November 8 – December 19, 2017
The following is a detailed log of our 45th wedding anniversary adventure in Tanzania. It is quite long as we were there for six weeks during what is arguably the best time for birding in Eastern Africa. I also felt that including illustrations would help the reader. For those not wishing to read the whole report I have put the annotated species list ahead of the main text.
Logistics: coming from Canada, the only document we had to get ahead of time was a tourist visa. The latter is only good for three months so should not be purchased prior to three months from your anticipated return date. We left our passports in Ottawa at the High Commission of the United Republic of Tanzania and the visas were ready within a couple of weeks. You can also purchase visas at certain entry points into Tanzania but we wanted to get ours ahead of time a) in case of any issues and b) to avoid any line-ups at arrival.
Flights: after a significant amount of fare-watching and price-checking we bought tickets through Air Canada for what ended up being all Swiss Air flights. The routing was Montreal-Zürich-Dar Es Salaam, with a stop on the outgoing flight at Nairobi. We did not need to deplane but the hour-stop made for quite a long flight time. As the flights to and from Zürich were code shares, it meant that we could not select our seats. In retrospect, booking directly with Swiss Air would have alleviated the problem. Swiss Air proved to be an excellent carrier and Zürich airport a fabulous place for a layover. We can thoroughly recommend the extravagant but excellent breakfast for two in the Deli Café.
Tour Companies: planning for the trip began at least a year ahead of time, with refinements being made as plans changed. Having done a considerable amount of research we decided to approach Tanzania Birding and Beyond for the birding safari part of our trip. We always try to use “home-grown” tour companies rather than North American outfits. Furthermore not only is Anthony Raphael an incredibly knowledgeable and accomplished guide, but office manager Tina is the most patient and helpful person, answering my many, many questions with consummate grace. Given the provisos that we did not need extravagant quarters or North American food, she was able to put together a very reasonable 30-day package. This included all the areas for endemics (with the exception of Pemba) and the iconic Serengeti and Ngorongoro parks. If you have not traveled in Eastern Africa before, be prepared for the incredibly high cost of entering national parks. Plus in many of them the only vehicles allowed are those registered to tour operators, making self-drive options impossible.
Pre-tour: as we were spending the first few days of our stay visiting with an old friend of Stewart’s in Dar Es Salaam, we decided that we were just too close to miss out on going to Zanzibar and Pemba. We therefore arranged a small tour, with the help of Procell Safaris and Palm Tours (based on Zanzibar) with two nights on Zanzibar and three on Pemba.
Summary: we recorded 623 species of birds in Tanzania, almost all of which were seen. Unfortunately some, like the Pemba Scops-Owl and Usambara Akalat, remained heard only.
We also encountered an amazing amount of other wildlife, from giant shrews to slinky leopards and from tent-invading lizards to lazy lions just hanging out along the side of the road.
Itinerary and Accommodations:
November 7: overnight flight from Montreal to Zurich.
November 8: flight from Zurich to Dar Es Salaam via Nairobi.
November 8-13: stay in Dar Es Salaam; local birding
November 10: birding Kerege area and Pugu Hills with January Ching’Enya.
November 13: morning birding South Beach area with January Ching’Enya.
November 14-15: ferry to Zanzibar; nights at Island Beach resort.
November 15: day in Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park.
November 16-18: flight to Pemba; nights at Pemba Paradise, Makangale.
November 17 & 18: half-day trips into Ngezi Forest and surrounding area; local birding.
November 19: flight to Tanga; drive to Amani NR.
November 19-21: nights at Amani Rest House; birding in Amani NR.
November 22: birding Amani; drive to West Usambaras.
November 22-24: nights at Mullers Mountain Lodge; birding West Usambaras
November 25: drive to South Pare Mountains.
November 25-26: nights at Elephant Motel, Same; birding Mkomazi National Park.
November 27: drive to Arusha via Mwanga Maasai steppe and Nyumba ya Mungu reservoir.
November 27-29: nights at Korona House.
November 28: visit to Lark Plains north of Arusha; other dry country birding.
November 29: visit to Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge in morning.
November 30: drive to Gibbs Farm; birding grounds and Elephant Trail; night at Country Lodge.
December 1: long drive to Speke Bay on Lake Victoria via central and western Serengeti.
December 1-2: nights at Speke Bay Lodge; local birding on lodge grounds.
December 3: drive to Ndutu via central and western Serengeti; night at Ndutu Lodge.
