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Birding Trip Report: Zambia for African Pitta:2 - 9 December 2013

Tour Report and photographs by Tertius Gous

Itinerary: This was an intensive seven-day tour visiting key sites near Lusaka, Ndola and Choma. The main aim was timing the tour at the best season for African Pitta, and having multiple chances to find it. We birded the mixed and miombo woodlands of the Zambian plateau and then descended into the Zambezi valley where we searched for birds typical of the dry deciduous thickets and woodlands of this region, in particular the African Pitta.

Total number of bird species seen: 275

Total number of mammal species seen: 20

African Pitta seen during Birding Africa's 2013 Zambia tour © Tertius A. Gous
African Pitta

Tour summary and highlights: Birding started in the mixed woodlands and farmlands north of Lusaka and here we recorded Abdim's and Marabou Storks, Hamerkop, Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, White-backed Vulture, Martial Eagle, Gabar Goshawk, Red-necked Falcon, African Palm-Swift, Red-faced Mousebird, Lilac-breasted and European Rollers, African Grey and Trumpeter Hornbills, Black-backed Barbet, Tropical Boubou,Common Fiscal, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Greater Blue-eared and Violet-backed Starlings, Kurrichane Thrush, White-browed Robin-Chat, Collared Palm-Thrush, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Spectacled and Southern Masked Weavers, Red-billed Firefinch, Blue Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Pied Wagtail, Yellow-fronted Canary and a plethora of sunbirds including Collared, Amethyst, Variable, Copper and Shelley's.


Souza's Shrike

Our next stop was the moist miombo woodlands near Ndola where we enjoyed Zambezian endemics such as Coppery-tailed Coucal, Miombo Scrub-Robin, Souza's Shrike, Böhm's Flycatcher, Pale-billed Hornbill, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Arnot's Chat, Blacknecked Eremomela, Red-capped Crombec, Tinkling and Chirping Cisticolas, Miombo Tit, Black-backed Barbet, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver, Bar-winged Weaver and Black-eared Seedeater. An unexpected bonus was our first brief, but not our last sighting of African Pitta.


Bar-winged Weaver

Other good birds were Spotted Creeper, Cabanis's and Golden-breasted Buntings, Wood and Tree Pipits, Red-necked Spurfowl, Lizard Buzzard, African Goshawk, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Ross's Turaco, Black Cuckoo, Pennant-winged and Fiery-necked Nightjars, Broad-billed Roller, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Yellow-rumped and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds, Lesser and Pallid Honeyguides, Green-backed and Cardinal Woodpeckers, African Broadbill, Black-throated Wattle-eye, White-crested and Retz's Helmetshrikes, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, African Golden and Black-headed Orioles, Square-tailed and Forktailed Drongos, White-winged Black Tit, Grey Penduline-Tit, Little and Cabanis's Greenbuls, Black Saw-wing, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red-faced and Croaking Cisticolas, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Southern Hyliota, African Thrush, Red-capped Robin-Chat, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Pale and African Dusky Flycatchers, Holub's Golden and Dark-backed Weavers, Red-collared Widowbird, Orange-winged Pytilia and Brown Firefinch. There were several small lakes and streams that held birds such as White-faced Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Stork, African Openbill, Rufous-bellied and Black-crowned Night Herons, Black Crake, African Jacana, White-winged Tern and kingfishers such as Giant, Pied, Malachite and Half-collared. Mammals included Sitatunga, Waterbuck, Sable Antelope, Red Duiker, Bushbuck, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest and Blue Monkey.


