Sunday, 29 May 2011

Training in Tarangire

Can't go to Tarangire and not photograph an elephant!

Well, much to Mama's relief I survived the trip and made it back on Friday afternoon, brining back one of the other trainer's for a night on his way back to Kenya. It was a lot of hard work, but great fun too! There were aroud 48 guides at the training event, with seven different people involved in training and a staff of eight running the camp (keeping us all fed and provided with warm water - great!). Most of the guides are either resident guides at the various Asilia camps and lodges around Tanzania and southern Kenya or drivers that take people between these locations, some fairly experienced, others newer to the business. My task together with one of the other trainers was to give four groups of 12 guides at a time some new knowledge about ecology and birds, whilst other trainers were dealing with guiding skills (from what to check on your car before you head out, to table manners for western guests!) and psychology, so a pretty wide set of skills being passed around. My groups were up for chai at 6 and out on a drive / walk at 6.30 for a couple of hours birding and learning stories about birds (one morning meeting a large buffalo at a waterhole while I had my back to the hole talking aout how doves drink - think that traumatised some of the newer guides who are only used to being in cars!), back for breakfast, then out again by 9.45 to cover over three days the main habitats within the savannah ecosystem: grasslands, acacia woodlands, combretrum woodlands, riverine forest, kopjes and swamps. Back for lunch around 1 - 2pm, then into the classroom at 3.30 for a couple of hours identifying the plants and beasties we found in the morning but didn't identify, then working through "10 things to talk about when there are no lions", a list of things that I think are interesting in the savannah and should give folk ideas about how to pass time on the off days... (FYI the titles are (1) grass - they're interesting, honest; (2) geology; (3) climate and weather (well, at least you have to talk to British tourists about the weather...); (4) Fire; (5) Thorns and why nothing seems to stop plants being eaten anyway; (6) Termites; (7) Birds - of course!; (8) Other invertebrates - butterflies and dragonflies in particular; (9) People and cultures and finally, (10) conservation issues.)

Lots of fun, lots of time in the field, and just great to be out and about in Tarangire, even exploring some areas I'd not been to before. Very pretty:
Hildebrandt's Francolin stumped a few as the bill is always black in the guide books...
We watched this puff-adder face down a black spitting cobra, before a boomslang shot past us in disgust!
Plenty of bees around too...
Cottonstainer - we were looking for much more than just lions!
These fringe-eared oryx were rather special, with the first returning zebra too.
Yellow-striped blind-snake was rather a nice find one morning - might well be new to Tarangire
Red-billed Quelea were quite a spectacle with the grasses all setting seed
This had a nest rather too close to the road methinks!
Saw four of these in various trees around the park - but amazingly my groups never encountered a lion!
All in all a great training session and lots of fun. But it's nice to be home for a bit now! Got to end with a sunset though...