Tanzania Travel Diary NOTE:   Images were prepared using screen settings of 1024x768, and are best viewed with those settings.  As usual, the name of the bird can be seen by placing the cursor over the photo.

3 April 2008Lake Manyara
In the late afternoon we descended the escarpment down to the National Park.  Passing through dense forest, the haunt of blue and vervet monkeys and Silvery -cheeked Hornbills and the rare Narina Trogon, we entered a park-like acacia woodland.
    This opened onto a grassy plain adjacent to Lake Manyara.  In the distant lake could be seen hippos, Egyptian Geese, and a pink haze of Lesser Flamingos.  The plains grazers were Thompson's Gazelles and zebras but best of all the small herds of giraffes. 









Two young males were necking.  This is in fact a scuffle of sorts to establish their rank in the group.  But so docile, even well-mannered are these creatures that it seemed as much a formal dance as a struggle between wild beasts.

    Charlotte and I came to Africa and Tanzania two days ago, indulging in a private photo safari hosted by Wildersun Safaris.  We're now put up in the Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge, shamelessly pampered by the staff.  They even arrange the mosquito netting around our bed while we're away at dinner.  The only hindrance is a bunch of visiting high mucky-mucks from the United Nations who clog up the buffet lines at meal time.

    The open woodlands of yellow-bark acacias and sausage trees and baobabs are surely the best habitat for bird life in Africa.  We drive through them in a Toyota Land Cruiser that has been modified so that the roof can be raised up several feet.  Shaded by the roof and safe from lions, we place our bean bags and telephoto lens on the edge and shoot standing up from here.

Grey-headed Kingfisher

I love to stand in the vehicle and watch the woodland pass by as Steven Massey, our driver/bird guide, takes us through.  With one eye on the road, he still sees the birds before we do.  What will the next bend in the road reveal?  More beautiful Violet-backed Starlings, or perhaps Cut-throat Finches?  Another Nubian Woodpecker, D'Arnaud's Barbet, or African Green Pigeon?  A striking but impossible-to-photograph Violet-crested Turaco?  Today's best photo is the handsome and rather tame Grey-headed Kingfisher.



Blue-naped MousebirdsHow about some Blue-naped Mousebirds, taking a dust bath just as the last rays of the sun disappear below the horizon?  Mousebirds are members of an family endemic to Africa.  Although they can fly, what they really enjoy is to climb around in the branches, tail down, looking somewhat like a rodent.














Paradise WhydahIt soon becomes obvious that Steven's favorite birds are the whydahs.  These sparrow-sized birds are, like cuckoos, nest parasites.  In the breeding season the males sport a ridiculously long tail.  We find Straw-tailed and Pin-tailed Whydahs, but best of all the Paradise Whydahs.  They feed on the ground like sparrows, then flutter up to the tree tops when I point my 500mm telephoto lens at them.  With the males' slow flight, they ought to be easy pickings for a Taita Falcon, but somehow the whydahs persist, one of the commonest woodland birds.




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