Archive for the ‘Zimbabwe’ Tag

6th – 11th December 2013 – Zimbabwe   Leave a comment

The final part of the tour was in Zimbabwe. Very tired after the overnight flight we drove eastwards from the capital Harare to the Vumba Mountains on the border with Mozambique.

IMG_5149 Abdim's Stork

On route we saw large flocks of Abdim’s Stork, an intra-African rains migrant. With the rains imminent, large numbers had arrived in Zimbabwe. Some follow the monsoon rains as far north as Oman.


Our first day in the Vumba mountains was very wet and finding the birds was a struggle. Eventually the rain was replaced by a thick mist and we scored with our main targets, Robert’s Warbler, Chirinda Apalis ……

607 Swynnertons Robin TIFF

…. and the beautiful Swynnerton’s Robin. Photo from



Leaving this lovely, if rather wet spot, behind, we returned to Harare for an overnight stay. There was just enough time in the afternoon to visit a nearby game park.



IMG_5150 Wildebeeste

There were a number of mammals like these Blue Wildebeeste, but this park has almost certainly been restocked with game so it is debatable if these can be considered truly wild.

IMG_5157 Giraffe

A large number of the ungulates in Africa have been split into multiple species in Vol 2 of Handbook of Mammals of the World. For example the Blue Wildebeeste above is a different species from those on the Serengeti. However this tick-fest did not extend to the giraffes, different races of which vary considerably in the pattern of the coat. If it was split this form would be the Southern Giraffe.


Zimbabwe has certainly had its fair share of political and economic problems. Hyper-inflation was halted when the Zimbawean Dollar was abandoned in favour of the US Dollar, but not before 100 trillion dollar notes were in circulation!


In spite of all these difficulties, Zimbabwe has better roads and a higher level of private car usage than most African countries. This family are certainly travelling in comfort!


IMG_5191 Southern Carmine Bee-eater

The following day we headed north on a long drive to the Zambezi valley. The further north we went the hotter it got and the worse the roads became. On route we came across a group of beautiful Southern Carmine Bee-eaters.


We spent two days in the Zambezi valley. In spite of fairly basic conditions, we were looked after very well. The temperature was very hot, over 42c during the afternoon, and in spite of extensive searching we failed to find our main target – the elusive African Pitta. This species can only be seen when it starts to call after the onset of the rains and this year the rains were late.

IMG_5251 N Zim camp

Relaxing in the heat of the day at the lodge.

IMG_5199 Retz Helmet Shrike

Retz’s Helmet-shrike

IMG_5220 juv Wood Owl

I’ve already posted pictures of the family of African Wood Owls in residence around the lodge, but the juveniles are so cute, I couldn’t resist posting another.

ZIM Bat Hawk 1

One of the features of the area was the regular sighting of a pair of Bat Hawks. It very unusual to see this crepuscular species in anything but  poor light after sunset. Photo by Simon Cox.


As I have said earlier the rains had yet to come. For us it meant dipping on a good bird, for the locals it meant having to dig in a dry river bed for water!


It is at moments like this that we realise just how privileged we are in Europe. Gas, electricity and water are taken for granted and a huge fuss is made if we are deprived of them for just a few hours. Imagine doing this every time you needed to do the washing up.

So we failed on our main quest in the north of Zimbabwe but we enjoyed birding in the area and in spite of the heat, had a a good time. We later returned to Harare for an overnight stay. The following day we were expecting a long, long transfer (seven hours) at Nairobi but instead delays at Harare meant we had the seven hour wait there, which was far preferable as it is a much better appointed airport. At Nairobi we just got off one plane and got straight on to another.

A lovely trip with some excellent and seldom seen birds, some good mammals and most enjoyable company.

Posted January 27, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

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

Tagged with , ,