November 8-December 19, 2017
The following is a detailed log of our 45th wedding anniversary adventure in Tanzania. It is quite
long as we were there for six weeks during what is arguably the best time for birding in Eastern
Africa. I also felt that including illustrations would help the reader. For those not wishing to
read the whole report I have put the annotated species list ahead of the main text.
Logistics: coming from Canada, the only document we had to get ahead of time was a tourist
visa. The latter is only good for three months so should not be purchased prior to three months
from your anticipated return date. We left our passports in Ottawa at the High Commission of
the United Republic of Tanzania and the visas were ready within a couple of weeks. You can
also purchase visas at certain entry points into Tanzania but we wanted to get ours ahead of
time a) in case of any issues and b) to avoid any line-ups at arrival.
Flights: after a significant amount of fare-watching and price-checking we bought tickets
through Air Canada for what ended up being all Swiss Air flights. The routing was Montreal-
Zürich-Dar Es Salaam, with a stop on the outgoing flight at Nairobi. We did not need to deplane
but the hour-stop made for quite a long flight time. As the flights to and from Zürich were code
shares, it meant that we could not select our seats. In retrospect, booking directly with Swiss
Air would have alleviated the problem. Swiss Air proved to be an excellent carrier and Zürich
airport a fabulous place for a layover. We can thoroughly recommend the extravagant but
excellent breakfast for two in the Deli Café.
Tour Companies: planning for the trip began at least a year ahead of time, with refinements
being made as plans changed. Having done a considerable amount of research we decided to
approach Tanzania Birding and Beyond for the birding safari part of our trip. We always try to
use “home-grown” tour companies rather than North American outfits. Furthermore not only is
Anthony Raphael an incredibly knowledgeable and accomplished guide, but office manager Tina
is the most patient and helpful person, answering my many, many questions with consummate
grace. Given the provisos that we did not need extravagant quarters or North American food,
she was able to put together a very reasonable 30-day package. This included all the areas for
endemics (with the exception of Pemba) and the iconic Serengeti and Ngorongoro parks. If you
have not traveled in Eastern Africa before, be prepared for the incredibly high cost of entering
national parks. Plus in many of them the only vehicles allowed are those registered to tour
operators, making self-drive options impossible.
Pre-tour: as we were spending the first few days of our stay visiting with an old friend of
Stewart’s in Dar Es Salaam, we decided that we were just too close to miss out on going to
Zanzibar and Pemba. We therefore arranged a small tour, with the help of Procell Safaris and
Palm Tours (based on Zanzibar) with two nights on Zanzibar and three on Pemba.
Summary: we recorded 623 species of birds in Tanzania, almost all of which were seen.
Unfortunately some, like the Pemba Scops-Owl and Usambara Akalat, remained heard only.
We also encountered an amazing amount of other wildlife, from giant shrews to slinky leopards
and from tent-invading lizards to lazy lions just hanging out along the side of the road.
Itinerary and Accommodations:
November 7: overnight flight from Montreal to Zurich.
November 8: flight from Zurich to Dar Es Salaam via Nairobi.
November 8-13: stay in Dar Es Salaam; local birding
November 10: birding Kerege area and Pugu Hills with January Ching’Enya.
November 13: morning birding South Beach area with January Ching’Enya.
November 14-15: ferry to Zanzibar; nights at Island Beach resort.
November 15: day in Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park.
November 16-18: flight to Pemba; nights at Pemba Paradise, Makangale.
November 17 & 18: half-day trips into Ngezi Forest and surrounding area; local birding.
November 19: flight to Tanga; drive to Amani NR.
November 19-21: nights at Amani Rest House; birding in Amani NR.
November 22: birding Amani; drive to West Usambaras.
November 22-24: nights at Mullers Mountain Lodge; birding West Usambaras
November 25: drive to South Pare Mountains.
November 25-26: nights at Elephant Motel, Same; birding Mkomazi National Park.
November 27: drive to Arusha via Mwanga Maasai steppe and Nyumba ya Mungu reservoir.
November 27-29: nights at Korona House.
November 28: visit to Lark Plains north of Arusha; other dry country birding.
November 29: visit to Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge in morning.
November 30: drive to Gibbs Farm; birding grounds and Elephant Trail; night at Country Lodge.
December 1: long drive to Speke Bay on Lake Victoria via central and western Serengeti.
December 1-2: nights at Speke Bay Lodge; local birding on lodge grounds.
December 3: drive to Ndutu via central and western Serengeti; night at Ndutu Lodge.
December 4: drive to Ngorongoro Crater; birding in and around crater; night at Country Lodge.
December 5: drive to Tarangire Safari Lodge, some birding on way.
December 5-6: nights at Tarangire Safari Lodge; birding and game-viewing in national park.
December 7: long drive to Iringa; night at M.R. Hotel.
December 8: drive to Ruaha National Park; birding on approach road and later in park.
December 8-11: nights in bandas in Ruaha; birding and game viewing in park.
December 12: drive to Udzungwa Mountains.
December 12-14: nights at Twiga Rest House (Hotel).
December 13: birding the Kilombero flood plains.
December 14: birding around Twiga Hotel and forest trails of Udzungwa National Park.
December 15: birding locally; drive to Tan-Swiss Cottages, Mikumi; birding Miombo woodland.
December 15-17: nights at Tan Swiss Cottages.
December 16: day in Mikumi National Park.
December 17: birding Miombo woodland early morning and afternoon; local birding.
December 18-19: drive to Dar Es Salaam; flight overnight to Zürich; flight Zürich to Montreal.
Annotated Species List*
* Locations given correct designation (CA: conservation area, FR: forest reserve, NP: national
park) in first reference only; similarly resorts, hotels, reservoirs, wetlands, steppes etc. are only
described in full with their location once.
Common Ostrich: many groups in Mkomazi, Serengeti and Tarangire NPs and in Ngorongoro
CA; several males in spectacular pink-necked and legged breeding plumage.
White-faced Whistling Duck: good numbers at Kibada Saltmarsh in Dar es Salaam, Bwawani
Wetland in Stonetown, Zanzibar, and Ngezi FR, Pemba; 10 at Nyumba ya Mungu reservoir south
of Arusha, 2 at Speke Bay Lodge on Lake Victoria.
White-backed Duck: a group of 3 at wetland area in Ngezi.
Comb Duck: groups of 1-3 in Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Mikumi NP.
Egyptian Goose: common on bodies of water in all mainland national parks, also at Nyumba ya
Mungu and Ngare Sero Lodge, Arusha.
Spur-winged Goose: 3 individuals in Mkomazi.
African Pygmy-Goose: 8 birds in Ngezi wetland areas.
Hottentot Teal: about 30 birds in the Ngorongoro crater.
Northern Shoveler: 3 birds in the crater.
Cape Teal: a single bird in the Ngorongoro crater.
Red-billed Duck: pairs at Mkomazi and Nyumba ya Mungu; 6 at pond in Serengeti.
Helmeted Guineafowl: common in all mainland national parks; also seen at Speke Bay.
Vulturine Guineafowl: a pair in Mkomazi.
Crested Guineafowl: pair as we exited from Ruaha NP.
Harlequin Quail: single bird in the fields just outside Pemba Paradise in NW Pemba.
Hildebrandt’s Francolin: single bird at Tarangire and two sightings in Ruaha.
Yellow-necked Francolin: common in Mkomazi and Tarangire.
Gray-breasted Francolin: small groups in Serengeti, Speke Bay and the Ngorongoro crater.
Red-necked Francolin: common in Tarangire and Ruaha; heard outside Kerege, north of Dar.
Crested Francolin: singles and small groups in Mkomazi, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Coqui Francolin: group of 4 in Serengeti.
Little Grebe: 2 at Kerege wetland, 5-6 in Ngezi wetalnd, 6 at Ngare Sero and 1 in Tarangire.
Greater Flamingo: large flocks in Ngorongoro at Lake Ndutu and in crater.
Lesser Flamingo: several with Greaters near Lake Ndutu.
African Openbill: single near Kerege, 2 flying by in Dar; 5 at Kibada, 3 at Mombo rice paddies,
32 at Nyumba ya Mungu, 30 (might have been same birds) at the Mwanga Maasai steppe off B1
just south of Nyumba ya Mungu; 2-3 in Ruaha.
Abdim’s Stork: large migrating flock on Serengeti plains just outside Ngorongoro boundary.
White Stork: pair in the Serengeti, many in the Ngorongoro crater, single flyby in Udzungwas.
Saddle-billed Stork: 1-5 daily, Ruaha only.
Marabou Stork: singles and small groups in Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Ruaha and
Yellow-billed Stork: 1’s and 2’s in Nyumba ya Mungu, Serengeti, and Speke Bay, 8 at Ruaha and
3 in Mikumi.
Long-tailed Cormorant: up to 6 around Dar, 4 at Bwawani, common at Nyumba ya Mungu, 10
at Ngare Sero; singles at Speke Bay and Kilombero swamp.
Great Cormorant: single bird at Nyumba ya Mungu.
Great White Pelican: 3 at Nyumba ya Mungu and 6 in the Ngorongoro crater.
Pink-backed Pelican: 2 in the Ngorongoro crater.
Hamerkop: 1’s and 2’s near Kerege, on Mombo-Lushoto road in the West Usambaras, at Ngare
Sero, Speke Bay, Serengeti, Tarangire, Ruaha (up to 4 daily), Mikumi and at Kilombero swamp.
Little Bittern: single at Bwawani.
Gray Heron: singles in most coastal spots, 10 at Nyumba ya Mungu, 2 at Ngare Sero and singles
at Speke Bay, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Tarangire, Ruaha and in the Udzungwas.
Black-headed Heron: most common heron, seen in most suitable locations.
Goliath Heron: singles in Ruaha daily.
Purple Heron: single near Kerege and another in the Kilombero swamp.
Great Egret: 1-6 birds in Mkomazi, at Speke Bay and in Ruaha.
Intermediate Egret: small numbers around Dar and at Mombo paddies.
Little Egret: at all coast locations, 2 at Nyumba ya Mungu and singles at Speke Bay and Ruaha.
Black Heron: common off Island Beach Resort on Zanzibar, pairs in Jozani-Chakwa Bay NP on
Zanzibar and in Ruaha.
Cattle Egret: common in all coast locations; also noted around Arusha, Serengeti, Speke Bay,
Ngorongoro and a single in Ruaha.
Squacco Heron: an individual at Speke Bay.
Striated Heron: 1-5 at Island Beach, singles at Pemba Paradise and Ngezi.
Black-crowned Night-Heron: flyby in Dar, a couple at Lake Ndutu, 6 in the Ngorongoro crater
and a single flyby in Ruaha.
Glossy Ibis: single at Nyumba ya Mungu, flock at Speke Bay, 10 in Ngorongoro crater area.
Sacred Ibis: common at coast locations in Dar and Zanzibar; single at Ngare Sero, several at
Hadada Ibis: common in Ngezi, several roosting at Elephant Motel in Same, 3-6 at Speke Bay,
singles and small groups at Tarangire, Ruaha and Mikumi.
African Spoonbill: 3 at Nyumba ya Mungu and a single in the Ngorongoro crater.
Secretary Bird: 2-4 birds in the Ngorongoro crater, Serengeti and Tarangire.
Osprey: 1 at Nyumba ya Mungu.
Black-shouldered Kite: singles in Mkomazi, Serengeti and Mikumi, also in transit B1.
African Harrier-Hawk: singles in Ngezi, near Muheza (on A14), Mkomazi and Udzungwas.
Palm-nut Vulture: 2 in Kerege area, singles in Ngezi and Pemba Paradise, 2 at Amani NR, singles
near Muheza and in Udzungwa area, 3 around Mikumi.
European Honey-Buzzard: single at Mikumi.
African Cuckoo-Hawk: 1 at NW boundary of Mikumi near pipeline.
Lappet-faced Vulture: small numbers in Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Tarangire and Mikumi.
Hooded Vulture: single at Mikumi.
White-backed Vulture: fairly common in Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Tarangire, Ruaha and Mikumi.
Rüppell’s Griffon: pairs in Ngorongoro, Serengeti and up to 4 birds in Tarangire.
Bateleur: singles and pairs at Pugu Hills Nature Centre (near Dar), Mkomazi, Serengeti,
Tarangire, Ruaha, Mikumi, Ngorongoro crater, and Kilombero swamp.
Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle: single at Nyumba ya Mungu; apparently occurs here every few years.
Black-breasted Snake-Eagle: single birds in Serengeti and Ruaha.
Brown Snake-Eagle: singles at Pugu Hills, Kerege, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Tarangire, and Ruaha.
Fasciated Snake-Eagle: single in the Udzungwas.
Bat Hawk: one twice at Amani; early morning only!
Crowned Eagle: one displaying at Amani.
Martial Eagle: singles at Tarangire and Ruaha.
Long-crested Eagle: individual birds in transit on B1 near Mombo and on A7 heading to Mikumi.
Lesser Spotted Eagle: singles at Tarangire and Ruaha.
Wahlberg’s Eagle: seen twice in Ruaha.
Booted Eagle: one near Kilombero swamp.
Tawny Eagle: probably most common eagle; 1’s and 2’s at Mkomazi, Serengeti, Tarangire,
Ruaha, Ngorongoro, near Arusha and at Tan-Swiss Cottages, Mikumi.
Steppe Eagle: singles near Mwanga, Arusha lark plains, Serengeti, and Tarangire.
African Hawk-Eagle: singles at Tarangire, near Kilombero swamp and in the Udzungwas.
Lizard Buzzard: one hunting at Pugu Hills, one in grounds of the Twiga Hotel in the Udzungwas.
Dark Chanting-Goshawk: uncommon, only in Serengeti and a single in the Ngorongoro crater.
Eastern Chanting-Goshawk: much more widespread than preceding species; 1’s and 2’s in
Mkomazi, Mwanga, Arusha, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Gabar Goshawk: couple of birds in Ruaha and a single at Twiga.
Grasshopper Buzzard: individual seen and photographed in Mkomazi.
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier: one in the Ngorongoro crater.
African Marsh-Harrier: single at Nyumba ya Mungu.
Pallid Harrier: 3 at lark plains.
Montagu’s Harrier: several in Serengeti and Ngorongoro; note that the female harriers were
seen and recorded on eBird as Montagu’s/Pallid.
African Goshawk: singles heard in Jozani-Chwaka and seen at Pemba Paradise.
Shikra: probably same individual seen at Ngezi two days in row; single at Ruaha.
Little Sparrowhawk: singles in the Pugu Hills and at Amani.
Ovambo Sparrowhawk: one near pipeline on road bordering Mikumi.
Black Goshawk: single of this unique accipiter seen on Old Sawmill track in West Usambaras.
Black Kite: definitely the common kite, seen in a variety of habitats; several in Kerege area, pair
at Kibada, singles near Kipepeo Beach (Dar), seen in transit including the Mombo paddies,
around Arusha and near Kilombero; several after people’s lunches in the Ngorongoro crater.
African Fish-Eagle: singles and pairs near water in Serengeti, Tarangire, Ruaha, and Speke Bay.
Mountain Buzzard: singles at most locations in West Usambaras, in South Pare Mountains,
along the Elephant Cave Trail in Ngorongoro and in the Udzungwas.
Augur Buzzard: several seen in transit in West Usambaras, South Pares and around Arusha, 3 in
Mkomazi, also 8 in Ngorongoro.
Kori Bustard: pairs in Serengeti and up to 6 in Ngorongoro.
White-bellied Bustard: small numbers in Serengeti, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Buff-crested Bustard: most common bustard with 1’s and 2’s in Mkomazi, Ruaha, Mikumi,
Nyumba ya Mungu and around Arusha.
Black-bellied Bustard: two sightings in Serengeti and Mikumi.
Black Crake: 3 at swamp near Kerege, singles in Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
Allen’s Gallinule: 6 at swamp near Kerege.
Eurasian Moorhen: 2 at Bwawani, common in Ngezi, 1-4 in Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
Gray Crowned-Crane: about 20 in the Ngorongoro crater, 3-4 in Ruaha.
Water Thick-Knee: present in all coastal areas; also Speke Bay, Tarangire, Ruaha and Mikumi.
Spotted Thick-Knee: single in the Serengeti, about 12 in grounds around Speke Bay Lodge.
Black-winged Stilt: good numbers in suitable habitats: Kibada, Bwawani, Mombo paddies,
Nyumba ya Mungu, Serengeti, Speke Bay, Ngorongoro, Ruaha and Mikumi.
Black-bellied Plover: 2 at Kipepeo; 1-12 daily at Island Beach.
Long-toed Lapwing: singles at Nyumba ya Mungu, Speke Bay and in the Ngorongoro crater.
Blacksmith Lapwing: most common lapwing with several birds at Nyumba ya Mungu, and in all
suitable habitats in Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Ruaha and Mikumi.
Spur-winged Lapwing: 6 each at Nyumba ya Mungu and Speke Bay, 3 in Serengeti.
White-headed Lapwing: 1-6 birds daily in Ruaha, single at Kilombero swamp.
Senegal Lapwing: small group in Mikumi.
Black-winged Lapwing: 3 in Serengeti and 3 in Ngorongoro crater.
Crowned Lapwing: fairly common, several in Mkomazi, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Tarangire,
Ruaha and Mikumi.
Wattled Lapwing: 4 birds in grounds at Speke Bay.
Lesser Sand-Plover: pair at Kibada, single at Island Beach and pair at Bwawani.
Kittlitz’s Plover: pair at Lake Ndutu.
Common Ringed Plover: seen at all coastal locations; largest numbers at Bwawani.
Three-banded Plover: single in Ngorongoro crater, 2-3 in Ruaha and Mikumi.
Chestnut-banded Plover: single at Lake Ndutu.
African Jacana: good numbers at wetland near Kerege and in Ngezi, singles at Ngare Sere and in
Ngorongoro crater, pair in Ruaha.
Whimbrel: one of the most common shorebirds, seen at all coastal locations in good numbers.
Ruddy Turnstone: 3 on beach at Pemba Paradise.
Ruff: pair at Nyumba ya Mungu, 10 counted in Serengeti and about 25 in Ngorongoro crater.
Curlew Sandpiper: single at Bwawani wetland.
Temminck’s Stint: single at Ngorongoro crater.
Little Stint: quite common; good numbers at Kibada, Bwawani, Nyumba ya Mungu and in the
Serengeti; singles at Island Beach, Speke Bay and a pair in the Ngorongoro crater.
Common Sandpiper: as its name implies the most common sandpiper found in a variety of
habitats, including perched on top of hippos! 1’s and 2’s in all coastal areas, Nyumba ya Mungu,
Ngare Sero, Serengeti, Speke Bay, Ngorongoro crater, daily in Ruaha, and in Mikumi.
Green Sandpiper: singles at Speke Bay and in Tarangire.
Common Greenshank: good numbers at Bwawani and Island Beach, singles on Pemba, at
Nyumba ya Mungu, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Marsh Sandpiper: singles in Serengeti and Ruaha.
Wood Sandpiper: 1’s and 2’s in Serengeti, Tarangire, Ruaha (up to 4) and Mikumi.
Crab-Plover: easily seen on coast with largest number (flock of about 100) observed on Pemba.
Double-banded Courser: spotted in Serengeti twice and about 6 noted in Tarangire.
Three-banded Courser: 3 at reliable location at Speke Bay and a pair in Tarangire.
Bronze-winged Courser: lucky sighting of 3 of these gorgeous but elusive birds in Ruaha.
Collared Pratincole: 3 flew in to a waterhole in Mikumi.
Sooty Gull: small numbers seen around Dar harbour and single on Zanzibar.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: small numbers off Dar and Stonetown; single at Pemba Paradise.
Gull-billed Tern: apart from 6 at beach in Dar, rest were seen inland at Nyumba ya Mungu,
Serengeti and Ngorongoro (Lake Ndutu area and crater) where they were very common.
White-winged Tern: good numbers at Nyumba ya Mungu.
Whiskered Tern: 3 at Nyumba ya Mungu and groups of 10-20 at Speke Bay.
White-cheeked Tern: only at Bwawani (6) and off Island Beach (2).
Great Crested Tern: singles off Dar beaches, 6 at Island Beach.
Lesser Crested Tern: pairs off Dar beaches and harbour area.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse: group of 9 at lark plains.
Yellow-throated Sandgrouse: pair seen while returning through Serengeti.
Black-faced Sandgrouse: most common of the three; pairs seen in scrub at Nyumba ya Mungu,
in Tarangire and in Ruaha, where up to 10 were counted daily.
Rock (Feral) Pigeon: commonly seen around towns and settlements.
Speckled Pigeon: singles around Arusha, several while driving across Serengeti and 6 in Ruaha.
Delegorgue’s Pigeon: 4 along Old Sawmill track, single in South Pares.
Lemon Dove: 2 in Amani.
Mourning Collared-Dove: common in Serengeti, Speke Bay, Ngorongoro crater and Tarangire.
Red-eyed Dove: 1’s and 2’s in many locations: Dar, Jozani-Chwaka, Ngezi, Pemba Paradise,
West Usambaras, South Pares, Arusha, Ngorongoro (several), Udzungwas and Mikumi.
Ring-necked Dove: most common dove, seen daily in all dry brush habitats.
Laughing Dove: several at Mkomazi, Nyumba ya Mungu, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, daily in Ruaha.
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove: common in suitable habitat, both coastal and inland.
Blue-spotted Wood-Dove: less common; seen at Mullers Lodge in West Usambaras, Nyumba ya
Mungu, near Kilombero and 2-3 at Twiga Hotel.
Tambourine Dove: 6 in Jozani-Chwaka, 5 in Ngezi, heard at Amani, singles in Mzuki FR in West
Usambaras, South Pares, Ngare Sero, Elephant Cave trail in Ngorongoro and in the Udzungwas.
Namaqua Dove: 2’s and 3’s at Kibada, Nyumba ya Mungu, Mwanga, lark plains, in transit to
Karatu and Ngorongoro crater; 8 one day in Ruaha.
Pemba Green-Pigeon: up to 4 of this endemic tracked down in Ngezi two successive days.
African Green-Pigeon: uncommon; pairs around Kerege and Kibada, 4 at Amani and 3 at Twiga.
Livingstone’s Turaco: singles heard and seen in Udzungwas.
Fischer’s Turaco: one individual heard in Jozani-Chwaka, 1-4 heard and seen at Amani.
Hartlaub’s Turaco: up to 4 counted on Old Sawmill track and in Mzuki.
Purple-crested Turaco: three sightings of single birds around Mikumi.
Bare-faced Go-away-bird: singles seen in Serengeti and daily in Ruaha.
White-bellied Go-away-bird: most common; 1’s and 2’s in Mkomazi, Nyumba ya Mangu,
Arusha, Tarangire (4) and Ruaha.
Eastern Plantain-eater: difficult to find; finally located pair in the Serengeti.
Blue-headed Coucal: single bird both days at Speke Bay.
Coppery-tailed Coucal: one in Kilombero swamp.
White-browed Coucal: very widespread and common; also Burchell’s ssp. in Ruaha.
Green Malkoha: 1’s in Kerege scrub, at Pugu Hills, Jozani-Chwaka, Udzungwa and Mikumi.
Levaillant’s Cuckoo: single in Kerege scrub; 2 in Tarangire.
Pied Cuckoo: single in Mkomazi.
Dideric Cuckoo: singles in transit B1, Speke Bay, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Klaas’s Cuckoo: often heard rather than seen; mostly singles around Kerege, Kibada, West
Usambaras, Mwanga, Speke Bay, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Ruaha and in Udzungwas.
Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo: individual bird at Old Sawmill track.
Red-chested Cuckoo: common in West Usambaras, recorded also at Ngare Sero, Gibbs Farm,
Ngorongoro, Speke Bay, Mto-wa-Mbu, Tarangire, Ruaha and the Udzungwas.
African Cuckoo: single bird on road northwest of Mikumi NP near pipeline.
Pemba Scops-Owl: this endemic was heard two days running in Ngezi forest but never seen.
African Scops-Owl: resident by tents in Tarangire.
Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl: two pairs of these impressive birds were tracked down in Ruaha.
Pearl-spotted Owlet: singles at Speke Bay, Mto-wa-Mbu, Tarangire and Ruaha.
African Wood-Owl: one seen at Mullers, one heard at Elephant Motel.
Fiery-necked Nightjar: one roosting in Kibada salt marsh.
Montane Nightjar (Usambara ssp.): two at Old Sawmill track.
Slender-tailed Nightjar: single roosting at Speke Bay Lodge.
Square-tailed Nightjar: heard on Pemba, seen roosting at Speke Bay.
Mottled Spinetail: small groups over river in Ruaha.
Scarce Swift: only at Amani.
Mottled Swift: Gibbs Farm and the Elephant Cave Trail.
Common Swift: small groups at Speke Bay, in the Ngorongoro crater and Udzungwas.
Nyanza Swift: Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater only.
African Swift: groups over Nyumba ya Mungu, Ngorongoro crater, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Little Swift: very common, seen in most locations except West Usambaras and Ngorongoro.
Horus Swift: 6 seen on Mombo-Lushoto road in West Usambaras.
White-rumped Swift: locally common; Mombo paddies, Mkomazi, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti.
African Palm-Swift: very common in a variety of habitats especially around buildings.
Speckled Mousebird: widespread, seen in just about all locations except Tarangire and Ruaha.
White-headed Mousebird: 3 at Nyumba ya Mungu, 6 at Mwanga.
Blue-naped Mousebird: 5 at Mlali Drive, 3 around Kerege, 5 in transit along B1, 7 at Mwanga;
several in scrub at lark plains, 2 Arusha-Karatu and 4 on Ruaha approach road.
Bar-tailed Trogon: 2 seen in lower Mzuki and 1 heard along Old Sawmill Track.
Eurasian Hoopoe (African ssp): singles in Mkomazi, in transit to and at lark plains, Tarangire,
along A7, 3 in Mikumi.
Green Woodhoopoe: 3-4 at Pugu Hills, Jozani-Chwaka and 1’s and 2’s at Ruaha and Mikumi.
Common Scimitarbill: single in Serengeti, group of 6 along road northwest of Mikumi NP.
Abyssinian Scimitarbill: 1 at Nyumba ya Mangu, 3 in Serengeti, singles Tarangire and Ruaha.
Southern Ground-Hornbill: family group of 8 in Tarangire, 3-7 in Ruaha and Mikumi.
Crowned Hornbill: common in coastal locations and in Ngezi especially; singles in the West
Usambaras and South Pares, 1-3 in Ruaha and up to 8 daily in Udzungwas.
African Gray Hornbill: easily seen in Mkomazi, 1-2’s in Serengeti, Mto wa Mbu, Tarangire,
Ruaha and in the Kilombero swamp.
Pale-billed Hornbill: uncommon; 1-3 birds in miombo woodland and in Mikumi.
Von der Decken’s Hornbill: pair at Mkomazi, 2 in scrub by lark plains, single in Ngorongoro
crater, and 3-6 daily in Tarangire and Ruaha.
Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill: singles of this endemic in Serengeti, 8-12 daily in Ruaha.
Northern Red-billed Hornbill: easily seen in Mkomazi and Tarangire.
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill: common hornbill of East Usambaras (Amani), 1’s and 2’s in West
Usambaras, South Pares, Ngare Sero, Ngorongoro and Udzungwas.
Trumpeter Hornbill: 1’s and 2’s at Pugu Hills, Amani, West Usambaras, South Pares and
Udzungwas (highest daily count here of 6).
Half-collared Kingfisher: single bird at Amani.
Malachite Kingfisher: singles at Bwawani, Ngezi, Speke Bay, near Mikumi and in Kilombero.
African Pygmy-Kingfisher: singles at Jozani-Chwaka, Ngare Sero, Speke Bay (2) and Kilombero.
Gray-headed Kingfisher: easily seen; 1-3 around Kerege, near Mombo, around town of
Mkomazi, Arusha, Speke Bay, Serengeti, Mto-wa-Mbu and Tarangire.
Woodland Kingfisher: 1-3 daily at Speke Bay, Serengeti, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Mangrove Kingfisher: pair seen and photographed in Ngezi, single heard next day.
Brown-hooded Kingfisher: 1-2’s around Dar, Amani, Mkomazi, Ngare Sero and in Udzungwas.
Striped Kingfisher: 1-2’s around Dar, on Zanzibar, Mto-wa-Mbu, in the Udzungwas and Mikumi.
Giant Kingfisher: uncommon; 2 at Ngare Sero and a single at Ruaha.
Pied Kingfisher: most common kingfisher; present at all coastal areas, at Speke Bay where 10-
12 were observed daily, with 1’s and 2’s in Tarangire, Ruaha and Kilombero.
White-fronted Bee-eater: lucky sighting of 6 of these birds in transit to the lark plains.
Little Bee-eater: very common, up to 10 seen almost daily except in Usambaras and Serengeti.
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater: common in West Usambaras and South Pares; pair at Ngare
Sero, good numbers in Ngorongoro with 10 along Elephant Cave trail.
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater: sighting of pair in Ruaha apparently a good record for Tanzania.
White-throated Bee-eater: 2 near Kerege were our only record.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater: pairs on Zanzibar and Pemba, 1-3 Mkomazi, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Madagascar Bee-eater: single at Kibada and 1-2 at Pemba Paradise.
European Bee-eater: singles at Ngare Sero, Speke Bay, Serengeti and Tarangire, 3-4 in
Udzungwas and Mikumi.
Northern Carmine Bee-eater: only record were 2 in scrub area near Kerege.
European Roller: singles at Konde (Pemba), in the West Usambaras, near Mombo, Serengeti,
Ruaha and Mikumi; several in Mkomazi.
Lilac-breasted Roller: seen just about everywhere except islands and in mountain habitats.
Rufous-crowned Roller: singles at Mwanga and Serengeti, common in Ruaha.
Broad-billed Roller: 1’s and 2’s in all coastal locations, at Ngare Sero, Twiga Hotel and Mikumi.
Crested Barbet: 4 in miombo woodland northwest of Mikumi NP.
Red-and-yellow Barbet: good numbers in Mkomazi, single in Tarangire.
D’Arnaud’s Barbet: noisy ground-loving barbet common in Mkomazi, with several at Nyumba
ya Mungu, Mwanga, Serengeti picnic areas and 2-6 daily in Ruaha.
White-eared Barbet: several at Amani, pairs along Mombo-Lushoto road and in South Pares,
about 10 at Ngare Sero.
Green Barbet: up to 10 daily at Amani, single at Mzuki, pair in the Udzungwas.
Green Tinkerbird: singles in Jozani-Chwaka and Udzungwas.
Moustached Tinkerbird: 1’s and 2’s at Amani, West Usambaras, South Pares and Ngorongoro.
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird: 2-3 on Zanzibar, single in Amani, 1-3 in Udzungwas.
Red-fronted Tinkerbird: 1’s and 2’s around Dar, Mkomazi, Arusha, Serengeti and Mikumi.
Red-fronted Barbet: 3 in scrub adjoining Arusha lark field.
Spot-flanked Barbet: singles around Mkomazi (both town and national park).
Black-throated Barbet: single at Mwanga.
Black-billed Barbet: single at Speke Bay.
Black-collared Barbet: 1’s around Dar and in Mikumi.
Brown-breasted Barbet: one bird in Dar garden, another single in Muheza area.
Green-backed Honeyguide: single birds at Amani and on Elephant Cave trail.
Wahlberg’s Honeyguide: unsatisfactory glimpse of one bird at Mwanga.
Pallid Honeyguide: single at Amani.
Lesser Honeyguide: singles at Speke Bay and Tarangire.
Scaly-throated Honeyguide: singles on Old Sawmill track in West Usambaras, and near Twiga
Greater Honeyguide: 1’s at Pugu Hills, Mkomazi, near Mto-wa-Mbu, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Rufous-necked Wryneck: singles seen twice along road to northwest of Mikumi by pipeline.
Nubian Woodpecker: singles heard in Mkomazi, flybys in Serengeti and Tarangire; good view of
bird in Ruaha.
Reichenow’s Woodpecker: 2 birds taped in along road by pipeline northwest of Mikumi.
Golden-tailed Woodpecker: individual birds at Ngare Sero and in the Udzungwas.
Green-backed Woodpecker: 4 in Jozani-Chwaka.
Cardinal Woodpecker: common; with 1-3 birds at Kibada, lark field scrub, Gibbs Farm, Elephant
Cave trail, Serengeti, Tarangire, in the Udzungwas and road NW of Mikumi near the pipeline.
African Gray Woodpecker: single sightings in Serengeti and Tarangire.
Olive Woodpecker: one bird along Old Sawmill track.
Pygmy Falcon: two birds in Mkomazi and a single in Tarangire.
Eurasian Kestrel: singles in Ngorongoro, including crater, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Greater Kestrel: one at lark plains, singles in Serengeti, two in Ngorongoro crater.
Gray Kestrel: 1’s and 2’s in Ruaha daily.
Dickinson’s Kestrel: excellent views in Ngezi Forest and Konde on Pemba, one in Ruaha.
Red-necked Falcon: 1’s and 2’s in Ruaha daily.
Amur Falcon: flock of 25 migrating in Mkomazi, 2-3 birds a couple of days in Ruaha.
Sooty Falcon: single birds on two days in Ruaha.
Eurasian Hobby: singles in Tarangire and Ruaha.
Lanner Falcon: singles in South Pare Mountains and 2 birds in Mkomazi.
Peregrine Falcon: 3 counted in Ngorongoro crater.
Fischer’s Lovebird: 2 in Ngorongoro, 5 in Serengeti and 10 coming to pool at Ndutu Lodge.
Yellow-collared Lovebird: 20-30 daily in Tarangire and 2-12 birds counted in Ruaha each day.
Meyer’s Parrot: single bird in Tarangire, daily in Ruaha with large flock of 50 one day.
Brown-headed Parrot: 2 near Kerege, 2-6 in Ngezi Forest and at Pemba Paradise, 2 Mikumi.
Red-bellied Parrot: quick flyby at Mwanga, 1-3 counted in Tarangire each day.
African Broadbill: 4 counted one day in Amani.
Black-throated Wattle-eye: 2 at Amani, 2 along Mombo-Lushoto road, 4 at Ngare Sero and a
couple heard along Elephant Cave trail in Ngorongoro.
Short-tailed Batis: 2 at Amani.
Chinspot Batis: singles at lark field scrub and Speke Bay, 2 along Ruaha approach road.
Pale Batis: 4 around Kerege, 5 in Jozani-Chwaka and a single at Bungi, 2’s at Amani and a single
bird along the road northwest of Mikumi.
Black-headed Batis: 3 counted in Mkomazi.
Pygmy Batis: male and female in scrub by Nyumba ya Mungu; single at Mwanga.
White Helmetshrike: up to 8 birds in Ruaha most days, 2-4 along road bordering Mikumi.
Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike: flock moving through fast as we left Amani.
Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher: male and female at Amani.
Brubru: 1’s and 2’s Mkomazi, lark plains, Serengeti, Tarangire, Ruaha and road NW of Mikumi.
Black-backed Puffback: very common, seen or heard in almost all locations visited.
Black-crowned Tchagra: 4 birds around Kerege, 1-4 daily in Ruaha and singles near Kilombero
swamp, Mikumi, Tan-Swiss cottages and road NW of Mikumi NP.
Brown-crowned Tchagra: mostly singles at Kibada salt marsh, Mwanga, Elephant Cave trail,
daily in Ruaha and one in Mikumi.
Three-streaked Tchagra: unexpected sighting of individual in Mkomazi.
Tropical Boubou: most common in Jozani-Chwaka, 1-3 birds in West Usambaras, Ngare Sero,
Ngorongoro (incuding crater), near Kilombero swamp, in the Udzungwas, and around Mikumi.
Zanzibar Boubou: 2’s in Pugu Hills, around Kerege and Kibada, single at Tan-Swiss cottages.
Black-headed Gonolek: 2-3 at Speke Bay, 2 at western entry gate to Serengeti.
Slate-colored Boubou: 1-3 birds Mkomazi, Nyumba ya Mungu, Mwanga, Speke Bay and
Tarangire, 6-20 daily in Ruaha where it was very common.
Fülleborn’s Boubou: 1’s and 2’s in Mzuki and along Old Sawmill track.
Rosy-patched Bushshrike: singles along B1, Nyumba ya Mungu, Mwanga and at lark plains.
Sulphur-breated Bushshrike: singles at Pugu Hills, Mkomazi, in transit, and 2 in Ruaha.
Black-fronted Bushshrike: 1’s and 2’s in Mzuki, Old Sawmill track, South Pares and along
Elephant Cave trail.
Gray-headed Bushshrike: singles near Kerege, Pugu Hills and Mwanga.
Gray Cuckooshrike: one at Amani and 2 at Mzuki.
White-breasted Cuckooshrike: unexpected sighting of single near pipeline NW of Mikumi NP.
Black Cuckooshrike: excellent views of a single bird in Jozani-Chwaka.
Red-backed Shrike: singles at Kibada, Mkomazi scrub, Serengeti, Ruaha and Mikumi, several in
Red-tailed Shrike: 1’s and 2’s in South Pares, Mkomazi, Serengeti, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Gray-backed Fiscal: up to 10 birds counted while driving through Serengeti, 6 at Speke Bay.
Long-tailed Fiscal: common in Mkomazi, Tarangire and Mikumi; 3 seen in transit to Karatu.
Taita Fiscal: 10 seen around lark fields and adjoining scrub, 1’s in Ngorongoro and Serengeti.
Northern Fiscal: singles at Amani, in West Usambaras, South Pares and Gibbs Farm; 4-6 birds in
transit to lark plains, on way to Karatu, in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, including crater.
Magpie Shrike: easily seen in Serengeti, Tarangire and Ruaha.
White-rumped Shrike: common in Mkomazi, Serengeti and Tarangire, small numbers in
Ngorongoro and Ruaha.
Eurasian Golden Oriole: 1-3 birds Pugu Hills, Jozani-Chwaka and Ngezi.
African Golden Oriole: heard in Udzungwas, 1 seen on road NW of Mikumi NP.
Green-headed Oriole: up to 4 seen daily at Amani, single in the Udzungwas.
African Black-headed Oriole: singles in Tarangire and along road NW of Mikumi.
Square-tailed Drongo: 6 of this forest-loving bird seen in Udzungwa NP.
Fork-tailed Drongo: abundant in almost all locations. Not seen Pemba or Speke Bay.
African Crested-Flycatcher: 2 heard only in Jozani-Chwaka.
African Paradise-Flycatcher: several around Dar, on Pemba, at Amani, in the West Usambaras,
at Ngare Sero, Gibbs Farm, on Elephant Cave trail, daily in Ruaha and at Tan-Swiss cottages.
House Crow: this introduced species was abundant in all areas around Dar, on Zanzibar and
Pemba, near Tanga, Muheza and Hale, while up to 6 were seen in the Mikumi area.
Cape Crow: singles in Ngorongoro and Serengeti.
Pied Crow: most common crow seen almost everywhere except Speke Bay, Ngorongoro,
Tarangire and Ruaha.
White-necked Raven: single at Mullers Lodge, several near Mombo, singles in transit around
Arusha and in Ngorongoro.
Eastern Nicator: great views at Jozani-Chwaka, 1-2 in Amani and one heard in the Udzungwas.
Beesley’s Lark: 4 of this critically endangered endemic seen on lark plains.
Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark: 3 at lark plains, many in Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Ruaha, 2 in
Pink-breasted Lark: single in tree at Nyumba ya Mungu, 2 at Mwanga.
Foxy Lark: 2 finally spotted at lark plains after much searching.
Rufous-naped Lark: 3 at lark plains, common in Serengeti and Ngorongoro (crater too).
Flappet Lark: singles displaying at Mkomazi, Mwanga and Tarangire.
Red-capped Lark: common lark on lark plains, several seen in Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
Somali Short-toed Lark: 6 counted on lark plains.
Short-tailed Lark: 5 on lark plains.
Plain Martin: 3 at Nyumba ya Mungu.
Bank Swallow: single in Ngorongoro.
Banded Martin: single in Serengeti, 6 counted one day in Tarangire.
Rock Martin: common around Mullers and at Gibbs Farm, 5 on Mombo-Lushoto road, several
in Serengeti and 2 at Ndutu Lodge.
Barn Swallow: most common swallow, seen most locations except Pemba and Speke Bay.
Angola Swallow: common at Speke Bay.
Wire-tailed Swallow: 2-5 on Pemba, common in Ruaha and Udzungwas, also Kilombero.
Red-rumped Swallow: single at Amani, common in Mombo paddies and Mkomazi, single in
Ngorongoro crater, 4 in Tarangire, many in Ruaha and Udzungwas.
Lesser Striped-Swallow: very common; seen at Kerege, Pugu Hills, Jozani-Chwaka, Mombo
paddies, on the Mombo-Lushoto road, Elephant Motel, Mkomazi, Ngorongoro crater, Ruaha
(nesting near bandas), Udzungwas and Mikumi.
