Birding in Tanzania Blog – Day 4 – 7

Due to my GCSE exams, I had an especially long summer holiday this year and my family and I decided to take full advantage of this by going to Tanzania for three weeks, Madagascar for 4 weeks, and with a three week school trip to Kenya wedged between them.

We had booked our 22 day birding trip with Tanzania Birding and Beyond (www.tanzaniabirding.com/about-us.html). Tina in the office was very responsive and sorted queries out very quickly. It is a Tanzanian owned company which is also great. Our guide was Anthony Raphael who was excellent at digging out the target species for us, staying focussed and not giving up. Our driver Gaiten was also brilliant, having some very long journeys to do. Anthony is at the Bird Fair 2018, so go and talk to him.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 4 – 30 June 2018

On Saturday 30th June we finished the day at Serengeti NP with fantastic views of 2 more lionesses, a leopard sitting in a tree really close, a cheetah drinking from a pool and then finally at the end of the day, a female cheetah with her two different aged cubs. This trio reminded me of watching Big Cat Diary with my big sister Ayesha when she used to look after me when I was little. I remember crying with Ayesha when a cheetah cub disappeared and we were told he was found dead. Some connections with animals stay with you always.

Cheetah at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We were then back staying at ThornTree Camp again, this time with less zebra around overnight because of higher numbers of noisy hyena present.

Spotted Hyena at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Scarlet-chested Sunbird at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Zebra at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Baby elephant with mother at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Grey Kestrel at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Grey-backed Fiscal at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Beautiful Sunbird at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Heartabeest at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Warthog Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Striped Kingfisher at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
HIldebrant’s Starling at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 5 – 1 July 2018

The early morning of Sunday 1st July,  we travelled back to Ngorongoro Crater Reserve hoping for a few target bird species and maybe the chance of Black Rhino as this is the best place in Tanzania to see one.

We saw 3 lifers, Lynes’s Cisticola, Abyssinian Wheatear and Black-headed Apalis, which were fantastic.

Abyssinian Wheatear at Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Greater Flamingo at Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Grey-crowned Crane at Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

First we birded the crater rim, where the Masai now live. They lived in the Serengeti but when the park was created in the early 1960’s by the British they were moved to  the crater itself. However, when the habitat was demolished by over grazing, they were moved to the rim. There are plans to move them again out of the area due to population and cattle growth being unsustainable.

The Masai Mara in Kenya is not a NP and so the Masai have continued to live across the border, which is having an impact on habitat, wildlife and poaching. I am going to be living with a community during my school trip to Kenya in August and will be interested to compare the conservation success on the two sides of the border.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Lizard at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Bush Hyrax baby at Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We saw our target birds on the way down to the crater, where we then looked for Black Rhino, which had been spotted by other groups and after several hours of searching, we eventually found it, some distance away but unmistakable.

Giraffe baby at Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Wildebeest at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Zebra foal at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Buffalo at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

At the exit within a second of arriving into the car park, a large make baboon climbed into the roof and grabbed a leftover pack lunch box. Dad stood up to shoo it out, but it was really intimidating standing on the seat next to me. I was quite prepared to let it have all the packed lunch boxes!

Olive Baboons with my pack lunch box at Ngogongogo Crater
Photograph and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We then moved on to The Country Lodge (www.countrylodgekaratu.com/), in Karatu for dinner, some World Cup footage and catching up on social media. The staff were really friendly and helpful.

Day 6 – 2 July 2018

On the morning of Monday 2nd July, we visited Lake Manyara National Park for the day. It is a forested area with rivers and a huge flooded area. It’s also home to Tanzania’s climbing lions. There is annual flooding created by rain here. The last 5 years, they have had unseasonably high rainfall, causing severe flooding each spring. Then flood swollen rivers have burst their banks and swept huge sections of the forest away. This is another example of climate change in action and can only be bad news for Tanzanian wildlife.

