CKGR

Posted: 06/12/2018 in Uncategorized

Hi all

CKGR ? Well, it stands for Central Kalahari Game Reserve.   Simple huh.

This huge reserve was demarcated in the early 1960’s to allow space for the San (Bushmen) people to live out their lives in their traditional manner. It is 52800 square kilometres !!  That’s HUGE. In fact you could fit Swaziland AND Lesotho inside it at the same time. Yes, it is bigger than Switzerland !

In much more recent times it has been partially opened up, by special permit, to the public – so naturally that is where the Woods wanted to go – not so easy to do – it is very remote – there is no fuel – there is no water – there are very limited camping facilities – so we needed to be prepared – VERY prepared. To start with we would need three vehicles and finding willing participants was never going to that easy.   Getting quick agreement from AJS and GJW was simple but that still didn’t get us another vehicle. A second couple sadly had to pull out because of illness. So I honed my marketing skills and went searching. CS and RR, both veterinarians were quite an easy target and once they had found locums were now on board.  Months previously I had conned a couple into agreeing to be a standby team so a call and a short wait they realised to extent of this opportunity and acquiesced and PW and DW became the third vehicle. Yay !

We were on our way – AJS arrived on October 4th and we immediately started fitting the compressor he had so kindly brought with him.

When tackling sandy deserts a compressor is vital

On the 5th we were off to our first stop in Bulawayo where we were also to pick up GJW.  We spent the night in the very quirky and eccentric Nesbitt Castle.

Next morning we met up with the other parties and drove, now in convoy, for the Botswana border and on to Francistown.  Here there was a bit of urgent shopping to do before we were on the road again to Nata Lodge where we were to camp. didn’t stop us from relaxing ……

Sundowners before dinner at Nata Lodge

Day three saw us heading west towards Maun.  That is until I noticed we would be passing relatively closely to “Baines’ Baobabs”.  A roadside conference established eagerness from all parties so that is what we did. Thomas Baines immortalised these trees when he painted them in May of 1862 and they are still there and still look the same.

Driving in Nxai Pan – heavily loaded vehicle indeed

Baines’ Baobabs in Nxai Pan National Park

After that small five hour excursion we arrived at our Maun campsite in time to set up and then once again have sundowners and dinner.

Day four after much critical shopping for tyres, water and of course beer we were ready for the last leg to Rakops before heading to CKGR.

After shopping in Maun

 

 

Last fuel in the not so delightful Rakops

At Last ………..

….after four days we get to the turn off !

…. and we get to the main gate ……..

Matswere Gate

After check-in all eight very excited bunnies drove into the park to be absolutely blown away by the first vistas of Deception Valley

Deception Valley

We were staying at one of the Deception campsites for two nights so explored as much as we could.

Bat-eared Fox are delightful creatures

Deception Pan

During the rains this large Pan would be just a couple of inches deep in water.

Leopard Pan

The team gathered for sundowners at Leopard Pan

Left to right – CS, GJW, me, PW, DW, AJS, RR.    This was taken just after we had seen two Cheetah.

My GPS wasn’t much use

Then we were off again on the long drive south to Piper Pan.

Jan is a very happy lass at Piper Pan

There is a pumped waterhole at Piper and game was plentiful – in fact to see something – just look in the shade !

Springbok – in the shade

Wildebeest – in the shade

Kudu – in the shade

Gemsbuck – in the shade

It was here at Piper Pan that we saw our first Lion

Lion – oh look ! He is also in the shade

It was very early the next morning that a pair walked right through our camp, roaring and generally scaring the campers in their tiny nylon tents !

Piper is a lovely spot and on a return visit we would spend more time there.

Piper Waterhole

Sundown at Piper Pan

Any visit to CKGR will involve big distances being travelled.

Big distances on lousy roads

It is on these sandy roads that tyre pressures need to be lowered to improve both traction and ride comfort.

Thats why we needed to fit the compressor – remember the compressor?  It worked brilliantly.

Letting the tyres down

From Piper we drove to Lekubu where once again we had a Lion in camp !

Lion at Lekubu – standing to the right of frame

Next day off to Sunday Pan, where there is another pumped waterhole.

And more Lions – who walked right through our camp – again !! That’s three nights out of six !!

Jan’s shadow

This pic shows a shadow of Jan as she is trying to get a photo of the Lion spoor going down the road and directly past one of our tents.

….. and here they are !

One of our concerns about this trip was Scorpions.  There are a couple of species that can be fatal to man that live in these parts so we went prepared with UV torches and we found plenty.

Scorpion in UV light – they fluoresce

On our way out of the park we were delayed …….

….. a stroll of Lions ?

Well I think you will have an idea of the wonderfulness of this expedition by now.

So to close – a picture of an African Wildcat

It is in there …

Here is a closer one ….

Sweet ? Probably not !

 

Cheers for now

Tony

Hi All

The Woods are once again off adventuring !!!

CKGR

 

Google it !

Cheers

Tony

A Tribute

Posted: 11/07/2018 in Uncategorized

To this lovely man !  John Neville sadly died last week.  A wonderful gentleman and a brilliant birder. John had a fantastic sense of humour, huge courage in the face of the many health difficulties than aflicted him but never stopped him from going off on yet another birding adventure.

Here he is handing over a significant donation to the Chairman of the Greystone Park Nature Preserve in Harare for the construction of an island in their dam.  So he was also a man of great generosity !

John resting on the banks of the Pungwe River in far eastern Zimbabwe.

He loved the forests in the Zambezi delta region of central Mocambique as these two pictures show very typical views of John simply absorbing his environment and ensuring that he remembers it all.

Rest in Peace John.  We will all miss you.

Hi all …..

A short message from my long time client and friend PR ..

“Are you available at short notice ?”

A simple affirmative reply and PR starts booking various things, like airline tickets, hotels etc and I start my research.  PR wants to take photographs of various species he has seen previously but did not, could not capture on camera.

He arrives and I have decided that his priority should be a Spotted Creeper.  Off we go into the Mukuvisi Woodlands right here in central Harare.  We worked hard but eventually ………

Success !

Creeper Spotted2_Mukuvisi

African Spotted Creeper – Salpornis spilonotus

Well done PR !!  Good one !!  Priority number one ticked but we cant relax now because next on the list is Zimbabwe’s near endemic, and very elusive, Boulder Chat so it is off to Christon Bank just north of Harare.

 

Chat Boulder_Christon Bank

Boulder Chat – Pinarornis plumosis

That was much easier than the Creeper and whilst we were there we chanced upon this chap.Cuckoo Common2 (hepatic)_Christon Bank

At first we thought we had found an hepatic Common Cuckoo but later decided that is is in fact a juvenile Red-chested Cuckoo – Cuculus solitarius.

The following day we packed the car and headed off to the Bvumba Mountains just outside Mutare on the border with Mocambique where our priority bird was Swynnerton’s Robin but we would also take whatever else decided to co-operate.

Turaco Livingstone's_Seldom Seen

One of the first was the stunning Livingstone’s Turaco – Turaco livingstonii

We then went hunting the Robin !  Found a nice confiding one in the forest at that birding Mecca, Seldomseen, but the light was far from conducive for photography so the hunt continued ………….

…..again…… Success !!

Swynnerton2

What a stunning little bird – Swynnertonia swynnertoni

Robin Swynnerton's2_Seldom Seen

Can’t post just one can I ??

We had a fantastic week and PR left for home a very happy man.

Cheers for now …

Tony

The Twitching Continues

Posted: 18/10/2017 in Uncategorized

Well folks I am back again.

A few days ago I was peacefully reading a book at home, not annoying anyone, not doing anything dodgy or illegal, not doing chores – just minding my own business and quietly turning the pages of my book.  Very relaxed fits the description.

THEN …….

… my cell phone buzzes and pings !!!

Mildly irritated, I lower my book and glance at that infernal nuisance called a mobile phone.

A message.  From someone I have never met but I am vaguely aware of his existence.

A very polite request for assistance in identifying a bird from some pretty crabby photos and a vague mention of a Gull-billed Tern.  Knowing this to be nigh on impossible I glance briefly at the picture.

GBTernAsher

My eyes widen and I come out of my previous state of mind numbing detective stories and look at the photograph again. That looks pretty good as a possible Gull-billed Tern !!

I text him back – Leg colour ?  Facial markings ? Bill colour ? and various other ramblings.

I get his reply with pretty much all the correct answers !!

By now I am no longer comfortably seated on the verandah under a cooling fan.

I am on my mobile phone (of which I have become suddenly very fond) and I am starting to irritate and annoy people.  It doesn’t take very long to get James to agree to go driving about the countryside.  Roger (of photography fame in a previous post) has to attend a meeting – a terribly sorry but I can’t get out of it – sort of meeting !

“What bird did you say ?  A Gull-billed Tern ?!!  Hold on a mo’ ……….. OK I have cancelled the meeting – come and pick me up !”  I do like a man who can make decisions !

Yay !  Game on !  We are off to Joyce Mine near Beatrice, about 70 km south of Harare.

We get there and meet up with Asher who originally alerted me to this birds presence and within minutes we are in contact with a large Tern flying over the dam.  What do we need ?

  1. Black legs and feet.  Yes I saw those.
  2. Short, stout black bill. Yes I saw that.
  3. Smudge behind the eye. James saw that.
  4. Strange sort of alternate light and dark primaries.  Roger says he can see that on the back of his camera !
  5. A grey rump.  None of us saw that !! Chase the bird to the other dam ……

…and Boom !

Gbtzw7

Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica

Everyone can see the grey rump !  And the smudge behind the eye ! And the stout bill !

GBtzw8

And the strange alternate appearance of the primaries !

Gbternzw1

And the black feet & legs !

Ladies and gentlemen – there you have it – Zimbabwe’s 8th ever Gull-billed Tern !!

The other seven sightings of this species are very spread out. The 1st (Campbell & Manson) was way back in 1969 and the 2nd (Hancock) in 1972. The 3rd (Pollard) only appeared in 1991 as did the 4th (Tree). Numbers 5,6 & 7 (all F & T Couto) were spread over 1993 and ’94 . So this bird of ours hasn’t been seen in Zimbabwe for something like 22 years !!  That’s why we are super chuffed !!

And Asher ?  Remember Asher ?  He is relatively new to birding and this was his first Tern of any kind – now that’s the way to start !!

One for the road …………

Gbtzw2

A huge thanks to Roger McDonald (and Asher) for the free use of the pictures.

Cheers all

Tony

Oh what a massive Twitch !!

Posted: 06/03/2017 in Birding

Well folk a few weeks ago I went off adventuring with some mates and what an adventure it turned out to be !!!   Amazing !!

I will let Jono tell the story …………….

Pied Wheatear – Victoria Falls Airport – February 2017

What a Twitch, What a Twitch, What a mighty, mighty big Twitch!!

jf1

Pied Wheatear  Oenanthe pleschanka

On Thursday 23rd February 2017 the following message was posted on the Zimbabwean Special Species Sighting whatsapp group:

23/2/2017, 2:38:02 PM: Hilton: Just through from Trevor Hardaker on RSA rare bird net. Pied Wheatear in parking area of Victoria Falls airport

A picture of the bird had been sent to Trevor Hardaker of the Rare Birds Committee in South Africa for verification and on confirmation the excitement began to mount!

First and foremost, we must acknowledge well renowned Professional Guides, Gavin Ford and Dave Carsons who were the first to spot the bird and make the call on its ID.  Below is Dave’s description of the initial encounter:

25/2/2017, 11:35:21 AM: Dave Carsons: You cannot believe the absolute chance encounter of it all… Having Gavin F with me helped as he spotted it…. I just picked up Gavin and we were driving out of the airport and Gavin said, “hey there is a wheatear”.  At that point we were not sure of which one (at least I was not).  We hauled anchors…. stopped, ID it and got very very excited. Gavin got some great pics and then we called the cavalry.

Dave and Gavins excitement was well justified as the Pied wheatear has very few confirmed records for Southern Africa, in fact, according the Roberts, there have only been two sightings prior to our very exciting Vic Falls Record.

Rare Bird Data (Roberts VII Multimedia, Birds of Southern Africa)

1984/01/23-27 2831DD KZ-Natal Mtunzini, Twin Streams Farm I. Garland, I Sinclair, C. Mowat

2000/12/12-20 1823CD Botswana Third Bridge, just N or M. Tripp, P. Whittington et al.

 

So as the buzz and hype began to increase over all the social media channels, so too did my itch for a twitch!! At 4:17 on Thursday afternoon, the question was posed on The Chirpers Chat whatsapp group “Anyone keen for a twitch if the Pied hangs around?”.   From that moment on the phones were hot.  Darryl, who lives in Vic Falls, confirmed that the bird was still around on Friday morning. Sadly, there were not as many genuine twitchers out there as we had hoped. So, began the task of trying to establish the most cost effective means of making this twitch happen within the shortest possible timeframe (given that the bird could take advantage of the next available weather front and head on out of there at any moment) and trying to convince others to sign up for this totally spontaneous and awesome adventure.  On Friday afternoon, after rushing around for most of the day trying to pull everything together, Tony Wood and I made the call “screw it, let’s do it”! The plan was to drive to Vic Falls on Saturday, twitch the Wheatear, camp the night in the National Park and head back to Harare on Sunday.  As there were no other takers for the twitch, my wife and 4-month-old baby were fortunate enough to be invited to join the expedition! After a quick SOS call to Gwanny and Gwampa our two older children were taken care of and we were packed and ready for our crack of dawn departure the next day.

