Malawi and Zimbabwe – 23rd November – 12th December.   Leave a comment

I returned on the 13th from an excellent three week trip to Malawi and Zimbabwe. Whilst not producing the huge numbers of birds and big game that you would associate with say, Kenya or Tanzania, the tour was most rewarding and I added 47 life birds to my life list.

The tour started in the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe where ever before we reached the hotel we had scored with a ‘mega’, the tiny but seldom observed Locustfinch. The following day we visited Dzalanyama forest, a wonderful area of miombo woodland that is slowly being destroyed for charcoal production. We missed a number of the key species here but were able to catch up with most of them later in the trip.


Miombo woodland, a habitat that dominates south central Africa from Mozambique to Angola. This is a difficult habitat to bird in, the trees all look the same making directions difficult, birds are scarce and only travel in fast moving parties and are easily lost in the dense foliage. Fortunately this pair of African Hawk-eagles were easy enough to see well.


As well as miombo specialties, visiting Malawi allowed me to catch up on a number of widespread, but scarce, species such as this Ovambo Sparrowhawk. I have done 13 trips within its extensive African range but this is the first time I have seen it.


Further south we birded the few remaining woodland patches in the Vomba area, most of the forest has been transformed into tea plantations.


These White-eared Barbets were eating figs at Vomba. Other good birds included Buff-spotted Flufftail, White-winged Apalis and Green-headed Oriole ,which we got by the skin of our teeth as we were leaving.


Travelling up river to Liwonde NP we saw many Elephants and Hippos from our boat.


Accommodation was at Mvuu camp within the park. We stayed in these nice chalets. Bushbuck and a range of waterbirds could be seen from the balcony and a guard had to pick you up to take you to the restaurant in case you ran into an Elephant  or a Hippo on route.


We broke to long journey to the north on the shores of Lake Malawi. This is the view at dawn. The lake occupies 20% of the country’s area and the fish it provides are a major source of protein.


We had another bash at miombo woodland on the way to and the way back from the Nyika Plateau. These look like autumnal colours but are in fact the colour of newly emerged leaves in the southern spring.


Rocky outcrops, wooded valleys and extensive grassy areas make up the Nyika Plateau. part of our birding was in Zambia which co-owns the Park.


Magnificent Roan along with Eland, Zebra and Reedbuck were a common sight at Nyika.


A displaying male Black-bellied Bustard. It would extend its neck, then lower it whilst making a gurgling sound, wait two seconds then open its wings and make a loud popping sound.


From Malawi’s capital Lilongwe we had to fly overnight all the way north to Nairobi to get a flight to Harare (a bit like flying from Edinburgh to Paris to get to Glasgow). We then had a long drive to the Vumba mountains on the Mozambique border. Unfortunately it rained for most of our stay. We got the birds but not the photos, we could have done with taking some of the rain with us to our next destination!


On the optional extension we drove from Harare eight hours north to the Zambezi valley. The river, a tributary of the Zambezi was dry as was this creek. We had some great birding but dipped on our primary goal, the mega-elusive African Pitta. It is only visible when the rains start and they were late this year. Hence we didn’t even hear one. Frustratingly as we were waiting at Harare airport to fly home, clouds built up and there was a rainstorm as we left.


Beautiful White-fronted Bee-eaters provided some compensation for the dip.

This is a brief summary of the trip. I will upload several more posts about the trip as I go through the 1500+ photos that I took.

Posted December 19, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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