Friday, 30 September 2016

Angola 2

Angola was of course torn apart by more than
 two decades of civil war.
Signs of it are everywhere.
Most villages we passed through had many ruins in it.

We left early on the morning of 16th September, with a couple of roadside stops in miombo woodland & we saw Sharp-tailed Starling from the roadside. Arrived at Chipipa after nine hours on the road & booked into our pleasant ranch for the next four nights.

We managed to see a fine Rufous-bellied Heron on a roadside pond (always a good species to get). Raptors proved to be scarce in Angola, but today provided a couple of Bateleurs a Martial Eagle & a Red-necked Buzzard. Two Meyer's Parrots flew by & a couple of parties of White-tailed Shrikes was welcome. Close views of around 25 Red-throated Cliff Swallows was a bonus. A Sooty Chat was in some agricultural land. Two pairs of Western Violet-backed Sunbirds & two Wood Pipits showed nicely in the miombo woodland.

The village at the base of Mount Moco.

17th September was a drive to Mount Moco & we birded the flanks of the mountain in some afro-montane forest which was very productive. Highlights included:

2 African Marsh Harrier; 2 Augur & a Red-necked Buzzard; 2 Schalow's Turaco; Western Tinkerbird; Black-backed Barbet; 2 Red-throated Wryneck; White-tailed Blue Flycatcher; Angolan Lark which displayed right in front of us! Fan-tailed Grassbird; Grey Apalis; African Hill Babbler; African Spotted Creeper; Angolan Slaty Flycatcher; the brilliant Bocage's Akalat; Bronzy Sunbird; several Oustalet's Sunbirds; 2 Black-chinned Weaver; at least 10 Dusky Twinspot & 3 Angolan Waxbill.

In the afternoon we birded miombo woodland & some fields & scrub near the road. Best were:
Green-backed Honeybird; Black throated Wattle-eye; White-winged Black Tit; Black & Rufous Swallow; Moustached Grass Warbler; Miombo Wren-Warbler; 3 species of Eremomela including Salvadori's! Two Yellow-bellied Hyliota; male & female Bocage's Sunbird & four Fulleborn's Longclaw.

On 18th September drove to Londvimbala, birded the road near Galanga. Several stops in open areas with streams in valley bottoms & a couple of stops in miombo woodland in the afternoon. 
Highlights: 2 Dark Chanting Goshawk; Coppery-tailed Coucal; 2 Blue-breasted Bee-eater; Miombo Pied Barbet; 6 Black & Rufous Swallow; Chirping Cisticola; around six Black-necked Eremomela; Hartlaub's Babbler; Sharp-tailed Starling; Miombo Scrub Robin which performed quite well; 2 Bocage's Sunbirds; 7 Bocage's Weaver; a fine flock of Marsh Widowbirds; nine Locust Finch and Black-faced Canary.

To get to this small patch of forest, we had to climb
down & back up again!

19th September was the long walk on Mount Moco. Walking up to upland grassland & afro-montane forest patches. Some nice scenery on the mountain. Back down by 3 pm & then drove back to Chipipa, with a stop along the river.

Highlights: Finch's Francolin (for some)! Schalow's Turaco; a pair of the very beautiful Margaret's Batis; Hartlaub's Babbler; Bocage's Akalat; 10 Mountain Wheatear of the endemic race nigricauda; Long  billed Pipit & Yellow-crowned Canary.

Not understanding Portuguese is a bit of a problem here!
Basically it says when you are outside the beauticians 
you are ugly, but when you leave you are beautiful!

Further reminders of the war!
Not very PC Keith!

A lot of fun though!

Boys & their toys!

20th September was a travel day but made a stop along a small stream for Brazza’s Martin, then another walk through miombo woodland, before driving to Condo in the afternoon & late afternoon/early evening birding neat the hotel in dry forest & small scale cultivation patches.
Highlights included: Ayer's Hawk Eagle; the stunning Red-crested Turaco; Monteiro's Bushshrike; White-breasted Cuckooshrike; 2 Rufous-bellied Tit; Falkenstein's Greenbul; Red capped Crombec; Superb Sunbird & 8 Black-necked Weaver.
 Enjoyed a nice dinner, with John reaching his 8,000th bird species! A real milestone! Congratulations mate!

