Thursday, 27 February 2014


A look at the high tide roost produced c.90 redshank, c.130 oystercatchers, 70 dunlin and a big count of 28 sanderling along the water's edge plus 30-40 turnstones and 1 g.c.grebe on the sea. By the pumping station, c.10 teal, 3 mallard and 1 chiffchaff next to the road.  Further on by the Sportsman, 84 brents, c20 curlew on the back field, no sign of the hoodie, a couple of stock doves etc.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Hooded Crow at Seasalter.

22nd-23rd Feb.

Met Mike Roser by the 'rise' near the Sportsman PH and from there saw the hooded crow at the back of the sheep field where it has been for a few days it would seem. I took some distant record shots during the morning of Sunday.

The End of the Whale.

21st. Feb.

The Sperm whale hadn't been swept out to sea as thought yesterday when found beached on Sheppey, in fact  the following tide had moved over to the Seasalter side of the Estuary as seen today.  The Coastguards gathered by  the YC and from there monitored operations as a tug from Sheerness came to tow the poor creature back  to a dry dock at Sheerness for an autopsy.

At first light seen stranded about one mile out on the mud just off Seasalter YC.

 At midday the tug crew secured a line around its tail.

Apparently, the tow was completed to the Sheerness dry dock that afternoon where its age was thought to be about three years by the experts. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Tanzanian Safari - finish

24th - Lunchtime
Sorry the last part of yesterdays blog was corrupted somehow so I'll continue again from that point.

We had arrived at Olduvai gorge, the birthplace of mankind. A busy place with many people looking around the museum founded by Mary Leaky in the late 1970s, which exhibits many of the unearthed fragments of bones and tools etc. of early man. Excavations by Louis and Mary Leaky in the 1930s revealed four distinct types of hominid showing increases in brain size and advances in their stone tools.  The gorge was a lake millions of years ago surrounded by volcanic ash and c.500,000 years ago seismic activity diverted a nearby river which cut down into the sediments revealing the seven main layers in the gorge.

There was  open air lecture about the origins of the gorge and the work of the Leakys together with their findings followed by our lunch break. Whilst there, a commotion in the small carpark as one of the Maasai 'guards' was chasing and subsequently killed a black mamba snake, highly poisonous. If bitten you only have ten minutes to get anti venom which does not always have a successfull outcome apparently, hence the importance to 'neutralize' it. I had the pleasure to be introduced to Terry Stevenson, author of' The Birds of East Africa' (the best book) who was seemingly on a private tour with a small group. We were parked next to his vehicle and our driver new his driver as they were at college together which gave us the opportunity. It wasn't the place to bird but a few were noted as per photos.

 Streaky Seedeater? Not sure, colouration seems wrong.

Vitelline Weaver.

After a little walk around we continued our drive onward and literally upwards to pass through a high area with lovely green grass and a couple of Maasai villages that we had seen on the way out.

Good grazing for these Maasai cattle in this high pasture.

Finally, at 3.30pm we arrived at the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge set on the top of the rift valley with a lovely view from our room overlooking  Lake Manyara. The lake itself is only a couple of feet deep in the centre and it often dries out as is only fed  by rainfall plus a few springs bubbling out from base of the scarp. The rest of the day was spent looking around the lodge grounds and generally taking it easy.

Room with a View.

Next morning before our game drive, a quick look from the veranda produced; Easter violet-back starling, streaky seedeaters, citril finch, speckled mousebirds, baglafecht weavers, fiscal shrike,grey hornbill, rock martins, mottled swifts etc.. A short drive down from the high scarp brought us to the park entrance which is heavily wooded and continues like this for some way towards the lake. It was better birding than I thought with hornbills, barbets. village indigo birds, vultures, eagles and pelicans to name a few, flamingoes were too distant to see as the lake had retreated some distance from the shoreline.

 Streaky Seedeater

 Eastern Violet-backed Starling

African Citril - colours in book show them as yellow?

