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Tanzania Trip -- Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22
Departing Mbulu region

Day 16. Sunday, July 22. Mbulu, TZ, to Haydom and Katesh, TZ.

Day 9 in Tanzania.

We awoke to a cool (57 degrees) and overcast morning in Mbulu. There was a slight breeze, but not enough to carry away the smoke from cooking fires that settled over town. As we left town and drove over the mountains, the sky cleared and the remainder of the day was nice and sunny. It was an omen of a good day.

Link to trip map.

July 22
Arid country
From Mbulu, the drive and the birds kept getting more and more interesting. I saw too many birds along the morning drive, then too many in Haydom. During the afternoon drive, we got a flat tire, and I used the time to find new birds in the arid thorn-scrub habitat. The spare had a slow leak, so we stopped in the next town to fix it. I wandered into the bush and came out with some half-dozen new birds. At the Summit Hotel in Katesh, there were even more new birds! It is fun to see new birds, even if I'll never identify them all.
July 22
Arid country

Tano drove about 2 hours from Mbulu to Haydom over a rough dirt road. Along the way, the environment became drier and drier. Near Mbulu, it was almost forest, but farther along, we got into arid thorn-scrub habitat. There were too many birds along the road, but I identified Gabar Goshawk, Olive Pigeon, and African Barn Swallows! We also saw the same ground squirrels we saw at Tarangire National Park.

July 22
Approaching Haydom
In Haydom, Cathy and Lydia interviewed government officials, and Tano and I went for coffee and a snack at the Green View Bar and Rest. The cafe had some interesting artwork on the exterior walls, so I took a couple of pictures. A guy inside saw me and came out. I was afraid he might be mad because I didn't ask permission to take photos, but he was all excited that I was interested. He took us inside and into another outdoor courtyard where he proudly showed off the artwork. While out, the artist showed up, and he too was excited that I was interested. He even posed for an action shot in front of one mural, and then sat on his lion sculpture out front for additional photos. Afterwards, we worked out a way for me to send them copies of the photos.
July 22
Artist at Green View Bar and Rest

After snacks, Tano and I went birding in the center of town. We found a water tank behind a building that was leaking and attracting goats and birds. In the adjacent trees, we spotted Cut-throat Finch, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Swahili Sparrows, Laughing Dove, and more. It really was quite amazing to see so many cool birds in this arid, urban setting with people, cows, goats, and chickens wandering about.

July 22
Owner? at Green View Bar and Rest
When Cathy and Lydia were finished in Haydom, we continued south on the road to Katesh, but we got a flat tire somewhere deep in the thorn-scrub (almost literally, in the middle of nowhere). I should have helped change the tire, but Tano and Lydia had it under control (Lydia is a strong woman, in every sense of the word), and instead I wandered into the bush finding White-crowned Shrike, Superb Starlings, some kind of lark, and doves. Again, an unexpected and amazing experience. It land was arid, and I felt at home in the desert environment, but everything was different: the soils were red, the plants were entirely unknown, and the birds were strange to me. Tano and Lydia worked fast, and I was left wishing I had more time out there.
July 22
Most amazing birding spot
We drove down the escarpment into the rift valley at the bottom and past large Lake Basatu. We paused for a few moments so I could bird from the car. There were white pelicans, Black-headed Heron, Great Cormorant, and lots of white herons. In an adjacent pond, I saw an African Darter in flight.
July 22
Water for goats and too many birds!
The spare tire had a slow leak, so we stopped in the next settlement for repairs. Again, I wandered off and spent the entire time looking at birds in and around one tree. In the distance, there were two Black-headed Herons feeding in an old corn field and the sky above the corn stalks was filled with little birds moving about. The tree was an amazing place with several life birds and long lines of children walking home from school. Between bouts of greetings with the kids, I spotted Red-billed Quela, Red-faced Crombec, Chin-spot Batis, Yellow-rumped Canary, and several as-yet unidentified birds.
July 22
Tano fixing flat deep in the thorn scrub
Back on the road, we soon arrived in Katesh, a medium-sized farming town on the slopes and spreading plains of Mount Hanang, a 3,000-m volcano and 3rd highest peak in Tanzania. We stopped at the Summit Hotel, a pleasant series of structures with lots of trees, shrubs, and herbage. There was no official bird feeder, but the trees and fruits provided plenty -- and did the birds ever come.
July 22
Bicycle taxi deep in the thorn scrub

Driving in, we were greeted by several Speckled Mousebirds and a pair of Common Bulbul. From there, it only got better, and I saw Swahili Sparrow, Cut-throat Finch, Yellow-rumped Seedeater, Common Fiscal, Speckled Pigeon, Emerald Wood-Dove, Brown-crested Tchagra, at least 3 species of swallows, and 2 species of swifts! I didn't stop birding until long after the sun went down. For birding, it has been an amazing day.

Dinner was a bust. After waiting 1.5 hrs to be served, I got a pile of white rice and a rooster back, complete with both testicles. I picked what I could of the meat, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat the organs.

July 22
Thorny acacia tree

July 22
Trees and farm fields at tire repair shop
July 22
Most amazing tree (center)
July 22
Arriving in Katesh
July 22
Relaxing with afternoon coffee at Summit Hotel
July 22
Uneaten portion of not-the-best dinner

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120818

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