Northern Tanzania Feb 18—Mar 07, 2018
Posted by Kevin Zimmer
As has become the routine, the entire group arrived in Tanzania at least a day early to recover from the international flights and enjoy some relaxing birding on the lovely grounds of Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge, an old estate converted to an intimate tourist lodge. Here, amidst the spectacular gardens and remnant forest bordering a lily-covered pond and trout stream, we gained an introduction to African birds, including several species that we would not see elsewhere on the trip.
Exceptional among our many prizes were a group of bizarre Retz’s Helmetshrikes and a very cooperative Lizard Buzzard, neither species of which we had ever recorded on the lodge grounds before. More expected, but no less welcome, were such ‘regulars’ as Hamerkop, a pair of African Black Ducks, loads of bickering Little Grebes (one of them on a nest), Black Crake, African Green-Pigeon, numbers of White-eared Barbets, Kenrick’s Starling, Brown-hooded and Giant kingfishers, prehistoric-looking Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, evening roosts of Sacred Ibis, dapper Mountain Wagtails, attractive male and female Black-throated Wattle-eyes, an exceptionally vocal African Black-headed Oriole, and actively nesting Grosbeak Weavers. We topped it off with nice views of a lovely African Wood-Owl and some extended studies of two special primates—Guereza Colobus and Blue (Syke’s) Monkey.
Our first “official” day on safari took us to nearby Arusha National Park, lying in the shadow of Mt. Meru. This park is small, but it has many different habitats and offers a wonderful variety of birds and big game. Topping the highlights here were a lovely Bar-tailed Trogon and some breathtaking Hartlaub’s Turacos (endemic to east Africa) in the highland forest, but we also picked off such gems as Greater Painted-Snipe, Cape Teal, some mixed-species aggregations of feeding swifts (including such uncommonly seen species as Scarce Swift and Horus Swift among more usual fare), White-fronted and Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters, Brown-breasted Barbet, Moustached Tinkerbird, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Moustached Grass-Warbler, White-starred Robin, Long-billed Pipit, Yellow Bishop, and many more (including an impressive five species of cisticolas, which were destined to become a group favorite). Advance scouting revealed that flamingos were essentially missing-in-action in the alkaline waters of the Momela Lakes, but we still managed to find a lone Greater Flamingo. Mammalian highlights were headlined by some fabulously close “Masai” Giraffes, troops of Olive Baboons, impressive Guereza Colobus monkeys, a male Vervet Monkey that gave new meaning to an old expression, rarely seen Harvey’s Duikers (for some), and loads of Bushbucks and Defassa Waterbucks, with a sprinkling of Common Warthogs, Common Zebras, and African Buffalo mixed in.
Read Kevin’s full report in his Field Report.