 Sykes or Blue Monkey

 Crowned Hornbill

 Silvery-cheeked Hornbill

Forest Wagtail

 Violet-backed Starling

 Spot-flanked Barbet

Black Bishop

 Great White Pelicans

 Emerald-spotted Wood Dove

Grey Headed Kingfisher

Pangani Longclaw

 Isabelline Shrike

Wildebeeste- pale form found at L.Manyara

Back to the lodge for lunch then a bit of a rest as it was quite hot and humid then at 4.00pm 'a walk with a naturalist' was on the programme.  This young chap took us along a rough path and scrubby area behind the lodge showing us the plants and also helped us add chinspot batis, yellow-rumped seedeater and a Walberg's eagle to the list.

26th. Let's go home.

A 7.00am breakfast and away at 8.00 for the drive back to Arusha and a fancy looking hotel for lunch (worst food of the holiday).  Just before we left, a few more photos around the lodge plus some group shots.

 Group photos: Simon and Karen on the left

Sadiki our excellent guide and driver

After the poor lunch we were taken to the Kilimanjaro airport, an hours drive, to board the 7.30pm flight back to Nairobi and then the 11.45 pm flight back to Heathrow, arriving at 6.20am.  Total birdlist was 285 plus a couple of don't knows. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Tanzanian Safari......PART 9 (the last, at last) no, not quite, last part corrupted so doing again.

24th Jan.
We left the Serengeti Sopa Hotel at 8.00am heading for the Lake Manyara Serena Hotel which was going to take the best part of the day but with a few stops on the way.  The drive out of the Serengeti was through miles of grasslands stretching to all horizons but not much game seen except the odd giraffe and several black-headed herons, Monty's and pallid harriers and various bustards.  However, as we approached the exit gate we started to see herds of zebra and wildebeeste stretching far out to the horizon each side of the road.

Approaching the exit gate we started to see thousands of zebra and wildebeeste.

Apparently, we had bumped into the migration going north into the Mara.

The only cat seen was this lion sitting on its own beside the road not worrying about all the zebra and wildebeeste passing close to it!

Cape rook near the exit.

A brief stop at the exit gate, time for coffee, washrooms and a stretch of the legs, lots of people milling around many of them Americans. We then entered the Ngoro Conservation area which is where people and animals have to co-exist, this allows animals to pass between the National Parks.

Even when we were out of the National Park the animals continued to be seen in vast numbers, there must have been close to a million and we measured the distance from when first seen to when they fizzled out, the measurement being c.25 km!  At that point we started to see goats, cattle and the Maasai villages after that we continued onto Olduvai Gorge, the birth place of mankind.

Olduvai Gorge - the birthplace of man

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sperm Whale in the Swale. 20th February

Just leaving home when I saw Mike Roser had texted me about a large whale he had seen from the Oare Marshes sea-watching hide, beached on the Sheppey side of the estuary.  I alerted Derek Flint who accompanied me on the 1 km walk  west of the Sportsman PH.. The whale could  also be seen from the pub with binoculars.  Moving up to the white post we were almost squared off to it and took photos and tried to ID it although we guessed it was a 'Moby Dick' type sperm whale but had no expertise with these creatures. We presumed it dead but as I was taking photos I could see the fin moving up and down for a short while, maybe the strong wind, who knows. The photos show the fin in two positions.

Fin lying Flat

Notice the position of the fin in the three photos....was it still alive?

According to Meridian News it was confirmed dead by experts and it floated back out to sea by the high tide but was a considered a hazard to shipping by the Coastguard.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Tanzanian Safari..... PART 8, one more to go!

22nd and 23rd Jan.
We had a late 9.30 am start for some reason which allowed me to get some more photos around the gardens. The weather was cloudy but plenty of swamp flycatchers, a red-chested sunbird and another striking black-headed gonalek. On the road again we were retracing our steps back to the Serengeti again, not too many stops until we reached an area that Sadiki wanted us to see. 

 Ready to leave Lake Victoria, peacocks wanted to come as well.

One of the first places we stopped was to photograph this  very close silverbird

Retracing our way back through this rainy area a yellow-billed stork posed right beside the road. 

