Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Caribbean
Africa
Asia
Eastern Europe
South America
Australasia
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from birdtours.co.uk

Zimbabwe (including parts of Botswana & South Africa),

Gruff Dodd

18 February - 5 March, 2000

Gruff Dodd, 2 Clos Tawe, Barri, Bro Morgannwg, Cymru/Wales; Gruff@doddg.freeserve.co.uk


Introduction


Having had such a brilliant time in Cape Province in February / March 1999, we were keen to make a return visit to Southern Africa this year.  The original plan was for two weeks in Namibia, and by Christmas 1999 plans were well underway, with flights, car hire, accommodation and bird guiding all booked.  Then, in early January 2000, trouble broke out in the Caprivi Strip in Northern Namibia, an area where we had intended spending quite some time.  UNITA rebels from neighbouring Angola had carried out attacks on both locals and tourists, and several people had been killed.

We didn't fancy going ahead with the trip under these circumstances, and were unwilling to take a chance on matters being cleared up by the time of our visit (which they weren't!), and so just six weeks before flying we had to pick a new destination, and start from scratch!  The choice of destination wasn't too difficult - a quick look through the SASOL field guide quickly convinced me that there was a nice long list of birds to aim for in Zimbabwe, and we certainly weren't disappointed.

This was an excellent trip, with loads of birds (382 species including 179 lifers in 2 weeks), and we escaped almost unscathed from Cyclone Eline, the fuel shortages and the political uncertainty afflicting Zim at present.  The most lasting memories, among all the birds, are of a stunningly beautiful country, and some of the friendliest people I've ever been privileged to meet. 

Sadly, matters have deteriorated badly since my visit, with several deaths and injuries, which will certainly put off many potential visitors.  Hopefully, things will quickly settle down again, allowing this fabulous country to achieve its true potential


Acknowledgements


First and foremost, sincere thanks to Mike and Gill Pope, who looked after Sara and myself brilliantly on our last day in Southern Africa, giving us a room for the night, feeding us, driving us around, and generally making us feel extremely welcome.  Thanks again - our turn next!

Thanks to Peter Mnadziwana, Abasi Jana, John Jones, Anthony Cizek, Kit Hustler and Chris Pollard for their time and patience in the field, and for contributing so healthily to the trip list - I enjoyed every minute in their company.  Thanks also to Peter Ginn, Susan Childs, Brian Igoe and Derek Solomon for their parts in arranging this guiding, and for general advice throughout.

Thanks to the dozens of people who helped and advised us during the planning stages, and for the constant flow of information especially during the last worrying couple of weeks before the trip.  I really hope that I haven't left anyone out of this list: Alvin Cope, Andrew Tucker, Anne Gray, Ashley Banwell, Brian & Di Horton, Callan Cohen, Carol de Bruin, Chris Lotz, Chris Spengler, Christine Tarski, Claerwen Howie, Craig Thom, David Kelly, Drinie van Rensburg, Eddie Chapman, Geoff McIlleron, Giles Mulholland, Guy Gibbon, Ian Mileham, Jane Axon, Jan-Joost Bouwman, Jannes Fourie, John McAllister, Jonathan Rossouw, Joscha Beninde, Ketil Knudsen, Larry Rubey, Linda Lee Baker, Mel Tripp, Mike Dyer, Nicola Duckworth, Nicolette Demetriades, Norman Ford, Norman Jobson, Paul Wood, Pete Irons, Peter Thompson, Petra van Basten, Ray Mellish, Richard & Toni Simmonds, Richard Fairbank, Richard Randall, Rick Nuttall, Rolf Becker, Roy Hargreaves, Ruud Kampf, Sam de Beer, Schalk Nieuwoudt, Stefano Brambilla, Stephan Terblanche, Stephen Jackson, Tim Earl, Toby Austin, Tom Tarrant, Tony Mills.

Special thanks to fellow traveller Felix Jachmann from Germany, who visited Zim a couple of weeks before me (and saw more species than me!), and with whom I swapped information on a daily basis during the last month of planning.  Glad you had such a great trip, Felix!

Finally, as always, a big thank you to my non-birding wife Sara for tolerating yet another 95% birds holiday.


Strategy


Our usual approach is to book flights and a car in advance, and take the rest as it comes, and this is what we did with this trip.  With such a long list of possible birds, the hardest part of planning the trip was trying to sort out which birds to target.  In the end I based the trip around the following groups:

1.             Eastern Highlands specials, namely the two near-endemics - Chirinda Apalis and Roberts' Prinia - and other localised birds like Nyasa Seedcracker, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Red-throated Twinspot, Stripe-cheeked Bulbul, Mozambique Batis, Marsh Tchagra etc;

2.             Okavango / Zambezi birds - e.g. Slaty Egret, Brown Firefinch, White-browed Coucal, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Swamp Boubou, Chirping Cisticola, Schalow's Lourie; and

3.             Miombo birds - Boulder Chat, Spotted Creeper, Miombo Rock Thrush, Mashona Hyliota, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Violet-backed Sunbird, etc.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't get all of these, but I got enough of them to make the trip really memorable, with enough left to tempt me into another trip in the future!


Getting there


Ideally, we'd have booked flights direct to Harare.  However, we'd already booked flights to Jo'burg as part of our abandoned Namibian trip.  Connecting flights through to Harare were extremely expensive, so we decided to get off at Jo'burg, hire a car and drive to Zim.

The flights were booked through Trailfinders in London (phone 0171 938 3939).  This is an excellent travel agency specialising in long-haul arrangements, and well used to the strange destinations and arrangements which birders often want to make. I have always found them extremely helpful and efficient, and seem to know a lot about where you want to go.

The best deal we found was with Turkish Airlines, and cost just UKP 343 per head including all taxes.  The flight duration was some 15 hours each way, including some 2 hours on the ground in Istanbul, and the main Istanbul - Jo'burg stretch was a manageable 9.5 hours overnight stint each way.   Flight times were as follows:

Outwards:        Depart London Heathrow 18.2.00  15:15,  arrive Istanbul 18.2.00  21:00

                        Depart Istanbul 18.2.00  23:55,  arrive Johannesburg 19.2.00  09:20

Return:             Depart Johannesburg 4.3.00  21:25,  arrive Istanbul 5.3.00  07:05

                        Depart Istanbul 5.3.00  08:30,  arrive London Heathrow 5.3.00  10:30

Note that Johannesburg is 2 hours ahead of the UK (same time as Turkey) in February.


Travelling around


Arranging car hire was a big problem.  Many firms wouldn't allow their vehicles to be taken over the border from SA into Zimbabwe and Botswana, or charged an exorbitant additional insurance charge for allowing you to do so.  Speaking to operators at the UK Central Booking Offices became very frustrating as they often seemed unable to tell you whether or not it was allowed.

Eventually, however, I found that Hertz were quite happy to allow this, and their rate of ZAR 3,386 (UKP 339) for 15 days inclusive of unlimited mileages, collision damage and loss waivers and all local taxes was extremely good value.  Hertz rates in Harare are apparently also very good, including reasonably cheap 4WD.  I also found their Jo'burg office (hertz@dpgsa.co.za) to be very helpful, and answered queries very quickly.

However, just three days before the trip, I hit a big snag.  Zimbabwe was going through a major fuel crisis, with both petrol and diesel in very short supply, but with unleaded fuel being especially scarce.  The normal fuel in Zim is called Blend, and contains a percentage of Ethanol.  An enquiry to Hertz confirmed my worst fears - they couldn't supply a leaded fuel car, and wouldn't allow me to use Blend in their vehicle.

Panic time!  Luckily, I managed to find one other company, Rand Auto Hire, who were not only willing for the car to go to Zim, but could supply a leaded fuel car.  They are based in Jo'burg (Web site http://www.web.netactive.co.za/%7Emrbrew/index.htm  or e-mail Roger Buckley on randhire@netactive.co.za)  Their rates were very good at ZAR 215 (UKP 21.50) per day all inclusive, plus ZAR 600 (UKP 60) for cross-border fees.  Their excess level was ZAR 3,000 (UKP 300) in SA and ZAR 5,000 (UKP 500) in Zimbabwe.  Finally, unlike Hertz, they covered accidents on gravel roads at the normal excess - a big plus in their favour.

The car itself was a bit ropey - the headlights were almost non-existent, the air conditioning just blew warm air around the car, and it quickly developed a problem with the ignition system which meant that the car was guaranteed to refuse to start, unless you happened to be parked on a hill!!  We become experts at bump starting it, and are eternally grateful to the three or four Zimbabweans who inevitably materialised to help push whenever we got into trouble.  Still, Rand were the only company who could bail us out, and it got us around without too many problems.  Total distance driven was 5,227 km, and we averaged some 40 miles per gallon.

The only road tolls we paid was ZAR 40 (UKP 4.00) to cross the border at Beitbridge and ZAR 50 (UKP 5.00) in motorway tolls between Jo'burg and Beitbridge.  In order to cross the border, you will need a letter of consent and a copy of the registration document from the company - write to them and ask them to arrange this before you arrive to save time at the airport.

Many firms will not offer an unlimited mileage deal, but give a fixed number of free kilometres (typically c. 200 km per day), with an excess charge payable on additional miles.  This could be an expensive option as Zimbabwe is a large country, with a fair amount of driving needed to cover the best sites, especially if starting and finishing in Jo'burg.  Also, many companies, including Hertz, do not cover you at all if you have an accident on a gravel road.

To my surprise, the quality of tar roads in Zim was generally excellent - wide, and well-surfaced.  Potholes only became apparent on the outskirts of major towns, especially Mutare and Bulawayo, but these can be deep and vicious.  On the other hand, I had to drive a few miles on dirt roads, and these varied from poor to atrocious.  The last 7 km to the Aberfoyle Country Club was very rough, as was the track down to Wamba Dam, while the track up the hill to the Gleneagles Reserve was beyond belief, and barely passable by 2WD!  The access track to Seldomseen was also pretty rough, and very steep at the end, making it tricky in wet weather.  Finally, the gravel roads in Hwange, although pretty good, were badly affected by the very wet weather, and I found myself unable to get very far as a result of flooded and muddy sections.

Driving in the dark is definitely NOT recommended - we only did it twice, the first time coming across several vehicles driving very slowly with no lights at all, and the second time almost colliding with a herd of elephants - both reducing me to a gibbering wreck!  The fuel shortages didn't affect us at all until we approached Harare, and then we couldn't find any at all!  Luckily we kept the tank full all the time, and carried a full jerrycan in the boot -  while we never needed to use this, it made us feel a lot happier.

Finally, we also had to contend with the effects of Cyclone Eline.  Somehow we managed to escape unscathed, and although there were plenty of stories of roads being closed (including the Beitbridge border crossing, the only direct crossing between Zim and SA), and bridges washed away, we had no real problems at all, apart from the effect on dirt roads, and one tricky couple of hours in the Vumba Mountains driving around lots of fallen trees, and even over one!


Costs & Money


The local currencies and approximate exchange rates against sterling (UKP) at the time of my visit were as follows:

Ų             South Africa - Rand (ZAR).  UKP 1 = ZAR 10;

Ų             Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe Dollar (Z$).  UKP 1 = Z$ 60

Ų             Botswana - Pula (BPu).  UKP 1 = BPu 7.4

Ų             United States - Dollar (USD).  UKP 1 = USD 1.55

These are the exchange rates I have used in translating costs throughout this report.

Credit cards were pretty widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, shops etc.  However, other places including National Park accommodation required cash.  Some petrol stations advertised that they took credit cards, but these were mostly around Harare, where they didn't have any petrol to sell, so we never had the chance to try this out.

As well as Z$, USD and UKP were pretty widely accepted throughout Zimbabwe, even by government agencies e.g. Hwange Main Camp, Victoria Falls National Park etc.  In Botswana, however, payment was always required in Pula. 

We took our money in a mix of USD (cash & travellers' cheques), UKP and ZAR.  Take small denominations if you can.  We changed money into Z$ at the Beitbridge border crossing, and then periodically at hotels.  Changing Z$ into Pulas in Vic Falls before crossing into Botswana proved tricky as Pulas seemed to be in short supply.  You couldn't walk five yards in the town without being approached by young men offering to change money, but stories of scams abound, and it's probably illegal as well.   Always ask for a receipt when you change money, and keep them safe -  you may need to show them if you try to change any Z$ back on departure.

Petrol prices averaged Z$ 22 (UKP 0.36) per litre in Zimbabwe, ZAR 2.96 (UKP 0.30) in SA and BPu 1.75 (UKP 0.24) in Botswana.

The total cost of the trip is estimated at UKP 1,970 for 2 people (UKP 985 each):

Ų             Flights -                 UKP 686

Ų             Car hire -              UKP 400

Ų             Hotels -                 UKP 355

Ų             Bird guiding -         UKP 167

Ų             Fuel -                    UKP 125

Ų             Meals -                 UKP 135

Ų             Incidentals -           UKP 100


Bird Guides


I used several professional bird guides during my trip, all of whom were excellent, and made a big difference to my enjoyment of the trip.  Details are as follows:

Ų             Peter Mnadziwana, Seldomseen, 21.2 & 22.2   Cost Z$ 280 (UKP 4.70) for 1.5 days.  Booked through Paul Heath at Seldomseen

Ų             Abasi Jana, Aberfoyle Country Club, 22.2 & 23.2   Cost Z$275 (UKP 4.60) for 1.5 days.  Booked at the same time I booked accommodation at Seldomseen (see Accommodation section). 

Ų             John Jones, Gosho Park, Marondera, 24.2   Cost USD 75 (UKP 47) for 6 hours.  Booked through Peter Ginn of Peter Ginn Birding Safaris, P O Box 44, Marondera, Zimbabwe.  Email:- pgbs@mango.zw, web site http://www.safari-tours.com, Phone/fax:  + 263 (0)79 23411 / 23569

Ų             Anthony Cizek, Harare, 25.2   Cost USD 45 (UKP 29) for 6 hours.  Contact on Cizek@trep.co.zw  Phone - 00 263 (0)4 333334 (daytime), 00 263 (0)4 573575 (evening), 023-401914 (mobile)

Ų             Kit Hustler, Aisleby Sewage Farm, Bulawayo, 26.2.   Cost UKP 20 for 3 hours.   Contact on - wildbyo@gatorzw.com.  Phone - 00 263 (0)9 45564

Ų             Chris Pollard, Imbabala Safari Camp, Kazengula, 28.2 (Chris is based in Victoria Falls).  Cost USD 50 (UKP 32) plus USD 45 (UKP 29) for entry fees to Imbabala and hire of 4WD and boat (a bargain!)  Contact on chrispy@telcovic.co.zw or phone at Kingdom Hotel (daytime) on 00 263 (0)13 4275

I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending all the above most strongly.  There is no doubt that I would have seen far fewer birds without these guys, and they contributed enormously to my enjoyment of the trip.


Accommodation and food


Accommodation was generally excellent, although it did vary.  The roughest place we stayed was the chalet at Main Camp, Hwange, but at just Z$200 (UKP 3.33) per night between us, we could hardly complain!  Take a mosquito net with you - not all places had them, and some of the ones that were provided had lots of holes in them.

We booked Seldomseen, Aberfoyle Country Club and Possum Lodge (Harare) in advance over the internet.  The rest we booked when we arrived - there was plenty of accommodation available, and we had no trouble finding places to stay.  As expected, there was a noticeable lack of budget accommodation in the main tourist areas, although I guess that camping is always an option.  The next cheapest place to Main Camp that we found at Hwange was the Hwange Safari Lodge at USD 200 (UKP 129) per night!  The Sprayview Hotel where we stayed in Vic Falls, classed as a budget hotel, was also the cheapest in town (other than camping and youth hostels), at Z$ 2,960 (UKP 49) per night.  Mind you, my idea of a budget hotel doesn't usually include doormen, swimming pools and fountains in the foyer!

The quality of food was a very pleasant surprise, and was excellent throughout.  Anyone who likes steak will think that they've died and gone to heaven, but there were plenty of alternatives on offer including vegetarian options.  I can also recommend the crocodile tails in Sprayview Hotel in Vic Falls!

We stayed at the following places (all accommodation prices are per room):

19.2.00

Lion & Elephant Motel, Bubye Bridge.  Room Z$ 1,043 (UKP 17.38) per night, dinner for two Z$ 542 (UKP 9.03), breakfast Z$ 125 (UKP 2.08) each.  Very nice place, although very warm in the evenings, but last time I heard it was completely underwater courtesy of Cyclone Eline.  Tel + 263 (0)14 336

20.2.00

Seldomseen Lodge (Swynnerton Cottage), Vumba Mountains.  Room USD 40 (UKP 25.81).  Dinner at Eden Lodge, Vumbas Z$ 759 (UKP 12.65).  Very peaceful and relaxing, although very rough access road.  Biggest problem - no catering on site, and a fair drive to nearest restaurant.  Plan better than us and bring your own food (cooking facilities in cottage).  Tel + 263 (0)4 215115

21.2.00

Seldomseen Lodge (Swynnerton Cottage - 4 beds), Vumba Mountains.  Room USD 40 (UKP 25.81).  Dinner at White Horse Inn, Vumbas Z$ 756 (UKP 12.60)

22.2.00

Aberfoyle Country Club, Honde Valley.  Room Z$ 1,643 (UKP 27.38) with breakfast.  Dinner & lunch - total Z$ 530 (UKP 8.83).  Colonial-style luxury, & as much tea as you can drink (club is on a very picturesque tea estate).  Tel + 263 (0)28 547,  e-mail Brian Igoe on igoe@cst.co.zw or birding@mail.com

23.2.00

Aberfoyle Country Club, Honde Valley.  Room Z$ 1,643 (UKP 27.38) including breakfast.  Dinner and lunch - total Z$ 550 (UKP 9.17)

24.2.00

Possum Lodge Backpackers Hotel, Harare.  Private room (i.e. large shed in the garden with mattress on the floor!) USD 14 (UKP 9.03).  Pizza delivered to lodge Z$ 300 (UKP 5.00).  Good fun place to relax over a couple of beers, and lots of tall stories!  Tel +  263 (0)4 726851 or e-mail on possum@zol.co.zw

25.2.00

Hilltop Motel, Bulawayo.  Room Z$ 1,380 (UKP 23.00), dinner (salad) Z$ 145 (UKP 2.42).  Very nice place indeed, 5 km out of Bulawayo, on road towards Beitbridge, and very reasonably priced.  Tel / fax + 263 (0)9 72493

26.2.00

Hwange Main Camp.  Chalet Z$ 200 (UKP 3.33)  Dinner at nearby restaurant Z$ 588 (UKP 9.80).  Very cheap, but pretty basic e.g. no mozzie net.  Phoning is apparently a waste of time - just turn up and hope!

27.2.00

Sprayview Hotel, Victoria Falls.  Room Z$ 2,960 (UKP 49.33).  Dinner Z$ 824 (UKP 13.73).  Cheapest place in a very expensive town, but extremely nice with good-sized pool.  Situated on left hand side of road, as you enter the town from Hwange.  Tel + 263 (0)13 4344

28.2.00

Sprayview Hotel, Victoria Falls.  Room Z$ 2,960 (UKP 49.33).  Dinner Z$ 714 (UKP 11.90),

29.2.00

Chobe Safari Camp, Kasane, Botswana.  Room BPu 291 (UKP 39.30), dinner BPu 90 (UKP 12.15).  Another area not really trying to attract budget travellers - this was the cheapest place we could find.  Again, though, very nice!  Tel + 267 (0)25 0336

01.3.00

Gaborone Travel Inn (also known as Gaborone Motel), Gaborone, Botswana.  Room BPu 285 (UKP 38.50), dinner BPu 100 (UKP 13.50).  Situated in middle of town, near train station, on road out from Nelson Mandela Drive towards Molepolole.  Very comfortable, and pretty good value for notoriously expensive Gaborone  Tel + 267 (0)3 22777

02.3.00

Bloemhof Gasthuis, Bloemhof, SA.  Room ZAR 180 (UKP 18.00), dinner ZAR 80 (UKP 8.00).  A brilliant find.  Tel + 27 (0)53 4332249

03.3.00

Stayed with local birder Mike Pope and his wife Gill in Midrand, between Jo'burg and Pretoria.  Fabulous end to the trip!



Red tape


Much less than I expected.  I'd heard some horror stories about the Beitbridge border crossing from SA to Zim, but we had no hassle at all, and made it across in about an hour.  Another group of birders we met at the Lion & Elephant that night had been less lucky and had taken about 2.5 hours to cross.  Try not to arrive just after a bus!

The procedure if crossing with a vehicle is to report first to SA Immigration and Customs.  You'll need to fill in a custom declaration for the vehicle, for which you'll need a copy of the registration document and a letter of consent if it's a hire car.  Also, declare any equipment you have such as cameras, binoculars, telescopes, radios, tape players etc.  We were never asked for this again, but you might be, and failure to declare these items could cause you problems when you try to take them back into SA.

Drive over the bridge to the Zim side.  Don't exceed the speed limit (50 kph, I think), or you could land a ZAR 5,000 (UKP 500) fine.  Park on the Zim side, and go to the offices on the right.  Pay the bridge toll of ZAR 40 (UKP 4.00) and obtain a gate pass.  Then visit Immigration and Customs to fill in lots more paperwork including, importantly, a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit.  You will also need to declare all currency being imported into the country, largely to satisfy the authorities that you have enough means to pay your way (and therefore that you will not be trying to find work!). 

Finally, buy compulsory Third Party Insurance for ZAR 110 (UKP 11.00) (no Z$ accepted, so no hint of a hard currency scam here!).  Get your gate pass stamped by Immigration, Customs and the Insurance seller as you will need to show it to be allowed through the gate into Zim proper.  The border post is also a good place to change money.

The other border crossings we did, between Zim and Botswana at Kazengula and between Botswana and SA at Schilpadshek were much easier, taking about 20 minutes each, although the Botswanan border officials, especially the guy at Schilpadshek, easily win every prize going for "Most obnoxious and unpleasant human beings I've ever encountered".  Can't wait to meet you guys again!  The Zim and SA officials were much better, and the SA guys at Schilpadshek were particularly friendly, even helping to push my car over the border when it yet again refused to start!  First prize to me in the "Most undignified border crossing ever" competition.  We also had to buy Botswana road tax at the border at Kazengula, which cost just BPu 5 (UKP 0.68), but they only take BPu's, so you'll need to change some before crossing.

Borders apart, hardly any red tape at all.  We came across one police road block south of Masvingo who asked to see our Temporary Vehicle Import Permit, and lots of roadblocks in Botswana, mostly to disinfect your car and shoes as a disease control measure, and occasionally to look at your driving licence, but that was about it. 


Telephone


Plenty of public phone boxes, taking either coins or phone cards.  However, lots out of order, frequent error messages and often very long queues.  In fairness the cyclone was playing havoc with telephone lines, so it may not always be that bad. The international code for Zimbabwe is 263, Botswana is 267 and South Africa is 27.  To make an international call from South Africa dial 09 followed by the relevant country code (44 for the UK).  For directory enquiries (free) call 1023.  In Zim and Botswana, dial 00, then the country code.


Weather


February and March is normally the rainy season in Zimbabwe, but this year was something a little different to normal!  The usual pattern is for heavy showers in late afternoon but in 2000, after a relatively dry January in much of the country, February and early March saw cyclone after cyclone sweep westwards from the Indian Ocean across Madagascar and Mozambique into Zimbabwe, Botswana and eastern SA, bringing with them strong winds and incredibly heavy rain.  Cyclone Eline made it all the way over into Namibia, causing heavy flooding in the centre and south of the country - unheard of in this usually arid country.

Under the circumstances, we got off very lightly indeed!  Our time in the Vumbas was affected by persistent rain and mist, with the morning of 22.2.00 completely washed out.  It also rained lightly in Harare for much of the morning of 25.2.00, although this had virtually no effect on the excellent birding.  Otherwise, we got away with a few showers, and the birding was hardly affected, apart from occasionally quietening the birds down a bit.  Many roads were closed, with several bridges washed away, but we always seemed to be in the right place at the right time

Beitbridge border crossing was actually closed when we left Jo'burg airport on 19.2.00, but had opened again by the time we got there.  A few days later Cyclone Eline struck, several bridges south of the crossing were washed away, and the road south to Jo'burg was still impassable when we left on 4.3.00.  The most worrying experience was the night of 21.2.00 lying in our cabin in the forest at Seldomseen listening to trees crashing down all around us! 

The weather was pretty warm throughout, and got hotter and drier as the second week progressed and we moved further westwards, and the last couple of days were extremely hot.


