Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More Dickinsons from Mikumi NP

Hi Raptorist, here a few less lucky shots of the same kestrel and its
surrounding. All pics taken in the same minute or so.

Jan van den Hombergh

Manyara Count 31 Jan.


Hi everyone

I'm hoping the "authorities" will count the western shoreline and that the Arusha birders will count the north and the eastern shore as far south as possible.

It's looking unlikely that we will join u so a few tips.

As long as you note the time and the GPS of each start point and agree these points with the other car it is possible to leap frog each other and produce an accurate shoreline count.

If there are 4 cars then create two teams, one to start at halfway and work southwards, if 6 cars, even better 3 teams.

Just how wet are the Oltukai flats ? is the eastern shoreline easily accessible ? can u cross the Makuyuni River close to the shore ? Access from the Kibo camp ?

I've no idea how high the water levels are or where the birds might be concentrated. We did a recce at Mtera but the heavy rains made this worthless and we just had to make the best of what we found on the day.

Ethan, do u have a team or two on this ?

Some phone numbers.

Emilian Kihwele who will organise the western shore count 0784-226622

Kapanya and Colin Beal who will organise the Arusha birders count of the eastern shore.

KK 0784-772688 and 0767-772688. Colin 0684-059123





Neil and Liz Baker, Tanzania Bird Atlas, P.O. Box 1605, Iringa, Tanzania.
Mobiles: 0776-360876 and 0776-360864.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


If you would like to join Africa Have Your Say to debate this topic LIVE on air on Tuesday 26 January at 1600 GMT, please include a telephone number. It will not be published. You can find us on Facebook at follow us on Twitter @bbcafricahys. You can also send an SMS text message to +44 77 86 20 20 08.

From: ethan kinsey
To: tanzaniabirdatlas Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 9:15 AM

Hi Neil,

A lot of conservationists on the birdnet should be aware. There's a forum open on BBC: WORLD HAVE YOUR SAY?

What should Africa do with its ivory?
A Kenyan delegation is in Brussels to stop Zambia and Tanzania trying to sell nearly 120 tonnes of ivory.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will debate the two proposals in March. If allowed, the sale will be the third "one-off" auction of ivory since the world ban, 20 years ago last week.

Tanzania and Zambia intend to spend the money from the auctions on conservation measures. But wildlife organisations are concerned that the levels of poaching will rise unless there is a blanket ban on the sale of ivory worldwide.

Should countries be allowed to sell Ivory they already possess? How should African countries deal with stockpiles of Ivory? Should the ban on Ivory be lifted? Who should benefit from the sale of ivory? Send us your views.

this will interest many of you esp if you are not already aware of what's happening.

as Karl Lymo wrote in the Citizen last week there are concerns that the money raised will not be spent on elephant conservation. there are concerns about recent high levels of poaching as if the bad guys have anticipated the ban being lifted. there are concerns that the Chinese & Japanese buyers (of course) have already paid for this ivory.

the perfect answer would be for western donors (it is their taxpayers who are the most concerned about this, not the 800m Africans) to buy this ivory and to establish an ivory museum in Dar. This would be an instant tourism success and MANY Tanzanians would appreciate being told the FULL story. If handled correctly the whole history of ivory and the slave trade could be illustrated for all to see.

this would instantly take the pressure of our elephants. at least for now (2.6% human population growth is bad news). there will always be elephant deaths, from problem animal control, from natural mortality and from professional hunting but an ivory ban is the only method we have from keeping these deaths within the bounds of "normality".

what sort of msg will this sale send out to western tourists (and taxpayers) who, after all, provide the many $$ to keep Tanzania afloat.



From: Brian Finch

Dear All,

In Kenya, we are familiar with Black-faced Waxbill Estrilda
erythronotus, whereas for most of us we see Black-cheeked Waxbill
Estrilda charmosyna much less frequently, however this is the
widespread species, and it is erythronotus that has a restricted range
in this country. It is common around Nairobi all down to the Tanzanian
border (?), and likewise the distribution extends over the southern
border into the Maasai Mara and Tsavo (?).
Originally the two birds were treated as races of the same species,
although they were separated a long time ago now, but is it possible
that the complex includes a third species!?

