Packages & Info
Dear Birding and Beyond,
We booked our next Tour to Uganda with Birding and beyond, No doubt, all went as planned, great birding and excellent planning and guides.!
Roger and Andrew Foxal
2010, Tanzania Birding Trip Reports
VICTOR EMANUEL NATURE TOURS
“The Greatest Wildlife Spectacle on Earth”
23 FEBRUARY – 11 MARCH 2010
Tour Report Compiled by Peter Roberts
(Birding & Beyond Safaris, Arusha, Tanzania)
Geitan & Abdul
Carol & Norbert (Nubs) Fratt
Margaret & Richard Slosberg
Wednesday, 24 February. Setting out from USA: Although this was the “official arrival day” into Tanzania from the USA, four of this year’s small group of seven had left ahead of time and had arrived in Arusha early. Three of us came in on the KLM flight this evening, but sadly Kate had missed her connection due to bad weather and did not make it to Arusha. We were met by Anthony of Birding and Beyond Safaris and quickly transferred to the lovely Arumeru River Lodge by about 10.30pm. Everyone was keen to get to their rooms and catch up on sleep for an early start tomorrow.
Thursday, 25 February. Arusha National Park: We had a brief optional pre-breakfast birding walk around the lodge grounds from 6,30am onwards, finding the hoped-for Brown-breasted Barbets amongst other interesting species such as Crowned Hornbills, Red-billed Firefinches and first Variable Sunbirds
The whole group met up for breakfast and we set off at 8.15am for a full day in Arusha National Park – always masses of birds to see and always difficult to get people to concentrate on what is “special” and “unusual” when everything is totally new! We had lovely looks at Moustached Grass Warbler as we stopped to enter the Park itself. Here too were good scope views of our first Cisticola – Singing.
We made some first stops and photos during the day of Giraffes and Zebras, on the promise of lots more to come at a leisurely pace later. We did make a point of stopping for several good looks of groups of Black & White Colobus and Blue Monkeys which are less assured later in the tour. The other “good” mammals to look out for in Arusha are the forest-dwelling Harvey’s (Red) Duikers and Bushbucks – species we might not see again. Some of us managed a few brief looks at both of these fairly shy species. Another stop was made for our first Tawny Eagle before aiming for the wooded slopes of Mt. Meru in our sturdy vehicles. It is a lovely thick forest with strangler figs and ferns aeound our focus point at the Fig Tree Arch. We stopped here and got out to stand by the vehicles, have lunch and hope for some bird activity. It seemed quite quiet this year, but we did encounter some less often seen birds; African Yellow Warbler, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, nesting Olive Thrush, Eastern Olive Sunbird and Broad-ringed White-eyes as well as the ubiquitous Dusky Flycatchers. We tried hard and failed to locate Bar-tailed Trogon that I’d seen here before. We did catch brief views of flashy Hartlaub’s Turaco, Cape Robin Chat, Blackcap and others. After a good long time trying to pry out the special forest birds we headed out to the Momella Lakes. Here with water levels high and the lake flushed with fresh rain the usual masses of Flamingos and other waterbirds were gone, so we decided against doing the usual circuit of the lakes. We found Red-faced Crombecs in the acacias, many Trilling and single Siffling Cisticolas in the open scrubby grasslands. A troop of Olive Baboons were duly photographed on our return via the last little freshwater lake where an African Marsh Harrier was seen, plus single Hottentot Teal and a few African Jacanas, Here too were first of the localised Taveta Golden Weavers and a few Hippos pretending to be pieces of floating pond-weed.
We were back at the Arumeru River Lodge after a very good, full and interesting day by 5.45pm. A last quick look around the grounds produced good weavers – nest-building Village, Taveta Golden, Grosbeak and Golden-backed (Jackson’s). Supper and birdlist were at 7.30pm, during which we made plans for an early 6am breakfast tomorrow.
I waited up to meet Kate arriving this evening a day late off the KLM flight.
Friday, 26 February. Flying to Lake Victoria: We were ready to leave the hotel by 6.30am and had separated out some luggage that could go into store during the tour. The run into Arusha and on to the domestic airport was straightforward and we were all checked in (with no excess baggage) ready for our departure by 8am. We were the only people on the plane and it was direct to Grumeti, so we were on the ground in the Western Corridor by about 9am. It was quite an interesting flight passing over some of the extinct volcanos of the Ngorongoro highlands, but it gradually clouded over as we went further into the Serengeti. The rains had come to this area and there was debris washed downriver preventing our vehicles getting across the ford to meet us. Instead we were transported by the local lodge’s vehicle to a swinging bridge where we and our luggage swayed and wobbled across to the other side. We were already seeing plenty of birds – Banded Parisoma, Beautiful Sunbird and the ubiquitous Grey-capped Social Weavers and D’Arnaud’s Barbets at the airstrip. Then superb perched White-headed Vulture on the way to the river. Anthony was accompanying our entire tour and he introduced us to our driver/guides Geitan and Abdul as we packed the gear into our Landcruisers and set off along the Grumeti River gallery forest to seek out a few special birds before we headed for Lake Victoria. It was coolish and cloudy and the birds quite active. The two vehicles set up a rivalry and scored against each other with all sorts of good birding finds while Anthony and myself tried to communicate and get everyone to see everything by walkie-talkie. Some of the many great birds seen included Steel-blue Whydah, Grey-headed Bush-shrike and Village Indigobird. We called in to one of the pull-offs close to the river where we’ve seen the very localised Eastern Plantain-eater before. We tried the call to no avail while seeing all sorts of other goodies such as White-headed Sawwing, Water Thick-knee, Black-headed Gonolek and Bare-faced Go-awaybird. Here too were Hippos and a single large Nile Crocodile, plus the last of the 4 possible monkey species – Vervet. At the very end of our time here I tried the call again and got lucky; there were several loudly squawking Plantain-eaters circling us. It was now time to head fairly swiftly west along the straight dirt road through the immense plains of the Serengeti. We managed numerous birding stops for a large range of regular Serengeti birds that we were finding for the first time and 1-2 mammal halts too, for our first Topi and Wildebeest, Grant’s Gazelles, Warthogs and Impala. It was inspiring to be out in the vastness of the Serengeti plains. Gray-backed Fiscals, White-rumped Shrikes, Superb and Rueppell’s Long-tailed Starlings, Green Woodhoopoe, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Rufous-tailed Weavers and much more were briefly recorded as we sped along. Brown and Black-breasted Snake-Eagles, Bateleurs and Dark Chanting Goshawks showed up and of course the Lilac-breasted Rollers were a big hit. So many birds, and good to have a bit more time this year to enjoy them before we reached the Park Gate and continued on the short distance to Speke’s Bay in mid-afternoon.
From here it was a short run to Speke’s Bay arriving by 3.30pm. We quickly checked in, met up with our host Melanie and were out on the lake-front veranda bar area with a cool beer watching the African Fish Eagles go by at 4.pm. We then took a pleasant slow ramble, birding the lovely, natural and extensive grounds until 6.15pm. The place was alive with great birds. We quickly found some of the localised, Lake Victoria specials such as Yellow-backed, Northern Brown-throated and Slender-billed Weavers, Swamp Flycatcher and Red-chested Sunbird. The resident, very localised Heuglin’s Coursers put on a fantastic show with no less than three pairs tucked away under the trees by the lodge, allowing absurdly good, close looks. Out on the shore there weren’t that many shorebirds, but MarshSandpiper, Common Greenshanks and a single Whimbrel were of note (the Whimbrel a first record for this tour). A prehistoric-looking African Openbill Stork flew over, while the scattered acacias provided cover for migrants and residents such as flashy African Paradise Flycatchers and subtle, buffy, non-descript Willow Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers. Pied Kingfishers were numerous and the grounds held several Grey-headed Kingfishers too.
Saturday, 27 February. Lake Victoria and back to the central Serengeti: Most of us were early birding in the extensive lodge grounds by dawn. The reeds and papyrus fringing the lake were full of weavers but little else. There were plenty of African Open-billed Storks flying out from their roost and we found migrant Osprey plus a lone fly-by African Spoonbill. In the adjacent open acacias of the grounds a very bright little Green-winged Pytilia put on a good show for us.
After breakfast (laced with partial views of a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl in nearby trees) we made another, longer excursion around the grounds until about 11.30am, accompanied by George, the local guide and Anthony. First off, George showed us half a dozen roosting Square-tailed (Gabon) Nightjars, all absurdly close and confiding. Then we wandered on to the open country where a pair of Spotted Thick-knees was breeding. (We saw these again on our return for lunch and found the nest with the male doing an amazing open-winged hissing display that had us keeping well out of his way). The shoreline didn’t hold many birds, but there was a very flighty mixed flock of Whiskered and White-winged Terns (Little Terns??). Also here were bright little Malachite Kingfisher, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover and Grey-headed Gulls. Another, better, view of Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl was seen when Anthony flushed one from roost and it perched atop the acacias for all to see. We headed off inland to check the open grounds and scattered acacias for what might be present. It was a very pleasant, easy stroll, finding super Diederic and Klaas Cuckoos ready to drop their eggs into unsuspecting weaver’s nests. Most of the weavers were nesting out on the water’s edge trees this year, though there was some activity from Village and Yellow-backed Weavers giving us the opportunity to study their amazing “knitting” skills. Other “odds and ends” literally “hanging out” included Yellow-winged Bats, while we also called in a final brilliant crimson and black Black-headed Gonolek of the tour. We had a quick lunch at midday and said our farewells to lovely Speke’s Bay and its special birds as we headed back, forever eastwards, into the Serengeti National Park.
The journey back through the National Park, 100 miles to Seronera, had to be travelled fairly fast and direct in order to make it in time. But we did have time for occasional brief pauses for special birds and mammals. Our two vehicles notched up many new sightings: first Crested and Coqui Francolins, Wattled Lapwings, Pallid Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite, Long-crested Eagle, Magpie Shrikes, Secretarybird, Eastern Paradise Whydah and more. It became progressively cooler and cloudier with light rain at times, meaning we travelled with the roof down for much of the time. We arrived at Seronera by 6.30pm and quickly settled in, did the bird list by 7.30pm, ate supper and got to our beds for an early start tomorrow. the lodge had been refurbished since last year and we looked forward to several days now with a slower pace and time to ponder and potter without dashing from A to B.
Sunday, 28 February. The Central Serengeti: A night of animal sounds (Spotted Hyenas to be precise) gave way to a fine, clear-skied dawn. We were up for breakfast and then straight off for a morning’s game drive at 7.30am. Our main goal as always in this region is finding Leopard as it is the best area to locate them as they lounge in the Yellow-barked Acacias along the River Seronera. I left it up to Anthony, Geitan and Abdul to decide the best route to take with this iconic big cat at the top of the “want list”.
After the dashing about of the previous two days it was pleasant to take a leisurely pace and be able to stop for photo opportunities and birding as we pleased. The vast areas of open grassland and acacia savannah held many interesting birds. A brief use of Pearl-spotted Owlet call brought in a wonderful array of birds wanting to find the owl and chase it off. Brubrus, Chinspot Batis, Abyssinian Scimitarbills, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Black-faced Waxbill and more all fussed around at close range. Gaudy Starlings, Rollers, Purple Grenadiers, and Hornbills vied for our attention amidst more drab Plain-backed Pipits, Grey Flycatcher and wintering northern shorebirds. New species for the tour came fast, keeping momentum going all the way until a minor “traffic jam” ahead alerted us to something major. By mid-morning we were enjoying the fine spectacle of a large adult Leopard draped across a low horizontal acacia branch. Full views through the telescope handed between the buses ensured we had some memorable views (unlike the other poor souls in other vehicles peering into the distance with not even a small pair of binoculars between them). After watching this magnificent creature for a good while we continued around the very water-logged tracks through the open grassland finding superb views of Rosy-breasted and Yellow-throated Longclaws (looking so much like Meadowlarks from N. America) and further good cisticolas. Particularly pleasing were close studies of Croaking and Zitting, both called in and perched. Black-bellied and White-bellied Bustards were seen in fine breeding plumage by the roadside making their odd calls. White-winged and Fan-tailed Widowbirds (Red-winged Blackbird look-alikes) in small flocks wafted across the endless vista of tall grasses. The excess water meant many good views of Hippos this morning – some still “out and about” as it started off quite cool.
It had been a great morning, with pleasantly cool, but increasingly cloudy weather. During the downtime at lunch the weather deteriorated to rain by 3pm, curtailing our intended birding in the lodge grounds. Happily it had cleared again half an hour later for our evening game drive. We took off in cool weather along the main tracks catching up on good views of many of the birds seen previously and adding many more. Three species of woodpeckers-Nubian, Cardinal and Bearded – put on a great show. The owl call brought out another flurry of activity including better looks at the little Buff-bellied Warbler and White-browed (Red-backed) Scrub-Robin a new species for our list. A perched up Long-crested Eagle was a fine sight. Eventually it was time to turn for home and head for a G & T. No sooner had we done this than Abdul found us a second “bonus” Leopard for the day. How on earth he saw it I’ve no idea, but there it was, large as life, on a horizontal branch about 200 yards away facing us and providing an even better look than this morning’s beast. We called the other vehicle back, passed the scope around and revelled in this fine sight, wondering what might be happening in just a short while once darkness came down: the many Impala might well look nervous!
Monday, 1 March. To Ndutu through the Serengeti: A breakfast at 7am allowed us to be packed and away towards the S.E. Serengeti by 8am. We first went to the nearby Seronera Visitor Centre where there is a pleasant walk and lots of well-presented information about the ecology of the Serengeti and the Wildebeest migration in particular. There weren’t too many birds here and we headed off again fairly promptly taking a detour down the Sopa road on our way towards Naabi Gate and the exit of the Serengeti National Park. We continued to add birds to the list as we wandered out across increasingly open grassy plains. The tall grass looked very lush but was not utilised much at present by any game animals. Weather remained dry but turbulent, with isolated distant storms visible dotted across the vast horizons. Foxy, Fischer’s Sparrow Lark and White-tailed Lark popped up. Further classic savanna birds such as ghostly Pallid Harriers, plummeting Black-bellied Bustards and Yellow-throated Longclaws kept us busy. A fine pair of displaying and mating Martial Eagles was another very impressive sight. We noticed an increase in passing vehicles and soon suspected “something major” up ahead. Sure enough, in one of the last large acacias before the open plains, there was another splendid lounging Leopard. It was watched and admired, then gave us all the treat of watching as it got up descended the tree and disappeared into the thick of the tall grass for good.
After this tremendous and unexpected treat we headed back along the main road eastwards to Naabi Gate. The weather deteriorated and became stormier with rain-showers, but intermittent enough to allow us a short detour off the main road to where our first Lion was lazing away the midday. This was a brilliant specimen to start the tour – a huge, mature male with thick mane looking very regal and disdainful. Further along our way we spotted four others; all young males just starting out on their independent lives. A few short stops for birds included many great views of groups of wintering Lesser Kestrels, first Grey Crowned Cranes and odd larks, pipits and cisticolas.
At Naabi we had our picnic then did my usual little walking circuit around the hill and had a fantastic viewpoint across the short grass plains disappearing for miles beyond the horizon in every direction. We tried the owl call and had fairly good results with Yellow-breasted Apalis and Grey-backed Camaroptera plus Yellow-fronted Canaries coming in. Looking out onto the open plains we could see in the distance either side of distant Ndutu, long lines and dense groups of Wildebeest. We set out for Ndutu and began driving past increasingly large numbers of Abdim’s and White Storks, both on the plains and in thermals high in the air. We came upon our first group of thuggish-looking Spotted Hyenas, bloated with food, covered in mud and loitering on the open plains, fast asleep. A little later Margaret spotted a lovely lone Cheetah trotting after a Thomson’s Gazelle with calf – a very half-hearted chase that of course came to nothing. Eventually we came towards what we were here for – huge herds of Wildebeest. It may not have been the full massed feeding herds, but was a hugely impressive single line “migration” of thousands of wildebeest with their calves all running off towards the west where heavy clouds were pouring rain onto the plains. They knew where the grass was greener. We stopped and watched this spectacle for ages before continuing the short distance on to Ndutu Lodge. It was dry and sunny again here, but it had rained in patches and there were further Wildebeest groups scattered all along the way. We continued to find good new bird species – African, Great Spotted and Pied Cuckoos, mating Pygmy Falcons and more all the way to the lodge. It was lovely to be back at Ndutu and we had an hour or so for a little relaxation after a darned-near perfect day of game-viewing and birding. The Genets of course were a final source of interest and entertainment over supper.
Tuesday 2 March. Ndutu: Breakfast was at 7am and we were setting out by 7.40am for a morning’s game drive to the swamp ** The morning’s weather stayed fair and pleasantly cool as we made a drive firstly through the open, low woodland ridge behind the lodge, then down to the wetter areas of bare sand and pools that feed and drain the lake. It was a very productive morning. Namaqua Doves were seen well on the way out and down in the first wetland a fine showing of Kittlitz’s Plovers with chicks was evident. Back up on the open grassy plains towards the swamp we came across some big concentrations of Wildebeest with large numbers of young. These were doing their usual skittish running off and playing “follow the leader” regardless of reason. Great lines sped away past us as more appeared over distant horizons to take their place in the race. After all had passed we turned and followed them to where they had inexplicably decided to stop and graze en masse; it is difficult to know what might be going through their minds! The noise, sight and atmosphere was magical, and exactly what I think we had all come to Tanzania to experience. Further along we encountered our first kill – a mostly eaten wildebeest calf now being finished off in fairly desultory manner by vultures. Best thing was that we had all five likely species in attendance, giving great opportunity to “compare and contrast”.
