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Tanzania’s migration, birds & big cats

June 4, 2012

The Tanzania bird- and mammal watching tour last month coincided with the wildebeest migration. Here are some of the tour leaders’ highlights!

One sunny morning on the Serengeti plains, we witnessed the most exhilarating ‘big cat’ experience ever: we watched a female leopard call and a male run down a tree. They flirted, bounced, purred right in front of us. Another morning, we watched 16 lions with fluffy cubs, until a male lion nearly roared our ears out. We followed three cheetah who approached wildebeest. We sat by bat-eared foxes soaking up the sun. The birds we spotted included bright and cryptic, big and small: Scarlet-chested Sunbirds blinded us with their brilliant chest. Grey-crowned Cranes elegantly cruised the crater’s skies. Pygmy Falcons raced the woodlands while Three-banded Coursers hid underneath, Yellow-collared Lovebirds squeaked from the Baobabs. Hildebrandt’s Starlings coloured the picnic sites. Crowned Hawk-eagles called below Mount Meru and Lesser and Greater Flamingos blanketed the lakes. Karamoja Apalis, Grey-crested Helmet-shrike, Abbott’s Starling, Schalow’s Turaco, Grey-breasted Spurfowl put on a great display. And all around us hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, eland and gazelle stampeded their way up north.

Photographs copyright tour leaders Callan Cohen and Deirdre Vrancken. Join them on another birds & mammals trip or a specialist birding tour. Please email Deirdre or Callan on or phone +27 21 531 9148.

Scarlet-chested Sunbird, a brilliant flying jewel, feeds on the nectar of a Leonotus flower.

We watched the extremely localised Karamoja Apalis display atop a Whistling Thorn, dropping its wings and rising its tail.

This male leopard climbed out of a tree to meet a calling female in front of our car. They flirted for about 20 minutes right in front of us.

The Ngorongoro Crater covers an amazing diversity of habitats and over 25,000 large animals, including migrating wildebeest, resident rhino and over 50 lions – the densest known lion population.

Grey-crowned Cranes, Uganda’s National Bird, cruising the Ngorongoro Crater.

Hildebrandt’s Starling, a Serengeti endemic, showed well at our lodge and picnic sites.

Africa’s smallest raptors, Pygmy Falcons, were common at Tarangire National Park and at the Ndutu woodlands.

One of the first birds we spotted at Arusha National Park: Crowned Hawk-eagle, perched right above the road!

Our tour is timed to coincide with the migratory herds leaving their calving grounds and moving northwards, Burchell’s Zebra leading the way.

This year, wildebeest dotted the southern Serengeti landscape as far as the eye could see.

At Ndutu, we watched a group of 16 lions, including these furry and bouncy cubs!

A second male approached, sat down in front of us and started to roar!

We watched 4 lionesses and 7 cubs, these ones so delicately touching paws.

Three-banded Courser and chick in the early morning sun at the Ndutu woodlands – what a delight!

Flame Lily, Gloriosa superba, climbs its way up in the lush Arusha National Park. A diamond broche in the shape of this flower was once given by Zimbabwe to Queen Elizabeth II!

The Serengeti plains offer great opportunities to see cheetah. We watched this male, among two others, approach a herd of wildebeest

Thousands of Lesser Flamingos and tens of Greater Flamingos covered the lakes at Arusha National Park.

Elephant bulls reside in the Ngorongoro Crater, not too fussed about our passing through!

One Comment leave one →
  1. John Andrews permalink
    September 27, 2012 6:58 pm

    An amazing adventure, we were there! John and Mary Andrews

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