Birding Without Borders

Day 237: The Usambara Endemics

Tracking down birds in the forest is painstaking, but worth it.

August 25, 2015: West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania — Tanzania was a German colony before it was handed to the British after World War I and there are still a fair number of Germans scattered across the country. In the West Usambara Mountains, we are staying at a 1930s German farm house now called the Mullers Mountain Lodge—along with a busload of German tourists who are here to do some hiking before a safari in the Serengeti. Harv and David can each speak the language and it was sort of a strange experience to listen to them chatting in German off the beaten track in Tanzania today. I’ve heard a lot of French, Afrikaans, Swahili, pidgin English, British English, and various native languages during the past two months in Africa, but German was a new one!

The Usambaras are known for several endemic birds: The Usambara Weaver, Usambara Eagle-Owl, Usambara Greenbul, Usambara Akalat, Usambara Thrush, and Usambara Hyliota (as well as a few endemic subspecies which may soon be split), and we spent the morning looking for some of these special birds. We found the greenbul, thrush, and weaver, but it was hard work. I’ve been spoiled with safari birds lately! Out on the savanna, there’s not much to block the view; but in the forest, it takes patience to tease each bird out of dense foliage. One by one…

New birds today: 12

Year list: 4067

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