This escarpment forest is getting really trashed.

Slash & burn cultivation rules here!

The villages had burned the forest next to the road
which had felled a tree across the only road 
to their village!

Fire in action!

21st September was spent in the Kumbira Forest, which is very cut-over & getting totally destroyed fast! It was hard to find the three specials, but we did in the end!

Highlights: 5 Red-crested Turaco; Gabon Coucal; 10 Mottled Spinetail; African Pygmy Kingfisher; Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird; Hairy-breasted Barbet; Buff-spotted Woodpecker; 2 Brown-eared Woodpecker; Elliot's Woodpecker; 2 African Broadbill (great views of them displaying); Angolan Batis; Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye; Many coloured Bushsrike; 2 Gabela Bushshrike; Petit's Cuckooshrike; 5 Dusky Tit; Yellow-throated Nicator; Pulitzer's Longbill; Lowland Masked Apalis; Buff-throated Apalis; Brown Illadopsis; 8 Southern Hyliota; Fraser's Rufous Thrush; Forest Scrub Robin; 3 Gabala Akalat; Little Green Sunbird & Grey-headed Nigrita.

We passed some interesting landscapes along the way.

The next day was a travel day on the road to Kalandula. Road was very bad in places & progress was slow. We had a couple of stops & I saw a Red chested Flufftail very briefly ( four heard) + two Grey Waxbills at lunch.
Other good species included: Red-backed Mousebird; Elliot's Woodpecker; 15+ Angolan Swallow; Bubbling Cisticola; Brown Twinspot & Landana Firefinch.

It was raining on the morning of 23rd September & we drove about 30 kms north of Kalandula to an area of gallery forest, where we birded for the next three hours. Highlight here was the amazing White-headed Robin Chat!
Other species included: 35+ Mottled Swift; Broad-billed Roller; African Hobby;  5 Cabanis's Greenbul; Whistling Cisticola; 2 Bannerman's Sunbird; 2 Orange-winged Pytilia; Brown Twinspot & Landana Firefinch.

The perils of wearing shorts in cut over forest!
It is of course me!

The rest of the day was spent birding miombo woodland in the heat. Birding was slow but rewarding: Pale billed Hornbill; 8 Anchieta’s Barbets; Anchieta’s (Marsh) Tchagra; Brown headed Apalis & Anchieta’s Sunbird were the highlights.

Dusk was spent on the Lucala  Bridge overlooking marshes & grassland. 500 + Red throated Cliff Swallows & 300 Little Swifts were nesting under the bridge.

Kalundula Falls were impressive.

On 24th, we again birded the miombo woodland of yesterday, then briefly visited the Kalundula Falls, (which were impressive).

Highlights included: Black-chested Snake Eagle; Blue-spotted Wood Dove; 2 Ross's Turaco; 250+ Common Swift; 3 Meyer's Parrot; White-breasted Cuckooshrike; Black Cuckooshrike; Bates's Sunbird & Landana Firefinch.

More signs of the war!

The next five hours was spend driving to Uige, but we had a good birding stop in remnant forest about 15 kms. East of Uige.

Crowned Eagle; Ayer's Hawk Eagle; Brown-eared Woodpecker; 2 Braun's Bushshrike; 4 Falkenstein's Greenbul; Yellow-throated Leaf-Dove; 3 Cabanis's Greenbul; Black-collared Bulbul; White-chinned Prinia; Black-throated Apalis; Grey-chinned Sunbird; Carmelite Sunbird; Orange-tufted Sunbird; Red-headed Malimbe; White-breasted & Grey-headed Negritas.

The bush-meat trade is still common in Angola.

Even primates are eaten.
On 25th we birded a patch of forest around 15 kms south of Quitexe, which was very birdy & productive. The afternoon was spent in forest around 40 kms west of Quitexe, which was quiet but we did manage a Yellow throated Cuckoo (which is only the second record for Angola)!

