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@Caracal Thanks, I've always wanted to visit Nanzhila, I hadn't realised that they had the lovebird there, I've just looked up Nanzhila Camp and I see they say that sightings of the lovebird are almost guaranteed, that would seem to be another good reason to go to Nanzhila, somewhere else to add to a future Zambian visit.  

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I've just edited post 24, as I realised I had left out a crucial detail about the vehicle :rolleyes:, I'll repeat it here for the benefit of those who've read that post already.  


4 hours ago, inyathi said:

What made this journey especially punishing was that the shock absorbers on the car, a Toyota Prado that had been hired for the trip were very quickly completely knackered, such that even the smallest bump resulted in loud jarring crash as we went over it, apparently Kyle had been assured that the shocks were new, so we could only conclude that either that simply wasn't true or he had used extremely cheap sub-standard shocks. 


4 hours ago, inyathi said:

Since the car hire company was in Livingstone Kyle had phoned them on the drive back to demand that they provide some replacement shocks, we were after all still at the start of our journey and he was rightly damned if he was going to drive around the rest of Zambia with completely useless shocks. For our onward journey we would have new shocks, at least we hoped they would be new and not just more cheap substandard ones.


Edited by inyathi
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As @Inyathi described: Roy Glasspool, our agent with Bedrock Africa, had promoted a day trip to Machile Important Bird Area to search for Black-cheeked Lovebirds as our first activity.  I said that sounded good, figuring that visits to the IBA might help promote conservation in some way, or help stoke local interest in the birds.  And Roy and Kyle had indicated it was potential habitat for Crested Guineafowl, Bronze-winged Coursers and other desired target birds in case we missed connecting with the Lovebirds.


Official sunrise in southern Zambia in mid-November is 5:30am, but it is pretty well light around 5am.   So we needed to rise early for a predawn departure given the  long drive.  To begin with, we drove through Livingstone and proceeded west through several kilometers of Mosi-oa-Tuna National Park.  As we watched a Black-winged Kite perched in a tree, suddenly a group of elephants loomed  ahead on the right side of the road.  Their obvious intent was to cross.  Kyle stopped a respectful distance away, put his hazard  lights on, and the group of four bachelor males proceeded  to cross.  The largest had a tracking collar and was missing outer sections of tusks. 


Soon after getting underway we saw a Southern Giraffe.  Soon afterwards, a Western Banded Snake-Eagle gave us some over-the-shoulder looks from tree near the road.  Our final stop before pressing on in earnest was to admire  a group of three Southern Ground Hornbills who hustled away unfortunately (but wisely).  




After that, we kept going, turning north and the road got bad before long.  We noticed that the vehicle's shocks were not doing their job - it bottomed out with a small bang when we hit potholes or speed bumps.   Eventually asphalt was in the minority of the "road" surface in large sections, then it gave out completely for stretches with deep holes scattered everywhere.  Traffic in both directions meandered  back and forth, weaving around potholes and each other in a slow-motion dance.  Eventually we turned off to the east on a dirt road and  drove for a few hours through the Zambian outback heading for the Machile riverbed - which we hoped would hold enough water to attract parrots.  The habitat was mopane forest interspersed with grasslands and floodplains and occasional tiny villages or small clusters of dwellings.  We passed occasional puddles from semi-recent rains that dwindled the closer we got to the river.  A couple of times we could see evidence of small pop-up tree harvesting operations creating openings and degrading the mopane forests.    


We had good birding and stopped in nice habitat to get out and listen for Lovebirds.  Tawny-flanked Prinias were common, Orange-breasted Bush-shrikes called at regular intervals, Amethyst Sunbirds, Southern Carmine + Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Black Cuckoo-Shrikes, Chinspot Batis, and Deiderick's Cuckoo saying "dee-dee-dee-deiderik".   Then a nice little bird party with Long-billed Crombec, White-bellied Sunbird, Golden-breasted Bunting and Marico Sunbird, plus a Common Tree Squirrel.   


Kyle then pointed out several Shovel-nosed Dung Beetles, Southern Black Tits and then we had a flock of Retz's Helmet-Shrikes pass through  noisily.  Then we had good but brief looks at Levaillant's Cuckoo that flushed from a bush by the road near a puddle where it had been drinking.  


Just after noon, we got to the Machile River and a causeway and bridge+culvert  crossing, but we could  not find any standing water.  We drove around up and down roads and still no puddles even.   We stopped  and talked to a gentleman in an oxcart.  He said he was from a couple of kilometers back up the road and seemed vaguely familiar with the Lovebirds.  In retrospect, his area might have been the extent of Rory McDougall's scouting / arrangements - apparently there was less water around than  normal even for the end of the dry season.  


I got the impression that we might be a little  deeper into the interior than birders usually reach.


At Kyle's request, the gentleman spoke to a young goatherder passing by who agreed to show us where he waters his livestock down in the riverbed a little way from our location.  The theory was that if we would find water we could search nearby mature trees for the Lovebirds.  It was clear to all of us by now that Kyle was an outstanding naturalist and safari guide who really knew his business so we trusted his judgement implicitly.


The young man led us to some watering holes the villagers dig for their  livestock to drink and to  water  their crops, judging from the 5 gallon buckets and water jugs beside the small rows of crops on the river bluffs about 2-4 meters above the dry riverbed.



Inspecting the muddy edges of the  water holes, we could see bird  tracks - doves, starlings and other birds were obviously using them as water sources.  The brushy barriers the villagers used to line them probably aided in bird attraction with their cover and convenient perches for the smaller birds like Waxbills and Cut-throat Finches.


Following the dry rivercourse, we saw some nice stands of trees and had good birding but no Black-cheeked Lovebirds. By now the young herder had drifted away after Kyle had given him some kwacha for his assistance.  As the clouds were threatening imminent rain, and I had left camera bag locked inside the  vehicle, we decided to head back.   At about that time, a villager fell in with us and started muttering where are you going? and we replied we had been looking at birds and were returning to our vehicle because of the rain that was beginning. He seemed satisfied but kept walking with us.


When we neared the vehicle, a fellow who said he was a "chief" informed us that we were in error for not checking in with him and asked to see our letter of permission.  Kyle replied that we were sorry and  meant no offense and how can we make it right?    The headman had been drinking a bit, not as obviously as his lieutenant, and his eyes twinkled at the notion of making it right.  He played it up further, "well, it's a serious matter" he said half-heartedly.   