Then on to the swamp where we had a good selection of shorebirds from regular Ruff and Common Snipe to scarce and elusive Temminck’s Stint and African Painted Snipe. Whilst going around this large area we came across a fine pride of well-fed Lions – a big male, two females and seven well-grown cubs. One or two of the youngsters were restless and wandering to and fro, while others pitched down in the shadow thrown by one of the other safari vehicles watching the spectacle. Turning for home back along the wet swamp shore we came across a very large gathering of 150+ Collared Pratincoles and arrived back for lunch exactly as planned at12.30pm.
Some scheduled birding in the grounds for a while before our 3.30pm departure was abandoned when big storm clouds built up into thunder with lightning. However it had abated by the time we set out for a game drive around Lake Masek. With the good rains the lakes were quite full, which is good for the Hippopotami and a lone, large Crocodile seen, but not so good for birding. The lakes need to retain a high soda content to keep the flamingos and other specialist species; there were none this afternoon. On the way out we did well for small birds. Black-faced Waxbills were seen again along with their nest parasite: Steel-Blue Whydah. A lovely bright little colony of nest-building Vitelline Masked Weavers were new and seen next to a stray Lesser Masked Weaver and gave good comparisons for the larger Speke’s Weaver seen this morning. We had fun at times watching close-up Giraffes and towards the end of the afternoon saw a small group of Elephants, a species still eluding us as far as close views and large numbers are concerned. A few shorebirds and ducks were present on the lake – Pied Avocets and Cape Teal being new. There was an impressive fly-by of many hundreds of roosting Cattle Egrets. We’d only seen storks around the Wildebeest today – perhaps the egrets know where the bigger herds are? We were back to Ndutu Lodge by 6.30pm, the weather still holding out dry.
Wednesday 3 March. Ndutu: It was a stormy night with seemingly heavy rain. Wildebeest herds wandered past our cabin doors at intervals during the night, their grunting waking us at times. The morning dawned dry but overcast and the tracks tricky for driving. However, we were away on a game drive by 7.35am. driving back to the swamp area where we relocated yesterday’s African Painted Snipes. With Geitan in the lead vehicle we gingerly set out south and west onto the open short grass plains in search of Cheetahs. Tracks became too treacherous on the slick black-cotton soils, so the drivers very sensibly about-turned and headed off in another direction. This turned out to be very fortuitous as not long after we were parked by three splendid male Cheetahs out on the plains. They were completely at ease with us (and eventually several other vehicles) there. They seemed well fed and were not in hunting mode at all – just very relaxed and intent on keeping flies at bay. We watched these for ages before turning back towards the swamp area again. We’d seen yesterday’s pride of Lions here on the way out and now had time to pay them our respects. The visible pride was now 14 with a few more cubs and adult females. All around were the signs of last night’s meal; 60+ assembled vultures plus many Marabou Storks picking over grisly remains. The Lions were sanguine and actually wandered up to where we were parked to take advantage of shade from the adjacent trees. All through the morning we’d been seeing small groups of Wildebeest; nothing as massive as yesterday’s movements, but plenty to keep us happy. Birds during the morning proved interesting too, best being good looks at a pair of Temminck’s Coursers and a family of Pygmy Falcons on the way back.
After lunch and a break in the early afternoon we went out on our final Ndutu game drive. We were back in the Lake Masek area, but driving through the open, stunted acacia forest rather than the lake edge itself. It was pleasant to be out and the weather held fine and sunny, the cloud having burnt off by late morning. There was nothing startlingly new, but it was good just to be out there looking. A group of Elephants was encountered and watched for a while. Various good birds were seen, including catch-up sightings of several species seen previously, but not by all. Pearl-spotted Owlet call brought in groups of small birds as usual and also several Pearl-spotted Owlets. We were safely back in the lodge by 6.30pm with confiding Zebras grazing feet away from our cabins. In anticipation of Olduvai Gorge tomorrow, evening conversation turned to the evolution of man after another good supper accompanied by the resident Genets.
Thursday, 4 March. To Ngorongoro: Overnight there was some of the most persistent rain I can recall experiencing in Tanzania and we left a lovely, but very wet Ndutu Lodge by 8.am, Our route eastwards across the short-grass plains to Olduvai Gorge was quite an adventure of sliding and slipping along the tracks with roof down and little stopping. Abdul and Geitan did a great job in getting us out on to the main track from Serengeti to Ngorongoro without being stuck as were several other vehicles we passed. It brightened enough to pop the roof and make a few pauses for better looks at Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark, a pride of Lions way out on the open plains and a few attendant Spotted Hyenas. The Wildebeest were scattered in herds as far as the eye could see. Not dense packs as they sometimes are when looking for best grazing, but spread across the lush new flush of vegetation from Ndutu all the way to Olduvai and late into the afternoon right up to the slopes of the Ngorongoro highlands – a distance of some 50 miles. That alone made it an inspiring drive as we passed miles after miles of scattered herds of gazelles, Zebra and Wildebeest. Then the fun began! One of the river crossings was an absolute torrent with water racing across a couple of feet deep over the concrete ford. There was a substantial queue of vehicles on both sides, all wisely thinking that this was too much a flood to negotiate. We sat and waited, happy knowing that, unlike some in the queue, we didn’t have a plane to catch. At one point we thought of trying the route via Shifting Sands to Olduvai, but as we turned, Abdul’s vehicle lost a pin from its steering mechanism and was stuck across the road. The marvels of bush technology and engineering came to the fore with Abdul getting some strips of spare inner tube rubber and doing some temporary lashing of the whole thing together, which did the trick for the rest of the day (a spare part being phoned for immediately and awaiting them in the evening at the lodge!). Eventually we could see the water level of the torrent dropping. A large coach made it across, then a truck or two. A little later some of the Safari vehicles gingerly followed. We were happy that our team were erring on the side of safety and waiting longer for the levels to drop – especially as we had the lashed up steering on one vehicle. It was all taken as part of the adventure; we had tea and coffee, saw a few birds, and watched the spectacle, eventually getting across easily enough about an hour and a half later. We sped on to Olduvai Gorge, stopping briefly for small groups of Yellow-throated Sandgrouse up close. We were behind schedule and those who had opted to visit a Maasai village had to forego that particular pleasure. On arrival at Olduvai, we had our picnic lunch then did a spell of quite productive birding here and found several new species. A White-throated Bee-eater was most spectacular, with a supporting cast including Foxy (Fawn-colored) Larks, Red-backed Scrub-Robins and best of all a scarce Short-tailed Lark; this being the only place I’ve encountered the species. We then returned to visit the museum, pondering the discoveries that Leakey and others have made over many years here since the 1930s, including those amazing early hominid footprints in the volcanic ash. That ash has made such a huge impression on the landscape and ecosystem – if it wasn’t for the hardpan of ash west of Ngorongoro there wouldn’t be the short-grass plains and thus no congregation of Wildebeest here for calving!
Time was running away with us, so we continued on past the last straggling groups of Serengeti Zebra and Wildebeest up into the Crater Highlands towards Ngorongoro Crater itself. We still just had enough time to go down into the Crater itself for the scenic “short-cut” to our lodge. Further good birds were found absolutely on cue. Best was of course the Wailing Cisticola, only recently known from this area. I stopped at a likely spot, played call and had the drab little chap singing distinctively and showing off within feet of us in seconds. Also here were Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Yellow Bishops, and many Schalow’s Wheatears and Northern Anteater Chats. Our transit across this spectacular location had to be quite swift, but we prioritised and used routes we’d not travel tomorrow. There was a good range of wetland birds in the marshes; Red-billed and Hottentot Teals, Glossy Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, African Spoonbills, egrets and herons and bizarre Jackson’s Widowbirds in the open grasslands. The weather was cool and dry, the tracks in good shape and there were few other people around – bliss! There were of course masses of animals that we’d be able to look at in a more leisurely fashion tomorrow. Particularly impressive was a huge bull Elephant with enormous tusks. Most of his kind had been poached for ivory years back: it is only down in the Crater where they can be given proper protection and still survive. As we ascended the Crater on the other side into the cool moss-laden acacia forest we had a briefly glimpsed Lion and began finding plenty of Common Fiscals and another Hildebrandt’s Francolin.
We were checked in to the Sopa Lodge by just after 6pm with time for a short break before evening meal and bird list after a very full and eventful day. Our evening meal was enlivened by some traditional singing by the staff.
Friday, 5 March. A day in Ngorongoro Crater: A great start to the day with clear skies as we popped out into the grounds for some pre-breakfast birding at 6.45am. Lots of the “usual” stuff showed up – pert dueting Hunter’s Cisticolas, Streaky Seedeaters, Cape Robin-Chats, many White-eyed Slaty Flycatchers and Baglafecht Weavers. 1-2 more interesting species included a super scope view of a called in Schalow’s Turaco and good close looks at a Mountain Yellow Warbler. I tried playback to no avail with a small range of other possible woodland birds then went back as the sun was rising over the viewpoint and warming the place up a bit. Here were the hoped-for Golden-winged and Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds beginning to get active, feeding on the many varieties of flowering trees and shrubs. Eventually the aroma of bacon lured us in for breakfast. We were heading down to the Crater by 8.40am. where we spent much of the day. A couple of brief bird pauses on the descent through the lovely moss-laden flat-top acacia forest produced a few further good finds, most notable being many great looks at Red-collared Widowbirds, Red-faced Cisticolas and Yellow-bellied Waxbills.
Once on the crater floor we ambled along with time for photos and definitive portraits of many of the game animals, which we’d seen previously, but which are particularly confiding here. We drove slowly through the throngs of Zebra, Wildebeest, gazelles and antelopes with the prime aim of locating Rhino. We got lucky quickly with a distant, but OK sighting of a mother Rhino with large calf. We then continued on towards the Hippo Pools, which were devoid of their namesake as there was so much good grazing and water for them to lounge in. Nevertheless it was not a wasted journey, with sightings of Long-toed Lapwings, Lesser Swamp Warbler called in close, Common Moorhen and Purple Herons. Then it was time to wander further around the circuit out to the shores of the alkaline Lake Magadi. With restrictions now in force against close access it is a little frustrating peering at distant flamingo flocks and having to use the scope to ID stuff. However, we persevered and sorted out both Greater and lots of Lesser Flamingos, plus a few other odds and ends such as Garganey that are not that often encountered. By now it was late morning and time to head to the picnic site. Some of the tracks were not safely negotiable, with 4WD vehicles getting stuck, so our good dependable drivers took us the safer, longer route. Bonuses for our caution were further sightings of 2-3 more Black Rhinoceros.
By 1.15pm we were at the picnic site by the freshwater lake and marsh and running the gauntlet of the usual Black Kites trying to relieve us of our lunch. We enjoyed the sunny break out of the vehicles, watching Speke’s Weavers and a newborn Hippo and mother while we ate. By far the best find here though was a pair of African Darters, seen well and even coming out to perch on the backs of the many Hippos somnolent in the water. I’d only seen this species once before on this tour and it was a new bird at this location for Anthony.
We continued down the eastern tracks towards the Lerai Forest after lunch, but the time was running short and we just enjoyed watching the large open water areas up to the forest before turning about and heading for the lodge. The wetlands produced further great birding including our first Great White Pelicans, large dense flocks of winter-plumaged Ruffs, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks and more. Along this route we found further Rhinos and on our return got some really quite close views, which we reckoned produced a total of 9 individuals today. Heading north out of the Crater, we found a Kori Bustard in its absurd display mode – tail over its back, wings hanging down and neck puffed up to immense proportions. The light was lovely between isolated stormy clouds and the huge herds of Cape Buffalo caked in soothing mud and the stripy Zebra groups all made for further very photogenic studies.
Once back on the Crater rim one vehicle headed back to finish for the day. The rest of us drove with Geitan a very short distance out along the Olmoti road through the high grasslands just for a “look-see”. The weather was still fine and the views great with open grassland dotted with Maasai bomas, The hoped-for birds came on cue: a lek of Jackson’s Widowbirds, the males flying about in thick grass leaping up and down as if on elastic. This was a comical and bizarre display, their huge floppy bustles of tails flapping in the breeze. Here too was the very opposite to this flamboyance – a drab little Moorland Chat – a great point to turn about and return to the lodge.
Saturday 6 March. Birding at Gibbs Farm: Some pre-breakfast birding again around the Sopa Lodge gained us brief views of Mountain Greenbuls, the duetting Hunter’s Cisticolas, the regular sunbirds and great final looks at Golden-winged. Though there was still no joy from playback for Cinnamon Bracken Warbler and African Hill-Babbler (both heard only). We left at about 8.40am and then paused at the little pool just along the start of the Crater Rim road in hopes of pulling in some further birds. Of course it is very lush now during the rains, so birds are less attracted to this as a watering hole and we didn’t see a great deal. Montane White-eyes popped in and an African Hill Babbler called back but wouldn’t show itself. After that the cloud lowered and shrouded the crater rim in fog, so final views over the Crater were scuppered. As we drove around, Anthony & co. in the front vehicle gained some reasonable looks at Crested Guineafowl crossing the road – a rarely seen species on this tour.
After exiting the NCAA it was novel to be on a smooth paved road again down to Karatu before turning onto the rough 5km track up to Gibb’s Farm. It was a hot late morning and we wandered in the beautiful grounds for some pre-lunch birding. Bronze Sunbirds were conspicuous and accompanied by our first glimpses of more shy Green-headed. Rueppell’s Robin-Chats called insanely from the undergrowth and the usual Grosbeak Weavers were nest-making in the reeds of the tiny pool where our first African Citrils hung out.
Lunch was, as usual, voted “best in Tanzania” and we staggered off on the walk at about 1.15pm up through the Conservation Area forest; this helped work off some of the lunch excesses. Some of the group opted for a well-earned relaxing afternoon and were driven to our lovely accommodation at Plantation Lodge, while the rest of us hiked up to the Elephant caves and waterfall with Anthony and Geitan guiding too. We notched up a good selection of new and exciting birds and it was very pleasant to be birding out of the vehicles for a change. One of our main goals was to see the highly localised White-tailed Blue Flycatcher and we tried hard, but couldn’t locate one. There were plenty of good consolation prizes though. There is so much potential here and every visit produces a different list of species seen and missed, but always a good selection of very special birds. On this visit we found Brown-headed Apalis, Eastern Mountain and Cabanis’s Greenbul, Brown Woodland Warbler, Thick-billed Seedeater, Blackcap, Grey-headed Negrofinch. Red-chested Cuckoo and Schalow’s Turaco were both called in with ease at the Elephant caves where the beasts come to scrape out and eat mineral-rich soil and soft rock. African Emerald Cuckoo was called in but not so well seen as it dashed between gaps in the canopy. On the way back there were great looks at a pair of Mountain Buzzards and the “Grand Finale” some stunning, long looks at a group of Crested Guineafowl on the track ahead of us.
We were at Plantation Lodge by 6.30pm and met up with Kate, Nubs and Carol for supper. They had had a good relaxing afternoon in the gorgeous grounds and swimming pool of the lodge and seemed to think their quality down-time was a good trade-off with the great birding we’d had at Gibb’s. Before bird list I took folks just outside the bar and reception and quickly called in Montane Nightjar. Supper was a lovely affair in a beautifully and tastefully decorated dining room. We all agreed that another few days here would fit the bill well!
Sunday 7 March. Lake Manyara: Early-morning birding at Plantation Lodge was very pleasant, though it didn’t produce anything startling. Nubs showed us the African Paradise Flycatcher’s nest with well-grown chicks – a tiny hanging cup dangling perilously over the pathway at head height. Best bird was great looks at Tambourine Dove along with further Southern Citrils. After an excellent breakfast and a quick check of a very nice boutique/gift shop, we departed at 8.45am, joining the wonderful new smooth paved road going eastwards down the Rift Valley escarpment and on to Lake Manyara National Park where we arrived by about 10.15am. Lake Manyara was full of water after the recent heavy rains and much of the rest of the day was spent here in a mix of wandering the good driveable tracks birding and looking for wildlife. Apart from the inevitable large groups of Baboons and smaller numbers of Blue Monkeys, the wildlife was quite quiet – or were we just becoming blase’? There were plenty of large herds of Zebra, Cape Buffalo and Impala, but most quite distant. However, the Hippos at the pools were on excellent form and were lounging about in the mud and water and on land with sleepy grins on their faces. Elephants were few and far between, but hopefully we’ll see plenty in Tarangire as usual.
I tried calling in Narina Trogon and Purple-crested Turaco as we drove through the lovely groundwater forest with its huge trees, but had no luck on the way out. We did get lucky with several huge Silvery-cheeked Hornbills high in the canopy and delicate little, elongate Mountain Wagtails on the small fast-flowing streams. In the tangled undergrowth beneath the acacia scrub I heard the sweet and familiar song of one of Europe’s famous songsters – Common Nightingale. We paused, listened and eventually saw this plain little bird belting out its delightful song several thousand miles from where it will be singing in a month or two’s time.
