“The country is broken but the mountains and rivers remain.” ~ 杜甫
Science at the bidding of the corporations is knowledge reduced to merchandise. ~Wendell Berry
It took a good two months, but I've finally managed to sort through the nearly 1,000 photos that I took while in Tanzania earlier this summer and narrow it down to my very favorites (which you can find on my Flickr page). In general I try not to take lots of photos of species of which I've already gotten a number of nice shots, which is why you may see some glaring ommisions (and lots of birds). It really is nice to be able to absorb the larger environment and to focus on watching social behavior and interactions between species without having to always be rabidly tied to your telephoto lens.
For me, one of the most exciting (and hardest) parts of experiencing a new place is always becoming familiar with the local birds. No matter that I've notched 250+ species in East Africa, since I've moved to Taiwan it's been rather slow going. Sometimes species overlap, but there are differences in taxonomy and naming protocols not to mention completely new habitats, elevational gradients, local variations, and pockets of particular species.
Taiwan has an enormously vibrant community of avian enthusiasts, but a relative lack in English language reference materials. The Taipei Wild Bird Society has published some materials (and the first English-language field guide to the birds of Taiwan is dropping in October!!!), but for new-comers and non-birders alike, I decided to put together a very brief field guide of some of the more common species that I see around our home in Dashe District, Taiwan.
Feel free to download the guide for personal use either by clicking on download icon on the file embedded above or via Google Drive.
Tomorrow morning we are packing up and departing Ndarakwai, where the students have been busy for the past 6 days. We intentionally front-load the course with a lot content as we try to rapidly introduce Tanzanian history and culture while also covering some of the basic concepts of dry savanna ecology and field methods.
Yesterday students designed mini-animal behavior research projects and spent most of the day observing (and following around) groups of impala and baboons. Today was focused on vegetation plots, which are a way to assess species distribution and diversity and a fundamental building block of many ecological studies. After practicing at camp, they set off guided by GPS units to measure the vegetation on and off the ranch here.
Tomorrow we are off to Arusha for a few days and will be changing camp locations every night or two for the rest of our time in Tanzania. Students will likely have access to wifi for the next day or two, but will then likely
be out of touch for the next week and a half or so. I will try to post periodic updates here and will be adding photos to Instagram (@paulshaffner), but as I've mentioned before, no news is good news!