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The diaries of James Chapin

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

November • DecemberJanuaryFebruary

Diaries List

DATE: 11/1/1909 (Monday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

During the past three or four days several flycatchers have been noticed, that look in life exactly like Muscicapa grisola, one of the birds I happened to see in Belgium. Even the flirting of the tail is the same, and resembles the same action of the phoebe (Sayornis). Today an officer shot one and presented it to us (no. 425). It was an immature male, with the skull almost completely ossified, and may have just migrated from the North. Two more of the large green bee-eaters were collected today, one being a male, probably immature, and the other a female. The iris of the male was brownish red, unlike those of yesterday, which were bright red; and its two middle tail-feathers were neither narrowed or noticeably elongated. In addition to this the whole plumage was rather dull, and the testes very small. The female, on the contrary had bright red eyes, and the median pair of rectrices, which were just growing out, were narrowed like those off the others, tho of course not so worn. The stomachs of both today's specimens contained dragonflies. Dr. Rosati left for Makala today.

DATE: 11/2/1909 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

Only the very ordinary birds about our camp were noticed today, bee-eaters being as common as usual, a small green cuckoo being seen, as well as heard, and a coucal also showing himself plainly on a leafless bush, contrary to their usual secretive custom. A large heron, about the size of a great blue heron, flew down the river, and alighted for a while on a bush some distance below us. The long-tailed Terpsiphone continue to sing about our camp, as well as on all sides of Avakubi in the rubber plantations.

DATE: 11/3/1909 (Wednesday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

No collecting done. Only most ordinary birds observed.

DATE: 11/4/1909 (Thursday)

When we came to Avakubi, we found the small red-rumped weaver that was so common in Stanleyville (see nos. 180-1) to be quite an abundant bird here. However, the first specimen collected (no. 306) (male) proved to have the abdomen and under tail-coverts blackish, instead of white, as in all those previously secured. The maxilla was also entirely black, lacking the red marks of the other specimens. Wishing to see if all these birds in Avakubi agreed in these peculiarities, we soon collected two more (no. 339, female, and no. 362, male) which had the belly white, and a red patch on the side of the maxilla. All the others examined thru field glasses, with the exception of one black bellied individual seen on Oct. 15th, agreed with the two latter specimens. Today, however, a special search was made, with the unexpected result that black-bellied and white-bellied examples were seen in about equal numbers. Two males (no. 430-1) were collected, the former having the abdomen quite black, and the maxilla entirely of the same color, while the latter had the abdomen a trifle lighter in color, but the maxilla with the same red

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marking found in all the white-bellied found in all the white-bellied specimens. that the color is not dependant upon sex is shown by the fact that an immature female was also shot, that had the maxilla pure black, and the abdomen and under tail coverts fully as dark as no. 431. Unfortunately it was too badly mutilated to skin. These weavers were breeding at Stanleyville in August, but do not appear to be nesting here now. Can it be that these birds represent two geographical races that mix during the winter? Right near our camp today six or seven small warblers (Phylloscopus?) were noticed for the first time. One (no. 425, male) was collected. Perhaps this is another bird from the North. A black and white vulture was also seen, about noon. Late in the afternoon I walked down to the brook a little distance below our camp. Black and white wagtails were very numerous there, and two of the other sort, with yellowish breasts, -in the males at least- were secured (nos. 432-3). A small Pisobia, the same as the two killed there on Oct. 26, was feeding in the mud, while several Actitis (hypoleucus?) occupied the logs and stones. Another horned viper was brought to us alive.

DATE: 11/5/1909 (Friday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

Several interesting birds were shot today near the brook behind our camp. There were three gray flycatchers feeding close to the water, alighting on the dead branches sticking up out of the stream; and two, an adult male and an immature male, were taken (nos. 434, 436). The species was new to our collection. A red and black weaver (no. 439), one of two that were feeding in some high grass on the bank, was also slaughtered. Two pretty bee-eaters (Melittophagus gularis?) with red throats and blue rumps, were occupying the dead top of a tree overlooking some newly cleared land. From this perch they sallied forth at frequent intervals in pursuit of insects. One, a male (no. 428) was collected, its stomach containing a dragonfly and some other unrecognizable insects. Late in the afternoon I shot a squirrel (no. 229) of the medium-sized, faintly striped species. This morning one of the small striped squirrels was seen near the same spot. Two of the small red-rumped weavers (nos. 435 and 437) were secured today, the former a white-bellied male, and the latter a black-bellied female.