Manyara is always good for birding and we found a fine selection here today. At the Hippo Pools we looked out across the marshy freshwater inlet of the alkaline Lake Manyara itself. Pink-backed Pelicans were side-by-side and close-up with lots of the usual herons, egrets, ibises, ducks and shorebirds. Particularly pleasing were first looks or first really good looks at species such as Yellow-billed Storks, close studies and comparisons of the egrets and shorebirds, White-faced Whistling Duck and Comb Duck, Water Thick-knee, Spur-winged Plover and so on. We spent a good long time here out of the vehicles watching what went on and had to make a fairly direct drive to the designated lunch spot. Here, most people doing their day visit meet up and the Baboons know it. One particularly large and aggressive male jumped right onto an occupied picnic table and helped himself as the picnickers backed off screaming! More pleasant accompaniment came from our first Red and Yellow Barbets.
The afternoon continued dry and quite hot as we made a few more circuits around the acacia woodland and Lake Manyara shoreline. We could see great drifts of livid pink out on the shallow heat-hazed water: enormous conglomerations of Lesser Flamingos. Our gentle drive around produced many good looks at the full breeding plumaged Black-winged Bishops, 1-2 Red-cheeked Cordonbleus, wintering Pied and Isabelline Wheatears and a local Yellow-bellied Greenbul before heading back towards the gate to try one last time for trogon and turaco as we exited the Park by late afternoon. We got lucky as we tried again in the rich forest areas for Purple-crested Turaco. I played the call and had a pair show off really well with fly-bys flashing crimson wings,and perched in trees. The trogon sadly was not playing ball this year, but we did have splendid perched looks at Palmnut Vulture. We reached the Lake Manyara Hotel / Lodge by about 530pm as a huge group of over 100 on a vast cruise/tour descended. We did quite well avoiding them and being grateful we were not part of such a horribly unwieldy sized group. I’d not stayed at this lodge for years, and it has been pleasantly refurbished. However, after the seclusion and luxury of last night’s accommodation it was a bit of a “come-down”. Some of us wandered the pleasant grounds of this well-sited lodge right on the top of the Rift Valley cliffs overlooking Lake Manyara below. We rustled up a couple of interesting birds including first Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird before giving up for the day. There were immense thunderstorms with driving rain over supper, but probably quite localised and short-lived. The very large group of tourists turned out to be Hungarians and seemed to have come to Tanzania to party rather than see the wildlife. Rowdy shouting and singing until after 1am made for a very unpleasant, sleepless night. I’ll not risk using this lodge again in the future!
Monday, 8 March. On to Tarangire: We did a pre-breakfast bird walk for a while but not much materialised other than a called in Brown-crowned Tchagra. We were happy to see Anthony and the drivers, pack up our bags and leave this lodge behind by 8.30am, (the vast convoy of Hungarian yobs were doing an insane drive to the Ndutu area for a game-drive, then returning to Ngorongoro this evening – utter madness!).
It is a fairly swift run along the smooth road to Tarangire. We stopped at the Rift Valley overview to try for rock buntings, but found Mocking Cliff Chat instead – fair exchange indeed. Then on to the little village where the stork and pelican colony was admired – the Pink-backed Pelican views especially good as they teetered high in the trees.
We reached the entrance to Tarangire by 10.30am and had a walk about the visitor area at the Tarangire entrance. Here were our first endemic Ashy Starlings by the dozen. We had time on the way to the Sopa Lodge to make a few judicious stops for anything of interest. First Red-necked and Yellow-necked Francolins and White-bellied Go-away -birds were highlights along with the many bizarre Baobabs with elephant-holes through their middles and scars up their sides. We passed (and paused for) many large Elephant groups on the way and arrived at the lodge just after 1pm. It was hot and sunny and the buffet lunch by the pool was very welcome, especially as Orange-bellied Parrots and Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starlings were in the overhead trees.
There was a little downtime until 3.30pm when we did some very gentle birding around the lodge, wandering the weird architecture of the lodge where Tree Hyraxes (identified by Carol, our hyrax expert) lounged in the cool of the “dungeon area”! Just after 4pm we set out on a gentle game drive with no specific aim other than to take things slowly, and enjoy what we came across: and it turned out to be a very pleasant afternoon. We eventually came across small groups of Elephants, which we watched for a while. New birds included migrant male Whinchat and an extended family of Southern Ground Hornbills. The latter presented an odd scene, with two individuals having beaks full of tasty prey items to take to the “communal” nest, including tiny chicks (presumably francolins) plus many large grasshoppers.
The scene was very tranquil with lovely light and slowly building storm clouds cooling the afternoon when a quite strong downpour ensued for a while, freshening everything and sending out a damp fragrance. Once back, we quickly showered and changed ready for supper and stood out by the pool playing nightjar calls. We got doubly lucky, calling in replying Freckled and Square-tailed (Gabon) Nightjars in time for a G & T , birdlist and pleasant supper enlivened by the local staff doing a short singing and dancing show round the tables.
Tuesday, 9 March. Tarangire: It was another bright, sunny day, but not scorching hot. Breakfast early allowed us to be on the road by 7.30am, headed for Silale Swamp. We did a complete circuit and had a really great selection of birds and a generally good time in this lovely quiet, open bush country. On the way out we paused here and there for splendid Paradise, Pin-tailed and Straw-tailed Whydahs. Beautiful perched adult Bateleur Eagle, first sightings of Northern Pied Babblers engaged in delicate allo-preening. We arrived at the picnic site and loos overlooking the swamp by mid-morning and stopped for coffee and a leg-stretch. The whole area was alive with so many birds and gave plenty of opportunity for “catch up” with anything missed earlier. Driving along the swamp edge we found a good few waterbirds in open pools – Squacco Herons, Open-billed Storks, large flock of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks and smaller numbers of Comb Duck, Knob-billed Geese, Hottentot Teal, and first Southern Pochard. The reeds and papyrus were full with displaying White-winged Widowbirds and of course Winding, Rattling and Zitting Cisticolas were a constant audio backdrop. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were one of a range of flashy appearances including nesting Jackson’s (Golden-backed) Weavers, Chestnut Sparrows, big passing flocks of Red-billed Queleas, Lilac-breasted Rollers and more. The track itself as always, attracts wildlife and apart from masses of francolins there was our first Black-faced Sandgrouse and many Namaqua Doves using the freeway. On our return the rear bus with Anthony guiding got lucky with a brief encounter with a Leopard. The animal was seemingly stalking a small group of nearby Impala and ended up using the road to try and creep closer to them. Our bus returned to the scene after it had disappeared into the lush grass – not a hope of relocating it making for plenty of gloating over lunch! Our bus did see a single first Steenbok for the trip as small consolation.
The weather continued hot, dry and sunny this afternoon as we set out for our final game drive at 4pm. We drove slowly along the main track with no specific target, just enjoying the scenery and tranquility of it all. A few interesting birds popped up periodically, such as another fine Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl roosting in a large acacia, a dark morph Gabar Goshawk, Bateleur and our first Isabelline Shrike of the trip. Eventually we encountered a family group of elephants and watched them munch their way across the lush savanna for a while, contemplating the contrast between their lives and ours. Further along we turned around at a pull to view the River Tarangire. The river was in full spate with no margins for waterbirds, but impressive nonetheless. As we began our return journey we came across a pair of young sparring male Elephants and stopped to watch. This was a fascinating interlude as they pushed and shoved each other to test to see who was dominant. One was slightly bigger and more confident, but had broken tusks. The other slighter animal had perfect long sharp tusks and fancied his luck. Broken tusks was fairly nonchalant and seemed superior, performing some odd behaviour such as pushing over a decent sized bush to show his strength, then on a couple of occasions, sitting down and lying out, perhaps to show his disdain? In between, both kept up eating huge mouthfuls of grass. We sped back to the lodge arriving by 6.30pm, meeting again for the bird list an hour later.
Wednesday, 10 March. Back to Arusha and homeward: We did some pre-breakfast birding at the lodge this morning, still pulling in completely new species – a White-headed Barbet nicely perched up in a dead tree where I’ve seen them in previous years. After that it was packing up the vehicles and making our last drive back through Tarangire towards the exit. It was another fine day and we were all keen to see the last of the glorious wildlife. We waved “cheerio” to the Elephants, Giraffes and Impala and called in briefly to check out another Tented Lodge, reaching the exit gate by 11am exactly (these drivers are remarkable at time-keeping!). Another short stop to purchase Maasai trinkets from a Women’s Co-operative, the we continued back along the main road to Arusha, reaching the shopping emporium at Cultural Heritage by 1pm. The Cultural Heritage have finally opened a huge and impressive new multi-story gallery in the style apparently of frank Lloyd-Wright, full of the most exquisite paintings, sculptures, handicrafts and antiques. We had a good buffet lunch here then set about some serious shopping before continuing to our day rooms at the KIA Lodge by the airport. Here we sorted ourselves out and had time for a quick bit of final birding in the grounds where our final new species for the tour popped up – Yellow-rumped (Reichenow’s) Seedeater. An early evening bowl of soup at 6pm was followed by a very short transfer to the airport where we boarded our evening flight via Dar Es Salaam to Amsterdam at the appropriate time.
Thursday 11 March. Home: We arrived on time into Amsterdam, said our farewells and set off in different directions for our connecting homeward flights. I trust all arrived safely home in timely fashion.
Footnote: This was my 19th northern Tanzanian tour. Statistically it was another great trip with the usual 410+ bird species found, including 3 that I’d not encountered here before: Little Tern and Whimbrel at Speke’s Bay and White-headed Black Chat in Tarangire.
The following bird and animal checklist gives details of which species were seen. Approximate numbers are given, but “*” = seen commonly, but not counted, and “h” = heard only. Common and Scientific Names for birds are those used in the World Checklist of Birds by J. Clements. Mammal nomenclature is taken from Kingdon’s guide to African Mammals. Reptile nomenclature is that provided by A Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa by Spawls, Howell, Drewes & Ashe.
JULY 16TH – AUGUST 09TH 2010
Tanzania – 25 days, 14 locations – July 16th – August 9th 2010
Published by Jeff Perkins (jeff.perkins AT comcast.net)
Wow! Trip of a lifetime. Everything we thought it would be, and much, much more! With a 4 week sabbatical from work, and a 12 year old son delighting in his wonder years, we plotted a family vacation to “experience Africa”, see the big game animals, and of course look for birds. We chose Tanzania for its accessibility, stability, tourism friendly, variety of habitats, excellent wildlife, and great bird list. We couldn’t have been more pleased with how it all worked out.
25 days in the field. 14 destinations. 434 trip birds (416 lifers! – our 1st trip to Africa!). 72 other “creatures” (we’re not meticulous about species IDs outside of birds). Moderate pace (some intense birding, but plenty of “family” downtime). Cool to comfortable temperatures (never unpleasantly “hot”). Fabulous scenery (beautiful mountains, forests, coast, and of course, the Plains!) Few bugs or similar annoyances. Alot of car time (required to be in the safari vehicle at game parks (where we would be the prey!)(bumpy, dusty roads)), and alot of transit time between sites (traveled estimated 3000 km, 2/3rds mostly decent paved roads, the rest bumpy, slow, dusty roads that took much more time to traverse). Hikes were easy paced. Basic (defined as bed to sleep in, open air room, maybe a ceiling fan, mosquito nets where we were told Malaria was an issue, although we took our own nets, too, not very reliable hot water or water pressure, bottled water provided) to wonderful accomodations and foods. Friendly people. English language is common, Swahili is preferred local. Enlightening cultural exposure (lifestyles and standard of living significantly different than our own – you don’t see Masai herdsmen roaming the plains of northern California every day).
I thought this ended up being a good time to be there. Not height of breeding season (spring), but doesn’t have the bugs and rain / transit problems of that time of year. Most birds still in breeding plumage in July (weavers have molted to basic plumage by mid-august). Also doesn’t have the influx of palearctic winter visitors, which for me would have just added confusion to field identification. Timing worked out well.
We had fantastic service from Birding and Beyond Safaris www.tanzaniabirding.com . Very high recommend! This is a small and specialized local tour operator with focus and expertise on the birds, but provides a well rounded, complete experience. They were excellent and supportive in pre-trip planning, very responsive to questions, desires, tips, and recommendations (thanks Tina!). They packaged a perfectly orchestrated personalized trip for our small family. Handled all of the local arrangements and logistics (including accomodations, food, transport, entrance fees, local air, and many little details). Our only job was to arrive and enjoy! In the field, guide Anthony Raphael and driver Abdul were with us the entire time, delightful travel companions, friendly, courteous, helpful. Playful with my son (impromptu soccer game at every stop!). Great conversations along the way about Tanzania culture, history, people, natural history, etc. And as a bird guide, Anthony was fantastic. A local, who grew up with a lifelong passion for the birds, now a trained field ornithologist with vast experience and knowledge in the area. All of this at a much better price-point than any other option we considered. Great experience!
Field Guide: Birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe. Great book!
Air Travel: Emirates Air from San Francisco to Dubai, then Dubai to Dar Es Salaam. excellent flights, service, food, amenities, timing, pricing (much better than more typical KLM route thru Amsterdam). Local flights on Excel Air (Arusha to Zanzibar) and ZanAir (Zanzibar to Pemba, Pemba to Dar Es Salaam) were competent, non-eventful, small 1 or 2 engine prop planes (baggage limit 15kg / passenger).
Ground Travel: All in a rugged, purpose built stretched Toyota Land Cruiser safari vehicle. Not the luxury leather wrapped air conditioned Land Cruiser of U.S. specifications, but a hearty, competent one suited to the environment. Best feature – a custom pop-up roof that let’s you stand in the vehicle during safari drives to get excellent high platform, 360 degree unencumbered views in a “mobile blind”, all under a sunshade. Great for animal viewing, and fantastic for bird watching (I want one of these for all of my birdwatching trips!)
Day 1 (Jul 16) arrive Dar Es Salaam 3pm, drive to Mediterraneo Resort (lovely beach setting, nice hotel, good food). A few new birds on the beach and hotel grounds (Greater Flamingo, Sooty Gull, White-browed Robin Chat, Speckled Mousebird). Amazed by Giant Land Snail.
Day 2 (Jul 17) transit day to Mikumi in central Tanzania(41 birds). great roadside birding, especially as we enter the Miombo woodlands (Green Woodhoopoe, White HelmetShrike, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Broad-tailed Paradise-Wydah). Also hints of the animals to come (Eland, Impala) (Genesis Motel, simple but comfortable. basic food)
Day 3 (Jul 18) full day game drive in Mikumi National Park (70 birds). excellent taste of Miombo woods, bush country, and savannah. Exciting diversity of birds (5 eagles, 5 hornbills, storks, grassland plovers, introduction to african cisticolas, starlings, kingfishers, oxpeckers, etc). great intro to big game (lion, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, etc)
Day 4 (Jul 19) transit day to Udzungwa Mountains (55 birds). Excellent morning walk west of Mikumi park in Miombo woodlands was very active (Ovampo Sparrowhawk, Crested Barbet, Pale Batis, Orange-winged Pytalia). Transition drive from Miombo woods to forest edge at the base of the mountains (Black Goshawk, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater). (Mountain View Motel, similar to Genesis)
Day 5 (Jul 20) (65 birds) morning drive to Kilombero Swamp (long, bumpy drive, but well worth it for the birds at the end (Coppery-tailed Coucal, White-tailed Cisticola, Kilomero Weaver, Half-collared Kingfisher). Evening walk in nearby foothills forest (Livingstone’s Turaco, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher). Fun monkeys in the forest (Savannah Baboon, Ingiri and Black & White Colobus, Syke’s Monkey).
Day 6 (Jul 21) Lovely bird activity on morning walk in the forest (Yellowbill, Eastern Nicator, Livingstone Flycatcher). Begin long transit stage to north eastern mountains. Overnight stay in Morogoro (Oasis motel. simple, aging, busy, not very pleasant).
Day 7 (Jul 22) Long drive from Morogoro to Amani in Northeast Tanzania. Mostly good, paved roads, through fairly uninteresting agricultural landscape. At Tanga, leave good roads, for bumpy, dusty, then muddy climb up into the East Usambara mountains. Beautiful dense rain forest. Lodging in Amani Research Station Rest House (basic, but pleasant, and great surroundings with birds calling and bush babies as night).
Day 8 (Jul 23) Amani forest birding. (36 birds). Low density, but exciting and colorful birding (African Green-Pigeon, Green-headed Oriole, Purple-banded Sunbird, Usambara Weaver). Beautiful, peaceful setting.
Day 9 (Jul 24) Amani forest walk in the morning (Fischer’s Turaco, Long-billed Tailorbird, 6 greenbuls). Transit day to West Usambaras (Mueller’s Lodge – a lovely mountaintop lodge amdist wonderful gardens from German colonialization period. Nice food) (Usambara Nighjar at the lodge)
Day 10 (Jul 25) Pleasant secondary growth woodland birding at various West Usambara locations. low density (38 birds), but some good finds (Fuelleborn’s Boubou, Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler, White-chested Alethe)
Day 11 (Jul 26) Transit day from West Usambaras to South Pare Mountains (68 birds). Excellent non-stop transit birding into dry semi arid foothills. Excellent evening walk in South Pare Hills close to hotel (Elephant Motel – modern, comfortable). (Dideric Cuckoo, Pink-breasted Lark, Somali Crombec, Lanner Falcon).