I have attached photographs of charmosyna from Kongelai in NW Kenya,
Haberswein in NE Kenya, and Samburu in E Kenya. The most marked thing
about these birds when encountered is that they are so pale by
comparison with erythronotus, and lack red on belly and flanks,
although there is a pink tinge. So that when the birds are illustrated
from south of the equator towards the Tanzanian border areas of Tsavo
and Magadi Road, they are illustrated with the same dark plumage as
erythronotus. It is this that had led me (up to now) to think that
these records of charmosyna in southern Kenya have been mis-identified
or seen badly. As the colouration of the eastern/northern charmosyna
is so very different.

Having just visited Tsavo this past weekend, we located some waxbills
at Sagala Lodge and took photographs of the birds that were inhabiting
the Commiphora/Delonix/Acacia woodland. We were struggling to see a
black throat, on what looked superficially like erythronotus, and try
as we might, whilst the birds had a thin black line across the throat
at the base of the bill, the throat was pale. The birds were fairly
common (especially at owl-mobs), and once captivated by the presence
of an owlet remained confined to a small area and were easier to
study. As far as I know charmosyna is not recorded for Tanzania, but
this form must be found in the contiguous habitat that crosses the
border. (?)

I have attached an image of the typical erythronotus from Nairobi. The
black throat is very extensive and obvious, this is bordered by a
narrow whitish band that borders the lower part of the face patch and
continues across the throat. Overall the bird is dark toned, the
underparts reddish tinged grey across the belly and upper chest, a
deeper red band across the lower breast, striking red flanks, and
blackish lower belly to crissum.
A comparison of the photograph charmosyna (?) attached, that comes
from Sagala Lodge last Saturday, leads to many differences. The face
is black, but the throat is greyish, the birds share the white border
to the black face but this is restricted to the lower edge of the
face, but is absent on the black edge that borders the throat. The
underparts lack red, mainly buffy-grey on the upper chest, shading to
warm buff on the belly becoming paler towards the crissum. There are
no striking red-flanks. Above the two birds are very similar.

Checking the illustrations in Stevenson and Fanshawe, it became very
evident, that the erythronotus painting is incredibly awful, and not
looking anything like a Kenyan member of the species. The extent of
the black on the throat is virtually identical here in erythronotus
and charmosyna, and this poor representation will only lead to
confusion for anyone attempting to identify the species. The only
difference shown is dark as opposed to pale lower belly to undertail
coverts, and a subtle difference in flank colouration. I then examined
Zimmermann and Turner, where the differences were much better
illustrated, having used a bird resembling northern pale charmosyna,
although again the erythronotus isn’t very impressive as regards to
accuracy in colour it does at least show the extent of the black

Comparing my photographs of typical northern and eastern charmosyna
with these southern birds, many features are shared, absence of red on
chest and flanks, both with paler underparts than erythronotus, and
paler lower belly to undertail coverts, but the northern and eastern
birds show a very contrasting white throat and white forehead, as
opposed to greyish. They do not show any black line across the throat
at the base of the bill unlike the noticeable narrow black line of
southern charmosyna (?). Their lower belly/undertail coverts region is
much whiter, and overall the ground colouration is much paler.
Southern birds are robust and dark-hued, not as dark as erythronotus,
but nothing as pale as northern and eastern charmosyna, which also
appear smaller, and much slighter and delicate in the field. The
general appearance of southern charmosyna (?) is almost as robust as

There is obviously a lot to learn about these three forms in Kenya,
the southern form of charmosyna (?) having never been described. With
the claim that dark charmosyna have occurred sympatrically with
erythronotus on the Magadi road, such studies can start on our
This is only a preliminary “wake-up” to make birders aware of the
interesting situation, wherever there is a “?” it means that now we
need confirmation of the record.
I have attached a selection of photographs of charmosyna from various
locations, I apologise for the standard, but they all tell the story.
It would be of interest if everyone could dig out their erythronotus
and charmosyna photographs and see what they have.
Please look carefully at all of the Black-faced/cheeked Waxbills met
with in this country, and in border areas with Tanzania, and report on
what form is where, and especially if there is any area of sympatry.

