Having arrived at Manyara at our very luxurious tented camp in Tanzania last night we had an early morning drive in the dark around the camp where we watched a White-tailed Mongoose. After a delicious breakfast we drove to Tarangire National Park where we had some excellent birding and animal watching. I have done many safaris over the years but there were so many birds around that I struggled to keep up with the photography and note taking. It was good to see so many sandgrouse including Black-faced Sandgrouse. As I intend to write a trip report my daily diaries will be short and I am also struggling for internet access here in Tanzania. I just loved watching the baby Elephants today. They are just so funny at times!
We had a pre-dawn drive again today and watched a Heuglin's Courser, a difficult courser to get on a world list because of its nocturnal habits. After a wonderful breakfast sat out in the warm sun over-looking the lake on the terrace, I thought of my friends back in the UK all complaining about the snow and gale-force winds whilst I was watching Flamingoes, Gull-billed Terns, Black Herons and Sacred Ibis. A Verraux's Eagle Owl flew over whist I was contemplating what I was going to see next. John and I wandered around the lake edge as it got hot and admired all the waders on offer. It was so relaxing as we pottered along the shoreline enjoying the ambience of the weather and where we were.
I wanted to come to Tanzania for many years to see the Ngorongoro crater as I have an interest in volcanoes, once wanting to be a Geo-physicist after leaving university. It was not to be and I ended up as a teacher and latterly working for the RSPB. However one of my dreams was to see the world's largest intact crater and I proposed a trip to see this 6 years ago. However events overtook me as I refused to see this feature with a non-birder in tow and having to share the experience with general tourists ruining the experience. I cannot imagine a trip so horrendous and so by waiting six years, post pandemic after having had the trip postponed twice, today I was going to share the experience with some competent birders all adding to the enjoyment. After a long drive we drove up to the Ngorongoro rim and looked down into the crater. It was AWESOME! What an experience. After having our fill we went birding and added birds to my world list. Eventually we carried on our way admiring the scenery to another luxurious lodge at Ndutu in the greater Serengeti park.
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird
After a cup of tea and nibbles at our lodge at Ndutu we set off at 6am for a drive in the Ngorongoro Conservation area. We stopped to admire many species that I have seen before in Africa but it was nice to see some wonderful species that brighten up the day. A pair of Painted Snipe graced one pool as Klaas's Cuckoo sat and posed in a bush for us. A Purple Grenadier added some colour as I added a few life ticks to my list. It was very hot and sunny and we stopped to watch the amazing sight of a never-ending column of Wildebeest and Zebra on thier migration back north. It involves millions of Wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of Zebra. We stopped at a small patch of vegetation when all of a sudden our driver spotted a head peeping out above the grass. We drove a bit nearer and to our surprise a Cheetah appeared. We had no idea that it could hide in such short vegetation. John was thrilled as he has never seen one before.
After another pre-dawn drive to the airfield watching the nightjars and Crowned Lapwings as well as disturbing some Lions as we drove by, we made our way back to the lake where we watched a Chestnut -banded Plover. It was a very cute little wader and we made the most of the photographic opportunites. Eventually we arrived at the Naabi Hill Gate of the Serengeti National Park. Here we watched Wire-tailed Swallows and Rock Martins dipping down above our heads whilst our driver sorted out the permits.
We stopped for lunch at the main entrance of the park of the Serengeti before wandering around adding birds to our list. Once inside the park we stopped to add many of the larks and cisticolas that many tourist-type guides ignore which is why I would never want to do this trip with a non-birder as it would be so frustrating. We listened to the calls and watched the displays. Soon we stopped to take in the scene of the thousands of Wildebeeest and Zebra that had formed one long column and were crossing the road. We were mesmerised by it. You could not see the start of the column of animals or its end! A Lion on a rock also kept watch! I was fascinated by a very cute Lion cub that brought many memories flooding back of the little Lion cub that I had held back in 2010 of about the same size. It was just soooooooo cute!
