Friday, February 24, 2012

The Birds of My African Safari

In October 2010, my Dad and I went on an unforgettable wildlife viewing safari in Tanzania. Our group of 14 new friends, aged 11-83, toured in a 3-vehicle caravan. Beginning in Arusha, we completed a loop that, over 12 days, included the Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, and 4 blissful days in a tented camp in the Serengeti. I brought my Zeiss Victory 7x42 bins and a Nikon D40 camera. Here are a few of the over 100 species of birds seen on the trip.

dsc_0081 The first bird of our safari was this Superb Starling: so striking and colorful with its iridescent feathers, we asked our guide to stop so we could get a better look. As the days went on, I realized this bird was as common in Tanzania as the American Robin is at home. (Still, I never got tired of seeing it.) Below, I caught this handsome Ruppell's Long-Tailed Starling along the path that connected the tents in our Serengeti camp.dsc_03321
As we maneuvered over the bumpy roads of Tarangire National Park, we heard the loud, monotone call of this adult male Von der Decken's Hornbill before we spotted it foraging on the ground near some elephant dung. I loved his posture, enormous beak, upright tail, and distinct coloration. He just made me smile.bird1b

This gallant, gracious Egyptian Goose posed cooperatively on a rock as we passed a stream.


The Kori Bustard (below) was one of my personal favorites and I tried to photograph them as often as I could.  We spotted this one shortly after our vehicles entered the incredible Ngorongoro Crater. I wasn't even sure what I was seeing at first. These birds are huge!  The males average about forty pounds.


This Kori Bustard (don't you love the name?) sauntered through the grasslands of the Ngorongoro, searching for seeds and small lizards, while wildebeest and zebra grazed in the background. birdpic1b

When our group stopped for lunch near a lake, we were cautioned to eat inside the vehicles because the clever Black Kites, which soared overhead, might swoop down and steal our food. According to our guides, who had their box lunches out of sight under the vehicle (below), the kites were swift and agile, and did not execute these thefts politely.dsc_0297 dsc_0302 However, the curious, more humble Helmeted Guineafowl, who strolled between the vehicles looking for crumbs, were ever so endearing.dsc_0299
On a morning when we were exploring the kopjes (rock formations that sprung up in the Serengeti plains), I was lucky to capture this photo of a Dark Chanting Goshawk, perched regally atop a thorny Acacia tree. Its gray coloration, dark eyes, striped pantaloons, and contrasting bright orange beak and legs made for a stunning visage.


This White-Breasted Go-Away Bird is a female; the males are distinguished by striking black and white plumage and a black beak. I was completely charmed by her crest and her catchy name.ppbird2

East Africa, and Tanzania in particular, is amazing in so many ways. It was fascinating to see the variety of birds there. The most unusual bird, for me, was the Secretary Bird. Tall and stately, its long, projecting tail feathers and drooping head plumes bobbed with each step as it surveyed the ground for prey. I wouldn't want to be a snake or rodent in its path, but observing it was completely mesmerizing.sbird2

If you're lucky enough to go to Tanzania, expect the trip of a lifetime, and bring a good quality binocular to optimize your experience. You'll never regret it!
Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.


  1. NICE! I went to Kenya last year, also trip of a lifetime! saw the birds you show here as well. AMAZING birds! (also took my Zeiss binos and Swarovski scope, both purchased at Eagle Optics! thanks for all your help through the years.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing - really neat stuff!

  3. Nice trip and nice photos! Especially good to do this with your dad - wish I could have done this with my dad before he passed. Photos and text brought back great memories as I visited each of these locations in March 2011 with my wife. We used entirely all Eagle Optics optical products, of course!!! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Chris Steinke (Houston, Texas)September 25, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    AWESOME PHOTOS NINA! I saw many of these birds @ TSAVO EAST, TSAVO WEST and AMBOSELLI NATIONAL PARKS in Kenya during May of this year! I was so happy that I bought RANGER 8 x 42 BINOUCLARS from EAGLE OPTICS before going to AFRICA. They really made the difference, especially when we encountered a LEOPARD that was guarding a freshly killed baby Eland. Thanks for sharing Nina!


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