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NORTHERN TANZANIA BIRDING

Dar Es Salaam, Pemba North, East Usambara Mountains and West Usambara Mountains, Tarangire National Park, Mkomazi National Park, Mikumi National Park

THE GREATEST WILDLIFE SPECTACLE ON EARTH

Birding & Wildlife in Tanzania

TOUR RUNNING AMIDST CLOSURE OF INTERNATIONAL BORDERS DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC OUT BREAK.

(30th November – 21st December 2020)

Participants: Thomas Pettersson

Tour Leader: Anthony Raphael

Safari Driver Guide:

Ground Tour Operator: Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris

Tour Pace & Style: A Birding Tour

A SUMMARY OF THE TOUR

This tour was organized by Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris and unfortunately, I was the only participant as my friend was prevented from going as was planned. The flights from Stockholm via Addis Ababa to Dar es Salaam and back with Ethiopian Airlines were uneventful. The only differences from my previous flights were that wearing face masks on the aircrafts was mandatory, and recommended at the airports, and that they checked my body temperature at both arrival and departure. I am not sure what the consequences would have been in case of fever. You must also complete a health declaration both for transfer and arrival. The outbound flight from Stockholm to Addis Ababa was about half empty and on the return perhaps only 25 % of the seats were occupied, which meant good nights sleep on three seats both ways. The flights between Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam were fully booked both ways.

The domestic flights with Coastal Aviation from Dar es Salaam via Zanzibar (Unguja) to Pemba and on to Tanga were also smooth, with the same regulations as above. The aircrafts were painfully small though, 12 seats. Not much space for legs and hand luggage. On the other hand, the distances are short.

All in all, the tour was a big success. Accommodation was generally good, although basic at some places, but nothing to complain about. Food was excellent and plentiful, and I had no issues with the stomach. The drivers and the guides were excellent, in particular the outstanding Anthony, who guided most of the tour. The only obstacle was a District Commissioner in Gairo who demanded us to make an appointment with her before we could leave the district. What took us a half day chasing her, as she was travelling around to some villages. A waste of time, really, and for no sensible reason at all. Annoying!

We focused very hard on my wish list, i.e. new birds for me. That meant that we did not make any detours or spent time searching for species already seen by me. Also, we did not search for mammals. That’s the main reason for why some otherwise common birds and some mammals, e.g. Lion, are missing in the species lists below.

In total I recorded 528 bird species (non-native species excluded) in Tanzania and 158 of them were new to me (lifers). Also, six species at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.

To read the full Trip Report, please view TANZANIA TRIP REPORT DECEMBER 2020.

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NORTHERN TANZANIA BIRDING

Arusha National Park, Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara National Park

THE GREATEST WILDLIFE SPECTACLE ON EARTH

Birding & Wildlife in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater & Beyond

TOUR RUNNING AMIDST CLOSURE OF INTERNATIONAL BORDERS DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC OUT BREAK.

Birds & Wildlife in the Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater

(07th – 17th February 2022)

Participants: Mr Janne Aalto

Tour Leader: Anthony Raphael

Safari Driver Guide: Edson and Geitan

Ground Tour Operator: Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris

Tour Pace & Style: A Birding Tour Group

DAY TO DAY TOUR NOTES

Outside the airport there were lots of birds. A flock of Little Swifts was flying over but also many lifers were seen. 3 species of “turtle doves”, Mourning Collared, Ring-necked and later also Red-eyed Doves were seen. Amazingly colorful Superb Starlings and Pied Crows were walking between the people, Tricolored Bulbuls were calling and on the sky we saw Lesser Striated Swallows, White-rumped, Nyanza, Horus and Mottled Swifts. On the bushes we saw sunbirds which Scarlet-chested and Collared Sunbird were identified. Further along the road there was a dead tree where a Stripe Kingfisher and a black morph Ovambo Sparrowhawk visited. Also a Black-headed Heron was seen flying by, African Pied Wagtails were perched on the roof over us and some Red-winged Starlings were also seen. I really didn’t know which way to look.

After quite a long waiting our Tanzanian Birding and Beyond Safaris guide Anthony Raphael and drivers Edson and Geitan arrived and timing was good as only soon after that the last few of our group got out from the airport. Fever had been tested from some but luckily we all were feeling well and ready to go. Soon we packed our luggage to 2 big safari-cars and were ready to hit the road.

We soon stopped along the road to do some birding and Tawny-flanked Prinias, Blue-naped Mousebirds, a Black-chested Snake Eagle and a Variable Sunbird were seen. And once we were driving again we saw Red-billed Buffalo Weavers, a Fork-tailed Drongo and Long-tailed Fiscals.

We drove about a half of an hour towards Mt Meru and then stopped to walk in a small forest track and it was difficult as there were quite a few birds and I had no idea what most of them were… African Palm Swifts were flying on the sky, an African Emerald Cuckoo was found on the top of a tree, a couple of Hadada Ibises were on one roof and a Rüppell’s Robin-Chat, White-eared Barbets and African Grey Flycatchers were also found. Tropical Boubous were calling with funny voices, also Tambourine and Emerald-spotted Wood Doves were not only heard but also seen. On the top of one tree there was a perched Palm-nut Vulture and a back-color of a Grey-backed Camaroptera was seen after some trying. Anthony found several White-starred Robins that were actively singing but impossible to see in the dense vegetation. A White-browed Robin-Chat was seen and identified once the tail was seen well and also Kenrick’s Starlings and an Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon were seen.

Finally we continued to Ngare Sero Lodge grounds where new birds were found all the time. A Green Malkoha was calling all the time and also seen pretty well and also a Golden-tailed Woodpecker was seen before we walked down to a pool where we saw Reed Cormorants, Thick-billed and Taveta Weavers, some African Jacanas, a Black Crake, Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins, Black-throated Wattle-eyes, a Black-backed Puffback, a stunning African Fish Eagle and an amazing Giant Kingfisher. Some familiar birds were also seen like Little Grebes, Moorhen and a Great Egret.

Anthony was all the time pointing new birds with a pointer and we were all the time asking what were the calls too – and they were always new species. Northern Crombec, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide, Green-backed Honeyeater, Grey-olive Greenbul, Black Cuckooshrike and on a short walk also a funny Hamerkop and a couple of African Black Ducks were seen. Some calls heard were a Long-crested Eagle, a Red-chested and a Klaas’s Cuckoo, a Little Rush Warbler and an Augur Buzzard.

After some walking we climbed a bit higher along the pool to have lunch. It was difficult to eat as there were too many birds to see and to photograph everywhere around us. There were also a several Guerezas climbing on the tree on the opposite side of the pool which were nice to follow.

After the lunch we walked around the area more. Some of us were resting a little after a very long traveling and some were concentrating to take pictures. But with Mika we headed to walk along a small path inside the forest. In the beginning it was quiet as the day was already warming up but then we found a couple of Red-throated Twinspots, African Firefinches and a Little Greenbul. Soon we met Hannu and “Henkka” and continued along a stream towards the pool and found a Spectacled Weaver and a couple of Mountain Wagtails and so on. Also some Blue Monkeys and Ochre Bush Squirrels were seen.

Once we were back on the lodge we found some Brown-breasted Babblers and a Cardinal Woodpecker close to the parking place. Also an African Grey Hornbill and a Silvery-cheeked Hornbill visited the treetops. Soon we were ready to move on and after about 100 meters driving we had to stop again as there were Yellow-fronted Canaries and some African Firefinches on a small meadow.

It was already getting dark when we arrived to Arusha and parked to a garden of Korona Villa (I didn’t really like the name of the hotel but it was nice!). We were warmly welcomed and after we had carried our luggage to our rooms, we had dinner ready. After the dinner we kept a log which was long even though we had only done the Introduction to birding (days birding was in our tour-program with that name).

On the 8th of February we had quite late breakfast and soon most of us were out and waiting for our cars to arrive. There were quite a few birds and we saw Speckled Mousebirds, a couple of White-necked Ravens and a couple of pure-lookin Fischer’s Lovebirds but most of these birds looked like hybrids. In Arusha most birds are hybrids between Fischer’s and Yellow-collared. At 7:30 a.m. our cars were finally there and we left towards Arusha National Park. Anthony was every second day in different car and this time we were on so called car one with Normaja and Kapanen couples.

We stopped a couple of times on the way and the first stop was great as we saw a couple of Grey-crowned Cranes and there were also an African Sacred Ibis and a Three-banded Plover on the rice-field. After we had seen some Northern Fiscals and a couple of African Stonechats, we arrived to the gate of the National Park. Our drivers had to go to do some paper-work, so we were free to walk in the area a little bit. We found a funny-looking Chinstrap Batis, a Cape Robin-Chat, Bronzy Sunbirds, a Yellow-breasted and a Black-headed Apalis but soon we were in a car again and driving to the park. It was not allowed to get out from the car in the parks because of there were wild animals like Lions and Leopards. So we could get out only in some places like picnic-places.

After we had seen a couple of Scaly Spurfowls and Little Bee-eaters we came to an open area where we saw the first mammals – Cape Buffaloes and Plains Zebras with some Common Warthogs. Also the first Red-billed Oxpecker was seen on a back of a buffalo. There was also a stunning Saddle-billed Stork close to the road and also a Northern Fiscal and some White-winged Widowbirds and Red-billed Queleas.

Slowly we got higher and higher to the mountain forest and then stopped next to a huge tree that the road went actually through the trunk.

Next to this tree we got out and there were lots of birds in the tree and everywhere around us. Anthony started to play tape for some target birds and the first target was found quite soon. First we heard some harsh calls but the saw a colorful bird on the top of the tree – Hartlaub’s Turaco! We saw it only behind branches and in flight but some other birds were easier to see like African Dusky Flycatchers, a couple of Brown Woodland Warblers, Mountain and Strip-faced Greenbuls, a Grey-headed Nigrita, Broad-ringed White-eyes and then the tape worked again as another colorful bird arrived to the top of the tree – a Bar-tailed Trogon! It was also hiding well but after some trying we managed to get some kind of pictures.

Once we continued we started to see more mammals; Masai Giraffes, Cavendish’s Dik-diks, a Harvey’s Duiker, Guerezas, Cape Bushbucks, Ellipsen Waterbucks and then also a stunning Serval! More Cape Bufalloes and Zebras were also seen and of course we took lots of pictures both animals and birds. Some birds we saw were Helmeted Guineafowls, African Yellow Warblers, Red-capped Larks and Little Bee-eaters.

Then we arrived to Momella Lakes and stopped to a picnic-place close to the first lake. We had lunch there on a perfect spot to see birds and also mammals. While eating we saw Baglafecht Weavers and a White-fronted Bee-eater was catching insects from the closest bushes and trees and from the lake we found a Southern Pochard, a couple of Red-billed Teals, some White-breasted Cormorants and from the shore a couple of Blacksmith Plovers. There were also 3 Common Hippopotamuses on the lake but quite far! And in a short bush-visit we found a small flock of Crimson-rumped Waxbills.

Soon we were in a car again and we had opened the roof so we could either sit down and watch through the windows or stand on the bench and look much better to all directions as I was doing most of the time. On the next lake we found lots of Lesser and Greater Flamingoes, Cape Teals, Black Saw-wings, a few Banded Martins and a lonely male Maccoa Duck. Finally I also saw a White-browed Coucal which I had already missed a couple of times and also a Moustached Grass Warbler, a Spot-flanked Barbet, a Diederik Cuckoo, African Black Swifts, a Moustached Tinkerbird and a Yellow Bishop were seen. Also Zebras, Giraffes, Buffaloes and Warthogs were seen and photographed and lots of Olive Baboons and some Blue Monkeys too. But not all birds were so exotic, we also saw Black-winged Stilts, Little Grebes (amazing numbers), Ruffs, Wood Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper and so on.

Suddenly our car stopped and our driver had seen something flying in the forest. We drove back a bit and Anthony started to play tape again. Then the group on the second car saw a Narina Trogon flying inside the thick vegetation. I saw to tree-tops only through a tiny hole between all branches and leaves but I was lucky, the trogon was perched right on that spot! It was impossible to see from any other place from our car, so we all had to come to stand on my seat in turns. And after all we all managed to see it and get some pictures too.

We continued to savanna and there the next species was a Pangani Longclaw. The first of many cisticolas was identified (I have no idea how many we had already left unidentified) and it was a Singing Cisticola. We also saw a small flock of African Green Pigeons and the second cisticola got a name Trilling Cisticola. Also a colorful Black-fronted Bushshrike was seen briefly and other species we saw were a Black-headed Oriole, an Eastern Grey Woodpecker, a Southern Citril and a Pin-tailed Whydah.

Finally we were in the end of the tour and at the gate again. There we walked again a little while paper-work was done. Then we continued to Arusha and Korona Villa where we had a dinner again. Then we still had a long log before we could go to sleep far too late.

On the 9th of February we had breakfast again at 6:30 a.m. and we had managed to order the cars to arrive a little bit earlier and we were now free to leave earlier as there was no late-opening gates on the way. On the garden we saw familiar birds but also a Village Indigobird was perched on a wire. Soon we were on the road and driving towards Serengeti. Luckily we could stop the car if it was needed once we had driven through an area that was told to be a military-area. So we started to see birds and saw Fischer’s Sparrow-Larks, a Brown Snake Eagle, Yellow-billed Kites, a Lanner, White-faced Whistling Ducks, Crowned Lapwings, Lesser Masked, Rufous-tailed, Speckle-fronted and White-headed Buffalo Weavers, Kenya Sparrows and when we stopped to fill the tank of our car, we saw a couple of Yellow-collared Lovebirds. Also big flocks of Abdim’s Storks were seen on savanna and on the sky and then first White-bellied Go-away-birds.

Finally we stopped for a short 30 minutes walk to an acacia forest but there were so many birds that we stayed there at least an hour. A Grey Wren-Warbler, Taita Fiscals, Red-cheeked and Blue-capped Cordon-bleus, a Purple Roller, a Southern Black Flycatcher, a Black-throated Barbet, Red-fronted Prinias, a Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Brimstone Canaries, a Spotted Palm Thrush, a White-browed Scrub-Robin, a Hildebrandt’s Starling, Yellow-crowned and Brimstone Canaries, Northern White-crowned Shrikes, Red-faced and Rattling Cisticolas, White-eyed Slaty Flycatchers, Beautiful and Eastern Violet-backed Sunbirds and an Abyssinian Scimitarbill were seen. We could have easily stayed in this place for whole day as there were so many birds to see and photograph but we still had many things to do and a long drive.

We continued driving and on the way we saw an Eastern Chanting Goshawk, a few Abyssinian Wheatears and a Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater. We also saw the first masai-villages where mud hut looking buildings were surrounded by a thick fence made of big branches. We also saw a funny-looking Flap-necked Chameleon crossing the road.

Then we turned to Ngorongoro gates where were lots of Olive Baboons and also some Reichenow’s Seedeaters, a Red-fronted Tinkerbird and a couple of Brown-headed Apalis were seen. Then we continued higher to a view-watching place where an amazing view opened to Ngorongoro crater! There we ate picnic-lunch (which was again really good by the way) but it was once again difficult to concentrate eating as there was so much to see!

Some of us had put up telescopes and were watching to the crater where were lots of animals. And soon the first Black Rhinoceroses were found! I also saw an African Elephant with my binoculars but Rhinos were so much more rare that I really needed to go to see it with a scope. After all we found 4 Rhinos but of course they were very far on the bottom of the crater. But there were too many birds again so I had to start looking at them too! Again they were all new species.

We saw some Mblulu White-eyes, an Abyssinian Thrush, a Red-fronted Barbet, a Streaked Seedeater and an amazing Golden-winged Sunbird. There was really no time to visit toiled – I did that and missed a couple of lifers. It was a bit frustrating as I had no idea which birds were going to be difficult to see later as all birds were different in every place…

Once we were back through the gate, we continued towards Serengeti. On the way we saw first huge Kori Bustards, Greater Kestrels, Red-capped Larks, African Pipits, some Cape Rooks, Spotted Thick-knees and then we started to see amazing numbers of mammals! White-bearded Wildebeest and Plains Zebras were in huge numbers but also Cape Buffaloes and Thomson’s Gazelles were a lot. There were animals both sides of the road as far as we could see! We also saw some Common Elands, Serengeti Topis, Grant’s Gazelles, African Golden Wolves and Spotted Hyenas. The big migration was going on! There would have been so much to see and photograph but unfortunately we were in a hurry as we had to be at Serengeti gate at 5 p.m.

We drove quite a long time along very poor road very fast and we could make stops only if it was really necessary – so all the possible lifers were checked and a couple of better pictures taken. But we were really driving so fast that we were worried if we soon have only broken cameras.

So finally we got the first pictures of a Greater Kestrel, a Black-bellied Bustard, a Yellow-throated Longclaw, a Capped Wheatear and finally also Common Ostriches. And just before the gate we made a stop to photograph a Secretarybird that was swallowing a snake close to the road and there was also a lonely Lion resting behind some vegetation a bit further! Amazing!

Finally we were at the gate to Serengeti National Park and again drivers had some paper-works to do. So we were able to straighten our legs and walk a little. A Brubru, a Red-faced Crombec, Buff-bellied Warblers and a Banded Parisoma were found. There was also a familiar, but more difficult to identify, bird on one tree but after all it was quite easy to identify as an Icterine Warbler. Then we again got into our cars and started driving towards our lodge.

Luckily we were not in so bad hurry anymore so we could make some more stops. Anthony took his phone and tape-lured a flock of Black-lored Babblers visible. Also a couple of Coqui Francolines were seen briefly before the sun started to set. The road was still very bad and soon we were driving very fast again. It was already getting dark when we saw some vultures which were identified as White-headed and a Lapped-faced Vulture and later we saw some more unidentified vultures on the dead trees. Also a couple of flocks of Wattled Starlings, a White-bellied Bustard and some Marabou Storks were seen. It was already dark when we stopped briefly along a pool where were Hippoes swimming and also a couple of them next to the pool.

Then it started to rain very hard! Finally we parked to Thorn Tree Camp parking place where the crew was welcoming us with umbrellas. We walked under umbrellas to the reseption and our luggage were carried there too. And soon we were enjoying a good dinner and after that we still had a log to do.

When the log was done we had to ask an employer to walk with us to our tent as it wasn’t aloud to walk there by yourself – we were in the middle of Serengeti and there were many animals living next to us!

On the 10th of February it had been very heavy rain at night, but luckily weather was nice in the morning. When the sun was rising, we walked to have breakfast and got several Grey-capped Social Weavers to join us even inside the tent. After the breakfast we climbed to our cars and started driving inside Serengeti.