Kyle said we have no problem paying some kwacha for the trouble and safe parking.  But also that they had a real opportunity with these  birds.  He said Muzungus would pay to see them and by keeping tabs on the birds when Kyle, Rory and others called about an upcoming visit, they could make money guiding birders to see them.  The headman looked interested but skeptical.   He gave Kyle his phone number and Kyle said good, but they needed to deal with the birders through the headman - not decentralized subordinates and  they needed not to be aggressive and scare the  Muzungus.  


The headman agreed and nodded, he and Kyle went behind the vehicle for a chat and everything was golden.   The young herder reappeared and talked + gestured about the birds and tipsy guys wanted to shake hands.   Apparently some drinking among the menfolk had taken place that afternoon.  Taking our cue from  Kyle, we bundled into the vehicle, waved goodbye and thanks and  were on our way again.  I hope the bird operators work out a deal with the locals and that it holds up against the forces of chaos.


We stopped a couple of times in nice forest areas on the drive out to listen for Lovebirds.  We heard squawking at one point and had a Narina Trogon  calling and flitting around, but no Lovebird sightings.   I did see an interesting moth in the leaf litter during the Trogon encounter.





The ride back had some rain and termite hatches that really fouled the windshield wipers, which started out in bad shape.  Between the road condition, the rain, the insects and the crazy truck drivers, Kyle did an admirable job driving through all the challenges.


* As we approached Livingstone and were passing through a section  of Mosi-oa-Tuna National Park, we saw the  same group of four elephants crossing the road again, heading back where they had come from  early in the morning.  It was four of them, medium-sized males, one slightly larger with a collar and incomplete tusks on both sides.  We marveled at the odds of being in the right  place twice in a day for the right few seconds each time.


We were all glad to arrive safely at the  Avani, after slightly violating our "no driving  at night on highways in Africa"  rule.  Kyle also called Chris, the  owner of  the 4x4 rental  company to get some new shocks and  windshield wipers installed before our departure the next day.  Now that's service!


Dinner was much improved versus the night  before and there was no drunken karaoke accompanying it.  And we were joined by Doris Glasspool of Bedrock Africa who was in Livingstone on business.   It great to meet Dori and she is a fine person indeed.



Edited by offshorebirder
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As well as the photos the descriptive writing of both of you has got me totally involved with this TR.

Interesting about those elephants. On my last visit to Zambia in June 2018 I was pleasantly surprised to see a group of elephants beside the highway when we were driving thru' the park to the airport.

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The  next day we were due to transfer to Masuku Lodge in the Nkanga River Conservation Area.  So we slept in and met for a quick coffee on the restaurant patio at 6am.  I was glad to get the opportunity for more rest, given the sleep deficit from the 48-hour air journey and also the cold virus I seemed to have acquired during the ordeal.  


After coffee and a muffin we spent a couple of hours birding the grounds, wetlands and forested areas leading to the falls - very enjoyable.  We were tarrying a bit to give Chris time to complete the vehicle fixes.  Then we did a quick final packing session and a nice breakfast before checking out.


The  Avani was quite alright as far as somewhere to stay in Livingstone.  If you are after air-conditioned rooms convenient to the falls with some birding possibilities it is the place for you.  If you are after immersion in wildlife and nature, perhaps a bush camp or river lodge not far away.  


The two-hour drive to Masuku Lodge was pleasant and we saw a few good birds along the way.  We also saw a rather sad sight - a Pennant-winged Nightjar lying beside the road that had been killed by traffic.  The carcass was not damaged appreciably - what a beautiful bird with astounding wing feather streamers (nearly a meter long).   I am not sure if people want to see a semi-sad photo so I will let @inyathi decide if he wants to post a photo of the nightjar.  


As we turned  off the highway onto a dirt track leading to Masuku Lodge, we stopped at a hastily erected security gate, where some workers sprayed the vehicle tires with disinfectant.  We had heard that there was a hoof-and-mouth disease outbreak underway in Botswana and that safeguards were in effect in certain areas.  


Rather than rush to Masuku Lodge, we took a nice route and did a slow-paced game drive.  The Nkanga River Conservation Area spans three farms which are mostly (fenced) game farms with some dams, rivers, wetlands and crops as well.  The day before had brought the first serious rain in a long time to the area, and it looked as if some light rains had just finished that morning.  We could see termite and ant emergences in progress - clouds of winged insects were swarming everywhere.  As expected, many birds and other animals were stuffing their faces with the sudden insect bounty.  The Slender Mongoose we soon sighted gave us the usual "rear looks" as it bounded away.  At a crossroads we found a nice bird party that included Long-tailed Paradise Whydahs, Pin-tailed Whydahs, waxbills and quelea.  We also enjoyed multiple Common Duiker sightings, a small troop of Chacma Baboons and two Bushbuck, a male and a female.


Common Duiker lounging on a termite mound



As we pulled up to the parking area at Masuku Lodge, we were greeted by two amicable Labrador Retrievers.  This is always a good indication in my experience.   We were greeted by Rory McDougall, the illustrious owner and safari guide of great renown.  Rory kindly gave Roger and me each our own chalet, even though we had booked under the shared plan.   He said "they are available throughout your stay, so why not?".  


Here is the front view of one of the chalets.  Inside mine was a large queen or king sized bed and a large bunk-bed (both with mosquito nets), as well as a desk and chair, large bathroom with tub and shower, etc.  It has a nice table and chairs on the front porch - a great place for a morning cup of coffee and watching birds and wildlife.  




At the main lodge building there is a nice veranda with a large table and comfortable chairs where you can enjoy good (or great) birding at any time of day.  As we waited a few moments for lunch to be ready, we enjoyed Arnot's Chats, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-collared Barbet, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Greater Blue-eared Starlings, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Red-backed Shrike, Striped Kingfisher, Blue Waxbills and Fork-tailed Drongo among other birds.  


Black-collared Barbet



Lunch was very tasty and really hit the spot; afterwards we took a little time to visit our rooms and get ready for the afternoon game + birding drive.  We were lucky to be guided by the dynamic duo of Kyle and Rory - not much got past those two fellows!


