Tanzania Day 16 – Last Day in Tarangire – One Last Heron, One Last Sandgrouse

After breakfast at the Sopa Lodge we drove a loop through part of Tarangire National Park to Silale Marsh and back. Birding was once again very good and we continued to see many mammals including the Tarangire “Red” Elephants. A morning highlight was finding our third sandgrouse of the tour, Black Faced Sandgrouse. I had seen this species previously but did not have a picture. Our bird was very cooperative remaining on the road in good enough light to get a photo through the pop top roof.

When birding in Washington there are four possible doves/pigeons to be seen: Rock Pigeon (generally feral). Band Tailed Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove and Mourning Dove. A very rare occasional visitor is the White Winged Dove. There are also some records of African Collared Doves, most likely escapees. In Africa, doves and pigeons are commonplace, many species, many individuals and generally heard throughout each day. We had 12 species on the tour (nothing new for Africa) and there are 59 species on my world list, so they are obviously found in many other locations in Asia, South and Central America, and Australia. The one dove that was seen most often on the trip – and seemingly heard constantly – was the Ring Necked Dove. I am not sure why some doves are noted as having rings while others have collars as the general appearance of the ring or collar is very much the same. I am sure there were days with more and probably more this day as well, but our Ebird lists for the day show 170 Ring Necked Doves. The photos below might seemingly provide an answer with the ring being narrower than the collar, but the collar on the Eurasian Collared Dove is as least as narrow as the ring of the Ring Necked Dove – I give up.

Eurasian Collared Dove – or is that a ring?

The driver radio network kicked into life with the report of a group of lions. As we passed a marshy area on our rush to see them, I noted a small heron on the water which I thought had a good chance of being my main target for the day, a lifer Rufous Bellied Heron. Had I been driving or been in charge, I would have stopped immediately. This was one of only a few times when being with a group was a disadvantage as the chance to see more lions overrode the chance for the heron. My request for a stop was put off with, “we will try for it later”. I acknowledge the higher value of “group” compared to individual, but in this case, I think a stop was in order. First, there were other birders in the group for whom the heron would have been a lifer species. Second, we had already seen MANY lions and the reality was that there was a high probability that whatever lions were there were probably resting and would not move from he spot, thus would still be there after a 5-minute stop for the heron. I did not press any of these points, but admit, that I was saving them for a rejoinder if the heron was not relocated later. Fortunately there was a happy ending for everyone.

We quickly located the lions (now over 90 for the trip) and of course they were immobile, lazing in the heat of the day. Now, I acknowledge that after all they were LIONS – awesome animals and a prize on any safari. And yes, I did not let my vision of fleeing herons stop me from taking photos of the lions including a young male and a lioness with a tracking collar. But, please, please let’s not stay too long as birds have wings. know how to use them and I really wanted one more lifer.

After a v-e-r-y l-o-ng observation of the lions, we retraced our steps and looked for the heron. There were several connected ponds and none were really close to the road. As we approached, I saw a dark wader in flight going from one pond to – well hopefully the next one where it would land. I grabbed a flight shot and then fortunately it did land and we could confirm that it was the Rufous Bellied Heron. I never got a great photo of the back-lit bird or of a second one we found, but all was forgiven and my world list, Tanzania list and photo list had grown by one.

These are a little out of sequence time-wise but other new birds/photos for this penultimate day included Buff Crested Bustard, the Black Capped form of D’Arnauds Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, and Northern Pied Babbler.

Buff Crested Bustard
Greater Honeyguide
Northern Pied Babbler

I also got lifer photos of Mosque Swallow, Cut-throat and White-Headed Buffalo Weaver and Telling a story on myself – I am most definitely quite fallible, when I was originally going over and trying to identify photos, I identified the photo of the White-headed Barbet included in a previous blog as a White-Headed Buffalo Weaver. They do look a bit alike, and the names are similar at least to start, but that is the kind of thing that occurs when good notes are not taken in the field,

Mosque Swallow
Terrible Photo of Backlit Cut-throats

It was another great day with more than 80 species including the five new ones for the tour and one lifer. It also included a favorite photo of a giraffe reaching for a favorite food. They really are awesome creatures – and that tongue!!

Giraffe Stripping Leaves from a High Branch

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