Tony arrived promptly at 4:30am on Saturday 25th in his very smart Landcruiser Station wagon & we set off on our epic adventure.  We had been promised an update on the bird’s presence by Darryl but as we were in and out of signal on our journey, the messages weren’t coming in very frequently.  Just before 8am, my wife got signal on her phone and made that apprehensive call to Darryl.  We all held our breaths while we waited for the response…..the bird was still around and feeding happily at the airport….phew! Despite this news, Tony managed to maintain an even keel and we soldiered on avoiding any speeding fines.  As we passed through Gweru, we received a message from Steve Edwards of Musango Camp (Kariba) asking how far we were and if he could join us from Bulawayo.  The timing was perfect and we found him on the side of the road just before the toll gate leading out of Bulawayo with a duffle bag slung over his shoulder!  He piled in with us and we were on our way again barely noticing the excitingly swollen rivers and delicately blooming teak trees along the way as we anxiously headed towards Vic Falls.   We were all so nervous that the bird would have disappeared, or simply flitted over the roof of the terminal building and into the restricted area at the airport before we arrived.

My stomach was churning and my palms were sweaty as we approach the airport turn off.  At 15:05, with overwhelming support from all the members of The Chirpers Chat group on whatsapp, we turned into the Vic Falls International Airport parking lot. My mouth was dry and my breathing laboured as I scanned the parking lot for any sign of fellow birders.  Tony, who had driven like a champ for a full 10.5 hours remained composed (I think…. his driving wasn’t at the forefront of my focus at that point in time) as we drove toward the drop and go section.  Then, to my relief I noticed one person with a mega camera lens on a tripod right in front of the terminal entrance.  Not wanting to disturb the bird, we stopped just short of the camera man and as we came to a stop, Steve said “there it is…I got it first!!”.  Sure enough, there was the Pied Wheatear perched on the terminal building behind the flag poles.  A wave of euphoria and jubilation swept over us as we all clambered out of the car to get better visuals, leaving Tony to find a suitable parking. It had taken us less than a minute from entering the carpark to getting a visual of this little beauty.  WHAT JOY!!!  Over the course of the next 15 minutes we revelled in our sighting, amazed at how accommodating this little chap was, in the presence of our gradually increasing crowd of twitchers.

He was an absolute beauty even in his non-breeding plumage.   His dark dusky face was slowly transitioning into the soot black breeding colour which was accentuated by his pale buff belly.  He spent much of the time preening each feather affording the odd view of that striking white tail with the broad dark tail tip.  Electrifying, to say the least!  He would then see a poor unsuspecting moth below and take a plunge to rid himself of that hot African hunger…. after all he had flown a very long way.  The dark face, dark back and stunning white tail flash reminded me of the Forktails in Asia which are like our wagtails just a lot more striking!  He was very contented and ate a mountain of moths right in front of us. The Northern Grey-headed sparrows would flush insects from the grass and he would capitalise on this opportunity to indulge.  He was joined by a Spotted flycatcher who seemed equally thrilled with this manna from heaven.

It was exceptionally hot and our euphoria meters were running at one hundred percent as was Tony’s car equipped with an Engel fridge brimming with bitterly cold beers.  The combination of the Wheatear and the hops and barley was absolutely staggering…. Elation beyond belief!

jf5jf6

After a couple of cold ones in the car park and some shared photos and conversation with the fellow twitchers, we headed into town to see if we could pick up a Schalow’s Turaco which my wife still needs.  Steve made some calls and we popped in to one of his friends’ houses where they have been seen on the odd occasion.  Sadly, we did not find a Turaco, but we did meet the loveliest and most hospitable Vic Falls locals who joined our excitement and opened their homes and their bar fridges to us.  After being invited to stay at the beautiful, well located, well equipped, comfortable, upmarket and very reasonably priced Lorries B&B and now, under no pressure to get into the park and set up camp before the Park closed, we headed to the boat club for sundowners on the banks of the Mighty Zambezi.  It was most important that I washed my face in the Zambezi…. you can’t be that close to the river and not touch it!

We tucked into a delicious dinner at the Boat Club then headed to our B&B for an early night.  In the early hours of Sunday morning we were woken by rolling thunder, followed by a deluge.  The heavens opened and it bucketed down.  We were very grateful for the hospitality of Lorrie and Clive and even more grateful that we were not having to break camp in the rain.  After a quick cup of coffee, we left Lorries B&B and headed out for one last failed attempt at getting the Schalows turaco before we were back on the road again, homeward bound.

The weather was still very grey and wet as we approached the airport.  We decided to do one last drive by, hoping to get a final glimpse of the little beauty but he was nowhere to be seen and the security guard on site said that he had not made an appearance that morning yet.  We headed on, relieved that we had secured such a fantastic sighting the day before.

jf4

There was still a lot of buzz about the bird on social media as we picked up signal along our way and we passed fellow birders heading to the Falls in the hope of catching a glimpse, but their quest did not bear the same fruits as ours.  We managed to get a great sighting of two bull eles crossing the road just in front of us and we also got a glimpse of a rufous morph of a Steppe Buzzard which was a first for us.

jf7

We dropped off Steve in Bulawayo and stopped a couple of times to try in vain for the Barred-wren warbler and Melodious lark.  The weather system was still all around us with ominous black clouds whichever way we looked. We arrived home safe and sound at around 6:30 only to learn that today’s twitchers, which included many South Africans who had flown up especially for the twitch had had a dismally unsuccessful day and the Wheatear had not been seen at all that day.  We breathed a sigh of relief that we had made the call to strike while the iron was hot and had been blessed with such crippling views of the bird.

Today, less than 48 hours after our sighting, an announcement has been posted on social media that “The Bird Has Flown”!  This news has made our merry team of twitchers even more elated that we had such a successful twitch and little did we know how close we had been to missing this fickle little feathered friend.

Thanks must go out to all those who made this twitch such a great one.

Gavin Ford for spotting the bird and making a call on its ID & Dave Carsons for getting the information out to the public

Tony Wood who drove like a legend on such a long journey

Steve Edwards who provided some great entertainment on the road trip and introduced us to his very special friends from The Falls

Lorrie and Clive from Lorries B&B who took us in and made us so comfortable and at home in their lovely establishment

My wife, Jen (Sausages) and my Baby Leo who accompanied me and held the reigns when the celebrations began

Jan Wood who was our number one supporter on The Chirpers Chat Whatsapp group throughout the journey

Darryl Tiran for keeping us updated of the whereabouts of the bird

All those who sent messages and shared our excitement remotely as our road trip progressed.

________________________________________________________________

Thank you Jono.  Well written

Cheers all

Tony

Hi All

Zimbabwe had a bad drought in 2016 with dams very low and the underground water table taking a beating.

Also there were no Blogs from me !!

In January the beautiful Jan and I celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary !!   Where oh where have all those wonderful years gone ?

I had a number of excellent trips with clients last year and Jan and I did two of own. Firstly we joined a whole bunch of mates at Rifa Education Camp on the Zambezi River near Chirundu – wonderful birding but distressingly little game around.

braai

There have to be worse places to have a Braai.

camp1

The Rifa Camp dining area

fig

There is a giant Fig tree in the camp which attracts thousands of birds.

The next trip was the BirdLife Zim AGM which this year was held at Lake Muturikwi outside Masvingo.  Great camp sites, Chalets and Lodges and a very good AGM with me not in the chair for a change.

Then I was off to Cape Town !!!

There is a little bird that breeds in southern Europe – the Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin – and then migrates to the Sahel zone to avoid the Eurasian winter.  Then a “lost” bird turned up in Cape Town to be discovered by Peter Steyn.  It was seen reliably for several weeks and I desperately wished to see it.  Eventually Jan said “Just go !”  So I did.

rtsr

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Erythropygia galactotes 

This photo is ©Tinus Lamprecht.    Well I was successful and also caught up with some old buddies I hadn’t seen for nearly ten years.

Then – big surprise – Jan was effectively summonsed to an Alzheimer’s conference in Nigeria.  Greatly excited to meet the King of Ibadan and of course to see a bit of another country.

Roll on to September and we were off again, this time to Malawi  with our dearest friend (who has featured many times in these Blogs) AJS. Whilst not specifically a birding trip something new was bound to crop up. We drove all the way via Lusaka in Zambia, through Chipata and on to Kasungu National Park where we stayed in Lifupa Lodge.

lifupasign

Kasungu Sign

It is a vast park and we saw some antelope species, heard Lion roaring very close to camp and saw loads of Elephants

kasunguview

Fantastic view of the park from Black Rock

kasunguele

Plenty of quite relaxed elephant about

From Kasungu we drove north to the Nyika Plateau, which I covered in a previous post “Above the Tree Line”, and stayed in the very impressive Chelinda Lodge.

chelinda2

Fantastic reception Room at Chelinda Lodge

chelinda1

Gorgeous chalets over looking the moorland

I had a couple of hours of forest birding and saw a raft of new, to me, species. Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Bar-tailed Trogon, Denham’s Bustard, Olive Woodpecker, Olive-breasted Mountain Greenbul, Red-rumped and Angola Swallows,Fulleborn’s Black Boubou and we heard a Mountain Nightjar.

Next stop was on the other side of this tiny country at Ngala Beach Lodge on the shores of Lake Malawi.

ngala2

Ngala Beach Lodge is delightful

lake1

The lake is gentle, tide free and very blue

ngala1

Very peaceful and relaxing surrounds 

After three nights of mega relaxing we were off again, southwards this time, to the bottom end of the lake with Nkopola Lodge as our destination.  Jan and I had last been to Nkoplola Lodge way back in 1975 !!  This was a great romantic reminder of simpler times.

nkopola1

Lovely gardens

The hotel has, naturally, changed over the decades and is now much larger and very much more commercial.  Not altogether a bad thing.  We did take an afternoon out to visit the very bohemian village of Cape McClear where AJS and Jan went snorkeling to see some of the colourful Cichlids for which the Lake is so famous.

capemc

Relaxing at Cape McClear

After a few days it was time to return home and, due to the problems in central Moçambique, we had to again go all the way across Malawi into Zambia and use the same route home. All in all a fantastic holiday.  Thank you AJS.

Cheers for now

Tony

2015 – the year of the mighty Zambezi

Posted: 20/01/2016 in Birding
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Hi all

I am just too embarrassed to apologise yet again for the infrequency of these posts !!

Jan and I have had a busy 2015 to say the least.  How does TEN trips to different parts of the Zambezi River sound?

We started in early January by driving to the Victoria Falls where I was to pick up my long time client JNV.  We arrived safely and there he was waiting for us.  We checked into our various accommodations and went birding – specifically for Schalow’s Turaco and Rock Pratincole.  We failed, unfortunately.

Next morning we set off early to the Botswana border at Kazangula, crossed into Bots and headed straight towards the Namibian border at Ngoma Bridge over the Chobe River, crossing into Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and on to Katima Mulilo.  We had set ourselves a huge mileage target for the day so westward we continued. After about 130km it was time for a pit stop and we pulled into a Lay-by (Nam has fantastic Lay-by’s).

On the top of a tree was a largish  brown raptor and as JNV and I approached I said to him “This is going to turn into a Common (Steppe) Buzzard.”  Raising our binoculars JNV and I both commented that it had a white head.  After a minute or so the bird then took fright and took off to an immediate comment from JNV “It’s too big.”

Amazingly within just a few wing beats it already began to soar and we had excellent ventral and dorsal views for the minute or so that it took to gain altitude and depart.  The wings were large and “blocky” or squarish and the flight was very sluggish and slow before it soared so easily.

The primaries were dark tipped and there were distinct black patches on the underwing at the carpal, or wrist, joint. The leading edge of the wings and the underwing coverts were a honey/tan colour and the trailing edge very pale with just the slightest hint of dark tips to the secondaries.  The chin area was the same yellow-brown colour as was the spotted and mottled belly and dark thighs (with the chest just slightly paler).  As mentioned above the head was totally white and the rest of the dorsal view revealed a largely uniform brown to tan colouration but the dark patches at the carpal joint were again noticeable.  One of the most striking features was the tail as it was extremely pale and appeared almost translucent whilst very faintly barred with pale cinnamon barring.

We spent the next hour pouring over the various field guides that invariably litter the back seat of the car and came to the unanimous conclusion that we had just seen a Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus).  Due to the still pale tips to the trailing edge of the wing probably an immature or just sub-adult bird.

