Saturday, 22 February 2014

Exciting Harare Wildlife; A Final Week's Worth

My last week in Zim was fairly rushed and I didn't have a lot of free time. Nevertheless it was pretty entertaining as far as the wild animals were concerned.

Mukuvisi on the 3rd of November was a lovely walk. Two things still stand out in my memory; a young Ovambo Sparrowhawk which had caught a Green Wood-hoopoe perched in a tree before moving away.
The other, more exciting sighting was an active Grey Penduline-tit nest. What a treat! I'd never seen a penduline-tit nest before. They are quite unusual in that they construct a rather impressive nest which appears to be made of a wool-like material, and even has a fake entrance.

Ovambo Sparrowhawk clutching a Green Wood-hoopoe
Grey Penduline-tit on nest
I followed up Mukivisi with a couple of nightjar-catching trips to Haka Park later in the week. Only one bird was caught between the two attempts - timing is important! The birds are much more active on the full moon (my two trips were during the new moon).

I did, however, see some cool wildlife.

Western Barn Owl
White-tailed Mongoose. I spotlighted this on the edge of the vlei, and followed it for a while along the road. It eventually stopped and I managed to sneak close enough for a photo with only a 50mm lens (really should have brought my usual lens...).
Giant Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus), found in the Miombo woodlands, surprisingly.
It was huge!

A friend of mine caught a baboon spider (tarantula) in his house, which he passed on to me to photograph and release.

Identified as Idiothele nigrofulva, photographed at Greystone Park upon release. Imagine finding that in your lounge!
It had an impressive set of fangs.
On 9 November, the day before I left, I had a last visit to Haka Park. I had to say goodbye to those lovely Helmet-shrikes!

White-crested Helmet-shrike
Plains (Burchell's) Zebra
Whilst watching the helmet-shrikes, we noticed the birds were mobbing something on the ground. We walked close to the spot, and still only managed to see the thing when it shot off up a tree.

It was a Boomslang!

Unfortunately, I have finally run out of recent material to put up. Perhaps I'll post some old stuff at some point.

Goodbye for now!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Afdis Ringing

Afdis has been one of my favourite ringing spots for the last couple of years, and although human disturbance has increased a bit, there are still good birds around those rather delightful-smelling ponds!
We did a quick morning's ringing at Afdis on 2 November, 2013, just one week before I flew back to Perth.

It was a pretty good morning, with roughly 30 birds caught (I don't have the numbers with me).
Highlights were warblers (Little Rush, African Reed, Lesser Swamp), Tropical Boubou, three Thick-billed Weavers, Brimstone Canary, Variable Sunbird, a Wood Sandpiper in active primary moult and four Blacksmith Lapwings, aged 5 (0-6 months old) and 7 (13-18 months old).

Brimstone Canary
Southern Masked-weaver male in breeding plumage. Interesting yellowish colouration in the otherwise red eye
Blacksmith Lapwing, age 5
Blacksmith Lapwing, age 7
We also completed an atlas card for the pentad, with some nice observations, most notably Black-crowned Night-heron and Green Sandpiper.

I didn't have a great amount of time left for birding during the last couple of weeks of my holiday, but I managed to get to Greystone Park on the 28th of October with a friend, where we found a few things such as Egyptian Goose with goslings, African Black Duck, White-browed Scrub-robin and good views of Tambourine Dove.

Male Tambourine Dove
White-browed Scrub-robin

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Bats of Kasanka: Part Five - Mana Pools

Part One - Kariba
Part Two - Forest Inn
Part Three - Kasanka, the Mammals
Part Four - Kasanka, the Birds

Bright and early on October 24 my dad and I drove south from Lusaka, hoping to hit the border with Zimbabwe by breakfast time. There had been an incredible amount of rain the night before, which had soaked into the 'main road' (dirt tracks winding alongside the tarmac, which was under repairs for a long distance). I'm glad we left as early as we did, because as the morning went on, the now very muddy 'road' was being made worse and worse by the heavy trucks going to and from Zimbabwe. It must have been a nightmare by the end of the day!