Mosque Swallow: about 20 around Serengeti entrance gate, 2-5 in Tarangire and 25 around
Black Sawwing: several at Pugu Hills, common at Amani, West Usambaras and South Pares, 2-4
in Ngorongoro and the Udzungwas.
Gray-rumped Swallow: a couple in the Ngorongoro crater, 10 in transit from Mikumi to Twiga,
common on road to Kilombero swamp.
White-tailed Blue Flycatcher: 3 at Gibbs Farm and a couple along the Elephant Cave trail.
White-tailed Crested-Flycatcher: 2-6 counted at various locations in West Usambaras.
Rufous-bellied Tit: single on road NW of Mikumi.
Miombo Tit: single in same location as above.
Red-throated Tit: one in scrub area by lark plains.
African Penduline-Tit: 6 along pipeline off road NW of Mikumi.
Sombre Greenbul: common around Dar and on Zanzibar, few in Mkomazi and singles on way to
Kilombero swamp, in the Udzungwas and on the road NW of Mikumi.
Shelley’s Greenbul: single at Amani, 2-3 at Mzuki and Old Sawmill track.
Eastern Mountain-Greenbul: several in Mzuki, singles at Old Sawmill track, in South Pares,
Elephant Cave trail and Ngorongoro above crater.
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul: single at Amani, small numbers in West Usambaras and South Pares.
Yellow-bellied Greenbul: single at Gibbs Farm, 6 on approach road to Ruaha, single in Ruaha.
Little Greenbul: 4 in Jozani-Chwaka, singles at Amani, Ngare Sero and in the Udzungwas.
Terrestrial Brownbul: singles at Amani and Mzuki.
Northern Brownbul: single in scrub around Kerege.
Gray-olive Greenbul: single birds at Amani, Ngare Sero and along Elephant Cave trail.
Fischer’s Greenbul: one bird at Amani.
Cabani’s Greenbul: single at Amani.
Yellow-streaked Greenbul: singles on Old Sawmill track.
Tiny Greenbul: one bird at Amani.
Usambara Greenbul: single at Amani.
Common Bulbul: abundant and widespread; seen daily in all habitats.
Northern Crombec: singles in Mkomazi and adjoining scrub.
Red-faced Crombec: one bird in Tarangire.
Cape Crombec: 1-2 birds in Ruaha, single on road NW of Mikumi NP.
Moustached Grass-Warbler: 2 seen on way to Kilombero swamp.
Kretschmer’s Longbill: single at Amani in tea plantation area.
Yellow Flycatcher: flock of 5 in Amani.
Livingstone’s Flycatcher: 3 in Udzungwa.
Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler: 2-6 birds in Amani, Mzuki and Old Sawmill track.
Willow Warbler: 2-3 in South Pares, at Nyumba ya Mungu and 9 in the area NW of Mikumi.
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler: singles at Speke Bay and on two occasions in Ruaha.
African Yellow-Warbler: 2 along the Elephant Cave trail.
Icterine Warbler: single at Speke Bay.
Eurasian Reed Warbler: one bird at Speke Bay.
African Reed Warbler: single birds at Speke Bay, Ngorongoro and Kilombero.
Lesser Swamp Warbler: 2 in marshy area near Kerege, single at Pemba Paradise.
Evergreen-forest Warbler: 2-5 heard at all locations in West Usambaras and in South Pares;
single tracked down in the upper Mzuki reserve after much patient stalking.
Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler: another skulker; 1-6 birds heard at all locations in West
Usambaras and some found in lower Mzuki reserve; one heard in South Pares.
Little Rush-Warbler: 1-2 heard and eventually seen at Amani.
Bar-throated Apalis: relatively common in West Usambaras, single in South Pares.
Yellow-breasted Apalis: most common apalis; 1-3 birds in Kibada, Jozani-Chwaka, Mkomazi,
Mwanga, lark plains, Ngare Sero, Speke Bay, Ruaha and the Udzungwas.
Black-headed Apalis: 1-2 birds daily at Amani, 2-4 in West Usambaras and 2 in the Udzungwas.
Brown-headed Apalis: 4 at Gibbs Farm, 2 along Elephant Cave trail, one by Ngorongoro crater.
Karamoja Apalis: one of these rare birds was found in the western Serengeti.
Green-backed Cameroptera: very common; seen and heard in most locations except Pemba.
Red-fronted Warbler: 3 around Mkomazi, 12 at Nyumba ya Mungu scrub, several at Mwanga
Maasai steppe and 10 in scrub adjoining lark plains.
Miombo Wren-Warbler: 1-4 daily in Ruaha around restaurant, single on road NW of Mikumi.
Gray Wren-Warbler: 4-5 at Mkomazi and adjoining scrub, 2 at Nyumba ya Mungu.
African Tailorbird: common in West Usambaras, highest count 10 along Old Sawmill track.
Long-billed Tailorbird: one heard and one seen in tea plantation area near Amani.
Red-faced Cisticola: singles at Kibada, Amani (3 total one day), Mombo-Lushoto road, South
Pares, Elephant Cave trail, above Ngorongoro crater and in the Udzungwas.
Trilling Cisticola: 2 in a known location in the woodland near Mto wa Mbu.
Hunter’s Cisticola: 4 in wooded area above Ngorongoro crater.
Kilombero Cisticola (undescribed form): two pairs at Kilombero swamp.
Rattling Cisticola: very common, seen or heard in most locations on mainland.
Ashy Cisticola: one bird in Mkomazi.
Wailing Cisticola: 2 in known location on rim of Ngorongoro crater.
Churring Cisticola: 2 in known location on way to Kilombero swamp.
Winding Cisticola (including coastal race): 1’s and 2’s at Mombo rice paddies, Serengeti,
Tarangire and daily in Ruaha near bandas.
White-tailed Cisticola (undescribed form): 2 in Kilombero swamp.
Carruther’s Cisticola: single at Speke Bay.
Croaking Cisticola: one bird in the Serengeti.
Piping Cisticola: 2 heard and eventually seen along pipeline NW of Mikumi NP.
Tabora Cisticola: single at Ruaha.
Siffling Cisticola: 2 on approach road to Twiga Hotel from Mikumi.
Zitting Cisticola: single birds in Jozani-Chwaka, Bungi and Serengeti.
Desert Cisticola: 2 in Ngorongoro crater.
Pectoral-patch Cisticola: good numbers in Tarangire and Mikumi.
Wing-snapping Cisticola: 1’s and 2’s of this tiny bird in Ruaha.
Gray-capped Warbler: 2 along the Elephant Cave trail, 1-2 in Ngorongoro, 2-6 at Speke Bay.
Buff-bellied Warbler: 2 in lark plain scrub, singles in Serengeti and Speke Bay, 2 in Tarangire.
Tawny-flanked Prinia: single at Kibada, common at Amani, 2 near Muheza and Hale, singles
along Mombo-Lushoto road, in transit along B1, in the South Pares and Ngorongoro. 2-4 in Mto
wa Mbu woodland, near Kilombero swamp, in the Udzungwas and in and around Mikumi.
Yellow-bellied Eremomela: one bird at Mwanga and another in lark plain scrub.
Greencap Eremomela: total of 6 in pipeline area NW of Mikumi NP.
African Hill-Babbler: 1’s and 2’s in West Usambaras, heard on Elephant Cave trail.
Eurasian Blackcap: male seen daily in tree outside our balcony at Pemba Paradise.
Garden Warbler: 1 at stop between Twiga and Kilombero swamp.
Banded Warbler: 6 at Mwanga, same in lark plain scrub, 1’s and 2’s in Serengeti and Tarangire.
Brown Warbler: one bird on Elephant Cave trail, single in woodland above Ngorongoro crater.
Greater Whitethroat: 1’s and 2’s in Mkomazi, Mwanga and Tarangire.
African Yellow White-eye: single seen daily at Korona House in Arusha.
Broad-ringed White-eye: 2 at Gibbs Farm, Elephant Cave trail and in woodland above crater.
White-breasted White-eye: 4 at Amani, 6 in lower Mzuki, 4 along Old Sawmill track, singles in
Mkomazi and Mwanga.
Pemba White-eye: about 6 of this endemic daily at Pemba Paradise, up to 10 in Ngezi.
Scaly Chatterer: small flock at Mwanga.
Black-lored Babbler: 6 in Serengeti at entry gate, 2 in Mtu wa Mbu woodland.
Northern Pied-Babbler: 4 in Tarangire.
Arrow-marked Babbler: 2 just outside Gibbs Farm, 1 in Tarangire, 6 daily in Ruaha around
bandas, singles in the Udzungwas.
Spot-throat: 2-6 birds heard and a couple seen in all West Usambara locations visited.
Yellow-bellied Hyliota: single bird in pipeline area NW of Mikumi.
Dusky-brown Flycatcher: 1’s and 2’s at Amani, in West Usambaras and Ngorongoro.
Spotted Flycatcher: very common; singles recorded in Jozani-Chwaka, at Pemba Paradise, near
Muheza, along the Mombo-Lushoto road and in Tarangire, 2-3 in Mkomazi and at lark plains, 2-
4 daily at Ruaha, up to 5 along road NW of Mikumi, 1-3 at Tan-Swiss cottages and 5 in Mikumi.
Swamp Flycatcher: 6 tallied in Speke Bay Lodge grounds.
Grayish Flycatcher: 1’s and 2’s around Mkomazi, Mwanga, lark plains, Tarangire and daily in
Pale Flycatcher: single in Mto wa Mbu woodland.
Gray Tit-Flycatcher: 4 in Udzungwa.
Ashy Flycatcher: one in scrub area around Kerege, another in the Udzungwas.
Silverbird: 1’s and 2’s in the Serengeti, at Speke Bay and Tarangire.
Southern Black-Flycatcher: 2-4 in Amani, 2 noted in Mkomazi.
White-eyed Slaty-Flycatcher: singles at Gibbs Farm, along the Elephant Trail and in woodland
Bearded Scrub-Robin: heard in Jozani-Chwaka, singles heard and one seen daily in Ruaha.
Red-backed Scrub-Robin: quite common; 1’s and 2’s at Pugu Hills, around Kerege, South Pares,
up to 6 in Mkomazi, 3 at Nyumba ya Mungu, several at Mwanga, 3 in scrub adjoining lark plains
and singles at Ngare Sero, Tarangire, Ruaha and in the Udzungwas.
Cape Robin-Chat: 1’ and 2’s at Muller’s Lodge, along Old Sawmill Track, in the South Pares,
along the Elephant Cave trail and in woodland above Ngorongoro crater.
Rüppell’s Robin-Chat: singles at Ngare Sero, Gibb’s Farm (2), Elephant Cave trail and woodland
above Ngorongoro crater.
White-browed Robin-Chat: 1’s and 2’s at Pugu Hills, around Kerege, at Amani, Mullers Lodge,
along Mombo-Lushoto road, at Ngare Sero, Speke Bay and Tan-Swiss cottages, Mikumi.
Red-capped Robin-Chat: single birds at Pugu Hills, Jozani-Chwaka, Amani and in Udzungwas.
Collared Palm-Thrush: singles near Muheza, near the Twiga Hotel and at Tan-Swiss cottages.
Spotted Morning-Thrush: 1-3 birds present around Dar, in South Pares, Mkomazi, Mwanga,
Serengeti, Speke Bay, Tarangire, Ruaha and at Tan-Swiss cottages.
White-starred Robin: 1-5 birds at all locations in West Usambaras, 1 in South Pares and 2 at
White-chested Alethe: heard daily and seen fleetingly at Amani, seen at ant swarm in West
Usambaras and heard at other locations there.
Sharpe’s Akalat: 1 heard and 1 glimpsed only at Amani. A “need better view” bird!
East Coast Akalat: stunning views obtained in Jozani-Chwaka.
Usambara Akalat: a heard-only species, along Old Sawmill track.
Common Nightingale: pair in Mkomazi and a single vociferous bird near Twiga Hotel.
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush: one bird at Mwanga and another in lark plain scrub.
African Stonechat: 1’s and 2’s in Mzuki, Old Sawmill track, South Pares, Mkomazi and
Ngorongoro; 5 in crater area and rim.
Northern Anteater-Chat: 4 counted driving through Ngorongoro to Serengeti, 3 around rim and
descent road to crater.
White-headed Black-Chat: very common along road to NW of Mikumi.
Familiar Chat: 2 birds on rim of Ngorongoro crater.
Moorland Chat: single bird on rim of crater.
Northern Wheater: singles in Mkomazi, Mwanga, common on way to and at lark plains, in the
Serengeti and Ngorongoro, pair in Mikumi.
Abyssinian Wheatear: 4 seen on way to lark plains, 5 counted in Ngorongoro crater area.
Capped Wheatear: common on lark plains, in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro (including crater).
Isabelline Wheatear: single at Mkomazi, 8 counted on lark plains, 2 in Ngorongoro crater, single
Red-tailed Ant-Thrush: 1’s and 2’s seen and heard daily in Amani.
Abyssinian Thrush: single bird on Elephant Cave trail.
Kurrichane Thrush: 3 along road NW of Mikumi, including pair with group mobbing mamba.
African Thrush: 1-2 birds at Speke Bay.
African Bare-eyed Thrush: juvenile at Mwanga, adult in lark plain scrub.
Violet-backed Starling: 2 at Pugu Hills, pair nesting near Twiga Hotel, several along road NW of
Red-winged Starling: good numbers in all locations in West Usambaras, including the lounge at
Mullers, also several near lark plains, at Korona House, Tarangire and daily in Ruaha.
Waller’s Starling: 7-9 counted in lower Mzuki reserve and along Old Sawmill track.
Kenrick’s Starling: common at Amani and several seen along Old Sawmill track.
Black-bellied Starling: 2 at Pugu Hills, 5-6 at Jozani-Chwaka and Ngezi, common at Amani and in
the Udzungwas around Twiga Hotel especially.
Hildebrandt’s Starling: several in Serengeti with 8 around entrance gate, 2 in Ngorongoro.
Rüppell’s Starling: 6-8 in Serengeti, 2 at Speke Bay.
Ashy Starling: very common in Tarangire and Ruaha.
Superb Starling: seen in all mainland areas, very common in Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire
and Ruaha, 5 birds noted at Mikumi.
Fischer’s Starling: a dozen birds in Mkomazi and 9 at Mwanga.
Lesser Blue-eared Starling: good numbers of miombo ssp. seen along road to NW of Mikumi
and in park itself.
Red-billed Oxpecker: 1’s in Ngorongoro and Serengeti, 3 in Tarangire and up to 6 in Ruaha.
Yellow-billed Oxpecker: single in Serengeti, up to 4 at Tarangire, common in Ruaha, 1 at
Western Violet-backed Sunbird: 1’s and 2’s daily in Ruaha.
Kenya Violet-backed Sunbird: 6 at Mwanga, 2 at lark plains, 2 at Tarangire.
Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird: pair and single at Amani.
Banded Sunbird: single seen and one heard at Amani.
Collared Sunbird: fairly common, seen around Dar, on Zanzibar, at Amani, along the Mombo-
Lushoto road, at Ngare Sero, Gibbs Farm, Elephant Cave trail, and in the Udzungwas.
Amani Sunbird: 2 of this endemic seen at Amani.
Green-headed Sunbird: 2 of these gorgeous birds seen at Gibb’s Farm.
Olive Sunbird: 5 birds at Jozani-Chwaka, 2 at Bungi and 5 in Ngezi, several daily at Amani, single
along Old Sawmill track, 4 in South Pares and at Ngare Sero.
Mouse-colored Sunbird: 4 at Pugu Hills, 2 in the scrub around Kerege and 2 in Jozani-Chwaka.
Amethyst Sunbird: pairs at Mlali Drive (Dar) and in Amani, singles at Mkomazi, near Twiga
Hotel and along road NW of Mikumi.
Scarlet-chested Sunbird: common around Dar, 8 in Jozani-Chwaka, 4 at Bungi, pair at Pemba
Paradise, 2 along Mombo-Lushoto road, 1’s and 2’s at Speke Bay, Ngorongoro (Ndutu Lodge),
Tarangire and Ruaha.
Hunter’s Sunbird: 1’s and 2’s at stop near town of Mkomazi and at Nyumba ya Mungu and
Bronze Sunbird: 3 in trees at Gibbs Farm entrance, single on Elephant Cave trail.
Golden-winged Sunbird: 6 in trees at Gibbs Farm entrance.
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird: good numbers in all locations in West Usambaras, including
Mullers Lodge, 4 in South Pares and singles in Ngorongoro.
Beautiful Sunbird: 1-3 birds at Mwanga, in lark field scrub, on way to Karatu, in the Serengeti,
at Speke Bay, in Tarangire and Ruaha and at the Crocodile Camp, Kidayi.
Mariqua Sunbird: single near Twiga Hotel.
Red-chested Sunbird: 2-5 of this rare species seen at Speke Bay each day.
Black-bellied Sunbird: pairs near town of Mkomazi and in Mkomazi NP.
Purple-banded Sunbird: 1’s and 2’s near Kerege, at Mlali Drive and in Jozani-Chwaka, several at
Amani and 2 in Muheza area.
Tsavo Sunbird: 3 at Mwanga.
Pemba Sunbird: 2-6 of this endemic seen daily at Pemba Paradise and in Ngezi forest.
Variable Sunbird: 1-3 birds in Mkomazi, at Mwanga, Korona House, Ngare Sero, 6 at Gibbs
Farm, 2 along Elephant Cave trail and in woodland above crater, 1 in Ruaha.
Western Yellow Wagtail: singles on way to lark plains and at Speke Bay, 2 in Ngorongoro crater.
Gray Wagtail: 2 at Amani, singles at Old Sawmill track and in South Pares.
Mountain Wagtail: 1 at Amani near tea plantation, 1-2 in lower Mzuki reserve daily, 2 along
Mombo-Lushoto road and 2 at Ngare Sero.
African Pied-Wagtail: common, with 1’s and 2’s at Pemba Paradise, Amani, at Mullers, along
the Mombo-Lushoto road, at Mkomazi, Nyumba ya Mungu, Ngare Sero, Gibbs Farm, on way to
Karatu, in the Serengeti, at Speke Bay (4), in the Ngorongoro crater, at Ruaha, Crocodile Camp,
and Twiga Hotel.
African Pipit: 1’s and 2’s at Kibada, Jozani-Chwaka, Bungi, Ngezi, Konde and Mikumi; 3 on lark
Long-billed Pipit: 2 at Kilombero swamp.
Plain-backed Pipit: singles on lark plains, near Lake Ndutu and in Ngorongoro crater.
Tree Pipit: single in woodland above crater.
Yellow-throated Longclaw: 1 in Serengeti and 2 in Mikumi.
Pangani Longclaw: 1 in Mkomazi.
Rosy-throated Longclaw: 1 as we were starting to ascend out of Ngorongoro crater.
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting: up to 4 daily in Ruaha, 6 in Mikumi.
Golden-breasted Bunting: 2 around Kerege, up to 6 daily in Ruaha, single in Mikumi.
Somali Bunting: 2 at Nyumba ya Mungu and 2 at Mwanga.
Cabani’s Bunting: single at Amani; 1’s and 2’s along road NW of Mikumi.
Yellow-fronted Canary: common around Dar, 10 at Mombo paddies, 7 along Mombo-Lushoto
road, 2 in Serengeti, 3 in Tarangire, 5 near Kilombero, 9 near Twiga Hotel, 6 at Tan-Swiss
cottages and 5 along road NW of Mikumi.
Southern Citril: 2 at Amani, single in upper Mzuki, flock of 15 along Mombo-Lushoto road, 1 at
Ngare Sero, 5 at Gibbs Farm, 2 on Elephant Cave trail, 10 in crater and 5 in Udzungwas.
Reichenow’s Seedeater: 3 around Kerege, single at Mlali Drive, 2 at Kibada and at Speke Bay, 3-
6 at Ruaha.
White-bellied Canary: pair in scrub area by lark plains, 4 in Serengeti and 6 in Ngorongoro.
Southern Grosbeak-Canary: 2 in Mkomazi and 3 at Mwanga.
Streaky Seedeater: 4 at Gibbs Farm and 1’s and 2’s in Ngorongoro.
Thick-billed Seedeater: 2 at Gibbs Farm, 2 along Elephant Cave trail and 2 in Ngorongoro.
Black-eared Seedeater: 6 along pipeline trail off road NW of Mikumi NP.
Reichard’s Seedeater: 3 along pipeline trail off road NW of Mikumi NP.
House Sparrow: seen almost daily in virtually all locations (except mountains) near buildings.
Kenya Rufous Sparrow: 3-4 on way to and at lark plains, 3 in Ngorongoro, 4-6 in Serengeti at
Northern Gray-headed Sparrow: 1 near Hale and 2 at Korona House.
Parrot-billed Sparrow: 1 at stop along B1 near town of Mkomazi, 1 and 2 in Mkomazi NP.
Swahili Sparrow: single daily at feeder at Korona House, 1 in Serengeti, 1 in Ngorongoro and up
to 6 in Tarangire.
Southern Gray-headed Sparrow: 4-12 daily in Ruaha, 6 on way to Kilombero, 3-8 around Tan-
Chestnut Sparrow: 2 seen on two days in Serengeti, 2 at Speke Bay.
Yellow-spotted Petronia: 2 at Nyumba ya Mungu, 4 at Mwanga, 2 in lark plains scrub.
Yellow-throated Petronia: 9 on pipeline trail off road to NW of Mikumi NP.
Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver: common in Mkomazi, 2 and 3 in Serengeti, 2 in Tarangire, up to 20
daily in Ruaha and 15 in Mikumi.
White-headed Buffalo-Weaver: 4 at Mkomazi, 2 on lark plains, up to 10 in Serengeti, very
common in Tarangire, 1-6 daily in Ruaha.
Speckle-fronted Weaver: 4-6 near buildings in Serengeti, 6 in Ngorongoro crater, 1 Ruaha.
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver: good numbers in Mkomazi and adjacent scrub area, 1 at
Mwanga, 10 in Mikumi and 3 on road NW of Mikumi NP.
Rufous-tailed Weaver: up to 10 at Serengeti entrance gate and picnic site, 20 around picnic
area in Ngorongoro crater, common in Tarangire.
Gray-headed Social-Weaver: flocks of 16-20 in Serengeti and up to 50 in Ruaha.
Red-headed Weaver: single in Mkomazi.
Baglafecht Weaver: common in Amani, 1’s and 2’s at Mullers and on Mombo-Lushoto road, 6
near lark plains, 6 at Korona House and Gibbs Farm, 1 on Elephant Cave trail and 2 in crater.
Little Weaver: single at Serengeti entrance gate.
Slender-billed Weaver: good numbers at Speke Bay Lodge, especially in dining area!
Black-necked Weaver: 6 in Mkomazi and adjacent scrub, 3 at Mwanga, 1’s and 2’s in Ruaha.
Spectacled Weaver: 1’s and 2’s in Amani, around Mullers Lodge, on the Mombo-Lushoto road,
Elephant Cave trail, Ngorongoro crater rim woodland and in Udzungwas.
African Golden-Weaver: nesting colony at marsh near Kerege, 6 seen on A14 near Tanga, 8 at
Mombo rice paddies, 4 in Hale area, 2 near Muheza, up to 10 along Mombo-Lushoto road,
several near town of Mkomazi, 4-7 in Udzungwas near Twiga Hotel.
(Ruvu Weaver): not yet recognized as full species; 1 seen near Kerege.
Holub’s Golden-Weaver: 2 at Gibb’s Farm.
Taveta Golden-Weaver: small group at Ngare Sero.
Southern Brown-throated Weaver: breeding colony along road to Kilombero swamp.
Northern Brown-throated Weaver: around 15 at Speke Bay Lodge.
Kilombero Weaver: around 25 at Kilombero swamp.
Lesser Masked-Weaver: 1’s and 2’s in Dar, Nyumba ya Mungu, Mwanga, scrub near lark plains,
Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
Vitelline Masked-Weaver: 1’ and 2’s at Pugu Hills, Mkomazi, Nyumba ya Mungu, Mwanga,
Korona House and in Serengeti.
Tanganyika Masked-Weaver: unexpected single in Ruaha, 2 nesting along road to Kilombero.
Speke’s Weaver: common at picnic site (and in car!) in Ngorongoro crater.
Village Weaver: seen commonly in transit near towns, also 10 along Old Sawmill track, common
in Mkomazi, about 20 around Speke Bay Lodge and a couple in Udzungwas.
Black-headed (Yellow-backed) Weaver: about 15 around Speke Bay Lodge.
Golden-backed Weaver: 6-8 daily at Korona House feeder, around 10 at Speke Bay Lodge.
Chestnut Weaver: 1 at Mwanga and a single female at Korona House feeder.
Forest Weaver: 2 at Pugu Hills, 6 in Jozani-Chwaka, heard daily outside dining room at Amani
and a couple seen, 6 in Udzungwa.
Usambara Weaver: 2 (1 heard, 1 seen) along Old Sawmill track after much effort!
Red-billed Quelea: at least 150 at Mombo rice paddies, common in Mkomazi and adjacent
scrub, also Mwanga, Serengeti, Speke Bay, Ngorongoro and Ruaha.
Southern Red Bishop: 8 seen on road between Mikumi and Twiga Hotel.
Zanzibar Red Bishop: at least 12 breeding in swamp near Kerege, 2 at Hale, 10 in the Mombo
rice paddies, 1 at Mkomazi and 6 in fields near Twiga Hotel.
Black-winged Bishop: 10 in fields near Twiga Hotel.
Yellow Bishop: single on way to Twiga Hotel, 3 in fields near hotel and 6 on road NW of
White-winged Widowbird: 2 at Mombo rice paddies, 1 unexpectedly along Old Sawmill track, 6
in Mkomazi, 1 at Ngare Sero, 12 along road NW of Mikumi NP.
Fan-tailed Widowbird: 9 in Ngorongoro.
Marsh Widowbird: 12 in Kilombero swamp.
Jackson’s Widowbird: 10 in Maasai boma adjacent to Ngorongoro, 1 male in breeding plumage.
Grosbeak Weaver: 2 glimpsed near Kerege, up to 4 outside our window at Pemba Paradise, 8 in
Ngezi, 2 at Ngare Sero, 3 at Gibbs Farm, 2 at Speke Bay and a single near Twiga Hotel.
Gray-headed Nigrita: 2 along Elephant Cave trail.
Yellow-bellied Waxbill: 5 in South Pares, 10 at Gibbs Farm and 6 along Elephant Cave trail.
Green-backed Twinspot: single in Jozani-Chwaka, only seen well by Stewart.
Abyssinian Crimsonwing: 2 in woodland above Ngorongoro crater.
Red-faced Crimsonwing: 2 in upper Mzuki reserve, one heard in lower next day.
Black-tailed Waxbill: 2 tracked down in fields adjoining Twiga Hotel.
Crimson-rumped Waxbill: 6 in Ruaha first day.
Common Waxbill: 5-6 at Amani, around Muheza, Mzuki and Gibbs farm, pair at Speke Bay and
11 counted at Kilombero swamp.
Black-faced Waxbill: 3 at Mwanga.
Southern Cordonbleu: common in Dar, 8 seen on way to Kilombero, 2’s and 3’s around Twiga
Hotel, 4 -7 in miombo habitat adjacent to Mikumi, 6 in park and 7 around Tan-Swiss cottages.
Red-cheeked Cordonbleu: small groups in Mkomazi and adjacent scrub, 1’ and 2’s at feeder at
Korona House, 3 in Tarangire, up to 12 seen daily in Ruaha.
Blue-capped Cordonbleu: 8 at Mwanga, 6 in Serengeti, 10 at Speke Bay.
Purple Grenadier: 4 in Mkomazi were only sighting.
Peter’s Twinspot: 1 of this rare species at Ngare Sero, 3 along Elephant Cave trail.
Green-winged Pytilia: 2 at Pugu Hills, 1 in Mkomazi, 6 at Mwanga, up to 8 daily in Ruaha.
Orange-winged Pytilia: 2 along road NW of Mikumi NP, single in park.
Red-billed Firefinch: 1 around Kerege and 1 above Ngorongoro crater, up to 6 daily in Ruaha.
African Firefinch: 2 along Mombo-Lushoto road, 1 on Elephant Cave trail and 4 at Speke Bay.
Jameson’s Firefinch: one near Mlali Drive, 2 around town of Mkomazi, 2-4 in Ruaha, 10 at
Kilombero swamp, 6 in Mikumi and 2 along road to NW of park.
Cut-throat: single bird at Mwanga.
Zebra Waxbill: 2 in fields adjoining Twiga Hotel.
African Quailfinch: super unsatisfactory glimpse of 4 flying by in Ngorongoro crater.
Gray-headed Silverbill: 5 in scrub around Nyumba ya Mungu.
Bronze Mannikin: common around Dar and on islands, 25 along approach road to Ruaha,
common in Udzungwas and at Kilombero swamp; 12 around Tan-Swiss cottages.
Black-and-White Mannikin: 2’s and 3’s in Dar and at Island Beach, 12 in Jozani-Chwaka, 8 at
Bungi, 5 in Amani, 4-5 along Mombo-Lushoto road, common in fields adjoining Twiga Hotel.
African Silverbill: 8 at Mwanga.
Java Sparrow: 3 finally tracked down in tree just outside Konde.
Pin-tailed Whydah: singles along side of B1 and in Serengeti, 15 in fields near Twiga Hotel.
Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydah: group of 10 one day in Ruaha.
Eastern Paradise Whydah: flock of 8 as we drove west through Serengeti.
Steel-blue Whydah: group of 4 in Serengeti as we drove west.
Parasitic Weaver: single in Serengeti at entry gate.
Tuesday November 7-Wednesday November 8: we took the overnight flight from Montreal to
Zürich, followed the next day by a flight to Dar Es Salaam with stopover in Nairobi. We arrived
in Dar at 10:13 p.m. and were very happy that we had previously purchased our visas so we did
not need to join the extensive line up. As it was we were through immigration, cleared customs
and exited the airport in record time. It is quite a small airport but everything was very well
organized. Before very long at all we were installed in an apartment Jim (Stewart’s friend) owns
in the Masaki area of Dar.
Thursday November 9: despite thinking we would need the alarm after two days of travel and a
significant time change, we woke up bright and early to the sound of a new species: House
Crow. We were soon to dismiss these as “just a House Crow” but the first new species in a new
country is always exciting! We decided to explore some of the side streets off the main
thoroughfare, Haile Salassie Blvd. At first we thought all we would find would be House Crows
and House Sparrows, both abundant, but soon picked up some Bronze Mannikins and a
familiar friend from previous African trips: Common Bulbul. Shortly thereafter a flock of
gorgeous Blue-naped Mousebirds, their blue napes shining in the sun, caught our eye just as a
Jameson’s Firefinch was spotted on the road. We also saw three species of sunbirds, those
lovely little jewels of birds which seem to replace the western hemisphere hummingbirds.
Amethyst, Scarlet-chested and Collared Sunbirds all put in an appearance, as did a Speckled
Mousebird. Crossing back across Haile Salassie, we decided to explore Mlali Drive and had
wonderful views of Little Bee-eater and Spotted Morning-Thrush. Other birds we saw in the
area included African Palm-Swift, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Lesser Masked-Weaver and
Southern Cordonbleu. Not a bad start to the morning.
A trip to pick up some cash at the Slipway shopping centre allowed for a brief look over the
ocean. We saw our first Crab-Plovers, definitely weird-looking shorebirds, and picked up Little
Egret, Sacred Ibis, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper. Unfortunately it was low tide so many of
the shorebirds were far away in the shimmering distance. The rest of the day was spent
socializing with Jim and his family, so birding was put on hold.
Friday November 10: before leaving Canada we had arranged this birding trip with January
Ching’Enya. I contacted him via BirdingPal but he is also on Facebook. He is a very
knowledgeable and enthusiastic young man who also runs city, hiking and mountain-biking
tours, but his main passion is birding. He was delighted to have the opportunity to take us out
for the day. We met January and his driver outside the George and Dragon next door to the
apartment. The George is a well-known Dar eatery so it was easy to arrange to meet there. The
driver, who was nicknamed appropriately, if somewhat unimaginatively, “Big” or “Biggy” was a
300+ pound full-blooded Maasai. Although a “town Maasai” as January put it! We would
definitely not have any worries about security while accompanied by this gentleman!
Although we had hoped to visit the famous Kunduchi salt flats, unseasonable rains had
flooded the pans, making them inaccessible. January therefore took us to the Kerege area north
of Dar on the road to Bagomoyo. We started off in a scrub area, reached by quite an
unprepossessing track off the main road. Almost immediately we were surrounded by bird
sound with Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves and White-browed Coucals “poo-poo-poo-ing”, and
Spotted Morning-Thrushes holding forth, along with Black-crowned Tchagras. The birds came
fast and furious and we had difficulty keeping up with January as he reeled the names off! For
someone so young, who does not do bird guiding full-time, he is absolutely amazing and was
super patient as we tried to isolate some of the sounds and get on the birds. It was really hard
to come up with bird of the morning as such things as Green Malkoa, Levaillant’s Cuckoo and
Palm-nut Vulture provided fantastic sightings, but my favourite bird had to be the Gray-headed
Bushshrike with his bright yellow and orange tummy shining forth in the sun. Other birds
observed in this area included Brown Snake-Eagle, Red-eyed and Ring-necked Doves, African
Green-Pigeon, Klaas’ Cuckoo (heard but not seen), Little, White-throated and the gorgeous
Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Broad-billed Roller, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Brown-headed
Parrot, Pale Batis, Black-backed Puffback, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul,
Northern Brownbul, Green-backed Cameroptera, Ashy Flycacther, Amethyst, Collared,
Scarlet-chested and Purple-banded Sunbirds, Golden-breasted Bunting, Yellow-fronted
Canary, Reichenow’s Seedeater and a quick fly-by Grosbeak Weaver. As the morning was
getting on, we reluctantly started back to the car hearing Red-necked Francolins on the way
and watching some Black Kites (Yellow-billed race) displaying.
We enjoyed a delicious, if somewhat messy, snack of mangoes, bananas and oranges and then headed
out to a marshy area just south of Kerege. As the recent heavy rains had flooded the usual pathway, we
ended up walking through peoples’ fields and back yards to access the marsh. Everyone was very friendly
and waved us through. We actually ended up on someone’s concrete verandah, where I set up the
telescope to give us good views of the marsh.
Although not outstanding in terms of species, we did have fantastic views of Zanzibar Red Bishop and
African Golden-Weaver, a group of the latter busily nest-building. We had to chuckle as one weaver was
building far away from everyone else in the flock. We also picked up one of my African “most wanted” birds in the
shape of Allen’s Gallinule, several of which were stalking around the marsh showing their resplendent blue facial
shields. We also got excellent views of a Black Crake mincing its way along on its incredibly bright red legs and
feet. A Long-tailed Cormorant flew past, a tree full of Cattle Egrets was noted and a Purple Heron spotted with
its head just sticking up out of the marsh. Further careful scanning turned up a Little Grebe and of course African
Jacanas were everywhere. Pied, Gray-headed and Brownhooded Kingfishers were also in the area. Last up just
before we left was a fly-by African Openbill.
Then followed the long drive out to the Pugu Hills – getting through Dar seems to be
problematical regardless of what direction you are going. We had a stop for lunch at the Vasco
de Gama restaurant where we discovered the delights of eating with our hands according to
local tradition. Saw a Hamerkop just prior to lunch but did not note anything else new. We
eventually got to the Pugu Hills reserve at around 3 p.m. and, permit obtained, wended our way
through huge piles of dirt, presumably intended for some future road improvement project. We
soon hopped out and explored the forest roads until around 6 p.m. The “forest” was not so
much woodland but an area where a lot of trees had been cleared and the first part of the walk
was constantly interrupted by trucks and motorbikes, aptly known as “piki-pikis” in Swahili.
Eventually we turned off on a side track and finally had some peace and quiet.
Not only did we have further excellent views of Gray-headed Bushshrike, but also picked
up his relative, the equally handsome Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike. January said we were very
lucky! We also had wonderful views of a pair of soaring Bataleurs, the wholly dark male winging
overhead first followed a little later by his mate which was much paler underneath. Saw
another Brown Snake-Eagle while a Lizard Buzzard was observed hunting nearby and actually
seen carrying a lizard! A Little Sparrowhawk rounded out the raptor sightings. The head of a
Broad-billed Roller sticking out of a tree provoked the comment from January that the species
should not be breeding there but further north. Apparently the changes in weather patterns
seem to have confused some birds. Other sightings included another Green Malkoa, African
Palm-Swift, Green Woodhoopoe, Crowned Hornbill, Trumpeter Hornbill, Striped Kingfisher,
the ever-present Lilac-breasted Roller, Greater Honeyguide, Black-backed Puffback, Eurasian
Golden Oriole, Lesser Striped-Swallow, Black Sawwing, Sombre Greenbul, Green-backed
Cameroptera, Violet-backed and Black-bellied Starlings, the usual triumvirate of sunbirds,
Vitelline Masked- and Forest Weavers, beautiful Green-winged Pytilias and Bronze and Blackand-
As it was getting late, we suggested to January that maybe we should turn around, but he
wanted to show us a Crowned Eagle’s nest in the hopes that the birds might be there. No such
luck, however we did have wonderful views of a Red-backed Scrub-Robin pouring his song out
from the top of a tree. The mimicking nature of his song reminded me of a Brown Thrasher. It
was a long, hot walk back to the car and a very long journey back to Masaki through terrible
traffic, but we were content both with our first full day of birding and with January as a guide.
Saturday November 11: this was largely a rest day and we also got ourselves organized for our
departure on November 14, buying ferry tickets and so on. We did see a gorgeous Blackcollared
Barbet in Jim’s garden along with the usual suspects, while a quick peer over the beach
at Barack Obama Drive produced Black-headed Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gull-billed
Tern as well as the same species we’d seen from the Slipway. Over 100 species for the trip now.
Sunday November 12: another quiet day as we attended communion at St. Alban’s Cathedral
before heading out for lunch. Later in the afternoon we took a walk around the neighbourhood
and were rewarded with a new species: Brown-breasted Barbet, plus nice views of African
Paradise Flycatcher, Speckled Mousebird, Striped Kingfisher, Purple-banded and Scarletchested
Sunbirds, and a nice little flock of Bronze Mannikins. Both African Openbill and Little
Egret were fly-bys.
Monday November 13: we had arranged a morning birding with January and were poised on the
doorstep just before 6 a.m. While waiting a Blackcrowned Night-Heron, flew past. January and his
new driver, Mikey, arrived and we set off to the Kigamboni district via the new Queen’s Bridge and
spent the morning in the area known as South Beach. We started off at some mangrove flats just
in from the ocean and although January was disappointed that more birds were not in evidence,
after quite a bit of walking we picked up: Whitefaced Whistling Duck, Gray Heron, Intermediate
Egret, Water Thick-Knee, Black-winged Stilt, Lesser Sand-Plover, Common Ringed-Plover, Little Stint,
Namaqua Dove, Madagascar Bee-Eater, Cardinal Woodpecker, Brown-crowned
Tchagra, our first view in 45 years of a Red-backed Shrike, glimpses of Yellowbreasted
Apalis, Red-faced (heard only) and Rattling Cisticolas, Tawny-flanked
Prinia (heard only), and African Pipit.
Although not strictly new for the trip we did finally see a Klaas’ Cuckoo and on our way out of the
area discovered a Fiery-necked Nightjar, roosting under the low vegetation.
After exploring the mangrove area we headed over to the beach. Not a lot
was in evidence but we enjoyed the antics of the many Pied Kingfishers fishing in the tidal inlet,
got excellent views of Crab-Plover and, once the scope was set up, discovered Sooty Gull, and
both Great and Lesser Crested Terns out on a distant sandbar, along with some Black-bellied
Plover. An afternoon walk around the Masaki neighbourhood failed to produce anything new.
Tuesday November 14: we were definitely happy to have bought VIP tickets for the ferry from
Dar to Zanzibar as we were able to sit in air-conditioned comfort with an uninterrupted view of
the ocean. Checked out the birds in the harbour and along the shore but there was nothing
new. The ferry ride was very pleasant but arrival in Zanzibar is not for the faint-hearted with
herds of people pushing to get off the boat and retrieving randomly dumped baggage. We had
to show our immigration cards twice, once with (including retinal scan) and once without a
passport, all of which involved considerable line-ups. We did not realise that Zanzibar has its
own immigration procedures, but have a stamp in our passports to prove it!
Once finally through all this, we looked around in vain for the driver from Palm Tours.
Eventually Stewart went outside to see if he could find anyone while I inquired inside.
