Posts Tagged ‘Tanzania’

Hi all

I’m back for the final stretch …….

When we left off last time we had made it all the way back to Mt Rungwe just north of Tukuyu in south western Tanzania.

We made an early departure (another big thank you is due to the Clowes family) and headed for Malawi.

Songwe Bridge

Songwe Bridge

After crossing the Songwe River and doing all the normal customs and immigration stuff we were off southwards back down Lake Malawi, past Livingstonia and back up onto the escarpment.

Lake Malawi

Stunning views of Lake Malawi

Then onwards inland and south to a little town called Rumphi.  A critical stop to purchase beer and off westwards for several hours on crap dirt roads to Thazima Gate.

Thazima Gate

Thazima Gate

This is the entrance to the Nyika National Park.  Take very careful note of the stated altitude !!  1646 metres above sea level is already in the region of 5000 feet a.s.l.

We drove into the park and through some magnificent Miombo woodland.  Essentially Miombo is a Swahili word for broad-leafed woodland consisting mostly of  Brachystegia species.

Miombo Woodland

Miombo habitat in Nyika N.P.

It was here we found a new species for both of us !

Starling - White-winged

The White-winged Starling
Neocichla gutturalis

That was cool !   It has another name – White-winged Babbling Starling. But still a long way to go and ever and ever upwards.

We eventually arrived at the Park HQ but because it was quite late (read early evening) and decidedly chilly we opted for chalet accommodation.  A bit pricey ……  but …… cest la vie.

Nyika Nat. Park Chalet

Nyika Nat. Park Chalet

During the evening we could clearly hear the calls of several Montane Nightjars and it was really eerie as the call is so similar and yet so different from our well known Fiery-necked Nightjar.

The real revelation was the next morning ………………….

Nyika Plateau

Nyika Plateau

Wow !!   That is why this chapter in entitled Above the Tree Line !!  Pretty much the whole of this huge park covers the Nyika Plateau and is nearly all above 2800 m.a.s.l.  Thats way above 8000 feet !

Nyika Plateau

Central African Plateau Moorland

This Moorland is very extensive and has small relict patches of Montane Forest.  It is certainly *not* a sterile environment and has loads of interesting inhabitants.

Roan Antelope

Roan Antelope

And the birds ………………….

Blue Swallow

Blue Swallow

Stanley's Bustard

Denham’s Bustard

…. also Churring Cisticola and the very elusive Mountain Yellow Warbler.

What an incredibly fascinating place.

We left about 9’ish and drove interminably south, eventually through a very busy Lilongwe, through the Mocambique border, foolishly after dark, and slowly and carefully inched our way to the metropolis of Ulongue where we settled in to a B&B with loads of Manica Lager and a delicious Piri-piri Galinas !!

Piri-piri Chicken

Galinas Piri-piri

Those of you with southern African connections will know about the famous grilled spicy chickens they serve !

Early next day back on the road , across the Zambezi, through Nyamapanda border post and finally in Harare about lunch time.

It was a long long way but a more than fantastic experience.

Thanks Alex.

Thank you for listening.

Cheers

Tony

Advertisements

Hi all

I’m back ………………………

Leaving the Indian Ocean behind us we drove steadily westwards passing the famous Uluguru Mountains.  There are a bunch of special birds up there including the Uluguru Bush-shrike.  Unfortunately it is a long hard and arduous climb and as ANBM had a triple by-pass some months previously it was deemed unwise for us to attempt the climb.

Uluguru

The famous Uluguru Mountains

Through the Mikumi National Park and into the town of Mikumi itself, where we booked in to the Tan-Swiss Lodge.  Very comfortable motel type accommodation and a restaurant.  Next morning we were off again on a new mission !

Southwards, skirting the also famous Udzungwa Mountains National Park.

Udzungwa Mountains

The sign ….

Our destination was to go past the town (village ?) of Ifakara and into the Kilombero swamps !  Why – you ask ?

Kilombero Weaver

Kilombero Weaver – only discovered in 1986 !!

There are two other specials, also both discovered as recently as 1986 ……………….

