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BRACQUENE

@inyathi @offshorebirder

 

Great sightings with that dwarf bittern and those herds of black lechwe I would love to see one day together with the tsessebe absent from the Kafue !

 

 

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offshorebirder

I forgot to talk about the Shoebill - or lack thereof.   

 

When we got  to Chikuni Research Post, we were greeted by the manager, who of course knew Kyle and was a friend of Lewis'.   He said it was another  couple hours' journey to the only Shoebill that was still within striking distance of Chikuni.   It seemed a Shoebill chase would require immediate departure for uncertain chances.   So we  decided to stick with the proverbial bird  in hand and stay with the  herds of Lechwe, Tessebe and other grazers and try to plug other gaps in our bird list.

 

The floodplains at Bangweulu are interesting.   Much of them are a treeless grassy expanse.  But a lot of game hung around areas of slightly higher ground dotted with small round thickets of trees.   Some of these small thickets  were very birdy - an Icterine Warbler gave us repeated looks just before we ate our packed lunch in the shade of a thicket.

 

 

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offshorebirder

Thanks for the  kind words @BRACQUENE and @AKR1 - it is a fine line between a good amount of detail and too much, so I am glad we are not overdoing it.

 

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Caracal

I think you guys made a wise choice with limited time " to stick with the proverbial bird in hand and stay with the herds of Lechwe,....."

Despite searches I never got to see a Shoebill back in August 2007. Mind you the experience of searching was interesting and I wasn't disappointed as I went there to see the Black Lechwe and aren't they handsome and stunning antelopes in their huge herds?

There were also nice groupings of tsessebe, some jackal and oribi but I was interested to read that you saw zebra and buffalo - am wondering if they've been introduced as I never saw them and don't recall any mention of them being present.

Thoroughly enjoying this TR with all it's great variety, narrative and photos from places off the beaten safari track.

 

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inyathi

Before African Park’s took on Bangweulu Wetlands, there was a big problem with poaching and the population of lechwe had been markedly reduced, populations of many of the other large mammals had suffered even more with some disappearing entirely like obviously black rhinos, but also some of the other large antelopes are I think missing, lions have certainly gone and I presume the other large predators are gone or very rare and there are now just 4 surviving elephants. There was also a problem with people taking shoebill chicks to sell and a growing problem with over fishing, as is often the case the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and people had started making fishing nets out of mosquito nets, that had been donated to them to keep them safe from malaria.  These issues have now very largely dealt with an AP have succeeded in getting all fishing stopped during the spawning season, this closed season has dramatically increased the number of fish and the fisherman are as a consequence catching more fish during the fishing season that they were before. The level of bushmeat poaching has also been reduce significantly, leading to an increase in the lechwe population, I’m not sure of the exact figure but I’ve seen it said that there are 50,000 now and I hope there will be many more.

 

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Bangweulu's residents tend to get around on foot or by bicycle, the lechwe are not too bothered when local people pass by 

 

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Landscape with lechwe

 

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Young lechwe

 

We had hoped that we would see tsessebe as the Bangweulu tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus superstes) is another unique subspecies or species according to some, it is essentially endemic to the Bangweulu floodplains, originally its distribution extended just across the border into what is known as the Congo Pedicle, that bit of the DRC that projects into Zambia but it is now extinct there. Whereas the lechwe live out on the open grassland, the tsessebe stick mostly to the surrounding woodland, so once we had seen enough lechwe to be getting on with, we drove over to the edge of the woodland where we expected to find them, imagining that we might see just a few with luck. In fact, we found a huge herd of them altogether, we hadn’t expected to see such a concentration, getting decent photos was difficult because of the heat and because we were certain that if we tried to get closer, they would start running, which was the last thing we wanted. The Bangweulu tsessebe is perhaps the least colourful of the topi/tsessebe subspecies. 

 

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Bangweulu tsessebe

 

 

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Side-striped jackal

 

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We then found a shady spot to have breakfast.

 

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The view

 

More and more lechwe

 

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We did actually stop and ask some of the guys at Chikuni about the shoebill situation, we hadn't changed our minds, we just wanted to be sure, it was clear that there really was no point in trying to look.  

 

A few of the bird shots I took 

 

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Blue-breasted bee-eaters

 

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Capped wheatear

 

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Mokoro with malachite kingfisher

 

Amongst the various birds that we saw here, were some Katanga weavers, this was certainly a lifer for myself, Nate and Roger. 

 

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Grant's zebras

 

The zebras in Bangweulu are actually Grant’s zebras, that is they belong to this subspecies, I thought I knew but then realised once I was in Zambia, that I wasn't completely sure which subspecies of plains zebra occur in the country and where, that is I wasn’t wholly sure which race of zebras we had seen while at Masuku Lodge, as I do know that the narrow striped Crawshay’s zebra does occur in Zambia at least in the east as I’d seen them in Nyika National Park in Malawi which is on the border, but I wasn't certain if the Chapman's zebra found In Zimbabwe and Namibia occurred anywhere in Zambia and whether there are hybrid populations. So, I looked up zebras when I got home and it seems that most zebras in Zambia are Grant’s (Equus quagga boehmi) the same as occurs in East Africa and Chapman's doesn't occur anywhere in Zambia. The population Bangweulu had been reduced to a tiny remnant as a result of poaching, as was also the case with the buffalos, back in July 2019 AP brought 199 buffaloes to Bangweulu from North Luangwa National Park to reinforce the surviving population and bring in new genes, I understand that they have previously brought in zebras to help them to recover as well.

 

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Yellow-billed kite

 

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On our drive back we stopped at Lake Waka Waka to have our picnic lunch in the campsite there, this is a beautiful spot that should be good for birds, however it was raining all of the time that we were there, so we ate in the car and saw no birds that I can recall, and took no photos.