Apparently tour operators are not allowed inside the terminal, only taxi drivers. Anyway
Stewart had found Juma and his driver Khamis and we piled our gear into the minibus and set
off ostensibly for the Bwawani Wetland which I had told the tour operator we wanted to visit.
After driving around through some crazy narrow streets in what I was sure was the wrong
direction, we screeched to a halt in the middle of a street in Stonetown where Juma announced
this was the place we wanted to bird. I explained that this was definitely not the place we
wanted to bird but seemed unable to explain where it was despite having a map! Anyway when
I mentioned lunch (it was getting late), Juma brightened up and we were duly delivered to the
Serena Hotel. Eventually Juma arrived with the Palm Tours owner, Mohammed, and I was able
to show him where we wanted to go.
So we eventually arrived at the Bwawani Wetland in the afternoon. Juma had apparently
checked it out but had thought there was no way we would have wanted to go there because it
was so dirty! Anyway, we reassured him this was the place and proceeded to check out all the
terns and water birds present in profusion. We got a lifer – White-cheeked Tern, along with
Little Bittern, Eurasian Moorhen, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, and Malachite
Kingfisher. As Juma was looking visibly uncomfortable in the milieu and we wanted to have a
chance to bird at the hotel, I used the heat as an excuse to wrap up proceedings. Juma said he
would see us again on Pemba.
The Island Beach Resort is gloriously in the middle of nowhere on a tidal inlet with a scrub
pan behind it which is great for birds. As the tide receded, Whimbrels, Crab-Plovers, Common Ring-
Plovers and Common Greenshanks all flew into the flat in good numbers, with singles of Black-bellied Plover,
Lesser Sand-Plover, Little Stint and Common Sandpiper. Quite a delight to view were several Black
Herons mincing around doing their umbrella act while a nice Striated Heron was also observed in the shallows.
Add to that the dhows sailing across the setting sun over the Indian Ocean and it was all to die for!
Wednesday November 15: this day started bright and early as Khamis was picking us up at 5
a.m. The hotel provided box breakfasts and we were soon off to Jozani-Chwaka Bay National
Park, picking up our guide Baraki on the way. The latter proved to be a very knowledgeable and
engaging guide who seemed to know everything there was to know about the area. We started
off with some good birds right in the parking lot including Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Greenbacked
Woodpecker, Little Greenbul and Olive Sunbird. Wandering along the entry road and
across into a scrub area which Baraki explained was tidal in some seasons, we saw Black-bellied
Starling, Broad-billed Roller and a bunch of other common stuff. White-browed Coucals were
making their usual weird calls, Green Woodhoopoes were flaunting their white-crescented
wings overhead and we picked up a nice Green Tinkerbird while a Zitting Cisticola was singing
loudly in a bush. We only got a glimpse of Green-backed Twinspot but excellent views of
Soon we heard an explosive, noisy call that Baraki instantly identified as Eastern
Nicator, definitely on the “wanted list”! We surrounded the tree that the sound
was emanating from but it took ages before we finally spotted the bird singing
his little heart out. His whole body and tail vibrated with the sound. Stewart even
managed photos. Shortly after that we heard an African Goshawk calling from
some palms but could not pick it out. We did however get excellent views of Green
Malkoa and then, to my delight, heard a Tambourine Dove and set off in hot pursuit.
Eventually Stewart spotted it, nicely framed by palm branches.
We headed back to park HQ and took a trail out to look for the Fischer’s Turaco. Baraki said
we would walk for an hour and a half but it was four hours later when we returned! Anyway we
added Spotted Flycatcher to the trip list, heard our first Bearded Scrub-Robin, heard and saw
some movement from African Crested-Flycatchers and eventually, after sitting in the forest for
quite a while, heard a Fischer’s Turaco in the far distance. Slightly disappointing, but all was
made up for when Baraki, on point, spotted an East Coast Akalat right in the open. This is
normally an incredibly difficult species to see. He got me to play the recording and the bird
really responded well, giving us excellent views. We then tried around some grassland for
Harlequin Quail without success but Baraki heard a Black Cuckooshrike which we soon tracked
down. We also saw the amazingly large Four-toed Elephant Shrew, quite unlike any shrew we’d
ever seen before! The way back was very long, but a diversion through the undergrowth
produced a Red-capped Robin-Chat, an incredibly orange bird.
By the time we returned to HQ for lunch we had been going 7 hours so afterwards had a brief siesta
while Baraki went to pray. We then set off to see the Red Colobus monkeys which are, after all, the pièce
de résistance for Jozani. We soon located them and had an unbearably cute baby posing for Stewart to
photograph. On the way out of this trail we saw an African Pygmy-Kingfisher, a species that can be
really hard to see. Other new trip birds included in the 50-odd species we picked up in the park
included Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Tropical Boubou, and Mouse-colored Sunbird.
We then set off for Bungi, where Baraki hoped to find some whydahs and bishops. We
strolled around for ages but failed to find either. We did, however, see a couple of Crowned
Hornbills, had wonderful views of a pair of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters flying over, and saw two
more Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds, a Pale Batis and the usual sunbirds and mannikins. Back at
the hotel we had a quick look out over the inlet but nothing new had appeared.
Thursday November 16: it was much the same story looking out the following morning, but Stewart did
manage to get some excellent shots of the Striated Heron and we managed 20 species before breakfast. As
our driver was picking us up at 8 a.m. we asked the staff if they could expedite breakfast and having inhaled it in
record time, were ready “on the dot” as Khamis had put it the night before. We got to the airport, which is very
close by, quite early; our bags were whisked away, and we bade a fond farewell to Khamis who had been a
great driver. We got our tickets checked and our bags put through security but, as there was no-one at the Zan-Air
desk, were unable to check in.
Eventually a rather harried looking lady arrived, apologized profusely and wrote out our
boarding passes. Soon after a chap arrived at the door and announced the flight to Pemba. We
took a bus out to the plane, where Stewart and another guy were invited to board first to
“balance the plane”. I got quite a chuckle out of that one. The flight was uneventful and I really
enjoyed my first experience on a small plane. Once landed, we clambered down the somewhat
sketchy step and headed into the terminal to await our baggage. Immigration procedures
consisted of signing our names and passport numbers in a book. Juma was waiting outside and
we exchanged a happy wave. Finally we got our bags and went out to meet him and the new
driver, Hamad. The ride up to Pemba Paradise was very long.
When we arrived at Pemba Paradise there was no-one on reception so we sat and waited while
Juma rushed around trying to find someone. The first bird I heard was a Pemba White-Eye, not bad to get
a life-bird and an endemic to boot before even checking-in! Soon the manager/receptionist arrived
and he and various staff escorted us and our baggage to the room. The latter was absolutely gorgeous with
a balcony overlooking the forest and the sea. I had just finished unpacking when a Pemba Sunbird appeared in
the palm tree next to the room. Two out of four endemics accounted for! During lunch some pretty Scarlet-chested
Sunbirds disported themselves by the terrace and a visit to the wonderful beach later on produced Striated Heron,
Common Greenshank, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Pied Kingfisher. Once we had sorted out
the confusion with the fact that our morning tour had been arranged through Palm Tours and
not the hotel, we were able to order our box breakfasts and proceed to a fantastic dinner; the
cook at Pemba Paradise is absolutely phenomenal!
Friday November 17: well this morning was great with regards to target species but not so
good regarding communication. First off the guide we had arranged was unable to come
because his brother had been involved in a minor car accident. His replacement, Mohammed,
was very sweet and eager to please but did not really have the necessary English or birding
experience. Thank goodness we had Juma to translate.
We started off at 4:30 a.m. and drove out to Ngezi, soon hearing the maniacal laughter of the Hadada Ibises and a
Pemba Scops-Owl giving its short little hoot. Mohammed said the best time to see the latter was at night, but had we
known the total disaster the following night’s attempt to find the owl would prove, we would have
made an attempt then and there as the bird was fairly close. Apart from the ibises, the large marshy area produced
White-faced Whistling Duck and Eurasian Moorhens, but that was about it so we set off to another location.
On the way we found Palm-nut Vulture, Shikra,Tambourine Dove, African Pipit and an absolutely
stunning Dickinson’s Kestrel, which Stewart got really good shots of. Our main target of the morning, however,
was Pemba Green-Pigeon and we fortuitously hooked up with a forest guide who knew where the pigeons had been
feeding. He duly jumped in the van and we roared off to the area. We walked along the trail peering intently up
through the trees as these pigeons apparently like to just sit still and quiet and of course they are green. Luckily the
chap had amazing eyesight and soon spotted two pigeons up in a tree. The rest of us had totally missed them and
even knowing they were there we had a hard time picking them out. Needless to say the explanations of location lost
a little in translation. Anyway we finally got on them and shortly afterwards Mohammed found another one right
out in the open.
We had just returned to the van when the guide heard a Mangrove Kingfisher but said that
it had flown. He managed to relocate it for us and we had smashing views. I was just showing
the other guys the picture on my tablet and playing the call, when two kingfishers flew in,
obviously responding. We had some watermelon to celebrate then set off again. Stewart had to
dash back for his binoculars, which led to everyone apologizing profusely in that endearing
African way when something goes wrong, even though it is your own fault!
Next on our target list was African Pygmy-Goose. Unfortunately for some reason
Mohammed thought we were looking for Little Grebes so could not understand why we had
not seen any geese at the place he took us to where there were many grebes. After a phone call
to Abdi, who would have been our guide, the confusion was sorted out but unfortunately no
geese were to be found. We had much more luck in our pursuit of Grosbeak Weavers, which
we had only glimpsed before in Kerege. There was a whole nesting colony of them and we were
able to get great views of both males and females. We then headed back to the reserve centre,
fixed up what we were going to do the next day and said goodbye to Mohammed and his eagleeyed
friend before being driven back to the hotel.
On our return we were sitting on the balcony doing the bird list, when what should appear
in the tree outside but a lovely male Grosbeak Weaver! We also had excellent views of Pemba
White-eye and saw a male Eurasian Blackcap. After lunch I set off for my mandatory beach sojourn (the
beach at Pemba Paradise is to die for and I had it all to myself!) and saw hundreds of shorebirds fly by,
including large flocks of Crab-Plovers. Another sit on the balcony produced a fly-by African Goshawk and
a couple of Madagascar Bee-eaters. As it got dark we heard some really weird noises coming from the
bush outside and ventured forth to investigate. Turned out that they were galagoes not birds!
Saturday November 18: we were picked up at 6 a.m. by Juma, Hamad and Abdi. Almost
immediately I spotted a small bird scuttling across the road which, once we had set off across
the field in hot pursuit, turned out to be a Harlequin Quail. What a lovely little bird. We then
headed to the place in Ngezi we had started from the day before and got nice views again of
the Dickinson’s Kestrel and a superb African Harrier-Hawk. Having circled the
area amongst other things we picked up Black-headed Heron, Striated Heron,
Hadada Ibis, Palm-nut Vulture, Shikra, Water Thick-Knee, two photogenic
Pemba Green-Pigeons, lots of Crowned Hornbills, Brown-headed Parrot, Eurasian
Golden Oriole, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Pemba White-eye, Blackbellied Starlings,
several Pemba Sunbirds and a couple of African Pipits. A careful scan of the lake just before leaving
produced White-backed Duck.
We then set off again on the search for African Pygmy-Goose, the tiny little bird we had
missed the day before. We went to the same place, where many Little Grebes were happily
swimming to and fro, but no geese. Abdi had us follow him up over a rise to another pond and
within moments a small flock of African Pygmy-Geese flew in. There they were, just as Abdi
predicted. Abdi was determined that we would get one of our other major targets for the area:
Java Sparrow. We therefore drove off to Konde, and after being refused entry at one place, failing
to find anything at a second, we finally hit pay dirt while walking through a local field. There
were three Java Sparrows perched prettily up a tree. We also picked up our first trip European
Rollers and Wire-tailed Swallows.
Back at the hotel we discovered the power out and water in short supply but that did not
affect the excellent lunch. Had the usual birds off the balcony and then went for a swim. A little
later we left to go owling with Abdi. This latter expedition proved to be a disaster as the chap
he brought with him, who supposedly could call the owls in, made a noise that did not even
begin to resemble a Pemba Scops-Owl and all that happened was that we’d hear an owl calling,
he’d make this dreadful noise and then we would never hear the owl again. We walked all over
the place and, as they didn’t want us using flashlights, Stewart had a nasty fall, not seeing well
in the dark. Eventually, as we were late getting back for supper, I called a halt and we gave up
on actually seeing this endemic. This was a great disappointment as we would probably have
been quite successful with Abdi alone and judicious use of playback. We did hear a Squaretailed
Nightjar, but that was it for our efforts.
Sunday November 19: this day marked the last day of the first part of our odyssey and the
beginning of our 30-day safari with Tanzania Birding. We spent the morning packing and birding
in between rain showers but failed to pick up anything new for the trip except a Ruddy
Turnstone on the beach, a Lesser Swamp Warbler seen from the dining room, and a couple of
African Pied Wagtails which appeared in what we had christened the “bee-eater tree” just as
we were getting the packing finished.
Luckily Juma and Hamad were early as it took much longer than the predicted 1 ¼ hours to
get to the airport. As it transpired the plane was a little late anyway but, as there were only half
a dozen of us to board, the Auric Air single-engine Cessna took off pretty quickly. Before we
knew it we were descending into Tanga where Anthony and Geitan were waiting for us. The
drive up to Amani Nature Reserve was very enjoyable and heading up into the hills and a real
rainforest-type habitat was a new African experience for us.
Monday November 20: this day was the beginning of over four weeks of uninterrupted birding.
Needless to say I was too excited to stay in bed and was up around 5:30 on the balcony with my
tablet trying to sort out the bird song emanating from the woods. I managed to positively
identify White-chested Alethe, a bird with a gloriously ethereal song that usually sings mainly
at dawn. I was soon joined by Anthony and we saw Olive and Collared Sunbirds, Duskybrown
Flycatcher and a bunch of Silverycheeked Hornbills. Once Stewart joined us,
we headed off the main path up towards some of the other reserve buildings and
almost immediately had Scarce Swift, Whiteeared Barbet and White-breasted White-eye,
while enjoying good views of Amethyst Sunbird and African Green Pigeon.
Tambourine Doves and White-browed Robin-Chats called all around, along with the
ever-present White-browed Coucals. Some slim, mat black starlings proved to be
Kenrick’s Starlings, and shortly after another new bird appeared in the form of Green Barbet.
Black Sawwings and African Palm Swifts joined the Scarce Swifts, and we saw both Baglafecht
and Spectacled Weavers. Also up in the trees were lovely Purple-banded Sunbirds and a Pale
Batis, while a Brown-hooded Kingfisher flew past. As this area seemed a really good spot we
decided to stay for a while and soon added Southern Citril and Gray-Olive Greenbul. A Tawnyflanked
Prinia chattered at us and I picked up a Pallid Honeyguide.
The bird of the morning, at least in the passerine line, was Banded Sunbird: a gorgeous
little green sunbird with a creamy chest with red and green bands across it. This bird is both
endangered and endemic so it was an excellent one to see. As we carried on up through the
buildings, Little Swifts put in an appearance and we got a look at Uluguru Violet-backed
Sunbird. Circling back towards the main buildings, we were regaled by a Red-faced Cisticola
from the bushes and heard a Fischer’s Turaco in the far distance.
We headed into breakfast slightly dazed from all the new and excellent birds Anthony had
found us! While eating, we were entertained by the song of Forest Weavers just outside the
dining room. Meeting back at 10, we headed down a lovely trail along the river and soon heard
Green-headed Oriole. Part of their song sounds like the new world oropendolas and had
puzzled me that morning, so was happy to have the mystery solved. I saw a reddish bird flit
across the trail and Anthony picked up another.
They were Red-tailed Ant-thrushes, a coastal endemic. We then chased down a Black-headed
Apalis which afforded somewhat neck-breaking views up above and finally ascertained that a whole
bevy of strange calls, ranging from Emerald Cuckoo to Mountain Buzzard, were coming from our mimic
friend the Red-capped Robin-Chat. Further along the trail we got excellent views of Green-headed
Oriole and picked up Southern Black Flycatcher in the same area. Soon the much sought-after Amani
Sunbird put in an appearance; it was a pretty unremarkable bird, but apparently the male is
slightly more attractive in breeding plumage.
After resolutely playing the tape, Anthony pulled out a Green-backed Honeyguide but it
was quite far away. We got much better views of a pretty little Cabani’s Bunting which perched
helpfully out in the open. A Palm-nut Vulture flew over and a little bird diving into the top of a
nearby tree proved to be a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. As we walked further, a small group of
Speckled Mousebirds took flight, the first ones we had seen since Dar. A distant crested bird on
the wire was provisionally identified as a Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher and we got good
views of the brown, black and cream female shortly thereafter. Anthony heard the churring of a
Moustached Tinkerbird and, after confusing us by calling from different places, it was finally
tracked down and we got excellent views, including its little moustache. A Little Greenbul was
heard and then a strange pipping noise caught our attention. It was a displaying Crowned Eagle
– what a fantastic bird! As we wended our way back a Little Rush Warbler called from the
Back at the main buildings some school kids had brought in a young Usambara Eagle-Owl
they had found near their school. Anthony said it would be kept at the conservation centre until
after dark and then released where it had been found. There seem to be some excellent
conservation efforts underway to keep the Amani area forested. We saw black pepper growing
up trees in the lowland areas and Anthony told us about a project where families were given a
cow. When a calf was born, they gave it to their neighbours. Soon the whole village had a herd
of cows and the milk produced is collected by tanker and shipped to Tanga. With the money
earned the villagers can buy necessities and do not have to cut down trees to survive. The
recovery of the forest has been nothing short of amazing as things regenerate quickly in this
climate. After the excitement with the owl, we headed into lunch and encountered ugali for the
first time. A stodgy maize porridge, it is a Tanzanian staple and mixed with sauces and meat is
actually quite good, although Stewart reserved judgement!
We went back out with Anthony around 4 which unfortunately coincided with the heavens
opening. As the only bird seen was a fast disappearing Little Greenbul and the trails were
getting very slippery, we decided to call it a day, and what an excellent one!
Tuesday November 21: I was outside early again and saw a Bat Hawk flying over. We climbed up into the forest
behind the accommodation buildings and almost the first bird we saw was a White-chested Alethe which flew
across the track in front of us disporting its white chest nicely. Our three main target birds, African Broadbill,
Short-tailed Batis and Fischer’s Turaco were all heard but remained resolutely unseen. We did pick up two new
greenbuls: Cabani’s and Fischer’s Greenbul. Eventually as Anthony was playing the Sharpe’s Akalat tape, which has
African Broadbill in the background, I saw a movement in a vine-covered tree and lo and behold, we had a pair of
African Broadbills. These tiny birds are quite unbearably cute with their weird little bills.
We had a quick glimpse of the akalat flying across the trail but
otherwise everything remained hidden in the forest so we headed off for breakfast.
Later on we walked the trails around the stream and marsh down from HQ but didn’t see
too much for quite a long time. Heading down into the little valley, we finally got good views of
Little Rush Warbler, and heard the turaco again. Around a little shamba we had a nice group
consisting of White-browed Robin-Chat, Collared Sunbird, Spectacled Weaver, Common
Waxbill and Black-and-white Mannikins. Setting off after the turaco, we picked up Stripecheeked
Greenbul and Black-throated Wattle-eye, but still no luck with the target! When we
got back to HQ, we set off up the same trail as in the morning, specifically trying for the batis
and turaco. We managed a very fleeting glimpse of a female Short-tailed Batis and then headed
onto a short spur trail. Almost immediately the endemic Usambara Greenbul was spotted and
shortly thereafter a Fischer’s Turaco flew in. What a lovely bird, with its weird staring-eye look
and gorgeous red under the wings when it flies. Thank goodness we found it as this is the limit
of its range. Just before returning to the main buildings we had a little flurry of movement and I
got a really good look at a male Short-tailed Batis.
The afternoon expedition to the tea plantation had as its main target the critically
endangered Long-billed Tailorbird. It was a 10 km drive from the reserve which on the
mountain roads took a while. Just before arriving we spotted a Northern Fiscal and then a
Mountain Wagtail displaying. I got textbook views of the latter perched on a rock in the
stream. Geitan let us out at the beginning of a trail which followed a stream, prime tailorbird
territory apparently. Our first new bird on the trail, however, turned out to be a distant Yellow throated
Woodland-Warbler seen bouncing around in the vegetation part way up the hill.
Basically a bit of a yellow blob-warbler, hopefully we will get better views. We saw a male
African Paradise-Flycatcher with his lovely long tail and Olive Sunbirds chattered happily
overhead. A Half-collared Kingfisher was spotted sitting on a branch overhanging the stream by
the ever-vigilant Anthony. We were not having any luck with the tailorbird, but a little flurry of
movement up the hill got us a Kretschmer’s Longbill, quite an unprepossessing little bird.
Eventually we heard the tailorbird calling and walked back to try and find it, but no luck.
Had just got back to where we had come from when the bird called again. Anthony decided,
however, to forge on to another spot where he’d seen the bird on the nest three weeks
previously. Initially we had no luck but we did get nice views of Green-headed Oriole and
Fischer’s Turaco, this time with its crazy crest nicely visible. We were just about to leave when a
Long-billed Tailorbird flew past, never to be seen again, but hey, we saw it! Feeling quite
blessed by all this success we headed back, hearing Red-capped Robin-Chat, African Broadbill,
Stripe-cheeked and Usambara Greenbuls and White-chested Alethes on the way.
Wednesday November 22: my first bird of the morning was a Shelley’s Greenbul seen up at the
car park on a tree, behaving in a woodpecker-like manner. I then almost stepped on a nightjar
of unknown identity as I walked down to breakfast! After breakfast, as all our luggage was in
the Landcruiser, we bid a fond farewell to the lovely Amani staff and headed down to the lower
part of the reserve to catch up with some missing species. We had further great views of
Fischer’s Turaco, added Trumpeter Hornbill to the Amani list, caught up to Chestnut-fronted
Helmetshrike (although it took a while to actually get a good look at one as the flocks move
fast), found our first Gray Cuckooshrike, heard an Eastern Nicator, saw Terrestrial Brownbul,
Tiny Greenbul and Yellow Flycatcher. We had quite unsatisfactory views of the latter at first
but later some came closer, quite charming little birds. We got good views of Black-headed
Apalis, fleeting ones of Red-tailed Ant-thrush, but did not find anything else of note.
Piling back in the Landcruiser we headed down to just outside Muheza on the trail of
Collared Palm-Thrush. I soon spotted one sat up a tree with a couple of Common Bulbuls.
Sombre Greenbul, Purple-banded Sunbird and a little flock of Common Waxbills were also
seen and we picked up a beautiful Brown-breasted Barbet as we were driving out. Great views
were also had of African Harrier-Hawk. Once through Muheza we headed towards the West
Usambaras at what was a rather frustratingly slow pace. We stopped in a couple of places
trying unsuccessfully for the coastal race of Winding Cisticola, only Rattling Cisticola being
seen. We did have our first Northern Gray-headed Sparrow for the trip, however.
After lunch and a sweltering hot break at a rest stop, we set off for the Mombo rice paddies
which proved to be great. We got great views of the coastal form of Winding Cisticola, some
White-winged Widowbirds, gorgeous Zanzibar Red Bishops in various stages of plumage and
huge flocks of Red-billed Quelea, which some chap was trying rather unsuccessfully to keep
out of the rice. We had an African Openbill, Intermediate Egrets, Black-winged Stilts, Black
Kites and our first White-rumped Swifts, while Barn, Red-rumped and Lesser Striped-Swallows
We then took the road from Mombo town up towards Lusotho and the West Usambaras, a lovely drive!
We got out at one point to walk along by the river but had no luck finding the target species for
the area: Striped Pipit. We did, however, see some nice birds, including one dark
phase and one pale phase Augur Buzzard, a strange-looking European Roller,
Spotted Flycatcher, Scarlet-chested and Collared Sunbirds, African Pied-Wagtail,
Yellow-fronted Canary, Southern Citril, Baglafecht and African Golden-Weavers
and two “red-backed” Black-and-white Mannikins. The bird of the afternoon for me, however,
was a gorgeous female Mocking Cliff-Chat, a lovely bird with rusty and slate gray plumage.
Once through Lusotho, we climbed another 14km and soon were at Muller’s Mountain Lodge,
which apparently adjoins the property of the expresident of Tanzania. The lodge is a lovely place, set
in beautiful surroundings and has some great birds in its own right. Although it was almost dark we
managed to pick up three lifers: Red-chested Cuckoo, White-necked Raven and a couple of
Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds (Usambara race), along with the ever-present Common Bulbuls and
some Red-winged Starlings. Later on Anthony came rushing up to say a local chap had seen an African
Wood Owl. After a while listening to it call, the bird flew over and perched in a nearby tree giving
Thursday November 23: the morning was spent in the upper part of the Mkuzi Forest Reserve.
Almost as soon as we pulled away from the lodge we started seeing birds, a nice bright
Northern Fiscal, a pair of African Stonechats, now split from their European cousins, and other
odds and ends like Speckled Mousebird and a really close view of that often heard but not so
often seen bird, the White-browed Coucal. Soon we were at the stopping place and walked the
road for the next four and a half hours. It was totally amazing birding. We immediately started
hearing good birds: White-starred Robin, Spot-throat, Evergreen-forest Warbler, Cinnamon
Bracken-Warbler and Bar-throated Apalis. The African Tailorbird was also very vocal and one
of the easier ones to track down, as we did the pretty little apalis. We heard some African Hill-
Babblers but apart from a bit of movement, did not get a good view. A Black-fronted
Bushshrike swooped through, making its weird grating call, but again we failed to get really a
satisfactory look at it.
As we ascended further we came upon a group of Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters competing with the
Black Sawwings for aerial ballet honours. We got some hasty glimpses of
Cinnamon Bracken-Warblers and an Evergreen forest Warbler called tantalizingly close by but
when we went off the trail looking for it, it had disappeared. We soon heard a Hartlaub’s
Turaco, however, and I spotted the bird in a tree above the path. What a gorgeous bird!
Apparently there is a turaco for each mountain range. We also picked up Eastern Mountain
Greenbul before walking almost up to the village and then heading back down.
We were extremely lucky to hit on an ant swarm and spent an amazing half an hour
watching normally reclusive species such as White-chested Alethe and White-starred
Robin chasing the ants. A Spot-throat was glimpsed by Anthony and myself but barely
showed for a moment. Flushed with our success at the ant swarm we decided to
pursue an Evergreen-forest Warbler we had heard calling, despite Anthony’s caution that
we would never see it. We spent quite a long time creeping to and fro after the bird, which
was really living up to its skulking reputation. After exercising great patience, we finally got a
quick look at the bird, apparently as good as it gets!
On the way back down we got excellent views of White-tailed Crested-Flycatcher
and observed a couple of Eastern Doublebanded Sunbirds building a nest.
That afternoon we went down to the lower part of the Mkuzi reserve and walked
a trail along the river. It was very quiet for a while, with only an African Tailorbird calling
up a storm, a distant Evergreen-forest Warbler heard, Eastern Double-collared
Sunbirds chasing each other around and a Mountain Wagtail disporting his extra long
tail by the stream. Then Anthony heard a couple of trogons calling to each other: Bar-tailed
Trogon. We eventually got really excellent views of the male. Consistently throughout the walk
we heard White-chested Alethes and Fülleborn’s Boubou, but didn’t catch up to the latter until
right at the end. A tree-hugging bulbul proved to be a Shelley’s Greenbul and we also got really
good views of Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, actually seeing the stripes this time. Shortly afterwards
we got Dusky-brown Flycatcher and a strange, spotty bird was identified by Anthony as a
juvenile White-starred Robin.
After hearing it call close by, we set off on a Spot-throat search, clambering up the muddy
hillside trying to locate the source of the call. Eventually we tracked it down, or so we thought,
as I ended up being the only one to see it as it was way further down the slope than we had
thought. Another skulker! We climbed back up to the road and headed back off along the river
again, checking off some Yellow-throated Woodland-Warblers, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters
and hearing a Klaas’ Cuckoo in the distance. Then two birds flew down into a bush on the other
side of the river and proved to be African Hill-Babblers, the birds which had proved so elusive
in the morning. We got excellent views of these relatives of the Eurasian Blackcap and Garden
Warbler. Flushed with success we engaged in hot pursuit of Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler,
several of which we could hear calling in, guess what, the bracken. Of course they are the
colour of dead bracken and incredibly hard to spot. Anthony saw one we missed so we pursued
another call up over a rise without success. We were just coming around by another path when
Anthony and I spotted one but couldn’t get Stewart on it before it disappeared. Anyway shortly
thereafter one came really close and he got an excellent view. We picked up a Hartlaub’s
Turaco and a nice African Paradise-Flycatcher and then headed back to the lodge.
Worked on trying to locate a Montane Nightjar Anthony had heard in the far distance,
but no luck.
Friday November 24: I began the morning by half an hour’s birding the grounds at Mullers
and saw a few species, including Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbills, Rock Martins,
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Cape and White-browed Robin-
Chats, Red-winged and Waller’s Starlings, Eastern Doublecollared Sunbird and Baglafecht
and Spectacled Weavers.
After breakfast we headed up into the Magamba Forest Reserve and the famous Old
Sawmill Track. Almost right away we heard Bar-tailed Trogon and then Anthony and I got a
Black Goshawk, a strange, horizontally-perching bird with a very long tail. Mountain Buzzard
was soon added to the list and we had a lot of repeats from the day before as we wandered up
the muddy track. Many of them remained frustratingly “heard only” although we got lovely
views of Bar-throated Apalis. An unexpected sighting was a White-winged
Widowbird suddenly flying into the forest; the last time we had seen this
species they were in an open field. We had absolutely spectacular views of the
creamy version of Black-fronted Bushshrike, not once but twice, and saw
Waller’s Starling and Scaly-throated Honeyguide. We then started tracking
down what we had originally thought was a Red-chested Cuckoo, which had
suddenly switched calls and now sounded like a Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo. Apparently they do
mimic each other, if it wasn’t already bad enough that the chats mimic them too! Anyway after
exercising some patience we finally got good views of what transpired to indeed be a Barred
Long-tailed Cuckoo flying across the forest path.
Strolling up the path we had been serenaded by Delegorgue’s Pigeons and finally caught
up with one, a very handsome pigeon indeed. Greenbul movement in the trees turned up three
species, including Yellow-streaked Greenbul. Shortly afterwards, we picked up an Olive
Woodpecker, but the main object of our trek, Usambara Weaver, remained elusive. We
headed up to the old sawmill, turned around and then drove down a little bit before trying
again for the weaver. We heard one in the very far distance, but that was it. We therefore
decided to head down to where we had been trying earlier and soon spied a weaver up in the
trees. Out we leapt and obtained excellent views of this endemic as it flew to and fro.
Apparently people confuse them with Forest Weavers but the bill is clearly black. A walk around
a plantation area in search of Usambara Thrush failed to produce this species, the only birds
seen being African Paradise and Dusky-brown Flycatchers, so it was off to the lodge for lunch.
Later that afternoon we headed back to lower part of the Sawmill track, picking up a colony
of Village Weavers right near the entrance. We then got dropped off and walked a long way,
again hearing way more than we saw. We did get excellent views of Fülleborn’s Boubou
however. We then drove further up and went down a forest path where the more open nature
of the habitat should have made it easier to see the Spot-throats that were calling. The plan
worked fine but unfortunately Stewart missed the bird again. We did not have any luck with the
Usambara Thrush, but did hear Usambara Akalat in the far distance. We were just heading
back to the car when Anthony heard a Montane (Usambara race) Nightjar and was able to use
playback to lure two of these birds in. No need now to chase all over the lodge grounds looking
Saturday November 25: today was moving day and allowed only for a few minutes birding around the
lodge as we packed up. We were just leaving when a Blue-spotted Wood-Dove flew across. We then
drove down to spend more time on the wonderful Lushoto-Mombo road, netting some 30 species but
alas not the Striped Pipit. The best bird for me was once again Mocking Cliff-Chat, and we had
excellent views of a pair showing well in the bright sunlight. Other birds seen included Hamerkop,
Horus Swift, White-eared Barbet, Black-throated Wattle-eye and African Firefinch.
Once through Mombo, we headed north along the B1 towards Same. We stopped for an
absolutely fantastic Long-crested Eagle perched in a tree right by the side of the road and then drove
onto a stop near Mkomazi where Anthony had got Black-bellied Sunbirds staked out. We had great
views of this species and also Dideric Cuckoo, Spotflanked Barbet, Jameson’s Firefinch, Parrot-billed
Sparrow and a host of common species. We also picked up an expected sighting in the form of
Hunter’s Sunbird. A little further down the road we stopped again for a Rosy-patched Bushshrike, a
truly awesome bird, and saw our first Blue-naped Mousebirds since Dar.
We checked into the Elephant Motel in Same and had a quick lunch out in the grounds. That afternoon
went for a drive up into the South Pare Mountains, adding a poorly-glimpsed D’Arnaud’s Barbet to our
list. I did not realize they were such ground-loving species; the bird looked like a little quail flying in at
first glance. Higher up we got out and tried for the famed South Paré White-eye, a subspecies which is
not recognized by all authorities. Although we added Lanner Falcon, Willow Warbler and Yellow-bellied
Waxbill to our list, no white-eyes were in evidence. We did find quite a few other species but nothing
new for the trip. Eventually bad weather had us heading back to the hotel where we heard an African
Sunday November 26: we spent this day in and around Mkomazi National Park and had an
absolutely amazing day, not just for birds but for mammals also. We began before breakfast in
the buffer zone between Same and the park and had an outstanding hour and a half in the dry
thorn bush. We got one of our targets, Red-and-yellow Barbet, almost right away, gorgeous
birds. Followed closely on their heels were D’Arnaud’s Barbet (a proper view this time), Redfronted
Warbler, Gray Wren-Warbler, Purple Grenadier and Red-cheeked Cordonbleus with
their adorable little red cheek patches. Strange grating sounds proved to be a White-bellied
Go-away-bird. A lot of other dry country species were present including Spot-flanked Barbet,
Black-headed Batis, Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike, Red-backed Shrike, Red-tailed Shrike, Northern
Crombec, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Rattling Cisticola, Greater Whitethroat, White-breasted White-eye,
Spotted and Grayish Flycatchers, Red-backed Scrub-Robin, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Amethyst and
Black-bellied Sunbirds, Southern Grosbeak Canary, our first White-browed Sparrow-Weavers of the trip
and Black-necked Weaver. As we were heading out I picked up a strange-looking bird under a tree which
proved to be a Three-streaked Tchagra. Shortly after a Slate-colored Boubou appeared which
was followed by a Red-headed Weaver. My head was spinning by the time we were dropped
back at the hotel for breakfast! We were picked up again at 9:15 and whisked off to Mkomazi
While Geitan saw to the permits, we had a look around the car park and soon picked up
Brubru for the trip along with Common Nightingale. Northern Red-billed Hornbill
was new and we checked off another bunch of species before Geitan arrived back with
the book for us to sign. Then the roof got put up and we were off into the National
Almost right away we saw Superb Starlings and they definitely are superb! A
Parrot-billed Sparrow appeared for Stewart to catch up on and a Long-tailed Fiscal proved
to be one of many, many that we would see. Our first White-rumped Shrike of the trip flew
across and then we started to see mammals: Bush Buck, some Dik-Dik and soon after our
first Coke’s Hartebeests.
There were several Yellow-throated Francolins running
through the undergrowth, apparently easier to see than some
of the other francolins. We also heard Crested Francolin but
did not catch up to them until later. A strange-looking weaver
turned out to be a White-headed Buffalo-Weaver and shortly
thereafter the smartly turned-out Von der Decken’s Hornbill
showed up. Standing up in the Landcruiser is definitely a fun
way to bird! We were surprised and delighted
to see a Lion lazing in the bush adjacent to the
road. Anthony said that is was very rare to see
them in the park so we were really lucky. We also saw
Common Eland, Burchell’s Zebra and, of course, many
new birds! Anthony heard a strange sound
which proved to be a Flappet Lark doing its
skylark-like flight above the vehicle. The strange noise is a
product of its wing flaps. Stewart then saw a small bird sitting
on top of a bush which Anthony identified as an Ashy
Cisticola. Two majestic Bateleurs soared overhead, a Zanzibar
Red Bishop showed off his flamboyant red and black colours,
while White-winged Widowbirds fluttered through the
grasses. The pièce de résistance, however, was the sighting of
a Pangani Longclaw, an amazingly beautiful pipit with a
bright yellow chest.
Things continued to roll in with our first Common
Ostriches and Tawny Eagles of the trip, making me feel truly
back in Africa! Anthony then spotted a Pied Cuckoo
and we got reasonable views before it flitted off. We
had both Vulturine and the extremely common
Helmeted Guineafowls. The Vulturine Guineafowl is
quite a spectacular bird and we got really excellent
views. Meanwhile we heard a Greater Honeyguide
and got our first views of the ubiquitous Eastern
Chanting-Goshawk. Stopping for a stretch at a little
rest area overlooking a lake, we picked up Spurwinged
Goose, Egyptian Goose, Red-billed Duck,
Great Egret and Variable Sunbird, a pretty little
thing with a yellow tummy and blue back. Starting
back to the gate, we picked up Fischer’s Starling,
definitely rather drab compared to his Superb relations.
After a somewhat challenging lunch we headed for the eastern part of the park, looking
especially for bustards. First up was a Brownhooded Kingfisher and then we got excellent
views of a couple of Crested Francolins. We got great entertainment from watching a
Savannah Monitor Lizard and a Crowned Lapwing skirting around each other on the
road. We also got a quick glimpse of a Northern Wheatear. All hands on deck and photographic
evidence were needed to identify an immature Grasshopper
Buzzard that flew by in a very falcon-like manner. Luckily
Stewart got several photos so we were able to use the salient
features and get a positive ID. Kudos to Anthony who had first
identified it as an African Hobby but was happy to agree it was
something else, the mark of a truly great guide.
As things seemed quite quiet in that area of the park we
turned around. Soon after that we saw a strange bird leap up above the
vegetation and dive down again. As this is typical
behaviour of Buff-crested Bustard and Anthony
had just heard one, we had an ID. Then a Lanner Falcon
flew by, adding itself to the 25 Amur Falcons we had
seen circling earlier and a couple of Pygmy Falcons we
had by the side of the road. A pale wheatear sitting on
an earth pile turned out to be an Isabelline Wheatear,
and a fly-by Eurasian Hoopoe just made it to the list
before we called it a day and drove back to the hotel. In
the park alone we had seen 82 different species, some
of them, like the longclaw, quite spectacular.
Monday November 27: this was another extraordinarily good day. Leaving the Elephant Motel,
we headed off towards Arusha, picking up our first Pin-tailed Whydah of the trip. Our first stop
was in a scrub area called the Mwanga Maasai Steppe. As we arrived we were greeted by the
usual cacophony of calls emanating from Spotted Morning-Thrushes and Red-backed Scrub-
Robins, while the noisy White-bellied Goaway-birds exhorted us to leave. Sorting
through the common stuff, we soon had the handsome Black-throated Barbet and a Somali Bunting.
A loud squawking put us onto some Red-bellied Parrots but a decent view was not to be had as they
kept flying away from us. Anthony had just finished explaining to us that the Yellow-breasted
Apalis’ we were seeing were the Browntailed subspecies when a lovely Pinkbreasted
Lark flew on top of a nearby tree.
Nice views were also obtained of Slate-coloured Boubou, the lovely Rosy-patched Bushshrike
and Blue-capped Cordonbleu, then a little flock of finch-like birds flew in which proved to be
African Silverbills, a much sought-after species. As we also got Gray-headed Silverbill that day
we were incredibly lucky.
Anthony then had to appease a somewhat upset local Maasai by telling him we were only
there to watch birds. Birds were certainly flitting in all directions. Brown-crowned Tchagra,
Black-necked Weaver and Green-winged Pytilia all appeared while a Buff-crested Bustard
called in the distance. I saw something red and long-tailed fly by which Anthony figured was a
Scaly Chatterer so we set off to get a better look. While trying to locate them we flushed some
White-headed Mousebirds, bringing our mousebird species to three. The chatterers soon
replied to the tape and bounced in for good looks, although they were definitely somewhat
skittish. A Greater Whitethroat flitted through the bushes, a flock of Fischer’s Starlings flew
overhead, while White-breasted White-eyes were calling but invisible. A couple of strange,
sparrow-like birds proved to be Yellow-spotted Petronias, and a Northern Wheatear popped
up on a nearby termite mound, giving much better views than before.