A very very rare bird in southern Africa and we were ecstatic.

Onward to Divundu and then past Popa Falls to a delightful riverside lodge from where we would explore the Mahango National Park in which we found several more ‘needed’ birds. Two nights there and back eastward to another lodge on the Kwando River from where we explored the newly formed and very remote Mudumu National Park.

This post is supposed to be about the Zambezi ……. OK ……. the next stop was Kalizo Lodge just east of Katima Mulilo and it is right on the great Zambezi.

Kalizo

Kalizo Lodge

What a delightfully refreshing place.  Jan and I are very fortunate to own a roof-top tent which is just perfect for this sort of campsite.

Kalizo

Kalizo Camp Site

Birding around here was also excellent and we were very surprised to discover Miombo Blue-eared Starlings about which are well separated from the rest of the southern African population.  The southern limit of the Angolan birds I suppose.

Zambezi

The magnificent Zambezi River

After two brilliant days there, it was back to Vic Falls.

Rapids

Rapids above the Falls

Rapids

Scanning the rocks for Pratincole

It happened to be Jan’s birthday so I felt she should be treated to dinner at the legendary Victoria Falls Hotel

Vic Falls

Vic Falls Hotel
“Garden with a view”

And the dinner ………

Vic Falls Hotel

“The Dinner”

The next day we took JNV exploring to a site he hadn’t heard of before – Chamabonda Vlei.  This extensive wetland runs east to west through the Zambezi National Park about 18 km and is very interesting for both mammals and avian species.

Chamabonda

Chamaboda Vlei

We found some good birds too.  African Crake, Common Button Quail and a lifer for JNV – Cuckoo Finch.

Eurasian Roller

Eurasian Roller

The next day it was time for JNV to leave us and to wend our way home.  Did we go the sensible way through Bulawayo?  No.  Did we take the shortest route through Lupane and Nkai? No.  We turned left at the Dete ‘crossroads’ and across the Gwaii River.

Gwaii River

Gwaii River on the road to Binga

After we ran out of tar road things got worse.

Siabuwa Road

The road to Siabuwa

At least, it was lovely and green – not like our current drought a year later.

Chizarira Gate

The Chizarira Gate

Our destination was Chizarira National Park – a new place for Jan to tick off her bucket list!

After checking in (and finding out we were the only visitors in the Park) we drove to our camp site which I had sorta kept a secret from her.

Mucheni Camp

Mucheni Camp view

She was blown away at the scale of these ‘hidden gorges’.  And then we spent the afternoon sitting quietly – with a cold beer or two – watching the rain storms over – yes you guessed it – the spectacular Zambezi Valley.

Zambezi rain storms

Rain storms over the Zambezi Valley

Next day it was a long, bumpy and, fortunately, uneventful drive home to Harare via Gokwe.

Our next Zambezi experience was not until April when Jan and I accompanied the extended McComb family on a houseboat holiday on Kariba. As always these are wonderfully over the top holidays with way too much food and possibly just about enough to drink.

Kariba house boat

The name of the houseboat was, rather suitably,  “What a Pleasure !”

Kariba Sunset

Kariba Sunset

Kariba is renowned for it’s wonderful sunsets  but the highlight for me was on our penultimate day we witnessed a mini cyclone on the lake.  It is a lousy photograph but I just had to include it.

Kariba Cyclone

Kariba ‘water spout’

That weather can easily be described as mean and nasty and ugly but also beautiful!

By early May, I had managed to conjure up sufficient evidence to persuade Jan that we needed to go back to Mphingwe Lodge in Moçambique. So off we went.

Catapu Pan

‘Lac Catapu’ was the fullest I have ever seen it.

The lodge is set right in the forest and as evidence, I post a pic of this butterfly on my side-table in the outside lounge area.

 

Gold-banded Forester

Golden-banded Forester  Euphaedra neophron

This may be way out of context for this post but I couldn’t resist it!  Land Rover owners will understand and probably not forgive me…….

Land Rover

Land Rover under repair!

One of my main reasons for making this trip was to explore the Zangue River delta.  The Zangue is a minor tributary of the Zambezi and due to the terrain being so flat and low lying a large delta forms when water levels are high.  I knew I had clients later in the year who wanted to go there so a reconnaissance was obligatory.

Zangue River Delta

Zangue River Delta – as far as the eye can see!

It was only a few weeks later, still in May, that it was time for Jan’s annual “Ladies trip” on a Kariba Houseboat.

Kariba Motor Vessel

MV Chessa Too

She had a good time – I am sure many G & T’s were consumed –

Tilapia spp

Fishing in Kariba

And the compulsory sunsets captured ……

Kariba Sunset

Kariba Sunset

Having seen out May, we needed to return to Victoria Falls in June for me, as outgoing President, to chair my last BirdLife Zimbabwe AGM.  Yes, some constitutionally limited Presidential terms still work!  I said to Jan that as we would be driving right past the Kazuma National Park we should pop in to have a look for two very good reasons. 1. I had last been there in the early 1970’s which is a long time ago. 2. Jan had *never* been there.

Way back in time it was called the Kazuma Depression – a huge wetland of no use to the myriad of cattle ranches surrounding it.  Sometime in the ’60’s the then government (mis?) appropriated these ranches and turned them into the Matetsi Safari Area which still exists to this day and the “depression” was declared a National Park, its purpose being to act as a wildlife refuge from the surrounding hunting area.

Jan agreed with my reasoning so we set off for the Falls days earlier than necessary.  To get to Kazuma you need to drive to the tiny border town of Pandamatenga and then head north following the Botswana border.

Botswana border

The road to Kazuma. The graded area on the left is the Zim/Botswana border

Then you simply follow the signage ….

Kazuma National Park

Kazuma sign posts

We were booked to stay in Nsiza Camp which simply doesn’t exist.  Just choose a spot and it’s yours.

Kazuma

Nsiza Camp

I chose that rather bleak looking patch of Mopane for the morning view from our tent.

Kazuma Pan

Kazuma Pan

The second night we moved to Kachetechete Camp.  Won’t bother next time except …….

Kachetechete

Kachetechete camp

…… I took this pic of our two chairs from the spot where a couple of African Wild Dog, Painted Hunting Dog to some, chased an Impala through camp whilst we were sipping cold beers in the aforementioned chairs.  Camera of course not to hand !!

There is quite a lot of game in the Park.

Kazuma Elephant

Kazuma Elephant

And of course, birds ….

Double-banded Sandgrouse

Double-banded Sandgrouse

Quite pleased with that one!

Anyway, it was now time for me to attend that bloody meeting.  It had been decided to time it to coincide with the Vic Falls Marathon so as to get the best publicity and exposure for BirdLife. To the extent we branded a hire bus and took a whole bunch of members up there for the festivities.

Vulture Awareness Program

BirdLife Zimbabwe Bus

Then there was the Marathon, and a full day of Vulture awareness conference activities.

Vic Falls Marathon

Vic Falls Marathon

Vulture Awareness Conference

Vulture Awareness Conference

Then the bloody AGM and finally sundowners overlooking the Falls and Gorges.

Vic Falls Gorge

Zambezi Gorge at Vic Falls

Vic Falls Sunset

Sundowners at last ….!

June was busy busy busy.  A local safari operator runs a small exclusive lodge on the Zambezi (funny that) at Nyamoumba Island.  This was a location I know well from years ago when it was a humble fishing camp. The now concessionaires needed a comprehensive bird list for the area and approached BirdLife for assistance.  Finding volunteers was not difficult.

Very clever roof that …. it is well laid second-hand conveyor belting.

Nyamoumba

Nyamoumba View

The view from the front lawn is amazing and, yes, the conical hill is in Zambia.  After my Sandgrouse here is a very lousy pic ….

Nyamoumba Pel's Fishing Owl

Pel’s Fishing Owl

Well, the bird list was done and I resolved that when my extended family visited, from Australia and the Philippines, that Nyamoumba was just the place to initiate them into Africa and as they were due in August it was barely a month until we were back again.

Nyamoumba Lodge Pool

Nyamoumba Lodge

It was warmer in August so the pool was utilised.

We also used the boats a bit more as I was not “listing” birds.

Going up the Kariba Gorge towards the dam wall is an amazing experience.

Nyam104

And this time, Elaine (the chick with the Wine) got a decent picture of the Pel’s Fishing Owl

Pel's Fishing Owl

A much much better shot

Sign Nyamoumba

The old campsite sign

I found the old National Parks sign to the camp we used to use decades ago.

My goodness, we were busy people.  After I had seen off the herds of extended family it was time to leave on the Matusadona National Park annual Game Count.  We were driving in via Magunje and once in the Park we decided to camp en-route to Tashinga and we chose a picturesque spot in the Gubu River.  Carl prefers to use a hammock.

Gubu River Hammock

The hammock set-up procedure

I prefer a tent.

Bubu River camp

My chosen spot

After leaving the next day we needed to set up two campsites – one in Tashinga for nights two and four and the other for our overnight 24-hour vigil.

Tashinga camp site

My Tashinga Site

Game Count

24-hour game count site

The Game Count was organised and managed by the Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project (MAPP)

MAPP

Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project vehicle

After the 24 hours was up we had developed an almost unquenchable thirst and because Kariba lake levels were very low we could drive to the resort on Spurwing Island where many beers were consumed.

Causeway to Spurwing Island

Causeway to Spurwing Island

There was time for some birding in Tashinga before we returned to Harare.

Ok ok – nearly done now.  I had clients coming and they arrived on December the 2nd but not in Harare. In Beira !!  So I was off to Moçambique to pick them up.  I was a little early for their flight from Johannesburg so I waited patiently at Clube Nautico.

Beira

2M at Clube Nautico in Beira

Picked the three of them up (including JNV !) and off we went.  Firstly to Rio Savane.

Rio Savane

Rio Savane

To get to Rio Savane, you need to cross the river on a boat taxi.  Lots of accommodation options from camping to little cabins to some rather more luxurious chalets.  This is the one we stayed in.

Rio Savane Chalet

Rio Savane Chalet

Birding around the area is very rewarding and we were soon picking up ‘lifers’  for the crew.  Locust Finch, Wattled Crane, Lesser Jacana, Lesser Sandplover and some other interesting things ….

Butterfly

Tiny Butterfly

Tree Frog

This tiny Tree Frog is on the bonnet of the Cruiser. That’s the gap between the bonnet and the fender

After a few days, we packed up and took off again, northwards to Mphingwe again and the Zambezi Delta.  All the Panga Panga (Milettia stuhlmannii) were in flowerPanga Panga

Panga Panga flowers (Milettia stuhlmannii)   

Then we headed off through the “Coutada” Hunting Concessions 11 & 12 where we had fantastic birding.  Black-headed Apalis, East-coast Akalat, White-chested Alethe just to get started.  The Miombo woodland is stunning and so very much more magnificent than the piddly stuff we get in Zimbabwe.

Brachystegia speciformis

Msasa tree (Brachystegia Speciformis) (the editor can confirm that’s a bloody big Msasa)

How is that for a huge Msasa??!!

After several hours, we started to enter the Zambezi Delta.

Zambezi Delta

Zambezi Delta in Coutada 11

This is pretty much the end of the road – and indeed of this very long post. Undoubtedly the birding highlight of the trip was a cracking Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo which was a lifer for all of us !!

Thanks for listening ….

Boots

A year of hard walking !!

Cheers for now

Tony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi All

I am back at last and yet again I apologise for the inordinately long delays between these ramblings.

But I do have good news !!  This blog is about birding is it not ?  So now we can actually show you that we actually do bird-watch !!

I need to start by thanking Roger MacDonald for his permission to use these fantastic images and to also say how amazing the quality of his pictures is.  Roger – thanks a tonne.

Roger

Roger

These images all come from the trip we did to Catapu in November of 2014.  When I arrived there, with JNV,  I was delighted to find a bunch of the other visitors were friends of mine and all avid birders.  This situation works to everyone’s benefit because in forest birding the more eyes the better.

The crowd !

The crowd !

Left to right – JNV, Roger, CVC and IR.  Alison is missing and I am behind the lens !

We went birding in the forests of Catapu and Coutada 12.

The forest in Coutada 12

The forest in Coutada 12

And now – at last – some birds.

Common Waxbill

Common Waxbill

As the name suggests a common little bird but gorgeous just the same.

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Crested Guineafowl

Crested Guineafowl

The common Guineafowl of forests. On Catapu they are amazingly tame and confident.

Orange-breasted Bushshrike

Orange-breasted Bushshrike

Another common bird but very difficult to photograph.

The next one is also quite common along the eastern littoral and the major rivers but it too is notoriously difficult to capture with a camera.

Eastern Nicator

Eastern Nicator

In years past it was known as the Yellow-spotted Nicator and the jury is still out on whether it is closer to the shrikes or the bulbuls.

Yet again the next two are also not uncommon but getting pics of this quality in dense forest is astounding.

Female African Broadbill

Female African Broadbill

I just love the glint in her eye as she watches her mate displaying below.