Once again we were up pre-dawn and left our beautiful lodge tucked up on a hillside over-looking the plains (our cabin was particularly well sited) and drove across the plains. Our guide soon had a pair of Karamoja Apalis displaying and singing for us to watch but all of a sudden a much-desired Amur Falcon flew by. It has been an annoying gap in my list for many years and it made my day to watch this falcon that I completely forgot to take a photograph! I was thrilled!
The day went well as I added yet more lifers but it is the birds that I have seen many times before that held my attention. A Lilac-breasted Roller that was intent on catching beetles for its begging youngster was a bird that I was transfixed with. How can you not enjoy Orange-breasted Bushshrikes, Black-headed Orioles, Black-headed Gonoleks and the many brightly coloured weavers all in thier nest-building colonies? And as for being able to sit out on terraces in the evening being waited on for your evening meal in the warm listening to the roars of Lions.....................well................I'll swap it for freezing cold England anyday!
So there I was minding my own business at breakfast when this Von der Decken's Hornbill arrived beside me and decided to tuck into some of the food! The audacity of it!
Von der Decken's Hornbill tucking into breakfast! It's even got a mate with it!
Bare-faced Go-away-birds and chick
I decided to have a day off today and chill out using the lodge's facilities. I left John to go birding with the guide very close to an area where I have been before. I ascertained from the guide what birds and animals they were likely to see and as I did not need any of them for my world list, I decided to spend the day recuperating from the intensity of the last week and chill out. I was offered a massage near the infinity swimming pool over-looking the plains. It was absolute bliss. I never realised that my neck muscles were so stiff after all the bouncing around on the tracks through the various parks.
Once satiated from my massage I met up with one of the guides from the lodge and he took me around the grounds to show me a Bush Baby nest. It was a bit of an ahhhhh moment as two dear little Bush Babies peered very sleepily down at me in tne heat of the day. Next up was a family of Bare-faced Go-away-birds with two chicks. He said to wait as the parents would soon arrive back with food. Moments later they did and fed the chicks in front of me. How wonderful to watch. We talked about the Leopards that came into the lodge grounds last night. I am hoping that they will reappear tonight.
I went to lunch and sat watching the Ruppell's Starlings and another raid from the hornbill again! After a bit of a catch up with my photos I went for a swim in the infinity pool to cool down a bit as it was very hot and looked out over the plains. What a luxury it was!
After my nice relaxing day yesterday we were on the move again today as we were travelling back through the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater to an up-market lodge on the crater rim. We had stunning rooms with a terrace over-looking the crater.
We left our lodge early and started our travels admiring the many birds along the way. We stopped to admire a family party of Grey-backed Fiscals that were feeding young on top of a bush. It wasn't long before we encountered the huge herds of Wildebeest and Zebras once again with Lions looking on and hiding in the grass. What a sight it was!
We eventually arrived at the crater rim and settled into our lodge where I was blown away with the view from our terrace. It was just magical!
Grey-backed Fiscal feeding young
Wildebeest on migration
We had a wonderful breakfast in our Ngorongoro Crater rim lodge today watching the sunrise. What a sight it was as the sky turned red to orange to daylight. It was going to be another glorious hot day. We were soon in our landcruiser and driving down into the crater where the African wildlife was abundant. We watched Lions on a Buffalo kill, Hyenas on a kill as well as watching Elephants, Rhinos and Hippos amongst the many Elands, Thompson's Gazelles, Grant's Gazelles and Waterbuck. Our bird list was burgeoning and reached over 400 species today in the eleven days that we have been here. I have been so pleased to have filled in many of the gaps that I had missed from my last visit to the area. This is the huge advantage of travelling with an experienced birder and guide rather than taking a general tourist package trip. Most tourist package trips will only stop to look at the animals and big birds and completely ignore all the cisticolas, larks and pipits which I shall include in my trip report when I have the time to write it and upload it on to my trip reports page later on.