Health, safety & annoyances


No vaccinations are compulsory, but I felt happier being up to date with tetanus, typhoid, polio, hepatitis 'A' and meningitis jabs.  Zim, Botswana and parts of Northern SA are a malarial zone.  On my doctor's advice we took weekly Chloroquine (Avloclor) and daily Proguanil (Paludrine) prophylactics.  Of course, the best preventative is not to get bitten, so we used a Permethrin-treated mozzie net throughout, kept ceiling fans on through the night where supplied (mozzies don't like moving air), wore long trousers and long-sleeved shirts and covered exposed skin with a DEET-based repellent after dark.  We didn't escape being bitten completely, but managed to minimise exposure.

There were very few other nuisances.  Ticks were abundant in a few places, especially Gosho Park (Marondera) and Haka Park (Harare), both places where game animals occur.  Long trousers, with the ends tucked into socks kept all but one from getting through to bare skin (God knows how he found a way through!), but frequent de-ticking sessions were needed, and the numbers found at times were staggering.  Horrible things, with no redeeming features!

I'm not sure if these ticks carry any diseases such as Tickbite Fever - I think not - but you don't want them on you any longer than necessary.  At least this particular variety were big enough to be easily spotted, and weren't anywhere near as tenacious as ones I've encountered in North America, being fairly easily pulled off without any problems.

As for other hazards, I'm sure that Zim has its share of poisonous snakes etc but we didn't see any.  We did see a few large and very unpleasant looking spiders (I'm a serious arachnophobe!!)  There are lots of wild animals in Zim, especially in the west around Hwange and Vic Falls and presumably elsewhere.  Lions occur in places - you definitely shouldn't get out of your car in Hwange, and there were signs in our hotel in Vic Falls warning about lions wandering into town at night!  Leopards also do this - Chris Pollard told me about a recent attack on a local in Vic Falls caused by people stupidly attracting it in with food for the benefit of tourists. 

Hippos and crocodiles are a serious hazard near water, e.g. the Zambezi River - don't get between a hippo and water, and be careful if out in a small boat, as they will attack and overturn them - that's when the crocs become a problem!  Elephants are also dangerous, and shouldn't be approached, and warthogs and especially buffalos should also be treated with great respect.

As far as human threats go, I'd read a lot about racial tension in Zim, but we saw nothing of this.  I never felt at all threatened, although we didn't spend any time in downtown Harare itself, where the chances of muggings etc are said to be highest.  The nearest we got was a little hassle with hustlers and money changers in Vic Falls, but this was no more than a bit of an annoyance.  However, things have deteriorated significantly since our visit, with much civil unrest, so check the up to date situation before you go.


References:


Books:

·        SASOL Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa - Sinclair and Hockey.  Probably the best current field guide, but a little large for use in the field.  There is a more compact edition available which would have been more suitable.

·        Newman's Birds of Southern Africa - Newman

·        Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa - Chittenden

·        Birdwatch Zimbabwe - Derek Solomon and Jacko Williams.  Obtained from African Bird Club (well worth joining) - contact Roy Hargreaves on roy.hargreaves@btinternet.com

·        Where to watch birds in Africa - Nigel Wheatley.  I love these books - they're usually what start exciting me about a destination, and are very useful in the planning stages.

·        Zimbabwe and Botswana - The Rough Guide

·        Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia - Lonely Planet

·        South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland - Lonely Planet

Trip reports:

·        Eastern SA & Zimbabwe - 3.2.97 - 5.3.97 - Jon Hornbuckle

·        A Birder's Guide to Zimbabwe - 26.8.90 - 4.9.90 - Dave Sargeant

·        South Africa & Victoria Falls - 20.7.98 - 14.8.98 - Stefano Brambilla

·        Cape Town & Zimbabwe - 2.10.96 - 25.10.96 - David Kelly

·        Namibia, Botswana & Zimbabwe - 27.9.98 - 24.10.98 - David Kelly

·        Zimbabwe & Botswana - 29.10.98 - 4.12.98 - Linda Lee Baker

·        Central Mozambique & Eastern Zimbabwe - 28.11.98 - 16.12.98 - Mark Anderson

·        Mozambique & Zimbabwe - 27.11.98 - 6.12.98 - Mike Pope

·        Zimbabwe - 26.9.99 - 2.10.99 - Gill Leisegang

·        Northern Botswana - Chobe & Kasane - 11.12.99 - 17.12.99 - Paul Wood

·        Southern Zimbabwe - 21.1.99 - 26.1.99 - Etienne Marais

·        Zimbabwe - 6.7.94 - 13.7.94 - Erik Hirschfeld

Web sites

·        SABirding by Guy Gibbon - http://www.sabirding.co.za/  As usual, absolutely invaluable - a real mine of information.

·        Gleneagles Nature Reserve - http://www.ngwenya.com/gmrindex.htm

·        Seldomseen - http://www.discoverzimbabwe.com/seldomseen.htm

·        Birding in Zimbabwe - http://www.uq.edu.au/~anpwooda/pages/zim-brds.html

·        Possum Lodge, Harare - http://www.panaco.hu/possum/index.htm

·        Panafrican News Agency - http://www.africanews.org/PANA/news/

·        Zimbabwe Tourist Info - http://www.zimtrade.co.zw/PROFILES/zta/info.htm

Tapes

·        Southern African Bird Sounds - Guy Gibbon.  888 species on 6 cassettes

Maps:

I used maps by Globetrotter of South Africa (1:2,400,000). Zimbabwe (1:1,100,000) and Botswana (1:1,750,000), all of which were just about adequate for our needs, but I'll never understand why they only show some of the roads on these maps.  After all, Botswana isn't exactly overflowing with roads!


Itinerary


Sites visited were as follows:

19.2.99

Drive from Jo'burg to Beitbridge and on to Bubye Bridge - roadside birding

20.2.99

Lion & Elephant Motel (Bubye Bridge), drive via Masvingo, Birchenough Bridge and Mutare to Seldomseen

21.2.99

Inn on the Vumba area, Seldomseen, Vumba Botanical Gardens

22.2.99

Seldomseen, drive north through Mutare to Aberfoyle Country Club

23.2.99

Aberfoyle Country Club, Wamba Dam, Gleneagles Forest Reserve

24.2.99

Drive to Marondera, Gosho Park, drive to Harare

25.2.99

Harare area - Mukuvisi Woods, Haka Park, Marlborough Vlei, drive to Bulawayo

26.2.99

Aisleby Sewage Farm (Bulawayo), drive to Hwange

27.2.99

Hwange, drive to Victoria Falls, sightseeing

28.2.99

Imbabala Camp (Kazengula)

29.2.99

Victoria Falls, drive to Kasane, Botswana

1.3.99

Kasane, drive to Gaborone

2.3.99

Drive to Bloemhof, SA, S.A. Lombard Nature Reserve

3.3.99

Sandveld Nature Reserve, drive to Potchefstroom, OPM Prozesky Reserve, drive to Midrand

4.3.99

Borakalalo, Vaalkopdam, Magaliesburg, drive to Midrand, fly home

Details of these sites are given in the Daily Account section.  Unfortunately we were unable to spend as much time in some of these places as we'd have liked.  Another day at Aberfoyle / Gleneagles, especially in the forest, would probably have provided many more extra species. Cyclone Eline and the worsening fuel crisis persuaded us to move on earlier than we'd have liked.  I'd have liked more time around Harare, to try for the more difficult miombo birds like Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Cabanis' Bunting, Violet-backed Sunbird etc. 

Our time at Hwange was much shorter than we'd have liked, but we were badly affected by the recent rain here, with the extensive network of dirt roads largely impassable in a 2WD vehicle.  We were restricted to the 75 km of tarred road between Main Camp and Shumba picnic site, and we even turned back 10 km before the end of this road as it was flooded.

Similarly, Chobe / Kasane is almost impossible to work properly without 4WD and / or a boat.  The former is expensive to hire locally unless part of a group (with more time to shop around before travelling, we might have found a better deal), and the latter seemed in short supply, albeit at very short notice.  This area seemed worthy of a separate trip, perhaps in combination with the Okavango, and it would probably pay to hire a 4WD for this area.

There are many other excellent areas which we were unable to visit at all, due to the short duration of the trip.  Some of the best of these include:

1.              The South East corner of Zimbabwe.  There are several excellent spots here, including Gona're'zhou National Park, Chimanimani Mountains, Chirinda Forest, Haroni-Rusitu and Lake Kyle.  The Gona're'zhou National Park is effectively a northwards extension of the Kruger National Park in SA.  We ignored this area because the roads are mostly dirt, and we felt that the recent heavy rains would probably have affected them.  In the event, this was one of the worst hit parts of Zimbabwe when Cyclone Eline struck early in our trip.

2.              North West Zimbabwe.  Several good areas along the Zambezi River, including Lake Kariba, Mana Pools National Park, Mushumbi Pools (African Pitta site).  These areas were omitted because they would have meant too much of a diversion from our route, and because, again, many of the roads are dirt.  Mushumbi Pools is inaccessible without 4WD in a normal wet season, and may not have been at all during our visit, and the roads in the Mana Pools area are also notoriously rough.

3.              Lake McIllwaine National Park.  Excellent spot very near Harare, off the road towards Kwekwe and Bulawayo.  Omitted due to lack of time, and fears that the complete lack of petrol in Harare might spread to Bulawayo and other areas before we got there.

4.              Matobo National Park.  South of Bulawayo.  Good for Boulder Chat, and also for rhinos.  Not much here that can't be seen elsewhere, but probably worth a visit on a longer trip


Daily account


Saturday 19 February 2000

In the days leading up to our departure from Wales, we weren't sure whether we'd actually be able to follow our planned itinerary around Zimbabwe.  The heavy rain was playing havoc with the infrastructure, and the prior weekend the entire Limpopo River Valley was flooded, closing not only the main Beitbridge border crossing, but all the other options via Botswana.  Furthermore, the fuel shortages which had plagued Zim for several months were really starting to bite, and there seemed a real risk that we wouldn't be able to get hold of enough fuel to get around.  We did some half-hearted research on other possible destinations, including KZN, Botswana and the old Transvaal, but all had been affected to some degree or other by the rain.  In the end, reassured by regular updates by several SABirdnet correspondents, especially Mike Dyer, we decided to wait until we arrived in SA and decide then.

The trip got off to an inauspicious start.  We arrived at London Heathrow for our 15:00 Turkish Airlines flight via Istanbul, and were queuing to check in when we and others were pulled out of the queue, and told that the flight was overbooked.  The good news was that they had arranged for us to fly direct overnight to Jo'burg with SAA, at no extra cost.  The bad news was that the flight didn't leave until 21:00, so another 6 hours hanging around the airport!  In fact, it all worked out OK, as we arrived in Jo'burg just half an hour later than we would otherwise have done, and by 11:00 the next morning, we were heading out of the terminal in our hire car.

We turned on the radio for the 11:00 news, to be greeted by the headlines, which was that Beitbridge was closed again because of flooding!  A great start!  There was no indication as to how long it might be closed, and it would be a 6 hour drive before we got there, so we decided to drive north, and keep our fingers crossed.  Had it still been closed on arrival, we planned to spend some time birding around Tzaneen and Messina while we waited for it reopened.  However, our worst fears were unfounded, and when we got there it had indeed reopened, and in fact the water levels were far below the level of the bridge.

Given the long drive, and our desire to get to Bubye Bridge before nightfall, we didn't stop much for birding along the way.  In the vicinity of Rita, north of Pietersburg, I stopped for a falcon on the roadside wires, which turned out to be an Eastern Redfooted Falcon, my first lifer of the trip.  Excitement soon turned to amazement as I came across whole flocks of these birds over the next few kilometres, and I estimate a total of over 200 birds in the space of about 10 km. White Stork, Blackshouldered Kite and at least one Lesser Kestrel provided some variety and a taste of summer on the Spanish Steppes!

North of Louis Trichardt we passed through Wyllie's Poort, a pass through the Soutpansberg mountains, and stated encountering a few exotics along the roadside.  First of these was the first Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill of the trip, followed by Eastern Paradise Whydah and Forktailed Drongo, and some early ID opportunities with a Lilacbreasted Roller and European Roller in quick succession.  We arrived in Messina to fill up with petrol and check on the state of the border crossing, and picked up a roadside Whitecrowned Shrike on the northern outskirts of town.  Oddly, this was the only place we saw this bird other than Hwange, where they were unbelievably common.

By the time we'd got through the border, nightfall was approaching fast, and we pressed on to Bubye Bridge where we booked in at the Lion & Elephant Motel, by the river.  By the time we got there it had been totally dark for about 15 minutes, and I had come to realise how abysmal were the car's headlights!  I made a mental note not to drive at night again if I could help it.

Having checked into our rondavel, we went down to the restaurant for the first of a series of excellent steaks, and met up with a group of SA birders led by Zim birder Derek Solomon and Wakkerstroom expert John McAllister, who were doing a trip to the SE lowveld of Zimbabwe.  We had a very pleasant chat and exchanged notes, before turning in for the night

Birds recorded

Road north of Jo'burg - Cattle Egret

Rita (10 km N of Pietersburg) - White Stork, Blackshouldered Kite, Eastern Redfooted Falcon, Lesser Kestrel

Louis Trichardt (7 km N of town) - Pintailed Whydah

Wyllie's Poort - European Roller, Lilacbreasted Roller, Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill, Forktailed Drongo, Eastern Paradise Whydah

Messina (Northern outskirts of town) - Southern Whitecrowned Shrike

Sunday 20 February 2000

Any thoughts of a lie-in to get over the exertions of the previous 48 hours never stood much of a chance in the face of all those possible lifers, so dawn saw me outside trying to identify silhouettes!  First birds were a Broadbilled Roller and a couple of Longtailed Starlings in some trees around the restaurant area.  Wandering back towards our rondavel along the river I picked up some more birds, while cursing my lack of knowledge of calls, including Blackbacked Puffback, Blackheaded Oriole, Woodland Kingfisher and Paradise Flycatcher.

Turning away from the river I came across a couple of Scarletchested Sunbirds flitting along a hedgerow, then spotted a Grey Lourie flying into the top of a large bare-branched tree.  Approaching close I saw that the SA group had set up station surveying the tree, and so I went over to join them.  This proved a very good move, and by just staying put for the next hour additional birds seen included Southern Black Flycatcher, Southern Black Tit, Diederik and Jacobin Cuckoos, Redwinged Starling, Cardinal Woodpecker, Blue Waxbills and a more familiar Garden Warbler.

Eventually the South Africans decided it was time for breakfast, and so we bid farewell.  I stayed there for another half an hour or so, and was rewarded by a few extra species, including Black Cuckooshrike, Steelblue Widowfinch and Lesser Masked Weaver.  By this time I reckoned that Sara would have had time to get up and have some breakfast, so we packed up and checked out.  Sadly, a week later we heard that Cyclone Eline had struck the area and that the Lion & Elephant was completely underwater.  Hopefully, they will by now have recovered and are back in business - it was a great place to stay.  As for the South Africans, I heard later from John McAllister that they had beat the lowveld a hasty retreat when the storms arrived and finished up their trip around Harare, and had a great trip nonetheless.

Heading northwards from Bubye Bridge on the A4 towards Masvingo, we stopped after 43 km, just before Mwenezi, for a lovely pair of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters on roadside wires.  I had mistakenly thought that these early breeders would have moved on, but we saw a few during the trip.  A petrol stop at Rutenga produced a large group of noisy Redbilled Buffalo Weavers, and a pair of Whitebrowed Sparrow-weavers.

The next significant sighting was near Tokwe River, 35 km south of Masvingo, where some odd looking swallows on a fenceline proved to be Redbreasted Swallows.  An Eastern Paradise Whydah also perched nearby.  On reaching Masvingo we stopped for a Wimpy, where I just had to try the Bacon and Banana Burger, and quickly wished I hadn't!  The Palm Swifts overhead were more exciting.  From Masvingo we headed eastwards on the A9 towards Birchenough Bridge, where the road swung north to Mutare.  16 km east of Masvingo a lone raptor turned into a whole kettle of Whitebacked Vultures.  40 km further on, near Glenclova, a Yellowbacked Widow was perched on the telegraph wires.

Approaching the Chibvumani Ruins, 150 km east of Masvingo, I had one of the best finds of the trip, in the form of first one, then two more Rackettailed Rollers right alongside the car - fabulous views of a wonderful bird.  Sadly my elation was reduced somewhat when the car in front pulled off, and a man got out to pick up the freshly roadkilled corpse of another young Rackettailed Roller from the road. 

Just before Birchenough Bridge we crossed the Devure river, and I believe that it was this bridge that was completely washed away by floodwaters a few days later.  In any case, a bridge disappeared somewhere along this road, making the Masvingo to Mutare direct route impassable.  Hopefully, it has now been repaired, but you may wish to check before you travel.

A Hamerkop flew over the road near Birchenough Bridge, and another Lilacbreasted Roller was also seen here.  From here we quickly pressed on, arriving in Mutare in mid afternoon.  Our next destination was the Seldomseen Field Study Centre in the Vumba Mountains, right on the border with Mozambique.  To get there is fairly easy, but that didn't stop us getting lost!  When you get to Mutare, turn right, and follow the signs for the Vumbas.  Travel through an industrial area and pass a large pulp and paper factory on your right. 

Keep going for about 15 or 20 km, staying on the main road the whole time, until you see a turning to the right signposted for the Burma Valley Road.  Keep straight on here, unlike us - we turned right, and drove for about half an hour in the wrong direction!  The road is a loop tarred road which goes around anti-clockwise, passing very near the border with Moz., before eventually rejoining the main Vumba road a little further on.  If you have time, driving slowly and stopping along this road may produce good birds - we saw some Green Woodhoopoes at this junction, and some Crowned Hornbills and a Hamerkop around the banana plantations at the eastern end of the loop, before we finally realised we'd gone wrong and turned back!

Having passed this junction, the road continues to wind slowly uphill, and you will eventually see a road on the left, again signposted Burma Valley Road.  Keep going, looking out for a dirt road on the right called Tom Holley Road.  (This road connects the Vumba road with the southern part of the Burma Valley Road).  Don't take THR, but continue a little further, and at the 25 km peg, take a dirt road downhill to the left called Nyamheni Road.  The main road continues uphill eventually reaching a dead end at the Vumba Botanical Gardens.

Nyamheni Road starts off pretty well, but gets worse as you go along.  It starts off straight, then curves around to the right at the first junction.  A little further along you will need to turn left down a narrow, rough and very steep track to Seldomseen (look out for the sign).  I really didn't enjoy this last little stretch in a 2WD saloon, and several times managed to ground it on the hump at the end of the track (designed to prevent erosion of the track by runoff).  Going back up was even worse - it was so steep, and muddy after rain, that a certain amount of speed was necessary to climb it, which made it extremely difficult to prevent the car banging the exhaust on the piled up dirt.

By the time we eventually managed to find our way to Seldomseen, it was drizzling and there was only about an hour and a half of daylight left.  Nevertheless, I set out for a walk in the forest in high spirits, only to quickly realise just how tough the birding is in this thick dark woodland, especially with virtually no knowledge of the local calls and songs!  After an hour of this, Seldomseen seemed a very appropriate name, as I hadn't managed to identify a single bird other than the Yellowbellied Sunbirds which were constantly buzzing around the gardens. 

I walked back up to reception to speak to Paul Heath, the manager, to confirm that arrangements had been made for me to hire the local birding guide, Peter Mnadziwana, for the following day - I was definitely going to need him!  On the way back down, I finally managed to get my binoculars on a bird, which proved to be an East African Swee - an excellent find, and my only sighting of this species which in Southern Africa is restricted to the Eastern Highlands of Zim and Moz.

While at reception I enquired about the possibilities for an evening meal, to be dismayed to find out that the choice was basically restricted to some fairly expensive restaurants, all of which required a lengthy drive in the car, and two more trips up and down the entrance track!  If you visit here, I would definitely recommend that you bring food with you, and use the self-catering cooking facilities in the cottages.  We decided on Paul Heath's advice to go to Eden Lodge, a few kilometres back down the road towards Mutare.  Excellent food and great service, although the 10% surcharge for credit cards was a bit of a kick in the teeth.

Birds recorded

Lion & Elephant, Bubye Bridge - Redeyed Dove, Grey Lourie, Jacobin Cuckoo, Diederik Cuckoo, Woodland Kingfisher, Broadbilled Roller, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black Cuckooshrike, Forktailed Drongo, African Golden Oriole, Eastern Blackheaded Oriole, Southern Black Tit, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Southern Black Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Blackbacked Puffback, Meves' Longtailed Starling, Redwinged Starling, Scarletchested Sunbird, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Lesser Masked Weaver, Blue Waxbill, Steelblue Widowfinch

Between Lion & Elephant and Mwenezi - Southern Carmine Bee-eater

Rutenga Petrol Station - Redbilled Buffalo Weaver, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver

Runde - Redbacked Shrike, Yelloweyed Canary

Tokwe River (35 km S of Masvingo) - Redbreasted Swallow, Redbacked Shrike, Eastern Paradise Whydah

roadside 16 km E of Masvingo - Whitebacked Vulture

Glenclova - European Bee-eater, Yellowbacked Widow

Nyika - Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Chibvumani Ruins - Rackettailed Roller

Birchenough Bridge - Hamerkop, Lilacbreasted Roller

Burma Valley Road - Hamerkop, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Crowned Hornbill

Seldomseen - Yellowbellied Sunbird, East African Swee

Monday 21 February 2000

Woke up to fairly miserable weather - light drizzle and thick fog.  Met up with Peter Mnadziwana, Seldomseen's resident bird guide, who assured me that the weather patterns in the Vumbas are very localised, and he was sure it wouldn't be so bad on the other side of the mountain.

Incidentally, while I am a big fan of using local guides as I believe that you generally see a lot more in their company, as well as getting "the local angle" on things, never have I felt a guide to be as essential as at Seldomseen.  This is seriously thick forest, and if you don't know the bird songs, or have eyes as amazing as Peter's, you will probably see a fraction of the birds you will see with him.  At just Z$280 for 1.5 days birding, there is absolutely no excuse for not encouraging eco-tourism of this kind.

We left Seldomseen up the daunting access road, turned down the valley, and then took a side trip along Tom Holley Road.  This area was still pretty foggy, although we managed to find Grassbird, Singing Cisticola and Redcollared Widow.  On reaching the Burma Valley Road we turned right and soon rejoined the main Vumba Road.  Continuing downhill towards Mutare, we eventually took a right on a good dirt road signposted Inn on the Vumba.  After a couple of hundred metres, you will reach a T-junction.  Turn left, park on your right in the inn car park, and carry on walking up the road away from the inn, scanning the trackside vegetation as you go.

The fog had disappeared completely this far down the mountain, and we enjoyed an excellent few hours birding, although Peter saw a lot more than I did!  The Little Spotted Woodpecker, Whyte's Barbet and Grey Waxbill that he spotted only showed themselves to me when they flew, although with patience I eventually managed good views of such birds as Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet, Northern Grey Tit, Chinspot Batis, African Black and Miombo Doublecollared Sunbird, Blue Waxbills, Bronze Mannikins and 3 species of canary (Yelloweyed, Streakyheaded and the similar Blackeared).  A couple of Whitenecked Ravens were picked up in a distant tree.

We walked back to the car, turned right back down towards the main road, crossed and continued down the track on the opposite side of the road.  It was, however, much windier in this more open area, and the only birds seen were a Greybacked Camaroptera and a Fiscal Shrike.  Returning to the car, a raptor overhead proved to be my only Augur Buzzard of the trip, and a barbet in a tree next to the car was a stunning Blackcollared Barbet.

We headed back up the Vumba Road towards Seldomseen, taking a brief detour down the tar road to the left signposted White Horse Inn.  We continued past the inn for a few kilometres looking out for Silverycheeked Hornbills but with no luck, although Peter heard them calling in the distance.  We did, however, get excellent close-up views of a pair of Blackeared Canaries, and a Black Widowfinch was seen on a roadside wire just as we got back to Seldomseen.

Arriving back at Seldomseen, Peter went off for a tea-break, while I prepared myself mentally for a trip into the depths of the surrounding forest.   On Peter's return, we walked down the access track to the bottom, where Peter quickly found an Olive Bushshrike and a Forest Weaver, both of which showed very well.  A Cape Batis was also seen in this area.

At the very bottom of the hill, just before the last cabin, we took a narrow path right into the forest, stopping a short way in at a nest for Redfaced Crimsonwing.  Unfortunately, no adult birds were in evidence, so we pressed in to the forest.  The vegetation here is extremely thick, and birds were invariably heard before they were seen, if they were seen at all!