As soon as the drive began, we passed a pair of Wattled Lapwings that have a territory around the dam behind Masuku Lodge's grounds.  


* If you look closely at the following photos, you can see the  Wattled Lapwing was showing the tip of a "wing blade" sticking out where the forewing meets the breast when folded.  Wing blades are modified bone projections - a flat and sharp 'spur' that some Jacanas and Plovers and Lapwings have.  These spurs can be used as weapons.






This blog (missing some photo links) has good info about shorebird spurs and wing blades:



At a rocky stream crossing, we saw some Bush Hyrax sitting on rocks and hiding in the brush.  And as our game drive continued, we enjoyed more Common Duikers, some common birds like Bearded Woodpecker, and then Rory and Kyle spotted some Racket-tailed Rollers!   This was a life bird for Roger and me and we all wanted to get some photos of this alluring species.  


Racket-tailed Roller



One of the birds was waving a wasp around - perhaps as part of a courtship ritual.




On our way to look for Chaplin's Barbets we passed through a grassland area with lots of game - more Common Duikers, a couple of dozen Puku, several Tessebe and a few Oribi as well.








At a little dam, we enjoyed some shorebirds - 2 Greenshank, three Wood Sandpipers and more Wattled Lapwings.  Then we came upon a couple of Magpie Shrikes - I think they are handsome creatures.


Magpie Shrike



After enjoying more birds and a Monitor Lizard, we came upon some fig trees that were occupied by Sooty Chats and CHAPLIN'S BARBETS.   We were glad to see the barbets as they were one of the primary targets for the trip.  They were a bit skittish however, and did not allow very close approaches.   





More good birds followed - Red-necked + Swainson's Spurfowl, Pygmy Kingfisher, Coqui Francolin, Common Scimitarbill, Eurasian Hobby and more.  


We ended up heading for home after dark, so enjoyed a little night drive.  We noted an area where two African Broadbills were calling and working out their territorial boundaries; we decided to visit earlier the next evening to try and see them.  On our brief night drive we saw Lesser Galago, Scrub Hare, Bushbuck and Common Duiker, a Sand Frog of some sort and Fiery-necked + Rufous-cheeked Nightjars.   


Rufous-cheeked Nightjar




As the sun faded, it was incredible how many flying insects were about.  One had to keep one's mouth closed in the open landcruiser and I was glad to have eyeglasses protecting my eyes.  


We returned to Masuku Lodge for a wonderful dinner.  We had to be quick going inside and out, since the omnipresent winged horde was attracted to the lights of the house and wanted to join us inside.  But it was more interesting than any kind of bother.  We had some guests inside the chalets that night - termite queens, flying beetles and unidentified insects.   But they were well-behaved and did not join me in bed thanks to the mosquito netting.  


According to my tally spreadsheet, we saw 115 bird species and 11 mammal species for the day.

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What an excellent day. I have not seen a Raquet-tailed Roller - really beautiful.

It is interesting to hear about the spur on the lapwing.

Masuku Lodge sounds like a good choice 

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wow 115 bird species in one day! that's tremendous. glad you saw your lifer @offshorebirder the chaplin's barbet and the raquet-tailed roller are stunning. 


the dual-voice TR is most enjoyable, and as always, all the information and history and background of the trip from @inyathi  are fascinating and useful. Hope you get to the pittas quick! that's my top interest for the trip! 


Masuku lodge sounds like a very good option. 

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@inyathi @offshorebirder


Impeccable teamwork , or tandem report as @Atravelynn calls it in her Kafue topic where she made me an offer for the next safari I can't refuse ; 115 bird species in one day is phenomenal with the Wattled Lapwings and the Racket-tailed Roller among my personal favorites ! we saw both in the Kafue at Nanzilha Plains Camp ! 



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I’ve had the good fortune to see pennant-winged nightjars a couple of times, remarkably once during the day time when we found one in the woodland a Thazima next to the entrance gate into Nyika National Park into Malawi. Normally they’re birds that you see while on a night drive if you are lucky, it was sad to see one dead on the road as we did, but it did give us a chance to have a close look at this extraordinary looking bird. The males only grow their long pennants for the breeding season. The female looks much more like a typical nightjar, very drab and well camouflaged, lacking not just the pennants, but also the curious wing shape and black and white feathers that the male has. It had presumably been swooping down over the road when it was hit by a vehicle, likely not too many hours before we found it, as the body was intact and not a nasty mess, I thought I would include the photo.




Not much more to add to what @offshorebirder has said, other than to say that after staying at the Avani, at Masuku Lodge you really feel much more like you are staying at a private home than a lodge,  eating home cooked food, of course, being greeted by a couple of friendly black Labradors Heidi and Jackal helps add to this feeling.




The racket-tailed roller is a special bird of miombo woodland (and tall mopane) and one that I had seen before on a few occasions, mostly when venturing off the beaten track into the miombo in Ruaha national park in Tanzania and in the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique, but our view of them here was one of the best views I’ve had and I managed to get some better photos as a result. Zambia is probably the best country to see this roller, as it occurs throughout the country wherever there is still good habitat, it shouldn’t be too hard to find in parts of Kafue, but it is a bit harder to see than the more familiar rollers. Finding them here didn't prove too difficult.




The Chaplin’s barbet is also known as the Zambian barbet, because it is endemic to Zambia. I said earlier that the black-cheeked lovebird is Zambia’s only other endemic bird, but whether the latter is truly endemic is questioned by some, it’s not completely certain that the lovebird may not occur over the border in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip or in Botswana as there are unconfirmed records from both countries, if they do occur in either country, they could be genuine wild birds rather than feral birds as was suspected in the case of Zimbabwe. For this reason, many refer to Chaplin’s barbet as Zambia’s only true endemic bird. The barbet is restricted to quite a small area of Zambia, which does include a small area of Kafue National Park, when I visited Kafue years ago and stayed at Lunga River Lodge (now closed) it was suggested that there was some possibility that we might be able to see it, I didn’t see it and I’m rather doubtful as to whether it’s worth trying to look for it in Kafue. The Nkanga River Conservation Area where we were is clearly by far the best place to see it, and is why all birders going to Zambia will want to stay at Masuku Lodge, I needn't add any of my shots of the barbet. Besides the pitta, this barbet was one of my primary targets, it was good to have found it relatively easily and got decent views of it, we could then focus on finding other birds or mammals.  