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inyathi
Posted (edited)

Primates

 

Kasanka National Park is home to three local monkeys, one a subspecies and the other two full species depending on your opinion of primate taxonomy, that are just found in this region of Africa. Some months back one of our members here @WildSolutions started a thread Seeking images of Cercopithecus mitis opisthostictus asking if anyone had photographs of one of these monkeys, a subspecies of the gentle or blue monkey group, that has the scientific name Cercopithecus mitis ophisthostictus, it’s common name is the rump-spotted blue monkey, she has compiled a photo map of the gentle monkeys and did not have any shots of this subspecies. When I looked at the map and read the description of the distribution that she’d given, I realised that this monkey must occur in Kasanka, so I said we would look out for it. I assumed it might be difficult to see, since they had no photos, however when I emailed Kyle and said could we look for this monkey, he said he thought we should be able to find it without too much difficulty, so our plan for our last morning in Kasanka would be to search for it, we also reasoned that we should see good birds at the same time, in the patches of mushitu forest where it lives. The other two monkeys, that are considered by some to be full species are the Kinda baboon (Papio kindae) a recent split from the yellow baboon and the Malbrouck monkey (Chlorocebus cynosuros) a split from the vervet monkey.

 

We had in fact already seen a few rather wet Kinda baboons the previous day, Kyle, myself and Roger saw some before we went up to the BBC Hide for our sunset bat viewing.

 

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Kinda baboons

 

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When we arrived back in Kasanka from Bangweulu, it was still light and, on our way, back to Wasa Lodge we, found some baboons beside the road.

 

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Once we arrived back at the lodge, I walked over to the main building briefly and then prepared to return to my tent as I walked back out, I was pleased to spot some Malbrock monkeys in the car park.

 

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On our last morning, we got up early again and headed off in search of monkeys, stopping first for a little while to watch the bats as they streamed by like some great snake. Then it was off into some suitable Mushitu Forest where the blue monkeys are known to live, pretty soon we heard some, walking through the forest was not all that easy, and catching sight of the monkeys was a challenge, certainly getting a clear view to take photos was difficult, however we succeeded in the end and got some reasonable photos.

 

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We devoted the rest of the morning to looking for more birds, before returning to Wasa Lodge mid-morning for breakfast and then departed for Mutinondo Wilderness Lodge our next stop.

 

I will defer to @offshorebirder to fill in the birds we saw, and any more blue monkey shots and will then add any last bird shots I feel I should include before we depart Kasanka. 

Edited by inyathi

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BRACQUENE

@inyathi @offshorebirder

What I really do like about your ongoing report is that it tells a story and I am all the time eagerly waiting for the next part , but at the same time learns me a lot about this rather unknown part of Zambia ; the explanation about the subspecies of zebra is fascinating for me as I recently saw the same Grant’s or Boehm’s in the Busanga Plains in Kafue and when I was in the Luangwa the Crawshay’s which is also found in the Nyika plateau ; so in Zambia the zebra’s lack the pale brown schadow-stripes between their black stripes 

The tsessebe is indeed not widespread in Zambia and confined to Kasanka-Bangweleu and the west mostly Liuwa but I have to say I don’t find it always easy to distinguish them from the darker hartebeest and the topi that you find in the Plains of Eastern Africa.

Thanks also for the news about the transfer of Buffalo from North Luangwa where I will be walking in July ; I heard the herds are big over there so 199 won’t be missed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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offshorebirder
Posted (edited)

 

As @inyathi said, on our last half day at Kasanka we planned to target Rump-spotted Blue Monkeys and other primates and also make a pass near the airstrip to look for the herd of Sable Antelope that had been frequenting the area.

 

We departed  well before sunrise again, bound for a mushitu forest not far from Fibwe hide.  Here is a front-and-back map and information page they give out at Wasa Lodge and presumably the Conservation Centre and Luwombwa Lodge (it does not appear copyrighted):
 

KasankaNPmap_frontpage_13x9.jpg.f0ffaa5a04a4855355b236e73e52691c.jpg

 

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Here is an online map of Kanaka NP with a good level of detail.   Click the map to zoom in and press the 'Esc' key on your keyboard to zoom back out.

 

http://www.mappery.com/map-of/Kasanka-National-Park-Map


We had another fleeting sighting of a Chequered Giant Sengi, but alas no photos again.  Soon we stopped near a nice mushitu forest at daybreak and saw some Bushbuck, Puku, a Lanner Falcon and  two Wahlberg's Eagles chasing  each other.   

 

And we also saw an amazing river of bats!   It was flowing at a very constant rate.  Though sometimes partly obscured by trees in front of us, it was a mind-blowing amount of biomass flying through the air.  It was nice to be a little more distant than in the bat hides; one gets more sense of scale without being in the middle of an uncountable swarm.

 

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If you look at each photo, do an experiment where you count the number of bats top to bottom in roughly single-bat vertical line samples.  I did this and average between 25 and 30 bats in the top-to-bottom "slice" depending on the  photo.  So around four of those slices make 100 bats.   Counting the total slices in the photos, I get around 100 slices in the photos.   So 25 bats per slice and 100 slices would seem to make 2500 bats in the single telephoto shot (fairly narrow field of view).   This river of bats was flowing left-to-right at a rate at which bats would disappear from the right of the frame about five seconds after they entered in the left of the frame.    So if a sample is roughly 2500 bats per 5 seconds, that is 500 bats per second flowing past.   If the river flowed for an hour that would be 1,800,000 bats passing by.   Which does not sound  far-fetched.   There seem to be a handful of such rivers feeding into the Kasanka "Bat Forest" each morning and the hides are positioned to sample the different "rivers".

