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The diaries of James Chapin

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

NovemberDecember • January • February

Diaries List

DATE: 1/10/1910 (Monday)
LOCALITY: We left Bafwaboka about 9:30 this morning.

But Before going I saw one of the beautiful cuckoos (Chrysococcyx) with green head and back, and yellow belly. This bird we heard on the way from Stanleyville to Avakubi, as well as in Avakubi, where our only specimen, a female, was secured. The small Chrysococcyx (s. no. 441), I forgot to mention, has also been heard two or three times at Bafwaboka. The day was clear and Mr. Rouiller accompanied us on his mule, as far as the Malika, where his territory ended; and Mr. DeBecker, who had come to Bafwaboka with porters for us, was also there with an escort of soldiers. A short way from Bafwaboka I saw three red-throated bee-eaters, but with brown backs, a species new to us, and shot one of them. A small resplendent starling, and a female red-wattled flycatcher were also secured on the road. We reached the rest house at Wanseane about 3pm. Hereabouts there are many tall oil palms, and lots of grass, from 7 to 10 feet high, but little forest. Late in the afternoon a kestrel was shot, that had eaten a lizard.

Book 3: Page 17

DATE: 1/11/1910 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: Left Wanseane, with Mr. DeBecker ("Mandefu") and his soldiers, about 8am. Reached Ibambi between two and three p.m

Passed thru a little forest, lots of cultivated land and villages, and some high grass country, in which, by the way, Ibambi is situated. The short-grass plain, it is said, begins two days (about 12 hours at most) to the north. Ibambi possesses two fine new "gites", built largely of palm wood, and thatched with grass. Several interesting birds were taken today. One of these was a black weaver with red crown and nape, of which we had previously only a single specimen (no. 386) from Avakubi. Today's example was climbing around the bark of a high tree. Another was the black weaver with gray back, first collected at N'Gayu (no. 541). Three were seen today, all about oil palms. Two small gray warblers with brown crowns, a bird first seen at Avakubi on Sept. 30, 1909, were shot in some low trees, four or five of them being seen together. A gray warbler with white throat, one specimen of which was shot in Leopoldville, and which was seen in Stanleyville, was collected in some low bushes close to the road. At Ibambi I got a small green bee-eater, very similar to, if not the same, as the one seen from Leopoldville to Kwamouth last July. One kite and a large gray hawk seen at Ibambi. Dongo shot a herpestes. Two Goliath beetles in the top of a small tree.

DATE: 1/12/1910 (Wednesday)
LOCALITY: Ibambi to Banda, 9am to 3pm.

Mr. DeBecker left us about noon. Country traversed much the same as yesterday. Early this morning Mr. Lang shot another of the gray-breasted sun-birds, with iridescent green head, which we first obtained at Bafwaboka. Two black-backed shrikes, and a large green bee-eater, were also collected today.

DATE: 1/13/1910 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: Banda to Medje, 9am to 2pm.

The whole way thru forest, with an enormous number of bridges. Dongo shot two wood-hoopoes, which exhibited the same peculiarity as the first one of keeping the mouth stiffly open after death. A gray backed warbler with white breast and white outer tail feathers, and a gray one with brown crown were collected in some low trees, of the latter there was as usual a little family flock. The post of Medje stands upon a large hill, with a wide straight road leading up to it from the west. Along this are gardens and rice-fields; and as one climbs the hill he sees only the large drying house for the rubber, and a few palms. As these are neared the whole post comes suddenly into view, spread out on the rather level summit of the hill. The houses and magazines are of brick, white-washed, and thatched with grass, and possess the interest of having been built, and extremely well built, by Ericson, the man who procured the first skins of the okapi. Here we were welcomed by Lieutenant Boyton, whom we had already met in Avakubi, and a house on the south-eastern side of the square was assigned to us. Mr. Lang had often said he would like to see how the forest looked from above, and here his wishes were fulfilled, for one can look off over the tree-tops, the monotony of which is only broken by the unevenness of the country and the intermingling of a few palms. In the evening all this is frequently covered with a blanket of fog, only the tops of the hills projecting above it, and with the aid of a little imagination one can picture himself on the bank of a wide river. Three kites were seen at Medje this afternoon.