The border was pretty quick and painless, and we headed for Makuti Hotel, where we stopped for brunch. After that we descended the escarpment into the Zambezi Valley, and on towards Nyamepi campsite in Mana Pools National Park, where we camped for three nights.

We crossed the border at Kariba rather than the more direct route through Chirundu, because the Chirundu border post is apparently very slow and just awful in general.
We stayed in Nyamepi, and made regular visits to Mana Mouth and Long Pool, plus a couple of visits to Vundu Point and Mucheni camp.

View from our campsite, in Nyamepi. Not bad!
The camp
View from Mucheni
Long Pool
Mana Mouth
Long Pool again
The hills in Zambia, across the Zambezi River. Vundu Point
We had some fantastic mammals sightings, of 19 species: Vervet Monkey, Chacma Baboon, Smith's Bush Squirrel, Lion, African Wild Dog, Side-striped Jackal, Spotted Hyaena, Dwarf Mongoose, Banded Mongoose, Elephant, Hippopotamus, Common Warthog, Impala, Common Eland, Greater Kudu, Nyala, Waterbuck and Plains Zebra.

African Buffalo
Dwarf Mongoose
Common Eland
Elephant, Hippo and Nile Crocodile
Greater Kudu male
Plains (Burchell's) Zebra
Side-striped Jackal
There was a dead hippo at one of the pools, upon which a pride of Lions was feasting over the three days we were around. There were at least 7 Lions, including males, females and a few cubs.

The Wild Dogs put on a particularly good show. The afternoon we arrived they had killed three Impala, and we drove up and watched them feeding. They stayed in the area whilst we were there, and hunted again on our last evening in the park. We saw them make a half-hearted chase of a Waterbuck, and apparently they caught an Impala again that evening, which we didn't see.

And there were, of course, some great Elephant encounters. One bull walked through our neighbour's campsite during the middle of the day, very calmly eating the Faidherbia seed pods.

How could you not love a face like this?
I set up the trail camera again in the campsite, although it was not as effective as in Kasanka.
I got Vervet Monkey, Impala and Spotted Hyaena.

Spotted Hyaena
Other than the masses of Nile Crocodiles, reptiles were hard to find. I got African Striped Skink (Trachylepis striata) and Serrated Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus).

Seven extremely convincing reasons so avoid water
Serrated Hinged Terrapin

 Birds, on the other hand, were plentiful and easy to find.
127 species all up, and the highlights were: Green-backed Heron, Glossy Ibis, Hadeda Ibis, Saddle-billed Stork, Spur-winged Goose, Hooded Vulture, Bateleur, Martial Eagle, Crested Guineafowl, Water Thick-knee, White-crowned Lapwing, Marsh Sandpiper, Little Stint, African Skimmer, Lilian's Lovebird, White-browed Coucal, Verreaux's Eagle-owl, Square-tailed Nightjar, Bohm's Spinetail, Broad-billed Roller, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Southern Ground-hornbill, Trumpeter Hornbill, Mosque Swallow, Eastern Nicator, Arnot's Chat, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Red-billed Oxpecker, Cut-throat Finch, Lesser Masked-weaver and Purple Indigobird.

Arnot's Chat
Black-winged Stilt
Brown-hooded Kingfisher struggling to swallow a frog
Crested Guineafowl
Hooded Vulture
Lilian's Lovebird
Marabou Stork
Marsh Sandpiper
Mosque Swallow, carrying nesting materials. They were building a nest inside a hollow in a tree branch

Red-billed Quelea flock
Southern Carmine Bee-eater
Verreaux's Eagle-owl
White-backed Vulture
White-fronted Bee-eater
Wood Sandpiper
And that was it. We eventually had to say goodbye to amazing Mana Pools, and I am still looking forward to next time!

This was also the last part of our 10-day trip to Kasanka in Zambia. We drove back to Harare on 27 October 2013, where I spent my last two weeks before flying back to Australia.

Thanks for reading! And look forward to a few more blog posts still to come.