DATE: 11/6/1909 (Saturday)

Three new species of birds were added to our collection today, a black and white shrike (no. 440), a small cuckoo (no. 441) and a rather small chestnut-bellied weaver (no. 442). The first mentioned bird was shot on the edge of the forest, where the bushes, vines and smaller trees had recently been cleared out. Two of them were chasing each other around among the trees. The cuckoo and the weaver-bird were found along a brook a little to the South West of the post. Late in the afternoon, near the Mission, we saw and heard a pigeon of the same species as no. 401, which was collected in the same vicinity on October 24th. These are the only two seen here so far. In the stomach of a small green woodpecker (no. 444) were found the larvae, pupae, and adults of the little black ant that builds all the brown nests on the branches of trees. To judge from this evidence the woodpecker must have been pecking holes in one of these ant nests.

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DATE: 11/7/1909 (Sunday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

This morning, near the Mission, I saw a flock of six or seven gray parrots, some fruit pigeons, two large black and white hornbills (same as no. 238, etc), and three small kingfishers, two adult and one young (see Nov. 8). Gray parrots are often seen flying over, but usually only one or two at a time. Fruit pigeons are common enough, especially out in this direction, and are easily distinguished in flight from the ordinary pigeons by their short tails. The small brown breasted kingfishers are not very often seen, but the larger blue and gray Halcyon is as common as usual. The brown-headed Halcyon, of which one specimen was collected in Batama (no. 246), has not been seen since. Neither has the black and white Ceryle, so common along the Congo. There is, however, another larger kingfisher, which as I have already mentioned (Oct. 6, 1909) is occasionally heard or seen, but as yet has not given us an opportunity to observe its color. The priests at the Mission presented us with a large hawk (no. 445), which some of their natives had found wounded I saw it yesterday, when it was still alive. It was the same as one we saw sitting in a rubber tree near our camp several days ago. Later in the day they also sent over a small white heron, with yellowish bill and blackish feet (no. 446). Its stomach was crammed with small grasshoppers.

DATE: 11/8/1909 (Monday)

This morning, near our camp, I at last collected one of the small blue-backed kingfishers with the breast brownish, and a bluish wash on the otherwise brown cheeks. In the afternoon two small green barbets (nos. 448-9) were secured, in a large leafless tree, where four or five of them were seen together. In the same tree there were four brown flycatcher-like birds of which we already had one specimen (no. 371) brought in by our black hunters. The bill is very swallow-like, but there are rectal bristles, and the wings are not long. The habits are those of a flycatcher, insects being pursued and caught in the air, while the bird, when perching, raises its tail at regular intervals like a phoebe. One specimen (no. 450) collected. An oriole (like no. 227) and a small barbet with white lines on the head (like no. 377) were seen and a gray flycatcher (Muscicapa) (no. 451) shot. The latter is the only one of its species noticed for some time, and to judge from its plumage, is an immature bird, tho the skull was fully ossified.

DATE: 11/9/1909 (Tuesday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

For a couple of hours this morning a white heron, like the one sent to us the day before yesterday, was to be seen sitting on a bush on the island opposite us, in the Ituri. Two black hawks (Lophoaetus occipitalis), with white patches on the primaries, like those seen on Oct. 28th, were circling about over Avakubi again today. One of our hunters told me that they have crests of feathers, but this is certainly not visible in flight. In the afternoon I went out shooting for a little while, one of the birds secured being a cuckoo new to our collection, and another one of the same grayish green sun-birds, with yellow feathers under the wings, that was collected near Risimu on Sept. 8. Today's example was making the same scolding noise, and had the skull fully ossified, and the testes enlarged. This green plumage seems, therefore, the full adult dress of the species. A large sun-bird (male), of the same species as nos. 345-6, was also observed, this being only the third specimen noticed in Avakubi.

