Welcome to Birdquest
Friday 5th October - Saturday 27th October 2012
We had first visited the more remote mountains of the Eastern Arc Mountains in 2003 and since then we have evolved and reformatted this specialist tour that embraces spiky East African thorn-bush, dry scrubby plains 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 endemic Tanzanian birds and out of an amazing total of 463 species of birds recorded, 450 were seen and 40 species of mammals were identified. We began with Pringle’s Puffback, Tsavo Purple-banded Sunbird and Scaly Chatterer in the thorn-scrub en route to Same and brightly plumaged Taveta Golden Weavers along the Pangani River. On the heights of the South Pare Mountains, we sought out the South Pare White-eye and both Golden-winged Sunbird and Brown-breasted Barbet were found. In the West Usambaras undergrowth skulkers such as Red-capped Forest Warbler, Spot-throat, White-chested Alethe and Usambara Akalat (or Ground Robin) were all seen along with the recently split Usambara Thrush and Usambara Double-collared Sunbird whilst the elusive Usambara Weaver was watched gleaning, nuthatch-like along the moss-festooned branches. The neighbouring East Usambara Mountains yielded Long-billed Apalis, Kretschmer’s Longbill, Usambara Hyliota and Uluguru Violet-backed and Banded Green Sunbirds. To top it all a magnificent Usambara Eagle Owl was seen well. Flying to the relaxing island of Pemba we found all four endemics. The Pemba White-eye and Pemba Sunbird both offered no great challenge but the Pemba Green Pigeon took more time and it took no less than five long hours before everyone had seen the Pemba Scops Owl hooting away above our heads. On the glorious beaches, we found the sublime Crab-plover and the endemic Pemba Flying Fox was seen. Flying on a special chartered flight we continued to Iringa and began our explorations of the sprawling Udzungwa Mountains. We added a new site to the itinerary where we battled for views of Dapple-throat and Rufous-winged Sunbird and also found the pretty Swynnerton’s Robin and stunning White-winged Apalis. In another area the desirable Udzungwa Forest Partridge was seen well and other goodies such as Iringa Akalat, Kipengere Seedeater, Green-throated Greenbul, Sharpe’s Akalat, Olive-flanked Robin Chat and Moreau’s Sunbird were added to the list. We returned north through habitat where we watched endemic Ashy Starling and the recently split Ruaha Red-billed Hornbill. The dry, open floodplain of the Kilombero River produced Kilombero Weaver and two endemic species of cisticola currently known as White-tailed and Kilombero Cisticolas but still awaiting formal description. Mikumi National Park produced a marvellous selection of game that included a pride of Lions but the birds really stole the show and we were treated to Racket-tailed Rollers, excitable Speckle-throated Woodpeckers, shining Hoffmann’s Sunbirds and chunky Cinnamon-breasted Tits. Visiting the Uluguru Mountains, an excursion into the mountain top forests there gave us the Uluguru Bush-shrike, dazzling Loveridge’s Sunbirds and Uluguru Mountain Greenbul with Bertram’s Weavers in the surrounding cultivation. We twitched the Rubeho Warbler (recently split from Moreau’s Warbler) in the Ukaguru Mountains and finished the tour watching the beautiful Böhm’s Bee-eater before travelling back to Dar es Salaam where this incredible tour came to a close. Other noteworthy species included Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Dickinson’s Kestrel, White-cheeked Tern, Grey-headed Parrot, Fischer’s Turaco, Grass Owl, Usambara Nightjar, Mangrove Kingfisher, Pale-billed Hornbill, Eastern Green Tinkerbird (heard only), Mombasa Woodpecker, Pink-breasted Lark, Fischer’s Sparrow Lark, Shelley’s, Black-headed Mountain, Stripe-faced, Grey-olive, Placid, Lowland Tiny and Montane Tiny Greenbuls, Northern Pied Babbler, Coastal and Black-lored Cisticolas, Chapin’s Apalis, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Forest and Dark Batises, Rosy-patched Bush-shrike, East Coast and Fülleborn’s Black Boubous, Green-headed Oriole, Kenrick’s and Sharpe’s Starlings, Black-bellied Sunbird, Swahili Grey-headed Sparrow, Zanzibar Red Bishop, Yellow-browed Seedeater and Southern Citril.