Elephant road block!
After an exhilerating day yesterday we were once again up early to birdwatch around our lodge after a delicious breakfast. We added Tacazze Sunbird which was very close and watched a Crowned Eagle fly overhead. We then drove a short distance and watched a stunning display of Jackson's Widowbirds where the males jumped up and down to all the female birds present. Photography was challenging to say the least as the birds disappeared into the long grass but I did get some in-focus flight shots as well as some partial shots of the birds as the males landed in the tall grass.
Malachite Sunbirds and Golden-winged Sunbirds gleamed in the hot sun beating down on us.
Soon it was time to drive back to Arusha where we had lunch in another up-market hotel set in beautiful grounds where we went birding for 3 hours before driving to Kilimanjaro for our lodge for the night.
Today we flew to Zanzibar for the next exciting part of our trip. After landing at the airport we picked up our car and drove north to the far northern tip of the island where we booked into a hotel on the beach at Nungwi. After a big lunch sitting next to the pool, in the 30 degree heat we went for a walk on the beach where we swam and watched Dimorphic Herons along with Lesser-crested Terns, a Greenshank and a Grey Plover. I had a swim in the hotel pool once we returned to the hotel to cool off before a delighful light evening meal by the pool once again.
Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey
Today we drove along the east coast of Zanzibar stopping off at suitable beaches to search for Crab Plovers. This was a species of wader that I have wanted to see for a long time and so John and I decided to fly to Zanzibar as part of our holiday in search of one. I had consulted E-bird and made a note of suitable places to search before our trip but was advised that any suitable beach with a shallow shoreline would be possible. This proved to be correct and so at one of our stops at Pongwe we found not one Crab Plovers but 3 birds. I was delighted of course! Later in the day at Michamvi we found over 30+ Crab Plovers along with Terek Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, Marsh Sandpipers as well as many Whimbrels and Dimorphic Herons. One of the beaches was just so idyllic that we could not resist a swim in the tropical waters. Bliss!
Sue heading out to Mnemba Island, Zanzibar
We were up early for our breakfast sitting by the pool in the warm in our hotel as we were due to be out early for a private boat ride to see some dolphins and to be taken to an off-shore reef for some snorkling as well as an island to see the Brown Noddy and Saunders's Terns sitting on the white sandy beaches. However storm clouds were gathering and a few rumbles of thunder could be heard. I consulted my weather app and there was clearly a passing storm which would soon pass through. This meant that we delayed our start by an hour so we had a relaxing breakfast before we met up with our boatman.
Our captain took us out to sea where we watched some Bottle-nosed Dolphins before being taken out to the reef where we had a wonderful time seeing the many different tropical fish using our snorkelling gear in the beautifully warm sea. Later we watched a Brown Noddy sitting on a buoy whilst Saunders's Terns, Sandwich Terns and Lesser-cresed Terns flew by us.
After lunch we drove back to Pongwe and enjoyed the Dimorphic Herons, Ringed Plovers, Little Stint and a Common Sandpiper that were being forced off the sand by the in-coming tide. There were several Lilac-breasted Rollers sitting on wires on our journey back to the hotel.
Back at our room we watched a Purple-banded Sunbird flitting aound the garden.
We had a lazy start today and drove down the west coast of Zanzibar searching the beaches for birds. Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul and a few other birds were added to our list before we arrived in Stone Town, the old part of Zanzibar Town, the capital of the island. We wandered around the fort before stopping for a wonderful late lunch and ice-cream in a restaurant over-looking the harbour. Here we watched Palm Swift, Fork-tailed Drongos and Reed Cormorants before making our way to the Freddie Mercury Museum.
Freddie Mercury of the group Queen just has to be one of the most talented singer/songwriters of all time and coupled with Brian May's amazing guitar playing made them part of one of the most brilliant bands that this world has ever seen. Freddie was born on the island of Zanzibar and it was a real treat to be invited to play his piano in the room below where he was born. What an experience it was!