It was now rainy season and very green everywhere, but the rains had started very late so all migrating animals were late on their usual schedule and still on the way to Serengeti. That’s why we had seen so many mammals on the previous evening – they were close but not yet inside the park. So we didn’t see a single Gnu and only a few Zebras inside the park.

Some birds we saw early in the morning were Nubian Woodpecker, Dark-chanting Goshawk, Village Weaver, funny-sounding Flappet Lark, Bearded Woodpecker, Silverbird, Foxy Lark, Grey-backed Fiscal, White-tailed Lark, Black-faced Waxbill, Meyer’s Parrot, Slate-colored Boubou, Bateleur, Purple Grenadier, Pin- and Straw-tailed Whydah, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Croaking Cisticola, Gabar Goshawk, Grey-headed Silverbill, African Hoopoe, Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill, Magpie Shrike, Rüppell’s Starling, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Vitelline Masked Weaver and Usambiro Barbet. We also got nice pictures of Black- and White-bellied Bustards, a Woolly-necked Stork and so on. We also saw some mammals like Impalas, Serengeti Topis, Common Dwarf Mongooses, Cavendish’s Dik-diks, Cape Buffaloes with some Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on their backs and also some Leopard Tortoises and a flap-necked Chameleon were seen. We also got familiar with tsetse-flies, but luckily there weren’t many of them or other insects either.

White-bellied Bustards
Woolly-necked Stork
black-bellied Bustards

After quite a lot of driving and birding, we arrived to a high area where were a couple of meters long spiky trees here and there. This was area for rare Karamoja Apalis. So we started to stop every couple of hundreds of meters and played tapes in both cars. Anthony told that this species was difficult to see as, if it comes, it comes quiet, stays in a tree for a short time and then disappears. We had once again continued after a long try when we our friends on the other car called us that they had found one bird. We managed to get back (frustratingly slowly) but luckily the bird was still there and we got this rare endemic to our list! In same time there was a herd of Elephants walking on the savanna behind the spiky trees so it was very nice moment!

We kept on getting further and soon found a Pygmy Falcon on a tree next to the road. Then Anthony started playing the tape again but now from a moving car. But it seemed that all birds had disappeared, but then a flock of birds flew over us and they were exactly what we had been searching for – Grey-crested Helmetshrikes! Shrikes were flying around and only shortly stopped to some distant bushes but after all we managed to get some pictures. These birds were really funny-looking.

After a short drive we stopped to a plateau where we could see were big trees further on the mountain side. Soon we saw a Woodland Kingfisher and then the next bird was a nice surprise – a beautiful Black-headed Gonolek! Almost same time the tape lured an amazing-looking Schalow’s Turaco to the trees further and after some time we could see it in flight but then it also perched quite openly but unfortunately quite far. Von der Decken’s Hornbill landed very close to us and soon the tape worked again as a couple of huge Eastern Plantain-eaters were seen in flight on the top of very distant trees. This had been one of the most memorable stops ever – we had seen several amazing birds in very short time!

We drove quite fast back to our camp and after the lunch we had some time to photograph common birds in the camp. I got pictures of Superb and Rüppell’s Starlings and Swahili Sparrows, also a Red-throated Tit was found from the parking place.

Grey-crested Helmetshrikes
Black-headed Gonolek
Superb Starling

In the afternoon we drove in the park again and saw Desert and Lyne’s Cisticolas, a Long-crested Eagle, Fischer’s Lovebirds, Grey-breasted Spurfowls and Arrow-marked Babblers.The best observation was a Cheetah that we saw with help of a car that stopped to tell us about it. The cat had disappeared to the vegetation for some time ago but luckily we found it quite soon. And after some waiting it got up and gave us better views! We were very happy!

Once we were driving again I finally saw a Pearl-spotted Owlet that I had missed earlier and also the first Wahlberg’s Eagle, an African Hawk-Eagle and a couple of Yellow-throated Bush Sparrows were seen. In the evening we had really good light for photographing and as we were in no hurry, we got very good opportunities to get pictures. Edson was stopping every time we asked and he was actually the most talkative of the locals and told us many interesting stories during the trip.

We were back in the camp before the sunset and then we had dinner and log again. I got into our tent again so that a local was escorting me. Mika stayed up much later once again.

fischers lovebird
cheetah
long-crested eagle

On the 11th of February an Elephant had been walking through the camp and very close to some of our tents. It had also left a huge pile of shit in the middle of the path. After the breakfast we headed to the park and our goal was to see some more birds but also the missing mammal of the big five list – a Leopard. All cars in the park had radiophones and all big cats and so on were told to other groups, so we could still concentrate on birds and keep our radio on and then go twitching.

We were driving a bit more moist areas and headed towards North first. We saw Meyer’s Parrots, a Lesser Kestrel, a couple of Dark Chanting Goshawks, Usambiro Barbets, a Pied Wheatear, a Black Crake, Woodland Kingfishers and so on. It seemed that lifers were getting more difficult to get. We also saw Common Hippoes, Black-backed Jackals. Dik-diks and so on.

Finally we found a few Three-banded Coursers and then some Yellow-billed Storks, a couple of Chestnut-banded Plovers, a Black-winged Red Bishop and also a couple of Crocodiles. We also saw lots of Hippos and a couple of them were fighting a long time. It was fun to see a Common Sandpiper walking on the backs of Hippo together with a Red-billed Oxpecker.

woodland kingfisher
Usambiro barbet
three-banded courser

When we were driving again we saw some flocks of Yellow-throated Sandgrouses in flight and then found a couple of Black-faced Sandgrouses along the road. Then Edson found a stunning Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl that was perched on a tree. Other observations were a Bohor Reedbuck that was laying down next to the road and a huge Python that crossed the road.

After one more cisticola, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, we found an African Harrier-Hawk working on one tree. It was robbing some nest and we could get really good pictures of it. I was happy to see another species that I had missed earlier. Then we still saw a Hooded and a White-backed Vulture on the sky before next to a small airfield we found a small pack of Lions laying on the shadows of trees. One bigger Lion came closer but behind some vegetation to eat a carcass of a Cape Buffalo. We also saw several Kongonis and on a small pool we saw a Common Snipe, a Wood Sandpiper, a Kittlitz’s and a Three-banded Plover.

We walked a little bit on the picnic-place next to the airfield and again got some pictures of common birds like tame Hildebrandt’s and Rüppell’s Starlings, Slate-colored Boubous, a Red-throated Tit, Grey-headed Silverbills, a Spotted Palm Thrush and also cute Common Dwarf Mongooses and Eastern Tree Hyraxes.

african harrier-hawk
Hildebrandt’s Starling
nubian woodpecker

Once we were moving again we saw the same Lions again and now one female was drinking by the pool! So we finally got good pictures of this massive cat! Next we continued towards south quite fast but we still saw a flock of Collared Pratincoles, Black-bellied Bustards and finally a few Two-banded Coursers with one chick too.

Once again when we were driving fast there started to be amazing numbers of mammals! We saw thousands and thousands of White-bearded Wildebeest and Plains Zebras but also Spotted Hyenas, Secretarybirds and Tawny Eagles very well. I could have watched there masses of animals for a long time but we were in a hurry.

The next stop was made in Serengeti Media Center where we walked a little bit again. It was a nice place but in the middle of hot day there weren’t much birds. But we got pictures of different kind of lizards – Common Agama was the most colorful and thus easy to identify. And soon we were driving again and more Hyenas and also an elegant Serval was seen. It was already getting late when we started to get close to Ndutu and there we saw quite a few vultures on the top of trees.

Finally we were in Ndutu Safari Lodge where we went to eat immediately. After a few minutes a Common Genet joined us and stared at us from the ceiling where it was perched. Then after the dinner our log got an awful twist as one of us had made a covid test and got a positive result! We first discussed what we could do but then together with Anthony we all agreed that we couldn’t do anything more than keep distance to all other people. We were in the middle of Serengeti and we had already been together for days, so we all probably had the virus already. And after all we were all the time just together, so we could only hope that nobody gets more sick. And after all it seemed that locals where happy if there just was ginger-tea on every meal.

But anyway I had difficulties to get asleep and of course in early morning I started to feel some itching on my throat…

lion
serval
spotted hyena

On the 12th of February we woke up and had breakfast same at time again and then we had to split into two groups. In our original program we were going to visit both Ngorongoro crater and slopes in the same day but we were just too slowly and making many stops all the time so Anthony had realized that it was impossible to do all this in one day. So one group was going to the crater and another one to the slopes. In crater there would be more mammals to see and of course also some birds in the crater lake too, but on the slopes there would be more mountain-birds which usually are very local and difficult. So after all I decided to go birding. I had already seen the endangered Black Rhino and this was maybe the best opportunity ever to get some lifers from the slopes. I think I will be visiting the crater one day with Hanna anyway.

So after all there were me, Mika, Henkka, Hannu and Matti with Anthony and Geitan going to the slopes. But both groups had to drive first a long way to get to Ngorongoro. First we started on the shore of Lake Ndutu where we saw Rüppell’s and other vultures, a perched Bateleur, a Thick-billed Seedeater and an African Cuckoo.

On the same straight road that we had been driven in the last evening we saw more vultures, Hyenas, Jackals and amazing numbers of Gnus again and Common Elands, Kongonis, different kind of Gazelles, a couple of Black-winged Lapwings, a flock of Caspian Plovers, a Temminck’s Courser and so on.

Slowly we got closer to Ngorongoro mountain and then started to climb higher. After quite a lot of driving we finally found the first Anteater Chats and then stopped to a place with nice view to the crater where we easily found Lyne’s Cisticolas and some Dusky Turtle Doves.

Soon we continued, saw a couple of Hildebrandt’s Spurfowls and then stopped to twitch Hunter’s Cisticolas.

Next stop was made on the same view watching place where we saw Mbulu White-eyes, but soon kept on driving higher. After some driving we found some Moorland Chats but the road was very curvy and narrow so we couldn’t stop in most of the places.

Finally we got to the plateau where were lots of masai huts – it was like a city! Anthony told us again not to take pictures of people or buildings so we just tried to find birds. After some searching we found a couple of Red-collared Widowbirds and then finally a single Jackson’s Widowbird too. These birds were quite far but some pictures were got and secretly we could get some huts to the background.

While we were driving again masai-children were waving to us. They were shepherding goats and I think youngest were maybe 4 years old. Soon we had to turn back and after we had seen a Speke’s Weaver and an Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, the next bird was a huge Martial Eagle that was soaring on the sky.

Hunter’s Cisticolas
Jackson’s Widowbird
anteater chat

Then we stopped to a hillside where on dense vegetation we saw some Bar-throated and Brown-headed Apalis, an African Hill Babbler and a Tacazze Sunbird.

Once we were on the view watching place again, we met our second half of the group and saw now 7 distant Black Rhinos but there was no time to discuss as we were in a hurry to get out from the National Park. We had paid to stay in the park for 2 days and the time was getting full.

Then we had a long drive to Karatu where we parked to really comfortable Villa Lodge. Our cottages were really nice and in the evening we had some time to watch birds from our terrace. The bst bird we saw was a Black Sparrowhawk. In the evening everyone was very tired and it seemed that some of us clearly had covid. Anyway we still tried to listen to nightjars on the garden but without luck.

Some were too tired and maybe sick to join the log which was long as we had two groups observations that were very different. There would have been some lifer on the crater too but I think I had made the right choice.

On the 13th of February we were in the same groups again but a couple of us had to stay in the lodge as they felt themselves sick. We drove to Lake Manyara National Park and we knew that the lake had been flooding so there weren’t many shorebirds around and also several roads were not driveable.

So once we were through the gate, we concentrated to forest-birds. It started very well as we soon found a couple of Southern Ground Hornbills that were perched on a dead tree quite far. But soon we got closer views of a Hamerkop, Silvery-cheekd Hornbills, White-headed Barbet couple, a Yellow-bellied Greenbul and a Crowned Hornbill. Then we saw an African Pygmy Kingfisher flying across the road and then we found a perched Crowned Eagle. And soon we found 4 Broad-billed Rollers which was again a bird that I had missed earlier. Then we got an unexpected tick when Anthony showed us a Collared Palm Thrush and then we still found a colorful Orange-breasted Bushshrike – we were really having a good time again!

It went well later too as with the tape we found Rufous Chatterers and on one tree we found a Gabar Goshawk eating a prey. Also a Fan-tailed Widowbird was seen and then we saw the first close by Elephants.

crowned eagle
Silvery-cheeked Hornbills
Broad-billed Rollers

We did a short walking stop in one picnic-place and just before the stop we saw a Red-and-yellow Barbet which was luckily seen briefly on the picnic-area too. We also saw a couple of Yellow-spotted Bush Sparrows, a couple of African Hawk-Eagles were soaring on the sky but on the lake, that was quite far, we saw no birds at all. And soon we were driving again.

With help of the tape we found our next target which was a Purple-crested Turaco. It was quite far but was showing pretty well after all. It was one more amazing turaco to our list!

We were already driving quite fast back when Anthony found a flock of Crested Guineafowls feeding on the shadows under some vegetation. It was one more dream-bird that I had hoped to see.

Pretty soon we were back at the lodge where we ate well. In the afternoon only 5 of us were participating the trip. Some felt sick and tired and the garden was also a great place to try to see some soaring raptors.

We drove a short distance along the road and then stopped a couple of times just along the road in acacias and plantations. But once again all birds were new. We saw Black-crowned Tchagras, Holub’s Golden and Golden-backed Weavers, Southern Red and Black Bishops, a Bare-eyed Thrush, a D’Arnaud’s Barbet, African Paradise Flycatchers, Pale White-eyes, a couple of Violet-backed Starlings and so on. I finally got pictures of an Augur Buzzard and saw one familiar trip-tick – a Common Whitethroat. Other common Finnish summer-birds that we had seen had been numerous Barn Swallows, House Martins, Common Swifts, Northern Wheatears, a couple of Whinchats, Red-backed Shrikes, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers, a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a single Osprey. I had really thought that we could see more Finnish migrants.

In the evening we had dinner (even though I wasn’t hungry at all) and then log again.

Purple-crested Turaco
Augur Buzzard
Bare-eyed Thrush

On the 14th of February after breakfast we were on the way to Ngorongoro highlands again but different side of the mountain. The first stop was made to twitch a Red-faced Cisticola which was found already while we were still moving. On the same place we saw Yellow-bellied Waxbills, a Green-headed Sunbird and a Grey-capped Warbler.

It had been raining at night so ground, especially the road was very muddy. Soon our boots had thick mud-layers, so it was quite slippery to walk. We continued a little bit higher to Elephant Cave trail where we met our local guide Emmanuel and an armed guide who were going to join us. They had already checked that Elephants and Cape Buffaloes had moved higher and weren’t on the track.

Soon we were walking along a curvy and slippery path in a mountain forest. Emmanuel knew the calls very well too so soon we started to find new birds. We found a couple of White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, a singing Red-capped Robin Chat, with Mika we saw briefly a Lemon Dove in flight and soon we heard a couple of Schalow’s Turacos which we also manged to see briefly again. Also Mbulu White-eyes and a Common Cuckoo were seen.

After a quite long walk we found a couple of Purple-throated Cuckooshrikes and immediately after them also an Orange-breasted Bushshrike. Also some Abyssinian Crimsonwings, an Amethyst Sunbird and a couple of African Paradise Flycatchers were seen. And when we were on the furthermost point just about to turn back, we found a Sharpe’s Starling that was visiting a nest-hole.

We still decided to get down to a small river but then climbed back up along a different, less slippery, path and started walking back. Birds were quiet as morning was over. So we were pretty soon back in the parking place. The best bird we saw on the way back was a Grey Cuckooshrike.

We still had lunch in the lodge and then we packed our cars and started a longer drive to Tarangire. And again we soon found out that birds had changed completely!

African Paradise Flycatchers
green forest
sharpes starling

Tarangire

The first lifer was a Red-necked Francolin but also several Yellow-collared Lovebirds were seen here and Mika got his World-tick number 5000! At the gate we walked a little and saw White-browed Sparrow-Weavers, Northern Red-billed Hornbills and Ashy Starlings. And when we were driving again we soon saw the first Yellow-necked Spurfowls.

We also saw some mammals and got pictures of Common Warthogs, Common Dwarf Mongooses, Elephants and Ostriches – oh the last one is claimed to be a bird… In nice evening light it was good to get pictures of spurfowls, hornbills, Northern White-crowned Shrikes, a Pygmy Falcon, a Fork-tailed Drongo and a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.

Our accommodation was an amazing Safari Lodge which had a terrace with a view to river and savanna. In the evening we celebrated Mika’s 5000th tick with champagne and enjoyed the view and some birds. A Greenshank was heard as a trip-tick and we also saw Mottled Spinetails and when it was almost dark some of us saw a Freckled Nightjar flying over very close. And while we were having a log, an African Scops Owl started to call nearby.

northern red-billed hornbill
Yellow-collared Lovebird
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver

On the 15th of February after a night in a tent we walked to have breakfast when the sun was rising. Then we got pictures of an African Scops Owl that was sleeping in the closest tree next to the terrace. I managed to find a Black-throated Weaver and get some pictures of White-headed, Red-billed Buffalo and Rufous-tailed Weavers before we left by cars to the park again.

We photographed a nice couple of Wahlberg’s Eagles, Giraffes, Banded Mongooses, Crested Francolins and so on before we found the first lifer which was a flock of funny Green Wood Hoopoes. Then we found some Red-necked Spurfowls, White-bellied Bustards, and so on before the next lifer which was a fruit-eating Red-bellied Parrot.

We got good pictures of Magpie Shrikes, Lilac-breasted Rollers, White-bellied Go-away-birds and a Nubian Woodpecker and then suddenly we found a perched Greater Honeyguide. Then a Knob-billed Duck that was perched on a tree-top. In a shore of a pool nearby we saw a couple of Black-faced Sandgrouses and then the male Knob-billed duck landed to the pool to chase females. There were also White-faced Whistling Ducks, Egyptian Geese and then after some more driving there was another duck on the tree-top – a Spur-winged Goose. And finally I managed to see a Mosque Swallow so well that I could take a lifer.

safari tent
African Scops Owl
green wood hoopoe

A short stop in a picnic-place produced pictures of Superb Starlings and from the view watching place we saw a couple of Water Thick-knees along the river. And when we were on the move again, we found a perched Martial Eagle and in the same time there was a big Monitor going to swim to a pool.

Of course we had to take pictures of huge baobab trees too and check every single branch if there was a Leopard. But only mammals we got good pictures were Zebras and Elephants which were now seen quite a lot. The next bird-lifer was a Senegal Lapwing and soon we found another Verreaux’s Eagle Owl which was calling on a branch a little bit too far. There was also a female on the same tree but hiding behind all branches.

