Usambara trip March 27 to April 12

Day 1, Wednesday March 27 – Kiligolf

I had a visitor coming from Thailand to bird with me, Peter Ericsson, a Swede. He has his own birding operation in Thailand. He had never been to Africa, so did not have any special target birds. Basically everything would be lifers for him. I picked him up from Kilimanjaro International Airport. The plane had arrived early, so he was waiting for me outside the airport. He had already connected with his first lifer a Superb Starling. We very quickly understood we were going to have a good time together. We drove quickly on the tar road to Usa River. Did some shopping and headed towards my home at Kilimanjaro Golf & Wildlife Estate ( On the dirt road to my estate we started picking up birds. White Stork and European and Lilac-breasted Roller. Peter was given my guesthouse and after he had unpacked, we sat at the balcony with some refreshments while watching the garden birds coming to my feeder. Yellow-spotted Petronia, Spotted and Southern Black Flycatcher, Spotted Palm Thrush, African Pied Wagtail, Red-billed Firefinch, Klaas´s Cuckoo, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Rattling Cisticola, Superb Starling, Chestnut and Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Chestnut and Vitelline Masked Weaver are all birds that can easy been seen from my  balcony. A little later we decided to go for a bird walk on the adjacent Golf Course. It was still quite hot and not too much activity, but we soon found common birds on the estate like Yellow-billed Kite, Diederik Cuckoo, Red-backed Shrike, Western Cattle Egret, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Purple Grenadier, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu, Barn Swallow, Common Greenshank, Abyssinian White-eye, Brown-throated Martin, Great Egret, African Palm Swift, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Wattled Starling, Red-chested Cuckoo, Speckled Mousebird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Willow Warbler, Grey-backed Camaroptera, African Paradise Flycatcher, Rock Martin, Variable Sunbird, Tropical Boubou and a first one for the estate for me Eurasian Golden Oriole. Due to everything being new Peter birded at a slower speed then what I am used to so we only did half of my normal walk. My good friend and partner Kevin Mlay came to pick us up and we went back to my house for refreshments and dinner. I believe Peter was quite happy with the first day although we only ticket 40 species. We retired early that night.

Some pictures from Day 1:

Red-billed Firefinch, Lagonosticta senegala
Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trocchilus
Chestnut Weaver, Ploceus rubiginosus

Day 2, Thursday March 28 – Dolly Estate, Kiligolf and Lake Duluthi

Fiona Reid who is an avid birder and live on the neighbouring estate invited me and Peter over to bird on her property. At her feeding station we had fantastic views of Red-throated Twinspots. she also had Olive, Amethyst, Variable and collared Sunbird at her Sunbird feeding station. We did a walk on her property and had Grey Olive Greenbul and Northern Brownbul. Other nice birds included Brown-breasted Barbet, Blue-naped Mousebirds and Mountain Wagtail. We went back to my estate and started birding from the Clubhouse. On the way we picked up Yellow-collared Lovebirds and Grey-headed Silverbills. On the walk we added amongst others Yellow-fronted Canary, Western Yellow Wagtail, Magpie Shrike, Long-tailed Fiscal, Thrush Nightingale, Golden-backed Weaver, Bare-eyed Thrush, Yellow Bishop, White-throated Robin (Irania), Buff-bellied Warbler, Namaqua Dove and African Hawk-Eagle. We went back to my house for lunch and enjoyed the birds in the garden. In the afternoon we drove t Lake Duluti and quickly found amongst others, Taveta Weaver, Thick-billed Weaver, Trumpeter Hornbill, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Rüppel´s Robin-Chat, Malachite, Pied and Giant Kingfisher, 

Some Pictures from Day “

Red-throated Twinspot, Hypargos niveoguttatus
African Hawk-Eagle, Aquila Spilogaster
Irania (White-throated Robin, Irania gutturalis
Taveta Weaver, Ploceus Castanaiceps - Endemic to N Tanzania and S Kenya
Thick-billed Weaver, Amblyospiza albifrons
Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Estrilda rhodopyga - Endemic to NE Africa

