Thursday, March 13, 2014

Summer Birding in the Tanzanian Bush (continued)

As promised yesterday,  here are photos of our second day of birding over the weekend. If you're interested in what we saw on Saturday, please click here.

Although we'd seen several birds from the time we left the mine via the boom gate, they were the same ones I'd posted about earlier. Bishops, Cisticolas, Kingfishers and Rollers.

As we rode along the haul road, I kept my eyes open. I'm not  allowed to ask the driver (Grant) to stop here;  there are trucks  regularly transporting their heavy burden of rock and gravel from the pit to the mine.

We'd just left the main mine road, and were on a quieter section, when I spotted a Bee-eater on the wires overhead. Grant stopped so that I could get photos. 
 Madagascar (Olive) Bee-eater

My  third-to-last photo on this post, features another Madagascar Bee-Eater; it's a rather  poignant part of this post... It comes just before I post about a bird sighting which I almost missed through a blase attitude,  and which I spoke about in my previous post.

But before you're tempted to scroll down, please don't! First check the next birds we saw on Sunday morning.

As we entered the bush road, I spotted what looked like a woodpecker on a dead tree branch. Grant and I become very excited when we think the bird may be a woodpecker, because woodpeckers here in East Africa, contrary to their American cousins, are VERY elusive! However, on closer inspection, we saw that it was a partially-obscured Striped Kingfisher! 

 Striped Kingfisher 

As we continued along the road, a bird flew across our path into a thorn bush nearby. Grant stopped and I managed to snap a D'Arnaud's Barbet in full cry!
 D'Arnaud's Barbet, always a beautiful photo subject

Next it was my turn to spot an elusive bird running through the grass, albeit away from us. Grant and I have little contests to see who spots the next animal or bird;  you invariably end up doing these silly things when you've known each other for four-and-a-half decades, LOL!

Grey-breasted Spurfowl (note the bird hot-footing it away from danger) 

On the smallish inlet of water next to the dam, we stopped to watch a Long-tailed Cormorant. It dived under the surface of the water and while we waited with bated breath, it came up again about five meters from where it had disappeared!  We watched as it dived down again, and although we sat there for a minute or two, we never saw this particular bird again! Afterwards I thought you could make a Sci-Fi movie about this and call it the Black Hole of Mwadui!
 Long-tailed Cormorant 

While we waited for the cormorant to emerge (victorious?) from the water, I panned in on a kingfisher sitting quietly on a dead branch overhanging the water.
 Malachite Kingfisher
On the way back through the bush, Grant and I both spotted two hornbills hopping around in a nearby tree.  When I downloaded the photos onto the computer, and I identified the one bird as Von Der Decken's Hornbill , we were still perplexed as to why two different - looking hornbills were feeding together. We sent the photos off to Jez for confirmation on my id'ing and also to identify the other hornbill. 

He reiterated that the bird was indeed a Von Der Decken's Hornbill and that the other bird was the female! Surprising that in this species, the pair is SO dissimilar, but there you have it.  Nature is full of surprises!
     Von Der Decken's Hornbill, male lacks white wing spots on the wing coverts and also has a       thick red bill tipped with yellow (which looks creamy in my photo) The undersides of the female is visible in the top right hand corner of the photo
 Von Der Decken's Hornbill (Female) 
Still driving back through the bush, which has water at regular intervals across the rad, we stopped when we saw movement in a puddle up ahead. Not an ordinary movement, but a brightly-colored movement! Of course we stopped and I managed to take several photos of a bird bathing.

Green-winged Pytilia (Melba finch)!

Entering the mine area from behind the magazine, I looked out for the sand martins which we normally see on the overhead wires. As Grant said : "It seems as though the sand martins have left", I spotted a small flock of swallows on the wire! I was thrilled to see this particular species: the Lesser Striped Swallow which we'd last seen in the lane behind our house in Kenya! 
Lesser Striped Swallow 

Then Grant pointed to a kingfisher which had landed on the wire a short distance from the swallows: a Pied Kingfisher. 
A Pied Kingfisher looking very official while it gets down to the business of catching its lunch

While I photographed the Pied Kingfisher, I noticed in the corner of my eye, a dove alighting on the wire quite close to it. This bird had a huge piece of nesting material in its bill and I just wanted to capture this image. 
 An African Mourning Dove with nesting material in its beak 

As I'd finished photographing the dove, it flew off into a nearby tree to continue with its building. 