Sue at the Freddie Mercury Museum at Stone Town Zanzibar
Sue playing Freddie Mercury's piano
Freddie on stage
Freddie Mercury and Brian May
The memories of my college days at Westminster College, Oxford came flooding back as I first heard Bohemian Rhapsody blaring out of a fellow student's window at Top Quad so that we could all hear it! What a wonderful rendtion of talent it was! Great times. Thanks for the memories Freddie!
In the evening John and I flew from Zanzibar to Doha in Qatar.
Having a few hours to spare John and I sat and processed some of our hundreds of photos and I made a start on logging some of my bird sightings onto my database in Doha airport. We then flew back to Heathrow in London that was much colder than Zanzibar!
It was a very busy day today unpacking, washing, shopping and finding fuel for my lawn mower. I was surprised by how little my grass had grown during my time away. It must have been cold here........... Once I had finished tidying up I went outside to my garden to hang out the washing where a Blackcap was singing its heart out in the tree at the end of my garden. It was trying to compete with a Goldcrest and Chiffchaff also singing away. I hung out the washing and mowed the lawn and pulled out a few weeds as a Red Kite was drifting up high in the sky.
After some shopping and lunch the afternoon was spent trying to find some new flights for my next trip away in a few weeks time as the airline John and I were flying with had cancelled our flights whilst we were in Tanzania. Travelling is full of hurdles at the moment but with determination I have managed to overcome most of the obstacles put in the way. Luckily after a few hours I found a new airline and got some flights booked. Travel is such a big part of my life that I am difficult to deter, as I cannot imagine a life without it. I just love the adventure and still want to see the other half of the world's birds!
I drove to work early today as it was such a beautiful day and wanted to walk down the West Bank path at Titchwell. As I passed through the woods I could hear a Willow Warbler singing and it didn't take me long to locate it. The trees seemed to be alive with birdsong and I could hear Blackcap, Song Thrush and a Robin singing. Once I got to the reedbed it seemed to be alive with Bearded Tit and Sedge Warbler song. I saw several Sedge Warblers as I continued on my way. Mediterranean Gulls were calling as I watched the Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits on the Fresh Marsh. All too soon I had to sort the Welcome Hub out ready for the day's onslaught of visitors arriving.
It was not as busy at work today as I expected and I managed a walk down the West Bank path late in the afternoon. It was glorious and very warm. The Willow Warbler and two Blackcaps were now singing in the woods and the Grasshopper Warbler was reeling in a far-off Bramble bush. I helped several visitors with identification problems and showed them many of our birds. Our visitors are just so grateful for the help they receive and always thank me for the help that I give them. It's nice to make someone's day when you show them a bird that they have longed to see. Our Bearded Tits put on quite a performance and for once a Cetti's Warbler showed just after it had burst into song right in front of us. What a wonderful place to work!
I stepped out of the back door this morning and a raptor overhead caught my eye. I could see it was a very dark bird but was a bit unsure what it was until I grabbed my binoculars and could see it was a Marsh Harrier. I grabbed my camera but it had gone up high before I could sort the camera out and get a quick couple of shots. I smiled later on as a Black Kite was reported from Roydon later on. I just hope it wasn't this harrier!
It was to be a very enjoyable wander around Nar Valley Fisheries today as I met up with the usual group of us to conduct the usual monthly WeBS count at Nar Valley Fisheries. We heard a couple of Cuckoos calling as we arrived and I soon heard and saw a Reed Warbler. It didn't take long to count the water birds as there we so few of them but the Blackcaps arrival kept us on our toes. Pat soon spotted a Goshawk being mobbed by corvids as we made our way around. Sedge Warblers, Little Ringed Plovers were good to see as I kept score of our sightings. A Tawny Owl called from somewhere as we watched Brambling and Siskins at the feeders. A Sedge Warbler sang but we did not see it. A Common Whitethroat caused some controversy as a Blackcap added to the confusion. A couple of Dunnocks in the Elder bush did not help the situation either! We carried on and walked up to Priory Farm where 2 Goosander were on the lake. Cetti's Warblers were calling as we made our way up to Wormegay High Bridge where Pat counted 28 Curlews in the field.
