Birding in Tanzania – important information


If you are planning to come to watch wildlife in Tranzania and want some avowedly impartial advice

in order to fit your desired nature schedule with the most appropriate ground agents here

and you wish for up-to-date help so that you can find the best birding sites, best birding accommodation, the best not-only-for-big-game safari routes, the most ecologically aware hotels and more pleasant birder-friendly lodges plus an indication of all the transport connections

then please contact me first in order to avoid disappointment :



WhatsApp : +255-683-510-929

Thank You !






An evening stroll, for the bird, up Haile Selassie road


Last Friday evening I took a stroll from the centre of town, at the New Arusha hotel, to the even newer Mount Meru hotel up on Nairobi road. For peace of mind I went by way of a stately and well-timbered route along Haile Selassie road.

This is the old diplomatic quarter of Arusha where large old houses are set in extensive gardens adjacent to the Gymkhana Club and our only golf course.

Despite recent architectural eruptions, resulting in a pair of monstrous cement-with-chrome, buy-to-rent carbuncles which have mushroomed out of a formerly leafy plot, the walk along this avenue is still a relatiely quiet and tranquil affair. A stroll through what might suggest the former existence of a slightly more sustainable world (of) order.

On Friday however belching SUVs, encasing their smug and portly owners, blubber in boom-boom air-con, tended to gloat their way along the main drags both in and out of town. They are especially frequent along Old Moshi Road. Whilst the poorly-maintained trucks and shoals of people-packed town-ship daladalas must throng the outer Nairobi Road.

So this, my “old git’s” route, is a dog-leg angling up past the Criminal Court, and it remains primarily a walker’s, even a jogger’s, route.

Consequently you can still see and hear the birds and you can even smell the flowers, all for no cover charge.

In thirty minutes around six pm I saw or heard some twenty bird species.

There were many Common (Yellow-vented) Bulbuls of course, one sweeping Yellow-billed Kite, several tailor-bird-type Grey-backed Camaroptera, a singing serinus the Southern Citril, flocks of Africa’s own comical Coliformes the Speckled Mousebird, many of the one and only Baglafecht (Swagalfetch)  Weaver, twittering flocks of Little Swift that nest in the Mount Meru hotel, Variable, Amethyst, Collared and Olive Sunbirds, numerous Red-eyed Doves, four Silvery-cheeked Hornbills who flew-off, looking like flapping piebald reaper drones, up through the petro-chemical haze of our booming little city toward their roost site high on Mount Meru. There were two Northern Common Fiscals, staring down from the wires at grasshoppers in the deliciously weedy lawns outside the Mount Meru hotel. Here too were glorious Red-winged Starlings, who piped and wheeoed, jesting at me, and at the dumpy Speckled Pigeons from up there on their lofty roof.

Finally at dusk several skinny African Palm Swifts, a pair of Wire-tailed Swallows and even a brace of Scarce Swifts (far down off the mountain) flickered in to my view, catching termite alates over a new wee pub, popular with the well-heeled, the internationalist youth of town, a pub called Zest (… for Life…). Count me in!




The Eagle, the Monkey and the Man


An African lepidopterist friend (from central Europe) just wrote to me :

“We have to fight to protect every single hectare … and every single tree in a city.”

I asked if I might quote him, to post his words, beneath a superb photo of one forest bird species that has viewed ‘man’ as prey. To post it above a photograph of another bright monkey, very similar to those, whom we might consider to be the legitimate prey of the African Crowned Eagle.

Smug sadistic capitalism requires that we forget – “Nature gives us a home”. And so the glittering corporations, even the modest RSPB, must try to spin this upside down.

To turn ourselves the right way up again we must stop buying all this globalised, especially, this plastic stuff. We must start regrowing our gardens with our own vegetables and our own wildlfe to rewild our space and recreate our place once more in Earth’s PermaNature.


A special thank you to Martin Goodey and to Caroline Langervoord for these two really beautiful photographs.


Which ornithologist has the most African birds?


Originally in Birdman – “Birding in Tanzania” with James Wolstencroft

“Who was the most popular ‘African’ ornithologist of all time?” Posted: 07 April 2011.
On August 14 2010 Keith Betton produced an alphabetical list of the 288 bird species on the African list currently bearing names in English that commemorate a person.