This whole area was sunbird heaven and we saw Kenya Violet-backed, Hunter’s, Beautiful,
Tsavo, and Variable Sunbirds. A quick sortie into the brush found me an immature Klaas’
Cuckoo; we caught up with the first Gray-headed Bushshrike since Dar and got good views of
Bare-eyed Thrush. Not good enough for Anthony, however, as it was an immature and not
showing its bare eye to his satisfaction! A little brown bird with a red patch on its throat was
the appropriately named Cut-throat, a type of finch. Although we finally heard one of our main
target species, Pygmy Batis, it only called a couple of times and remained invisible. Our
attention was soon distracted by a bird with a marked undulating flight and white in the tail
flying past. This was a Wahlberg’s Honeyguide, but we really did not see it well. The predictable
Eastern Chanting Goshawks and Rattling Cisticolas were around, but not so predictable were
two Black-headed Herons sitting right in the middle of the scrub plus a fly-by of about 30
African Openbills. While we were looking at the openbills a Flappet Lark shot skywards doing
its aerial display and a small group of Black-faced Waxbills arrived in the area.
We walked further on and disturbed a group of seven Blue-naped Mousebirds which had
been hanging out in the scrubby vegetation. A large predator circling overhead turned out to be
a Steppe Eagle and then a flock of warblers flitted in. They were identified as Banded Warblers,
pretty little things with red under the tail and a band across the chest. Not expected in this area
apparently. We finished up our walk with a Yellow-bellied Eremomela, a nice Rufous-tailed
Rock-Thrush and another Hunter’s Sunbird, but no batises were to be found.
We returned to the Landcruiser, chugged down a load of water and then drove off to the
approach road to the reservoir we were aiming for: Nyumba ya Mungu. We still had not seen
either of Anthony’s primary targets: Pringle’s Puffback and Pygmy Batis, so we went to explore
a suitable area of scrub off the road. The usual suspects were present, plus a gorgeous Rosypatched
Bushshrike, but eventually Anthony’s
persistence was rewarded with a Pygmy Batis
responding to the playback. We tracked down
a pretty little female in the depths of the bush,
but carried on in the hopes of finding a
Pringle’s Puffback and maybe White-bellied
Canary, but both species remained elusive. A
northern migrant, Willow Warbler, showed up
but the resident Red-fronted and Gray Wren-
Warblers were the ones making most of the
noise. We were shadowed by a Slate-colored
Boubou and a few D’Arnaud’s Barbets kept up
their crazy calls as we continued to wander around.
A fly-by Abyssinian Scimitarbill was quite an
unsatisfactory lifer but we got better views of
African Swift. Anthony drew our attention to some
Black-faced Sandgrouse sheltering under a tree,
the first sandgrouse of the trip. A heavily barred
eagle flying overhead proved to be a rare
Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle which Anthony said
appears in this area every couple of years or so.
We then piled back into the Landcruiser and
headed for the reservoir proper, making sure that cameras and so on were not visible as
security is tight since construction started on a new pipeline. Arriving at the reservoir, we first
had lunch and then scanned our surroundings for
birds, being careful not to train our binoculars or
the scope on the naked men swimming in the
water! Along with the usual White-faced Whistling
Ducks, Egyptian Geese and Red-billed Ducks, we
picked up some new trip birds: Great White
Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork, Great Cormorant,
Osprey, African Marsh-Harrier, Long-toed,
Blacksmith and Spur-winged Lapwings, Ruff, and
both White-winged and Whiskered Terns.
It seemed a very long drive from the reservoir to Arusha but it was very exciting to see
Mount Kilimanjaro, or Kili as Anthony calls it, rising majestically from the plains. A quick stop at
a gas station produced a new trip bird: Speckled Pigeon, then we were soon entering the
Arusha suburbs and, threading our way through the traffic, we turned left on the road towards
Korona House, passing row upon row of nurseries. Korona House proved to be quite wonderful
and we soon settled in, had an excellent dinner and did the bird list until the two of us fell
asleep. It had certainly been a long but very productive day!
Tuesday November 28: we had a lovely lazy start this morning and enjoyed a leisurely
breakfast. Promptly at 8, Anthony arrived and we were off to the famous lark plains north of
Arusha. We actually managed to see quite a few birds as we headed towards the plains,
including White-fronted Bee-eater, Abyssinian Wheatear, Kenya Rufous Sparrow and Western
Soon we could see the lark plains in
the distance. They exist in the rain
shadow of three volcanoes: Mount
Kilimanjaro (dormant) to the east, Mount
Meru (extinct) to the south and Mount
Longido (dormant) to the north, right on
the Kenya border. The high winds and
lack of moisture have scoured the plains
of most vegetation; however they are a
haven for larks, including the super-rare
Beesley’s Lark, only 40 individuals of
which remained in 2012. The birds are
protected and Tanzania Birding has initiated a project with the local Maasai where people pay
via the tour company to come onto the property and visitors are encouraged to give tips to the
Maasai guides. A bank account has been opened and the proceeds will go to a meaningful social
project in the hopes of giving the larks a perceived value. At present, however, there seems to
still be significant overgrazing.
We started off driving along the arid plains,
keeping our eyes peeled for any movement! We
soon checked off Isabelline and Capped
Wheatears, both of which were quite common. We
had just seen an African Pipit when the first group
of Red-capped Larks showed up. The Maasai who
were looking out for the Beesley’s Larks called to
say that they had found two birds but they had
flown off. However shortly after that Anthony got a
pair right near the car. We had excellent views but
concluded they need their own illustration in the
field guide. The only right thing would be the
pinkish-orange wash on the breast.
We had just finished feasting our eyes on this super
rare endemic when some Short-tailed Larks appeared and
we got really good views, they are definitely very shorttailed!
The shrikes perched on the wires and short bushes
proved to be Taita Fiscals, a bird having the general
appearance of a scaled-down Northern Fiscal. Just after
we had admired a Greater Kestrel through the scope and
noted the presence of some Banded Warblers, our fourth
lark species flew in: Somali Short-toed Lark. Having found
a broken pipe we spent the next little while driving around
this “watercourse” and were soon rewarded with two
more lark species: Fischer’s Sparrow-Larks and Rufousnaped
Larks, which can be told by their reddish wings in
flight. We also saw a Plain-backed Pipit. Driving towards the eastern part of the reserve we
came across two sandgrouse on the road and as we carefully scanned the surroundings, we
realized there were nine in total; they are
incredibly well-camouflaged. These were
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, a very attractive
species, the male being distinguished by a
long, pin-like tail. Soon afterwards we entered
a more vegetated area and found a lovely
Buff-breasted Bustard in the shade. I took
advantage of the increased vegetative cover to
disappear into the bush and was immediately
surrounded by birds, including a spectacular
male Beautiful Sunbird. I returned to the car
just in time to see some Pallid Harriers
displaying in the distance, a Rosy-patched Bushshrike flew across the track and a large raptor
with fingered wing-tips soaring overhead proved to be a Steppe Eagle. Not long after our last
target lark, Foxy Lark, flew by so we had seen all seven of the expected larks.
We had a quick snack at the entrance to the plains
and then headed off into some adjacent woodland
where Anthony was hoping for Red-throated Tit. We
had no sooner piled out of the car and noted Von der
Decken’s Hornbill, Brubru and Lesser Masked-Weaver,
when Anthony heard the tit. Although it sounded just
like a tit, the bird itself seemed almost finch-like. What
Anthony was hoping was a White-bellied Canary proved
to be a sound-alike Yellow-bellied Eremomela. As we
ploughed through the black sand and across the lava
rock we were entertained by a couple of Cardinal
Woodpeckers accompanied by a Yellow-spotted
Petronia. A Eurasian Hoopoe flew by and the everpresent
Red-fronted Warblers fussed in the bushes, some doing their weird little tail wag.
In the distance we heard a Chinspot Batis so
Anthony set off in hot pursuit. Quite literally in this
climate! He soon had the bird nailed down and also
got us better views of a Bare-eyed Thrush, which
definitely looked much more bare-eyed than the one
of the previous day. Then two tiny little Buff-bellied
Warblers showed up. Anthony heard them first and
then we located them hopping to and fro in the tree
tops. Soon some very strange calls were identified as
Red-fronted Barbet and Anthony taped in a couple
which Stewart was able to photograph. We had just
finished looking at a spotty juvenile Rufous-tailed Rock-
Thrush when Stewart saw two small birds head into a
nearby tree. These proved to be the elusive White-bellied
Canaries we had missed yesterday. Eventually we went
back over the road and joined Geitan at the Landcruiser
for the excellent, if somewhat overly filling, lunch
provided by Korona House.
On the way back to Arusha we found Stewart the
Abyssinian Wheatear he had missed on the way to the
plains and Anthony took me to one of the local markets
so I could buy kangas for our three girls. Back at Korona
House Stewart napped the afternoon away while I
worked on the bird list out in the garden. Of course I was
distracted by the birds in the surrounding bushes and on
the feeders. New for us were some handsome Golden-backed Weavers and Swahili Sparrow,
and I also picked up African Palm-Swift, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, African Yellow White-eye,
Variable Sunbird, Vitelline Masked-Weaver and Red-cheeked Cordonbleu along with the usual
doves, crows and bulbuls.
Wednesday November 29: one of the advantages of having a buffet-style breakfast out in the
garden at Korona is that you can breakfast around the birds. By the time we were ready for the
guys, we had seen Speckled Pigeon, Red-eyed and Ring-necked Doves, African Palm-Swift,
Speckled Mousebird, Red-winged and Superb Starlings, Variable Sunbird and Red-cheeked
Cordonbleu, along with the ubiquitous Pied Crows and House Sparrows.
We wended our way through the heavy morning traffic to Ngare Sero, a high end lodge
east of Arusha. Apparently the estate is owned by a British family who have been there since
the 1940’s. It is quite the enterprise, generating its own electricity and raising its own trout,
apart from running the lodge. There were many staff present so it is a positive force for the
local economy. We walked in along the entry road but birding was slow in the extreme. It was
also much hotter than predicted and I was also carrying the telescope so was not too
comfortable. Despite playing the tape for Trilling Cisticola several times, we never did catch up
to this species, a regular at the lodge.
We eventually arrived down at a rather scummy
watercourse and picked up Hamerkop, Sacred Ibis, Common
Sandpiper, African Pied-Wagtail and Taveta Golden-
Weaver. A little group were nesting right close by, so it was
an easy tick! We then strolled along the “river”, sighting
Tambourine Dove, White-eared Barbet, Black-throated
Wattle-eye, African Paradise-Flycatcher, and Variable,
Collared and Olive Sunbirds. A very light phase Tawny Eagle
flew over and then we not only got on Giant Kingfisher, seen
well through the scope, but also had great views of African
Pygmy-Kingfisher, so close Stewart was able to take photos.
Wandering back along the path, we picked up White-browed
Robin-Chat and Grosbeak Weaver and heard Little Greenbul
and Red-backed Scrub-Robin.
We crossed over to the other side of the
water and came out at a bigger pond where we
located Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, Long-tailed
Cormorant and African Jacana. We also got
excellent views of a Golden-tailed Woodpecker
hacking away at a rotten branch overhanging the
water. Clambering back up to the lodge to use the
facilities, we started off on another path and soon
saw a European Bee-eater. Anthony then went
“on point” as I called it, as he had spotted a small
robin-chat in the undergrowth. This proved to be
Rüppell’s Robin-Chat. This species is smaller than
White-browed with less white over the eye and
has a black central tail feather. We were just getting over this find when Anthony got on a much
sought-after Peter’s Twinspot, a bird missed by lots of people – even for years on end, so we
were incredibly lucky.
Having admired a Broad-billed Roller on top of a dead tree, we went to sit in the shade
overlooking the pond of primordial soup in
the hopes of spotting an African Black Duck.
No luck, despite sitting there until and during
lunch. Afterwards we walked back along the
water, seeing nothing more interesting that a
Monitor Lizard swimming awkwardly
through the soup. Mercifully Geitan was
close by with the vehicle and we set off back
to Korona House, where we set up by the
feeders. Later on we had great fun
separating Northern Gray-headed and
Swahili Sparrows and spent time examining
photographs taken of both to confirm ID.
Thursday November 30: Once again we
birded our way through breakfast and picked
up most of the usual suspects before Geitan
and Anthony arrived. Had really good views of
African Yellow White-eye and added
Chestnut Weaver to the Korona list. Bidding
Joseph, Jared and other staff members
goodbye we set off through rush hour traffic
towards Karatu. After a rest stop had yielded
a lovely Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike and
Beautiful Sunbird, I decided to keep an in
transit list and wound up with 26 species.
At the big junction where one road leads towards the Serengeti and Ngorongoro and the
other heads south towards Dodoma, we turned north. I was definitely excited to see some of
these iconic places seen on TV as a child, even though we are not coming at peak migration
time for the mammals. As we progressed northward we saw a large escarpment ahead of us
and Anthony explained that we were driving across the eastern arm of the Great Rift Valley,
which apparently geologically extends to Lake Baikal in Russia. We were going to head up over
the eastern edge of the escarpment into the Ngorongoro highlands. On the way Anthony
pointed out a Maasai village where one fellow had 12 wives and 60 children. He built a school
and then persuaded the government they had to supply teachers! A little further on we came
to Mto wa Mtu, or “River of Mosquitoes”. Apparently this is one of the most populated areas in
Tanzania and was originally a socialist collective founded by President Nyere. The consequence
was that people got used to living with each other and all 125 Tanzanian tribes are represented
in the area, all co-existing without discrimination. The way the Great Rift Valley formed meant
that there are many natural streams in the area, making it extremely fertile so people all moved
into the area to farm. Now they grow many crops and even bananas for export.
Before long we started to climb
the steep escarpment and had great
views of Lake Manyara and the floor
of the valley we were leaving behind.
Eventually the road levelled out and
we were on the outskirts of Karatu,
turning right to drive the last few
kilometres to Gibbs Farm. This is
another incredibly high-end
establishment where it can cost
$2000 a night for a suite, including
board and your own butler! Tanzania
Birding used to have clients stay at
the lodge before it was sold to a U.S.
tour company which upgraded everything and jacked up the price astronomically. I pointed out
to Anthony that one night in a suite would cost the same as we were going to be paying for
three months lodging in Costa Rica!
Anyway, they have great birds at the
lodge, so we did a bird walk in the grounds and
had lunch rather than stay there. First up right
in the parking lot were Bronze and Goldenwinged
Sunbirds. Anthony had not been
expecting the former to be found so low as
they are a higher elevation species, but there
they were to enjoy. The Golden-winged
Sunbirds were absolutely spectacular birds
and we spent quite a lot of time delighting in
them before actually entering the lodge
Walking through the garden we soon saw a
White-eyed Slaty-Flycatcher and Anthony taped in
a Brown-headed Apalis he had heard calling.
Scanning the trees produced a Thick-billed
Seedeater and shortly thereafter Collared and
Variable Sunbirds formed the opening act for the
star of the show: Green-headed Sunbird. Gibbs
Farm is the only place in the east where it is found.
We picked up a Yellow-bellied Greenbul and, while
scanning the tall trees for White-tailed Blue
Flycatcher, some Streaky Seedeaters. We
wandered to and fro along the paths, adding
Holub’s Golden-Weaver to the trip list and then
saw a Broad-ringed White-eye with its crazy wide,
white eye-ring and finally the pretty little White-tailed
Blue Flycatchers. We also had a nice group of about 10
Yellow-bellied Waxbills along with their Common
After eating far too much at the sumptuous buffet
lunch, we reconvened at 2:30 and departed on quite a
strenuous hike up the Elephant Trail in Ngorongoro. As
required, we had a local guide Charles with us who tried
very hard, although was a little overshadowed by
Anthony. We soon heard the song of Gray-capped
Warbler and eventually tracked an individual down.
This was a bird I had really wanted to see, so was very
We saw a bunch of common stuff and then had a positive flurry of activity with Blackfronted
Bushshrike heading in one direction, African Yellow-Warblers dancing around in the
high canopy and Gray-headed Nigritas (renamed from Negro-Finch to be politically correct!)
calling from another tree. We got great views of the latter at least. The next bird was an Olive
Thrush which we saw just as we were descending the hillside by the elephant caves. The
elephants come to the caves to get minerals and then come up the trail we were walking on to
spend the night in the surrounding countryside. Needless to say we soon reversed direction
when we saw an elephant coming further down the trail, figuring he would have right of way!
Walking back up, we saw a Brown
Warbler, possibly quite the most unexciting
new bird ever!! Much more exciting were
two more Peter’s Twinspots in the place
we’d glimpsed one earlier on the trail and
Stewart even got a picture of the female. We
tried for Narina Trogon near the reserve
entrance, but no luck and of course Charles
rubbed it in by showing us a picture of one
he had seen recently. We did pick up African
Firefinch in the parking area before walking
back down to Gibbs. Driving out from the
farm we saw a couple of Arrow-marked Babblers cavorting by the side of the road but nothing
else new. Once at Country Lodge we did the list, checked for nightjars without success and had
a very nice dinner served in the weirdest buffet-style ever, with the dishes all being brought to
the table for you to help yourself.
Friday December 1: this was the
day when dreams of a lifetime
came true, standing at the rim of
the Ngorongoro Crater, traversing
the Serengeti plains and lastly,
seeing Lake Victoria!
We set off from the Country
Lodge nice and early and were soon
at the Lodoare gate of Ngorongoro
Conservation Area. While Geitan,
the “paperwork manager”, got us
signed in, Stewart and I wandered
around but apart from a couple of
cuckoos calling and a pair of Duskybrown
Flycatchers did not see anything of note. Anthony said that as it was a sunny day we
should be able to see right down into the crater. We wended our way upwards, seeing Silverycheeked
Hornbill and hearing Gray-capped Warbler, and then there it was spreading out
before us, the famed Ngorongoro Crater. Needless to say we took a lot of photos and just
absorbed the moment.
Soon we had to tear ourselves away as Geitan had a long drive ahead of him and before
long we were traversing the moorland-like highland plain. We saw our first Cape Buffalo and on
some of them, Red-billed Oxpecker. As we traversed the plain we saw more buffalo along with
Olive Baboon, Golden Jackel, Burchell’s Zebra, Giraffe, Thomson’s Gazelle and Common Eland,
as well as a herds of migrating Wildebeest. Apparently they were heading for their calving
grounds but would come back if there were heavy rains and head back again to calve in January
or February. We picked up the usual fiscals and wheatears, a Tawny Eagle and a smart African
Stonechat or two, great views of Northern Anteater-Chats and shortly thereafter, Cape Crow.
Then birds started to come thick and fast: Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Brown Snake-Eagle,
Eurasian Kestrel, Taita Fiscal, Fischers Sparrow-Lark, Red-capped Lark, and finally our first
group of vultures. We noted three species: Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures and
Rüppell’s Griffon. A harrier quartering over the grassland proved to be a Montagu’s Harrier, a
species I had only see once before so was very happy. Unfortunately Stewart missed the two
Fischer’s Lovebirds that crossed the road. Apparently these are the genuine article, unlike the
hybrids at the hotel.
Before too long we left the
Ngorongoro Conservation Area and
crossed into Serengeti National
Park. Almost the first bird we saw
was a Greater Kestrel tucked by the
side of the road but didn’t see
anything new for the day until we
stopped at the Naabi Hill entry
gate. This area was just amazing for
birds. New species came thick and
fast: African Gray Woodpecker,
Black-lored Babbler, Hildebrandt’s
Starling, Speckle-fronted Weaver,
the endemic Rufous-tailed Weaver
(which looks more like a babbler), Little Weaver and Parasitic Weaver. Just overwhelming. The
first Marabou Stork of the trip also flew past. There were a lot
of swallows flying
overhead, mostly Barn
Swallows, but some
larger ones with red
rumps proved to be
Mosque Swallows, a trip
bird. We tallied Yellowfronted
before tearing ourselves
away and setting off
again towards Speke Bay.
As we drove onto the plains we saw
two Secretarybirds stomping through
the grass, trying to scare up some food.
As we’d only glimpsed this species in the
distance in Namibia we were pleased
with the close views. A stop at a little
pond produced Egyptian Goose,
Eurasian Moorhen, Black-winged Stilt,
Blacksmith Lapwing, Ruff, Little Stint,
Marsh and Wood Sandpipers. A
Bateleur circled overhead and as we
drove away we spotted a Gray Heron
standing guard in the shallows. We drove on for quite a way along the plain, adding to our
mammal list with Spotted Hyena, Warthog, Coke’s Hartebeest and Topi, a strange antelope
that looks as though it has sat in a tub of gray paint.
We stopped at the Serengeti Visitor’s Centre for lunch and as usual the box lunch was
gargantuan. Rock Hyraxes were all around us as were birds of the Usambiro subspecies of
D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Kenya Rufous Sparrow, Gray-headed Social-
Weavers (in profusion!), along with Lesser Masked- and Vitelline Masked-Weavers. Soon it
was time for a quick restroom stop and to pile back into the vehicle.
We had an absolutely stunning afternoon even
though the drive was long and very bumpy! Trip birds
soon picked up were Magpie-Shrike and Yellow-billed
Oxpecker, while new species continued to pile on
with Gray-backed Fiscal, Silverbird, Rüppell’s
Starling, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Chestnut
Sparrow all putting in an appearance. We also
spotted the endemic Gray-breasted Francolin and got
excellent views. More lifers were Bare-faced Goaway-
bird, the endemic Tanzanian Red-billed
Hornbill, a small group of Steel-blue Whydah and a
Whydahs which included a stunning male in
breeding plumage. Meanwhile on the mammal front
we had seen African Buffalo, Giraffe, Impala, Dik-
Dik and the unusual Defassa Waterbucks. We then
stopped at a river to check out the wallowing
Hippopotomi, Perched above the river were two
gorgeous African Fish-Eagles, their white necks just
glowing in the sun. We had not left river behind long
when we picked up White-bellied Bustard.
One of the prime targets in this area of the Serengeti is the highly localized Karamoja
Apalis. We stopped in several spots for this species, picking up Abyssinian Scimitarbill (much
better views than before!) and Winding Cisticola, but it was at least the fourth stop before an
apalis responded to the tape and came right in for excellent views. As we pulled away I got a
quick glimpse of a Double-banded Courser. Anthony explained we were driving down the
western corridor of the Serengeti which gets almost to Lake Victoria. The road was definitely
challenged for a while but we made it safely to the Ndabaka Gate before sundown and Geitan
checked us out of the park. In the Serengeti alone we had seen over 100 species of birds.
Speke Bay Lodge was not far down the main road and soon we were turning in and being
greeted by Jan, the manager/owner. Check-in was very civilized: nice cool towels, juice,
choosing our dinner, before being shown to our lovely round hut right on the shores of Lake
Victoria. Did the bird entries at the bar and then headed into dinner.
Saturday December 2: Owing to an upset stomach I had not had a particularly good night but
could report that a Red-chested Cuckoo had serenaded us through the hours of darkness!
We met Anthony for a pre-breakfast stroll which proved very productive with a number of
the Lake Victoria specialties seen: Blue-headed
Coucal, Black-headed Gonolek, Angola Swallow,
Carruther’s Cisticola, Red-chested Sunbird (a
gorgeous little thing), along with Slender-billed,
Golden-backed and Black-headed (or Yellowbacked)
Weavers. We also picked some Eurasian
migrants: Willow Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous
Warbler, Icterine Warbler and Eurasian Reed
Warbler. Both Gray-headed and Woodland
Kingfishers were spotted and a stunning Malachite
Kingfisher also. While having breakfast we saw
African Fish-Eagle and Spur-winged Lapwing, a nice
accompaniment to one’s eggs and bacon.
After breakfast we set off for another stroll of the
grounds with the primary target being Three-banded
Courser which Stewart and Anthony had seen earlier
but I missed. The coursers were located without
trouble. We tried down a muddy trail for Cardinal
Quelea without success, almost losing Anthony to the
slippery mud. We picked up Green Sandpiper and
heard African Reed Warbler but when the latter did
not respond immediately Anthony turned around
quickly, apparently he had heard a hippo on the trail!
We spotted a few other odds and ends such as a lovely
African Pygmy-Kingfisher, our fourth species of
kingfisher for the day.
After lunch we hung out around the
bungalow, picking up a Water Thick-knee and
some other waders along the shore and
watching Whiskered Terns gliding over the
water. Our fifth kingfisher of the day, Pied
Kingfisher, was much in evidence. We met up
with Anthony at 4 p.m. and almost
immediately found a roosting Slender-tailed
Nightjar he had staked out, right in the
bungalow gardens. We’d walked right past it,
but did have the excuse that there was a
splendid Black-headed Gonolek in the adjacent bush which had distracted us! We then headed
off to the place he had seen Square-tailed Nightjar and it was right there, showing its features
nicely. Of course it flew as soon as Stewart tried for a photograph. He decided to persist,
however and meanwhile Anthony and I had a conversation about how we had not seen any
owls, especially Pearl-spotted Owlet. A couple of minutes later one flew in. These owlets are
lovely little birds and I have a real soft spot for the species as it was the first owl I ever saw in
Africa. Hearing a Black-billed Barbet calling,
Anthony was soon on it and we finally got
Stewart’s attention and got him on the bird,
along with the owl and a Spotted Thick-
Knee. Shortly afterwards we got the best
views we’d had of Scarlet-chested Sunbird
and then found the Wattled Lapwings
Stewart and Anthony had seen earlier. We
had a great look at them in all their breeding
finery. Shortly afterwards we saw a nice
Dideric Cuckoo and a Lesser Honeyguide
flying past with its dipping flight. Soon it was
time to give up for the day, but we had seen
an astounding 86 species just in the grounds of the lodge.
Sunday December 3: This was definitely a day of mixed emotions as I was sick as a dog but also
very awed by what we later saw on the Serengeti, which definitely helped with “mind over
matter”! We started the day by a quick half hour bird around the lodge, netting over 30 species
before breakfast. Then it was time to say goodbye to the Angola Swallows swooping overhead,
the Slender-billed Weavers flitting around the dining area and the pretty Red-chested Sunbirds
flashing through the bushes. We were off again to the Serengeti!
Before long we passed through the
Ndabaka Gate and had a quick look around
the parking area while Geitan did the
paperwork. Saw our last two Black-headed
Gonoleks for the trip and Anthony found
Stewart some Fischer’s Lovebirds. We
picked up the usual suspects as we drove
into the park but also found a little group of
Double-banded Coursers. Soon we had our
first Coqui Francolin, tiny little birds really
hard to see in the long grass. A lovely Blackbreasted
Snake-Eagle flew over and then
the car screeched to a halt as Anthony had
spotted some Black-winged Lapwings. As
we were admiring these handsome birds we heard Nubian Woodpecker, a bird we had noted
on several occasions but irritatingly never seen. We also picked up: Dark Chanting-Goshawk
and Common Scimitarbill, both of which afforded good views.
We tried at several places for
Eastern Plantain-eater without
success. Eventually we pulled into
an area with a creek running
through presided over by some
funereal Maribou Stork. Anthony
played the tape and two of the
Plantain-eaters responded, giving
great views before flying into a
nearby tree and copulating.
Awesome sighting! I was relieved
(in more ways than one) to reach
the picnic site where we were
having lunch, but not so relieved to
hear we would be there for two
hours. Although the usual flocks of weavers and sparrows provided entertainment, it was
stiflingly hot. Anyway mercifully Anthony came by and reported refueling had been
accomplished and we could leave a bit early, so we set off trying to kill a bit of time before
exiting the park as we did not want to have to leave the crater and rim too early the next day.
They are very strict with the timing at these parks which makes trip planning a real skill; the
Tanzania Birding folk seem to have it down to a fine art.
On our meandering drive
around, we picked up Croaking
Cisticola, along with Black-bellied
Bustard. The stars of the afternoon,
however, were the big cats. First
we had fantastic views of Lions: a
pride napping by the side of the
road were singularly unmoved by
the large number of vehicles
jostling for position and allowed for
great photographic opportunities. A
little later on Geitan heard over the
radio about a Leopard sighting and
as we manoeuvred into position
(jumping the queue somewhat if truth be told!), there was this gorgeous animal right by the
side of the road. Anthony could not believe how close it was; I even got pictures with my tablet!
Absolutely stunning. I had always wanted to see one in the wild.
Eventually we rolled up to the
Naabi gate and checked out of the
Serengeti and got our Ngorongoro
permit. We were, however, still within
the Serengeti for quite a while after
the gate so continued to record for the
park. First up was Yellow-bellied
Sandgrouse, completing the trifecta of
Tanzanian sandgrouse. Then the track
down towards Ndutu Lodge produced
some distractions such as a huge flock
of migrating Abdim’s Storks roosting
and feeding on the plain. Partway
down this road we passed into Ngorongoro Conservation Area and drove out to Lake Ndutu to
check for Chestnut-banded Plovers.
We got on a Kittlitz’s Plover right
away and soon found their tiny,
beautifully-coloured counterpart. We
also saw our first flocks of Lesser and
Greater Flamingoes, saw some Comb
Ducks, and a few terns and stilts, while
a nice Plain-backed Pipit gave us good
views. The best sighting of the
evening, however, were a group of
Cheetahs lounging on a small rise in
the fading light.
Monday December 4: this was the biggest day
of the trip in terms of species with almost 130
being tallied. It was also the most exciting as
we got to spend most of it in and around the
iconic Ngorongoro Crater. Birding actually
started over breakfast with lovely views of
Fischer’s Lovebirds coming down to the pool
area along with Mourning Collared-Doves,
Laughing and Namaqua Doves, Hildebrandt’s
and Superb Starlings, Scarlet-chested
Sunbird, White-bellied Canary and Lesser
Masked-Weaver. We heard a Dideric Cuckoo
up a tree in the courtyard as we were leaving
but did not get good views.
Then we were off. A quick detour via Lake
Masek was unproductive as the lake was too dry,
so we off-roaded our way back to the track and
eventually to the “main” road. We did not have
anything but the usual suspects until we reached
the descent road to the crater (also regulated)
where we picked up Familiar and Moorland
Chats, along with Wailing Cisticola which is a
specialty for the crater area. We then started our
descent into the crater and, once down, drove
over to the edge of the lake. Flamingoes were
much in evidence, and we spotted some
Hottentot Teal, Three-banded Plovers and a
Temminck’s Stint on the edge of the water. We then drove over to the Hippo pools where their
namesakes were disporting themselves in the
water, including doing complete rolls. One had a
Eurasian Moorhen on its back, so the latter was
tipped off somewhat abruptly. There were masses
of Sacred Ibis, Cattle Egrets and Blacksmith Plover
around the pools plus a few Black-crowned Night-
Herons. An immature Black Crake trotted along
the shore, Grey-rumped Swallows flitted
overhead and an African Reed-Warbler put in a
brief appearance. Looking at the pools from
another vantage point we added Cape Teal and
Northern Shoveler to the trip list. As we drove
away from the pools, we heard a dry rattling and
backed up to see a pretty little Desert Cisticola as
the source of the noise. Photographs were
obtained of this unusually obliging cisticola.
Birds of the day honours, however, go to the
Gray Crowned-Cranes, which are truly glorious
birds! They look as though they have just stepped
out of Japanese artwork. We had just finished
admiring them when we saw some Fan-tailed
Widowbirds. Of course there was plenty to see in
the mammal line as well: Lions lounging by the
side of the road, a Spotted Hyena drinking from a
muddy puddle and the usual Burchell’s Zebras,
African Buffalo, Wildebeest, Thomson’s and
Grant’s Gazelles and other antelopes. Later on we
saw our first and only Black Rhino which was
really hard to see in the distance as it appeared to
be napping. However it eventually stood up and we were able to see its horns through the
scope. Now we have seen all of the “Big Five”.
We pulled into the picnic area for lunch along with
what to us seemed a large number of vehicles.
Apparently it is ten times as bad in the main mammalwatching
season. As it was it was bad enough with lots
of people and all the toilets blocked. We got
instructions not to eat outside the car as the Black Kites
are voracious and will relieve you of your food in short
order. The Speke’s Weavers were also pretty bold and
one or two actually landed in the vehicle. We had great
views of a Peregrine Falcon skimming past and then
some Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans obligingly
flew in to the little lake adjoining the picnic area.
As we had seen most of what the crater had to offer, it was decided to take the shorter
route out and do some birding around the rim
area. As we were heading for the ascent road
we got Black-winged Lapwing and also saw
African Quail-Finch. The latter was a most
unsatisfactory fly-by so will go on our NBV
(need better view) list! Eurasian Marsh-
Harrier was new for the trip and we got
excellent views of the gorgeous Rosy-throated
Longclaw. As we ascended out of the crater
and reached some woodland, more species
appeared: Broad-ringed White-eye, Thickbilled
Seedeater, Streaky Seedeater and an
unexpected Tree Pipit. At the crater exit gate
we made a quick pit stop and then set off in
search of Hunter’s Cisticola which was soon
located by Anthony.
We then drove onto the Maasai boma in search of Jackson’s Widowbird and to my delight
found a full breeding plumaged-male. Although he was not displaying like the ones we had
recently seen on TV, it was still awesome to see one. Once it was found we headed back out.
Anthony had warned us not to take any photos of people or buildings as apparently the Maasai
do not like it. After this we stopped in several places for Schalow’s Turaco, but no luck. We did
pick up a few other things like a lovely Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, a Spectacled Weaver
at its nest and Abyssinian Crimsonwing. As we had to be at the Lodoare Gate at a certain time,
we drove rather speedily out of the area, not even stopping for a last look over the crater rim.
Anyway we made it in time and even added a couple of species for the day while Geitan did the
paperwork. Soon we were back at the Country Lodge.
Tuesday December 5: The first part of the morning was taken
up getting my coughing husband to the local medical centre.
Despite the somewhat late start we still had a good suite of
species in the woods just outside Mto wa Mtu including the
main target species: Trilling Cisticola. Anthony sure knows
where to pick up all these cisticolas! Other birds seen were a
pretty Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Gray Hornbill, Grayheaded
and Striped Kingfishers, Greater Honeyguide, Whiterumped
Babbler and our
first Pale Flycatcher.
Then it was back
to the main road and
off towards Tarangire
National Park. As
reported by several
observers, the endemic Yellow-collared Lovebirds and
Ashy Starlings were right at the gate but there was not
much else around. We duly signed in, being much
amused by one of
the park officials
proudly wearing a
Boy Scouts of
America shirt. Soon
Geitan was ready and we drove into the park, just noting a
few things in passing as we were late for check-in and
lunch. The best bird along the way was White-bellied
Bustard, but nothing much else of note was spotted. On
our arrival at reception we were greeted with a lovely
drink of cold lemon grass tea, absolutely delicious. We
dropped everything off at our lovely tent-cabin and then
hustled over for the buffet lunch.
We met the guys at 4 p.m. and we went for an
afternoon drive. It was pretty quiet, but Anthony pulled
out yet another cisticola: Pectoral-patch Cisticola, and we
had superb views of Martial Eagle. Other birds seen in the
park this day included both Yellow-necked and Rednecked
Francolins, three species of vulture, Brown Snake-
Eagle, Tawny Eagle, more Double-banded Coursers, Von
der Decken’s and Northern Red-billed Hornbill, a nice
Eurasian Hobby, Mosque Swallow, Arrow-marked
Babbler, Silverbird, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Scarletchested
Sunbird, Swahili Sparrow, Red-billed and Whiteheaded
Buffalo-Weavers and the really common endemic
Rufous-tailed Weaver. When we returned Anthony found
us a beautiful African Scops Owl just outside one of the
adjoining cabins. We heard both it and Pearl-spotted
Owlet calling later on that evening. We celebrated
Geitan’s birthday with dinner at the lodge. Apparently he
is rarely home for his birthday and very often misses Christmas too.
Wednesday December 6: it was definitely awesome waking up to the fantastic view from the
tent, lying in bed watching the sun coming up over a quintessential African landscape. The
morning drive around the park was amazing with over 80 species observed. It began with four
species of eagle: Steppe, Lesser Spotted, African Hawk- and Martial Eagles. We also finally
caught up to Nubian Woodpecker and got our best views yet of African Gray Woodpecker,
definitely a handsome-looking bird. After we had finished oohing and aahing over these and the
eagles, a Hildebrandt’s Francolin appeared stalking through the grass, a dark, pretty
unremarkable bird. We also found Northern Pied-Babbler, whose southern relation we had
seen in Namibia. A Brown Snake-Eagle made eagle #5 followed shortly afterwards by eagle #6:
African Fish-Eagle. The latter was guarding a water hole where Egyptian Goose, Gray Heron,
Water Thick-Knee, Blacksmith Lapwing, Wood and Green Sandpipers were seen. We also
managed excellent views of Red-bellied
Parrot which had only afforded fly-by
glimpses before. A Pearl-spotted Owlet was
seen sitting quietly in a nearby small tree
and then I spotted something hop down
from a log and start stalking through the
grass. Finally, our first Southern Ground-
Hornbill. This was an immature but after
scanning carefully we soon found the
stunning adults on the other side of the
track. We had a new trip bird: African Blackheaded
Oriole, but just the usual suspects
for the remainder of the drive.
Had a quick nap before lunch then while we
were lunching, the staff kindly removed a rather
large lizard that had somehow managed to get into
our tent! We spent the afternoon checking out the
birds around the tent, finishing laundry and further
snoozing. We met up with the guys a little after
4:30 and went for another drive around the park.
We finally got good views of Abyssinian
Scimatarbill but otherwise it was just more of the
usual suspects. As we got back to the tent there was
a nightjar flitting around and the African Scops-Owl
was calling, but we couldn’t locate it.
Thursday December 7: we had a very long journey today, essentially travelling from the north
part of Tanzania to the south, so the only birds recorded were those seen around the lodge and
on our way out of the park in the morning. Once we were out onto the main road Geitan
certainly put his foot down and we were already in Dodoma by lunch time. After lunch we
headed south towards Iringa. Half way there we passed over a large dam and the reservoir was
the first water we had seen for miles. Everything up to that point had the sere appearance we
had been used to in Namibia. Thanks to some major road improvements we made it to Iringa
ahead of the original schedule and were soon installed in the M.R. Hotel in the centre of town.
Friday December 8: despite the fact we were not very far from our destination the journey to
Ruaha seemed to take forever. We really only started to bird as we were approaching the park
boundary. A flock of Yellow-bellied Greenbuls flitted across the road, some Blue-naped
Mousebirds put in an appearance. Before long we were pulling into the parking lot at the main
gate. The paperwork seemed to take a long time and we had to sign in too, even producing our
Canadian phone number. We managed to see some rather nice Slate-colored Boubous, were
entertained by a fly-by of a very puffed-up Black-backed Puffback and his mate and heard the
ever-present Brubru before seeing Geitan returning and so headed back to the Landcruiser.
We drove slowly towards the park HQ, birding on the way. A couple of Yellow-collared
Lovebirds flew by and then at the crossing of
the Ruaha River we picked up Goliath Heron
along with some basking hippos. An African
Fish-Eagle was spotted in the distance. We
also had excellent views of a Red-necked
Falcon chomping down on his lunch and a
Pearl-spotted Owlet. Our first Greater Kudu
soon appeared and we confessed to Anthony
that we had acquired a taste for kudu meat in
Namibia. One significant difference between
the two countries is that we never saw any
game meat on the menu at the various places
we stayed, whereas it was a staple in Namibia.
Eventually we got to the bandas, small round huts that I was not terribly impressed with, so
figured we would check out the cottages later. It took absolutely ages to check in so Stewart
and I went to sit in the shade and look
over the dry watercourse. The latter
produced a few mammals – baboons,
impalas, zebras etc. We went over to
the cottages for lunch where I
discovered a fantastic, but probably
very calorific soda, which tasted just
like ginger beer. We looked over a
couple of the cottages before heading
back to the bandas, where we were
entertained by a little flock of Arrowmarked
Babblers. Eventually Anthony
returned to tell us the upgrade price
for the cottages; we decided to stay in
At 4:30 we were all set to meet
Anthony and Geitan and had a
wonderful drive around the park
with all sorts of neat sightings.
Almost right away we found a bush
just bursting with species: Greenwinged
Firefinches and Crimson-rumped
Waxbills. Flocks of Red-cheeked
Cordonbleus flitted throughout and
a little bird walking lark-like through
the grass turned out to be a
Winding Cisticola. A stately Blackchested
Snake-Eagle was seen atop
a tree, while a herd of Kudu had
both Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers in attendance. We picked up our first Goldenbreasted
Buntings of the trip and shortly after nailed Cinnamon-breasted Bunting also. We got
two more lifers in short order, Tabora Cisticola and Western Violet-backed Sunbird. A
theoretically out of range Cape Crombec also showed.
We stopped at the lovely Magunga Madundu overlook and picked up Saddle-billed Stork
and White-crowned Lapwing along with a lovely Sooty Falcon. Two of the Burchell’s subspecies
of White-browed Coucal flew across, a Dickinson’s Kestrel was spotted and, on one bridge, five
Southern Gray-headed Sparrows put in an appearance.
On our return it was straight into supper at the cottages and an effort to find some
nightjars, but with no luck. Brought the bird list up to date, took a shower and, after dispatching
a somewhat giant cockroach, fell into bed!