As it was another beautiful day I arrived at work early and walked along to Patsy's Pool where I met Ryan. A Lesser Whitethroat was calling in the hedge and it didn't take long to see it. However the reported Grasshopper Warbler failed to show itself. Blackcaps were calling and showing along through the woods as well as some noisy Cetti's Warblers. Chiffchaffs were singing away as I started work. I took an early lunch and joined the other staff and volunteers down at the Parrinder Hide where after a short wait the Temminck's Stint appeared. After taking a few photos I scurried back to work and talked to a few friends who appeared to see the stint.
After work I joined Mark and Tracy and together we watched te Temminck's Stint from the West Bank path. After staying quite a while we walked up to where a second Grasshopper Warbler was reeling which I managaed to see just over the top of the reeds sitting on top of the brambles. It was good to see Kathryn and Gwyn and hear about their travels in Costa Rica.
Happy birthday Hannah
Short-eared Owl !
A very happy birthday to my granddaughter Hannah who is 3 today. It was lovely to see you so happy this morning.
Another early start enabled me to walk down the West Bank path at Titchwell this morning where Chris kindly let me look through his telescope at the sleeping Garganey on the Freshmarsh. I was about to start work when Sally called me to join the rest of the staff on the West Bank path where Chris had located a Short-eared Owl sat on the rusty gate in the hedgeline on Thornham Marsh. His eagle eye had spotted it a long way off and my photo is probabaly the worst photo of a Short-eared Owl that you have ever seen! Luckily the view through a Paul's scope was much better!
Mark Sue and Suzy with Finlay, Brodie and Isla
It has just been the loveliest of few days with the arrival of my eldest son and his family to stay for part of the Easter holidays. We have enjoyed visits to the beach and play parks where we have been able to construct sandcastles, eat outdoors, run around and today enjoy meeting up with a friend's family to enjoy a game of cricket in Sandringham Country Park. The weather could not have been better! I even managed to sneak in a visit to Thornham harbour to see 8 Whimbrel! My grandchildren are just such a joy! Suzy and I even managed to sit down for a while for a chat or two as well!
Black-winged Stilt (m)
Black-winged Stilt (f)
I had a very busy day ahead of me and could not really spare the time but news of a pair of Black-winged Stilts at Denver Sluice had John and I scurrying down this morning to join a few others along the bank. It was good to see Steve and a few other Norfolk birders. We watched the stilts fly from pool to pool not really settling on any of them. There were Black-tailed Godwits in summer plumage as well as a Grey Heron prodding the water. A Green Woodpecker flew in front of us before we left to watch a Kingfisher fly along the River Nar at Setchey. House Martins were over the clay pits before we stopped to admire a Green Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover at Wormegay High Bridge.
A Siskin was on my feeder as I opened my kitchen blind this morning along with a Greenfinch. It is good to see the Greenfinches returning to the feeders.
I walked down the West Bank path at Titchwell this morning and bumped into an Otter running down the bund in the reedbed channel. Unfortunately I wasn't quite in time for a photo as it disappeared into the reeds. The wind was fierce and cold as I watched Marsh Harriers and listened to Bearded Tits pinging and the Grasshopper Warbler reeling away. As it was so cold I did not stay long after talking to visitors in the Parrinder Hide. After I had sorted out various work and technology problems I walked back down the path once again with a bit more clothing on and watched two Spotted Redshanks alongside the East Bank in their resplendent summer plumage. Many Avocets were beginning to show nesting instincts. A Sand Martin battled with the wind as I made my way back up the path. It was good to see lots of friends today and catch up with news.
