WE WAKE TO THE SONG OF BIRDS

We came back to Tanzania in October 1991 and again are very happy here. We live at Mafiga, Morogoro, where we have a lovely old house (formerly a sisal farmhouse) and large garden: from our verandah we can see the steep Uluguru Mountains and the view from the back is dominated by another range, Mindu. The garden is a naturalist’s paradise: it contains a wonderful range of tropical plants – many of which provide us with our own fruit – and abounds in birds, reptiles and invertebrates.

The bird life is particularly impressive. We awake each day to the songs of white-browed robin chats (Cossypha heuglini), spotted morning warblers (Cichladusa guttata) and yellowvented bulbuls (Pycnotatus barbatus). Pied crows (Corvus albus) and white-naped ravens (Corvus albicoll is) come and drink from the water bowls that we have put out in the garden, as do balck-headed weavers (Ploceus cucullatus) and, from time to time, other birds such as bronze mannikins (Lonchura cucullata) and blue-capped cordon bleu (Uraeginthus cyanocephalus). Scarlet-chested sunbirds (Nectarinia senegalensis) and variable sunbirds (N. venusta), feed from the flowers in the garden and little beeeaters (Merops pusillus) hunt insects. African yellow-billed kites (Mil vus migrans parasitus) often frequent our trees by day – there is also a large roost, mixed with the European race, only a few kms away – while barn owls (Tyto alba) hunt in the garden at night. Bateleur eagles (Terathopius ecaudatus) regularly soar overhead and cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) pass over morning and evening.

Reptiles are also prevalent. There are striped skunks (Mabuya striata) and house geckos (Hemidactylus mabouia) everywhere but we also see yellow-headed dwarf geckos (Lygodactylus luteopicturatus), chameleons (Chamaeloe sp.) and Nile monitors (Varanus niloticus). The commonest snakes appear to be the white-lipped or herald snake (Crotaphopheltis hotamboeia) which is rear-fanged and the tiny blind snake (Typhlops sp.) which is harmless. spitting cobras (Naja nigricollis) visit us from time-to-time and there is at least one green bush snake (Philothamnus sp.) in the bushes overhanging our outhouses. Puff adders (Bi tis arietans) are frequently reported by our Tanzanian neighbours and we are often called to remove them.

The invertebrates we see deserve a multivolume text to themselves. The most spectacular are the butterflies such as the mocker swallowtail (Papilio dardanus), citrus swallowtail (P. demodocus), African monarch (Danaus chrysippus), commodores (Precis spp.) and, especially after rain, grass yellows (Eurema spp.) which provide us with a far better spectacle than any butterfly house in Britain! Large wasps, bees, grasshoppers, mantids and beetles are ubiquitous and not proving easy to identify. Giant millipedes appear when it rains as do giant land snails (Achatina sp.), ant lions and termites.

We have a large collection of captive animals – some “permanent”, some temporarily with us while undergoing veterinary treatment and others in transit for only a few days. At present we have two dogs, four guinea fowl, two chickens (one the local Kuchi breed which has a bare neck),four pigeons, an Indian house crow, eleven rescued tortoises (of two species), an African rock python and various insects. other species which have passed through our hands have ranged from freshwater crabs to young ostriches.

John and Margaret Cooper

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