The next new bird was a Buff-crested Bustard which came too close to fit to the pictures. We also saw a dark morph Gabar Goshawk. Also both Great Spotted and Levaillant’s Cuckoo were seen briefly.

We drove back to the lodge to have lunch and then had some time to photograph tame birds in the lodge-area. A beautiful Red-headed Weaver was building its nest next to the swimming pool. It was amazing red bird! I also got pictures of Superb Starlings, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus, Yellow-collared Lovebirds, an African Hawk-Eagle that was soaring close to the view-watching place, a Beautiful Sunbird, Von der Decken’s Hornbills, buffalo weavers, Ashy Starlings, Slate-colored Boubous, Yellow-breasted Apalises and also Unstriped Ground Squirrels.

knob-billed duck
baobab tree
White-bellied Go-away-bird

It seemed that we had seen so many birds already that new lifers were not so easy anymore. So in the afternoon we had more time to photograph and it was good to get nice pictures of Secretarybird. We also saw Two-banded Coursers, Senegal Lapwings and several gazelles and so on before we found the first targeted lifer – a flock of Northern Pied Babblers and almost right away after them we found a couple of Pale Flycatchers. We also got pictures of a Red-billed Oxpecker cleaning Impalas ears and also African Grey Hornbill showed very well.

We also got pictures of a Yellow-billed Stork, Yellow-necked Spurfowls, Black-faced Sandgrouses and Blue-capped Cordon-bleus. In the evening we were in the lodge early enough to get more pictures of birds there. And then it was time to eat and have the log again.

On the 16th of February we were out a little bit earlier as we wanted to get to bustard-areas as early as possible. It had been raining at night so roads were very muddy and soon it was clear that we couldn’t drive any further than on the previous day. But already on the way we could see that bustards were very active as we saw several White-bellied Bustards flying around.

Soon we found the first Buff-crested Bustard too and also a Black-bellied Bustard that we first hoped to be a Hartlaub’s Bustard but no. But then in the same place we saw a distant bustard in flight and it was much paler – it was a Hartlaub’s Bustard! We also saw a Pallid Harrier, a Knob-billed Goose, Yellow-necked Spurfowls, a Pangani Longclaw and other familiar birds and mammals. We got really good pictures of Hyenas as a couple of them were cooling in a small water-pool.

Red-and-yellow Barbet couple was mating, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers were climbing on Giraffes neck, Cavendish’s Dik-dik was waving its nose while watching at us, Red-bellied Parrot was eating fruits, Jacobine Cuckoo flew over us, a turtle was running over the road and Banded Mongooses were wrestling on the track. So it was just a basic morning in savanna…

It was also nice to get better pictures of a D’arnaud’s Barbet, a Meyer’s Parrot and a flying Bateleur. Then on one dead tree we saw a couple of Southern Ground Hornbills which was also nice to get photographed. Also Ostriches were showing well and we also saw a Striped Kingfisher, Mottled Spinetails and briefly a couple of Hildebrandt’s Spurfowls.

Black-bellied Bustard
Yellow-billed Oxpeckers
barbet

Once we were back at the camp we found a Marico Sunbird and a few Red-billed Firefinches and then Jyrki who was going to photograph Ashy Starlings got accidentally quite close to a huge Python. Unfortunately the snake was going to hide us to a water pipe that went under the track, so only a half a meter was visible when we went to see it.

After the lunch we started to drive towards Arusha but luckily we still had some driving in savanna both before and after the gate. So we still saw plenty of birds and mammals. Especially Elephants were showing very well. Then on the gate we saw Grey-headed and Woodland Kingfishers and a Red-chested Cuckoo which all were photographed.

Then we had a long drive to Arusha and on the way we saw several villages more active as it was a market-day. Finally we parked to Korona Villa garden and now if ever the name of the hotel sounded awful, probably several of us was having covid right now…

Grey-headed kingfisher
marico sunbird
woodland kingfisher2

On the 17th of February we woke up a little bit earlier and after breakfast we were soon driving north from Arusha. It was surprisingly long drive but on the way we saw a Lizard Buzzard on the wire and several flocks of White-fronted Bee-eaters.

Finally we reached the lark-plains about at 9 a.m. and Anthony called to a masai who was working with endangered and endemic Beesley’s Lark. Soon we saw this man standing in the middle of the plains and started driving slowly towards him. He had been searching for these larks from 7 a.m. and had just found the birds! And once we got out, we soon saw 2 Beesley’s Larks! And in short walk on the area, we saw altogether 5 of these birds that is known only in this area in the whole World! On last count a couple of years ago only 23 birds had been found! This plateau has almost every year so hard winds that the whole vegetation flies with the wind and destroys many nests of birds.

We managed to get pretty good pictures of Beesley’s Larks and after that we found also Fischer’s Sparrow-Larks, Red-capped Larks and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses and then on another stop we found a couple of Athi Short-toed Larks and a single Short-tailed Lark. Also Northern and Isabelline Wheatears were seen and a couple of Temminck’s Coursers.

Then we continued to acacia area where we found a couple of Pygmy Batises, a Grey Wren Warbler, a Red-and-yellow Barbet and a small flock of White-headed Mousebirds. In this area we also met the first angry local people who probably wanted to get some money from us. They said that we were on their land, but for sure we weren’t. And once we were driving again we found a Kori Bustard that decided to fly very close to us and it was nice to see and photograph this heaviest flying bird of the World in flight.

Soon we found a female Common Rock Thrush and then the last stop was made in another acacia area where we found some Tiny Cisticolas and Foxy Larks, a Straw-tailed Whydah, a Northern Crombec, a couple of very active Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and then the last lifer of the trip was a Southern Grosbeak-Canary which I couldn’t photograph as my battery died. It was the first time I didn’t have extra-battery with me.

On the way back we still stopped to tick one more cisticola but luckily we stayed critical and identified the bird as a Winding Cisticola instead of something else.

Scarlet-chested Sunbirds
Lizard Buzzard

Finally we were back in Korona Villa where we had excellent pizza and them it was time to say thank you to Anthony as he was leaving. We had collected tips to him and also to drivers and gave them after we all had eaten. Then we did all the packing and still had almost whole log before we had to leave to Arusha airport with our drivers.

Luckily there were no covid-tests at the airport as we really didn’t want to stay in Tanzania in quarantine. A couple of week old PCR-test papers were only asked.

Our first flight was to Dar Er Salaam where were no tests either. We had some time to do some shopping even though we had to check-in our luggage again. Then the next long flight was to Qatar Doha. I managed to sleep for some time and then in Doha we had again some hours to wait. Last flight was long and I slept almost whole time. Then we landed to snowy Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

While we were waiting for our luggage also Peking flights luggage were on the same belt. There were Finnish women icehockey team and also some skiers, for example Iivo Niskanen so there were many Olympic medals hanging on the necks. We tried to stay as far as possible from these sport-heroes as we probably still had covid.

Finally it was time to say thanks and goodbyes to our group. My father was picking me up but as I thought that I might have covid too, I just gave him the souvenirs and took my car and started driving towards Parikkala. My father had to take a train back to Kirkkonummi. I was at home pretty early and as it was Saturday I had good time to relax.

But during the weekend I felt myself sick and it wasn’t a surprise that homemade covid-test gave positive results. And on Monday I got positive also from real test. So I still stayed away from work for 4 days.

Our trip had been amazing! Our group had seen 474 species of birds. I had missed 6 species that had been seen only from other car or then by one or two people and then I had of course missed some species that had been seen only in Ngorongoro crater. So I had seen 459 species which 356 had been lifers! There are amazing numbers of birds in Africa! We had seen amazing mammals and taken too many pictures on the trip too! I think this was not my last trip to Africa! Thanks to our Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris company and our guide Anthony, drivers and other helpers and of course to our group, especially to Jyrki.

For the full Trip Report, see Northern Tanzania 7th to 17th of February 2022, by Mr Janne Aalto (Sweden).

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STANDARD NORTHERN TANZANIA BIRDING

With Extension to West Kilimanjaro – Ndarakwai Private Ranch

THE GREATEST WILDLIFE SPECTACLE ON EARTH

Birding & Wildlife in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater & Beyond

TOUR RUNNING AMIDST CLOSURE OF INTERNATIONAL BORDERS DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC OUT BREAK.

Birds & Wildlife in the Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater

(06th – 23rd March 2020)

Participants:Roger Lawrence & Denise Lyon, and Bill & Marsha Hendrickson

Tour Leader: Peter Roberts

Safari Driver Guide: Roger

Ground Tour Operator: Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris

Tour Pace & Style: Private tour with slow pace Birding , mostly Big Game Safari

DAY TO DAY TOUR NOTES

I had finished my first, shorter tour of Tanzania today and Roger, Denise, Bill and Marsha arrived together in Kilimanjaro Airport near Arusha off the KLM flight at about 8.35 pm. I met them as they came out of the usual immigration and customs ordeal and transferred to the nearby KIA Lodge for the night.

After a 7am breakfast we were met by Vincent – one of the regular Tanzania Birding driver/guides for a morning doing some local birding nearby for a suite of dry country birds that we’d be unlikely to find elsewhere on the tour. There is presumably something different about the habitat out along the Tanzanite Road past Mererani and on to Shambari that provides the right conditions. It was a dry, sunny and hot day (hopefully all over Northern Tanzania to dry the roads out!) and it turned into a very pleasant first morning’s birding. We found a few of the special birds such as Pink-breasted Lark, Rosy-patched Bush-shrike, Red-fronted Prinia, Southern Grosbeak-Canary, and Black-throated Barbet – the barbet being a first for the tour. The Grey Wren-Warblers were calling and we called back, but they wouldn’t show. There were plenty of other more widespread birds to keep our interest for a session of a little over three hours before it got too hot and lunch beckoned. I managed to find the same track I’d had success on in November 2018 and apart from the “specials” we came across plenty of Blue-naped Mousebirds, Green-winged Pytilias, Pin-tailed Whydah and its host Red-billed Firefinch, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Southern Red Bishop, European Bee-eaters, Plain Martins, migrant Sedge Warblers and more. Some of the above were found along the flooded Shambari area where a lot of disturbance from locals living on the water’s edge meant no water-birds.

After a lunch at KIA Lodge, we took a bit of time off in the heat of the day and reconvened at 4pm for some time birding the grounds of our lodge and familiarizing ourselves with some of the common species. The expected “default” sunbirds were present – Variable was common and Collared less so, with a couple of Scarlet-chested too. Mixed groups of Blue-naped and Speckled Mousebirds popped up regularly. After a bit of searching I managed to locate the Spotted Eagle-Owl in exactly the same tree as it was 15 months ago. It flew, but was relocated and gave some lovely full-frame scope views – definitely the bird of the afternoon! Wandering up the drive to the gate produced a fine little group of Violet-backed Starlings. We called it a day at about 6.15pm, and met for bird list and supper at 7.15pm and packed ready for the flight to Mwanza and Lake Victoria tomorrow morning.

After breakfast we transferred back to Kilimanjaro Airport at 8.15am to fly to the west of Tanzania and land by the shores of Lake Victoria at Mwanza. The flight was on time at 10.20am and arrived into Mwanza at about 11.30am, where our driver/guide Roger was waiting for us. Roger sped us on the 2.5 hour journey to Speke’s Bay Lodge, situated right on the shores of the lake, arriving at about 2.15pm. A quick check-in and lunch and we were ready to spend the rest of the afternoon birding in the extensive and easily

watched grounds on the edge of the immense Lake Victoria. By late afternoon the thunder rumbled and storm clouds gathered, but didn’t impinge on our birding too much at all – the rain being very sporadic and light. We had a very productive session where a good number of the special birds not found elsewhere on our tour were notched up The water levels of the lake were very high and we were once again suffering from the odd “too much water for water-birds” syndrome. However, other species were on good form. All of the hoped-for weavers were very much in full swing, building nests and showing well; Northern Brown-throated, Yellow-backed and Slender-billed along with the more widespread Village Weavers – all giving Bill doing his E-birding problems with ever-changing names.

The emergent vegetation of papyrus, reed and sedge held both species of Cormorants, many Pied Kingfishers, a few Striated Herons, Malachite Kingfisher and passing Hadada and Sacred Ibis plus first Hamerkops. I was pleased to call out the scarce Blue-headed Coucal having only seen it here on a handful of occasions before. Inland, the open park-like grassy acacia savanna produced plenty of interest. Swamp Flycatcher, scoped Red-chested Sunbird, Black-headed Gonoleks in their bright scarlet and black very evident doing their duetting songs, Green-winged Pytilias, Blue-capped Cordonbleus and Bronze Mannikins, Grey-headed Kingfisher and some Yellow-winged Bats when the barman and general Mr. Fixit of the lodge took us out to show us four lovely Three-banded (Heuglin’s) Coursers.

The rain clouds persisted after dark, but by the time we’d finished a very good evening meal the rain had ceased.

A 6.30am breakfast this morning allowed us a good 4-5 hours birding in the extensive grounds of Speke Bay Lodge before a midday lunch. The weather was OK – dry but not too hot – remaining so for much of the day. This is always a potentially exciting area where new and unexpected species may pop up and this morning produced my first ever Zebra Waxbill on this tour. Apart from that we managed to find a good selection of the special birds to be found here along the shores of the largest expanse of water in Africa. As expected, there were sadly few water-birds as the water levels were too high. However we were all amazed at the density of Pied Kingfishers over the water and in the emergent vegetation; well in excess of 50, possibly 100 birds. Weavers were even more abundant. All the usual species including Golden-backed (Jackson’s) were dashing to and fro, feeding and nest-building. Just before taking a mid-morning break for coffee back at the lodge, we managed to find a lovely Square-tailed Nightjar in one of the usual shady spots and gain some marvelous close looks. With all the nesting weavers it was no surprise to find both Klaas and Dideric Cuckoos present waiting their chance to lay their eggs. Red-chested Cuckoos had already successfully bred as we found a fledged

juvenile close to the lodge. The Usambiro type of D’Arnaud’s Barbet was a big hit as it sat with a large yellow berry in its bill. Palearctic migrants that need to start heading north were Eurasian Reed, Willow and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers.

After lunch we had to leave this idyllic spot and set off the short distance to the entrance gate of the Serengeti National Park. The journey of 70 miles or so was all the way through the Western Corridor of the Park – a glorious area of open grassland acacia savanna full of game. We had to speed along to reach our tented camp, albeit much later than intended at 7pm due to finding so much good birding along the way. We first checked the Whistling Thorn Acacia – a special habitat for the highly localised Karamoja Apalis. It took a lot of trying along the way, but eventually we struck lucky and gained some great looks at a couple of birds. The other target was to check out the riverine forest fringe of the Grumeti River to look for Eastern Plantain-eater, which we found and saw well after trying our third spot on the route. In between were many other good birds that we made short stops for – and others that Roger and I knew to be commonplace that we had to drive by. In this way we saw a trio of lovely Black Coucals, first Ruppell’s Starlings, bright Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Bare-faced Go-Awaybirds, Double-banded Coursers, a pair of White-bellied Bustards, several Pin-tailed and single Steel-blue Whydahs plus a lone Village Indigobird. Flappet Larks performed their buzzing wing-clapping flight displays. Raptors included first Long-crested Eagle, Bateleur and Dark Chanting Goshawk. I was especially pleased to find the recently split Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill – as usual, thanks to our driver Roger’s eagle-eyes.

Then there was all the big game! The apparently resident population of Wildebeest was seen along with masses of Common Zebra and Impala. Smaller numbers of Giraffe were driven by on the understanding that we’d have plenty of time tomorrow and in future days to spend time watching these and the distant Cape Buffalo on the tall grass plains where birds such as Secretarybird, bustards and small groups of African Elephants were passed by.

After arriving at Kati-Kati Tented Camp there was just enough time to get the luggage to our tents, eat supper, do the bird list and fall into bed.

The Serengeti is a vast preserve. At 5,675 square miles, it is larger than the entire state of Connecticut (or 4 times the size of Kent if you are from UK!). With a further 3,200 sq. miles protected in the surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the total is as large as Vermont or New Hampshire (or larger than Wales!). While other areas may hold the bulk of the famous Wildebeest herds at this time of year, there are many other important habitats with different and special birds and wildlife to be found. Most importantly, this is the best area for finding Leopards.

We set out, sadly minus Bill who was under the weather, at about 8am. We decided that, as it was a long mucky drive to the camp it would be better to take a picnic with us and stay out for as long a day as we wanted. This worked out well, as much of the day was lovely and sunny but huge thunderclouds gathered in mid-afternoon. So, just as we might be setting out for an afternoon game drive it poured with rain and we were nearly back at the Tented Camp.

We concentrated on areas in the centre of the Serengeti known as Seronera, leaving it much up to driver Roger to work out best routes. We had plenty of time to stop for birds and quickly began compiling quite a list. We passed clusters of kopjes (pronounced “copies”) – large isolated, weather-smoothed and rounded lumps of granite, some the size of large houses, interrupting the vast flatness of the plains. We had super views of perched Croaking and Zitting Cisticolas side-by-side in the grassy expanses where small groups of African Elephants grazed. Bushes held Magpie Shrikes, a lone Egyptian Goose sat atop a huge and high rock in one of the kopjes. Oodles of Flappet Larks performed their curious wing-clapping displays, plus a variety of weavers – White-headed Buffalos and Rufous-tailed in particular.

Early on we missed a first possible Leopard that had just come down from a tree. We motored on enjoying watching the birds and stopped by one of the Hippo pools with masses of these gargantuan beasts wallowing, some with Common Sandpiper or Black Crake using their backs as stepping stones. On the shores were shorebirds/waders such a Wood and Marsh Sandpipers, Three-banded Plovers and so on. Engrossed in these we were oblivious of a Lioness sauntering down the road towards us until another landcruiser called across to us. Very embarrassing! The Lion put on a good show, wandering over to another female previously hidden in the grass, where they greeted one another, then both wandered back to a small stream, drank and eventually walked into tall grass – lost forever.

We arrived at the Seronera Visitor Centre by midday and took the chance for a walk around the interesting Kopjes there with the Wildebeest migration timeline explained. This took us to lunch time where we ate in close company of the Rock Hyraxes, Grey-capped Social Weavers, Kenya Rufous Sparrows, D’Arnaud’s Barbets and Speckle-fronted Weavers all looking for scraps and crumbs from our picnic.