Displaying Broadbill

Displaying male Broadbill

This next one, a Batis, used to be called the Mocambique Batis.  It is normally very high on the list that birders dream of seeing.

Female Pale Batis

Female Pale Batis

Green Malkoha

Green Malkoha

You need to be lucky, skilled and patient to capture an image like that! I wonder why its other name is Yellowbill ?

Immature Bateleur

Immature Bateleur

Can you hear him saying “And just who the hell are you ?”

Next up is probably one if the most difficult birds to photograph that there is.  Well done Roger.

Livingstone's Flycatcher

Livingstone’s Flycatcher

Purple-banded Sunbird

Purple-banded Sunbird

Getting that iridescence right is no mean feat.

One of the most spectacular sights is the breeding display of the Mangrove Kingfisher.  Normally a bird of coastal Mangroves (funny that) it moves to inland forests to breed.

Mangrove Kingfisher breeding display

Mangrove Kingfisher breeding display

Simply coming into the bird bath at the lodge was this enigmatic and very difficult to see fellow

Scaly-throated Honeyguide

Scaly-throated Honeyguide

Yet another Batis of the eastern littoral that is much sought after by birders.

Woodward's Batis

Woodward’s Batis

This next chap behaved way out of character by leaving the dense undergrowth and hopping out onto the road !

Red-capped Robin-Chat

Red-capped Robin-Chat that used to be known as the Natal Robin

The rapid and energetic behaviour of this next one makes it another very difficult one to get.

Yellow-Breasted Apalis

Yellow-Breasted Apalis

Well I guess it would be very remiss of me to leave out a snap of something dear to my heart and frequently a subject of many past ramblings on this site.

African Pitta

African Pitta

That was taken in the tree behind lodge 25 I think ?  Stunning !

Well last but not least we have some extremely special images of significant ornithological importance !

Böhms Bee-eaters

Böhms Bee-eaters.   Adult on the right and an immature/juvenile on the left.

Böhms Bee-eater

Böhms Bee-eater.  The sub-adult bird again.

This bee-eater has been controversial for some decade with some experts denying its existence in the southern African region.  That is south of the Cunene and Zambezi rivers.  These photographs finally prove they are here AND breeding !

How cool is that for a closing hit !?

Cheers for now

Tony

Hi all

I always seem to end up apologising for not keeping these posts either up to date or even very regular so I do so again in the certainty that it is true !  Sorry

We left off last time with us making a long and arduous journey into the Chewore Safari Area on a secret quest.  The reason for the secrecy was that I already had plans to take my buddy AJS to the same place as a surprise and knowing that he is a follower of these ramblings I could barely divulge the destination could I ?

AJS arrived in early October and the very next morning we set out on those crappy bloody roads for Masoka Camp on the Angwa River.  We were accompanied by one of my other mates, DY, who has failed to go African adventuring for some decades and was itching to get “out and about” in the wilds.  A very pleasant and uneventful trip and evening and off into Chewore the next day.

Chewore Sign

Remember this ?

We checked in at the Parks Mkanga HQ and followed the road deeper into the area to see …………

Fossilised Dinosaur Footprints

Dinosaur tracks

Dinosaur tracks

They are, according to the experts ……..”Palaeontological experts who have studied this trackway of footprints are non-specific about the type of beast that made them.  All they will say is that the dinner-plate-sized “three-toe’d” prints, some of which have clear claw markings, are those of a huge carnivorous “theropod” of the Mid-Late Jurassic period.  That’s about 200 million years ago!”

Bigger than my feet !

Bigger than my feet !

Or those of AJS …….

Dinosaur footprint with AJS

Dinosaur footprint with AJS

They may well be in a very remote place but they are not too difficult to find.

Signage to the site

Signage to the site

Well after that little surprise it was back to Masoka for sundowners and relax before dinner.

Evening visitors

Evening visitors

Relaxing after a long and eventful day

Relaxing after a long and eventful day

Next day it was simply back on that bloody awful road and return to Harare being troubled most of the way with a dodgy tyre that we had to keep on pumping up every 40 minutes or so.

We slept, and the next day restocked, fixed tyres, and packed for a departure next day to Mocambique………..

.... but only after breakfast ......

…. but only after breakfast.

Now, I need to back track into August.  JNV and I went adventuring into Mocambique looking for special birds that are known to winter in that country.  Like the Malagasy Pond Heron and Mascarene Martin.  Needless to say it was a very interesting trip and we started off very successfully by finding Böhm’s Bee-eater south of the Zambezi (placing them firmly in southern Africa).  Unfortunately, that evening, JNV slipped in the shower breaking some ribs in the process !

Needless to say that put him out of action and we ended up back in Harare with just that one bird under our belts.

But the scene had been set, the explorations done, the appetite seriously “whetted” and AJS, JBW and I were on our way !

First stop Casa Msika in Mocambique’s Manica province.

Delightful chalets even if a little run down

Delightful chalets even if a little run down

Situated on a very empty Lake Chicamba

Situated on a very empty Lake Chicamba

I know this is only 3 or 4 hours from Harare but it does break the journey very nicely.

The next day we were off with a single stop in Chimoio to purchase necessary supplies (Read beer and chocolate into that!)

Turn left at Inchope onto the EN1, across the Pungwe Bridge.  I first crossed this river in 1959 !  No bridge then of course – just a pontoon.

Pungwe River Bridge

Pungwe River Bridge

Pungwe Pontoon 1959

Pungwe Pontoon 1959

Shortly after crossing the river you drive around a bend ………

The entry signage for Gorongosa National Park

The entry signage for Gorongosa National Park

Gorongosa is a fantastic park with a very chequered and interesting past.  See www.gorongosa.org

The accommodation available at Chitengo is very varied.

JNV's room

JNV’s room

My room !

My room on the last trip!

Reception at Chitengo

Reception at Chitengo

JBW and I stayed up there !

JBW and I stayed up there this time!

I know that it is a bit confusing but it is me trying to get pics from the two trips to really explain what Mocambique is really like.

The Gorongosa mammal populations are recovering very nicely since my previous visit there in 2000. See https://birdingzimbabwe.com/2012/05/17/birding-in-mocambique/

The Gorongosa flood plain

The Gorongosa flood plain

Reedbuck, Waterbuck and Oribi in their hundreds.

Elephant too .....

Elephant too …..

.... and Lions

…. and Lions

The elephant have been seriously traumatised by years of persecution, poaching and illegal hunting.

They have neither forgotten of forgiven ….

....she came on and on - to about four metres !

….she came on and on – to about four metres !

After two fabulous days in the park it was time to move on … so northwards we went. All the way to the Zambezi in fact.

The Zambesi is a huge river as JBW and AJS discover

The Zambezi is a huge river as JBW and AJS discover

We stayed at M’phingwe Lodge in the Catapú logging concession.  A truely delightful destination with great (and very affordable) accommodation, hospitable hosts and fantastic staff.

The well signposted turn off

The well signposted turn off

Quaint ablution block

Quaint ablution block

Delightful setting

Delightful setting

Right in the forest

Right in the forest

We stayed four nights and thoroughly enjoyed all of it.  The Inamitanga forest (which borders on Catapú) is magnificent and still contains all sorts of wild beasts …….

Protected species

Protected species (African Painted Hunting Dogs or Wild Dogs)

There is lots to see and do.  The 3.2km rail bridge at Villa de Sena, Mary Moffat Livingstone’s grave on the way to Marromeu and the newly completed 2.7km road bridge at Caia.

The bridge at Caia

The bridge at Caia

There was a great little restaurant on the north bank which had the most interesting collection of light fittings.

Locally manufactured poaching tools !

Locally manufactured poaching tools !

Needless to say, the birding was just fantastic. White-breasted Alethe, East coast Akalat, Mangrove Kingfisher, Green Malkoha, Tiny Greenbul, Brown-throated Weaver, Narina Trogons and yes, the Pitta too !

Eventually we had to leave.  Sad, I know, but move on we must.

Southwards through the Inhamitanga and Inhaminga forests.

Through the forests ......

Through the forests ……

Near Muanza

Near Muanza

Into the rather dreary town of Dondo and then to Beira.

We stayed at Clube Nautico right on the beach

We stayed at Clube Nautico right on the beach

On the beach .....

On the beach …..

This concluded an ambition of ours – years ago we had taken AJS to Swakopmund in Namibia on the west coast of Africa.  Now Beira on the east coast.   Yep – right across Africa.  A moment for high-fives indeed.

It was an uneventful trip home and then AJS was all too soon on a plane back to the UK.  A fantastic trip all around and now I need to be planning something new for 2016.

That’s all folks.  See you sooner than last time I hope.

Cheers

Tony

Hi all

My goodness I am useless in keeping these posts up to date !!  It has been way way too long and I humbly apologise.

Let’s get on with it shall we ?

We last chatted about the enigmatic African Pitta way back after two abortive trips in December 2012 and January 2013 and I did mention that JNV was going to return in December 2013.

Well he did – and he brought AC and PH too, so it was a very full Land Cruiser that made its way down the escarpment and into the Zambezi Valley.

Rain

The rains had arrived.

At this time of year it tends to rain in Zimbabwe – my Harare garden the afternoon before we left.

Full Cruiser

Not even half packed !

We arrived in camp about noonish having left Harare early and after quickly unpacking and snacking a small lunch we set off looking for Pittas !  Fantastic views of Livingstone’s Flycatchers got us off to a good start and within about 45 minutes – SUCCESS !

AC and PH were Pitta virgins and there was much frivolity and back slapping spontaneously erupting all around.

African Pitta

Can you see it ?

Go on – look carefully ………

ok ok – technology to the rescue ………….

Pitta

Zoomed in a tad – ok – a lot.

That Jesse Bush is made up largely of Combretum spp. and is VERY thick and being in big game country also quite dangerous.

Whilst all acknowledged that this was not a brilliant sighting, it was without doubt an acceptable “tick” for the boys.

Who are pictured below …..

The boys

The Troops

Left to right PH, AC and JNV.

Well that certainly took the pressure off me and Mack.  I promise that relaxed guides are better than tense ones !

AC needed a photo of a Red-throated Twinspot so we obliged.

Red-throated Twispot

Not easy to get a Red-throated Twinspot

Evening rolled in and with a fire made by the very helpful Tich, we ate (and drank) well and retired tired.

Fire

Helpful chap our Tich.

That night, starting at about 1 am, it started to rain. In bucket loads !  And windy too.  The lodges have gauze, not glass, windows and in the rain came, and came, and came.

We were all soaked through but at least the rain stopped around 4:30 am.

AC is lying in his bed at 05:30 and he can hear a Pitta.  He thinks “Bloody Wood buggering around with a tape”

I am lying in my bed at 05:30 and I can hear a Pitta. I think “Bloody Client buggering around with a tape”

Both of us were wrong !   Very wrong !  There WAS a Pitta in the tree above the kitchen.  It is amazing how quickly people can get dressed when the need arises !

 

African Pitta

Right in camp !

Displaying Pitta

Displaying !

Blue tail

That rump is electric !

Well it doesn’t get any better than that does it ?

What ?  The sighting or the three ecstatic clients ?  Both I guess.

We all set off into the forest to see what else we could find and wandered about ticking species off and generally birding the riverine forests that overlook the dry Angwa River.

River bed

The dry Angwa River

By about 10:30 0r so I suddenly became aware that I could hear traffic. Traffic !  Not possible.

The evening before during the much chatting stage JNV had stated that one of the biggest ticks in his Bucket List was to see a dry river come down in flood.  Yep – that traffic noise was water !   We ran, slipping and sliding on the wet forest floor back to camp to an absolutely amazing sight.

Flood

That water is coming UPstream !!

Yes – upstream.  The Mkanga River a few kilometres downstream came down in a massive flash flood and on reaching the Angwa spread out in both directions !!   Then to cap it all we heard the sounds of voices and water coming from upstream – and around the corner come all the local lads running ahead of the water wielding spears and stabbing cat-fish by the dozens. We watched this whole spectacle in awe for a good half an hour before the two floods, one up and one down, finally met -right in front of our camp to which we had retreated to attain higher ground.  The entire river bed was now covered.  A few hours later, however it had started to retreat.

Flood

The flood starts to retreat

And by evening, as the sun burnt off the clouds, we had sand again.

Moon rise

Sundowner or Moonriser ?

zWetAngwa

Yep – in front of AC is the retreating river just about 8 hours after the flood.

So now what ?  We are done with the Pitta pursuit.  We have seen a flood. We have had two days birding.

I ask if the guys want to go exploring.  For something I had seen 20 years or so before.  The reply – a resounding “Yes”

This will involve quite a lengthy drive through the Chewore South Safari Area.

Chewore Sign

A warm welcome ….

 

Chewore

‘Tis a remote and wild place

Chewore

Lovely ….

We traveled to this delightful place where one can spend hours exploring.

Why ?

That little secret I am afraid will have to wait until next time !  Sorry

We made our weary way back to camp after a fantastic day.

