Mozambique & Zimbabwe_____________________

 

 

Mozambique and Eastern Zimbabwe 2011

...with Mark Finn

August 24th - September 7th


Mozambique and Eastern Zimbabwe was the first tour undertaken by a UK company after both countries have become stable after years of conflict. Mozambique gave us sightings of some uncommon and rare birds in the Southern Africa region including the endemic subspecies of Green-headed Oriole residing on Mount Gorongosa. Other species of note recorded during the tour were a pair of nesting Bat Hawks in the suburbs of Beira, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Grey-headed Parrot, Green Malkoha, Bat-like Spinetail, Narina Trogon, Mangrove Kingfisher, Racket-tailed Roller, five species of Honeyguide, African Broadbill, Woodward’s Batis, Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike, Eastern Nicator, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Black-headed and Chirinda Apalis, East Coast Akalat, Plain-backed and Western Violet-backed Sunbirds, Striped and Short-tailed Pipits, Least Seedcracker and Orange-winged Pytilia. Over the border into Zimbabwe where the recent reforms and introduction of the US Dollar appears to have stabilised the country. Our base high in the Bvumba Mountains was an excellent centre as the forest here allowed us to study Swynnerton’s and White-starred Robins, Orange Ground Thrush, Mottled Swift, Peter’s Twinspot, Miombo Rock Thrush, Miombo and Cinnamon-breasted Tits, Olive Bushshrike and Whyte’s Barbet.

My thanks go out to Grahame and Kevin who assisted the tour greatly with their intimate knowledge of Mozambique and its unique birdlife and Bulawesi our guide in Zimbabwe with his excellent knowledge of the areas birdlife.

The next tour to Mozambique and Eastern Zimbabwe is planned for 2013.

August 24th/25th:
Weather: Warm and sunny with NW winds 29c

The party met at Heathrow Airport for the flight south to Johannesburg in South Africa and then onto the coastal port of Beira in central Mozambique. On arrival in Beira we were met by our guides and transferred to our accommodation for the next two nights. Beira is run down in several districts but some of its colonial architecture still prevails in places. After changing into more suitable clothing our birding trip started in earnest with visits to the outer suburbs and the Rio Savane Road. Common city birds included Yellow-billed Kite, Pied Crow, African Palm Swift, Dark-capped Bulbul and an unusual record of a House Crow which is a recent colonist from the Indian sub-continent. A stop at an old baobab tree added a pair of nesting Bat Hawks, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and African Yellow White-eye. The road towards Rio Savane was reached passing by local markets and gardens and eventually a huge area of seasonal grassland. Large trees attracted a splendid Red-necked Falcon whilst the open grasslands had Black-shouldered Kites, African Marsh Harrier and a Dickinson’s Kestrel. Patches of water attracted an early returning Wood Sandpiper, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed Stork, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers and hawking Collared Pratincoles. Swallows also featured with Lesser-striped and Red-breasted being observed. Near the road bridge Rufous-bellied Heron, Brimstone Canary and a flock of Bronze Mannikins. The sun was starting to dip as we headed back to base.

August 26th:
Weather: Morning showers followed by sunny spells and a SE wind 30c

We left early today to be at an area of grassland with small pools for first light. Along the road a Square-tailed Nightjar was disturbed and further on a Brown-crowned Tchagra. Longer grasses attracted groups of Fan-tailed Widowbirds and both African and Short-tailed Pipits. Our next stop was at a group of trees bordering a small marsh. This was productive for the scarce Lesser Seedcracker, Black-backed Puffback and Black-crowned Tchagra. Afterwards we walked across the damp fields searching for birds. In the next hour the group were rewarded with sightings of Wattled Lapwing, African Snipe, Collared Pratincole, the uncommon and nomadic Black-rumped Button-quail and Senegal Lapwings which were constantly harassing African Marsh Harriers. Around the mud edge of the marsh Three-banded Plover, Common Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. Walked back to the van for breakfast with sightings of (Eastern) Black-headed Oriole, Hadada Ibis, Palm-nut Vulture, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Malachite Kingfisher, Purple Heron and African Darter. The sun was starting to heat up the countryside as we headed towards the Rio Savane an important river estuary for waders. On arrival we found the localised Mangrove Kingfisher a scarce bird of the East African coastline. Out on the sand bars several waders had arrived for the summer season including Whimbrel, Greater Sandplover, Terek and Common Sandpipers, White-fronted and Grey Plovers, Common and Sandwich Terns. Next on the agenda was the prawn farm which is an extensive area of shallow lagoons and mud controlled by sluices linked to the Indian Ocean. On the entrance track Little Bee-eaters perched on low bushes. The first lagoons held Whiskered and Little Terns. At lagoon number three we decided to walk down the track and search for birds in the recently drained areas. This proved to be an excellent area for Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Cormorant, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover, Curlew and Wood Sandpipers, Little Stint, Water Thick-knee and a solitary African Fish Eagle. Herons, storks and egrets were also well represented with above average numbers of Woolly-necked and Yellow-billed Storks. Retraced our journey and went towards an isolated patch of forest with a Rufous-winged Cisticola en route. Lunch taken in the shade of the forest with several sightings of Booted Eagle and Black-chested Snake Eagles. A walk through the forest produced little of note apart from brief views of a Green Malkoha. Back to base in Beira where a walk in the grounds added a Little Sparrowhawk and a female Red-billed Firefinch.

