Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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

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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

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