Masoka Camp

I have seen better signage …..

The next day it was time to return to Harare but unfortunately we became a little delayed !

Loose Wheel

You picked a fine time to leave me Loose wheel …..

Always …. Always check your wheel nuts when using corrugated roads !

Well I guess that’s it for now folks.  I am off to Moçambique next month and then again in October. After that I will tell you about our adventuring in Chewore South Safari Area.

Cheers

Tony


Hi all

It has been a while since I did anything here.  Sorry !

October 2013 saw the arrival in Harare of SP and PP.  A delightful couple who, although not fanatic birders, wished to tour the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe.  We started out in Nyanga staying at a lovely cottage with great birds including the stunning Bronzy and Malachite Sunbirds.

Bronzy Sunbird

Bronzy Sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

Malachite Sunbird

The cottage was just above a dam and had fantastic walks up the hill behind the house.

Fura cottage

Fura cottage

Fura Dam

How relaxing is this ?

The hills behind the cottage have brilliant views and are the ideal habitat for the endangered Blue Swallow.

Blue Swallow habitat

Blue Swallow habitat and vista.

There are also some quite exciting different plants up there including some indigenous cycads and of course Tree Ferns.

Tree Fern

Tree Ferns

We made a traditional visit to Worlds View and climbed to the top where we used the GPS to establish that we were 2500 metres above sea level !

2500 above sea level

at 2500 m asl

And the next port of call had to be Troutbeck hotel for tea and cream scones.

Troutbeck Hotel

The institution that is Troutbeck Hotel

It was now time to move on so we took a back road to ensure we did some more of the touristy scenic stuff on our way to the Bvumba.

Pungwe

The Pungwe Gorge and Falls

Mutarazi Falls

At 740 metres are the Mtarazi Falls the 2nd highest in Africa ?

Once in the Bvumba, where we stayed at Seldomseen cottages, the serious birding began !

Nest

The ground level nest of Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler

Orange Ground Thrush

Orange Ground Thrush has beautiful blue eggs

Forest photography is extremely challenging.

Tambourine Dove

Not easy to get decent pics of Tambourine Dove in thick forest

We spent hours looking for Swynnerton’s Robin before we were finally successfull.

Swynnerton Robin habitat

Forest Birding

We also found a nest !  It was late afternoon when we found it purely by chance.

Swynnerton's Robin nest

Nest and eggs of Swynnerton’s Robin

SP wasn’t particularly happy with the above picture so we went back early the next day for another go ….

Swynnerton's Robin Chicks

.. and lo and behold …. we were too late !

We left the Bvumba and proceeded to drive down and down into the Honde Valley where we camped overnight at Katiyo on the Pungwe River.

Katiyo tents

Roof top tents at Katiyo

Pungwe River

Pungwe River

The right hand bank is Moçambique !

Pungwe River

The Pungwe at 400 metres above sea level

That’s right 400 masl !  That puts us 2.1 kilometres lower than the top of Worlds View in Nyanga !!

From Katiyo we drove throught to the Abefoyle Tea Estates and to the lovely Aberfoyle Lodge.  More serious birding followed as we tracked down Singing Cisticola, Anchieta’s Tchagra, Black-winged Red Bishop, Pale Batis, Pallid Honeyguide, Short-winged Cisticola, Green-backed Woodpecker and many others.

Thick-billed Weaver Nest

The delicate and very neat nest of the Thick-billed Weaver

Tea

Tea Plantation

The Singing Cisticola like the tea bushes.  We also found some interesting reptiles.

Rainbow Skink

Adult Male Rainbow Skink

Rainbow Skink

Th colourful juvenile Rainbow Skink

Anchieta’s Tchagra, which used to be known as the Marsh Tchagra, is found here ….

Wamba Vlei

Wamba Vlei

Wamba Vlei

Fortunately the area receives some protection.

The local guide, Morgan, is fantastic.

It was now time to wend our way homewards but I couldn’t resist taking a snap of this delightful bit of Africa.

Boozer-Bell

The local pub ?

And when we eventually got back to Harare my dear wife showed us her discovery in the garden.

African Paradise Flycatcher

Nesting African Paradise Flycatcher

That is all for now folks and I hope you enjoyed the trip

Cheers

Tony

Hi again.

I’m back.

So now you all know that I am a shit hot expert on finding Pitta’s ! Yes ?

Fraid not !

The Big Birding Day of 2012 was scheduled for late November so JB (a Pitta virgin) and I decided to enter the competition and to do it in my ‘Pitta Patch’. We plan, we pack, we drive, we arrive. Then we start searching.

Day two and we are a few hundred metres from camp when I realise I have left my little bird calling speaker behind. JB waits for me. On my way back I put up a Pitta at my feet and away it flies.

That was the only one seen !

Angwa River

Very dry Angwa River

It was very dry and very hot.  Those forest patches on the left is where DE got his photo’s in 2011 !

Pitta Patch

Ebony Trees

Still very hot and dry up a tributary of the Angwa.  Those tall leafless Ebony trees are where Jan watched a Pitta for several minutes on the previous Pitta trip !

It all became a game of sit and wait.  Sit and listen. Sit and try calling them.

Resting

Sit and Wait !

We even tried some formal meetings about strategy with the local guide, McKenzie

Meeting

Mack and I discuss our predicament

Lot’s more walking in the 40°C+ temperatures. Despondency sets in ……..

Tired

Looking a tad despondent here !

What an exceptionally sad and pathetic little bunny this is !

As far as Big Birding Day was going we were, however, doing quite well.  This intensive 24 or 48 hour competition is run annually worldwide and between JB, Mack and myself we were ticking all sorts of other specials like Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Lilians’s Lovebird, Red-throated Twinspot and Pennant-winged Nightjar.

We paid a visit to the Angwa Bridge which is a fantastic engineering feat.

Angwa Bridge

A serious feat of engineering

This is a single lane bridge over the river at a considerable height and damn nearly 200 metres long !  It has obviously been built where there was a suitable amount of bedrock to anchor it and the view is quite spectacular.

Angwa view

The dry Angwa River

The bedrock on which this concrete arch structure stands has seen some fascinating weathering in the eons this river has been flowing !

Weathered rock

Fascinating weathering

OK.   So now we have failed on the Pitta but we do return home with an impressive 175 species on the list for the competition and romp into second position in the Big Birding Day race.

The months drag by and winter passes and then it’s after Christmas – amazing how time flies !

JNV arrives from Johannesburg to go looking for a Pitta.   He is not a Pitta virgin having seen one years ago in Zambia but he needs another sighting for his southern African list.

It is now the second week of January and it has been raining for weeks !  Remember how dry it was ?

Sign

Look at the greenery in the background !

It was indeed very wet and very green everywhere.  We had been told to use the new road from near Angwa Bridge so we dropped by.

Angwa Bridge

Once again look at that vegetation !

I know the bridge doesn’t look as long as the earlier pic but that is a perspective problem.  We set off and after a few hours we encountered a small difficulty.

Flooded river

Full flood

We studied this obstacle for some time and could clearly see that the level had been much higher during the night and a shouted conversation with those on the other side confirmed that a wait of two or three hours would make it a viable option. So JNV and I decided to drive back along the old road to see what was happening.

Wash away

We didn’t get far !

Again – because of the perspective – you can’t see the 12 foot vertical drop off a few feet in front of JNV.  So we parked the car, set up the chairs and chatted to while away the time.

Waiting

Simply waiting

Ooops !  Does that look like a beer can on the bumper ?  Waiting can bring on boredom and a thirst !

After the allotted waiting period had past we again set forth towards Masoka and indeed the river had receded sufficiently.

Flooded River

They started out and briefly got stuck !

Flooded river

Then they broke down !

But my Cruiser and a bit of rope solved that and, after crossing safely ourselves, we were on our way.  We arrived in camp quite late and what a different place it was after six weeks of summer rains.

Camp View

This is the same spot where that pathetic little Bunny was seen earlier !

We spent the next three days Looking for Pitta’s !   Once Mack and I saw a fluttering glimpse and we spent hours in that forest trying to find the bird for JNV but to no avail.   We did however succeed with Western-banded Snake-Eagle, Pennant-winged Nightjar and Lilian’s Lovebird.  Also a very nice pair of courting Dickinson’s Kestrel.

Kanyemba Sign

The signage pointing to an international border post !

Kanyemba Road

The road to that same Kanyemba international border !

Do you recall me mentioning in the previous post that this was big game country ?  And that the river had been dry ?

Elephant

They crossed the river daily.

Elephant

There were several different herds several time a day.

Well there you have it.  That shit hot Pitta guide is in fact bloody useless.  Or, to be fair, November is too early and January too late ?

We had had a fantastic trip otherwise with lots of adventure and excitement and of course plenty of other birds and wildlife.  I haven’t mentioned the Corn Crake, the Twinspot Indigobirds or the more than several Striped and African Crakes. Or the Kurrichane Buttonquail ?They were all there.  And cracking Emerald Cuckoos

As the rains had held off the trip back was less eventful.

Toyota Land Cruiser

My rather dirty vehicle !

I guess that’s about it folks.  JNV is planning on coming back this December so we will then find out if I really know something about the fantastic African Pitta ?

Pitta angolensis

Many thanks to my buddy Celesta for this photo
© C von Charmier

Cheers and thanks for listening

Tony

Pitta Quests

Posted: 26/08/2013 in Uncategorized

Hi All

I am back after a *very* long and embarrassing period of ignoring you.  Sorry.  OK – EXTREMELY sorry !

Let’s have a little chat about the African Pitta  Pitta angolensis.

This is a bird of the west and central African rain forests that migrates south every year into central and southern Africa to breed.  Extremely elusive and retiring it is a species eagerly sought after by the more determined birders.  Unfortunately the ‘back yard twitcher’ just won’t, or to be fair, can’t, put in the considerable effort required to track down and see this magnificent bird.

Southern African birders probably all have a copy of the well known “Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa” so will be very familiar with the picture of a Pitta on the cover.

Pitta

Newman’s Pitta

Yeah – the really colourful one at the bottom.  Looks stunning doesn’t it ?  But, trust me, compared to the real thing, not great !

After nearly 30 years of active birding I decided it was time to go and find one of these very reclusive birds so I called my buddy FC and we set up a trip in 2009.  Remember it is a breeding migrant so arrives here in Zimbabwe in late November.  Four of us set off to the fabled riverine forests of the Angwa River in far northern communal lands just south of the Zambezi River where it enters Mocambique.  We worked very hard, mostly in the rain, but we were eventually successful in seeing a Pitta !  Quite good views with bino’s in the dark understory of the forest thickets where this special bird feeds among’st the leaf litter.

Cool.  Fantastic. A new ‘lifer’ !  Then Wood’s little brain starts ticking and now no longer a Pitta virgin starts telling all and sundry that if they want to see one they had better talk to me !  Arrogant prick that I am.

Along comes December 2010 and I have a  bigger group – six of us – including some school friends I had not seen for 40 something years !!  And a university Professor – also a buddy of long standing.  Back we go to the same site and …………

BINGO !!

Pitta’s everywhere !  We must have seen 6 or 7 over the three days and DE even got some half decent photographs.

Derek's first Pitta

African Pitta

DE had been looking for this bird for 21 years !!

African Pitta

Derek’s first Pitta

That’s a better one !  I did mention forest thickets !!

Right – so now not only am I not a Pitta virgin but have become a practically perverted expert !  It’s time to set up the third attempt for 2011 because now I want to show one of these stunning jewels to my wife Jan.

December of that year a whole bunch of us set off, including four South Africans and a local ringing expert. With luck we were going to catch one of these things and put a bit of jewelry on it’s leg !

Well we failed on that count but did manage to ring some pretty cool stuff.  like Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Paradise Flycatcher, Red-throated Twinspot and even a fledging Wood Owl !

Paradise Flycatcher

Paradise Flycatcher

And of course the enigmatic Livingstone’s Flycatcher Erythrocercus livingstonei

Livingstone's Flycatcher

Livingstone’s Flycatcher

Livingstone's Flycatcher

Livingstone’s Flycatcher

Wood Owl

Derek and Joe trying to not get bitten by a Wood Owl !

Red-throated Twinspot

Red-throated Twinspot

Alex Masterson

ANBM in typical habitat

ANBM – some of you will remember him from our long journey up to Arusha and back.  He is in the “Pitta patch” – just see all the leaf litter.

Pitta Habitat

Jan watching a Pitta 8 metres up in that Ebony tree

Sometimes it gets really thick.

Pitta forest

Imagine this after the leaves are out in just a few weeks !

Putting up ringing nets in the thorny entanglements is a really tricky problem

Ringing nets

One working – four watching !

This particular area is a tad wild !

Buffalo hind-quarter

Million with his lucky treat.

Yes – that is a Buffalo hind-quarter.  Lions killed two in front of camp and only ate one of them so the local folk had a really good supper the next day.

375

A necessary accessory

Which means that one needs to keep safe when traipsing about in the forests.  Elephant are also common.