After lunch driver Roger whisked back down the road close to the airstrip where the grapevine told him there was a Leopard to be seen. In fact, on arrival there were two to be seen – a first for me in all my 36 visits. We reckoned it was a male and female courting and staying together for the few days they mate before going off to live their solitary lives again. It was a splendid sight to see these two gorgeous animals close together on what looked like very uncomfortable branches up a quite small tree – their legs and tails

dangling below them. Finishing up here we did a further gentle circuit of the side tracks up and down the little waterways and lines of Yellowbark Acacias. Another phenomenal gathering of Hippopotami was watched for a good while. At least 75 were crammed together in a foetid river, their antics of splashing, giving their huge yawning warning signs, guffawing and rubbing along together was fascinating. We also wanted to find Nile Crocodiles this afternoon as it was our best/only chance and I’d seen several whoppers in the area with the other group last week. We did well again, finding 9 in total including 2 at least of gargantuan proportions. With them by their muddy pools were first delicate Wire-tailed Swallows and Spur-winged Plovers.

We’d planned to return to the Kati-Kati Tented Camp by about 5pm, but thunderclouds gathered and threatened imminent rain, so we started making tracks for home a little earlier. With time to stop for birds we had several last good short sessions attracting birds in with owl call. Chinspot Batis, Brubru, Beautiful Sunbird, Purple Grenadiers, Red-faced Crombecs and more all obliged, close to where bright little specialised brood parasites – Steel Blue Whydah and Village Indigobird hung out looking for unsuspecting victims. We passed a close Secretarybird, several hunting Montagu’s Harriers, a lovely lone Eurasian (African) Hoopoe, a fine pair of Rufous-crowned Rollers (much scarcer than the other species of rollers here), our first woodpeckers of the trip – Nubian and Mountain Grey and kicked up small groups of roadside Fischer’s Sparrowlarks. Further very close roadside Giraffes were watched eating acacia leaves, twigs and the pin-sharp thorns while being carefully “groomed” by attendant Red-billed Oxpeckers.

We set off at 7.45am eastwards towards Naabi Gate where the National Park ends and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) begins. It had rained heavily for a short while overnight, but was pleasantly bright, dry and sunny today. We had all morning for the journey so had plenty of time to wander and stop wherever we wished. I left driver Roger to decide the route and he took us via some tracks to the south of the main exit road all of which produced a really memorable and exciting morning. First off we encountered a herd of 40 or more African Elephants and watched as they slowly munched their deliberate way through the grassy savanna. There were large bulls on the periphery and plenty of mothers with all ages of calves, some looking almost newborn. The plains they wandered held the usual abundance of cisticolas (including Desert Cisticola) plus occasional Greater Kestrels, single Grey Kestrel, Montagu’s and first Pallid Harriers, plus pairs of Black-faced Sandgrouse and Coqui Francolins on the track. It was interesting to find a juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo along the way as most are considered migrants rather than breeding here. Little Sparrowhawk was an unusual find and a Striped Kingfisher on a small isolated dead tree in the middle of nowhere allowed very close scrutiny. Roger’s incredible driving skills across this tricky terrain where a fuel lorry was passed – stuck in the mud since yesterday – was equaled by his

ability to pick out birds as we drove along. Especially impressive was his spotting of a distant Whinchat as he negotiated the ruts and mud.

By late morning we had reconnected with the main exit road after a long drive over tracks that varied from smooth, dry and dusty to slick, slippery and sliding in deep water and muddy ruts. Birds of interest included a pair of Cape Crows – probably the only ones we’ll see on the tour – plus a Black-headed Heron swallowing a dead rat in an almost identical observation to one made with the previous tour! There was very little game out there apart from the Elephants, so it was a delightful surprise to reach the main road and find a super group of 5 large, fat and contented Lionesses all sat on top of a classic isolated kopje. I’d never seen such a “picture book” scene. We watched these for a while, pondering what they might be doing and whether they were part of a larger pride. Then, turning to look in the opposite there were another three similarly posed on another kopje several hundred yards away. We continued on our way and as we neared Naabi, as the plains became more obviously “short grass” there was a sudden and dramatic presence of game animals. A virtual wall of black and white stripes presented itself as we came upon an immense, dense gathering of Common Zebras. No attempt was made to count them, but there were many thousands stretching over a huge distance. Beyond them we could discern a dark blur of Wildebeest in an arc of 120 degrees or more – again uncountable thousands disappearing over the vast, flat horizon. As icing on the cake, here too was another lone Lioness looking very intently at the Zebra, hunkered down and ready to try her luck at a chase. The Zebra however, detected her and kept a safe distance and a watchful eye. But even the keen eyes of Zebra could not have seen our final Lion of the day – a large male tucked right under a tiny bush, so well hidden you could have stumble on him without noticing until it was too late.

We arrived at Naabi Hill by 1pm, checked out of the National Park, had our picnic and took a walk on the circular trail up the little hill. There weren’t many birds except for a lovely loose gathering of Lesser Kestrels. But it allowed us to get a full panoramic view across huge extents of the Serengeti to see where we’d come from, where we were going next and how far the Wildebeest had spread.

Tracks were dry enough to be able to take the most direct route, turning south to Ndutu Lodge across further flat, short grass plains, scattered with just a few Grant’s and Thompson’s Gazelles accompanied by many White Storks. But there were a lot of LBJs – Pectoral-patch Cisticolas and Foxy Lark in particular. A more exciting find was a calling male Hartlaub’s Bustard – the first one I’d seen in Tanzania for a good few years. Nearing the Lodge and passing by the southern edge of a very full Lake Ndutu we became aware of vultures: lots of them. We eventually drove around the bottom of the lake and discovered the reason. Several Wildebeest (possibly as many as 20-25) had stupidly tried to cross the lake, got stuck and died. It seemed that every White-backed Vulture and Ruppell’s Griffon in East Africa had gathered here: 275 – 300 at least. This was a very

heartening sight after all the horrible declines in vulture numbers happening in Africa due to illegal poisoning.

Once arrived at Ndutu Lodge we checked in to our rooms, had afternoon tea and took a leisurely walk around the grounds. Playing Pearl-spotted Owlet brought in a few birds mobbing the perceived threat – including the Owlet itself. We also found another couple of adult Great Spotted Cuckoos looking interested in the large nests of Red-billed Buffalo and Rufous-tailed Weavers.

During supper the Common (Small-spotted Genet) put in a very brief and early appearance before we all took to our beds.

It was dry overnight and, although cloudy to start with, dry all day, making the driving tracks much more negotiable than last week. We set off at about 7.30am after breakfast, returning for lunch by 12.30pm on what turned out to be a very productive excursion just pottering around Lake Masek to start with, then Lake Ndutu later. We had no set agenda, thus had many good stops for birds as we motored the tracks around the edge of Masek and in the surrounding acacia forest. Our first little side trip was back to the edge of Lake Ndutu where we’d seen all the vultures as we arrived yesterday afternoon. The vultures were still there and we had a chance for another accurate count and further good looks. We reckoned at least 300 were present, with 200 or so being Ruppell’s Griffons. They were continuing their gruesome feast of Wildebeest that had foolishly wandered into the lake and got stuck and/or drowned – an annual occurrence by all accounts. Birding was good, especially with driver Roger spotting for us. Both Black and Southern Red Bishops were noted, along with other bright species such as Cardinal Quelea and Cardinal Woodpecker. While pootling about birding we were made aware of a nearby Lion so went and had a look at that. She was walking up the track, totally un-phased by the attention of several Landcruisers following along behind her! Eventually she wandered off and was relocated reclining on a very comfy looking branch in a large acacia. Tree-climbing Lions are quite scarce, so this was a particularly interesting sighting.

The edge of Lake Masek produced some good wetland birding with lots of bright, pink-flushed Yellow-billed Storks, a couple of African Spoonbills and Great White Pelicans along with Gull-billed and Whiskered Terns, Pied Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Cape Teal, Ruffs, a single Red-knobbed Coot and two Squacco Herons among the usual herons and egrets. Further vulture sightings here added Hooded Vulture to our list.

While enjoying all this, Roger got word on the radio that Cheetahs had been located and suggested we head off to try for them. Needless to say, once we’d established that they were not many miles away, we all agreed to “give it a whirl”. Roger swiftly relocated us

to the edge of a very full Lake Ndutu, and within 20 minutes we were watching our first of these beautiful cats. They were a trio of males – presumed brothers, all looking very relaxed under a partially shaded, but quite small bush giving us all clear views from quite close range. There was only a handful of other vehicles there so they were not hassled in any way. But after a while they did all stand up and wander over about 30 yards to a patch of tall grass and flowers and disappeared inside – presumably it was cooler in there? Had they gone there to start with, nobody would have had a clue that they were present – such is serendipity!

On our return from the Cheetahs we had a bit of time to check over the water’s edge and muddy margins of the lake to good effect. Decent looks at Kittlitz’s and Chestnut-banded Plovers side-by-side were a main attraction with a supporting cast including many Ruff, a small group of Curlew Sandpipers and other odds and ends. Back to the Lodge for lunch, it was very pleasant to have a break, and a good sit down meal.

Afternoon tea at 3.30pm and out for a game drive soon after. We decided to retrace our steps and do some birding around the open woodland at Lake Masek again for a couple of hours. What started out as a hot sunny afternoon turned into thick, dark blue, all-round storm clouds and threatening rain by the time we returned to the lodge at 6pm. However, there were some good birds found by stopping and watching places where birds were coming down to drink and bathe, and by playing owlet calls – or just by quick observation usually from driver Roger – the Three-banded Courser and Eurasian Golden Oriole being a case in point. Blue-capped Cordonbleus, another Cardinal Quelea, Green-winged Pytilia, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Banded Parisoma, Red-backed Scrub-Robin and Straw-tailed Whydah were all seen quite well. Hamerkops played in puddles in the track, while we watched the masses of vultures from this morning circling high and dispersing. Bateleurs, Dark Chanting Goshawk and Augur Buzzard posed nicely. We also enjoyed watching a small group of African Elephants passing close by.

We had another good morning game drive heading out to the large swamp. It had remained dry – at least here – overnight and was cool, dry with a light cloud cover this morning, making travel pleasant. Prior to our departure Bill and I heard the deep, sonorously gruff hoot of Verreaux’s Eagle-owl by the cabins. While trying to work out which large acacia it was in, the bird obligingly flew out, landing in other large trees at the far end of the site where we couldn’t relocate it even though it was still calling. There weren’t huge numbers of game animals about and other vehicles confirmed that the nearby short-grass plains where large Wildebeest gatherings can occur, were fairly empty. This saved us the bother of looking and we concentrated our time elsewhere.

Game animals were generally few and far between. A lone bull Eland was new for us. But the birding was again quite productive. Numerous cuckoo species were seen. We were fascinated to see that quite small chicks of Grey-breasted Francolins can fly. Firsts were Abyssinian Scimitarbills and a group of White-winged Widowbirds, including 2 displaying males. A Foxy Lark (split from Fawn-coloured) gave brilliant views singing close by atop an acacia bush. Owlet calls brought in a variety of “small stuff”, much of it seen on previous days. A pair of bizarre Southern Ground Hornbills were a bit more flashy and provided entertainment as we tried to identify what each had caught and were walking along with in their bills. We decided one had a skink and the other a fledgling bird. The swamp area was tricky to drive around. Driver Roger did a magnificent job overall throughout the morning getting us around the wetter, muddier, slippery bits to the best spots. A group of 11 Collared Pratincoles on the wide sandy flats around the swamp was a good find along with the usual range of waders.

Most interest for the morning’s drive centred round a trio of great mammal sightings. We relocated yesterday’s three male Cheetahs, this time with fewer vehicles, closer looks and right out in the open. Next up was a splendid male Lion with grand bushy mane, again lazing right out in the open just feet from our vehicle – totally unconcerned and eyes closed in rest for much of the time. Finally, as requested, Roger got us back to last week’s location for Bat-eared Foxes and, sure enough, there they were again – a lovely playful group of six of these little gems.

Back at 12.30pm in time for lunch and a break until 3.30pm, we were out again by 4pm. Roger took us along the edge of Lake Ndutu for the afternoon. On leaving the lodge we got some great looks at a pair of Von Der Decken’s Hornbills and an Abyssinian Scimitarbill, while a little further down the track were a perched juvenile Martial Eagle and fleeting African Golden Oriole. Firstly we checked on the vultures still gathered feeding on the Wildebeest carcasses. The numbers had, if anything, increased. A rough count produced c.100 White-backed and 300 Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures along with at least 100 Marabou Storks. It was a phenomenal gathering and a gruesomely fascinating sight as we managed to get quite close to some of the feeding groups. Further along the edge of the lake and in the adjacent scrub we found a few extra birds of interest including Chestnut Sparrows, displaying Southern Red Bishops, Great White Pelicans, Greater Flamingos and reasonable looks at passing Whiskered and White-winged Terns – some in breeding plumage.

Back at the Lodge by 6pm it was good to find my colleague Anthony Raphael just arrived with a group, giving us a chance to catch up with each other during the evening. Luckily tonight, just after supper and just before everyone had gone towards their beds, the Common Genet showed up and put on a show for us – an enchanting little animal that we all wanted to take home as a pet!

Bill and Marsha were treated to a view of a comfortably distant Lioness outside their cabin as they went to breakfast this morning. We left Ndutu Lodge at about 7.45am on our journey east towards the famous Ngorongoro Crater finding 3 dapper Three-banded Coursers and a couple of Rufous Chatterers almost as soon as we’d set out. This visit has produced some weird weather and it was strange to be driving across the short grass plains in fog today. However it eventually cleared and we were treated to a productive drive for many miles across open short grass plains, in places full of Common Zebra, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles. As we drove, we were able to appreciate the huge scale of this remarkable, intact ecosystem that we’ve been travelling through west to east for several days now. The plains produced a few good and new birds for us, though Roger’s first Ostriches were several miles away on the horizon and try as we may, it was difficult to get folks onto the tiny, aerial, buzzing, yet quite common Pectoral-patch Cisticolas. Closer at hand were plenty of Capped and a lone Isabelline Wheatear. Red-capped Larks appeared on cue. With Driver Roger’s phenomenal spotting we had good looks at both Chestnut-bellied and Yellow-throated Sandgrouse by the roadside. He also found us a couple of the rather localised Taita Fiscal Shrikes, but we all managed to spot the huge bulk of our first Kori Bustard.

We paused for photos as we joined the “main road” to and from the Serengeti, with its new arch and sign, then pressed on along the horribly corrugated route towards the archaeological site of Olduvai Gorge. As I’d hoped, we arrived early (by 10.30am) and had the place more or less to ourselves. We did an hour’s bird walk in increasingly hot and sunny conditions, then spent an hour walking through the exhibits at the state of the art museum/interpretive centre before having our picnic lunch overlooking the layered rocks of the Gorge. Thus we paid homage to our ancestors and learnt a little about early hominids starting 3.5 million years ago. A young woman filled us in on the basics of Leakey’s exploration and the development of the site as we ate lunch. The birding at Olduvai can be productive, but was fairly quiet today. Best finds were from Marsha with an African Paradise Flycatcher and Red-fronted Barbet along with Banded Parisoma.

By a little after 1pm we were on our way again, driving steadily uphill into the Crater Highlands with scattered Maasai flocks of goats, sheep and a few cattle and donkeys tended mostly by small children. But even up here there was still an abundance of wild game animals with groups of Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffes and gazelles happily sharing the habitat with the domestic livestock. At the Crater Descent Road by 1.45pm, we had plenty of time to slowly work our way down into the Crater and around the tracks to the far side where our Lodge was placed. From the top of the Descent Road and working our way slowly down, we saw pretty much all of the target birds I’d hoped for. Hildebrandt’s Francolins showed briefly. Dusky Turtle-doves, Streaky Seedeaters and

Southern Citrils were commonplace and Northern Fiscals regularly seen. A small group of Waller’s Starlings and single Long-billed Pipit were unexpected bonuses. The recently split Abyssinian Wheatear showed well at the start of the descent. Yellow Bishops and Northern Anteater-Chats were abundant and obvious. The brilliant yellow and black of the Bishops and the noisy posturing antics of the Chats particularly memorable. But Boy! What a stunning look at the Wailing Cisticola. Hard to call out at first we got lucky a long way down the road with glorious views of this special little bird. Once on the Crater floor we took a track through the centre of the crater floor passing the massively enlarged Magadi soda lake with only a few Greater Flamingos remaining plus a good selection of ducks, ibises and shorebirds plus a first spectacular Grey Crowned Crane and 3 Black-winged Lapwings. Driver Roger spotted a superb Rosy-throated Longclaw for us right by the side of the track. The resident masses of Wildebeest, gazelles and zebras were, as always, very confiding and offering the best photo opportunities of the trip. Our first Hyenas of the tour were less photogenic as they slouched and lounged in the open. The tracks down in the crater had, if anything, deteriorated since last week, presumably because of continued rain. We got wind of a Black Rhino and went briefly in that direction, finding that the road was closed, but the Rhino distantly in view. We hope for a closer one tomorrow, but at least we’ve glimpsed this mythical, rare beast. Everything seemed perfectly timed, as we’d just finished up with the Rhino, turned around to head up the rim to the Sopa Lodge when the ever-increasing and nearing black thunder clouds turned into a fairly torrential downpour. We battened down the hatches and Roger did yet another magnificent job of driving us safely through some truly nasty, slippery, muddy tracks to the exit gate.

We arrived at the lodge by about 5.45pm. The lodge itself perched on the rim of the immense caldera of Ngorongoro afforded us fine views at dusk after the storms had cleared again. The space, size and comforts of the lodge seemed much appreciated as was the good supper.

We had a 7am breakfast and departed Kati-Kati Tented Camp with all our bags packed at about 8am. We had a couple of hours of game-drive before needing to be at the airstrip to check in for our 11am flight back to the domestic airport in Arusha. The hope was, of course, that some Lions might do the decent thing and give us a last minute show – but they didn’t. Roger of course was trying his best and drove us around every likely spot within striking distance, but again, nobody was having any luck. We did see some very good action from numerous Hippos including one large individual walking out in full view and many others in a tight gathering immersed in their foetid pool. The usual birds showed – bustards, harriers, eagles and cisticolas and we (aka Roger) also did the good deed for the day in pulling out of the mud a deeply embedded landcruiser. Before we knew it, time was up and we were at the Seronera airstrip awaiting our flight. The flight was a good one in that it was on time, in a larger than usual twin-engine plane with plenty of space for my overweight bags and it went directly to Arusha without pick-ups along the way.

At Arusha we were met by a driver and Anthony Raphael’s charming 15 year-old daughter Stella who transferred us to “Cultural Heritage” for a good final lunch. With Margaret and Lynda’s flight out at 6.10pm there wasn’t a huge amount of time to do “Cultural Heritage” much justice with its masses of little boutiques offering all sorts of things to buy: everything from small inexpensive items to grand works of art and carvings. The fine gallery of art works and Africana cultural and tribal exhibits was given a quick look. There is some exquisite stuff there that was worthy of a much longer time to appreciate. We left at 2.30pm to transfer back directly to the International Airport for Margaret and Lynda, arriving at about 3.40pm. After saying our goodbyes to them we returned to the KIA Lodge, where Celia and Stuart had a day room to allow for a rest, wash, change and re-pack for their return journey home on KLM this evening. I remained in Tanzania at Kia Lodge to meet the next group coming in on the KLM flight that Celia and Stuart flew out on.