Book 3: Page 18

DATE: 1/14/1910 (Friday) to 1/24

The larger mammals collected at Medje offered no great interest. There was the common brown antelope with black-striped back, one chevrotain, one young red pig, which Mr. Boyton had been fattening, and one Herpestes. A few Pottos, Genets, Pangolins and a Hyrax almost completed the list. During the latter part of our stay, however, small mammals, of unusual interest, came thick and fast. Mr. Lang was already busy buying a collection of ethnological objects from the Mangbetu, and his hands were now completely filled. Among the additional species of rats secured was the huge one of which we had heard from Mr. DeBecker. The natives in his vicinity, he said, caught them in great numbers and smoked them. Three specimens were brought to us, the largest 82cm. in length. Dormice came in goodly numbers, and squirrels too. Of the latter we secured two examples of a new yellow-bellied, unstriped species, of medium size, which were brought by a native woman the day before we left. But the great specialty of the natives here was flying squirrels, which, according to their own accounts, confirmed by many singed specimens were smoked out of hollow trees. In addition to the one obtained at N'Gayu, they brought a much larger kind, of about the same structure, and a tiny, brawnier form, whose tail is relatively much longer, and has the hair on it arranged in longitudinal lines, while the scales on its under side are small, and continue down most of its length. The first specimen of this fascinating little beast was delivered on Jan. 21st; but three days later a man appeared with seventeen of them stowed away in his pockets. He was no fool, nevertheless, and at first took out only a few of them, evidently to see how large a "matabish" he would receive. I would be inclined to judge from this that large numbers are sometimes contained in one tree. About this the native was questioned, but he answered only with the exasperating "mm-m" that the blacks here use so much. At least three different shrews were collected, the smaller ones being captured by soldiers at work on a plantation. During the last couple of days we were in Medje we got three Potamogales, one of them alive. This one was allowed to swim about in a tank of water, and ate a shrimp. In swimming it was propelled by its tail, tho the fore-legs were often used to push away from the side of the tank. It did not appear to love the water, for it was always trying to climb out, and its fur quickly became wet thru. On the ground it walked leisurely, but was unexpectedly quick at biting sticks placed near it. Large bats, like no. 237, etc., were very common here, coming out in numbers at dusk. Four specimens were shot. A new species, of medium size, with thick lips and toes, and the tail projecting out behind the interfemoral membrane (no. 509 and 620) was secured thru the natives. Three small brownish lemurs were warmly welcomed; but only a single monkey, one of the common red-tailed Cercopithecus was collected. Not quite 100 birds were collected at Medje, and only nine species new to the collection were secured. Among these were a palm swift, 2 barbets, a swallow (Riparia), a woodpecker and a white-eye (Zosterops). Kites were common at this place, and at times, as already stated, three might be seen at once. Five were shot; of these, three had palm nut pulp, and the fourth a palm nut stone, in their stomachs; the stomach of the other one was empty. One had also eaten fish, another a frog or toad, and a third a young weaver (?) bird. A kestrel and one of the common gray hawks were the only other birds of prey secured. Very often, late in the afternoon, a partridge could be heard giving its shrill calls something like "kek, k-r-r-r-r" repeated again and again. One female (no. 836) our second specimen, was brought us by natives. A coucal used to call from the brush opposite our house, the ordinary yellow-billed roller could frequently be heard giving its harsh cries, and the bee-eater with bluish tail and dusky crown came continually in flocks. Dongo shot four of the small green-backed bee-eaters, like that taken on Jan. 11th at Ibambi. Their plumage was soiled with red clay, and they were probably breeding somewhere. Two Melittophagus gularis shot. Colies very common. Down the hill to the southward a solitary owl could sometimes be heard late at night, giving a single loud "whoo". Fork-tailed swifts (Palm Swifts) were occasionally seen flying about over the post, and on the 16th a pair of them was secured, our first specimens. When we arrived at Banana, in the afternoon of June 22, 1909, large numbers of small, dark, fork-tailed swifts were circling about over the palm-covered point. At Leopoldville a similar bird was in evidence; and at