Day 3 , Friday, March  29 – Lark Plains – Castle Ngorongoro

We had decided to go to the Lark Plains this morning. On the way we picked up White-necked Raven and Augur Buzzard from the car. Once at the Lark Plains, it seemed very slow at first, but then we started finding birds; Red-capped Lark, Taita Fiscal, Capped Wheatear and before we met Saruni our guide, Beesley´s Lark. Other birds of interest on the Lark Plains included Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Short-tailed Lark, Common Rock-Thrush, White-bellied Canary, Common Whitethroat, Greater Kestrel and Montagu´s Harrier. After we finished at the Lark Plains, we drove to Saruni´s Boma. There are some great Acacia woodland there and the birds are always active. We added amongst others Foxy Lark, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Red-fronted Warbler, Von der Decken´s Hornbill, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Banded Parisoma, Kenya Rufous Sparrow, Brubru, Slate-colored Boubou, Rufous Chatterer and Grey-capped Social Weaver. 

It was getting hot, so we decided to leave Saruni´s Boma and head for our next destination which was a hotel close to the Ngorongoro Conservation area. We picked up Kevin Mlay on the way and drove some hours.We picked up the heronry at Mto Wa Mbu and added Yellow-billed Stork and Pink-backed Pelican. birding at the hotel was not great, but we added amongst others Bronzy Sunbird, Northern Fiscal, Black Saw-wing, Tambourine Dove, Southern Citril, Arrow-marked Babbler and Golden Weaver. We also heard the Schalow´s Turaco, but did not see it. The light disappeared and we settled in for a nice dinner and all 3 of us retired quite early

Some pictures from Day 3 (Some of the pictures taken on an earlier visit this year)

Beesley´s Lark, Chersomanes Beesleyi - Endemic to a Engikaret about 45 km north of Arusha, Tanzania
Short-tailed Lark, Pseudalaemon fremantlii - Endemic to NE Africa
Peter, Saruni and me after finding the Beesley´s Lark
Taita Fiscal, Lanius dorsalis - Endemic to NE Africa
Hildebrandt´s Starling, Lamprotornis hildebrandti - Endemic to E Africa
Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Rhinopomastus minor - Endemic to NE Africa
Foxy Lark, Calendulauda alopex - Endemic to NE Africa
Red-fronted Warbler, Urorhipis rufifrons
Grey-capped Social-Weaver, Pseudonigrita arnaudi - Endemic to NE Africa
Kenya Rufous Sparrow, Passer rufocinctus - Endemic to Tanzania and Kenya
White-browed Scrub-Robin, Erythropygia leucophrys
Banded Parisoma, Sylvia boehmi - Endemic to NE Africa
Bronzy Sunbird, Nectarinia kilimensis

Day 4, Saturday March 30 – Castle Ngorongoro – Tarangire – Kiligolf

We set out early to drive a couple of hours to Tarangire National Park. We met Alex Reese and his wife Olga at the gate. Once inside the park we found Rüppel´s and White-backed Vultures, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Northern Red-billed Hornbill, Red-necked Spurfowl, Tawny Eagle, Southern Red Bishop, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Hooded Vulture, Silverbird, African Grey Woodpecker, Martial Eagle, Bateleur, Peregrine Falcon, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Senegal Lapwing, Lappet-faced Vulture, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Ashy Starling, Fischer´s Sparrow-Lark, Woodland Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Desert Cisticola, Collared Pratincole, Southern Ground Hornbill, Green Sandpiper and Black Stork before we stopped for lunch. After lunch we drove through Little Serengeti and added amongst others Cut-throat Finch, Swahili Sparrow, Grey-crowned Crane, White-bellied Bustard. A little later we connected with Black-faced Sandgrouse and White-headed Vulture. All in all we had 5 species of Vulture that day together with 2 very nice Lion Sightings. We exited the gate and drove back to my house for the night.

