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A "Simply Unbelievable" Mozambique-Zim Trip (June/July 2007)

NEW: For the full report click here!

This is a summary of some trip highlights from our amazing June-July Trip to Mozambique and Eastern Zimbabwe. A full trip report and list is available on request.
  • Lark-like Bunting and Grey-backed Sparrowlark observed within the Parque Nacional do Limpopo - the former in large numbers. Neither species is listed in the Atlas of Birds of Southern Mozambique and perhaps someone could confirm that these would be new species for the Mozambique list? The park is easily reached from Letaba in Kruger via the Giriyondo Border post and having gone this way, I am unlikely ever to venture near Komatipoort again.
  • In woodland 50+km NWest of Panda we encounted a flock of 20+ Mascarene Martins which provided crippling flight views as they hunted over a small clearing of "old-man's beard" infested trees.
  • Woodland W of Panda was birded and excellent views were had of most of the Miombo specials including Olive-headed Weaver, White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike, Pale Batis, Raquet-tailed Roller and Southern Hyliota. This area - NW of the traditional sites has good expanses of pristine Brachystegia woodland and should hold a fair number of Olive-headed Weavers.
  • A patch of excellent birding at Rio Save Game Reserve which including Lemon-breasted Canary, Grey-headed Parrot, Arnot's Chat, Raquet-tailed Roller, Collared Palm-thrush, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Swallow-tailed bee-eater and others. A Thick-billed Cuckoo was seen on the concession a little closer to the main road.
  • A wet, but in terms of waterbirds rather dissapointing Rio Savane. We had plenty of Locust Finch and other Savane usuals like Mangrove Kingfisher, Green-backed Woodpecker, Short-tailed Pipit, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Slender Greenbul, Magpie Mannikin, Black-headed Apalis, Short-winged Cisticola, Lesser-crested Tern and Square-tailed Nightjar.
  • The new Msasa camp in the Chinizua area was good with East Coast Akalat, 3 Helmet-shrikes, Black-headed Apalis, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Green-backed Woodpecker and several others. On the way in and out the woodlands provided Kirk's Francolin, Violet-backed Sunbird, Plain-backed Sunbird, Red-winged Warbler, and many White-breasted Cuckoo-shrikes and Southern Hyliotas.
  • The Catapu area also offered good birding, with more Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrikes, Livingstone's Flycatcher, Broadbill, Akalat, Golden-winged Pytilia, Dickinson's Kestrel, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Bataleur, Bohm's Spinetail and many others. On the Zambezi Floodplain we had Blue-spotted Dove, brief views of Long-toed Lapwing, Lesser Jacana and many Common Squacco (the first Squacco's of the trip). Near the Zambezi, Moustached Warbler called from several spots along the main road.
  • The new easier route up Gorongosa provided some of the group with views of Seedcracker, while everyone saw Anchieta's Tchagra, Moustached Warbler, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Singing Cisticola and a variety of Sunbirds including Western Olive and Variable. Apart from the Oriole which we saw in the forest, we also had Black-fronted Bush-shrike, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Chirinda Apalis. Only a few briefly saw Pallid Honeyguide.
  • Gorongosa NP and especially the woodlands outside the gate offered superb birding with Red-throated Twinspot, Green-winged Pytilia, Vanga Flycatcher, Red-necked Falcon, Red-necked Francolin, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Hyliota (part of a large mixed bird party with both Hyliota species), Black-winged Bishop, Red-winged Warbler etc. According to Jonathan who is based there, Spotted Creeper is also regular in the Miombo area just outside the park. Gorongosa NP is crawling with thousands of Collared Palm-trush, including in the camp where we also saw Bat Hawk. Other interesting birds seen in the area included a single Black Coucal, a flock of Grey-crowned Cranes, Black-winged Bishop, numbers of presumed Broad-tailed paradise Whydah in the miombo and displaying African Crowned Eagle. The Pungwe River bridge provided excellent views of Scarce Swift.
  • A trouble-free foray into Zimbabwe was a little weird as most of the place seemed to be closed up due to the enforced price cuts. In the Mutare area we had specials like Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Miombo Tit, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, Cabanis's Bunting and a very co-operative Spotted Creeper, while the Bvumba and Seldomseen area provided superb views of most of the specials, including Swynnerton's Robin, Briar Warbler, Chirinda Apalis, Crimsonwing, Mottled Swift, Whyte's Barbet, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Green-backed Honeybird, Bronzy Sunbird and Orange Ground-thrush. On the way home we managed to find a few more good birds, notably Wood Pipit in miombo woodland between Birchenborough bridge and Masvingo, and Yellow-mantled Widows a little further on, as well as a co-operative pair of Boulder chats along the road some 60km s of Masvingo.
Overall the trip to Zim was relatively trouble free and extremely good value - both in terms of birds and the food enjoyed at the Genaina restaurant near Seldomseen. I would encourage more birders to take the trip up to Eastern Zim - places like Seldomseen offer an unparralled birding experience with fantastic local guides (Peter and Bulawesi). Despite some alarmist warnings from some regarding visiting this region, everything seemed very quiet and the police we encountered as several roadblocks were really friendly and mostly innocuous - apart from one attempt to exhort a bribe from us. Seldomseen and the guides there need your support - otherwise this gem may well go under before Zimbabwe sorts itself out.

On the reptile front, a 6 hour struggle between a large flap-neck chameleon and a vine snake at Catapu which was filmed and photographed by several people was quite something to see. Watch this space!

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