Livingstone's Louries had been very vocal all morning, sounding reminiscent of barking dogs, but at last one showed itself reasonable well clambering around in a small tree.  Just then, Peter pointed out the song of a Roberts' Prinia, one of my two main target birds, singing from a thick patch of undergrowth, but it showed no interest whatsoever in showing itself.  Shortly afterwards a Chirinda Apalis, the other main target bird, called some distance away, as well as a Starred Robin, but again no sighting - this was becoming extremely frustrating!

Some bird movement was finally seen in the canopy overhead, and eventually decent views were had of Whitetailed Flycatcher, Yellowthroated Warbler and Yellowstreaked Bulbul, and a few Olive Sunbirds were also seen.  The path eventually looped back to join the access road just by our cabin, where we had a brief glimpse of an immature Starred Robin, at which point Peter went off for his dinner.

I found this forest birding very frustrating, although there were a few factors which could be blamed for this, apart from my own incompetence!  The timing, late morning, was not perfect, and the weather was still poor - very overcast and drizzling slightly, so that most birds even when seen were just silhouettes.  However, this is far from unusual weather at Seldomseen - the Vumba Mountains translate as Mountains of the Mist, so this is to be expected.

After lunch, it was back in the car, this time accompanied by Sara, up the track to the Vumba road, and left (uphill) to the Vumba Botanical Gardens.  By this time I was getting a bit worried.  I had been in the area for a whole day, without even a sniff of seeing any of my target species, and time was running out before Cyclone Eline was due to arrive from Mozambique.  At the time I was unaware of the devastation which was being wrought on Mozambique, which put my petty birding worries firmly into context.

The Botanical Gardens is an absolutely magnificent place, and we were, incredibly, virtually the only visitors.  This was in stark contrast to my visit last year to the equally magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens near Cape Town, which was heaving with people.  We left the car in the main parking area, and headed downhill towards the ornamental lake, with the tea shop directly in front on the other side of the lake.  We skirted around the left hand side of the lake, along one of a network of small trails. 

Again, birdsong was everywhere, with identified species including Heuglin's Robin, Livingstone's Lourie, Olive Sunbird, Tambourine Dove, Orange Thrush, Collared Sunbird and another Roberts' Prinia, but again nothing wanted to show in the continuing light drizzle.  Then, Peter froze, gestured to me to keep quiet, and I heard faint bird song coming from the undergrowth alongside the path.  Peter crouched, and pointed, and there it was - a wonderful Swynnerton's Robin hopping along the ground in the gloom of the understory, with its mate a little further back.  Brief views, but good enough for me!

Movement in the canopy overhead proved to be a pair of Whitetailed Flycatchers, which were much more obliging than the Seldomseen individual this morning, and gave great views, even fanning their tails to show the white tips to the tail feathers.  Similarly a Yellowthroated Warbler also put on a much better show than this morning at Seldomseen, although this was probably due to the more open vegetation and better lighting.

A little further along we came across a small glade on the left hand side, surrounded by high trees climbing up the hillside, and what a goldmine this little area proved to be.  The first lifer came in the form of a Squaretailed Drongo, closely followed by a Goldentailed Woodpecker.  Then, I spotted a small bird with a long tail in the top of one of three ahead of us - a Chirinda Apalis!  This gave great views before flying off, only for it, or another to return a little while later.

I had no sooner finished celebrating this top priority bird with another Yellowstreaked Bulbul when Peter started pointing excitedly at the same tree which had held the apalis - incredibly, a Roberts' Prinia was working its way through the lower branches!  Both target birds in the same tree within five minutes of each other!  This one took a lot more work, however, before I was finally able to get satisfactory views - most prinias are very active birds, but this one was something else, and never stayed still for more than a second at a time.

This little spot wasn't quite finished yet, though, and as we were leaving to climb the grassy hill in front of us, we picked up a Blackfronted Bushshrike and a Forest Weaver in the same patch of trees up on the hillside.  We were now up on the ridge behind the lake, with the tea shop downhill on our right hand side.  We walked along the tar road to the right, skirting a lightly wooded grassy area on our left, and found a Tambourine Dove feeding on the lawns under a tree. 

On reaching a junction in the paths, we turned right back towards the tea shop, and eventually found the Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet which we had been hearing for the last ten minutes when it flew in to the tree in front of us and showed beautifully.  A Speckled Mousebird also flew over and a Pintailed Whydah was seen around the tea shop.  Finally, heading back to the car, the Heuglin's Robin was again heard singing from the bushes to the left of the ornamental pond, and this time we managed to pick it out low in the branches of a bush.

By the time we got back to Seldomseen and dropped off Peter, it was approaching nightfall, and so we decided to go for an early evening meal, to minimise driving in the dark.  I had fancied the White Horse Inn when we drove past it this morning, and it was also along a tar road, which suited me fine!  The wind had really picked up by now, and driving back down the Vumba Road in the fog I was concerned to find a pretty large tree down half way across the road.  It was just about possible to pass it on the other side of the road, and I made a mental note to look out for it in the dark on the way home.

By the time we finished our excellent meal at the very friendly White Horse Inn, the rain was hammering down, and it was obvious that the storm had arrived.  The fog was so thick by now that we could hardly see the front of the car, and mindful of the fallen tree we drove very slowly back up the Vumba Road towards Seldomseen.  My worries were increased by encountering several other smaller trees down part way over the road, which I hardly saw until they were right in front of me.

Another driver, not quite so patient, overtook me and headed off up the hill.  Then, when he was about 100 metres ahead of me and his lights hardly visible, I saw his brake lights come on, quickly followed by his hazard lights.  By the time I got there, I could see the problem - a poplar-like tree was down and right across both lanes of the road!  There was only one thing for it, and that was to take to the grassy verge, already very muddy from other vehicles taking a detour, and sloping worryingly away from the road.  Even then, it still involved driving over the topmost branches of the tree, with much skidding and wheel-spinning, and when I eventually managed to get onto the other side, I was at a 90 degree angle to the road itself, and made it back on to the tar by the skin of my teeth!

Arriving back at Seldomseen, I went to inform Paul Heath of the situation as he was leaving early the next morning to go to Harare, and to my horror found out that the real storm hadn't yet arrived, but was scheduled to hit at about 2 a.m.  My immediate reaction was to pack up everything into the car and head for Mutare, but in the end I decided to stay put for the night.  In retrospect we should probably have gone.  A tree had brought down the power and telephone lines, and we had a real job finding the cabin in the dark, having stupidly left the torch behind, and we had a very unpleasant night's sleep listening to trees and branches crashing down in the forest all around us wondering whether the next one would fall on the cabin or car.

Birds recorded

Tom Holley Road - Eastern Sawwing, Grassbird, Singing Cisticola, Redcollared Widow

Inn on the Vumba - Augur Buzzard, African Palm Swift, Little Bee-eater, Blackcollared Barbet, Whyte's Barbet, Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet, Little Spotted Woodpecker, Eastern Blackheaded Oriole, Whitenecked Raven, Northern Grey Tit, Willow Warbler, Greybacked Camaroptera, Chinspot Batis, African Paradise Flycatcher, Common Fiscal Shrike, Miombo Doublecollared Sunbird, African Black Sunbird, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Spectacled Weaver, Blue Waxbill, Grey Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Yelloweyed Canary, Streakyheaded Canary, Blackeared Canary

White Horse Inn - Blackeared Canary

Seldomseen - Livingstone's Lourie, Eastern Sawwing, Yellowstreaked Bulbul, Starred Robin, Yellowthroated Warbler, Chirinda Apalis, Singing Cisticola, Roberts' Prinia, Cape Batis, African Whitetailed Flycatcher, Olive Bushshrike, Yellowbellied Sunbird, Olive Sunbird, Forest Weaver, Black Widowfinch

Vumba Botanical Gardens - Tambourine Dove, Livingstone's Lourie, Speckled Mousebird, Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet, Goldentailed Woodpecker, Eastern Sawwing, Squaretailed Drongo, Yellowstreaked Bulbul, Stripecheeked Bulbul, Orange Ground Thrush, Heuglin's Robin, Swynnerton's Robin, Yellowthroated Warbler, Chirinda Apalis, Roberts' Prinia, Cape Batis, African Whitetailed Flycatcher, Blackfronted Bushshrike, Olive Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Forest Weaver, Pintailed Whydah

Tuesday 22 February 2000

Up early the next morning for a last walk around Seldomseen with Peter, but it was almost a complete washout in the pouring rain.  This time we walked into the forest on the left hand side of the track as you go downhill, behind our cabin, and managed to get brief views of another Chirinda Apalis.  We heard Greyhooded Kingfisher calling, and flushed a Black Duck from the woods, which gives an idea of how wet it was!  The main target bird was Buffstreaked Flufftail, which Peter tried to call out, but which didn't want to co-operate, maybe because of the rain.

We quickly gave it up as a bad job, and having changed and had a cold shower (electricity still out), we jumped in the car to move on to our next destination.  We got all of 40 metres, before coming across a tree down across the access road.  There were a team of 3 men cutting it up and carrying it away, and we soon realised that while fallen trees may be a fact of life in the Vumbas, they don't stay a problem for long!  There was nothing to do but wait it out.

After half an hour, the road was clear, I turned the ignition key and .. nothing!  I never did find out what was wrong, but this was the first of many times that this particular problem cropped up to annoy us during the trip.  So, there we were - in a broken-down car, facing uphill blocking a very steep and muddy access track, in a place with no phones!  Great!! 

Not for the last time I was saved by the local Zimbabweans - the 3 tree-removers came over, pushed me up a steep hill into the main parking area outside the reception area, where, thankfully, I managed to bump start the car.  Then, it was up the access road, skidding and wheel-spinning like crazy as I desperately tried to stop the car from stalling, and finally I was clear and on the Vumba Road.  Our progress to Mutare was halted twice more by fallen trees, but they were quickly cleared and we eventually got to Mutare, 25 km from Seldomseen, 2.5 hours after starting our journey!

By this time, I was in a real dilemma.  Cyclone Eline was still battering the area - Mutare was hit badly a few hours after we left, with lots of damage to roads and buildings and, tragically, several people killed. The next destination was the remote Honde Valley, north east of Mutare on the Moz border, where there seemed a real chance of more trouble, and on top of this, we now had an unreliable car to worry about!

Perhaps rather foolishly, we decided to risk it and stick to our original plan, and headed northwards towards our destination of the Aberfoyle Country Club.  Head north from Mutare on the main A3 road towards Harare.  After climbing Christmas Pass, you will pass a turning to the right to Penhalonga, before taking the next right towards Nyanga.  After about 65 km, and after passing the village of Mutasa, turn right on a good tar road signposted for Honde Valley.  Just before this turning a large all dark swallow flew across the road in front of the car, which I'm convinced was a Blue Swallow, which breed in this area.  Unfortunately, by the time I got out of the car it had disappeared and despite much searching no other birds were seen.

From here, stay on the main tar road for about 70 km passing the spectacular Mtarazi Falls, Hauna settlement and Ruda Airstrip, over the Pungwe River following signs for the Aberfoyle Estate.  Eventually you will reach the end of the tar road at the entrance to the Aberfoyle Tea Estate, where you will drive the last bone-jarring 7 km on a rough dirt road to the country club.  When you arrive at the club, you will see that it was worth every minute of the journey - the setting is spectacular, nestling in a bowl at the end of the valley, surrounded on three sides by high mountains, and with tea bushes stretching away in every direction as far as the eye can see.

The club itself is sheer colonial-style luxury, complete with a swimming pool, tennis court, golf course, snooker room etc, and absolutely fabulous rooms with their own private lounge and bathroom.  The only real problem we experienced were the frequent power cuts, which also meant no telephone communications.  Furthermore, by a total freak of local geography, while virtually the whole of the rest of the country, including Nyanga and Mutare were being severely battered by the winds and rain, we had a very pleasant day and a half at Aberfoyle, with sunshine and only a little light drizzle at times!

While we had some lunch and watched the resident Lesser Striped Swallows feeding over the swimming pool, the manager Mike Wicksteed, went off to find Abasi Jana, the local bird guide, to accompany me for the afternoon.  First birds seen with Abasi were a small flock of Delegorgue's Pigeons in some trees near the club, as well as an African Golden Oriole and a Crowned Hornbill in the same area.  We walked back along the access track from the club, and turned downhill at the first junction, stopping to watch a Longtailed Wagtail and a pair of African Pied Wagtails on rocks in the river.  Abasi was highly amused to hear that the Pieds were a lifer for me whereas I had seen Longtailed previously - every other visitor he had accompanied were the opposite.

We walked a little way up the road on the other side, before cutting down into the woods on the right and crossing the river.  This is a good area for Halfcollared Kingfisher, but we had no luck, and this species continues to elude me!  Birding was quiet in the late afternoon - Abasi spotted a Starred Robin, but I couldn't get onto it, while Stripe-cheeked Bulbuls called in the woods but stayed hidden.  We walked slowly back from the river to the club through some allotments, again finding African Pied Wagtails but little else, and I sensed that Abasi was getting a little worried by the time we got back to the club. 

We again headed slowly up the access road in the failing light, and the birding started warming up.  Firstly, a pair of White-eared Barbets flew in and showed well at the top of a tree.  Then, a Goldentailed Woodpecker gave great views on the ground pecking on a stump.  A Burchell's Coucal flew around in the tea plantations below us, and a Bluegrey Flycatcher hawked from the branches of a tree alongside the road while a Red-backed Mannikin flew in a little higher up.  Finally, a Brown-hooded Kingfisher was seen perched on a telegraph wire near the swimming pool.

A quick game of snooker was followed by dinner in the club and a couple of very welcome cold beers, before retiring to bed ready for an early start the next morning.

Birds recorded

Seldomseen - African Black Duck, Livingstone's Lourie, Greyhooded Kingfisher, Chirinda Apalis, Yellowbellied Sunbird, Olive Sunbird

Mutasa - Blackheaded Heron, Whitenecked Raven, Common Fiscal Shrike

Aberfoyle - Delegorgue's Pigeon, Burchell's Coucal, Brownhooded Kingfisher, Crowned Hornbill, Whiteeared Barbet, Goldentailed Woodpecker, Lesser Striped Swallow, Eastern Sawwing, Squaretailed Drongo, African Golden Oriole, Stripecheeked Bulbul, Starred Robin, Singing Cisticola, Bluegrey Flycatcher, African Pied Wagtail, Longtailed Wagtail, Yellowbellied Sunbird, Redbacked Mannikin

Wednesday 23 February 2000

Up early to meet Abasi at the club, and a day's birding in the Aberfoyle area.  Started with a White-rumped Swift flying over, and better views than yesterday of Whiteeared Barbet.  We decided to start the day at a site called Wamba Dam, and headed off back down the road to Hauna.  On leaving the club a Redthroated Twinspot flew across the road, sadly the only one seen on the trip, and a Longcrested Eagle was also seen on the way out of the estate.

To find the Wamba Dam site drive back down the dirt estate access road (c. 7 km) towards Hauna.  As you exit the estate and get back onto the tar you will see a large pulp factory on your left.  Immediately after the factory a dirt track leads off downhill at an angle to the road.  Keep following the main track, passing one turn to the right, and then another to the left, at which the road swings right over a small river.  After 1.8 km from the factory you will arrive at another junction uphill to the left, with a lake in front of you, and a wet area of reeds on your right.  Park here, making sure there is enough room for other vehicles to pass.

We walked on down the road to the lake, and followed the road around to the left.  A little further on, the road swings left again following a small valley where a stream feeds into the lake.  A Giant Kingfisher was heard calling in the distance, a European Hobby flew over, and shortly after we found our main target bird for this area - 3 Marsh Tchagras in the reeds below us. 

A Thickbilled Weaver flew over, and a pair of Spectacled Weavers were feeding in bushes at the far end of the reeds.  A Redchested Flufftail called several times but wouldn't show.  Where the valley narrowed further up, we found several mannikins including at least one Redbacked Mannikin, Yellowrumped Widow, African Stonechat, Redcollared Widows and Yelloweyed Canary. 

Working our way back down the valley produced Golden Weaver, several Common Waxbills, a mixed flock of Bronze and Redbacked Mannikins, Pintailed Whydah and an excellent noisy flock of Arrowmarked Babblers - great value birds.  Reaching the lake an elusive Tawnyflanked Prinia eventually showed, 2 Speckled Mousebirds flew over and a Little Bee-eater landed on a dead snag just below a Tropical Boubou, which had finally showed itself after calling constantly for the previous half an hour.  We next turned our attention to the flooded grassy area bordering the lake and were quickly rewarded with Black Crake and African Jacana.

We got back to the car to head back to the club for lunch, and just then a cuckoo flew into a tree in front of us.  We went down to investigate and it flew back out into another tree, although it appeared to come from a slightly different part of the tree.  This bird landed in the open and was identified as an African Cuckoo, and we duly turned our attentions back to the first tree to find that the original bird was indeed still in place, and was in fact a Redchested Cuckoo.  Skulking badly at first it eventually flew into a small bush where it showed well. 

A cracking Firecrowned Bishop was buzzing over the marsh in front of us, and a Jacobin Cuckoo flew into the same little group of trees between the road and the reeds, making it a hat-trick of cuckoos in the same tree!  Ideas of lunch were put on temporary hold while bird activity reached a bit of a peak with a Bluespotted Dove, Yellowbellied Sunbird and a Black Cuckooshrike, all in the same area, and a Broadtailed Warbler called from the reeds, but sadly wouldn't show itself.

Finally giving in to hunger we got back into the car, which luckily we had parked on a hill as it again refused to start!  A Threestreaked Tchagra flew into some tea bushes along the road just as we arrived back at the pulp factory - tchagras appear very fond of these bushes - and a European Bee-eater was seen on the way back to the club.  Over lunch we enjoyed the Palm Swifts hawking over the pool, and Yellowbellied Sunbirds in the garden.  A Little Sparrowhawk was found on a telegraph wire near the tennis courts. 

Our next destination was the Gleneagles Forest Reserve, on the mountain seen from the club veranda.  If I thought the tracks to Seldomseen and Aberfoyle were rough, they paled into insignificance compared with the track up to Gleneagles - this is undoubtedly the worst road I have ever taken a car on, and was made worse by both the fact that it was very steep in places, and that I was in a car which I knew would not start again if I stalled it!  It was passable with great care in a normal saloon car (I only grounded it once, and that was because of carelessness), but it took over half an hour to drive the 3.2 km from club to reserve entrance.

Drive out of the club, and immediately turn right down the hill to the river (0.5 km), where the usual African Pied and Longtailed Wagtails duly obliged.  The road then climbs uphill for a further 1.5 km to a small village, passing a few turnoffs.  Exactly 2.3 km from the club, a heavily overgrown track went off to the left, and I assumed that this was where we would leave the car, as it seemed far too rough to drive.  Wrong again!  Although it seemed terrible, and I had no way of knowing if I was about to hit a hidden rock, it wasn't too bad.  A stop along the way, where we had breathtaking views of the valley below, produced a flock of Mottled Swifts with a few House Martins among them.

Nevertheless, I was extremely relieved when 0.9 km later (3.2 km from the club) we arrived at the entrance to the reserve.  I was even more relieved to find that there was room to turn the car and I could park facing downhill!  We headed into the reserve, and immediately Abasi picked out a Crowned Eagle soaring overhead - this is something of a speciality of the reserve.  The original plan was to walk all the way through the reserve to emerge on montane grasslands on the other side which are a very reliable site for Blue Swallow.  However, Mike Wicksteed had very kindly arranged for one of the estate's mechanics to have a look at the car, and the Blue Swallow site was a couple of hours' walk each way, so we soon realised that we didn't have time to make the full trip.  We therefore decided to take our time and explore the forest instead.

Several Squaretailed Drongos were calling in the woods, and we soon started encountering bulbuls.  However, for me at least, seeing and hearing them were completely different matters.  Abasi quickly called in a Yellowbellied Bulbul, but try as I might I just couldn't see it.  Abasi's frustration eventually turned into hysterics at this idiot Welshman's inability to spot a bird he could easily pick out with his naked eye, and then suddenly there it was right in front of me. 

The process was repeated shortly after with a Stripecheeked Bulbul, which took me slightly less time, and a Forest Weaver was also seen.  Then we came across a flurry of bird activity around the path ahead of us - a group of Terrestrial Bulbuls flitting over the road, a Chirinda Apalis calling but not seen, and a Redfaced Crimsonwing glimpsed briefly as it flew across the path and disappeared into the undergrowth.  Grey Cuckooshrike and Scalythroated Honeyguide were both seen high in a tree over the path, although viewing was poor in bad light caused by the overcast conditions.

We then turned right off the main access track and followed a smaller track up into the woods.  A couple more Stripecheeked Bulbuls were seen, and we came across another party of Terrestrial Bulbuls, before Abasi found a pair of Yellowbreasted Apalis flitting about in the top of a small tree.  By this time it was late afternoon and bird activity had quietened down considerably, so we headed back to the car  This was a great site, and if I went again I'd try to spend a whole day here, starting early, despite the appalling access road.  Driving back down the grass-covered track we flushed several Bluebilled Firefinches from the thick vegetation, but they wouldn't settle in view, and were only seen in flight.

On arriving back at the club Mike's engineer took a look at the car and guess what - yup, it started first time for the only time in 2 days!!  Despite looking for about half an hour no fault was apparent, and indeed it behaved perfectly for the rest of the day and most of the following day - typical!

We decided to head back down to Wamba Dam in the late afternoon to see if we could lure out one of the Redchested Flufftails which were calling in the marsh that morning.  However, our progress there was slow because of several distractions.  First of these were two new swifts for the trip - Little and African Black - as we left the club.  Then Abasi heard a Natal Robin in the roadside scrub, and we had a repeat performance of the bulbul experience with Abasi seeing it easily and me failing to see it at all, except when it would fly across the road.  At long last I managed to pick it out on a bare branch deep inside a tree - a beautiful bird.

A little further along, the road reaches a crest with a junction to the right, and here we started seeing several falcons flying past.  These proved to be European Hobbies, at least 50 of them, all moving north.  A larger raptor was seen overhead and after some initial confusion was identified as an Ayres' Eagle as it flew right over our heads.

Eventually we got to Wamba, parked the car where we had parked that morning, and descended the slope to the flat grassy area below, where we started trying to attract a flufftail.  Sadly, none were inclined to show, although several were proclaiming their territories in the marsh.  Abasi spotted a Grey Waxbill, which disappeared before he could point it out to me.  Just then, however, Abasi spotted possibly the bird of the trip - a Nyasa Seedcracker low in a nearby bush.  He walked quietly around the back of the bush, and sure enough two of these birds appeared at the front of the bush right in front of me, some 5 metres away - quite stunning birds which are a much brighter red than the books show.  These birds stayed in the same area for the next half an hour and could be seen with the naked eye clambering around in the long grass and small bushes.

Elated, and with nightfall approaching, we headed back for the club, hoping for a look at one of the Scarce Swifts which often hawk over the club at dusk.  Back on the estate a Bluebilled Firefinch was flushed from the side of the road, but this time it flew just a short distance before landing on the grassy verge and gave great views.  On arriving back at the club one of the resident Palmnut Vultures was seen in a tree on the other side of the golf course - these birds are way out of their normal range, the nearest part of which is on the Mozambique coast, but have been resident on the estate for at least 10 years.

A Scarce Swift was finally picked out by Abasi above the club, looking very like a Whiterumped Swift (but without a white rump!), and a Broadbilled Roller near the tennis courts was a nice end to a great day's birding.

The club had been without electricity most of the day courtesy of a problem further down the valley and had still not returned by dusk, so we enjoyed a candlelit dinner and a few beers before retiring ready for an early start the next day.