December 4: drive to Ngorongoro Crater; birding in and around crater; night at Country Lodge.
December 5: drive to Tarangire Safari Lodge, some birding on way.
December 5-6: nights at Tarangire Safari Lodge; birding and game-viewing in national park.
December 7: long drive to Iringa; night at M.R. Hotel.
December 8: drive to Ruaha National Park; birding on approach road and later in park.
December 8-11: nights in bandas in Ruaha; birding and game viewing in park.
December 12: drive to Udzungwa Mountains.
December 12-14: nights at Twiga Rest House (Hotel).
December 13: birding the Kilombero flood plains.
December 14: birding around Twiga Hotel and forest trails of Udzungwa National Park.
December 15: birding locally; drive to Tan-Swiss Cottages, Mikumi; birding Miombo woodland.
December 15-17: nights at Tan Swiss Cottages.
December 16: day in Mikumi National Park.
December 17: birding Miombo woodland early morning and afternoon; local birding.
December 18-19: drive to Dar Es Salaam; flight overnight to Zürich; flight Zürich to Montreal.
Annotated Species List*
Locations given correct designation (CA: conservation area, FR: forest reserve, NP: national park) in first reference only; similarly resorts, hotels, reservoirs, wetlands, steppes etc. are only described in full with their location once.
Common Ostrich: many groups in Mkomazi, Serengeti and Tarangire NPs and in Ngorongoro CA; several males in spectacular pink-necked and legged breeding plumage.
White-faced Whistling Duck: good numbers at Kibada Saltmarsh in Dar es Salaam, Bwawani Wetland in Stonetown, Zanzibar, and Ngezi FR, Pemba; 10 at Nyumba ya Mungu reservoir south
of Arusha, 2 at Speke Bay Lodge on Lake Victoria.
White-backed Duck: a group of 3 at wetland area in Ngezi.
Comb Duck: groups of 1-3 in Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Mikumi NP.
Egyptian Goose: common on bodies of water in all mainland national parks, also at Nyumba ya Mungu and Ngare Sero Lodge, Arusha.
Spur-winged Goose: 3 individuals in Mkomazi.
African Pygmy-Goose: 8 birds in Ngezi wetland areas.
Hottentot Teal: about 30 birds in the Ngorongoro crater.
Northern Shoveler: 3 birds in the crater.
Cape Teal: a single bird in the Ngorongoro crater.
Red-billed Duck: pairs at Mkomazi and Nyumba ya Mungu; 6 at pond in Serengeti.
Helmeted Guineafowl: common in all mainland national parks; also seen at Speke Bay.
Vulturine Guineafowl: a pair in Mkomazi.
Crested Guineafowl: pair as we exited from Ruaha NP.
Harlequin Quail: single bird in the fields just outside Pemba Paradise in NW Pemba.
Hildebrandt’s Francolin: single bird at Tarangire and two sightings in Ruaha.
Yellow-necked Francolin: common in Mkomazi and Tarangire.
Gray-breasted Francolin: small groups in Serengeti, Speke Bay and the Ngorongoro crater.
Red-necked Francolin: common in Tarangire and Ruaha; heard outside Kerege, north of Dar.
Crested Francolin: singles and small groups in Mkomazi, Tarangire and Ruaha.
Coqui Francolin: group of 4 in Serengeti.
Little Grebe: 2 at Kerege wetland, 5-6 in Ngezi wetalnd, 6 at Ngare Sero and 1 in Tarangire.
Greater Flamingo: large flocks in Ngorongoro at Lake Ndutu and in crater.
Lesser Flamingo: several with Greaters near Lake Ndutu.
African Openbill: single near Kerege, 2 flying by in Dar; 5 at Kibada, 3 at Mombo rice paddies, 32 at Nyumba ya Mungu, 30 (might have been same birds) at the Mwanga Maasai steppe off B1
just south of Nyumba ya Mungu; 2-3 in Ruaha.
Abdim’s Stork: large migrating flock on Serengeti plains just outside Ngorongoro boundary.
White Stork: pair in the Serengeti, many in the Ngorongoro crater, single flyby in Udzungwas.
Saddle-billed Stork: 1-5 daily, Ruaha only.
Marabou Stork: singles and small groups in Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Ruaha and 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.
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
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)
Part 2. Northeast (East and West Usambaras, South Pares, Mkomazi, Arusha area)
Part 3. Northern Circuit (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Speke Bay, Tarangire)
Part 4. Southern Circuit (Ruaha, Udzungwas, Kilombero, Mikumi)