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DATE: 11/10/1909 (Wednesday)

Late in the morning an elephant was heard trumpeting loudly, near the bank of the river close to the post. Everybody ran to see it, but it had gone off quickly, and some of the officers even set off after it with their rifles. Later it was said that a black woman had seen five elephants there during the morning but had not thought to tell the white men about them.

DATE: 11/11/1909 (Thursday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

Spent most of the morning over near the Mission, where another pigeon of the same sort as no. 401 was heard singing its "coo-coo-cu-cu-coo-coo". There were also several pigeons of another species of about the same size, but dark slaty gray nearly all over except on the neck, where there are some brownish, and also some bronzy feathers. The doctor calls this bird (see no. 658) the "pigeon noir", and our boys know it by a name having the same reference to its dark color. Its song begins with two or three "coos" that are only audible when one is close to the bird. Next follow about five loud "coos", and then the voice is suddenly lowered, the performance ending with three or four cooing notes somewhat louder than those at the beginning. It may be represented as follows: "coo-coo-coo-coo-coo-coo-cu-cu-cu-coo". Along the bank of the Ituri, in the forest, another sun-bird (no. 466) which I had not previously encountered, was shot while feeding at some flowers in a bush close to the ground. In the same bush there was also a sun-bird of the ordinary small red-breasted sort. The small gray flycatcher (no. 468) collected today appears to be the same as that we collected at Batama. This bird was first met with just after we left Rissaci, and for some days was common along the road in the forest; but the last ones seen before today were near Batama. In a clearing on the edge of the forest, near the Mission, a small black-headed weaver (no. 467) male, was found building a nest. This bird is apparently related to the common small black-headed weaver (no. 403), that ranges all the way from Leopoldville, at least; but it differs from it in having the back black instead of brown, in having the whole bill gray, the maxilla of the commoner form being black, and in several minor particulars, such as the pure white under tail-coverts. I am not positive that I have seen this bird before, at Avakubi, but no. 427, a young bird brought in by one of our boys, may be of the same species. A second specimen was killed on the Mission grounds today, but fell into a fire built to destroy a large stump, and had most of its feathers singed off.

DATE: 11/12/1909 (Friday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

DATE: 11/13/1909 (Saturday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

A small black-headed weaver, like that collected the day before yesterday (no. 467), was seen today, feeding with a flock of three of the commoner species of small weavers in the high grass.

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DATE: 11/14/1909 (Sunday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

A small shrike (Lamus) (see Nov. 24, 1909), with the back reddish brown, and two gray parrots were noticed near the Mission this morning. The "Pere" presented us with one of the common gray hawks (no. 469 male, and on my way back to the post, I saw one of the same sort in the rubber plantation. On a dead branch of a high tree near the river bank an osprey was seen sitting. After watching it a little while thru my glasses, I attempted to get closer, to see, if possible, the extent of the spotting on the breast, but it took alarm at once, and departed. The only other osprey I have seen in the Congo was sitting on a sand bar in Stanley Pool, July 12, 1909. Late in the afternoon a flock of about 30 pratincoles (Glareola) was flying about over the river, evidently catching insects in the air. They were of the same species that we collected in Stanleyville (G. emini), slaty gray, except for the white rump and belly, and a white mark on the side of the head. Pratincoles have frequently been noticed flying over Avakubi, but this was the first time that the color of any of them could be observed. Another Manis, a male, and our 3rd specimen from Avakubi was brought to us alive today.

DATE: 11/15/1909 (Monday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

Seven small white herons were sitting in the top of a small tree, this morning, on the island where one was observed on Nov. 9. After some delay in securing a canoe, I went after them, but secured only one (no. 470, female). On the way back, a large heron (Ardea purpurea?), that was standing in the grass on the river bank, was also shot (no. 471, male). Its stomach was full of a soft, fibrous, greenish mass, apparently of vegetable origin, in which were found also two wings of a dragonfly, some small fish scales -but no bones-, a couple of mouse (?) claws, and some small bits of wood. A thrush (Turdus or Merula) (no. 472, male) was also taken this morning, this being our second example from Avakubi. While we were in Stanleyville these yellow-billed thrushes were not infrequently heard singing behind our house. (see Aug. 24, 1909). Two bats (nos. 432-3) were caught in the house this evening. [See drawing]. No. 432 is like the two bats shot in a mango tree in Stanleyville, and no. 433 is like one that we caught in Mr. Morgan's house in Leopoldville.