Birds recorded

Aberfoyle (a.m.) - Longcrested Eagle, Whiterumped Swift, Whiteeared Barbet, Lesser Striped Swallow, Redthroated Twinspot

Wamba Dam (a.m.) - European Hobby, Black Crake, Redchested Flufftail, African Jacana, Bluespotted Dove, African Cuckoo, Redchested Cuckoo, Jacobin Cuckoo, Burchell's Coucal, Speckled Mousebird, Giant Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Black Cuckooshrike, Arrowmarked Babbler, African Stonechat, Broadtailed Warbler, Singing Cisticola, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Tropical Boubou, Threestreaked Tchagra, Marsh Tchagra, Thickbilled Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, Golden Weaver, Firecrowned Bishop, Yellowrumped Widow, Redcollared Widow, Common Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Redbacked Mannikin, Pintailed Whydah, Yelloweyed Canary

Aberfoyle (midday) - Little Sparrowhawk, African Palm Swift, European Bee-eater, Lesser Striped Swallow, African Pied Wagtail, Longtailed Wagtail, Yellowbellied Sunbird, Bronze Mannikin

Gleneagles - Crowned Eagle, Mottled Swift, Scalythroated Honeyguide, House Martin, Grey Cuckooshrike, Squaretailed Drongo, Terrestrial Bulbul, Stripecheeked Bulbul, African Yellowbellied Bulbul, Chirinda Apalis, Yellowbreasted Apalis, African Pied Wagtail, Collared Sunbird, Forest Weaver, Redfaced Crimsonwing, Bluebilled Firefinch

Aberfoyle (early p.m.) - Ayres' Eagle, European Hobby, African Black Swift, Little Swift, Lesser Striped Swallow, House Martin, Arrowmarked Babbler, Natal Robin

Wamba Dam (p.m.) - Nyasa Seedcracker

Aberfoyle (dusk) - Palmnut Vulture, Scarce Swift, Broadbilled Roller, Lesser Striped Swallow, Bluebilled Firefinch

Thursday, 24 February 2000

Today we were heading west and had arranged to meet a local birder called John Jones in Marondera, some four hours away.  We left Aberfoyle at 6 a.m., giving Abasi a  lift to Hauna, and continued up the Honde Valley.  Birding stops were brief and few, but we recorded some good birds including more Bluebilled Firefinches, a perched Longcrested Eagle and 3 Brownhooded Kingfishers as we were leaving the reserve.  A Longtailed Wagtail was on some rocks as we crossed the Pungwe River.  Bluespotted Doves were common along this road, and we also saw several Common Waxbills, Redcollared Widows, African Stonechats and Eastern Sawwings

Otherwise we drove non-stop westwards, meeting John Jones at Malwatte village some 7 km east of Marondera.  Up to now we had had no difficulty obtaining fuel, but from Marondera westwards things were quite a different matter, and John explained that while diesel had been short for some time, petrol had almost run out in the last 24  hours.  This was pretty worrying news as we had a long way still to travel, although we had thankfully filled up in Rusape and had a spare full jerrycan in the boot.

Leaving Sara at Malwatte in our car we headed off to Gosho Park a little way back eastwards in John's 4WD, and were very glad we had done so, as the tracks inside the park were very rough and rocky in places, and I think we'd have struggled in our saloon.  Gosho Park is a very nice area consisting mostly of miombo woodland, with rocky areas and a few dams (small lakes).  It is an especially reliable spot for the enigmatic Boulder Chat, another bird high on my want list. 

I'm not actually sure if the park is open to casual visitors - we came across a locked gate for which John had a key, so you may need a permit to visit there - ask local birders.  Incidentally, please note that there is game in the park, including giraffe, and as a result we encountered phenomenal numbers of ticks - take appropriate precautions.

The rest of the day was spent slowly wandering around the park, driving slowly and stopping and walking where we saw bird activity.  The first bird party we encountered contained a nice mix including Mousecoloured Flycatchers, Yelloweyed Canary, Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet, Striped Pipit, and Goldenbreasted Bunting, although I didn't see the latter.  African Cuckoos were common, and we soon found another of the park's specialities - Collared Flycatcher.  This is a very localised summer visitor to the area, and was causing a great deal of excitement among the local birding community, although it was rather less exciting for myself as a European birder.

A bare rocky area gave views out to a rocky pinnacle some distance away, on which some Rock Pigeons were sitting, and Rock Martins and Little Swifts were circling.  Another bird party produced some new birds in Wood Pipit, Chinspot Batis, Blackbacked Puffback, Blackeared Canary and Stierling's Barred Warbler.  The latter has probably my all-time favourite bird song - it sounds exactly like a galloping horse, and kept reminding me strongly of the coconut-banging from Monty Python's Holy Grail, which kept me chuckling for most of the day!

John kept seeing Whitebreasted Cuckooshrikes which kept eluding me (familiar story!), but I got great views of Whyte's Barbet, another speciality of this site.  Sunbirds included both Black and Miombo Doublecollared.

We soon arrived at a stream area where there is a row of high rocks and boulders on the other side.  This is the prime spot for Boulder Chat, and no sooner had John whistled an imitation of their call than a pair of these great birds appeared in a crevice under a large boulder and started bouncing around on a nearby rock, soon to be joined by a third bird.  Top quality birds, and very strange!  A flash of orange in the same crevice eventually showed itself to be a Mocking Chat, and although this was much less keen to come out into the open it eventually showed well.  A couple of Yellow White-eyes and a Groundscraper Thrush were also in this area.

We next checked out an area of open water, which had just a Reed Cormorant, Little Grebe and a pair of Black Ducks.  The latter are apparently very territorial and routinely chase away other wildfowl.  A Greenspotted Dove was seen nearby and a Little Banded Goshawk flew over.  It was now midday and bird activity had quietened down, although arriving at an area of wet grass and reeds we had an excellent surprise in the form of a Pied Mannikin, a very rare bird in this part of the world, and only the second John had ever seen here.

We returned back to the camp site area in the middle of the park, and soon found a Mashona Hyliota, which was one of those birds which had initially got me excited about a trip to Zim.  Other new birds seen in this area included Black Flycatcher, a group of White Helmetshrikes, an Eastern Redfooted Falcon overhead and Redwinged Starling.  John also saw Brubru and Barthroated Apalis but I missed them both.

By this time it was 3.30 p.m. and time to move on.  John took us back to Malwatte, helped us bump-start the car and said goodbye and we drove the last hour westwards to Harare.  On entering the city we came across the first of many queues for fuel, several many hundred metres long.  We had reserved a room at the Possum Lodge in Harare, which we found quite easily in the northern suburbs, in the same area occupied by several embassies.

We checked in and found, to Sara's delight (?!) that our "private room" was in fact a large garden shed with a mattress on the floor!  Nice to feel like a student again.  We showered, and moved to the bar for some cold beers and to order some delivery pizza, and phoned local bird guide Anthony Cizek to make arrangements for the morning before crashing out in front of the TV with various other tourists - very laid back and good fun.

Birds recorded

Drive from Aberfoyle - Mutasa - Longcrested Eagle, Bluespotted Dove, African Palm Swift, Brownhooded Kingfisher, House Martin, Eastern Sawwing, African Stonechat, Longtailed Wagtail, Common Fiscal Shrike, Redcollared Widow, Bluebilled Firefinch, Common Waxbill

Juliasdale to Rusape - African Stonechat

Gosho Park - Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, African Black Duck, Little Banded Goshawk, Eastern Redfooted Falcon, Rock Pigeon, Greenspotted Dove, African Cuckoo, Little Swift, Whyte's Barbet, Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet, Rock Martin, Eastern Blackheaded Oriole, Groundscraper Thrush, Mocking Chat, Boulder Chat, Mashona Hyliota, Stierling's Barred Warbler, Collared Flycatcher, Southern Black Flycatcher, Mousecoloured Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Striped Pipit, Wood Pipit, Common Fiscal Shrike, Blackbacked Puffback, White Helmetshrike, Redwinged Starling, Miombo Doublecollared Sunbird, African Black Sunbird, Yellow White-eye, Pied Mannikin, Yelloweyed Canary, Blackeared Canary

Friday 25 February 2000

Anthony Cizek arrived at the hotel at 6 a.m. to meet me, and due to my car problems very generously offered to take his vehicle despite the crippling fuel crisis.  First stop was to Mukuvisi Woods in Harare, for some of the miombo birds missed yesterday at Gosho Park.  This was an excellent site, especially for somewhere so near the centre of town.

Almost immediately on entering the park we came across our first bird party, with large numbers of Black Flycatchers and Forktailed Drongos as well as Redheaded Weavers, Chinspot Batis and Blackbacked Puffback.  Redchested Cuckoos and 2 Klaas's Cuckoos were seen, and a drumming woodpecker proved to be a Bearded Woodpecker.  Several birds which had eluded me at Gosho Park finally showed themselves - Kurrichane Thrush, Greencapped Eremomela and Brubru were seen, and a Stierling's Barred Warbler was heard calling.

Blackcrowned Tchagras were pretty common - I saw two and Anthony saw several others - and groups of White Helmetshrikes and Scimitarbilled Woodhoopoes were encountered on several occasions.  Anthony was very excited at finding a Northern Grey Tit here, the first he had heard of at this site, but I has seen them yesterday and was too busy watching the other lifers on offer!

Moving further into the park we found our second woodpecker, a Cardinal Woodpecker, and then Anthony spotted the main prize at this site, a cracking Spotted Creeper making its way up a nearby tree trunk, beautifully camouflaged against the lichen-covered bark.  We found ourselves down by some rocks by the river, and located a female Redbilled Firefinch and Bronze Mannikin, but little else.

Heading back away from the river, a nightjar was flushed with reddish tones which showed a lot of white in the wing, and was identified as Rufouscheeked.  Then, as we stopped for a quick cup of coffee from Anthony's flask, we came across another target bird - a group of Southern Lesser Blueeared Starlings.  These birds, a miombo special, are always very tricky to identify, although we were helped on this occasion by the presence of a nice juvenile with reddish-brown underparts.

We arrived at another part of the river, where a narrow bridge crossed in an area with a lot of flowers and streamside vegetation.  This was a nice spot, and despite the incessant light drizzle which was worse away from the shelter of the trees we found Little Bee-eater, Yellowrumped Widow, Southern Masked Weaver, Streakyheaded Canary and Yelloweyed Canary.

Deciding to move on to another location, we headed back for the car, pausing on the way for a second Spotted Creeper and an African Yellowthroated Sparrow, which Anthony had spotted earlier but which I had missed.

The next spot to visit was another area of mostly miombo woodland, also within the Harare city limits called Haka Park.  Unfortunately, I don't have directions on how to get there, but it wasn't very far from Mukuvisi, and I am sure you could get directions from locals.

In any case, Haka Park was a real gem of a place, with excellent miombo woodland, and an extensive vlei area which produced a different set of birds.  However, there is game in the park and ticks, which had been completely absent at Mukuvisi, were present in large numbers.  We started off in the miombo area which, although it looked the same as Mukuvisi to my untrained eye, produced a quite different set of birds.  Some, like Forktailed Drongo, Eastern Blackheaded Oriole, Kurrichane Thrush, Greencapped Eremomela, Stierling's Barred Warbler, Southern Black Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, White Helmetshrike, Blackbacked Puffback, Blackcrowned Tchagra and Redheaded Weaver were seen at both sites, but Northern Grey Tits for example, virtually unknown at Mukuvisi, were very common here, and we got superb views of these excellent little birds.  No Redchested or Klaas' Cuckoos were seen here, but instead we saw a nice Diederik Cuckoo.

Whitebreasted Cuckooshrikes, so elusive yesterday at Gosho Park, were initially just as difficult here but were eventually seen well, and after that were seen regularly for the rest of the morning.  A stunning Greyheaded Bushshrike also played hard to get at first but soon gave brilliant views., quickly followed by a juvenile Greater Honeyguide and some Redbilled Woodhoopoes.  A small party of Grey Penduline Tits was seen, but only poorly, although a Croaking Cisticola was seen rather better.

We had one more target bird in this area, the notoriously difficult Miombo Rock Thrush.  Unlike others of its genus, this bird is usually found perched at the top of brachystegia trees.  Its tendency to sit without moving for long periods of time can make it difficult to spot, and I'll never know how Anthony eventually managed to pick one out at the top of a nearby tree -  a stunning male in full breeding plumage which gave great views.

Having spent most of the morning in miombo woodland we continued to an excellent vlei area in the middle of the park, where a small stream valley running through open grassland has produced a wet area with marsh and tall grasses.  On arrival we found a Rufousnaped Lark signing from the top of a fence post, and a group of Wattled Plovers flew away.  A large roost of Eastern Redfooted Falcons were swirling around some trees  on the hill on the far side of the vlei.

Crossing the small stream via a causeway, we decided to put up with getting our feet wet and waded into the marshy area.  We were very quickly rewarded with several wetland species, including Yellowthroated Longclaw, Cuckoo Finch, Southern Red Bishop, Yellowrumped and Yellowbacked Widow.  These were attracted like a magnet to the small tree in the middle of the vlei, and by training my scope on this tree we eventually got good views of all these species.

Our appetites whetted we headed back to the car, removing ticks en route, and headed off to Marlborough Vlei for some real wetland birding.  Abdim's Storks were seen on their nest in the middle of Harare en route.  Following the drought which had affected the area in January 2000, the heavy rains throughout February had raised water levels substantially in the vlei, and I was very glad that I had brought my wellington boots with me.

The first task we faced on arrival was sorting out the strange widowfinch which was perched on the fence surrounding a small electricity substation.  The combination of white bill and red legs did not really fit any logical combination - Black Widowfinch shares this combination of bare part coloration but is strictly restricted to the Eastern Highlands.  We eventually concluded that it had to be a Steelblue Widowfinch, which can show variation in bill colour.  Several Blackthroated Canaries were also seen near the car.

Heading off into the vlei we soon encountered some longclaws which proved to be Pinkthroated.  Greyrumped Swallows were found mixed with House Martins and Greater Striped Swallows, and we flushed a couple of Blackheaded Herons from the tall vegetation, before doing likewise to first one Marsh Owl then another.

Several detours and backtracks were needed as the water levels often became too deep for our boots, but the birds kept coming.  The next special bird was a Black Coucal which flew across in front of us, chestnut wings contrasting beautifully with its all black body.  This vlei special perched up obligingly on tall stems several times. 

Swinging around to the left the terrain started drying out a little and the bird life changed with it.  Several longclaws in this area were all Yellowthroated.  Several cisticolas were seen in this area - mostly large Croaking Cisticolas, but a few smaller Fantailed and one Palecrowned Cisticola as well.  A flock of small birds were spotted flying into a patch of sedge grass, and these proved to be Orangebreasted Waxbills, another priority bird.  Other wetland birds in this area included several Cuckoo Finches, Southern Red Bishops, Yellowbacked and Redcollared Widows, Rufousnaped Lark and Bronze Mannikin.

Heading back to the car we had some interesting birds fly over - Reed Cormorant, Purple Heron, Eastern Redfooted Falcon and Blackshouldered Kite.  By now it had stopped raining and was getting very hot, and tramping through the long vegetation was getting very tiring.  Just as we got back to the car however, thoughts of a sit down and a mouthful of water were postponed as we flushed a pair of francolins which flew a short distance and dropped down.  We worked our way over towards them, and got very close before they flew again, showing themselves to be Swainson's Francolin, another lifer.  We got back to the hotel at 1 p.m., where I said goodbye to Anthony, collected Sara and we headed off on the long drive to Bulawayo. 

During our entire stay in Harare we had only found one garage with petrol to sell, and this had a queue nearly a mile long waiting to buy their allocated 10 litres of fuel.  We had over half a tank full, so we decided to press on southwards in the hope that the situation would be better there.  About 30 km from Harare we found a garage with a very small queue of cars, which amazingly had petrol to sell, and we managed to fill up.  They must have just had a delivery because it was to be the only garage on the 440 km drive to Bulawayo which had any to sell, without an attendant queue of some 50 cars outside.

Unfortunately, we underestimated the weight of traffic on this road, and we soon realised that we would not reach Bulawayo before dark.  We considered staying the night at one of the towns along the way, but Chegutu, Kadoma, Kwekwe and Gweru came and went without inspiring us at all. 

Half way between Gweru and Bulawayo night fell, and the last hour's drive in the dark with our car's appalling headlights was absolutely horrific.  Potholes weren't seen until it was too late, animals wandered along the sides of the road, and twice we came across vehicles driving very slowly along without any lights at all - amazing!  To make it worse, we were constantly overtaken by buses and lorries hurtling along at 80 mph and more.  The only break in the stress was a Barn Owl flying over the road as we approached Bulawayo,

Eventually, with a huge sigh of relief we arrived at Bulawayo (very had potholes on the outskirts), and even better we found a garage selling petrol, who even agreed to fill us up rather than just restricting us to the usual 20 litres.  We found our way to the excellent Hilltop Motel, 5 km along the road towards Beitbridge, booked in, phoned local birder Kit Hustler to make arrangements for the next morning, and collapsed exhausted in bed.

Birds recorded

Mukuvisi - Sacred Ibis, Redchested Cuckoo, Klaas's Cuckoo, Rufouscheeked Nightjar, Little Bee-eater, Scimitarbilled Woodhoopoe, Cardinal Woodpecker, Bearded Woodpecker, Forktailed Drongo, Eastern Blackheaded Oriole, Spotted Creeper, Kurrichane Thrush, Greencapped Eremomela, Stierling's Barred Warbler, Neddicky, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Southern Black Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Blackbacked Puffback, Brubru, Blackcrowned Tchagra, White Helmetshrike, Southern Lesser Blueared Glossy Starling, Miombo Doublecollared Sunbird, African Yellowthroated Sparrow, Southern Masked Weaver, Redheaded Weaver, Yellowrumped Widow, Redbilled Firefinch, Bronze Mannikin, Yelloweyed Canary, Streakyheaded Canary

Haka Park - Sacred Ibis, Eastern Redfooted Falcon, Wattled Plover, Diederik Cuckoo, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Greater Honeyguide, Rufousnaped Lark, Whitebreasted Cuckooshrike, Forktailed Drongo, Eastern Blackheaded Oriole, Northern Grey Tit, Grey Penduline Tit, Kurrichane Thrush, Miombo Rock Thrush, Greencapped Eremomela, Stierling's Barred Warbler, Croaking Cisticola, Southern Black Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Yellowthroated Longclaw, Blackbacked Puffback, Blackcrowned Tchagra, Greyheaded Bushshrike, White Helmetshrike, African Black Sunbird, Redheaded Weaver, Cuckoo Finch, Southern Red Bishop, Yellowrumped Widow, Yellowbacked Widow, Pintailed Whydah

Harare - Abdim's Stork

Marlborough Vlei - Reed Cormorant, Blackheaded Heron, Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Blackshouldered Kite, Eastern Redfooted Falcon, Swainson's Francolin, Diederik Cuckoo, Black Coucal, Marsh Owl, African Palm Swift, European Bee-eater, Rufousnaped Lark, Greater Striped Swallow, House Martin, Greyrumped Swallow, Fantailed Cisticola, Palecrowned Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Yellowthroated Longclaw, Pinkthroated Longclaw, Cuckoo Finch, Southern Red Bishop, Yellowbacked Widow, Redcollared Widow, Orangebreasted Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Pintailed Whydah, Steelblue Widowfinch, Blackthroated Canary

Road between Gweru and Bulawayo - Barn Owl

Saturday 26 February 2000

Kit met me at the hotel at 7.30 (a bit of a lie-in today!), and we headed off for nearby Aisleby Sewage Farm for a few hours.  This site is found by leaving Bulawayo on the road to Vic Falls.  A little way out, at the Falls Road Service Station, turn right onto Stirling Road, and after about 2 km turn left into the sewage farm, signing in at the security gate.

This site quickly produced a range of species which I hadn't seen previously on the trip.  Waders had been virtually absent until now, but we soon saw Blacksmith and Wattled Plovers, Marsh, Wood and Common Sandpipers in the grass and small roadside pools either side of the access road, together with Cattle Egrets and Sacred Ibises.  My first lifer of the day was a cracking Marico Sunbird, and other goodies in this area included Jacobin Cuckoo, Redbilled Firefinch, Longbilled Crombec, Kurrichane Thrush, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Lesser Striped Swallow and White-crowned Sparrow-weavers.

A little further along,  we took a junction to the left, and drove across a small river.  Greenshank and Common Moorhen provided a taste of home, in contrast to the gaudy Crested Barbet which flew into a nearby tree and the first of several Longtailed Shrike.  A Marico Flycatcher was less spectacular, but still a welcome lifer.  We eventually found our way to a very muddy wide track leading off to the left, which skirted a wet rushy area, with an area of open water behind.  This track is probably driveable in drier conditions, but we realised quickly that we'd get into trouble if we tried, so we parked and walked.

Two Pinkbacked Pelicans could be seen perched in a tree on the far aide of the pool, and Palm and Little Swifts flew overhead.  There were plenty of birds singing in the tall vegetation alongside the path - a Rattling Cisticola perched prominently, and we were lucky enough to get great views of the usually skulking African Sedge Warbler as it emerged briefly from the middle of a bush.  There were also European Marsh Warblers singing away in this area.  A group of small birds which flew into the undergrowth were Orangebellied Waxbills, and a flock of ducks flying over consisted of both Fulvous and Whitefaced Duck.  A Whitebellied Sunbird was also seen in this area.

A little further along, both European Reed and Great Reed Warblers were singing, but weren't as obliging as their earlier relatives.  A Diederik Cuckoo was also seen here.  After a few hundred metres, a smaller track lead off to the left, to a bird tower overlooking the open water.  In the area of the junction of the two tracks there were loads of European Sedge Warblers, busily feeding and singing in preparation for their long northwards migration, and there was a special treat in the form of an African Yellow Warbler, well west of its usual range.

The reed-fringed area of open water was very productive.  Ducks were well represented by Hottentot and Redbilled Teal, Southern Pochard and more Fulvous and Whitefaced Duck, and the gallinule species recorded at this site rose from one to four with the addition of Purple Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen and Redknobbed Coot.  Other new birds for the trip were Squacco Heron and Whitebreasted Cormorant, while an elusive Cape Reed Warbler played hide and seek in the reeds in front of the hide.

Walking back to the car, we came across another bonus bird at the junction of the two tracks - a Thrush Nightingale, which gave great views as it crept through the hedgerow.  This is a bird I have missed repeatedly in Europe so it was great to finally catch up with it in a Zimbabwean sewage farm!

Back at the car we returned back over the small river to the T-junction, and turned left.  Among the Sacred Ibises and Cattle Egrets were a Glossy Ibis, Blackheaded Heron and a few White Storks, and at the far end of the road a Namaqua Dove flew over.  A fly-by ringtail harrier was almost certainly a Montagu's Harrier.  Also in this area were Bully Canary and Arrowmarked Babbler, and a Swainson's Francolin walked up the road towards us until it finally lost its nerve about 20 metres away.

Driving back along the road to the entrance we continued to find new birds for the day - White Helmetshrikes, Paradise Flycatcher, Redfaced Mousebird and Black Flycatcher.  A Great Reed Warbler finally showed itself, and we also managed to add Ruff and Little Stint to our shorebird list.

Returning to the motel at about 10.30, I said goodbye to Kit, collected Sara, and we headed off to Hwange.  It was a hot day with the sun in our faces, so we didn't stop often, but managed to pick up a Blackshouldered Kite (after 20 km), European Roller (61 km), Cut-throat Finch  and Miombo Doublecollared Sunbird (Insuza - 85 km) and several Helmeted Guineafowl.  A brief rest stop at Gwayri River, just short of Hwange, produced Longtailed Starling and a group of Willow Warblers.

Finally arriving at Hwange Main Camp at 2 pm, we tried to book a cabin for the night, only to be told that they were all full, and that we should return at 4.30 pm to see if there were any cancellations.  This was a real pain, as it effectively limited how far into the park we could get before having to turn around.  Another nasty shock was the entrance fee of Z$ 820 (UKP 13.70) for a 7 day pass.  A couple of Grey Louries were around the reception area, a Bateleur flew overhead, and we saw the first of what were to prove to be abundant Whitebrowed Sparrow-weavers. 

We drove a short way into the park along the tar road, finding a few species which were later to prove to be pretty common in Hwange, such as Blacksmith Plover, Lilacbreasted Roller, Southern Yellowbilled Hornbills, Redbacked Shrikes, Whitecrowned Shrikes, Cape Glossy Starlings and Redbilled Francolin.  One roadside glossy starling appeared a little different to the others, and its black mask confirmed it as a Greater Blueeared Glossy Starling rather than a Cape. 

An area of open water was a little disappointing in holding only a Redbilled Teal, but a little further along a Goldenbreasted Bunting made up for all those birds I had failed to see at Gosho Park,  A Rufousnaped Lark in a roadside tree was singing its very distinctive song, Crested Francolin was seen briefly in the roadside grass (this species seemed much less confiding than the Redbilled and Swainson's Francolin), and a Longtailed Shrike was also seen well.

Returning to the booking office at 4.30 pm as requested, we were not at all surprised to find that there had indeed been a "cancellation", although we were rather surprised to arrive at the cabins to find that we were virtually the only residents.  We never did find out what happened to all the other unfortunate people who had reserved accommodation but couldn't get there in time!!  This incident seems to be fairly typical of the inefficiency and bureaucracy which is dogging the Zimbabwean National Park Service.

We decided to end birding for the day and, having showered and unpacked, went over to the camp restaurant for a meal before retiring.