 

Despite our hopes, neither Lanner Falcons nor any other raptors took after the bat flocks in our presence. 

 

We proceeded slowly and quietly into some nice mushitu where Lewis indicated was good for Blue Monkeys. 

 

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Soon we came upon a small group of Rump-spotted Blue Monkeys that included a mother and youngster - somewhat older than an infant but still quite young.  The mother appeared to still be lactating.  It was dim light under the canopy early on a cloudy day and we had better looks than photos.


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Then walking back to the vehicle to ride to the next patch of forest, we came upon tracks of Marsh Mongoose and African Civet according to Kyle.

 

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The next patch of forest produced good looks at Böhm's bee-eater, as well as a small flock of Meyer's Parrots and Malbrouk Monkeys.   The Malbrouk Monkeys were fairly close but backlit.  

 

We walked down a semi-trail in mature mushitu near Fibwe hide and suddenly through a tiny window lined up in the foliage, I spotted a CROWNED EAGLE perched on a branch.  Kyle made me laugh by saying "Sherbet, how did you spot that?"   I replied that even a blind hog finds a root occasionally as the old saying goes.  That turned into a theme the  rest of the trip with us "blind hogs" trying to spot things before Kyle did.  

 

As we moved farther down the trail, eventually we got a clear view of the eagle.

 

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The Crowned Eagle stayed looking over its shoulder so the poses were not the best.  But it was not worried about us in the least - it seemed to have a nest over behind Fibwe hide and was probably watching over it.

 

After the long and  good Crowned Eagle sighting, my "day was made" but the good birding continued.  We had a nice flock of Sunbirds behind a scout camp - Amethyst, Variable, Collared and Copper all fed in the trees and chased each other, not holding  still for  an instant.  And we had several females and a male Green Twinspot playing peekaboo at the edge of the woods. 

 

Copper Sunbird male (showing its throat)

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Green Twinspot male

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Then at the next stop, in the ecotome beside Dorothea's Hide we had more nice bird sightings including Pale-billed Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Black-backed Barbet, Common Buzzard, and an interesting Mantis.  We also saw a weaver nest that allowed close inspection.   I think Dorothea's Hide might have been closed until repaired but I am not certain about that.  

 

Dorothea's Hide 

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Weaver nest

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Black-backed Barbet

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Mantis

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After our mushitu primate search and birding, we drove around Chikufwe Plain near the airstrip looking for the herd of Sable and the Senegal Lapwing pair with chicks.   But unfortunately we found neither and had to return to Wasa Lodge to check out.  On the way we ran across a large troop of Kinda Baboons in some verdant miombo woodlands.  One pregnant female lingered and gave us a good photo opportunity.

 

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Kasanka National Park produced well for us, both for mammals and birds.  If you like birds I recommend staying at least three nights - or even four if you do a day trip to Bangweulu.  I would love to be able to spend a week there and properly look through its varied habitats.  Kasanka is certainly more affordable than Zambia's "Big Five" national parks.  I suppose  if you drive there, the expense is in terms of time.

 

One bird we were still missing was Miombo Pied Barbet - as well as the much more difficult Whyte's Barbet and Anchieta's Barbet.   In retrospect, the latter two may be more difficult in  Zambia than we first hoped.  But it was baffling to still be missing Miombo Pied Barbet after all the nice Miombo woodland we visited in the Nkanga River Conservation Area and Kasanka National Park.  Bird tour trip reports we read online, bird guide references, Kyle's experience - all said we should have seen Miombo Pied Barbets by now.  

 

All we could figure is that the (post-drought) obscene glut of fruit we had been seeing - waterberry, Masuku (wild loquat), figs galore, and others - must have barbets so dispersed and fat + lazy that they were more difficult to detect. 

 

We hoped to cure our barbet deficiency at our next stop, the fabulous Mutinondo Wilderness.  

Edited by offshorebirder

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Galago

Oh my goodness, the birding! I've been to Zambia half a dozen times (N&S Luangwa, Kafue various areas, Liuwa and you've come up with so many birds I've not seen! The Locust Finch is just gorgeous, as is the Green Twinspot, just to highlight a couple. And, of course, the bats are pretty cool!! Obviously, I knew about the bats, but never realised how good the birding is there.

 

Yes, that trip from  Lunga River Lodge to Busanga Plains, oh wow, the miombo was the worst for tsetses. It was my second encounter with them and where I developed an extreme reaction to them. @BRACQUENE (and anyone else) just DM me if you want to know how I now deal with them, as I don't want to interrupt this TR.

 

This is a great TR and I'm really enjoying it. You guys do make me laugh though when you talk about your photos not always being good. I'd be chuffed as nuts if I had ANY of your photos on my camera :rolleyes:

 

Looking forward to hearing about Mutinondo as I've always thought it looks so beautiful.

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BRACQUENE

@offshorebirder @inyathi

 

I see now like @Galago that Kasanka is also an absolute paradise for birding : this time the eyes of the Crowned Eagle make my day ( or evening if you like ) !

 

 

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WildSolutions

Thank you @inyathi and @offshorebirder for this excellent report with great photos! We really appreciate your search for primates during your trip, particularly Cercopithecus mitis opisthositctus (Seeking images of Cercopithecus mitis opisthostictus ). What a great trip! Would you allow us to include your primate photos on the Primate PhotoMaps with a link to your report? I hope to be able to explore this region myself one day :)

 

Big thank you!

Yvonne

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offshorebirder

We are happy to help in a small way @WildSolutions.   Yes of course please feel free to include the photos on Primate PhotoMaps and link to our trip report. 

