which were large numbers of stag-beetles and some Goliath-beetles. The latter, they said, ate their "indisi", and one of them, which we tried, did eat from a banana. This huge beetles does not stand up high on its legs at all, but rests with its limbs sprawled out in a most ungraceful fashion. While some of these were drying out in front of the house, some others, flying by, were apparently attracted by the odor, and came flying about close to the boxes, one or two of them even alighting. On the wing a Goliath is a truly formidable Coleopter, and the buzz of its wings sounds from afar.

DATE: 12/27/1909 (Monday)
LOCALITY: We left N'Gayu about 11am and reached Manamama at dusk, the whole of the road thru forest, with only one small newly established village of Bangwana about half way. The latter part of the route was decidedly muddy and dirty, and one pretty large stream was crossed on a single large tree-trunk.

Three great plantain-eaters were seen, and one of them shot, not far from Manamama; this is a rather common bird, but much more often heard than seen, its loud notes giving it the name of "Culuculu" among the Wabali, one of the tribes of the region. There rest-house at Manamama was a large ramshackle structure, with badly cracked walls, while the odor of many baskets of rubber stacked up outside it did not add to its comfort.

DATE: 12/28/1909 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: Early in the morning we left Manamama. On its northern side, are many banana fields, and some corn, where the elephants had wrought considerable havoc.

Here we saw one of the black-crested hawk-eagles, which were first noticed at Avakubi, and later at A. Succursale and N'Gayu. This time it could be collected (no. 695). It stomach contained no more noble game than a rat. A little further on, some of the common red-tailed monkeys were noticed. The country soon became rougher, and we found ourselves toiling over one hill after another. Here the forest was unbroken, and was said to hold many chimpanzees. In just one place we could look out thru the trees, over a valley, and see, near the top of another elevation, a square patch of what seemed to be grass. Shortly after noon the country again became more level, we passed some native villages, and reached, about 2 o'clock, one which could boast of a "gite d'etap". This we left about an hour later, and arrived at Bafwaboka, on the further bank of the Nepoko, about 5pm. During these two hours we passed many villages and plantations and one patch of high grass. It was in a tree in this field of grass that a large resplendent starling ("Merle metallique") was secured, the first I remember seeing since we left Stanleyville, tho someone in Avakubi showed me some feathers of one killed there. Today we also got a new black starling, with graduated tail and orange-red eyes. A pair of gray-breasted flycatchers, which I have already mentioned as resembling the long-tailed Terpsiphone, but with gray head, a different shade of brown on the back, and no very long tail-feathers, were shot along the road this

Book 3: Page 15

afternoon. Their harsh call notes were very like those of the long-tailed flycatcher, but I did not hear the song. Two of the pigeons with the black crescent on the back of the neck were heard giving their "coo-coo-cu-cu-coo-coo".

DATE: 12/28/1909 to 1/10/1910
LOCALITY: Bafwaboka.

