Ruaha feathers

Africa is home to some 2 341 bird species, 67% or 1 561 of which are endemic to the continent. East Africa offers an incredible variety of non sea birds. Ruaha has 571 recorded species and that number includes migrants. In this post, I show a tiny selection of the birds which you could see in the Ruaha National Park.

“Cherish the natural world because you are part of it and depend on it.”~ Sir David Attenborough

Dawn along the Mwagusi river. A lone Tawny eagle surveys the scene for potential prey.

Too early for thermals, this Tawny has become a perch hunter.

A Little bee-eater came to visit at coffee time on our game drive along the Mwagusi river.

“Uniformity is not nature’s way; diversity is nature’s way.”~ Vandana Shiva

At the Mwagusi bush camp there were several bird baths. One, next to where we were editing our images, attracted several bird species. A frequent and inquisitive visitor was this Collared palm-thrush with its distinctive dark throat collar.

I am used to seeing Glossy starlings, Long tailed starlings and even Superb starlings but this was the first time I had ever seen an Ashy starling.

A male Nubian woodpecker waiting his turn for a drink at the bird bath in front of the dining area at Mwagusi camp. The Nubian looks similar to the Bennett’s woodpecker but has a black streaked ear coverts and a white throat.

The Collared palm-thrush was a daily visitor to the bird bath. Unlike the Grey -headed sparrows, this thrush was quiet. As the name suggests the Palm-thrush prefers palm like vegetation and can often be found rummaging around for insects in the fallen debris of a palm trees.

We found a Red-throated spurfowl searching in the leaf litter for edibles while we were waiting for a leopard cub to come down from the tree next to us.

“The diversity of the phenomena of natures is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in that order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.”~Johannes Kepler

A Spur-winged lapwing was happily walking close to two lionesses lying in the sand next to the Great Ruaha river. This lapwing prefers marshes and fresh water habitats.

A juvenile Grey kestrel calling for food. Grey kestrels are able to hover like Black-shouldered kites.

This juvenile’s parents were close by but were not feeding it along the Mwagusi river. It seemed like it was time for a little independence.

A Jameson’s firefinch at the camp’s bird bath. It was very hot around midday so the birds came down to drink and bath. In Tanzania, there is a wonderful variety of firefinches, twinspots, pytilias, crimsonwings, cordon bleaus, silverbills, mannikins and waxbills which come in a dazzling array of colours.

A male Green winged pytilia came down for a drink at the bird bath in front of the dining area at the Mwagusi camp. The female Green-winged pytilia also came down to drink by they never drank together.

He looks like a Blue waxbill but for the red marking on its cheek. This is a male Red-cheeked cordon-bleu. The female does not have red cheeks.

It was hot around midday and it was the end of the dry season so there was little water around. The bird bath was a saving grace for many of the birds around the camp.

“Order without diversity can result in monotony and boredom, diversity without order can lead to chaos.”~ Francis D.K Ching

Down along the Great Ruaha river, we watched a Giant kingfisher hunting from a strategic perch with an excellent view of a stretch of water below it. We did not wait long enough to see him catch anything. From this angle it was difficult to tell whether it was a male or female but it looks like a male given the slight chestnut brown marking below his throat. The male has a broad chestnut brown breast band while the female has chestnut brown belly.

Along the Great Ruaha river not far from the Giant kingfisher we saw an adult Goliath heron tangling with a Fish eagle. We were too far away but presumed the Goliath had caught a fish which the Fish eagle stole.

“Burning a rain forest for economic gain… is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.”~ E.O Wilson

A hungry juvenile Verreaux eagle owl calling for food in the early morning light

An Ashy starling is only found in central Tanzania. It is a brownish grey colour with a distinctive pale creamy coloured eye.

The bird bath was a magnet for the red-necked spurfowl in the area.

The Red-throated spurfowl look quite similar to the Grey-breasted spurfowl but the former has a completely red bill, and redskin around its eyes. Its throat is same red skin colour as are its legs. The Grey-breasted spurfowl has grey legs and its bill is red but with a black tip and its belly feathers have chestnut brown streaks among the white and black streaked feathers. The Grey-breasted spurfowl are usually found in the western corridor of the Serengeti.

A male Yellow-throated sandgrouse searching for seeds in the sand close to a herd of buffalo. There were lots of tsetse flies around which loved the buffalo but they did not seem to bother the sandgrouse. We did not see large flocks of Yellow-throated sandgrouse like we have seen in the Serengeti, only one or two pairs at a time.

I am not too sure about this nightjar but I think it is a Eurasian nightjar by the markings on its wings. I managed to get off the game vehicle without disturbing the nightjar and got close enough to get a reasonable image lit by the vehicle’s headlights. I used a wide open aperture to get as much light as possible but it affected my depth of field.

“Look closely at nature. Every species is a masterpiece, exquisitely adapted to the particular environment in which it has survived. Who are we to destroy or even diminish biodiversity.”~E O Wilson

White headed buffalo weaver. It has a distinctive white head, breast and belly and an unmistakable orange-red rump and shoulders. You will find red-billed and white headed buffalo weavers in Ruaha. They both make untidy nests for a weaver and they build their nests on the west side of a tree.

Two different pairs of Oxpeckers grooming a Maasai Giraffe. The Yellow-billed oxpeckers have a bulbous bright red tip to their bill and the base is yellow, and they have a creamy-buff coloured rump and belly. By contrast the Red-billed oxpeckers have a pure red bill and a yellow eye ring around their red eyes. These two types of oxpecker feed differently, the Red-billed oxpecker combs or scissors through the host’s hair while the Yellow- billed oxpecker tends to peck at open wounds and insects on the animal such as ticks.

A Long crested eagle on a perfect perch in the late afternoon.

This Long crested eagle watched us for a short while and decided we were cramping his style and flew off to look for a more secluded perch from which to hunt.

There is an incredible variety of bird life in Tanzania and we only scratched the surface. South Africa holds its own in terms of variety of birds and it has a large variety of seabirds. Tanzania does not, but makes up its numbers with a dazzling array of hornbills, woodpeckers, turacos, seedeaters, barbets, bee-eaters, bush-shrikes, tchagras, flycatchers, lovebirds, parrots and list goes on. For anyone interested in birds this is a must, but you need time, a few days’ visit will not do it.

“The more you venture into nature, the more diversity and inter-connectedness you will discover. You will also realise there is complexity which only becomes fathomable with exploration and attention.”~ Mike Haworth

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.

Have fun, Mike

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