Some pictures from Day:

Southern Red Bishop, Euplectes orix
Ashy Starling, Lamprotornis unicolor - Endemic to Tanzania
Senegal Lapwing, Vannelus lugubris
Green Sandpiper, Tringa ochropus
Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Pternistis leucosepus - Endemic to NE Africa
Black Stork, Ciconia nigra
Lappet-faced Vulture, Torgos tracheliotos
White-headed Vulture, Trigonoceps occipitalis

Day 5, Sunday March 31 – Kiligolf

This was a day of rest and we just relaxed in my house and my pool. 

Day 6, Monday, April 1 – Kiligolf – Nyumba ya Mungu Dam – Mkomazi NP – Same

Peter and I left Kiligolf early this morning and set off for Same. We stopped outside Moshi for a quick breakfast. After a few hours drive we met Martin Joho at the exit to Nyumba Ya Mungu Dam. We arrived at a spot we usually use before the dam and started birding. It was very hot, but we still picked up Southern Grosbeak Canary, Pink-breasted Lark, White-headed Mousebird, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Pygmy Batis, Red-tailed Shrike, Grey Wren-warbler, Pringle´s Puffback, Black-necked Weaver and Olive Bee-eater. We found another group of birders there lead by Nik Borrow who I had the opportunity to meet for the first time.

We continued to the Dam itself since Peter has an affection for waterbirds. He was very happy to find Kittlitz´s and Three-banded Plovers. At the dam we added White-winged, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns, Black-winged and Zanzibar Red Bishops, Spur-winged Lapwing, Knob-billed Duck, Grey headed Gull and about 300 African Skimmers.

We left the Dam and headed for an area just outside the gate to Mkomazi National Park. This is an area that Martin Joho and I found a couple of years ago. On the way we found an Abdim´s Stork. Once at the site, we picked up Reichenow´s Seed-eater, D`Arnaud´s Barbet, Hunter´s, Tsavo and Black-bellied Sunbird, Golden Pipit, Purple Roller, Eastern Black-headed Batis, Nubian Woodpecker and Eastern-chanting Goshawk. Quite a productive spot. We headed for Elephant motel and had dinner. After dinner we met up with Nik Borrow and had a nice chat.

Some pictures from Day 6

Kittlitz´s Plover, Charadrius pecuarius
African Skimmer, Rynchops flavirostris
Red-backed Shrike (female), Lanius collurio
Golden Pipit, Tmetothylacus tennelus - Endemic to NE Africa

Day 7 Tuesday, April 2 – Same – Magamba Forest East Usambara

We birded in the morning in the area next to Mkumazi National Park. We found Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Black-throated Barbet, Black Cuckooshrike, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, Black-necked and Red-headed Weaver, Black-faced Waxbill, Black-bellied Sunbird, Jacobin Cuckoo, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Somali Bunting, Sombre Greenbul, White-winged Widowbird, Black-headed Oriole, Abyssinian White-eye and Brown Snake Eagle in addition to the birds we saw there the day before. When the sun got to hot, we started the trip towards West Usambara. We stopped for lunch and supplies im Mombo. We were soon on our way again and reached our campsite at Magamba forest in the early afternoon. We quickly set up camp and went birding. It was very quiet in the forest that afternoon, but we managed to pick up Mountain Buzzard, Fülleborn´s Boubou, African Stonechat and Cape Robin-Chat.

