Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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

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

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