Eremomelas, parisomas and whydahs

Red-fronted Warbler

Red-fronted Warbler

Well, here on the Faroese it is snowy and cold. Standard migration is going on as usual – aka 1 Barn Swallow, 1 Chiffchaff, some Golden Plovers, White Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. So I’d rather continue blogging about warm Tanzania.

After seeing the extremely rare Beesley’s Lark with James Wolstencroft we continued to the far side of Mount Meru. There are large areas only used on a very low intensity level – that is grazing and chopping for wood.

White-browed Scrub Robin

White-browed Scrub Robin

The first place we stopped was simply amazing. Due to the recent rains there were birds everywhere. And because James is a real birder, he just picked out everything by hearing the calls and songs. So I was kinda set back as I don’t know the calls of Brubru, Grey Wren Warbler, Red-fronted Warbler, Tiny Cisticola, Red-throated Tit, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, White-browed Scrub Robin or Banded Parisoma. But eventully I got to see them all.

Yellow-bellied Emereo

Yellow-bellied Eremomela

After walking a while I spotted a small bird in a bush. It sat upright like a raptor – and yes, it was a female Pygmy Falcon. What a weird and cool little fellow.

Pygmy Falcon

Pygmy Falcon

Birding in these low-intensively used areas was wonderful. New birds just kept appearing. 3 Steel-blue Whydahs was quite a treat, White-headed Mousebirds were common several species of barbets were seen.

White-headed Mousebird

White-headed Mousebird

Suddenly we heard a call, that James couldn’t identify right away. So we checked it and it turned out to be a pair of Spotted Thick-knees.

Spotted Thick-knee

Spotted Thick-knee

James pointed out that these areas with casual grazing, logging and shepherds random fires seen to be even more biologically diverse then the national parks, where grazing is often lacking. Well, the numbers and variety of birds was simply stunning.

Temmincks Courser

Temmincks Courser

We later continued to some more cultivated areas, where a flock of Temminck’s Courses gave amazing views.

Temmincks Courser

Temmincks Courser

Close to a small village two Red and Yellow Barbets were seen just in front of the car, but were soon chased off by local kids.

Red and Yellow Barbet

Red and Yellow Barbet

We ended the day in a more wooded area, where we saw Grey-headed Silverbill, Cardinal Woodpecker and Marico Sunbird.

Cardinal Woodpecker

Cardinal Woodpecker

All in all we saw about 106 species (and it was not a bird race!).

Common Kestrel ssp rufescens - probably a separate species

Common Kestrel ssp rufescens – probably a separate species

Again, if you go to Northern Tanzania don’t hesitate to contact James on gonolek@gmail.com. He guarantees both great birding and great company – and a true passion for nature!

Silas

Fischer's Sparrow-lark

Fischer’s Sparrow-lark

Beesley’s Lark

Beesley's Lark sign

Beesley’s Lark sign

A few days ago I went birding with Mr. James Wolstencroft. He is a birder, but also knows his mammals, plants, trees, well a true naturalist. I guess meeting James is like meeting a modern day Dr. Livingstone. Truely british but with a profound love for Africa.

James

James and his dog

We met in Arusha and the plan was to see the extremely rare Beesley’s Lark only found in a small area north of Arusha. After driving for about 30 minutes we reached the area and soon after a Nubian Woodpecker was seen.

Taita Fiscals

Taita Fiscals

The plains around Engikaret are also know as the Lark Plains. It is an area the size of quite a few soccer fields, but yet obviously limited in size. It is weird to know that this tiny area contains the whole worlds population of Beesley’s Lark.

Fawn-breasted Lark

Fawn-coloured Lark

As we started to look for larks the first species found was Fawn-coloured (or Foxy) Lark, which was quite common in the area. But is was only seen around bushes and shrubbery. Not out on the short-grassed fields.

 

The second lark was Fischer’s Sparrow-lark which was very common. It likes dry dusty areas and thus James called it a bird of the future – a future were specialists decrease and generalists will take over.

Short-tailed Lark

Short-tailed Lark

Soon after a Short-tailed Lark gave nice views. A cool lark with a very distinctive head pattern and an almost Dupontish bill.

Athi Short-toed Lark

Athi Short-toed Lark

It the more open areas Athi Short-toed Lark (split from Somali Short-toed Lark) was the most common lark. One bird was even seen nest-building.

Red-capped Lark

Red-capped Lark

Another common and colorful lark was the Red-capped Lark. It is striking with its red cap. A few Rufos-naped Larks were also seen on the plains, but after 2 hours we still hadn’t found any Beesley’s Larks.