He rightly thought this might be of interest to at least some members of the African Bird Club.
The ABC is currently based within the “Emerald Triangle” an enclave of conservation-business interest in eastern England. Here, ‘strangely’, can also find the home base of both the Oriental Bird Club and the Neotropical Bird Club.

Keith added: “Clearly there are many others that have a person’s surname [only] in their scientic name”.
Sadly women, especially indigenous African women, e.g. Levaillant’s putative Hottentot servant girl-with-a-difference Narina (as in Narina[‘s] Trogon), if she ever existed, seem to have become almost entirely lost and forgotten.
I suppose that there’s a ‘Lesson’ in this for all of us [please check: René Primavère Lesson – for he’s “the beau” who suggested Narina’s existence in the first place]!
Anyway the winners of this close-run contest are (or rather were) either:
Wilhelm Rüppell with at least eight birds named after him or … Sir somebody or Captain somebody Shelley with six.
However, unfortunately for the British (or more accurately the English) they fielded at least two Shelley’s in Africa, so the winner is, without any doubt, that long-lived German:
Wilhelm Peter Eduard Simon Rüppell (1794 – 1884).
A fabled zoologist, explorer, collector and author for whose family name the English seemingly prefer to write: Rueppell.

Appropriately at this blogging moment, a Rüppell’s [ or Black-tailed] Robin-chat Cossypha semirufa intercedens (Cabanis) is singing its-heart-out. Just outside in the lush tangle right beside my window. This particular individual, a virtuoso and a half, one individual in a very handsome species (in a fabulous genus and family) which must be one of the most greatest mimics in the [bird] world, sounds as if he is incorporating an imitation of a Green Hylia’s twin call note “peee-peee” – it’s like an old-fashioned [pre-World War II] mafioso automobile horn. However this is a West African forest species and doesn’t occur anywhere near Arusha. So very suddenly I realise it must be an imitation of one of those standard Nokia message alerts.
What would Wilhelm have made of that?
Meanwhile my little own iApp’s [Singing] Cisticola Cisticola (cantans) pictipennis (soon to-be-split at least by MacBook-users) remains skulking (in a wood-pile in the foreground) still waiting for that perfect african moment.

