February 27th marked our departure from Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge and it gave me one last present, a photo of a Tree Pipit. I had seen one in Kenya and another in India, but had no photo. One of the other birders on the trip thought he had seen one near the lodge. I was able to relocate it and get a quick photo before it disappeared. From Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, we birded our way to our next destination, Tloma Lodge which would be a one-night stay near Lake Manyara. There would be several stops along the way including a wonderful visit at the beautiful Gibbs Farm for our best food of the trip, beautiful plants and some new birds.
Including on the grounds o Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, on the way to Gibbs Fam, we had 41 species, of which 7 were new for the trip including Bearded and Brown Backed Woodpeckers and my only lifer for the morning a Brown Headed Apalis to go with our first Bar-throated Apalis. I got several good photos of the latter but was not able to get a picture of the lifer but uncooperative Brown-Backed Apalis. Both woodpeckers were more accomodating.
All would agree that the best bird of the morning was the Schalow’s Turaco. We had heard it the previous morning but could not coax it into the open. It appeared briefly in tough light in foliage, but everyone got a good look and my picture is at least OK. I had counted it on my world list earlier and noted “heard only. So much better with a visual and photo.
On these tours, birder’s rely heavily on our guides for spotting birds, and especially for identifying birds, often hearing them first, knowing the calls/songs and then searching until they were located. The challenge then was to try to get everyone else to see them. Probably 80-90% of the birds were first found by our guides, but there were some good birders with keen eyes among our group, and it was always good to have many sets of eyes looking for birds. Fining birds in vegetation is not my strength but one bird I was the first to locate was a Gray-headed Nigrita, which looks almost like some of the antbirds of South America. New for the trip, I had seen it previously in Kenya, but this was my first photo.
As an example of keen eyes by other birders on the trip, one spied a nest in a tree where we were searching for a bird that had been heard. While we watched the nest, it’s creator, a White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher flew in. We had seen it before but any bird on a nest is a welcomed discovery.
Altogether on the trip we would see 14 species of Sunbirds. I had missed a photo of Bronze Sunbird earlier but was able to get one that morning. Later at Gibbs Farm, we added Green Headed Sunbird to the tour list. I had seen both in Kenya.
Yes, as pictured, the head of the Green Headed Sunbird looks very blue. All but one of the photos on Ebird for this species have the same very blue head. In only one does the head appear green. That is probably because colors are not always true in iridescence but it also could be because bird names are not always as logical as we might hope. Another way in which a name can be misleading is when the feature included in the name is only present in the male and not in the female. Such is definitely the case for the European Blackcap, a warbler that migrates from Africa to Europe. We saw the female – my photo below – but not the male with a photo I “borrowed” from the Internet.
The problem with going to Gibbs Farm is that we wanted to stay there. Originally founded as a coffee plantation in the 1920’s, this self described “idyllic retreat” is definitely that – idyllic. It is a luxury lodge and working farm of over 30 acres serving organic meals to those who stay and to those who like us make special arrangements. It is not cheap but is really quite unique, serene and beautiful. Many good birds too including the White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, a lifer, which I saw but could not photograph. At least I saw it but together with the Peter’s Twinspot missed entirely at Ngare Sero, it ranks near the top of the list of birds I wanted to photograph. I did get a photo of a Holub’s Golden Weaver, seen previously in Kenya but not photographed there. The food at Gibbs Farm was beautifully presented and tasted as good as it looked.
It was a short drive from Gibbs Farm to Tloma Lodge and we arrived in time to check in, have a brief rest and then do some birding on the grounds. We added two new birds for the trip, Arrow Marked Babbler and Scaly Throated Honeyguide, the latter an unphotographed lifer. I also got a nice photo of a species seen earlier, African Paradise Flycatcher, an awesome bird with a tail that seems impossibly long.
At the end of the day, our tour trip list was approaching 400 species, my World Life List was over 3025 and I have no idea what my life photo list was – something that would not be known until well after getting home, going over thousands of photos and trying to remember which was which and then reaching out to friends, Facebook, Merlin, iNaturalist for help.