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.


  1. Thanks. Masoka has been on my bucket list since my friend Tisha Greyling (who helped set up the accommodation there and advertises it on the BirdNet)told me about it. Roads seem to be typical of most of Africa - so the good old 4x4 will be used.
    I liked you blog style.
    Inge (Pretoria)

    1. Thanx Inge,
      Give it a try. You won't regret it.

  2. Nice one Mpho! That's a very enviable bird.

  3. An early Christmas present - how lovely for you (not the part about the elephants!)
    Hope 2013 is as kind
    Regards Cassia

    1. Thanx Cassia,
      Lets hope 2013 brings some good news.

  4. Bonitas fotos de este bonito lugar.Saludos

  5. I enjoy your blog each time I come!
    Brilliant posts, and gorgeous photos!
    You make me wish to go back to Zimbabwe!

    1. Thanx Noushka,
      OH, Zim is a gorgeous country.
      Your regular visits to the blog is always appreciated.

  6. Dear Mpho
    great report and pictures. After great pics of the pitta early 2012 at the camp, this year I also got only what you got - a glimpse between branches, but still visible!
    May I have your permission to cross-reference to your blog from the Masoka Facebook page?

    1. Hi Tisha,
      You are welcome to cross reference.
      Thanx for visiting.

  7. Hi Mpho, quite an adventure! Hope all is well up in the NW.

  8. Hi,we really would love to see the African Pita! Who do we contact to visit Masoka Village?


    1. Hi Martie,
      Sorry for taking long to respond to your request.
      You can contact Mackenzie at this e-mail address:
      He is the bird guide around there and he will give you further information. Goodluck.
      Thanx for visiting.