Day 2,  December 19th: Amani Forest Reserve

We had organized for  Martin Joho to be our bird guide for the next 3 days. We picked up Martin and drove down to the Headquarter for the reserve. We parked the car there and were very quickly into good birds: Green-heade Oriole, Green Barbet, African Green Pigeon, Cabanis Bunting and Moustached Tinkerbird (lifer).  The next birds were Kenrick´s and Waller´s Starling (both lifers) followed closely by Shelley´s and Little Greenbul (also both lifers). We walked on a little and saw a Black-headed Apalis. Further on Martin found us Banded Sunbird (lifer and quite common in the area) and another Moustached Tinkerbird,  We also saw some Fork-tailed Drongos that Martin said was a type that might be split and called Usambara Drongo? Following on we got good views of the Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird (lifer) and a Red-tailed Rufous-Thrush (Ant-Thrush) (lifer). Walking towards the car, we saw more Green-headed Orioles (quite common) and a Kurrichane Thrush. It was now getting serious hot and the birds were getting less active. We moved in to the forest proper and Martin very quickly found us a couple of Short-tailed Batis (lifer).

What a brilliant morning, I kept on ticking of lifers after lifers and ended up on a total of 9 lifers for the morning.

We drove back to camp to relax and get ready for the afternoon birding.

In the afternoon, we walked from camp down to a place a small river crossed the road. Martin knew this was a hangout for East Coast Boubou. We searched for it a while and got good views of it, but no pictures. We also got good views of a Black Sparrowhawk. All in all it turned out to be a fantastic day with a total of 10 lifers. However; this is forest birding, so the pictures did not come out as nice as hoped for

Day 3,  December 20th: Amani Forest Reserve

We met up with Martin early in the morning again. This time we were going towards the Tea plantation. Martin had a special spot there for two very sought after species: Kretschmer´s Longbill and Long-billed Forest Warbler (Tailorbird). We parked the car and Martin immediately picked up the call of the Longbill. We got good views, but no pictures. We turned our attention towards the Forest Warbler. We soon found a pair and they were very accommodating and we both managed to get pictures. Martin and I turned our attention again towards the Longbill while Florence wandered off. We did not get any shots at the Longbill, while Florence managed pictures of both Little Greenbul and Fischer´s Turaco. Martin suggested that we should try another patch of the forest. We parked the car and entered the Turaco trail. The forest was very quiet. We saw a Square-tailed Drongo and a Paradise Flycatcher.

We heard the Sharpe´s Akalat and the White-chested Alethe, but no visuals. Back on the road, we heard the Cabani´s Greenbul and the Evergreen Forest Warbler, but again no visuals. We decided to go back to our original spot and finally we managed to get the Kretchmer´s Longbill out in the open. I also ticked off the Black-bellied Starling  for my Tanzanian list.

We started going back towards camp, but stopped on a little river to look for Half-collared Kingfisher. No luck on the Kingfisher, but the Little Greeenbuls were everywhere. I still did not manage to get a picture though. A little further on, we managed to see a couple of  Red-rumped Swallows (lifer). After we dropped of Martin, we stopped at the little stream just before camp and found 4 Yellow-bellied Waxbills sitting on a branch drying themselves. Also by the stream a Blue-spotted Wood-dove were walking around.

After lunch, Florence decided to do some lazy birding by the cottage, while Martin and I went in search for the East Coast Boubou in order to get a picture. We did not find the Boubou at all. I did manage to get a nice picture of a Purple-banded Sunbird and at the stream a Grey Wagtail. Once back in camp I had a very confiding Silvery-cheeked Hornbill.

I was very happy with the fact that we managed to get both the Kretscmher´s Longbill and the Long-billed Forest Warbler that day. 3 lifers bringing the total up to 13 for the trip.