I called in at my local Ravens on my way home and it was good to see the youngster has now fledged from the nest.
Thank you to the 532 of you that liked my photo of the Crab Plovers on Twitter.
I called into Thornham harbour on my way to work this morning and met up with Patrick who was watching the Wood Sandpiper. He kindly walked back along the bank with me and together we watched the Wood Sandpiper along with a Redshank and several Ruff which were emerging into summer plumage. On the flash there were several White Wagtails.
It was a busy day at work where the Blackcaps were busy singing in the woods by the Welcome Hub.
Down at Dersingham Bog early this morning I met up with Tim and we walked along the track and watched two pairs of Tree Pipits. Two birds were singing at the top of Oak trees whilst we also listened to a Stonechat, Cuckoo and a Willow Warbler singing. We also saw a Raven.
From here I drove to the supermarket but stopped off at the Hardwick Flood Lagoon where I saw two Yellow Wagtails, a Wheatear, Little Egret, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard, Mute Swan, Egyptian Geese and gulls. Several Swallows and House Martins had also arrived.
As I had not walked on Roydon Common for quite a while it was nice to avoid all the dog-walkers with dogs off their leads for once. I met John who had his dog on a lead whilst we watched a Yellowhammer and a Stonechat together. On the rise there were three Wheatear and two Lapwing chicks. They were not much more than balls of fluff and were very cute ! Ahhhh They tried to hide without much success! A Red Kite flew over as well as three Common Buzzards. Three Roe Deer entertained us for a while as I took photos of the Stonechats. Back by the model airfield another Wheatear ran around.
Out in the middle on the middle of the model airfield I spied what I thought might be two Starlings/Blackbirds but experience told me that they were too big. As soon as I put my binoculars to my eyes they took off and flew. I was unsighted by a couple of trees and had to guess where they went. Once again my knowledge of the common helped as I knew where they might lurk. I had to return to my car for another card for my camera, Grrr..which took a me a few minutes. Luckily I had guessed right and not two but seven Ring Ouzels eventually emerged but getting photos is another challenge altogether as Ring Ouzels are so easily spooked and I had to sit for quite a while and let them settle down.
My evening was spent at the monthly NarVOS meeting in Swaffham where we had an excellent talk given with some humour on Bolivia. It brought back some memories of when I birded there many years ago as several sites that I went to watch birds appeared up on the screen. It was good to catch up with friends and news.
Phew what a day it's been! Trying to multi-task organising so many things at once! At long last we have finally nailed down our big summer trip after having it cancelled last year due to the country closing its borders. We were supposed to be flying through Moscow....................probably not a good idea at the moment!
I enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at a friend's and called in at West Newton on my way home. A pair of Grey Wagtails were busy catching insects and bringing them back. They were a joy to watch.
With so much still to do at home since my return from holiday including writing up my trip report to Tanzania I really cannot spare the time for twitching a British year list this year as we have several foreign trips planned. However it was a lovely day and John and I fancied some time up on the coast and so we headed to Stiffkey where we joined Eddie looking for the Dusky Warbler. We watched Blackcaps, Sedge Warblers and Cetti's Warblers by the river and could hear the Dusky Warbler faintly tacking from time to time but try as we might we did not see it. A Spoonbill flew over and we watched a couple of Greenshanks, Redshanks and a Black-headed Gull in the channel as well as a wonderful display by a male Marsh Harrier that was in courtship mode. A Green Hairstreak posed nicely as well as a Large Red Damselfly, Orange Tip, Green-veined White and a Speckled Wood Butterfly.
We stopped to have a quick look at North Point Pools where Kathryn and Gwynn were already looking. A few Snipe, Little Ringed Plover and a few nearly summer-plumaged Ruff kept our interest before we made our way home for some gardening in the sun!