Another hamerkop or maybe the same one as it was close to the spot where we saw one two days ago.

More red-billed queleas plus other regulars seen eg.  Northern white-crowned shrikes, grey-backed fiscal shrikes etc..

Cheetah family - we stopped seeing a cheetah raise its head as an impala approached the fallen tree but as it got closer, one, two, three, four cubs slowly raised their heads to watch dinner approach but alas dinner had its eyes open and disappeared quickly.

Stopping by this river we saw a crocodile and two monitor lizards, 6-7 feet long plus a fish eagle.

This grey heron was also fishing in the fast flowing shallows, one of only two we saw.

Mini crocs, these monitors look formidable predators.

No threat to this guy.

 African Fish Eagle

We stopped at one of the small airfields to have our packed lunch picking up a lesser-striped swallow around the shack.

African Griffon Vulture.

 Lesser Kestrel - probably the commonest bird of prey.

This Montagu's harrier posed for a few photos as it hunted alongside the road.

Another Tawny Eagle.

I only saw this one spur-winged plover.

Giraffes were always dotted about in various places along with impala, dik diks and zebra etc..

 White-browed Coucal - right beside the road, we didn't see many.

Grey Kestrel - This was a surprise, a new bird for me and Sadiki.

Another tree full of leopards, 3 in fact!

Managed to catch this one leaping across to the other side of the tree!

Finally, caught up with Hartlaub's bustard. 

 Crossed the track and started to display (I think) in front of us.

Took loads of photos, such a superb creature.

Towards the end of the day we finished up with a pride of lions in a tree - very rare to see this apparently. 

Maybe the recent rain made them get out of the wet.

At 6.15 we finally arrived at the Serengeti Sopa Lodge for our two night stay after a difficult drive up through some very muddy tracks, sliding all over the place.

During dinner the staff gave a brilliant singing performance, they were even selling CDs and in the main hall area, a group of  gymnasts were putting on a show to music.

Thurs. 23rd
We left at 8.00 am for another all day game drive but just before I took a few photos around the lodge, a fantastic view over the landscape from its hilltop position. 

 A giraffe poked its head up over the wall beyond the pool - animals come quite close

 Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling - a few around the lodge.

As we left the lodge a few black-faced vervet monkeys were playing beside the road

We soon came to another tree full of lions - is this so rare? Of course quite a gathering of jeeps watching their antics.

This one was approaching the tree to join the others but it seemed very grouchy, growling and snarling at the others up in tree. 

Still moaning, you can see its a female!

They seem to be excellent climbers, no good thinking climbing a tree will be a sanctuary  should you find one chasing your backside!

Never happy.

At last.

We left them to it after 20 minutes

Drove over towards a lake passing this herd of elephants which we stopped to watch.

We weren't sure what had happened to this poor little one, only half a trunk but he seemed to feed ok.

Every now and again we would pass another herd of impala.

Lappet-faced Vulture - The big one.

Northern white crowned shrike, common.

Kittlitz's Plover.  Arrived at the lake finding a good selection of waders inc.avocets, little stints, marsh sandpipers, ruffs, loads of lesser flamingoes, one brown-headed gull, a dozen white-winged black terns, c.30 Cape teal.

Kittlitz's Plover.

Cape Teal.

African Hoopoe.  I was surprised how much darker it is compared to the one we see around the Mediterranean.

 Rufous-naped Lark

Yellow-fronted Canary.
We went to an high area where there were lots of rocky outcrops, favourite places of lions to hide up. We stopped at a regular site close by for lunch, the only memorable sighting here was a black eagle.  

Another two-banded plover on the track.

Stopped at the lake again finding this bohor reedbuck, unusual we were told.

 Marsh Sandpiper and a Ruff

Three-banded Plover

Another small pool on our way back arriving late afternoon amidst light rain that developed into a huge storm after we arrived back.

Next;  On route to Lake Manyara and a morning at L. Manyara and home.  

At last, blog this has taken about 35-40 hours so far.