Book Review: Birds of the Serengeti: And Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Birds of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Adam Scott Kennedy
Princeton University Press/WildGuides. 2014.
224 pages, 480 colour photos
This is the latest pocket photo guide in the new series of Wildlife Explorer Guides from Princeton. It covers the area that includes the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Victoria’s Speke Gulf – all of them in northern Tanzania.
The Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park and is a World Heritage Site. In particular, it is famous for the annual migration in August of many thousands of Blue Wildebeest as they move in search of fresh grazing. It covers an area of 5,700 square miles and is about 200 miles from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west. It is a great place for birding at any time, but in order to see the largest variety, a trip in October-January is best because you can see many of the European species that travel there for the winter.
The park has four lodges, six luxury tented camps and camp sites.
The guide is ideal for those with a general wildlife interest rather than hard-core birders, as many species have been left out – it covers just 264 of the 500 plus species that occur in the area. A brief text of up to 100 words per species gives general information on habits and identification tips. The book is divided into seven main habitat types, plus night birds and those found particularly at Lake Victoria. Using very effective photo montages the species are grouped together in life-like situations.
Hard choices have to be made if you are going to exclude half of the birds found in an area, and personally I would have kept a number that did not make the final cut – for example Dark Chanting Goshawk, Northern Red-billed Hornbill, White-headed Barbet, Horus Swift, African Rock Martin, Singing Bush Lark, Flappet Lark and Red-billed Quelea. All of these are relatively easy to see in the area – in fact more so than some of those that are included in the book.
One species that is included is Buffy Pipit. When you refer to your field guide you will notice that this species is shown as only occurring way south of here – mainly in southern Africa. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the “plain backed” pipits in the Serengeti area really are Plain-backed Pipit or Buffy Pipit. It seems amazing in these days of DNA analysis that nobody actually knows. Adam Scott Kennedy has clearly gone for the latter, and time will tell if he is right.
This is an attractive guide that uses uncomplicated text to explain what you are most likely to see and how you might aim to see it. It is not designed to be totally comprehensive.