August 27th:
Weather: Early mist followed by hot weather 35c

Today we revisited the remnant patch of forest within the Rio Savane area. Birding along the road was good with the taller trees holding Crowned Hornbills. Hanging vines, tangles and larger trees by the road attracted many birds including African Paradise Flycatcher, Black-bellied Starling, Terrestial Brownbul, Woodward’s Batis, Tiny Greenbul, Bearded Scrub Robin, and over the trees Black Sawwings. On our return to Beira another stop added Forest Weaver, Striped Kingfisher and a Grey-headed Bushshrike. Late breakfast taken and a juvenile Klaas’s Cuckoo in the trees outside the bungalow. At 10am we were on the road towards Gorongosa National Park. Our first stop at a roadside marsh was productive for Greater Painted Snipe, Squacco Heron, Sacred Ibis and Collared Pratincoles. Further up the road near a pumping station large numbers of African Pygmy Geese on a lily-covered pool. The entrance road to the park was reached which runs through extensive patches of Miombo woodland. The first stop produced a mixed flock of birds including Retz’s Helmetshrike, Pale Batis, Southern Hyliota, Red-headed Weaver, Greencap Eremomela, White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Southern Black Flycatcher. Late lunch taken at Gorongosa Camp and then birding towards the park gate. This was again a productive area for African Harrier Hawk, Kurrichane Thrush, Red-winged Prinia, Arrow-marked Babbler, Yellow-throated Petronia and Golden-breasted Buntings. In the evening an enjoyable meal at the owners house and bar.

August 28th:
Weather: rain in the morning followed by drier and sunnier conditions 12c/28c

An early departure was essential today with our local guide Susanna. Our destination Gorongosa Mountain is several kilometres away from the park and one of the few remaining patches of pristine forest left in the region. On the ascent we heard the distinctive calls of Fiery-necked Nightjar. Low cloud and mist made birding difficult although we managed to see Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Singing and Croaking Cisticolas, Common Waxbill and Black Sawwing. Near a remote village we embarked on a walk to the forest itself. Within the ‘slash and burn’ area we recorded African Stonechat, Red-winged Starling, Amethyst, Variable and White-bellied Sunbirds and African Dusky Flycatcher. On entering the forest we followed the main trail and stopped at an area with open views. From here we observed the endemic subspecies of Green-headed Oriole, White-tailed Elminia, Chirinda Apalis, Forest Weaver, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul and Square-tailed Drongos. An enjoyable brunch was taken before retracing our steps. A bare tree attracted several Livingstone’s Turacos and nearby a calling Pallid Honeyguide. Other species along the path included Blue and Grey Waxbills, Orange-winged Pytilia, African Firefinch, Red-backed Mannikin and at least two Peter’s Twinspots. Near the main road we nearly run over a Small Buttonquail which promptly flew into cover. Back at the entrance road to the park further stops added African Penduline Tit, Southern Black Tit, White-crowned Black Chat, Western Violet-backed and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Green Woodhoopoe and Grey Go-away-Birds. Picked up our bags from camp and made the short journey to Gorongosa National Park our base for the next two nights. Along the road sightings of Helmeted Guineafowl and Common Scimitarbill.