Kilombero Cisticola

Kilombero Cisticola

White-tailed Cisticola

White-tailed Cisticola

Well our intentions were good.  The reality is that at that time of year the locals burn the swamp vegetation to plant their crops !!  So to get away from the road we resorted to a different form of transport ……

Kilombero River

Dugout on the Kilombero River

Whilst this little sojourn was great for general birding it failed in it’s quest to find any of the three specials !!  Sigh …..

We were entertained on the return journey (of some 140 km) by this ……..

Nice Truck

A very Nice Truck

We checked back into the same motel in Mikumi and went exploring into the adjacent National Park to be rewarded by a bird which ANBM was very keen to see.

Long-tailed Fiscal

Long-tailed Fiscal

The next day we were once again off westwards and through the amazing Ruaha Valley which gave us a whole string of new species that we were keen to find.

Ashy Starling

Ashy Starling

White-winged Tit

White-winged Tit

von der Decken's Hornbill

Male von der Decken’s Hornbill

Female von der Decken's Hornbill

.. and the female

It was a long day but most productive from a birding point of view.  Very tiring because the driving in Tanzania can be a little frenetic with about 80% of the traffic being huge trucks.

Tanzanian Highway

.. busy roads….

But it can be quite entertaining too ……..

Bob Marley

Bob Marley

We eventually arrived back at the Mount Rungwe Avocado Company and were once again welcomed and royally accommodated by the Clowes family.

The last chapter was about to begin……….

And it will unfold soon …………….

Thanks for listening

Tony

Hi All

Terribly sorry about the inordinate delay !!  It is no excuse but there is a reason …… I have been a very very busy chap and have had little time to consider my readers. Sorry !

After the PAOC conference we could now start to relax a little and start to think seriously about getting into birding mode.  This started with a small trip up into the foothills of Kilimanjaro (still hidden in cloud and we never actually saw this mythical Gomo)

We then followed our original route back through Karogwe and then turned left.  From chatting to various Tanzanian folk we had learnt that some of the best birding was around the tiny village of Amani (nowt more than a medical research station – Malarial research specifically) which sits atop the East Usambara Mountains.

Amani sign

Arrived !

These Usambara Mountains are large things.  Although we were only at about 900 metres above sea level when at the top remember that the surrounding flat Tanzanian veld is only 200 metres a.s.l.

The roads were distinctly not great ….

Bad roads

Up the Usambara’s

Usambara

Really lousy roads

But the forest was impressive – very impressive !

Usambara-Forests

Usambara Forests

And the birds ?  Fantastic is the only word.  Stuff we had not even known existed !

Two of which live there and nowhere else !!

Amani Sunbird

Amani Sunbird

Long-billed Tailorbird

Long-billed Tailorbird

The known global range of the Tailorbird is about 20 square kilometres !!  And to top that no nest has ever been found !  There in itself is a nice little PhD project for an enterprising little soul.

Lots and lots of other very special birds – especially for us southern Africans who know a few of them as very special for our region.

Vanga

Female Black & White Flycatcher

Male Black & White Flycatcher

… and her Husband.

And the enigmatic Green-headed Oriole which in southern Africa is restricted to the massif of Mount Gorongosa in central Mocambique.

Green-headed Oriole

Green-headed Oriole

Also the Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird in which, unlike the others in Africa, the female also wears the metalic Violet back and is only found here and on the Uluguru Mountains some hundreds of kilometre away.

Uluguru-violet-backed-sunbird

Uluguru violet-backed sunbird

And how about this next one ?  Not even the internet can produce a photograph of this bird !!!

Olive Ibis

Olive Ibis –

Bostrychia olivacea is the scientific name.

We stayed up there for two nights and also found the special Owl.  What an amazing call this bird has !

Usambara Eagle Owl "Bubo vosseleri"

Usambara Eagle Owl “Bubo vosseleri”

Finally we had to leave – the word Safari is simply Swahili for “journey” and has absolutely nothing to do with the way we westners view or understand its perceived meaning.

Amani sign

Farewell Amani – and thank you.

When we got back to the main road we turned left – because we could – and drove to the coast simply to put our feet in the Indian Ocean.

Tanga

The Indian Ocean at Tanga

A delightful city/town sort of place with poverty and tourism happily sharing the same tropical paradise and idyllic weather.

