Katavi in late January and into February 2009

With two regular birding guests I recently spent 10 wonderful days in Katavi, yes we are ‘birders’ but please don’t stop reading here!

We made a real effort to cover some surrounding country as well as the main portions of this wonderful National Park. We record our bird data by 50KMS squares that are called bird atlas squares and we managed to record all the birds we saw and could positively identify in 5 January Squares and 4 in February. You see we record in each square for every month.

All this data goes into a central data base with the Tanzanian Bird Atlas.

A sign to remember - South West KataviA sign to remember - South West Katavi

A View of Katavi from the SouthA View of Katavi from the South

We had a wonderful time and as we flew in I could see that the conditions for ‘birding’ were excellent and as we enjoyed our first few days we were amazed at the wildlife viewing as well as the variety of bird species on offer. The grass was a little high at times but still major mammal sighting were rewarding with good lion numbers and a pack of wild dogs that we saw a few times- our first sighting from the Chada camp reading tent as they dispatched an impala 25 yards way at dusk-another bloody Mary anyone? A leopard mother with her cub was also eating an impala near the camp that day and we visited them a few times. We even saw a large croc just miss a zebra foal when the herd decided to cross the river. On one of our dusk time wild dog sightings I put the question to John – one of my guests- “should we continue to watch the dogs – I am sure they will hunt pretty soon, or should we dash off to Ikuu rangers post to see if any new wader species have turned up?” Without hesitation “Waders v wild dogs?-WADERS PLEASE!” The reply came, so as you can tell mammals were not high on our list! Katavi still offers great mammal viewing when it’s wet and the grass is taller.

Lake Katavi fly campLake Katavi fly camp

On the Katavi trailOn the Katavi trail

My previous dry season visits and my one December visit had wetted my appetite and it was wonderful to see both broad tailed and paradise whydah males in full breeding dress often in the same tree or in a flock flying together. On the Maasai Steppe a few years ago- with these same guests- we had seen all four species of breeding male whydahs flying together- straw tailed/paradise/steely blue and pin tailed and these sorts of sightings underline how important such areas are to these wonderful birds. The birds were just reward for traveling so far and our species list must have exceeded 300 with 18 or more ‘new’ bird species added to the square lists. We may have hit 800+ atlas records for the Katavi area. My guests saw 20+ ‘lifers’ (a ‘lifer’ is a bird species seen for the first time in your life), so they were extremely happy. Most of the ‘new’ birds species we recorded for the square lists were common species that had either been over looked or, as most records are dry season ones, species not seen in breeding dress before. The variety of cuckoo, bee-eater and seed eating species was a daily pleasure. A beautiful herpetic Eurasian cuckoo wouldn’t let me close for a photo unfortunately. The rain did dampen our spirits a little at times but with water proof ponchos to protect our books, lists and cameras (in an open car) we laughed off the dampness and explored this beautiful area almost all day for 10 days.

Silvaros- the best guide in KataviSilvaros- the best guide in Katavi

A Katavi Wild DogA Katavi Wild Dog

The views over Katavi from the south were beautiful and fly camping at Lake Katavi over the month change and on the 2 square boundaries was a highlight. I highly recommend the route to Lake Katavi via Kibaoni-Milumba and Mongwe Rangers Post - perhaps better without too much rain…! 50+ Pygmy geese (a beautiful little goose - look it up) were seen at the Lake and if we had only been able to get out above Lake Katavi…! Large Albida trees without leaf were covered in a thousand cattle egrets at dusk and Lake Katavi needs a revisit and time to give up her secrets! I will be heading back the first chance I can! Tanzania is blessed.

The light  fades at our fly campThe light fades at our fly camp

Katavi sunshineKatavi sunshine

Many thanks to Peter, Anita and Silvarus and all the staff at Chada for putting up with and helping these mad birders to enjoy themselves so much!

We went on for 5 days in the Selous (see separate write up) and a day in Arusha National Park to unwind at the end. And total species count must have been over 400.

Don’t be put off by the 100’s of web site recommendations saying that a visit to Katavi after November and into January and February is not advised! We all loved it and felt like we had the whole park to ourselves most of the time- which in fact we did!

Best wishes Paul Oliver