August 29th:
Weather: Warm and sunny 29c

This morning we met up at the restaurant for coffee and tea before making a walk around the extensive grounds of the camp site. In a large dead tree we found a pair of Purple-banded Sunbirds, Black-headed Oriole, Cardinal Woodpecker and a Grey-headed Bushshrike. In another area of the camp a Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Collared Palm Thrush, Black Cuckooshrike and a party of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters perched in dead branches. After breakfast a Slender-billed Honeyguide was found feeding in a leafy tree. At 0830 hours the group set off to explore Gorongosa National Park which was one of the best in Africa for birds and mammals until the civil war disrupted matters in the 1980’s/1990’s. In the first section of woodland Speckled and Red-faced Mousebirds, Brubru, Yellow-breasted Apalis and raptors including African White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Tawny Eagle and Lizard Buzzard. Shortly afterwards we encountered a party of White Helmetshrikes, Common Scimitarbill, African Hoopoe, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Emerald Spotted Wood-doves. Several stops alongside a strip of water added Squacco Heron, African Jacana and Water Thick-knees. Further on the habitat changes with large tracts of grassland dotted with isolated trees an excellent area for mammals and birds. Careful scanning of the area gave us views of African Fish Eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Grey-crowned Crane, Saddle-billed Stork, Southern Ground Hornbill, Blacksmith and Wattled Lapwings, Collared Pratincole and Pale Flycatchers. We joined another track leading to a large water body where the long grasses attracted Rattling, Zitting and Siffling Cisticolas. On and around the lake Black-headed, Grey and Goliath Herons, Pied Kingfisher, African Marsh Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite and Whiskered Terns. Lunch taken by the lake and then onto another track leading into a remote area of the park. This proved to be very good with three areas of wetlands attracting many species of birds. A surprise find by Vernon was a pair of Red-billed Oxpeckers feeding on the backs of Warthogs, the birds being well out of range here. On a large, well vegetated pool we found Spur-winged Geese, Comb Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, African Black Crake and African Jacanas. Back on the road with a covey of Red-necked Francolins. In the next wetland African Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Giant and Pied Kingfishers, Yellow Bishop and Fan-tailed Widowbirds the latter two species in non-breeding plumage. Near the viewing platform good views of Gabar Goshawk. On the return journey back to base sightings of Narina Trogon, Wattled Starling, Hooded Vulture and probably best of all an immature Martial Eagle on the ground and spreading its wings before flying up into a tree. It is pleasing to see that Gorongosa National Park is slowly returning to the splendours of the past regarding mammals, a quiet extraordinary place to visit in southeast Africa.

August 30th:
Weather: Overcast with occasional sunny spells 29c

An early breakfast followed by a walk around the campgrounds. The usual species were present plus White-browed Robin Chats and Lemon-breasted Seedeaters. Departed after breakfast to the main gate making a few stops along the road for Brown Snake Eagle, Narina Trogon, Slender-billed Honeyguide, Orange-breasted Bushshrike and a Shikra perched in the top of a dead tree. The journey towards Dondo produced little of note apart from Wahlberg’s Eagles an inter-African migrant. From Dondo we turned onto a sand road which eventually leads to the Msasa Camp. The road passes through degraded habitats and poor agricultural areas and is adjacent to the railway line running from Tete to Beira. The line is an important link carrying coal to the coast and export. A few birds were seen including Bat-like Spinetail, Black-eared Seedeater and Eastern Sawwings. Msasa Camp was reached our base for the next two nights situated in an area of sustainable forestry.

August 31st:
Weather: Sunny and warm 28c

We met up at the deck area at 0600 hours for pre-breakfast refreshments. Birds in around the camp included African Wood Owl, Greater Honeyguide and calling Silvery-cheeked Hornbills. The group embarked on a short walk through the forest recording Purple-banded Sunbird, Forest Weaver, Black-backed Puffback, Green-backed Camaroptera, Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike, Woodward’s and Pale Batis and calling Livingstone’s Turaco. Within the forest an African Broadbill and two Trumpeter Hornbills perched in a dead tree. Returned to camp where a pair of Blue-throated Sunbirds showed well in a leafy tree plus Ashy Flycatcher and Yellow-bellied Apalis. Back to the forest where we have a 0900 hours walk along the river bed. Brief views of Black-headed Apalis and on the trail East Coast Akalat a range-restricted endemic. Brunch taken and then we arranged to visit an area of Miombo woodland in the afternoon. It was still hot as we walked down a wide trail. Luck was with us as a Racket-tailed Roller was seen perched in a tree, long views obtained of this scarce bird. Down another trail where we encountered a Stierling’s Wren Warbler which conveniently perched in a tree for all of us to see. As dusk started to fall a close Lizard Buzzard, Greencap Eremomela and Yellow-throated Petronia to complete the day list.

