December 2013 – the Nyika Plateau – Malawi   Leave a comment

Returning to the trip to Malawi in November/December 2013, we continue the saga on the Nyika Plateau in the far north of the country.


As we drove north we passed extensive rubber plantations. I was somewhat amused by this sign.

IMG_4773 Irridescence in cloud

As we ascended the plateau we encountered huge thunder clouds and were particularly taken by the iridescent fringes to the upper layers.

IMG_4770 irridescent cloud

Caused by refraction through ice crystals in the upper and outer layers of the cloud, this presented a spectacular sight through a telephoto lens or binoculars.

IMG_4968 Nyika Platea lodge

The accommodation on the plateau was at this lodge. During the British colonial administration an attempt was made to turn the entire plateau into a pine plantation but fortunately this failed as it was too costly to transport the timber to market. The pines themselves seem to have done little damage, Eland and other large mammals often shelter in them at night and they provide nest sites for many raptors but bracken spores arrived with the seedlings and are now taking over the natural grasslands at an alarming rate.


Although it was cool at night (about 7c) it wasn’t that cold, however the staff treated us as if we were in the Arctic with a roaring wood fire (from the pine plantation) in the cabins, hot water bottles in the beds and blankets for a night drive! The cabins were very spacious and comfortable Who says I rough it on foreign trips!

IMG_4959 Roans

Abundant game on the plateau included many Roan antelope. Here a dominant male is seeing off a young male. The chase lasted for five minutes or so and the older male would not leave the youngster in peace.

IMG_4931 Eland

Herds of enormous Eland were a regular site especially on night drives.

IMG_4919 Reedbuck

We saw many Zambian Reedbuck (above) as well as Cape Bushbuck and the occasional Common Duiker.

IMG_4912 Zebras

Herds of Common Zebra were seen on the grasslands but little game at all was seen in areas taken over by bracken. This herd approached but didn’t enter the bracken

IMG_4908 Zebra

….. this Zebra of course being the exception that proved the rule

IMG_4816 Klipsringer

Part of the National Park is in Zambia and we freely moved between there and Malawi, as did this group of Zambian Klipspringers which got added to the list for both countries.

IMG_4914 Montane Widowbird

There were many special birds on the plateau including this Montane Widowbird  ….

IMG_4933 White-naped Raven

…. the widespread White-naped Raven ….

IMG_4784 Cisticola to ID

.. and the diminutive Churring Cisticola, which like many of its genus is named after its vocalisations.

IMG_5000 BB Bustard

More spectacular species included this Black-bellied Bustard. Pictures of the same bird in display can be found on my first post about this trip.

IMG_5005 Denham's Bustard and chick

We were delighted to see a female Denham’s Bustard with a chick …..

IMG_4838 Denham's Bustard

… and later on to see daddy !

IMG_4978 Nyika Plateau

The rolling grasslands of the Nyika gave us species as diverse as Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Blue Swallow and Pallid Harrier whilst the wooded patches provided Olive-flanked Bush-robin, Bar-tailed Trogon and various greenbuls.

IMG_4941 Jackson's Emperor

We were on the trail of a diminutive cisticola when this stunning moth was found (which was considerably bigger than the bird). All thoughts of chasing a small brown bird vanished as we gathered round to photograph this beauty, which apparently goes under the name of Jackson’s Emperor.


IMG_4865 Sunset

Each evening we stayed out late and enjoyed a sundowner before driving back in the dark. The best nocturnal sighting was probably a Side-stripe Jackal which was a new mammal for me. The various owls and nightjars seen have already been posted under the heading of ‘Malawi and Zimbabwe – the night birds’

IMG_4863 Sunset

Well that was that for Malawi. From the Nyika we returned to the miombo woodland area we visited on the way north before driving back to Lilongwe. Unfortunately the carrier who was to fly us to Zimbabwe had gone bust so we had to fly north overnight to Nairobi and then back south to Zimbabwe, so it was a tired and bedraggled group that arrived in Harare the following morning. More of that in the next post.

Posted January 24, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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