We had a 7am breakfast and departed Kati-Kati Tented Camp with all our bags packed at about 8am. We had a couple of hours of game-drive before needing to be at the airstrip to check in for our 11am flight back to the domestic airport in Arusha. The hope was, of course, that some Lions might do the decent thing and give us a last minute show – but they didn’t. Roger of course was trying his best and drove us around every likely spot within striking distance, but again, nobody was having any luck. We did see some very good action from numerous Hippos including one large individual walking out in full view and many others in a tight gathering immersed in their foetid pool. The usual birds showed – bustards, harriers, eagles and cisticolas and we (aka Roger) also did the good deed for the day in pulling out of the mud a deeply embedded landcruiser. Before we knew it, time was up and we were at the Seronera airstrip awaiting our flight. The flight was a good one in that it was on time, in a larger than usual twin-engine plane with plenty of space for my overweight bags and it went directly to Arusha without pick-ups along the way.

At Arusha we were met by a driver and Anthony Raphael’s charming 15 year-old daughter Stella who transferred us to “Cultural Heritage” for a good final lunch. With Margaret and Lynda’s flight out at 6.10pm there wasn’t a huge amount of time to do “Cultural Heritage” much justice with its masses of little boutiques offering all sorts of things to buy: everything from small inexpensive items to grand works of art and carvings. The fine gallery of art works and Africana cultural and tribal exhibits was given a quick look. There is some exquisite stuff there that was worthy of a much longer time to appreciate. We left at 2.30pm to transfer back directly to the International Airport for Margaret and Lynda, arriving at about 3.40pm. After saying our goodbyes to them we returned to the KIA Lodge, where Celia and Stuart had a day room to allow for a rest, wash, change and re-pack for their return journey home on KLM this evening. I remained in Tanzania at Kia Lodge to meet the next group coming in on the KLM flight that Celia and Stuart flew out on.

The pre-breakfast birding was curtailed somewhat by the presence of a very large Elephant on the lawn by the cabins, demolishing and eating small bushes. We thought of just pushing past, but decided against the idea. Main bird of interest was a group of 3 Red-fronted Parrots zipping by at speed. After breakfast we packed up and started the drive around the rim of the Crater heading out of the NCA and on to the smooth paved road for the first time in many days. We tried a bit of birding along the way, halting at likely spots and trying various calls. We saw a few things of interest but no really good close, long views despite quite pleasant sunny weather. The rains had produced a lush wall of greenery that birds very adeptly disappeared into, but we saw a few recently split Mbulu White-eyes. We made a final brief stop at the viewpoint overlooking Ngorongoro and that was the end of that section of our tour. Before we knew it we were in the town of Karatu and turning up the road to Gibb’s Farm for lunch. We arrived early enough for an hour’s stroll around the very lush flower gardens seeking out a few new species. Again, seeing anything really well eluded us, but there were Ruppell’s Robin-chats, Bronze & Amethyst Sunbirds to keep us busy.

After one of the best lunches in Tanzania we had to drag ourselves away from the idyllic and beautiful laid out ornamental gardens and coffee plantations at Gibb’s and set off for an afternoon hike. Roger was able to drive us right up to the gate where a young lady called Delma – a ranger wielding blue varnished nails and an AK47 accompanied us on our walk along with the local bird guide. Of course, with the excessive rains came a muddy trail and halfway through our walk of about 1.7 miles each way to the Elephant Caves, there was further heavy thunder and threat of more downpours. Luckily the storm skirted us and we managed to complete the hike, but again birding was difficult. Birds were seen, but not as many species as I’d expect and few seen very well. Cinnamon-chested Bee-Eaters were seen better than most, and other birds of interest included Spectacled Weavers, Brown-headed Apalis, Black Cuckooshrike, Grey-headed Nigrita, Eastern Mountain Greenbul, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Gray-capped Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra, African Hill Babbler, Yellow-bellied Waxbills and some glimpses of the very special White-tailed Blue Flycatcher. Overhead were a pair of Mountain Buzzards and later a kettle of 16 migrating Steppe Buzzards. At the far end of our trek at the elephant cave – actually a large bare earthy slope where elephants eat mineral clays at night – we saw a new mammal in the form of a lone Bushbuck.

After our walk finished at about 5pm we transferred the very short distance to Tloma Lodge – another lovely site full of flower gardens – for our overnight stay. We got to our rooms and washed up before reconvening by the swimming pool at dusk to try for

Abyssinian Nightjar. The bird called back but wouldn’t come in, so we went to meet it. After a short bit of playback it swooped in narrowly missing Roger’s head and giving some brief but clear views in the process.

There was no need to set out particularly early from Tloma Lodge this morning as the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park was only a short drive. Thus we gathered at dawn and did a bit of birding, wandering through the gardens of coffee, vegetables and flowers to see what might be about. It was overcast and surprisingly quiet but a group of Arrow-marked Babblers showed really well. We packed up and set off at about 8.45am for the very short drive westwards, down the steep escarpment of the Rift Valley to Lake Manyara National Park where we had the option to spend as much of the remainder of the day as we chose.

Lake Manyara is a small National Park centered round a soda lake directly below some stunning Rift Valley cliffs. The drive down the Rift is always impressive, even though we’d had mist and fog earlier on the drive. Once at the entrance Roger did the paperwork while we admired the pelicans in fine breeding dress. Lake Manyara is usually a magnet for water-birds, but with excessive rains the like of which have not been experienced for 35 years, the lake is absolutely huge at the moment. This has made access to the shoreline impossible and diluted the salinity, meaning zero flamingos: all very disappointing. However, as soon as we’d started our drive into the Park we passed through miles of very impressive, tall forest fed by streams rising through the base of the Rift Valley cliffs above. This cool, shady habitat is home to massive Silvery-cheeked Hornbills and we came across half a dozen or more as soon as we got going. They gave brilliant eye-level views as we pondered how huge the tree holes have to be to accommodate these when nesting. All through this forest we tried playback for Narina Trogon and Purple-crested Turaco, but had no luck. Once out of the forest and into more open, shorter acacia with palm groves we did have better luck calling out the localised Collared Palm-Thrush in the only locale I know for it on the tour. Manyara is “Baboon-central” and there were masses of these fascinating monkeys giving many close encounters – large groups in all sorts of activities, including today splashing about in the vastly extended lake edge where dry acacia savanna used to be.

We made a couple of turns down what used to be a brilliant loop road to the wetlands, but within yards they were disappearing into deep water. Best sightings by far were a couple of distant Verreaux’s Eagles and a lovely flock of 17 Crested Guineafowl with young crossing the forest road in front of us. I only see either species once in a blue moon and was especially pleased to encounter so many Guineafowl at once and gain such lovely looks. With the lush green cover and the lake several times its normal size

the classic big game animals that might be expected were in very short supply. Best find oddly enough was a decent-sized Leopard Tortoise on the side of the road.

Despite being personally a bit disappointed in not seeing as much as I’d expect or hope for, we managed a few other nice sightings of birds in addition to those specials mentioned above. We did well for hornbills with 5 species recorded including lots of Crowned. Broad-billed Roller was a good find as you never know where one might pitch up. Other raptors included African Harrier-hawk And Long-crested Eagle. African Spoonbill was watched in very animated feeding in the lake shallows. Several first decent looks were had of Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves flushing up from the road in front of us. We enjoyed extremely close views on our picnic table of flamboyant Red-and-Yellow Barbets and more sombre, but scarcer Yellow-bellied Greenbuls. There was an all-too brief sighting of a first White-headed Barbet high in a dead tree. A flock of 40 or so Red-billed Queleas darted past, pausing just long enough for some acceptable looks at the bright males.

We exited the National Park fairly early as our route options around it were limited. I tried that horrible raucous turaco call too many times at various places where we’ve seen it before, but again no luck. Driving back up the Rift Valley on that smooth paved road we stopped to admire the view and gave in to buying some trinkets from the locals. Arriving at the very well-positioned and well-appointed Lake Manyara Serena Lodge by about 4.10pm we actually “relaxed” for a short while with tea by the pool overlooking Lake Manyara below us. The grounds can be very productive for birds, but a walk around didn’t produce much at all other than Black-backed Puffback. The day had warmed up considerably and was humid too, resulting in the typical build-up of cloud and heavy downpours just prior to going for supper at 7pm.

After further periods of rain last night it was a damp and overcast morning. We had a 6.30am breakfast and then spent an hour and a half wandering the extensive grounds of the Serena lodge not finding a great many birds. A couple of falcons nipped right past on the cliff edge of the Rift Valley and one looked to be a Peregrine, the other smaller and unidentified as views were brief. We could see down into Manyara National Park with the Baboons stirring and the storks and pelicans on the tree-tops, plus a passing White-necked Raven, but couldn’t find much close at hand other than 1-2 Yellow-bellied Greenbuls, Klaas’s Cuckoo, an Amethyst Sunbird and 2-3 Yellow-breasted Apalises towards the end of our stroll.

We packed our cases into the Landcruiser by 9.30am and headed east again, winding back down the steep Rift Valley escarpment through a badly flooded town below and then along excellent paved roads to Tarangire just an hour and a half away. We had a

short stretch of legs at the Entrance Gate and found Mottled Spinetails and our first common but endemic species – Yellow-collared Lovebirds and Ashy Starlings. Then, with roof up we did a brief game drive to our lunch stop at Tarangire Safari Lodge just a few miles inside the National Park. We found an incredibly close Nubian Woodpecker on arrival and shortly afterwards one of the local staff showed us the staked-out African Scops-owl, still roosting between tents 5-6 and allowing absurdly close looks. Soon after that he found us a lovely little roost of Epauletted Fruit Bats. Then it was time for lunch, conveniently timed when a thunderous downpour ensued. We got out for a short walk to the viewpoint after lunch and after the rain had stopped to see the Tarangire River below in an extraordinary state of flood. Never have I seen it so full and torrential – a proper white-water rafting experience rather than a lazy meandering trickle. A pair of Saddle-billed Storks stood out prominently on the river’s flood plain below where a group of 20 or more Banded Mongooses cavorted back and forth.

After a quick bit of shopping in the very nice gift shop we loaded up and set off for the Sopa Lodge deeper into Tarangire, doing a 3 hour game drive as we went along. The habitats here reflect a drier region subject to seasonal rains and drought – though it was difficult to believe it looking at the area today with everything so lush and the river so full. The Tarangire River is palm-dotted along its edges, while the thorn-bush is studded with giant Baobab trees. These are useful stores of moisture for the large Elephant herds in drier times, their massive trunks scarred through generations of gouging by the Elephant’s tusks. The Elephants seem quite dispersed at the moment, though we did get lucky with one lovely close encounter with a herd of about 40, slowly munching their way across the bush, most with small calves by their sides and passing just feet from us.

Tarangire is also exciting birding territory and we did well on our drive in this afternoon, adding quite a few new species. Best of all in terms of rarity was an African Crake – close relative of the Eurasian Corncrake. I’d never seen one on this tour before and there it was splashing in the puddles at the side of the track, preening and allowing a long close look. We did well for Francolins, adding Red-necked and Yellow-necked. We finally caught up with the usually more common Northern Red-billed Hornbill and Roger caught up with decent views of the abundant Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and, at last, a decent close look at a group of Ostriches. Both species of Go-Awaybirds popped into view at times along with numerous cuckoos. A fine group of 6 Southern Ground Hornbills showed up, White-winged Widowbirds were dotted along the way, plus several kingfisher species and 3 lovely Red-bellied Parrots – thanks as is so often the case, to driver Roger’s incredible eyes.

Once at the Sopa Lodge we checked into our rooms and had a short break before a quick wander from 5-6pm in the grounds. Meyer’s Parrot was seen, completing all possible parrot species for the trip. Red-winged Starlings gave us our first close views around the lodge buildings. At dusk by the swimming pool I chanced upon a Large

Spotted Genet up in one of the nearby trees and we all had good looks at it in the torchlight this being a first record ever for this tour. I also managed to call in the usual Freckled Nightjar – first overhead by the pool and afterwards as it sat on the lodge roof.

However, the concern that had been building up over the Coronavirus outbreak along with all the confusion, contradictory information, scaremongering and panic finally caught up with us when Anthony Raphael called to say that our KLM evening flight on 23rd March is apparently cancelled. We discussed at length and resolved to try and get in touch with KLM tomorrow to rebook – possibly having to cut the tour short.

After an early breakfast we did a little early morning birding in the grounds of the lodge. I was pleased to find several Blue-eared Glossy Starlings present, the first being one stealing food from the breakfast table! There was also a family of very dapper Mocking Cliff Chats on the cabin rooftops and a first Mariqua Sunbird. We delayed our morning game drive in order to try and find out more about KLM flights as all information coming in is conflicting. At one point Anthony at Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris in Arusha had been told of flight cancellations, but still nothing on the KLM website or emails to us. I tried various phone numbers for KLM in Dar, none of which worked or connected. I then spoke to KLM in Arusha who had not heard of any cancellations and finally Anthony called to say that in fact there is supposed to be a flight on 23rd and only 1-2 flights cancelled on earlier dates. Even this last seems at odds with reality as Bill went online to see that there is indeed a flight from Schipol to KIA today – one of those supposedly cancelled! Anyway, we felt slightly more sanguine – or was it brow-beaten – and decided to forget all that stress and hassle for a while and go on our game drive.

Roger managed to get us right around the circuit to Silale Swamp, navigating some deep wet and muddy tracts of the route with his usual skill and care. As yesterday, there was not a great deal of big game to be seen; Lion footprints, a few Elephants and Giraffes and a lone Bohor Reedbuck. But the birding was very good with quite a few additions to the list. Northern Pied Babblers were seen on several occasions – our last babbler required. Both Common Scimitarbill and Green Woodhoopoe showed up well – again completing just about all that can be expected of that family. Black-faced Sandgrouse were dotted all the way along the sandy track we drove. Other star birds included lovely Golden-breasted Bunting and a very close (and not too often recorded) Buff-crested Bustard. Eagles were definitely a strong and exciting feature of the morning, with no less than 6 species all seen well: Tawny, a pair of fly-by Wahlberg’s, gorgeous adult African Hawk-Eagle, iconic African Fish Eagle, a monstrous great Martial Eagle sat in a tree at almost arms-length and finally a first Brown Snake Eagle. The big mystery is why there were virtually no water-birds present at a time of abundant water? Too much wetland available – “spoilt for choice” – seems

Jacanas were seen in split-second views by some of us, a couple of Comb Duck flew over and a very nonchalant Spur-winged Goose lounged on a large tree branch over the swamp: that was the sum total of water-birds!

We were back for a latish lunch at 1.15pm and took a break thereafter until 4pm. We set out again for a gentle meander and spent a good bit of time watching the Elephant herds by the side of the track. There was also time to get those definitive Baobab photos and admire arms-length Ostriches again. A few interesting birds were seen: further Mottled Spinetails around some baobabs, but the best being a nesting group of Golden-backed (Jackson’s) Weavers and at the same spot of flooded river plain a Dwarf Bittern. I’ve only seen this species a couple of times before and we had particularly good looks at this individual. First there was a rainbow. Then some magnificent dark blue skies giving a stunning deep and intense colour backdrop to the Lilac-breasted Rollers on top of the trees. Then there was thunder and finally an absolute deluge as we returned to the lodge by 6pm. The tracks became streams of fast-flowing muddy water and the rain poured off the rooves in unbelievable torrents.

Just as we’d sort of decided to go to the end of our tour, we got together for breakfast at 7am and the uncertainty and stress levels about coronavirus rose again with a couple of received emails. Bill had one saying all US citizens should get back home “Now” not later. No specific details of whether borders might close or flights be banned, but enough to produce additional anxiety not knowing what was actually going on or imminently going to happen. I simultaneously received an email from KLM saying my flight to Glasgow from Amsterdam was cancelled and they couldn’t reschedule for me. The wording was ominous: “The local authorities of your destination have initiated entry restrictions, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). At this moment, we are unable to rebook you, because it’s still unclear when these restrictions will be lifted”. But again, no factual explanations were forthcoming. Was Glasgow airport closing in a day or two? or was KLM to stop flying there? The wording strongly suggested that either Scotland was closing its borders or Glasgow Airport was shutting down, otherwise KLM would surely be able to re-book me on a later flight. We’d no idea, but it was enough to make us all extremely worried and me wonder how I would get back to UK and Islay from Amsterdam. We also heard from Anthony that half his group from USA had urgently rescheduled to go home early and had rebooked on Turkish Airlines. With an 8am departure from the lodge there was no time to start trying to re-arrange schedules and flights, but we resolved to do so as soon as we got to Cultural Heritage in Arusha at lunchtime.

It was sadly a rather subdued drive as we made our exit from Tarangire by 10.30am. Most noteworthy was the one turn off the main road that Roger decided to make where we found a landcruiser deeply stuck in a large muddy pool that used to be the track.

With there now being virtually no tourist vehicles left in the Park due to the coronavirus scare it was great serendipity that we made the turn and were able to pull him clear.

We had all reluctantly agreed that with all the uncertainty and over-reaction to the virus scare it was becoming increasingly difficult to enjoy the trip and we just all wanted to cut our losses and get home. Thus our arrival at Cultural Heritage by about midday was not the relaxed lunch and a look around the shops and art gallery that it should have been. It turned into a panicked and frustrating attempt by us all to start the awfully stressful business of trying to reschedule and get home early – all made much worse by the poor and intermittent internet connection. Bill and Denise could only get occasional connection getting them so far through the process and then cutting out. I was “lucky” – or was I? I managed to stay online long enough to be presented with two alternatives. The first was a departure via Nairobi tomorrow at a cost of over £1,000, or the more or less same thing later today for free. With internet coming and going and prices changing on a whim each time you got online, I had to grab at the free departure today, assuming that the others would be able eventually follow with something similar. Not so! I had changed my booking and was now committed as the original booking departing on 23rd was null and void. I needed to get to the airport for a 6.30pm flight and the others needed to get to the airport to see if they could reschedule there as they couldn’t get any further with rescheduling online at Cultural Heritage. It was all a horrible mess! Roger drove us to the airport, dropping me at KIA Lodge on the way, to pick up my left bag, repack and transfer to the airport where he’d taken the others in hope that they could fix up a new flight either today or tomorrow. I arrived and went in for what I thought would be a quick check-in after which I could get out and meet the others to find out what was developing. Unfortunately, despite a “confirmed” rescheduled flight they were very unsure at check-in and kept me on hold not knowing what was going on, for way over an hour before giving me the green light to travel. By this time Bill, Marsha, Denise and Roger were gone and I’d not even had time to say goodbye – and had no idea what their plight or plans were. Unbeknown to me they had gone to our scheduled accommodation at Ngare Sero Lodge for the night.