 

The two direct links to the specific posts are:

 

http://www.safaritalk.net/topic/20513-zambia-an-off-the-beaten-track-adventure-in-search-of-special-birds-and-mammals/?do=findComment&comment=295526

 

http://www.safaritalk.net/topic/20513-zambia-an-off-the-beaten-track-adventure-in-search-of-special-birds-and-mammals/?do=findComment&comment=295606

 

 

 

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WildSolutions

Thank you both so much!! :)

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TonyQ

Your excellent report continues, really engaging narration, beautiful photos.

It is a real education to have a report from two such fine naturalists

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Towlersonsafari

really enjoying this report and the Crowned Eagle , what a bird!

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inyathi
Posted (edited)

@WildSolutions very happy to be able to help.

 

@Towlersonsafari Thanks, I’ve seen at least a few crowned eagles, but our view of this one in Kasanka was certainly the best view I’ve ever had anywhere. 

 

Not many more birds to add

 

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Cardinal woodpecker

 

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Yellow-rumped tinkerbird

 

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Brown-necked parrot

 

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Female red-throated (Peter's) twinspots

 

The Kasanka Trust which also manages nearby Lavushi-Manda National Park relies entirely on donations, much as African Parks does but I would think that they don’t have anywhere near the resources that AP has.  I really think they need to carry out some restocking and bring back at least all of the missing large herbivores and build up the numbers of those that still survive, if they aren’t able to do this on their own, perhaps they could collaborate with AP and if more animals are being brought to Bangweulu some could also be delivered to Kasanka as well. There are apparently a good few leopards in Kasanka, but no lions, unless they intend to fence off the park, I would think that returning lions would be difficult as local people would not be too keen.

 

Whatever shortcomings Wasa Lodge may have had it really is the only place to stay if you want to see the bats, Luwombwa Lodge is really a bit too far away, it’s half an hour from Wasa to the bats but an hour from Luwombwa, the alternative is to camp but then I don’t think you’d have access to the hides.

 

The Bangweulu daytrip could have proved to be a mad idea, but was a definite a highlight of the trip, there are some great videos of Bangweulu which you can find quite easily on YouTube, it would be an amazing place to visit in the wet, to see large flocks of water birds mixed in with the lechwe and what particularly appeals besides that is lots of wattled cranes, it was disappointing to only get rather distant view of cranes in Kasanka.

 

I actually took a couple of very short videos of Bangweulu but forgot to put them in, I suppose because they are not that great.   

 

 

 

 

Leaving Kasanka we still had four more barbets to try and find, Anchieta’s and miombo pied, lifers for the three of us and Whyte’s and crested which would be lifers for Nate and Roger, we really wanted the first three of these, because crested is pretty easy in southern Africa, whereas the others aren’t. Of the three the miombo is the most widespread in Zambia and it was really a bit of a mystery that we hadn’t seen it thus far, we hoped that we might have success at Mutinondo, this was also said to be a good place for Anchieta’s, it would be our last shot at these three barbets. Crested occurs pretty much throughout Zambia so we would have more chances of finding it.  

 

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On the way into Mutinondo we spotted this beautiful male agama 

 

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Bill's tree agama

 

 

This lizard was identified as a distinct species in 2012 by the late William Roy Branch, former curator of Herpetology at the Port Elizabeth Museum in South Africa. It was named in his honour both in the common name and its scientific name Acaonthocerus branchi.

 

We will arrive at Mutinondo shortly.

Edited by inyathi

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BRACQUENE

@inyathi @offshorebirder
 

First of all what a stunning agama lizard ! Perhaps without realizing you also raised an interesting topic : the difficulty of being selfsupporting for those National Parks or game areas who don’t have the big game and depend on seasonal events like the bat migration in Kasanka in november - December or the possibility to see the Shoebill in Bangweulu ; for me this is not really an issue but what for the majority of people who go on safari  once in a lifetime ? 

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inyathi
Posted (edited)

Mutinondo Wilderness Reserve

 

Mutinondo Wilderness Reserve is a 10,000-ha private reserve perched above the Muchinga Escarpment, that offers fantastic miombo birding in some spectacular scenery, it does have some big game, but it is certainly not a big game destination. After the drive from Kasanka we would arrive in time for a late lunch, then have the rest of the afternoon to bird, followed by the whole of the next day and then the morning after that. Besides miombo woodland, there’s mushitu forest, large open dambos, and huge granite inselbergs, our time would mostly be spent walking around some of these habitats, with a small amount of driving. Besides Anchieta’s barbet and the miombo pied that we’d missed we hoped to find Anchieta’s sunbird, Bocage’s akalat that myself, Kyle and Roger think we may have seen in Kasanka but not at all well and the bar-winged weaver perhaps Mutinondo’s most noted bird. The bar-winged weaver is only known from Angola, the very far south of DRC in the area just along the Zambian border and otherwise much of northern Zambia and Mutinondo is the best place to see it. We didn’t just want to see birds, there was a chance that we might get to see roan antelope, as we’d seen none so far this would be our only chance, and we hoped possibly some other interesting mammals, some more sengis we hoped.

 

The lodge is built around the top of an inselberg (they are also known as whaleback mountains), the chalets are beautiful little thatched stone-walled bungalows, well spread out around the sides of the hill,

 

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The photo above is taken from the top of the inselberg around which the lodge is constructed, if you view the largest version and zoom in you can see one of the chalets quite clearly and the roof of another hidden in the trees.  I kept intending to take a more close up shot, of Nate and Roger's chalet in the landscape, but I forgot, the back of mine was pretty much up against the hill, so I couldn't have taken such a photo of it,  

 

My chalet known as Mulombwa was quite a long walk away and down a flight of steps. Unlike the others it had a detached bathroom, that was a few paces from its front door, so that at the bottom of the steps the room was on one side and the bathroom was the other. It is a large bathroom, with a shower and a large stone bath. The rooms are very attractive from the outside being build entirely from local materials, on the inside they are nice but maybe a little basic for some, but I don’t mind simple and rustic, especially when the view is as spectacular as mine was.

