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ZAMBIA: AFRICAN PITTA SPECIAL

Wednesday 5th December - Sunday 16th December 2018

NIK BORROW

It's all about me! African Pitta! No pressure then. (Image by Nik Borrow)

It's all about me! African Pitta! No pressure then. (Image by Nik Borrow)

Zambia is a huge, and in terms of a birding trip, somewhat unwieldy country but this tour concentrated on the exciting and more accessible southwest with the aim of finding the migrant African Pitta which visits the region at this time of year to breed; Zambia’s only true endemic the snowy Chaplin’s Barbet and the delightful Black-cheeked Lovebird which is virtually a country endemic as in its pure and wild state the species is probably restricted to Zambia. We began our tour at Livingstone conveniently situated for a visit to see the dramatic Victoria Falls before transferring to our comfortable lodge on the banks of the mighty

Zambezi River. An afternoon boat trip provided a gentle introduction to some Zambian birds and also

produced the hoped for African Finfoot as well as Rock Pratincole. From here we explored the mopane woodlands that border the Machile River where despite recent rain large numbers of Black-cheeked

Lovebirds were found gathered around the drying pools. The next section of the tour took us eastwards to Choma where Sycamore Fig trees are scattered over the sprawling ranch-lands which provide the favoured food for the endemic Chaplin’s Barbet. We successfully located family parties of these striking birds and then turned our attention to the miombo which is home to a number of woodland species including the attractive Racket-tailed Roller and Miombo Pied Barbet. On one of the ranch dams we found Lesser Jacana, Greater Painted Snipe and watched the spectacle of hundreds of Cuckoo-finches gathered at a roost site. Finally, we

travelled to Siavonga on the shores of Lake Kariba which we used as our base to search for the elusive

African Pitta. This species is an intra-African migrant ‘wintering’ in East Africa and coming to breed in the

thickets in the Zambezi basin. A sighting of this bird is dependent on weather conditions for they only start to display when there has been recent heavy rain and even then the courtship period only lasts for a matter of weeks before the birds fall silent and disappear inside the dense bush. This year our tour hit it exactly right for as we drove to Siavonga there was literally a deluge of rain and the following morning after an hour of searching, the frog-like ‘blip’ of the pitta was heard and we had the bird firmly in our sights! The pretty Livingstone’s Flycatcher was also seen here and we also managed views of Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo. The trip extension took us to the Vumba Mountains in Zimbabwe where we enjoyed terrific views of the pretty Swynnerton’s Robin, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul and Barratt’s Warbler, as well as the regional endemics; Roberts’s Warbler and Chirinda Apalis. The imminent rains also made it possible to see Buff-spotted Flufftail. Other specialities seen during this very special trip included Natal Spurfowl, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Cinnamon-breasted, Rufous-bellied (heard only) and Miombo Tits, Red-capped Crombec, Lazy Cisticola, Olive-tree Warbler, Stierling’s Wren Warbler, Meves’s and Burchell’s Starlings, Miombo Rock Thrush, Eastern Miombo Sunbird and Reichard’s and Black-eared Seedeaters.

The gorgeous Swynnerton's Robin in Zimbabwe's Vumba Mountains seen on the extension (Image by Nik Borrow)

The gorgeous Swynnerton's Robin in Zimbabwe's Vumba Mountains seen on the extension (Image by Nik Borrow)