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TANZANIA'S EASTERN ARC

Friday 9th October - Sunday 1st November 2009

Nik Borrow

We first visited the more remote mountains of the Eastern Arc Mountains in 2003 and this reformatted tour embraced spiky East African thorn-bush, dry scrubby flats and floodplains, miombo woodland and of course those havens of biodiversity and endemism, the Eastern Arc Mountains and remote Pemba Island. The aim of this trip was to try to see some of the most difficult Tanzanian endemic birds and out of an amazing 491 species of birds recorded, 486 were seen and 37 mammals were identified. We began with Brown-breasted Barbets in our hotel garden near Moshi, White-headed Mousebirds, Tsavo Purple-banded Sunbirds and Scaly Chatterers in the thorn-scrub en route to Same and Taveta Golden Weavers along the Pangani River. On the heights of the South Pare Mountains, we sought out the South Pare White-eye. In the West Usambaras undergrowth skulkers such as Red-capped Forest Warbler, Spot-throat and Usambara Ground Robin were all seen well and several Usambara Weavers gleaning, nuthatch-like along the moss-festooned branches and the recently split Usambara Thrush and Usambara Double-collared Sunbird were found. The neighbouring East Usambaras yielded Long-billed Apalis, Kretschmer’s Longbill and Uluguru Violet-backed and Banded Green Sunbirds. White-chested Alethe was seen but Usambara Eagle Owl was frustratingly only heard. We found the beautiful Böhm’s Bee-eater as we journeyed south to the Uluguru Mountains and an excursion into the mountain top forests there gave us stunning views of Uluguru Bush-shrike, dazzling Loveridge’s Sunbirds, Uluguru Mountain Greenbul and Chapin’s and White-winged Apalises with Bertram’s Weavers in the surrounding cultivation. The dry, open floodplain of the Kilombero River produced Kilombero Weaver and two endemic species of cisticola that are currently known as White-tailed and Kilombero Cisticolas but still await formal description. A climb to a waterfall in the Udzungwas gave us two rare endemic primates in the form of Iringa Red Colobus and a habituated troop of Sanje Mangabeys. The Udzungwa Mountains yielded the desirable Udzungwa Forest Partridge and other goodies such as Iringa Akalat, Kipengere Seedeater, Uhehe Fiscal, Green-throated Greenbul, Sharpe’s Akalat and Olive-flanked Robin Chat. We returned north through habitat where we watched endemic Ashy Starlings, Yellow-collared Lovebird and the recently split Ruaha Red-billed Hornbill. Mikumi National Park produced a marvellous selection of game that included a Lion killing a buffalo for some lucky folk. However, the birds really stole the show and we were treated to excitable Speckle-throated Woodpeckers, shining Shelley’s Sunbirds and chunky Cinnamon-breasted Tits. We finished our trip on the relaxing island of Pemba where we found all four endemics. We watched a Pemba Scops Owl hooting away above our heads on the first night. The Pemba White-eye and Pemba Sunbird both offered no great challenge as they frequented the garden of the resort and we found the Pemba Green Pigeon easily. On the glorious beaches, we found the sublime Crab-plover and visited a roost site of the endemic Pemba Flying Fox before heading home. Other noteworthy species seen during the tour included Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Dickinson’s Kestrel, White-cheeked Tern, Grey-headed Parrot, Fischer’s Turaco, Grass Owl, Scheffler’s Barred Owlet, Usambara Nightjar, Mangrove Kingfisher, Pale-billed Hornbill, Eastern Green Tinkerbird, Pallid Honeyguide, Mombasa Woodpecker, Pink-breasted Lark, Fischer’s Sparrow Lark, Shelley’s, Stripe-faced, Placid and Tiny Greenbuls, Northern Pied Babbler, Rüppell’s Robin Chat, Coastal and Black-lored Cisticolas, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Eastern Black-headed, Forest and Dark Batises, Fülleborn’s Black Boubou, Green-headed Oriole, Kenrick’s and Sharpe’s Starlings, Plain-backed and Fülleborn’s Sunbirds, Zanzibar Red Bishop, Yellow-browed Seedeater and Southern Citril.