Birds recorded

Aisleby - Little Grebe, Pinkbacked Pelican, Whitebreasted Cormorant, Blackheaded Heron, Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron, White Stork, Sacred Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Whitefaced Duck, Fulvous Duck, Hottentot Teal, Redbilled Teal, Southern Pochard, Montagu's Harrier, Swainson's Francolin, Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen, Lesser Moorhen, Redknobbed Coot, Threebanded Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Wattled Plover, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank, Little Stint, Ruff, Namaqua Dove, Jacobin Cuckoo, Diederik Cuckoo, Little Swift, African Palm Swift, Redfaced Mousebird, Crested Barbet, Lesser Striped Swallow, Arrowmarked Babbler, Kurrichane Thrush, Thrush Nightingale, Common Whitethroat, Great Reed Warbler, European Marsh Warbler, European Sedge Warbler, Cape Reed Warbler, African Yellow Warbler, African Sedge Warbler, Longbilled Crombec, Fantailed Cisticola, Rattling Cisticola, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Southern Black Flycatcher, Marico Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Common Fiscal Shrike, African Longtailed Shrike, White Helmetshrike, Marico Sunbird, Whitebellied Sunbird, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Southern Red Bishop, Redbilled Firefinch, Common Waxbill, Orangebreasted Waxbill, Pintailed Whydah, Steelblue Widowfinch, Bully Canary

Drive from Bulawayo to Hwange - Blackshouldered Kite, Helmeted Guineafowl, European Roller, Miombo Doublecollared Sunbird, Cut-throat Finch

Gwayri River area - Willow Warbler, Meves' Longtailed Starling

Hwange - Redbilled Teal, Bateleur, Crested Francolin, Redbilled Francolin, Blacksmith Plover, Grey Lourie, Lilacbreasted Roller, Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill, Rufousnaped Lark, Redbacked Shrike, African Longtailed Shrike, Southern Whitecrowned Shrike, Greater Blueeared Glossy Starling, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver, Goldenbreasted Bunting

Sunday 27 February 2000

Up early again, and out into the park, looking for birds and mammals.  Our list of the latter got off to a nice start early on with a Blackbacked Jackal crossing the road.  Redbilled Francolin, Greenspotted Dove, Rufousnaped Lark, Grey Lourie and Redbreasted Swallow were seen early on along the road side, before we came across one of the day's highlights - a Dwarf Bittern perched in a small dead tree adjacent to a flooded area.  Other birds not seen yesterday included Whitefaced Duck, Swainson's Francolin and Bluecheeked Bee-eaters. 

The original plan had been to work our way westwards along the tar road to Shumba picnic site, and then take the dirt road to Sinamatella Camp, taking side trips along the way along the various dirt tracks, especially those leading to waterholes.  However, on trying to visit the first of these, Nyamandhlovu Pan, we realised that the condition of the dirt roads had been badly affected by the recent heavy rain, and that passage wouldn't be so easy. 

Indeed, we were unable to reach this pan as a section of the road  was flooded and the approach churned into mud.  Making a three point turn, to my total panic, I lost concentration and stalled the car.  The car had resolutely failed to start during the previous 3 or 4 days, but amazingly on this occasion, it started immediately, which was just as well as we didn't fancy trying to bump start it with lions etc around!  Extreme close-up views of a Reticulated Giraffe made the detour worthwhile.

Back on the tar we found more birds - the Goldenbreasted Bunting in the same place as last night, Knobbilled Duck, Lilacbreasted Roller, Rattling Cisticola, and a stunning Crimsonbreasted Shrike.  Grey Hornbills proved a nice change from the more common Southern Yellowbilled, an Eastern Redfooted Falcon flew over, and a Scalyfeathered Finch laid to rest one of the ghosts of my 1999 Bushmanland trip.  Carmine Bee-eaters and Arrowmarked Babbler were also seen here, and we had Burchell's Zebras and Masai Giraffe right along the side of the road.

We tried another side trip, to Guvalala Pan, and this time made it through, although only just, as we had to drive through a very deep and muddy puddle, and barely got through it.  After the effort of getting there the pan was disappointing.  We flushed one bird which I though was possibly a Corncrake, but didn't see it well enough to be sure.  There were a few birds around, mostly species already seen that day, although Spurwinged Goose, Southern Pochard, Kittlitz's Plover, Yelloweyed Canary and Groundscraper Thrushes were new.  There were a few Burchell's Zebras on the far side of the pan, and Sara saw an Elephant emerge briefly from the woods at other side of the water, much to my frustration, as I was paying a visit to the toilet at the time, and it had gone by the time I returned.  Sara had a hard time for the rest of the day for not calling me - I refused to accept her excuse that she didn't want to alarm it, as it was several hundred metres away!

We returned the way we had come, again barely clearing the puddle, and dislodging our number plate in the process.  Back on the tar, a wetland area on the right produced a lone Lesser Moorhen, but at that point the rain started to come down very heavily.  It got progressively worse the further west we travelled, until even the tar road was frequently underwater.  Flooded potholes became a menace, as they couldn't be seen before hitting them and eventually, 10 km from Shumba picnic site, with the rain still falling heavily, we decided to turn around.  Even if we had made it all the way to Shumba, there didn't seem any certainty that the subsequent dirt road would be passable in the circumstances.

Bizarrely, as we headed back east, the rain eased and stopped in about the same area it had started suggesting that it was a localised storm over the westward half of the park.  Almost immediately, we came across two lifers in Purple Roller and Bradfield's Hornbill, the latter especially satisfying being fairly localised in its distribution.  A Bateleur was seen overhead, quickly followed by my third lifer in about 15 minutes - a lovely Shafttailed Whydah along the roadside.  A pair of Redbilled Woodhoopoe flew by, and then it was time for yet another lifer - a flock of superb Southern Pied Babblers noisily moving through some vegetation about 30 metres back from the road.

Black and Marico Flycatchers and a female Melba Finch were seen a little further along, as well as a small flock of European Bee-eaters.  We reached the east side access road to Guvalala Pan, and decided to try the pan again, in the hope that something different had shown up.  Unfortunately this side wasn't passable in a 2WD saloon, but it didn't matter as we found a flock of 5 Southern Ground Hornbills in the roadside grass - amazing birds, that even made Sara sit up and look at them!

I had promised Sara some non-birding time in Victoria Falls, so sadly it was time to make our way out of the park.  As we neared the entrance gate I found a scruffy juvenile Saddlebilled Stork stalking through the wet grass surrounding a small roadside pan, and then a little further along Sara asked me "What's that bird over there?"  "What bird?" I asked, looking around, and my eyes fell on a magnificent Southern Crowned Crane a mere 20 metres from the road - how on earth had I missed it?!  Finally reaching the entrance gate, we drove back towards the main Bulawayo - Vic Falls road, stopping briefly for another flock of Southern Ground Hornbills and a couple of roadside Wildebeest.

We drove quickly down to Vic Falls, stopping for a pair of Longtailed Starlings on roadside wires along the way, and booked into the Sprayview Motel at Vic Falls.  We paid a quick visit on local birder Chris Pollard to make arrangements for the following day, and then drove down to the falls.  I have a soft spot for waterfalls of any size, and having really enjoyed Niagara Falls a few years ago, I was looking forward enormously to these.  I was certainly not disappointed - they are really awesome, and well worth the USD 10 (UKP 6) entry fee.  Having decided not to bother with waterproofs (big mistake) we were absolutely drenched by the time we had finally seen enough, and squelched our way back to the car. 

Just before the entry gate, a pair of very black-and-white hornbills flew into a nearby tree, and proved to be Trumpeter Hornbills.  Thoroughly satisfied, we returned to the Sprayview, and crashed out for the night.

Birds recorded

Hwange - Dwarf Bittern, Saddlebilled Stork, Whitefaced Duck, Egyptian Goose, Southern Pochard, Knobbilled Duck, Spurwinged Goose, Bateleur, Eastern Redfooted Falcon, Crested Francolin, Redbilled Francolin, Swainson's Francolin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Southern Crowned Crane, Lesser Moorhen, Kittlitz's Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Greenspotted Dove, Grey Lourie, European Bee-eater, Bluecheeked Bee-eater, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Lilacbreasted Roller, Purple Roller, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, African Grey Hornbill, Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill, Bradfield's Hornbill, Southern Ground Hornbill, Rufousnaped Lark, Redbreasted Swallow, Arrowmarked Babbler, Southern Pied Babbler, Groundscraper Thrush, Rattling Cisticola, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Southern Black Flycatcher, Marico Flycatcher, Redbacked Shrike, African Longtailed Shrike, Crimsonbreasted Boubou, Southern Whitecrowned Shrike, Cape Glossy Starling, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver, Scalyfeathered Finch, Melba Finch, Shafttailed Whydah, Yelloweyed Canary, Goldenbreasted Bunting

Drive from Hwange to Victoria Falls - Meves' Longtailed Starling

Victoria Falls - Trumpeter Hornbill

Monday 28 February 2000

Today was one hell of a day's birding!  I picked Chris up from his house at 5.30 am, and we set off for Kazengula, 70 km west of Vic Falls, on the border with Botswana.  Our destination was Imbabala Safari camp - this is a luxury private camp on the Zambezi River catering for more up-market travellers than me, and don't normally allow casual visitors.  However, Chris has been associated with them for many years, and can make arrangements for a visit if guided by him.  I have to say that it was a fabulous place, and while it a little out of my usual price league, I'd certainly try and stretch my budget to include at least one night's stay if I visited again.

On arrival we were greeted by Blackcrowned Tchagra and a pair of Blackcollared Barbets.  We checked in, and picked up the camp's resident Landcruiser for a trip down to the river.  This is the way to go birding - sitting comfortably with the wind and sun on your face, waiting for the birds to come to you!  And come they did, thick and fast - Redbilled and Swainson's Francolin, Paradise Flycatcher, African Golden Oriole, Redbilled Hornbill, and Redbacked Shrike.  Arriving at the river we found Spurwinged Goose, Squacco Heron, Blacksmith Plover, Common Sandpiper and numerous African Jacanas at the water's edge and in the wet grass.  A Whiteshouldered Widow flew into the reeds, and Lesser Gallinules kept lifting out and dropping back into the reeds, although it took a little while longer to get a good view.

Rounding the next lot of bushes we encountered a very lethargic Hooded Vulture on the ground, which very reluctantly took to the air and flew into a nearby tree, while larger Whitebacked Vultures soared overhead.  A couple of Copperytailed Coucals, a target bird, were seen flying around the long grass, with Little Bee-eaters in the foreground.  A little further along we came across a herd of nervy Impala (lions around?) and Waterbuck, one sporting a Redbilled Oxpecker.  Stopping to scan the wet area ahead of us from a viewing platform, we found a small mixed flock of Whitecrowned and Longtoed Plovers - two great birds, and very localised in Southern Africa.  An African Mourning Dove was calling its distinctive song from the branches above us, and eventually gave good views of its red-ringed yellow eye.

Back in the Landcruiser, we crossed a ditch containing a Hamerkop and a few Spotted Dikkops, while a couple of Pygmy Geese flew along the river, and a dense flock of Redbilled Queleas lifted from a nearby bush.  Then, success - Slaty Egret - one of my main target birds for this area and a bird endemic to the Okavango and nearby wetlands.  This is a very under-rated and elegant bird - I thought that the contrast between slaty grey plumage and vinous-red throat was very smart.  Other birds is this area included Blackcrowned Night Heron, Pied Kingfisher, Reed Cormorant, African Grey and Bradfield's Hornbill.

At that moment, Chris indicated that he had heard the call of another target bird - Hartlaub's Babbler, and indeed we soon found a small flock of these birds in nearby bushes.  A Redfaced Mousebird was seen here, and both Diederik Cuckoo and Thrush Nightingale were heard singing.  We decided to head back to the camp, and the way back was just as birdy as the way down - Steelblue Widowfinch, Bluecheeked Bee-eater, White Helmetshrike, Redbilled and Scimitarbilled Woodhoopoe, Black Cuckooshrike, Jacobin Cuckoo and a flock of Violetbacked Starlings were all new for the day.

Back at the camp both Lesser Honeyguide and Orangebreasted Bushshrike were heard calling but wouldn't show.  Having enquired about the availability of a boat, we made arrangements for the afternoon, and headed off in the Landcruiser to check out the Border Road area.  To get here, drive right down to the border crossing with Botswana, and then turn left just before it on a reasonably good track - this follows the border all the way down through Hwange National Park and beyond, and can be followed quite easily in a 4WD.  However, be careful - there are no posts to mark the border with Botswana, which starts just a few feet beyond the road, and the border guards can get a bit twitchy - resist the temptation to chase that bird a few yards further!

Before starting down the border road, we had a quick look around the border crossing area, and found European and Lilacbreasted Roller, Eastern Paradise Whydah, Masked and Spotbacked Weavers.  Down the track, the first birds seen were another small flock of the bizarre Southern Ground Hornbills.  A Woodland Kingfisher  and several Greyheaded Kingfishers were seen here, as well as Greenspotted Doves.  A Harlequin Quail flushed from the grass in the middle of the track, and flew into the longer grass a few dozen metres away - a good bird!  An eagle in a tree in the middle distance was originally thought to be a Wahlberg's Eagle, but then flew showing itself to be a Tawny Eagle.

A flock of canaries feeding on grass seeds were mainly Yelloweyed, with one Blackthroated amongst them, and a Greybacked Camaroptera was flitting around in a trackside bush.  Turning around to head back, a few kilometres down the track, we started seeing raptors everywhere.  A Little Banded Goshawk was first, closely followed by European Hobby, hunting the huge flocks of Redbilled Queleas feeding in this area.  One of the queleas was very pale, a leucistic individual, and while we were trying to pin this down, a falcon with very reddish underparts shot past, then turned and returned showing itself to be an African Hobby.  Another larger raptor flew into the top of a tree in the middle distance - a cracking Brown Snake Eagle, jizz exactly like it is shown in the book with that oversized head and shaggy crested look.

Finally, just as we got back to the main road, a Bateleur was soaring overhead, with Rattling Cisticola and Grey Lourie nearby.  We now decided to try the other part of the Border Road, between the main road and the river.  However, the start of this road was completely overgrown, so we had to take a bushwhacking detour before finally finding the track.  This northern side was much wetter than the southern side, with frequent muddy patches, and much standing water alongside the path.  This area was previously cultivated as rice paddies, but these have now been abandoned and are overgrown.

Longtailed Shrike, Scalyfeathered Finch and the first of a few Whitefronted Bee-eaters were soon found, with Intermediate Egret and Wood Sandpiper in the wet areas.  Arriving at the river, we had the unique experience of being able to see 4 African countries simultaneously - standing in Zimbabwe, with Botswana on the other side of the ditch, and Zambia and Namibia on the other side of the Zambezi.  A Wiretailed Swallow was flying over the river, and the Bateleur overhead had been joined by a Blackchested Snake Eagle and a Black Stork.  We spent some time in this little corner of Zimbabwe, between the road and the old bunker which has now been converted to a picnic table! 

Birds seen here included Tropical Boubou, Cardinal Woodpecker, Greater Honeyguide, Redbreasted Swallow and Blackbacked Puffback.  Incidentally, while there are birds here which look like Swamp Boubou, they are believed to be hybrids with Tropical Boubou, and usually show just a little of a pinkish wash to the underparts - you have to go west to the Kasane area in Botswana for pure Swamp Boubous.

Then, we heard a bird "singing" from deep inside a nearby thorn bush, which sounded vaguely familiar.  I originally thought it might be a Great Reed Warbler, but it didn't sound quite right.  Then, I faintly remembered hearing an Olive-tree Warbler years ago in Montenegro which sounded similar to this - a relentless low-pitched grunting and croaking song.  Of course, to be sure, I needed to see the bird, especially as the Montenegrin bird never showed itself, and this was therefore another potential European lifer!  However, just like the bird in Montenegro, it showed no inclination to show itself, just sitting and singing in the hollowed middle of the bush completely oblivious of the two birders circling it, trying to get our heads inside the incredibly thorny branches.

Eventually after a great deal of effort, and getting caught by my hair in the thorns on two occasions, I eventually managed to get a view of the bird - a large greyish warbler with no hint of rufous in its plumage, a short white stripe before the eye, and a distinctive peaked crown.  The identification was clinched, and another nemesis bird safely ticked off - very satisfying!

Hot, sweaty, bleeding from several puncture wounds and very happy I returned back to the Landcruiser with Chris and we headed back cross-country to the camp for lunch, finding Little Egret en route.  On arrival we tried in vain to find the Wood Owl which often frequents the large tree in front of the camp, but it appeared that the windy conditions had forced it to seek shelter elsewhere.  During lunch, a large Warthog wandered over out of the bush and stood patiently waiting for scraps.

After lunch we borrowed the camp's boat - a motorised canopied pontoon complete with garden chairs - and set out for an afternoon's birding on the Zambezi river, accompanied throughout by the pair of Wiretailed Swallows which nest under the boat, and follow it around all over the river.  We firstly headed over to the large island in the middle of the river.  The Zambian - Zimbabwean border runs through the middle of this island, and there are often hippos etc present, so we proceeded with caution, and stuck to the Zim shore area.

As we were berthing the boat we saw a Malachite Kingfisher, and shortly after landing found Purplebanded Sunbird, Spectacled Weaver and Trumpeter Hornbills.  The main target here was Brown Firefinch, but despite extensive tramping around in the heat of the early afternoon, none were forthcoming.  Chris had visited here with Felix Jachmann and his friends a couple of weeks earlier, and had only managed a glimpse of one of these birds then, so they're far from easy.   A nightjar with absolutely no white in the wing was flushed which Chris identified as a Pennantwinged Nightjar, and a Whitebrowed Coucal flew into some nearby vegetation.  Sadly, while I got a glimpse of the latter, I didn't see it well enough to tick it, and it refused to reappear - one that got away.

An African Marsh Harrier was seen quartering the area of reeds behind the first main ridge in from the shore, and several Redshouldered Widows were flying about in the same area.  Technically this area is in Zambia so my Zambian list currently stands at 2 species!  Nearer to us, in Zimbabwean territory, were Golden Weaver, Fiscal Shrike and Brubru, and walking back towards the boat we flushed another nightjar, this time a Mozambique Nightjar.

On reaching the boat we noticed the sky darkening eastwards - rain was on the way.  We decided to give up on Brown Firefinch, and try to see some of the warbler specialities, before the rain arrived and drove them into cover.  The first target was Greater Swamp Warbler, which is restricted to papyrus beds, so we motored over to a known territory and sure enough were soon rewarded with good views of one of these birds.  Purple Heron and Egyptian Geese were also seen here, and a little further along a sheltered inlet surrounded by very wet and flooded grass produced Great White Egret, Sacred Ibis, Fulvous Duck, and Knobbilled Duck, while Black Crake and Cape Reed Warbler called but wouldn't show. 

Drifting slowly down the Zambezi, several Hippos were swimming in the river just a short distance away, one poor individual with a sunburned head, and then one of the highlights of the day as a herd of half a dozen Elephants wandered down to the nearby shore to drink - the perfect African moment!

We next tried an area for Chirping Cisticola, but by now the rain had arrived, and no birds were showing.  With dusk fast approaching we called it a day, heading back to the lodge, where we found Brownhooded Kingfishers, Spotted Flycatcher and Yellowbellied Bulbul.  On the way back, a Rufousbellied Heron and 2 Black Herons flew eastwards down the river.

Having settled up and said our goodbyes we headed back for Vic Falls, stopping a few miles out of Kazengula as another, much larger herd of Elephants took their time crossing the road, feeding on the roadside grass - magnificent!  As night was falling we made a quick stop at a spot where Chris had seen Violeteared Waxbill previously, and while we didn't find any we did see a Whitebrowed Robin in the fading light, although I didn't feel that I could tick what was basically just a silhouette.

By now it was totally dark, but the excitement wasn't quite over.  Driving along with minimum visibility due to the car's appalling headlights, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by Elephants on both side of the road, and one female trumpeted angrily at us as we sped past.  Luckily, none had actually been in the road, as we would otherwise have certainly collided with them.  However, we still weren't finished as just a few kilometres short of Vic Falls we picked out a pair of eyes in the middle of the road - as we got closer we could see that it was a young Leopard, which gave absolutely crippling views at close range, before slinking off into the bush.

Birds recorded

Imbabala Camp & Kazengula - Reed Cormorant, Purple Heron, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Yellowbilled Egret, Black Egret, Slaty Egret, Squacco Heron, Rufousbellied Heron, Blackcrowned Night Heron, Hamerkop, Black Stork, Sacred Ibis, Fulvous Duck, Egyptian Goose, Pygmy Goose, Knobbilled Duck, Spurwinged Goose, Hooded Vulture, Whitebacked Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Blackbreasted Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Little Banded Goshawk, African Marsh Harrier, European Hobby, African Hobby, Redbilled Francolin, Swainson's Francolin, Harlequin Quail, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black Crake, Lesser Gallinule, African Jacana, Blacksmith Plover, Whitecrowned Plover, Longtoed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Water Dikkop, African Mourning Dove, Greenspotted Dove, Grey Lourie, Jacobin Cuckoo, Diederik Cuckoo, Copperytailed Coucal, Senegal Coucal, Whitebrowed Coucal, Mozambique Nightjar, Pennantwinged Nightjar, Redfaced Mousebird, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Brownhooded Kingfisher, Greyhooded Kingfisher, Striped Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, Bluecheeked Bee-eater, Whitefronted Bee-eater, Little Bee-eater, Lilacbreasted Roller, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Scimitarbilled Woodhoopoe, Trumpeter Hornbill, African Grey Hornbill, Redbilled Hornbill, Bradfield's Hornbill, Southern Ground Hornbill, Blackcollared Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Lesser Honeyguide, Cardinal Woodpecker, Wiretailed Swallow, Redbreasted Swallow, Black Cuckooshrike, African Golden Oriole, Hartlaub's Babbler, African Yellowbellied Bulbul, Thrush Nightingale, Whitebrowed Robin, Olivetree Warbler, Cape Reed Warbler, Greater Swamp Warbler, Longbilled Crombec, Greybacked Camaroptera, Rattling Cisticola, Spotted Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Common Fiscal Shrike, Redbacked Shrike, African Longtailed Shrike, Tropical Boubou, Blackbacked Puffback, Brubru, Blackcrowned Tchagra, Orangebreasted Bushshrike, White Helmetshrike, Violetbacked Starling, Redbilled Oxpecker, Purplebanded Sunbird, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver, Scalyfeathered Finch, Spectacled Weaver, Spottedbacked Weaver, Southern Masked Weaver, Golden Weaver, Redbilled Quelea, Redshouldered Widow, Whitewinged Widow, Eastern Paradise Whydah, Steelblue Widowfinch, Yelloweyed Canary, Blackthroated Canary, Blackeared Canary

Tuesday 29 February 2000

Before saying goodnight last night Chris had given me a few tips for birds in the Vic Falls area, and so dawn today saw me down by the Big Tree just outside town looking for Collared Palm Thrushes.  Drive down from town towards the falls, then turn left just before the entrance gate on a loop road called Zambezi Drive.  The road more or less parallels the river, then swings sharply left where there are a group of palm trees on the right hand side.  A little further along, the road again bends left at the Big Tree itself - a giant baobab tree. 

The palms are supposedly a reliable spot for the Collared Palm Thrushes, and so it proved, with superb views of an individual shortly after arriving.  This was a nice spot for some early morning birding, with other good birds including Crested Francolin, Sacred Ibis, Blue Waxbill, Palm Swift, Little Sparrowhawk, Striped Cuckoo, Yellowbellied Bulbul, Greenspotted Dove, Eastern Paradise Whydah and Spotbacked Weaver.  At the end of  Zambezi Drive, where it reaches a junction with Park Way at the end of the loop, I found a pair of Redwinged Starlings.

The next stakeout Chris had given me, for Schalow's Lourie, was much more bizarre, and had I not spent the previous day in Chris's company I'd have thought he was pulling my leg.  The directions I received were to go into the Vic Falls National Park itself, paying the USD 10 entrance fee, and take the right hand path from the entrance gate.  This soon passes a toilet block on the right hand side.  Continue along this path through the rain forest, ignoring a left hand fork, until the path enters a more open grassy area.  You will pass a bench carved from a log on your left, and then the path swings left towards the river in front of a much more open area, where there is a second bench again on the left.

I was told to carefully watch the trees and open area in front of me, which the louries would fly across before disappearing into the forest for the rest of the day, where they're almost impossible to see.  However I was told that timing was critical, and that I should get here by 10.15 am, and watch carefully between 10.30 am and 11 am (10 am - 10.30 am in the austral winter), when these birds always made their appearance.

I freely admit that I felt pretty silly standing here, being slowly soaked by the spray, staring across the open area, being asked every 30 seconds by passing tourists what I was doing here when the falls were just a little way further along.  You could see the sympathy on their faces when I told them that I couldn't move from here because a bird I wanted to see was due to arrive in about 6 minutes' time!

Well, the laugh was on them because at exactly 10.34 am a Schalow's Lourie flew across into the tree directly in front of me, and a few seconds later emerged from the other side and flew past me into the forest behind, red wings contrasting beautifully with green body - quite unbelievable!  I still find it hard to believe that they followed the script so religiously, but Chris swears by it, and who am I to argue!