September 1st:
Weather: Hot and sunny 35c

Before dawn we could hear African Barred Owlet, African Wood Owl and African Broadbill around the camp grounds. At 0600 we set off on another walk through the Miombo woodland. It was fairly quiet to start with although we had views of a male Narina Trogon perched in a tree. Above the forest we had views of Silvery-cheeked Hornbill and in an open area of grasses with trees African Black-headed Oriole, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Plain-backed and Purple-banded Sunbirds, Forest Weaver, Pale and Woodward’s Batis. At the end of the trail we finally caught up with the rather uncommon and localised Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike. An African Goshawk was briefly seen flying over the forest canopy. After breakfast we set off for Mphingwe Camp our last base in Mozambique. The sandy road weaved itself through sustainable and degraded forest habitats and ruined buildings from the civil war of the last century. A few birds were noted along the first sector including a perched Crowned Hawk Eagle, African White-backed and White-headed Vultures, Southern Ground Hornbill, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Purple-crested Turaco and Mosque Swallow. Lunch taken on the road by a bridge overlooking some scorched habitats. This produced Grey-headed and Striped Kingfishers, Miombo Starling and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds. Mphingwe Camp was reached situated in a patch of Miombo woodland. Two small pools of water attracted birds down to drink. This included Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, African Paradise Flycatcher, Bearded Scrub Robin, Red-eyed and Ring-necked Doves, Emerald Spotted Wood-dove, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Grey (Green)-backed Camaroptera, Blue Waxbill and African Black-headed Orioles.

September 2nd:
Weather: Hot and sunny 37c

An early start today as we travelled to Coutadas Number 12 a timber and hunting concession. On arrival we started to record the common and more widespread species of Miombo woodland. Our first new species was the rather active and mobile Livingstone’s Flycatcher flitting in and around leafy trees. Fruiting trees of figs and flowers attracted high numbers of Collared and Purple-banded Sunbirds and a lone Black-headed Apalis. Trumpeter and Silvery-billed Hornbills were also numerous and a few African Green Pigeons were new for the tour. Breakfast taken within the forest and shortly after we encountered a party of Crested Guineafowl. Grahame turned down a track leading to a hunting camp which took us into an interesting habitat of large trees, baobab and grasses. The first stop produced Bat-like Spinetail, Cardinal Woodpecker, Lesser Honeyguide, Green-backed Honeybird, Red-winged Prinia, Brown-hooded Kingfisher and Yellow-fronted Canary. We continued on the track and passed through several areas of burnt woodland. Very few birds around until we stopped again in a section of green leaved trees. This added African Hoopoe, Retz’s and Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrikes, African Grey and Crowned Hornbills and at least three African Crested Flycatchers. On the way back to Mphingwe brief views of Fasciated Snake Eagle. It was getting hot as we turned into the camp. The water pools attracted similar birds to yesterday with the addition of a female Tambourine Dove and Yellow-bellied Greenbul.

September 3rd:
Weather: Very hot and sunny after early morning mist 40c

A later departure this morning as we travelled north to the town of Caio on the Zambezi River. Our first stop at a degraded lake and surrounding villages allowed us to observe many wetland birds after two days in Miombo woodland. Species of note included White-faced Whistling Ducks, Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Grey and Purple Herons, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, egrets, Curlew and Wood Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, Kittlitz’s Plover, Spur-winged Geese and Comb Ducks. By the railway line Red-faced Cisticola, Common Waxbill, Yellow-fronted Canary, Grosbeak and Village Weavers. Back to the van and onto the old road by the Zambezi Bridge river crossing. By the river Plain Martin, Little, White-rumped and African Black Swifts, Wire-tailed and Lesser Striped Swallows. A nearby pool attracted African Fish Eagle and Black Crake and in adjacent trees African Mourning Dove and Rufous-winged Cisticola. It was starting to get very hot as we went in search of Miombo birds. A large burnt sector held Golden-tailed Woodpecker. Further along the road a juvenile African Crowned Eagle perched in a dead tree. A walk into the woodland produced several birds including Green-backed Woodpecker, Stripe-cheeked and Yellow-bellied Greenbuls, Woodward’s Batis and a perched African Hawk Eagle. After lunch we slowly worked our way home recording Peter’s Twinspot. Back at base the pools were active with sightings of Greater, Pallid and Speckle-throated Honeyguides, African Paradise Flycatcher, Red-billed Quelea and Grey-backed Camaroptera. Tomorrow we leave Mozambique and head over the border into Zimbabwe and the Bvumba Highlands.