Yellow-spotted bush hyrax


Not the best shot of a coqui,  but I thought I'd put it in anyway, it was something of a surprise to see this francolin on the night drive rather than during the day. 



Coqui francolin


This had indeed been a great day, we hoped that the following day would be a great success also, as we would only have a fairly short night's sleep, we needed to set our alarms for around 03:30 in order to leave at 04:00 to drive out to Lochinvar National Park. 

Edited by inyathi
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Thanks for the words of encouragement @TonyQ, @Kitsafari and @BRACQUENE.  


@BRACQUENE - you and @Caracal have me interested in Nanzilha Plains Camp - it sounds like a great place for Miombo birds and excellent odds for Black-cheeked Lovebirds in the bargain, not to mention some very special mammals from the look of things online.  And their website mentions Pel's Fishing-Owl.  I wonder if they have chances at Bronze-winged Courser, one of my most-wanted African birds?







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We didn't see a Bronze-winged Courser but together with the Three-banded and Temminck's they are present in the Kafue even if I read the chances are bigger in the Choma Region between Livingstone and Lusaka 

I can really recommend Nanzilha for the birding even if we didn't see the Black-cheeked Lovebird either 


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I am not sure about @inyathi, but my original intent was not to do a "day-by-day full recap" of our safari - I am cautious of boring our readers with too much detail.  But I do want to discuss our day trip to Lochinvar National Park in some depth, since it is not often visited by safarigoers.  And we had an amazing night drive on November 21 that definitely bears mentioning.


Lochinvar includes some of the southern end of the Kafue Flats - a vast floodplain straddling the Kafue River.  We had multiple reasons to visit Lochinvar and its grasslands + wetlands: herds of Kafue Lechwe (Kobus leche kafuensis), concentrations of ducks + wading birds + shorebirds and target birds like Pygmy Geese, Lesser Jacana, and Slaty Egret to name a few.


The forecast had rain potentially in store and ominous clouds loomed on the horizon towards Lochinvar.  We wanted to use Masuku Lodge's open vehicle for our game drive at Lochinvar, but the rain could be a problem.  To solve the dilemma: Rory graciously drove the open vehicle (which has a 2-person cab in front) the 1.5 hour trip to Lochinvar, while we rode with Kyle in the Toyota Prado SUV we rented for  the safari.  When we reached Lochinvar we parked the Prado at the ranger camp beside the lagoon and all rode in the game drive vehicle.


At the gate to Lochinvar we could see it was one of the days they let fishermen into the park as part of the controlled-access arrangement.  This was less than optimum for our purposes - we worried that all that human activity and traffic might not be beneficial to wildlife sightings.  


A couple of times we pulled over so large trucks carrying fishermen and their equipment could pass on their way to Chunga Lagoon.  I could not help but wonder how many of the fishermen used snares and other methods to illegally harvest bushmeat.


One of the first birds to welcome us to the park was a Red-naped Lark - its lilting call gave me flashbacks to some happy times in the Mara. The second bird we saw was a Purple Roller.  I just realized that we saw five Roller species on our Zambia safari:  Purple, Racket-tailed, Lilac-breasted, European and Broad-billed!


Then we had a very nice sighting of a critically endangered bird - a White-headed Vulture.



Just afterwards, we saw a Grey Penduline Tit - it was gathering nesting material and working on its nest!   Kyle said he had never seen a Penduline-Tit nest in the wild so we studied it and took some photos.  It was cleverly built, with a false entrance hole covering the real entrance hole to confound predators.


Grey Penduline-Tit nest




Then in quick succession we had Magpie Shrikes, Grey-crowned Cranes, Broad-billed Roller, Amur Falcon and Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark as well as our first herd of Kafue Lechwe.  Unfortunately the Lechwe were hurrying across the road and into deeper cover.  


After more bird and Lechwe sightings we arrived at the ranger camp in a grove of trees by the lagoon.  Bundling into the open vehicle, we drove along the lake shore enjoying the scene and spotting birds and lechwe.  At our first stop, Roger and I were treated to two "lifers" in the vegetation-covered shallows - four Pygmy Geese and two Lesser Jacanas!   Then we found a spot with lots of birds and some Kafue Lechwe herds and stopped for breakfast.








I set up my tripod and spotting scope and Kyle used them to call out and show us some nice birds while Rory worked on setting up folding chairs and readying breakfast.  Then as Kyle went to assist Rory, I got down to some serious scoping of shorebirds on the shoreline and small islands.  Roger and I had kind of warned Kyle and Rory about my shorebird passion (OK, obsession) and mentioned that I am a professional shorebird surveyor on the side in addition to my "day job".


Still, they were a bit surprised as I kept processing ultra-distant flocks and calling out noteworthy birds like Black-tailed Godwit, Gull-billed Tern and others.  Eventually I paused for breakfast so as not to be rude and it was well worth it.  We all dropped our food and picked up binoculars as a huge flock of Collared Pratincoles zipped back and forth over the water and eventually landed on some flats near a herd of Kafue Lechwe.  There must have been 800 Pratincoles at least.


I loved watching the Lechwe grazing and resting contentedly amid shorebirds and waterbirds.  The scene before us looked for all the world as if it could have been 2,000 years ago.





Birds in view included Red-billed Teal and Hottentot Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Whiskered and White-winged Tern, African Jacana, Sacred Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Olive Bee-eater, African Fish Eagle, Openbill Stork, Yellow-billed  Stork, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret and Great Egret.  Shorebirds included Ruff, Marsh Sandpiper, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Ringed-Plover, Common Greenshank and Black-tailed Godwit to name a few.


After breakfast and some more birding along the lagoon, we proceeded toward drier ground to check out grasslands and woodlands.  A nice Black-bellied Bustard put in an appearance near a flock of Crowned Lapwings.  Other dry country birds included Temminck's Courser, Common Fiscal, African Stonechat, Grey-rumped Swallow and Dusky Lark.   It was good  to see Zebra and Warthog and we also spotted Common Duikers.  I can't find in my notes if the Puku and Oribi we had were at Lochinvar or back at Nkanga River CA.  


