Welcome to Birdquest

MALAWI

Saturday 17th December - Friday 30th December 2016

Nik Borrow

A regional endemic occurring only in Malawi and neighbouring Mozambique, the endangered Thyolo Alethe is a must-see bird and we were fortunate enough to see it well this year. (Nik Borrow)

A regional endemic occurring only in Malawi and neighbouring Mozambique, the endangered Thyolo Alethe is a must-see bird and we were fortunate enough to see it well this year. (Nik Borrow)

During this tour we visited extensive miombo woodlands, mopane forests, montane copses, rolling open moorlands, dense thickets and riverine marshes and we stayed in some extremely comfortable and well-appointed locations enjoying some superb food and excellent birding. Our adventure began in the capital, Lilongwe and soon after stepping out of the plane we found ourselves looking at tiny Locust Finches in a small dambo where we also flushed a Great Snipe and in the local nature sanctuary enjoyed fine views of African Broadbill. Two full days were spent in the miombo woodlands of Dzalanyama Forest Reserve searching for the roving and often large bird parties that contained some mouth-watering species such as the localised Stierling’s Woodpecker and colourful Anchieta’s Sunbirds. We enjoyed unbelievably close views of Souza’s Shrikes and hunted out a family party of the rather strange Boulder Chat. Driving south along the border with Mozambique we spotted a pair of Bertram’s Weavers during a roadside stop as we journeyed to Thyolo Mountain where we scored well with the near-endemic Thyolo Alethe as well as Buff-spotted Flufftail, Green-headed Oriole and the exquisite White-winged Apalis. In the small remaining patches of scrubby forest above Zomba we found Malawi’s only endemic, the pretty Yellow-throated Apalis but did not linger long here as we traveled onwards to sample the plentiful wildlife in Liwonde National Park. 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, a pair of Racket-tailed Rollers, Böhm’s Bee-eater, Brown-breasted Barbet and a large herd of Southern Sable Antelope. On Christmas Eve a long drive took us up to Chintheche on the shores of Lake Malawi and nearby a pair of East Coast Akalats performed incredibly well. Christmas itself was celebrated in the superb Chelinda Lodge on the scenically stunning Nyika Plateau. The cool mountain air was a glorious change from the hot and humid lowlands and the birding was excellent on the expansive moorlands with wonderful views of a male Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Blue Swallows, Montane Widowbirds and Denham’s Bustards. In the miombo woodlands surrounding Vwaza Marsh we tracked down a family group of unique Babbling Starlings as well as the striking Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver. Breaking the journey back at Luwawa a Red-chested Flufftail was seen there and en route to Lilongwe the delightful Lesser Jacana was added to the list. Other avian treasures included Red-winged Francolin, Livingstone’s and Schalow’s Turacos, Burchell’s Coucal, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Ruwenzori Nightjar, Pale-billed Hornbill, Whyte’s Barbet, Moustached Tinkerbird, Miombo Pied Barbet, Brown-backed Honeybird, Pallid Honeyguide, Bennett’s Woodpecker (heard only), Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Brown-necked Parrot (Grey-headed form), Lilian’s Lovebird, Cape Batis, Fülleborn’s Boubou, Rufous-bellied and Miombo Tits, Black-browed, Olive-headed and Sharpe’s Greenbuls, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Black-lored, Churring and Wailing Cisticolas, Chapin’s and Brown-headed Apalises, Green-backed Camaroptera, Stierling’s Wren-warbler, Brown Parisoma, Miombo Blue-eared and Meves’s Starlings, Miombo Scrub Robin, Böhm’s Flycatcher, White-chested Alethe, Olive-flanked Ground Robin, Sharpe’s and East Coast Akalats, Miombo Rock Thrush, Arnott’s Chat, Miombo, Ludwig’s and Forest Double-collared Sunbirds, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Orange-winged Pytilia, Red-throated Twinspot, Wood and Striped Pipits, Southern Citril and Reichard’s, Black-eared, and Yellow-browed Seedeaters.

One of the special birds of Dzalanyama Forest Reserve is the localised Stierling’s Woodpecker. We had repeated opportunities to see this species, which we currently see on no other tour. (Nik Borrow)

One of the special birds of Dzalanyama Forest Reserve is the localised Stierling’s Woodpecker. We had repeated opportunities to see this species, which we currently see on no other tour. (Nik Borrow)