Best to all

Dickinson's Kestrel

This excellent flight shot of a juvenile (Beautiful clean fresh plumage with clear pale trailing edge to flight feathers.And russet feather edging to contour feathers on back. They also seem to have creamier coloured heads) by Jan van den Hombergh prompted this map. Print it and compare it with that of Grey Kestrel.

Any records of both species from the same locality (more or less) on the same day would be much appreciated.

Nice one Jan.

Neil and Liz Baker, Tanzania Bird Atlas, P.O. Box 1605, Iringa, Tanzania.
Mobiles: 0776-360876 and 0776-360864.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hi all
Several recent records from Iringa sq, more or less the southern limits for this bird.
Did we have more this season due to the drought in Kenya ? will they have returned following these good rains ?
As anyone seen NUMBERS ?

Yaida birding - Af Broadbill, Gideru Ridge

this sms in from Jo Anderson

First exciting record for 2010, Af Broadbill, Gideru Ridge, Yaeda. Also Saker and lots of great birds. Yaeda valley open WATER.

This is the first record from 3503C, the nearest being from Manyara NP in 3503B and D.

Most records from Yaida have come from Daudi Peterson (an amazing 6,563 from a square total of 9,410). Daudi, did you ever bird this site Jo mentions ?

Jo. hopefully you have Georeferenced this locality.

Would be good to have a feel for waterbird numbers in Yaida, breeding could be important as the water recedes and the vegetation grows. Do keep an eye out for Black-necked Grebes.


Neil and Liz Baker, Tanzania Bird Atlas, P.O. Box 1605, Iringa, Tanzania.
Mobiles: 0776-360876 and 0776-360864.

Grey Kestrel

I always enjoy seeing this bird, it's really neat, almost cute.
This one photographed recently by Mike Webster appears to lack the bright yellow eye patch so might not be a full adult.
While the literature coverage is quite poor it does appear as though this bird has expanded its range eastwards in recent decades and it now overlaps with Dickinson's Kestrel at both square and site level.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

First TZ Eur. Wryneck - photos

Find attached two images of the Eurasian Wryneck I found at the SW corner of
Small Mommella Lake, Arusha NP, on 11th Jan.

Sadly they are a little unsharp as the bird was moving quickly through the
trees after taking off from the ground and the autofocus had difficulties
finding the bird against the foliage. Nevertheless, I hope that you can see
that it is clearly Eurasian rather than Red-throated on account of the pale
throat, which shows some faint barring, and the dark streak through the eye.

Hopefully the bird will stick around for other observers to enjoy.

All the best,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Humblot's Heron is still in the Selous

Hi all

Mark Johnson has written in to let us know that the Humblot's is still in the Selous and still twitchable at $75 / day, entrance fee only !!!!


PS..Mark, any new pics of this bird ?

Mtera birding

Hi all

We counted the southern and eastern shoreline of Mtera at the weekend. Huge dark storm clouds all around us, heavy rain, esp to the west and the water level visibly rising. Given that this reservoir is 660km2 at 700m that's a lot of new water flowing in.

Highlights included a single flock of skimmers counted at 320 (3.2% of biogeographical population, 1.6% of global population) but photos will hopefully give us a more accurate count. Initially they were among >1,000 Grey-headed Gulls so difficult to count. I deliberately disturbed them and they separated out, wonderful sight, magical beasts. Greater Flamingos were scattered along the shoreline in small flocks, total close to 1,450 (4% of bio pop, BUT THIS POP OF 35,000 is, I THINK, AN UNDERESTIMATE, THE TRUTH BEING CLOSER TO 50,000 AND PERHAPS EVEN MORE)...

Button Quail with tiny chicks was an excellent breeding record and 2 Red-throated Pipits also worthy of note.

