Report: Western Angola, October 2003
A trip with Birding Africa. Report
by Callan Cohen,
Claire Spottiswoode and Michael
Summary and Highlights
Cave Chat: The bold, pied Angola Cave Chat Xenocopsychus ansorgei
has captured the imagination of birders more than any Angolan
species. Fortunately, it's reliance on rocky outcrops rather
than forest, makes it one of the Angolan endemics most robust
to habitat destruction.
Bush-Shrike: The least-known member of Africa's impressive
group of Bush-Shrikes, Monteiro's Bush-shrike Malaconotus
monteiri is known only from a couple of forest patches in
Angola and southwest Cameroon. The pale lores, dark eye and
pure yellow underparts separate it from other closely related
In October 2003 we visited Angola on a short, one-week exploratory
trip, with the aim of adding to an ever-growing post-war knowledge
of the Western Angola Endemic Bird Area. An invitation from 'Wings
Over Africa', who organised our visit and hosted us at the wonderful
'Rio Longa Lodge', provided the perfect opportunity for this.
Initially we spent a day and a half at Rio Longa Lodge, birding the
surrounding wetland habitats, riverside thickets and arid bushveld.
Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrush and Bubbling Cisticola could be seen from
the balcony in front of our room. A short walk upstream along the
Longa River produced our first Red-backed Mousebird, White-fronted
Wattle-eye and Angola Batis, and our only Golden-backed Bishop, in
Mousebird: Angola's most widespread endemic, Red-backed Mousebird
Colius castanotus, has left a gaping hole in African birders'
life lists for almost 30 years. Visiting Angola will help
many to complete their Mousebird lists.
There is no better place to base one's visit to the nearby
escarpment forest than the comfortable Rio Longa Lodge. Surrounding
arid bushveld and Croton thicket holds specials such as Red-backed
Mousebird Colius castonotus, Angola Batis Batis minulla and
White-fronted Wattle-eye Platysteira albifrons.
Although our visit along the Longa River had been productive, we
were far keener to get onto the Angolan escarpment, where most of
the endemics and threatened species occur. Once onto the edge of
the escarpment we attempted to make our way southwards to Mount
Moco, which holds the only true montane forests in Angola where
Swiestra's Francolin, Angola Cave-Chat and Angola-Slaty Flycatcher
had been collected decades previously. Unfortunately we had to abort
our mission at Atome due to mined roads, so returned to the forests
in the Gabela area, first publicised by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan.
Reminders of the recent war, these tanks positioned just outside
the village of Seles are hopefully out of action for good.
Although the debilitating war is thankfully over, some still
live in its shadow. Ex-UNITA militants are barred from leaving
their old, demolished headquaters at Atomé where the old enemy's
- the governing MPLA party - flag flies high.
Angola's escarpment not only provides fantastic forest birding,
but also breathtaking views. Below Kumbira forest the escarpment
drops away to the arid coastal plain where a whole suite of
other interesting species.
Non-endemic highlights included Gabon Coucal,
Falkenstein's Greenbul, Pale-olive Greenbul, Forest Scrub-Robin,
Miombo Rock-Thrush, Oustalet's and Montane Double-collared Sunbirds,
Perrin's Bush-Shrike, Dusky Twinspot, Pale-billed Firefinch and
Black-faced Canary. Red-crested Turaco, Gabela Bush-Shrike, Gabela
Akalat and Monteiro's Bush-Shrike were also sighted and the latter
two photographed for the first time. We photographed recorded at
new localities both Pulitzer's Longbill and Angola Cave-Chat (only
the second recent record). Our most significant find, however, was
Angola Slaty-Flycatcher, which had not been sighted for 30 years.
Destruction: The Escarpment forests of the Western Angola
Endemic Bird Area are a top priority for conservation in Africa.
With 2 vulnerable and 6 endangered species it is imperative
to halt any further forest destruction to ensure the species'
With such an array of range-restricted and threatened
species, the Western Angola EBA must rank among the highest priorities
for African conservation. Further research is urgently needed to
accurately establish how much forest remains, where the most significant
patches are located and what the conservation status is of certain
Cohen, C., Mills, M., Ryan, P., Sinclair, I., Vaz Pinto, P. and
Spottiswoode, C. 2004. Angola's neglected mountain endemics. World
Birdwatch. In press
Mills, M., Cohen, C. and Spottiswoode, C. 2004. Little-know African
Birds: Gabela Akalat. Bulletin of the African Bird Club.
Ryan, P.G., Sinclair, I., Cohen, C., Mills, M.S.L., Spottiswoode,
C.N. and Cassidy, R. 2004. The conservation status and vocalisations
of threatened birds from the scarp forests of the Western Angola
Endemic Bird Area. Bird Conservation International. In press.
Sinclair, I., Spottiswoode, C., Cohen, C. Mills, M., Cassidy, R.,
vaz Pinto, P. and Ryan, P. 2004. Birding western Angola. Bulletin
of the African Bird Club. In press.
Report by Callan
Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode
and Michael Mills.