Saturday, December 29, 2012

In search of the African Pitta: Northern Zimbabwe

The long road to Masoka 

After  recieving an E-mail from my friend Tony Archer, I was excited and on the other hand left breathless.
All what Tony was saying was that he was off to Zimbabwe with some birders to look for the  African Pitta.
Further down,  as I read the mail ; he was simply saying to me " Mpho, I want you to come on this trip".
So, I had to make a decision fast, that is very fast.

We left for Zimbabwe on the 8th December 2012, with a stop over at Louise Trichardt; so as to hit the border gate at Beit Bridge as early as possible on the 9th December 2012  and proceed to Harare.

Waking up in Harare on the 10th December 2012, gave us ample time to do some birding around the city. Well, with the assistance  of Ian, the local bird guide, we managed to spot some specials.

Yellow-mantle widowbird around Harare

After agood night rest at Harare, we were up early again on the 11th December 2012, heading towards the Zambesi Valley. A small village called Masoka was our destination.  A local bird guide by the name of Mackenzie was awaiting us to track down the Pitta.

The breath taking view of the Zambezi Valley

It was almost dark when we arrived at Masoka and  we set up camp at Masoka Wild Camp site along the Angwa River.

The Mighty Angwa River
Locals fetching water from the mighty Angwa River  

After a good night rest, the morning of the 12th December 2012, was overcast but the search for the African Pitta  had  to start in earnest as early as possible.

Base camp at Masoka Wild Camp site
Elephants passing by close to the camp site
Homesteads around Masoka

The road to the Pitta habitat

On arrival at the Pitta habitat, we learned from Mackenzie that he had searched the previouse day (for the bird) with no luck. So, the search continued.

It was about 10h00 when Mackenzie whispered in great excitement "There it is"; pointing at the Pitta. "Wow, what a beauty", I said to myself.

The African Pitta (the best I could get)

All cameras and binoculars were out to catch a glimpse of the bird but it was illusive hiding in the lower branches of the  thick forest. Later on the Pitta thought it was enough and disappeared into the forest. We called it a day and decided to come the next for a better shot.

Spotted Creeper showing in the area

On the 13th December 2012, after some birding around Masoka, we gave the Pitta a second try. We were back at the Pitta spot  again awaiting its appearance when a troup of elephants appeared and made us run for our dear lives. At least we gave it a second try. I will be back again soon.

The local church structure
The market place (well stocked)
The Pitta Crew ( left to right Dawie and Sarieta, Mackenzie, myself and the Zimbabwe Anti Poaching Unit Scout). The photo was taken by Tony Archer.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rain at long last and then more migrants

We had two days of silent showers as a welcome relieve to the drought stricken areas around Mahikeng.
With the first rays of sunshine, this afternoon; I went out birding. One could hear the sound of birds again amidst the fresh rain soaked ground and trees.
I was first greeted by the Red-backed Shrike, the common summer visitor, perching conspicuously on a branch. Hooray!!! summer is here.

Red-backed Shrike