Working for birds in Africa


Wed, 01/23/2013 - 14:30 -- abc_admin

Mozambique Mount Namuli

Image Credit: 
Claire Spottiswoode

The following extracts are taken from "Southern African Birdfinder: where to find 1,400 birds in the southern third of Africa and Madagascar" by Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Jonathan Rossouw, released by Struik Publishers in 2006. 

Inhaca island This beach and mangrove-fringed island, an hour's boat ride across Maputo Bay, is the site of some the world's most southerly coral reefs and offers good birding in its mangroves, freshwater swamps, mudflats and dune forest. Most notably, a selection of key tropical coast species are reliably found here. Specials: Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Sooty Falcon Falco concolor, Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii, Yellowbill Ceuthmocares aereus, Mangrove Kingfisher Halcyon senegaloides, Eastern Olive Sunbird Cyanomitra olivacea.

Panda is a town a short way inland from the southern Mozambique coast, close to a relict and dwindling patch of miombo woodland, which is presently the only site south of the Zambezi for a localised miombo specialist, the Olive-headed Weaver Ploceus olivaceiceps. Since Clancey first reported their presence here in the early 1960s, none were seen until they were rediscovered by Vincent Parker during the course of fieldwork for the Mozambique Atlas Project in 1996. A population of 100 breeding pairs is estimated to occur in the Panda woodlands, as well as a good selection of other miombo and thicket species. Specials: Mascarene Martin Phedina borbonica, Southern Hyliota Hyliota australis, Red-faced Crombec Sylvietta whytii, Neergaard's Sunbird Cinnyris neergaardi, Olive-headed Weaver Ploceus olivaceiceps, Black-eared Seedeater Serinus mennelli.

Vilankulo and the Bazaruto Archipelago Vilankulo is a village on the mainland coast opposite the famously beautiful Bazaruto archipelago, and offers good coastal and wetland birding in addition to providing a base for pelagic trips. The smaller and less touristy village of Inhassouro, 50 km north along the coast, is quieter and more picturesque than Vilankulo, and also worth a visit. Specials: Crab-plover Dromas ardeola, Madagascar Bee-eater Merops superciliosus, Mascarene Martin Phedina borbonica Lemon-breasted Canary Serinus citrinipectus.

Save Woodlands The roadside mixed woodland along the EN1 north and especially south of the Save River is magnificent and provides great coastal woodland and thicket birding. It is worth stopping and birding anywhere between Vilankulo and Inchope, but one site particularly worth investigating is Save Pan. To reach it, turn off to the south-west onto a small track 13 km south of the Save River bridge (GPS 21º12.45's, 34º40.17'E), and continue for 1.5 km along this track to the edge of a picturesque pan which can at times be largely obscured by reeds. Madagascar Pond Heron Ardeola idae has been seen here in winter in addition to the commoner Rufous-bellied Heron A. rufiventris, African Pygmy Goose Nettapus auritus and Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis. The woodland between the pan and the tar road provides Yellowbill Ceuthmocares aereus, Narina Trogon Apaloderma narina, Mangrove Kingfisher Halcyon senegaloides, Western Nicator Nicator chloris, Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas quadrivirgata, Green-capped Eremomela Eremomela scotops, Red-faced Crombec Sylvietta whytti, Pale Batis Batis soror, Livingstone's Flycatcher Erythrocercus livingstonei, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike Telophorus viridis, Plain-backed Anthreptes reichenowi, Neergaard's Cinnyris neergaardi and Purple-banded Sunbird C. bifasciatus. Grey-headed Parrots Poicephalus (robustus) suahelicus overfly shrilly at dawn and dusk. Both Chestnut-fronted Prionops scopifrons and Red-billed Helmet-Shrikes P. caniceps occur commonly, and hence also Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti, the latter's brood parasite. African Cuckoo Hawk Aviceda cuculoides and Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni are unusually plentiful between Vilankulo and Inchope; while driving also keep an eye open for Racket-tailed Roller Coracias spatulatus.