I eventually flew after long delays, to Nairobi, connecting after 4-5 hours with an overnight KLM flight to Amsterdam. Talking to the onboard staff, they all confirmed total confusion and things changing every minute. All very disconcerting.

I arrived into Amsterdam at 6.30am where the confusion and incompetence continued. I had been given a 15 hour stop-over despite there being a 9.30am flight to Glasgow that could get me home today (assuming ferries and buses were still running). I specifically asked for my luggage to be checked through only to Amsterdam so that I might have a chance of changing to the 9.30am flight from the 9.30pm flight. I had a luggage tag saying this was the case, but the KLM agent’s computer said my luggage was tagged all the way through to Glasgow on the evening

flight. Despite the fact that they were going to charge me €145 to change the flight, I could no longer do it.

Stuck in the airport for 15 hours was fun! I tried getting messages to the group to find out what was going on at their end. Eventually messages to Anthony confirmed that they had abandoned all hope of getting out early and were back to being committed to staying the course and flying home on the still apparently confirmed evening KLM flight on the 23rd that we’d all booked in the first place.

They continued with the scheduled day in Arusha National Park. Driver roger took them on the “usual” route, first up the slopes of Mt. Meru (14,979 ft.) with thick forests of Mahogany, Fig, Cedar, and Wild Mango. Stopping at the famous Fig Tree Arch they tried for the special forest birds of this rich habitat. Hartlaub’s Turaco and the recently split Kilimanjaro White-eye were added along with a couple of new mammal species – Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys and Bush Duiker. After the forests in the morning, the circuit around the soda lake within the National Park was made. As Anthony had warned, this too was over-full with freshwater, producing a stark lack of the common and expected water-birds. However, from the notes provided, it seems they did manage to find birds of interest on the open grasslands – Lesser Swamp Warbler, Singing & Trilling Cisticolas, Steppe Eagle, African Black-headed Oriole, included.

The grounds of Ngare Sero lodge provided further interest at some point in the time spent there. The lovely little lake held the hoped-for Giant Kingfisher, African Black Duck, Mountain Wagtail, African and Taveta Golden Weavers and Grosbeak Weaver.

Meanwhile, I made it back to Glasgow late in the evening, took a taxi and stayed overnight with Roger Broad.

While I was kindly driven by Roger Broad to the ferry to Islay, arriving home in late afternoon, Roger, Denise, Bill & Marsha were setting out from Arusha this morning to Ndarakwai. They had decided not to bother with the hunt for Beesley’s Lark on the “Lark Plains”, but instead, going directly to Ndarakwai, further east towards Mt. Kilimanjaro. The fairly remote and secluded Ndarakwai Tented Lodge, on private land bordering close to Amboseli National Park in Kenya is the only place where it is possible to take a night drive on the tour. Happily, they hit the jackpot on their night-drive this evening with apparently good, close and long views of Aardvark – a species I’ve only seen 3 times

(two of them here at Ndarakwai). The unique and bizarre Spring Hares were also a big hit.

Further birds of interest while at Ndarakwai on a game drive this morning included first Spot-flanked and Brown-breasted Barbets, Ashy Flycatcher, Long-tailed Fiscal, Lesser Honeyguide, Yellow-mantled widowbird, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Cutthroat, Black-and-White Mannikin and migrant Tree Pipit as well as further Bat-eared Foxes and a good selection of eagles.

After lunch the journey was made back to Kilimanjaro International Airport to see if the scheduled flights homeward on KLM were actually operating. They were! Apparently it was a bit of a scrum as many other people desperate to get home were trying to book onto the flight and it was of course packed to full capacity.

The onward connections to UK and USA went more or less according to plan, though with various uncertainties, small glitches and delays in some of them.

This will go down as one of the more memorable tours I’ve ever done to Tanzania, but not necessarily for all the good reasons! The country was beset by several months of exceptionally wet weather – reportedly raining on and off since October/November last year and the longest, wettest period on record for the past 35 years. This made for some very obvious differences in terms of what we saw and where we could go.

Breeding birds were generally very good – many species in full breeding plumage. Most baffling was the lack of water-birds – everywhere being waterlogged and lakes several times normal size meant, counter-intuitively, fewer wetland species – especially those specializing on saline, soda lakes which were now too “freshwater” for their own good. However a final tally of 408 bird species was, in reality, on par with many previous tours. There were some utterly baffling absences of species that I would have called virtually “guaranteed”, but then several seldom seen species filling these gaps and three species completely new to the list (Zebra Waxbill, Black-throated Barbet and African Crake) which is pretty good going after over 30 previous visits.

The exceptional rains had also created a rapid growth in lush vegetation so that some game animals became less obvious as they disappeared into tall grass. But all the major game animals such as Lions, Leopard, Cheetah, Rhino etc were seen – and some very well and doing all sorts of interesting things. Neither driver roger nor I had ever seen 2 Leopards or 2 Servals together (and Servals are only seen once in 5-6 tours at most). The sighting of Aardvark is always a very special event.

So from a wildlife aspect, it all worked out + / – OK. But it was the looming pandemic of the Coronavirus that really took the shine off everything. The news bulletins and emails with mixed messages, misinformation, scare-mongering, chaos and panic made for some very worrying and unsettling times towards the last week of the tour. This resulting in taking our focus at times off what should have been a brilliant time in a spectacular place as we tried to work out what was actually going on and what we should be doing about it. Ultimately it caused the last 3 days to disintegrate into a very regrettable mess with all of us trying to get home early and only myself managing to do it. Most galling is that, with hindsight, it was clear that staying on to the end was a perfectly workable option for us all. With proper, accurate facts and information available at the time we need not have worried and most importantly, I would have stayed knowing that not all flights to Glasgow had been cancelled and that it was possible for me to get home.

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NORTHERN TANZANIA
THE GREATEST WILDLIFE SPECTACLE ON EARTH

Birds & Wildlife in the Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater

(26th February – 7th March 2020)

Participants: Margaret Connell, Lynda Styles, Stuart & Celia Todd

Tour Leader: Peter Roberts

Safari Driver Guide: Roger

Ground Tour Operator: Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris

Tour Pace & Style: Private tour with Slow pace Birding , mostly Big game Safari

DAY TO DAY TOUR NOTES

Margaret & Lynda made their way in the afternoon up to Heathrow for an overnight flight via Addis on Ethiopian Airlines. From their WhatsApp messages it seemed they enjoyed their surprise upgrade to Business Class. Peter, Celia and Stuart met up at Glasgow Airport In the afternoon to fly on KLM to Amsterdam Schipol and overnight at the Steigenberger Airport Hotel – a very easy, on time flight with my luggage checked through to Tanzania and Celia and Stuart just with carry-on bags. Transfer to the hotel was quick and easy and the hotel very pleasant.

Margaret & Lynda arrived into Kilimanjaro via Addis, Ethiopia by about 12.15pm. They were transferred the short distance to the KIA Lodge and relaxed for the remainder of the day. Meanwhile Peter, Celia and Stuart returned to Schipol to fly on KLM at 10.15am direct to Kilimanjaro, arriving at 8.35pm. After the usual inconsistent immigration nonsense we got to KIA Lodge about an hour later and met up with Margaret and Lynda before getting to our beds.

After a 7am breakfast we were ready to head off with Roger, our safari driver, towards Tarangire National Park. Firstly we drove around the outskirts of Arusha along a brand new bypass road to drop off a whole big bag of goodies brought over from the UK for Anthony and his family. Then it was onward to Tarangire passing far too many police speed checks along the way. Arriving at the entrance gate it was interesting to find they had done yet another remake with new entrance buildings since my last visit 15 months ago – to my mind a waste of money that would be better spent on real conservation projects. Anyway, we were now “in the territory” with roof up and watching for game as we went the short distance to lunch at the Safari Lodge. First Impala, Waterbuck, Giraffe, Elephants and Ostriches were all met with much acclaim. After a good lunch we did a little walk in the grounds to where the staff had staked out an African Scops-Owl for me and to look at where Margaret had stayed on her previous visit. Then we continued on with a game drive taking us further into the National Park

and to our overnight accommodation at the Sopa Lodge. On the way we saw plenty more game and began a list of some of the more obvious and bright birds that “non-birders” would still enjoy looking at: Red-throated, Yellow-throated and Crested Francolins, Lilac-breasted Rollers, Von-der-Decken’s, Northern Red-billed and African Grey Hornbills, Bare-faced Go-away birds, Yellow-collared Lovebirds, Yellow-billed Storks and a closely admired young Martial Eagle.

Close to the lodge, as we were about to call it a day around 5pm, the heavens opened and a deluge of seasonal rain came down – perfect timing! We were quickly checked in to our rooms, had late afternoon tea and coffee and a bit of down-time before meeting again at 7pm. A good evening meal was enhanced with service from an ever-smiling Lilian, still hard at work despite a difficult life.

We had a 7am breakfast and afterwards went straight out for the morning, arriving back to the lodge by midday. Despite yesterday afternoon’s rain the track was passable and we managed to complete the loop round to Silale Swamp. The vegetation is quite lush and tall with all the recent rain, so finding game animals was tricky and we came across just one lone bull Elephant having a wonderful scratch against a tree after a mud bath – but this right at the end of the morning and close back to the lodge. However, the vast expanses of acacia thorn-bush studded with giant Baobab trees produced a few moments of interest. A couple of Giraffes were ever-popular as were several groups of delicate Impala and even more fragile-looking Dik-Diks. A lone Bohor Reedbuck at the swamp edge was the first of the trip along with a few Warthogs. It was fun to watch a large group of 15 or more Banded Mongooses (not mongeese!) going about their daily business at very close range.

Of course there were plenty of birds throughout and some of those that inspired closer scrutiny included a quartet of Hamerkops at their vast domed nest in a baobab above a stream, which also held a couple of nests of Red-headed Weaver (plus the birds). Other “non-birdwatcher’s birds” were a magnificent pair of Saddle-billed Storks, perched up African Fish Eagle, bright Wattled Starling in full breeding plumage complete with dangly black wattles against a yellow face, and a few Ostriches. Various coucals, cuckoos, hornbills, swallows, shrikes and masses of doves, weavers and francolins were pretty-much ever-present as were the resounding songs of Winding and Rattling Cisticolas! Silale Swamp itself was a bit disappointing, with virtually no water-birds, but lots of water:-clearly they are spoilt for choice as to where to go. However a very impressive Goliath Heron was a bonus sat atop a large dead tree. In the “Other stuff” category was a medium-sized Leopard Tortoise plodding along the side of the track.

Back by midday, we had time for a quick wash and pack of bags before a pleasant lunch al fresco by the pool. The weather had been kind to us this morning, with no rain and quite cool for a while, but it was bright and sunny now and heating up nicely. We departed Sopa Lodge by about 1.15pm and set off at a decent pace towards the exit gate, stopping only occasionally: for a spiffy Red and Yellow Barbet, when passing more Elephants and a tree full of White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures close to where some Lions were reported hiding in the thick grass; clearly they had made a kill and the vultures were waiting to descend when they’d had their fill.

Once back on the paved road we set off westwards to Ngorongoro with just a few brief stops. First was for the Pink-backed Pelicans in the roadside Yellow-billed Stork colony by the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park. Next stop was halfway up the impressively steep slope of the Rift Valley to look down on the big expanse of Lake Manyara below – very full of water and the flamingos not evident. There were fuel stops, registering as we entered the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) and then off tarmac again as we ascended to the Crater rim. Arrival at Serena Lodge was a bit later than hoped for at about 6pm – good to get out of the bone-rattling of the last stretch of road and be able to peer directly down into the Ngorongoro Crater below us.

The Serena Lodge was a new one to me, but is ideally placed for what we want to do and (apart from giving us rooms miles away from the restaurant) seems very comfortable and put on a great Acrobat show before a good supper.

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After breakfast we set off at about 7.30am to spend much of the day in the Ngorongoro Crater, which, first thing in the morning was swathed in a cover of white misty cloud below us. The steep one-way descent road took us down past a lovely immature, pale blond Tawny Eagle and a migrant Rock Thrush to the vast crater floor where a resident population of Wildebeest, Cape Buffalo, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, Common Zebra, and Eland awaited us. With the excessive rains that have occurred of late, there were some tracks that were impassable, but we managed to get around much of the usual circuit and see plenty of what we’d anticipated and hoped for. The game herds were largely concentrated in the short grass area directly after our descent and this was where some of the high concentration of predators – especially Lions and Hyenas – were gathered. It wasn’t too long before we came across a trio of young male Lions lounging about oblivious of our attentions at the side of the road. Typically they were not doing very much other than at one point getting up for a pee and slumping down right below one of the gathered vehicles that gave some

temporary shade from the mid-morning sun. We assumed they were well fed as a little further along there was a more active scene of Spotted Hyenas and larger numbers of Golden and Black-backed Jackals squabbling over the dismembered, skeletal remains of a Wildebeest. One Hyena had possession of the pelvis and some vertebrae while another paraded around with the head and neck vertebrae. Other Hyenas unsuccessfully tried to join in the bone-crunching, while the jackals were more cheeky and successful at darting in and grabbing smaller scattered titbits. All around, the large gatherings of Wildebeest, Zebra and gazelles – all with young – carried on grazing and getting on with life as normal; presumably happy knowing it hadn’t been their turn to be Lion supper last night.

Interspersed with this activity were many good bird sightings – some appealing only to me, such as the noisy Pectoral-patch Cisticolas buzzing all around us and the many Northern Anteater Chats, Fan-tailed Widowbirds and Rufous-naped Larks. But there was plenty else of more general and spectacular appeal; Grey Crowned Cranes with chicks, Pied Avocets, Black-bellied Bustard and Rosy-throated Longclaw.

Our main goal today was our only chance on the tour to see Black Rhinoceros that survive here (possibly as few as 20 or so). Much of the Crater is open, short-grass savannah and Black Rhino are mainly browsers on bushes, so it always surprises me that they come out into this open area at all. But they do and can usually be fairly easily spotted, even if at great distance, as they look like huge dark boulders in a sea of green. We got word from other vehicles that one was not too far off, so Roger did a sterling job of working his way around the slick, bumpy, muddy tracks to get us as close as legally and safely possible. Thus we found a splendid chunk of a Rhino with very long, spikey horns, a fair distance away, but clearly a splendid “graviportal” beast that looked a lot closer through the telescope.

Bird-watching continued to be interesting with sightings of huge Kori Bustards, 2-3 weird Secretarybirds and many Abdim’s Storks along the way as Roger set out to take us down to the edge of the soda lake, now a massive, much more freshwater feature requiring some careful driving to reach. Further Spotted Hyenas and a rumour of another Rhino diverted us towards one of few picnic sites in the Crater where we ended up at about 11.45am. After a leg-stretch and a chance to use the WCs we decided we may as well stay and have an early lunch before the crowds arrived (although the Crater was pleasantly quiet today). As the weather prevented us from reaching the Hippo pools it was good to find 20 or so in the freshwater lake at the picnic site. Here too we shared our lunch with some very precocious Rufous-tailed and Speke’s Weavers, Superb Starlings, Helmeted Guineafowl and a few Black Kites overhead – all looking for the proverbial free lunch. The weavers got quite lucky!

After our picnic lunch we set off again with the intention of circling the soda lake to run back through the Lerai Yellowbark Acacia forest to the Ascent Road – apparently the only way to get out of the Crater at present, with the other track options too muddy. But we noticed a gathering of safari vehicles precisely along the route we’d decided was too dodgy to try for risk of getting bogged down. So we carefully worked our way along towards them and came to a sensible stop where the track turned into a quagmire and various other vehicles were stuck. But from this point we scanned and found what the attraction had been: more Rhinos. By now the weather had turned cloudier and threatened rain. This made viewing better with none of the heat haze and shimmer associated with the morning’s Rhino sighting. Two animals side by side were closer and clearer. A bit more scanning took both myself and Roger by surprise, as here was a total of 9 Black Rhinoceros out on the grassy plains in ones and twos scattered over half a mile perhaps. An absolutely remarkable sight that neither Roger nor I had witnessed before.

We left the over-enthusiastic drivers up to their axles in mud to sort themselves out (though Roger had provided assistant to one previously). Turning around we did the long circumnavigation of the lake to exit the National Park by about 4pm. Along the way were further great finds. A few water-birds showed up including some very colourful bright pink Greater and Lesser Flamingos plus a few waders and ducks such as Blacksmith Plovers and Cape Teal. We were back in the thick of the large game herds again here and with them were the inevitable predators. Spotted Hyenas were everywhere – wandering along the road in front of us, lounging about and interacting with one another. A total of over 25 were noted during the day and at least 17 in one spot on our exit journey with one obvious Alpha Female with two almost cute cubs.

The Lerai forest provided a few last birds, with perched up Lappet-faced and Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures, before setting up the steep Ascent Road, climbing 2,000′ or so on a newly paved road to the crater rim. Arriving back by about 4.30pm gave everyone a chance to relax, take afternoon tea and coffee and sit on their verandas and view the wonderful Ngorongoro Crater below.

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We left the Ngorongoro Crater this morning at 8am on our continuing journey west towards the Ndutu area of the eastern Serengeti. There was heavy mist and light drizzle as we left that I hoped might just be the cloud at 7,000′ on the Crater rim. Unfortunately, as we descended the cloud persisted above us and produced intermittent rain all morning. We passed damp-looking Maasai villages and herds of cattle, goats and sheep, increasingly mixed in with Wildebeest,

Zebra and antelopes as we neared the short grass plains. A few short stops were made as we passed these herds and smaller gatherings of roadside Giraffes before we arrived at the archaeological site of Olduvai Gorge by mid-morning.

It was pleasantly dry while at Olduvai and it was good to be there early and virtually the only visitors. We took our time, with a visit to the very recently rebuilt museum and interpretive area telling us all about the archaeology that has gone on here and the life histories of the various species of early hominids whose remains, fossils and artefacts were discovered here. I managed to get in a quick bit of birding in a much greener and lush setting than I usually find at Olduvai. Plenty of the “usual suspects” were present and correct: Green-backed Camaroptera, Chinspot Batis, Banded Parisoma, Beautiful, Scarlet-chested and Variable Sunbirds, White-browed Scrub-robin, Vitelline Masked Weaver, African Grey Flycatcher, Little Bee-eater, White-naped Raven and more. We finished our time here with a well-presented lecture from one of the staff as we overlooked the layered rocks of the gorge and pondered on the life and times of our ancestors, the early hominids.