Before long we came to another wetland area - a fair expanse of open water with lots of rushes and flooded grasses lining it.  There was a large group of egrets and herons including 80-90 Black Herons and smaller numbers of Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Squacco Herons and Long-toed + Blacksmith Lapwings.  Rory spotted a SLATY EGRET - a rare bird in these parts and a highly desired target bird for Roger and me.  Rory pointed out how the bird was more blueish in tone, had a noticeably different posture, had a different foraging habit and lacked the shaggy rear crest of the Black Egrets.  We appreciated the valuable lesson on Slaty Egret giss.  



I think we ate our lunch at this point, but I am not certain.  There was a nice flock of Caspian Plovers that we watched while admiring the waterbirds - in the distance there also seemed to be some herders and half-starved cattle inside the park's official boundaries.   


Eventually we drove to some hot springs in Lochinvar on on our way back home.  A Water Monitor played peekaboo with us in the reeds and there  were a few shorebirds (Green Sandpipers and a Wood Sand) around the margins of the springs.  In a forested area we enjoyed decent looks at a Trumpeter Hornbill.




* I feel like I am forgetting to mention some game or wildlife that we saw - @inyathi please fill in the blanks for anything I neglected.


Impressions of Lochinvar NP:  This area is so bountiful, and has so much potential and still some wildlife in significant amounts.   There just needs to be enforcement of the rules and probably more + better rules to save the dwindling wildlife.  Rory and others have been working to  protect the place for decades and it needs an NGO or other partner to help turn things  around.  Some kind of eco lodge would really help, but the demand is not there yet to keep one afloat - the old dilemma.  Birdwatch Zambia has taken an interest and helped organize well-researched and executed "invasive Mimosa eradication" sessions to restore grasslands for the Lechwe and other grazers.  It's a hard choice but I agree that sometimes targeted use of benign herbicides is warranted in the course of invasive species control.


-- We arrived back at Masuku Lodge with a fair amount of daylight remaining.  After a short break, we planned to reassemble in the car park to board the game drive vehicle.  We all wanted to look for the African Broadbills we had heard the night before, as well as do a more in-depth night drive.  I forgot to mention that we had seen an active Aardvark burrow the previous afternoon so that was also on the itinerary.


At 5:50pm while Kyle and I waited  for the others, we had two Narina Trogons vocalizing in nearby trees!   When everyone arrived, we all marveled and tried to get decent photos despite the cloud-dispersed light and trogons that perched directly overhead.



As we passed the Wattled Lapwings' dam, a pair of African Hoopoes had a fight that ended with them falling to the ground.  Soon  afterwards a family of Banded Mongoose watched us from a termite mound.



Then we had a Crowned Hornbill and birds like Walberg's Eagle and Lizard Buzzard while searching in vain for Miombo Pied Barbets, another sought-after target. In keeping with the nest-finding theme, we came upon a mantis nest:




At 6:20 we were at the African Broadbill spot with one of the birds calling and presumably displaying.

The African Broadbill was in very dense woodland with a thick understory, near a watercourse.  "Riverine thicket" I suppose would be the correct term.  I had to leave my tripod on the road as we twisted and burrowed along behind Kyle in a cautious approach to the bird.  So the  video I shot was intolerably shaky and the photos very grainy from the super-high ISO required at sundown in the dark woodland.  Nevertheless, it was a thrilling experience and a new bird for me.  I had not known to reasonably expect African Broadbill - much less a displaying male - when planning this safari.






We were elated after the Broadbill encounter, and proceeded on a Night Drive with Kyle driving and spotlighting.  

We saw Bushbuck and Common Duikers as well as scrub hares.   Then we saw a small-to-medium sized mammal on a tree-dotted termite mound.  Looking through binoculars we could see it had smallish pointed ears and seemed to be spotted.  We all realized it was a SERVAL!   It let us get medium distance and decided to slink down the mound and pace off through a grassy area.  I estimate we had it in sight for 3-4 minutes all told but I am not good at such estimates after the fact.  




The Serval was a first for Roger and me.  'Ol Rob has seen a few of course.  


We waited and watched in silence and in vain for the Aardvark near its burrow.  Afterwards we approached to look over the burrow - the Aardvark had urinated beside the burrow and left a pungent odor.    


Back on the night drive, we came upon a Southern White-faced Scops Owl.  It was clutching and eating  a very large beetle - that was what was swarming tonight instead of termites  and ants.   





More Duikers and scrub hares followed and we returned to Masuku Lodge for drinks and dinner after a fabulous day.



Edited by offshorebirder
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@inyathi @offshorebirder

I am a big Roller fan but who isn't ?

"The second bird we saw was a Purple Roller.  I just realized that we saw five Roller species on our Zambia safari:  Purple, Racket-tailed, Lilac-breasted, European and Broad-billed!" 

Impressive : I never spotted the European but the Purple is from 2017 in Ruaha !

Mwagusi 014.jpg

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@offshorebirder your details will not bore us! It is fascinating to hear about these areas that are not much reported - I am enjoying it very much.

The Owl at the end is beautiful.

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@offshorebirder  It wasn’t entirely my intention to do a full day by day account, I just seem to have fallen into doing that not for the first time, I would hope as we carry on, to at times maybe compress several days into a single post, rather than having a full post on each day, as I agree a blow by blow account can sometimes be a bit boring.


Lochinvar, that is the original Lochinvar is a loch in Scotland in the county of Dumfries and Galloway, before Lochinvar National Park was created, back in colonial times it was a ranch owned by a Scottish family, I presume they chose the name as a reminder of their ancestral homeland, I can’t see much resemblance between the Chunga Lagoon and a Scottish loch, however the name stuck when it was designated a national park in 1972.   