It was now time to leave Zimbabwe for Botswana so it was back to the car, and along the road we had followed the previous day to Kazengula.  It was midday and very hot, so birding stops were few and far between, although we did stop for a soaring Martial Eagle along the way.

Having completed the border formalities at Kazengula, we drove down to Kasane, a short way inside Botswana on the Zambezi River, and checked into a rondavel at the Chobe Safari Lodge.  A quick walk along the river produced very close views of Pygmy Goose and some Blue Waxbills and Whitefronted Bee-eaters, then we headed back east to the very upmarket Mowana Safari Hotel.  Richard Randall, proprietor of Into Africa Mowana safaris and top local birder, is based here and I was hoping to get some local gen from him. 

Unfortunately, when I arrived there, it was obvious that Richard had much more to worry about - a couple of tourists who had hired one of his 4WD for a couple of days had wandered far off-road in the Chobe Game Park and got stuck.  They had been missing for 11 days, and had just been found, having somehow survived on their limited food rations.  They had stayed with the vehicle for most of their time in the bush, but had eventually abandoned it, and walked out, where they had been lucky enough to be found and rescued.  It was extremely fortunate for them that it had been so wet, otherwise their chances of survival would have been much lower, but as it was they had been very lucky not to encounter any predators.

However, although they had been rescued, they had no idea where Richard's expensive 4WD was, and so he was in the process of trying to arrange an air search to locate it, so as to be able to launch a recovery operation.  Understandably, he had very little time to spend giving bird tips to a complete stranger, although he was extremely helpful and did his best to assist, making a few suggestions but more importantly giving me free rein to wander the Mowana's bird-filled grounds.

So, five minutes later we found ourselves down by the pool, drink in hand, scanning a very nice weedy patch down by the river.  This was a great spot, quickly producing Swamp Boubou, Jameson's Firefinch, Heuglin's Robin and Bronze Mannikin.  Best of all were a Collared Palm Thrush at a range of just 3 metres, and even better the main target bird, Brown Firefinch, just 2 metres away.  This latter bird spent about 10 minutes feeding all around the swimming pool and bar area, and I kept having to back away from it to focus my binoculars on it!

I then left Sara by the pool and took a walk along the riverside nature trail, finding Cut-throat Finch and Yellowbellied Bulbul.  At the end of the trail is a hide, from which I saw Darter, Reed Cormorant, Spotbacked Weaver, Greenbacked Heron, Paradise Flycatcher and Collared Sunbird.

We decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing, and so returned to the Chobe Safari Lodge for the rest of the afternoon, which was livened up by a Warthog wandering around the hotel grounds.

Birds recorded

Victoria Falls - Sacred Ibis, Little Sparrowhawk, Crested Francolin, Greenspotted Dove, Schalow's Lourie, Striped Cuckoo, African Palm Swift, Blackcollared Barbet, African Yellowbellied Bulbul, Collared Palm Thrush, Redwinged Starling, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver, Spottedbacked Weaver, Blue Waxbill, Eastern Paradise Whydah

Kazengula - Martial Eagle, Lilacbreasted Roller, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Kasane - Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Greenbacked Heron, Pygmy Goose, African Mourning Dove, Whitefronted Bee-eater, African Yellowbellied Bulbul, Heuglin's Robin, Collared Palm Thrush, African Paradise Flycatcher, Swamp Boubou, Collared Sunbird, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, Spottedbacked Weaver, Jameson's Firefinch, Brown Firefinch, Blue Waxbill, Cut-throat Finch, Bronze Mannikin

Wednesday 1 March 2000

I had planned to spend the rest of the day around Kasane, and where better to start than the Mowana Hotel, having again watched the Pygmy Geese on the river outside the rondavel.  On arrival, I saw a fabulous Violetbacked Starling in full breeding plumage feeding on the lawn in the car park.  Alongside it were African Pied Wagtail, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow and a Tropical Boubou, contrasting nicely with the Swamp Boubou seen yesterday.  Collared Palm Thrushes were again on the thatched roof of the hotel, and other birds seen included Forktailed Drongo, Greenbacked Heron Mourning Dove and Greybacked Camaroptera.

However, my plans to spend the day in the Chobe Game Park weren't getting very far.  Access without 4WD is restricted to one tar road along the river, with the park itself requiring 4WD.  Hiring one of these as a lone individual wasn't cost effective, let alone my nervousness about wandering into the bush alone given what had happened to the other tourists only recently.

The other option was to hire a boat and bird the river, looking for Winding and Chirping Cisticola, Whitebrowed Coucal etc.  However, the Chobe Safari Lodge had only one boat for hire, and that was already booked for the next five hours.  I was running out of patience and enthusiasm, especially given that there were only a few potential lifers left for me in this area, so we made a snap decision, and decided to cut and run southwards to Nata, or maybe all the way to Gaborone.

The road southward from Kasane was generally excellent and fast, although potholes became increasingly frequent.  Birding from the moving car produced some nice birds, including Saddlebilled Stork (after 55 km), Bateleur (84 km) and Eastern Paradise Whydah, Cape Glossy Starling, European Bee-eater and Lilacbreasted Roller (119 km).  Evidence of flood damage became more evident as we approached Nata, and water levels were obviously very high.  I called in at Nata Lodge, south of the town on the road to Francistown to enquire about the possibility of hiring a 4WD to visit the nearby salt pans, but they had clearly suffered very recent heavy flood damage, with mud and puddles everywhere, and told me that access to the pans was not possible at present due to high water levels.

So, we pressed on to Gaborone, a very long day's driving, amounting to  a total of 965 km, but it took us a long way nearer Johannesburg, and into a different area with possibilities for new birds.  We arrived in Gaborone shortly after nightfall, and eventually managed to find the Gaborone Travel Inn - this process wasn't helped by the fact that it had a large neon sign proclaiming it to be the Gaborone Motel, so we drove past it about four times before the penny dropped.  After dinner, I settled down with books and maps to decide how to spend the rest of the trip.

I had made a previous trip to the Cape Province, am planning another to KwaZulu Natal, and had already arranged to spend my last day north of Johannesburg with local birder Mike Pope.  What I was therefore looking for was something a bit more localised.  Eventually I found my target bird - Shortclawed Lark, a species restricted to the area between southern Botswana and the northern Orange Free State.  This was a bird I was unlikely to see elsewhere, so I decided to make an effort to see one here, especially when I learned that there was a prime site near Gaborone called Mogobane Dam.

Birds recorded

Kasane - Greenbacked Heron, Pygmy Goose, African Mourning Dove, Greenspotted Dove, Giant Kingfisher, Forktailed Drongo, Collared Palm Thrush, Greybacked Camaroptera, African Pied Wagtail, Tropical Boubou, Violetbacked Starling, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Drive from Kasane to Nata - Saddlebilled Stork, Bateleur, European Bee-eater, Lilacbreasted Roller, Cape Glossy Starling, Eastern Paradise Whydah

Nata - Cattle Egret, Whitefaced Duck, Redbilled Teal, European Bee-eater, Southern Carmine Bee-eater

Palapye - Redbilled Quelea

Thursday 2 March 2000

So, next morning after a leisurely breakfast, we bump started the car (we were getting very good at this!) and were off to Mogobane.  Drive south from Gaborone towards Lobatse, then just before the village of Otse, turn right exactly 42.5 km south of your start point of Molepolole Road in Gaborone.  Pass the Police College on your left after 1.3 km, at which point the tar road turns to dirt.  There was a Marico Flycatcher and a Black Kite here, as well as a flock of Cape Glossy Starlings.  After 5 km, the road bends sharp left, and then turn right at the junction by the dairy.  0.3 km further take the left fork and the road  then crosses a causeway and on to the dam.  The Shortclawed Larks can be found in the grassy areas west of the dam.

Unfortunately, we only got as far as the causeway before hitting trouble.  The floodwaters had really roared through here, and had torn up the causeway very badly.  There were tracks through here which I tried to follow, and I just about made it across, albeit scraping the bottom of the car on a rock in the way through.  However, the road was cut up even more badly a little further along, and I was reluctantly forced to give up and turn around.  However, I wasn't quite as careful on the way back across the causeway, and I grounded the car badly on a rock, having to reverse off it.

Having finally made it across I stopped and looked under the car, to have my worst fears realised - there was water dripping from under the engine.  Now not only did I have a car that wouldn't start, but it looked like the water pump was damaged.  I decided that the best thing I could do was to get across the border to South Africa, and get the car looked at there.  This was basically in case the car needed to be towed back to Rand, which I though would be a much easier process without the complication of an international border crossing.

So, it was off to the nearest border crossing at Schilpadshek near Lobatse.  By some fluke the car started first time after we had cleared Botswana Customs, but it was a different story on the South African side.  First of all they decided to search the car, opened the boot, and immediately found the jerry can full of petrol, which I hadn't thought to include on my customs declaration form.  I explained that I had bought the petrol in SA originally, but had carried it through Zim because of the fuel shortage there, and they accepted this.  Then the barrier went up, I turned the key watched by half a dozen assorted border officials and . nothing!

We got out and started pushing it and to my amazement, three border guards ran over and joined in pushing it over the border, where I managed to start it.  Smiles and thanks all round, and we were on our way again - so much for excessive red tape and stuffy officialdom!

The nearest big town was Lichtenburg, so we drove there to find a garage to get the car fixed.  When we found one, to my huge relief we found that there was nothing wrong with the water pump - the water I had seen was condensation dripping off the air conditioning system.  We were back in the game again!  So, where to go next?

In reviewing the books last night I had identified some alternative sites for Shortclawed Larks, near the town of Bloemhof, on the border between North West Province and the Free State, so that's where we headed on the R505, having firstly seen our first Cape Sparrows of the trip in Lichtenburg.

Outside the town of Strydpoort, we made a roadside stop where there were some birds flitting around, and I was rewarded with both Whitewinged and Longtailed Widows, Greater Striped Swallow and Southern Anteating Chat.  Further south, near Kingswood a little north of Bloemhof a falcon perched on a telegraph post proved to be a Greater Kestrel.

We booked into the wonderful little Bloemhof Gasthuis, where I left Sara by the pool and headed off to the local SA Lombard Nature Reserve.  This is a lovely area of grassland, accessed by leaving Bloemhof on the R34 towards Schweizer-Reneke.  After 12.2 km turn left on a dirt road, and after a further 6.7 km you will see the reserve entrance on the left.  The grass was very long so late into the summer, and the birds were very difficult to see.  However, with a little patience, some birds did come out onto the dirt road, and by driving up slowly and scanning the road, I managed to identify Southern Anteating Chat, Grassveld Pipit, Spikeheeled, Redcapped and Rufousnaped Larks, as well as lots of Cape Sparrows, and a kettle of Whitebacked Vultures overhead.

Leaving the reserve, and driving back along the dirt road scanning the grassy fields on the north side of the road, I found several Blacksmith and Crowned Plovers, Swainson's Francolin and Scalyfeathered Finch.

Birds recorded

Mogobane - Black Kite, Marico Flycatcher, Cape Glossy Starling

Strydpoort - Greater Striped Swallow, Southern Anteating Chat, Whitewinged Widow, Longtailed Widow

Kingswood - Greater Kestrel

SA Lombard N.R. - Swainson's Francolin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Crowned Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Rufousnaped Lark, Spikeheeled Lark, Redcapped Lark, House Martin, Southern Anteating Chat, Grassveld Pipit, Common Fiscal Shrike, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver, Cape Sparrow, Scalyfeathered Finch

Friday 3 March 2000

My destination today was the Sandveld Nature Reserve just over the border in the Orange Free State so, after pausing to watch a couple of Groundscraper Thrushes feeding outside the guesthouse, I headed east on the E29 towards Wolmaransstad, then south on the R700 towards Hoopstad and Bloemfontein.  The road shortly crosses the Vaal River, where a brief stop produced the area's speciality, Goliath Heron, as well as Eastern Redfooted Falcon, Southern Red Bishop, Masked Weaver, Whitefaced Duck, Whitebreasted Cormorant, Grey Heron and Great White Egret.

Just after the end of the bridge, you will see the reserve entrance on the right.  Talk the good though rather corrugated road straight ahead to the entrance, ignoring for now the game loop road which branches off to the left.  Pay the R15 (UKP 1.50) entrance fee, and spend some time exploring the lawns and scrub between the entrance gate and the lake.

This was a nice spot, with a subtly different mix of birds from those seen further north.  There were plenty of Cape Sparrows, and several Cape Wagtails feeding on the lawns.  Cape White-eyes seemed to be everywhere, and several Chestnut-vented Titbabblers were seen as well as Yellow-eyed Canary and Fiscal Shrike.  On the lake shore were Greyheaded Gull, Little Egret, Blacksmith Plover and Reed Cormorant.

The numerous mousebirds here confused me as I was sure I had seen one with a white rump, but whenever I had decent views of one, they were all Redfaced.  Eventually, however, I managed to confirm that there were also 2 Whitebacked Mousebirds in with them.  Jacobin Cuckoo, Groundscraper Thrush, Scalyfeathered Finch and Willow Warbler were also seen here.  The direct track down from the entrance booth to the lake was bordered by a drier scrubbier area, and there were several Blackchested Prinias here, especially near the shore.  The familiar Spotted Flycatcher seemed a little out of place among the "exotics", and a Fiscal Flycatcher had me momentarily nonplussed, as it didn't look quite right for a Fiscal Shrike.  Then, I found another of those creeping skulking warblers with yellowish tones, which eventually revealed itself to be an Icterine Warbler. 

Wandering back behind the toilet block, I almost ignored the bulbul in the nearby tree, until I realised that it was a Redeyed Bulbul, and not the Blackeyed Bulbul I'd been seeing throughout the rest of the trip.  Greater Striped Swallows were flying around low down, and Masked Weaver was also seen in this area.

Back in the car, it was time to try the Game Loop, to try to find a Shortclawed Lark.  A Rufousnaped Lark momentarily got my hopes up but both song and jizz were unmistakable.  The bird life along this trail was completely different to that back at the camp site, with the habitat much drier.  A roadside tree held one of those massive colonial Sociable Weaver nests so characteristic of northern Bushmanland, and a few birds were seen entering or leaving, although sadly no Pygmy Falcon.  Half a dozen Ostrich ran across the road, an African Hoopoe flapped along in front of the car, and Swainson's Francolin was also seen.

By this time I had reached the far end of the Game Drive, and followed the loop around back towards the entrance, when I saw a lark singing from the top of a bush.  I stopped the car, got the scope out, and after 20 minutes of grilling the bird, satisfied myself that it was indeed a Shortclawed Lark.  In plumage terms the most similar bird seemed to be Sabota Lark, but this was a bigger bird, with a relatively long, slightly curved bill..  It was also singing which allowed me to compare it with the song on Gibbon's tapes, and confirm the ID that way.  A very nice bird, which followed the script and gave me plenty of time to really study it.

I was now running late, and it was time to head back out of the reserve, seeing several Southern Anteating Chats along the way.  Then on the road between the entrance booth and the main road I managed to find a Sabota Lark, which was indeed considerably smaller and shorter-billed than the Shortclawed Lark.  Whitebacked Sparrow-weaver were also here.

Having collected Sara and checked out of the guesthouse, we started on our last long drive of the trip, up to Midrand near Jo'burg where we would be staying the night with local birder Mike Pope and his wife Gill.  Along the way, we stopped off in Potchefstroom to check out the OPM Prozesky Sanctuary.  On entering the town from the west, turn right on Mooi River Drive towards Skandinawia Drift, which has the sanctuary firstly on your left and then on both sides of the road.  After 3.7 km, turn right into Viljoen Street, then left after 250 m into the sanctuary.

This was another area badly affected by the recent floods, with a lot of mud and standing water, as evidenced by the Glossy Ibis feeding on the lawn.  There was a trail through the sanctuary but it looked very wet even at the start, and it had started to rain again, so I returned in the car to Mooi River Drive, and drove slowly along the verge scanning the open water and areas of reeds and sedge.  There were lots of both Golden and Southern Red Bishops here, buzzing over the reeds like giant bees - these amused Sara greatly!  Both Reed and Whitebellied Cormorants were perched forlornly in the trees, and a Yellowbilled Duck flew in.  A family party of cisticolas arrived, and were identified as Levaillant's, and Whitewinged Widow was also seen here.

Driving back through Potchefstroom, I saw Groundscraper Thrushes, African Pied Starlings and Indian Mynas, before it was time to continue the long trip up to Midrand, and to Mike and Gill's house, where we were greeted with another African Hoopoe.  Mike and Gill were great company and brilliant hosts, and we enjoyed a superb meal of marinated steak, washed down with several beers and some excellent wine, before collapsing tiredly in bed.

Birds recorded

Sandveld N.R. - Ostrich, Whitebreasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Grey Heron, Goliath Heron, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Whitefaced Duck, Eastern Redfooted Falcon, Swainson's Francolin, Blacksmith Plover, Greyheaded Gull, Redeyed Dove, Jacobin Cuckoo, Whitebacked Mousebird, Redfaced Mousebird, African Hoopoe, Rufousnaped Lark, Sabota Lark, Shortclawed Lark, Greater Striped Swallow, African Redeyed Bulbul, Groundscraper Thrush, Southern Anteating Chat, Titbabbler, Icterine Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blackchested Prinia, Spotted Flycatcher, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Wagtail, Common Fiscal Shrike, Redbacked Shrike, Cape White-eye, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver, Sociable Weaver, Cape Sparrow, Scalyfeathered Finch, Southern Masked Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Yelloweyed Canary, Yellow Canary

OPM Prozesky Reserve, Potchefstroom - Whitebreasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Yellowbilled Duck, Groundscraper Thrush, Levaillant's Cisticola, Indian Myna, African Pied Starling, Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver, Cape Sparrow, Southern Red Bishop, Golden Bishop, Whitewinged Widow

Midrand - African Hoopoe

Saturday 4 March 2000

Today was sadly our last day on this trip, but what a great day it was.  Mike had very kindly offered to take me birding to one of his favourite sites, Borakalalo, a couple of hours north of Jo'burg, while Gill took Sara out shopping and sightseeing.  Mike had also offered to drive in his 4WD, (which was fine by me!), and so we set off on a pre-dawn start towards Brits and onwards to Borakalalo.  For much of the journey, the weather was atrocious - a fierce electric storm raged, and the rainfall was torrential at times, which made following the dirt road tricky at times.  However, even in the dark we recorded a few new birds - Spotted Eagle Owl and Spotted Dikkop flushed from the road and Hadeda Ibis calling.

Unfortunately, my stomach had started objecting to the malaria prophylactics over the last day or two, and decided to put their foot down today, so I was feeling pretty rough for most of the day, especially on what was easily the hottest day of the trip.  Nevertheless, the steady procession of birds kept my mind off it, starting with my first lifer, Natal Francolin, almost as soon as we arrived.  We started down by the river, again showing evidence of massive flood damage, in the hope of seeing African Finfoot, which is very regular here, but no joy, just Common Sandpiper and Pied Kingfisher.

The approach was to drive the dirt road through the reserve, stopping regularly to see what was about.  In this way, the list grew steadily during the morning - Longtailed Shrike, Bearded Woodpecker, Redbacked Shrike, Grey Lourie, Chestnutvented Titbabbler, Rattling Cisticola, Spotted Flycatcher, Woodland Kingfisher, Greenspotted Dove and Greater Honeyguide were all seen, and Redchested Cuckoo heard calling it's "piet-my-vrou" song.  Then Mike spotted a pair of magnificent Fish Eagles in some trees on the other side of the river.

More birds followed - Grey Hornbill, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Arrowmarked Babbler, Swainson's Francolin, Crested Barbet and Cape White-eye, then another lifer - Whitebrowed Robin, this time seen extremely well in contrast to the silhouette at Kazengula.  We then arrived at an area of standing water, where the local bird club had erected a couple of hides.  Sitting in the cool of the hides we found Whitefaced Duck, Masked Weaver, Spurwinged Goose, Redbreasted Swallow, Pintailed Whydah, European Bee-eater, Greenbacked and Grey Heron.

Back on the trail we found another two lifers for me in quick succession.  Firstly an African Rock Bunting, (another bird missed earlier in the trip, at Gosho Park), and then a Meyer's Parrot in the tree above us.  While enjoying these two birds we also saw Redbilled and Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill, Scimitarbilled and Redbilled Woodhoopoes and Black Flycatcher, and a Brubru called.  Continuing along the track, we added Hamerkop, Redbilled Oxpecker, Pied Babbler, Little Egret, Egyptian Goose and Mousecoloured Flycatcher.

By this time we had arrived at the shore of the lake, and a triangular area of trees around a junction.  Mike said that this was a reliable spot for Burntnecked Eremomela, which duly appeared and showed well together with some Blue Waxbills and Yellowthroated Sparrow.  We parked up under a tree at a toilet block, and enjoyed a sandwich and a quick beer to cool us down.  Then we realised that the branch of the tree overhanging the bonnet of the truck contained the nest hole of a Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet, which gave crippling views as it came and went.

Wandering the lawns around the toilet block added Familiar Chat and Striped Kingfisher to the trip list, and Groundscraper Thrush and Lilacbreasted Roller to the day list, and back in the car we soon added Shafttailed Whydah to the total.  We drove down a track which broadly paralleled the lake shore, finding Wattled and Blacksmith Plover and Darter, and then Crimsonbreasted Shrike, Redeyed Dove, Great White Egret, Paradise Flycatcher and Yellowbilled Duck, before swinging back inland.

Back in drier scrub we added Namaqua Dove, Chinspot Batis, Blackheaded Oriole and Rufousnaped Lark to the list, and then another lifer, the enormous Burchell's Starling.  Another wetland area was visited and scanned from the hide, producing Golden Bishop, Little Grebe and Lesser Moorhen.

Mike had mentioned several times during the day that the park was good for White Rhinos, and was surprised that we hadn't seen any.  Well all of a sudden, there they were - half a dozen monsters sleeping in the shade of some trees no more than 40 or 50 metres away - magnificent beasts!  Having finally had my fill of watching these rare animals, we continued, looking for the Redcrested Korhaans which are found in this area.  A bird was eventually heard calling, and then seen fleetingly running behind some trees.  We left the truck and circled around behind the bushes, to see the korhaan lift off and fly away behind some more bushes.

It was time to leave the park, but even on the way out we added African Hoopoe, Sabota Lark, Striped Cuckoo, Crowned Plover and Redbilled Buffalo Weaver to our list.  Although time was running out we decided to try to visit Vaalkopdam near Assen, west of Borakalalo.  Near Assen we saw Purple Roller and Lesser Grey Shrike, and between there and Vaalkopdam a stop by a small pool down below the road on the right hand side produced Whitefronted Bee-eater, Brownthroated Martin, Whiterumped Swift and Lesser Striped Swallow.

Unfortunately, Vaalkopdam was another flood victim, and no access was being allowed even in 4WD.  Whitewinged Widow, Steelblue Widowfinch and Eastern Paradise Whydah were seen around the entrance gate.  Evidence of the force of the flood water was all around us in this area, and nowhere more so than at one bridge several dozen metres above a river, where the steel railings along both sides of the bridge had been completely flattened by the force of the water, as had every tree along both sides of the river.  Even several hundred metres beyond the bridge, the grass in the fields either side was still completely flattened by the force of the flow - quite awesome.

With the clock running down, we decided on one last stop at the Cape Griffon colony at Magaliesburg, south of Brits and a kettle of about a dozen birds were seen over the ridge in overcast conditions.  Finally arriving back at Midrand at the same time as another electric storm hit, we managed to find a group of Hadeda Ibis, and some low flying Greater Striped Swallows and White-rumped Swifts.

The trip was now over, and there was nothing left to do but say our goodbyes to Mike and Gill, pack the car, and head for the airport in the still pouring rain to return our hire car and catch our flights home.  This time Turkish Airlines hadn't overbooked us, but they'd got their booking wrong again, so it took about two hours just to check in, and when we eventually boarded the plane for Istanbul we were seated 30 rows apart - oh well, luckily it was a night flight!

