Tanzania has a very high diversity of birds, with more than 1000 species being recorded in the country. A range of landscapes and habitats, have been visited during this field course, allowing for an extensive species list with many highlights.
The field course started at the college of African Wildlife Management, Mwaka. Located on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro, the college grounds were packed full of birds including many highland species. Collared and Varied Sunbirds fed on the large number of flowering plants in the gardens. Multiple pairs of Silvery-cheeked Hornbills were present and could be seen sitting high in the dead trees scattered around, while White-rumped Swift and Rock Martin nested on the college buildings.
We then left the lush green highlands of the college and arrived at Kwakachinja, a much drier, lowland area made up of open grassland and bush. This habitat held a whole range of different species. As the breeding season is coming to an end, large mixed flocks of passerines were passing through the area. These were packed full of different species such as Weavers, Starlings, Flycatchers, Orioles and Woodpeckers. In one of these mixed flocks an interesting piece of behaviour was observed as a Baglefachets Weaver repeatedly fed an adult Diderik Cukoo. Some misting netting was also carried out at this site and a few interesting birds were caught including, two African Pygmy Kingfishers, two Paradise Flycatchers and a Square-tailed Nightjar, that was dazzled and hand caught.
From Kwakachinja, various day trips were carried out, the first of which was to Tarangiri National Park. There was an abundance of raptors present at this reserve, with six species of eagle and four species of vulture seen. Other highlights included iconic African species such as Marabou Storks, Southern Ground Hornbills, Hammerkop and the African Crowned Crane.
A trip to Lake Manyara produced 1000s of wetland birds, including 100s of Great White and Pink-backed Pelican roosting on the shore as well as Greater and Lesser Flamingo feeding out on the lake, alongside Herons, Storks and Ibis. Another stand out species was a couple of Chestnut-banded Plover feeding on the mud flats. This is a soda lake specialist with a very limited distribution, only being found at a small number of sites.
After six days at Kwakachinja we moved onto the Ngorognoro crater. The camp site was located in the highlands surrounding the crater, here, species such as the Mountain Greenbul and the White-naped Raven were present. As we travelled down into the crater Capped and Schalous Wheatear could be seen perched on rocks and shrubs. On the crater floor, the heaviest flying (Kori Bustard) and the world’s largest bird (Common Ostrich) were both present, as well as the snake stomping Secretary bird. All of these sites put the species list up to over 200 birds, with still the Serengeti to go.