We continued on westwards through the NCA by about 11am, driving for many miles across open short grass plains, now sadly in a light drizzle that forced us to keep the roof down, so much less serious game-viewing was possible along our way. However, the herds of migratory Wildebeest, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles and Common Zebra were very impressive. The Wildebeest weren’t in dense herds, but liberally scattered across an almost 360 degree view over the totally flat plains all the way to the horizon – clearly uncountable thousands. We found a few birds of interest on our way, with several very close Tawny Eagles and a couple of Eastern Chanting Goshawks notable. In amongst the many Abdim’s Storks (some of them spiralling high up into the sky on thermals, presumably on migration) were a handful of White Storks. We’d intended/anticipated spending longer out here, with a break for our picnic and arrival in mid-afternoon to Ndutu. But “rain stopped play” and we decided to head straight on to Ndutu Lodge, arriving a little after 1pm where we ate our picnic lunch in the open-air lounge area.

After that we checked in and took a break until 3.30pm by which time the rain had stopped. Margaret wasn’t feeling 100% so took the afternoon off, which was a shame as it turned out to be a very good one. Roger took us off along the rutted, muddy tracks through the open, scrubby acacia forest towards nearby Lake Masek. This was where a Leopard had been seen in the morning and where we found a small group of landcruisers assembled by a half-eaten young Zebra. The Leopard had apparently made the kill but the kill was too heavy to haul up a tree for safe-keeping. Everyone was expecting it to return to its food at some time, so were waiting – some more patiently than others. We got lucky, arriving

shortly before it was relocated climbing up into a nearby tree, then a little later climbing back down again. After this grand result we decided to go exploring and continued to Lake Masek for a while. Here were a few water-birds such as a lone Great White Pelican, masses of Gull-billed and White-winged Terns, a few waders including Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers plus a gathering of Hippos. On our return we watched the bizarre spectacle of a Black-headed Heron catching, then swallowing a decent sized Grass Rat – yuch! Roger called in back at the Leopard spot and found a few landcruisers of keen photographers still waiting for the Leopard to come and retrieve its half a Zebra. Again, we got very lucky, as after a bit of a wait, when we very nearly called it a day, the Leopard was found up another tree and we stayed on. We ended up with some wonderful views of the Leopard slowly exiting the tree when it saw a Hyena trying to take off with its supper. In between such a splendid centre-piece to the afternoon we incidentally came across some good birds too. Grey-breasted Francolin, Eurasian Hoopoe, Southern Red Bishops and Fischer’s Lovebirds were all big enough and/or bright enough to make an impression.

We returned quite late – close to 7pm – with a brief break before supper. Towards the end of our evening meal the endearing Large-spotted Genets came into the lodge via their personal walkway to have their feed and be photographed by the guests.

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A welcome change in the weather today with sunshine beginning to dry the tracks a little. However we were still sliding and slithering along slippery, slick tracks across the short grass plains with Roger doing some excellent navigation and driving and managing not to get us stuck in the mud. With the excessive rains over the past months (more or less continuous since October and the heaviest for 35 years) the vegetation in the Ndutu area is exceptionally high, making finding the quite abundant Lions and the not so abundant Cheetahs very difficult. Neither were seen this morning despite Roger’s bet efforts. However we had some interesting sightings as we carefully made our way around the edge of a very full Lake Ndutu and out to the big swamp. Giraffes were good value, with several groups out in the open and drinking. While watching these in the low sandy basins Celia and Lynda spotted Bat-eared Foxes sunning themselves. These are delightful little creatures and best found right here. 6 or more were seen well before they wandered off into the thick herbage. Perhaps the main and most memorable interest of the morning was the sheer number of Wildebeest seen, accompanied by large numbers of Zebra. For much of the morning we managed to be out on the seemingly never-ending flat grass plains all by ourselves. This is always a lovely feeling, made so much better when you find yourself in wall-to-wall Wildebeest as far as the eye can see. We gently motored

into their midst and stopped to watch their antics and listen to the somewhat unmusical grunting that these huge herds make – so redolent of the Serengeti. The Ndutu area of the southern Serengeti ecosystem is potentially the prime area to watch the spectacle of the migration and calving of Wildebeest. They are now at the end of their 500-mile circular migration as they follow the rains and the resultant regeneration of green grasses all the way north to the Mara area of Kenya by August, then back again to rest in the ensuing long rains on the short-grass plains of the south-east of Serengeti. Here they calve and rear their young to a stage when they can again move on north and west by May or June.

The open grassland and scant acacia scrub plus the saline hollows of the lake edge held a few brightly coloured and obvious birds that caught our attention. A trio of male White-bellied Bustards calling loudly to each other were noted on the way out. Lilac-breasted Rollers popped up, a group of Hooded Vultures sat together in a treetop and several plum-ugly Marabou Storks were nevertheless centre of attention and photographic efforts for a while. Crowned and Blacksmith Plovers were common and there was a good look again at the endemic Gray-breasted Spurfowl. Roger’s ever-keen eyes managed to find us a pair of the secretive and scarce Three-banded (Heuglin’s) Courser.

After lunch back at the lodge we took some time off until 3.30pm when we set out with thunder and dark clouds in the distance. Happily that is where they stayed and it was a dry afternoon. Our main goal this afternoon was to try and find Cheetahs. They had been seen this morning and we headed off in that direction, skirting around Lake Masek and far out onto the short grass plains beyond the open acacia scrub. We’d not gone far when a passing Landcruiser gave us information about a nearby Leopard in a roadside tree, so we made a brief detour to see if we’d get lucky. We did indeed! This was a different animal to that seen yesterday and was much less skittish. In fact it was in both senses of the phrase very “laid back” as it rested on a wide and low branch in an acacia in absolute full view. A large belly suggested a recent good meal that needed sleeping off. We were thrilled with such a good and clear sighting – even more so as we were the only vehicle there until the last couple of minutes of watching it from all angles for 15 minutes or so. This exquisite feline barely bothered to open its eyes to look at us in the first five minutes. Thereafter it woke, and finally yawned, stretched, got up and wandered down the tree to disappear into the typically tall vegetation.

After this, we resumed our quest for Cheetahs, passing a couple of slightly unexpected Elephants on the way – one with a single tusk, the other with none at all. We passed several vehicles coming the other way that had seen the Cheetahs and gave Roger ideas of where to look. Roger did a fantastic job of negotiating miles of very slippery, muddy terrain out onto

featureless open plains where the search began. We knew they were here somewhere in this, the best and most reliable place to find these elegant and unique cats. We linked up with another vehicle looking for them and went round in searching circles over a large area full of the tell-tale tyre-track signs of gathered vehicles who had previously been watching here. We met another vehicle that gave us even more specific information using a dead tree with perched Lappet-faced Vultures in it as a reference point. We continued circling and searching but to no avail. It was hugely frustrating in a way, but testament to the vastness of the area and the ability of the wildlife to wander off, do its own thing and disappear without trace at a moment’s notice. Time ran out and we high-tailed it back the way we’d come, arriving at the lodge by about 6.45pm. A shame about the Cheetahs, but what a phenomenal Leopard!

A lot of rain overnight precluded any possibility of returning to the area where we’d tried to find the Cheetahs yesterday afternoon. However, Roger had other more workable alternatives and ideas to try out. Thus, after breakfast we departed with all our gear to the area where we’d briefly seen Leopard on our first day here – this being still accessible. It was still lightly raining and we travelled with the roof down. After a bit of driving along various mucky tracks that dead-ended and asking other drivers we located the purpose of our venture; a pair of Lions. Usually when you find adult male and female Lions on their own it means they have separated from the pride to mate. This morning was no exception with the female inviting copulation far more often than my erudite book on animal behaviour suggested. Despite being surrounded by numerous landcruisers they seemed not to worry about the lack of privacy and the voyeurism and “got down to it” every five to ten minutes or so. The female would wander across to the splendid male with his large mane, circle him and lie down. He immediately went into action, with the average mating being slightly less than the researched 21 second average! The coupling finished with a flurry of moaning, mewing, growling and snarling after which she wandered a few yards away and rolled on her back before settling down for another 5-10 minute break. It was a great sighting and always a bonus to see Lions actually doing something other than lazing and sleeping. We were happy that by the time we left in mid-morning it had stopped raining and we continued on our journey with roof up and fingers crossed.

It was not possible to take the direct route from Ndutu to Naabi Gate where we enter the Serengeti National Park. Instead we had to drive two sides of the triangle back across the newly made dirt road to the official entry arch of the Park and back along the main road westwards. This was OK as we had all day and it was a good and productive game drive just seeing what we might see. Serendipity kicked in as not far along into the short grass plains we saw a gathering of landcruisers and got into position just off road to admire our first Cheetah. This was a lone animal (sex never determined) that was quite content to sit low in the long grass and stay there. Once in a while it would raise its head or sit up to show us a little more of its magnificent form, but otherwise it stayed put. With the imminent appearance of a Park Ranger we returned to the track and continued on our way. We were passing masses of Wildebeest, antelopes and Zebra and began coming across Spotted Hyenas. By the time we’d reached Naabi Gate for our picnic at 1pm we’d encountered lone beasts and groups totalling 19 animals, all lazing in close view, often near to our vehicle in nice cool, wet, muddy spots. Birds on our way were quite good: Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers, Fischer’s Sparrow-larks and Lesser, Greater and Grey Kestrels perched on the very sparse and isolated bushes in the vastness of the flat, grassy plains.

After our picnic break at Naabi we continued the drive westwards across further huge areas of flat, lush grass with surprisingly little game on it other than the occasional Zebra and Coke’s Hartebeest – evidence of the poorer nutritional value rather than lack of game. We were certainly able to appreciate the huge scale of this ecosystem that we had been travelling through for several days and had now covered a further c. 50 miles of — all the more remarkable for being preserved almost fully intact. Closer to the central Seronera area we turned off the main road where an overflow of water from one of the marshy areas was causing the largest flood of fast-flowing water I’d ever seen here in all my previous 34 visits. Roger took us out on alternative tracks that became more and more of a 4×4 experience as we careered along through grassy, slippery and wet trails at high speed to avoid being bogged down. Another landcruiser followed close behind us and we both arrived after a long session of this cross-country wrangling at the Kati-Kati Tented Camp by about 4.30pm. It was quite an adventure with some of us getting mud=spattered through windows left open as we sped through the more mucky stretches. The camp is a semi-permanent tented camp with just 12 tents set up on a rise on the acacia-studded slopes and looking down over the plains below in the very heart of the Serengeti National Park and ecosystem. It was a warm welcome and we all settled in to our spacious tents and later gravitated towards the camp fire after some of us braved our first camp-style showers brought to our simple en suite shower and toilet facilities.

The Serengeti is a vast preserve of 5,675 square miles, with a further 3,200 sq. miles protected in the surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation Area – the whole ecosystem is the size of Belgium! The Seronera River area with its braided small meandering streams has associated riverine or gallery forest of Yellowbark Acacias (“fever” trees). Here is often the best area for finding Leopards and Lions. Thus we set off in dry, sunny conditions for a full day out with picnic lunch in the specific hope of finding Lions with more Elephants as a bonus. However, with the excessive rains the streams were still torrents in places and a number of the tracks impassable in some areas; plus the grass has grown high: not quite as “high as an elephant’s eye”, but enough to make Lions hopelessly difficult to find. Roger drove us around large areas of the Central Serengeti and checked in with umpteen other drivers, but they too had been unable to locate Lions.

However it was not all lost time. Soon after winding our way down the muddy tracks to the main Seronera area we found a bunch of landcruisers gathered together watching a tree complete with Leopard. We rolled up and saw our “three days in a row Leopard” for a while before it climbed down and wandered away. The rest of the morning was spent meandering the tracks and gaining our best looks by far of wallowing Hippos, with quite a decent group completely out of the water on the muddy banks of the river allowing us full view of their portly stature. It was our aim to find our first Nile Crocodiles in the same areas and we came across several quite large and active individuals; one a good 4.5 metres long. Another new animal for us today were small numbers of Topi along with a few better looks at Coke’s Hartebeest.

We pitched up at the Seronera Visitor Centre by about 11.30am and took time to stretch our legs and do the informative loop walk around the kopjes where 1-2 bright pink and purple Agamid Lizards hung out. After the walk we were ready for an early lunch, so had our picnic here before too many other tourists came by with the same idea. I had been wondering where all the Rock Hyraxes had gone as we did the interpretive walk and now we found all of them lounging, not on their natural habitat of the kopjes, but on the concrete picnic tables with sunshades keeping them cool.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent driving about hoping to find Lions and Elephants to no avail. Nobody out there in a landcruiser today was having any luck with that. We returned to the area where the Leopard had ben this morning and found it again, up a much more “viewer-friendly” tree and admired it through the scope. Then it was time to head slowly back to the tented camp passing several very fine Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers quartering the grassy plains for food. Quite close to home our landcruiser got stuck in the mud. Roger quickly called on the radio to a nearby vehicle that came and pulled us free within a few

minutes – all very efficient and a good tale to tell and embellish when we get home.

On our return there were cups of tea, showers and a bit of packing before a good supper and early to bed on our last night in Tanzania.

We had a 7am breakfast and departed Kati-Kati Tented Camp with all our bags packed at about 8am. We had a couple of hours of game-drive before needing to be at the airstrip to check in for our 11am flight back to the domestic airport in Arusha. The hope was, of course, that some Lions might do the decent thing and give us a last minute show – but they didn’t. Roger of course was trying his best and drove us around every likely spot within striking distance, but again, nobody was having any luck. We did see some very good action from numerous Hippos including one large individual walking out in full view and many others in a tight gathering immersed in their foetid pool. The usual birds showed – bustards, harriers, eagles and cisticolas and we (aka Roger) also did the good deed for the day in pulling out of the mud a deeply embedded landcruiser. Before we knew it, time was up and we were at the Seronera airstrip awaiting our flight. The flight was a good one in that it was on time, in a larger than usual twin-engine plane with plenty of space for my overweight bags and it went directly to Arusha without pick-ups along the way.

At Arusha we were met by a driver and Anthony Raphael’s charming 15 year-old daughter Stella who transferred us to “Cultural Heritage” for a good final lunch. With Margaret and Lynda’s flight out at 6.10pm there wasn’t a huge amount of time to do “Cultural Heritage” much justice with its masses of little boutiques offering all sorts of things to buy: everything from small inexpensive items to grand works of art and carvings. The fine gallery of art works and Africana cultural and tribal exhibits was given a quick look. There is some exquisite stuff there that was worthy of a much longer time to appreciate. We left at 2.30pm to transfer back directly to the International Airport for Margaret and Lynda, arriving at about 3.40pm. After saying our goodbyes to them we returned to the KIA Lodge, where Celia and Stuart had a day room to allow for a rest, wash, change and re-pack for their return journey home on KLM this evening. I remained in Tanzania at Kia Lodge to meet the next group coming in on the KLM flight that Celia and Stuart flew out on.

Margaret & Lynda, Stuart & Celia all got back as scheduled to their respective UK abodes later today after transfers in Addis for Margaret & Lynda and in Amsterdam for Celia & Stuart.

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DECEMBER 2019 – THE TOUR EXPERIENCE JUST BEFORE THE WORLD PANDEMIC –COVID 2019”

Birding & Wildlife experience: visiting the  Serengeti, Ndutu region, Ngorongoro Crater, Arusha, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks.

A Private Birding and Photographic Tour for a Japanese Couple:  Akio and Yasuko Yamada.

Tour Organizer: Tanzania Birding & Beyond Safaris

Bird Guide: Anthony Raphael

Safari Driver: Geitan

Safari Dates: 8th – 18th Dec 2019

Why Tanzania – ?

Despite the Long Rains that Tanzania and most of Africa experienced in excess of the normal during the late 2019, Our Tanzanian Tour in Dec 2019 was hassle free to say. This was a private Birding and Photographic Tour organized by a local Birding Company in Tanzania: Tanzania Birding & Beyond Safaris, arranged the tour for my Wife Yasuko and I Akio Yamada from Japan. As we all know ,the Covid-19 Pandemic had not spread the panic into the world yet by mid Dec 2019, so all was smooth with us, you are welcome to read ahead……….

In Japan, we have nearly 600 bird species in, but the number includes those species that are extremely rare migrants. It is therefore quite challenging for the birders in Japan to observe all the birds recorded in this country. Ordinary Japanese birders perhaps could watch around 300 species in their lifetime in Japan. 

We started birding well over 30 years before and the numbers of bird species we have observed has exceeded 300 species in Japan. It takes special efforts in order to see rare migrants visiting  the Japanese Archipelago, one has to arrange several trips visiting remote islands at a limited time window of the year. Moreover, recent habitat loss in Japan as well as the destruction of stopovers for migratory birds make it relative difficult to find even bird species that used be commonly found in Japan. This way we have decided to go overseas for birding, particularly Asian countries. 

We realized that visiting the area where those rare visitors normally reside is much easier for us to meet them rather than visiting a remote small island. Our interests in exotic birds expand and we have visited handful of countries including Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Mongolia, Netherland, Spain and Costa Rica. 

However we have had a long time love and interest for the African Continent too. We have met a number of people who have visited Africa and strongly recommended that we do visit this wonderful continent that is a birders paradise! Our desire to be there grew up rapidly; however, Africa is a huge continent and we had no idea where to go. During our search for a better place, my wife Yasuko found a web site that specializes in Birding Tours in East Africa, this was a company called Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safari. It seemed for us, as far as we looked at the web site, that Tanzania was full of fun. We learned we could enjoy variety of big games along with bird species that we have never seen before. We therefore made a contact with Tanzania Birding and Beyond Safaris office by email to Tina at the office, and eventually decided to ask them the best time to visit. After several discussions, our tour was set to start December 8th, 2019. Here we go…..

We chose a Qatar airline departing the Narita International Airport at 22:00 on Dec 7th which arrived at Doha at 4:10 on Dec 8th after 11:30 hour flight. We spent nearly 4 hours at the Doha International Airport until next flight to Tanzania. We were expecting to see Mt. Kilimanjaro from the window before landing. Because we reserved left-side window seats, we could see a huge mountain just before landing, as expected. We took many photos, but a gentleman sitting in front of me told that that’s not Kilimanjaro but Mount Meru. Mt. Kilimanjaro was covered with thick clouds and could not be seen, unfortunately. We eventually arrived at the Kilimanjaro International Airport at 14:40 with approximately an hour delay. 

