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Dale Zimmerman's singular memoir details a half-century of ornithological investigations in East Africa, at a time when Africa's fabled wildlife and wild habitats flourished beneath the snows of Kilimanjaro. Set against the political backdrop of the shift from colonial to African rule, Turaco Country documents a field ornithologist's quintessentially African experience, capturing the sights, scents and sounds of a vanishing world.
In 1961, Dale Zimmerman set off for Africa, armed with a degree in Botany, years of study of African avifauna, and a keen passion for wild nature. Thus began an adventure that would span a half-century. In the ensuing years, while Dr. Zimmerman was Professor of Biology at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, he continued to explore birdlife on all continents, but always returned to Africa. An acclaimed artist as well as scientist, he co-authored and co-illustrated two field guides, Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania and Birds of New Guinea.
Zimmerman's first step into Africa led to immersion in the misty Kakamega Forest, where he unraveled mysteries surrounding its little-investigated birdlife. Often with his wife Marian (also an ornithologist and a botanist) and young son Allan (later himself a fine naturalist), he found adventure aplenty among the lions, elephants, hornbills, and exquisite turacos.
Generously spiced with photographs taken by the Zimmermans and their friends, Turaco Country sparkles with a life that is uniquely African.
Chapter 1: The First Journey 19
Safari Diary 41
The "Pearl of Africa" 219
Chapter 2: The Return 255
Marian Comes to Africa 284
Checking in at Kakamega 376
Nairobi Interludes 383
A Morning near Ulu 390
To Tsavo and the Coast 399
The Captivating Sokoke 451
Chapter 3: Forest Odyssey – Counting Kakamegas Birds 479
Chapter 4: Mau Interlude 523
At Home at Kivulini 523
Farewell to Kivulini 614
Chapter 5: Family Life at Kakamega 619
Return to the Forest 640
Chapter 6: Butterfly Digression 663
Chapter 7: Birding with Binford 711
Chapter 8: Kenya Birdwatch, 1986 725
"[...] I for one am delighted that Dale Zimmerman has provided us with this fascinating account of his long love affair with an East Africa that we may never see again."
– Nigel Redman, Bulletin of the African Bird Club, Volume 23(2)
"Dale Zimmerman leads us on an intimate, intensely personal journey of ornithological discovery, brimming with the eager enthusiasm and obvious passion of an ardent birder and naturalist, yet interwoven throughout with the scholarly insights of a distinguished biologist [...] This book will appeal to birders and naturalists of all stripes, and should leave even the most sedentary of armchair travelers looking to book the next flight to Africa!"
– Kevin J. Zimmer
"Dale Zimmerman [...] [is] one of the most knowledgeable naturalists ever to study this region. The more than 930 photographs [...] are of the very highest quality and interest. This is a memoir that one will read and reread endlessly for its vivid images of a disappearing Africa and for the joy in nature it so beautifully expresses."
– Noel F. R. Snyder