September 4th:
Weather: Warm and sunny 32c

Today was essentially a travel one as we headed south and then west towards the border with Zimbabwe. Before breakfast a walk around the camp grounds added nothing new apart from high numbers of Tambourine Doves. The journey was largely uneventful apart from sightings of Brown Snake and Fasciated Snake Eagles and a party of Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrikes. Passed through the border at Forbes River and made the short journey up to the White Horse Inn our final base for three nights. The inn is literally set in a time warp from the 1960’s with the decor, bedrooms and everything else looking very dated by modern standards. A quick exploration of the grounds and adjacent road produced sightings of African Black Swift, Amethyst and Variable Sunbirds, Bar-throated and Chirinda Apalis, Sombre and Yellow-bellied Greenbuls and a White-browed Robin Chat.

September 5th:
Weather: Overcast followed by sunny spells 24c

We met up at 0600 hours for a pre-breakfast walk around the hotel gardens and adjacent road. The first bird to be located was a calling African Emerald Cuckoo a scarce species in early September. A short drive away we found several interesting species in the Miombo woodland. This included the scarce Striped Pipit, Miombo Tit, Miombo Sunbird, Miombo Rock Thrush, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird and close views of the uncommon Cabanas’ Bunting. Returned to the White Horse Inn for breakfast. From the gardens we could see several White-eared Barbets sitting high in a eucalyptus tree. In shrubs around the inn Chirinda and Bar-throated Apalis, Sombre and Stripe-cheeked Greenbuls and Red-backed Mannikins. Back in the van to visit a campground where we walked in among the trees recording Cape Robin Chat, African Yellow White-eye, Cardinal Woodpecker and Golden-breasted Buntings. Further up the road a short walk along a well-marked track added Bronze and Western Olive Sunbirds, Cape Batis, African Dusky Flycatcher and several endemic Robert’s Prinias. Next stop was Genina a forested area with a well-marked trail into the forest. Luck was with us here as a White-starred Robin showed in the orchard and a Black-fronted Bush-shrike delighted everybody as it foraged high in trees. A walk within the forest eventually produced Yellow-streaked Greenbul, White-tailed Elminia and a Swynnerton’s Robin the latter being a vulnerable and scarce Southeast African endemic (better views in forest later on). Further up the mountain a visit to Seldomseen where the protea groves attracted Common Fiscal, Common Waxbill and Red-collared Widowbird, around the housing complex a pair of Ayre’s Hawk Eagles. Lunch taken and a walk through the extensive forest habitats. This proved to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience as the first sector provided Lemon Dove, calling Buff-spotted Flufftail, Orange Ground Thrush, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Red-faced Crimsonwing. Near the bungalows a hunting Lanner Falcon. A final check of the protea area added Cape Grassbird and African Stonechat. The finale was at Leopards Rock where we watched the impressive Mottled Swifts coming into roost.

September 6th:
Weather: Sunny and clear 32c

In the garden we were treated to close views of Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, Grosbeak Weavers and Peter’s Twinspots feeding on the grassy areas. We revisited the Miombo woodland where birdlife was strangely quiet for some reason. After breakfast we headed into Mutare and visited the golf club. In a short time we were studying the uncommon and localised Whyte’s Barbet perched in a dead tree. Cecil Kop nature reserve is close to the city and when we turned onto the entrance road a Striped Pipit was disturbed. Our first walk into a habitat of trees and long grasses produced sightings of Cinnamon-breasted Tits, Lazy Cisticola, Miombo Rock Thrush and Cape Bunting. Further up the track Rock Martin, Black-collared Barbet, African Dusky and Ashy Flycatchers, Miombo Tit and Yellow-fronted Canary. Picked up supplies and returned to Seldomseen for lunch. Afterwards we embarked on a walk through the forest with excellent views of Swynnerton’s and White-starred Robins, Orange Ground Thrush, White-tailed Elminia and a silhouette view of Olive Bushshrike. Visits to other areas around Seldomseen added Gurney’s Sugarbird, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Robert’s Prinia, Lemon Dove and Cape Grassbird. Returned to the White Horse Inn for our last night of the tour.

September 7th/8th:
Weather: Hot and sunny

Final total 327 species

Basically a travel day as we headed to Harare passing through a landscape of farms and villages. Arrived at the airport in good time for our flight to Johannesburg and onward connection to London Heathrow. The flight was delayed due to a dispute with the catering suppliers to SAA. Arrived in London slightly behind schedule where the tour concluded.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at enquiries@birdwatchingbreaks.com.


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