Day 12 (Jul 27) another transit day, continuing from South Pare Mountains to Arusha (67 birds). Good dry country birding, with an active side trip down a long dirt road to a large dam and reservoir (Namaqua Dove, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Pangani Longclaw). Lodging in Arusha at Ilboru Safari Lodge (wonderful place stuck in busy suburb. expansive, gorgeous grounds and garden, creative and comfortable room, very good food (11 course Swahili sampler dinner was excellent! (best meal of trip!))
Day 13 (Jul 28) Safari drive through Arusha National Park (68 birds). Beautiful woodlands, small lakes, and brush landscape in base foothills of Mt Meru. Return to the big safari animals (buffalo, giraffe, zebra, etc) (much of the 1960′s John Wayne movie Hatari was filmed here – and yes – when we got home, we watched the movie to see what we recognized – very cool!). Exciting birds in many habitats. (Hottentot Teal, African Paradise-Flycatcher, great view of a large Lesser Flamingo flock being flushed by a Martial Eagle).
Day 14 (Jul 29)transit Arusha to Tarangire (90 birds). Daily bird diversity and quantities pick up noticeably from this part of the trip on (it was already great, now it’s better!). Mostly semi-arid bush country. Sometimes best birding is at the least expected places. A quick stop a small farm just past the Arusha airport kept us busy for 45 minutes watching a very busy mixed flock in a tangle of thicket. (Abyssinian Scimitar-bill, Fawn-colored Lark, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Blue-capped Cordonbleu, Sulfur-breasted Bushshrike). Night at Tarangire Safari Lodge (amazing location, with beautiful patio on bluff overlooking bushed plains and river (animal water source). Nice tented rooms, great open air dining pavilion, very good food).
Day 15 (Jul 30) Tarangire National Park (96 birds). 2 safaria drives through the park, with additional good birding around the grounds. Great safari creatures (lions (in trees!), leopard, huge elephant herds). Wide variety of birds (Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Black-faced Sandgrouse, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Mariqua Sunbird).
Day 16 (Jul 31) transit Tarangire to Lake Manyara (94 birds). Before leaving Tarangire, we were treated to an amazing spectacle from the lodge’s patio. On the plains below us, 2 lionesses stalked a small zebra family group, with several attacks and a just-missed kill as the zebra kicked the lioness off of his back. Good dry country birding en route to the lake. Very nice afternoon birding at Lake Manyara hippo pool (huge Yellow-billed Stork rookery over the town, Double-banded Courser, Arican Spoonbill, Pearl-spotted Owlet). Comfortable accomodations, but I forgot the name of the hotel.
Day 17 (Aug 1) Transit Lake Manyara to Seronera (central Serengeti) (94 birds). Long, dusty drive to cross the Serengeti, but the rewards were worth it. Amazing plains. Amazing plains animals. Fascinating stop at Olduvai Gorge. Many great birds along the way (Secretary-bird, Desert Cisticola, Rueppell’s Glossy-Starling, Black Bishop). Great evening safari drive of surrounding plains. Fantastic lodge building and setting (Seronera Safari Lodge, built into and around a kopje rock formation – beautiful restaurant, pool, and observation platform. modern rooms, very good food).
Day 18 (Aug 2) Fantastic morning and evening safari drives around Seronera. Plains, kopjkes, woodlands, creek and watering holes. Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Hyena, 10 antelope species, etc. Great birds all day long (Kori Bustard, Grey-backed Fiscal, Silverbird, Speckle-fronted Weaver)
Day 19 (Aug 3) transit from Seronera (central Serengeti) to Ndutu (southern Serengeti) (106 birds). When we planned the trip, we weren’t sure if 2 different spots in the Serengeti would pay off. It did. Ndutu is a more wooded area on the southern fringe of the plains, with a large lake. The result was sufficient habitat difference and distance to make this additional stop worthwhile (Striated Heron, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Fischer’s Lovebird (incredible quantities at the Ndutu lodge), Chestnut Weaver). Ndutu Lodge was delightfully unique (thatch construction, delightful evening bonfire with fireside chats and star viewing, charming Genets in the rafters of the dining room)
Day 20 (Aug 4) transit from Ndutu to Ngorongoro Crater (93 birds). A magical day. Most of the day was spent driving to, down, and through the crater, and then up to the crater rim highlands for the evening. It was all that it was hyped to be. Phenomenal scenery and creatures (a greatest hits of african big game). Rugged cliff side environment descending the rim, gives way to fantastic varied environment of open plains, Lerai forest open woodlands, and lake/reed beds on the floor, then lush verdant forest to end the day on the opposite rim. Great birds!!! (Gray-crowned Crane, Northern Anteater-Chat, Tacazze Sunbird, Red-faced Cisticola). Beautiful Sopa lodge (large spacious rooms, incredible sunset view overlooking the crater (we got lucky with a fog-free evening – one of the most beautiful views of my life!), very good food).
Day 21 (Aug 5) transit from Ngorongoro crater rim to Gibbs Farm (57 birds). Another great day, but more for the location than intense birding. By now, we’re starting to hit sensory overload on the animals and intense birdwatching, and the charms of Gibb’s Farm (delightful unique cottages, fantastic working gardens and environment, exquisite and abundant food) left us mostly inclined to relax and enjoy the grounds. Still, here, the birds come to you, and we could just sit on the veranda of our cottage and watch many varied colorful birds flit through the trees and descend to the lovely garden pools for ample avian entertainment. The less sedentary of our crew could enjoy productive walks through the farm gardens, or on paths along the Ngorongoro forest edge looking for birds (African Harrier-Hawk, Dusky Turtle-Dove, White-tailed Blue-flycatcher, Red-collared Widowbird).
Days 21-25 (Aug 6-9) transit from Gibbs Farm to Pemba Island (drive to Arusha airport, then local flights). Pemba Island was the reward to the 12 year old for enduring a month of birdwatching with his parents. A beach resort on the Indian ocean, all just for playing (ok, and a little bird watching, too). Competent, uneventful flights. 90 minute drive from Pemba airport to the very remote Manta Resort on the north end of the island (very bumpy rutted forest road for last 30 minutes). Beautiful resort (pristine white beaches, lovely warm, calm water, beautiful pools and grounds. delightful charming rooms with great ocean views. lovely open air dining / common room. Very helpful staff, all-inclusive – even massages! Peaceful, relaxed, great service, good food). In terms of birds, very few shore / water birds from the resort. Low density but interesting birds on the grounds (pemba endemic race or species of African Goshawk, Pemba White-eye, Violet-breasted Sunbird). On one morning, I arranged a bird guide for what I thought would be an exploration of the nearby Ngezi forest preserve, but instead it was a short outing to a rubber plantation and mangrove swamp. Still, some good birds (Pemba Green-Pigeon, Madagascar Bee-eater, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Broad-billed Roller).
Using Clements 6.4 (2009) species names. For more details, I can email an excel spreadsheet with species sitings by day / location, cross reference to bird names in the field guide (where different from Clements), creature list, and other day notes. Also includes a list of 700 targeted species for this trips, with occurence and habitat information.
Great White Pelican
Little Ringed Plover
Lesser Crested Tern
African Mourning Dove
Von der Decken’s Hornbill
African Gray Hornbill
African Golden Oriole
African Black-headed Oriole
African Gray Flycatcher
African Dusky Flycatcher
African Hill Babbler
African Yellow White-eye
Lesser Blue-eared Glossy-Starling
Kenya Violet-backed Sunbird
Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird
Eastern Olive Sunbird
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird
African Pied Wagtail
Kenya Rufous Sparrow
heard, but not seen:
Creature list (non-specific names)
Giant Land Snail
Southern Agama Lizard
Frilled Desert Lizard
Usambara 3 horned Chameleon
Single-striped Sand Snake
Yellow Savannah Baboon
Black-faced Vervet Monkey
Ingiri Colubus Monkey
Blue Syke’s Monkey
Black and White Colobus Monkey
Dark-morph Slender Mongoose
Unstriped Ground Squirrel
African Wood Mouse
(Pemba, Mikumi, Ruaha, Udzungwas, Kilombero, Usambaras & The Maasai Steppe)
Anthony Raphael & Peter Roberts
Stephen & Ann Cameron, Daphne Gemmill & Bill Mueller
21st October: Arrival for some into Dar: Peter, Stephen & Ann met up at Amsterdam this morning for the KLM flight to Kilmanjaro then on to Dar Es Salaam arriving a bit earlier than scheduled at about 10.20pm. We were met and transferred through the dark suburbs of Dar to the Mediterraneo Resort, where they informed us we would be transferred back to the airport at 6.30am tomorrow morning.
22nd October: To Pemba: Met up with Daphne & Bill who had been at the hotel for a couple of days resting up after their flight from USA. The morning traffic in Dar was horrendous, but we got to the airport in good time for our 9am flight to the small Indian Ocean island of Pemba via Zanzibar. The whole operation was quite smooth and we were met by two vehicles to drive us to the far north of Pemba and the Manta Resort 65km away. It was quite hot and humid with some heavy rain showers. Our local contact Yussuf left us a note apologising for his non-appearance due to being in court (hopefully he won’t be convicted while we need him!) The Manta Resort was very pleasant and welcoming with a great lunch, lovely grounds and fine views of the coral reefs and blue seas around. After lunch we wandered the grounds easily finding several good birds including the endemic Pemba Sunbird and Pemba White-eye. Brown-headed Parrots were noisome and in good view.
We had received note from our local guide Yussuf that he would be ready to take us off on our first birding jaunt at 5pm, so we took a short break and reconvened to drive off in two Landcruisers for a little pre-dusk birding before our first try for the endemic Scops-Owl. Just down the road is a large rubber plantation – the only one I can recall seeing in Africa. We turned into that and just beyond, got out and wandered some open woodland and farmland down to some lily-covered pools. We notched up a few more good birds here that I seldom see elsewhere on my more regular visits to Tanzania – Broad-billed Rollers and European Golden Orioles scoped well, followed by African Pygmy Geese and Black-bellied Glossy Starlings. By now it was becoming dark enough to go further by car into the small protected remnant of forest at Ngezi to try for Pemba Scops-Owl. As we waited we were treated to fly over endemic Pemba Flying Foxes, nice looks at noisy Greater Galagos in the trees and a roosting Mangrove Kingfisher (not in mangrove at all). Then the distinctive monosyllabic generic hoot of Scops Owls was heard. We called back and eventually several were responding. Finally one or two came close enough and gave themselves up very easily indeed. We had good long uncluttered, perched views of a couple on bare branches not too high in the forest canopy. This was an excellent result allowing us to return for a 7.30pm supper, free booze and an early night in preparation for a 5.45am start tomorrow.
23rd October: Birding Pemba: Yussuf and two vehicles met us as planned for our pre-breakfast return to the ponds and scrubby forest edge behind the rubber plantation. It was dry and already quite warm by 6.15am Daphne spotted our main goal; a trio of lovely Pemba Green Pigeons sat up high on bare branches in the lovely morning light. These birds perched up here for much of the time we were in the area, showing extremely well from all angles and variously joined by Black-bellied Glossy and Violet-backed Starlings, orioles and rollers. We wandered much the same circuit as yesterday afternoon, finding lots of African Pygmy-Geese again, brief looks at Palmnut Vulture, perched up distant African Goshawk and numerous really good views of Crowned Hornbills. We returned to Manta Reef Resort at 7.45am in time for a good breakfast with the main goal of the day already achieved.
This secluded, peaceful, resort with its pleasant grounds, lovely relaxing open air spaces and swimming pool was very inviting for the rest of the morning. Some of us planned a snorkel outing on the adjacent reef, but the tide was dropping rapidly and the reef fast becoming something to walk over rather than swim through. The ladies took a swim in the pool and I wandered off along the beach to scan for any shorebirds that might show up. It didn’t look too promising, with quite a few locals wandering over the exposed reef looking for rockpool fish to catch. In the end I found a few of most of the expected species, though only brief flyby Crab Plovers and Sooty Gull. Shorebirds close on the reef included many Curlew Sandpipers and a few Common Ringed and Greater Sandplovers, Common Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers and Whimbrels. Striated Herons hunted alongside the confusing dark herons – Dimorphic Egrets rather than Western Reef Herons – but Clements doesn’t split Dimorphic from Little Egret anyway! The terns that could be seen well enough this morning all seemed to be Common, though I’m sure there was a lot more out there. On my return I managed a quick swim in the pool before a good lunch after which we tested out Daphne’s new ipad, by googling birding on Pemba!
We set out again in mid-afternoon in search of beaches with shorebirds, gulls and terns, but tides were now high and pickings slim. We first went to the lighthouse just to the north of the lodge and at the very north of Pemba. From here we worked our way down the east coast a little and wandered along a particularly nice long sandy beach with a few odds and ends to keep us occupied. We found African Harrier-Hawks and Palmnut Vultures plus groups of Common Ringed Plovers on the beach. In their midst were a few Sanderlings and single Curlew Sandpiper. Elsewhere were a few Ruddy Turnstones, Common Sandpipers, flocks of Common Greenshank and at least distant views for all of a group of 5 Crab Plovers. We returned early to the lodge to enjoy further relaxation before the “real tour” starts tomorrow after our return to the mainland.
24th October: Pemba to Mikumi: We left for the airport at 7.30am immediately after breakfast. It was of course another hot and humid day with the sun shining. Some planned detours took us via a market to buy cardamom seeds for Daphne. Then we called in to say hello to Yussuf’s delightful teenage daughter who had been on an educational exchange to Ohio of all places! Finally we called in to see a huge roost of Pemba Fruit Bats all hanging upside down in massive trees with the locals going about their business underneath – apparently no longer taking them for the pot since protection.
At the airport we had a surprisingly rigorous security check and boarded the plane to Zanzibar where we waited in the transit lounge then onwards to Dar Es Salaam. On arrival we were met by Anthony and driver Abdul and were away towards Mikumi fairly promptly, eating our substantial packed lunches as we went. The drive down was quite long, but as we neared Mikumi the main road goes through the Park and we started picking out birds and mammals of interest. Our first Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras, Warthogs, Buffaloes (crossing the road), Baboons and Impalas of the tour were noted along with Red-headed Weaver and Lesser (Southern) Blue-eared Glossy Starlings.
Arrival at the lodge was about 6.30pm, where they seemed a bit flustered, not expecting us until tomorrow, however the problem was quickly resolved and were tucked into our large tents and having hot showers in good time.
25th October: Miombo birding in Mikumi: We had a cup of tea/coffee at 6am and set out in the landcruiser by 6.15am. Our journey took us out of the National Park, along the main road and off to where a multinational pipeline between Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania ran. It was protected by the army and allowed us a quiet walk for a couple of hours. It was very dry, but birdlife still quite active and a good selection of miombo specialists seen that we’d not encounter elsewhere. White-headed Black (Arnot’s) Chat was abundant and a good reference point for locating other species: Yellow-bellied and Greencap Eremomelas, Jameson’s Firefinch, Blue-breasted (Southern) Cordonbleus, Amethyst, Miombo Double-collared and Mariqua Sunbirds, Cabanis’s Bunting, Yellow-spotted Petronias, Orange-winged Pytilias, Crested Barbets, Brubrus, Kurrichane Thrush and Lizard Buzzard included. Woodpeckers were numerous and we had good views of most. Amongst the widespread Cardinal and Bearded Woodpeckers were several Reichenow’s (Anthony used the alternative name – “Speckle-throated”) and a Rufous-necked Wryneck. Another highlight was finding good looks at several Pale-billed Hornbills along the way. Best birds for me were two lifers – finally catching up with Rufous-bellied Tit (no rufous anywhere!) and Shelley’s Sunbird – a glorious bright little gem. We also started our cisticola list with good looks at Rattling and Piping, but poor views of Tabora. We also encountered a “mystery” Crombec that Anthony had seen here before. Neither Cape (Long-billed) or Somali Long-billed is in range, but it has to be one or the other (more like Somali to my mind with such pale buff underparts and brighter orangey legs, but more likely on extended range to be Cape). Or perhaps it is a new species for this localised miombo area? During this eventful early morning period we had a basic picnic breakfast and by mid-morning returned to the National Park on “our” side of the main road and weaved our way slowly back to camp. On the way were Black-bellied Bustards, Racket-tailed, Lilac-breasted and Broad-billed Rollers, stunningly close Bateleurs, Boehm’s (Bat-like) Spinetail, Cabanis’s Greenbul, poor looks for some of White-tailed Lark, Yellow-throated Longclaws and plenty of tsetse flies! Back at the lodge we had a 1pm lunch and rested until 4pm.
After a welcome break in the heat of the day we returned across the main road to enter the other side of Mikumi National Park and headed off to a waterhole where some people staying at Foxe’s, had seen a Lion kill this morning. With it so dry towards the end of the dry season, the few predators have it easy with animals forced to come down to drink, and the female Lion with her 3 large cubs had easily taken a young Wildebeest this morning. We eventually arrived there and found the young still feeding; the Lioness sprawled out on her back and groups of Elephants coming in to drink. A fine Saddle-billed Stork stood sentry and a few odds and ends such as Marsh Sandpiper, Little Stint, Egyptian Goose and White-faced Whistling Ducks added to the list. Birding along the way there and back across open flat dusty plains with sparse tree and bush cover and desiccated grass we found other good stuff. Plenty of Red-necked Spurfowl, a pair of Temminck’s Coursers and a family of Coqui Francolins, were roadside viewing as was Gabar Goshawk, a couple of fine Black (Silver)-backed Jackals, herds of Bohor Reedbuck, flocks of non-breeding Broad-tailed Paradise Whydahs (anticlimactic or what?) and Northern and Capped Wheatear, Pectoral-patch Cisticola etc all made it a good end. Once back at the lodge with dusk approaching rapidly, I played call of Fiery-necked Nightjar and African Barred Owlet. The owlet did us proud with long, very close views by our tents. At supper the Ratels, Genets and Galagos were again present and showing well at times.
