Thursday, January 5, 2012

Diary of a birding princess

April 22, 2011: Magamba Forest, Tanzania

Dear Diary,

It´s 2 pm. I´ve been hiking in a drizzle all morning. It’s cold, it's muddy and I ran out of Pepto-Bismol hours ago. All I want is a hot shower and a clean, dry set of clothes.

As I grudgingly trudge along after Jared, whose energy for birding never seems to falter despite dismal weather conditions or lack of sleep, and our guide, Martin, I wonder how I got to this forest in Tanzania.

Magamba Forest, West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania

The rain picks up and Martin suggests we take shelter from the growing storm on the porch of an abandoned wooden house. Does this house have a toilet? No such luck. Just an overgrown area in the back. Jared warns me in all seriousness to ¨watch out for ground eels¨ as I march back into the rain to find a private place for getting my business done... again.

I have always had passion for beautiful things. I remember my first Nutcracker performance with the Kansas City Ballet. I was 8 years old, and I loved the dancing, the costumes, the make-up and shiny jewelry. Fourteen years later, I discovered that birds are by far the most beautiful things I´ve seen yet!  Birds are so lovely they have led me away from what most consider glamorous and brought me to many strange places, like this forest in the mountains.  At this moment though, I want to be anywhere but here.

Clean and fresh...

Another dirty day in the woods...

As the rain continues, I’m tempted to call it a day. I tell Jared and Martin “good luck” and head for the car which is parked not too far down the road. I’m soaked, stomach-sore, and angry that my husband has dragged me away from everything comfortable. I allow my imagination to create a new life for myself in which my husband prefers to buy me owl feather hats and snakeskin boots and to watch the BBC ¨Planet Earth¨ series from the comfort of our plush leather couch wrapped in a white tiger pelt instead of exerting all my physical and mental energy to see the world´s treasures alive with our own two eyes. When did my princess life go astray?

With a sigh I realize my fantasy is not only unrealistic but also unethical according to my own moral code (I used to be a vegan). As much as I’m dreading a few more hours in the rain, I don’t want to miss something cool!

Colobus monkey in Magamba Forest

I turn around and find Jared and Martin just before they slip off onto a more-or-less forest trail.

What awaited me? Well, I stood in a damp forest for three more hours, pulled numerous biting ants from my legs, and had to find another forest “bathroom.” But you know what? Before I stepped out of that forest, five beautiful types of birds gave me a show. A spot-throat, a white-starred robin, a white-chested alethe, a white-tailed crested flycatcher, and an African hill babbler feasted upon the biting ants just a few meters from my eyes. Despite all the awfulness, this princess has found her riches.

White-starred robin (photo from Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda)

Until later,



  1. Great post, Michele. Loved the line about ground eels. Happy birding to you and Jared!


  2. Keep posting and telling us what is happening. Enjoyed this very first one. Hope many more to come. Love you both. Your Poppy.

  3. thanks guys! more to come for sure poppy!