Rising water levels meant far fewer waders than 2 weeks ago..where do all these birds go when the whole country is in flood ??


Which Longclaw?

Hi Neil,

Anna, Kate and I were birding the Seronera area of Serengeti at Xmas -
oh the views of lesser kestrels, very exciting for me - and the
harriers... though we didnt get up to 53...

Anyway... Anna and I got these foties of two different longclaw
individuals. They have to be yellow-throated, right? It's just that we
were struck by how orangey their throats were (more so to the naked
eye than conveyed in the photos), and then got worried that the yellow
stripe doesnt extend too far behind the eye. (And then started musing
on these westward movements that are being observed in some other
spp). They're not Pangani longclaws are they? Sorry, I'm no fundi on
these birds and a bit lacking in decent books just now - can you

All photos: Trevor Jones

Eurasian Wryneck - NEW for Tanzania!

Adam Kennedy just phoned this in. New for TZ, photos to follow.

SW corner of Small Momella, well worth the effort to try for this if u live in Arusha.

Neil and Liz Baker, Tanzania Bird Atlas, P.O. Box 1605, Iringa, Tanzania.
Mobiles: 0776-360876 and 0776-360864.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Heavy flooding in Kilosa and Shinyanga!

For those of you out counting waterbirds, be aware!

From ippmedia: See link above for full story;

"It is meanwhile reported that 429 people have been rendered homeless following downpours in Bariadi District, Shinyanga Region.

According to Bariadi district executive director Digamagariga Sedoyeka, the destructive rains ran on for some five hours non-stop and left many households homeless and short of food and other basic needs.

The worst affected areas include Saranda, Kidinda, Lubeka, Jipoya, Viwandani, Kisesa, Igongwa, Nyankaka and Imalaseko, he said.

“Before this disaster, most households had enough food but things are different now. Virtually all the foods has been washed away or rendered unfit for human consumption by the floods,” elaborated the DED.

He said that various agencies have moved in and extended humanitarian assistance to the people affected by the floods “but we would appreciate much more material and other help because the problem is very serious”.

The district council is reported to have chipped in with emergency supplies, chiefly maize and beans, as more formal assistance is awaited.

Sedoyeka further explained that the rains also made Bariadi River burst its banks “which threw into disuse the pipes meant to supply Bariadi town with tap water”.

Meanwhile, President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday sent a message of condolence to victims of the massively destructive floods in Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, which have left a number of people dead and wreaked havoc on houses and infrastructure.

At least 813 houses have been destroyed so far and 4,819 others are surrounded by flood water, leaving thousands of people without shelter.

Most of the flood victims are putting up in makeshift structures in different parts of the district.

Delivering the message, Morogoro Regional Commissioner Lt Col (rtd) Issa Machibya said the president was hugely saddened by the damage caused by the floods over the last week.

More than 9,000 people have been rendered homeless since floods started incessantly hitting Kilosa District.

The RC said the number had increased from 8,008 four days ago and all the homeless are accommodated in 15 camps."

Chestnut-banded Plovers at Eyasi

just came back from the lake shore and counted 79 Chestnut-banded Plovers along 350m of shore line, most of them concentrated on a 150m stretch where a little river flowed into the lake coming from our land.
Flamingos slowly coming in as are lots of waders.

Also have had quite a few Greater Reed Warblers around.

yes, this rain will change the dynamics considerably.

79 chestnuts in only 350m of shoreline is excellent data. It will be really interesting to hear how many are at Natron and Manyara.

really hope u can count several km of lake shore, at least 5k either side of you please. have u anyone lined up to help u with this count ?

Great Reed Warblers in dense wet vegetation ? what habitat exactly ? are they very noisy ?

great stuff and many thanks


Ngorongoro from space

You can virtually see the flamingos in the caldera, enjoy the view!

Dead nightjars and owls

Every Atlas suffers from a shortage of records for nightjars and, to a lesser extent, owls simply because so few people drive at night and even fewer camp on a regular basis.

With digital cameras so common place u can all help rectify this by taking time out to photograph any dead birds you come across. All we need are a wing and the tail, both spread to show individual feathers. Most species can then be identified and sexed. Some, such as this ???? are easier than others.