And somebody seems to have forgotten something that happened way back in the sixties ………..

Tanganyika

Tanganyika or Tanzania ?

That was it !  We filled up with fuel, money from an ATM and of course some beer supplies and headed west into the hinterland with yet another mission on the cards.

More later………… hopefully sooner rather than later ………..

Thanks for listening.

Tony

Hi all

What a fascinating trip it was.  We had to meet really early in the morning and get allocated into a specific Land Cruiser.  Amazing tourist industry – there were 38 customised vehicles and *all* from the same tour company !   I was impressed to say the least.

Land Cruisers

Customised Tour Vehicles

Arusha National Park is a game reserve so we did see a few mammals………

Giraffe

Giraffe

…. but that is not what this is all about !      Things ornithological is what this is all about !

In the foothills of Mt Meru it is quite dry so these two were to be expected – Superb Starling and Pygmy Batis.

Batis Pygmy

Pygmy Batis

Starling Superb

Superb Starling

The two best ‘yellow’ birds of the day were the Taveta Weaver and Cinnamon-chested Bee-Eater.

Taveta Weaver

Taveta Weaver

Cinnamon-chested Bee-Eater

Cinnamon-chested Bee-Eater

Ok – so the Bee-Eater ain’t too yellow – but the Baglafecht’s Weaver’s were…..

Male Baglafecht's Weaver

Male Baglafecht’s Weaver

Female Baglafecht's Weaver

Female Baglafecht’s Weaver

Although quite common I really did like these little chaps…….

Spot-flanked Barbet

Spot-flanked Barbet

One of the neatest birds of eastern Africa is the Slaty White-eyed Flycatcher.

White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher

Or is that White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher ?

Either way it is Melaenornis fischeri.

Everywhere on the mountain we could here a bird calling and it took ages and ages before someone glimpsed what we used to call a Green Coucal, then we called them Green Malkoha………

Yellowbill

…. and now we call them Yellowbill’s !

Turaco’s were in evidence with the common one being this handsome chap.

Hartlaub's Turaco

Hartlaub’s Turaco

Juvenile Crowned Eagle

Juvenile Crowned Eagle

This juvenile Crowned Eagle was very accommodating and must have had hundreds of photo’s taken in the hour or so that he sat there.  Unusual thing is that this is actually one of my own pictures !!!

Typical of the east African scene are the hundreds, nay thousands, of Greater and Lesser Flamingo’s in the lakes and there are dozens of lakes around Mt Arusha. Some are ground fed with soda rich waters, some are fed from hot springs and others are topped up with fresh water from streams or precipitation.

Lake Momella

Lake Momella Sign

Well I guess that that last pic proves I am running out of Arush material and I should stop now !!

So I will.  See you soon on the next leg of this fantastic journey.

Thanks for watching

Tony

The 13th Pan African Congress took place over seven days in Arusha,  Tanzania in October 2012.

This congress is held every four years and I believe the first one took place here in Zimbabwe around 1960.

There were about 250 delegates from all over the world and in excess of 400 contributors, authors and presenters and with around 34 presentations being given every day in two halls over 6 days we certainly had our work cut out for us !!!

Delegates and presenters came from as far afield as Canada, Poland and Australia and within Africa from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, South Africa and even the newest country in the world South Sudan !

The theme for this 13th Congress was “Birds in a Changing Environment” which led to presentations ranging from the density of Rufous-bellied Tits in the Miombo biome to the fact that migratory birds link Niger to 80 countries to their North, South, East and West.  The importance of Quelea management as a food source and problem birds in relation to airports and aviation safety.

I could go on and on …. 34 daily presentations for six days is a *lot* of material !  Six days ?  Not seven ?

Thats because they gave us a day off and also took us, en masse, into Arusha National Park which surrounds Mount Meru !  Lovely people they were.

Mt Meru Arusha National Park

A rare view of Mount Meru without clouds !

I will be back soon with the birds of Arusha National Park !

Thanks for reading this

Cheers

Tony

Hi all

When we were in Chizarira ANBM mooted the idea of us going to the 13th Pan-African Ornithological Congress. By road !