DATE: 11/16/1909 (Tuesday)

A small black-headed weaver of the same sort as no. 467 was seen among a flock of other small weaver-birds feeding in the high grass just behind the house of the Chef de Zone. This flock consisted mainly of the common small rosy-breasted kind with brown back and red bill, but it contained also some of the common small black-headed form (see 403) and a few of the small red-rumped species, of which two or three had the belly white, while one at least was very black on this part of the body. The large green bee-eaters, like those collected here on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, are still to be seen and heard, but not in any such abundance as during the first week in November, when they were more numerous than at any other time during our stay at Avakubi. Early this evening a bat was caught in the house, which resembles no. 432, caught in the same room last night, but has the ears about 8mm longer. The tip of these bat's tail is curiously bifurcated and both the wing and tail membranes are traversed by fine lines, in which are also numerous small spots. [See drawing]. On the inner portion of the wings there are two sets of these lines, which cross each other almost at right angles, the spots here being placed at the

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crossings. The ears likewise contain numbers of these little dots, but their arrangement is not so regular.

DATE: 11/17/1909 (Wednesday)

Near our camp this morning I shot a small brownish dove (no. 473) which appears to be the same bird that was so common at Leopoldville. Tho seen also on the way up the river, it was not noticed in Stanleyville, nor on the way from there to Avakubi. Moreover, this is the first example seen here. A small white heron (no 474) was shot on the river, and in the evening two more bats were caught in the house.

DATE: 11/18/1909 (Thursday)

There were three more small white herons on the island this morning but they were too shy to shoot. Further up the same island there were two black and white vultures, one of them, which was sitting in a small palm in the brush, allowing us to walk up to within a few feet (without seeing him, of course). Our boys say that these vultures eat palm-nuts as well as fish, and this corresponds with our own observations. Another species of bee-eater, new to our collection, was secured near the camp (no. 476). It has a broad black line thru the eye, and a transverse bar of the same color on the upper breast. The middle tail-feathers are slightly elongated. Just as it was getting dark this evening I shot a pratincole (no. 478, female) and a large bat (no. 237, female) [see drawing] on the open square in Avakubi. The latter is the same that we saw in a village near Batama, and have frequently seen here in the early evening. The tail projects from the dorsal side of the interfemoral membrane, and the wings can be curiously folded up at the tip. Under the throat is a small gular pouch. An osprey was seen today in the same tree as the one Nov. 14.

DATE: 11/19/1909 (Friday)

Two ring plovers (nos. 479-80) were taken on the open square in Avakubi, where there were four of them, and where 4 or 5 were seen late yesterday afternoon. Three bee-eaters of the same species as no. 476 were sitting in a tree near our camp this morning. Four white herons were here today, and Mr. Lang killed two of them. A leopard's tracks were seen in some sand close to our tents this morning. The small blue kingfisher with conspicuous light bars on the crown, and without blue on the cheeks, was seen here today, showing that both of the small species occurs here, as in Stanleyville, and along much of the Congo.

DATE: 11/20/1909 (Saturday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

Early this afternoon one of our boys took me to a tree where there were a lot of fruit bats. It was one of the larger trees that stick up above the plantation of young rubber trees between the Mission and the Post. About 50 feet from the ground, on a more or less horizontal branch, there was a large mass of epiphytic plants, to the under side of this was clinging a mass of bats. Every once in a while one seemed to lose his hold in the crowd, and had to take wing, only to return and