Keith’s List of Names:
Abbott’s Starling
Abdim’s Stork
Alexander’s Swift
Allen’s Gallinule
Anchieta’s Barbet
Anchieta’s Sunbird
Ansorge’s Greenbul
Archer’s Buzzard
Archer’s Lark
Archer’s Robin-Chat
Ash’s Lark
Audouin’s Gull
Audubon’s Shearwater
Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle
Baillon’s Crake
Baird’s Sandpiper
Ballman’s Malimbe
Bannerman’s Sunbird
Bannerman’s Turaco
Bannerman’s Weaver
Barlow’s Lark
Bates’s Nightjar
Bates’s Paradise-Flycatcher
Bates’s Sunbird
Bates’s Swift
Bates’s Weaver
Baumann’s Greenbul
Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle
Bedford’s Paradise-Flycatcher
Bennett’s Woodpecker
Berthelot’s Pipit
Bertrand’s Weaver
Blanford’s Lark
Bocage’s Akalat
Bocage’s Longbill
Bocage’s Sunbird
Bocage’s Weaver
Boehm’s Bee-eater
Boehm’s Flycatcher
Bolle’s Pigeon
Bonaparte’s Gull
Bonelli’s Eagle
Bonelli’s Warbler
Botha’s Lark
Boulton’s Batis
Bradfield’s Hornbill
Bradfield’s Swift
Brazza’s Martin
Bruce’s Green-Pigeon
Buller’s Albatross
Bulwer’s Petrel
Burchell’s Courser
Burchell’s Glossy-Starling
Burchell’s Sandgrouse
Cabanis’s Bunting
Cabanis’s Greenbul
Carp’s Tit
Carruthers’s Cisticola
Cassin’s Flycatcher
Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle
Cassin’s Honeyguide
Cassin’s Spinetail
Cetti’s Warbler
Chapins’s Flycatcher
Chapin’s Apalis
Chapin’s Mountain-Babbler
Chaplin’s Barbet
Chubb’s Cisticola
Clapperton’s Francolin
Clarke’s Weaver
Cory’s Shearwater
Cretzschmar’s Babbler
Cretzschmar’s Bunting
Crossley’s Ground-Thrush
D’Arnaud’s Barbet
Delegorgue’s Pigeon
Dickinson’s Kestrel
Doherty’s Bushshrike
Dohrn’s Flycatcher
Donaldson-Smith’s Nightjar
Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver
Dorst’s Cisticola
Dunn’s Lark
Dupont’s Lark
Dybowski’s Twinspot
Eleonora’s Falcon
Elliot’s Woodpecker
Emin’s Shrike
Erckel’s Francolin
Finsch’s Flycatcher-Thrush
Finsch’s Francolin
Finsch’s Wheatear
Fischer’s Greenbul
Fischer’s Lovebird
Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark
Fischer’s Starling
Fischer’s Turaco
Forbes-Watson’s Swift
Forbes’s Plover
Fo’sx Weaver
Franklin’s Gull
Fraser’s Eagle-Owl
Friedmann’s Lark
Fuelleborn’s Boubou
Fuelleborn’s Longclaw
Gillett’s Lark
Gosling’s Apalis
Grant’s Bluebill
Grauer’s Broadbill
Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike
Grauer’s Scrub-Warbler
Grauer’s Warbler
Gray’s Lark
Gray’s Malimbe
Grimwood’s Longclaw
Gurney’s Sugarbird
Hall’s Giant Petrel
Hartlaub’s Bustard
Hartlaub’s Duck
Hartlaub’s Francolin
Hartlaub’s Gull
Hartlaub’s Turaco
Harwood’s Francolin
Hemprich’s Hornbill
Heuglin’s Bustard
Heuglin’s Francolin
Heuglin’s Masked-Weaver
Heuglin’s Wheatear
Hildebrandt’s Francolin
Hildebrandt’s Starling
Hinde’s Pied-Babbler
Holub’s Golden-Weaver
Hume’s Owl
Hunter’s Cisticola
Hunter’s Sunbird
Jackson’s Francolin
Jackson’s Hornbill
Jackson’s Widowbird
Jameson’s Antpecker
Jameson’s Firefinch
Jameson’s Wattle-eye
Johanna’s Sunbird
Jouanin’s Petrel
Kemp’s Longbill
Kenrick’s Starling
Kittlitz’s Plover
Klaas’s Cuckoo
Kretschmer’s Longbill
Lagden’s Bushshrike
Laura’s Wood-Warbler
Layard’s Warbler
Leach’s Storm-Petrel
Levaillant’s Cuckoo
Levaillant’s Woodpecker
Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse
Lilian’s Lovebird
Livingstone’s Flycatcher
Livingstone’s Turaco
Loveridge’s Sunbird
Ludwig’s Bustard
Luehder’s Bushshrike
Mackinnon’s Shrike
Marmora’s Warbler
Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrel
Maxwell’s Black Weaver
Menetries’s Warbler
Meves’s Glossy-Starling
Meyer’s Parrot
Montagu’s Harrier
Monteiro’s Bushshrike
Monteiro’s Hornbill
Moreau’s Sunbird
Moussier’s Redstart
Mrs. Moreau’s Warbler
Nahan’s Francolin
Neergaard’s Sunbird
Neumann’s Starling
Neumann’s Warbler
Newton’s Fiscal
Newton’s Sunbird
Oberlaender’s Ground-Thrush
Oustalet’s Sunbird
Pel’s Fishing-Owl
Peters’s Twinspot
Petit’s Cuckoo-shrike
Petit’s Sawwing
Preuss’s Swallow
Preuss’s Weaver
Prigogine’s Greenbul
Prigogine’s Sunbird
Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco
Pringle’s Puffback
Pulitzer’s Longbill
Puvel’s Illadopsis
Rachel’s Malimbe
Radde’s Warbler
Reichard’s Seedeater
Reichenbach’s Sunbird
Reichenow’s Firefinch
Reichenow’s Woodpecker
Retz’s Helmetshrike
Richard’s Pipit
Roberts’s Prinia
Rockefeller’s Sunbird
Ross’s Turaco
Rouget’s Rail
Rudd’s Apalis
Rudd’s Lark
Rueppell’s Bustard
Rueppell’s Chat
Rueppell’s Glossy-Starling
Rueppell’s Griffon
Rueppell’s Parrot
Rueppell’s Robin-Chat
Rueppell’s Warbler
Rueppell’s Weaver
Sabine’s Gull
Sabine’s Spinetail
Salvadori’s Eremomela
Salvadori’s Serin
Salvadori’s Weaver
Salvin’s Prion
Sassi’s Greenbul
Saunders’s Tern
Savile’s Bustard
Savi’s Warbler
Schalow’s Turaco
Schlegel’s Francolin
Schouteden’s Swift
Sclater’s Lark
Sharpe’s Akalat
Sharpe’s Apalis
Sharpe’s Pipit
Sharpe’s Starling
Shelley’s Crimson-wing
Shelley’s Eagle-Owl
Shelley’s Francolin
Shelley’s Greenbul
Shelley’s Starling
Shelley’s Sunbird
Sjostedt’s Greenbul
Sjostedt’s Owlet
Sladen’s Barbet
Souza’s Shrike
Speke’s Weaver
Stark’s Lark
Stierling’s Woodpecker
Stresemann’s Bush-Crow
Stuhlmann’s Starling
Stuhlmann’s Sunbird
Swainson’s Francolin
Swainson’s Sparrow
Swierstra’s Francolin
Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel
Swynnerton’s Robin
Sykes’s Warbler
Temminck’s Courser
Temminck’s Lark
Temminck’s Stint
Tessmann’s Flycatcher
Tristram’s Starling
Tristram’s Warbler
Tullberg’s Woodpecker
Turati’s Boubou
Turner’s Eremomela
Upcher’s Warbler
Ursula’s Sunbird
Ussher’s Flycatcher
Verreau’sx Batis
Verreau’sx Eagle
Verreau’sx Eagle-Owl
Victorin’s Scrub-Warbler
Vieillot’s Barbet
Vieillot’s Weaver
Von der Decken’s Hornbill
Wahlberg’s Eagle
Wahlberg’s Honeyguide
Waller’s Starling
Weyns’s Weaver
Whyte’s Barbet
Willcock’s Honeyguide
Williams’s Lark
Wilson’s Phalarope
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel
Woodhouse’s Antpecker
Woodward’s Batis
Xavier’s Greenbul
Zenker’s Honeyguide