 

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It had a nice balcony with table and chairs, from which you could admire the stunning view, not that I ever really had time to sit out on it, but I did photograph the view.

 

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The food was very good and of the home-cooked variety, dinner always started with a bowl of hot soup, with an optional splash of what in Kenya is known as pilipili-hoho, this is a condiment, made by stuffing a bottle with birds-eye chilis and then pouring alcohol over the top, in the first instance gin, vodka or maybe cane spirit is used the bottle is then sealed and left for at least a month, then after you start using it, you top up the liquid with dry sherry. Or you can just use dry sherry from the start. Pilipili sometimes spelled piripiri is the Kiswahili for chili and peri-peri as in the popular Portuguese/African dish peri-peri chicken has the same origin. You need to be careful that you only get a small splash, if you don’t like your food too hot.    

 

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Another view on the walk to my room

 

Remarkably during the entire time that we were at Mutinondo we did not hear a single barbet calling, Kyle played the calls but got no response, we could only assume that they were playing hard to get, because there was such an abundance of fruit everywhere. Whatever the reason, we would leave disappointed having just seen a few tinkerbirds, but none of the larger barbets that were major targets for the trip. We did find some sunbirds, but weren’t able to get great views, we thought we’d missed Anchieta’s sunbird entirely but then Kyle realised that he had actually seen a female, but we found no males. However, while some target birds were missed, others were found, we had great views of some of them. We didn’t do so well with the mammals and failed to find any roan, I’m sure if we’d been staying longer we could have devoted proper time to looking and then would have seen some, the one antelope we did see was the southern reedbuck, we spotted one or two out in the dambos. We did have one very memorable mammal sighting, unfortunately it was one we could well have done without, but more about this later.

 

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Birding in Kabasano Dambo

 

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Marsh widowbirds male and female

 

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Male marsh widowbird

 

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View of Mayense from Kabasano Dambo 

 

The top of Mayense is the highest point at Mutinondo, we didn't have time to climb any of the inselbergs, save for the one the lodge is built on, but I presume that the adventurous can climb Mayense if they feel inclined.

 

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I think this is an orchid called Eulophia speciosa

 

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Another dambo

 

The unexpected challenge of finding Bocage’s akalat.

 

This beautiful little bird was a major target, as it is only found on the escarpment in southwestern Angola, in the far south of the DRC, in two small areas of southwestern Tanzania and in northern Zambia, making Zambia the best place to look for it. To find the bird we drove out into an area of miombo woodland, left the car on the track and walked a few hundred yards over to a stream lined with riverine vegetation. As we walked alongside the stream, we spotted a troop of baboons a little distance away in the trees over the other side and they spotted us, we could see as we tried to take a couple of photos that they were staring at us intently and were then mildly amused to watch the youngsters moving around trying to get better views of us. It seemed they weren’t entirely sure what to make of us, and needed to come closer to get a better look, we assumed that their curiosity would soon be satisfied, they would realise we were no threat, and would lose interest, once we were out of sight. We kept on walking, Kyle stopped got out his phone and proceeded to play the call of the akalat, we waited patiently to see if the bird would come in. Far from losing interest once we had moved out of sight, it soon became apparent that the baboons were still around and not happy that they could no longer see us, we could hear them jumping about in the trees calling agitatedly as they came closer, clearly, they were following us. They weren’t being aggressive, but it did seem that they were almost mobbing us, a little like they would a predator like a leopard, by now their antics were no longer so amusing, as we feared that they would completely ruin our changes of seeing the akalat.

 

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I recorded these baboons on my list as yellow baboons, as Kyle seemed to think that the baboons at Mutinondo are yellows rather than Kindas, he wasn’t however completely sure and didn’t get a definitive answer from any of the people he asked back at the lodge. What I’ve read since might suggest that they should be Kinda, but I don’t know exactly where the dividing line is, ( @WildSolutions  if you have any thoughts on this, they would be very welcome, I marked the location of Mutinondo on the map in post 48), I do know that the baboons in the Luangwa Valley are yellow baboons. However, those animals are quite often seen with white babies and this unusual trait is a characteristic of the Kinda baboon, suggesting that the Luangwa baboons are likely hybrids. Mutinondo could well be in the area where the two species meet and these troublesome baboons could therefore also be hybrids, we didn’t see any young babies, so I don’t know what colour their babies are.  Although Kinda babies are born white they don’t stay white for long and soon develop adult colouration, this causes some confusion as people seeing these white babies mistakenly assume that they are albino or leucistic, but they are neither.

 

Why Kinda babies are white is unknown, black and white colobus monkeys have white babies and their relatives the Asian leaf monkeys also have white or often bright orange babies and it is thought that this may make it easier for adults to spot and grab them if a predator threatens or it stops adult males behaving aggressively towards them if they don’t have adult colouration. But neither of those ideas would seem to make sense for these baboons, because then surely all baboons would have white offspring and not just the Kinda.

 

Whichever sort of baboon they were, they were very tiresome having almost wrecked our mornings birding, I’m not conscious of ever having been mobbed by young baboons before, but maybe that’s because I’m normally in a vehicle when I see them and I haven’t walked past enough baboons, I don’t know.  

 

The bird surely wouldn’t appear with a troop of noisy baboons in the trees, eventually though they did start to lose interest and to our amazement the bird did appear after all and gave us great views.