The location of my ‘Pitta Patch’ is very remote and the roads are quite dodgy.

Masoka Road

Remote roads

NissanPatrol

KJ’s NissanPatrol got a bit stuck

Well I guess that is enough for one post but another will follow soon with the details of two more trips to get to grips with the fantastic Pitta !

See you soon and thanks for listening.

Tony

Forgetful ?

Posted: 14/04/2013 in Uncategorized

Oh my !   How forgetful and dumb can one be ?

Ooops – not dumb – just forgetful …..

I completely forgot a whole country !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Zambia Nyika

Zambian Wildlife Authority

If you want to visit this magnificent part of the Nyika Plateau as a Zambian, or from Zambia, you, unfortunately, have to first come into Malawi and go in from the east !!

We popped over – because we could – and added country five to our journey!

And on the subject of anybody having an appalling memory …

http://www.facebook.com/ZARDAHARARE

This fantastic society is run by by wonderful wife Jan.  She won’t let me forget anything.  Bless her little cotton socks. Which are invariably multi-coloured.

Thanks for watching and please visit her Facebook site and LIKE everything.

Cheers

Tony

Hi all

I’m back for the final stretch …….

When we left off last time we had made it all the way back to Mt Rungwe just north of Tukuyu in south western Tanzania.

We made an early departure (another big thank you is due to the Clowes family) and headed for Malawi.

Songwe Bridge

Songwe Bridge

After crossing the Songwe River and doing all the normal customs and immigration stuff we were off southwards back down Lake Malawi, past Livingstonia and back up onto the escarpment.

Lake Malawi

Stunning views of Lake Malawi

Then onwards inland and south to a little town called Rumphi.  A critical stop to purchase beer and off westwards for several hours on crap dirt roads to Thazima Gate.

Thazima Gate

Thazima Gate

This is the entrance to the Nyika National Park.  Take very careful note of the stated altitude !!  1646 metres above sea level is already in the region of 5000 feet a.s.l.

We drove into the park and through some magnificent Miombo woodland.  Essentially Miombo is a Swahili word for broad-leafed woodland consisting mostly of  Brachystegia species.

Miombo Woodland

Miombo habitat in Nyika N.P.

It was here we found a new species for both of us !

Starling - White-winged

The White-winged Starling
Neocichla gutturalis

That was cool !   It has another name – White-winged Babbling Starling. But still a long way to go and ever and ever upwards.

We eventually arrived at the Park HQ but because it was quite late (read early evening) and decidedly chilly we opted for chalet accommodation.  A bit pricey ……  but …… cest la vie.

Nyika Nat. Park Chalet

Nyika Nat. Park Chalet

During the evening we could clearly hear the calls of several Montane Nightjars and it was really eerie as the call is so similar and yet so different from our well known Fiery-necked Nightjar.

The real revelation was the next morning ………………….

Nyika Plateau

Nyika Plateau

Wow !!   That is why this chapter in entitled Above the Tree Line !!  Pretty much the whole of this huge park covers the Nyika Plateau and is nearly all above 2800 m.a.s.l.  Thats way above 8000 feet !

Nyika Plateau

Central African Plateau Moorland

This Moorland is very extensive and has small relict patches of Montane Forest.  It is certainly *not* a sterile environment and has loads of interesting inhabitants.

Roan Antelope

Roan Antelope

And the birds ………………….

Blue Swallow

Blue Swallow

Stanley's Bustard

Denham’s Bustard

…. also Churring Cisticola and the very elusive Mountain Yellow Warbler.

What an incredibly fascinating place.

We left about 9’ish and drove interminably south, eventually through a very busy Lilongwe, through the Mocambique border, foolishly after dark, and slowly and carefully inched our way to the metropolis of Ulongue where we settled in to a B&B with loads of Manica Lager and a delicious Piri-piri Galinas !!

Piri-piri Chicken

Galinas Piri-piri

Those of you with southern African connections will know about the famous grilled spicy chickens they serve !

Early next day back on the road , across the Zambezi, through Nyamapanda border post and finally in Harare about lunch time.

It was a long long way but a more than fantastic experience.

Thanks Alex.

Thank you for listening.

Cheers

Tony

Hi all

I’m back ………………………

Leaving the Indian Ocean behind us we drove steadily westwards passing the famous Uluguru Mountains.  There are a bunch of special birds up there including the Uluguru Bush-shrike.  Unfortunately it is a long hard and arduous climb and as ANBM had a triple by-pass some months previously it was deemed unwise for us to attempt the climb.

Uluguru

The famous Uluguru Mountains

Through the Mikumi National Park and into the town of Mikumi itself, where we booked in to the Tan-Swiss Lodge.  Very comfortable motel type accommodation and a restaurant.  Next morning we were off again on a new mission !

Southwards, skirting the also famous Udzungwa Mountains National Park.

Udzungwa Mountains

The sign ….

Our destination was to go past the town (village ?) of Ifakara and into the Kilombero swamps !  Why – you ask ?

Kilombero Weaver

Kilombero Weaver – only discovered in 1986 !!

There are two other specials, also both discovered as recently as 1986 ……………….

Kilombero Cisticola

Kilombero Cisticola

White-tailed Cisticola

White-tailed Cisticola

Well our intentions were good.  The reality is that at that time of year the locals burn the swamp vegetation to plant their crops !!  So to get away from the road we resorted to a different form of transport ……

Kilombero River

Dugout on the Kilombero River

Whilst this little sojourn was great for general birding it failed in it’s quest to find any of the three specials !!  Sigh …..

We were entertained on the return journey (of some 140 km) by this ……..

Nice Truck

A very Nice Truck

We checked back into the same motel in Mikumi and went exploring into the adjacent National Park to be rewarded by a bird which ANBM was very keen to see.

Long-tailed Fiscal

Long-tailed Fiscal

The next day we were once again off westwards and through the amazing Ruaha Valley which gave us a whole string of new species that we were keen to find.

Ashy Starling

Ashy Starling

White-winged Tit

White-winged Tit

von der Decken's Hornbill

Male von der Decken’s Hornbill

Female von der Decken's Hornbill

.. and the female

It was a long day but most productive from a birding point of view.  Very tiring because the driving in Tanzania can be a little frenetic with about 80% of the traffic being huge trucks.

Tanzanian Highway

.. busy roads….

But it can be quite entertaining too ……..

Bob Marley

Bob Marley

We eventually arrived back at the Mount Rungwe Avocado Company and were once again welcomed and royally accommodated by the Clowes family.

The last chapter was about to begin……….

And it will unfold soon …………….

Thanks for listening

Tony

Hi All

Terribly sorry about the inordinate delay !!  It is no excuse but there is a reason …… I have been a very very busy chap and have had little time to consider my readers. Sorry !

After the PAOC conference we could now start to relax a little and start to think seriously about getting into birding mode.  This started with a small trip up into the foothills of Kilimanjaro (still hidden in cloud and we never actually saw this mythical Gomo)

We then followed our original route back through Karogwe and then turned left.  From chatting to various Tanzanian folk we had learnt that some of the best birding was around the tiny village of Amani (nowt more than a medical research station – Malarial research specifically) which sits atop the East Usambara Mountains.

Amani sign

Arrived !

These Usambara Mountains are large things.  Although we were only at about 900 metres above sea level when at the top remember that the surrounding flat Tanzanian veld is only 200 metres a.s.l.

The roads were distinctly not great ….

Bad roads

Up the Usambara’s

Usambara

Really lousy roads

But the forest was impressive – very impressive !

Usambara-Forests

Usambara Forests

And the birds ?  Fantastic is the only word.  Stuff we had not even known existed !

Two of which live there and nowhere else !!

Amani Sunbird

Amani Sunbird

Long-billed Tailorbird

Long-billed Tailorbird

The known global range of the Tailorbird is about 20 square kilometres !!  And to top that no nest has ever been found !  There in itself is a nice little PhD project for an enterprising little soul.

Lots and lots of other very special birds – especially for us southern Africans who know a few of them as very special for our region.

Vanga

Female Black & White Flycatcher

Male Black & White Flycatcher

… and her Husband.

And the enigmatic Green-headed Oriole which in southern Africa is restricted to the massif of Mount Gorongosa in central Mocambique.

Green-headed Oriole

Green-headed Oriole

Also the Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird in which, unlike the others in Africa, the female also wears the metalic Violet back and is only found here and on the Uluguru Mountains some hundreds of kilometre away.

Uluguru-violet-backed-sunbird

Uluguru violet-backed sunbird

And how about this next one ?  Not even the internet can produce a photograph of this bird !!!

Olive Ibis

Olive Ibis –

Bostrychia olivacea is the scientific name.

We stayed up there for two nights and also found the special Owl.  What an amazing call this bird has !

Usambara Eagle Owl "Bubo vosseleri"

Usambara Eagle Owl “Bubo vosseleri”

Finally we had to leave – the word Safari is simply Swahili for “journey” and has absolutely nothing to do with the way we westners view or understand its perceived meaning.

Amani sign

Farewell Amani – and thank you.

When we got back to the main road we turned left – because we could – and drove to the coast simply to put our feet in the Indian Ocean.

Tanga

The Indian Ocean at Tanga

A delightful city/town sort of place with poverty and tourism happily sharing the same tropical paradise and idyllic weather.

And somebody seems to have forgotten something that happened way back in the sixties ………..

Tanganyika

Tanganyika or Tanzania ?

That was it !  We filled up with fuel, money from an ATM and of course some beer supplies and headed west into the hinterland with yet another mission on the cards.

More later………… hopefully sooner rather than later ………..

Thanks for listening.

Tony

Hi all

What a fascinating trip it was.  We had to meet really early in the morning and get allocated into a specific Land Cruiser.  Amazing tourist industry – there were 38 customised vehicles and *all* from the same tour company !   I was impressed to say the least.

Land Cruisers

Customised Tour Vehicles

Arusha National Park is a game reserve so we did see a few mammals………

Giraffe

Giraffe

…. but that is not what this is all about !      Things ornithological is what this is all about !

In the foothills of Mt Meru it is quite dry so these two were to be expected – Superb Starling and Pygmy Batis.

Batis Pygmy

Pygmy Batis

Starling Superb

Superb Starling

The two best ‘yellow’ birds of the day were the Taveta Weaver and Cinnamon-chested Bee-Eater.

Taveta Weaver

Taveta Weaver

Cinnamon-chested Bee-Eater

Cinnamon-chested Bee-Eater

Ok – so the Bee-Eater ain’t too yellow – but the Baglafecht’s Weaver’s were…..

Male Baglafecht's Weaver

Male Baglafecht’s Weaver

Female Baglafecht's Weaver

Female Baglafecht’s Weaver

Although quite common I really did like these little chaps…….

Spot-flanked Barbet

Spot-flanked Barbet

One of the neatest birds of eastern Africa is the Slaty White-eyed Flycatcher.

White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher

Or is that White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher ?

Either way it is Melaenornis fischeri.

Everywhere on the mountain we could here a bird calling and it took ages and ages before someone glimpsed what we used to call a Green Coucal, then we called them Green Malkoha………

Yellowbill

…. and now we call them Yellowbill’s !

Turaco’s were in evidence with the common one being this handsome chap.

Hartlaub's Turaco

Hartlaub’s Turaco

Juvenile Crowned Eagle

Juvenile Crowned Eagle

This juvenile Crowned Eagle was very accommodating and must have had hundreds of photo’s taken in the hour or so that he sat there.  Unusual thing is that this is actually one of my own pictures !!!

Typical of the east African scene are the hundreds, nay thousands, of Greater and Lesser Flamingo’s in the lakes and there are dozens of lakes around Mt Arusha. Some are ground fed with soda rich waters, some are fed from hot springs and others are topped up with fresh water from streams or precipitation.

Lake Momella

Lake Momella Sign

Well I guess that that last pic proves I am running out of Arush material and I should stop now !!

So I will.  See you soon on the next leg of this fantastic journey.

Thanks for watching

Tony

The 13th Pan African Congress took place over seven days in Arusha,  Tanzania in October 2012.

This congress is held every four years and I believe the first one took place here in Zimbabwe around 1960.

There were about 250 delegates from all over the world and in excess of 400 contributors, authors and presenters and with around 34 presentations being given every day in two halls over 6 days we certainly had our work cut out for us !!!

Delegates and presenters came from as far afield as Canada, Poland and Australia and within Africa from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, South Africa and even the newest country in the world South Sudan !

The theme for this 13th Congress was “Birds in a Changing Environment” which led to presentations ranging from the density of Rufous-bellied Tits in the Miombo biome to the fact that migratory birds link Niger to 80 countries to their North, South, East and West.  The importance of Quelea management as a food source and problem birds in relation to airports and aviation safety.

I could go on and on …. 34 daily presentations for six days is a *lot* of material !  Six days ?  Not seven ?

Thats because they gave us a day off and also took us, en masse, into Arusha National Park which surrounds Mount Meru !  Lovely people they were.