Saturday December 9: I walked over to the
little lookout area by the watercourse and was
rewarded with stunning views of a Sulphurbreasted
Bushshrike, along with some
common species. The breakfast spot at the
cottages was enlivened by the presence of
Miombo Wren-Warblers, which we had seen
briefly the day before but were not sure of the
I.D. Wire-tailed Swallows, Bare-faced Goaway-
birds and Meyer’s Parrots also put in an
We then started our morning game drive and
had our first views of Gray Crowned-Cranes since
Ngorongoro. Returning to the Maganga Madungu
lookout (this time with a telescope) we had good
views of everything including Wood Sandpipers
feeding with some Common Greenshanks and Blackwinged
Stilts. We then drove down to the river
crossing where the hippos were wallowing noisily
and the crocodiles sunning themselves on the bank.
The rapidly flying swifts with broad white rumps
turned out to be Mottled Spinetails. Nice views of
Yellow-billed Stork, African Fish-Eagle, Hamerkop
and African Jacana were also obtained along with
scope views of White-crowned Lapwing, with its
lovely yellow wattles. A Gabar Goshawk was chased off by
a Fork-tailed Drongo, and then we left hastily as a large
bus load of folk arrived and drove to the nearby hippo and
croc pools. At this location we picked up Goliath Heron,
Black Egret, and Three-banded Plover, while a bird I
spotted perched far off on a bare tree proved to be a Gray
Kestrel. We remembered chasing all over the Kunene in
search of one with Peter Morgan back in 2012 and failing
miserably. A Pied Kingfisher and a couple of Cinnamonbreasted
Buntings came in just before we left.
As we drove over to the cottages for lunch, we got
our first Bearded Scrub-Robin for the trip. Then, amongst
other species, we picked up three eagles: Tawny, an
immature Wahlberg’s and Lesser Spotted Eagle.
Unfortunately the dining room was running an hour behind so we returned to the bandas to do
the bird list before returning for lunch, after which Stewart and I sat in the little hut overlooking
the valley. We had great views of the much-heard but never seen Red-chested Cuckoo, caught
up to the babblers again, had a nice male African Paradise-Flycatcher, Sulphur-breasted
Bushshrike, Black-backed Puffback and a few other odds and ends.
The late afternoon drive was really great as we went up into the hills which were quite a
different habitat and very interesting with all the rocks and trees. Although we failed to find the
targeted Verreaux’s Eagle, we picked up some nice birds including Blue-cheeked Bee-eater,
Reichenow’s Seedeater and a Shikra which flew by at about the same time as a flock of White
Helmetshrikes, so didn’t know where to look first! We also got another Hildebrandt’s Francolin
but before Stewart could take a photograph, some Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters arrived,
apparently a really good bird for Tanzania. We then saw a lone weaver on top of a tree in the
distance which Anthony identified as the endemic Tanganyika Masked-Weaver. We hope for
better views when we head east. All in all it was a fabulous day with over 100 species seen in
Sunday December 10: I was woken this
morning by a combination of hippo
sounds and the fact that Stewart’s
portable CPAP machine had run out of
juice. Once I had ascertained that the
two sounds were not related I resorted
to ear plugs and tried to snatch some
more sleep! Eventually I got up and
went for a walk along the valley edge
where the Goliath Heron was still
keeping sentinel and an immature
African Openbill was stalking along. A
nice White-headed Lapwing put in an
appearance and I surprised myself by identifying a Winding Cisticola without Anthony’s
We drove over to have breakfast which was rather
frustratingly half an hour late and there was not much to
see around the cottages. On the way over we had seen a
little cisticola flitting irritatingly through the grass and then
disappearing. Finally on our return we picked it up singing
on a bush and confirmed it as a Wing-snapping Cisticola,
yet another new cisticola. I think they are Anthony’s
specialty. We then had a very long morning driving around
but not seeing very much except an inordinate number of
biting flies which made life quite miserable for a while. Our
main target was Ruaha Chat, which proved elusive, but
while peering intently into the undergrowth for our quarry,
I did manage to find us some Bronze-winged Coursers,
really lovely birds. Stewart even managed pictures even
though they were well hidden in the undergrowth.
Yesterday’s mystery regarding the black
and yellow birds I had seen around the
bandas was solved when we ran into a Blacknecked
Weaver. We also had good views of
Woodland Kingfisher and then a little flock
of birds flying into a bush proved to be
Broad-tailed Paradise-Whydahs, a couple of
which were beginning to come into breeding
plumage. We were hoping that the reported
rain in the Udzungwas will produce more
birds having molted into breeding plumage.
Driving back to the restaurant we saw Brown
Snake-Eagle and Eastern Chanting-Goshawk,
but not much else.
In the late afternoon we did the river circuit and
picked up the usual waterbird suspects including the
gorgeous Gray Crowned-Cranes and our first Giant
Kingfisher since Ngare Sere. We had two falcons, Gray
Kestrel and Red-necked Falcon, heard a Dideric’s
Cuckoo and saw a lot of Meyer’s Parrots, in fact more
than we have ever seen together before. We were
driving along the riverside looking for Verreaux’s Eagle-
Owls but the elephants had almost destroyed the
habitat. When Anthony had been there in June it was
thick forest and now it was almost totally devastated.
Anthony said it was because the drought had been
unusually prolonged. We had just given up hope and
stopped for Stewart to take a picture of a Saddle-billed Stork silhouetted against some pale sky,
when we suddenly heard the grunting call of the Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl. Old eagle-eye Anthony
soon spotted it and we got it in the scope and had amazing views. We picked up a Water Thick-
Knee sheltering in a ditch and had a delightful Bat-eared Fox, the first we had ever seen in
daylight. We watched it hunting
for a while and Stewart took
photos. The icing on the cake,
however, was the sighting of a
Cheetah stalking across the
grassland nearby. It even crossed
the road in front of us, truly
awesome!! Once again we had
finished the day with over 100
species of birds, although the
going had been quite slow. Same
time, same place, same purpose in
the morning as Anthony put it!
Monday December 11: the morning started with a Woodland Kingfisher calling vociferously
outside the banda. I took my usual morning stroll around the area and netted 30 species before
we’d officially started the day, including a fly-by Black-crowned Night-Heron. I also got really
good views of Yellow-bellied Greenbul. Breakfast over, we departed on our morning drive,
mainly searching for the Ruaha Chat which we failed to locate, despite looking in all kinds of
suitable habitat. We did, however pick up no less than four species of falcons: Gray Kestrel,
Red-necked Falcon, Amur Falcon and Eurasian Hobby. We also had excellent views of a Gabar
Goshawk drinking at a roadside puddle. Shortly after that we were treated to spectacular views
of two Verreaux’s Eagle Owls, both displaying their beautiful pink eyelids. Otherwise the
morning was largely more of the usual suspects, although we did get the best look yet at
Abyssinian Scimitarbill and a reasonable look at a fly-by Nubian Woodpecker. A cisticola diving
into the grass proved to be Wing-snapping Cisticola once it had obliged by coming to perch on
a nearby bush.
After lunch we spent time on bird lists and Stewart photographed the Lesser Striped-
Swallows trying to build a nest in the little shelter overlooking the watercourse. A short walk
around (could not go far because only the compound area was deemed safe) produced a couple
of lovely Beautiful Sunbirds and a crisply plumaged Brown-crowned Tchagra.
The two target birds for the afternoon drive,
Verreaux’s Eagle and Ruaha Chat, remained
stubbornly unseen. No Verreaux’s, but we did
find Wahlberg’s and Martial Eagles; no Ruaha
Chat, but we did spot two Mocking Cliff-Chats
high up on a rock, with the male displaying. We
also saw some Hildebrandt’s Francolins, a group
of Ground Hornbills (including one flying which
was a first for us), heard the frog-like calls of a
White-bellied Bustard and got good views of
Rufous-crowned Rollers. Despite the fact we
dipped out on our target birds, we had still had a
very good day, with 102 species seen.
Tuesday December 12: this was the day we bade farewell to Ruaha and our little banda. As a
scorpion coming under the door the previous night had been followed by a rather large spiderlike
creature, I was not overly sorry to leave! We were all packed up by breakfast time and I
even had time for my usual walk among the bandas and along the side of the riverbed. Driving
over to breakfast we had great views of Sooty Falcon and while eating we were treated to
three species of sunbird: Scarlet-chested, Western Violet-backed and Beautiful Sunbirds, along
with the usual Miombo Wren-Warblers. A Pearl-spotted Owlet was heard calling nearby but
there were no other surprises there or on our way out of the park. The exit paperwork being
accomplished much faster than that at entry, we were soon on our way, picking up an
unexpected lifer in the form of a Crested Guineafowl while still within the park boundary.
The drive to Iringa went relatively
quickly but a lot of time was needed in
town to buy supplies to bring with us to
the Udzungwas. Then followed the very
slow drive to a stop at the Crocodile Camp
where we had an excellent lunch. There
were no birds around but an African Pied
Wagtail, a couple of Beautiful Sunbirds
and the ever-present Common Bulbuls.
Once in Mikumi, we turned south towards
Kidutu and the Udzungwa Mountains. This
road was incredibly dusty, and very busy with every kind of traffic, including people balancing
huge loads of charcoal on bicycles. It was also quite bumpy in unexpected places, so we could
only go slowly. A quick stop at a field Anthony knew did, however, produce Southern Red
Bishop, Yellow Bishop and Siffling Cisticola. We were still most relieved to arrive at the Twiga
Rest House and to be shown our lovely room, home for the next three nights.
Wednesday December 13: a brief pre-breakfast stroll around the grounds produced Palm-nut
Vulture, Gaber Goshawk, two Broad-billed Rollers and a calling Blue-spotted Wood-Dove.
There were, however, many birds we could not identify so were glad that we would be doing
the area with Anthony the next day! We left the hotel and drove slowly along the road to
Ifakara, picking up another Palm-nut Vulture,
African Hawk-Eagle, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, a
calling Sombre Greenbul and a few Southern
Cordonbleus. A stop at a bridge area produced a
Churring Cisticola, which obligingly responded to
the tape and came right out into the open for
identification and photographs. On the other side of
the road a pair of Tanganyika Masked-Weavers
were building a nest as were a lot of Southern
Brown-throated Weavers in the distance. One of
the latter came in close enough for comparison and
a photograph. We also got unusually good views of
a pair of Tawny-flanked Prinias.
Another stop for soaring raptors
produced a Booted Eagle, and another
raptor whose ID was in question but which
was probably another African Hawk-Eagle.
We then stopped at some other good
locales known to Anthony, getting great
views of Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, a pair
of Moustached Grass-Warblers, showing
their little moustaches perfectly, a singing
Black-crowned Tchagra and a Garden
Warbler which gave a bit of an ID
challenge at first. We then drove through Ifakara and were soon entering the famous Kilombero
Apart from a soaring Bataleur, almost the first
bird we saw was the endemic Kilombero Cisticola.
Anthony heard a bird singing and lured a pair closer
with playback. It is a species found only in this
swamp and is as yet undescribed to science. Some
widowbirds flying around caused a discussion as to
whether they were Fan-tailed or the theoretically
out of range Marsh Widowbirds. Our attention was,
however, diverted when Anthony heard our second
cisticola target on the other side of the road. We
hastily crossed over and scrambled down the bank,
noting a Long-billed Pipit on the way. The Whitetailed
Cisticola soon responded to playback and
afforded us great views. A better look at the
widowbirds had Anthony confirming that they were indeed Marsh Widowbirds as he had
suspected. Carrying on along a track through the reeds we scared up a flock of Jameson’s
Firefinches and another including birds that Anthony said were Zebra Waxbills. We were not
sure we had seen the right birds so decided not to count the latter species. We heard a Whiteheaded
Lapwing and the scratchy notes of an African Reed-Warbler which I had glimpsed
briefly in the reeds. Anthony then heard a Coppery-tailed Coucal and was able to call it in. We
had fantastic views of it fanning out its wings and tail.
We drove a little further along and soon had our first Kilombero Weavers, which proved
really easy to see. Geitan and Anthony decided to cross the recently completed bridge over the
Kilombero River. Apparently the only way across prior to its construction was a dugout canoe
ferry that was extremely hazardous and lots of folk were killed by hippos. As we crossed we saw
Pied Kingfishers, a Hamerkop and a probable Purple Heron, but could not stop. Once over, we
turned around and came back, a bridge “tick” for Tanzania Birding! Looking for a “Best
Western”, as Anthony calls their picnic spots, we drove down the old ferry approach road and
found some shade under a tree to eat. We then wandered down to see if we could see any
African Skimmers but nothing but a Long-tailed Cormorant and a House Crow was in evidence.
Anthony said the water was too high and there were no sandbanks for the skimmers.
Driving back to where Anthony had seen the waxbills we looked for evidence of their
presence, but no luck. We did see an immature Malachite Kingfisher, a distant African Gray
Hornbill, a lot of Jameson’s Firefinches and two Long-billed Pipits looking very, well, longbilled!
As the Zebra Waxbills failed to materialize we headed for “home”.
Thursday December 14: today was yet another
excellent day’s birding with Anthony. We had an
early wander around outside before breakfast,
picking up a Lizard Buzzard which we misidentified at
first owing to the lizard it was carrying obscuring the
black line on its throat. Anyway when he arrived
Anthony soon put us right and also confirmed that
the starlings we had been seeing were Black-bellied
Starlings. In the grounds we had Silvery-cheeked
Hornbill and some Black Sawwings flew by. We then
spent the next hour and a half checking out the
cultivated fields in the immediate area of the rest
Almost right off we saw Black-winged Bishop.
Although the birds were not in breeding plumage you
could really see their black wings when they flew and
they were considerably chunkier than the Zanzibar Red Bishops accompanying them. Both
Bronze and Black-and-White Mannikins were flitting around the fields and we saw several
African Green-Pigeons flying over into the trees. A strident croaking in the far distance
announced the presence of Livingstone’s Turaco, which we hoped to catch up to later that day.
We had nice views of a Klaas’ Cuckoo perched out in the open and then an African Harrier-
Hawk glided over, looking dark and mysterious in the early morning light. A Violet-backed
Starling pair was nesting in the top of an electricity pole and in the same tree as a Cardinal
Woodpecker was a honeyguide which gave a bit of an ID challenge, but was later diagnosed as
Scaly-throated Honeyguide. We spent a considerable amount of time scanning an abandoned
soccer field which was being
frequented by all sorts of small birds
after the seeds. Anthony soon picked
out some little red-billed Pin-tailed
Whydahs, some starting to come into
breeding plumage. Then there was
great excitement as he spotted two
Zebra Waxbills, gorgeous little birds.
We picked up a few other species and
then headed back for breakfast,
finding Red-faced Cisticola, Grosbeak
Weaver and Yellow Bishop on the
After breakfast we walked over
to the Udzungwa National Park
where the usual paperwork had to
be completed with us not only
signing the visitors’ book but a
waiver! As in some other locations, a
young man was assigned to us, not
very knowledgeable but at least
polite and friendly. It was strange to
be back in the land of Green Barbets,
Forest Weavers, Little Greenbuls
and Eastern Nicators. Our first target
bird, the pretty little Livingstone’s
Flycatcher, was seen pretty quickly and followed up by the forest-loving Square-tailed Drongo.
A heard-only bird was African Golden Oriole and we also heard the turaco again, but no
sightings so we headed back for lunch.
We met back with Anthony at 3:30 as planned.
Birding was slow in the park with more being heard
than seen, including the turaco. Some intent study
of the forest finally produced a couple of Gray Tit-
Flycatchers with their pretty little white-edged tails,
but nothing else was stirring. Suddenly we heard a
Livingstone’s Turaco calling really, really close and
dashed back down the trail where Anthony soon
had it spotted up a tree in the background. What a
gorgeous bird. It has an insane crest and an unusual
white-marked face. High fives were exchanged all
round! Flushed with success we thought we would
try for the Narina Trogon, another bird we’d missed
in the morning. There was absolutely no response to playback, although we did pick up an
Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird and had nice views of the endemic Iringa Red Colobus monkey
before heading out the park.
Friday December 15: this was the day we reached 600 species for the trip, definitely more than
we had hoped for! It was also a little frustrating as we had arranged permission to enter the
park, walked over there with one of their guides (picking up a surprise Collared Palm-Thrush on
the way), only to be told the guy on duty had not been notified so we could not go in. A phone
call or two later we were told the warden had given permission but were just heading up the
trail in search of the trogon that was our main target species when the guide called to say the
accountant had called to say we could not enter. This was definitely African bureaucracy at its
worst. Anthony shrugged it off in a typically fatalistic manner, as though it was to be expected.
Apparently there’s a new administration and it appeared they were not honoring previous
arrangements Tanzania Birding had made. This was very disappointing as the Narina Trogon
was high on our “most wanted” list.
Making the best of it, we went for another walk
around the fields and actually picked up the Blacktailed
Waxbill Anthony had been looking for the
previous day. They are lovely little birds, sooty gray
with bright crimson rumps and black tails. We found
our Mariqua Sunbird for the trip, got a fleeting glimpse
of a very vocal Common Nightingale, and then got
excellent views of Fasciated Snake-Eagle. Perched next
to the little Lizard Buzzard, the bird looked enormous!
Then it was back to the lodge, goodbyes to the
wonderful staff and off to Mikumi.
The Tan-Zam highway was in a terrible state with
trucks backed up for miles waiting their turn at a
weighbridge. Luckily we were heading east and soon
arrived at the Tan-Swiss cottages where we settled in
and had an excellent lunch. Later we met Anthony and
Geitan for an afternoon drive in the miombo woodland area north of Mikumi. As the road
borders the park on one side and a military base on the other, there was no getting out the
vehicle but we had some great birding. First up was the miombo race of the Lesser Blue-eared
Starling, then a turaco flew across the road and started calling nearby. It was a Purple-crested
Turaco, but we did not get good views. We also heard a Pale-billed Hornbill and a little later on
I saw one cross the road. Fortunately it crossed back again giving us all really great looks. A
Cabani’s Bunting showed and Green Woodhoopoes flitted from through the trees. We then
got our first of many White-headed Black-Chats, formerly Arnot’s Chat. Then by some
miraculous spotting Anthony dug out a Miombo Tit which allowed brief views before
disappearing with its juicy supper. Meanwhile a couple of White Helmetshrikes were active on
the other side of the road and a little further along we spotted an Orange-winged Pytilia.
Saturday December 16: this day was spent in
Mikumi National Park, beginning in the south part
of the park. Apparently this area is not as
frequented as the north side as there is less game
and a lot more flies. Our main target was Narina
Trogon but despite playing the tape in all possible
woody areas we did not see or hear anything of
this elusive species. We did, however, have
stunning views of Purple-crested Turaco, picked
up Hooded Vulture, European Honey-Buzzard
and Black-collared Barbet and enjoyed a good
look at a Pale-billed Hornbill. At the last wooded
area we got excellent views of Green Malkhoa,
always a great bird to observe. At a small manmade
pond we had Comb Duck, Hamerkop,
Wood and Common Sandpipers and a Pectoral-Patch Cisticola on the approach track.
We then drove back over to the northern
part of the park picking up a Yellow-bellied
Oxpecker on a pillar at HQ; the bird obviously
thought it the pillar was a giraffe neck! We had
both Buff-crested and Black-bellied Bustards, lots
of Long-tailed Fiscals and Isabelline and Northern
Wheatears. We had lunch at the hippo pools
where we had Yellow-billed Storks, the everpresent
Egyptian Geese, along with Blacksmith
Plovers, Three-banded Plover, Black-winged Stilt
and Water Thick-Knee. A surprise was a little group of
Collared Pratincoles that flew in while Stewart was
trying to photograph the storks, affording the best
views we have ever had of this species. After lunch we
drove around for a bit, but although we had great
views of some Senegal Lapwings did not really see too
much else so called it a day and headed back to the
Sunday December 17: this was theoretically our last
full day in Africa. The morning was spent exploring the
miombo woodland we had visited on the Friday, this
time risking some walking as it was early Sunday morning. After Geitan dropped us off and
secreted the landcruiser in some trees we headed down the pipeline track and almost
immediately had African Cuckoo-Hawk, Ovambo Sparrowhark and Rufous-necked Wryneck.
Awesome! There were a whole slew of small birds flitting around and calling, never affording
very good views. Luckily we had Anthony and soon had identified Greencap Eremomela,
Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Yellow-throated Petronia, Stripe-breasted and Black-eared
Seedeaters, and one that was actually large enough to get a decent look at, White-breasted
Cuckooshrike. On a little side track we also got good views of African Penduline-Tits which we
had only glimpsed earlier. Common Scimitarbill, Yellow Bishop and White-winged Widowbird
were all relatively easy to see, but we had a hard time nailing the Piping Cisticola which kept
taunting us with its irritating bug-like song. Back on the main track we walked quite a way down
the hill, netting African Cuckoo and Kurrichane Thrush on the way. The only sunbird in
evidence was Amethyst Sunbird and deciding we had pushed our luck far enough we returned
to the lodge for breakfast.
Stewart and I decided to explore the grounds for the morning but did not find anything
new. We met the guys again at 4:30 and headed back into the miombo woodland for an
absolutely awesome couple of hours. We got out at the pipeline crossing and immediately saw
a bunch of birds mobbing something which Anthony said could have been an owl or a snake.
There were Lesser Blue-eared Starlings, a beautiful Rufous-necked Wryneck, Kurrichane
Thrush, Crested Barbets, Miombo Wren-Warblers – you name it! It turned out that it was a
snake, probably a Black Mamba, as we got a good look at it as it fell from the tree. Anthony said
to watch it didn’t come in our direction!
Another stop netted us a Rufous-bellied Tit and then we called in a couple of Reichenow’s
Woodpeckers and got excellent views. Our attempts to lure out an African Barred-Owlet which
Anthony thought he had heard failed miserably but we did chase down an African Golden
Oriole sounding like one. As this was a life bird (only having heard it in Udzungwa) I was not too
upset. Eventually we called it a day and headed back to the lodge for dinner, packing and work
on the bird list.
Monday December 18/Tuesday December 19: after an early start and breakfast we were soon
barrelling along the Tan-Zam highway on our way back to Dar Es Salaam. We took quite a long
detour to avoid the truck traffic entering the city, eventually ending up on the Tanga-Dar
highway. We made a quick stop just north of Kerege to look at some weavers which Anthony
said might be recognized as a new species: Ruvu Weavers. As yet they are still African Golden-
All too soon we were back at Jim’s and it was time to bid goodbye to Anthony and Geitan,
who said the time had seemed to go by really, really fast. As the flight to Zurich was delayed we
actually ended up leaving Africa in the wee small hours of the December 19, 623 species under
our belt and an amazing set of memories to look back on.
Links to trip albums on Flickr:
Part 1. Coastal Areas (Dar Es Salaam area, Zanzibar and Pemba)
Part 2. Northeast (East and West Usambaras, South Pares, Mkomazi, Arusha area)
Part 3. Northern Circuit (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Speke Bay, Tarangire)
Part 4. Southern Circuit (Ruaha, Udzungwas, Kilombero, Mikumi)
“THE GREATEST WILDLIFE SPECTACLE ON EARTH”
Birding & Wildlife in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Beyond
February 18 – March 7 2017
Tour Leader – Peter Roberts
Local Bird Guide – Martin Joho
Driver/Guides – Vincent & Moses
Participants – Ian & Margaret Brooke; Ann & Tim Cleeves; Mike & Val Peacock;
Alice Poinier; Caroline Wyatt
February 17th. Pre-tour: Mike, Val and myself set out from Islay on the 7am ferry, caught the bus to Glasgow from Kennacraig and were checking in at the airport by a little after 2pm for the flight to Amsterdam. Ian & Margaret and Ann & Tim were making their way to Amsterdam via Edinburgh and Newcastle respectively, while Alice and Caroline had much longer and more arduous journeys from the USA.
By mid-evening most of us had met up, and I knew that everyone was “in place” – either staying at the Ibis Budget hotel or the adjacent Ibis Hotel close to Schipol Airport.
February 18th. Arrival into Arusha, Tanzania:All the group met up at the airport ready for the KLM #569 flight departing Amsterdam at 10.15am, direct to Arusha (Kilimanjaro) airport by the evening. On arrival we went through the usual rigmarole of immigration and customs, then met up with the transfer guys to take us to the KIA Lodge, just minutes from the airport for the night. Anthony phoned me to confirm we were all arrived safely and gave me the latest on the Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, which, because of drought, is all over the place this year: none in the usual SE short-grass plains and most centred in the central Seronera area.
February 19th. To Lake Victoria:A bit of optional pre-breakfast birding produced a few common species to start the ball rolling – Variable and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Common Bulbul, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Mourning & Namaqua Doves included. While having breakfast I was asked to identify a bird one of the other guests had photographed. It was the Spotted Eagle-owl I’d been looking for earlier, and it was roosting by cabins 5 & 6!. We of course found time to quickly go and have a look before we headed off to the airport at 8.10am for our flight to Mwanza. The flight was very prompt, departing as scheduled at 9.40am and arriving on time a little after 11am, where our Drivers – Moses and Vincent and local bird guide Martin were awaiting us.
We sorted ourselves into the two landcruisers and set off directly to Speke’s Bay Lodge, taking us a little longer than usual (a good 1.5+ hours) due to increased police checks along the way. We had snacks in the vehicles and were given a substantial late lunch on arrival. We then took to our rooms for a while and reconvened by the bar, right on the shores of the lake for a gentle stroll around the grounds of the Lodge. It was very dry here too, though storm clouds were gathering. A pleasant breeze kept temperatures cool, but I was very surprised by the comparative lack of bird activity. Of course, with some folks never having been to Africa before, we were finding great birds left right and centre, but the special, target species I was hoping for were hard to come by. We did in the end see 1-2 of most of the birds that we would only encounter here – Red-chested Sunbird, Swamp Flycatcher, Northern Brown-throated and Yellow-backed Weavers and Black-headed Gonoleks, but some were certainly not showing well or in abundance. We also found a few other interesting birds to start us off, and at times things were popping up thick and fast, but many were “regular” finds that hopefully we’ll see on several occasions in our travels. Spotted and Water Thick-knees showed well, White-bellied Canaries were just one of several small seedeaters seen. Silverbird, Pale Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, and some rather tatty, moulting Southern Red Bishops all added interest and a bit of varied colour. Quite a few Palearctic migrants were noted; from the usual shorebirds to a range of races of Western Yellow Wagtails.
We returned at about 5pm, had a beer on the deck facing out over Speke Bay – a massive bay, but in reality a tiny fragment of the lake itself. Once refreshed I made further attempts to find Three-banded (Heuglin’s) Courser by asking the barman George! He now doubles up as a bird guide and quickly took us to a patch of shaded bush where they were skulking. Full frame scope views were very satisfactory; hopefully they will stay put to show everybody else who had already dropped out of the afternoon’s activities by this time.
We had a good supper enlivened by much conversation about the state of world politics, possibly engendered and enhanced by provision of a couple of bottles of “bubbly” to celebrate Tim & Ann’s 40th wedding anniversary today.
February 20th. To The Central Serengeti:This morning we met up at 6.15am and went back to our cabins again for 15 minutes until it got light! Thereafter we took a short wander around the grounds concentrating on the lake edge until a breakfast at about 7.45am. We managed to catch up with just about all of the special birds of the area after such a slow start yesterday afternoon. The Slender-billed Weavers miraculously reappeared in decent numbers. Northern Brown-throated Weavers were found nest-building as were just 1-2 of the Black-headed (Yellow-backed) Weavers. African Reed Warblers showed well and convinced us that several others we were seeing in “odd” habitat were wintering Eurasian. Sedge Warblers too were seen well in the same reedy and bulrush fringes of the lake as resident Lesser Swamp Warblers. With water levels high and little rain there were a few locals at the lake edge filling 10 gallon containers with water and walking back to their villages – crazy that this should still be the norm in the 21st century. A few waterbirds were noted on the lake edge including African Openbills, Spur-winged Plovers, Black Crake, African Pygmy and Malachite Kingfishers. After breakfast there was a longer spell to go out again around the grounds until about 11.15 – 11.30am. This gave us the chance to revisit the highly secretive Three-banded Coursers seen yesterday afternoon, courtesy of George the barman. Wandering back through the lovely open acacias of the grounds we added a lot of new species. A Pearl-spotted Owlet was a good find – even better as it attracted in a horde of small birds mobbing it, including Buff-bellied Warblers, Red-faced Crombecs, Winding Cisticolas and Tawny-flanked Prinias. Dideric Cuckoos, White-browed Coucals, Grey-headed Kingfishers, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black-headed Gonolek, a group of Rufous Chatterers, plenty of lovely Red-chested Sunbirds and Isabelline Shrike. We also had our first good looks at Angola Swallows and relocated the Black-billed Barbet – all adding up to plenty of colour and pizazz.
We were ready for a quick and light lunch by midday and packed and away from this lovely first stop by 12.30pm. All agreed it was a smashing place that deserves longer time to do it justice – but we’ve a lot to see and do in just 16 days, so had to load up and head off the short distance to the Serengeti, arriving at the entrance gate at 1pm. Here we had a chance for a quick bit of birding while the drivers did the entry paperwork. A Pearl-spotted Owlet here provided a focus of attention for us and a lot of marauding birds, including new species such as first Brubru, Black-backecdPuffback and Mariqua Sunbird.
Then we set off through the Western Corridor of the Serengeti, all looking very dry and fairly deserted. Of course we began coming across our first big game animals – a handful of each of the common species we’d be seeing on a daily basis, such as Wildebeest, Zebra, Grant’s and Thomson’s Gazelles, Impala, Olive Baboons and Vervet Monkeys. But there was little time to stop for these this afternoon as we’d a long way to go and a couple of special “now or never” target species to try and find. First of these was Karamoja Apalis, only discovered in this area fairly recently. After 1-2 tries with playback we went to the spot where Martin and our drivers had succeeded before – and succeeded again, with three birds flying about and perching up to give us great looks at this distinctive and very localised bird. The other bird on our wanted list was Eastern Plantain-eater. This gave us the run-around, with no luck at the first stop along the lush riverine forest of the Grumeti River. Several other tries also failed and I’d given up and written it off for this tour. However, they drivers knew of one last spot and this turned up trumps with 4 seen, flying from one line of tall trees to another right over our vehicles.
Many other birds were seen along the way, but only looked at fairly cursorily because of time and knowing we’d have plenty of time to see them over and over again in the forthcoming days. We did stop for a family of Southern Ground Hornbills. Various good raptors were noted including first Bateleurs, a single African Harrier-hawk and a nice Little Sparrowhawk at the entrance gate. Although we’d see much more, I had to let folks indulge in some game-viewing and stopped for a beautifully lit Giraffe group along the way. Our first stop in the Serengeti turned out to be quite some place! We arrived at Kubu-Kubu Tented Lodge by about 6pm and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was much more swish and upmarket than anticipated and less than a year since it opened. A very pleasant permanent lodge under canvas, but beautifully appointed, lots of friendly well-trained staff and massive, tastefully furbished accommodations (can we really call them tents?) to luxuriate in. A lovely central dining area provided space for our bird list while we drank free beer and wine followed by a very fine 4 course meal – hardly the camping that any of us anticipated, but nobody was complaining!
The lodge is situated on a commanding overview on a slope looking across a huge area of the central Serengeti. There were scattered Wildebeest with calves below us – extremely unusual for this area, and in fact the first for me in 24 previous visitsat this time of year, as they’ve always been centred somewhere in the short-grass plains of the SE before. After dark the long-awaited rains appeared! There was an absolutely spectacular show of thunderstorms followed by substantial downpours across a wide horizon for hours while we ate supper. The whole vista of over 80 degrees was lit up with sheet lightning in stunning shows accompanied by bursts of deafening thunder. The rains have started – and in this year’s case, seem long-overdue. We hope it will liven things up tomorrow, but not be so wet that we can’t get anywhere in the mud!
February 21st. The Central Serengeti:The Serengeti is a vast preserve. At 5,675 square miles, it is larger than the entire state of Connecticut (or Yorkshire for us Brits!).With a further 3200 sq. miles protected in the surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the total is as large as Vermont or New Hampshire (or about the size of Wales). Our exploration began at 7am after breakfast with a morning drive into and around the central area of Seronera. With the dry weather making the bulk of the famous Wildebeest herd roam about in areas atypical for them, we were pleased to see long threads of hundreds, many with very newly born young, heading along eastwards perhaps towards the Ndutu area where we end up tomorrow afternoon. It was pleasantly cool to start with, and, as usual, this morning was given over to the main goal of finding Leopards, as this is the prime and easiest area to see them. We did very well, and were watching a splendid male Leopard up a tree by 9am. This animal, conveniently close to the track was not going anywhere as it had two Wildebeest calf carcasses up in the tree with it – enough food for a good few days. We watched and admired this beauty from as many angles as we could for a long while before heading off. We got only a short distance down the road when we were alerted to a Cheetah, lying almost totally hidden in longish grass. We parked up and waited and were rewarded with a few lovely looks as it sat up and peered about it before slumping down hidden from view again. After this excitement we continued along to the hippo pools on the main road where the Hippos were packed in tight in a fairly fetid looking pool, so close together that you could have walked across their backs from one side to the other – which is exactly what Wood and Common Sandpipers and Black Crakes were doing. With such good luck early on, we changed focus slightly to birding and began finding the first of a wide range of expected species. Everything form fine male Montagu’s Harriers, Black-shouldered Kites and Black-chested Snake-Eagles to displaying White-bellied Bustards, dainty Temminck’s Coursers and various passerines such as Rueppel’s Long-tailed Starlings, White-headed Buffalo-Weavers and Capped Wheatears.
We had a stop for a leg-stretch and the loos at one of the picnic sites out on the plains where an unexpected, but fascinating find was a smallish Rock Python up a tree full of Rufous-tailed Weaver’s nests. Needless to say, the weavers were not amused. Driving on from here we found our first Lions – a female with 3 cubs and a slightly separated adult pair. So, all three “Big Cats” in the first morning – what will we do for an encore in future days? We were back by a little before 1pm to a good sit-down lunch and a chance for a break in the heat of the day (and it was hot by now!).
We were out again at 4pm to take a run to Retima Hippo Pools. It was beginning to cloud over and look stormy, but the birding along the way was quite good. Tim spotted a Lesser Spotted Eagle – ID based on shape and upper wing pattern all very convincing. Other good raptors included several fine male Pallid Harriers and a Dark Chanting Goshawk. Some of us caught up with Coqui Francolin that we’d missed this morning, and at the same spot there were further White-bellied Bustards, Grey-headed Social-Weavers and Isabelline Wheatear. The track to Retima was definitely “off-road” and got quite mucky in places, but we eventually made it there at about 5.40pm. The Hippos were present in good numbers, and though the river levels were low, it looked a lot more sanitary than the pools we’d watched them in this morning. A first Yellow-billed Stork was present along with Hamerkop, but not much else. We played Flanders & Swann’s Hippopotamus Song and would like to think that the Hippos appreciated it, were interested and awakened from their slumbers. We headed back along a different route – longer in miles, but definitely on a better road, which was very well planned as the heavens opened on our return and instantly created floods pouring off the plains into substantial flows across the road in places. But by the later evening after supper and the bird list all the thunder and downpours had moved on, leaving a pleasant calm night.
February 22nd. To the South-eastern Serengeti: We packed up and headed eastwards this morning at about 7.30am, about 50 miles out across the Serengeti Plains to the Ndutu region. However, we had time to play with in the morning and had a picnic lunch with us, so were fairly flexible about timing and where we went at first to look for birds and mammals. We made some circuits of the small rivers fringed with Yellowbark Acacia trees for a couple of hours before heading to the Seronera Visitor Centre for a leg-stretch and toilets while the vehicles filled up their tanks with fuel.
It was an extremely productive morning. We detoured at various times to include watching a large family of Lions – two females with 9 cubs, who were sauntering across the open grasslands oblivious of the attraction they caused with a large gathering of landcruisers. In fact some of them walked right through the middle of the parked vehicles, totally unconcerned that they were being watched and talked about loudly by 50 or more tourists! We also found another Cheetah, this one sat alone by large acacia surveying the wide horizons all around it. A quick check of yesterday’s Leopard tree was perfectly timed as the Leopard was climbing down from the tree to wander a few yards to go to the toilet! After this he wandered back through the vehicles, looked at us all with disdain and climbed part-way back up the tree giving some of those classic shots seen in safari documentaries. It finally, effortlessly, leapt further up into his tree to eat more of his stashed horde of succulent young Wildebeest – all quite exceptional. The birding was of course very good in pleasantly cool and partly cloudy, but dry weather. Once at the Seronera Visitor Centre we found the pleasant little walk/nature trail closed off because of Lions in the area, so had to make do with a bit of birding around the Centre itself. We found some good stuff here – best was an immature/female Irania, but also Vitelline and Lesser Masked Weavers, first Grey-capped Social-Weavers, Yellow-breasted Apalis, and Banded Parisoma. We now began our journey eastwards along the main, fast track to Naabi Gate, though took a few detours and dallied on a number of occasions as it was another very rewarding journey. Kori Bustards, flocks of Black-winged Plovers, Croaking and Stout Cisticolas, Montagu’s Harriers and more all made the birding quite exciting. Spotted Hyenas were scattered at regular intervals along the entire morning’s journey and at one point we halted to admire a group of 4 Lions right by the roadside, all crammed under a tiny bit of acacia for a bit of shade. Three of these were large and hugely impressive males with magnificent manes. They kindly got up and stretched at times to allow some decent photos, then promptly went back to sleep again as Lions so often do. As we progressed along the main road we began to encounter better numbers of Wildebeest and eventually came into some more meaningful numbers stretching across a 180′ arc out across the short grass plains that had finally began receiving some rain. This is always a very impressive sight, scanning with binoculars to witness dense herds as far as the eye could see; numbers must have been in tens of thousands?
At Naabi Gate we ate our picnic amongst various interesting species of birds intent on joining us – Rufous-tailed Weavers, Superb & Hildebrandt’s Starlings and Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers in particular. We did a little walk to the viewpoint on the top of Naabi Hill, though didn’t see much in the way of birds – but the view across further massive expanses of short grass plains towards Ngorongoro was impressive – though these, as yet are still devoid of Wildebeest, just the hardier Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles managing to make a living out here in a very parched environment. We left Naabi at about 3.30pm and headed for Kenzan Tented Camp close to the edge of Lake Ndutu, reaching there about 5pm, via further Cheetah, Jackals, Hyenas and other good birds.
At the camp; a much more simple tented camp than where we’d just come from, we settled into our accommodation – all very adequate with private bathrooms and a man to bring us hot water for showers whenever required. Birds around the tents, in dry acacia scrub with some larger trees proved interesting. The Pearl-spotted Owlet call that had failed so miserably at Naabi, instantly bought in a deluge of birds – mostly sunbirds on this occasion. Scarlet-chested, Beautiful and Variable all came in to scold the imagined foe, as did first Black-faced Waxbill and odds and ends such as Grey-backed Camaroptera and Yellow-breasted Apalis. After a very good supper the staff of the camp gave us an impromptu, very jolly sing-song.
February 23rd. The Ndutu area: We awoke to stormy weather and a Slender-tailed Nightjar calling and briefly called in just before dawn proper. After our breakfast the heavens opened up and within minutes the ground was awash with water, which ran in torrents. This put paid to any thoughts of getting out for a game drive and we sat and watched the deluge until close to 9am before it ceased and it was deemed fit to go anywhere. We still had time paid in the National Park this morning so we made the best of it and at least managed to drive a little way along the edge of Lake Ndutu – though we could have gone a lot further with a full morning out. The lake edge provided further different habitats and a few birds and mammals of interest. As expected there were sightings of Kittlitz’s and Chestnut-banded Plovers and several catch-up Two-banded Coursers. Also here were a fine group of 4 Elephants, 3 of them substantial bulls.
We had to return to the camp for an early lunch before packing up and heading back to the National Park office at Ndutu to check out of the Park. This we duly did, in much better, dry, sunnier weather already quickly drying out the floods. While waiting here we usefully used the time to call in a Pearl-spotted Owlet with attendant scolding birds. Also here was a mating pair of Pygmy Falcons, a called in Dideric Cuckoo and nesting Fischer’s Lovebirds. Once formalities had been complete we headed off to the Angata Tented Camp which was very close by. Here we checked into our tents, had a short tea break and then went out for an afternoon/evening game drive. Our goal here was to watch over the large swamp areas out across the plains. There was still some ground water standing and making driving a little trickier for Moses and Vincent, but nothing that they hadn’t dealt with often before. First detour was for a call that a Leopard was close-by up a tree. We arrived just as it was leaving the tree – so nothing like yesterday’s views, but three days in a row is impressive. We saw masses of Two-banded Coursers, finally quashing Tim’s angst about dipping earlier. Around the swamp we managed to see a few of the usual shorebirds along with nice looks at first Black Coucal, eventually called in close for photos. A first pair of Grey Crowned Cranes is always a “crowd-pleaser” and in such lovely afternoon light was a super photo-shot. On our return the skies blackened again and threatened further rainstorms this evening. The Leopard was back up another tree and prior to that we’d seen our first very cute little group of Bat-eared Foxes extremely closely and confiding, out sunning themselves in the evening sunshine.