The southern lechwe as it is sometimes called, presumably to distinguish it from the Nile lechwe found in Ethiopia and Sudan is a south-central African antelope with originally five different subspecies four of them found in Zambia, one of these the Robert’s lechwe (Kobus leche robertsi) is now extinct. Of the surviving subspecies only the Upemba lechwe (k. l. anselli) which is endemic to the DRC doesn’t occur in Zambia, the red lechwe (K. l. leche) the most common subspecies also occurs in Angola, Botswana and Namibia, the last two, the black lechwe (K. l. smithemani) and the Kafue lechwe (K. l. kafuensis) are endemic to Zambia. The Kafue subspecies is confined to the Kafue Flats an area of the Kafue River Basin east of Kafue National Park in between the park and Lusaka, the lechwe found in Kafue National Park are actually all red lechwe, it is the most endangered of Zambia’s lechwe. Once there would have been a few hundred thousand, by 1973 there were around 95,000, the population then dropped again to around 40-45,000 and remained around that level for a while, but more recently the population has decline quite significantly, a 2015 survey estimated just  28,711. This decline is almost entirely the result of poaching, although the construction of the Itezhitezhi Dam and other dams on the Kafue River have clearly impacted the Kafue Flats ecosystem. Lochinvar National Park in theory at least protects some 428 square kilometres of the Kafue Flats, however, while Zambia’s best-known parks like South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue and a few others are pretty well protected, some of its lesser known parks are somewhat unloved and poorly protected and Lochinvar Falls into this category.


The only other mammals besides the Kafue lechwe that I recall seeing in Lochinvar were vervet monkeys and oribi and I think scrub hare, I’m presuming that all of the other mammals I recorded that day were seen back at Masuku/Nkanga rather than at Lochinvar. I've just read through a research paper entitled Population and distribution of Kafue lechwe and other large mammals on the Kafue flats, Zambia (2002) this was a survey partly funded by the International Crane Foundation and Disney.


In it the following species are listed as extirpated


Cheetah, leopard, lion, wild dog, eland, hartebeest, puku, roan, sable, waterbuck, warthog


I don’t believe any of these animals have been reintroduced, so they are presumably all still gone from Lochinvar, obviously this paper is from 17 years ago, so the status of the surviving species may have changed, but from what I can ascertain there should still be a few buffalos, greater kudu, sitatungas and blue wildebeest and I would think some zebras, apparently impalas were poached out but then a few were brought in, whether they survive or not I’m not certain.  All very sad really, the most numerous large mammal that we saw during our day in the park were domestic cattle, as a result of the drought that has affected the region large herds of cattle were being grazed in the park, because it still had plenty of grass, doubtless in part due to the absence of the large herds of wild grazers that should be there. Although the illegal grazing is probably much worse because of the drought, I suspect this is something that goes on all of the time, because the DNPW don’t have either the will or the resources to try and remove these people and perhaps don’t want to get into a serious conflict with the local people.


If that isn’t bad enough there is a gypsum mine inside the park.


Unfortunately if Lochinvar is to survive and be restored to the park that it should be, guaranteeing the survival of the endangered Kafue lechwe, then it needs an NGO like African Parks or similar to come in and take it on, I can’t see AP taking it on at the moment, as they already have Liuwa National Park and Bangweulu Wetlands in Zambia and were rumoured to be taking on Kafue though I don’t know what’s come of that. I hope that someone mighttake on Lochinvar, otherwise I do fear for it’s future and that of the lechwe.


There was once a lodge, Lochinvar Lodge apparently dating from colonial times and more recently a safari camp Lechwe Plains Tented Camp, but both are now long gone only neglected ruins remain. Lochinvar is a great place for birders wanting to see wetland birds, but I can’t really see many other people wanting go there to see Lochinvar as it is now, there’s really little point in anyone trying to put in a new camp or lodge, it would only make sense for someone to do this, if some major restocking was carried out to return the missing species and build up the numbers of those that survive. I imagine that lions and other big predators were disposed of back when Lochinvar was a ranch, I don’t suppose that the local people would welcome the return of lions.


Lochinvar is I believe home to a good population of wattled cranes, hence the International Crane Foundation’s interest in the park, but we didn’t find any of these cranes, just a few of the more common grey crowned crane.     


Since Nate mentioned it here’s an article from the ICF website on the mimosa control




The 2002 survey that I linked to was of the entire Kafue Flats not just Lochinvar NP, north of the park is another national park Blue Lagoon, the game species numbers from that survey were therefore for the entire area, I found another research paper with a map of the Kafue Flats and because I like to include maps, I used this to create my own map from Google Earth.    




 I don’t have a lot more to say, I’ll just add some photos



Kafue lechwe



Kafue lechwes Chunga Lagoon



The view at breakfast



African yellow-billed duck



Leopard tortoise



Black herons and egrets



Trespassing cattle



Cute perhaps, but not welcome in a national park



Caspian plovers





Young Kafue lechwe



Southern yellow-billed hornbill

Back at Masuku Lodge



Narina trogon

Edited by inyathi
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The Nkanga River Conservation Area



Nkanga comprises three private farms on the Southern Province Plateau, just north-east of Choma. Much of the area is fenced game farm, and the remainder includes various crops (maize, coffee, tobacco) and livestock (beef and dairy cattle, sheep). Tourists are welcome and there is a campsite as well as catered accommodation. The habitat is a mosaic of miombo, munga and thicket, interspersed with dambos and several open grassy plains. There are a number of dams, some permanent hot springs and scattered kopjes. The rocky Nkanga river and its tributaries are flanked by dense riparian thicket.


The main part that we were exploring was the Bruce Miller Game Farm. Besides the Chaplin’s barbet, I’d really hoped to see the miombo pied barbet on this trip, this bird is a regional endemic restricted to miombo woodland in Angola, Zambia, DRC, Malawi and a small part of southwest Tanzania, I’d missed this bird on earlier visits to Zambia and Malawi. Although we listened out for the bird in suitable areas of miombo, and Kyle tried playing the call to illicit a response, we were not able to find the miombo pied, we had to hope that maybe we would get lucky elsewhere. We still enjoyed a pleasant morning birding finding some good species and also coming across a nice sable antelope bull, a new species for Nate and Roger and always good to see.






Beautiful even from this angle



Woodland pipit



Grant's zebras


In the afternoon, we drove out to a neighbouring property called Moomba Farm to visit their dam, in the hope that we would pick-up a good selection of waders/shorebirds.   



Tractor on the dam wall Moomba Farm


The shot above gives some idea of how low the water level was as a consequence of the drought.



Moomba Dam




Kittlitz's plover





I will leave it to @offshorebirder to add more birds or other photos from Nkanga and Moomba Dam


Our stay at Maskuku Lodge had been wonderful, we'd seen plenty of good birds and had a great adventure going to Lochinvar, I'd actually been slightly concerned when it was first suggested that we go there, that if it rained it might prove too wet and we could end up stuck in the mud, I think the book Southern African Bird Finder mentioned there being a lot of black cotton soil and the risk of sinking up to your axles, but that fortunately didn't happen. The wonderful think about staying at Masuku is that Rory McDougall is a charming host, an expert guide and authority on Zambian birds. 