Mt Meru Arusha National Park

A rare view of Mount Meru without clouds !

I will be back soon with the birds of Arusha National Park !

Thanks for reading this

Cheers

Tony

Hi all

When we were in Chizarira ANBM mooted the idea of us going to the 13th Pan-African Ornithological Congress. By road !

He kept up the pressure and suddenly we were definitely going. With a fully packed vehicle, passports, GPS and some maps we left Harare at 04h00 one morning and entered Mocambique at Nyamapanda and by 09h30 we were in Tete on the Zambezi river.

Zambezi bridge

The bridge over the mighty Zambezi

We had  crossed the border into Malawi at Dedza by about 14h30.  This little town is named after Dedza Mountain which rises out of the plains.

Dedza Mountain

Dedza Mountain and town

Now most people heading north in Malawi would proceed to the capital, Lilongwe. Us ?  No chance – east it was to be – to Lake Malawi ! It appears quite suddenly and is a delight to view its vastness.  We followed the lake shore via Salima, Nkhotakota and Dangwa by which time it was quite dark. Eighteen kilometres outside Dangwa was our destination – the delightful Ngala Beach Lodge.  We were welcomed by the owner, Chris Buckley, and proceeded to replenish all the fluids we had lost on our 1200 kilometre trek!   Now remember we have arrived in the dark !   Lot’s of beer and a fantastic dinner followed by extremely comfortable rooms and I awoke early to walk out my door and see ……….

Lake Malawi

Dawn over Lake Malawi

…. it was stunning !

The lodge itself is a fantastic retreat and certainly on the cards for a repeat visit.

Ngala Beach

My room at Ngala Beach Lodge

Ngala Beach

Ngala Beach Dining Area

After breakfast we made our farewells and hit the road. Northwards to Nkhata Bay then up the mountains to Mzuzu,  back down the mountains to the Lake, past Livingstonia and Karonga to the Songwe River Bridge and suddenly we were in Tanzania !! Four countries in two days !!  And only half way to our destination !!

We arrived at Mount Rungwe, after passing through Tukuyu where we were expected by the Clowes family who are ex-Zimbabweans farming avocados there.

Now it was time to start birding !  We set off early the next morning to climb into the foothills where we found Scaly-throated Honeyguides to be common as were Livingstone’s Turaco but best of all our first ‘lifer’ for the trip was Black-lored Cisticola.

Black-lored Cisticola

Black-lored Cisticola

(I guess I need to say here that most of the bird pictures posted have been gleaned from many sites on the internet and if I offend anyone and they want me to remove their picture just let me know and it will be done!)

After a quick-lunch it was back on the road and to Mbeya and on-wards towards Iringa stopping for the night at Kisalonza Farm House – a very nice campsite where we froze because we hadn’t realised we were sitting at about 1600 metres above sea level.  We broke camp early the next day and after a mug of coffee we were on our way.

Kisalonza

Making coffee at Kisalonza

That’s the last time you will see the gas bottle !  We did camp again but managed to get fed and watered by others.  Good planning.

This was another long haul !  Past Iringa, Morogoro (where we got some money from the ever present Barclay’s Bank), a left turn and to Korogwe where we booked into the Motel White Parrot.  About 950 kilometres that day !

Kilimanjaro

Thirsty Work

Kilimanjaro

Thirsty Work

The next day was a doddle !  Continuing ever north(ish) we soon past Moshi where Mount Kilimanjaro was totally hidden in cloud and to our intended destination Mount Meru Game Sanctuary.

Mt Meru lodge

Mount Meru Game Sanctuary

Mt Meru

Up market lodging

As lovely as this place was it really was too inconvenient for our conference (remember – we were going to the Pan-African Ornithological Congress) but we did find some interesting stuff before leaving.

Kirk's Dikdik

Kirk’s Dikdik

Black & White Colobus

Black & White Colobus in the garden !

The next day was the final 20 km into Arusha, find a hotel just a few minutes walk from the conference and we had arrived !

Pan African Ornithological Conference

Success !

Well dear readers I think that will be about enough for now.  We will continue again later.

Thanks for joining me.

Cheers

Tony

Hi All

I am getting ready to start posting about the trek to Arusha and back again but I am under an admittedly self imposed non-disclosure agreement.

I foolishly committed myself to doing a presentation to BirdLife Zimbabwe and as some of those folk are followers of these ramblings I can’t afford to ruin my efforts and disclosing some secrets here.

Please be patient.

It’s only a few more weeks……

This is what it was all about..

It will happen……………..

Cheers

Tony

Hi all

I’m back !   It has been a long time but so much has happened !

My last blunt statement to you was that ANBM and I were going to drive from Harare to Arusha in far north Tanzania !

We did !

Because we could !

It was a fantastic trip and soon I will start posting about the whole adventure – very busy with some other pressing stuff at the moment so please be patient.

Lake Malawi view

Lake Malawi suddenly appears !

Mount Meru, Arusha, Tanzania

Mount Meru also suddenly appeared !!

There you are.  A simple taster of things to come…….

And there will be *lots* of birds I promise.

See you soon

Tony

I am back – again !!

Sorry about this but I have to get up to date – TODAY.  Lots of other stuff starts happening tomorrow !

A few weeks back about 14 people went of a mission to Hwedza Mountain south east of Harare.

Why? – you ask.  Well back in 1990 TFC saw a Swee Waxbill up there and put it on an Atlas card.  No-one believed her !

Michael Irwin did (and so did I).  Michael put out a request for someone to go and check it out and our mission was the result.

It is nice up there………..

Hwedza Mountain

View

Even the view from our campsite was cool…..

Hwedza Mountain

View from Camp

Where Hwedza Moutain got the name mountain I am not sure.  It really is a massif with lots of hills and peaks. It covers about twenty square kilometres.  I’ts huge……….

Hwedza Mountain Massif

Hwedza Mountain

There are two peaks which are noticeably higher than the others.  One of them now houses the inevitable array of telcomms masts.

Romorehoto Hwedza Mountain

Cliff face

The east face of Romorehoto has a magnificent cliff face which houses Lanner Falcons, White-necked Ravens and Black Storks.

The other high peak is Dangamvuri……

Dangamvuri Hwedza Mountain Bush fire

Fires

……. it had bush fires burning on it’s slopes for the four days we were up looking around.

Dangamvuri Hwedza Mountain

Dangamvuri

We got to the top and were enthralled by a display given by 30 or 40 Alpine Swifts swooping around at head height Magnificent.           So fast !

Once again the haze was very much against us but it made for great sunsets……

Hwdeza Mountain haze sunset

Sunset on Hwedza Mountain

Did we find the Swee Waxbill ?

Yes we did !

Swee Waxbill Black-faced Swee Estrlda melanotis

Swee Waxbill

This picture was actually taken in Juliasdale, where they are to be expected, by Geoff Hawksley.  We only found one bird, a male, which had a nest which we also found.  TFC has been vindicated !   We were all delighted at the positive result.

Once again thanks for listening.  I will be quiet for a while now because tomorrow I leave on another huge and exciting journey !

ANBM and I are driving to Arusha !!   That’s right – northern Tanzania.  Via Malawi and Mocambique.  T”is a long way !

Cheers

Tony

The Marathon Graphically

Posted: 08/10/2012 in Uncategorized

Me again.  Unexpectedly !

I forgot a very important picture. Damn.

Anyway here it is………………

Map Zimbabwe

The map

Yep……. the dark blue lines cover the Marathon Journey !!

Talk about going around and about a whole country !!

Cool huh ?

Cheers

Tony

 

Hi all

We are nearly done.  You must be exhausted by now.  We certainly were !

AJS and I got back to Harare quite late in the afternoon of the 21st of September.

The next day we went shopping for beer and water.  Daz arrived at about 13h00 and we set off northwards, in his Honda CRV, on the Bindura road and turning left just after Mazowe headed to and beyond Centenary towards Muzarabani.  In the Zambezi Escarpment we stopped at the Mavuradonha Wilderness headquarters and quickly settled into our accommodation.

Mavuradonha Wilderness Basha

Simple Basha Accommodation

This camp is all about eco-tourism and is a Campfire Project.  Campfire is an acronym for Communal Areas Managment Program For Indigenous Resources. Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE programme is widely regarded as one of Africa’s most successful conservation initiatives. It permits the residents of communal lands—basically poor, black people—to share in the benefits generated by wildlife utilization on those lands. Despite its achievements the programme still faces challenges. In particular where the of households in CAMPFIRE areas are focusing on land uses that are incompatible with wildlife and increased livestock numbers.   Ah well – they made a few bucks out of us.

What on earth were we doing there 300 km north of Harare ?  Simple really.  About 20 years ago I had been birding up there and remembered a place of great beauty.  So about 5 years ago I took AJS there. And we got lostish, without enough water, so we abandoned our attempt. That situation could not be allowed to prevail.  So back we went.

We had a few hours to kill so we started off by going to Sowe Falls.

Mavuradonha Wilderness Sowe Falls

Sowe Falls

Obviously September is the dry season so there was very little water. In the wet season we could not have been where we were !

Sowe Falls Mavuradonha Wilderness

Daz takes a dip

Mavuradonha Wilderness Sowe Falls

Sowe View

The view from the falls is great.

We spent a very pleasant evening in camp. Daz did dinner for us and we all slept very well.  Now for the big one – Eagles Crag !

It’s a long way up to the top of the mountain.

Eagles Crag Mavuradonha Wilderness

On the way up

We had to keep reminding ourselves to stop and look back at the changing view as we ascended.  It too us an hour and a half to climb to the very top…………………….

Eagles Crag Mavuradonha Wilderness

Musengezi View

Wow !!   That is the Musengezi River down there.  A long way down there !

Eagles Crag Mavuradonha Wilderness

The haze was disapointing

Of course it is hazy in September.  We always knew that.  It is still a fantastic place to be – Eagles Crag.

Eagles Crag Mavuradonha Wilderness Musengezi River

Another tick in the Bucket List

AJS was well pleased !  We are about 900 metres above the river. I have seen Black Storks from here and a very nice Black Kite flew past at about 20 metres whilst we were there and I have been told that Taita Falcon live in this gorge.

Cahora Bassa Mocambique Mavuradonha Wilderness

The Cahora Bassa viewing point

Again the haze was the problem but from here, on clear day, One can see the western extremities of the huge Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique. I know ‘cos I saw it when I was first here.

After about an hour gawping at the views we went back down the mountain – much easier when gravity is on your side – in about forty minutes.  Straight back to camp, packed up and drove back to Harare.

A quiet evening followed by a morning showing AJS the difference in our shops since he was last here in 2008 followed by a fantastic lunch at Harare’s well known Allo Allo  restaurant then off to the airport where I deposited AJS to catch his flight to Jo’burg and onward to London.

The marathon was over.  It was brilliant !  Thank you AJ the Elder – we are indebted forever.

Cheers all

Thanks for listening and looking.  I will be back sooner than you think with yet another very different little excursion.

Tony

Hi again

At last after weeks of neglecting those of my followers who are birders I can get back to the core subject of this blog.

This, however, does not mean that the marathon journey is over !!  No it is not.

Whilst in Chizarira CvC took some amazing photo’s of birds and has very generously agreed to share them with you all.

Let’s start with one of the nicest little fellows that turn up quite frequently in the drier woodlands.

Namaqua Dove

Male Namaqua Dove

One of the loveliest sights that immediately tells you that you are in a wild and remote spot……….

Bateleur Eagle

Soaring female Bateleur Eagle

And we were very lucky to see her when she joined up with her mate !

Bateleur Eagles

Bateleur Eagles

A bird frequently heard in the morning and evening but much less frequently seen……………

Shelly's Francolin

Shelly’s Francolin

Why some species are now Spurfowl and others remained Francolin I can’t fathom.

Another indicator species of the wild bushveld is the seriously reduced Ground Hornbill.  What a fantastic shot !

Southern Ground Hornbill

Southern Ground Hornbill

Along the banks of the Kaswiswi River, both up and downstream from our camp site we encountered this gorgeous chap…….

White-fronted Bee-eater

White-fronted Bee-eater

….. and with a very quick trigger finger CvC got this………………..

White-fronted Bee-eater

White-fronted Bee-eater

Amazing !

Hiding in the riverine thickets and the thick stuff at the base of hills is a difficult to see and even harder to photograph rather lovely little songster and mimic………

Bearded Scrub Robin

Bearded Scrub Robin

A big ‘tick’ for birders from further south in Africa is this elusive bird of the Mopane woodland…………….

Arnot's Chat

Male Arnot’s Chat

On the subject of Chat’s this fellow was stealing thatching material to line his mud nest – several of which were on the cliffs along the river.

Mocking Cliff Chat

Mocking Cliff Chat

Sometimes your chosen subject can get a little too close………….

Black-bellied Bustard

Black-bellied Bustard

Yet another bird of the bushveld that is quite stunning but photographed  much less frequently than his very popular cousin is the Purple Roller.