Here are some pictures from Day 2

Moustached Tinkerbird, Pogoniulus leucomystax (lifer)

Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Anthreptes neglectus (lifer)

Banded Sunbird, female, Anthreptes rubritorques (lifer)

Kenrick´s Starling, Poeoptera kenricki (lifer)

Shelley´s Greenbul, Arizelocichla masukuensis  (lifer)

Short-tailed Batis, Batis mixta  (lifer)

Southern Black Flycatcher, Melaenornis pammelaina

African Pied Wagtail, Motacilla aguimp

Day 4,  December 21th: Amani Forest Reserve

Martin took us further down the road just outside of the gate to the Nature reserve this morning. I was very quiet, but we saw a busy flock of Little Yellow Flycatchers and a African Harrier-Hawk. We walked for a while, but no other birds of interests. On the way back to the car, Martin managed to find a pair of Usambara Hyliotas (lifer). They were very high up in the canopy and it was impossible to get a picture. Just by the car, we were entertained by a couple of White-eared Barbets. Martin took us up a steep path away from the main road and the activity heated up. We managed to get pictures of a Red-tailed Rufous  Thrush, and a decent picture of a Green-headed Oriole. A flock of Chestnut-fronted Helmet-Shrikes were very obliging, followed by Green-backed and Mombasa Woodpeckers. We also saw a Plain-backed Sunbird. We started looking for the Green Tinkerbird, but could not find it. The area was full of Little Greenbuls and I finally managed to get a record shot of one. It was now getting very hot and we decided to get back to the car.

Once at the car, Martin told me about some good locations for the Green Tinkerbird closer to Muheza. I needed petrol, so we decided to go down and look for them. We stopped at 2 places, but could still not find the bird. We saw a Palmnut Vulture flying over. After some refueling of car and body, we returned to Emau Hill without seeing any other birds of interest.

Florence choose to stay behind for the afternoon session so Martin and I went down to the park headquarters again to try to pick up a few missing species. I got some bad shots of a male Banded Sunbird and some Green Barbets. We saw a few Waller´s Starlings, but I did not manage to get any pictures. We picked up Pale Batis, Cabanis Bunting and Red-backed Mannikins before I finally got a lousy picture of a Waller´s Starling. I said goodbye to Martin that afternoon since we were to move on the day after. In hindsight, we should have birded with him the morning after as well.

We had 3 days of very nice birding in the Amani Forest with a total of 14 lifers for me. However; of the 3 days we had very few effective birding hours. The best time was in the early morning. It was still too hot in the afternoons, so very little action. According to Martin, the best time to bird Amani are the months of September and October when most of the birds are breeding and the temperature is lower.

A few words on the Accommodation: Emau Hill is very nicely located although I was a little disappointed with the variety of bird species around camp (maybe due to the time of year). We paid USD 160 pr. night full board. The entire camp is quite rustic and the food is nothing to brag about. They had cold beer and only one bottle of wine (Florence took that), besides that nothing else to drink than water and soft  drinks. They do have electricity 24 hour (solar power). However, the owners are quite new and they are building 2 new huts and are doing a major upgrade to the plumbing of the entire camp. I was told that the butcher in Muheza only slaughtered once a week and due to the fact that they did not have a freezer in camp, meat was hard to come bye. I believe that in a years time the camp would be much better. If you go, make sure you get Martin as a guide, he was fantastic!

Some pictures from Day 3

Long-billed Forest Warbler, Artisornis moreaui (lifer)

Kretschmers´s Longbill (lifer)

Little Greenbul, Eurillas virenc (lifer), Picture by Florence

Purple-banded Sunbird, Cinnyris bifasciatus

Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea

Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Bycanistes brevis

Day 5, December 22: Emau Hill - Emayani Beach Lodge, Pangani.

We had a little later start this day and were on the road around 8 in the morning. We had roughly 40 km to Muheza and another 40 km to Pangani. The road to Muheza is fairly good, but we did not see a lot of birds. The road from Muheza to Pangani was quite bad. The only bird of notice was a Broad Billed Roller (lifer for Florence). Once in Pangani we stocked up on petrol and I was desperately looking for a Liqueur store. My store of whiskey was severely depleted after Emau Hill. Florence told me that I had zero chance of finding a liquer store in this one street town, but I have learned in my l life to never give up and lo and behold I found one. Once we were resupplied, we crossed the Pangani river by ferry. We drove a few km´s from the ferry terminal and took off towards Emayani Beach Lodge. We drove for what seemed like hours before we finally reached the Lodge. We were met by Rama the manager. He proved to be a very nice host. Our cabin was just on the beach and very open. No windows in the window slits, just a nice breeze. It was very nice to feel the breeze after 4 hot days inside the country. Paul Olivier had recommended the place and I can truly recommend it myself. The main reason I was here was to take a boat out to the Maziwe Islands, a small nature reserve, actually not more than a sandbank on high tides about 10 km´s from the coast. Paul had told me that you could get both species of Noddy´s there.

