At last………… a few minutes to tell you about the trip to Matabeleland North.
Jan and I left Harare on Sunday and drove leisurely down towards Bulawayo. At around N’tabazinduna there was a local lass on the side of the road flogging watermelons. A nice big juicy takes two hands to pick it up watermelon for a dollar !! Yep – US$ 1.00 was the price !
Arrival in the City of Kings entailed falling amongst thieves and brigands in the form of various members of the Watson clan. Nice to catch up with old buddies. We spent the night at Travellers – a more than adequate and very clean hostelry designed for , well of course, Travellers.
We left promptly at 06h00 the next morning and very soon were heading north on the Victoria Falls Road. July in Zimbabwe is mid-winter and when going through the various river valleys early in the day saw the virtual mercury in the car thermometer plunging as low as minus 8 Celsius. Brrrr !
The Hwange National Park turnoff arrived at about 09h15 and we popped into Ganda Camp to see if, perchance, my client was still there but he had just left for our planned rendezvous at Miombo Safari Camp. Jan and I went through to Main Camp, checked in and then returned to meet the client, Peter, on the road to Miombo.
We bumped into a large herd of elephant on the main road.
Having moved into our Lodge we promptly set off to see what we could see. White-breasted Cuckoo Shrike, White-eyes and Ground Hornbills were already ticked on the main road. Yellow-bellied Greenbul and a lovely Pearl-Spotted Owl were in camp. On our way to Nyamandhlovu Pan we found Peter’s first ‘lifer’……
Whilst at the viewing platform over the Pan we witnessed an interesting stand-off between the Leviathan’s !
The next day, after a *very* delayed breakfast in the Waterbuck’s Head Restaurant, we spent wandering around the local sites like Guvalala where we were kept busy ticking all the Vultures, including Cape Griffon. We had a leisurely lunch at White Hills and saw a great Dark Chanting Goshawk.
We slowly made our way back to camp via the more northerly loop road past Balla Balla Pans where we had great views of Crimson-breasted and Orange-breasted Bush-shrikes.
Day three brought all the really serious excitement with the discovery of a pair of extremely rare yellow morph Crimson-breasted Shrike !! They were in camp itself and I suspect are the offspring of a ‘normal’ pair with which they were associating.
And next – Jan’s work of art……..
What a start to the long day ahead of us ! Off we set heading south with an incredible dearth of birds for several hours apart from a very cold pair of Scaly-feathered Finch until just after Jambile Picnic Site when we found a cracking Ayres’ Hawk-Eagle. We then got a bit lost (the roads and the map haven’t been synchronised for a while) but eventually found ourselves at Ngweshla and then at Kennedy Two.
If you didn’t know you are about to learn – Hwange is an extremely dry park on the edge of the Kalahari Desert and the only way it can support the large numbers of various African fauna is because of the provision of surface water from either Wind-pumps or pumps driven by old Lister diesels. All of this is expensive stuff, especially in terms of maintenance and fuel. Then we get to Kennedy Two !!!
I don’t know who the donor is but a huge thank you is due !!
After briefly calling in at Kennedy One – a few parrots here – we started our northward journey and very soon found another target bird – the elusive Racquet-tailed Roller. Peter was pleased !!
We returned to Main Camp quite late in the afternoon and had another great dinner and sorted out all our various lists so that Jan and I could get off relatively early for the long haul back to Harare. Thanks Peter – a great trip.
Very soon after this we also came across a pack of Wild Dog. Of the seven dogs five had collars. Let’s hope all this research pays off.
It is a *very* long drive back to Harare in one day. We were home about 16h45. Well that’s not quite true. Jan was. She dropped me off to attend the monthly talk by someone from Birdlife Zimbabwe. Well I had to show off some of those Shrike pics didn’t I – it would have been rude not to.
Cheers for now