Book 3: Page 19

Stanleyville they were frequently to be seen in twos and threes close to the houses and palm-lined roads. During our stay in Avakubi they were several times noticed flying over (perhaps a different species), usually at a considerable height and with great speed, especially in the late afternoon. At N'Gayu, where the square-tailed swifts (Chaetura) were common, only two or three of the fork-tailed kind came to our notice. On the road from that village to Medje a few solitary specimens were observed over the forest and in native plantations. Three young ones, taken from nests in oil palms, were later brought us by the blacks. It appears that there are two to a nest. In these young ones, the curious feet could be seen to advantage, two of the toes going to each side, an arrangement that reminds one slightly of a chameleon. The large white-rumped swift was occasionally seen, and a pair shot on Jan. 19th. The ordinary blue-gray and black kingfisher was present, as usual, and Dongo brought in one example of the brown-headed Halcyon. He also got two trogons, but too badly mutilated to skin. The new woodpecker obtained here has the breast streaked, the crown black, and the nape red. The eye is dark red. One of the new barbets is black above, with white lines on the head and yellow spots on the back. Below it is greenish, spotted with black. The other is a black-backed affair with rather long tail and yellow bill. Nos. 850-7 are dirty brown barbets brought alive by blacks. Some of these birds can almost always be seen in the top of a high tree on the road leading up the hill to the post from the east. A peculiar thing about this bird is that the iris appears to be yellow in the females, and light brown in the males, quite the opposite from what one would expect. On Jan. 24th half a dozen wood-hoopoes were seen on a dead tree near Lieutenant Boyton's house. They made a chattering noise, and while perching, moved the tail up and down. But they also climbed up the branches like woodpeckers, using their tails in the same way. Nothing very striking was found in passerine birds. The black and white wagtail occurred in abundance, and had young. The long-tailed and red-wattled flycatchers were present, and Dongo got us a female brown-backed flycatcher, with crested head and yellow iris, perhaps the same as no. 34 from Leopoldville. One of our additions was an orange-throated warbler (?) trapped by the natives. Another was a white-eye (Zosterops), shot in a low bushy tree, where three of them were hopping around on the smaller branch in a rather leisurely manner, feeding on some small green fruit, but not making any noise. They reminded me a little of our yellow warbler (Dendroica aestiva) but were less active, and in this respect more like Vireos. The small brown-breasted swallow was very abundant, coming in under the eaves of the houses at dusk to roost. Numbers of them were caught by the blacks. The large brown-rumped swallow was also common, and on Jan. 20th five or six Riparias were seen. One of them was shot and found to have the little tuft of feathers on the foot like R. riparia. At Boma, Noki, and Leopoldville swallows of this genus were seen in large flocks, but a specimen (preserved with formalin) presented to us by an officer at Irebu lacked the feathers on the feet. On the 22nd and 23rd two bank (?) swallows were again noticed. Besides the gray-backed shrikes collected, one of the brownish species with black streaks on the head, such as I saw in Bafwaboka, was observed in some brush on Jan. 24th. Among the sun-birds and weavers nothing of special interest was noted. (The day we left {Jan. 25} I saw a flock of 5 or 6 of the pink-billed weavers with brown backs and finely barred breasts, that were common in Avakubi, but up to this time , had not been seen since). Just across from our house the small yellow-breasted finch was rather common. In the way of reptiles and batrachians Medje furnished very little. Some of the common turtles with jointed carapace, as well as a water turtles, of dusky color, from the Nava, were brought by natives, as well as two large horn-less chameleons, of which they were terribly afraid, and several large lizards, the males of which were light yellowish green on the head, with some reddish on the throat, the body dark bluish, and the further part of the tail yellow or reddish. They are not unlike the blue-headed lizard in Avakubi; perhaps the scales on the back of the head are more spiny. As to Ichthyology, we took only two small specimens. Besides these the native women brought earthen pots, very often, filled with live fish, all of the same kind, a smallish, mud-colored affair, with large depressed head, and sharp spines in its pectoral fins. Of these we already had enough, so we ate a few, and our boys devoured the rest. This is the main food-fish among the natives hereabouts, and is usually seen smoked and curled up, with a wooden skewer to hold the head and tail together.

Book 3: Page 20

DATE: 1/25/1910 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: Left Medje a little before noon for Banda to the southward, a village whose inhabitants, from what we learned from Lieutenant Boyton, are accustomed to take the okapi in traps alive.

Massikini, a Mangbetu chief from near Medje, reports that three have been taken thus since Boyton came to Medje (about a year). Mr. Boyton adds that Ericson told him he knew of no better locality for this beast than here. Most of the country along this road is undulating, with the usual sort of forest, and often mud or water, in the hollows. There are a few open spots with high grass, perhaps abandoned village sites. A few bits of old dry buffalo dung were noticed. Somewhere about three o'clock we reached a very small native village, with a few huts, a "barazas" to shelter a huge pot for banana wine, and another to mark the grave of a dead chief. After a short rest we pushed on to Banda's place, where we pitched our tents and arranged everything before sundown. This settlement is a large scattered affair, with small houses walled with leaves and bark, many trees and bushes, and numerous "barazas", one of which we decided to make our workshop. No birds were shot, and few seen. One large gray pigeon was heard, and a small black and white (wattled) flycatcher seen.

