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ZAMBIA SPECIALITIES

Sunday 30th September - Thursday 18th October 2018

Nik Borrow

A trip highlight was certainly our wonderful encounter with several Chaplin’s Barbets in the Nkanga Conservation Area. This species is endemic to Zambia and is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by BirdLife International. (Nik Borrow)

A trip highlight was certainly our wonderful encounter with several Chaplin’s Barbets in the Nkanga Conservation Area. This species is endemic to Zambia and is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by BirdLife International. (Nik Borrow)

Zambia is a huge, and in terms of a birding trip a somewhat unwieldy country and so this tour concentrated on the exciting and most definitely remote northwestern corner of the country on the Angolan and Congolese borders and the more accessible southwest with the aim of gathering quality rather than quantity and in particular targeting some most of the country’s most desirable species, notably Zambia’s only true endemic the snowy Chaplin’s Barbet and the delightful Black-cheeked Lovebird which is virtually an endemic as in its pure and wild state the species is probably restricted to the country. We began our ambitious road trip in the capital of Lusaka but did not linger long there as our first drive took us to the tranquil Kafue Lodge near Mpongwe for an overnight stay where we managed to briefly sample the miombo woodlands, attaining great views of the uncommon Shelley’s Sunbird, Black-backed Barbet and Black-faced Canary and at night stayed up to watch the huge marmalade-coloured Pel’s Fishing Owl perched at the jetty. Traveling onwards through the industrial Copperbelt weaving in and out of the long lines of ore-bearing trucks we broke the journey at Mutanda where we found Bocage’s Akalat to be a garden bird! The river crossings between here and the distant town of Mwinilunga provided bridge habitat suitable for Red-throated Cliff Swallow and also enabled us to have amazing views of the rarely seen Bamboo Warbler. The outpost town of Mwinilunga provided our base from which we explored the region and during our stay Grimwood’s and Fülleborn’s Longclaws were seen in the dambos, the fantastic Black-and-rufous Swallow, Black-collared Bulbul and Angolan Lark on the plains and Bannerman’s Sunbird and the enchanting Laura’s Woodland Warbler found secluded hiding places in the mysterious mushitus. Bar-winged Weaver and the charming Black-necked Eremomela were searched out in the miombo woodlands and Margaret’s Batis and ‘Perrin’s’ Gorgeous Bushshrike in the Cryptosepalum woodlands. The next section of the tour took us down to the south of the country near Choma where Sycamore Fig trees are scattered over the sprawling ranch-lands which provide the favoured food for the endemic Chaplin’s Barbet. We saw several of these striking birds and then turned our attention to the miombo which is home to the attractive Racket-tailed Roller. Finally, we visited the dramatic Victoria Falls and explored the mopane woodlands that border the Machile River where large numbers of Black-cheeked Lovebirds sheltered from the heat and dust and came down to drink at the drying pools. The trip extension took us to the Vumba Mountains in Zimbabwe where we enjoyed terrific views of the pretty Swynnerton’s Robin as well as the regional endemics; Roberts’s Warbler and Chirinda Apalis. Other specialities seen during this amazing road trip included Shelley’s Francolin, Natal Spurfowl, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Pale-billed Hornbill, Whyte’s and Miombo Pied Barbets, the ‘Grey-headed’ form of Brown-necked Parrot, Miombo and Rufous-bellied Tits, Stripe-cheeked and Grey-olive Greenbuls, Red-capped Crombec, Barratt’s Warbler, Lazy, Luapula and Dambo Cisticolas, Brown-headed Apalis, Miombo and Stierling’s Wren Warblers, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Meves’s, Burchell’s and Sharp-tailed Starlings, Grey-winged Robin Chat, Miombo Rock Thrush, Eastern Miombo and Bates’s Sunbirds, Brown Firefinch, Grey Waxbill, Locust Finch and Black-eared Seedeater.

The gorgeous little Swynnerton’s Robin is one of the star attractions in the Vumba Mountains in Zimbabwe. (Nik Borrow)

The gorgeous little Swynnerton’s Robin is one of the star attractions in the Vumba Mountains in Zimbabwe. (Nik Borrow)