Once the population had been estimated to 1000 pairs. Then a new assessment said 65. And even James got a bit worried – ‘cause we had checked a good chunk of the area without seeing any birds.

Beesley's Lark

Beesley’s Lark

We did check and check and talk and talk – about used Land Rovers, Shetland vs the Faroes, African birds and ecology… And finally James in a calm voice stated: There is one here!

Beesley's Lark

Beesley’s Lark

A few hundred meters away a bird was foraging and soon another one was located. They gave good views and their calls were also heard. And what a weird bird! Rather than flying away it just ran away if you got too close. But if you stood still it could walk very close to you. Buff breast, long bill, very short tail and an obvious supercilium. It somehow gave a Rosy-breasted Longclaw feel  – except for the colours.

Beesley's Lark

Beesley’s Lark

As we headed back to the car we stumbled upon another pair of Beesley’s. So at least there are four birds remaining. But with intense grazing, the spread of shrubbery and bushes and the birds very limited range it might not have a future – so now is the time to enjoy this little weird fellow. It might be too late next year.

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

Chesnut-Bellied Sandgrouse

On the plains we also saw two Lanner Falcons, more than 100 Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouses, a few Taita Fiscals, Speke’s weaver, lots of Capped Wheatears and two Greater Kestrels.

Greater Kestrel

Greater Kestrel

We then headed for the some wooded areas but that is material for another blog post.

James know his birds, but his love for nature is just as appealing. It felt like we could go on talking for days that is. So birding with him means not only good birds but also good company.

If you wish to get some inspiration on birding it Tanzania just read his blog post here:

https://africanaturalists.com/safari-birding-out-of-arusha-in-tanzania/ 

or contact him directly on: gonolek@gmail.com

Silas

Arusha National Park

Baboon baby

Baboon baby

Located about 45 minutes drive from Arusha is Arusha National Park. It contains many different habitats including lakes, forest, mountains and grass steppe.

Martial Eagle

Martial Eagle

These different habitats include a wide range of wildlife and birds. We arrived at the park early in the morning. But the gates only opened at 7:00 so we had to wait for an hour before entering the park.

Giraffe

Giraffe

But even before entering we had seen 3 Giraffes. So it was a pleasent waiting time. Right after entering the park we also saw some Zebras and a few Amur Falcons, but then it started to rain cats and dogs for hours.

Waterbuck

Waterbuck

First we headed towards a small crater, but it was so cloudy that we couldn’t even see the bottom of the crater. But we did encounter some Scaly Francolins, Blue Monkeys and Baboons.

Blue Monkey

Blue Monkey

So we headed to the Momella Lakes. There we saw some Waterbucks, Bushbucks, Giraffes, Zebras, Warthogs and Dikdiks.

Dikdik

Dikdik

But by was the biggest surprise was a Serval Cat passing the road just in front of then car and then giving reasonable views for a few exciting moments.

Serval Cat

Serval Cat

 

Serval Cat

Serval Cat

At the lake we saw Southern Pochard, Chin-spot Batis, African Hobby, Diedrick’s Cuckoo, flamingos and Crested Francolin and much more. But no Maccoa Ducks were seen.

Chin-spot Batis a1

Southern Pochard

Southern Pochard

Hadada Ibis

Hadada Ibis

Killitz Plover

Killitz Plover

We then headed towards little Serengeti, where we saw more wildlife and both White-throated and Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater.

Diedrick's Cuckoo

Diedrick’s Cuckoo

Crested Francolin

Crested Francolin

Later we headed towards the lower slopes of Mount Meru, but the road eventually turned so bad that the Prado couldn’t cope with it. So we retuned down the mountain but stumpled into a pack of Black and White Colobuses. A truly stunning experience.

Black and White Colobus

Black and White Colobus

The weather had cleared up, so we headed back to the crater, but except for the view there wasn’t much wildlife to see. But an adult Martial Eagle, a few Hobbies and Amur Falcons and Horus Swifts made it worth it.

Warthog

Warthog

Martial Eagle

Martial Eagle

Montane White-eye

Montane White-eye

Montane White-eye

Montane White-eye

In the forest around the crater we found a few Mountain White-eyes, which are really charming birds and a few Ashy and African Dusky Flycatchers were also seen.

Ashy Flycatcher

Ashy Flycatcher

All in all Arusha National Park is a very nice place with lots of animals and birds. Surely it is worth a visit. Especially if you wish to see a white Baboon:

Baboon

Baboon

Baboon

Baboon

Think about it

Think about it

Silas

Lake Diluti

Velvet Monkey

Vervet Monkey

East of Arusha there is a crater lake called Lake Diluti. It is close to the road to Moshi. A daladala (mini bus) from Arusha only costs 500 Tsh. At Diluti old forest patches on the crater slopes, but even though the forest is more than 5 km long it is never more than a few hundred meters wide – it really is just a remnant of what used to be.

