Submitted by James on Mon, 2009-03-30 09:44.
Arusha Birding | Barn Swallow | Biogeography | Climate | Expanding Eremic Zone | migration
Barn Swallow over water: by Martin GoodeyHere in west Arusha; at 3 degrees South - that's in Tanzania (or Tanganyika to some) - for more than three weeks little bands of shining satin Barn Swallows, seldom more than four-to-a-flock, have been dashing north into our persisting drought of death - an East African dust tunnel - visible on the climate maps.
They, together with nearly all the trans-Eremics (to die-hard 'boreocentrics' these are of course Palearctic migrant birds), will be very hard pushed indeed to maintain fat through this sector of their route. So I hope it's been raining, pouring in an unseasonal deluge, somewhere northwards - in the Horn, across Arabia, or beyond - in the Gulf, Iran and the 'farther Stans'!
Dawn March 30 again she promised some real rain, yet none came, and we saw only two Barn Swallows on the morning walk. However one was a fabulous male sporting the longest tail streamers that I have ever seen - in over fifty years of looking.
Submitted by James on Thu, 2009-03-12 13:29.
ITCZ | migration
Full Moon, 11 March 2009.
"If you go down to the woods today ... you're in for a Big Surprise,
for every Bear that ever was there ... today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic"
Rift Valley woodlandsIn Rift Valley woodlands a bald and bearded birdman paces between leafless acacia thorn and shrubs of wilting yellow commiphora, walking a desert path. At each step puffs of ochre dust escape on the dry easterly breeze. He's performing a birder's 'jongrom' (a Thai buddhist word, originally from Pali, which describes 'a measured path for walking meditation') and if you listen carefully you may hear a whispered mantra:
"Blessed be avian migrants meek, that they shall inherit this Earth"
A quarter century of globalisation of greed (or somewhat more, according to where you've been living) has ended, it's imploding and entering the void - just like that!
Submitted by James on Mon, 2008-03-17 22:11.
Lesser Kestrel | migration
Lesser Kestrel: Photo Jormo Tenovuo, www.jtenovuo.com
Before humanity's insatiable needs lay waste the farthest corners of our world a few more will be born who'll follow 'the way of birds'. And although they have only ever been a tiny percentage in any one human generation these birders, or ornithologists, will have helped document man's deepest disaster. Planetary degradation. Even though today's birders, like people everywhere, must register unwelcome change from a standpoint, or benchmark, made in the halcyon days when they themselves are young.
Out of all the great bird orders of our world one - the falconiformes or raptors - has probably suffered most from mankind's ecological ambivalence. As hunters of flesh raptors are seen as competitors for 'our' resources; simultaneously admired or hated right down the ages. However out of all the raptors, one species the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni
Submitted by James on Sat, 2007-11-17 09:05.
Lantana camara | Marsh Warbler | migration | Northern Tanzania | Thrush Nightingale | Tree Pipit
Helmeted Guineafowl: photo Anabel Harries
In praise of damp, of wet, of gorgeous gloaming greyness.
Before the first bird sang cell phone two-o-nine "peep-a-peeps" to force me out of bed. It's my birthday and overnight there's been rain. Quite a lot of rain. At long last - so let's thank all the gods imaginable!
Yes. For the third night in succession it's been raining in the darkness. Better than that, yesterday the fierce rays of the equatorial sun could scarcely touch the earth and so never pierced the soil. We were protected by great grey blankets of cloud, rolling off Mount Meru. Wrapped there by oceanic breezes, around the volcano's lofty cone.
Submitted by James on Tue, 2007-05-15 11:17.
Lake Burungi | Lake Manyara | migration
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.
Submitted by James on Fri, 2007-04-27 05:42.
Afro-Palearctic | Barn Swallows | Ecological Survival | migration
SwallowThe last few Barn Swallows, bound for breeding areas in the farthest reaches of the Northern Hemisphere are, in these last few days of April, passing Mount Meru. This is three degrees South of the Equator. Most mornings we see them flickering overhead in ones and twos, occasionally in groups of up to six or seven. It looks like they are heading straight for the base of the misty blue volcano, whose amazing exploded cone surges fully three thousand metres upwards, above the gentle undulations of East Africa's plateau, here at an average elevation of 1300 metres.
Submitted by James on Tue, 2007-04-24 13:41.
Kenya | migration
Guest post by David Fisher (Sunbird):
Brian Finch has encouraged me to post part of the introduction to the tour report that I wrote for the participants on my Sunbird tour to Kenya in January this year. It was certainly a very strange year. To put this into context I have led the same tour following the same itinerary on roughly the same dates every January for the last 18 years.
"Bird wise this year's tour to Kenya was very unusual. Unseasonable and heavy rain throughout December had turned most of the country green, which was very good for the local people and for birds such as bishops, widowbirds, whydahs and weavers. We saw males of many of the latter groups in full breeding plumage, often engaged in dramatic display flights some of which had never been seen on previous Sunbird tours. We also benefited by finding some shy and skulking birds such as Broad-tailed Warbler which we watched singing and displaying - a species we have not seen on this tour for at least eight years.