Neil and Liz Baker, Tanzania Bird Atlas, P.O. Box 1605, Iringa, Tanzania.
Mobiles: 0776-360876 and 0776-360864.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Iringa Harriers roost!

There were 53 harriers at the Iringa airport roost last night, all of them roosting on the runway !!!


Rain report Jan 10 from Jo

Happy New Year all.

And the rain continues to fall all over serengeti and ngorongoro!

Lake magadi ngng - full
Malanja depression - filling fast
Olbalbal depression- full and overflowiing
Lake manyara - filling fast
Engaruka depression - nearly full

Waterbird counting could be challenging! . . .

Plenty of abdims euro stork white wing terns harriers etc etc

More later


Monday, January 4, 2010

the champ squares of Tanzania

Hi everyone
As the new year approaches it brings new challenges and for the Atlas this surely means hitting some of those knowledge gaps.
These two maps give a feel for the well worked squares and those less well worked with fewer than 300 species.
There are very few 600 species atlas squares in the world, to have 3 is testimony to your fantastic efforts over the years and our magical birdlife.
Keep those records coming. One million not so very far away now.
Neil and Liz Baker, Tanzania Bird Atlas, P.O. Box 1605, Iringa, Tanzania.
Mobiles: 0776-360876 and 0776-360864.

African bird book with a difference

Having made 3 serious visits to Tanzania there will be much about our birds in this fascinating book by Martin Woodcock.

We have many of our own stories about Martin that bring back wonderful memories. The photograph shows him "working" in Minziro FR in July 87 when he should have been concentrating on greenbuls and illadopsis for the Birds of Africa. As you can see he did not ignore the trogons (and the kingfishers, owls, sunbirds, thrushes, warblers etc) we were catching at the time.

Liz often recalls Martin watching a Forest Batis for the first time in her garden in Mufindi. He looked at this bird in the canopy for only a few minutes and then sketched it and, with water colours, produced an instant field painting. Later that same morning Liz caught this bird. With bird in hand to compare, Martins picture was feather perfect, quite astonishing.

Martin might not mention in this book that he sings choral music in his spare time. Around the camp fire on the Zambian border (11 species of sunbird in camp) in November 1990 we got a little tired of our great friend Billy Cooper as his Scottish laments degenerated as the beer flowed so Martin, to great amusement, sang the Birds of Africa.......

and of course behind every great man there is always a special lady, Barbara we hug you.


January waterbird counts

Hi all

I'm hoping most of you have made firm plans to count at least some sites.

Attached is what might be considered a list of target species. These are those on the AEWA watch list, the species of conservation concern for which member states are charged with maintaining or improving the species "conservation status".

Take a note of the 1% levels for these species. If any site looks like meeting them please try and count as accurately as possible and even consider proving these numbers rather than spending time on other more difficult birds.

Most of all, enjoy.


Neil and Liz Baker, Tanzania Bird Atlas, P.O. Box 1605, Iringa, Tanzania.

20 White storks in Lake Natron

I hope that everybody had a wonderful start of New Year 2010. I saw a small flock of 20 White storks in Lake Natron, 2 km South of Ngorongoro District gate. Birds seemed to be recuperating after a dangerous and tidious journey.




Lesser Flamingo breeding ??

Hi everyone

sms in this morning from Jo Anderson in the Crater.

Many Lesser Flamingos displaying. This rain should generate masses of food in Manyara so please let us know if they are displaying there as well.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bertram's Weaver buried in note books?

Hi all

Another new year so I'll be looking afresh at our most threatened birds and those habitats they need for their continued survival.

I recently circulated the current Birdlife / IUCN red data list and I'll be sending out the AEWA waterbirds to watch list soon but I also want us to think about those species not listed, the ones that might fall through what ever conservation net exists to try and catch them.

Beesley's Lark is top of this list but....there will be others so please shout if any come to mind.