Thank you very much “gentlemen” – all of you, and especially Keith Betton, for going to the trouble of compiling this “list of honour”.

Yet I do wonder:
“Will it be the same in a hundred years?”


Birders Delight in a Concrete Jungle


This is admittedly a very poor photograph of a bird. But it was shot with this iphone just now, through my sealed window on the world.

It shows a Levaillant’s Cuckoo, presumably a male, who came to sing raucously at my office window. Just now.

And yes, that jungle is our back garden! We moved here at the end of January in 2007.  Back then the plot was an almost treeless enclosure full of chicken and goats; with only a very few grassland bird species, who visited it most days, birds shared with the neighbouring farms.

Now our surroundings are two thirds built-up. And our garden has become a very real oasis in a wannabes’ concrete jungle. Such is progress. For the economy in Africa, especially when compared with northern lands, is simply booming.

In an average day, if I spend some time outside, I may record 40 bird species in this – the “Wilding Wedge”of former Farm 510. Forty friends those are. Companions, who not only shield me from many of the seemingly infinite woes of man, but who also delight me greatly.

I derive the sweetest joy from their many colourful movements, and their wonderfully varied voices, in what has become my “melting pot of song” are simply too beautiful to be described within the limits of a shining little screen.

Come and hear them for yourself. Sometimes, if we have umeme (mainspower) even the streaming open microphone in the front garden rings with their song.

That’s audible online via the link here on Africanaturalists at the following post:

Broadcasting urban African bird sounds to the world




A fine introduction to African Birding



The Sunbird-Wings safari across northern Tanzania seems set to become a classic of nature tours. For it provides the most comfortable and condensed introduction possible to that source of limitless wonder which is the African wildlife experience.

The plentiful “short rains” of November-December 2015 ensured once again that we would not disappoint anyone.

This year we started our safari at dawn, one late November day, beside the peaceful Kilimanjaro international airport, within sight of that mighty cloud-shrouded mountain, and quickly began accumulating a bird list that by the end of day 13 was to stretch to over 420 species encountered by all participants.

A couple of hours into our sojourn and we were settled at Hatari Lodge in Arusha National Park. Here we encountered our first ‘mega-fauna’. Masai Giraffes peered down at us from beside the tracks and what was at first a bewildering variety of small, yet often very colourful, birds started to vie for our attention.