Purple Roller

Purple Roller

A big surprise  along the river was a couple of pairs of Mountain Wagtail.

Mountain Wagtail

Mountain Wagtail

I was extremely lucky to spot (pun intended) this little chap landing in a tree and keeping him in sight until CvC came along.

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Another delightful bird of the drier woodland…………..

Retz's Helmet-shrike

Retz’s Helmet-shrike

The familiar and distinct call of these voracious fruit-eaters drew our attention.

African Green Pigeon

African Green Pigeon

I think it is time for some more Raptors………………….

Dickinson's Kestrel

Dickinson’s Kestrel

…..and finally…………..

White-headed Vulture

White-headed Vulture

Well I am sure you will wish to join me in sincerely thanking CvC for such a special treat of so many fantastic photo’s.

We will continue with the Marathon Journey soon.

See you then

Cheers

Tony

Hi again

It is certainly time I caught up with my posts here as there is so much happening I am in serious danger of falling way behind !

When you were last listening (reading) we had just arrived at the entry gate to Chizarira – the Hidden Gorges in remote north-western Zimbabwe.

Chizarira National Park

Arrived………..

First of all lets deal with vehicles.  We are all now quite familiar with the dear old Mazda Bongo that has carried us so far.  In Hwange we met up with CvC and CH in their Toyota Prado……..

Chizarira - Toyota Prado

CvC’s Prado

This shot also shows one of the two “Basha’s” that provided the lucky few with accommodation.

Chizarira Mazda BT 250

Mazda BT 250

A rather poor shot of a Mazda BT 250 double cab.  Also the ablution block which was, I suppose, adequate IF it had any water.

It didn’t !

We will get on to the provenance of this vehicle a bit later.   Also we have some tented places for some folk to lay their weary heads at night.

OK – now the people.  We were joined in Chizarira by two other adventurers who drove – in the Mazda – directly from Harare.

PF…….

Chizarira Peter Fahy

PF

…….. who is standing looking chilly.

Also ANBM……………..

Chizarira Alex Masterson

ANBM

……… who is here hiding behind a huge grin and the peak of his cap.  I mentioned that the two girls were mad photographers – check out the lens on that camera !!

Next CvC ………

Chizarira - Celesta von Charmier Greg Watson

CvC and GJW

….. who is seen here giggling at the fact GJW has fallen asleep !

Finally CH……..

Claudia Holgate - Chizarira

CH

…… who I caught in her Basha recovering from an overdose of Imodium !   Not funny at all.  Poor girl.

Oh of course – you don’t even know where we are…………

Chizarira signage Kaswiswi Busi Lusulu

Kaswiswi sign

Kaswiswi !   A fantastic camp site on the banks of a river of that name.  Which is where we got the water to make the ablutions function after a fashion.  Within a few hundred metres we found three pools suitable for bathing.  The crocs occupying them were 3, 4 and 5 metres long respectively.  Bathing didn’t happen !

Kaswiswi River Chizarira

The Kaswiswi is pretty

Kaswiswi River Chizarira

….and sometimes rugged

And the roads ?  Not good I am afraid.

Chizarira road

Remote ?

Chizarira road

Rocky ?

Chizarira road

Very rocky !

Chizarira road

Overgrown ?

Chizarira road

And the bridge is where ?

Chizarira road

Good progress ?

Chizarira road

Failed – damn !

Yup we failed the exit.  It was a 500 mm vertical wall.  We built it up with rocks before the Prado made the attempt.  Fortunately the Mazda was still in camp and was fetched with a fairly short walk and quite easily extricated me.

We saw mentioned on the welcome sign something about ‘hidden gorges’ ?

Mucheni Gorge Chizarira

The sign

Mucheni Gorge Chizarira

The Mucheni Gorge

The Mucheni River cuts its way through the Zambezi escarpment which makes up the Parks northern border.

Mucheni Gorge Chizarira

Mucheni Gorge

It is about a 300 metre deep canyon.

Mucheni Gorge Chizarira view

Mucheni View

Mucheni View Chizarira

AJS & ANBM

It was quite spectacular – mesmerizing in fact !

We were in the Park for five nights and we reckon that to be about the minimum stay due to the huge distances involved.

When we left we popped into the Chizarira Lodge.  This lodge had it’s heyday in the late 80’s after African Pitta (Pitta angolensis) was found to breed in the forests on the escarpment, as I am sure they still do.

Chizarira Lodge

The sign is easy to miss

Chizarira Lodge

Chizarira Lodge

Chizarira Lodge

Dining area

Chizarira Lodge Pitta

They even had a Pitta on the bar !!

Chizarira National Park Gokwe Road

It was a long way to Harare

After leaving the Lodge we had about 3 hours on a middling bad road to the Gokwe turn-off then still a very long way home.

This post is plenty long enough so I will close off now with a big promise to be back soon with the next post being wholly dedicated to the BIRDS of Chizarira  !!

Thanks for joining us

Cheers

Tony

Hi all

The last time I left you we were just out of Lupane having visited the Allan Wilson Memorial.  And we were heading North.

Back to Hwange National Park’s Main Camp!    We were to meet up with two other travellers – delightful ladies – CvC and CH.

We had a delightful dinner – thanks GJW – and slept like logs.   Getting up early the next day we all went out to “track down” that special bird from my previous visit to Hwange in July.

Yellow Morph Crimson-breasted Shrike

Rare Yellow Morph Crimson-breasted Shrike

And find them we did !!

The two girls are mad keen photographers and had a wonderful time.

After breakfast we packed up and departed but now GJW had a seat in CvC’s Toyota Prado.  Northwards again !  But not very far, to what is locally known as Crossroads, which is the Dete/Kamativi turn off.  Re-fuelled there and turned right going north-east towards Kamativi.

Kamativi Tin Mine Road

North Eastward

Before reaching Kamativi we turned right again and now had some distance to cover on the road to Binga.

Once out of the escarpment and into inhabited Communal Land we came across some signs of commercial activity.

Traditional axe

For sale……

Yes I did buy one.  Seven dollars.  Good value if I don’t break it !

About 20km before Binga one comes to what is called the Siabuwa Fly Gate, a reference to the control of the Tsetse fly (Genus Glossina).  As an aside Zimbabwe has eight recorded cases of Trypanosomyasis this year !! Scary.  The gate appears to be defunct now because I saw no sign of it.  Anyway we turned right and set of going directly East.  The road conditions changed somewhat too.

Gravel Road

Somewhat worse !

This prevailed for the best part of two hours before we turned onto a very much worse road and slowly made our way south.  We could soon see that we had a bit of a challenge in front of us……………

Chizarira Hills

Mind the Gap

Yes – we had to get over that !

Which we accomplished without mishap.  There was lot’s of forest in those valleys which I am sure will hold plenty of Narina Trogon‘s. (Compulsory birding reference.)

We rounded a corner and saw we had arrived at our destination !

Chizarira National Park

Arrived………..

This was a huge “Tick” for me as I had never been here before.  Close but not actually.  Many years ago I once walked the Sengwa River Gorge which forms this park’s eastern boundary.  We were looking for Taita Falcon and yes we did find them.

This post is long enough without actually taking you into the Park so I will leave you here to await the next installment.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers

Tony

Hi All

I’m back…………

Let’s continue on our journey.

We left off last time with a fantastic breakfast of the Nesbitt Castle and me telling you that AJS is not a birder but he is passionate about the history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe – a passion he has had since a boy.  We filled up with fuel and headed south, past Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage, (whose founder Viv Wilson sadly died this week) through Esigodini and Gwanda.  About six kilometres later we turned right and our direction now became south-west.  After about eighty kilometres the tarred surface abruptly ended and an hour later we passed through the metropolis of Hwali !

Baobab Adansonia digitata

Baobab
Adansonia digitata

We were now in the deep south-west of Zimbabwe and Baobab country. The nests are those of the Red-billed Buffalo Weaver.

Cactus

Strange Cactus

It is very dry down there and there were plenty of these spiny beasts.  Anyone out there know what they are ?  I don’t !

After Hwali the road deteriorated quite quickly but we only had about 40 odd km left to go before we would arrive at our destination.

Shashi Wilderness Camp - Tuli Circle

Shashi Wilderness Camp

Shashi Wilderness Camp Tuli Circle

Lovely place

The Shashi Wilderness Camp is owned and operated by the Matabeleland Branch of Wildlife Environment Zimbabwe.  It is a fantastically restful and peaceful camp right in the riverine forests of the Shashi River adjacent to the Tuli Circle.  This strange border phenomenon is a semi-circle of land that belongs to Zimbabwe but is on the Botswana side of the river that demarcates the border.

http://www.madbookings.com/botswana/information/tuli-botswana.html I stole their map but can’t vouch for them as a business

 

Something to do with the old Fort Tuli where the BSAC Pioneers entered into Matabeleland late in the 19th century.

 

Shashi Widerness Camp

Lovely just sitting ……..

Yes – that is AJS.

Tuli Circle Shashi River

The Shashi River

…. and looking at the view.

The next morning we embarked on the real purpose for coming to this remote place.

National Parks Tuli Circle Safari Area

The Nat Parks sign

The Tuli Circle is managed by Zimbabwe National Parks as a safari area.

Pioneer Cemetery sign

Our destination revealed……………..

There is no real need for me to comment on the next four pictures.

Ernest Kays Prentice Fort Tuli

Ernest Kays Prentice

Captain Leslie Dewing Blackburn Fort Tuli
Captain Leslie Dewing Blackburn

George Hubert Hepper Headstone Fort Tuli

George Hubert Hepper that’s 1891

Patrick Brown Russel Headstone Fort Tuli

Patrick Brown Russell

We drove off to see an old Baobab and on the way back we climbed a small hillock.  Apart from the haze the view was great.

Tuli Circle Shashi Safari Area Giraffe

Can you see the distant giraffe?

That afternoon we went for a long walk up river from camp.  Brilliant riverine forest with fantastically sized trees.  We enjoyed that tremendously.  When I got up that morning at the respectable hour of 07h30 it was VERY chilly.

Cold Temperature Thermometer

It was very cold……..

But when we set out on our walk things had improved considerably……

Warm Temperature Thermometer

But warmed up nicely…………..

Riverine Forest Tuli Circle Shashi River

Big trees indeed !

After another chilly night in our little dormitory we packed up and returned to Bulawayo.  We were there by about lunch time and went straight to our ‘hotel’.

The Bulawayo Club

The Bulawayo Club !

The Bulawayo Club
The Bulawayo Club

The Bulawayo Club is one of those venerable old institutions known as a Gentleman’s  Club but in this day and age is much more tolerant of the fair sex.   It is lovely building and so reminiscent of its time.

The Bulawayo Club

The Bulawayo Club entrance Hall

The Bulawayo Club

Bedroom wing

The Bulawayo Club

The stairs and landing

The Bulawayo Club Atrium

The Atrium

The Bulawayo Club Dining Room Amalinda Group

The dining room

The Bulawayo Club Chief Lobengula
The Lobengula Room

We spent two nights at The Club because we needed to go shopping for supplies.  Beer, coffee, lots of travel snacks, meat etc.  The marathon journey was far from over.

We left Bulawayo with an extra body on board…………..

Greg on the Mazda Bongo

Not too uncomfortable………

We picked up GJW and headed north.  A long way north to Lupane where we took a right turn onto a dirt road then two lefts and now had 46 kilometres go and the road was pretty bad.  It took an hour…..

Shangani River

….to reach the Shangani River

And we still had a way to  go.  Eventually I saw it and we swung off the road for probably less than 100 metres and stopped.

AJS got out of the Bongo,  looked around and said “What is it ?”

Allan Wilson Memorial Shangani Patrol

AJS at the Allan Wilson Memorial

Remember the Shangani Patrol?  Where Major Allan Wilson and his men were caught on the wrong side of the Shangani River by Matabele warriors?  And all 34 were killed?  This was the site of the battle on the 4th of December 1893.

AJS was very pleased.

Shangani Patrol Allan Wilson Memorial

GJW at the Allan Wilson Memorial

GJW had not been there before either.  It was my third visit, the first being more than fifty years previously!  The beer drinking began!!

I drove back to Lupane, we filled up with fuel, swung right and continued north.  “North?”  I hear you say.

Yup it was not over yet……………

I will be back soon so we can continue with the journey.

Cheers

Tony

Hi all

In my last post I mentioned an upcoming trip.  It’s done.  It was fantastic !

Our dear friend AJS arrived from the UK at lunch time on the 9th of August and after a quick-lunch we got to packing the Bongo.  Our equipment list had 72 items on it ranging from a freezer to a head-torch and matches.  One item was food and another beer !! We left the next morning at a sensible 09h30, heading towards Bulawayo, via Mvuma to Gweru.  Here we had a quick look at the Military Museum and I do recommend it if you can afford to take an hour out of your journey.  We arrived at our hotel, the first of many surprises for AJS, in Bulawayo at about 15h00 and checked in.

Nesbitt Castle

The grand reception