Pugu Hills: May 8, 2011

On Sunday morning I tagged along with Neil Baker and the gang to do some birding at Pugu Hills, where there is some remnant forest just outside of Dar es Salaam. Niel has three decades of birding experience in the country and heads the Tanzania Bird Atlas project, which has recorded over a million bird observations to map a detailed distribution of every species. It was a great learning experience to bird with him, however casually, and he injected a lot of enthusiasm into our observations, several of which proved to be extraordinary. Our primary target was to catch a migratory African Pitta or Spotted Ground-Thrush in transition back north, although we were easily satisfied with clear weather and decent bird activity.

Arriving at dawn at a clearing off the main road, we listened to the Pale-Breasted Illadopsis and African Wood Owl begin and end their days, respectively. Working over the clearing with half a dozen pairs of eyes, we soon had Great Sparrowhawk, Yellow-Rumped Tinkerbird, Brubru, and Pallid Honeyguide. Wandering off on my own a few times, I found a delightful group of Little Yellow Flycatchers and a good-sized mixed flock with Yellowbill, Black-Headed Apalis, Eastern Green Tinkerbird, and Black-Throated Wattle-Eye, among others. The highlight of the morning was making a rare breeding record of the Uluguru Violet-Backed Sunbird, a pair of which was actively constructing a nest in a tall tree about twenty meters overhead. Neil explained it was almost certainly a first for Tanzania, which gave me a nice sense of accomplishment for an otherwise quiet weekend.

Notable birds seen: Palm-Nut Vulture, Black-Chested Snake-Eagle, African Goshawk, Great Sparrowhawk, Yellowbill, Little Swift, Brown-Hooded Kingfisher, Trumpeter Hornbill, Yellow-Rumped Tinkerbird, Eastern Green Tinkerbird, Lesser Honeyguide, Pallid Honeyguide, Yellow-Bellied Greenbul, Red-Capped Robin-Chat, Yellow-Breasted Apalis, Black-Headed Apalis, Black-Throated Wattle-Eye, African Paradise Flycatcher, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Uluguru Violet-Backed Sunbird, Brubru, Brown-Crowned Tchagra, Dark-Backed Weaver, Black-and-White Manikin.

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