This morning on a scheduled birding drive along the banks of the Grumeti River, within our Grumeti Luxury Tented Camp concession area, one of the first sighting of the day was a Narina Trogon (Apaloderma narina). This bird is listed as being very rare in the region, and nowhere in Africa is it particularly common. For the last month or so I have been keeping a birding list of actual bird sightings along our bird routes and in and around the camp in order to get a sense of what is around. This is distinct from the generic bird list covering any potential sighting and numbering over 450 species. I have logged an impressive total of over 100 species in that time, and I have been looking for an opportunity to make a bit of a noise about it. When a Trogon landed on the list I though this was probably about as good as it gets, and so the time had come to shoot out a quick blog to alert you all to our in-house birding program.
Grumeti River is prime birding habitat
The Grumeti River in probably one of the most rewarding birding destinations in Africa. It does not offer the kind of vast, mono-species numbers associated with phenomenon like the lake flamingo populations in Kenya or Botswana, or the ganets of the Western Cape, but in terms of the sheer diversity of woodland and riparian species it is quite extraordinary. In my experience as a bird watcher in Africa I can recall to mind only a handful of places that have stood out. The Chimanimani in Eastern Zimbabwe is one of these, Gorongosa in Mozambique another, Chobe River in Botswana another, and of course the Okavango Delta itself among the best. However I think the Grumeti River competes very well with all of these. It offers a classic African riverine environment, dominated by acacia and fig tree species, but also offering stretches of gallery forest and dense thickets and open wooded grassland on the edges. At the end of this blog I have included my personal list as mentioned above. This of course does not include the ubiquitous ‘little brown jobs’ among which prinia and cisticola are the usual suspects, but does list quite a few common, and even mundane species, along with some unique and quite startling encounters that all birdwatchers look forward to.
What to expect at Grumeti
On a bird-watching trip staged from Grumeti Luxury Tented Camp there are two possible options, and over the course of a few days we will usually cover both. These are the acacia/commipora woodland habitat that makes up the bulk of the wildlife reserve and the riparian forest that comprises the banks of the Grumeti River itself.
Quite apart from the Narina Trogon, which, lets face it, is a once, twice or at the most three times in a lifetime sighting, commonly seen birds are the woodland and riverside kingfishers, the butterfly-like Grey Helmet Shrike, the rather common van der Dekken’s Hornbill, the superbly loquacious Slate Coloured Boubou, and this morning alongside the Narina Trogon I spotted a small brace of Green Pigeons. I also regularly see Brown Parrots, and once or twice an African Orange Bellied Parrot, and I had the great pleasure a few days ago of enjoying a long tete-a-tete with a most beautiful pair of Pearl Spotted Owlets.
Raptors are also well represented. The Bateleur Eagle is an ever present regular, and is the African Fish Eagle, but such delightful encounters as with a Sooty and Eleanora’s Falcon, Grey Kestrel and Shikra are not uncommon. Among the larger raptors the Tawny Eagle is perhaps the most common, but I regularly sight Steppe Eagle, Long Crested Eagle and I believe, although it is unconfirmed, that a Martial Eagle touched down in camp recently. There are, of course, many others, but these are the day to day sightings. Cuckoos and oddities. At around about this time of the year (June/July) the cuckoos begin to arrive. The expanses of woodland are suddenly replete with the endlessly repeated and plaintive calls so easily associated with this elusive species. From their calls I have identified Jacobin, Lavaillant, Black, Emerald, African, Klaas and Diederick’s Cuckoos. Quite a haul for a single area! Other exciting little snippets have been the unusual local turacao, the Plantain Eater, an Anualts Barbet, a Spotted Creeper, both the Eastern and the Southern Black Flycatchers and a Grey Woodpecker which is common around here but a bit of a novelty for me. So this in a nutshell is birding at Grumeti Luxury Tented Camp. For anybody with any interest in local birding, or who would like any information about birding in East Africa, and Africa in general, drop me a line and I would be happy to help organise a trip out here.
This is a general and ongoing list of bird species to be found at the Grumeti Luxury Tented Camp in the Grumeti Reserve of Northern Tanzania…