Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Birding in and around Mwadui

Over the past ten days I've photographed birds on our trips through the mine to the dam; I've photographed birds in the town square next to the Guest House while I was on my way to the tailor last week. And I photographed birds from my office window and in my back garden! 
 Blue-capped Cordon-bleu (females) 

While focusing on the pretty Cordon-bleus, I heard sunbirds calling. As I looked up into the branches, I saw a different sunbird to the ones that feed at my office windows.
Hunter's Sunbird

Back home, while sitting at my desk, I heard the Spotted Palm Thrush with its beautiful song just outside my window. 

 Spotted Palm Thrush 

It's now rainy season in our part of the world, and apart from regular tropical storms, we are having to endure overcast days. With this weather though, the presence of certain birds is very welcome. In my garden in one morning, I can hear the call of the Red-chested Cuckoo, Diederichs Cuckoo and Klaas' Cuckoo. In the field beyond our garden fence, I can hear the White-browed Coucal with its bubbling call. 

Although I have crept around the large garden trying to locate the second two cuckoos (I failed miserably!) I managed to sneak out into our enclosed garden, closed the back door behind me (Ambrose hurled himself at the door wanting to get out!) and with patience and stealth managed to capture a few photos of the Red-chested Cuckoo.
 Red-chested Cuckoo in a tree just beyond my enclosed garden

 It's red chest and barred [under] tail is just visible in the early morning light

Over the weekend, Grant and I also spotted a couple of "new" birds and by pure hawk-eyed luck (pun intended), he noticed a bird that he'd last seen in Guinea, West Africa in 2008 and that I'd never seen before. (more about this later in this post) 

As we passed the security boom into the mine, I noticed a raptor on the power lines. Grant stopped and I managed to get several photos of this bird. When we downloaded it later on at home, we both weren't too sure what we'd seen, so we sent the photos off to Jez for identification.  He came back with a congratulations and positive ID. 
 Steppe Buzzard 

As always when we drive onto the haul road of the mine, we're always rewarded with a colorful and iconic bird on the power lines overhead. 

The Lilac-breasted Roller is a pleasure to photograph

Just around the corner, on the way past the explosives magazine, Grant stopped to show me where he had seen three likkewaans (monitor lizards) the day before basking in the sun. Unfortunately as the weather was overcast, the lizards were not out, but I managed to capture a couple of images of a Grey-headed Kingfisher on the barbed fence and later on a Woodland Kingfisher on a tree branch nearby.
Grey-headed Kingfisher
 The Woodland Kingfisher sits quite quietly while you photograph it!

On the way through the bush towards the dam, we stopped to watch a pair of Spur-winged Lapwing (Plovers) doing a little dance. We wondered if it was part of a mating ritual but they flew off as we watched them.
 The sexes are alike but as the bird to the left was more dominant, I like to think this was the male

 The male stood on one leg and swayed towards the female in a sort of dance. The female bobbed her head in rhythm with his movements 

The next day when we passed that area, we saw the male standing on the muddy bank and the female sitting a little way in front of him. As they nest in a scrape in the ground, lined with materials found nearby, we think perhaps this bird is sitting on eggs.
The male (I'm sure )
watches over the female sitting on a nest of eggs (perhaps!)  

We'll pass there again over the weekend and know for sure. 

Further along the road,  we stopped to watch a Malachite Kingfisher sitting over a small pond of water. They make a delightful photo subject.
The brightly-colored Malachite Sunbird is a delight to photograph

While we drove along, Grant received a phone call. When he stopped to speak to the caller, I got out of the vehicle and walked quietly along the road towards a small flock of francolin. These birds are very shy and although I took many photos, I wasn't close enough to get really good photos. According to Jez, these are Grey-breasted Spurfowl (Francolin)  On the distribution map in our Birds of Africa, South of the Sahara bird book, we saw that these birds are only found in Northern Tanzania and exactly where we are. Isn't that exciting! 

Grey-breasted Spurfowl (Francolin) 

Grant completed his phone call and collected me along the road. As I got into the vehicle, I spotted a flash of color on a branch on Grant's side of the road. It was a Little Bee-eater which sits quite still making it a great photo subject.

 Little Bee-eater

As we reached the edge of the dam, and Grant drove up onto the wall, I spotted a Pied Kingfisher sitting in a dead branch in the water. Pied Kingfishers sit on branches over the water and they suddenly fly up, hover and dive bill first into the water. Often they come up with a tiny fish in their beaks, and return to the branch to eat it.

 Pied Kingfisher

On another tree branch in the dam, I captured a beautiful photo of a Sand Martin. Normally these aerial feeders of the swallow family,  are perched on the power lines so I often get overexposed images. 
 Sand Martin

As always, the egrets were plentiful in the dam. I loved that the egret below lifted its feet out of the water and showed the yellow feet at the end of its black legs! 
 Little Egret showing a yellow foot at the end of its black leg

 Again, the yellow feet at the end of black legs are diagnostic of this bird: the Little Egret

Just near the water's edge, a Yellow-billed Stork came into view on my camera screen. This bird has black wing tips, a black tail and bare red skin on the forehead and neck. It's long bill, which is yellow, is constantly under the surface of the water as it feeds. 