Bertram's Weaver is quite high on this particular list. It must be in far more trouble in Malawi than the books suggest, especially after their green revolution. By subsidizing the price of fertilizer Malawi has gone from a poor importer of food to a still poor net exporter and this will have been achieved at the expense of the environment and this will include destroying marginal habitat previously occupied by this species.

Too early to say just how tough it is in Tanzania for this species but, what what we continue to see, it does not look good. OK, hardly anywhere actually "looks good" so all we can really do is alert those that might listen in every particular case.

If there are any records of Bertram's Weaver buried in note books I would much appreciate them. This bird occupies a tiny proportion of its range, rather like Chestnut-banded Plover around the edge of our Rift Valley lakes the weaver exists only around the edge of our montane forests and the remnant streamside vegetation in the immediate vicinity of these forests.

as ever, comments most welcome.


January 2010 GAPS

Hi everyone,
Attached is the January 2010 GAPS map to help you plan birding trips for the start of the New Year!
Arusha residents could target 3604B Nabarera and 3704C the Kitwei plain.
3707B (south of Morogoro) is reachable on the Mgeta rd not far from the main highway.
Dar residents might like to try and get into the Maneromango sq - 3807B.
West of Singida's squares 3404C and 3405A are both January gaps (hint for Marian).
If anybody is travelling to Tabora - there is a very wide choice !
Those of us based in Iringa will have aim further afield.
Good luck

New Years birding Iringa style

Hi all

Well, despite the good intentions it was a slooow start to the day and we did not finish breakfast until after 8 !! the garden provided the first 30 birds of the day, Little Bittern. we have a Palearctic migrant more or less resident (if it's the same bird of course) and it showed well early on. The real surprise was a Ground Hornbill in flight between the hills. We headed south to Litemela Dam on the Kilenga to Kiponzela road to count the waterbirds (IT IS JANUARY.... REMEMBER) and to add Osprey to the list (our lads found it last week) and then further south to try for Locust Finch on the edges of those upland swamps. The only surprise at Litemela was a pair of Pale Flycatchers, not an easy bird here. Before we tried the rather wet swamps we climbed into the hills and some good Miombo at 1900m. Miombo Rock Thrush, Miombo Sunbird and Wing-snapping Cisticola with superb views of Churring Cisticola and Fulleborn's Longclaw. Only 2 Uhehe Fiscal sightings along the base of the ridge, never a guaranteed bird. The swamp was far too wet and agriculture, maize, squash and potatoes on ridges at the very edge of the water so nothing left for any Locust Finches and we did not have time to try adjacent swamps. Zitting Cisticolas in breeding plumage, seriously smart birds, were good obs here with distant geese, ducks and a Purple Heron. A Wahlberg's Honeybird was the pick of the roadside birds on our way home for a late lunch and a short snooze !!!

Some local guys at the edge of the swamp knew Wattled Crane but had not seen them in recent years, they now have our cell number and 10,000/- waiting for them just in case.

Mid afternoon we headed north-east past the airport on a road (a real BA one this) we had not used before in search of a vlei only known to us from the maps. There is still good bush in this general area between the Dodoma and Morogoro roads but the charcoal boys and kuni cutters are working their way through it. The vlei, Lambiloli Swamp was a revelation. We were on the western edge of what must be a 45km2 short grass mbuga with the local dark orange Acacia seyal along the northern edges. The first Denham's Bustard for Iringa square (where have all these bustards come from these past few months, quite remarkable) was quickly followed by the first Caspian Plover, associating with 7 Temminck's Coursers. Close views of a Grasshopper Buzzard (only the 2nd for Iringa) as we left the swamp was also rather neat. It was now getting late and we needed to be at the airport before the harriers began arriving. We only found this roost last week on our return from Mtera. This time we made it just before the first of the harriers arrived. There are at least 36 birds using this roost now. Most are Montagu's with many Eurasian Marsh and a few Pallid's, the latter our 15th raptor for the day. 128 species, a good beginning, hope yours went just as well.


Neil and Liz Baker, Tanzania Bird Atlas, P.O. Box 1605, Iringa, Tanzania.