Friday, 30 September 2016

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!

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