26th October:Mikumi to the Udzungwas: We spent the morning doing a birding/game drive around Mikumi N.P. in the vicinity of the lodge trying to find further miombo birds. Weather started out as on previous days, lovely and cool with a little cloud cover, but by late morning becoming bright, hot and sunny. We added a few birds of interest but it was quite quiet and despite trying hard, looking, playing calls and so on, we couldn’t find several of our hoped for species – such is the way in this habitat. Best sighting of the morning must go to a well-spotted “shrew” which turned out to be a Four-toed Elephant Shrew. This amazing little beast many times the size of an “ordinary” shrew, sat and posed for ages allowing Daphne to get some quite good photos to ensure its identification. These little animals are rarely seen and then only fleetingly, so it was quite a memorable incident.
After returning to the lodge, packing and having a good lunch, we set off on our drive to the Udzungwa Mountains. The journey was quite easy mostly on paved roads and took just a couple of hours. Our next accommodation was close to the Park entrance, so we did a good two or more hours birding on the low level forest trails before checking in at 6.30pm. Despite being a National Park it is quite off-beat and in lesser known and less-travelled territory. The National Park covers an area of 1900 square kilometres, reaches an altitude of 2579m and supports a biologically diverse flora and fauna. Being forest and spread over such a big area with a big altitude range it would take many days of hard slog to even begin to cover a fraction of it. There are hikes you can do requiring 4 or 5 nights camping and hiking for the more adventurous with time to spare. Sadly all we can do is to sample some easy sections and hope we gain a decent cross-section of what the place can offer. We did fairly well this afternoon, accompanied by Ludovic, a young local Park Ranger who knew his birds well. In our gentle ramblings on this quite hot and humid afternoon we found Silvery-cheeked and Trumpeter Hornbills, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Crested Guineafowl, Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Yellowbill, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird and more. We called for Purple-crested Turaco but had no luck. We did find groups of the endemic monkey – Iringa Red Colobus along with Syke’s Monkey.
27th October:Udzungwas and the Kilombero floodplains: We were up for tea/coffee at 6.15am to then drive the very short distance to the Udzungwa National Park entrance to do some birding for a while before a 9am breakfast back at the accommodation. Before we left, Daphne spotted a lovely family of African Wood Owls in the enormous bamboo clumps in the garden. On the way to the walk we paused at a bridge over a stream to find Malachite and Giant Kingfishers. Ludovic joined us again as we slowly wandered the wide trails through the low level forest. It was quite hard work at times, but also in the end quite productive, with a number of the target species being seen. Drab White-tailed Crested, Dusky, Grey Tit (Lead-coloured) and Ashy Flycatchers were eclipsed by the yellow and chestnut of Livingstone’s Flycatcher. Talking of Livingstone, his namesake Turaco showed up and performed this morning too. Crested Guineafowl were seen on several occasions again this morning. A pair of Gray Cuckoo-shrikes popped up and on one of the streams we found Mountain Wagtail.
After a good breakfast we took a picnic lunch and set off the two hours to drive to the Kilombero Flood Plains. The Kilombero area has produced a small but distinguished list of recently discovered endemics in recent years, which are becoming more well-known and easily located. Kilombero Weaver, Kilombero & White-tailed Cisticolas are the highlights: the cisticolas still awaiting official common and scientific names. These were our main goals as we arrived in the heat of the day on this flat, drying plain with marshes, and little fields of rice and sweet potato. We fairly quickly located the Weaver – sadly still in non-breeding plumage as it is exceptionally dry this year and many birds are not yet into breeding mode. The streaky-backed White-tailed Cisticola also showed up soon after our arrival, looking quite like a drab Winding or Rattling. We pottered about in this area checking out the last remaining little wet patches with water, mud and emergent vegetation looking for the scarcer unstreaked Kilombero Cisticola to no avail. There were plenty of close-up Collared Pratincoles along with a few northern shorebirds -Wood Sandpiper and Little Stint. The reeds and scrub were full of half-plumaged Fan-tailed Widowbirds, many Bronze Mannikins and Jameson’s Firefinches. Once we’d got our eye in we began finding good numbers of gorgeous little brightly coloured Zebra Waxbills coming in to drink – a species not seen too often in Northern Tanzania. We continued on to the river where a very dodgy car ferry plied the traffic of trucks and buses and folks on cycles across from one side to the other. This was the Kilombero River, still wide and full of water and of course a few interesting water birds to view. A wide variety of common herons and egrets were noted including Squacco. There were various mobile flocks of African Open-bills and even a lone young Pink-backed Pelican. Both Wattled and the similar White-headed (White-crowned) Lapwings appeared on the sandbanks in the river.
After a cold(ish) drink at the riverside kiosk we returned back the short distance along the road to try one more area for the various Kilombero specialities. There was a larger reed-fringed pond that we eventually managed to reach with some awkward hiking over rough terrain. We kept an eye out for cisticolas but saw none and played call of Coppery-tailed Coucal with no luck. On returning some played safe and returned the same way, while myself and Bill eventually found a quicker way. As we neared the road we had further good looks at the ”White-tailed” Cisticola and then a lovely Coppery-tailed Coucal. This was on Daphne’s want list so I kept it in view while Bill returned to get the others to come and see it. I waited and watched it for 15+ minutes, Ann dropping by to have a peek and getting splendid views. Just as the others reached the road it flew off. No problem though as the others had dallied on the way back, detained by their own looks at “White-tailed” Cisticola brief looks at their own Coppery-tailed Coucal and apparently a super look at Kilombero Cisticola. Rats! It was too late for me to dive back into the marsh to try and find it myself – it went down as a good reason for a return visit as we plodded back along the mostly dusty, bumpy road to our lodge, arriving hot, dirty and tired (but with a very special list of birds seen) by 6.30pm.
28th October: Towards Ruaha National Park: We departed today and start towards Ruaha National Park. This was quite a long journey, with good birding along the way, so Anthony had planned to break the journey with an overnight stop at the newly opening Baobab Valley Tented Camp, to allow a more leisurely pace and time for birding in this excellent location.
Before we left, Daphne and I did a short walk along the road for half an hour before a 7am breakfast. Our main goal was Half-collared Kingfisher and we found one giving great views on the little stream just down from the hotel. It was accompanied by three or more Malachite Kingfishers. Here too were the beginnings of a small breeding colony of Village Weavers nest-building and in good breeding plumage. It was a further reminder that it was a shame the endemic Kilombero Weavers seen yesterday were not so advanced, but a clear indication that the short rains and breeding season are on the way, with some species already started but others such as the many bishops, whydahs and widowbirds still in drab non-breeding plumage. We were packed and on our way towards Ruaha National Park by 8am, taking all morning on a seemingly long and dusty journey to our next stop-over at Baobab Camp. Despite seeming to have travelled halfway across Tanzania, we were in fact only around to the other side of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. We made a couple of birding stops along the way. One halt was in some fairly unassuming fallow agricultural land adjacent to the forested hills where Anthony had the fabulous Siffling Cisticola staked out. We did indeed get some brief views of this “to die for” species that even keen birders seem to fall asleep over. Even the field guide remarks on its drabness and variability, pointing out in its favour a “beady eye”! There were various other good finds here though, including the usual flashy hornbills, plus Purple-crested Turaco. We had a glorious pair of Giant Kingfishers, plus Yellow Bishops flashing a bit of yellow. We arrived at Baobab Camp by lunch time. Not a luxury lodge by any standard, but adequate, a huge lunch provided and situated on the edge of a surprisingly full and fast-flowing Ruaha River.
After a break in the heat of the afternoon we took a gentle stroll in the extensive grounds with its mix of baobabs, acacia and miombo vegetation. The Tanzanian endemic Ashy Starling was common in noisy groups. Spot-flanked Barbet popped up from time to time and Western Violet-backed Sunbirds were active and displaying, though looking identical to all the other split Violet-backed Sunbird species to me. Other bits and pieces of interest included Red-backed (White-browed) Scrub-robin, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Yellow-breasted Apalis and African Yellow White-eye.
29th October: Baobab Valley and Ruaha: After a very hot night coupled with trucks rolling past close by on the Tazama Highway, we arose at 6.15am for early tea then did a bird walk across the other side of the road until 8am. We saw a few bits and pieces of interest with repeat good viewings of Blue-naped Mousebirds, Yellow-bellied Greenbuls and Meyer’s Parrots. We were also looking for possible miombo birds in this habitat which seems a funny mix of miombo and acacia with masses of baobabs. We called for Miombo Pied Barbet with no obvious response, but a little later either this species or Red-fronted Barbet appeared on top of the trees but flew off before we could check its most salient features. Both species are technically out of range here and the book says that their ranges do not overlap, (Stephen emailed local expert Neil Baker on his return and confirmed that on range it was “just” a Red-fronted). We also had good views of Red-fronted Tinkerbird and Spot-flanked Barbet.
After a slow and haphazard breakfast we set off, packed up, to drive the long distance to Ruaha Sunset Lodge. Much of the morning was spent in travel, the Tazama Highway being repaired in places and quite slow (also sadly cluttered either side with plastic rubbish). We made it to the large town of Iringa by lunch time where we ate our pasties packed from breakfast, got drinks, did some shopping, visited banks and post offices before setting off for a final couple of hours along reasonable dirt roads towards Ruaha National Park. Anthony had a birding break planned en route for a site known for Churring Cisticola and Hartlaub’s Widowbird. We found both quite easily in this pleasant short break. We arrived by 4.40pm to a very nice, simple new community-owned lodge on the edge of the National Park. We were all quite tired – at least tired of driving, as Abdul must have been. However most of us managed a short walk after check-in and got into the acacia/baobab open forest that stretches uninterrupted for miles to the horizon from the slopes of the hill where our cabins are perched. This is a much less travelled part of Africa with a wilder, unspoilt feel about it. We saw loads of the local Ruaha race of Red-billed Hornbill (a possible future split) along with White-bellied Tit, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Common Scimitarbill before calling it a day, grabbing a cuppa and getting cleaned up before supper.
30th October: Ruaha National Park: We set off from the Sunset Lodge at about 7.45am for a full day in Ruaha National Park, with the entrance gate jus 20 minutes down the road. Of course it was another quite hot, dry and at times dusty day, but full of good birds and game-viewing. There were large areas of acacia scrub, other open forested areas and grassy plains, but running through the lot as a vital lifeline is the Ruaha River. Although at this time of year it looks very dried up, it still flows and provides enough water for the large populations of game animals resident in the area. With just a trickle here and there, plus a few bigger muddy water holes, the game was nicely concentrated. Some enormous Nile Crocodiles loitered in the bigger pools where fish were tightly packed and a few Hippopotami wallowed hoping that the rains would refill the river before they dried up. Waterbirds were in good supply with lots seen over the course of the day. African Spoonbill, Saddle-billed, White, Marabou and Yellow-billed Storks, Great, Little and Intermediate Egrets, Hamerkops and various migrant shorebirds were noted. In the dry bush, the numerous gamebirds found shelter sitting quietly under bushes awaiting the eagle-eyes of Anthony and Abdul to locate them. Crested Francolins, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Buff-crested Bustards Water and Spotted Thick-knees were all thus detected. A run along a long rocky ridge with exfoliating round granite boulders like the kopjes in the Serengeti produced further good finds. Our only Klipspringer was seen here, avoiding the gaze of two magnificent Verreaux’s Eagles. Bateleurs were everywhere with a supporting role of Tawny, Steppe, African Hawk and African Fish Eagles. At lunch time we ate our picnic at a ranger post / campsite / picnic area overlooking the river and had a few things of interest coming and going. A Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike skulked in overhanging bushes and many further very attractive White headed (White-crowned) Plovers showed up alongside Spur-winged, Crowned and Three-banded.
It was lovely to see quite a few Greater Kudu today – a species I’ve not seen for a few years and never on the Northern Tanzania tour. Elephants were very evident, with plenty of obvious damage to the seemingly indestructible baobabs, gouged with tusks, debarked and some with holes right through their trunks. A large (200 or more) herd of Buffalo wandered slowly down to drink in the riverbed in our afternoon drive along the river. Here too were the resident Lions – a total of 10 or more all waiting for the easy pickings of the concentrated prey. We arrived at the lodge by about 6.15pm, ready for a break! Quite nice rooms, great location overlooking the river and a generally pleasant place – but with little time to relax and savour the experience. We were serenaded to sleep by the regular monotone hooting of African Scops Owl.
31st October: To Morogoro: We had breakfast at 7am this morning in order to set off and exit the National Park before our “time” ran out (the permits work on a 24 hour system, so “in” at 8.30am one day means “out” at the same time next day). So the whole day was taken up with the return north. We managed to see a few birds along the way as we travelled out of Ruaha in the morning for an hour, then later along the main road through Mikumi and also at the lunch stop at a lodge close to the one we stayed in on the way out at Baobab Valley. We eventually arrived into the largish town of Morogoro by just after 6pm. Abdul had done a splendid long day’s work driving us here and now he and Anthony had to rush off to try and get a hole in the exhaust fixed that had been developing as we nipped along this afternoon. This may not be an easy task as today was Election Day for the Tanzania President and also a Sunday. The hotel was OK, with good chance to connect to the internet, hot water and a choice of Chinese and Indian food for supper.
1st November: To Amani: Bill had been doggedly trying to get fried eggs “sunny-side up” ever since his arrival into Tanzania – and failing miserably despite various graphic descriptions to helpful and smiling waiting staff, who always came back with something flipped over, fried to a crisp or anything but that desired golden yellow yolk facing the sky! It was sad that by now he’d given up the quest and didn’t bother to order eggs at all this morning, as fried eggs were finally delivered in the preferred style -I even had one myself!
I was anticipating a long wait in Morogoro this morning as Abdul and Anthony struggled to get the Landcruiser fixed. It was with delight and surprise that they arrived a little before 8.30am with everything repaired. We packed and were continuing on our long journey north soon after. It was another day predominantly of travel – mostly on good roads until we reached the turn off up to the hills of Amani in the East Usambaras by mid afternoon. From here the road was quite steep and rough in places, but took us up into the beginnings of some good forest and eventually the Forest Nature Reserve itself. The Amani area is a mix of tea and coffee plantations on hills where remnant forests still hold a good range of very local and endemic species. We managed to stop at lower elevations for some initial birding, arriving at the Malaria Research Resthouse by about 6pm. First birding produced a few good birds including Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrikes in little groups in the canopy. Here too were occasional pairs of Kenrick’s Starlings – a little, short-tailed forest starling with chestnut wing panel in the female. Black-headed Apalis was called in along with a couple of Green Barbets. Flashiest sighting was undoubtedly Fischer’s Turaco called in from across the valley. The Resthouse is basic, but quite “quaint” and serviceable, in a promising location for the next two days of birding.
2nd November: Birding the East Usambaras: We were having early cups of tea at 6.15am and away for a walk in the more open areas around Amani Rest House by 6.30am. One of our goals was sunbirds and we found plenty of the local Purple-banded along with Eastern Olive and occasional Collared, but no Amani or Banded. Hornbills were flying past with great cries and whooshing of wings all the time. We had phenomenal looks at a Moustached Tinkerbird called in to eye level just feet away. Black and White Mannikins of the Rufous-backed form popped up in small groups and Broad-ringed White-eyes were common. Yesterday’s mystery Cuckoo was seen closely again along with a “normal” grey morph. They seem to be European Cuckoos, but the hepatic morph is poorly illustrated in the book, hence the confusion. After breakfast (complete with eggs almost sunny-side up) we went out again and wandered the more open tracks, roads and trails. Sunbird activity intensified but still no Amani or Banded. The locals were active – school kids in lines off to and coming back from school; smallholders taking buckets of milk to a communal centre to sell – hard work for small returns, but a good local enterprise. (Strange that fresh milk was so close to hand, yet we survived on powdered at the Resthouse!). As the morning heated up raptors became airborne and Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle and Crowned Hawk-eagles were seen well. Little and Fischer’s Greenbuls were duly recorded on the forest edge and everyone caught up with OK views of Green-headed Orioles. One of the morning’s highlights was a fabulous little Usambara Two-horned Chameleon watched leisurely and methodically crossing the track. A bizarre little creature with two warty extensions sticking out in front of its nose, the usual amazing protruding, bulbous swivelling eyes, the funny opposed mitten-like feet and the weird slow motion back and forth walk as it ponderously goes on its way. We returned by 12.45pm for lunch and a break until 4pm during which time Anthony and I managed to sort out some business details for future trips.