Chaplin's Barbet

We then proceeded to a private nature reserve near Choma where our main target was Chaplin's Barbet, Zambia's only true endemic bird, which we found without too much effort. This allowed ample time to explore the diverse habitats of the conservancy in search of the broad range of bird and mammal species on offer. Here we had great sightings of Racket-tailed Roller, Arnot's and Sooty Chats, Cabanis's Bunting, Tropical Boubou, Village Weaver, Narina Trogon, Red-throated Twinspot, African Emerald Cuckoo, Miombo Scrub-Robin, African Broadbill, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Blackcollared and Crested Barbets, Amur Falcon, Wattled Starling, African Yellow White-eye, Miombo Blue-eared Starling, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Rattling Cisticola, Yellowbellied Greenbul, Long-billed Crombec, Eurasian and African Golden Orioles, Southern Black Tit, Yellow Bishop, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah, Common Waxbill, Rufous-naped and Flappet Larks, Bennett's and Golden-tailed Woodpeckers, Chinspot Batis, Browncrowned Tchagra, Black-backed Puffback, Brubru, Black Cuckooshrike, Magpie Shrike, Little Bee-eater, African Hoopoe, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Meyer's Parrot, Schalow's Turaco, Grey Go-away-bird, Senegal Coucal, African Wattled Lapwing, African Cuckoo Hawk, African Fish-Eagle, Wahlberg's and Long-crested Eagles, Striated and Black-headed Herons, Knob-billed and African Black Ducks and Swainson's Spurfowl. We also expanded our mammal list considerably with species such as Puku, Oribi, Eland, Bushpig, Greater Kudu, Lechwe, Slender Mongoose, Vervet Monkey and Hippopotamus.


Sitatunga

The final leg of the tour was spent in the Zambezi valley where our main aim was to get good views of the elusive African Pitta. We were successful and managed five good sightings, including a displaying pair, as well as hearing several more birds call. Other birds found in the pitta thickets were Livingstone's Flycatcher, Eastern Nicator, Purple-crested Turaco, Yellow-bellied and Sombre Greenbuls, Ashy Flycatcher, Terrestrial Brownbul, African Broadbill, Eastern Bearded Scrub- Robin, Red-chested Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Grey-backed Camaroptera and Thrush Nightingale. We managed to find a baobab with an attending pair of Mottled Spinetails. The dry mopane woodlands had birds such as Namaqua Dove, Meyer's Parrot, Lilac-breasted Roller, Southern Carmine and White-fronted Bee-eaters, Southern Red-billed and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills, Bearded Woodpecker, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Mosque Swallow, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Garden Warbler, Meve's and Red-winged Starlings, Spotted Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Petronia, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Red-headed Weaver, Redbilled Quelea, White-winged Widowbird, Green-winged Pytilia, Yellow-fronted Canary and White-bellied Sunbird.The riverine vegetation along the Zambezi river produced Shelley's and Purple-banded Sunbirds, Senegal Coucal and Southern Red Bishop.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Tertius Gous.

For a full list of species from this trip, please contact us.

Many of the birding sites on this trip are described in detail in the Southern African Birdfinder which is widely available in South African bookshops and on the internet. (e.g., www.netbooks.co.za or www.wildsounds.co.uk). However you're always welcome to contact us if you're interested in a guided trip in this area.



Practical tour information

Focus For keen birders and mammal enthusiasts. Designed to focus on birds, but while on the walks we may also look for other aspects of wildlife. We can also customise any itinerary to suit to the keen birder, the wildlife enthusiast or both.
Photography Many participants on our trips are amateur wildlife photographers. And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter. Thus, while the photographic opportunities are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.
Fitness No fitness is required. The few walks are generally in relatively flat areas with occasional small inclines.
Timing Various times. Please enquire.
Climate Warm to hot.
Comfort A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and small hotels.
Transport We travel by minibus or four wheel drive vehicle.
Group Size Limited to 9 participants on the African Pitta Tour in December.
Top birds African Pitta, and the country's two only endemics, Chaplin's Barbet and Black-cheeked Lovebird.
Top mammals Sable, Greater Kudu, Oribi, Southern reedbuck, Bush Pig, Aardvark, Serval, Leopard
Booking Your booking can be secured with a booking form and deposit. You will receive confirmation and our tour information pack with practical information on what to expect and how to prepare for the tour. The balance is due 150 days before the tour. Contact us to enquire about availability.


About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders. We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent. We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

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Black Harrier photograph courtesy of Keith Offord.
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