Birding in Tanzania Blog – Days 16 – 19

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 ( 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.

Day 16 – 12 July 2018

On Thursday 12th July, we awoke feeling flat and tired from staying up to watch England lose in the World Cup semi-finals. In a way it was good not to be home, will all the disappointment inevitably around. Birding is a great antidote for misery.

As Mum and Dad had missed the Usambara Akalat the evening before, Anthony was taking us to a different site to give it another chance. We were moving on afterwards so didn’t have long to spend looking, which was added pressure.  It’s always particularly painful to miss a bird, but much more so when your 16 year old daughter sees it and you don’t. Then for years to come, every time you look through your world list, the injustice and pain is felt again.

However, luck was with them, as within a short time we heard a Usambara Akalat. We had to then follow the call into the forest on a rough steep trail before catching sight of the bird.  There was a silent relief after both Mum and Dad had seen the bird.

We also saw some of the regional endemics again; Shelley’s, Mountain and Fischer’s Greenbul, Black-headed Apalis, Usambara Double-collared Sunbird and fantastic views of Spot-throat.

Black-headed Apalis, West Usamabara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Usambara Double-collared Sunbird, West Usamabara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

By 11 am, we have returned to the Lodge, got our bags and got on our way to the East Usambara.En-route from West to East Usamabara, we looked for Zanzibar Red Bishop at the road-side from the vehicle but we only saw Southern Red Bishop and Yellow Bishop, which was disappointing, as I would love to see something with Zanzibar in the name.

Southern Red Bishop, On road between West and East Usambara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We were staying at the Amani Research Station at the top of the mountain road, in Amani Nature Reserve which was at about 1400 metres. As we reached the approach road at the bottom, we stopped to look for Kretchmer’s Longbill which is resident at about 1000 metres. After about 45 minutes of searching, we managed to find one and went to find out accommodation.  The research station was clean and comfortable, though apparently not luxurious enough for lots of birders who don’t stay here. I would say that it’s a site you cant afford to miss in Tanzania.

New sign at Armani Forest, East Usambara, Tanzania – notice what’s wrong with the birds??
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Old sign at Armani Forest, East Usambara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Day 17 – 13 July 2018

On Friday 13th July we got up early bird the trails around the research station, before going back for a late breakfast. We then birded until lunchtime and in the afternoon again in the Amani area.


Sunrise, East Usambara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Birds of the day were critically endangered Long-billed Forest Warbler (Tailorbird). There are only a few birds left in this location and so few that they don’t know how many. IUCN had paid for the research station, in an effort to find out more about this species and try and save it from extinction. It is therefore an extremely difficult bird to see and Anthony told us that he had not seen it for the last 4 visits here. We found one calling and managed to get some brilliant views, so were ecstatic. Other great birds were Montane Tiny Greenbul, Banded Green Sunbird and Amani Sunbird.

Lizard Buzzard, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usamabara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
East Coast Boubou, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usamabara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Fischer’s Turaco, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usamabara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrike, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usamabara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig
Trumpeter Hornbill, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usamabara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

During our trip so far, dad had decided to cross-reference my world list of 4725 against his world list of 6050, to see if there were missing birds on either of our lists. He researched the missing birds to see if they were birds I really didn’t see or ones that had been missed off my list. Tonight he finished his check, with a few more he still had to do when we were home. Add in my Tanzanian new birds so far, my world list total is 4,800!

Day 18 – 14 July 2018

On the morning of Saturday 14th July, we decided to have an early breakfast before birding the local trails, as there wasn’t much activity the previous morning until about 8 am. We birded a different trail and managed to see Usambara Hyliota and Banded Green Sunbird, which were both target birds here. We were starting to connect with all our targets, with just a couple left.

After lunch and a bit of downtime, we were out birding the trail above the research station. Anthony said that this was a good area for Sharp’s Akalat. Within about half an hour, we heard a Sharp’s Akalat and almost immediately it flew across the path, giving us all flight views. We tried there for a while and carried on to a viewpoint before turning back. On the way back, we found an Akalat calling and preening only a metre from the path. We were able to watch it for 5 minutes. Amazing!

As we walked back to the lodge, we discussed that the Usambara Eagle Owl did roost in the forests around the lodge but that they hadn’t been calling for a month. So that would have to wait on the wanted list for the next time we visited.

That night at the research station, there was a large group of people attended a conference from around Tanzania. They worked in tourism and were there to see what Tanzanian tourists can do at Amani. There was a BBQ and a group of local young men dancing for entertainment. I decided to get to bed early and had just drifted off when I could hear mum running and panting towards the building. She had told us this morning that the night before she was sitting outside in the one place the WIFI worked when she had heard an animal with a large bite chomping loudly on fruit, which had scared her. Was she being chased by a Monkey?? The next minute, she burst into my room, “Eagle Owl!”. I jumped out of bed, as mum grabbed my binoculars and handed them to me and the next minute we were running down the hill. Anthony and two of the rangers were watching a Usambara Eagle Owl perched above the road. As we watched it, Anthony told us that there were three owls calling, which was unbelievable after a month of silence and that he had never seen the owls from the road itself. Just at this moment, another owl flew in. That was the last of our target Usamabara birds. Every single one. Anthony told us that he had never seen all of them in one visit before. On that high note, I went to bed.

Usambara Eagle Owl, Amani Forest Reserve, East Usamabara, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

I couldn’t sleep but could hear the local guys singing and dancing for a few hours. At one point, dad came into my room. Mum had brought one of dad’s unworn Liverpool FC T-shirts with her and said she would give into the first person who said they supported Liverpool. So, for the whole trip waiters & rangers said they supported Man U, Man City, Arsenal but no Liverpool. When Dad came in to get the T-shirt from my room, he said that Anthony had asked the group if anyone supported Liverpool and the lad at the front (who couldn’t speak English) started jumping up and down, shouting “Mo Salah,  Mo Salah, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Sadio Mane”. Dad told me that when Anthony told him we had a  Liverpool FC T-Shirt and were giving it to him, he had been jumping up and down, shouting “Mo Salah”, giving Mum and him hugs and saying “I love you”. On that even happier note, I did manage to get to sleep, ready for our early start and long 10 hour journey tomorrow.

A local Liverpool FC fan who was really happy with the T-shirt Mum and dad gave him
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 19 – 15 July 2018

The morning of Sunday 15th July, we were up early after the excitement of the previous night. We had a 6.30 am breakfast so that we could get on the way as we had a 10 hour drive down to Mikumi National Park, where you get all the big game. We drove south down the main highway and then took the right fork where the left goes to Dar es Salaam (Dar) and we were using the highway to all the landlocked central African countries. The highway was full of lorries with supplies going from Dar bound inland and was jointly funded by the landlocked countries.

The highway that goes through adjoining countries actually goes through the National Park for 50 kilometres with lorries going far too fast for the wildlife. There was too much roadkill including a poor hyena. The Tanzanian Government want to divert the highway around the park border but have been blocked by the neighbouring countries who will not contribute to the building of a new road. Something has to be done though, as the situation is ridiculous.

We saw a Dickinson’s Kestrel before we entered Mikumi National Park and then within the park, we saw White-headed Vulture and Miombo Blue-eared Starling.

Number of new birds – 73
Trip list –  407

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