The Usambaras are a little-known mountain range and one of the hidden gems of Tanzania – a relict patch of the great tropical forests that once spanned Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Now just isolated pockets of forest, they have formed “islands” of endemism on the arc of high hills. These forests were investigated on our afternoon walk and typically proved hard work. We strolled quietly through a very quiet forest uncovering just a few of its potential birds. Some got reasonable looks at Red-tailed Ant-thrush before it disappeared forever into the undergrowth ignoring my playback. The local Usambara race of Mountain Greenbul showed a little better and some of us saw well the Black-headed Apalis. We called in Evergreen Forest (Cameroon Scrub) Warbler, but despite getting to within feet of the beast it wouldn’t show properly, just skulking from one piece of low tangle to another. At dusk Anthony thought he might check out a couple of holes in a huge forest tree where Usambara Eagle Owl has been seen occasionally in recent years. Some of us went with him, others waited back to see if “the call went up” that the bird was present. Realising that if it was present it might appear and fly off without hanging around, I popped back to get Bill and in the intervening couple of minutes it did just that! Never mind, there is always tomorrow night, and at least we now know it is “at home”!
3rd November: Birding the East Usambaras: Our second full day to try and get to grips with the special birds of this area. We started with a pre-breakfast hike along good forest trails that ended in a very fine viewpoint at about 3500 feet ASL up through lovely mixed forest. However “pre-breakfast” lasted until about 10.30 or 11am as we opted to stay out and try for all the obscure and awkward forest-dwelling birds. In the end we came across a number of good species, but it is very slow and patient work, and invariably resulted in one or two getting decent if brief views, one or two getting quick flashes, and one or two no view at all – just the nature of forest birding in Africa. Over the course of the morning we tried hard, with Anthony knowing roughly where each species should be and myself using playback to entice them into view. This worked on some occasions and by the time we returned to the Rest House we’d recorded between us White-chested Alethe, Kretschmer’s Longbill, Long-billed Tailorbird, Fischer’s Greenbul and Sharpe’s Akalat – though I missed the latter (a lifer) myself..
After a late breakfast we wandered out around the Rest House looking again at flowering trees for the “missing” sunbirds, but it was hot and we only found the “regulars” along with White-eared and Green Barbets. A little downtime after a late lunch and we were away the short distance by vehicle to the tea plantations to check out further flowering trees for feeding sunbirds. We weaved through the red earth hillside roads past little shambas and plantations to the estates and halted at one of the few flowering trees (Jacarandas are popular here). We managed to latch on to a few sunbirds including our one and only Banded and further Uluguru Violet-backed. With this “mission accomplished” we had time to do a short walk along the stream edges with their remnant large trees adjacent to the steep hillsides planted with tea bushes. A few extra and interesting birds were found, but the clouds were gathering and storms threatening as time dwindled. We made our return, purchasing loose Amani Tea along the way and got ourselves back in position at the Usambara Eagle-Owl’s tree hole by 6pm. It was darker earlier tonight with the cloud cover and on arrival there were small birds kicking up a fuss nearby. We strongly suspected that the owl had already left the hole and was being mobbed. We watched and waited and eventually had our few seconds of glory as a large owlish shape suddenly dropped out of the trees close to the hole and vanished for good. The birds stopped mobbing and we made it back to the Rest House as darkness fell.
4th November: To the West Usambaras: We did a short pre-breakfast session back in the same forest as yesterday morning along the Mbomole Trail, returning for an 8am breakfast. Our targets were Red-tailed Ant-thrush and Kretschmer’s Longbill (both no shows and not heard): White-chested Alethe (heard several times with a reasonable brief show): Sharpe’s Akalat (heard often, close and clearly with a possible split-second sighting as it dashed across the path). However it was good to have tried again!
We were away on the long, slow drive out of the Amani area and the East Usambaras to the main road by 8.45am and travelled a fair distance north before making a coffee stop en route. We ate our picnic lunch at a roadside open air cafe in some dry acacia type scrub where sisal plantations are apparently becoming re-instated and viable again. This area was a little north of the turn off back up into the Western part of the Usambara Mountains, but Anthony wanted to spend time here today rather than on our pass by in a couple of days when we’ll have other destinations targeted. We spent a little time in this interesting habitat before lunch and did an hour or so after, finding a good selection of the hoped-for special and different species. We called in Pygmy Batis before lunch and had great looks along with Pink-breasted Lark and Yellow-spotted Petronia. The longer walk after lunch produced nesting, breeding plumaged African Golden and Taveta Golden Weavers, Brimstone Canaries and best of all for me – my lifer African Bare-eyed Thrush. During our stroll Bill’s “wristwatch that does everything” recorded a temperature approaching 110 degrees! Despite the heat, we could have spent ages here, but had to head for the hills. From a distance the West Usambaras are a colourful mosaic of fine scenery, rising up steeply from the surrounding plains. The road was well-paved most of the way, having been built back in the times (early 1900s) when German settlers made this their home. It is a much richer area than the East Usambaras, with good soils producing excellent growing conditions for all sorts of tropical and temperate produce. Thus it felt very much more populated and consequently much more of the original forest lost. However, Anthony got us up high and close to our accommodation by just after 5pm, with time for a first quick bit of forest birding. We got lucky quickly (a strong contrast to this morning!). Firstly, Daphne spotted a Grey Wagtail on the little stream below us in the forest edge that we were watching. This is a rarity and only the 2nd time I’ve seen the species in Tanzania. Then Anthony had us watch as we played Spot-throat song. Birds began to respond and we eventually saw movement down on the stream edge with its tangle of undergrowth. But rather than there being “just” the Spot-throat (a lifer for us all), there was also a bathing White-chested Alethe variously joined by the Spot-throat, several greenbuls and a White-starred Robin – a very grand finale to an eventful day. With daylight fading fast we continued on to Muller’s, a very pleasant surprise offering much nicer accommodation than the last few places – a real treat!
5th November: Birding the West Usambaras: I’d played Montane Nightjar call after supper last night to no avail, but Stephen had heard the bird (here a possible future split into Usambara Nightjar) in the middle of the night. After breakfast at 6.30am we took off in the landcruiser to one of the remnant pieces of forest for a morning’s birding, spending most of our time slowly walking the Sawmill Track. Weather was very pleasant at this altitude of 5000 feet, with cooler temperatures and some cloud cover making it all very comfortable. We did pretty well for sightings of the various rare and endemic species present. We eventually got most of our target birds, seen quite easily and fairly well. Fulleborn’s Boubou put up a bit of a fight, though was heard calling often from forest undergrowth. We saw a couple of different Abyssinian Hill-babblers and managed to coax out some decent looks at extreme skulkers such as Cinnamon Bracken-Warblers, though its congener Evergreen Forest (Cameroon Scrub)Warbler was not so helpful, calling again from within feet, but never showing. I thought that Usambara Weaver was going to be very touch and go, but Daphne spotted one right out in the open in great light in the canopy. Typically feeding nuthatch-style, we had glorious long looks in the scope at this distinctive, colourful endemic that is now possibly one of the rarest birds in the world, numbering perhaps a few hundred just in the Western Usambaras. Other good stuff included Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Moustached Tinkerbird, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Kenrick’s & Waller’s Starlings and a small list of Greenbuls such as Eastern Mountain, Shelley’s, Yellow-streaked & Stripe-cheeked. The African Tailorbird – only discovered less than100 years ago – was again surprisingly “easy” to find and we gained decent looks at. Delgorgue’s (Eastern Bronze-naped) Pigeons, along with the quite localised Hartlaub’s Turaco. On our return stroll back to the vehicle Ann went on ahead and found herself a nice Bar-tailed Trogon. She left messages on the track to warn us as we came by, but we never noticed! Back at the lodge for a lovely al fresco lunch complete with Eastern (Usambara race) Double-collared Sunbirds, we relaxed for a couple of hours before heading out again at about 3.30pm for a final thrash about in a different section of remnant forest only a short distance from the lodge. The afternoon birding proved much slower and quieter than this morning – but that was OK as we’d seen so much in the morning anyway. The forest area visited was unprotected and it showed. Many more people were present and we birded to the background sound of machetes and axes felling trees for firewood. Oh Well, it could have been worse and been the sound of chainsaws! We heard further Spot-throats and Evergreen Forest Warblers but didn’t go for them. We tried for trogon and illadopsis but got no response. We did find good looks at Yellow-fronted Woodland Warbler, a Wahlberg’s Honeyguide (a lifer for me having missed this morning’s bird) and a mammal lifer for us all – Lushoto Squirrel. In amongst these were sightings of various greenbuls. Olive Woodpecker, white-eyes and more. We again tried but failed to call in Montane Nightjar before and after a good supper, getting away to our rooms by 8.30pm!
6th November: To the Maasai steppes at Ndarakwai: We had breakfast at 6.30am and were paid up, packed up and away shortly after 7am. We fairly quickly wound our way down from the 5000 feet hills to the hotter, drier lands below and continued our journey north towards Moshi. Anthony had built in some time for various staked-out birding areas along the way that nicely broke up yet another fairly long drive. Basically we stopped and birded from the vehicle and then spent an hour or more of hiking through the bush in areas along the way towards Mkomazi National Park. One of the target birds here was Tiny Cisticola, which we didn’t see, but there was a good variety of different birds seen including species with very small distributions at least within Tanzania. We had splendid multiple looks at called in Red-fronted Warbler in the dry scrubby mixed bush with plenty of acacia. Here too we quickly located the localised White-headed Mousebird. We’d hoped for the possible split Tsavo Sunbird here, but could “only” find Variable, Hunter’s, Beautiful and Eastern Violet-backed along with Black-headed Batis and Reichenow’s (Yellow-rumped) Seedeaters! Slate-coloured Boubous and Brown-crowned Tchagras were numerous. Anthony was pleased and surprised to find Shelley’s Starling – similar to Hildebrandt’s but nomadic and a species I’d not seen in years. We had our picnic out here in the bush where we found further African Bare-eyed Thrushes. We continued on to Moshi and turned onto side roads and eventually rough tracks towards the lovely secluded Ndarakwai Tented Camp out in the dry Maasai steppe. On our way in we were aware of darker patches of clouds and light rain-showers – the onset of the short rains. We came upon a roadside wetland with marshes of papyrus now with standing water. Anthony said there had been nothing here a week or two ago, but now it was full of waterbirds watched in great light; Fulvous & White-faced Whistling Ducks, Glossy Ibis, African Snipe, Purple Swamphens and more. Further along in the dry scrub we found plenty of other good species such as Rosy-patched Shrike. With so much going on as we continued on towards our destination we arrived too late for any game drive. We quickly checked in and some of us went out to the nearby viewing platform overlooking a waterhole. There were no mammals, but a Eurasian Hobby put on a splendid show and all against a wonderful sunset.
The lodge was really very pleasant and such a shame that we were arriving late and having to depart early tomorrow. It was very much the sort of place to savour and relax in – fat chance for us birders! After a great supper with excellent red and white wine kindly provided by Stephen and Ann, we all leapt into an open landrover to do a night game drive. This turned out trumps and a highlight of our tour. With the excellent skills of our local driver and spotlighter we saw three species of nightjar – Fiery-necked, Plain and Square-tailed. (In fact we saw 4 species, as Daphne’s photos later proved a Slender-tailed Nightjar was also present – we just didn’t get a good angle on its tail until photos were scrutinised). A Verreaux’s Eagle-owl watched a gerbil dashing about in the flashlight. A couple of Genets were found along with a splendid little Spring Hare – a real mammal oddity in a family of its own. But the real “wow-factor” came when a fantastic Aardvark came into view. We had prolonged good looks at this bizarre and unique animal (again in a family of its own). It was a lifer for Bill and Daphne and only the second sighting ever for the rest of us (Stephen, Ann and I had all seen the same animal on a tour I arranged in Kenya many years ago).
7th November: The “Lark Plains” of the Maasai steppe and back to Arusha: we all had a good night’s sleep in our lovely, enormous tents with king-size beds and enjoyed waking to the sounds of the dawn chorus. After early morning tea and coffee delivered to our tents (albeit the tea where the coffee should have gone and vice-versa) we set off on a pre-breakfast game drive. There had been sightings of African Wild Dog only yesterday so we set off in that direction as it was high on our (my!) “wish-list”. We didn’t find any, but it was good to have tried, even though it was frustrating not to be able to spend more time on our quest. Birds were everywhere and we had a very rewarding couple of hours before an 8.30am breakfast. Little flocks of Crimson-rumped Waxbills were welcome. We had a Dark Chanting-Goshawk on kill and many Black-shouldered Kites, some mobbing huge Tawny and Steppe Eagles. Our first Pallid Harrier put in an appearance as did a lone Secretarybird.
A good breakfast was taken at speed in order to get away by 9.45am. Then it was a fascinating journey driving cross-country due west to reach the fabled “Lark Plains” north of Arusha and Mt. Meru. The country was full of interest, with lots of acacia scrub interspersed with euphorbia (cactus look-alike) and Sansevera (sisal) along with large patches of barren, bare ground. Here were occasional Maasai villages amidst land that must be part of the Amboseli ecosystem with game animals wandering through at various times of year depending on weather. It had rained here in places and the landcruiser, expertly driven by Abdul slithered about in mud in some places and kicked up clouds of dust in others. Birding was great, but again with never enough time to see it all. We came across a huge Kori Bustard and everything between. More gorgeous Rosy-patch Shrikes, a lovely group of Fischer’s Starlings (another seldom seen species for me at least), a mixed feeding group of swifts and hirundines including migrant Alpine Swifts and localised Grey-rumped Swallows. Numerous wheatears including Isabelline and Capped were noted this morning, with Mourning (Schalow’s) later on. Larks were at the forefront today, with great looks at Fischer’s Sparrow-larks, Red-capped, Foxy (Fawn-coloured) and Short-tailed all good finds and dividing this barren landscape up according to soil-dependent micro-habitats too subtle for us to discern. Of course we were heading towards the Lark Plains where we hoped for our final really special endemic of the tour; Beesley’s Lark. This is a split from Spike-heeled in S. Africa: a disjunct population now a full species numbering just a handful of pairs – maybe fewer than 50? Anthony knew where to find them, but the local Maasai now want a slice of the action and he had been in touch with the locals to have them meet us and have the birds staked out. A simple arrangement of “we pay $10 a person and they show us the larks” seems a reasonable deal if it means they are more inclined to protect this ultra-rare bird. Today it worked like a dream. We motored across vast areas of dry sparse grassland and then there were two Maasai in full native dress – “The Beesley Brothers” – who called us on their mobile phone (over 90% of Tanzanians now have them!) and off we went. A few hundred yards across the flat steppe and there they were – at least 4-5 splendid and very distinctive Beesley’s Larks with their long decurved bills, upright stance and buffy underparts. They were very co-operative and allowed close looks and good photographs. The Beesley-boys took our money, even producing a receipt book from under their wrap-around costumes) then posed for free bonus photos before we headed off to have our picnic by the main road back to Arusha. As we proceeded a few more Beesley’s Larks showed up – we’d possibly seen 10% of the world population this morning!
We had a quick picnic where Daphne and Bill presented Anthony and Abdul with Obama caps, Stephen and Ann gave Anthony their bird book and the customary genuine thanks for a job well done was expressed with a generous tip. We all agreed to head for Arusha now as anything else would be an anticlimax! We dropped Anthony off on the city outskirts so he could get home after over a month away on tour, then Abdul drove us on to the lovely Mountain Village Lodge. Stephen and Ann borrowed my room for a shower, change and repack before their departure towards Amsterdam this evening. We all enjoyed a bit of luxury down-time, finished off the last bird list and began sorting ourselves out for tomorrow. The young woman from Unique Safaris popped along to go over details with me and by 10.30pm I was greeting our 3 new group members into the fold.
Footnote: I’d not previously been to all the areas we visited on this “Alternative” Tanzania tour, thus at times felt apprehension and delight as the tour unfolded. I was very pleased with the outcome – a species total of 442 is pretty good for the time we were birding. As climates become less predictable I was also worried about rains – or lack of them – affecting the tour. We were visiting at the “best” time for birding this region, but would it still be too dry for any birds to be actively breeding – or so wet that we couldn’t get around? As it turned out, it was mostly quite dry and a few weavers and bishops were not at their best, but sunbirds were fine and there was plenty of activity overall – and we didn’t get stuck in the mud! The list for this region is a long one of mouth-watering very rare and localised species that we’d all love to see. The reality of course is that many of them are forest skulkers making birding difficult whatever you do. And then there are those who are in deep forest requiring hours (days in some cases) of hard climbing, overnight camping and generally too difficult for anyone but the hardiest, fittest and most dedicated. Once those species are realistically taken out of the equation, I believe we are left with a very decent list of great species seen. The accommodation in most places was not luxury lodge style like the northern circuit, but generally OK, There were also much greater distances to travel – but nothing to do about that if we want to reach those special places. Overall a very productive tour finding all of us plenty of new birds: (having said all that, I think we all quietly thought that the Aardvark was honorary “bird of the trip”!
