Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) occasional visitor from the valley below LJ, FR
Gymnogene (Polyboroides typus) FR
Steppe Buzzard (Buteo vulpinus) a small southward passage daily in late October
Augur Buzzard (B. augur) a ‘mixed morph' pair probably nesting in cliffs area
Booted Eagle (A. pennatus) occasional migrant
African Goshawk (Accipiter tachiro) male displaying overhead mornings in October
Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) one bird, possibly nest prospecting, on cliff in October
Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata) very common resident
African Green Pigeon (Treron calvus) up to ten coming daily to fruiting fig trees in the garden
Tambourine Dove (Turtur tympanistria) several frequently heard and easily seen in the garden wood
Klaas’s Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx klaas) two calling every day in October
African Emerald Cuckoo (C. cupreus) one calling each day in October
Red-chested Cuckoo (Cuculus solitarius) many present and very vocal in October
White-browed Coucal (Centropus superciliosus) one occasionally at the pool
Barn Owl (Tyto alba) heard on some nights whilst hunting in the garden
African Wood-Owl (Strix woodfordii) a pair dueting in the wood each night
Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus) heard occasionally from the hill slope above
Freckled Nightjar (Caprimulgus tristigma) a calling bird each night in October
African Palm Swift (Cypsiurus parvus) possibly nesting in the palms of the garden
Little Swift (Apus affinis) frequently overhead, especially in the evening
Black Swift (Apus barbatus) perhaps 100 pairs nesting in crevices of the cliff face
Nyanza Swift (A. niansae) about twenty pairs, probably nesting, in the cliff face
Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus) ubiquitous
Green Wood-Hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus) one pair daily in the garden and wood
African Pygmy-Kingfisher (Ispidina picta) regularly seen at the pool and in the garden
Brown-hooded Kingfisher (Halcyon albiventris) one only
European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) passage migrant from Russia
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill (Bycanistes brevis) one pair in the wood
White-eared Barbet (Stactolaema leucotis) at least six pairs present around the farm, possibly a reflection of the relative abundance of dead branches among trees in the wood; one pair nesting in an old tree in the garden, one active nest in old wodpecker hole in tree above kitchen garden November 1
Moustached Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus leucomystax) two pairs frequently seen in the wood; feeding on berries of the abundant mistletoe spp. growing on the old trees
Crested Barbet (Tachyphonus vaillantii) frequently seen in the garden, none in October
Lesser Honeyguide (Indicator minor) two or three daily
Brown-backed Honeybird (Prodotiscus regulus) one immature on October 30, 2006 seen very well in the kitchen garden; one along entrance track and one in the wood November 1
Cardinal Woodpecker (Dendropicos fuscescens) one pair frequently in the garden
Black Saw-wing (Psalidoprocne pristoptera) small numbers daily
Rock Martin (Hirundo fuligula) breeding in good numbers on the cliff, and a pair raise two broods, and possibly three, per year at the house
Lesser Striped Swallow (H.abyssinica) occasional or seasonal visitor
Red-rumped Swallow (H. daurica emini) daily in small numbers
Mosque Swallow (H. senegalensis) two came daily to drink at the pool in October-November
House Martin (Delichon urbica) visitor in small numbers from the Palearctic
African Pied Wagtail (Motacilla aguimp) one pair
Grey Wagtail (M. cinerea) one migrant in March
Eastern Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus) several in the wood
Pied Crow (Corvus albus) occasional overhead
White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis) a pair on the cliff, have probably nested there, on morning of October 29 one bird raided a bulbul's nest in a hedge just beside the house, taking away both fledglings at the same moment
Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus tricolor) many
Heuglin’s Robin-Chat (Cossypha heuglini) several pairs, easily observed in the garden and very vocal!
Mocking Cliff-Chat (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris) at least one pair on the cliffs
Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) ‘winter visitor’ to the scrubby areas
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) visitor and passage migrant from Middle East and Russia
Greater Whitethroat (S. communis icterops) common passage migrant from west central Asia
Garden Warbler (S. borin) common visitor from Russia; in 2006 arrived October 29
Bar-throated Apalis (Apalis thoracica) two pairs, possibly more, in the wood; occasionally in garden
Red-faced Cisticola (Cisticola erythrops) one pair near the base of the cliffs
Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava) three pairs plus in open areas
Grey-backed Camaroptera (Camaroptera brachyura) several pairs
Southern Black Flycatcher (Melaeornis pammelaina) two or three birds in the garden
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) wintering birds arrived on October 30
African Dusky Flycatcher (M. adusta) breeding in the wood, an adult and dependent juvenile October 29
African Paradise-Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) several in the garden and wood
Chinspot Batis (Batis molitor) one male on three dates
Black-throated Wattle-Eye (Platysteira peltata) one male in the garden
Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) ‘winter visitor’ from Russia
Common Fiscal (L. collaris) pair in fields on slope toward Soni
Black-backed Puffback (Dryoscopus cubla) several very vocal birds in the wood and garden
Brown-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra australis) scrubby areas and on the hillside above
Tropical Boubou (Laniarius aethiopicus) perhaps only one pair in the area
Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster) singing in wood on October 30
Red-winged Starling (Onychognathus morio) several pairs nesting on the cliff
Kenrick’s Starling (Poeoptera kenricki) three preening in tallest dead eucalyptus on November 1
Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Chalcomitra senegalensis) many; breeding proven in the wood October
Collared Sunbird (Hedydipna collaris)a female nest building in the garden (October 30) was accompanied by a dependent juvenile!