A Belgian run diving operation was located next to the lodge and I went there straight after lunch to enquire about a boat to Maziwe Island. The manager there told me that they have had strong winds the last few days and his chartered were stacked up and he could tell me for sure that he could not take us out to the Island. Wow, such a disappointment. He told me that he would be by our lodge in the evening and he could give us an update then.

On the way back to the lodge, I found a single small tern hunting just by the beach and I managed to get some decent pictures of the bird. This turned out to be a Saunder´s Tern (lifer). In the afternoon, Florence and I walked the beach up to the outlet of a small river. The sandbanks were packed with waders: Little Stints, Terek Sandpipers, White-fronted Plovers, Grey Plovers, Greater Sand Plovers, Lesser Sand Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Common Ringed Plovers, Common Greenshanks, Common Whimbrells and Common Sandpipers. Other than that Sooty Gulls and Common Terns. We returned to the lodge and had a nice dinner.

We met up with the owner for the diving operation and he gave us some names to try. We manage to book an afternoon boat trip on the Pangani River the day after and a trip to Maziwe Island the day after that.

Some pictures from day 4

Red-tailed Rufous Trush, Neocossyphus rufus (lifer)

Green-headed Oriole, Oriolus chlorocephalus

Chestnut-fronted Helmet-Shrike, Prionops scopifrons

Green-backed Woodpecker, Campethera cailliautii

Mombasa Woodpecker, Campethera mombassica (picture lifer)

Pale Batis (female), Batis soror

Cabanis´s Bunting, Emberiza cabaisi

Waller´s Starling, Onychognathus walleri (lifer)

Day 6, December 23: Pangani.

We got up early this morning and tried to bird a little on the roads around camp. However, very few birds around. We soon gave up and returned to the lodge. In the afternoon, we headed for the Pangani River. We were picked up by the boat and was soon on our way. Very few birds initially and the first bird of notice was a Verraux´s Eagle-Owl chick inside a Hammerkop nest. Other birds were African Fish Eagle, Little Egret, Pied Kingfisher and Black-winged Stilt. The most common bird was Common Sandpiper. They seemed to be everywhere. We found a few resting White-throated Bee-eaters before we headed down stream again. The next bird was a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. We found quite a few Mangrove Kingfishers. The final bird of the day was a Malachite Kingfisher. All in all, we had a nice afternoon trip on the river although the number of birds were quite disappointing.

Some pictures from day 5

Saunder´s Tern, Sternula saundersi (lifer)

Greater Sand Plover, Charadrius leschenaultii

Whimbrell, Numenius phaeopus

Day 7, December 24: Maziwe Island

Finally, we were going to Maziwe Island. My hopes were high to find some good birds. We went with a typical local fishing boat. It had 2 outboard engines, but one of them stopped already before take off. It is about 45 minutes to get out to the island, but the trip took us more than 2 hours due to the fact that the other engine kept on stopping and stopping. We were the first boat out from shore but by far the last one arriving at the island. Once close to the island, I saw plenty of birds. Some of them were tern like, but dark brownish, so I knew I would get some Noddys :-). The boat captain rigged a sun tent for us and we were off. We quickly found both Brown and Lesse Noddy (both lifers). The Island also had quite a number of Crab Plovers. I searched and searched the Terns. I knew that Paul Oliver had found a Bridled Tern here, but the only ones I found were Common, Leeser Crested and Swift Terns. However; I got the 2 lifers I was hoping for and it made the trip worth wile. The tide started going down and the birds started to scatter over a bigger area. We enjoyed the day with cold beers and a nice swim in the beautiful blueish water. Soon it was time to go home and sure enough, after 5 minutes we had engine trouble again. To cut a long story short, we were towed to shore.

In the afternoon I took a short stroll on the beach meeting usual suspect waders and also managed to get a Sooty Gull in flight.

