Working for birds in Africa


Thu, 10/01/2013 - 17:35 -- abc_admin

Rio Longa from the Lodge, Angola

Image Credit: 
Claire Spottiswoode

N'jelo Mountain Angola - the home of the Angola Cave Chat Xenocopsychus ansorgei

Image Credit: 
John Caddick 2005

Quiçama National Park is situated in the north-western part of Angola, and the most northerly part of the Park is approximately 70 km south of the capital, Luanda. The Atlantic Ocean forms the Park’s long western border, while the perennial Cuanza and Longa rivers constitute the northern and southern borders respectively. The eastern border consists of a belt of dense, tall thicket. Quiçama covers an area of roughly 9,960 km2. The main coast road running south from Luanda towards Port Amboim runs through this National Park. The riparian forest and thicket support several Angolan endemics. Some endemics and near endemics as well as a good variety of waterbirds can be found along the Rio Longa near where the Luanda to Port Amboim road crosses the river approximately 220 km south of Luanda. The Rio Longa Lodge is located a few kilometres towards the coast from the road and access is by boat only from near the road bridge. Specials: the endemic Grey-striped Francolin Francolinus griseostriatus, Red-backed Mousebird Colius castanotus, small numbers of Red-crested Turaco Tauraco erythrolophus and White-fronted Wattle-eye Platysteira albifrons, as well as near endemic species such as Pale-olive Greenbul Phyllastrephus fulviventris and Bubbling Cisticola Cisticola bulliens. Further information about this Park can be found at Quicama.

Gabela and Conda areas: remnant forests along the west Angolan escarpment at some 900 m above sea level support populations of many of the endemic and near endemic species. The forests have been degraded through clearance for crops and slash and burn agriculture is still in evidence. The following areas are all close to the towns of Gabela and Conda where some of the best remaining forests can be found:

Gabela is reached by continuing southwards along the coast road from Quiçama. The town of Port Amboim is 66 km from the Rio Longa and is the place to stop for fuel and other supplies. After a further 54 km south from Port Amboim, a left turn leads to the town of Gabela, some 65 km east from the main coast road. You should note that the main coast road is metalled although the surface is worn and very bad in places whilst the road to Gabela is unsurfaced and extremely rough in places. There are a few areas which are worth stopping at on this route and a number of interesting species can be seen including European White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus, Black-bellied Bustard Eupodotis melanogaster, Angola Swallow Hirundo angolensis, Desert Cisticola Cisticola aridulus, Copper Sunbird Cinnyris cupreus and Vieillot’s Black Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus.

The area about 15 km before Gabela is reached near the junction of the road to Conda has rain forest with some areas of cultivation. This is very productive and it is well worth spending a day birding the forest tracks and Conda road. Specials:  Grey-striped Francolin Francolinus griseostriatus, Red-crested Turaco Tauraco erythrolophus, Great Blue Turaco Corythaeola cristata, Gabon Coucal Centropus anselli, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus, Yellow-throated Nicator Nicator vireo, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush Neocossyphus fraseri, Black-throated Apalis jacksoni and Buff-throated Apalis A. rufogularis, Green Crombec Sylvietta virens, Southern Hyliota Hyliota australis and Red-headed Bluebill Spermophaga ruficapilla. The Sunbird family is well represented with species such as Carmelite Chalcomitra fuliginosa, Green-headed Cyanomitra verticalis, Little Green Anthreptes seimundi, Superb Cinnyris superbus and Olive-bellied C. chloropygius.

Kumbira Forest is reached by travelling the 25 km from the junction of the Conda road to town of Conda itself. The habitat changes dramatically along this road to grassland and moorland. The start of the Kumbira Forest is a further 10 km from Conda on a very bad track which is not signposted. Camping is probably the best and perhaps the only option in and around the forest. The forest is much drier than that nearer Gabela and runs in roughly a north to south direction along the line of an escarpment forming what appears to be a valley floor. Tracks lead through the forest and are well used by the local villagers to reach coffee and banana plantations which intersperse areas of large trees, bushes and scrub. The best birding areas are unsurprisingly those with the dense understorey still intact. Specials: African Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx cupreus, Least Honeyguide Indicator exilis, Petit’s Cuckoo-Shrike Campephaga petiti, Gabela Akalat Sheppardia gabela, Pulitzer’s Longbill Macrosphenus pulitzeri, Rufous-vented Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufocinerea, the trio of Gabela Laniarius amboimensis, Monteiro’s Malacanotus monteiri and Perrin’s Bush-Shrikes Telophorus (viridis) viridis, Pale-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta (rubricata) landanae and Black-faced Canary Serinus capistratus.

N’jelo Mountain is the home of the Angola Cave-Chat Xenocopsychus ansorgei and is reached by walking through the dry forest habitat of the Kumbira Forest and climbing the mixed sandy and rocky face of the escarpment to an altitude at least 350 metres above the forest or 1,250 m above sea level. To find the Angola Cave-Chat, it is necessary to find a suitable vantage point with a good view over the escarpment. The nature of the terrain and the fact that only a single pair of birds have been found in several kilometres of escarpment make it essential that an experienced guide is used. Specials: Miombo Rock-Thrush Monticola angolensis, Damara Rockjumper Chaetops pycnopygius, Oustalet’s Cinnyris oustaleti and Montane Double-collared Sunbirds C. ludovicensis, and Dusky Twinspot Euschistospiza cinereovinacea. Black Swifts Apus sp. nest in caves in the escarpment. These appear different from African Black Swift Apus barbatus in that they have an all dark throat and a different call. Perhaps these are Fernando Po Swifts Apus (barbatus) sladeniae and they are certainly worthy of further investigation.

Bimbe is the nearest village to an area where several Gabela Helmet-Shrike Prionops gabela have been found recently. This area is to the west of Conda some 2 hours drive on a very bad track and at a much lower altitude than Conda. From this area, it is possible to reach the road from the coast to Gabela without returning via Conda. Specials: African Barred Owlet Glaucidium capense, Bohm’s Neafrapus boehmi and Mottled Spinetails Telacanthura ussheri, Black Scimitarbill Rhinopomastus aterrimus, Pale-olive Greenbul Phyllastrephus fulviventris and Gabela Helmet-Shrike Prionops gabela.

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