Posts Tagged ‘Elephant’

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

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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

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

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

Nesbitt Castle

The right-wing

Nesbitt Castle

The left-wing

Nesbitt Castle !

This amazing folly was built sometime in the 1930’s by some strange but wealthy Englishman.  It was derelict for many years but has now been lovingly and fantastically restored by the Nesbitt family.  Well done to them I say !

Time now for very welcome cold beers and cokes in the Trophy room.

Nesbitt Castle Trophy Room

The Trophy Room

Yes that is a real elephant on the wall !

Nesbitt Castle Trophy Room Crocodile

That Croc is enormous ! Compare it to the Zebra skin !

We were then shown to our rooms.  AJS had a huge room but the wildly scattered clothing and underwear preclude me from showing it to you.  My room however was spotless !

Nesbitt Castle Princess room

Very comfortable.

The little brass plaque on the headboard read “C J Rhodes”.  Was it his bed ? I forgot to ask.

Nessbitt Castle cupboard wardrobe

My wardrobe was very ornate.

We had a very pleasant afternoon out in the lovely shady gardens and then changed for Dinner.

Nesbitt Castle Dining Room

The dining room

All of the furniture is lovely and has been carefully chosen to reflect the period.

Nesbitt Castle table setting

The table settings were delightful

We were joined for dinner by GJW, a Bulawayo resident, and a delightful meal it was.  We chatted long into the evening about our plans for the following weeks and eventually retired weary and well sated.

Nesbitt Castle breakfast room

The breakfast room

The breakfast was magnificent. It is a communal affair as I guess the hotel only has nine or ten rooms. AJS had the full english version and I did well on the kippers and poached eggs !

Maybe I need to explain that AJS is not a birder but is passionate about the history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe – a passion he has had since a boy.

We will get back to birding eventually – I promise.

Thanks for listening.

I will be back soon with the next episode

Cheers

Tony

Hi All

At last………… a few minutes to tell you about the trip to Matabeleland North.

Jan and I left Harare on Sunday and drove leisurely down towards Bulawayo.  At around N’tabazinduna there was a local lass on the side of the road flogging watermelons. A nice big juicy takes two hands to pick it up watermelon for a dollar !!  Yep – US$ 1.00 was the price !

Arrival in the City of Kings entailed falling amongst thieves and brigands in the form of various members of the Watson clan.  Nice to catch up with old buddies.  We spent the night at Travellers – a more than adequate and very clean hostelry designed for , well of course, Travellers.

We left promptly at 06h00 the next morning and very soon were heading north on the Victoria Falls Road.  July in Zimbabwe is mid-winter and when going through the various river valleys early in the day saw the virtual mercury in the car thermometer plunging as low as minus 8 Celsius.  Brrrr !

The Hwange National Park turnoff arrived at about 09h15 and we popped into Ganda Camp to see if, perchance, my client was still there but he had just left for our planned rendezvous at Miombo Safari Camp.  Jan and I went through to Main Camp, checked in and then returned to meet the client, Peter, on the road to Miombo.

We bumped into a large herd of elephant on the main road.

This one knew exactly where to cross the road !

Having moved into our Lodge we promptly set off to see what we could see.  White-breasted Cuckoo Shrike, White-eyes and Ground Hornbills were already ticked on the main road. Yellow-bellied Greenbul and a lovely Pearl-Spotted Owl were in camp.  On our way to Nyamandhlovu Pan we found Peter’s first ‘lifer’……

Bradfield’s Hornbill

Whilst at the viewing platform over the Pan we witnessed an interesting stand-off between the Leviathan’s !

These to bulls *really* did not like the Crocs. This stand-off lasted at least half an hour ! Then it fizzled out !

The next day, after a *very* delayed breakfast in the Waterbuck’s Head Restaurant, we spent wandering around the local sites like Guvalala where we were kept busy ticking all the Vultures, including Cape Griffon.  We had a leisurely lunch at White Hills and saw a great Dark Chanting Goshawk.

Dark Chanting Goshawk

We slowly made our way back to camp via the more northerly loop road past Balla Balla Pans where we had great views of Crimson-breasted and Orange-breasted Bush-shrikes.

Crimson-breasted Shrike

Day three brought all the really serious excitement with the discovery of a pair of extremely rare yellow morph Crimson-breasted Shrike !!  They were in camp itself and I suspect are the offspring of a ‘normal’ pair with which they were associating.

If you look really carefully you can just pick up the ‘normal’ Crimson one in the background.

And next – Jan’s work of art……..

Yellow morph Crimson-breasted Shrike

What a start to the long day ahead of us !   Off we set heading south with an incredible dearth of birds for several hours apart from a very cold pair of Scaly-feathered Finch until just after Jambile Picnic Site when we found a cracking Ayres’ Hawk-Eagle.   We then got a bit lost (the roads and the map haven’t been synchronised for a while) but eventually found ourselves at Ngweshla and then at Kennedy Two.

If you didn’t know you are about to learn – Hwange is an extremely dry park on the edge of the Kalahari Desert and the only way it can support the large numbers of various African fauna is because of the provision of surface water from either Wind-pumps or pumps driven by old Lister diesels.  All of this is expensive stuff, especially in terms of maintenance and fuel.  Then we get to Kennedy Two !!!

If the sun shines there is water !! Fantastic !!

I don’t know who the donor is but a huge thank you is due !!

We had lunch here. Peter is on the right

After briefly calling in at Kennedy One – a few parrots here – we started our northward journey and very soon found another target bird – the elusive Racquet-tailed Roller.  Peter was pleased !!

Elephant can cause long delays to your planned journey !

We returned to Main Camp quite late in the afternoon and had another great dinner and sorted out all our various lists so that Jan and I could get off relatively early for the long haul back to Harare.  Thanks Peter – a great trip.

We were very lucky to bump into a large herd of Buffalo in the morning sun…

Very soon after this we also came across a pack of Wild Dog.  Of the seven dogs five had collars.  Let’s hope all this research pays off.

Painted Hunting Dog or African Wild Dog.

It is a *very* long drive back to Harare in one day.  We were home about 16h45.  Well that’s not quite true.  Jan was.  She dropped me off to attend the monthly talk by someone from Birdlife Zimbabwe.  Well I had to show off some of those Shrike pics didn’t I  – it would have been rude not to.

Cheers for now

Tony