I looked up onto the wire where the dove had been and a Madagascar Bee-eater landed there. I lifted my camera and missed. It had flown down onto the ground. As I decoded to concede defeat, the Bee-eater landed on the wire again. This time it had a dragonfly in its beak! I posted the above image (dove with nesting material) and the Bee-eater with its meal on Face Book and called it Preparing for life... and death!

Once again, such is nature.
Madagascar Bee-eater with a meal in its beak

Finally we were on the haul road approaching the boom gate entrance to the mine. This is where I normally scan the [baobab] tree to the right for raptors. I also look for kestrels and buzzards which seem to hunt from the wires along this strip of road. 

And, as if to treat me to a "last" sighting, a kestrel was perched on the overhead wires.
Lesser Kestrel (female) 

Grant stopped just before the boom gate and waited for the askari/gate guard to search our vehicle. I glanced to a tree nearby and saw a small creature lying on a rock. I took several photos while the guard completed his search. I'm posting about it on friend, Eileen's Saturday's Critters, so I won't divulge its identity here!

And now for my piece de resistance. 

On Sunday afternoon I accompanied Grant on his fishing outing to the sewage works. A while later, Wessel and young Wessie arrived. Louise, who normally also comes, had a headache, so I sat and read while the men fished. At 7pm, the en packed up (they'd caught nothing!) and we drove home. Wessel and young Wessie were directly behind us. 

As we waited at the boom gate for the askari to search our vehicle, I looked to the left to see if my morning's discovery was still there. It wasn't! 


In its place was a bird. A bird which looked a little like a pigeon, was sitting quietly on the ground. However, a pigeon doesn't just sit on the ground; it would be pecking in the sand or strutting about.  I lifted my camera and focused. But due to the low light, I struggled to pick up the subject. Eventually on the Auto setting and using a flash, I managed to get a few photos. 

As we got home, I downloaded the photos to see what I had captured.  I was thrilled to see it was some sort of not-regularly-seen bird.  We sent the photos to Jez and he came back with "Well spotted, Jo! You saw a Corncrake!"   Later on a bird expert from Dar,  whom Jez had copied in on my photo, also e-mailed me with: "Nice one, Jo. This bird was seen far from its typical habitat." 

He also told me that these birds migrate across Tanzania twice a year in their hundreds and very few of us get to see them.

According to our bird book: Birds of Africa South of the Sahara, the write up on the Corncrake is: This Crake is rarely seen except when flushed and then it flies with whirring wings and dangling legs. Its status is vulnerable; it's an uncommon Palearctic vagrant migrant in Africa from September to March. 


And to think I might have dismissed this bird as a "strange-looking" pigeon if I hadn't decided earlier not to be  blase about sightings ever again! 

Needless to say this bird is a very definite tick in our lifer series!

I hope you've enjoyed my two long blog posts about our two days of birding over the weekend. For the second time this week, I'm linking my post to Wild Bird Wednesday, kindly hosted by Stewart Monkton here

May you all enjoy the rest of the week.


  1. What an amazing selection of birds, and so colorful.

  2. You certainly are going great guns with this birding hobby. It must be exciting to see new birds. They are all so different. Love the kingfishers and bee eaters.

  3. What a great set of pictures - I have never seen a CornCrake - they were common once in the UK - but that was many years ago.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS; no problem at all with two links - the more the merrier!

  4. Gorgeous birds. It's always fun to see birds from around the world.

  5. Wonderful series of photos! My favorite is the Pied Kingfisher! Beautiful birds all however:)

  6. Congrats on the rare find! I'll try to remember not to be so blase as well.

  7. Such beautiful shots of colorful birds - and so different from ours, except for the mourning dove!


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