Flooding at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Flooding at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Grey-headed Kingfisher at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Little Kingfisher at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Bronze Sunbird at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

As well as Collared Palm-thrush, we saw Tree Hyrax, Giraffe, and Dik-dik.

Tree Hyrax at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

African Jacana & hippos at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Giraffe at Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We were back at the Lodge that night, getting our trip list sorted, again catching up on social media before dinner and followed by watching Japan v Belgium in the World Cup whilst blogging. There was a group of Belgium’s who went off to bed in disgust when Belgium were 2-0 down and missed a spectacular comeback with a 3rd goal in extra time.

Day 7 – Tuesday 3 July 2018

On 3rd July, we spent the morning birding a high trail at Gibbs Farm, seeing 3 new birds for us, Schalow’s Turaco,  Brown-headed Apalis and Grey-olive Greenbul. That was an amazing number of birds for this trip.

Schalow’s Turaco, Gibbs Farm, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Brown-headed Apalis, Gibbs Farm, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

Striped Mouse, Gibbs Farm, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

 

In the afternoon we had a very fancy lunch at Gibbs Farm and then birded the grounds of coffee plants and local produce. It was set up as a farm in 1929, but when the family retired, Thompson’s Holidays bought it and now run it as a luxury destination.

We returned to The Country Lodge for 6 pm, with plenty of time to sort out lists, photos from the day, blogging and social media. We’d had a really fantastic stay at The Country Lodge with a lovely spotless room, friendly staff and brilliant food. I would definitely recommend them especially as they are so well located for birding local birding sites.

There was a large TV in a seating area in the same room as the dining area. We got there early, so Dad could get the best seats in front of the TV. We were then the first to sit down for dinner, after bagsying a load of chairs, which did feel a little rude.

During dinner, Dad kept telling us to hurry up, as he wanted to get back to our saved table.  As Mum got up to move to the TV area, our waiter Peter asked us to sit down again, saying that they had another pudding for us. Despite Dad’s rush, we diligently sat and waited. After a few minutes, all the hotel staff appeared in a line, singing and dancing, one with a container with a lit fire on her head, others with sticks to make music to accompany their singing and one with a cake and lit candles on her head. Being English, we were mortified. As the troop danced in and out of the tables we were praying that they stopped at a different table. As they approached our table and stopped next to me, I assumed they must have got my birthday wrong. But no, it was a goodbye cake!

Birdgirl Mya-Rose at The Country Lodge, Karatu, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose at The Country Lodge, Karatu, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Birdgirl Mya-Rose at The Country Lodge, Karatu, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

After I had cut the cake into slices, Mum and I were dragged up to dance and sing with our hosts!

Birdgirl Mya-Rose at The Country Lodge, Karatu, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

After all the overwhelming kindness, the lodge staff said they would watch the England v Colombia World Cup football match and support England with us.

Anyone interested will know that England won the game on penalties. What was amusing was that 3 soccer crazy US teens had snuck away from their big family group and were enthusiastically watching the game when an aunt appeared, told them off and told them to come and look at the amazing night sky. They dutifully followed her, only to return 5 minutes later, staying until what was probably their 10pm curfew.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at The County Lodge Karatu, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

There had also been a quiet England supporter sitting in front of us, wearing an England top. We had silently been sharing every minute of the pain, anger and exuberance when a young woman (who looked and sounded East Asian and who was likely to be his new wife on their honeymoon) came and called him to bed. So at 10 pm, he silently went off to bed. What she unwittingly didn’t realise (maybe she didn’t understand the importance of football to many English men) was that for the next 60 years of their marriage, he would never forgive her for making him miss “that” England game; the one where they actually got through to the next round of a World Cup on penalties. It’s a bit like that, but even more painful, when you are forced to miss a mega rarity, especially if all the big twitchers but you see it.

Tomorrow we move on.

Number of bird species seen – 250
Number of new world life birds seen – 18

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