Angola Birding Tour with Birding Africa: Trip Report of tour in October 2003
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Trip Report: Western Angola, October 2003
A trip with Birding Africa. Report by Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Michael Mills.

Download checklist of Bird Species Recorded:
MS Word Document (no photos - 120 KB)
MS Word Document (with photos - 1MB)

Summary and Highlights

Angola 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.
Monteiro's 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 species.

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 non-breeding plumage.

Red-backed 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.
Rio Longa: 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.

Tanks: Reminders of the recent war, these tanks positioned just outside the village of Seles are hopefully out of action for good.
Atome: 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.
Kumbira: 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.

Forest 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' long-term survival.

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 species.

Further literature:

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. In press.

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.


Practical tour information

Focus For keen birders and world listers. Designed to see all of Angola's endemic birds.
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 A moderate level of fitness is required. Most walks will be done in cool conditions and will last less than 3-4 hours. The walks are generally in relatively flat areas with occasional inclines, but some steeper hikes are involved.
Timing We run our tour before the rains and while birds are breeding.
Climate Warm in the lowlands and warm to cool in the highlands.
Comfort greyly camping with some hotel accommodation. A dedicated chef will prepare the meals.
Transport Several four wheel drive vehicles.
Getting There Please enquire
Group Size 10
Top birds Red-crested Turaco, Red-backed Mousebird, Swierstra’s Spurfowl, Gabela Helmetshrike, Gabela Bushshrike, Monteiro's Bush-Shrike, White-headed Robin-Chat, Angola Cave Chat, Pulitzer’s Longbill and Gabela Akalat and White-fronted Wattle-eye
Booking Please email us if you wish to book. You will receive the booking form and conditions and a tour information pack.

About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders, and combining interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, plants and other natural history. Our guides know the continents birds like few others; we've written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. 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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