A driver from the company was waiting for us and he drove us to the lodge. On the way to the lodge, the driver told me that the guide was on the phone and he wanted me to talk over the phone. We were expected to see the guide, Anthony, at the lodge, but he told me that he could not show up. We had to kill a time after checking in the lodge without guide. The lodge in Arusha was Ngare Sero Lodge that have huge private land with river running through forest. While wandering around, we met one of the lodge staff and he told us there was a big eagle. We asked him right away to take us there. There it was. A beautiful African Fish Eagle was perching on the dead tree sticking out of the river. We were so excited that we took uncountable pictures of him without knowing that we were going to see many of them at the different places. In that evening we saw 10 species, all of which were lifers for us.

During enjoying superb dinner at the restaurant, it started rain, and it was still raining when we got back to our room. The room was just great. We could fall asleep without feeling any jet lag that night.

This morning after our Breakfast, we met Anthony and Geitan at the lodge and our safari tour began. On the way to the Arusha National Park we saw several songbirds including endemic Taveta Weaver. Our top priority bird today is Turaco. Unfortunately, however, we were surrounded by deep fog when we got to the point where they were expected to be seen, because of rather high altitude. Anthony found a flock of Hartlaub’s Turaco, but because they were moving quickly around forest canopy, it was hard for us to look at them. The fog made the matter worse. They just looked like dark grey moving objects. We took many photos, but none of them could tell us how they truly look. We were shocked and disappointed. But every cloud has a silver lining. The second time we encountered a flock of Hartlaub’s Turaco, abruptly the fog was cleared away. Now we could not only see them but capture some photos of them. We realized we were not that unfortunate, because we were trapped by the fog again only 5 or 10 minutes later. 

Photo by A&Y Yamada

Now that we accomplished our first and big mission that day, we were able to relax and enjoy mammals such as Giraffe, Buffalo, Zebra, Warthog, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Blue monkey, Olive baboon, and Black and white colobus. 

After enjoying our box lunch at the edge of a lake, we returned to the lodge and enjoyed afternoon birding inside the lodge property. In addition to the species we saw on day 1, we could see Giant Kingfisher, Black Crake, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and others. Anthony told us that African Black Duck could be only seen at this place.  

We (Geitan, actually) had to drive to Serengeti, more than 350 km away, this day. It would take over 7 hours, but we could stop for a short while if there were something we could not miss. When we made a brief stop at a shopping mall outskirt of Arusha city, we found a beautiful Lilac-breasted Roller sitting on a tree. But the distance between he and we did not allow me to take a good shot. While I was wasting precious time to try to take nice photos of the Lilac-breasted  Roller. Anthony came closer to me and told that something quite interesting was sitting in the yard next to the mall. At first, I couldn’t tell what it was, but a couple of minute later I found a gigantic bird in the yard. “Wow, Shoebill!”, I was about to scream. That was my first time to see real Shoebill. I knew that this particular bird always remains still when he is waiting for his prey; however, this guy moved a lot contrary to my expectation. Anthony told me that he was in captivity there so that we decided not to include him in our check list.

Because of heavy thunder shower, we were forced to take our box lunch inside the safari car. Having lunch while listening to falling rain in a safari car was a kind of exciting experience for us. We got over the Great Rift valley and entered the huge savanna area around 16:30. Our drive continued and on the way to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area we encountered many African fauna like Kori Bustard, Thompson’s gazelle, Common Wildebeest, Common Eland, Crowned Lapwing and so on. 

Although we wanted to pull over several times to observe them in more detail, Anthony and Geitan looked like they did not care. They told us it would take more than 2 hours to get our destination of the day, meaning that we would be able to have a glass of cold beer around 18:30. That’s not too bad, I thought. Our safari car, however, stopped abruptly. It was quite unbelievable that there was a traffic jam. Traffic jam in Serengeti? At first, I thought there were some sort of big games like Lions or Cheetahs. No, the traffic jam was due to a flood. The road ahead of us was completely blocked by a torrent river instantly formed after the thunder shower. “How long we have to wait here?” I asked to Geitan. He replied, “Nobody knows, we just wait until the water level lowers and the road is re-open.” We waited almost an hour without doing anything, but finally cars started to move.

I was very much relieved because I knew that I would not miss a glass of cold beer that night. We arrived at the Kubu Kubu tented Lodge around 19:00. In this lodge all drinks including alcoholic beverages are free and the dinner was superb. Even though our cabin was right next to the restaurant, we were instructed not to go out in the dark without escort by Maasai worriers. The cabin was very well designed and surprisingly the shower room was outdoor. We took shower under moon light. It was a little chilly, though. We went bed and around mid-night we heard lions were roaring.

We woke up around 5:30 in the morning and found the rising sun was illuminating the Serengeti savanna. After enjoying very yummy breakfast, our hunting with cameras and binoculars but armories started again. On the way to the savanna, Anthony asked us what bird species we wanted to see the most. That was a kind of tough question for us because we need to look carefully into our field guidebook to name it. But Yasuko, bravely enough, said that Lilac-breasted Rollers were her primary target. I thought Anthony grinned. We later understood why he grinned at that time. There were so many of them. They were literally everywhere.

We met many bird species around the visitor center like Dark Chanting Goshawk, Chinspot Batis, Red-fronted Barbet and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu. In the afternoon there came a great news that a big cat was found. We hurried to the place without caring about any other living creatures. There it was. A leopard was on the tree feasting on an unfortunate warthog.

Our dinner was prepared by a lady chef, Veronica. Everything was fine with red wine imported from South Africa. Anthony asked me to give my name to Veronica. He was grinning at that time, too. When I told her my first name, she exploded with laughter. Anthony explained with grinning that my first name, Akio, sounded like the name of a tribe living around Mt. Meru. After that moment, it appeared that I became the most famous Japanese guest in this lodge. Everybody who saw me begun to say “Hi Akio” with smiling. Akio is a name from a tribe on the slopes of Mt Meru in Northern Tanzania- a surprise !!!

We departed the Kubu Kube tented Lodge around 8:00 am and headed to Ndutu Safari Lodge. We dropped by the Serengeti Visitor Center to have our lunch. Around the picnic area, there were two different species of hyrax which we could not distinguish very well. We spent about one and half hours there looking for birds and animals until it started to rain. It rained cats and dogs, but it ceased soon. Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill, Flappet Lark, Marabou Stalk, Rappet-faced Vulture, Ruppell’s Vulture, Silverbird, Superb Starling, Usambiro Barbet, Bar-faced Go-away-bird, Pigmy Falcon, Blue-napped Mousebird, Abyssinian Schimitarbill, Kori Bustard, Black-bellied Bustard, Secretarybird, Greater Kestrel, and Black-chested Snake Eagle. We met many birds that day including one of our target birds, Secretarybird, on the way to Ndutu.

Because Ndutu Safari Lodge is also in the middle of the wildlife territory, we were required to be escorted by a guard man who was bringing a robust flush light with him. While having superb cuisines with beer and wine both named Serengeti, we confirmed the birds we encountered that day. Then a night visitor appeared. A genet was having his meal on a ceiling log. 

Our exploration around Ndutu area started at 7:30 in the morning. Because this area is the only place where we can drive off Road, we decided to enjoy off-road adventure. However, the surface was so muddy due to recent heavy rain fall that we could not pull over, because the car would be stuck and not be able to escape once it stopped moving. We might have missed some important species during that move. We were relieved when we found ourselves out of the muddy area and our search for Cheetahs begun.

All of a sudden, we felt a big shock. Although Geitan did his job very well in terms of getting out of the wet muddy swamp, we were trapped by a hidden pitfall on the ground covered with grasses. Right side rear tire fell into the hole. Anthony and Geitan asked us if we were OK. Yasuko and I were all right, but we wondered if we could get out. We might need a tow away rescue. I was worried if there were no rescue coming to help us. Would we become special dinner for big cats tonight? But both guys looked like they kept calm. Geitan started to talk to somebody over the radio transmitter. I did not exactly how long we waited, but 5 or 10 minutes later there came another safari car. The driver of the car joined our team and they connected both cars with a steel wire. But when I glanced at the wire, I saw it heavily rusted. The driver of the rescue car started the engine and the engine roared. The first trial, however, failed because the rusted wire was broken away. I was very much concerned, what if we could not get out of here. Do we have to be starved this night? Do we have to be awakened all night here to watch out for predators?

The second trial begun with the wire tighten by their hands. The engine roared again. After a couple of minutes pulling, our car moved and eventually was pulled out from the big hole, thanks to the rescue driver. The solidarity is always important to accomplish some tough jobs. 

We resumed our search for Cheetahs and eventually we could find people watching at something. 

A Cheetah family was there, mother and two cubs. They move, then we follow them, they move we follow. We got hundreds of photos of them. That was real fun.

In the afternoon, we then encountered a flock of young lions. A female lion tried to vamp males but in vain. Males were yawning and appeared not interested in young attractive females, probably because they were exhausted after all night long walking through their territories.

We had another night visitor at the restaurant while having dinner. Can you guess what it was? Dreadfully enough, I found a scorpion on the floor of the restaurant. That was my first time to see such a dreadful creature in my life. Luckily, no harm, though.

Today we depart the Ndutu region and the beautiful Ndutu Safari Lodge. Heading to the Ngorongoro Crater and a request for a cultural Tour on the way, to visit the people, this was the local Maasai Tribesman village…

It was not serious at all, but something was wrong with my bowl movement on this day. I was worried I would need to go to the toilet during our driving. Anthony and Geitan told me that they would try to stop at the places where the “toilet” was available. On the way to Ngorongoro Crater, we made a short visit to a Maasai village where a son of the chief conducted guided tour in the village. He showed us their hat including inside and explained how they used such a small hat in highly organized manner. He also took us to a village kindergarten, and we had a chance to see small kids were studying. About an hour later the tour ended. Suddenly I realized that I was at the brink of emergency. I urgently needed to go to the toilet. I found a tiny stone building which looked like a toilet. Anthony and Geitan, however, did not recommend to use it. But I could not hold it and there was no other option. I got a permission from the son of the chief to use it. The big problem had been solved right away. 

On the Crater Floor, we spent afternoon doing birding at the Ngorongoro crater. We met all the members of the “Big Five” here. Three Black Rhinoceroses were seen in the heat haze, and Elephants were beautiful in green floor of the crater.

We met one of our target birds, Grey Crowned Crane. Three species of teals, Hottentot, Cape and Red-billed were in the same field of view. We also witnessed a small but funny battle between Pink-backed Pelican and African Fish Eagle. Weather was so clear that we could observe beautiful landscape of Ngorongoro crater from a lookout.

We arrived at the upgraded Kitela Lodge instead of the Marera Valley Lodge, because the latter was under renovation toward Christmas season. The Kitela lodge is owned by the same guy who operates the Kubu Kubu tented Lodge. The lodge was just gorgeous for us. Around 18: 45 Anthony found a Montane Nightjar flying over the swimming pool. I grabbed my camera and rushed to the pool side, but it was impossible for me to take photo, since it was already too dark. Because drinks were all free of charge again, we consumed too much alcohol. It was a kind of surprise to find hot water bottles were prepared in our bed. It was truly kind and warm courtesy, but a bit too warm for us.

A lot had been said and read about the Lake Manyara Jungles with its Tree climbing Lions and the fantastic water birds of Lake Manyara National Park.

We were expecting to see fantastic large Flamingo gathering in the Lake Manyara, but unfortunately, we were disappointed to know the fact that recent floods significantly increased the influx of water into the lake leading to the quite change in the habitat for flamingos. However, we were satisfied with the presence of the tree-climbing lions and impressive Southern Ground Hornbill and other species of birds. Emerald-spotted Wood-dove was far prettier as compared to the picture in the field guide. 

The Afternoon birding was at the garden of the Kitela Lodge where we met our Tacazze Sunbird, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Paradise Flycatcher, Red-billed Firefinch, Black-headed Oriole, and Arrow-marked Babbler. Before dinner we saw White-browed Robin-Chat and Cardinal Woodpecker at the Kitela Lodge. 

At the dinner Yasuko and I enjoyed chats with Anthony thanks to yummy dishes and free red wine. hahahahhah

This morning, we checked out of the Kitela Lodge and left the Ngorongoro Highlands area.

My bowl problem was not over yet and I needed frequent visits to the toilets during our birding and driving to the next accommodation. Even under such condition, birding is of our primary importance. We therefore visited several spots around the Lake Manyara. Movement of Black Heron (umbrella bird) was so funny. A Malachite Kingfisher was holding a pose on a tree branch in a scrub quite close to us. We saw Saddle-billed Stork, too. 

Then we had a relatively long lunch time at the picnic area just in case I had to use the toilet. We were lucky to find a flock of small birds making noisy sounds. Amid of those birds, there was a Pearl-spotted Owlet. Small birds were trying to get rid of the owlet. This reminded me of Vietnamese bird guide who was always mimicking an Owlet voice using a kind of whistle when birds were became scarce. I now know the reason why he made such a mysterious sound. We also encountered Red and Yellow Barbet, very famous species because they are iconic birds being put on a cover of famous book entitled “Birds of East Africa”. 

At the entrance of Tarangire National Park, a park staff sprayed insecticide over the entire body of our safari car for prevention of Tsetse flies. We saw Green Wood Hoopoe while we were waiting for our vehicle ready. Around 16:30 we arrived at the Tarangire Safari Lodge safely. This one is totally different from those tent lodges we stayed before. This is the real one. We were advised not to bring anything edible inside the tent, otherwise we would be attacked by big games while we were sleeping. 

Although buffet dinner was great, I could not enjoy because I had not good appetite because of my bowl condition. Regretfully I missed many cousins on that night. Yasuko tried to take photos of the galaxy spreading over the Tarangire plain because the sky was so clear without moon light.

Our excitements continued. But Anthony was also excited on that day because we encountered a couple of Three-banded Courser. According to him, he could see them approximately once in 10 visits in Tarangire National Park. We also enjoyed seeing that a pair of Von der Decken’s Hornbill was taking sand bath together. A flock of Elephants accompanied by babies was found bathing in a pond. A pair of Secretarybird was nesting on an acacia tree. White-bellied Go-away-bird and Von der Decken’s Hornbill appeared to be residents in this lodge. Differentiation between Northern and Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbills was quite challenging. We were completely confused until we got back to Japan and found the description in the report written by Anthony. 

Whereas the end of our tour was approaching, surprisingly, new species such as Red-headed Quelea, Red-bellied Parrot, Woodland Kingfisher, and White-bellied Bustard, still continued to appear. 

Our accommodation was at this beautiful Trangire Safari Tented Lodge. Thanks to Tina at the Tanzania Birding and beyond office to select this as a way to end the tour… the views and scenery not easy to put in just one sentence, should it be, awesome, breathtaking, eye catching, lovely, overwhelming, inspiring, memorable or what would you think……..?  

We were supposed to arrive at the Kilimanjaro International Airport around 13:00 suggesting that we still had a couple of hours to do birding inside the national park while driving toward the entrance. Just before departure, Anthony found a bunch of Peter’s Dwarf Epauletted Fruit Bat hanging from a tree branch. He also pointed a new bird perching on another tree branch, African Scops Owl. On the way to the airport we still found new species like Foxy Lark, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, and Red-necked Spurfowl.

This gives the impression,” Birding in Tanzania is Endless” This should answer the question: WHY TANZANIA?

In Arusha, Anthony our guide dropped off the car and Geitan took us to the airport. Then it was time to say goodbye to Geitan and Goodbye to Tanzania!

Our Tally went as follows:

304 Bird Species seen on the Trip

264 Bird Species Lifers for Yasuko

231 Bird Species Lifers for me (Akio)

262 Bird Species Photographed

46 Mammals seen

BIG THANK YOU to TANZANIA BIRDING & BEYOND SAFARIS, All the Crew Anthony our Top Bird Guide and Geitan our Excellent and Safe Safari Driver for a “NZURI SANA” SAFARI

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November 8 – December 19, 2017
Alison Bentley

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 Mikumi.
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 Ngorongoro crater.
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 Hotel.
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 Mkomazi NP.
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 Tarangire.
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 Twiga Hotel.
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 Mtowa 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 Ruaha.
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 above crater.
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 Ngare Sero.
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 at Mikumi.
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 Mikumi.
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 Mikumi.
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 Mwanga.
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 plains.
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 picnic area.
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-Swiss cottages.
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 Mikumi.
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.

Detailed Report:
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-white Mannikins.
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 5a.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 Yellow-breasted Apalis.

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 swampy area.

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 hasAfrican 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 place 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 cavorted overhead.
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 fantastic views.

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 for one!

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 Wood-Owl calling.

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 National Park.
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 Park proper.
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 assecurity 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 Yellow Wagtail.
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 ever present 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, part 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, 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 grounds proper!
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 cousins.
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 pleased.

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 Canary and White-bellied Canary 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 flock of Eastern Paradise 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 Widow birds. 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 Shrike, Blacklored 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 the bandas!!!
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 Pytilias, Red-billed 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 appearance.
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 the park. 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 assistance. 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 flood plain. 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 house. 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 way.

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 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
cottages.
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-Weavers, however.
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)

PEMBA GREEN PIGEON

Part 2. Northeast (East and West Usambaras, South Pares, Mkomazi, Arusha area)

LONG CRESTED EAGLE

Part 3. Northern Circuit (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Speke Bay, Tarangire)

YELLOW COLLARED LOVEBIRD

Part 4. Southern Circuit (Ruaha, Udzungwas, Kilombero, Mikumi)

SOUTHERN GROUND HORNBILL

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February 18 – March 7 2017

THE GROUP:

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Beesley It is odd that this most recent of species named for a person is one I can find little about other than a John Beesley, who recognised 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 Reichenow who 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 with Reichenow 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 Rueppell but had to abandon it in Egypt due to ill-health – but not before he collected and illustrated the plover that now bears his name.

Klaas was Levaillant’s Hottentot 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. Abdim Bey 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.

Waller was 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.

Doggerel

“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?

Stunning Dorst’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 and cute Red-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 duetting Hunter’s and Pectoral-patch,

Are my favorites of the batch.

While Rufous, Piping and gorgeous Trilling,

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 Cisticolas just 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.

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Hello Everyone,

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.

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!

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!

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.

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!

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!

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 CoursersGreat-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.

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 PallidTawny 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!

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.

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 Coucal and 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 and Hildebrant’s Francolin on the lawn greeted us at the luxurious NgorongoroSopa Lodge where we’ll be staying the next two nights.

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.

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!

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 DoveSchalow’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.

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-naped Mousebirds and 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.

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-shrikes duetted 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 SilverbillsCrimson-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!

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 Usambara Boubou, Usambara Greenbul, Usambara Drongo and Usambara Double-banded Sunbird. An Usambara Two-horned Chameleon moving slowly in the roadside vegetation also caught our attention. Green Barbet, Moustached Tinkerbird, Black-fronted Bushshrike, African Tailorbird, White-starred Robin and Black and White Mannikins were 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!

Great Sparrowhawk aka 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.

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

J&L

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