Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Grumeti safari at last...

So I promised that I'd let you know what I'd been up to in Grumeti back in Feb and have finally got around to doing it before I forget. There's nothing very exciting been happening the last few days - Mama B is still recovering slowly from her 'weather related thing' (ahem) and we looked after some friends children yesterday as they pack up to go back to Germany in a week or two. The paper reported as being submitted last week was also rejected last week, so went back off on Monday and hasn't been rejected yet. It actually provides the scientific justification for my trip to Grumeti, so is vaguly relevant, but I'll not post the amazing map it includes showing quite why I should spend time in that area as I'm told it might upset the journal if they do accept it. You'll just have to wait... Still, sufice to say the western bit of Serengeti is absolutely the number one hotspot for changing patterns of bird distribution in Tanzania, so getting some guys who live there looking for the things that are on the way and surveying some weaver nests for me was the main excuse for a week of great fun.

To make things more interesting, I was accompanied by Dr P. who's actually affiliated to Oxford Brookes Uni but lives in Dar and is a the bushbaby and hyrax expert. He also had a nice big camera with him, so I've borrowed some of his pictures to supplement mine in places (I've also borrowed some of the official publicity shots from the reserves, since they have amazing ones of the lodges themselves). We started with the full day drive from Arusha to Grumeti, traversing the Ngorongoro conservation area and the whole of the Serengeti en route.

As usual, amazing sights on the way through - long dusty and bumpy roads though.
And a wonderful sunset-lit thunderstorm just as we arrived. There are three places people can stay in the reserve, and I was on the floor in the staff accommodation behind the main lodge:
Bit over the top really, but a fantastic view from your bath! (And a snip at $1400 per night...).

The plan, however, was to take the guides out and give them some training and do some fieldwork. Although I didn't get to stay in the lodge, we did get the fancy car to drive in. (You can almost see the lodge on the ridge behind us there.)

And the birds were excellent! (This is a silverbird, fairly common in the dry areas but very attractive.) We also saw some wonderful wildlife of course - a cheetah setting off on an evening hunt (with a rather half-hearted chase of a gazelle) and the odd ele which always deserve a picture, without talking about the mixed antelope herds that are resident in that western area.

And I much preferred visiting the 'campsite' on the plains - certainly the most sophisticated tents I've ever seen! (Air-conditioned too!!!) With your own private chunk of Serengeti, this is one of the most amazing campsites I can imagine.
Maybe next time we'll stay here... Wasn't impressed with the library though - no proper field guides and not even any Hemmingway. How can you imagine this sort of African camping without Hemmingway in the library?! The ornithological highlight, however, was sitting outside the senior staff canteen (where they train up the staff for serving at the lodge - we did get looked after very well!) one afternoon and there are just a handful of Tanzanian records (but have been three now this year, so maybe something funny going on).
Not the best picture in the world, but definitely a European Redstart. (Coming to a wood near you soon, perhaps?!) Anyway, all in all a fantastic trip and one that I have to repeat - there's lots to learn over there (as well as the redstart we added seven new species to the list, including a couple that are definitely changing their ranges fast) and some very keen people trying to get some research happening. Must keep the contacts fresh... And must get out again soon, as the migration is in full swing here - days must be shortening. (Also have to hit this region when the wildebeest pass through in August time...) So much to see, so much to do!

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