Tanzanian Birding at its best

February/March 2010

Designing an extended birding safari is a pleasure and, during these months, extremely rewarding to lead. We had decided on some new locations and some old favorites, hoping to add new species to our lists and witness the movement of migrating birds moving northwards. We started at Lake Ndutu, then moved on to Lake Eyasi and Yeada Valley, to the Nou Forest , Tarangire National Park, Nyumba Ya Mungu and finally to Amani and the coast at Ushongo.

The rains of December and January had been plentiful so conditions were healthy, wetlands full of water, all habitats were brimming over with life forms enjoying the glut.

Some of the photographs I took of the Black and Little Terns can be viewed at tanzaniabird.net

Once again we took detailed notes of our sightings to add to the impressive data base at the Tanzania Bird Atlas

And here are a few more links for those of you that are interested in these places.

Here are a few sentences from my report to our bird group.

  • At Ndutu we witnessed over a hundred thousand white and Abdim’s storks around the lake in the first week of March. It truly was breathtaking to witness such numbers at dawn and dusk each day.
    At Eyasi we saw 4-5 thousand white pelicans but couldn’t get close enough to photograph. Eyasi birding was excellent and varied. The numbers of grey headed gulls was impressive as well 3-400 in one spot.
  • At Yeada we witnessed a flooded valley with a great variety and good numbers of waders, storks, ducks etc. (and 3 suspect common Pochard- flying away from me at high speed!) In Tarangire we witnessed 500+ fulvous in one spot at Silale, numbers of yellow billed storks at Silale but mainly along the flooded river in front of Oliver’s camp. The valley in front of camp had flights of open billed stork and yellow billed egrets all day long. We estimated well over a thousand YBE and similar but less numbers of OBS. Each evening the YBE flew past camp in groups to the south, so we could count them. Each group numbered 30-50 birds and 25-30 groups were seen heading south each evening. We checked very carefully to ensure that all were YBE egrets and not cattle egrets.
  • At Nyumba Ya Mungu we camped below the dam at a new site – the numbers of WB cormorants there was impressive! Thankfully they seemed not to like to roost directly above us but in all the trees close to us, with the hippos and bush babies it all made for some noisy moments during the night. Numbers could be in the tens of thousands but most likely 10—20,000. Locals commented that these birds do not roost here every year. Skimmers on the Lake were out in force but we only saw 500+ and not the 1000+ we saw here a few years ago- but we only covered a small percentage of the Lake. Good numbers of gull billed terns here and 100’s of yellow wagtails.
  • White headed mouse birds, East coast Batis, hunters and Tsavo sunbirds, northern brownbuls etc all add up to quite a list if you combine the river, the escarpment and the lake.. On a day drive west to Lake Ambussel (completely dry) we saw many hundreds of barn swallows coming over the Martin escarpment- 5 Oryx at the dry lake were a treat.
  • Birding from this location is varied with dry bush country, the river banks and the lake all adding up to a great list over our 4 days. It was very dry.
    This Lemkuna village campsite (cross the dam and head south along the river a few kms- report to the village office) costs 50,000 t/sh per group per night + the cost of an askari 10,000 per night and can be booked through the village chairman Mr. Maitei on 0769-380851. We drove south on the River’s western side to cross and join the main road at Hedaru; this old floodplain area was very dry and had many euro rollers moving through it. Amani was wonderful but mainly because we hired Martin Joho – Tel 0786 108086- His call knowledge helped us locate some wonderful forest birds, including The Long tailed Tailor Bird – a little gem which he called out for us.
  • We then moved onto the coast via the Kabuku road to Ushongo – the combo of these coastal thickets, the mainland beach and the Maziwe Island added many new species to our list.
    And Ombeni saw the Ocean, witnessed a high and low tide and snorkeled, all for the first time in his life as well as seeing his first N Carmine Bee eaters and Little Terns! All in all a great birding trip but the sheer numbers of birds we saw in such varied habitats remains the trips overriding impression.

Here are a few photos – as always! Happy birding – Paul Oliver

A Little Tern in flight and only the 3rd record of Black tern in Tanzania (the arrow points to an immature bird)

The flooded Tarangire River in front of Oliver’s Camp, a kopje top view of the Yeada Valley and our camp on the Ruvu River

Amani Nature Reserve, walking the coastal forest road Arsenal supporters at Amani

Perhaps the rarest bird in East Africa ( Long billed Tailorbird , a kingfisher at Eyasi and A Honey Buzzard at Yeada

Terns and crab plovers at Maziwe Island