Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Days 7 and 8--Pemba Island

We woke up to an overcast morning at Amani, and still had no electricity. We did not have waves of silvery cheeked hornbills either.  Breakfast was a repeat of the day before. After birding a bit around the lodge, we began our drive to Tanga which is on the coast of Tanzania, and has a small airport where we would catch our flight over to Pemba Island.  We had a not very birdy morning enroute to Tanga, so I have added the photo below taken by Bob of a gray cuckoo-shrike from day 6.  We did stop at one point to look for a Kurrichane thrush.  We heard one calling in a very tall tree.  We kept looking and looking, but could not pick it up. Three locals came up to see what we were doing, and tried to help us find it, but they did not speak any english.  After about 10 minutes, one threw a rock up into the tree, and the thrush flew out the other side and up the hillside.

We arrived a bit early for our flight to Pemba, and then the plane was also late arriving at Tanga.  We said good bye to Abdul who had done such a good job of driving us while we were in Tanzania. The airport security was not your typical post 9/11 experience.  They opened our checked bags to do a fairly perfunctory search.  Our carry-ons were also searched, and they ran a wand over our body instead of having us walk thru a scanner.  We were allowed to carry on water.

Our flight to Pemba Island only took 45 minutes in a 12 seat prop plane piloted by an African who appeared to be in his mid 20's and had trained in the U. S.  He was very competent, and answered our questions about himself and the plane.  We arrived at the island, which is just north of Zanzibar, a little after 5 PM where Yusef picked us up with enough time to make the drive to the Ngezi forest before dusk.

Our target Pemba Island endemic was the local scops owl.  We spent about an hour just after dark walking along a sandy road listening to several Pemba scops owls calling, but were unable to locate one that we could shine our flashlights on.  About 8 PM they stopped calling so we packed up and headed to our lodging for the nite.  We arrived at the New Sharouk guesthouse after a somewhat unnerving ride along gravel roads without any streetlights while zipping by people walking or riding their bikes.

The meal at the guest house was one of our better dinners--grilled local fish, meat samosas, potatoes, and sauteed spinach.  We also were introduced to bongo juice which is made from a local fruit grown on Pemba.  It was quite delicious, and hard to describe--a unique taste.  The guest house had internet access, so I was able to send my wife an email for the first time on our trip.  We did our bird list update, and then were very ready to hit the sack.

We awoke to a sunny morning that felt warmer and more humid than any day so far, but then we were on an island in the Indian Ocean!  After another routine breakfast, we walked out to be greeted by house crows, and then drove a a few blocks away to check out the Pemba flying fox bat day roost (click on any photo to enlarge).

We then proceeded to drive an hour back to the Ngezi forest to bird there for the morning.  As we drove in the daylight, we really began to get a different feel for the culture of the island.  There were definitely more muslims living there, and we saw a few women who were totally covered except for a small eye slit.  It made them seem very mysterious.

On the way to the forest we saw a few Pemba green pigeons, another one of the island endemics.  We also saw more of the Dickinson's kestrel (photo below taken by Bob) that is also an endemic.

Once we got back to the forest, we were able to get out of our vehicle and walk around the edge of the forest.  We saw several crowned hornbills (photo taken by Bob).  We also saw some water birds like great egrets, striated, black-headed and gray herons, little grebes, hamerkops, white-faced whistling ducks, egyptian geese, and hadada and sacred ibis.

As we worked the area we found a tambourine dove just above, and lots of madagascar bee-eaters which is another one of E. Africa's very colorful bird families (both photos taken by Bob).

Another island endemic is the Pemba sunbird of which we were able to see several (photo taken by Bob).

We walked along the edge of a rubber tree plantation where a African harrier hawk very cooperatively perched for us to take its picture (photo taken by Bob).  Below is a photo of Stu pulling Bob loose from where his finger was stuck to the rubber tree sap.

We found often during our trip vervet monkeys which can be pests, and are called vermin monkeys by the locals.

Some other new bird species for our trip that we saw on Pemba included brown-headed parrot, broad billed roller, the endemic Pemba white-eye, southern gray-headed sparrow, and the java sparrow just below (photo taken by Bob).

After a productive morning of birding, we headed to the airport to catch our mid afternoon flight back to the mainland.  While waiting at the airport, we ate our box lunch which included more bongo juice and meat samosas which were much better than our usual 3 day old grilled chicken.  Security was pretty much like at Tanga, and we had the same pilot as the day before.

When we arrived at Tanga, we were picked up by John who would be our driver for the next 2+ weeks.  We proceeded to the Kenya border, going thru the same exit and entry process.  Unfortunately, a large bus arrived at the border control just before us, so we ended up having to wait in line for almost an hour.  We were also concerned about our visa because it said single journey instead of multiple entry, but it proved to not be a problem.

We left the border about 6 PM, and our last new bird of the day was a Bohm's spinetail which flies like a bat.  The drive to Malindi, our night's destination, took us thru Mombasa which we reached about 8:30.  The traffic was horrible, and the short ferry ride was backed up so far that it took us 90 minutes of crawling along before we could board the ferry.  All along the road side as we were passing thru Mombasa were small fires where people were cooking food to sell for dinner.  The crowds were thick as were the bicycles, motor bikes, and mini-buses.  Even though I have driven in many places, including Mexico, I was very glad to have John driving our landcruiser thru the crush of traffic and people.

We finally arrived at the Skorpio Villas in Malindi at midnight.  A cold dinner was in our rooms, but it was way too late to eat.  There was hot water, so I did some very much needed washing of underwear and t-shirts before going to bed.  Next up for us was the Sokoke forest.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Would you add your bat photo as a citizen-science observation to the AfriBats project on iNaturalist?:

    AfriBats will use your observations to better understand bat distributions and help protect bats in Africa.

    Please locate your picture on the map as precisely as possible to maximise the scientific value of your records.

    Many thanks!