FYI: The combined bird species total for this and the follow-on tour to the Northern Circuit was c.586.
|Ducks, Geese & Swans||Anatidae|
|1||Fulvous Whistling-Duck||Dendrocygna bicolor||20|
|2||White-faced Whistling-Duck||Dendrocygna viduata||10||*|
|3||Egyptian Goose||Alopochen aegyptiaca||2||10||*|
|4||Spur-winged Goose||Plectropterus gambensis||20||*|
|5||African Pygmy-Goose||Nettapus auritus||6||30|
|6||Red-billed Duck||Anas erythrorhyncha||10|
|7||Hottentot Teal||Anas hottentota||2|
|8||Helmeted Guineafowl||Numida meleagris||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|9||Crested Guineafowl||Guttera pucherani||8||*|
|Pheasants, Partridges & Allies||Phasianidae|
|10||Coqui Francolin||Francolinus coqui||4|
|11||Crested Francolin||Francolinus sephaena||25||h|
|12||Yellow-necked Francolin||Francolinus leucoscepus||6||*|
|13||Red-necked Francolin||Francolinus afer||*||*||*||*|
|14||Little Grebe||Tachybaptus ruficollis||2||4|
|15||Pink-backed Pelican||Pelecanus rufescens||1|
|16||Long-tailed Cormorant||Phalacrocorax africanus||1||1||6||5||1|
|Herons, Egrets & Bitterns||Ardeidae|
|17||Gray Heron||Ardea cinerea||2||1||1||1|
|18||Black-headed Heron||Ardea melanocephala||3||4||4||*||*||5||10|
|19||Goliath Heron||Ardea goliath||1|
|20||Great Egret||Ardea alba||5||2||1|
|21||Intermediate Egret||Mesophyx intermedia||3||5||*||1|
|22||Little Egret (inc. dimorpha)||Egretta garzetta||5||5||1||5||*||1|
|23||Cattle Egret||Bubulcus ibis||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|24||Squacco Heron||Ardeola ralloides||2||2|
|25||Striated Heron||Butorides striata||1||10||2||1|
|Ibises & Spoonbills||Threskiornithidae|
|26||Glossy Ibis||Plegadis falcinellus||2|
|27||Sacred Ibis||Threskiornis aethiopicus||6||2||4||2|
|28||Hadada Ibis||Bostrychia hagedash||h||3||2||h||4|
|29||African Spoonbill||Platalea alba||1|
|31||African Openbill||Anastomus lamelligerus||60||1||2||5|
|32||Black Stork||Ciconia nigra||1||1|
|33||White Stork||Ciconia ciconia||1|
|34||Saddle-billed Stork||Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis||1||5|
|35||Marabou Stork||Leptoptilos crumeniferus||20||*|
|36||Yellow-billed Stork||Mycteria ibis||6||6||10|
|Hawks, Eagles & Kites||Accipitridae|
|37||Black-shouldered Kite||Elanus caeruleus||1||2||15|
|38||Black Kite||Milvus migrans||*||5||10||5||1||6||*|
|39||African Fish-Eagle||Haliaeetus vocifer||1||6||1|
|40||Palm-nut Vulture||Gypohierax angolensis||4||1||1||1|
|41||Hooded Vulture||Necrosyrtes monachus||*||10||5||1|
|42||White-backed Vulture||Gyps africanus||10||*|
|43||Black-breasted Snake-Eagle||Circaetus pectoralis||2|
|44||Brown Snake-Eagle||Circaetus cinereus||1||1|
|46||African Marsh-Harrier||Circus ranivorus||1||1|
|47||Pallid Harrier||Circus macrourus||1|
|48||African Harrier-Hawk||Polyboroides typus||3||1||2||1||1|
|49||Lizard Buzzard||Kaupifalco monogrammicus||2|
|50||Dark Chanting-Goshawk||Melierax metabates||1|
|51||Eastern Chanting-Goshawk||Melierax poliopterus||1||1||3||1||1||10|
|52||Gabar Goshawk||Micronisus gabar||1||1||1||1|
|53||African Goshawk||Accipiter tachiro||1||1||1|
|54||Common Buzzard||Buteo buteo||2||4|
|55||Augur Buzzard||Buteo augur||2||1|
|56||Tawny Eagle||Aquila rapax||1||2||2||2|
|57||Steppe Eagle||Aquila nipalensis||1||2|
|58||Verreaux’s Eagle||Aquila verreauxii||2|
|59||African Hawk-Eagle||Aquila spilogaster||2||1||4||2||1||1|
|60||Wahlberg’s Eagle||Hieraaetus wahlbergi||1||1||1|
|61||Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle||Hieraaetus ayresii||1|
|62||Long-crested Eagle||Lophaetus occipitalis||1|
|63||Crowned Hawk-Eagle||Stephanoaetus coronatus||1||1|
|Falcons & Caracaras||Falconidae|
|65||Pygmy Falcon||Polihierax semitorquatus||1|
|66||Eurasian Kestrel||Falco tinnunculus||2||1||1|
|67||Gray Kestrel||Falco ardosiaceus||1|
|68||Dickinson’s Kestrel||Falco dickinsoni||1||2||1|
|69||Eurasian Hobby||Falco subbuteo||1|
|Rails, Gallinules & Coots||Rallidae|
|70||Black Crake||Amaurornis flavirostra||1|
|71||Purple Swamphen||Porphyrio porphyrio||*|
|72||Common Moorhen||Gallinula chloropus||4||10||10|
|73||Red-knobbed Coot||Fulica cristata||10|
|74||Kori Bustard||Ardeotis kori||1|
|75||White-bellied Bustard||Eupodotis senegalensis||2||1|
|76||Buff-crested Bustard||Eupodotis gindiana||6||5||1|
|77||Black-bellied Bustard||Lissotis melanogaster||10||*|
|78||Gray Crowned-Crane||Balearica regulorum||3|
|79||Water Thick-knee||Burhinus vermiculatus||6|
|80||Spotted Thick-knee||Burhinus capensis||1|
|Plovers & Lapwings||Charadriidae|
|81||Blacksmith Plover||Vanellus armatus||2|
|82||Spur-winged Plover||Vanellus spinosus||15|
|83||White-headed Lapwing||Vanellus albiceps||1||*||5|
|84||Crowned Lapwing||Vanellus coronatus||12||*||5|
|85||Wattled Lapwing||Vanellus senegallus||6|
|86||Black-bellied Plover||Pluvialis squatarola||4|
|87||Common Ringed Plover||Charadrius hiaticula||85|
|88||Three-banded Plover||Charadrius tricollaris||3||15|
|89||Greater Sand-Plover||Charadrius leschenaultii||5|
|90||Crab Plover||Dromas ardeola||7|
|91||African Jacana||Actophilornis africanus||4||6||4||4||*|
|Sandpipers & Allies||Scolopacidae|
|92||Common Sandpiper||Actitis hypoleucos||5||2||1||5||2||1|
|93||Green Sandpiper||Tringa ochropus||1|
|94||Common Greenshank||Tringa nebularia||h||30||2|
|95||Marsh Sandpiper||Tringa stagnatilis||2|
|96||Wood Sandpiper||Tringa glareola||4||15||4||1||3|
|98||Ruddy Turnstone||Arenaria interpres||4|
|100||Little Stint||Calidris minuta||2||1|
|101||Curlew Sandpiper||Calidris ferruginea||50|
|102||African Snipe||Gallinago nigripennis||1|
|Coursers & Pratincoles||Glareolidae|
|103||Temminck’s Courser||Cursorius temminckii||4|
|104||Collared Pratincole||Glareola pratincola||40|
|Gulls, Terns & Skimmers||Laridae|
|105||Sooty Gull||Ichthyaetus hemprichii||1||2|
|106||Common Tern||Sterna hirundo||*||*|
|107||Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse||Pterocles exustus||10|
|108||Black-faced Sandgrouse||Pterocles decoratus||30|
|Pigeons & Doves||Columbidae|
|109||Rock Pigeon||Columba livia||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|110||Speckled Pigeon||Columba guinea||15||2|
|111||Delegorgue’s Pigeon||Columba delegorguei||4|
|112||Lemon Dove||Columba larvata||1|
|113||African Mourning Dove||Streptopelia decipiens||5||5|
|114||Red-eyed Dove||Streptopelia semitorquata||1||5||1||h||*||*|
|115||Ring-necked Dove||Streptopelia capicola||h||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|116||Laughing Dove||Streptopelia senegalensis||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|117||Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove||Turtur chalcospilos||h||2||*||*||10||5||1||2||*||5||5|
|118||Blue-spotted Wood-Dove||Turtur afer||h||2||6||*||h|
|119||Tambourine Dove||Turtur tympanistria||1|
|120||Namaqua Dove||Oena capensis||3||12||2||*|
|121||Pemba Green-Pigeon||Treron pembaensis||3|
|122||African Green-Pigeon||Treron calvus||2||6||4|
|Macaws, Parrots & Allies||Psittacidae|
|123||Yellow-collared Lovebird||Agapornis personatus||10||3||4|
|124||Meyer’s Parrot||Poicephalus meyeri||2||6||2|
|125||Brown-headed Parrot||Poicephalus cryptoxanthus||*||*||5||*||5||4|
|126||Livingstone’s Turaco||Tauraco livingstonii||1|
|127||Fischer’s Turaco||Tauraco fischeri||3||h||h||h|
|128||Hartlaub’s Turaco||Tauraco hartlaubi||h||4|
|129||Purple-crested Turaco||Tauraco porphyreolophus||1||1|
|130||Bare-faced Go-away-bird||Corythaixoides personatus||2||4||2||1||1||2|
|131||White-bellied Go-away-bird||Corythaixoides leucogaster||1|
|132||Red-chested Cuckoo||Cuculus solitarius||h||1||h||2||h|
|133||Common Cuckoo||Cuculus canorus||1||2|
|134||African Cuckoo||Cuculus gularis||1|
|135||Klaas’s Cuckoo||Chrysococcyx klaas||h||1||h|
|136||African Emerald Cuckoo||Chrysococcyx cupreus||h|
|138||Coppery-tailed Coucal||Centropus cupreicaudus||2|
|139||White-browed Coucal||Centropus superciliosus||2||2||1||1||2||1||1||h||4||2|
|140||African Scops-Owl||Otus senegalensis||h||h|
|141||Pemba Scops-Owl||Otus pembaensis||2|
|142||Usambara Eagle-Owl||Bubo vosseleri||1||1|
|143||Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl||Bubo lacteus||1||1|
|144||African Barred Owlet||Glaucidium capense||1|
|145||African Wood-Owl||Strix woodfordii||3|
|Nightjars & Allies||Caprimulgidae|
|146||Fiery-necked Nightjar||Caprimulgus pectoralis||h||h||h||h||1|
|147||Plain Nightjar||Caprimulgus inornatus||1|
|148||Square-tailed (Gabon) Nightjar||Caprimulgus fossi||1|
|149||Abyssinian Nightjar||Caprimulgus poliocephalus||h|
|150||Slender-tailed Nightjar||Caprimulgus clarus||1|
|151||Bat-like Spinetail||Neafrapus boehmi||2||2|
|152||Alpine Swift||Apus melba||10|
|153||Common Swift||Apus apus||*|
|154||White-rumped Swift||Apus caffer||*||*|
|155||African Palm-Swift||Cypsiurus parvus||2||10||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|156||Speckled Mousebird||Colius striatus||10||2||2||4||2||3||*||*|
|157||White-headed Mousebird||Colius leucocephalus||6|
|158||Blue-naped Mousebird||Urocolius macrourus||2||4|
|159||Narina Trogon||Apaloderma narina||1|
|160||Bar-tailed Trogon||Apaloderma vittatum||1|
|161||Half-collared Kingfisher||Alcedo semitorquata||1|
|162||Malachite Kingfisher||Alcedo cristata||6||4||2||2||2|
|163||Gray-headed Kingfisher||Halcyon leucocephala||1||1|
|164||Mangrove Kingfisher||Halcyon senegaloides||2|
|165||Brown-hooded Kingfisher||Halcyon albiventris||1||2||1||4||2|
|166||Striped Kingfisher||Halcyon chelicuti||2||2||1||2||1||1|
|167||Giant Kingfisher||Megaceryle maximus||1||2||1||1|
|168||Pied Kingfisher||Ceryle rudis||15||*||10||5|
|169||White-fronted Bee-eater||Merops bullockoides||1||2|
|170||Little Bee-eater||Merops pusillus||10||2||*||*||10||*||5||5||*||*||5|
|171||Blue-cheeked Bee-eater||Merops persicus||2|
|172||European Bee-eater||Merops apiaster||2||*||*||*||1||6||5|
|173||European Roller||Coracias garrulus||2||1||1|
|174||Lilac-breasted Roller||Coracias caudatus||1||6||*||*||1||4||*||3||1||*||*|
|175||Racket-tailed Roller||Coracias spatulatus||2|
|176||Broad-billed Roller||Eurystomus glaucurus||4||6||1||7||1||2||1|
|177||Eurasian Hoopoe||Upupa epops||h||h|
|Woodhoopoes & Allies||Phoeniculidae|
|178||Green Woodhoopoe||Phoeniculus purpureus||10||10||1|
|179||Common Scimitar-bill||Rhinopomastus cyanomelas||2|
|180||Abyssinian Scimitar-bill||Rhinopomastus minor||1||2|
|181||Red-billed Hornbill||Tockus erythrorhynchus||15||*||*||6|
|182||Von der Decken’s Hornbill||Tockus deckeni||2||10||2|
|183||Crowned Hornbill||Tockus alboterminatus||1||6||4||6||6||*||5||2||2||2||2|
|184||African Gray Hornbill||Tockus nasutus||4||*||*|
|185||Pale-billed Hornbill||Tockus pallidirostris||1||5||2||1|
|186||Trumpeter Hornbill||Ceratogymna bucinator||4||*||10||10||1||3||1||*|
|187||Silvery-cheeked Hornbill||Ceratogymna brevis||4||2||*||*||*||*||1|
|188||Southern Ground-Hornbill||Bucorvus leadbeateri||6||5|
|189||Crested Barbet||Trachyphonus vaillantii||2||1|
|190||Red-and-yellow Barbet||Trachyphonus erythrocephalus||1|
|191||D’Arnaud’s Barbet||Trachyphonus darnaudii||1||10||1|
|192||White-eared Barbet||Stactolaema leucotis||2||10||5||5||2|
|193||Green Barbet||Stactolaema olivacea||2||2||2||1|
|194||Moustached Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus leucomystax||h||1||h||h||2|
|195||Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus bilineatus||h|
|196||Red-fronted Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus pusillus||1||3||1||1||1||1|
|197||Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus chrysoconus||2|
|198||Red-fronted Barbet||Tricholaema diademata||1|
|199||Spot-flanked Barbet||Tricholaema lacrymosa||4||4||2|
|200||Black-throated Barbet||Tricholaema melanocephala||1|
|201||Brown-breasted Barbet||Lybius melanopterus||1|
|202||Wahlberg’s Honeyguide||Prodotiscus regulus||2|
|203||Green-backed Honeyguide||Prodotiscus zambesiae||1|
|204||Scaly-throated Honeyguide||Indicator variegatus||1|
|205||Greater Honeyguide||Indicator indicator||h||1||1|
|Woodpeckers & Allies||Picidae|
|206||Rufous-necked Wryneck||Jynx ruficollis||1|
|207||Nubian Woodpecker||Campethera nubica||2||2||2||1|
|208||Reichenow’s Woodpecker||Campethera scriptoricauda||4|
|209||Golden-tailed Woodpecker||Campethera abingoni||1|
|210||Cardinal Woodpecker||Dendropicos fuscescens||4||2||1||1|
|211||Bearded Woodpecker||Dendropicos namaquus||2|
|212||Olive Woodpecker||Dendropicos griseocephalus||1|
|213||African Broadbill||Smithornis capensis||1||1||1|
|214||Black-and-White Shrike-Flycatcher||Bias musicus||2|
|215||Black-throated Wattle-eye||Platysteira peltata||1|
|216||Pale Batis||Batis soror||1||1|
|217||Black-headed Batis||Batis minor||2||2||1|
|218||Pygmy Batis||Batis perkeo||1|
|219||White Helmetshrike||Prionops plumatus||*|
|220||Retz’s Helmetshrike||Prionops retzii||6||6|
|221||Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike||Prionops scopifrons||10|
|Bushshrikes & Allies||Malaconotidae|
|223||Black-backed Puffback||Dryoscopus cubla||2||2||2||1||1||1||2||2||2||2|
|224||Black-crowned Tchagra||Tchagra senegalus||4||h|
|225||Brown-crowned Tchagra||Tchagra australis||1||1||5||2|
|226||Tropical Boubou||Laniarius aethiopicus||2||h||2||2|
|227||Slate-colored Boubou||Laniarius funebris||h||4||2||1||5||5|
|228||Fuelleborn’s Boubou||Laniarius fuelleborni||2|
|229||Rosy-patched Bushshrike||Rhodophoneus cruentus||1||4|
|230||Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike||Telophorus sulfureopectus||1|
|231||Black-fronted Bushshrike||Telophorus nigrifrons||2|
|232||Gray Cuckoo-shrike||Coracina caesia||1|
|233||Black Cuckoo-shrike||Campephaga flava||2||1||1|
|234||Rufous-tailed Shrike||Lanius isabellinus||1||1||1||2||4|
|235||Long-tailed Fiscal||Lanius cabanisi||*||*||5|
|236||Taita Fiscal||Lanius dorsalis||5|
|237||Common Fiscal||Lanius collaris||6||15|
|238||Magpie Shrike||Corvinella melanoleuca||*||5|