Edited by inyathi
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Thanks for the information and photos of Lochinvar NP, don’t think I’ve read a report from this area before. Nice sighting of the elusive Chaplin’s Barbet. 




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I was interested to read that you'd stayed at Lunga River Lodge @inyathi - I stayed there back in 2007 and then at Kapinga in Busanga. Chaplin's Barbet was recorded as having been seen at Kapinga but I didn't see it.

I've had good sightings of racket-tailled rollers at both Nanzhila and KaingU.

Really interested to read about the trip to Lochinvar. I'd formed the impression that it was totally neglected and desolate so I was delighted to see there are still herds of Kafue Lechwe and an excellent bird population.

It would be great if there could be a revival and restoration for both Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon.

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Our full day in Nkanga River Conservation Area and a neighboring farm was a lot of fun.  It started with Peg the Arnot's Chat in the kitchen and on the veranda.  Many good birds in the garden greeted us over coffee and on the way to the vehicle- before long we were seeing Southern Hyliota (a  sought-after bird) and Stierling's Wren-Warbler among other goodies.  Other highlights included Southern Black Tit chasing Miombo Tit, Neddicky, White-breasted Cuckoo-Shrike, Warthogs, Common Duiker, a bull Sable Antelope, and lots of good birds.


Peg the Arnot's Chat




Immature Arnot's Chat taking a shower at Masuku Lodge




Southern Hyliota




Bull Sable Antelope






Brown Snake-Eagle




After lunch I had a nice encounter with a Broad-billed Roller in the Masuku Lodge gardens.





A visit to a neighboring farm was a lot of fun and produced some nice shorebirds at a large dam. 


Masuku Lodge is a great place and Nkanga River Conservation Area is good for birds and to a lesser extent mammals.  Having Rory there takes things to another level and places like Lochinvar and elsewhere are within range for day trips.  The food is excellent, garden birding tip-top and accommodations are nice.

Next we had a lot of driving ahead of us - broken up by a stay at the Forest Inn a few  hours' drive north  of Lusaka.   On the way, north of Lusaka, we stopped  at a great coffee shop and restaurant - the Fig  Tree Cafe.   It is on some shady grounds  on the Great North Road, just south of Kabwe.  


@inyathi and I were eager to see if the Lord Derby's Anomalure at Forest Inn that Kyle knew about was in residence.  He had texted the manager at the Forest Inn and she said yes it was being seen, but there may have been some confusion so we really had no idea.


The rain we arrived in and the saturated grounds did not seem promising.  




Edited by offshorebirder
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@offshorebirder @inyathi


A Southern Hyliota what a special Christmas present indeed  ! From my room at the Belgian coast wishing you both a very happy and peaceful one

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Time for a couple of maps.


Bruce Miller Game Farm marked on the first map is part of the Nkanga River Conservation Area, where Masuku Lodge is located near Choma southwest of Lusaka, our next one night stop Forest Inn is northeast of Lusaka just south of the DRC border, so it was a long day of driving to get there.   






From Forest Inn on the bottom corner of the map, we would travel up to Wasa Lodge in Kasanka National Park and then we hoped get to explore a bit of Bangweulu Wetlands from Kasanka and then move on to the Mutinondo Wilderness before heading south to the Zambezi Valley. 


Shortly before I visited Ghana back in February, I happened to be reading a birding trip report and saw a photograph of remarkable and beautiful mammal called Pel’s anomalure, a species of nocturnal flying rodent, found in the Upper Guinea Rainforest. Until I saw this picture taken from the canopy walkway in Kakum National Park, I’d never really imagined that seeing Pel’s anomalure or any of the other anomalure species was a realistic possibility, largely because they are entirely nocturnal. Knowing that I did in fact have a chance of seeing one, I made sure that our guide in Ghana James Ntakor knew that we wanted to see the Pel’s anomalures in Kakum, if he’d thought we were only interested in birds, he might have decided not to try and find it, if I hadn’t known about it and mentioned it, he might not have offered us the choice and we would have left none the wiser as to what we’d missed. Thanks to reading that trip report, I got to see and have great views of a pair of one of the most extraordinary African mammals, although due to some incompetence on my part, I failed to get any good photos, only achieving one blurry out of focus record shot. I didn’t imagine when I signed up for this safari that history might repeat itself, in this case @offshorebirder happened to read a mammal watching trip report on Zambia and read that they had seen a Lord Derby’s anomalure at Forest Inn where we would be staying, that there were a pair of these animals living inside a tree near the entrance gate. Naturally we made sure that Kyle knew that we wanted to try and see these anomalures, he knew that these animals could be seen at Forest Inn and said he would check with them that they were still there and let them know that we wanted to see them. On the drive from Masuku up to Forest Inn he checked with them again that the anomalures were still there and then when we checked in confirmed what time they might come out, so that we could be ready for them.


There are actually eight species of anomalures, ranging in size from the largest Pel’s that can weigh in at 1.8 kgs down to Zenker’s flying mouse that can weigh as little as 14 grams. They look just like flying squirrels and they are sometimes called scaly-tailed flying squirrels, but they are not squirrels, they’re actually a great example of parallel evolution, where species that share a common ancestor have followed a very similar evolutionary path. Being rodents they share a common ancestor with squirrels, but are on a different branch of the rodent family tree, they just happen to have evolved in the same direction as the true flying squirrels.


They behave in a very similar fashion, spending the day asleep in their nest in a tree hole and then emerging around dusk, to spend the night foraging in their woodland or forest home, feeding mainly on bark, but also leaves and fruit and occasionally insects. Lord Derby’s is the second largest weighing in at up to 1.1 kgs and most widespread anomalure species, found in rainforest and woodland across West and Central Africa as far as Western Kenya and right across southern Tanzania almost to the coast and across northern Zambia. Looking at the distribution map, I have clearly visited a lot of national parks that must have Lord Derby’s anomalures in them, but I’d never until now been offered a proper chance to see one. You’re only realistic chance of seeing one other than by pure luck, is to find a tree that you know that they are nesting in and catch them when they emerge from their hole.


