Tanzania Travel Diary - p 7

Woodland Kingfisher14 April 2008
    Our morning game drives end just after noon.  We return to the lodge in blistering mid-day sun.  It sits almost straight overhead here close to the equator.
    We have lunch in the open-air dining room, watching a parade of birds drinking and bathing at the water fixture nearby.  The most common are Superb Starlings and Fischer's Lovebirds, with a generous sprinkling of Ring-necked Doves, Black-lored Babblers, Red-billed Buffalo Weavers, Blue-capped Cordonbleus, Yellow-fronted Canaries, and the occasional Black-headed Oriole.
    Then it's off for a nap until 4 p.m., when the light becomes sweet again.  My favorite afternoon game drive takes us through more woodland along a watercourse west of the lodge. 
    A few steenbok and a herd of elephants hang out here, but the birds again take center stage:  Tawny Eagle, Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Speckle-fronted Weavers, White-browed Coucal, Speckled Mousebirds, Ground Hornbill, Von der Decken's Hornbill, and some nice finches:  more cordonbleus and nest-building Purple Grenadiers.
    The most confiding is another handsome kingfisher, the Woodland Kingfisher. 

Yellow-necked Spurfowl

One bird that I never expected to photograph is Yellow-necked Spurfowl.  This one hopped up on a snag and just wouldn't go away until I took a photo.  It, along with the more common Grey-breasted Spurfowl, delights in running along the road, just a few feet ahead of the Landcruiser.     
    Neither is as numerous, though, as Helmeted Guineafowl, whose main function here seems to be to tell everyone where predators like leopards are.  If the guineafowl are in the tree, the predator is on the ground, and vice versa.


Two-banded Courser

It never fails.  You travel to a faraway country only to find that some bird that never warranted a second glance in the field guides proves to be the most charming and photogenic.  For me it's the little Two-banded Courser, as cute as a button.
    Coursers behave like our killdeer, but are typically desert birds of Africa and Asia.  Another species, Temminck's Courser, is also common here.  The latter was named after Coenrad Temminck, a very busy Dutch biologist of the 1800s.  His name is borne by a shark, 7 fish, 16 birds, and 7 mammals.


Black-shouldered Kite

16 April 2008
    Out onto the plains for our evening drive today.  Mixed herds of wildebeest and zebras have lingered here on the fringe of the Serengeti plains due to rains that keep the grass green and grazing animals well-fed.  The calves that were born in February add to the herd, who will start moving north any day now, Steven says. 
    But again the birds attract the eye and the camera.  Dozens of larks, mostly Rufous-naped but also Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks fly up as we drive along.  Birds of prey, however, are more tempting.  Pygmy Falcon posed in an acacia thicket, but I couldn't resist this nice Black-shouldered Kite, well lit by the afternoon sun.



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