He kept up the pressure and suddenly we were definitely going. With a fully packed vehicle, passports, GPS and some maps we left Harare at 04h00 one morning and entered Mocambique at Nyamapanda and by 09h30 we were in Tete on the Zambezi river.

Zambezi bridge

The bridge over the mighty Zambezi

We had  crossed the border into Malawi at Dedza by about 14h30.  This little town is named after Dedza Mountain which rises out of the plains.

Dedza Mountain

Dedza Mountain and town

Now most people heading north in Malawi would proceed to the capital, Lilongwe. Us ?  No chance – east it was to be – to Lake Malawi ! It appears quite suddenly and is a delight to view its vastness.  We followed the lake shore via Salima, Nkhotakota and Dangwa by which time it was quite dark. Eighteen kilometres outside Dangwa was our destination – the delightful Ngala Beach Lodge.  We were welcomed by the owner, Chris Buckley, and proceeded to replenish all the fluids we had lost on our 1200 kilometre trek!   Now remember we have arrived in the dark !   Lot’s of beer and a fantastic dinner followed by extremely comfortable rooms and I awoke early to walk out my door and see ……….

Lake Malawi

Dawn over Lake Malawi

…. it was stunning !

The lodge itself is a fantastic retreat and certainly on the cards for a repeat visit.

Ngala Beach

My room at Ngala Beach Lodge

Ngala Beach

Ngala Beach Dining Area

After breakfast we made our farewells and hit the road. Northwards to Nkhata Bay then up the mountains to Mzuzu,  back down the mountains to the Lake, past Livingstonia and Karonga to the Songwe River Bridge and suddenly we were in Tanzania !! Four countries in two days !!  And only half way to our destination !!

We arrived at Mount Rungwe, after passing through Tukuyu where we were expected by the Clowes family who are ex-Zimbabweans farming avocados there.

Now it was time to start birding !  We set off early the next morning to climb into the foothills where we found Scaly-throated Honeyguides to be common as were Livingstone’s Turaco but best of all our first ‘lifer’ for the trip was Black-lored Cisticola.

Black-lored Cisticola

Black-lored Cisticola

(I guess I need to say here that most of the bird pictures posted have been gleaned from many sites on the internet and if I offend anyone and they want me to remove their picture just let me know and it will be done!)

After a quick-lunch it was back on the road and to Mbeya and on-wards towards Iringa stopping for the night at Kisalonza Farm House – a very nice campsite where we froze because we hadn’t realised we were sitting at about 1600 metres above sea level.  We broke camp early the next day and after a mug of coffee we were on our way.

Kisalonza

Making coffee at Kisalonza

That’s the last time you will see the gas bottle !  We did camp again but managed to get fed and watered by others.  Good planning.

This was another long haul !  Past Iringa, Morogoro (where we got some money from the ever present Barclay’s Bank), a left turn and to Korogwe where we booked into the Motel White Parrot.  About 950 kilometres that day !

Kilimanjaro

Thirsty Work

Kilimanjaro

Thirsty Work

The next day was a doddle !  Continuing ever north(ish) we soon past Moshi where Mount Kilimanjaro was totally hidden in cloud and to our intended destination Mount Meru Game Sanctuary.

Mt Meru lodge

Mount Meru Game Sanctuary

Mt Meru

Up market lodging

As lovely as this place was it really was too inconvenient for our conference (remember – we were going to the Pan-African Ornithological Congress) but we did find some interesting stuff before leaving.

Kirk's Dikdik

Kirk’s Dikdik

Black & White Colobus

Black & White Colobus in the garden !

The next day was the final 20 km into Arusha, find a hotel just a few minutes walk from the conference and we had arrived !

Pan African Ornithological Conference

Success !

Well dear readers I think that will be about enough for now.  We will continue again later.

Thanks for joining me.

Cheers

Tony

Hi All

I am getting ready to start posting about the trek to Arusha and back again but I am under an admittedly self imposed non-disclosure agreement.

I foolishly committed myself to doing a presentation to BirdLife Zimbabwe and as some of those folk are followers of these ramblings I can’t afford to ruin my efforts and disclosing some secrets here.

Please be patient.

It’s only a few more weeks……

This is what it was all about..

It will happen……………..

Cheers

Tony