Some pictures from day 7

European Rock-Thrush, Monticola saxatilis

Day 8, Wednesday April 3 – Magamba Forest

We had a total of 3 nights in Magamba Forest. This is the place where we normally hear more birds than we actually see. Spot-throat and Evergreen Forest Warbler are 2 such species. Peter also did sound recording and I believe he got good recordings of both these species. We did a morning walk and it was not easy to see many birds. We did get Baglafecht Weaver, Grey Cuckooshrike, Southern Citril, Augur Buzzard, Moustached Tinkerbird, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Waller´s Starling, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Usambara Double-collared Sunbird, Red-capped Forest Warbler, Shelley´s Greenbul, Black-headed Apalis, Black-fronted Bushshrike (Two races), Montane Tiny (Usambara), Black-headed Mountain  and Placid Greenbul, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Red-faced Crimsonwing and Yellow-bellied Waxbill. It was getting hotter and we returned to camp for some food and rest. In the afternoon we added a few more species like Hartlaub´s Turaco and Forest (Short-tailed) Batis. Many of the birds, we only heard and did not see. Quite slow birding. At night, we had a huge bonfire and a nice meal in camp. Again, we retired quite early.

Some pictures from day 8:

Bar-throated Apalis, Apalis thoracica
Black-headed Mountain Greenbul, Arizelocichla nigriceps - Endemic to highland forest in Northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya
Red-faced Crimsonwing, Cryptospiza reichenovii

Day 9, Thursday April 4 – Magamba Forest

This day the birding was a little easier and we both managed to see and get pictures of some species. We quickly managed to get pictures of Bar-tailed Trogon, Red-capped Forest Warbler, twice we had incredible views of Füllerborn´s Boubou, Usambara Akalat (Picture lifer for me), Usambara Thrush, Grey Wagtail, White-starred Robin,  African Hill Babbler,  Cinnamon Bracken Warbler and Yellow-bellied Waxbill. In addition, we saw White-chested Alethe and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater. Not sure what is was, but many of the birds got on to the road and was feeding at something. We never found out what they were feeding on. Quite a successful day and I finally got a picture lifer.

Some pictures from Day 9:

Usambara Thrush, Turdus roehli - Endemic to Usambara and Pare mountains in Tanzania
Usambara Akalat, Sheppardia montana - Endemic to West Usambara Mountainss, Tanzania
Füllerborn´s Boubou, Laniarus Fuelleborni - Endemic to Eastern Arc mountains in Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia
African Hill Babbler, Pseudoalcippe abyssinica
White-starred Robin, Pogonocichla stellata
Bar-tailed Trogon, Apoloderma vittatum
Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea
Cinnamon Bracked Warbler, Bradypterus cinnamomeus
Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Coccopygia quartinia
Two happy birders after a successful day

Day 10, Friday April 5 – Magamba Forest – Amani Forest

We birded a lower area of Magamba Forest this morning without really finding anything new. We set off from Magamba and drove more or less all the way to Amani Forest. The network there was not good, so Martin and Peter went for a birdwalk. I tried to get a new sim card. Of course they found a great bird: Lesser Cuckoo which would have been a lifer for me. Other birds seen that day included Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, White-eared Barbet, Wahlberg´s Eagle, Green Barbet, Moustached Tinkerbird, African Yellow White-eye, Red-backed Mannikin and Southern Citril.

Day 11, Saturday April 6 – Amani Forest

We left early this morning to a new place Martin had found for Kretchmer´s Longbill and Long-billed Forest Warbler (Morau´s Tailorbird). On the way we saw Common Waxbill and Mountain Wagtail. Once we parked the car and started walking, we found several Green Twinspots. I did not have pictures of those from Tanzania so sat in pursuit of one of them to no avail. Soon we were at the Kretchmer´s Longbill spot. Several pairs were vocal, but to get a good picture of this little skulker is not easy. After some time with the birds we walked on to the Long-billed Forest Warbler spot. This bird however posed nicely for a picture. In that patch of woodland we also picked up Green-headed Oriole and Common Cuckoo. We walked back to towards the car stopped at the Longbill site again, we saw the birds thick in the bush, but they refused to come out. On the way back to the car we saw more Green Twinspots and a confiding pair of East Coast Boubou. By the car I saw a Banded Green Sunbird.