Black-throated Wattle-eye

Black-throated Wattle-eye

In spite of this a few forest species still occur around the lake – and it is wort visiting for people who like to get a few good species in the book.

Taveta Golden Weaver

Taveta Golden Weaver

 

Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard

The first birds seen were Taveta Golden Weavers and Grosbeak Weavers that breed around the lake. A single Squacco Heron and a Little Bittern were also present in a small papyrus patch.

White-eared Barbet

White-eared Barbet

 

Long-tailed Cormorant

Long-tailed Cormorant

There is a 5 km trail around the lake. It costs 20.000 Tsh to walk the path with a guide – the guide is not optional. Along the path I was able to find 2 dik-diks, Vervet and Blue Monkey and a Squirrel.

Hartlaub's Turaco

Hartlaub’s Turaco

 

Eastern Honeyguide

Eastern Honeyguide

There were good numbers of birds including Grey-Olive Greenbul, Straited and Black-backed Night Heron, White-breasted and Long-tailed Cormorants, Hartlaub’s Turaco, White-eared Barbet, Wattle-eye and much more.

Grey-olive Greenbul

Grey-olive Greenbul

 

Hadada Ibis

Hadada Ibis

On the way back to Arusha I stopped at a place with some rocks and located a family of Schalow’s Wheatears.

Schlalow's Wheatear

Schlalow’s Wheatear

 

Schlalow's Wheatear

Schlalow’s Wheatear

All in all a nice half day birding.

Silas

The Ngorongoro crater

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena

It has been a wish for a long time to visit the Ngorongoro crater. Since childhood I’ve heard of the place together with Serengeti and Kruger National Park. And finally the possibility arouse to visit the place with the whole family. With three kids and a wife at my site obviously the target was not to find every lark, warbler or skulking forest specialty but rather to see some large animals that young and old could enjoy together.

Fischer's Lovebird

Fischer’s Lovebird

We left Arusha in the morning and headed for Karatu just outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Between Arusha and Karatu quite a few birds were seen including lots of Pink-backed Pelicans, Yellow-billed Storks, Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouse and many more.

Black-faced Waxbill

Black-faced Waxbill

In Karatu we stayed at a catholic guesthouse and monastery. It was actually a very nice place with an awesome garden. In the garden Fischer’s Lovebirds, Emerald-spotted Wood-doves, Bronze Sunbirds, Spotted Morning Thrush and Rueppel’s Robin Chat were present. But the best bird for me was a flock of Black-faced Waxbills.

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyenas

We woke up early and headed towards the gate. Before the gate a large elephant bull crossed the road – the safari had begun. We reached the gate and got through without too many complications with our pre-paid cards and continued to the head quarters to get a guide. But the drive from the gate to the head quarters and then to the crater itself is quite long – to it is almost impossible to get there before 8:00 even though you pass the gate at 6:00.

Baboons

Baboons

But the drive was quite enjoyable as we saw both a Water Buffalo and 3 Spotted Hyenas on the road at first light.

Cape Teal

Cape Teal

When we reached the head quarters we had to wait for a guide, but after a while we finally got one and started the drive towards the crater. Along the road we saw Rufous-naped Larks, Diedrick’s Cuckoo, Fisher’s Sparrowlark, Northern Ant-easter Chat, Dusky Turtle Dove, Olive Thrush, Long-billed Pipit and Martial Eagle.

Black Rhinos

Black Rhinos

 

Lions and Zebras

Lions and Zebras

On the crater floor there were loads and loads of animals. All in all we saw 6 Black Rhinos, 9 Lions, lots of Wilderbeest, Zebras, Eland, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelle, Warthogs, Golden-backed Jackals, 2 Velvet Monkeys and a single Giraffe (above the crater). There are virtually animals everywhere. And often they offer very close views. It is obvious that they are more used to cars than animals in Katavi or Arusha National Parks. And the reason is obvious. You can pretty much see other cars all the time.

Water Buffalo

Water Buffalo

 

Elephant

Elephant

But that being said: Ngorongoron is awesome!

Superb Starling

Superb Starling

 

Spur-winged Goose

Spur-winged Goose

 

Secretary Bird

Secretary Bird

Some birding highlights included Hartaub’s Bustard, about 10 Kori Bustards, Secretary Bird, Hildebrandt’s Starling, Cape and Hottentot Teal, Amur Falcon, White-headed Barbet and about 20 Ostriches.