|239||White-rumped (-crowned) Shrike||Eurocephalus rueppelli||1||15||1|
|Old World Orioles||Oriolidae|
|240||Eurasian Golden Oriole||Oriolus oriolus||1|
|241||African Golden Oriole||Oriolus auratus||2||5||2||*||1|
|242||Green-headed Oriole||Oriolus chlorocephalus||5|
|243||African Black-headed Oriole||Oriolus larvatus||1||1||1||1||5|
|244||Square-tailed Drongo||Dicrurus ludwigii||4||2||2|
|245||Fork-tailed Drongo||Dicrurus adsimilis||*||6||*||4||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|246||Livingstone’s Flycatcher||Erythrocercus livingstonei||2|
|247||African Paradise-Flycatcher||Terpsiphone viridis||2||1||2||4||1|
|Crows, Jays & Magpies||Corvidae|
|248||House Crow||Corvus splendens||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|249||Pied Crow||Corvus albus||*||*||*||2||*||*||*||*||2||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|250||White-necked Raven||Corvus albicollis||1||20||2||3||75|
|251||Eastern Nicator||Nicator gularis||h||1||h|
|252||White-tailed Lark||Mirafra albicauda||1|
|253||Rufous-naped Lark||Mirafra africana||*||5|
|254||Pink-breasted Lark||Calendulauda poecilosterna||2|
|255||Foxy Lark||Calendulauda alopex||5|
|(Fawn-colored Lark)||(Cal.(Mirafra) africanoides)|
|256||Beesley’s Lark||Chersomanes beesleyi||8|
|257||Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark||Eremopterix leucopareia||1||*||*|
|258||Red-capped Lark||Calandrella cinerea||25|
|259||Short-tailed Lark||Pseudalaemon fremantlii||4|
|260||Rock Martin||Ptyonoprogne fuligula||4||1||2|
|261||Barn Swallow||Hirundo rustica||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|262||Wire-tailed Swallow||Hirundo smithii||*||*||1||*||*|
|263||Ethiopian Swallow||Hirundo aethiopica||*||*|
|264||Lesser Striped-Swallow||Cecropis abyssinica||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|265||Mosque Swallow||Cecropis senegalensis||5|
|266||Red-rumped Swallow||Cecropis daurica||5|
|267||Black Sawwing||Psalidoprocne pristoptera||1||10||6||*|
|268||Grey-rumped Swallow||Pseudhirundo griseopyga||4|
|269||White-tailed Crested-Flycatcher||Elminia albonotata||1||6|
|Chickadees & Tits||Paridae|
|270||White-bellied Tit||Melaniparus albiventris||4|
|271||Rufous-bellied Tit||Melaniparus rufiventris||6|
|272||African Penduline-Tit||Anthoscopus caroli||4||1|
|273||Common Bulbul||Pycnonotus barbatus||2||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|274||Shelley’s Greenbul||Andropadus masukuensis||2||10|
|275||Little Greenbul||Andropadus virens||2||h|
|276||Eastern Mountain-Greenbul||Andropadus nigriceps||2||2||2||*|
|277||Stripe-cheeked Greenbul||Andropadus milanjensis||2|
|278||Yellow-bellied Greenbul||Chlorocichla faviventris||2||5||2||1||1||1|
|279||Cabanis’s Greenbul||Phyllastrephus cabanisi||1||1|
|280||Fischer’s Greenbul||Phyllastrephus fischeri||1||2|
|281||Willow Warbler||Phylloscopus trochilus||1|
|282||Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler||Phylloscopus ruficapilla||2|
|283||Lesser Swamp-Warbler||Acrocephalus gracilirostris||1|
|Grassbirds & Allies||Megaluridae|
|284||Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler||Bradypterus cinnamomeus||2|
|285||Cameroon Scrub-Warbler||Bradypterus lopezi||h||h||h|
|(Evergreen Forest Warbler)|
|Cisticolas & Allies||Cisticolidae|
|286||Bar-throated Apalis||Apalis thoracica||5|
|287||Yellow-breasted Apalis||Apalis flavida||2||4||2|
|288||Black-headed Apalis||Apalis melanocephala||2||1|
|289||Green-backed Camaroptera||Camaroptera brachyura||1||1||2||2||2||1||1||1|
|290||Red-fronted Warbler||Urorhipis rufifrons||2|
|291||Miombo Wren-Warbler||Calamonastes undosus||1|
|292||Gray Wren-Warbler||Calamonastes simplex||1||2|
|293||Red-faced Cisticola||Cisticola erythrops||h||h|
|294||Trilling Cisticola||Cisticola woosnami||1|
|295||Rattling Cisticola||Cisticola chiniana||5||h||*||*|
|296||Churring Cisticola||Cisticola njombe||1|
|297||Croaking Cisticola||Cisticola natalensis||1|
|298||Piping Cisticola||Cisticola fulvicapilla||3||4|
|299||Tabora Cisticola||Cisticola angusticauda||1|
|300||Siffling Cisticola||Cisticola brachypterus||2|
|301||Zitting Cisticola||Cisticola juncidis||h||h|
|302||Pectoral-Patch Cisticola||Cisticola brunnescens||1||h|
|303||*White-tailed Cisticola*||Cisticola sp. nova||3|
|304||*Kilombero Cisticola*||Cisticola sp. nova||1|
|305||African Tailorbird||Orthotomus metopias||3|
|306||Long-billed Tailorbird||Orthotomus moreaui||1|
|307||Tawny-flanked Prinia||Prinia subflava||2||2||h||4||2||h||2||5|
|308||Yellow-bellied Eremomela||Eremomela icteropygialis||6||2|
|309||Greencap Eremomela||Eremomela scotops||2||4|
|Old World Warblers||Sylviidae|
|311||Banded Warbler (Parisoma)||Parisoma boehmi||h|
|312||Northern Crombec||Sylvietta brachyura||4|
|313||Cape Crombec||Sylvietta rufescens||2||4||1|
|314||Kretschmer’s Longbill||Macrosphenus kretschmeri||1|
|Old World Flycatchers||Muscicapidae|
|316||Pale Flycatcher||Bradornis pallidus||1|
|317||African Gray Flycatcher||Bradornis microrhynchus||2||2|
|318||Southern Black-Flycatcher||Melaenornis pammelaina||1||1||1||1|
|319||Spotted Flycatcher||Muscicapa striata||1||1||2||4||5||1||2||2|
|320||African Dusky Flycatcher||Muscicapa adusta||2||4|
|321||Ashy Flycatcher||Muscicapa caerulescens||1||1||4|
|322||Gray Tit-Flycatcher||Myioparus plumbeus||2|
|323||White-starred Robin||Pogonocichla stellata||1||4|
|324||Sharpe’s Akalat||Sheppardia sharpei||1||h|
|325||Cape Robin-Chat||Cossypha caffra||h|
|326||White-browed Robin-Chat||Cossypha heuglini||1||2||2|
|327||Red-capped Robin-Chat||Cossypha natalensis||1|
|328||Collared Palm-Thrush||Cichladusa arquata||1||1|
|329||Spotted Morning-Thrush||Cichladusa guttata||2||4|
|330||Red-backed Scrub-Robin||Cercotrichas leucophrys||1||1||2||1||10||4|
|331||Northern Wheatear||Oenanthe oenanthe||1||1||2|
|332||Capped Wheatear||Oenanthe pileata||1||2|
|333||Isabelline Wheatear||Oenanthe isabellina||*|
|334||Mourning (Schalow’s) Wheatear||Oenanthe lugens||2|
|336||Familiar Chat||Cercomela familiaris||4|
|337||White-headed Black-Chat||Myrmecocichla arnotti||*|
|338||Mocking Cliff-Chat||Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris||1|
|Thrushes & Allies||Turdidae|
|339||Red-tailed Ant-Thrush||Neocossyphus rufus||1|
|340||Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush||Monticola saxatalis||1||1|
|341||Olive Thrush||Turdus olivaceus||1|
|342||Kurrichane Thrush||Turdus libonyanus||2||1|
|343||African Bare-eyed Thrush||Turdus tephronotus||1||2|
|344||White-chested Alethe||Alethe fuelleborni||1||1||1|
|346||African Hill Babbler||Pseudoalcippe abyssinica||3|
|347||Rufous Chatterer||Turdoides rubiginosa||6|
|348||Northern Pied-Babbler||Turdoides hypoleuca||5||2|
|349||Arrow-marked Babbler||Turdoides jardineii||10||*|
|350||African Yellow White-eye||Zosterops senegalensis||10||*||10|
|351||Broad-ringed White-eye||Zosterops poliogastrus||*||*|
|352||Pemba White-eye||Zosterops vaughani||6||*||2|
|353||Black-bellied Glossy-Starling||Lamprotornis corruscus||4||6||*||5||2|
|354||Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling||Lamprotornis chloropterus||4||*||*|
|(Southern Blue-eared)||(Lamprotornis (ch.) elisabeth)|
|355||Superb Starling||Lamprotornis superbus||4||*||*||*||2||*|
|356||Hildebrandt’s Starling||Lamprotornis hildebrandti||*|
|357||Shelley’s Starling||Lamprotornis shelleyi||3|
|358||Violet-backed Starling||Cinnyricinclus leucogaster||6||10||*||*||*||2||2|
|359||Fischer’s Starling||Spreo fischeri||10|
|360||Ashy Starling||Spreo unicolor||*||*||*||*|
|361||Red-winged Starling||Onychognathus morio||1||2||4|
|362||Waller’s Starling||Onychognathus walleri||2|
|363||Kenrick’s Starling||Poeoptera kenricki||4||*||10||*|
|364||Red-billed Oxpecker||Buphagus erythrorhynchus||2||2|
|365||Yellow-billed Oxpecker||Buphagus africanus||5||*|
|366||Western Violet-backed Sunbird||Anthreptes longuemarei||6||5|
|367||Kenya Violet-backed Sunbird||Anthreptes orientalis||2||5||5|
|368||Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird||Anthreptes neglectus||4||4||2||6||2|
|369||Banded Sunbird||Anthreptes rubritorques||1|
|370||Collared Sunbird||Hedydipna collaris||4||4||10||6|
|371||Amani Sunbird||Hedydipna pallidigaster||2|
|372||Eastern Olive Sunbird||Cyanomitra olivacea||10||*||4|
|373||Amethyst Sunbird||Chalcomitra amethystina||4||1|
|374||Scarlet-chested Sunbird||Chalcomitra senegalensis||6||2||6||1||4|
|375||Hunter’s Sunbird||Chalcomitra hunteri||1|
|376||Miombo Sunbird||Cinnyris manoensis||1|
|377||Eastern Double-collared Sunbird||Cinnyris mediocris||*|
|378||Mariqua Sunbird||Cinnyris mariquensis||2||1||2||1|
|379||Shelley’s Sunbird||Cinnyris shelleyi||2|
|380||Beautiful Sunbird||Cinnyris pulchellus||2||1||1||2|
|381||Black-bellied Sunbird||Cinnyris nectarinioides||3|
|382||Purple-banded Sunbird||Cinnyris bifasciatus||*||*|
|383||Pemba Sunbird||Cinnyris pembae||*||*||*|
|384||Variable Sunbird||Cinnyris venustus||6|
|Wagtails & Pipits||Motacillidae|
|385||African Pied Wagtail||Motacilla aguimp||1||1||4||4||*||1||2||2|
|386||Gray Wagtail||Motacilla cinerea||1|
|387||Mountain Wagtail||Motacilla clara||1||2|
|388||African Pipit||Anthus cinnamomeus||2||2||1||2||6|
|389||Tree Pipit||Anthus trivialis||4|
|390||Yellow-throated Longclaw||Macronyx croceus||4||6|
|Buntings, Sparrows & Allies||Emberizidae|
|391||Cinnamon-breasted Bunting||Emberiza tahapisi||1||1|
|392||Golden-breasted Bunting||Emberiza flaviventris||1||1|
|393||Cabanis’s Bunting||Emberiza cabanisi||6||6||2|
|Siskins, Crossbills & Allies||Fringillidae|
|394||Southern Citril||Serinus hypostictus||4|
|395||Reichenow’s Seedeater||Serinus reichenowi||2||6|
|396||Yellow-fronted Canary||Serinus mozambicus||6||4||1|
|397||White-bellied Canary||Serinus dorsostriatus||10|
|398||Brimstone Canary||Serinus sulphuratus||2|
|Old World Sparrows||Passeridae|
|399||House Sparrow||Passer domesticus||*||*||10||*||*||*||*|
|400||Kenya Rufous Sparrow||Passer rufocinctus||4|
|401||Swahili Sparrow||Passer suahelicus||1||*|
|402||Southern Gray-headed Sparrow||Passer diffusus||1|
|403||Yellow-spotted Petronia||Petronia pyrgita||2||4|
|404||Yellow-throated Petronia||Petronia superciliaris||*||*||*|
|Weavers & Allies||Ploceidae|
|405||Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver||Bubalornis niger||*|
|406||White-headed Buffalo-Weaver||Dinemellia dinemelli||5||5||2|
|407||White-browed Sparrow-Weaver||Plocepasser mahali||5||5||*|
|408||Red-headed Weaver||Anaplectes rubriceps||1||1||1|
|409||Baglafecht Weaver||Ploceus baglafecht||1||10||10||*||5||*|
|410||Black-necked Weaver||Ploceus nigricollis||2|
|411||Spectacled Weaver||Ploceus ocularis||1||2||2|
|412||African Golden-Weaver||Ploceus subaureus||1||*|
|413||Taveta Golden-Weaver||Ploceus castaneiceps||2|
|414||Kilombero Weaver||Ploceus burnieri||*|
|415||Lesser Masked-Weaver||Ploceus intermedius||*||5|
|416||Village Weaver||Ploceus cucullatus||*||*||*||*|
|417||Forest Weaver||Ploceus bicolor||6||*||*||*||2|
|418||Usambara Weaver||Ploceus nicolli||2|
|419||Red-billed Quelea||Quelea quelea||1||*|
|420||Red Bishop||Euplectes orix||*|
|421||Zanzibar Bishop||Euplectes nigroventris||?|
|422||Yellow Bishop||Euplectes capensis||*||*|
|423||White-winged Widowbird||Euplectes albonotatus||1|
|424||Fan-tailed Widowbird||Euplectes axillaris||*|
|425||Marsh Widowbird||Euplectes hartlaubi||10|
|426||Grosbeak Weaver||Amblyospiza albifrons||2||3|
|Waxbills & Allies||Estrildidae|
|427||Crimson-rumped Waxbill||Estrilda rhodopyga||50|
|428||Common Waxbill||Estrilda astrild||1||5||10||*||*|
|429||Blue-breasted Cordonbleu||Uraeginthus angolensis||10||*||2||*||2|
|430||Red-cheeked Cordonbleu||Uraeginthus bengalus||1||4||*|
|431||Peters’s Twinspot||Hypargos niveoguttatus||2|
|432||Green-winged Pytilia||Pytilia melba||2||5|
|433||Orange-winged Pytilia||Pytilia afra||10||6||2||2||3|
|434||Red-billed Firefinch||Lagonosticta senegala||*||10||*||*||2||1|
|435||Jameson’s Firefinch||Lagonosticta rhodopareia||2||*||*|
|437||Zebra Waxbill||Sporaeginthus subflavus||*|
|438||Bronze Mannikin||Spermestes cucullatus||*||*||*||10||*||*||*|
|439||Black-and-white Mannikin||Spermestes bicolor||6||*||*||*|
|440||Pin-tailed Whydah||Vidua macroura||*||15|
|441||Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah||Vidua obtusa||15||*|
|442||Eastern Paradise-Whydah||Vidua paradisaea||20|
|Iringa Red Colobus||Piliocolobus gordonorum||12||15|
|Angola Pied Colobus||Colobus angolensis||4||4||10|
|Olive Baboon||Papio anubis||10|
|Yellow baboon||Papio cynocephalus||10||*||*||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Vervet Monkey||Cercopithecus aethiops||15||5||*||*||5||*||*||1||*||*|
|“Blue” / Gentle Monkey -||Cercopithecus nictitans||4||2||1||1||4||6||*||5||5||1|
|“White-throated or Syke’s” Monkey||(Cer. (n.) albogularis)|
|Greater Galago||Otolemur crassicaudatus||2||3||2||1|
|Pemba Flying Fox||Pteropus voeltzkowi||4||*|
|Four-toed Elephant Shrew||Petrodromus tetradactylus||1|
|Hares & Rabbits||Leporidae|
|Scrub Hare||Lepus saxatilis / crawshayi||1||1|
|Unstriped Ground Squirrel||Xerus rutilus||2||4|
|Tanganyika Mountain Squirrel||Paraxerus lucifer||2||4|
|Red-bellied Coast Squirrel||Paraxerus palliatus||2|
|Lushoto Mountain Squirrel||Paraxerus vexillarius||1|
|Spring Hare||Pedetes capensis||1|
|Dogs & Allies||Canidae|
|Black-backed Jackal||Canis mesomelas||4||2||1|
|Ratel (Honey Badger)||Mellivora capensis||2||2|
|Slender (Black-tipped) Mongoose||Herpestes sanguinea||1||1||1|
|Banded Mongoose||Mungos mungo||10|
|Bushy-tailed Mongoose||Bdeogale crassicauda||1|
|Spotted Hyena||Crocuta crocuta||h|
|Genets & Civets||Viverridae|
|Common (Small-spotted) Genet||Genetta genetta||3||2||1|
|Blotched (Large-spotted) Genet||Genetta tigrina||1|
|Black-necked Rock Hyrax||Procavia johnsoni||1|
|African Elephant||Loxodonta africana||20||30||*||10|
|Common Zebra||Equus quagga||10||*||40||20|
Other Tanzania Trip Reports arranged by years.