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TANZANIA'S EASTERN ARC

Friday 3rd October - Saturday 25th October 2014

Nik Borrow

Usambara Akalat (Nik Borrow)

Usambara Akalat (Nik Borrow)

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. We began with White-headed Mousebirds and Tsavo Sunbirds 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 Usambara Double-collared Sunbird, Golden-winged Sunbird and Brown-breasted Barbet were also 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 whilst the elusive Usambara Weaver was watched gleaning, nuthatch-like along the moss-festooned branches. The neighbouring East Usambara Mountains yielded Long-billed Forest Warbler, Kretschmer’s Longbill, Usambara Hyliota and Uluguru Violet-backed, Amani 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 several hours before everyone had seen the Pemba Scops Owl hooting away above our heads. The endemic Pemba Flying Fox was also seen. Flying on a special chartered flight we continued to Iringa and began our explorations of the sprawling Udzungwa Mountains. We returned to an excellent new site to the itinerary where we battled for views of Dapple-throat, marvelled at the beautiful Rufous-winged Sunbird and also found the pretty Swynnerton’s Robin, Sharpe’s Akalat and superb White-winged Apalis. In another sector of the mountains we struggled with the desirable Udzungwa Forest Partridge, which was elusive this year, and although heard every day was ultimately only seen by half the group and another specialty, the Kipengere Seedeater was only heard. However other goodies such as Iringa Akalat, Yellow-throated Greenbul, Olive-flanked Ground Robin, Uhehe Fiscal, Moreau’s Sunbird and a stunning African Grass Owl were all successfully added to the list. We headed back north through habitat where we found the endemic Ashy Starling and recently split Tanzanian 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 both 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 Hofmann’s Sunbird and chunky Cinnamon-breasted Tits. Visiting the Uluguru Mountains, an excursion into the mountain top forests there gave us the Uluguru Bushshrike and dazzling Loveridge’s Sunbirds. We finished the tour watching the beautiful Böhm’s Bee-eater before travelling back via the recently resurrected ‘Ruvu’ Weaver (a taxon of uncertain affinities) to Dar es Salaam where this incredible tour came to a close. Other noteworthy species included Olive Ibis (heard only), Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Buff-spotted Flufftail (heard only), White-cheeked Tern, Fischer’s Turaco, Scheffler’s Barred Owlet (heard only), Usambara Nightjar, Mangrove Kingfisher, Pale-billed Hornbill, Green Tinkerbird, Brown-backed Honeybird, Pallid Honeyguide, Mombasa Woodpecker (heard only), Dickinson’s Kestrel, Forest, Dark and Eastern Black-headed Batises, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Pringle’s Puffback (heard only), Fülleborn’s and East Coast Boubous, Green-headed Oriole, Fischer’s Sparrow Lark, Pink-breasted Lark, Shelley’s, Mountain, Stripe-faced, Grey-olive, Placid and Lowland Tiny and Montane Tiny Greenbuls, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Black-lored and Coastal Cisticolas, Chapin’s and Brown-headed Apalises, Northern Pied Babbler, Golden-breasted Starling, Kenrick’s and Sharpe’s Starlings, Rüppell’s Robin-Chat, Plain-backed and Forest Double-collared Sunbirds, Swahili Sparrow, Bertram’s Weaver, Zanzibar Red Bishop, Southern Citril, Southern Grosbeak Canary and Yellow-browed Seedeater.

Böhm's Bee-eater (Nik Borrow)

Böhm's Bee-eater (Nik Borrow)