 

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Bocage's akalat

 

 

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Colourful bracket fungus

 

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The miombo around Mutinondo is full of beehives producing a good honey crop

 

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I think this dambo might be Little Chipundu but I'm not certain

 

 

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Rufous-bellied tit

 

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Going bald, Kurrichane thrush

 

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Cape dwarf gecko

 

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Fungus

 

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Thunbergia scripta, perhaps I'm not certain

 

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Black-throated wattle-eye

 

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On our last morning we were privileged to be joined by Mike Merrett who with his wife Lari established the Mutinondo Wilderness Reserve in 1995, he led us from the lodge down to the area where the bar-winged weavers can be seen, and sure enough we found them. I’m sure Nate will post some better shots than my one.

 

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Orchid Eulophia livingstoniana

 

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Orchid Eulophia thomsonii

 

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This is the same panorama I put in the introduction the highest inselberg is called Mayense

 

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Coppery-tailed coucal 

 

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Ross's turaco, not the best shot but it shows of the red wings that is a characteristic of most turacos

 

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Protea, possibly Protea welwitschii I'm not certain

 

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African golden oriole

 

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Bar-winged weaver

 

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Aardvark diggings on the road, you can see the imprint of its tail

 

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Foaming grasshopper

 

Thanks to the poisonous plants that they eat, when attacked foaming grasshoppers are able to excrete a toxic foam. 

 

Our final walk ended with a flap-necked chameleon crossing the road.

 

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Flap-necked chameleon

 

 

As I hope all of my photos in this post illustrate Mutinondo Wilderness Reserve is a naturalists paradise, we really enjoyed our stay here even if the barbets didn't cooperate, our only regret is that we weren't able to stay at least a day longer. 

 

In my previous post I said that I'd forgotten to put in a couple of videos of Bangweulu, despite stating that they are not great I still meant to put them in, but somehow forgot again, so I will edit my previous post and put the videos in.:rolleyes:

 

Otherwise it's over to @offshorebirder for his views and bird photos from Mutinondo, I hope he will fill in any important details I've forgotten to mention, because there's always something :)

 

 

Edited by inyathi

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BRACQUENE

@inyathi @offshorebirder

 

Fabulous report to read when having breakfast and respond before working hours ; apart from the female Anchieta's barbet and the bar-winged weaver did you happen to see long-toed flufftails which , apart from Gabon where they are more common , are something of a speciality in this area ? I was unlucky in the Kafue not to have seen one of three  other species ( Red-chested, Buff-spotted or Straky-breasted) that have been spotted in that part of Zambia 

As it is a area with rocks there could be a chance to see Klipspringers I suppose ?

 

 

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inyathi

@BRACQUENE Thanks,

 

I've just been back and edited my post, as it evidently wasn't clear enough, but it was a female Anchieta's sunbird that was seen and not the Anchieta's barbet sorry for the confusion, both are target birds at Mutinondo. We didn't unfortunately see any flufftails but the long-toed more commonly called chestnut-headed is one of the noted birds at Mutinondo, we didn't really try very hard to call one in anywhere. maybe we needed more time or to be there at a different time I'm not sure. 

 

There's lots of great habitat for klipspringers on the inselbergs, I'm sure that they are pretty common, however, we never saw one, I did try looking and scanned some of the rocks, but I don't think we were ever really close enough to the right rocks, to have a proper chance of finding one. You might have more chance, if you climbed one of the inselbergs, it takes a lot of luck to spot one, just by scanning distant rocks through binoculars.   

 

 

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offshorebirder

On the trip from Kasanka to Mutinondo, we saw many people selling mushrooms by the side of the road.   Some of the mushrooms were Termitomyces titanicus - the largest edible mushroom in the world.  Some vendors had little roadside stands and some stood by the road, holding the mushrooms over their head like umbrellas when traffic approached.  We saw cars (and truckers) pulling over and purchasing the sizeable fungi.

 

On the drive into Mutinondo on the entrance road, it was obvious how large and pristine this wilderness area is.  Most of the entrance road traverses quality miombo habitat - birds like Groundscraper Thrush, White-crested Helmet-Shrikes, and others put in appearances despite the midday hour.

 

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Mutinondo is such an amazing place - hard to get one's head around.  Here  is a map:

 

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When we arrived at the reception area of the lodge, William the manager helped us get checked in.  He also helped us with bird and mammal information and suggested routes, which I scribbled furiously on a printout of the above map.  William's specialty / area of study was insects; none of our questions went unanswered regarding insecta.  One bit of advice he gave us was to look for blooming mistletoe in the trees, stake it out, and eventually Anchieta's Sunbird and others should be in attendance.  Unfortunately blooming mistletoe was difficult to find our entire stay.  Too much fruit and not enough flowers turned out to be the challenge we faced.

 

We were also delighted to meet Mike, the owner who is an expat from the United Kingdom.  He is a superb naturalist and shared a lot of knowledge with us about birds, mammals, plants, reptiles and insects.  He introduced us to multiple edible plants - one was a tasty fruit that resembled a small plum but tasted like a cranberry.   We also met some interesting fellow guests, one of whom was working with Mike's wife Lari on reference books to Zambia's plants (one edition will cover monocots, the other dicots).  

 

Kayimbi Chalet

 

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Here is the view from the patio:    

 

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From the website's description:  "This brick and thatch cottage looks across the Musamfushi valley to the inselbergs in the NE and gets spectacular views of the winter sunrise."      Of course, we were never there to see the sunrise...

 

After checking in, we went birding until sundown on hiking trails along the river at the base of the inselberg.  As we set out, we had a brief, very backlit look at a male Anchieta's Sunbird near the open dining area.  In retrospect, we foolishly left it to go downhill towards the river in search of more of them. But other than an "iffy" sighting of a female Achieta's Sunbird, that was it for this species - which should be plentiful and much in evidence.   That's birding!  

