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

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Comments
  1. Lucie says:

    Hi, I want to subscribe for this weblog to take most recent updates, so where can i do it please help out.

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