A shower in the very soda-rich local water was followed by a pleasant evening meal with power cuts from a dodgy generator towards the end. Bright starry skies tonight – maybe it will be bright and sunny tomorrow?
February 23rd The Ndutu area: There were Slender-tailed Nightjars, Pearl-spotted Owlets and Verreaux’s Eagle-owls calling pre-dawn by the tents. Unfortunately with it being dark, even darker in the tents and having lost my only torch, none were seen, though I did try some playback as dawn broke.
After breakfast we headed out (minus Ann who stayed behind for a break and to write) onto the nearby short-grass plains via the various tributaries of the swampy valley. A few decent birds were seen as we went, driving in cool, fairly cloudy conditions to start with that cleared up into a bright, sunny day by lunchtime. One vehicle saw Taita Fiscal (and the first sightings of Golden Jackal), while all admired numerous Secretarybirds, and the “usual suspects”. Larks were few, but a lone Plain-backed Pipit was new. Once out on the plains we headed for a group of gathered safari vehicles to find a female Lion lying fairly deep and obscured in an isolated group of low, scrubby acacia trees. On closer inspection we could see that she had cubs – three in fact and all quite tiny – probably just weeks old. After some watching this “still life frieze” the mother rose, wandered out through the vehicles, just feet away and went to the toilet (just like the Leopard we’d seen a few days back – highly sanitary!). She then had a long drink from a mucky puddle and sauntered back to her hiding place, upon which the three cubs got lively and gave a lovely show of play. After watching this for a good while we drove further out into the vastness of the flat horizon, Once the distinctive shape of Naabi Hill disappeared off the horizon I was more totally lost than before; thank goodness the drivers are not only so skilled at driving out across today’s slick and muddy terrain, but also have an innate sense of direction – all this and they are finding birds and animals for us at the same time!
At some point in our further meandering we came across a small initial harbinger of the Wildebeest migration, with a small group of a few hundred animals rushing down onthe plains around the swamp. They then got nervous and raced back up to the acacia scrub – then decided it was alright after all and came rushing back again. A beast of limited brain? Later still into the morning we were alerted to a possible sighting of Cheetah and headed off directlytowards it. But directly wasn’t an option as the drivers knew that the perfectly innocuous land ahead was all too easy to get vehicles bogged down in. We took a major detour, but got there in the end and had the best experience of the morning, watching a superb female Cheetah with 4 well-grown cubs feasting on a freshly killed Grant’s Gazelle. Again we had long and uninterrupted viewing of the event at just about 30 yards distance; beautiful light and beautiful animals, the most prominent noise was the sound of camera shutters clicking!
We were speedily back by a bout 1pm for a substantial lunch with downtime until 3.30pm. At that time we nipped off to a more local area around Lake Masekand the dry thorn scrub that fringes it. The lake itself was quite full, but quite poor as far as birdlife went. A few submerged Hippos were the highlight. So we concentrated the remainder ofour time searching the acacia scrub for birds. Playing the call of Pearl-spotted Owlet worked very well at various randomly chosen points. Beautiful Sunbirds seem particularly susceptible and appeared in droves out of nowhere. They were accompanied by a few Variable and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and a fine array of other followers. Red-faced Crombecs, Purple Grenadiers, Blue-capped Cordonbleus, Brubru, Yellow-bellied Eremomelas, Yellow-fronted Canaries, Red-fronted Barbet, Rattling Cisticolas, Slate-coloured Boubou, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Buff-bellied Warbler all came in to add their sentiments to the show. I was hoping throughout that one of the larger acacias would produce a Verreaux’s Eagle-owl and sure enough the drivers spotted a pair in a roadside tree. We had splendid views of these, pink eyelids flickering, before they really gave us a true impression of their size and flew across to another nearby tree. It was a pleasantly cool afternoon, back in time for a drink, showers and a beak before the bird log and supper.
February 25th. To The Ngorongoro Crater:There was some light rain again overnight, but nothing serious and our departure from Angata Camp at Ndutu at 7.30am was on schedule, the tracks not being too bad at all. Journeying east towards Olduvai there was much to see and look out for on the way. Although out of the National Park, we were still in the Conservation Area and driving the many miles across the “flat as a pancake”, open short grass plains we encountered a few of the first small herds of Wildebeest to arrive here this season and masses of Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles and Common Zebra scattered across the 360′ vistas. As we drove, we were able to appreciate the huge scale of this ecosystem that we’d been travelling through west to east for several days by now — all the more remarkable for being preserved almost fully intact. A few of the hoped-for, more special birds appeared on cue. Red-capped Larks in small groups were much in evidence. The plains were scattered with Montagu’s Harriers, Fischer’s Sparrow-larks, Kori Bustards and Capped Wheatears. At the one large isolated tree on the plains we paused to watch Cape Rooks and Greater Kestrels making good use of this prominent landmark. Nearby on fresh swathes of budding grass were two separate groups – one of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, the other of the bigger Yellow-throated. Both allowed wonderfully close approaches for the photographers.
4 of the group had decided to visit a MaasaiBoma and diverted there before reaching Olduvai. The rest of us went directly to the Gorge and did half an hour’s birding before they arrived. The birding was a bit slow, but 1-2 interesting species popped up – notably a first Rufous-crowned Roller and a couple of lovely White-throated Bee-eaters. Once everyone was back together at Olduvai we had our picnic overlooking the layered rocks of the gorge. We were given a short, but very informative orientation talk and then wandered into the Museum with all its exhibits and artefacts of hominids and their world going back 3.6 million years. The Museum had not changed since my last visit, but I imagine it will by my next at this time next year as there were several new, partially built buildings destined to be a new museum, perhaps with more up to date ways of portraying this important site.
Those who had visited the Maasai, seemed to think it a worthwhile experience and learnt first-hand something of their unchanged way of life as open plain pastoralists. Their population has been (like much of the rest of the world) growing rapidly and on my last visit 15 months ago I had noticed a big increase in numbers of Maasai pushing further into the Conservation area around Ndutu with their livestock. Moses informed us that this has now been stopped, along with permission to descend into the Ngorongoro Crater as they had been illegally killing lions and other predators of their livestock. I hope it may mean that the wildlife flourishes a bit more and that the Maasai aren’t too put out by this new restriction – though it is difficult to imagine they won’t be.
From Olduvai we headed out at about 1.45 pm to travel directly up into the highlands towards the rim of the immense caldera of Ngorongoro. With the plains of the Serengeti now sadly behind we found ourselves in intermittent rain on the arrival at the Descent Road to the crater floor. However, some of the keener, hardier members stayed with me and had great views of Singing and Wailing Cisticolas after some playback. As we descended, the rain gave up and we were able to put the roof up again to do some productive birding on our descent. Yellow Bishop, several Schalow’s (Abyssinian) Wheatears and Northern Anteater-Chats plus a fine Yellow-fronted canary were great finds along with another Wailing Cisticola much further down than I’ve previously found them. The crater floor had received plenty of rain and there was a vibrant green flush of new grass. The huge numbers of varied ungulates all looked very content and it was a pleasure to make our way across the floor seemingly virtually the only vehicles down here this afternoon. While I normally go around the western tracks towards the ascent up to Sopa Lodge, Moses and Vincent had other (better) ideas and suggested a quick check for Black Rhinos. They must have heard something on the driver’s grapevine as they nipped along fairly quickly and had us watching a total of 5 of these prehistoric leviathans in short order. Two in particular were showing quite well – especially through the scope. While here’ we also came across a good array of new birds – Common (Steppe) Buzzard, plenty of Abdim’s Stork, Rueppell’s Robin-chat, Spur-winged Goose and a magnificent pair of Saddle-billed Storks – huge, colourful and impressive, especially when they made a couple of short flights.
We exited the Park as required, a little before 6pm and checked into the Sopa Lodge. I think everyone was pleasantly surprised, despite it being a large lodge with quite a lot of people. The comparative luxury after a few days “under canvas” was welcome.
February 26th. The Ngorongoro Crater:Up at dawn to peer down into the crater on a pleasant clear, but chilly start to the day. The pre-breakfast birding session was fairly productive with, perhaps the best being Mountain Yellow Warbler called in. Other typical species were trios of singing Hunter’s Cisticolas, Eastern Mountain Greenbuls, Streaky Seedeaters, Cape Robin-chat, a quick fly-by of Kenrick’s Starlings and Rameron (Olive) Pigeons, plus a bit of a view of Schalow’s Turaco. Tropical Boubous were commonplace and 1-2 Dusky and White-eyed Slaty-Flycatchers also put in an appearance. We finished with a further look from the stunning viewpoint at the lodge where there were orange flowers in abundance on one nearby tree that held Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters, radiant in the morning sunshine, and, what I consider to be the “spiffiest” sunbird of all – Golden-winged. Less expected were a couple of startled Verreaux’s Eagle -owls seen at the very beginning of our birding as light was just coming up. We dragged ourselves away for a good breakfast atabout 7.30am and were ready to set off down into the Crater an hour later.
We were birding slowly on the way along to the entrance post, stopping to do some playback or for anything that looked interesting. We found further Golden-winged and 1-2 Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds, and better looks at Schalow’s Turaco. A bit of playback brought in the rather drab Brown Parisoma and slightly brighter Red-faced Cisticola while watching that 1-2 BlackSawwing Swallows made a welcome appearance. At the entrance post is always a traditional spot for Red-collared Widowbird and we did extremely well this year, with multiple great views without any need for playback – the bright red and black males being very prominent.
After that it was more directly down into the crater itself, where we spent much of the remainder of the day – one of the vehicles finding a second Serval of the trip along the way. The Crater, sometimes called “the eighth wonder of the world” didn’t disappoint today. A mainly resident population of Wildebeest, chunky Cape Buffalo, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles and Common Zebra were all over the place and this was the day to catch up on getting good photos of these and anything else that took our fancy. The crater also has a high concentration of predators – especially Lions and Hyenas, and we witnessed all sorts of fascinating action with these on this visit. In the morning we came across a Lioness lying against one of several parked landcruisers along the track, presumably enjoying the shade it offered. With her in the rea were two splendid male Lions that came and went at arms-length to us, the one chasing the less dominant male away when he got too close to the coveted female. Other prides of Lions were noted during the day and in the afternoon, as we headed back out of the crater we came across further really interesting interactions. A Male Lion was seen dragging a buffalo calf kill across the open grassland towards a female sitting by the side of the road close to the parked vehicles. He was making heavy going of it and despite presumably wanting to present it to the female (or at least, not lose it to a couple following Spotted and Hyenas and a Black-backed Jackal) did leave it to walk over to the waiting female. As soon as he left it the three hangers-on moved in. he got half way to the female and ran back to chase them off and dragged it some more. Then he got bored and the lure of the female became too much and he left the kill again. The hyenas took over and so it went on, several times back and forth – going to sit with the female, who was presumably going to mate with him – then dashing back to the kill to chase off the hyenas. A bit of action I’d never witnessed before in all my visits. I never saw the conclusion to the story as we had to leave the crater for a final birding foray, but the other vehicle stayed a little longer and confirmed the Lion did finally give up his food to the Spotted Hyenas in favour of the promise of mating!
After our success with finding Black Rhinoceros yesterday afternoon, the pressure was off today, but we did enjoy moderate looks a couple of times at two different Rhinos during our time out on the open, short-grass savannah. Birding in the Crater is always rewarding, with fresh and soda lakes, swamp, grassland and Yellowbark Acacia trees. We did fairly well today, finding a good representative selection of the many species possible. A fine breeding plumaged Pin-tailed Whydah was a nice find. Kori and Black-bellied Bustards showed well, the Kori seen doing its remarkable display where it flips it tail over its back and puffs the neck right out. The Black-bellied Bustard was doing its odd two-note burping call. Abdim’s Storks and elegant Gray Crowned-Cranes were everywhere, as were Pectoral-patch Cisticolas – though the latter were far harder to see as they sang their distinctive zip-zip songs in the sky. Speke’s Weavers and Black Kites attempted to steal our picnics at lunch, while Pangani and Rosy-throated Longclaws provided a bit of an ID puzzle as the field guide illustrations are so sadly lacking. Although Ngorongoro Crater is one of the “busiest” bits on the safari circuit, it was pleasant to be able to get to some areas where we seemed to be the only two vehicles present. But of course at the one of two picnic sites at lunchtime it was very different, with many parked landcruisers and plenty of people. But even here there were birds to be found – from Red-knobbed Coots to Fan-tailed Widowbirds – and also plenty of Hippos in the freshwater lake.
We visited further freshwater in the afternoon at the Hippo-pools – again being virtually the only vehicles there. A selection of waterbirds livened things up – Hottentot and Cape Teals, Northern Shoveler, Red-billed Duck, Long-toed Plovers and a called in Lesser Swamp Warbler, all amidst the submerged, splashing and guffawing Hippos. Other great mammal sightings today included a den of Common (Golden) Jackals – 12 or so animals in all and the first time I’ve ever come across a den of these attractive canids. Apart from the sheer numbers, tameness and variety of big game animals in the crater it was fascinating to come across odd bits of action such as the huge line of Cape Buffalo walking away from the marshy areas after having all had a drink. The line seemed to go on for miles as they slowly plodded their way to the areas of the crater floor grasslands where there is no vehicular access, and so wonderfully peaceful and quiet for them.
Once out of the Crater by about 4.30pm we headed out across the high, cool plateau grasslands now increasingly inhabited by more resident Maasai. Here I have found Jackson’s Widowbird in several previous visits, but the density of Maasai livestock may account for our failure today – the grasslands being grazed right down leaving no habitat for this specialised highland grassland species. However we did manage to find the drab Moorland Chat amongst many African Stonechats, Baglafecht Weavers and Northern (Common)Fiscal Shrikes.
It had been a long and fruitful day. Ann had taken the day off and enjoyed her time doing something that I’ve never had the chance to do at this pleasant lodge – relax and enjoy the place without rushing around trying to fit everything you want to do into too short a time. But she was far from idle, having finished off a short story started just a few days back. At supper I was treated to a “Thank-you” cake for my 25 years of visiting this lodge. They had done the same on my last visit 15 months ago and I wonder if I’ll get this somewhat “OTT”/“celebrity” treatment every time I return in the future? All a bit worrying as I should be here twice next February!
February 27th. To Gibb’s Farm and Tloma Lodge:A 6.30am breakfast allowed the keener birders amongst us to do a further session around the Sopa Lodge grounds until about 8am for an 8.30am departure. A few further goodies were found, the best being a called in Brown-backed Woodpecker – this being the only place I ever see the species. The two melanistic Slender Mongoose appeared from the same huge fig tree and the Golden-winged Sunbirds put on a fantastic display for us close to hand.
The drive toour next stop was a fairly short one around the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater through lots of great high elevation forest and scrub, but very difficult to bird in as nobody is allowed out of the vehicles. We pulled up and watched at one of my favourite spots – a small roadside pool – where we called out African Hill Babbler and saw further interesting species such as Thick-billed Seedeater, Brown Woodland Warbler and Montane White-eyes, though our final try (of many) for Cinnamon Bracken Warbler still didn’t produce any results. We were at the check-out station for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and back on smooth paved road by mid-morning after taking our final look over the crater itself a little earlier. A break here for loos, map buying and coffees, then off directly to the town of Karatu. Here I went in search of a decent torch – a vain hope, but I bought something that may just have to do. Then it was up the 5km of track to lovely Gibb’s Farm for lunch.
We arrived here in good time to slowly do some birding and wander the wonderful flower gardens in search of sunbirds. Bronze and Green-headed were both present in this lush setting and I was pleased to find a White-necked Raven overhead as we’d missed them at the Sopa Lodge in Ngorongoro. It was then time for, what I consider one of the best lunches in Tanzania, taken al fresco on the verandah with a first sighting of the very special White-tailed Blue Flycatcher while we were eating. After lunch the group split into the two: the birders heading off for an afternoon walk and others choosing to enjoy the lovely gardens and grounds around Gibbs Farm. It was a pleasant, fairly cool day, but black clouds loomed and threatened. Luckily for the walkers, the rain held off the entire time, despite thunder in the air.
The birding walk into the fringing forest was extremely rewarding. It is a fairly easy hike of about 4 hours covering about 2.5-3 miles intotal, into the Conservation Area to seek out more of the special highland forest species. We had with us Martin and a very competent and keen local bird guide called Charles. Between them they knew where all the wanted species might be found and pointed out many of the species on the “wish list”. Regular stuff such as Black-throated Wattle-eye, ChinspotBatis, Gray-capped and Brown Woodland Warblers, Abyssinian (Olive) Thrush, Brown-headed Apalis, Tambourine Dove, Mountain Wagtail, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater and Collared Sunbird all popped up alongside less often encountered birds such as Sharpe’s Starling, Purple-throated and Grey Cuckoo-shrikes, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Narina Trogon, Red-capped Robin-chat, Grey-headed Nigrita, Spectacled Weaver, MoustachedTinkerbird, several more White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and African Hill Babblers. However “Best Bird of the Walk” was undoubtedly an African Broadbill expertly picked up and pointed out by Charles and the first I’ve ever encountered on this Northern Circuit tour – so very exciting for me at least!
After our walk we transferred the very short distance to Tloma Lodge and met up with the others who had come over earlier after doing a tour of the extensive gardens at Gibbs. Just minutes after we arrived the heavens opened and it poured with rain for half an hour or more – so lucky not to have been caught out in this while walking! Lucky again, it stopped raining in time for us to pop outside at dusk and try to call in the Montane Nightjar by the pool. We saw a couple fly-by on two occasions, but nothing called back, which would have been better.After a reasonable supper we were all keen to get to our beds early.
February 28th. Lake Manyara National Park:The “keenies” were up pre-dawn to try for the Montane Nightjar again, but there was neither sight nor sound. We had our early breakfast and then had time to wander the extensive gardens, vegetable gardens and coffee plantation trying to find some birds of interest. It was really fairly quiet throughout, the best bird to start with being a poorly plumaged Black-winged Bishop. On our return to the restaurant balcony where the others were now having their more leisurely breakfast, Tim set off back to the room and came across the star bird we’d been looking for all along – a fine male Holub’s Golden Weaver. We were packed and heading off from Tloma Lodge by about 8.30am for the very short drive westwards, down the steep escarpment of the Great Rift Valley to Lake Manyara National Park. First port of call was the T-shirt Shack, where 1-2 folks made a few modest purchases and where Mike and I saw a first Black-crowned Tchagra thanks to Martin’s keen ear. We stopped at the overview high on the Rift overlooking the lake, then checked in to the National Park shortly afterwards, where we spent much of the remainder of the day until late afternoon.
Manyara is a small Park centered round the soda lake directly below some impressive Rift Valley cliffs. With the freshwater inlets to the huge soda lake and other distinctive habitats of tall, lush gallery forest, open forests of mature Yellowbark acacias and open areas of scrub there is usually an excellent variety of wildlife to be seen. Today it was, at first, quite slow going. On entering the Park we passed through the extensive forest fed by streams rising through the base of the Rift Valley cliffs above. This cool, shady area normally produces Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, but it wasn’t until our return this way as we exited in the afternoon that we came across any. Further along palm groves offer the chance to find the localised Collared Palm-Thrush and the more open, mature, mixed forest should have Purple-crested Turaco in residence. None of these did the decent thing and showed up on first attempt in the morning. The mammals were similarly hard to come across. No elephants were encountered at all, and Giraffes only in the afternoon, though there were many close encounters with large groups of Olive Baboons and the weird sight of a lone Black-backed Jackal making off with the head of a wildebeest calf!
However, despite this, it was a very good day, with much seen, on one of the hottest days of the tour so far. Soon after entering the Park, Martin alerted us to a singing Yellow-bellied Greenbul that we all saw well. It was a good day for raptors. There were the best numbers of vultures soaring in the thermals all day – White-backed and Rueppell’s. Other super raptor finds were perched up African Crowned Eagle and a couple of African Hawk-eagles, with a further splendid pair seen closely, flying around together in the early afternoon. Black Goshawk and African Marsh Harrier were new and other raptors included African Fish-Eagle, Bateleur and Common (Steppe) Buzzard (plus three huge Verreaux’s Eagle-owls roosting in a large acacia in the morning, where a fine Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike showed up).. The water levels out on the open lake edges fringed with vast areas of marsh vegetation, pools and muddy margins held huge concentrations of waterbirds – some of the best I’ve seen here in a while. Yellow-billed Storks were super-abundant and with them Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Sacred Ibis, masses of African Spoonbills, all the egrets, Squacco Herons, our first Purple Herons and exceptional numbers of Black Herons – 80 or more and some doing that distinctive fishing using their wings as umbrella shades. Other great birds were a good assortment of waterfowl including first White-faced Whistling Ducks; resident and wintering shorebirds – Black-winged Stilt, Marsh Sandpiper, Little Stint, loads of Collared Pratincoles, Water Thick-knees, Long-toed, Blacksmith and Spur-winged Plovers and African Jacanas. European Bee-eaters were much in evidence, with several trees out on the water’s edge acting as staging posts for hawking groups going back and forth.Best find for me however were a trio of African Swamphens – a first for this tour, having only come across them on the extensions into Mkomazi in the past. Of course these rich wetlands were also full of Hippos staying cool and submerged in the heat of the day.
By lunch time we were at one of the regular picnic sites where, as often is the case, the bright Red-and-Yellow Barbets showed up in hopes of spilt crumbs. Here too were an unexpected Mocking Cliff Chat and a pair of Bearded Woodpeckers. Shortly after leaving the picnic spot in mid-afternoon we got word of a Leopard up ahead and went to take a brief look. It was another fine and unusual sighting here but there was a bit of a traffic jam, so as we’d seen such good Leopards previously on the tour we spent only a short while here before heading back towards the entrance. There seemed at times a little more bird activity by now, with Common Scimitarbill found, several Crowned Hornbills, and a lovely called-in African Black-headed Oriole. The heat was getting to some of us and we decided that the Serena Lodge pool and bar might be a good aim by about 5pm! Thus we wended our way back into the thicker forest, continuing to try in vain for the wretched turaco, but at least finding the big hornbill. I asked for a quick diversion back to the Collared Palm Thrush site and this time we got the bird, though it was a long hard slog trying to get everyone (myself included) onto it.
We were at the lodge by 5.10pm, so not too late, and with plenty of time for showers, cold beers, a swim for some and relaxing generally before a very pleasant dinner. Some of us supping our beers managed to find a first White-headed Barbet – the last good bird of a very good day with many species added to the list.
March 1st. To Tarangire National Park: There was some optional early morning birding after a 6.30am breakfast. We just wandered the grounds out to the Jogging Trails that included some more natural looking acacia scrub and found a nice array of birds including several unusual or new speciesfor our tour list. We noted first Southern Citrils and Spot-flanked Barbet, a lovely group of African Green Pigeons and a Red-headed Weaver. Tim spotted an Eastern Nicator singing loudly, and luckily seen by us all briefly – a first ever for this tour.
At about 8.30am we set off from this lovely lodge, driving back down the steep Rift Valley road, pausing at the entrance to the National Park to enjoy the spectacle of masses of Yellow-billed Storks and Pink-backed Pelicans adorning the trees all around. The excellent, smooth, paved roads sped us along towards Tarangire with time to stop at some fairly ordinary roadside open acacia scrub where I’d seen some special birds on my last tour 15 months ago. Luckily Moses knew the general area and we had a fruitful meander over this bare stony ground for about 45 minutes, Martin trying hard to find us our targets. These were Rosy-patched Shrike, seen very well in full view atop a tree through the scope in bright sunlit conditions – but only at the very end after a lot of searching. More quickly came an unexpected bonus in the form of White-browed Sparrow-weaver, seen only once before on this tour. I found target number two; African Bare-eyed Thrush and we all had reasonable looks at that, but we couldn’t find number 3 – Grey Wren-Warbler, despite lots of playback. A further bonus here was our first Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird and a called in Red-chested Cuckoo, though the latter was very flighty. We were accompanied part of the time by a local Maasai in full traditional clothing and a mobile phone (which is also becoming a traditional piece of kit for them nowadays). He seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing, fascinated by our binoculars and scope and OK that we were there traipsing over “his” land.
The roads in this part of Tanzania are now very good, so no longer do we spend hours on rutted dusty tracks between the National Parks, but slip speedily between destinations. We were at the entrance to Tarangire National Park by about 12 noon after stopping to watch the largest gathering of vultures (all White-backed and Rueppell’s Griffons) that we’d seen on the whole trip so far. Sadly, these were feeding on a dump of cattle carcasses, presumably dead due to the extended drought conditions experienced here (the whole area still seems very dry). We took a little time to stroll about at the entrance to the Park while Moses and Vincent did the paperwork. Apart from the first abundant flush of brilliantly colourful Yellow-Collared Lovebirds and a few Mottled Spinetails around the first of the huge Baobabs, there was not much doing.
We got to the Tarangire Safari Lodge, close to the entrance by about 12.45pm and had a good buffet lunch. There was no further great rush, so we had time for a coffee and a short break before wandering out to the fine viewpoint overlooking the TarangireRiver below, where a few elephants were drinking. Tim had a couple of White-headed Vultures – the first of the tour and seemingly becoming increasingly scarce year-on -year. On the way, we were guided to a lovely little roosting African Scops-owl by one of the local staff who seems to remember me each time I visit and who knows where to find these birds each day – all very useful and a quick-fix for us.
Then it was time to head on the final run to TarangireSopa Lodge, game-viewing as we went, but not aiming to stay out too late this afternoon. Despite that good intention we deviated almost as soon as we were in the landcruisers, as we went off to find a lone Cheetah, watched doing nothing much, but enjoying laying in long grass in the shade of a large tree. The habitats here reflect a drier region subject to seasonal rains and drought. Thornbush is studded with giant Baobab trees, which are useful stores of moisture for the large Elephant herds in drier times and whose gargantuan trunks are scarred through generations of gouging by Elephant tusks. Running through the Park’scentre is the Tarangire River with wide grassy palm-dotted flood plains. Our main interest this afternoon was viewing our first large Elephant groups and we were not disappointed. By the end of the day we’d counted a total of about 135 including our first very young animals. A few additional birds were seen along the way – Yellow-necked and Crested Francolins, Great Spotted Cuckoo, many endemic Ashy Starlings and White-bellied Go-away-birds, but nothing too different.
We arrived at the Sopa Lodge by about 4.30pm ahead of any other groups coming in today, giving me a chance to request that we be given the “nicer” rooms, rather than the dungeon-like ones beneath reception. This done, we took a short afternoon tea break and had a brief ramble about the grounds until 6pm, finding Red-necked Spurfowl, a pair of Grey Kestrels perched on the tall communications pylon and a few noisy Brown (Meyer’s) Parrots. We reconvened on the bar terrace at dusk and eventually, successful called in Freckled Nightjar, and were entertained by Val singing her “Ode to Tim Cleeves” before doing the log and getting to supper. It was a delight to see Lilian waiting at the tables again, but sad to hear of her current woes later on in the evening. The staff seem to have it in their mind that I am to be given some sort of special treatment every time I stay here these days and did the big sing-song bit and presented me with a “Thank-you and welcome back” cake at supper.
March 2nd .Tarangire National Park:There was no pre-breakfast birding this morning – just an early breakfast at 6.30am then out for a game-drive at 7.15am. It was cool to start, hot later, dry and quite a good variety of wildlife noted. Our goal, as usual on this day of the itinerary was to run alongside the edge of Silale Swamp, but there was plenty to see and do on our journey there. Large numbers of Black-faced Sandgrouse were out on the open, sparse, grassy floodplains of the river as we motored along. Red-necked, Yellow-necked and Hildebrandt’s Francolins were all pecking away feeding and showing very well in lovely morning light. Vincent’s vehicle scored a few Orange-bellied Parrots and it was a decent morning for raptors with a lovely pair of Bateleurs perched up first, then Wahlberg’s Eagle, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagles, Eurasian & African Marsh Harriers, Montagu’s Harrier, Common Buzzard and tiny Pygmy Falcon. Martin alerted us to our first Northern Pied Babblers which called in quite nicely. A small flock of Red-billed Queleas stopped to feed and we also notched up first Long-tailed Fiscals which were quite common out here. A stop to watch on the bridge over the Tarangire River provided Moses’s vehicle with an only sighting of Black Stork and where we all enjoyed 4 large NileMonitor Lizards lurking at the water’s edge. All the way out (and back) we were of course encountering groups of Elephants – a total of about 80 this morning. One encounter was extremely close as they crossed our path and fed just feet from the vehicles, making full-frame photos of an elephant’s eye a reality!
At the Silale Swamp there was plenty of water and a correspondingly good range of waterbirds. African Openbills in small groups along with Sacred Ibis, White-faced Whistling Ducks and other more usual stuff, plus a few, what I consider good finds – single White-backed Duck and Rufous-bellied Heron in particular. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were everywhere. Moses’s vehicle had brief views of a fast-vanishing Serval hunting in the long emergent swamp vegetation, but the rest of us couldn’t re-locate it. Ian found us a snake – just a thin, bright green one, about 18 inches long – but it could have been a baby Mamba for all we knew. We were especially cautious as it was on the roof of the landcruiser, presumably having been brushed off an overhanging branch as we drove along. It was lucky that it had not fallen into the vehicle itself. I managed to gently flick it off the roof onto the bonnet, where it then disappeared under the engine cover – I hope it got away safely.
We were back at the Lodge to meet up with Ann (who’d taken a more leisurely approach to the morning) for a far too big buffet lunch by the pool, with time thereafter for a break in the heat of the day until 4pm, when we headed out again into the huge areas of Tarangire.
The idea for the afternoon was to take a gentle drive out in search of nothing in particular. That soon changed when Moses and Vincent got word of a pack of African Wild Dogs that had just been located near to SilaleSwamp, where we’d been in the morning. It took no persuasion on their part for us to agree to go as fast as possible to the area to see if they might be still visible. I’d never seen Wild dog in Tanzania in all the 25+ visits I’d made, and had made a special safari to Botswana a few years back just to see them, so I was especially excited. We zoomed along and after about 35 minutes arrived at a point along the edge of the swamp where the bushes and grass fizzled out. Luckily there were two other landcruisers parked up, which homed us in on the exact spot where we could pick out the occasional flick of a very large, rounded ear – the dogs were there! The other vehicles left and we were the only people in Tarangire privy to this extraordinarily special event. But we had to exercise a fair amount of patience – about 45 minutes in fact, as we waited, seeing virtually nothing, but watching the area of thick grass that we knew them to be laying in. Moses, Vincent and Martin all seemed as excited as we were, and all agreed that this was an extremely rare and lucky observation. By an amazing stroke of luck as we kept vigil, a Leopard Tortoise hove slowly into view and bumbled right past the resting dogs – what an absurd bit of serendipity. They all jumped up and curiously watched it, prodded and played with it, giving us a first fantastic view of many of the pack, with all their varied and intricate black, white and tan patterning. They took a further rest, got up played a little and rested again. But as predicted by Vincent and Moses, they became much more active as the cool of the evening fell – a time they traditionally set off hunting. Before we knew it they were all up and following one another along the way we were going to be heading back to the lodge. We followed at a discreet distance. They fanned out a bit, some going off more quickly, others in a tighter group. They came right by us and crossed the road, fairly unconcerned by our presence – absolute magic! They eventually worked their way off into the bush as we remained on the track and had to go fast back to the lodge to arrive a little after 7pm. After they had departed we were treated to a pass-by of an enormous heard of Cape Buffalo, sauntering along to a place to feed and sleep tonight, kicking up the dust in the sunset. The day had been pretty good before the Wild Dogs showed up; with them it must surely be a lasting memory?
March 3rd. Return to Arusha:A bit of optional early birding in the grounds continued to produce additional species. I heard the distinctive melancholy notes of a Grey-headed Bush-shrike and called it in very close – great looks even for the security/night-watchman with us. Mike caught up with Orange-bellied Parrot, albeit a more drab female – but still a “tick”! Also female was a fairly confiding Mocking Cliff-chat, still quite colourful in its own way. From the lodge verandah I spotted probably the same Wahlberg’s Eagle that was in the same tree nesting 15 months back. With everybody breakfasted, paid up, luggage loaded and keys in, we set off towards the exit/entrance gate with a little time for a few stops and deviations on the way. We called in to Mpingo Picnic Site – newly opened and where another birder had reported a few goodies just days back. We didn’t see any of the reported Verreaux’s Eagles, but came across a massive immature Martial Eagle and called in a first Lesser Honeyguide. A couple of the river circuits provided another grand pair of Saddle-billed Storks and some wonderful, final looks at many Elephants, some mud-wallowing and getting themselves into all sorts of odd poses as the kneeled, lazed side-ways, splashed in the liquid mud and then used the whole thing as a toilet!
We were at the exit to Tarangire National Park by about 11.15am, where we stretched legs and used the facilities before heading off directly to Arusha and a lunch stop at the Cultural Heritage Centre. The journey took us through some still very dry country, arriving at lunch by about 1.35pm. The Cultural Heritage Centre offers great opportunities for shopping – everything from inexpensive souvenirs to fine works of art. The Art Gallery, designed as a small version of the Guggenheim held even more amazing historical, cultural artefacts this time and is now built up to be one of the major exhibits on the continent of African artefacts as well as modern African painting. We were done here by about 3pm and drove through Arusha to NgareSero Lodge, the journey made slower by major roadwork improvements, but at least it gave everyone a chance to see the other side of everyday life for more urban Tanzanians. The approach to the lodge can be perplexing and worrying! Winding up narrow, very rough back alleys into the middle of nowhere, before coming upon a really nice old colonial style lodge set in its own lush, mature grounds. After checking in we reconvened for afternoon tea on the terrace, complete with several very dandy Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys, then did a very short meander along the lake edge in the grounds where further and final birding treats for the day awaited us. African Black Ducks were flying up and down showing well and the very local Taveta Golden Weaver gave several stunning scope views. A White-eared Barbet was seen briefly by some, but the Giant Kingfisher was playing hard to get and wouldn’t show. After several days of hot dry weather we noted skies blackening, thunder in the air and a strong breeze building up with obvious storms threatening.
We reconvened at 7pm for the bird list in the pleasant lounge complete with an open log fire just in case we were cold! A very good supper was followed by a quick try to call in the African Wood Owl. Happily it did exactly the same as it did 15 months back and came silently in to a nearby tree allowing me to set the scope onit. After we’d all had decent looks at it (thanks to my recently rediscovered, erstwhile lost torch), we went back to the lounge, the owl now calling back its distinctive high-pitched hooting call.
March 4th. Arusha National Park:A short spell of birding just from standing in the centre of the lawns of the lodge before breakfast for half an hour was very rewarding for those up and about. The fairly persistent rain overnight had produced an emergence of winged termites and these were clearly attracting concentrations of feeding birds in the trees around including an African Black-headed Oriole and Red-headed Weaver amidst many Baglafecht Weavers and Common Bulbuls. Most unusual was a good number of White-eared Barbets – virtually flocks of them high in the canopy. Tim and Mike spotted a female Blackcap closer to hand and in far distant trees I noticed a lone Waller’s Starling and African Green Pigeon. A pair of Crowned Hornbills came through the garden, but whether they were intent on feeding on termites is debatable.
After breakfast we were away for the day into Arusha National Park, minus Ann who was enjoying a free day around this very pleasant, smaller and more personalised lodge. There is now a paved road right up to the entrance of Arusha National Park making things much smoother and quicker. Dominated by rugged Mt. Meru (14,979 ft.), this small jewel of a park is just 55 sq. miles in area, but well worth a visit and very diverse. While Vincent grappled with the paperwork we stretched our legs and tried to call in Trilling Cisticola and Moustached Grass-Warbler; neither obliged. We did however get a good close look at 1-2 Mosque Swallows amongst the Red-rumped and Lesser Striped all gathering mud from puddles to make their nests. Tim found us a distinctive African Harrier-hawk. Once on our way it was a slow, stop/start affair trying to reach the higher forest levels of Mahogany, Fig, Cedar, and Wild Mango on the slopes of Mt. Meru at the Fig Tree Arch. There was plenty to distract us as we went, with Martin ahead to pick out some of the more obscure and tricky forest birds. In this mode we variously picked out Cabanis’sGreenbul, a Short-tailed (Forest) Batis for some – only the second time I’d encountered this species here. I was also pleased to be able to see well and convincingly pick out several Horus Swifts amongst the Littles – only possible in the right light and when the birds are low enough and slow enough to see well. Silvery-cheeked Hornbills put on a great show, but best bird en route up was Hartlaub’s Turaco, with three seen and watched well, their bright scarlet wings catching everyone’s eye. On the way we passed numerous Blue (Sykes’s) Monkeys and Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys and had some good looks at several unusually confiding, deep orangey-brown Harvey’s Duikers. Once at the Fig Tree Arch we got out and stood around and began doing some playback to bring a few of the forest skulkers in to view. Top of the “want list” was Bar-tailed Trogon and this popped in and sat about overhead giving great views really quite quickly. Luckily, a few other species came in with no such persuasion, such as BrownWoodland Warbler and Eastern Mountain Greenbul. We tried harder for White-starred Robin, but thanks to Martin’s sharp eyes and ears we ended up seeing one of these very dapper little birds very well towards the end of our stay here.
Our descent back to the Ranger’s Post for our picnic was a little quicker having more or less “mopped up” most of what was available in these lovely rich moss and epiphyte-covered forests with many strangler figs and a pleasant open forest floor. The front vehicle caught sight of a migrant Grey Wagtail – never common, but our main halt was to photo some very close and beautifully posed Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys. On closer inspection as photos were being snapped away, we noticed (and photographed) one very obviously adult male in a state of unabashed priapism, causing much hilarity amongst us all.
After our lunch we then headed over to the east of the Park for a totally different set of habitats and birds. Firstly we drove through open, dry savanna with scrub, passing some fine groups of Giraffes. Some of the bachelor groups were practicing their neck and head-swinging dominance sparring. Further mammal interest came in finding a very distinctive albino or leucisticOlive Baboon, seeming quite unaffected physically or socially by his odd colouration. (In fact we found another albino later – a mother with a healthy youngster, so obviously acommon trait in this population).
We began trying in earnest for the two LBJs called for but not seen earlier. The Moustached Grass Warbler showed up very quickly and extremely well, singing from a bush just feet from us and becoming Tim’s “Bird of the Trip”. The Trilling Cisticola played very hard to get – lots of playback when singing birds were heard, but nothing responding. Later on we called in a couple of birds very well, and by the end of the day found others singing within arms-reach atop bushes with no coercionat all on our part. In this drier bush country we had further/better views of the lovely White-fronted Bee-eater. We reached our other main goal out here – the Momella Soda Lakes and did the usual clockwise circumnavigation. The rains had filled the lake and made it much fresher, resulting in very few flamingos, but other birds were of interest and included the usual large numbers of wintering Ruff, resident Cape Teal and Southern Pochard a lone Pied Avocet and a first for this tour, found by Tim – a fine male Tufted Duck. The dry forest around the lake produced close looks at a pair of Hildebrandt’s Francolins.
By now it was mid-late afternoon and time to think about working our back towards the exit. One last regular halt was the freshwater marsh and lake of Longil, so, with little time and little else to find in the forested areas, we went on our way fairly speedily. Despite the rains, this lake was at a very low level and seemed quiet compared to some previous visits. However, we stopped and watched and waited for a decent while and pulled in some reasonable birds. Taveta Golden Weavers and Grosbeak Weavers were both present in small numbers. A few Hippos lingered in the margins, while Tim caught sight of a Eurasian Hobby zipping past causing mayhem amongst the hirundines feeding over the lake. The best find here though was a remarkable 4th Serval for the tour. It lay low for a long while, but with patience and close watching we managed some pleasant looks from a distance of this most beautiful of small cats as it wandered through the tall, lush grasses at the lake edge.
We were back at NgareSero Lodge by about 6pm, most folks turning in for the day after a very successful trip out. Mike, Alice and I popped down to the lake edge in the grounds to try again for the missing Giant Kingfisher. Still it wouldn’t show, but the activity from nest-building Taveta Golden and Grosbeak Weavers was much increased from yesterday – they seem to react quickly to the onset of rains. The “usuals” were all in place – African Black Ducks showing very well and a gorgeous pair of Grey Crowned Cranes calling their melancholy song from the top of a large lakeside tree. We wandered further downstream from the lake past the Heath-Robinson Hydro -electric set-up and on to the trout hatchery where further stretches of open water finally got us our target – a lovely Giant Kingfisher found by Mike just as it plunged into the water and came out with a decent sized crayfish.