Variable Sunbird (Cinnyris venustus) breeding in the garden; very common including several juveniles
Olive Sunbird (Cyanomitra olivacea) a single seen in both the garden and eucalyptus wood
Yellow White-Eye (Zosterops senegalensis stierlingi) flocks of Zosterops in the garden on most days in April were clearly of this "broad-ringed greenish" form; descending from forest above.
Abyssinian White-eye (Z. abyssinicus) groups of "dry season" Zosterops in the garden are of this "narrow-ringed yellowish" form; ascending from forest below.
Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer griseus) one pair around the farm
African Golden Weaver (Ploceus subaureus) large colony, perhaps thirty males, in the typha bed of the pond
Village Weaver (P. cucullatus) FR
Spectacled Weaver (P. ocularis) two males in the wood on most days, m at nest in garden November 2
Baglafecht Weaver (P.baglafecht reichenowi) probably four pairs at the farm
Grosbeak Weaver (Amblyospiza albifrons) several pairs nesting in the typha bed
Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) one pair in the lower fields
Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala) in lower fields only
African Firefinch (L.rubricata) two near the entrance track at end July
Black-and-White Mannikin (Spermestes bicolor) several
Bronze Mannikin (L. cucullata) FR
Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura) KK
Southern Citril (Serinus hypostictus) several in song in the garden and wood
Yellow-fronted Canary (S. mozambicus) FR
Cabanis’s Bunting (Emberiza cabanisi) one male in the wood on October 30.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) occasional visitor from the valley below LJ, FR
The following is a substantially modified and updated account based on Bird Life International’s information for the West Usambara IBA (Important Bird Area – Tanzania 071). This brief account will form the foundation for a new birder’s resource for the Usambaras to be stored on birds.intanzania.com which is physically housed at Maweni Farm, near Soni, a birder-friendly tourist lodge in the heart of the West Usambaras.
The West Usambaras are a steep-sided mountain block, oriented from south-east to north-west and rising from the margins of the coastal lowland and central plateau at 400–800 m. They have one main internal drainage system via the Umba river which flows eastwards from the north-eastern edge of the mountains. There are a few high ridges that approach an altitude of 2000 - 2200m; the highest peak is Sungwi at 2327m.
To the north lies Mkomazi Game Reserve to the north-west the Pare mountains, to the south-east the East Usambara and to the south the Pangani river valley which separates the mountains from the dry Acacia–Commiphora woodland of the Maasai steppe.
The western scarp is characterized by very impressive sheer cliffs, often with remnant forest along the rim and extending down the many stream-eroded valleys into drier woodland at the base of the hills.
The plateau has been extensively cultivated, especially around Lushoto, the district capital. Cultivation has increased significantly during the last few decades, especially noticeable in marginal land and along river valleys.
The surviving forest is very fragmented into many small blocks; typically clinging to rocky hill tops or on the steepest slopes. Only two extensive swathes remain: firstly Shume - Magamba (11,567 ha) and secondly Shagayu (6,223 ha), both of which are under considerable pressure from a rapidly increasing human population at their perimeters.
The Forest Division has listed 27 Forest Reserves for Lushoto District. However, many of these reserves are very small and others remain production forests.
Those that are significant, or are thought to be so, are Shagayu (6,223 ha protected), Shume - Magamba (11,567 ha protected), Balangai West (1,074 ha), Kisimagonja (1,440 ha, badly degraded), Mjusu (3,670 ha, badly degraded), Ndelemai (3,554 ha), Bombo West (3,565 ha), Bumba Mavumbi (1,056 ha), Lutindi (2,176 ha), Mafi Hill (2,671 ha) and Ndolwa (1,173 ha). Only for Shagayu, Shume-Magamba and Mafi is there anything like a complete bird inventory.
In addition, there are two privately-owned forests of major ornithological importance, included in the Important Bird Area: Ambangulu Tea Estate, which is virtually all that remains of the lower altitude forest; and Mazumbai which protects ca 600 ha of near pristine montane and upper montane forest. A little-used earthen road contours through the forest at an elevation of between 1500 – 1600 m providing superb opportunities for birding.
The most localized bird, occurring mainly at higher elevations for example along the ridge in Mazumbai forest, is a shy ground-haunting robin known as the Usambara Akalat Sheppardia montana which is endemic to the West Usambaras. However the rarest and most threatened bird is almost certainly the Usambara Weaver Ploceus nicolli which seems to occur only at very low density and chiefly along the lower margins of the remaining forests – precisely those that are under the greatest pressure from an inexorable rise in local human needs.
From a base at Maweni Farm lodge visits can be made to the Shume-Magamba forest reserve, to the nearby Ndelemai FR and to the magnificent and well-protected forest at Mazumbai. To the latter Maweni Farm can arrange both transport and excellent value overnight accommodation undertaken in conjunction with the Sokoine University of Agriculture forest research station which is situated there.
Some Special Birds of the West Usambaras
Mountain Buzzard (Buteo oreophilus)