The Nepoko, near Bafwaboka has well wooded banks, which are low on its southern side, but rise rather sharply on the northern. On this elevation the post is situated, the house for travelers being placed close to the incline, so that from there one gets a pretty view up the river. The water was now low, and a short distance upstream, where the river makes a little turn, a strip of rocks ran out from the further bank, and there was a slight roughening of the water's surface as it passed their end. The officer in charge at this post was Mr. Rouiller, a Swiss, but he was not there when we arrived, and came up from Manamama about a week later, bringing with him a large three-horned chameleon, which his men had unsuccessfully attempted to preserved by smoking it over a fire. The natives here are not at all ashamed to eat rats and mice, which they are very expert at catching. A couple of the chiefs were therefore persuaded to bring in several batches of their small game, which were found to contain a brown mouse, a rather long-haired gray rat, and a large shrew, new to our collection. Dormice they also brought, and said they caught them in the banana fields. Numbers of small brown bats were also secured in the same manner. Only the day before we left, our first Potomogale was brought to us by one of the chiefs. It was interesting to notice that DuChaillu and Dr. Dobson were both right (see Camb. Nat. Hist.), for its stomach contained fish, and its intestines the remains of shrimps, with a very few water insects. The general form of this animal, with its compressed tail, small limbs, and flattened head, somehow reminds me of a salamander, Spelerpes ruber, for example, which lives under somewhat the same conditions. Red-tailed monkeys were seen several times not far from the house at Bafwaboka. At Bafwaboka kites (Milvus) were of rather common occurrence circling over the houses, two even being seen at once. On Jan. 4 one was killed (male) and its stomach found to contain remains of a shrew and large grasshopper. The only other birds of prey were two black and white vultures that frequented the river. Down on the rocks in the river there were about eight pratincoles, keeping not in a flock, as those seen along the Congo, and at Avakubi but more or less in pairs, as tho mating, on June 2, four of them were collected. The gonads were somewhat enlarged, and the stomachs of all contained insect remains. It was at Bafwaboka that we secured our first specimens of the large gray pigeon. Two days after leaving Stanleyville we saw this bird, and along the rest of the way to Avakubi it was occasionally noticed, the long, rather low, and slowly repeated "coo" being uttered as the bird sat in the top of some high tree. From Avakubi to N'Gayu and Bafwaboka, a number of them were also observed. Other members of the Columbidae noted in Bafwaboka were the "pigeon noir", and the small brownish dove, which was occasionally seen walking on the ground in the road. Fruit pigeons were very common. Two examples of the brown-headed Halcyon, our only other specimen of which was taken in Batama, were shot here, as well as several specimens of a new brownish hornbill with red beak, and one of the small gray hornbill. The common black hornbill, with white belly, and yellow and brown bill, was common, as was also the greenish bee-eater with blue tail and blackish crown. One long-tailed hornbill seen. I was rather surprised to encounter colies here, for the first time since leaving Leopoldville. On Dec. 31, two males were secured from a flock of five or six, and during the remainder of our stay a number of others were seen. Another bird collected for the first time since leaving Stanleyville was the black and white flycatcher with red wattles over the eyes. Three of these birds could sometimes be heard singing at once at Bafwaboka. None were noticed at N'Gayu, but twice in Avakubi I thought I heard it, but could not make sure. At Leopoldville the song of this flycatcher could be listened to all day long. As a rule it consists of three clear whistled notes, the intervals between the more musical parts being

Book 3: Page 16

varied by lower scolding notes. But the same bird can whistle in two or three different ways. Our not hearing the song at Avakubi might be due to the molt taking place at that time. One more trogon collected at Bafwaboka. Our first wood-hoopoe, but apparently an immature example was taken near a native village at a short distance from the post. The long-tailed flycatcher was common, as many as three sometimes being heard at one time. Several large resplendent starlings were observed and collected, and a new small wedge-tailed starling, with yellow irises, that wandered about in flocks of as many as thirty. In the forest along the road to the northward of the post stood a high tree, bearing a small fruit that attracted numbers of small resplendent starlings like those seen on Dec. 8 near Mongalula. Dr. Rosati also brought back one skin of this bird from Makala, but I saw none at Avakubi. A gray-backed shrike with rather long tail, and stout bill, was collected, and two grayish ones with brown wings and black lines on the head were seen in the brush close to Mr. Rouiller's house. One new sun-bird, with gray breast, green back, iridescent head and light yellow patches beneath its wings was shot in some papaya trees, and a small yellow-breasted finch, like one seen but not collected at Leopoldville, were also among the additions in Bafwaboka. Several of the pretty blue swallows, with white throat spot, were observed at this place, as they almost always are near a river. One was shot as it sat on the ground near the houses. The red-crested weaver was again secured here, as were the black weaver with red crown, the black weaver with red breast and blue-gray bill, and the black and red weaver with opalescent blue and red beak. The small black-headed weavers with brown back and blue-gray mandible, were seen feeding together with their black-backed relatives with the beak wholly blue-gray. Another specimen of the small blue-wattled flycatcher first taken at N'Gayu, was shot here on Jan. 2. there were two rival (?) males in some bushes along the road in the forest. their wings, as they chased each other about, made flapping noises sufficient for birds many times their size, and the din was increased by snapping noises produced perhaps with the beak. Several electric cat-fish were brought by a Negro at Bafwaboka. He held them at a safe distance, and all the natives seemed to appreciate their galvanic abilities. One gave Mr. Lang a shock. Every night the toads could be heard croaking down in the river; the noise, and I suppose, the toad were the same as in Avakubi and Stanleyville.

November • December • JanuaryFebruary

Diaries List