Despite the almost uninterrupted presence of
massive mammals, who reminded of us of our historic place in the scheme of things, it was often the diminutive beings who took our breath away. For example on the forested slopes of Mount Meru it was close views of a courting pair of Suni (one of the smallest antelopes in the world) and a female Abbott’s Starling that set several pulses racing.

Nevertheless it was quintessential savanna sights (and sounds, and smells) such as that of a closely perched Martial Eagle (the first of two of these confiding giants that we would see) watched at eye level, in the broad crown of an acacia, that really put us in our place.

Secretary-birds were admired by all in several locations. And their occasional companions, stalking alongside them through the waving grasses, the family groups of Southern Ground Hornbill, certainly were an additional delight.

In the montane forests of Mount Meru and in the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands we watched small passerines such as the different species of vivid green white-eyes (those East African Zosterops whose correct taxonomic relationships are yet to be made public!) in the same scan as Hartlaub’s or Schalow’s Turaco, beneath a diversity of tree-top starlings. Species subtly different in form and colour dependent upon their location, whether east or west of Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

Sunbird species also thrive in these cool protected highlands and this year perhaps it was the Golden-winged Sunbird that stole the show.

In the “granny baobab parkland” of Tarangire we were treated to our first of two intimate encounters with Savanna Elephants. Here a maternal herd struggled to pilot their infants through the lush greenery of Silale Swamp. And it was in Tarangire that we saw our first of over forty Lions. However it is the short grass plains of the eastern Serengeti that typically provide the undoubted highlight of this tour for most participants.

There the uninterrupted vastness of the rolling Serengeti savanna under an immense and active sky, a grassy plain salt and peppered’ as far as the eye can see, by tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra should not fail to deliver to any naturalist experiences that are in truth utterly awesome.

And yet, and yet for birders there are so many privileged experiences on this tour, such as watching a rare Chestnut-banded Plover, on the glistening mud flats of Lake Ndutu, bowing in “cooing” display to a female at a potential nest scrape; that rank ‘up-there’ with for example the female Cheetah whom we almost literally bumped into whilst searching the Ndutu acacia woodlands for strangely elusive francolins and other lesser fry .

We did well for the endemic ‘TZ birds’ seeing all of those for which we hoped. And easily we passed the bar of fifty mammal species seen. We had remarkable scope views of two nursing Black Rhinoceros, met giraffes galore and we were treated to close-up views of many kinds of charming rat and bat and bush-baby!

So in summing-up, if one, understandably enough, ever needs a reminder that our Earth is still a place of wonder; a place where mammals big and small still follow unmolested lives, and where birds of every hue seem to queue right along the wayside; then this is a safari waiting, it’s a holiday made for you!

As Always Folks – Remember the  Mantra :

ReView, ReWild, ReJoice.


Everything that flies (and breathes)!


It has taken ten years for me to begin to tackle the Charaxes. Today Toran and I confirmed the occurrence of the White-barred Emperor, (C. brutus alcyone/natalensis), in our rewilding garden, when one trapped itself in the kitchen. The fore-wing of another that was eaten by a bird can be seen here on the left-hand side.

Before this year I had only managed to find two species of  Pasha, or Emperor, in this two acre garden.

The first, also on the page (shown above) from Steve Woodhall’s wonderful book published by Struik  – A Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa – was 2A the Foxy Emperor or Two-tailed Pasha.

This is an even more widespread species that has managed to maintain Palearctic populations in the Mediterranean basin. There the caterpillars feed on leaves of the Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo). I think the first time I saw that species,  in November 1991, was at a “BirdQuest customer reunion” in Corsica. That individual was, most unusually, a migrant, and heading south in the autumn sunshine from a lighthouse near the southern tip of that island.

The second species to occur here was the almost as widespread Green-veined Emperor, which is certainly still common around Arusha. Recently we have also identified the dark and dainty, much scarcer Baumann’s Charaxes (Emperor) quite near here, at Chem-chem, a tiny evergreen forest fragment, down the hill in the heart of Arusha’s Burka Coffee Estate. Last year it seemed highly likely that this last patch of “lowland” forest would be sold-off to private property speculators, but now, that does not look so likely.

If I ever find a new species of ‘something honourable’ in any of Tanzania’s scattered forests I shall name it out of respect for the current president of Tanzania  : Mr John Magafuli.