Monday, October 26, 2009

White-headed Vulture and Kingani wetlands

White-headed Vulture/Kingani wetlands, Bagamoyo

Once stirred from my slumber there is no stopping me...

Forgot to tell you that I saw a White-headed Vulture in Mikumi two weeks ago, sitting on a nest high in a baobab close to Wanambogo Dam. This might be a big yawn to you bird fundis but just in case you're interested, I am letting you know...

On a more important matter, re. Fiona Reid's recent email about the desecration of the wetlands just beyond Bagamoyo, the area, as well as being an important bird habitat, is (or ought to be) of some historic importance. One of the two main trade/exploration routes between Bagamoyo and the Lakes passed through the area. Outbound caravans, once porters had been hired in Bagamoyo, would get them all out of town while they were still sober and set up camp three miles beyond the town, close to the Kingani as the Ruvu was (is?) known there. They camped in a place called Gonera's Shamba, after the Indian widow who owned it. Henry Morton Stanley, one of various explorers who stayed there, writes:

"On the north, just behind the house, winds a black quagmire, a sinuous hollow, which in its deepest parts always contains water — the muddy home of the brake-and-rush-loving “kiboko” or hippopotamus. Its banks, crowded with dwarf fan-palm, tall water-reeds, acacias, and tiger-grass, afford shelter to numerous aquatic birds, pelicans, &c".

Stanley also writes, after crossing the Kingani:

"At our approach fled in terror flocks of green pigeons, jays, ibis, turtledoves, golden pheasants, quails and moorhens, with crows and hawks, while now and then a solitary pelican winged its way to the distance".

He was obviously almost as good a birder as I am (I still use his bins, incidentally...)

Seriously, the area is important and if possible should be saved. Imagine bird walks in the footsteps of HM Stanley & Co... Bagamoyo (which as we know is pretty dear to the President's heart) is hoping to be classed as a World Heritage Site by the UN. It will probably only be seriously considered in conjunction with the trade/exploration routes I have just mentioned. And a prime birding habitat on its outskirts would surely help.


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