Highlights: Great Blue Turaco; Guinea Turaco; African Pygmy Kingfisher; Black Bee-eater; 10 Piping Hornbill; 2 Speckled Tinkerbird; Red-rumped Tinkerbird; 4 Hairy-breasted Barbet; Green-backed, Buff spotted & Brown-eared Woodpeckers; Red-fronted Parrot; 2 Chestnut Wattle-eye; 4 Pink-footed Puffback; 3 Braun's Bushshrike; Purple-throated Cuckshrike; 4 Black-winged Oriole; Velvet-mantled Drongo; Blue-headed crested Flycatcher; African Blue Flycatcher; Honeyguide Greenbul; Banded Prinia; Yellow-browed Camaroptera; 7 Rufous-crowned Eremomela; 4 Narrow-tailed Starling; 2 Dusky Blue Flycatcher; Crested Malimbe; Yellow mantled Widowbird; Pale-fronted Negrita; Red-headed Bluebill & 13 Black & White Mannikin.

We left Uige at 6 am & drove to Quibaxe, an area of mixed cut over forest. Birding was productive but then we moved on & the rest of the day was all driving.

Best birds were: Afep Pigeon; 2 Red-crested Turaco; 2 Black-casqued Hornbill; 4 Naked-faced Barbet; Yellow-billed Barbet; 15 Red-fronted Parrot; 2 Bocage's Bushshrike; Yellow-throated Nicator; Orange-tufted Sunbird; 10 Brown Twinspot & Black-faced Canary.

Then the trip was all over! This was a superb trip, excellently lead by Michael Mills. 

Angola 1

Arrived in Luanda on 9th September after an unremarkable flight from South Africa. I was a little nervous on landing because I only have a yellow fever exemption letter not the certificate because of my age (I am over 60). However after a little persuasion I got in the country! No one from the hotel there to pick me up, so managed to get a lift with some merchant seamen on the way to the docks where their ship was at anchorage. All nice guys & thanks for the help.
They dropped me at my hotel & what a dump! $180 a night, for what? Internet only worked at snail pace in the lobby but arranged to meet up with the ground agent for the tour early on the 10th. Really looking forward to this tour – there some rare & exceptional birds on offer!

Paul, who proved not only an excellent ground agent.
 but a really great guy as well!

Paul picked me up in the dark & took me back to the airport to meet the rest of the group. We left at 06.15 hours & drove to Mussulo Bay, where we saw a variety of waders & water birds. But more importantly we also saw Bubbling Cisticola & Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush. A little further on we saw 40+ Golden backed Bishops: a brilliant endemic to get so early in the trip.

These mangroves were huge & a different species
 to what I am used to.

We then made a quick stop at the Kwanzi River Mouth & nearby golf course where the main species for me was Mangrove Sunbird, which we saw exceptionally well.

Grasslands & shrubs, slowly turned into
 open woodland.

Blue Monkey (Mitus mitus)

Once we crossed the river we entered Kissama National Park & the landscape was dominated by Baobabs & many species off Euphorbia trees. This habitat was quite new to me & we made a couple of birding stops without seeing anything exceptional.

At first the roads were very good.

We arrived at Muxima around 2pm & then set out once more to an extensive area of mixed forest on a floodplain. We bumped into a record nine Grey-striped Francolin, eight endemic Red-backed Mousebirds; a pair of White-fronted Wattle-eyes, which performed beautifully for all; five Gabela Helmetshrike; a wonderfully co-operative Monteiro’s Bushshrike & two Hartert’s Camaroptera. What an outstanding first day!

Dawn of the 11th September was dark & gloomy, threatening rain. So it proved later in the morning with a heavy downpour in the middle of our birding! Birding was very slow, but a Forest Robin showed well after a little coaxing! I finally got good views of Pale Olive Greenbul after un-tickable views yesterday & the finale was finding a female Petit’s Cuckooshrike (a species I had missed in Gabon).