This was our last night at Emayani Beach Lodge. We really enjoyed our stay here. The bungalow was very roomy and the balcony was perfect. The food was nice and the hospitality great. We paid USD 160 pr. night full board.

Some pictures from day 7

Some birds seen on day 6

Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos

Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

White-throated Bee-eater, Merops albicollis

Mangrove Kingfisher, Halcyon senegaloides

Day 8, December 25: Emyani Beach Lodge - Saadani Park Hotel

This morning, we were going to Saadani Park Hotel. We drove slowly in order to find some birds on our way. We got some European Rollers before we reached a little pond that held Reed Cormorant, Spectacled Weavers, Wolly-necked Storks and some Yellow-billed Egrets. Further down We saw some Striped Kingfishers and a Black-collared Barbet.  We soon reached our hotel and checked in and had lunch.

In the afternoon, I took a walk on the beach and found the usual suspects of vaders. Nothing really special. I also found a few Caspian Terns. This was at least a new Tanzania specie for me.

Some birds seen on Day 8:

Brown Noddy, Anous stolidus (lifer)

Lesser Noddy, Anous, tenuirostris (lifer)

Crab Plover, Dromas ardeola

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo

Sooty Gull, Ichthyaetus hemprichii

Day 9, December 26: Saadani Park

We had an early morning start in order to get into the Saadani Park. The day started out good with a African Cuckoo-Hawk and a Lizard Buzzard as the first 2 birds. We went a little north in order to enter through the Mkaja Gate. When we got to that gate, we were told that they did not let anybody in through that gate. We turned and went south. Somewhere we missed a turn and ended up on the road to Mkata. We drove and rove and could not figure out why we did not get to the gate. At one point we gave up and started birding some minor roads. We saw Zanzibar Red Bishops, Pale-billed Hornbills, Pin-tailed Whydahs, Lappet-faced Vultures, Yellow-breasted Longclaws, Coastal Cisticola, White-browed Coucal, White-throated and Little Bee-eaters, Red-backed Shrike, A male Pallid Harrier, Namaqua Dove and Long-tailed Fiscal. On the way back to camp, we saw where we took a detour and took the correct road down to the Park. Since it was quite hot already, we did not go into the park. We turned and stopped at the Tent with a view Lodge for some refreshments. This was a beautiful camp, but alas USD 270 pr. person pr. night way above our budget.

We returned to our hotel and had lunch. After lunch I walked a little on the property and ended up at the beach again. All normal vaders were there. I managed to get a picture of the Caspian Tern and also a White-winged Tern.

We had high hopes for this day, but was very disappointed for not seeing more birds.

A note on the Saadani Park Hotel: We paid USD 160 for full board pr. night for the room. The hotel was opened in August 2014 and it already showed signs of bad maintenance. rusty taps etc. Also the finishing of the rooms were not to a good standard. If you make a hole in the wall to fit some plumbing, you usually put the tiles nicely in place again, but here it was only a hole in the wall. It seemed to me that this was a hotel for the locals and that they did not have much experience with foreign visitors. When I booked the room on internet, I was told to go and pay for the room in Dar before we went there. I showed up at their office. They only took cash and could not give me a receipt? I had a long argument about giving away money without a receipt, but to no avail. At least we were expected when we arrived.

Some birds seen on Day 9:

Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Little Stint, Calidris minuta

White-fronted Plover, Charadrius marginatus

Day 10, December 27: Saadani Park - Dar es Salaam

Again and early morning start. We drove to the park gate and continued through the park. We did not quite know how long it would take us, so stuck pretty much with the main road. We hardly saw any birds at all. By the time we exited the park it was very hot and we just drove on straight to our hotel in Dar.

We saw a total of about 150 species on our trip, photographed 80 and I had 17 lifers. I blame the heat that this number is not higher.

I would certainly go back to Amani in the future and I am sure there are a lot more to get from Saadani.

We have already booked our flights fro the next trip to Tanzania. We will be arriving on March 30th 2015 and spend some time around Arusha + Ngorongoro crater and Lake Manyara. Stay tuned for the next report.

Coastal Cisticola, Cisticola haematocephala

Long-tailed Fiscal, Lanius cabanisi

Caspian Tern, Hydropogne caspia