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hook himself up anew. All the time they kept up a chorus of snarling and scolding noises that could be heard for some distance, 75 or 100 yards at least, and it was by means of this that they had been discovered. The black boy told me of a large bird that was catching the bats, and as we approached a black and white vulture flew out of the top of the tree, but whether he was guilty of the deed is not at all certain. I did not attempt to count the number of bats (estimated at 90-100), but after watching them a little while, fired both barrels of my gun into the flock. We were standing directly underneath them, and for a few seconds it simply rained bats, some dead, others dying, and many only slightly wounded. The latter immediately began to make off thru the grass, trying their best to scratch and bite when picked up, and often uttering a cry that reminded me somewhat of the "peent" of the American woodcock and nighthawk, but louder. The uninjured, with the exception of ten or twelve that returned to the same roost, made off for a safer resting place. We secured 37 specimens, but I have no doubt that a number of the wounded made good their escape. The number of bats that had been in the tree could only be roughly estimated at 90 or 100, or perhaps a few more. Thirty-three of those secured were skinned, two, a male and a female, put in alcohol, and two, which had their skulls badly broken were discarded. These bats, unlike the two species of fruit bats we had previously secured, in Leopoldville and Stanleyville, had short tails, of very variable length. Many of them, evidently the older ones, had patches of yellowish hair on the under side of the neck. The skin beneath these places, was of a lighter color on the inside that on the rest of the skin immediately surrounding it. The males had rather conspicuous vestigial trots at the sides of the thorax. A number of very active (Nycteribiidae) were collected on these bats.

DATE: 11/21/1909 (Sunday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

Most of the day was occupied in preparing the bats shot yesterday. Two of the ordinary dark gray ibises, with iridescent wing-coverts, were seen, and a pigeon of the same sort as no. 401 was heard this morning near the Mission, while three or four bee-eaters like no. 476 were observed near our camp. One bat was captured in the evening in the house (no. 275).

DATE: 11/22/1909 Monday)
LOCALITY: Avakubi.

One bat caught this evening in the house (no. 276).

DATE: 11/23/1909 (Tuesday)

Another dove, of the same species as no. 473 was shot today. Two of the common dark ibises went flying down the river, advertising their coming by their mournful cries. It is probably the same pair that we see all the time.

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DATE: 11/24/1909 (Wednesday)

A small brownish shrike (Lamus) (no. 485) of the same kind as the one seen on Nov. 14 was secured. Two sandpipers, one of them a Totanus (or Helodromus) which had not been seen here previously, and a squirrel (no. 277, female) were also shot.

DATE: 11/25/1909 (Thursday)

Four bee-eaters (nos. 488-91) were shot from a flock of twenty or more near our camp. They were of the same kind as no. 476 and a few others that have been seen lately. Their call is like that of the larger green bee-eater (no. 420, etc) but is softer and not nearly so loud. Several of the smaller bee-eaters were seen dipping in the water of the river, as the larger species has also been observed to do here. The larger kind, by the way, has become much scarcer now, tho a few are still present.

DATE: 11/26/1909 (Friday)

Today there was a flock, or perhaps a couple of flocks of lapwings (Sarciophorus superciliosus), which flew about uttering a hoarse reiterated cry, and alighting occasionally on the few open spots they could find near the river bank. Six specimens (nos. 492-7), four of them females, and two males, were shot. The largest number seen together at once was 18 or 20.

DATE: 11/27/1909 (Saturday)

One white heron seen on an island this morning. Two bats caught in the house this evening (nos. 280-1).

DATE: 11/28/1909 (Sunday)

A flock of bee-eaters like no. 476 was seen today, as well as a few of the larger species (see no. 420, etc). In the afternoon one of our boys shot a snake-bird (no. 499) that was sitting on a small branch on the bank of the river. It was a male, apparently young, and its stomach contained some green vegetable matter, a piece of a small fish, and some nematode worms. Another dove like no. 473 seen today. Two more bats were caught in the house this evening with the butterfly net. The black weaver-birds which were to be seen in October (see however Dec. 2, 1909) about a row of palms near the post, seem to have disappeared, in as much as none have been seen for weeks.

DATE: 11/29/1909 (Monday)

Mr. Lang had an attach of fever today. A flock of fruit pigeons, some 7 or 8 in all, was seen near the "Bosigwana" (Arabise) village. A small gray rodent (no. 284) with much the appearance of a dormouse was sent to us from the "succursale".

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DATE: 11/30/1909 (Tuesday)

Dr. Rosati returned from Makala today, bringing a number of skins of small birds collected on the trip. Late in the afternoon he shot a snipe that flew up from the grass near our camp; and kindly presented it to us. Some lapwings of the kind we shot Nov. 26, were heard today. A young owl that was brought to us alive yesterday was photographed, killed and skinned today.

November • DecemberJanuaryFebruary

Diaries List