DATE: 1/26/1910 (Wednesday)

This morning I walked about the village a little, and shot some birds, among them three or four new to the collection. One of these was the brownish shrike, with black lines on the head, already noted at Bafwaboka and Medje. Another was a small greenish woodpecker, and a third a brownish warbler, with a peculiar excited song, that was heard in Bafwaboka, and many times since. Two small light blue birds were also seen, flitting from tree to tree, but too fast for me to catch up. [See Mar. 14, 1910]. This we certainly have not yet collected (Elminia longicauda). Banda, the chief, was not in evidence yesterday afternoon, but came this morning. He is a huge, strong fellow, with his berry basket hat covered with a bunch of chicken feathers, and a piece of dark blue cloth about his middle, where his people usually wear their bark-cloth (malumba). He informed us that the okapi hunting was done on the other side of the Nepoko, this stream itself being some two hours distant, so we decided to make our headquarters in a Bangwana village nearer the scene of action. Of okapis we heard considerable. It was said that one had been captured only about 10 days before, and some pieces of what purported to be its smoked flesh were even brought to us, while Banda promised to procure the skin of its four legs for us.

DATE: 1/27/1910
LOCALITY: This morning, then, we left Banda's place and reached the Nepoko some time before noon.

The road is wet, and almost entirely in the forest, with elephant tracks, fairly numerous and pretty fresh, along almost the whole way. The Nepoko, where we struck it, has an island in its middle, and the village of Gamangui (as it appears on our map) is situated on the far side, a little back from the river, and somewhat higher. On the island are some buildings, too, including a guest-house; but as the water, not so very long ago, rose completely over this island, it is not fit for permanent habitation, now, however, the water was so low that our porters could walk over to the island, tho their loads were taken in a canoe. Many rough gray rocks appeared above the surface, and on these were not a few gray pratincoles. As I sat on the shore of the island, waiting for the canoe, I watched these birds thru my glass, and was fortunate enough to discover one sitting on its eggs. Both sexes incubate, for one was seen to relieve the other at this task, and

Book 3: Page 21

the bird, which was not on the eggs stood guard on some neighboring stones. The only note heard was a dry "kik-kik-kik...", not audible at more than about a hundred yard's distance, which was uttered by both sexes. Four or five other pairs were noticed in the same portion of the river. In the afternoon their two eggs, of a greenish white ground color, thickly blotched with greenish brown were collected. They had been deposited in a slight depression on the top of a large rock, with absolutely no attempt at a nest. The male was shot just after being frightened off the eggs. Both birds showed considerable anxiety about their eggs, returning to them several times while we were in the vicinity. A small gray heron (Butorides) was also shot on the rocks. It was our first specimen, tho a few were seen from the steamer in ascending the Congo. Gamangui proved to be a rather small village, built on a hillside, with a small annex on each side. All around were plantations of bananas, manioc, and rice, the latter in a ragged-looking state, tho they appeared to produce considerable. One of the curious features of the villages was the houses for storing the rice. [See drawing]. The grain was stored in the little loft above, while the open space below was used sometimes for work, or exceptionally, as a dwelling. One of these became our laboratory.

DATE: 1/28/1910 (Friday)
LOCALITY: Gamangui.

A large gray heron (no. 900) was shot in a tree on the upper end of the island this afternoon, and found to have eaten one of the common short-tailed brown rats, and two grasshoppers. A pair of Glareolas were collected on some nearby stones, but no eggs of this species were found. Dongo shot two more trogons.

DATE: 1/29/1910 to 1/31
LOCALITY: Gamangui.

The most interesting birds secured during this time were a black and white hornbill, with the outer tail-feathers wholly white (no. 908), a bittern (Tigrornis leucolophus) (no. 926) and a large red-breasted rail (no. 927). The first named resembles the common black and white hornbill, but is smaller, and has more white in both wings and tail. I once thought I saw such a bird from the steamer in coming up the Congo. The rail was trapped by our porters.

NovemberDecember • January • February

Diaries List