Working for birds in Africa


Wed, 02/06/2013 - 15:03 -- abc_admin

These reports of recent sightings are taken from the Bulletin of the African Bird Club.

from ABC Bulletin 25.1

On 2–11 October 2017, brief bird surveys carried out in three forest reserves in southern Malaŵi produced the following noteworthy records (cf. Dowsett-Lemaire F. & Dowsett R. J. 2006. The Birds of Malawi). Although the evergreen forest on Mangochi Mountain remains intact, it has lost two Afromontane endemics since the last survey, in 1983: African Hill Babbler Sylvia abyssinica (at the southern limit of its range) and apparently also the restricted-range and Endangered Cholo Alethe Chamaetylas choloensis (at its northern limit). These changes seem to reflect drier and warmer conditions, in the absence of direct human degradation. A Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus with young was much in evidence and Eastern Green Tinkerbird Pogoniulus simplex (at its western range limit) was still common. In Liwonde Hills Forest Reserve a Pallid Honeyguide Indicator meliphilus was observed in miombo woodland, a new record for the area of this localised species. Cholo Alethe and Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus remain common in Chikala forest, but Crowned Eagle has disappeared, probably due to destruction of much of the woodland around the forest. In the southern Kirk Range, the small Tsamba Forest Reserve was explored for the first time; birds of interest included Silvery-cheeked Hornbill Bycanistes brevis (one heard in forest), several Miombo Grey Tits Melaniparus griseiventris (near the southern limit of its range) and Stripe-breasted Seedeaters Crithagra reichardi in upland miombo. The discovery of the seedeater represents a southward range extension (Dzonze Mountain being its previously known limit). In general, the scarcity of raptors was striking. Among others, Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus and Yellow-billed Kite Milvus migrans parasitus have become very rare in the over-populated south of the country (FD-L).

from ABC Bulletin 21.1

A Franklin’s Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan was present along the Shire River at Mvuu Lodge, Liwonde, in August 2013; this is apparently the first for the country - it does not figure on the latest ABC checklist of the birds of Malaŵi.

from ABC Bulletin 18.2

Records from June 2010 - March 2011 include the following. A female Greater Frigatebird Fregata minor flew over c.6 km north of Mvuu Camp, on the Shire River, Liwonde National Park, on 4 August. A Black Kite Milvus migrans of the nominate subspecies was repeatedly seen near Chelinda camp, Nyika National Park, on 25 December; this taxon is usually seen on northbound passage in February - March and there is apparently only one previous record for December, on the Nyika. An African Finfoot Podica senegalensis observed at Bua River Lodge on 21 June, and again in January, is the first sighting for Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, although the species has long been suspected to occur there. A Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata was at Kauma Sewage Ponds, Lilongwe, on 15 August. A Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola at Chinteche, Lake Malaŵi, on 9 December is the first for this atlas square; this species is generally a scarce visitor. A Black Coucal Centropus grillii was seen near the airstrip at Chelinda, Nyika National Park, on 29 December; there is only
one previous record for Nyika, in December.


A Pallid Honeyguide Indicator meliphilus was observed at Luwawa Forest Lodge on 2 December 2010, a presumed Jackson's Pipit Anthus latistriatus on the Nyika Plateau on 1 December and two Thyolo Alethes Alethe choloensis on Mount Mulanje on 25 November. At Dzalanyama, a male Olive-headed Weaver Ploceus olivaceiceps was seen on 22 November, with a pair in a different location the following day.

Records from the period May to December 2002 include the following. A female Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris was seen with a begging juvenile near Zovo-Chipolo, Nyika Plateau on 25 November. A pair of Bronze-winged Coursers Rhinoptilus chalcopterus was found in montane grassland near the Zambian Resthouse, Nyika Plateau on 27 May. Two males and a female Fischer's Sparrow Lark Eremopterix leucopareia seen drinking at a pool between Salima and Senga Bay on 1 December, constitute a small southward range extension. A male White-headed Saw-wing Psalidoprocne albiceps, observed near Dzalanyama Forest Lodge on 2 June, constitutes the most southerly record in Malawi and an odd date, for the species should normally have left the country by then. Cholo Alethe Alethe choloensis was sighted in the forest on top of Soche Mountain in November; it may now perhaps be easier to see this endangered species here than in the fast-disappearing forest on Cholo Mountain, although it may only be a question of time, as the forest is being cut down on Socho Mountain too. Three Whinchats Saxicola rubetra were near Manyenjere Forest, Nyika Plateau, on 25 November; a rare visitor. Two flocks of ten and six Yellow-billed Oxpeckers Buphagus africanus were on herds of Greater Kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros, near Kazuni Camp, Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve, on 28 and 29 November. A flock of more than 100 Parasitic Weavers Anomalospiza imberbis was seen in a dry dambo, several kilometres north of the Bua River on 22 November.