Birds recorded

Drive from Brits to Borakalalo - Hadeda Ibis, Spotted Dikkop, Spotted Eagle Owl

Borakalalo - Little Grebe, African Darter, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Greenbacked Heron, Hamerkop, Whitefaced Duck, Egyptian Goose, Yellowbilled Duck, Spurwinged Goose, African Fish Eagle, Natal Francolin, Swainson's Francolin, Lesser Gallinule, Redcrested Korhaan, Crowned Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Wattled Plover, Common Sandpiper, Redeyed Dove, Namaqua Dove, Greenspotted Dove, Meyer's Parrot, Grey Lourie, Redchested Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, Pied Kingfisher, Woodland Kingfisher, Striped Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, Lilacbreasted Roller, African Hoopoe, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Scimitarbilled Woodhoopoe, African Grey Hornbill, Redbilled Hornbill, Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill, Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet, Crested Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Bearded Woodpecker, Rufousnaped Lark, Sabota Lark, Redbreasted Swallow, Forktailed Drongo, Eastern Blackheaded Oriole, Arrowmarked Babbler, Southern Pied Babbler, Groundscraper Thrush, Familiar Chat, Whitebrowed Robin, Titbabbler, Burntnecked Eremomela, Rattling Cisticola, Tawnyflanked Prinia, Spotted Flycatcher, Southern Black Flycatcher, Mousecoloured Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, African Paradise Flycatcher, Redbacked Shrike, African Longtailed Shrike, Crimsonbreasted Boubou, Brubru, Burchell's Starling, Redbilled Oxpecker, Cape White-eye, Redbilled Buffalo Weaver, Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, African Yellowthroated Sparrow, Southern Masked Weaver, Golden Bishop, Whitewinged Widow, Blue Waxbill, Pintailed Whydah, Shafttailed Whydah, African Rock Bunting

Assen - Purple Roller, Lesser Grey Shrike

Drive from Assen to Vaalkop - Whiterumped Swift, Whitefronted Bee-eater, Lesser Striped Swallow, Brownthroated Sand Martin

Vaalkopdam - Whitewinged Widow, Eastern Paradise Whydah, Steelblue Widowfinch

Magaliesburg - Cape Vulture

Midrand - Hadeda Ibis, Whiterumped Swift, Greater Striped Swallow

Species List for Zimbabwe:

Please note - where I have not accurately counted the number of a particular species seen, I have preceded the location with 'n'. Numbers of each species seen are understated in many cases, especially regarding the commoner species - I'm not always as diligent as I should be in keeping numbers of species seen.

The letter 'h' denotes that the bird was heard but not seen.

Abbreviations used - S.F. - Sewage Farm, N.P. - National Park

1.             Ostrich  (Struthio camelus)  (1)  6 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

2.             Little Grebe (Dabchick)  (Tachybaptus ruficollis)  (8)  1 Gosho Park (24.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

3.             Pinkbacked Pelican  (Pelecanus rufescens)  (50)  2  Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

4.             Whitebreasted (Great) Cormorant  (Phalacrocorax carbo)  (55)  2 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 OPM Prozesky (3.3)

5.             Reed (Longtailed) Cormorant  (Phalacrocorax africanus)  (58) 1 Gosho Park (24.2), 1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), n Kasane (29.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 3 OPM Prozesky (3.3)

6.             African Darter  (Anhinga rufa)  (60)  2 Kasane (29.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

7.             Grey Heron  (Ardea cinerea)  (62)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

8.             Blackheaded Heron  (Ardea melanocephala)  (63)  1 Mutasa (22.2), 2 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1+ Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

9.             Goliath Heron  (Ardea goliath)  (64)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

10.         Purple Heron  (Ardea purpurea)  (65)  1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

11.         Great White Egret  (Casmerodius albus)  (66)  1 Imbabala (28.2), 2 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

12.         Little Egret  (Egretta garzetta)  (67)  1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 3+ Borakalalo (4.3)

13.         Yellow-billed (Intermediate) Egret  (Egretta intermedia)  (68)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

14.         Black Egret (Heron)  (Egretta ardesiaca)  (69)  2 Imbabala (28.2)

15.         Slaty Egret  (Egretta vinaceigula)  (70)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

16.         Cattle Egret  (Bubulcus ibis)  (71)  3 154 km N of Jo'burg (19.2), 1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), lots Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 7 Nata (1.3)

17.         (Common) Squacco Heron  (Ardeola ralloides)  (72)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 2 Imbabala (28.2)

18.         Greenbacked (Striated) Heron  (Butorides striatus)  (74)  1 Kasane (29.2), 1 Kasane (1.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

19.         Rufousbellied Heron  (Ardeola rufiventris  (75)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

20.         Blackcrowned Night Heron  (Nycticorax nycticorax)  (76)  4 Imbabala (28.2)

21.         Dwarf Bittern  (Ixobrychus sturmii)  (79)  1 Hwange (27.2)

22.         Hamerkop  (Scopus umbretta)  (81)  1 10 km N of Birchenough Bridge (20.2), 1 Burma Valley Road (20.2), 2+ Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

23.         White Stork  (Ciconia ciconia)  (83)  4 Rita (19.2), 3 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

24.         Black Stork  (Ciconia nigra)  (84)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

25.         Abdim's Stork  (Ciconia abdimii)  (85)  2 Harare (25.2)

26.         Saddlebilled Stork  (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)  (88)  1 Hwange (27.2), 1 55 km S of Kasane towards Nata (1.3)

27.         Sacred Ibis  (Threskiornis aethiopicus)  (91)  2 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Haka Park (25.2), 6+ Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 2 Victoria Falls (29.2)

28.         Glossy Ibis  (Plegadis falcinellus)  (93)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 OPM Prozesky (3.3)

29.         Hadeda Ibis  (Bostrychia hagedash)  (94)   h road between Brits and Borakalalo (4.3), c. 10 Midrand (4.3)

30.         Whitefaced (Whistling-) Duck  (Dendrocygna viduata)  (99)  2+ Aisleby S.F. (26.2),  3 Hwange (27.2),  2 Nata (1.3), n Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

31.         Fulvous (Whistling-) Duck  (Dendrocygna bicolor)  (100)  7 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

32.         Egyptian Goose  (Alopochen aegyptiacus)  (102)  2 Hwange (27.2), n Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

33.         Yellowbilled Duck  (Anas undulata)  (104)  1 OPM Prozesky (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

34.         African Black Duck  (Anas sparsa)  (105)  1 Seldomseen (22.2), 2 Gosho Park (24.2)

35.         Hottentot Teal  (Anas hottentota)  (107)  4 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

36.         Redbilled Teal  (Anas erythrorhyncha)  (108)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Hwange (26.2), 1 Nata (1.3)

37.         Southern Pochard  (Netta erythrophthalma)  (113)  c. 5 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), n Hwange (27.2)

38.         African Pygmy Goose  (Nettapus auritus)  (114)  2 Imbabala (28.2), 3 Kasane (29.2), 6+ Kasane (1.3)

39.         Knobbilled (Comb) Duck  (Sarkidiornis melanotos)  (115)  5 Hwange (27.2), 4 Imbabala (28.2)

40.         Spurwinged Goose  (Plectropterus gambensis)  (116)  2 Hwange (27.2), 4 Imbabala (28.2), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

41.         Hooded Vulture  (Necrosyrtes monachus)  (121)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

42.         Cape Vulture (Griffon)  (Gyps coprotheres)  (122)  c. 12 Magaliesburg (4.3)

43.         Whitebacked Vulture  (Gyps africanus)  (123)  c. 25 16km E of Masvingo, (20.2), n Kazengula (28.2)

44.         Black Kite  (Milvus migrans)  (126a)  1 Mogobane (2.3).  Possibly others in among the YBK's

45.         Yellowbilled Kite  (Milvus aegyptius)  (126b)  seen in small numbers throughout

46.         Black-shouldered Kite  (Elanus caeruleus)  (127)  1 Rita (19.2), 1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 between Bulawayo and Hwange (26.2)

47.         (African) Tawny Eagle  (Aquila rapax)  (132)  2 Imbabala (28.2)

48.         Ayres' (Hawk-) Eagle  (Hieraaetus ayresii)  (138)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (2 pm)

49.         Longcrested Eagle  (Lophaetus occipitalis)  (139)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (am), 1 between Aberfoyle and Mutasa (24.2)

50.         Martial Eagle  (Polimaetus bellicosus)  (140)  1 Kazengula (29.2)

51.         Crowned Eagle  (Stephanoaetus coronatus)  (141)  1 Gleneagles (23.2)

52.         Brown Snake Eagle  (Circaetus cinereus)  (142)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

53.         Blackbreasted Snake Eagle  (Circaetus (gallicus) pectoralis)  (143)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

54.         Bateleur  (Terathopius ecaudatus)  (146)  1 Hwange (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 3 84km south of Kasane towards Nata (1.3)

55.         Palmnut Vulture  (Gypohierax angolensis)  (147)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (dusk)

56.         African Fish Eagle  (Haliaaetus vocifer)  (148)  2 Borakalalo (4.3)

57.         Steppe Buzzard  (Buteo buteo vulpinus)  (149)  A few seen while driving around.

58.         Augur Buzzard  (Buteo augur)  (153)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2)

59.         Little Sparrowhawk  (Accipiter minullus)  (157)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (12 pm), 1 Victoria Falls (29.2)

60.         Little Banded Goshawk (Shikra)  (Accipiter badius)  (158)  1 Gosho Park (24.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

61.         African Marsh Harrier  (Circus ranivorus)  (165)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

62.         Montagu's Harrier  (Circus pygargus)  (166)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

63.         European Hobby  (Falco subbuteo)  (173)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), large flock (50+) Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (2 pm), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

64.         African Hobby  (Falco cuvierii)  (174)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

65.         Eastern Redfooted (Amur) Falcon  (Falco amurensis)  (180)  c. 200 Rita (19.2), n Gosho Park (24.2), c. 50 Haka Park (25.2), 1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Hwange (27.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

66.         Greater Kestrel  (Falco rupicolides)  (182)  1 Kingswood (2.3)

67.         Lesser Kestrel  (Falco naumanni)  (183)  1+ Rita (19.2)

68.         Crested Francolin  (Francolinus sephaena)  (189)  1 Hwange (26.2), 2+ Hwange (27.2), 2 Victoria Falls (29.2)

69.         Redbilled Francolin  (Francolinus adspersus)  (194)  very common at Hwange and Kazengula

70.         Natal Francolin  (Francolinus natalensis)  (196)  4 Borakalalo (4.3)

71.         Swainson's Francolin (Spurfowl)  (Francolinus swainsonii)  (199)  2 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 3 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 2 SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), 2 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

72.         Harlequin Quail  (Coturnix delegorguei)  (201)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

73.         Helmeted Guineafowl  (Numida meleagris)  (203)  3 between Bulawayo and Hwange (26.2), n Hwange (27.2), 3 Imbabala (28.2), 2 SA Lombard N.R. (2.3)

74.         Southern (Grey) Crowned Crane  (Balearica regulorum)  (209)  1 Hwange (27.2)

75.         Black Crake  (Amaurornis flavirostris)  (213)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), h Imbabala (28.2)

76.         Redchested Flufftail  (Sarothrura rufa)  (217)  h Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

77.         Purple Gallinule (Swamphen)  (Porphyrio porphyrio)  (223)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

78.         Lesser (Allen's) Gallinule  (Porphyrula alleni)  (224)  lots Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

79.         Common Moorhen  (Gallinula chloropus)  (226)  n Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

80.         Lesser Moorhen  (Gallinula angulata)  (227)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2)

81.         Redknobbed (Crested) Coot  (Fulica cristata)  (228)  2 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

82.         Redcrested Korhaan (Bustard)  (Eupodotis ruficrista)  (237)  1 Borakalalo (4.3)

83.         African Jacana  (Actophilornis africanus)  (240)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), loads Imbabala (28.2)

84.         Kittlitz's Plover  (Charadrius pecuarius)  (248)  1 Hwange (27.2)

85.         Threebanded Plover  (Charadrius tricollaris)  (249)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

86.         Crowned Plover (Lapwing)  (Vanellus coronatus)  (255)  5+ SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), 3 Borakalalo (4.3)

87.         Blacksmith Plover (Lapwing)  (Vanellus armatus)  (258)  n Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 3 Hwange (26.2), n Hwange (27.2), 2+ Imbabala (28.2), 4+ SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), 2 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

88.         Whitecrowned Plover (Whiteheaded Lapwing)  (Vanellus albiceps)  (259)  4 Imbabala (28.2)

89.         Wattled (Senegal) Plover (Lapwing)  (Vanellus senegallus)  (260)  5 Haka Park (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 4 Borakalalo (4.3)

90.         Longtoed Plover (Lapwing)  (Vanellus crassirostris)  (261)  2 Imbabala (28.2)

91.         Common Sandpiper  (Actitis hypoleucos)  (264)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 2 Imbabala (28.2), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

92.         Wood Sandpiper  (Tringa glareola)  (266)  3 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

93.         Marsh Sandpiper  (Tringa stagnatilis)  (269)  2 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

94.         Greenshank  (Tringa nebularia)  (270)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

95.         Little Stint  (Calidris minuta)  (274)  c. 10 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

96.         Ruff  (Philomachus pugnax)  (284)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

97.         Spotted (Cape) Dikkop (Thick-knee)  (Burhinus capensis)  (297)  1 road between Brits and Borakalalo (4.3)

98.         Water Dikkop (Thick-knee)  (Burhinus vermiculatus)  (298)  5 Imbabala (28.2)

99.         Greyheaded Gull  (Larus cirrocephalus)  (315)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

100.     Feral Pigeon  (Columba livia)  (348)  common in towns

101.     Rock (Speckled) Pigeon  (Columba guinea)  (349)  n Gosho Park (24.2)

102.     Delegorgue's (Eastern Bronzenaped) Pigeon  (Columba delegorguei)  (351)  6+ Aberfoyle Estate (22.2)

103.     Redeyed Dove  (Streptopelia semitorquata)  (352)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3), probably others (too boring to ID!)

104.     African Mourning Dove  (Streptopelia decipiens)  (353)  1 Imbabala (28.2), h Kasane (29.2), 1 Kasane (1.3)

105.     Cape Turtle (Ringnecked) Dove  (Streptopelia capicola)  (354)  thousands everywhere

106.     Laughing (Palm) Dove  (Streptopelia senegalensis)  (355)  almost as common as Cape Turtle Doves!

107.     Namaqua Dove  (Oena capensis)  (356)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

108.     Bluespotted (Wood-) Dove  (Turtur afer)  (357)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 7 between Aberfoyle and Mutasa (24.2)

109.     Greenspotted (Emeraldspotted) (Wood-) Dove  (Turtur chalcospilos)  (358)  1 Gosho Park (24.2), 2+ Hwange (27.2), 3 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Victoria Falls (29.2), h Kasane (1.3), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

110.     Tambourine Dove  (Turtur tympanistria)  (359)  1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

111.     Meyer's Parrot  (Poicephalus meyeri)  (364)  1 Borakalalo (4.3)

112.     Livingstone's Lourie (Turaco)  (Tauraco livingstonii)  (370b)  1 Seldomseen (21.2) (+ heard regularly), h Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), h Seldomseen (22.2)

113.     Schalow's Lourie (Turaco)  (Tauraco schalowi)  (xx)  1 Victoria Falls (29.2)

114.     Grey Lourie (Go-away Bird)  (Corythaixoides concolor)  (373)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 2 Hwange (26.2), 3 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

115.     African Cuckoo  (Cuculus gularis)  (375)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1+ Gosho Park (24.2)

116.     Redchested Cuckoo  (Cuculus solitarius)  (377) 1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1+ Mukuvisi (25.2), h Borakalalo (4.3)

117.     Striped (Levaillant's) Cuckoo  (Clamator levaillantii)  (381)  1 Victoria Falls (29.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

118.     Jacobin (Pied) Cuckoo  (Clamator jacobinus)  (382)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 2 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

119.     Klaas's Cuckoo  (Chrysococcyx klaas)  (385)  2 Mukuvisi (25.2)

120.     Diederik (Didric)  Cuckoo  (Chrysococcyx caprius)  (386)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Haka Park (25.2), 2 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), h Imbabala (28.2)

121.     Black Coucal  (Centropus grillii)  (388)  1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

122.     Copperytailed Coucal  (Centropus cupreicaudus)  (389)  2 Imbabala (28.2)

123.     Senegal Coucal  (Centropus senegalensis)  (390)  h Imbabala (28.2)

124.     Burchell's Coucal  (Centropus burchellii)  (391a)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), h Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

125.     Whitebrowed Coucal  (Centropus superciliosus)  (391b)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

126.     Barn Owl  (Tyto alba)  (392)  1 between Gweru and Bulawayo (25.2)

127.     Marsh Owl  (Asio capensis)  (395)  2 Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

128.     Spotted Eagle Owl  (Bubo africanus)  (401)  1 road between Brits and Borakalalo (4.3)

129.     Rufous-cheeked Nightjar  (Caprimulgus rufigena)  (406)  1 Mukuvisi (25.2)

130.     Mozambique (Squaretailed) Nightjar  (Caprimulgus fossii)  (409)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

131.     Pennantwinged Nightjar  (Macrodipteryx vexillarius)  (410)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

132.     African Black Swift  (Apus barbatus)  (412)  n Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (2 pm)

133.     Whiterumped Swift  (Apus caffer)  (415)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (am), 1 between Assen and Vaalkop (4.3), 1 Midrand (4.3)

134.     Little Swift  (Apus affinis)  (417)  n Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (2 pm), n Gosho Park (24.2), n Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

135.     Mottled Swift  (Apus aequatorialis)  (419)  n Gleneagles (23.2)

136.     Scarce Swift  (Schoutedenapus myoptilus)  (420)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (dusk)

137.     African Palm Swift  (Cypsiurus parvus)  (421)  n Masvingo (20.2), 1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), n Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (12 pm), c. 4 between Aberfoyle and Mutasa (24.2), n Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), n Victoria Falls (29.2)

138.     Speckled Mousebird  (Colius striatus)  (424)  1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), 2 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

139.     Whitebacked Mousebird  (Colius colius)  (425)  2 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

140.     Redfaced Mousebird  (Urocolius indicus)  (426)  n Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), n Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

141.     Pied Kingfisher  (Ceryle rudis)  (428)  2 Imbabala (28.2), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

142.     Giant Kingfisher  (Ceryle maxima)  (429)  h Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 2 Kasane (1.3)

143.     Malachite Kingfisher  (Alcedo cristata)  (431)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

144.     Woodland Kingfisher  (Halcyon senegalensis)  (433)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

145.     Brownhooded Kingfisher  (Halcyon albiventris)  (435)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 3 between Aberfoyle and Hauna (24.2), 2 Imbabala (28.2)

146.     Greyhooded Kingfisher  (Halcyon leucocephala)  (436)  h Seldomseen (22.2), 3 Imbabala (28.2)

147.     Striped Kingfisher  (Halcyon chelicuti)  (437)  h Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

148.     European Bee-eater  (Merops apiaster)  (438)  2 Glenclova (20.2), 1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (12 pm), 2 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 4 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 119 km south of Kasane towards Nata (1.3), 1 Nata (1.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

149.     Bluecheeked Bee-eater  (Merops persicus)  (440)  1 Hwange (27.2), 2+ Imbabala (28.2)

150.     Southern Carmine Bee-eater  (Merops nubicoides)  (441)  2 between Lion & Elephant and Mwenezi (20.2), 2 Hwange (27.2), 2 Nata (1.3)

151.     Whitefronted Bee-eater  (Merops bullockoides)  (443)  6 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Kasane (29.2), 1 between Assen and Vaalkop (4.3)

152.     Little Bee-eater  (Merops pusillus)  (444)  3 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 3 Mukuvisi (25.2), 4+ Imbabala (28.2)

153.     European Roller  (Coracias garrulus)  (446)  1 Wyllie's Poort (19.2), 1 between Bulawayo and Hwange (26.2)

154.     Lilacbreasted Roller  (Coracias caudata)  (447)  1 Wyllie's Poort (19.2), 1 Masvingo (20.2), 1 Birchenough Bridge (20.2), 1 Hwange (26.2), n Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Kazengula (29.2), 1 119 km south of Kasane towards Nata (1.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

155.     Rackettailed Roller  (Coracias spatulata)  (448)  3 (+1 dead) Chibvumani Ruins, (20.2)

156.     Purple (Rufouscrowned) Roller  (Coracias naevia)  (449)  1 Hwange (27.2), 1 Assen (4.3)

157.     Broadbilled Roller  (Eurystomus glaucurus)  (450)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (dusk)

158.     African Hoopoe  (Upupa africana)  (451)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

159.     Redbilled (Green) Woodhoopoe  (Phoeniculus purpureus)  (452)  2 Burma Valley Road, (20.2), 4 Haka Park (25.2), 2 Hwange (27.2), 10 Imbabala (28.2), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

160.     Scimitarbilled Woodhoopoe (Common Scimitarbill)  (Rhinopomastes cyanomelas)  (454)  2 Mukuvisi (25.2), 3 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

161.     Trumpeter Hornbill  (Bycanistes bucinator)  (455)  2 Victoria Falls (27.2), 2 Imbabala (28.2)

162.     African Grey Hornbill  (Tockus nasutus)  (457)  3 Hwange (27.2), 2 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

163.     Redbilled Hornbill  (Tockus erythrorhynchos)  (458)  n Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

164.     Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill  (Tockus leucomelas)  (459)  Common roadside bird throughout Zimbabwe - especially common at Hwange, 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

165.     Crowned Hornbill  (Tockus alboterminatus)  (460)  5 Burma Valley Road, (20.2), 1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2)

166.     Bradfield's Hornbill  (Tockus bradfieldi)  (461)  2 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

167.     Southern Ground Hornbill  (Bucorvus leadbeateri)  (463)  9 Hwange (27.2), 5 Imbabala (28.2)

168.     Blackcollared Barbet  (Lybius torquatus)  (464)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 3 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Victoria Falls (29.2)

169.     Whiteeared Barbet  (Stactolaema leucotis)  (466)  2 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 3 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (am)

170.     Whyte's Barbet  (Stactolaema whytii)  (467)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 3 Gosho Park (24.2)

171.     Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet (Tinkerbird)  (Pogoniulus chrysoconus)  (470)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 2 Gosho Park (24.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

172.     Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet (Tinkerbird)  (Pogoniulus bilineatus)  (471)  1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

173.     Crested Barbet  (Trachyphonus vaillantii)  (473)  2 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

174.     Greater Honeyguide  (Indicator indicator)  (474)  1 Haka Park (25.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

175.     Scalythroated Honeyguide  (Indicator variegatus)  (475)  1 Gleneagles (23.2)

176.     Lesser Honeyguide  (Indicator minor)  (476)  h Imbabala (28.2)

177.     Goldentailed Woodpecker  (Campethera abingoni)  (483)  1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), 1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2)

178.     Little Spotted Woodpecker  (Campethera caillautii)  (485)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2)

179.     Cardinal Woodpecker  (Dendropicos fuscescens)  (486)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

180.     Bearded Woodpecker  (Thripias namaquus)  (487)  1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

181.     Rufousnaped Lark  (Mirafra africana)  (494)  2 Haka Park (25.2), 1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Hwange (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2), 1 SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

182.     Sabota Lark  (Mirafra sabota)  (498)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

183.     Shortclawed Lark  (Certhilauda chuana)  (501)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

184.     Spikeheeled Lark  (Chersomanes albofasciata)  (506)  3 SA Lombard N.R. (2.3)

185.     Redcapped (African Short-toed) Lark  (Calendrella cinerea)  (507)  1 SA Lombard N.R. (2.3)

186.     European (Barn) Swallow  (Hirundo rustica)  (518)  Abundant throughout

187.     Wiretailed Swallow  (Hirundo smithii)  (522)  3 Imbabala (28.2)

188.     Redbreasted (Rufouschested) Swallow  (Hirundo semirufa)  (524)  3+ Tokwe River, (20.2), 3 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 3 Borakalalo (4.3)

189.     Greater Striped Swallow  (Hirundo cucullata)  (526)  1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), n Strydpoort (2.3), 3 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Midrand (4.3)

190.     Lesser Striped Swallow  (Hirundo abyssinica)  (527)  n Aberfoyle throughout stay, 2 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), between Assen and Vaalkop (4.3)

191.     African Rock Martin  (Hirundo fuligula)  (529)  n Gosho Park (24.2)

192.     House Martin  (Delichon urbica)  (530)  n Gleneagles (23.2), n Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (2 pm), n between Aberfoyle and Mutasa (24.2), n Marlborough Vlei (25.2), n SA Lombard N.R. (2.3)

193.     Greyrumped Swallow  (Pseudhirundo griseopyga)  (531)  n Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

194.     Brownthroated (Plain) Sand Martin  (Riparia paludicola)  (533)  1 between Assen and Vaalkop (4.3)

195.     Eastern Saw-wing Swallow  (Psalidoprocne orientalis)  (537)  Seen commonly throughout Eastern Highlands

196.     Black Cuckooshrike  (Campephaga flava)  (538)  2 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

197.     Whitebreasted Cuckooshrike  (Coracina pectoralis)  (539)  3 Haka Park (25.2)

198.     Grey Cuckooshrike  (Coracina caesia)  (540)  1 Gleneagles (23.2)

199.     Forktailed Drongo  (Dicrurus adsimilis)  (541)  2 Wyllie's Poort (19.2), 1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), n Mukuvisi (25.2), n Haka Park (25.2), 1 Kasane (1.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