We got in the car and headed back to the Amani headquarter. In the afternoon, we did another bird walk around the headquarter. It was actually quite slow, but we picked up species like Waller´s Starling, Diederik Cuckoo, African Harrier-Hawk, Purple-banded Sunbird, Pale Batis, Eurasian hobby, Trumpeter Hornbill, quite a few Eurasian Golden Oriole (on passage?), Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Palm-nut Vulture, Green-backed Woodpecker, Mosque Swallow, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, African Green Pigeon and Kenrick´s Starling

Some pictures from Day 11:

Long-billed Forest Warbler (Moreau´s Tailorbird) - Endemic to Eastern Arc. Mountains of TZ and N Mozambique
East Coast Boubou, Laniarius sublacteus - Endemic to coastal E Africa
Diderick Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx caprius
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Bycanistes brevis
African Harrier Hawk, Polyboroides typus

Day 12, Sunday, April 7 – Amani Forest East Usambara.

Today we focused our birding around the headquarter. We walked the same loop in the morning in the hope of having some better light. However it was recently quiet. We added the following birds to Amani Forest: Square-tailed Drongo, Black-bellied Starling, Thick-billed Weaver, Southern Black Flycatcher, White-browed Coucal, Mombasa Woodpecker, Red-faced Cisticola, Long-crested Eagle, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul and Cardinal Woodpecker. We went back, fetched the car and drove to another patch of forest I had never birded before, we brought our chairs and spent a few hours just relaxing in the forest. We added Striped-cheeked Greenbul and Dark-backed Weaver. We went back to the headquarter for lunch and returned to the previous spot. Green Twinspot, Lemon Dove, African Goshawk and Grey Cuckooshrike were added to our list.

Picture from Day 12:

White-eared Barbet, Stactolaema leucotis

Day 13, Monday April 8 – Amani Forest – Same

Today we were going to bird a different habitat lower down in the forest. The area has a lot of different species than the upper parts we had birded before. We added the following species: Eastern Nicator, Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Little Greenbul, Green-headed Oriole, Fischer´s Greenbul (Picture lifer for me), Red-capped Robin-Chat, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Green Tinkerbird, Green-backed Honeybird, Red-throated Twinspot, Short-tailed (Forest) Batis, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Red-tailed Ant-Thrush, Plain-backed Sunbird and Chestnut-fronted Helmet-Shrike. It was soon time to leave and head for Same. We left Martin in the forest and headed on our way. We stopped for lunch in Mombo and headed at a moderate paste towards Same. We picked up a few birds on the way: Wolly-necked Stork, African Openbill and Black-chested Snake Eagle. We checked in to Elephant Motel in Same and then went for the area next to Mkomazi NP. The light was already leaving fast, so we did not pick up anything of real interest that afternoon.

Pictures from Day 13:

Fischer´s Greenbul, Phyllastrephus fischeri - Endemic to coastal NE Africa - Picture Lifer
Ready to leave Amani Forest.

Day 14, Tuesday, April 9 – Same – Arusha

Today we were going to check out the area just before Nyumba ya Mungu dam. We arrived quite early and started birding. Plenty of birds as always at this spot: Grey Wren Warbler, Crested Francolin, Namaqua Dove, Spotted Palm Thrush, Slate-coloured Boubou, Scaly Chatterer, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Violet-backed Starling, Pringle´s Puffback, Pink-breasted Lark, Common Whitethroat, Green-winged Pytillia, Common Cuckoo, Somali Bunting, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Red-bellied Parrot, Eurasian Hobby, White-headed Mousebird, Hunter´s Sunbird, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Common Rock-Thrush and plenty with European Rollers. It started getting hot and we decided to start our journey back to my house outside Arusha. We arrived at my house in the early afternoon.

