The annual avian exodus from Equatorial Africa - for pastures old - has ended. By this day; which back home at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve in Lancashire, Northern England, at approximately 54 degrees North; was always my most eagerly anticipated date on the bird-watcher´s calendar; that is, by May 15 a certain quietude has settled over these green hills of Africa.
My last upwardly mobile Palearctic bird was at Hippo pools in Lake Manyara National Park; on Wednesday May 9 when an adult Little Stint in burnished rufous-chestnut breeding plumage (bound for Arctic Russia) foraged so daintily between the toes, well almost, of comparatively ungainly and undoubtedly ancient Spur-winged Geese, five gorgeous parasol-fishing Black Egrets, several snail-stalking Glossy Ibis and two very crisply marked Blacksmith Lapwings. Whilst overhead non-breeding Whiskered Terns and Collared Pratincoles, Plain (Brown-throated) Sand Martins and rippling Madagascar Bee-eaters swept back and fore over our heads. All of us were almost oblivious, it seemed, to eighteen rough, frequently squabbling, always blundering brown Hippos who were churning the lakeshore waters only fifty metres farther and in so doing energising (i.e. institutionally strengthening) this particularly productive branch of the Rift Valley food web.