It’s important with any wildlife stakeout that you arrive well in advance, so that you can be sure you’re not too late and haven’t already missed your target or won't disturb it when you arrive and with a nocturnal subject such as this, you then have plenty of time to get your camera prepared for the challenge ahead. We duly assembled outside the reception building at around 17:30, spent a little while working out where the tree hole was that we needed to watch, and then attempted to get our cameras ready. The challenge is that at a certain point once the sun has gone down, the light level will get so low that your autofocus will stop working, you have to resort to manual focus, but with so little light it’s difficult to really see when it's properly focused, so you ideally need to make sure you are focused on the hole in advance when it’s still light, then switch to manual to ensure you don’t lose the focus. This is what I had trouble with in Ghana, once I was no longer focused on the right part of the tree, I was no longer able to get it back in focus properly. You also then need to decide where to set the camera's ISO to ensure that it will cope when it gets that much darker, I usually set mine on Auto and then adjust the parameters setting the ISO range, if I don't want it to go above a certain ISO, in this case I just opted to try different ISOs, starting at 3,000 and then eventually ending up on 12,800.  I have in recent years taken to using a monopod some of the time because I find it very useful for videoing, I’m normally happy shooting stills handheld with my 100-400 mm, but for video I find it’s just too heavy, to want to hold up for any length of time. I thought that this would be a good time to make use of it, Nate meanwhile was using a 400mm with a converter on a tripod and from where we were standing the tree hole was just too close for him, so he had to ask the security guard to open the gate so that he could go out and stand the other side next to the road. Inevitably the four of us standing around by the reception and entrance gate with our cameras, had not gone unnoticed by some of the other guests, before long some South African self-drivers came and joined us wanting to know what we were doing, they’d never heard of an anomalure, they had no idea that such an animal even existed, once Kyle explained what Lord Derby’s anomalure is, they decided to stay and wait with us. Although not seriously raining It was somewhat wet, we were hopeful that the anomalures would appear, but not too hopeful because of the weather. 



You can see from this photo I took of the tree hole, that the tree was a bit wet 


At around about 18:30ish an anomalure suddenly appeared out of the hole, by this time it was getting a little dark, it started moving up the tree. Roger, myself and Kyle then moved across to in front of the guard post to get a better view, we hoped that Nate who was out of sight the other side of the garden wall from us, could see as well as we could.    



Lord Derby's anomalure


I’m still mystified as to how I did but somehow this time I managed to get the anomalure pretty well in focus, while we photographed the anomalure Kyle shone a spotlight into the tree, or got one of the guards to do so, to light the animal without shining it directly on it so as not to blind it. Using my monopod was a big help save for the fact that it presented me with one problem, the angle was such that I could not get down low enough to view the anomalure through the viewfinder, however, my Canon EOS 70D has a fold out screen on the back and I realised this was the solution, and that I should be able to position the screen at the right angle, put the camera on life view and see the anomalure on my screen hopefully in focus.






Having achieved this, I then switched the camera to video mode and to my absolute amazement managed to take some pretty amazing footage. After the anomalure had move up the tree a short distance from the hole, another one suddenly shot out of the hole and chased the first one further up the tree. I suspect having consulted the relevant volume of the Mammals of Africa,  that this was a mother and her youngster. 



Eventually they’d gone up so far up the tree that I could no longer keep track of them with my camera., but I managed to spot them again and it was quite clear that they were going to “fly”, suddenly the first one leapt from the branch, spreading its wings to form a large rectangular parachute, with its tail trailing behind. It glided down over the wall to a tree the other side, quickly followed by the second one, they ascended the tree and disappeared from view. Nate returned from outside and we all headed off to dining room, elated at having seen these extraordinary animals so well, we could not have hoped for a better sighting.


We were meeting some young farmer friends of Kyle’s for dinner, Forest Inn seemed to be a popular watering hole for members of the local farming community, as well as a nice place to stay for self-drivers, it is perhaps slightly off the beaten track for most regular tourists, it’s mainly somewhere people stay because it’s a convenient overnight stop if you are travelling by road to Kasanka National Park or Mutinondo or other places in northern Zambia and it is a nice place with good food. Most visitors wouldn’t know about the anomalure or be that interested in any of the birds that might be found in the surrounding miombo.


We were all astonished by our sighting of the anomalures, and couldn’t believe that we had got photos of them, we were so pleased that when Kyle suggested that we go back to the gate in the morning at 04:00 for another look we agreed. I set the alarm on my iPad for 03:45, but unfortunately when I awoke I could hear that it was pouring with rain outside, if I’d had any sense I would have been satisfied with the fantastic view I’d had the night before and gone back to sleep, but I didn’t instead I got dressed and went outside decided it was really too wet and I couldn’t find any of the others so I returned to my room. I went back to bed for a little while and then went out again at 05:00, putting on my poncho I headed back up to the gate, again there was no one else there, however it wasn’t too wet, so I hung around watching the tree, it was a little dark to see well and certainly far too dark for photography, my patience paid off when at roughly 05:15 an anomalure landed on the tree and then shot down the hole, it had literally arrived and disappeared into its nest within seconds, although I can say that I saw it on two days, I can’t say that this second view had been worth getting up for. All the same, if someone had told me back in 2018, that the following year I would see two different species of anomalure, I would not have believed them.  


We then met all met up again for coffee at 06:30, so that we could set off on a walk around Forest Inn’s Bird Walk, this as we discovered is really just a path that they have signposted with Bird Walk, that goes off through the woodland along the edge of an airstrip and back through the woodland. We’d hoped to see red-throated twinspots, which can usually be found in the garden just behind the room that I was in. Regrettably the morning proved just too wet for good birding, although we did see a few species. We gave up and headed off to breakfast and then packed up and left for the drive onto Wasa Lodge in Kasanka National Park, where we would be based for three nights to enjoy the Kasanka bat experience and we hoped explore the Bangweulu Swamps weather and roads permitting.



Wild ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus)



Miombo scrub robin



Old steam engine in the garden



Edited by inyathi
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"We were all astonished by our sighting of the anomalures, and couldn’t believe that we had got photos of them"  I can't believe it either @inyathi and

Another miracle  in Zambia !


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Wow what a fine sighting!

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