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MALAWI

Sunday 16th September - Saturday 29th September 2018

NIK BORROW

We enjoyed a wonderful view of the magnificent Pel's Fishing Owl at a daytime roost, certainly the highlight of the trip (Nik Borrow)

We enjoyed a wonderful view of the magnificent Pel's Fishing Owl at a daytime roost, certainly the highlight of the trip (Nik Borrow)

During this tour we visited extensive miombo woodlands, mopane forests, montane copses, rolling open moorlands, dense thickets and riverine marshes and stayed in some extremely comfortable and well-appointed locations, enjoying some superb food and excellent birding. Our adventure began in Malawi’s capital city of Lilongwe, where it was hot, dry, dusty and the fires of the dry season had begun. Two full days were spent in the miombo woodlands of Dzalanyama Forest Reserve but because many birds had started nesting the miombo was harder work than we could have wished and of course the roving bird parties were smaller and more discrete. However, we succeeded in finding mouth-watering species such as the localised Stierling’s Woodpecker, Pale-billed Hornbills and colourful Anchieta’s and Shelley’s Sunbirds, enjoyed unbelievably close views of Souza’s Shrikes and hunted out a pair of the rather strange Boulder Chat. We then headed northwards breaking the journey at Luwawa on the Viphya Plateau where Forest Double-collared Sunbirds were easy to see and we also found our first ‘Malawi’ Cape Batis of the form dimorpha. Olive-headed Greenbuls and showy Chapin’s Apalis were present whilst Fiery-necked Nightjars put on a good show at dusk. A three nights stay at the extremely comfortable Chelinda Lodge on the Nyika Plateau was pleasurable for the cool mountain air was a glorious change from the hot and humid lowlands and the birding was excellent on the expansive moorlands for wonderful views of Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Blue Swallow, Montane Widowbird and Denham’s Bustard. In the dark woodlands we also scored well with Sharpe’s Greenbul, Olive-flanked Ground Robin and the lovely Sharpe’s Akalat. Descending from the plateau we explored the miombo woodlands surrounding Vwaza Marsh where we tracked down a family group of unique Babbling Starlings, Böhm’s Flycatcher and the striking Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver before moving to the beach resort of Chintheche on the shores of Lake Malawi where nearby we enjoyed fine views of African Broadbills twirling on their perches. A long drive took us back southwards to Zomba where in the small remaining patches of scrubby forest above the town we found Malawi’s only endemic, the pretty Yellow-throated Apalis, the near-endemic Thyolo Alethe and the exquisite White-winged Apalis. At Thyolo Mountain itself we scored well with another Thyolo Alethe and a skittish Green-headed Oriole. The tour culminated with a visit to the impressive Liwonde National Park where we sampled the plentiful wildlife. A cruise up the Shire River enabled us to gain an intimate view of the birds and game and highlights were eyeball-to-eyeball views of White-backed Night Heron, the enormous marmalade coloured Pel’s Fishing Owl at a daytime roost, a pair of Racket-tailed Rollers, colourful Böhm’s Bee-eaters, Brown-breasted Barbet, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Lilian’s Lovebird, Livingstone’s Flycatcher and large herds of Southern Sable Antelope. The final tick of the trip was during the return journey to Lilongwe where a small detour gave us an added bonus of the localised Vincent’s Bunting which was the icing on the cake! Other avian treasures included Red-winged Francolin, Livingstone’s and Schalow’s Turacos, Burchell’s Coucal, the ‘Ruwenzori’ form of Montane Nightjar, Scarce Swift, Whyte’s Barbet, Moustached Tinkerbird, Miombo Pied Barbet (heard only), Dickinson’s Kestrel, the suahelicus grey-headed form of Brown-necked Parrot, Fülleborn’s Boubou, Rufous-bellied and Miombo Tits, Black-browed Greenbul, Red-capped Crombec, Black-lored, Churring and Wailing Cisticolas, Brown-headed Apalis, Green-backed Camaroptera, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Brown Parisoma, Miombo Blue-eared and Meves’s Starlings, Miombo Scrub Robin, White-chested Alethe, Miombo Rock Thrush, Arnot’s Chat, Eastern Miombo and Whyte’s Double-collared Sunbirds, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Orange-winged Pytilia, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Red-throated Twinspot, Wood and Striped Pipits, Southern Citril and Reichard’s, Black-eared, and Yellow-browed Seedeaters.

The localized Böhm's Bee-eater was easy to see at Liwonde National Park (Nik Borrow)

The localized Böhm's Bee-eater was easy to see at Liwonde National Park (Nik Borrow)