 Yellow-billed Stork

As if on cue, a Pink-backed Pelican glided by in the deeper waters beyond the stork. With the recent rains, the dam's water has risen incredibly. This means that although we've not seen as many pelicans as we did a few weeks ago when the dam was low, we are rewarded with one or two regal looking birds foraging for a meal in the water. 

Pink-backed Pelican

While birding in Kenya two years ago, I remember struggling to photograph the African Jacana. Not so here in Mwadui. We regularly come across as many as a dozen birds feeding together in the shallows .
 African Jacana

As I panned in on the African Jacana I noticed a heron feeding in the grassy dam bank. Although we'd seen this bird before and Jez had identified it for us, I only had photos of it perched in a tree in the middle of the dam. This weekend I managed to get several closer photos of this beautifully marked bird.
 Madagascar Pond Heron

The Madagascar Pond Heron is an uncommon visitor from Madagascar. It generally only visits our Tanzania from May to October so it's a delight for us to still see it in mid-December.  

 While I congratulated myself on this sighting, Grant focused the binoculars on a flock of ducks in the middle of the dam. I swung the camera in that direction and managed several photos of a these birds which we later identified as Fulvous Duck.
 Fulvous Duck, a lifer for me and Grant

 Something spooked the flock and I managed an action shot of the first two Fulvous Duck taking off 

Eventually we started on our way back along the bush road. As Grant turned off onto another road which also leads to town, I asked him to stop. I'd seen a large heron towards the back of the bush. 
 A Purple Heron which was only just visible in the bush beyond the road (I loved the red patch on its shoulders)

As we wended our way along this dirt road, I saw a small bird high up on the power lines. Once again Grant stopped and while I took photos, we were treated to a beautiful lark-like song every few seconds. Of course, we asked Jez to help and once again, he came back with a positive ID.
 Rattling Cisticola

As if we hadn't had enough exciting sightings for one day, after we left the Rattling Cisticola and its beautiful call behind us, we'd only driven a few meters when Grant stopped the vehicle. He pointed to a bird in a thorn bush quite a way off the road. (As I said earlier, Hawk-eye, my husband!)  It was facing away from us. I lifted my camera and proceeded to photograph it. When we got home we tried unsuccessfully to identify it but other than liken it to a juvenile cuckoo we decoded to send the photos to Jez. (Good ole Jez) He returned with a positive ID. It was a Black-Crowned Tchagra. Grant first saw this bird in West Africa in 2008. But for me it was a lifer! 
 A Black-crowned Tchagra

 I'm linking my post today to Wild Bird Wednesday which is hosted by Stewart of Australia. To access this interesting blog, please click here 



  1. I love the bright colors, the kingfishers, rollers, beeaters and all. What a full day of birding.

  2. Jo, so many beautiful and colorful birds. Wonderful sightings and congrats on your new bird sightings. Have a happy day!

  3. Interesting set of pics, some of the birds I have heard of or seen on tv, but most are new to me, and this makes your site interesting.
    All the best Gordon.

  4. Wow! Congrats on your new find!
    Like the Sunbird the best I think...

  5. At least you have a bunch of colorful birds to watch. I only see grey sparrow and magpies which look like your black and white birds. Sometimes from far away I think it is Rosie in a tree, lol !

  6. some stunning species in this post, and very well done with the lifer!

  7. Great variety of birds, the blue capped birds are really cute and so are the Fulvous ducks!

  8. I love this post! So many beautiful birds....some I have never heard of....I've come back twice to look at them and noticed that the first time I was so interested in the post that I had forgot to comment...

  9. So many different and beautiful birds. I love the Kingfisher he reminds me of our Kookaburra

  10. A great serie, interesting to study every photo!

  11. Wow! That must have taken hours to capture this many great shots of birds! Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!

  12. Great photo's you have. I've been following your blog for sometime now and being a bird lover I find it quite interesting. As for the photos of the two Woodland Kingfishers you've posted the first one is a male Grey-Headed Kingfisher because of it's Chestnut belly and red bill. The second photo the Woodland kingfisher has white belly with black-and-red bill. Keep up with the good work.

  13. hi. What a wonderful selection of birds all beautifully shot. love the Kingfishers and rollers especially.

  14. Ah thanks Jesson, I should never have made that mistake. I have Grey-headed Kingfishers in my garden the whole summer! Obviously the Kingfisher I saw on the fence stayed there, whereas I thought it had flown to a nearby tree, not so, it was ANOTHER Kingfisher! I've gone back into my post and corrected it! Greetings, Jo


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo