Birds 101: From My Backyard to Serengeti National Park

Bird Watching in Serengeti National Park. A pearl spotted owl. Photo by Rebecca Redshaw
A Pearl Spotted Owl in Serengeti National Park. Photo by Rebecca Redshaw

Before this spring, bird watching for me was a no-brainer. Basically, I could readily identify robins, blue jays, and, since I live in the Northwest, bald eagles. I was at best an ill-informed admirer of the early morning songs at sunrise. But then I traveled to Africa.

My dream for years was to see and photograph wild animals in their natural habitat. Giraffes were at the top of my list. A safari in Africa with Overseas Adventures Travel was just the ticket. Our group numbered 12 people of varying ages and interests and happened to include two avid “birders.”

Over the next 12 days my “dream” vacation included everything I had hoped to see with one very wonderful surprise – an appreciation of birds!

Bird Watching in Serengeti National Park

Tanzania, and more specifically, the Serengeti National Park, is the home to more than 1,100 species of birds. Before my departure, friends at home had loaned me books about birds, but I brushed them aside, favoring the mammal guides and books of fictional accounts of discoveries in the wild.

Once aboard the Land Cruiser –dressed in khaki, a big sun hat, wearing my many pocketed safari jacket that housed sun screen, bug spray, tissues, camera brush, and a small bag of gorp (just in case) – six of us set off at sunrise with cameras at the ready. Our trusty tour guide, Ahadi, was in charge of not only driving the dusty, bumpy roads, but spotting wildlife.

Yellow Collared Love Birds in Serengeti National Park. Photo by Rebecca Redshaw
Yellow Collared Love Birds in Serengeti National Park. Photo by Rebecca Redshaw

The first identified bird was the Superb Starling with its multi-colored feathers and iridescent blue sheen. This was the first bird I recognized and, as it became apparent over the next 12 days, it was hardly a rare species. I still give it extra kudos for being named “Superb.” I mean, who wouldn’t want to go through life tagged with that descriptive adjective?

Not much later in the day, a Secretary bird was espied in the tall grass. Not as colorful as the starling, it was no less distinctive with its spindly legs and distinctive gait.

Of course, in addition to being fascinated by birds perched precariously on thorny acacia trees, I experienced moments of discovery with elephants nearby, a herd of giraffes stretching their necks for the highest foliage, and zebras ambling along – lots and lots of zebras.

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