 

Dinners at Mutinondo were delicious, with varied and excellent conversations.  Multiple sets of guests hailed from Germany, the botanist working on his magnum opus was Scottish, and there was a young couple from London who were hiking across northern Zambia.  Kasanka NP was their next destination after Mutinondo.

 

Mike was a wonderful host who took us on a special walk our last morning.  This was a highlight:

 

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Just like Kasanka, I wish we had booked one more night at Mutinondo.  Weather was  a bit of a challenge and we had to work for our birds, but we found them.  I suspect we had bad luck in terms of timing; long story short - our poor luck with Barbets continued.   We were still skunked on Miombo Pied Barbet, as well as Anchieta's and Whytes at the end of our stay.   

 

I wish I had taken more photos of wildflowers, trees and other plants at Kasanka and Mutinondo.  But it's a balance - taking photos kills your senses and takes your focus off the business at hand - detecting wildlife.  

 

On our full day at Mutinondo, we started early by driving into the northern edge of Kabasano dambo on a little-used track through deep grass.  In the cool panoramic photo @inyathi posted, I was looking at a stunning Black Coucal in the scope at the end of this little track.   We saw some Southern Reedbuck but they are very skittish; as soon as we saw them and they saw us, they gave their whistling alarm call and bolted.

 

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We had some nice birds in the dambo (Miombo Tits, Red-capped Crombec, Marsh Widowbird, Marsh Warbler, and Red-faced Cisticola) and then started exploring the adjacent Mushitu forest.  A nice party of Black-throated Wattle-eyes were in residence and making their strange vocalizations but once again they did not provide good photo opportunities.  They had been tricky little teases thus far.   We also enjoyed Green-headed Sunbirds and found a pair of White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, one of our major targets at Mutinondo.  As we watched and followed them, trying for photos in the poor light, Roger spotted their nest!    One bird made a couple of quick visits to the nest.  Later when we told Mike, he said "oh good, they nested in the same place last year".   

 

White-tailed Blue Flycatcher

 

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Later in the morning we had an encounter with a Bocage's Akalat in a different mushitu forest!   This is a highly sought-after bird that is only found in lush evergreen forests in DR Congo, small areas of western and southwestern Tanzania, small areas of Angola and certain areas in Zambia.  @inyathi has described the challenges we faced, so all we had were a few brief looks at the bird.   

 

Bocage's Akalat

 

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Here is one of the 'challenges' we had following us while stalking the wily Akalat.

 

Yellow Baboon

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Driving back for lunch we saw several displaying Fan-tailed Grassbirds (AKA Broad-tailed Warbler).   Before sitting down for lunch, I went back to the room for a quick foot bath and change into dry shoes and socks.  I put my boots out in the patchy sunshine on the inselberg to dry and removed the insoles to dry, setting them beside the boots.   Before I got very far, some White-necked Ravens that were soaring nearby dropped down and started looking things over intently.  I had to hasten back to get the inserts and put them in my room - I was pretty sure the Ravens would have carried them away if I left them unattended.

 

White-necked Raven

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Over lunch we enjoyed Striped Pipit, Paradise Flycatcher (a pair was nesting in a tree between reception and Harry's Bar), Kurrichane Thrush, Red-backed Shrike, Amethyst Sunbird, Rufous-bellied Tits, Red-faced Crombecs, Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting, Golden-breasted Bunting and Red-headed Weavers.


Kurrichane Thrush

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At lunch I also relished something I had not tried before.  When I asked Mike what the delicious spicy leaves in our salad were, he replied "Rocket Greens".   Apparently Mike and friends bring seeds back from the U.K. and grow them in Mutinonodo's garden because they are not available in Zambia.  

 

After lunch we went for another hike and had a nice encounter with a flock of Black-throated Wattle-eyes.  They are such charming little birds.  We also got quick looks at a shy Half-collared Kingfisher near Choso Falls - presumably the same one we saw there the evening before.  This is another sought-after bird species that we were glad to see.  We had other nice birds including Miombo Wren-Warbler, Collared Flycatcher, Grey-Olive Greenbuls and more.  

Hiking back up the inselberg at the end of the day, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset.

 

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The next day, Mike led us on a hike from the lodge along dambos, through lush miombo forests and back.  Our main goal for the morning was Bar-winged Weaver, another highly sought-after bird and one of Mutinondo's specialties.   We had missed them up to that point and hoped to find them in some prime miombo habitat.  

 

** @inyathi - I have in my notes that we saw a nice Rothmannia in flower early in the walk.  Did you happen to take any photos?

 

Fan-tailed Grassbirds were abundant and constantly displaying and singing as we walked along the dambo near the old airstrip.  We also enjoyed Variable + Green-headed + Olive Sunbirds, Green Pigeons, Black Cuckoo, Tropical Boubous, African Oriole, Fork-tailed Drongo, Gymnogene, Miombo Scrub-Robins and more.  

 

We also had an early morning flyby from a Ross' Turaco.  Then we passed through some drier habitat and almost mopane seeming woodland with concentrations of Acacia trees.  There we had some female Sunbirds play peekaboo with us in frustrating fashion.

 

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When we entered a particularly good miombo woodland, Kyle spotted a nice little mixed-species feeding flock.  Attending it were two Bar-winged Weavers!  They were creeping along and under branches high in the trees much like a nuthatch or creeper.  This behavior made for tricky photography.  The bird party was on the move and we had to hustle forward through the woodlands every few minutes to keep up.  Once when the flock was shifting, most of us were  working the leading edge when Mike called us back to the trailing edge of the flock.  He pointed out a fairly close Bar-winged Weaver and we were able to get a few photos.  

 

Bar-winged Weaver foraging

 

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One of the Bar-winged Weavers had been ringed (banded).  

