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Bird Watching Safari in Zambia

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African BroadbillThere were a number of highlights on our second tour to Zambia but once again Angola Pitta was the undoubted winner of the Bird of the trip accolade, with Chaplins Barbet, Bohms Bee-eater, African Broadbill, Baillons Crake, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Allen’s Gallinule, and Southern Carmine Bee-eater close behind.

The tour began with the drive to our lodge near Ndola.

As we drove north through the mixed farmland and woodland we soon picked up our first birds, starting with some of the commoner swallows and including a couple of species of which we did not see in great numbers on the rest of the tour, such as Rufous-naped Lark.

Reaching the Lodge, a walk around the ponds and lakes nearby turned up several water birds including African Spoonbill.

We then headed east to Hillwood farm for a two night stay. Birding en route was a great success, particularly at our stopover at Lumwana Lodge. Here we found the most mature undisturbed Miombo you could hope to find with all the attendant species you would expect in such good woodland, including Bar-winged Weaver, Spotted Creeper, Mashona and Yellow-bellied Hyliotas, Bohm’s Flycatcher, Souza’s Shrike, Miombo Grey-tit, Pale-billed Hornbill, Miombo Barbet, and a flock of Sharp-tailed Starlings.

Souza's ShrikeHillwood and the surrounding countryside was also gave us some great birds and we turned up the majority of the specials including Forbe’s Plover, Angola Lark, Cloud-scraping Cisticola, Laura’s Warbler, Afep Pigeon, Denham’s Bustard, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush, Locust Finch, Fulleborn’s, Grimwood’s and Rosy- breasted Longclaws, and Grey-winged Akalat. Heading south the two nights at Kafue gave us more good birds with Rufous- bellied Heron, Saddle-billed stork, African Wood Owl, Miombo-bearded Scrub-robin, Green-capped Eremomela, Magaret’s Batis, Grey Waxbill, and Red-throated Twinspot being amongst the goodies.

Onwards to Protea Safari lodge, stopping for a picnic lunch at our stakeout for Bohm’s Bee-eater, where as well as this little gem, we turned up a few other specials including a number of Lesser Jacanas, Grey-headed Kingfisher, and Pale Wren Warbler.

The next stop was the home of Zambia’s only endemic, Chaplin’s Barbet, and the birding here was fantastic, as was the company in this very special lodge.

A night drive produced Fiery-necked Nightjar and a family group of Heuglin’s Coursers while the birding in the morning added Amur Falcon, Raquet-tailed Roller, Sooty Chat, Red-necked and Natal Francolins, Common Quail, Magpie and Lesser Grey Shrike, as well of course as the sought-after barbet.

Onwards from here to Livingstone and the mighty Victoria Falls! An interesting drive that once again added a few more species to the growing list with Marabou, Lappet-faced Vulture and Black-chested Snake Eagle.

Birding the Zambezi River close to the falls and upstream was very productive and gave us several birds often associated with the Okavango Delta in Botswana including Coppery-tailed and White-browed Coucals, Long-toed and White-headed Lapwings, African Skimmer, Burchell’s Glossy Starling, African Finfoot, Rock Pratincole, and Greater Swamp Warbler.

White Headed LapwigOur final leg of the tour took us to Siavonga on the banks the huge Lake Kariba. It is here in the Zambezi valley that we look for the enigmatic African Pitta in the riparian woodland along the non-perennial streams.

Our very early morning start found us in the dry riverbed just as it was getting light. With some effort and patience we eventually heard the sound of a Pitta displaying and tracked it slowly through the dense undergrowth.

By 07.00 all had had excellent views of the Pitta and although everything else was a bit of an anticlimax we did manage to add a few birds to the tour list including Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Eastern Nicator, Augur buzzard, Peregrine, and Red-capped Robin-Chat. Later at dusk we manged to catch up with Pennant- winged Nightjar which had eluded us earlier.

Our final day took us back to the Pitta site where we were rewarded with an African Baza, Narina’s Trogon, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, and Eastern-bearded Scrub-robin to mention a few.

Our trip back to Lusaka was uneventful with everyone in good spirits - even more when Lorna found a pair of Southern White-faced Owls roosting in the car park at the lodge and the evenings’ birding round the lodge added Retz’s Helmet Shrike.

And I have not even mentioned the mammals, which included Elephant, Hippopotamus, Sable, and Eland.”

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Heeral & Rajen Kumar

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