March 5th. To the “Lark Plains” and on to Ndarakwai: We did a bit of pre-breakfast birding, just by standing on the lawns and watching the large and varied trees around. Again it was very pleasant, easy and productive. One easy to watch fairly bare tree seemed to provide a lot of interest with various goodies coming and going. A non-breeding male Amethyst Sunbird popped in briefly, while a couple of male and one femaleBlack Cuckoo-shrikes were new for us. Several African Black-headed Orioles came and went plus a few White-eared Barbets and a great look at a Black-throated Wattle-eye and Black-backed Puffback. We had to drag ourselves away for breakfast and then pack up and leave the lodge, which many thought was the nicest place for accommodation on the tour. We wended our way down to the main road at Usa River then back through Arusha to turn north on the Namanga road towards the Kenya border. Fromhere it was a fairly short distance by paved road to the turn off to the so-called “Lark Plains” made famous by the discovery of what is now a full endemic and extremely scarce species – Beesley’s Lark. This is possibly the rarest bird in East Africa with estimates of its population rarely going above a hundred individuals (the local Maasaiguides this morning quoting numbers as only 30+). The local Maasai are aware of this bird’s importance (and potential financial benefits!) and are encouraged to keep heavy grazing away from potential breeding areas. The “Beesley Boys” were there to meet us this morning, standing out on the vast, flat, short-grass plains. There is, a wide range of additional birds possible in this dry region of scrubby plains and as we walked out following them to where they had the birds staked out we encountered two other good lark species – Short-tailed and Somali (Athi)Short-toed Larks. We spent an hour or so here walking up to the Beesley’s Larks and getting some decent looks at this quite distinctive bird (for a lark at least) before heading off cross-country towards Ndarakwai.
It was still very dry out here and they clearly needed some rain to start grass growing, but it meant that it was possible for us to take the more remote back-road to Ndarakwai crossing through the Maasai steppe and scrub, all very hot and dusty. Rosy-patched Bush-Shrikes showed up on several occasions and Martin, in the lead vehicle stopped a couple of times having heard Grey Wren-Warbler and Red-faced Warbler. We managed to call both in and gain great looks at these birds that I rarely find on this tour. The whole area was a wild mix of acacia scrub and thorn-bush interspersed with euphorbia (a cactus look-alike) and Sansevera (sisal) along with large patches of barren, bare ground that the Maasai and others call home in widely scattered very simple bomas and settlements, predominantly livestock farming, but with a few cultivated fields of corn here and there. We found some shady acacias to stop under for our picnic lunch en route, then continued on the fairly short distance to Ndarakwai arriving by about 2.20pm. Along the way we encountered another very localised bird of this under-watched dry, semi-desert region – the Fischer’s Starling. We had a group of 6 – the first I’d seen on the main tour, having first come across them only 15 months ago further east in Mkomazi.
Once settled in to our secluded tents at Ndarakwai Lodge – a private land area bordering close to Amboseli National Park in Kenya, we had afternoon tea and coffee in the open dining area. While relaxing here Mike spotted a really spiffy Brown-breasted Barbet close by – stunning looks at this gorgeous bird without having to even get up from the sofas! I arranged a walk from about 3.30pm for about 1.5 hours to finish up at the Tree Platform overlooking a waterhole, where the staff would drive out with drinks for sundowners before our return to the lodge. Martin and an armed Ranger accompanied us who was keen-eyed and helpful in finding birds. It was a hot, sunny afternoon with a few further good birds found – particularly Red-fronted Tinkerbird, which completed the “full set” of possible barbets for the tour. We also came across some very confusing, heavily streaked pipits seemingly too large for Tree, too streaked for Grassland, but possibly not enough for Striped; later ID from photos may be required. The route took us on a bit of circuit, skirting our final destination, but we arrived exactly as planned as Caroline came along being given a ride with the drinks wagon. A pleasant break with beers and G &Ts followed until it was time to walk or ride back to the lodge for a shower, bird-list and supper by 7.30pm. The start of supper was interrupted by the appearance of a virtually hand-tame Greater Galago (Thick-tailed Bush-baby) taking fruit from a close-by feeding platform.
We took a night drive after supper at about 8.40pm until just gone 10pm, giving us the best/only chance on the tour to find a few nocturnal species. We all squeezed into one open vehicle and the driver and spot-lighter did a great job in locating for us a few classy additions to the mammal list. First was a bizarre Spring Hare, bouncing about like a kangaroo, then trying to disappear down a hole too small for it. Next was a good close look at a White-tailed Mongoose which had just caught some small hapless rodent and was chomping away unperturbed by the spotlight focussed on it. Last was a very attractive Common (Small-spotted) Genet seen working over the ground between scrubby bushes. A pair of huge Verreaux’s Eagle-owls were seen early on and a Slender-tailed Nightjar heard but not attracted in.
March 6th. Ndarakwai and Homeward:We did alittle bit of birding in the grounds of the Camp before a 7am breakfast, finding a pair of Purple Grenadiers. Thereafter we had a morning game drive within the Reserve/Ranch. Because of the continuing near-drought conditions in this part of Tanzania there was precious little wild game to be seen – a few lingering Giraffe and Zebra, a very fine bull Eland and plenty of sleek Impala and warty Warthogs. What there wereplenty of was, presumably trespassing,Maasai livestock. The goats and sheep looked OK, but the cattle were very skinny as they wandered across a dusty plain desperate for the onset of the long rains.
We had a few birds of interest, with good studies of a few raptors – Tawny Eagles in various plumages from blond to brunette, and some displaying. White-backed Vultures sparring in mid-air and looking exceptionally pale. Black-breasted Snake Eagle came by and we found our first (and only) Lanner Falcon perched in a low tree. Fawn-coloured Larks and a range of Isabelline/Rufous-tailed Shrikes and Wheatears seemed to be thriving in this arid scene. The tracks around were very bumpy, the whole area being strewn with lumps of volcanic rock, but the obligatory accompanying Ranger guided us through. It was turning into another hot and very sunny day, with the rather uninspiring and anticlimactic flat top of Mt. Kilimnjaro showing itself at times. We returned to the Camp at about 11am – earlier than planned, but giving time for a coffee break, which nobody seemed to object to.
Our lunch at Ndarakwai was on time at 12.30pm and after group photos, taken by the staff, of us all including drivers and bird guide, we started out towards Kilimanjaro airport. The first section of the journey was through open acacia scrub, then open farmland where one stop was made when Martin in the lead vehicle found a few Cutthroats perched in a bush. Once on the tarmac road we nipped along fairly well and were turning into the KIA lodge at the airport by about 3.30pm. Now it was time to say cheerio to our excellent driver-guides, Moses and Vincent and equally helpful and pleasant bird-guide Martin. They’d done a fantastic job for us and were all well rewarded with a good tip from us all.
There was time for some of us before re-packing, cleaning-up and changing into travel clothes, to do a bit of birding in the grounds. It was a hot sunny afternoon and the place was alive with very active Variable Sunbirds. We checked out and found the Spotted Eagle-Owl roosting in the same tree as before, and at the Reception, one of the staff alerted us to a lovely close nightjar perched on a low horizontal branch. After much checking it was decided that it was a Plain Nightjar – new for this tour. Some of the group had snacks and relaxed while I had the chance to meet up with the owner of Tanzania birding, Anthony Raphael to catch up on news and sort out a few details for next year’s two short February tours. We were transferred to the very nearby airport at about 7pm and it was all fairly straightforward checking in and getting through the usual border formalities. The airport is still in a state of rebuilding/refurbishment, but the plane was on time and by 9.30pm we were aboard and heading off to Amsterdam via a stop-off in Dar.
March 7th. Home: We arrive into Amsterdam this morning with time for everyone to connect to onwards flights to the UK and USA, reaching home later in the day.
In Comclusion:This was my 25th tour of Tanzania’s “Northern Circuit”. I’ve enjoyed every one of them, and each time I visit it seems “special”. This one was no exception and in terms of pure statistics could be regarded as just about the best ever. We recorded 447 species of birds (2 of them heard only), which is the highest tally so far, the previous best being 431. We saw 6 species I’d never encountered on this itinerary previously – Tufted Duck, African Swamphen, Plain Nightjar, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator and Fischer’s Starling, bringing the cumulative total of species ever encountered on this tour to 622. We also found a good number of species that I’d only seen just 1 – 3 times previously. A few birds were missed – especially the breeding plumaged bishops, widowbirds and waxbills – presumably because of dry conditions in some areas. The mammal sightings were excellent! We did exceptionally well for numbers of sightings of all the cats; I’ve never before had 4 sightings of Serval, 5 of Leopard and 4 of Cheetah all on the one tour. More than that, it was particularly pleasing to see them “doing stuff” and not just lying down asleep. The amorous male Lion rushing back and forth between its prey and love interest, the Leopard sauntering down his tree and back up again after his toilet and the Cheetah with four grown cubs feeding on fresh prey were all memorable. And then of course there was the utterly brilliant sighting of those African Wild Dogs – so scarce and unpredictable – so beautiful and something I’d been waiting 30 years to find in Tanzania. The weather had been very strange prior to our visit – perhaps signs of global warming causing seasons to go awry? Who knows? But it meant that the formerly more predictable Wildebeest migration was even less predictable this year. However, we did get a taste of this world-class spectacle on one day as we scanned across a huge open vista of short grass plains to see wildebeest dotted thickly over the entire area as far as the eye could see in a massive arc to the horizon.
Doing these tours on an independent basis allows me to only travel with people I like! This tour was especially good fun for me as I was travelling with good friends. That, combined with such good company in the form of our local bird guide Martin and driver/guides Moses and Vincent, made for a very happy and pleasant tour throughout. Martin was an enormous boost to the tour with his great ear for bird calls and his expert local knowledge. Moses and Vincent were accomplished drivers and excellent, keen-eyed spotters and knowledgeable of their wildlife. But they were also such good travelling companions – friendly, easy-going, helpful and thoughtful in all respects. Between them, Anthony Raphael & Tina who owns/runs Tanzania Birding and myself I think we managed to do another tour where the logistics went smoothly, the vehicles, accommodations and food were good and all went much as hoped and planned.
People in Bird’s Names: Having a bird (or other organism) named after you occurred mostly in the great period of explorations between the 18th and 19th centuries. It happened either because you went out and found it yourself, or you gave the name to your scientific colleague, financial sponsor, mentor, wife, friend (probably in that order). Here are brief details of some we came across in the common and scientific names of birds seen:
Abdim(1780 – 1827) was a Turkish governor of Dongola in Sudan who assisted Rueppell on his expeditions. The type specimen of the Stork named for him was collected in Sudan in 1823.
Amelia was the wife of French explorer Marquis Leone De Tarragon who visited South Africa from 1840-41 and dedicated his wife’s name in the scientific binomial of the Rosy-throated Longclaw.
BeesleyIt is odd that this most recent ofspecies named for a person is one I can find little about other than a John Beesley, whorecognised this lark as “new” in 1965. Who he is, where he is, or what he does is still to be discovered!
Blanchoti(born in 1790) was the French Governor of Senegal. Why he was commemorated in the scientific namne of the Grey-headed Bushshrike is not clear.
Boehm (1854 – 1884) was a German traveler and zoologist working in Zaire and Tanzania before his early death from Malaria. He is remembered in the scientific name of the Banded Parisoma amongst others.
Buchanan (1886 – 1954) was Captain Angus, a Scottish explorer who is commemorated in the scientific name of the Southern Grosbeak Canary.
Bullock (1773 – 1849) was a British adventurer and amateur naturalist and goldsmith. He once had a travelling museum of 3,000 skins and 32,000 “curiosities”. He travelled mostly in Central America, but is remembered in Africa by the scientific name of White-fronted Bee-eater.
Burton (1821 – 1890) was Sir Richard Francis, a British explorer and author (Kama Sutra, The Perfumed Garden and Arabian Nights!) who is remembered in the scientific name of the Thick-billed Seedeater. He travelled in disguise to Mecca and is the Burton famed for searching for the source of the Nile with Speke.
Cabanis(1816 – 1906) was the most influential European ornithologist of his day. He never visited Africa, but many collectors sent him specimens to the Berlin Museum where he was curator. His son-in-law was Reichenowwho named the bunting after him. He is also commemorated in the scientific name of the Long-tailed Fiscal.
D’Arnaud(19th century) was a French explorer and big-game hunter in Africa, who looked for the source of the White Nile. Others obviously thought highly of him as they gave his name to the Barbet and the scientific binomial of the Grey-headed Social-weaver.
Dinemelli Was a collector in Ethiopia in the 1840s, but whom little is known other than that his name is commemorated in the scientific name of White-headed Buffalo-weaver.
EminBey (1840 – 1892) was the adopted name of Eduard Schnitzler a German administrator in the Ottoman service in Egyptian Sudan. He later changed his named again to Emin Pasha (a higher status and title than Bey!). He was an amateur collector and his name is remembered in the scientific name of the Chestnut Sparrow. He lived an exciting and colourful life, abolishing slavery in his area of jurisdiction, but was, ironically, beheaded by slave traders near Lake Tanganyika.
Fischer (1848-86) (Gustav – not the other Fischer who had Spectacled Eider named after him) explored East and Central Africa for 10 years until he died of fever back in Germany. He was buddies withReichenow who named 6 species after him – both common and scientific.
Foss was a 19th century German collector in the Gabon who has the scientific name of Square-tailed Nightjar in his honour.
Fremantle – Major Guy Fremantle was a British Army officer in Somaliland in the late 1800s. Presumably collecting in his spare time, he was commemorated in the scientific name of the Short-tailed Lark.
Hartlaub(1814-1900) was a German academic and East African explorer, originally trained as a doctor. He also received and described large numbers of specimens from other explorers.
Heuglin(1824-76) was a German explorer of Central Africa who was strongly opposed to evolutionary theory, but the rest of his science was obviously up to muster and the courser was named after him as well as the scientific name of White-browed Robin-chat.
Hildebrandt(1847-81) was a German collector who travelled in East Africa, Comores and Madagascar – like most of the others exploring Africa at this time, he didn’t live long, but lives on in the Starling and Francolin to name but two.
Holub(1847-1902) was a Czech naturalist, trained as a physician. He travelled extensively in Africa and collected over 30,000 specimens. He died from Malaria after a disastrous second African expedition.
Hunter(1861-1934) was a big-game hunter (presumably British) who (presumably) collected for museums too – though whether he actually collected the cisticola named after him is not clear.
Jackson(1859-1929) was a “Sir” who was explorer, Governor/Administrator of various bits of the British Empire in Africa and keen amateur naturalist – the birds named for him were probably in his honour, rather than his own discoveries?
Jardine (1800 – 1874) was Sir William Jardine of Applegarth; a Scottish ornithologist owning a very fine private museum. He wrote numerous ornithological books and is remembered in the scientific name of Arrow-marked Babbler amongst many other species.
Kenrick was a British Army officer in Kenya, who, in 1894 collected the type specimen of the Starling in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania and presented it to the British Museum.
Kittlitz(1799-1874) Originally a Polish army officer, gave it all up to travel the world on wildlife expeditions. He made a major journey to the Americas and around the ring of fire in the Pacific. He did start an expedition in Africa with Rueppellbut had to abandon it in Egypt due to ill-health – but not before he collected and illustrated the plover that now bears his name.
Klaaswas Levaillant’sHottentot manservant for whom he named the cuckoo.
Leadbeater(1760 – 1837) was a British taxidermist and dealer in natural objects as well as a good ornithologist. He supplied famous naturalists such as Gould with specimens and, amongst others, has the scientific name of Southern Ground Hornbill named for him.
Levaillant (1753 – 1824) was a French traveler, explorer, collector and naturalist, born in Dutch Guiana, the son of a French Consul. Fascinated by birds from an early age he traveled in Africa (sponsored and for work) and sent over 2000 specimens to Temminck. He gave the common name of Bateleur to that species of raptor (French for a tight-rope walker who balances using a long pole – reminiscent of the wobbly way the bird flies) and it is also rumoured he may have “concocted” species from bits of other specimens.
Meyer(1767-1836) was a German physician with an interest in ornithology. He never went to Africa, so it is not clear how/why the parrot was named after him. (Not to be confused with A B Meyer who travelled extensively in S E Asia).
Montagu(1753-1815) was an apparently eccentric British aristocrat, court-marshaled from the services, living with mistresses and squandering fortunes. His studies of birds were purely within Britain and he was the first to describe the Harrier now named for him. He died of tetanus after treading on a rusty nail.
Narina –the trogon was named by Stephens in 1815 after a beautiful Hottentot girl who was probably Levaillant’s mistress. The name means “flower” in the Hottentot language.
Naumann (1744 – 1826) was a German farmer and amateur naturalist. His son Johann (1780 – 1857) was regarded as a founder of scientific ornithology in Europe, but it is the elder of the two whose name is remembered in the scientific name of Lesser Kestrel.
Pelzeln(1825 – 1891) was an Austrian ornithologist in charge of the bird section of the Imperial Museum in Vienna for 40 years. He apparently didn’t travel, but received specimens from all over the world and described them. Apart from numerous S. American species named for him he is commemorated in the scientific name of the Slender-billed Weaver.
Reichenow (1847 – 1941) was the German son-in-law of Cabanis who dominated German ornithology for many years and a leading expert on African birds. He has a long list of species named for him including the Seedeater we saw and the scientific name of Golden-winged Sunbird. He wrote many books on African ornithology, but only visited Africa once – which probably accounts for his great age!
Rueppell(1794-1884) was a German collector who made two long expeditions to east and north Africa. He has numerous birds and mammals named for him in both common and scientific names. AbdimBey helped him in Egypt and got a stork named after him as thanks.
Schalow(1852-1925) was a German banker and amateur ornithologist who worked with Cabanis and Reichenow, but possibly never travelled in Africa, though had a turaco and wheatear named for him.
Sharpe (1847 – 1909) was a British zoologist working at the British Museum. With a particular interest in classification and phylogeny he described over 200 bird species. He was a prolific writer and founded the British Ornithologist’s Club in 1892. He has many species named for him including the Starling we saw and the scientific name of Black-lored Babbler.
Smith (1797 – 1872) was Dr. Sir Andrew Smith who was a ship’s surgeon and Director of Medical Services in Crimea. He was also a scrupulously accurate zoologist who made several expeditions to Africa. Later he became a Member of Parliament and gave his collection to Edinburgh University. Two of the birds he has been commemorated in is the scientific name of Wire-tailed Swallow and African Broadbill, where the entire genus – Smithornis – was named for him.
Speke(1827-1864)is famous for proving that Lake Victoria was one of the Nile’s sources, though he was apparently more interested in big-game hunting. After surviving the trials and tribulations of exploring Africa, he died when his shotgun went off and killed him as he stumbled over a stile back in England. The Weaver (and the bay!) were both named after him.
Temminck(1778-1858) was a Dutch ornithologist, illustrator and collector, who seemingly didn’t go to Africa but just received large collections from others and studied them as a director of the Rijksmuseum. He has huge numbers of animals named for him.
Ussher(1836 – 80) was at various times Governor of the Gold Coast, Tobago and Consul-General in Borneo, sending specimens to the British Museum and writing numerous papers and books on African ornithology. Numerous species of fish, insects and other animals – not just the scientific name of the Mottled Spinetail – have been named after him.
Verreaux(1807-1873) was one of three French collector/naturalist brothers. The whole family traded in large numbers of specimens and were heavily involved in taxidermy. Their zeal for preserving specimens perhaps went a bit far with the stuffing a deceased local African chief who went on display in Barcelona!
Von Der Decken(1833-65) was a German explorer of Africa where he was killed by Somalis. He was the first European to climb Kilimanjaro.
Wahlberg (1810-1856) was a Swedish collector who explored southern Africa and was killed by an elephant near the Limpopo River.
Wallerwas an English naturalist collecting in East Africa in the late 1800s. Apart from having various animals named for him he was also a signatory when the Sultan of Zanzibar ceded his mainland territories to the British East Africa Company in 1888.
Woosnam(1880 – 1915) was a Game Ranger in East Africa. He didn’t live long, but got lucky by being remembered in the scientific name of the Trilling Cisticola.
Whyte (1834 – 1905) was a government naturalist in Nyasaland (now Malawi), where he collected extensively. The scientific name of Red-faced Crombec is given to him.
Woodford (1761 – 1835) was a Colonel in the British Army in Europe, probably fighting with distinction at Waterloo. He was also a collector who dealt in bird art. The scientific name of the Wood Owl is named for him.
Meanings of other bird names:
Vitelline relates to yolks of eggs – and the bright yellow colour. So Vitelline Masked Weaver simply refers to its bright yellow body colour.
Isabelline is a dingy yellowish-grey colour and possibly refers to the colour of dirty underwear! Apparently Isabella, daughter of Philip II didn’t change her underwear for 3 years while Ostend was being fought over – whether as a protest or because she didn’t have the option of washing is yet to be researched!
Books & Websites:
- The Book with all the fascinating information about large mammal behaviour that I had on tour is: Estes, Richard Despard. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. (Note: He has produced a “dumbed-down” version since, which, to my mind is nowhere near as good).
- This website is worth a look if you want to be amused by genuine, but humorous scientific names: http://www.curioustaxonomy.net/ I particularly like these found on the Etymology / Named after people page: Agathidiumbushi, A. cheneyi and A. rumsfeldi Miller and Wheeler, 2005 (slime mold beetles) Named after the U.S. president, vice president, and defence secretary.
The Checklist: In the following checklist of birds and other animals seen, an “x” in the column means seen but not counted. An “h” in a column means heard only. Numbers given are only very approximate.
“Cisticolas Forever” – Latest Clement’s Taxonomy: 45 species in bold
An African birder’s greatest prize,
Comes in one general shape and size.
Small and skulking and most elusive,
They chatter from bushes with calls abusive.
They’ve no feathers of blue, red or green,
A colourful cisticola would be obscene.
Most folks are blissfully unaware,
That the modest cisticola is even there.
Their interest fast turns to boredom,
Within minutes of the first time they saw them.
But the birding elite – the cognoscenti,
Crave to see these birds a-plenty.
“Siffling Cisticolas” may sound like a bad disease!
But “cisticologists” know they’re sure to please.
Being plain or streaky does not detract,
From the fun in finding the drab Black-backed.
The chunky Chubb’s, and Aberdare,
Both so obscure – are they really there?
StunningDorst’s, and fine Pale-crowned,
Lurk in thick cover where they’re seldom found.
Rarely seen, the exotic Chirping,
Makes a call like someone burping.
Bright Golden-headed and bold Carruther’s,
Look the same – just like twin brothers.
The endemic Madagascar andcuteRed-faced,
Stay low to the ground when being chased.
The dingy, skulking, obscure Red-Pate –
With this on your list, you’ll feel just great!
As for Desert, Socotra or raucous Winding:
There’s no greater pleasure than in their finding.
Finding the Tabora or the Levaillant’s
Will complete your list of daily wants.
High in the sky is the odd Wing-snapping
See one of these and there’ll be cheers and clapping.
Oh the fun of locating a lowly Wailing:
Yes -Cisticola enjoyment is never failing!
The dinky Churring and the fine Black-lored,
With such a choice we’re never bored.
Want a Boran, Ashy, Tiny or Stout?
Yes please -do bring the whole genus out.
The duettingHunter’s and Pectoral-patch,
Are my favorites of the batch.
WhileRufous, Piping and gorgeousTrilling,
Are without question the most thrilling.
Red-headed, Foxy and Slender-tailed?
– my joy in their presence has never failed!
Mere thoughts of Rock-loving and the Tana River,
Sets my very heart a-quiver.
Tinkling, Singing, Whistling, Croaking –
Seen enough? – you must be joking!
Is your knowledge of Cisticolasjust a smattering?
Unsure if you’ve just seen a Chattering?
Trying to decide if you’ve had a Bubbling
May become an irksome troubling.
And the challenge of all that ID battling,
May make you wish they were all just Rattling.
Don’t mix Cloud-scraping for the similarCloud,
Their identification will make you proud.
There’s no better satisfaction than finally fitting,
The correct call and features to a real, live Zitting.
See all 45 species and you’ll feel so clever,
That you’ll shout a heartfelt “Cisticolas Forever“!
The Silence of the Giraffe
The Giraffe is known for being tall
But did you ever hear one call?
Despite a neck that is 9 feet long
Did you ever hear one sing a song?
Wildebeests grunt and Hyenas laugh
But no sound comes from the poor Giraffe.
Elephants, Lions and lowly Jackals,
Have their trumpets, roars and cackles,
But though Giraffes are awfully cute
They will remain forever mute.
Tanzania Trip Reports
Northern Tanzania, Feb 2-18, 2016
Feb 1, 2016 – Amsterdam
We’re halfway there! To Tanzania that is… We had a fun day in Amsterdam before exhaustion set in early this afternoon. The bike paths around the airport were surprisingly birdy. Many Black-headed Gulls and Jackdaws, Great and Blue Tits, Pochards and Tufted Ducks, Gray Herons, Great Cormorants, Coots and Moorhens. We easily navigated the train system to the downtown Central Station where we walked ~30 min. to the Botanical Garden. Was not expecting trees full of Rose-ringed Parakeets! Many E. Blackbirds, E. Robin, E. Wood Pigeon, Treecreepers and Chaffinch. We were happy with our list of 25 species in a few hours of city birding. Many interesting little hole-in-the-wall restaurants of varied cuisines are packed into the funky architecture lining the maze of canals in the Center. We chose Lebanese. CitizenM hotel is quiet and comfy. Another 9hr flight to Arusha, TZ leaves in the morning.
Feb 2 – Arusha National Park
We’re Here! Had an excellent first day in Tanzania! An hour’s drive from Kilimanjaro Airport, we arrived at Korona House before midnight last night. Fisher’s Lovebirds, Scarlet-chested and Variable Sunbirds added flashes of bright colors to the hotel grounds before breakfast. Shortly after breakfast we met our guide Anthony and driver Gietan and the four of us headed out for the day in Arusha National Park. It was exciting to see our first Zebra, Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Warthog, Bushbuck, Waterbuck and Olive Baboons on the savannah at the base of the park’s 4500 meter Mt. Meru. A large troop of Black and White Colobus Monkey accompanied by several Blue Monkeys were seen in the mountain forest along with a pair of secretive Red Duiker. Our introduction to African wildlife also included 70 species of birds, but the highlight of the day was watching a Serval hunt for rodents in tall grass. Listening with its over-sized ears to pinpoint the exact location of its prey, the cat leaps above the grass, coming down front feet first, pinning its unsuspecting prey to the ground. The trip is off to a great start!
Feb 3 – Tarangire National Park
We started off the morning with a sharp looking pair of Black Bishops from the Arusha House balcony before breakfast. Arusha is a busy place. Once we got out of the congestion of the city, I think we added about thirty species to our list during the two and a half hour drive to Tarangire National Park. One particularly notable sighting was a guy on a motorcycle zipping in and out of traffic, balancing a large stack of cardboard on his head while talking on a cell phone! Incredibly striking, vivid scarlet and black Black-winged Bishops popping in and out of the vegetation along the highway was more the type of highlight we were looking for! Elephants and herds of Impala gathered along the Tarangire River cutting through the Baobab Tree-covered hills rolling out for miles in front of us is the iconic African view from our bungalow for the next two nights. White-rumped Shrikes, White-headed Buffalo Weavers, Ashy Starlings and Red-billed Hornbills are abundant along the paths here. Most of the eighty species encountered at the lodge and on our afternoon game drive were new for the trip. While stopped for an approaching White-bellied Bustard that eventually walked within feet of our vehicle, four Double-banded Coursers flew in, landing next to the truck, a Lialac-breasted Rollers perched in a nearby Rufous-tailed Weaver nest tree and an Elephant walked within 30 yards of us. A beautiful little Green-winged Pytilia perching nicely for us was one from Laura’s most wanted list. Hard to believe we’re here!
Feb 4 – Tarangire Day Two
Red-chested Cuckoo‘s sing “it will rain, it will rain!” El Niño is to blame for the excessive rains here recently. Muddy roads and full rivers have caused us to take a few detours in the park. We awoke to a booming clap of thunder early this morning, but so far no rain has fallen directly on us. Hopefully this trend will continue. Trilling, Winding, Rattling and Zitting Cisticolas all look nearly identical – little brown jobs. But they can easily be identified by voice. It’s going to take more time than we have here in TZ to learn the calls of over a dozen that we could encounter on this trip! We’ve had good luck with small owls so far. An African Scops-Owl has been roosting during the day above the porch of tent 31 a few doors down. Two Pearl-spotted Owlets and two Southern White-faced Owls were seen on our game drives today. We ran into a Giraffe research team today. One of its members graduated from Oregon State University! Small World! The demographic study of the declining species is now in its fifth year. They have software that can identify individuals by their patterns like fingerprints and have about 4000 individuals in their database. They are working with local communities to secure important corridors between parks in Northern Tanzania. Baby Warthogs, Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, and Dik Diks are all pretty adorable.
Feb 5 – Long Drive
African Black-headed Orioles singing near our bungalow this morning were a new species for the trip. Minutes later we were fooled by a Slate-colored Boubou with a spot-on Oriole impersonation! Driving west after an early morning game drive, we climbed over the Great Rift Valley West Escarpment onto the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. A Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, much larger than the Red-billed, Von der Decken’s and African Gray Hornbills that we have been seeing, flew through the campgrounds at our lunch stop near Lake Manyara National Park. African Pied Wagtails bobbed over the lawn during lunch while African Palm Swifts jetted by overhead.
It’s hard to imagine Elephants inhabiting dense vegetation on the very steep, rugged slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater Rim, but they are here. Looking down into the one-hundred-square-mile crater floor from the rim, herds of Wildebeest, Hippopotamus and Elephants look like specs. The Masai people, always dressed in bright colors, usually red, graze their cattle alongside the herds of wild animals throughout the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Wildebeest as far as the eye can see in every direction was the scene for dozens of miles as we made our way along a two track dirt path to Ndutu Safari Lodge in the Northwest corner of the Conservation Area. Thompson’s Gazelles, Grant’s Gazelles, Zebra, a couple dozen Ostrich and a pride of a dozen sleepy Lions also joined the Wildebeest migration spectacle. As we approached the lodge, a Zebra kill was being cleaned up by dozen squabbling White-backed Vultures, two enormous Lappet-faced Vultures, a Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture, Steppe and Tawny Eagles. At dinner several sleek, cat-like Common Genet patrolled the rafters in the dining area. This is gonna be good!
Feb 6 – Big Cats and Wildebeest
Ndutu is well known for its big cats. Two-million plus Wildebeest on their annual migration though the area this time of year attracts predators. Lions are pretty lazy during the day. Two full-maned males and two lioness were seen loafing in acacia tree shade this morning. They are quite impressive beasts even when barely moving. One of three Cheetah sightings provided us with a little action, briefly chasing a pair of Thompson’s Gazelle not far from our vehicle.
It took over an hour for several hundred thousand Wildebeest to cross two hundred yards of a shallow arm of Lake Ndutu in front of us this afternoon! Sometimes crossing at a leisurely pace, sometimes in a panic, this was an unbelievably awesome spectacle!
No fence around the lodge allowed hundreds of Wildebeest and Zebra to graze their way across the grounds, yards from our front door this afternoon!
Feb 7 – Ndutu Day Two
A brief shower made the dirt roads in the park slick as snot this morning. Anthony warned us that we have about a 99% chance of getting stuck if it rains. Today, we beat the odds. Cloud cover and cooler temperatures, low to mid-seventies, prompted a little more Lion activity this morning. Five minutes into our morning drive we encountered a pride of two Lioness and seven cubs feeding on a Wildebeest kill. Having had their fill by the time we arrived, the adults were ready for a cat nap, but the Cubs were still feeling rambunctious.
Other highlights of the morning were a stately pair of Secretary Birds, marching across the savannah on stilt-like legs, immobilizing their prey by bashing it into the ground with rapid strikes from their club-like feet, foraged near our vehicle. Five Bat-eared Fox winding their way down a grassy hillside, eventually passing nearby were the mammal sighting highlight of the morning. Anthony sees them an average of once every ten trips. Two impressive male Lions in the company of a single lioness attracted the attention of many Safari vehicles. One of the large males showed his appreciation of the crowd by backing up and peeing Our first Spotted Hyena of the trip was seen this morning, though we heard their whooping calls on our first night here. Making our way back through the acacia woodland to the lodge for lunch, a single female Cheetah feeding on a Thompson’s Gazelle was encountered, her belly so full it appeared difficult to stand! Laura had asked if there were any Chameleons around the grounds on the day we arrived. One of the staff found a Flap-necked Chameleon and brought it to us at lunch today.
Morning drives are for cats, afternoon drives are for the birds. This afternoon we saw some good ones! We had stunning looks at a group of five Heuglin’s Coursers! Great-spotted Cuckoo, a jet black Abyssinian Scimitarbill with a long, bright orange decurved bill, Pin-tailed and Steel-blue Whydahs both with impossibly long tail streamers, a flock of thirty Yellow-throated Sandgrouse and Golden-tailed Woodpecker were a few of the highlights of the afternoon.
Feb 8 – Marshland and Endless Plains
No internet the last couple days….
Three Bat-eared Fox were out in the same area as yesterday again this morning. There must be a den nearby. Six White-bellied Bustards in the same field of view as the fox was an additional bonus! Three Cheetah were also seen on the move this morning. Two of them were hanging out in the Ndutu Marsh area. Several Egyptian Goose families with half grow chicks seemed like might make tasty Cheetah snacks, but apparently only the Jackals try for the geese, usually ending up with only flamingos. A gorgeous pair of Gray Crowned-Cranes were possibly nesting in the marsh. Black-winged Stilts, Blacksmith and Crowned Lapwings, Kittlitz’s, Common Ringed and Three-banded Plovers, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Ruff, Common Snipe, Double-banded Courser, Collared Pratincole and White-winged Terns were all in attendance. Also a single yellow-legged peep with the abundant Little Stints turned out to be a Temminck’s Stint! Rare in Northern Tanzania.
Siringet is the Masai word for Endless Plains. The first Europeans to arrive got the translation wrong, but Serengeti is the spelling that was perpetuated. After lunch we headed Northwest into the Central Serengeti. Dozens of Harriers, mostly Montegue’s and a few Pallid, Tawny and Steppe Eagles, European Common, Lesser and Greater Kestrels with striking pearly-white eyes hunted over the plains. Rain has been falling over the plains so the grasses are tall, green and lush. A Cheetah perched on a grassy knoll overlooking the vast landscape was number eight for the trip! Four adult lions were having a mid-day siesta on top of a granite outcropping called a kopje. Another lion sleeping in a tree was an unusual sighting. Lions, like Grizzlies are not built for climbing trees! We passed about fifty Elephants, many Giraffe, Warthogs, Cape Buffalo and Impala on our trek across the plains.
We are staying in ridiculously over-the-top deluxe accommodations at the Serengeti Sopa Lodge for the next two nights. Our room has a spiral staircase leading up to the bedroom with a balcony overlooking the Serengeti. A Pearl-spotted Owlet was heard from the balcony just before sunset and a Freckled Nightjar heard calling just after dark. There are Hyenas calling from the plains below as I write. We might be too excited to sleep!
Feb 9 – Serengeti
Our Pearl-spotted Owlet was at our balcony to greet us at first light this morning. Topi are cool looking antelope, chestnut colored with chocolate brown shoulder and flank patches and S-shaped horns. We saw several of them as we headed out onto the Central Serengeti for the day. A family of a dozen Banded Mongoose hurried to the shelter of their termite mound burrows as we approached. We stopped for a pair of Black-backed Jackals trotting down the road towards us that eventually came within feet of our vehicle. Birding was excellent as we made our way across the plains towards a stand of Whistling Acacia, the preferred habitat of the rare and endangered East African endemic Karamojo Apalis. We easily found a pair of the small gray and white birds feeding a fledgling when we arrived at the spot. Very cool. Black-breasted and Brown Snake-Eagle, Martial and Tawny Eagles, Dark Chanting and Gabar Goshawks, African Fish-Eagle, loads of Montegu’s Harriers, Black-shouldered Kite, Eurasian Common, Lesser, Greater and Gray Kestrels made the list of Raptors seen today.
The grounds of the Serengeti Visitors Center where we stopped for lunch today was teaming with both Bush And Rock Hyrax and Pygmy Mongoose. A bright green Klaas’s Cuckoo, duetting pair of Usambiro Barbets and a dazzling Scarlet-chested Sunbird were the highlights of the stop.
Fifty Hippopotamus submerged to the tops of their backs and crammed tightly together in a muddy stream made a perfect platform for Black Crakes to forage insects from. As we approached a large Bull Elephant close to the road, Anthony told us to be very quite. He barely paused before going back to grazing when we rolled up beside him. Before long, another vehicle pulled in behind us. Apparently their driver did not issue the same instructions and the loud, excited voices coming from the rover were clearly agitating the massive bull. He began grumbling, shaking his head and stamping his feet towards the noise. It was an incredibly intimidating display. Everyone was relieved he decided not to charge! Two adult Lioness and three half-grown Cubs were seen lounging together in a large acacia tree late this afternoon.
The most unexpected bird of the day / trip was a Corncrake seen well and photographed as we finished the day on the plains.
Feb 10 – Leopard!
Red-headed Weavers were busy feeding their noisy chicks in the garden at the entrance to the Serengeti Sopa Lodge this morning. Both parents carrying food into the pendulous nest through the hanging cylindrical entrance. Most of the Baboon troops we’ve seen have been on the ground. This morning a troop of thirty or so were high in the canopy of a tall Acacia Tree. A call came over the radio and after a half-hour bumpy ride, we arrived on the scene with about twenty other Land Cruisers to find a big spotted cat in a tree. Leopard! We watched for a few minutes before it jumped down out of the tree and wandered away through the tall grass. We’re happy to see the tall grass, which is great for wildlife, but can make it difficult to see what’s happening on the ground. Lucky for us, a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills decided to fly up into a tree! Black Coucaland Rosy-breasted Longclaw had also been concealed by the tall grass before this morning.
Displaying male Red-headed Agama lizards with crazy pinkish-red front halves and purplish-blue legs and back half, bobbed their heads and directed push-ups towards rival males while chasing female Agamas over the rocks during our lunch stop. An African Cuckoo showed uncharacteristic behavior by sitting out in the open while eating a caterpillar. Banded Parisomas are one of our favorite and most recognizable singers. Their attractive loud rolling and rattling song begins with a reeling fluid trill and continues chip-chit-wurr-chewy-chewy-chewy.
We left the plains this afternoon and climbed up into the cool and lush Ngorongoro Highlands of the crater rim. Winding our way up a steep, narrow dirt road through dense montane forest, we encountered our second Leopard of the day! It was a brief look as we rounded a corner and saw the cat jump from the road up into the forest and was gone. One other vehicle in front of us got an even better look, but it was still an awesome sighting, especially since the cat wasn’t being followed by the paparazzi. African Stonechats, Tropical Boubou, White-eyed Slaty Flycatchers, Mountain Greenbuls, Montane White-eyes andHildebrant’s Francolin on the lawn greeted us at the luxurious NgorongoroSopa Lodge where we’ll be staying the next two nights.
Feb 11 – Ngorongoro Crater
White-necked Ravens making various interesting vocalizations greeted us at fist light this morning outside our room. Cape Robin-chats and Streaky Seedeaters hopped along the stone walkway to the lodge. After breakfast we wound our way down from the crater rim through the lush, dense Montane Forest to spend the entire day on the Crater Floor. Bronze and Golden-winged Sunbirds were feeding in the flowering trees on the slope above the floor. Slate black Northern Anteater-Chats with flashy white wing patches perched on roadside rocks as we passed. Flocks of Western Yellow Wagtails fed on insects kicked up by the herds of Buffalo, Zebra and Wildebeest. Three Spotted Hyenas had a disagreement over who should get to chew on an old Buffalo skull. Eleven lions were passed out around a pond with a recent Wildebeest kill nearby. Displaying Kori Bustards with necks puffed up like huge balloons strutted and boomed across the grassland. Several Hippopotamus adults and babies grazing out of the water and many more mostly submerged were entertaining to see and hear. Dozens of Wildebeest nursing newborn calves were seen scattered across the plains. Most of the Elephants on the crater floor are old Bulls. These Big Tuskers are very impressive animals. Black Rhinoceros are critically endangered. The crater is one of the few places in Tanzania where they still exist. There are less than thirty left there. We saw five today. Sad.Ngorongoro Crater is spectacular like no place else on Earth.