The afternoon was even slower than the morning in the gloomy conditions & we didn’t start picking up new species for the trip until we left the forest & birded some cleared areas around some local farmer’s houses. Here we saw 40+ Mottled Spinetails; a Boem’s Spinetail & a Grey Kestrel. But the highlight for many was at least 12 Black-faced Canaries sitting up nicely for good scope views.

We then encountered the local governor of the town & MPLA representative (remember the Angolan Civil War)?


Myself & Keith

Keith is a big lister!

The floodplain is very lush here.

The old slave quarters.

After this we drove to the town for some sightseeing over the river & town. The old slave quarters had recently been restored (well kind of)! And with that we headed to our hotel to yet another night without hot water!

Left the hotel early on 12th September, we drove to Sumbe but first made a short stop in woodland for a bit of birding where we saw 3 Carp’s Tit, a regional endemic. Other birds included:

Palm Nut Vulture; 150+ Mottled Swift; Green Wood Hoopoe; Black Scimitarbill; Angolan Batis; Orange-breasted Bushshrike; 7 Southern White-crowned Shrike; Green Crombec; Hartert's Camaroptera; Grey -Tit Flycatcher; 5 Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush & 35+ Golden-backed Bishop. 

These wetlands provided some good birding.

After lunch we drove to Lobito, which had some nice wetlands with lots of Lesser Flamingos & a variety of other water birds. We arrived at the attractive town of Benguela in the early evening with Bradfield’s Swifts circling overhead. The hotel was the best yet. I had hot water!

The boys!

The mixture of plains & arid foothills proved
 very productive  for birding.

Michael, who proved to be
 a first class leader.

Left in the dark, for an unnamed site around 60kms inland, which was an area of broken hills with sparse woodland & scrub. We got great views of Hartlaub’s Francolin, & a few other birds like White-tailed Shrike; Kalahari Robin & Cape Penduline Tit.

First looks at the impressive gorge.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving to Lubango & the last two hours were spent at Tundalava Gorge.

Taken with a 100 mm lens!

Gorge from the main viewpoint.

Got ya!
The 14th September dawned dull & very windy but it turned out to be a superb day! We left at dawn for the Tandavala Gorge & spent a couple of hours getting Swierestra’a Francolin to show itself.

 We then walked the shrub grasslands & a nearby miombo woodland area before going back to town for lunch & then doing the whole thing again in the afternoon! Highlights included:

Augur Buzzard; 3 Temminck's Courser; 2 Freckled Nightjar seen; 25+ Bradfield's Swift; Lanner Falcon; White-tailed Blue Flycatcher; Spike-heeled Lark; 2 Rockrunner; 6 Wailing Cisticola; Wing-snapping Cisticola; Black-chested Prinia; Grey Apalis; 2 Angolan Slaty Flycatcher; 4 Angolan Cave Chat; Bocage's Akalat; 5 Short-toed Rock Thrush; 2 Miombo Rock Thrush; Bronzy Sunbird; Ludwig's Double-collared Sunbird; Oustalet's Sunbird; 10 Angolan Waxbill; 2 Buffy & a Striped Pipit.

The drive off the high escarpment was stunning!

The 15th was a drive over the Leba Pass to the woodland & scrub/farmland at the base of the mountains. We birded here from 7 am -9.30 am.

Highlights included: 

Red-necked Spurfowl; 30+ Bradfield's Swift; Common Scimitarbill; Bennett's Woodpecker; 2 Hartlaub's & 5 Bare-cheeked Babblers; 4 Meves's Starling & 2 Great Sparrow.

The desert is vast! It is still 400 kms
 to the Namibian border from here!

Then we drove to the desert plains where we saw the Benguella Long-billed Lark and both Ludvig’s Bustard & 3 Ruppell’s Korhaans.

On the return journey we stopped at an area of desert koppies where we saw the local race of Grey-backed Cisticola.

We ended the day looking once again for Cinderella Waxbill at the same area as in the morning. This time we scored with four!