Archive for the ‘miombo’ Tag

Malawi – the Miombo woodlands   Leave a comment

From our lodge near the Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi we traveled to Dzamalyana, an extensive area of miombo woodland. This forest type, also known as Brachystega cuts a wide swathe across southern Africa. Later we visited some forest patches situated between extensive tea plantations for more specialties before heading north. In the north of Malawi we visited another miombio woodland where we caught up with many of the specialties we  had previously missed.


This Red-throated Twinspot was one of the first life birds of the trip, recorded on the very first afternoon.


Extensive miombo woodland at Dzalanyama reserve.


There were a few proteas in flower but not enough to attract the rarer hummingbirds.


Unfortunately I didn’t note the name of these amazing red flowers


Birding is hard work in miombo woodland due to its dense foliage and the low density of its avian inhabitants, which mainly occur in fast moving flocks. This is a Stierling’s Wren-warbler.


Rocky areas held good numbers of Striped Pipits, a species I had only seen briefly before, in South Africa in 1991


The Boulder Chat is a rare inhabitant of the rocky areas of the forest


Stierling’s Woodpecker is confined to miombo woodland


Afican Pygmy Kingfisher is associated more with woodland than wetland areas


This magnificent Crowned Eagle was seen well at Dzalanyama


Near a village we saw a flock of 50 Grey-headed Parrots


..and nearby I found another Ovambo Sparrowhawk, this one a juvenile


Overhead we saw the impressive, but largely vegetarian Palm-nut Vulture.


Although supposedly protected, much of the reserve is under threat from illegal logging. This is mainly from locals cutting down trees to make charcoal and large amounts of wood can be seen being transported on the backs of bicycles. Regrettably, as we left, we saw evidence of wood being removed by truck which will greatly accelerate the rate of forest loss. Even more alarming was the fact (according to our driver) that the guys on the truck were prisoners which mean that this illegal deforestation must have official approval at some level.


In the north of Malawi we visited another extensive miombo forest. For some reason the trees come into leaf later here. New leaves emerge with a red colouration giving the forest an autumnal feel even though its early spring.


One of the best bird seen was this White-winged Babbling Starling. Photo by Ewan Brodie


I was particularly pleased to see this Racket-tailed Roller, not only was it a much wanted miombo specialty but it was my last of the world’s eleven Roller species.


Another target was this Miombo Pied Barbet


Further south we stayed at this lovely lodge in the midst of an extensive tea plantation.


We were treated to a candlelit dinner out on the lawn.


A record shot of this Livingstone’s Turaco, one of several excellent birds in this area.


Lizzard Buzzard is a widespread bird through much of tropical Africa

Posted December 23, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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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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