Feb 12 – Highland Birding
Excellent morning bird walk at NgorongoroSopa Lodge turned up two emerald green Schalow’s Turacos with long pointed crests and bright rufous wing flashes that sat calling high in the canopy above the forest. Careful searching of the canopy also revealed a calling African Emerald Cuckoo, stunning metallic green with a bright yellow breast. African Green-Pigeons sat on an exposed branch too. Tacazze, Golden-winged and Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds flashed through the bushes like sparkling jewels. A colorful pair of Yellow-bellied Waxbills flitted through the roadside vegetation and a fierce looking Long-crested Eagle perched in the canopy shade on the rim road drive out. Emerald-spotted Wood Doves called from the forest while we watched a sharp looking Gray-capped Warbler constructing a nest in a vertical hanging vine.
We arrived at Gibbs Farm for lunch. Many acres of flowering plants around the shade-grown coffee plantation and vegetable gardens were hopping with birds. I could easily spend a whole day trying to photograph the seven different dazzling Sunbird species we saw feeding in the flowers. African Paradise and White-tailed Blue-Flycatchers were not hard to look at either. We watched a Holub’s Golden Weaver working on its tidy woven ball of a nest at the tip of a Banana leaf. Rueppell’s Robin-Chats, Black-backed Puffbacks, Lesser and Scaly-throated Honeyguides were a few other goodies seen this afternoon.
We’re staying at the Tloma Mountain Lodge tonight. Not much daylight left to bird once we arrived, but Red Bishops in the garden in the fading light and Montane Nightjars calling and flying overhead are good indications that this is our kind of place!
Feb 13 – Lark Plains
We’re getting familiar with a few calls and are able to recognize some of the more common species, but we often have no idea who’s voice it is that we’re hearing. Tracking down a unfamiliar variety of raucous crackling and nasal whining on our morning walk at Tloma Mountain Lodge, Laura and I were happy to find an Arrow-marked Babbler. It’s fun to find and identify a new species for the trip on our own. We thought we did recognize another unique voice and after seeing several brown and white, rufous-winged bullets zip through the coffee plantation forest, we finally got good looks at a perched Tamborine Dove. Schalow’s Wheatear is a Rift Valley endemic. Black with a brown cap, white belly and rufous under tail coverts, one was perched on a rocky hillside as we descended the West Rift Escarpment.
Beesley’s Lark is one of the most endangered birds in the world. The entire population of about forty, exists in an arid shortgrass plain in the rain shadow of Mt. Meru. After sifting through several Rufous-naped, Short-tailed, Red-capped and Foxy Larks, we found our target. A single Beesley’s Lark is most likely the rarest bird that Laura and I have ever seen. Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Red-faced Crombec, Green-backed Camaroptera, Black-throated Barbet, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Gray Wren-Warbler, White-bellied Canary and Yellow-spotted Petronia were some of the birds found in the dry thorn scrub adjacent to the Lark Plains.
We arrived at Arusha House with enough light to take a walk around the neighborhood before dark. It was pretty obvious that white people are not seen walking here very often. Everyone was super friendly. We enjoyed everyone waving and greeting us with the Swahili word for hello – “Jambo” One group of four boys riding donkeys, herding their goats and cattle, were
especially bold yelling “Take my photo!”, but we weren’t carrying our cameras. After stocking up on supplies for the second leg of the trip, we’re looking forward to heading to the mountain ranges East of here tomorrow.
Feb 14 – Eastern Arc Mountains
Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain dominated the landscape with its snow-capped peak as we drove east from Arusha this morning towards the Eastern Arc Mountains. Millions of white butterflies from a recent hatch filled the air like blowing confetti all day today. An Eastern Paradise-Whydah seemed to struggle to stay airborne, dragging around its impossibly long, bulky tail feathers. Aptly named Cut-throat Finches, Blue-napedMousebirdsand Purple Grenadier were seen in the thorn-scub habitat near Lake NyumbaYaMungu. Three Madagascar Bee-eaters were early intra-African migrants not expected in this area until April. Over a hundred African Black Skimmers took flight from a gravel bar on the lake when a fisherman rowed past. Great and Long-tailed Cormorants, Pink-backed Pelicans, Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets lined the shoreline while Pied Kingfishers hovered over the reservoir.
Lunch at the Elephant Hotel in Same (Sah-meh) town included Trumpeter Hornbills bugling from the canopy, Vervet Monkey troop aged from adult to nursing babies, Hadada Ibis probing the leaf litter, Pied Crows constantly calling, White Fish Fillet and Roasted Eggplant.
After twelve days of Safari in the Land Cruiser, it was great to get out for a walk this afternoon in the South Pare (Parry) Mountains. Black-headed Batis, cute little black and whites, black breast-banded male and rufous banded female hopped through the branches. Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrikepresent a bright flash of yellow-orange in the dry scrub forest. If Zanzibar SombreGreenbul were named after its song, it could have been named Vibrant Greenbul. Eastern Kenya Violet-backed Sunbirds glow with iridescent purple in the sun. Hunter’s Sunbirds, jet black with a long decurved bill and bright scarlet chest sang from exposed perches. Parrot-billed Sparrows, dark gray and brown with a white shoulder patch are not the flashiest, but a new species for the trip. A slightly different pattern separates Black-necked Weavers from other black and yellow weavers in the area. A small bird with a blue-black sheen and bright white bill would be Village Indigobird. Two frog species, one sounding like a tiny hammer striking an anvil, the other sounding something like a snore are singing us to sleep tonight.
Feb 15 – Mkomazi National Park
Mkomazi is a southern extension of West Tsavo National Park in Kenya. All of the big game exists in Mkomazi, but most have migrated north this time of year. Hunting before the reserve became a National Park a few years ago has left the animals here noticeably more skittish than the ones we’ve encountered in other parks recently. We did see a couple dozen Giraffe and a herd of Coke’s Hartebeest that were not curious about why we had stopped. A troop of a dozen Yellow (Savannah) Baboons, more slender and lanky than the Olive Baboons we had seen previously throughout the trip crossed the road in front of us. Bare-eyed Thrush were abundant near the park headquarters while Southern Black-Flycatchers regularly sallied out for flying insects from the surrounding trees. A flock of twenty-five European Bee-eaters in a single tree was an awesome sight, but four Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, elegantly long and slender maroon birds with turquoise-blue heads were even more stunning. Powder blue and chestnut European Rollers were abundant in the park, flashing bright blue wings in flight. A pair of Rosy-patched Bush-shrikesduetted from an exposed perch at the top of an Umbrella Acacia.Numerous Pin-tailed Whydah trailing ribbon-like tail streamers were seen hovering over selected females. A Long-crested Eagle, black with piercing gold eyes and long crest waving in the breeze scanned the ground below a bare snag for potential prey.
A couple roadside stops as we continued east towards the Usambara Mountains turned up a few more goodies this afternoon. African Open-billed Stork is a medium-sized black stork that has a bizarre bill specially adapted for its specific diet of snails and bivalves. The upper and lower mandibles are curved apart creating a gap when the bill is closed. A minuscule pair of Malachite Kingfishers, rufous and blue, one holding a small fish in its bright red bill, perched together in a tree near a stream. Zanzibar Red Bishops with incredibly vivid scarlet and black plumage were puffed up in courtship display for several nearby females. A Black-bellied Sunbird hovered and dipped into the water while African Silverbills, Crimson-rumped and Common Waxbills fed on the seeds of stream side grasses.
UsambaraGaligos (Bush Babies) were heard calling from the grounds at Mullers Lodge in the Usambara Mountains before dinner tonight. Traditional African Dancers and Drummers performed on the lodge lawn for after dinner entertainment!
Feb 16 – Magamba Forest Reserve
Angola Colobus Monkeys with long, flowing black and white fur and extremely long white-tipped tails were in the trees at the start of our walk in the Magamba Forest Reserve. It was tough birding in the dense vegetation of the Usambara Mountains. Laura, Anthony and I walked for five hours along a dirt road through the high elevation forest this morning. We worked hard for every skulker, eventually getting on most, but a couple remained heard only. A few of our targets that we did get looks at were UsambaraBoubou, UsambaraGreenbul, UsambaraDrongoandUsambara Double-banded Sunbird. AnUsambara Two-horned Chameleon moving slowly in the roadside vegetation also caught our attention. Green Barbet, MoustachedTinkerbird, Black-fronted Bushshrike, African Tailorbird, White-starred Robin and Black and White Mannikinswere also seen. An African Cuckoo-hawk passed through an opening in the forest for an all-too-brief look and an African Hawk-Eagle soaring overhead caused a frantic commotion from a flock of Silvery-cheeked Hornbills. Twenty of the thirty-two species seen this morning were new for the trip. Another Long-crested Eagle was perched in the sun close to the road on our way back to the lodge for lunch. We’ve seen several now, but it would take many more before we got tired of looking them.
In the Usambara Mountains it’s quality over quantity. Another couple hours in a different section of the Magamba Forest this afternoon turned up a few more super skulkers. Our hard won trophies for the afternoon were Short-tailed Batis, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, African Hill Babbler, Red-faced Crimson-wing and the grand prize of the afternoon was an incredibly secretive Spot-throat which took about thirty minutes of staring through the dense understory at the dark forest floor before getting a satisfactory look!
Feb 17 – Mkuzi Forest
Great Sparrowhawkaka Black Goshawk was the first new bird of the day as it flew over Mullers Lodge shortly after first light. Silvery-cheeked Hornbills calling from the ridge above the lodge eventually took flight and glided down the mountain side. A fruiting fig tree at the beginning of our morning walk in the upper Mkuzi Forest was busy with birds and kept us occupied for over an hour. Subtle differences in plumage and behavior between Yellow-streaked, Striped-cheeked and Shelley’s Greenbuls could eventually be appreciated. Usambara Thrush, very similar to American Robin in plumage and voice, fed on the ripe pea-sized figs. White-tailed Crested-Flycatchers flit around the canopy with fan-shaped tails spread. An East African endemic Hartlaub’s Turaco, green, blue and red glided into view, perching briefly before continuing out of sight. An incessantly calling Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, very near but hidden in the dense foliage, was eventually spotted for the prize bird of the morning.
Silvery-cheeked Hornbills again started off our last afternoon in the Usambaras with twenty or more birds descending the ridge line on the horizon as we walked a trail paralleling a stream through the lush forest of the lower Mkuzi Forest. Another close look at a Spot-throat was unexpected after struggling to see the bird yesterday. A nondescript Olive Sunbird was new for the trip and came in singing its musical tune for a close look. The Grand Finale of the day was a gorgeous pair of Bar-tailed Trogons perched in full view making occasional sallies over the stream to snatch caterpillars from hanging vines.
Mullers lodge is one of the few places where it was possible walk around the grounds after dark, but only until 11:00pm when the guard dogs were released. Spotlighting for Bush Babies, which we could hear but never did see, we found two not-so-cryptic Tree Frogs, bright orange with yellow spots. Probably wouldn’t want to eat them.
Feb 18 – Farewell to Africa
With just a little over an hour to bird before we have to start the drive back west to Arusha for our flight out tonight, we headed for the same productive Mkuzi Forest Fig Tree as yesterday. Hartlaub’s Turaco was the first bird seen as we stepped out of the Land Cruiser. Not a bad way to start the day! Many of the same birds were taking part in the fig feast plus an additional pair of Olive Woodpeckers hitching their way up the branches. A pair of White-browed Barbet perched on exposed limbs nearby along with a single Gray Cuckoo-Shrike. A Black Goshawk passing overhead caused widespread panic and sent everyone diving for cover!
Below the winding Usambara Mountain road, a rocky canyon stream cascades over large boulders. Dozens of African Golden-Weavers were busy building their intricately woven nests in the stream-side reeds. A pair of Mocking Cliff-Chats posed on the top of a tall cactus in the cliffs above the stream. A pair of Blue-spotted Wood-Doves landed in a branch above the road and a sharp looking Brown-breasted Barbet with red head and bulky, jagged beak posed on an exposed limb over the canyon. Rice paddies and Sisal plantations dominate the landscape at the base of the mountains. Zanzibar Red Bishops were seen perched on the roadside vegetation.
Greeted by a cacophony of Pied Crows and bugling Trumpeter Hornbills we arrived for lunch at the Elephant Lodge in Same (Sah-meh) Town. We walked through The thorn scrub at one last stop between Same and Arusha this afternoon adding the last few new birds for the trip. An adult Somali Golden-breasted Bunting was accompanied by a food begging juvenile. A pair of Somali Crombec were seen in a thorn bush. Nearly identical to and just as tail-less as the other two Crombec species seen on the trip. Range and subtle color difference are the best ways to separate the three species. Mouse-colored Penduline-Tit is a tiny, mouse-sized critter, at three inches long is one of the smallest birds in Africa and definitely the smallest bird seen by us on the trip. A surprising number of flowering plants in bloom attracted many scarlet-chested Hunter’s Sunbirds and warbler-like Kenya Violet-backed Sunbirds.
We’re now in the Kilimanjaro airport awaiting our flight out. Darn. It was an incredible adventure! We could have easily stayed another few weeks!
Bird Species Total: 434
Mammals : 48
BIRDING TRIP REPORT
By Mark Sutton
Mark, Linda and Brent Sutton, John and Janette
Martin, Pete Antrobus (AKA Tripod), Debbie Hough.
Our initial plans were to spend the first half
of the holiday in Kenya, with the second half in Northern Tanzania,
but due to terrorist threats the UK Government were advising against
travel to Kenya. As a result we could not get insurance cover for Kenya,
this combined with our personal safety concerns meant we changed our
plans to a purely Tanzanian trip at quite short notice. Fortunately
the airline, Emirates, allowed us to change our flights, the down side
being that we had to book new tickets through Emirates and wait for
ten weeks to get a refund on the original Kenyan flights. Quite an expensive
option, in the short term.
All the accommodation and transport, including
the internal flights, were arranged through Anthony Raphael of Birding
and Beyond Safaris, who I had used on my trip to Kenya two years previously.
I would certainly recommend Anthony from Birding and Beyond Safaris
to anybody considering a trip to E. Africa. Further details can be found
on the website: www.tanzaniabirding.com or e-mail email@example.com
We used a 4×4 Safari Minibus, with driver, throughout
our time in mainland Tanzania. A safari minibus, with its roof, which
can be raised, is ideal for game viewing, birding and photography in
the game parks. Our driver Arnold was very knowledgeable about the sites
visited, with a good knowledge of the mammals, but not birds. He was
extremely good company and looked after us very well. On Pemba Island
the Manta Reef Lodge provided a vehicle and driver.
No major health problems were encountered other
than a 24-hour stomach upset which I had. We all took Anti-malarial
precautions either in the form of Larium, Doxycycline or Malarone
Food was of a good standard, with packed lunches
being provided by the hotels / lodges on a number of occasions. In addition
Arnold usually came equipped with a flask of hot water, tea & coffee.
Generally dry throughout except for heavy thunderstorm
overnight in the Serengeti.
Books & Tapes
Trip reports: We obtained some information from
trip reports found on the Internet, but with the exception of the Serengeti
/ Ngorongoro area could found very little information on the areas we
Field Guides: Field Guide to
the Birds of East Africa – Terry Stephenson & John Fanshawe, published
by T& A D Poyser. The format of having the text and range map opposite
the illustration is very useful. but some of the illustrations were
not up to the standard you would expect from a modern field guide, as
they did not capture the true appearance of the bird.
Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania – Zimmerman,
Turner and Pearson published by Helm. A very good guide, I found the
text far more informative than the Poyser guide, in addition the maps
were more detailed. On the down side it only covered Northern Tanzania.
The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals
(Poyser) – very good.
Other Guides: Where to watch
birds in Africa – Nigel Wheatley, published by Helm – Invaluable.
Lonely Planet, Tanzania – As
usual an essential companion to any trip.
Road Map to East Africa – purchased on previous
trip to Kenya
Sound guides: African bird sounds volume 2, an
11 CD set, with target species transferred to tape. This useful CD does
not cover E. Africa, so many of the most sought after species are not
covered. A CD covering E. African is apparently due to be published
11th & 31st Beachcomber Resort. Situated on the Indian Ocean, a couple of hours drive from the airport.
A good standard of accommodation, with swimming pool makes it an ideal
place to chill out at the beginning / end of a trip. Listed in the Lonely
Planet guide, under the Northern Beaches section.
12th Manta Reef Lodge. Situated
in a beautiful beachside location in the North of Pemba, only a short
drive from the Ngezi Forest. The lodge provided transport to & from
the airport, as well as a vehicle and driver during our stay. Listed
in the LP guide under Kigomasha Peninsula.
13th A basic hotel in the town
of Morogoro, the name of which was not noted.
14th Udzungwa Mountain View Hotel. A pleasant, but basic hotel situated about 500m south from the HQ of
the Udzungwa Mountains NP. Listed in the LP guide under Udzungwa Mountains
15th & 16th Mkumi Genesis Motel. A basic but adequate motel , situated in the outskirts of Mikumi town.
Listed in ther LP guide under Mikumi.
17th & 18th Amani Conservation Centre
Rest House. Situated in the East Uasmbara Mountains at the
Amani Nature Reserve, basic but excellent accommodation, but probably
only accessible with a 4WD. Listed in the LP guide under Amani NR.
19th & 20th Muller’s Mountain Lodge. Situated in
the West Uasmbara Mountains near the town of Lushoto. Superb accommodation
& food – highly recommended. Listed in the LP guide under Lushoto.
21st Elephant Motel Situated
1km SE of the town of Same. A modern, but basic Motel, listed in the
LP guide under South Pare Mountains.
22nd Maasai Safari Centre. This
Lodge is located a little outside the regularly crowded large tourist
Hotels in the middle of the busy Arusha town. It has an excellent garden
and comes highly recommended, but regrettably it is not listed in the
LP guide & I don’t have any contact details.
23rd Tarangire Porini Camp (tented camp). Situated in dry bush, just outside the northern perimiter of the NP.
The highlight here was the drinking pool, which attracted large numbers
of birds which could be watched and photoghaphed from the comfort of
the restaurant. Listed in the LP guide under Tarangire NP.
24th Tarangire Tented Safari Lodge. This luxury tented camp, compete with swimming pool is situated within
the grounds of the Tarangire NP. Listed in the LP guide under Tarangire
25th & 26th Serengeti Sopa Lodge. This up-market lodge, complete with pool, is situated in the centre
of the Serengeti NP. Listed in the LP guide under Serengeti NP.
26th & 28th Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge. This up-market lodge, complete with pool, is situated on the eastern
rim of the crater, close to one of the access roads to/ from the crater
bottom. Listed in the LP guide under Ngorongoro Crater.
29th Migunga Forest Camp. The
fairly basic, but adequate, tented camp is set on 35 acres of yellow
acacia forest in a secluded part of Migungani Village and on the boundary
to the Lake Manyara NP. The camp consists of nine self-contained tents
with Bathrooms having running hot and cold water, showers, and flush
toilets. There is a dining room and bar under thatch. Electricity is
12 volt supplied by solar power. Listed in the LP guide under Mto Wa
We relied heavily on the local knowledge of Arnold,
our diver, at most sites; as a result exact locations for some of the
sites are not know.
Pemba Island: All birding was done either from
the grounds of the Manta Reef Lodge, or in and around the nearby Ngezi
Forest. You should obtain a permit to bird the forest, from the office
at the start of the track which runs through the middle of the forest,
and which eventually leads to the Lodge. Not covered in Wheatley
Kilombero River and Flood Plains: The town of Ifakara lies on the edge of the floodplain. Bird the road,
which leads south from the town, down to the ferry across the river.
Covered in Wheatley.
Udzungwa Mountain Forest National park: The park HQ, where you have to arrange a guide, lies about 500 M north
of the Udzungwa Mountain View Lodge. You can bird this area, but it
is apparently better habitat on the waterfall trail, about 10 km further
north, which is where we spent the morning. Covered in Wheatley.
Miombo woodlands, Mikumi: The
dirt road running north from Mikumi to Ulaya cuts through some excellent
miombo woodland. We birded this road a couple of kms north of the town
& also a side road off to the west (Pipeline Road). An advantage
with this area over the NP is that you can bird on foot. Not covered
Mikumi NP: The main road from
Dar es Salam to Mikumi cuts through the NP, and quite good birding can
be had along this road itself, although other traffic can be a problem.
The park lies on the eastern edge of Mikumi, with the main entrance
lying about 15km from the town. Tsetse flies were a nuisance in part
of the park, although they do not apparently carry sleeping sickness.
Covered in Wheatley.
Amani NR: This reserve is situated
in the East Usambara Mountains and is a mosaic of small patches of woodland
and cultivation. The majority of our birding was done within walking
distance of the Rest House, either along local roads or on the trail
to a viewpoint, which leads from the Rest House itself. A 4WD is required
to reach the reserve. Mentioned in Wheatley
Sawmill Track, West Usambaras: I do not know the
location of this site other than it was about 45 minutes drive from
Muller’s Mountain Lodge. We walked the track for about 1km as it ran
through a narrow section of remnant woodland. Not covered in Wheatley
Track through Remnant Forest near Muller’s
Mountain Lodge: This track was about a 10-minute drive from
the Lodge and ran through a small section of degraded woodland. Again
we relied on Arnold’s local knowledge. Not covered in Wheatley
Taveta Golden Weaver Site: This
site is situated along the main road to the town of Same, where a reed
fringed river, boarded by rice fields, transects the road. Not covered
South Pare Mountains: We birded
the patched of dry scrub on the hillsides to the north east of the town
of Same. Access was along a dirt track off the main road near the Elephant
Motel. I suspect that any area of scrub in this area will produce similar
birds, as we did not manage to see the target White-eye, only Abyssinian.
We suspect it is located, higher up in the forested mountains. Not covered
Tarangire: We birded two areas
1) The Tarangire Porini Camp, which is situated on the Northern edge
of the NP. You can bird on foot here as long as you are accompanied
by a guide from the camp. 2) Tarangire NP, as with most NP’s, most birding
is from the vehicle. The only areas you can bird on foot are in the
picnic sites and around the Lodge. Covered in Wheatley.
Olduvai Gorge: This site lies in the northern
section of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and is only a short detour
from the journey to the Serengeti. We only birded around the museum
& the picnic site, which, as usual, attracted many birds.
Serengeti: The majority of the
birding is from the vehicle, although the picnic sites at Seronera and
at the Naabi Hill Gate exit for the park were very birdy. Covered in
Ngorongoro Crater: As above,
the majority of the birding was carried out from the vehicle, except
for at a couple of picnic sites. We did a full day in the crater &
covered most of the area including the soda lake, and a couple of other
lakes & marshes. We also birded around the grounds of the Hotel.
Covered in Wheatley.
Lake Manyara: From the vehicle
we birded the woodland around the edge of the lake, as well as an accessible
section of the lakeshore. We also birded on foot, around the Migunga
Forest Camp, on the edge of the reserve. Covered in Wheatley.
We arrived in Tanzania at dusk, 30 hours late
due to a delayed departure in Manchester. This delay caused us to miss
our connection in Dubai by half an hour. We then had to endure a 30-hour
wait in Dubai, albeit in a very comfortable hotel, before the next available
flight to Dar es Salaam. Arnold, who would be our driver for the duration
of our holiday in mainland Tanzania, met us at the airport. We drove
to the Beach Comber Resort where we arrived well after dark, but luckily
the hotel obliged in making a late meal for us all, before we crashed
out. It had been our intention to fly to Pemba Island today, but had
missed the flight. Luckily Anthony had managed to postpone our flight
by a day, which resulted in us only having one night on the island instead
of two. This meant we had a rather rushed start to the holiday &
missed out on a days chilling out on Pemba.
Managed to get 15 minutes birding from the beach
at dawn, before the 6:30am breakfast and transfer to the Airport for
the scheduled flight to Pemba. The flight departed at 8:35am and flew
via Zanzibar, arriving on Pemba at 10:10. On arrival at Chake Chake
Airport in Pemba, we were met by staff from the Manta Reef Lodge, who
transferred us to the hotel, which took about two and a half hours.
After Lunch and a couple of hours birding around the grounds, a member
of the hotel staff drove us to the nearby Ngezi Forest, where we birded
until late in the afternoon and then birded the forest edge until dusk.
We returned to the Hotel for an evening meal after which we went back
into the field in search of the Scops owl.
Highlights. Hotel grounds: Pemba White-eye, Pemba
Sunbird & Madagascar Bee-eater.
Ngezi Forest area: Mangrove Kingfisher,
Ethiopian Swallow & Pemba Scops-owl.
The morning was spent birding the forest edge
in search of the Green Pigeon, our last remaining Pemba endemic. After
Lunch we caught an afternoon flight back to Dar Es Salaam, again via
Zanzibar. We originally intended to try and drive as far as Mikumi ,
but as it was getting late we decided to stay over in Morogoro and continue
to Mikumi in the morning.
Highlights. Ngezi Forest area: Pemba Green-pigeon
& Dickinson’s Kestrel.
We made an early start, passing through Mikumi
NP, which gave us our first taste of Tanzanian National Parks, before
stopping at the Mikumi Genesis Motel for breakfast. After breakfast
we drove through the Udzungwa Mountains, stopping at Udzungwa Mountain
View Lodge to unpack before carrying on to the Kilombero Flood Plains
where three Tanzanian endemics occur, two of which are, as yet un-named
cisticolas. We birded the floodplains and river until late afternoon
before returning to the Udzungwa Mountain View Lodge after dark.
Highlights. Floodplain and River: White-crowned
Plover, African Skimmer, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Kilombero Weaver, White-tailed
Cisticola and Kilombero Cisticola.
Journey back to the Lodge, at dusk: Usambara Eagle-owl
& Square-tailed Nightjar
We rose at dawn & drove a short distance to
the HQ of the Udzungwa Mountain Forest National park, where we met up
with one of the rangers. After coffee and much debate about whether
to bird around the HQ or the waterfall trail, we finally opted for the
waterfall trail which was about a 10 Km drive away. After a fairly quiet
mornings birding we returned to the Lodge for lunch. We failed to see
any of the local specialties, which in reality require a lot more time
After lunch we drove to Mikumi, where we checked
into the Genesis Motel.
In the afternoon we birded the Miombo woodlands
North West of Mikumi this is a good area for a number of southern specialties,
with the advantage of being able to bird on foot, which is not possible
in the adjoining reserve. It would appear that none of the Tanzanian
parks are fenced in, which means that the animals are free to roam where
they like. As a result Elephant & Buffalo can be encountered, so
care must be taken.
Highlights. Udzungwa Mountains: Green headed Oriole,
Red-capped Robin-chat & Yellowbill.
Mikumi: White breasted Cuckooshrike, Greencap
Eremomela, Southern Blue-eared Glossy-starling & Pale Batis.
The morning was again spent birding the miombo
woodland, before returning to the lodge mid morning. We spent the rest
of the day in the Mikumi National Park, where we had lunch at the hotel
near the entrance gate. We finally left the park after dark; which is
apparently not allowed and resulted in Arnold being reprimanded by the
guards on leaving the reserve. The night was spent at Mikumi Genesis
Highlights. Miombo woodland: Böhm’s Spinetail,
Racket-tailed Roller, White-headed Black-chat, Tiny Cisticola, Miombo
Wren-warbler, Rufous-bellied Tit, African Penduline-tit and Orange-winged
Mikumi National Park: Red necked Spurfowl Black
bellied Bustard, Croaking Cisticola Northern Pied-babbler.
After an early breakfast, we set out for one of
the longest drives on our trip. On the approach to the Eastern Arc Mountains
we made several stops in the cultivated areas for Zanzibar Bishop, but
only managed to find, good numbers of Black-winged Bishops. We arrived
at the Amani nature reserve rest House shortly after dark.
The whole day was spent birding the Amani area
with a short and uneventful visit to an area of riverine woodland &
tea plantations in the afternoon. In the morning we birded the main
track above the accommodation and after breakfast the patches of woodland
and cultivated areas around the village. The late afternoon & evening
was spent on the trail leading from the center.
Highlights: Fischer’s Turaco,
Green Barbet, White-starred Robin, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Forest
Batis, Usambara Hyliota, Yellow White-eye, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird,
Banded Green Sunbird and Kenrick’s Starling.
The morning was spent birding the trail leading
from the center, to the viewpoint before returning for lunch, where
I met up with John & Pete who had both managed to independently
see Long-billed Tailorbird in a small gully besides the road, just above
the center. A brief search of the area failed to provide the desired
After lunch we set off for Muller’s Mountain Lodge,
an old German colonial house, in the West Usambara Mountains. The journey
took the rest of the afternoon, except for a short stop in the West
Usambara foothills, so we arrived at the lodge at dusk. We were just
making ourselves comfortable in front of the log fire, when John came
in with the news that a Nightjar was calling from a tree in the garden.
We dashed out to enjoy excellent views of Usambara Nightjar, which was
soon joined in the next tree by a medium sized Eagle-owl, which proved
to be Usamabra Eagle-owl. A pretty good introduction to the West Usambaras!
Today was Linda’s 40th birthday, so Muller’s Mountain
Lodge, which is renowned for its fine cuisine, was the ideal place to
celebrate the occasion.
Highlights. Amani: Crowned Eagle, Orange Ground-thrush
& Amani Sunbird.
W. Usambara foothills: Nyzana Swift, Cliff Chat
& Hunters Sunbird.
Muller’s Mountain Lodge: Usambara Nightjar &
After an early breakfast we birded the sawmill
track, about a half hour drive from the lodge, before returning for
lunch. The early afternoon was spent birding around the lodge, before
heading off to a nearby area of remnant forest. The night was again
spent at the Lodge.
Highlights. Sawmill track: Tiny Greenbul, Fulleborns
Black Boubou, Abyssinian Hill-babbler, African Tailorbird & Red-faced
Remnant Forest: Hartlaub’s Turaco, Moustached
Tinkerbird & Waller’s Starling.
The morning was again spent at the nearby remnant
forest before departing mid morning with a packed lunch. We stopped
for a short lunch break in the foothills before descending back onto
the plain and the journey to Same, where we would spend the night. Arnold
knew of a reliable site for Taveta Golden Weaver on this section where
a reed fringed river, boarded by rice fields, transects the road. Shortly
after entering the fields a large raptor flew towards us obligingly
hovered overhead, giving excellent views. We all concluded that it was
a Short-toed Eagle, a potential First for Tanzania! After an hours searching,
I managed to locate a male weaver, which promptly disappeared before
the others arrived & could not be relocated. A few Kms further down
the road we stropped to bird an area of thorn scrub & fields, were
Linda managed to locate another male amongst a mixer weaver flock.
The night was spent at the Elephant Motel on the
outskirts of Same.
Highlights. Remnant Forest: Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater
& Cabanis’s Greenbul.
Journey to Same: Short-toed Eagle, Pink-breasted
Lark, White-browed Scrub-robin, Red-fronted Warbler, Pygmy Batis, Black-bellied
Sunbird, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Rosy-patched Shrike, Fischer’s
Starling &Taveta Golden Weaver.
After Breakfast, we birded an area of dry bush,
in the foothills of the South Pare Mountains only a short journey from
the Hotel. Our main target here was South Pare White-eye, a potential
split from Broad-ringed White-eye. After about half an hour John managed
to locate a party of White-eyes, which we are convinced were Abyssinian,
although Anthony later insisted South Pare is the only White-eye in
the area. The altitude (c1,00m) was lower & the habitat much drier
than we expected South-pare White eye to occur in. We birded a couple
of locations in the area until returning to the Motel for lunch.
After lunch we drove to Arusha & booked into
Maasai Safari Tourist Lodge. The Lodge is located a little outside the
center of town and away from the crowded tourist hotels and is set within
a very pleasant garden. The afternoon was spent chilling out & birding
in the hotel grounds, where we met up with Anthony, who brought with
him John & Jeanette’s long lost suitcase.
Highlights. South Pare: Brown Snake-eagle, D’Arnoud’s
and White-headed barbets, Northern Brownbul, Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul,
Tiny Cisticola, Grey Wren-warbler Black-headed Batis, Sulphur-breasted
and Grey-headed bush-shrikes, & Green-winged Pytilia.
Hotel: Brown-breasted Barbet, Tropical Boubou.
Most of the night was spent dashing to the toilet,
presumably from something I ate or drank, as a result I started the
day feeling pretty rotten and not really up to walking over sun scorched
plains looking for a Lark. Luckily no one else had contracted my stomach
upset, so I relied on the rest of the guys putting in all the effort
as I tagged on behind. After about an hour of walking over the plains,
situated to the North of Arusha, a pair of Spike-heeled Larks were located.
This isolated population, a potential split, is only found in this area
of Tanzania. We continued a few kms further along the road until we
reached a patch of acacias, which were birded for a further half an
hour before returning to Arusha and dropping Anthony off at his office.
In the afternoon we drove to Tarangire Porini
Camp, a tented camp, which is set in 200 acres of un spoilt wilderness
on the border of the Tarangire National Park The dining area overlooks
a small drinking trough, which was alive with birds coming into drink.
The rest of the guys went birding, on foot, with a local guide, whilst
I stayed behind to watch the drinking pool, as I was still feeling pretty
Highlights. Roadside birds traveling to/from the
plains: Lammergeier, Red-and-Yellow Barbet, White-fronted Bee-eater,
Capped and Schalow’s Wheatears.
Open Plains: Spike-heeled Lark, Eastern Chanting
Goshawk and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
Acacia: Fawn-coloured Lark and Banded Parisoma
Porini Camp: Chestnut and Swahili sparrows, Chestnut
Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia, Blue-capped cordon-bleu, Crimson-rumped
Waxbill, Grey-headed Silverbill, Red-bellied Parrot, Yellow-collared
Lovebird, Bare-faced Go-away-bird & Dark Chanting Goshawk.
The early part of the morning was spent overlooking
the drinking trough, which was again alive with activity. After a leisurely
breakfast, we departed for Tarangire National park, a short drive a
way. En route to Tarangire NP we stopped at a couple of roadside pools,
which were teemed with Chestnut-backed sparrow-larks. Upon reaching
the park we headed to a picnic site where you could leave the vehicle
and ate our packed lunch. After a couple of hours, we made our way to
the Luxury Tented Camp where we chilled out in the pool. The late afternoon
& evening were spent on a game drive in the vicinity of the camp.
Highlights: Porini Camp: Jameson’s Firefinch,
Black-faced Waxbill, Straw-tailed Whydah, Gabar Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon
& Von Der Decken’s Hornbill
Tarangire NP: Secretary-bird, Martial Eagle, Coqui
and Crested francolins, Yellow-necked and Red-necked spurfowls, White-bellied
Bustard, Yellow-throated Sand grouse, Ashy starling, White-headed Buffalo-weaver,
and a single Rufous-tailed Weaver at dusk.
After an early breakfast, we checked out of the
Tarangire Safari Lodge and began the long drive to the Serengeti. We
started the journey on good roads, which changed to a rutted dirt road
as we climbed the rift valley escarpment just past lake Manyara. We
drove around the mainly forested Ngorongoro crater, where we made a
brief stop in a area rich in wild flowers & Sunbirds. We continued
on the Olduvai Gorge where we stopped to eat our packed lunch. This
area is worth visiting, not only for the museum dedicated to the finding
of mans earliest remains, but also for the birds, which feed at your
feet around the picnic tables.
After lunch we continued, entering the vast expanse
of the Serengeti plains. As soon as we turned off the main track and
started to head towards our hotel, we came across a female Lion suckling
three small cubs, which gave very close views. Within minutes of leaving
her we encountered a female cheetah and three well-grown cubs at a fresh
kill, shortly followed by a large male Lion, which soon got scent of
the kill and chased off the Cheetah family, scattering the cubs in all
directions. A pretty impressive introduction to the Serengeti!
We arrived at the Serengeti Sopa Lodge at dusk,
where the hot showers & luxurious rooms were most appreciated after
a long drive.
Highlights: Dusky Turtle Dove, Malachite and Golden-winged
sunbirds, White-bellied Canary, Greater Kestrel, Kori, White-bellied
and Hartlaub’s bustards, Two-banded Courser & Rufous-tailed Weaver.
After breakfast we heded out for a full day in
the Serengeti. Arnold drove slowly through an area of Acacia woodland,
which lies along the main track near the hotel. We stopping to check
any bird flock’s we encountered, before picking up a Grey-breasted Spurfowl,
the last endemic of the trip near one of the river crossings. We continued
onto a nearby lake before heading out onto the grassy plains and a picnic
site near Seronera, where we ate our packed lunch. The picnic site was
alive with birds feeding on scrap, including our only Usambiro Barbets
of the trip. Drove back to the hotel to pick up the girls who had spent
the morning chilling out & enjoying the delights of the hotel swimming
pool. We left the hotel at 4pm and headed back towards the lake, where
luckily for the girls a Leopard we had seen in the morning, was still
in its tree. The drive back to the Hotel was delayed by a large herd
of elephants, crossing the road, which were not very impressed by out
presence. We drove past a spectacular fire on one of the hillsides,
which had been caused by thunderstorms we had seen distantly earlier
in the afternoon.
In the evening we were treated to an impressive
thunderstorm around the hotel whilst eating dinner. Back at the room
the views from the balcony, across a lightening lit Serengeti, will
leave a lasting memory.
Highlights. Acacia Woodland & riverine scrub:
Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Meyer’s Parrot, Fischer’s Lovebird, Sharpe’s
Pied-babbler, Buff-bellied Penduline-Tit, Red-throated Tit and Abyssinian
Scimitar-bill & Yellow-throated Petronia.
Open plains: Black-winged Lapwing, Temminck’s
and Two-banded coursers.
Picnic Site: Usambiro Barbet, Grey-capped Social-weaver.
Scattered trees near the picnic site: Silverbird.
We packed & left the hotel, starting to retrace
ours steps back to the Ngorongoro crater where we would spend the next
two nights. The tracks across the plains proved hard going after the
overnight rains & Arnold had to be quite selective about which tracks
to use, as some were almost impassable. We stopped for lunch at Naabi
Hill Gate exit for the park, where we were again treated to close views
of the many birds which came down to scraps of food.
We arrived at the hotel Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
at 18.30, where we managed a last hours birding around the grounds before
dark. After taking a shower, a Mountain Nightjar could be heard from
the room, but it could not be located. When we met up with John for
Dinner, he gripped me off with the news that he had seen the nightjar
outside his room!
Highlights. Naabi Hill Gate : Buff-bellied Warbler,
Banded Parisoma Hildebrand’s Starling & Rufous-tailed Weaver.
Sopa Lodge: Verreaux’s Eagle-owl & White-eyed
First light found us exploring the grounds of
the hotel, before taking an early breakfast & departing for a full
day in the crater.
We covered a large part of the crater bottom,
taking lunch at a lakeside picnic site, before ending up at the soda
lake late afternoon from where we headed back to the hotel.
The memorable day finished back at the hotel,
with a pair of Montane Nightjars performing under a spotlight near the
Highlights. Sopa Lodge: Grey-capped Warbler, Broad-ringed
White-eye & Montane Nightjars
Crater: Rosy-throated Longclaw, Grey-rumped Swallow,
African Marsh-Harrier, Lesser Flamingo, Banded Martin, Grey Crowned-Crane,
Hildebrand’s Francolin, Yellow Bishop & Chestnut-banded Plover.
The early morning was spent birding around the
grounds of the hotel including the nearby staff quarters and football
pitch, before heading off on the journey to Lake Manyara. On arrival
at Lake Manyara we ate our packed lunch at the picnic site by the entrance
gate, after which we entered the park, spending the rest of the day
on a game drive with a visit to the lakeshore.
In the evening we drove the short distance to
the Migunga Forest Camp, which is set in 35 acres of yellow acacia forest
in a secluded part of Migungani Village. The camp consists of nine self-contained
tents with Bathrooms having running hot and cold water, showers, and
flush toilets. There is a dining room and bar under thatch. Electricity
is 12 volt supplied by solar power.
Highlights. Sopa Lodge: Hunter’s Cisticola, Cinnamon
Bracken-warbler, Red-collared Widowbird & Tacazze Sunbird.
Lake Manyara: Giant Kingfisher, Black Cuchooshrike
& White Helmetshrike.
We spent a couple of hours birding the acacia
woodland and the nearby grassland before heading back to camp for an
After lunch we drove to Arusha airport where,
after saying our goodbyes to Arnold and Anthony, who had driven out
to meet us, we departed on the 13.00 flight to Dar Es Salaam, via Zanzibar.
We were collected from the airport by a taxi arranged by the Beachcomber
Hotel. The hotel had been taken over by a wedding reception and the
hotel wanted us to eat at a nearby hotel, but after much insistence
we were fed on the balcony of the hotel overlooking the reception party
and the Indian Ocean.
Highlights. Migunga Forest Camp: Klaas’s Cuckoo
&. African Golden Oriole.
Spent the morning birding the mangroves &
beach around the hotel, as well as chilling out in the pool.
Transferred to the airport for the afternoon flight
that left on time and arrived in Dubai late evening. Onward flight early
the next morning arrived in Manchester early afternoon of 1 September.
Highlights. Beachcomber Hotel: Dimorphic Egret
Other Tanzania Trip Reports arranged by years.