A brief visit to a long-standing ringing site at Zomba produced some remarkable longevity records, the highlights being two Eastern Olive Sunbirds Cyanomitra olivacea aged (at least) 15 and 12 years old. Additionally a Green Twinspot Mandingoa nitidula netted in Liwonde Wildlife Reserve was an addition to the reserve’s list.

Fieldwork in the lower Shire valley in November 2001 to January 2002 and March and April 2002 produced a number of interesting records. Amur Falcons Falco amurensis were observed between 9 December and 30 March, with up to 150 in Lengwe National Park in December and January, whence 50 were seen to depart on 24 March. Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus is much scarcer this far east, and so a pair in Lengwe on 13 April and two males at Nchalo on 15 April are worth noting. Heavy passage of Jacobin Cuckoos Clamator jacobinus between late March and at least 24 April is suggestive of possible Palearctic origin. One or two Asian Lesser Cuckoos Cuculus poliocephalus, including one hepatic bird, were seen on 18 and 25 December and 20 March. Thick-billed Cuckoos Pachycoccyx audeberti were very common everywhere in the area throughout this period, being especially vocal from November to January; a large fledgling fed by Retz's Helmet-Shrikes Prionops retzii in Majete Wildlife Reserve on 2 December represents the first breeding record for Malawi. Disappointingly, African Pitta Pitta angolensis was noted only twice in Lengwe this year, including one displaying sporadically on 7 January. Low cloud and winter rain brought very large numbers of migrant swallows to the Nchalo area in mid April, including hundreds of Mascarene Martins Phedina borbonica. Among Palearctic warblers wintering in the area, River Warblers Locustella fluviatilis were locally common to 14 April, with up to six in a day and several in song in April. Basra Reed Warblers Acrocephalus griseldis were noted in small numbers between 27 December and 11 April, including one in song on 20 March. The first Malawi breeding records of Black-and-white Flycatcher Bias musicus were obtained in Lengwe, with one female incubating in early January and another occupied nest in March. With a third pair and a single 2nd-year male, this probably constitutes the whole local population. Gorgeous Bush-shrike Telophorus viridis, thought to have become extinct in Malawi, with no records for the past 18 years, was rediscovered between December and April in a single block of thicket in Lengwe, with a population of perhaps 20 to 30 pairs occupying 9 to 10 km2 of suitable habitat.

In June 2001, a Madagascar Pond Heron Ardeola idae, a Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica and a Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla were seen in Liwonde National Park on the 3rd. Two Spur-winged Lapwings Vanellus spinosus, seen the next day, confirm the southern range extension where breeding of this species was first noted in 1993.

Interesting records from October to December 2000 include the following. An occupied nesting colony of Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, found between Ulongwe and Liwonde on 2 December, apparently constitutes the first firm evidence of breeding in Malawi. A Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla on the northern edge of Lake Chilwa on 16 November is the first record since the 1950s. A Sanderling Calidris alba was along the Shire River in Liwonde NP on 25 October; uncommon this far inland. A Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus was observed along the Shire River in Liwonde National Park on 25 October. A Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo Cercococcyx montanus singing at Mwabvi on 22 November is the first record of a bird in song in the Shire Valley for 40 years. Several pairs of Scarce Swifts Schoutedenapus myoptilus were regular over the south-eastern slopes of Zomba Mt, November to early December; the species probably breeds there. An African Pitta Pitta angolensis, displaying at Lengwe on 20 November, constitutes the first record suggestive of breeding from the Shire Valley. Two Boulder Chats Pinarornis plumosus were seen on Kanjoli Mt, near Chongoni, on 6 November; a new locality for this scarce species. A River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis, observed at Mwabvi on 23 November, is rarely reported unless netted for ringing . A Basra Reed Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis was seen on the northern edge of Lake Chilwa on 15 November; the few previous Malawi records are of netted birds. A White-winged Apalis Apalis chariessa was nest-building at Zomba on 13 and 14 November; this is only the third known nest; the pair bred successfully in April 2004. Several Grey Sunbirds Cyanomitra veroxii were in Mwabvi on 22 and 23 November, as well as in Lengwe, the only previously known locality. At least four Olive-headed Weavers Ploceus olivaceiceps were singing in territorial dispute at Namizimu, on the Mozambique border on 1 December; Malawi is the stronghold of this species.

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