Pictures from Day 14:

Pringle´s Puffback, Dryoscopus pringlii - Endemic to NE Africa
Somali Bunting, Emberiza poliopleura - Endemic to NE Africa

Day 15, Wednesday April 10 – Kiligolf – Dolly Estate

Peter and I had a morning walk on Kiligolf. We found quite a few birds: Superb Starling, Magpie Shrike, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Black-crowned Night-heron (new on the estate for me), White-browed Coucal, Pin-tailed Whydah, Western Yellow Wagtail, Long-tailed Fiscal, Blue-capped Cordonbleu, Red-chested Cuckoo, Spotted Palm Thrush, Grey-headed Silverbill, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu, Purple Grenadier, Red-backed Shrike, African Grey Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Slate-coloured Boubou, Bare-eyed Thrush, Vitelline Masked and Chestnut Weavers, Chestnut Sparrow, Gabar Goshawk and Yellow-collared Lovebirds.

Alex Rees invited us to come birding in the afternoon around his house on Dolly estate. We had perfect light in the afternoon and picked up Bare-eyed Thrush, African Hoopoe, African Grey Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Eurasian Hobby, Abyssinian White-eye, Slate-coloured Boubou, Reichenow´s Seed-eater, Chestnut Weaver, White Stork, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Common Whitethroat, Thrush Nightingale and Blue-naped Mousebirds. We had a nice evening with Alex and Olga after the birding.

Pictures from Day 15

Grey-headed Silverbill, Odontospiza griseicapilla - Endemic to NE Africa
Western Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava
African Hoopoe, Upupa africana
Reichenow´s Seed-eater, Crithagra Reichenowi - Endemic to NE Africa

Day 16, Thursday April 11 – Arusha National Park

Our last day birding with Peter we had decided to go to Arusha National Park. We left early from my house and met Kevin Mlay on the way. We drove inside the park and found 3 perched Amur Falcons, at the museum, we added Waller´s Starling, a Juvenile Black Sparrowhawk and White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher. On the slopes up to the Ngurdutu Crater we added White-starred Robin, Tambourine Dove and Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon. We took the right fork and drove to the furthest of the viewpoints. We picked up Hartlaub´s Turaco and Black-fronted Bushshrike. Taking the left fork on the way back, we had Grey-headed Nigrita, Montane White-eye, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater and Green Twinspot.  At the viewpoint we added Black-headed Apalis and quite a few different swifts including Black and Mottled. Also Grey-rumped and Red-rumped Swallows. In the distance we could hear the unmistakable call of Rüppel´s Robin-Chat. We drove down again and connected once more with the Green Twinspots. We drove towards the Momella lakes and did not pick up much new: Spur-winged Goose and Great Egret at a small wetland. At the lakes we got the usual suspects including Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Red-billed and Cape Teal +++. Other birds around the lakes included Rufous-naped Lark, Spur-winged Lapwing, White-browed Coucal, Blue-naped Mousebird, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Foxy Lark. We left the lakes and headed for the slopes of Mt Meru. At the hollow Fig tree, we connected with Brown Woodland Warbler. We drove all the way to the top and had Streaky Seed-eater and Montane White-eye there. We drove down the mountain again and headed for the gate. We had a good day in Arusha NP with 88 species in total.

Some pictures from Day 16

Black Sparrowhawk (juvenile), Accipiter melanoleucus
Hartlaub´s Turaco, Tauraco hartlaubi - Endemic to E Africa
Black-fronted Bushshrike, Chlorophoneus nigrifrons
View from Ndurduto Crater Rim
Green Twinspot, Mandingoa nitidula
Kevin and me at the Fig tree
Montane White-eye, Zosterops poliogastrus - Endemic to NE Africa
Peter and Me at the waterfall at the Picnic Site on Mt. Meru

Day 17, Friday April 12

This was the day when Peter was going back to Thailand. We had 16 days of birding and picked up 369 species where about 330 were lifers for Peter. I believe he was a happy camper when he left. Next major trip will be an epic 6 weeks trip to Uganda and Rwanda, stay tuned for the next trip report