Tanzania Travel Diary
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.
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
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.
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.
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
rather tame Grey-headed Kingfisher.
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.
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.