200.     Squaretailed Drongo  (Dicrurus ludwigii)  (542)  1+ Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), h Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 1 Gleneagles (23.2)

201.     African Golden Oriole  (Oriolus auratus)  (544)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 3 Imbabala (28.2)

202.     Eastern (African) Blackheaded Oriole  (Oriolus larvatus)  (545)  1+ Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), h Inn on the Vumba (21.2), h Gosho Park (24.2), n Mukuvisi (25.2), n Haka Park (25.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

203.     Pied Crow  (Corvus albus)  (548)  A few seen in most areas except Eastern Highlands

204.     Whitenecked Raven  (Corvus albicollis)  (550)  2 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Mutasa (22.2)

205.     Northern Grey (Miombo) Tit  (Parus griseiventris)  (553)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), n Haka Park (25.2)

206.     Southern Black Tit  (Parus niger)  (554)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2)

207.     Grey Penduline Tit  (Anthoscopus caroli)  (558)  2 Haka Park (25.2)

208.     Spotted Creeper  (Salpornis spilonotus)  (559)  2 Mukuvisi (25.2)

209.     Arrowmarked Babbler  (Turdoides jardineii)  (560)  5 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), h Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (2 pm), 2 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2), 3+ Borakalalo (4.3)

210.     Hartlaub's (Whiterumped, Angola) Babbler  (Turdoides hartlaubi)  (562)  6+ Imbabala (28.2)

211.     Southern Pied Babbler  (Turdoides bicolor)  (563)  6 Hwange (27.2), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

212.     African Redeyed (Blackfronted) Bulbul  (Pycnonotus nigricans)  (567)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

213.     Blackeyed (Common, Darkcapped) Bulbul  (Pycnonotus barbatus)  (568)  Pretty common throughout Zimbabwe

214.     Terrestrial Bulbul (Greenbul)  (Phyllastrephus terrestris)  (569)  n Gleneagles (23.2)

215.     Yellowstreaked Bulbul (Greenbul)  (Phyllastrephus flavostriatus)  (570)  1 Seldomseen (21.2), 1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

216.     Stripecheeked Bulbul (Greenbul)  (Andropadus milanjensis)  (573)  h Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), h Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 3 Gleneagles (23.2)

217.     African Yellowbellied Bulbul (Greenbul)  (Chlorocichla flaviventris)  (574)  1 Gleneagles (23.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Victoria Falls (29.2), 1 Kasane (29.2)

218.     Kurrichane Thrush  (Turdus libonyana)  (576)  1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Haka Park (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

219.     Orange Ground Thrush  (Zoothera gurneyi)  (579)  h Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

220.     Groundscraper Thrush  (Turdus litsitsirupa)  (580)  1 Gosho Park (24.2), 3 Hwange (27.2), 2 Bloemhof (3.3), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 2 Potchefstroom (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

221.     Miombo Rock Thrush  (Monticola angolensis)  (584)  1 Haka Park (25.2)

222.     Familiar Chat  (Cercomela familiaris)  (589)  1 Borakalalo (4.3)

223.     Mocking (Cliff-) Chat  (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris)  (593)  1 Gosho Park (24.2)

224.     Southern Anteating Chat  (Myrmecocichla formicivora)  (595)  4 Strydpoort (2.3), c. 10 SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), 3 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

225.     African Stonechat  (Saxicola (torquata) africana)  (596)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 2 between Aberfoyle and Hauna (24.2), 1 between Juliasdale and Rusape (24.2)

226.     Heuglin's (Whitebrowed) Robin (-chat)  (Cossypha heuglini)  (599)  1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), 2 Kasane (29.2)

227.     Natal (Redcapped) Robin (-chat)  (Cossypha natalensis)  (600)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (2 pm)

228.     Collared Palm Thrush  (Cichladusa arquata)  (603)  1 Victoria Falls (29.2), 1 Kasane (29.2), 1 Kasane (1.3)

229.     (White-) Starred Robin  (Pogonocichla stellata)  (606)  1 Seldomseen (21.2), h Aberfoyle Estate (22.2)

230.     Swynnerton's Robin  (Swynnertonia swynnertoni)  (607)  2 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

231.     Thrush Nightingale (Sprosser)  (Luscinia luscinia)  (609)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), h Imbabala (28.2)

232.     Boulder Chat  (Pinarornis plumosus)  (610)  3 Gosho Park (24.2)

233.     Whitebrowed (Scrub-) Robin  (Erythropygia leucophrys)  (613)  1 Imbabala (28.2), 2 Borakalalo (4.3)

234.     Garden Warbler  (Sylvia borin)  (619)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2)

235.     Common Whitethroat  (Sylvia communis)  (620)  h Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

236.     (Chestnut-vented) Titbabbler  (Parisoma subcaeruleum)  (621)  3 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

237.     Mashona (Southern) Hyliota  (Hyliota australis)  (624)  1 Gosho Park (24.2)

238.     Icterine Warbler  (Hippolais icterina)  (625)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

239.     Olivetree Warbler  (Hippolais olivetorum)  (626)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

240.     Great Reed Warbler  (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)  (628)  1 (+h) Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

241.     European Marsh Warbler  (Acrocephalus palustris)  (633)  2 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

242.     European Sedge Warbler  (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)  (634)  n Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

243.     Cape Reed (Lesser Swamp) Warbler  (Acrocephalus gracilirostris)  (635)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), h Imbabala (28.2)

244.     Greater Swamp Warbler  (Acrocephalus rufescens)  (636)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

245.     African Yellow Warbler (Yellow Flycatcher-warbler)  (Chloropeta natalensis)  (637)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

246.     African Sedge (Bush) Warbler  (Bradypterus baboecala)  (638)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

247.     Broadtailed Warbler (Grassbird)  (Schoenicola brevirostris)  (642)   h Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

248.     Willow Warbler  (Phylloscopus trochilus)  (643)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), n Gwayri River (26.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

249.     Yellowthroated (Woodland-) Warbler  (Phylloscopus ruficapillus)  (644)  1 Seldomseen (21.2), 1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

250.     Chirinda Apalis  (Apalis chirindensis)  (646)  h Seldomseen (21.2), 1+ Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), 1 Seldomseen (22.2), h Gleneagles (23.2)

251.     Yellowbreasted Apalis  (Apalis flavida)  (648)  1 Gleneagles (23.2)

252.     Longbilled (Cape) Crombec  (Sylvietta rufescens)  (651)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), h Imbabala (28.2)

253.     Greencapped Eremomela  (Eremomela scotops)  (655)  5 Mukuvisi (25.2), 5 Haka Park (25.2)

254.     Burntnecked Eremomela  (Eremomela rusticollis)  (656)  5+ Borakalalo (4.3)

255.     Greybacked Camaroptera (Bleating Warbler)  (Camaroptera brevicaudata)  (657b)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Kasane (1.3)

256.     Stierling's Barred Warbler (Miombo Wren-warbler)  (Calamonastes stierlingi)  (659)  1 Gosho Park (24.2), h Mukuvisi (25.2), h Haka Park (25.2)

257.     Grassbird (Cape Grass-warbler)  (Sphenoeacus afer)  (661)  1 Tom Holley Road (21.2)

258.     Fantailed (Zitting) Cisticola  (Cisticola juncidis)  (664)  1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

259.     Palecrowned (Pectoral-patch) Cisticola  (Cisticola brunnescens)  (668)  1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

260.     Rattling Cisticola  (Cisticola chiniana)  (672)  1+ Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

261.     Singing Cisticola  (Cisticola cantans)  (673)  1 Tom Holley Road (21.2), h Seldomseen (21.2), h Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

262.     Levaillant's (Tinkling) Cisticola  (Cisticola tinniens)  (677)  4 OPM Prozesky (3.3)

263.     Croaking Cisticola  (Cisticola natalensis)  (678)  1 Haka Park (25.2), 4 Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

264.     Neddicky (Piping Cisticola)  (Cisticola fulvicapillus)  (681)  1 Mukuvisi (25.2)

265.     Tawnyflanked (West African) Prinia  (Prinia subflava)  (683)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2), n Borakalalo (4.3)

266.     Roberts's Prinia (Briar Warbler)  (Prinia robertsi)  (684)  h Seldomseen (21.2), 1+ Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

267.     Blackchested Prinia  (Prinia flavicans)  (685)  n Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

268.     Spotted Flycatcher  (Muscicapa striata)  (689)  1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

269.     Bluegrey Flycatcher (Ashy Alseonax)  (Muscicapa caerulescens)  (691)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2)

270.     Collared Flycatcher  (Ficedula albicollis)  (692)  1 - 2 Gosho Park (24.2)

271.     Southern Black Flycatcher  (Melaenornis pammelaina)  (694)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Gosho Park (24.2), n Mukuvisi (25.2), n Haka Park (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2), n Borakalalo (4.3)

272.     Marico (Mariqua) Flycatcher  (Melaenornis mariquensis)  (695)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2), 1 Mogobane, Botswana (2.3)

273.     Mousecoloured (Pallid, Pale) Flycatcher  (Melaenornis pallidus)  (696)  n Gosho Park (24.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

274.     Fiscal Flycatcher  (Sigelus silens)  (698)  1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

275.     Cape Batis  (Batis capensis)  (700)  1 Seldomseen (21.2), 1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

276.     Chinspot Batis  (Batis molitor)  (701)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Gosho Park (24.2), n Mukuvisi (25.2), n Haka Park (25.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

277.     African Whitetailed (Crested-) Flycatcher  (Trochocercus albonotatus)  (709)  1 Seldomseen (21.2), 2 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

278.     African Paradise Flycatcher  (Terpsiphone viridis)  (710)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Kasane (29.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

279.     African Pied Wagtail  (Motacilla aguimp)  (711)  2+ Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 2 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (12 pm), 2 Gleneagles (23.2), 2 Kasane (1.3)

280.     Longtailed (Forest) Wagtail  (Motacilla clara)  (712)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (12 pm), 1 Pungwe River (24.2)

281.     Cape Wagtail  (Motacilla capensis)  (713)  n Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

282.     Grassveld Pipit  (Anthus cinnamomeus)  (716)  2+ SA Lombard N.R. (2.3)

283.     Striped Pipit  (Anthus lineiventris)  (720)  2+ Gosho Park (24.2)

284.     Wood Pipit  (Anthus nyassae)  (909)  2 Gosho Park (24.2)

285.     Yellowthroated Longclaw  (Macronyx croceus)  (728)  2 Haka Park (25.2), 1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

286.     Pinkthroated (Rosythroated) Longclaw  (Macronyx ameliae)  (730)  3 Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

287.     Lesser Grey Shrike  (Lanius minor)  (731)  1 Assen (4.3)

288.     Common Fiscal Shrike  (Lanius collaris)  (732)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Mutasa (22.2), 1 between Aberfoyle and Mutasa (24.2), 1 Gosho Park (24.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 4 SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

289.     Redbacked Shrike  (Lanius collurio)  (733)  1 Runde (20.2), 3 Tokwe River (20.2), loads at Hwange, 2+ Imbabala (28.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 2+ Borakalalo (4.3)

290.     African Longtailed (Magpie) Shrike  (Corvinella melanoleuca)  (735)  3 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Hwange (26.2), 3 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

291.     Tropical Boubou  (Laniarius aethiopicus)  (737)  2 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Kasane (1.3), lots heard throughout

292.     Swamp (Gabon) Boubou  (Laniarius bicolor)  (738)  1 Kasane (29.2)

293.     Crimsonbreasted Boubou (Shrike, Gonolek)  (Laniarius atrococcineus)  (739)  3 Hwange (27.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

294.     Blackbacked Puffback  (Dryoscopus cubla)  (740)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Gosho Park (24.2), n Mukuvisi (25.2), n Haka Park (25.2), 1+ Imbabala (28.2)

295.     Brubru  (Nilaus afer)  (741)  1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), h Borakalalo (4.3)

296.     Threestreaked (Browncrowned) Tchagra  (Tchagra australis)  (743)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

297.     Blackcrowned Tchagra  (Tchagra senegala)  (744)  2 Mukuvisi (25.2), h Haka Park (25.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

298.     Marsh Tchagra  (Tchagra minuta)  (745)  3 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

299.     Orangebreasted (Sulphurbreasted) Bush Shrike  (Telophorus sulfureopectus)  (748)  h Imbabala (28.2)

300.     Blackfronted Bush Shrike  (Telophorus nigrifrons)  (749)  1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2)

301.     Olive Bush Shrike  (Telophorus olivaceus)  (750)  1 Seldomseen (21.2)

302.     Greyheaded Bush Shrike  (Malaconotus blanchoti)  (751)  1 Haka Park (25.2)

303.     White Helmetshrike  (Prionops plumatus)  (753)  8 Gosho Park (24.2), n Mukuvisi (25.2), n Haka Park (25.2), c. 10 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), n Imbabala (28.2)

304.     Southern Whitecrowned Shrike  (Eurocephalus anguitimens)  (756)  1 Messina, SA (19.2), abundant at Hwange

305.     Indian Myna  (Acriditheres tristis)  (758)  2 Potchefstroom (3.3)

306.     African Pied Starling  (Spreo bicolor)  (759)  2 Potchefstroom (3.3)

307.     Violetbacked (Plumcoloured) Starling  (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)  (761)  7+ Imbabala (28.2), 1 Kasane (1.3)

308.     Burchell's (Glossy-) Starling  (Lamprotornis australis)  (762)  2 Borakalalo (4.3)

309.     Meves' (Longtailed) (Glossy-) Starling  (Lamprotornis mevesii)  (763)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 2 Gwayri River (26.2), 2 between Hwange and Victoria Falls (27.2)

310.     Cape (Redshouldered) Glossy Starling  (Lamprotornis nitens)  (764)  lots at Hwange, n 119 km S of Kasane towards Nata (1.3), c. 6 Mogobane (2.3)

311.     Greater Blueeared Glossy Starling  (Lamprotornis chalybaeus)  (765)  1 Hwange (26.2)

312.     Southern (Lesser) Blueeared Glossy Starling  (Lamprotornis chloropterus)  (766)  c. 5 Mukuvisi (25.2)

313.     Redwinged Starling  (Onychognathus morio)  (769)  2+ Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Gosho Park (24.2), 2 Victoria Falls (29.2)

314.     Redbilled Oxpecker  (Buphagus erythrorhynchus)  (772)  1 Imbabala (28.2), 3 Borakalalo (4.3)

315.     Marico (Mariqua) Sunbird  (Nectarinia mariquensis)  (779)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

316.     Purplebanded Sunbird  (Nectarinia bifasciata)  (780)  1 Imbabala (28.2)

317.     Miombo Doublecollared Sunbird  (Nectarinia manoensis)  (784)  2 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), n Gosho Park (24.2), n Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 between Bulawayo and Hwange (26.2)

318.     Yellowbellied (Variable) Sunbird  (Nectarinia venusta)  (786)  Probably the commonest bird at Seldomseen, 1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 2 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (12 pm)

319.     Whitebellied (Whitebreasted) Sunbird  (Nectarinia talatala)  (787)  1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

320.     Olive Sunbird  (Nectarinia olivacea)  (790)  2 (+ lots h) Seldomseen (21.2), lots h Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), h Seldomseen (22.2)

321.     Scarletchested Sunbird  (Nectarinia senegalensis)  (791)  1+ Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2)

322.     African Black (Amethyst) Sunbird  (Nectarinia amethystina)  (792)  2+ Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Gosho Park (24.2), n Haka Park (25.2)

323.     Collared Sunbird  (Anthreptes collaris)  (793)  h Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), h Gleneagles (23.2), 1 Kasane (29.2)

324.     Cape White-eye  (Zosterops pallidus)  (796)  6+ Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 3 Borakalalo (4.3).  This bird is a possible future three-way split.  The birds at Sandveld are Zosterops pallidus capensis with grey underparts

325.     African Yellow White-eye  (Zosterops senegalensis)  (797)  2 Gosho Park (24.2)

326.     Redbilled Buffalo Weaver  (Bubalornis niger)  (798)  10+ Rutenga Petrol Station (20.2), n Borakalalo (4.3)

327.     Whitebrowed Sparrow-weaver  (Plocepasser mahali)  (799)  2 Rutenga Petrol Station (20.2), 3 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), abundant at Hwange, 1 Imbabala (28.2), 2 Victoria Falls (29.2), 2+ SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), 3 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 2 OPM Prozesky (3.3)

328.     Sociable Weaver  (Philetarius socius)  (800)  n Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

329.     House Sparrow  (Passer domesticus)  (801)  Common in towns

330.     Cape Sparrow  (Passer melanurus)  (803)  Loads at SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), n Sandveld N.R. (3.3), 1 OPM Prozesky (3.3)

331.     Southern Greyheaded Sparrow  (Passer diffusus)  (804)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Nyika (20.2), 1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), n Kazengula (29.2), 2 Kasane (29.2), 1 Kasane (1.3), h Borakalalo (4.3)

332.     African Yellowthroated Sparrow (Petronia)  (Petronia superciliosus)  (805)  1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

333.     Scalyfeathered Finch (Scaly Weaver)  (Sporopipes squamifrons)  (806)  1 Hwange (27.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 2+ SA Lombard N.R. (2.3), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

334.     Thickbilled (Grosbeak) Weaver  (Amblyospiza albifrons)  (807)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

335.     Forest (Darkbacked) Weaver  (Ploceus bicolor)  (808)  1 Seldomseen (21.2), 1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), 1 Gleneagles (23.2)

336.     Spectacled Weaver  (Ploceus ocularis)  (810)  h Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 2 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

337.     Spottedbacked (Village) Weaver  (Ploceus cucullatus)  (811)  n Imbabala (28.2), 2 Victoria Falls (29.2), n Kasane (29.2)

338.     Southern Masked Weaver  (Ploceus velatus)  (814)  1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3), n Borakalalo (4.3)

339.     Lesser Masked Weaver  (Ploceus intermedius)  (815)  c. 6 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2)

340.     (Holub's) Golden Weaver  (Ploceus xanthops)  (816)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 2 Imbabala (28.2)

341.     Redheaded Weaver  (Anaplectes rubriceps)  (819)  n Mukuvisi (25.2), n Haka Park (25.2)

342.     Cuckoo Finch (Parasitic Weaver)  (Anomalospiza imberbis)  (820)  1 Haka Park (25.2), 3 Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

343.     Redbilled Quelea  (Quelea quelea)  (821)  Thousands at Imbabala (28.2), c. 100+ Palapye, Botswana (1.3)

344.     Southern Red Bishop  (Euplectes orix)  (824)  n Marlborough Vlei (25.2), n Haka Park (25.2), n Aisleby S.F. (26.2), n Sandveld N.R. (3.3), n OPM Prozesky (3.3)

345.     Firecrowned (Blackwinged) Bishop  (Euplectes hordeaceus)  (825)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

346.     Golden (Yellowcrowned) Bishop  (Euplectes afer)  (826)  4+ OPM Prozesky (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

347.     Yellowrumped Widow (Yellow Bishop)  (Euplectes capensis)  (827)  1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Haka Park (25.2)

348.     Redshouldered Widow (Fantailed Widowbird)  (Euplectes axillaris)  (828)  3 Imbabala (28.2)

349.     Whitewinged (Whiteshouldered) Widow  (Euplectes albonotatus)  (829)  1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Strydpoort (2.3), n OPM Prozesky (3.3), 1 Borakalalo (4.3), 1 Vaalkopdam (4.3)

350.     Yellowbacked (Yellowmantled) Widow  (Euplectes macrourus)  (830)  1 Glenclova (20.2), 1 Haka Park (25.2), n Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

351.     Redcollared Widow  (Euplectes ardens)  (831)  1 Tom Holley Road (21.2), 2+ Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), n between Aberfoyle and Mutasa (24.2), n Marlborough Vlei (25.2)

352.     Longtailed Widow  (Euplectes progne)  (832)  1 Strydpoort (2.3)

353.     Melba Finch (Greenwinged Pytilia)  (Pytilia melba)  (834)  1 Hwange (27.2)

354.     Redfaced Crimsonwing  (Cryptospiza reichenovii)  (836)  1 Gleneagles (23.2)

355.     Nyasa (Lesser) Seedcracker  (Pyrenestes minor)  (837)  2 Wamba Dam (23.2) (pm)

356.     Redthroated (Peters's) Twinspot  (Hypargos niveoguttatus)  (839)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (am)

357.     Bluebilled (African) Firefinch  (Lagonosticta rubricata)  (840)  3 Gleneagles (23.2), 1 Aberfoyle Estate (23.2) (dusk),  n between Aberfoyle and Mutasa (24.2)

358.     Jameson's Firefinch  (Lagonosticta rhodopareia)  (841)  1 Kasane (29.2)

359.     Redbilled Firefinch  (Lagonosticta senegala)  (842)  1 Mukuvisi (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

360.     Brown Firefinch  (Lagonosticta nitidula)  (843)  1 Kasane (29.2)

361.     Blue Waxbill (Bluebreasted Cordonbleu)  (Uraeginthus angolensis)  (844)  2 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 3 Victoria Falls (29.2), n Kasane (29.2), n Borakalalo (4.3)

362.     Common Waxbill  (Estrilda astrild)  (846)  2+ Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 2 between Aberfoyle and Mutasa (24.2), n Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

363.     Grey (Blacktailed) Waxbill  (Estrilda perreini)  (848)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2)

364.     East African Swee (Yellowbellied Waxbill)  (Estrilda quartinia)  (851)  1 Seldomseen (20.2)

365.     Orangebreasted (Zebra) Waxbill  (Sporaeginthus subflavus)  (854)  c. 6 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), n Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

366.     Cut-throat Finch  (Amadina fasciata)  (855)  1 near Insuza, between Bulawayo and Hwange (26.2), 2 Kasane (29.2)

367.     Bronze Mannikin (Munia) (Spermestes cucullatus)  (857)  3 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), n Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1 Aberfoyle (23.2) (noon), n Mukuvisi (25.2), n Marlborough Vlei (25.2), n Kasane (29.2)

368.     Redbacked (Brownbacked) Mannikin (Munia)  (Spermestes bicolor)  (858)  1 Aberfoyle Estate (22.2), 1+ Wamba Dam (23.2) (am)

369.     Pied (Magpie) Mannikin (Munia)  (Spermestes fringilloides)  (859)  1 Gosho Park (24.2)

370.     Pintailed Whydah  (Vidua macroura)  (860)  1 7 km S of Louis Trichardt (19.2), 1 Vumba Botanical Gardens (21.2), 1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), n Haka Park (25.2), n Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

371.     Shafttailed (Queen) Whydah  (Vidua regia)  (861)  2 Hwange (27.2), 1 Borakalalo (4.3)

372.     Eastern Paradise Whydah  (Vidua paradisaea)  (862)  3 Wyllie's Poort (19.2), 1 Tokwe River (20.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Victoria Falls (29.2), 1 119 km S of Kasane towards Nata (1.3), 1 Vaalkopdam (4.3)

373.     Black (Variable) Widowfinch  (Vidua funerea)  (864)  1 Seldomseen (21.2)

374.     Steelblue Widowfinch  (Vidua chalybeata)  (867)  1 Lion & Elephant Motel (20.2), 1 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), 1 Aisleby S.F. (26.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2), 1 Vaalkopdam (4.3)

375.     Yelloweyed (Yellowfronted) Canary (Mozambique Serin)  (Serinus mozambicus)  (869)  1 Runde (20.2), n Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 1 Wamba Dam (23.2) (am), 1 Gosho Park (24.2), c. 4 Mukuvisi (25.2), 2 Hwange (27.2), n Imbabala (28.2), 1 Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

376.     Blackthroated Canary (Yellowrumped Seedeater)  (Serinus atrogularis)  (870)  c. 12 Marlborough Vlei (25.2), n Imbabala (28.2)

377.     Bully (Brimstone) Canary  (Serinus sulphuratus)  (877)  2 Aisleby S.F. (26.2)

378.     Yellow Canary  (Serinus flaviventris)  (878)  n Sandveld N.R. (3.3)

379.     Streakyheaded Canary (Seedeater)  (Serinus gularis)  (881)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), n Mukuvisi (25.2)

380.     Blackeared Canary (Seedeater)  (Serinus mennelli)  (882)  1 Inn on the Vumba (21.2), 2 White Horse Inn (21.2), n Gosho Park (24.2), 1 Imbabala (28.2)

381.     African Goldenbreasted Bunting  (Emberiza flaviventris)  (884)  1 Hwange (26.2), 1 Hwange (27.2)

382.     African (Cinnamonbreasted) Rock Bunting  (Emberiza tahapisi)  (886)  1 Borakalalo (4.3)

 

 

Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?