 

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We had more good birding for the rest of the walk, as well as some nice insects and a Flap-necked Chameleon crossing the road.

 

Walking through the woods, Kyle pointed out a flower stalk where several of these large blister beetles were perched.  They are called Cape Mounted Rifle Beetles because they resemble the colors of the uniforms worn by the Cape Mounted Riflemen, South African military units of the 19th century.  I am not sure of the exact species, but it is one of the Myalabris beetles.

 

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This is a Millipede Assassin - glancing at the photo on my camera LCD back at the lodge, William said it was one of the Maraenaspis species.   Some subsequent research I did pointed in the direction of Maraenaspis vorax - the Voracious Assassin Bug, but I am not certain about that.

 

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And here is the charming little Flap-necked Chameleon:

 

 

 

 

We enjoyed our stay at Mutinondo very much, despite being somewhat unlucky with timing, conditions, and so forth.   The lodging and staff are excellent and the vast habitats are even better.  I hope to visit again someday for a longer period of time.

 

 

 

 

Edited by offshorebirder

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BRACQUENE

@offshorebirder @inyathi  

 

I am not only impressed I am overwhelmed by your almost daily report and this time by the smallest little creatures which don’t look like assassins to me !

 

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offshorebirder

Thanks @BRACQUENE.    I suppose our report is approaching "daily" status because we moved from place to place rather frequently; we only stayed two nights at Mutinondo.  

 

Normally I do not move around so quickly on safari but that is how things worked out this time.

 

 

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BRACQUENE

@offshorebirder

 

Since I am active on safaritalk my horizon has broadened quite a lot by reading and doing the follow up of all those very interesting travel reports ; I can understand why you moved more than usual to get the most out of this safari ,  not the easiest one to organise I suppose but so rewarding and unique ! I am also , as you might know already ,a fan of doing one park in depth and staying at least three or four nights in a lodge but once in a while you change that pattern and for you and @inyathi it has surely been a winner !

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inyathi

@offshorebirder

 

3 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

At lunch I also relished something I had not tried before.  When I asked Mike what the delicious spicy leaves in our salad were, he replied "Rocket Greens".   Apparently Mike and friends bring seeds back from the U.K. and grow them in Mutinonodo's garden because they are not available in Zambia.  

 

My mind went completely blank at the time, but where you are rocket is called arugula, I knew it had a different name in the US, but I could not recall what it was. I didn’t know until I looked it up just now on Wikipedia, that the scientific name is Eruca Vesicaria, Eruca being Latin and then our name rocket derives from the Italian ruchetta or rucola and the US name arugula just comes from a different Italian dialect, at least that's what it says on Wikipedia, but I'd have that arugula could just derive from rucola and rocket purely from ruchetta, whatever the case both names despite being very different have the same origin.   

 

One minor correction, the botanist working with Lari is not Scottish, I was going to say he’s Danish and that when he’s not in Africa he’s an honorary research fellow at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, having been the principal science officer in their herbarium before he retired. At least, I assumed he was Danish, because for some reason at dinner, the subject of English/British people sending their children to boarding school came up he thought this was an awful thing to do and he said we don’t do that in Denmark and he had what I’d call a Scandi accent, but I evidently had the wrong country. I couldn’t remember his name, but I thought it shouldn’t be too hard to find out and looked him up, his name is Dr Kaj Vollesen and I was surprised to see he’s actually Swedish, although he was at University in Copenhagen in Denmark, but he is I think now based in London when he's not in Zambia. Whatever, the case he’s an extremely high-powered botanist, on the Kew website it says that he is working on a pictorial guide to the flora of the Mutinondo Wilderness Area, just studying the flora of Mutinondo never mind the rest of Zambia would be a lifetime’s work, I talked to him very briefly about orchids, I looked it up just now because I didn't know, we have 52 orchid species in the UK, Mutinondo according to their website has 100 and that's out of 1600 recorded plant species, I imagine he and Lari might likely find a few more plants not previously recorded in the reserve.   

 

On the subject of flora, I’ve just looked up Rothmannia it seems like there could be 6 different species in the region, but if we saw one, I clearly didn’t photograph it, I’ve put in all of the decent flower shots I took, except for maybe two flowers that I haven’t been able to positively ID yet.

 

That’s a rather better of Ross’s turaco in flight and nice shots of those beetles for some reason mine weren’t that well focused at all.         

 

@BRACQUENE  I would generally always rather stay for a few nights ideally 3 or 4, apart from the fact that constantly moving around gets tiring, practical things like doing laundry gets complicated and I believe in travelling with minimal clothes. However, for this trip, with Zambia being a pretty big country, a few one-night stops were an unfortunate necessity, but then some of them like Forest Inn were great stops.   

 

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The road south

 

Leaving Mutinondo after breakfast, we headed south taking packed lunches, it was too far to drive all the way down to the Zambezi Valley, where we would conduct our search for the African pitta, particularly as to get there we would have to get around the capital Lusaka, so we would make an overnight stop on the way at Wright House Farm in Chisamba just north of Lusaka. This was a very nice place, with excellent food. It also looked like it could offer some pretty good birding, we'd left the miombo country behind, so it would have a different selection of birds, to the any of the places we’d been up north, but by the time we’d check-in, the day was almost over, there simply wasn’t time to spend more than a few minutes looking around the garden in the vicinity of our rooms, whilst enjoying some nice cold Savanna ciders. I did see a couple of common birds and even though there wasn’t much light, I took some photos.

 

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African paradise flycatcher, a very common bird around Zambia

 

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Tropical boubou

 

There was no time for birding in the morning, we departed early with packed breakfasts and carried on south, heading for the Zambezi.

 

 

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