Submitted by James on Sat, 2007-04-07 09:31.
Ecological Survival | European Roller | Lilac-breasted Roller | migration
A lot of birders grew up around industrial towns, many like me, near the cold grey Atlantic, in the north western quarter of Europe. Here for over half our days, through fully seven months of each Lilac-breasted Roller: Photo Martin Goodeyyear, suffocating grey opaqueness obliterated the blueness of the sky, separating us from the heaven above.
I think that is why, for some child birders of the seventies, the Roller, together with other 'southern' birds from the middle pages of our Peterson's Guide (let's not forget Guy Mountfort and Phil Hollom) birds like the Kingfisher, the Bee-eater, the Hoopoe and the Golden Oriole became totems, symbols of optimism. So colourful and yet Real European birds. Glowing with warmth, freedom personified and proof (to spite the grey uniformity of town and school) that life was well worth living. To this day, even living as I do now in the riotous exhuberance of Equatorial Africa, just catching a glimpse of the vibrant, sky blues of our roller never fails to spark a thrill in that child's heart within. Although I was in fact already seventeen before, at long last, I met the roller-being in question.
Vejer de la Frontera, southern Andalucia. A bright Sunday morning at Easter 1973.
Lucky us! We had just flown-in Iberia from Manchester, while he of course had made it by himself, very recently arrived from exotic African lands. I was on a manic early listing mission; though he was much more focused, carefully scanning the open ground beneath his telegraph wire for trundling dung and darkling beetles. Oily black insects caught out in the open, crossing the soft warm earth of rabbit mounds, along a lumpy limestone lane.
Along that village track, beside one of Franco's own great wheat fields, bloomed an unruly renaissance of brilliant buzzing Easter flowers. Legumes mostly; deep blue vetches and blood red Italian sainfoin, surpassed only by the whispering pagan spires of purple viper's bugloss, almost knee high in the verge. Humming, smiling, they were witness to grumpy old ladies, robed in colourless black, who hurried past squint-eyed, up the steep lane, to those bells of a Roman gong.
My next roller meeting became as indelible as the first. Another in-bound April migrant, it was in an ancient olive grove, on a sun-drenched hillside, beside the hazy blue Adriatic in northern Corfu two years later. I was still dizzy after my first ever encounter with a male Pallid Harrier; a silent ballet in bright white sunshine who had just floated past me on the softest of spring breezes, both of us crossing a wet-footed field of tiny, white and wild narcissus. The budding wayside elms and rufous Nightingales were still ringing in my eyes and ears when I decided to take a drier short cut 'home', through a stony maquis-thicket, into those scattered twisted olives. And there was the Roller, on a bare grey antler branch etched against the sky. Thickset, powerful, a square-headed bird with a serious beak and sharply knowing eye, a distillation of blues and rufous tan, and then in a wonderfully reckless flight yet more blues, ecstatic indigos, simply beauty beyond belief.
For a youthful naturalist (currently a shrinking minority and increasingly impoverished, in our rich northern societies) it might be the simultaneous stimulation of all our senses that almost seems to crystallize and thereby fasten such memories. This Serves to ensure our allegiance to Nature, so that we will for ever require and seek out the wonder and yes! the glory in nature. Searching for "most wanted birds", whether they be rollers or any desired 'species', can expose one's inner egoistic-conversational world to the subtle yet fundamental forces of the outer living world - nature as the great reality: all around, impinging on you, from all sides, from underfoot and overhead.
Submitted by James on Thu, 2007-02-22 13:56.
THE GREAT EAST AFRICAN BUTTERFLY MIGRATION OF FEBRUARY 2007
In February 2007 many observers remarked on a huge butterfly migration between Kenya and southern Tanzania. Several butterfly specialists (including Torben Larsen and Norbert Cordeiro) strongly feel that as much documentation on this event as possible should be gathered while the evidence is fresh. Larsen once estimated a migration in Botswana to have included a minimum of 1.5 billion individuals. As much information on this event - detailed or not - might allow for a detailed analysis. Information needed includes but even casual descriptions would be welcome.
Submitted by James on Thu, 2007-02-22 07:56.
Brown-veined White | Kenya | migration | Tanzania
There were two more postings to the bird group on February 14 under the title
"More on those Migrating Butterflies"
"Incidentally we went through the largest butterfly migration I have
ever seen on the way back from Moshi. Millions of whites all heading
south from Moshi all the way to Karatu (Karatu is in the Crater Highlands along the western edge of the Rift Valley). In places it resembled a blizzard. We've collected a few off the radiator.
Grant Hopcraft - Frankfurt Zoological Society"
"Those Brown-veined White butterflies that were mentioned the other day. They passed through Naivasha and the Rift last week, laying thousands of eggs everywhere. Their favoured food plant is a three-leaved indigenous bush that becomes devoured by the caterpillars before they move into the grass.
Am sure your local agricultural officers are well aware of it all and are spraying (sic!).
Don Turner, Naivasha, Kenya"