Mount Gorongosa is an extensively forested, 1,863 m massif which rises abruptly from the plains of central Mozambique, and is legendary as the only site south of the Zambezi for Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus (the distinctive sub-species is endemic). The rough drive and hike to the montane forest is also rewarded by great scenery and numerous other montane forest and tropical lowland specials. This tried-and-tested yet tiring undertaking requires about two-three days from the main Beira road and back, a capable vehicle and reasonable level of fitness. Specials: Pallid Honeyguide Indicator meliphilus, Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus, Swynnerton's Robin Swynnertonia swynnertoni, Chirinda Apalis Apalis chirindensis, African Moustached Warbler Melocichla mentalis, a subspecies of Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta anchietae considered by some authorities to be a sull species Anchieta's Tchagra Tchagra anchietae, Magpie Mannikin Spermestes fringilloides, Lesser Seedcracker Pyrenestes minor.

Rio Savanne The floodplains associated with the mouth of the Savane river, a mere hour's drive north of Beira, have produced very exciting birding over the last few years. This area also boasts a well-organised resort where secure camping and accommodation are available. Specials: African Blue Quail Coturnix adansonii, Lesser Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus lugubris, Mangrove Kingfisher Halcyon senegaloides, Short-tailed Pipit Anthus brachyurus, Locust Finch Paludipasser locustella.

Chinizuia Forest 'Chinizuia', an area of woodland along a small track from Muanza to the Chinizuia River, provides some of the best lowland miombo and forest birding in southern Africa. Here a host of lowland forest specials may be seen along a 2 km stretch of track through riverine forest. However, this area is under intense threat from loggers (previously excellent forests further south, in the vicinity of Dondo, have already been virtually destroyed) and its days are probably numbered. Specials: Southern Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus fasciolatus, Crested Francolin Francolinus sephaena rovuma, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo Cercococcyx montanus, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill Bycanistes brevis, African Broadbill Smithornis capensis, African Pitta Pitta angolensis, Reichenow's Campethera scriptoricauda and Green-backed Woodpeckers C. caillautii, Mascarene Martin Phedina borbonica, Tiny Greenbul Phyllastrephus debilis, White-chested Alethe Alethe fuelleborni, East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi, Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster, Chestnut-fronted Helmet-Shrike Prionops scopifrons, Plain-backed Sunbird Anthreptes reichenowi and Lesser Seedcracker Pyrenestes minor.

Mount Namuli The Namuli Massif is undoubtedly the most scenically spectacular and biologically exciting locality in Mozambique. It is a vast and rugged massif, capped by the sheer, 500 m high granite dome of Monte Namuli (at 2,412 m the second highest peak in Mozambique) and supporting several substantial patches of montane forest and beautiful montane grassland, punctuated by tree ferns and orchids. Though the scenic beauty of the massif cannot be overstated, for birders perhaps its star attraction is a species occurring nowhere else in the world, the attractive and locally common Namuli Apalis Apalis lynesi (but note that it is shown on the ABC checklist as a subspecies of Bar-throated Apalis Apalis thoracica lynesi), as well as Dappled Mountain-Robin Arcanator orostruthus and Cholo Alethe Alethe choloensis, that respectively occur otherwise only in the Udzungwas of Tanzania and a few forest fragments in southern Malawi. Specials: Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma narina, Green Barbet Stactolaema olivacea, Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica, Dappled Mountain-Robin Arcanator orostruthus, Cholo Alethe Alethe choloensis, Olive-flanked Robin-Chat Cossypha anomala, Namuli Apalis Apalis (thoracica) lynesi, Evergreen-Forest Warbler Bradypterus lopezi, Eastern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris mediocris, Bertram's Weaver Ploceus bertrandi.

Njesi Plateau The Njesi Plateau, also known as Serra Jeci on some modern maps, is a low (1,600 m), rambling and patchily forested plateau north of Lichinga, the capital of remote Niassa Province. Though topographically less spectacular than the Namuli Massif, Serra Jeci is ornithologically nearly as exciting, being the only site outside of Tanzania where African Tailorbird Orthotomus metopias and especially the critically endangered Long-billed Tailorbird O. moreaui occur. Collected here in 1945, the tailorbirds remained ignored until a 2001 expedition revisited the massif. An expedition to Serra Jeci should not be taken lightly, but is almost guaranteed to turn up many exciting finds. Specials: Stierling's Woodpecker Dendropicos stierlingi, Orange Ground-Thrush Zoothera gurneyi, African Orthotomus metopias and Long-billed Tailorbirds O. moreaui, Evergreen-Forest Warbler Bradypterus lopezi, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher Eliminia albicauda, Olive-headed Ploceus olivaceiceps and Bertram's Weavers P.bertrandi.

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