Amazingly, exactly a year after the mystery Snake-Eagle was at Osugat (on December 15, 2006), Dominiek Timmermans and I 'were found by' another very similar looking bird yesterday December 14, 2007 in almost exactly the same place. Bubble number 1 in the photo. It disturbs me a little that I have not seen a similarly marked bird (i.e. "a Short-toed type"), despite 'checking every eagle', in many weeks in the field in the intervening year anywhere in Tanzania, (including forty-five days birding here at Osugat).
Ayres's Hawk-Eagle (Aquila ayresii) is essentially a bird of evergreen forest edge and, although widespread on the continent of Africa, is "inexplicably scarce and local", and thus can be one of those toughest of birds to see. It is hard to guarantee that any visiting birder 'will get to grips with' this most lovely raptor, even on a three week safari into the wildlife treasure trove of northern Tanzania.
Just back from a very intense nine days birding. Ploughing tracks between the red mud of Mkomazi, the damp Cisticolas of Nanja black cotton, and the dapper undescribed-drongos of a dripping forest-edge in the West Usambaa - a total of 363 bird species recorded.
On Friday morning December 15; after we managed great views of the ‘kuni’ pair of the now near-invisible Beesley’s Larks; they are only to be found these Indian Ocean dipole days by following-up on their shorebird-like “kreek-kreek-kreek” through the knee-high waving grasses; at ten forty a typical adult Short-toed Eagle (very probably a male) came-in low southward from Kenya (and heaven knows where else), swirling round, hovering twice, clearly hunting en route, over the driest area remaining – the acacia commiphora grazed mosaic along the northern fringe of the Angyata Osugat and over the Sinya track.
Typical is - one with a complete soft brownish grey ‘shawl’ and grey-streaked white lower throat, grey-brown covert bar contrasting with darker brown flight feathers of the upper wing, with blackish stippled lines on the underwing coverts and well barred flight feathers, and a white breast very lightly marked with crisp dark brown crescent rows, the belly and undertail coverts appeared an almost immaculate white.
My client - the illustrious ‘Greater Baltic’ conservationist Tommy Ek - managed to fire-off three pretty good, yet distant, pictures of the bird’s underside as it began drifting away toward West Kilimanjaro-Ngare Nanyuki; and then I dropped to kiss the warm yellow earth in euphoric prostration.
A thunderous tropical rain storm arriving, most unusually out of the north, broke against the great black massifs of Meru and Manjaro in the early hours of November 23. Shortly after daybreak Dismus and I once again escaped Arusha via the northbound "Nairobi road"; for a while yet this African highway is both dangerously and delightfully narrow - all too soon it will be upgraded by engineers of the next dynasty to a far more murderous, three-lane 'Chinese modern standard'. Maybe. Because today raging torrents of coffee-coloured water frequently impede our progress as they rush the great slopes down. And, once we have descended to the desert plain of larks, it is clear, very few cars are making it through from Kenya.