Ostrich

Ostrich

 

Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard

 

Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard

 

Hildebrandt's Starling

Hildebrandt’s Starling

 

Hartlaub's Bustard

Hartlaub’s Bustard

 

Golden-backed Jackal

Golden-backed Jackal

 

Amur Falcon

Amur Falcon

 

African Wagtail

African Wagtail fighting its reflection

 

Silas Olofson

Siberian Rubythroat – a dream came through

 

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

Yesterday my family and I had a 12 hour transfer in Amsterdam as we where heading to Tanzania, Africa.

First the thought seemed like a far-fetched dream – would the Sibe Ruby stay put for more than a month? Could it be twitched during the transfer period? What would Julianna and the kids say?

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

 

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

As time approached more and more answers could be answered with a “yes”. The bird kept being reported and even seen at very close range. And when the dutch knight Steven Wytema even offered to take me to the bird there was no way back.

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

We rented a car in Amsterdam and met with Steven – who asked the question: “Are all of you gonna go for the Ruby?” “Yes” I replied. And then Julianna, the 3 kids, Steven and I headed for Hogwards – or was it Hogwoud? Steven said that the bird was normally seen on one of two sites. So it shouldn’t be hard to find. When we arrived Steven spotted a waving dutch birder. “It’s there” Steven said.

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

So we walked towards the waving guy and when approaching I noticed a brow job moving quickly in the vegetation. I searched frantically while hearing the dutch guy saying: “Yes, it’s it”.

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

I hoped to see the bird of course, but I didn’t know if I should expect a skulky and elusive bird just giving brief views for short periods or… well, the pics say it all.

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

Well, the bird was perfect. When foraging inside the shrubbery it was very hard to detect. And if it wanted to stay unseen it could easily do so. But the dutch bird has become familiar with people and the meal worms given to it has certainly helped.

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

So from time to time it gave amazing views within just a few meters fully exposed. And it frequently sang for long periods – a rather unobtrusive yet pleasing song.

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat really is a diamond. Discreet yet amazing. Absolutely a bird worthy of being a dream bird. The whole family saw the bird and even our 2 year old reacted to it – and the girls found it very beautiful. I guess it is a good legacy to pass on to be able to tell you son: “Hey, I showed you a sibe ruby when you were two”!

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

We enjoyed the bird for about an hour before going first to a butterfly garden that also contained some tropical birds. Then we headed towards the coast were we did some sporadic birding – the best birds being Sandwich Tern and Spoonbill.

Spoonbill

Spoonbill

Thanks to Steven for an unforgettable day in the Nederlands.

Steven in the butterfly garden

Steven in the butterfly garden

 

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

Silas

 

 

 

Green-winged Teal and Aurora Borealis

 

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

After an awesome winter with Hooded Merganser, Oriental Turtle Dove, American Wigeons and Gyr Falcon spiced up with some icelandic Harlequins, Barrow’s, male Hooded Merganser, American White-winged Scoter and American Coot I haven’t felt like checking the patch all the time – what could possibly be better than that in March?

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

Well, one thing could. The Northern Light! During the last weeks it has been coming and going – most days just a little bit but a few evenings have been truly magical.

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

But birds are nice too. Today Rodmund called me. He had relocated a Green-winged Teal first seen on the 5th of February on Sandoy. If I could get to the ferry to Skopun he would pick me up and show me the bird.

Rodmund a1

So I rushed to the ferry, got on board and met with Rodmund. We drove towards lake Gróthúsvatn, but on the way the lingering Tundra Bean Goose was foraging right next to the road.

Tundra Bean Goose

Tundra Bean Goose

When we came to the lake the Teals had disappeared. So we started looking and found out that they had scattered over a larger area. And we kept finding Common Teals… Untill Rodmund located the bird in a small pond next to the lake! Yes! The second ever Green-winged Teal for the Faroes was booked.

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

 

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

 

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

After enjoying the Green-winger for a while we checked the flock of Wigeons at Sandsvatn, where we relocated the American Wigeon. But besides a Pink-footed Goose, 3 Goldeneyes and a Goosander, there really wasn’t much esle to see.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

 

American Wigeon c5

American Wigeon

The Oriental Turtle Dove has been present until now at the plantation in Tórshavn, but it has become harder to locate and it wasn’t found today. The best bird there was a Chaffinch.

Chaffinch

Chaffinch

 

Fulmar

Fulmar

 

Worlds largest mail box in Skopun - yes, we do hold a world record!

Worlds largest mail box in Skopun – yes, we do hold a world record!

Silas