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Home News & Events Trip Reports Southern Mozambique - D MacGillivray

Southern Mozambique - D MacGillivray

I have just returned from a seven day trip to Southern Mozambique organized
and led by Maans Booysen of WETO tours. I won't provide a comprehensive bird
list but will rather attempt a narrative of the trip.

While waiting for Maans at the last petrol station before the Komatipoort /
Ressano Garcia border, I saw a pair of Cut-throat finches. While this may
not be an unusual bird to those in the centre of South Africa, it is special
for those of us who do most of our birding around Durban. Maans' local
knowledge at the border post made the crossing easy. Shortly after the first
Toll gate on the road to Maputo, we turned off at Moamba to travel on the
gravel road that runs alongside the Inkomati River for much of the way. I
think that this is the same road where River Warblers have been seen
previously. Our destination was the Honeypot Camp near the Limpopo flood
plains just south of Xai Xai. This road was a shorter but longer alternative
to the main road that passes through the outskirts of Maputo. It joins the
EN1 near Magul. We didn't do much birding while traveling on this road but
saw Brown Snake-eagle, Red-breasted Swallows, European Bee-eaters, Glossy
Ibis and a Broad-billed Roller. The Honeypot Camp provided comfortable
accommodation, a good ½ chicken and chips for supper and a pair of Wood

We saw some good birds on the Limpopo flood plains but not in the quantities
that Maans has seen on previous occasions when it had been wetter - Booted
Eagle (pale phase), Rufous-winged Cisticola, Black Coucal and African Snipe
being the more interesting ones. The road north of Xai Xai (the EN1) is
currently in very poor condition and extremely dangerous. It is severely
pot-holed and the tar reduced to only a single car width for much of the
100km of road works. Passing is done on the sand strip alongside the tarred
bit. The highlight of the journey to Panda was seeing a pair of African
Hobby's at fairly close quarters. Nothing much seems to happen in Panda but
the bakery makes excellent Pau's. Hyliota Camp, our destination for the next
two nights, lies south-west of Panda. One drives down a good gravel road
through some magnificent Miombo woodland for about 25km (this Miombo would
provide one of the trip's highlights in a couple of days time on our return
journey) before turning onto a sandy track for another 45km. A vehicle with
decent clearance is necessary. Four-wheel drive will reduce the chance of
getting stuck but low-range was not necessary.

Hyliota Camp is a private camp owned by Maans Booysens and his partners. It
is located near the shore of a beautiful lake and is surrounded by Miombo
woodlands, thornveld and a spectacular Lebombo-ironwood forest. Its
facilities are rudimentary but adequate. It is perfectly situated for great
birding. On our first morning there, Maans spotted an unusual wader with
long red legs - a Common Redshank! We also saw Red-winged Pratincoles,
Wattled Starlings, Long-billed and Red-faced Crombecs and Sunbirds
(Neergards, Collared, Amethyst and Scarlet-chested) alongside the camp.
Drives in the adjacent forests resulted in good views of Chestnut-fronted
Helmet-Shrikes, Plain-backed Sunbirds, Bohm's Spinetail, Mozambican
Nightjar, Kurrichane Buttonquail, Red-crested and Black-bellied Korhaan and
even a Honey Buzzard.

We stopped in the Miombo woodland on the road to Panda en route to
Inhambane. We had been trying to call up Olive-headed Weaver without
success. Maans spotted one of their nests (made of "old man's beard) while
driving up the road. We waited by it for a while and were rewarded with
great views of both male and female Olive-headed Weavers. The female was
taking food into the nest to feed a chick. We also saw Racquet-tailed
Rollers, Southern Hyliota and Pale Batis. I saw a black and white bird with
a flycatcher gizz that was unusual to me as it had a white collar - a
Collared Flycatcher! Unfortunately the others didn't share this sighting.
The gravel road beyond Panda was good in parts though shocking the closer
one got to Inhambane.

Inhambane is a sprawling town on the edge of a large estuary. We were
staying in chalets at Molokay Bay on the Barra peninsula. A nearby lake gave
us good views of Pygmy Geese, Lesser Jacana, Open-billed Storks,
White-backed ducks and Greater Blue-eared Starlings. Maans was expecting to
see great numbers of shorebirds based on his experience of previous trips.
On this occasion however, there was a nice variety of birds but not in large
numbers: only one Crab Plover, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Common
Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Sanderlings,
White-fronted Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones amongst others. The Greater and
the Lesser Sand Plover are similar so it was good to compare them to each

In summary, we saw about 180 species of birds over the week of which eleven
were lifers for me. We traveled just under 3000km on roads that ranged from
excellent to dangerous. Hyliota Camp is a superb spot for Miombo birding and
is as remote as one can possibly get in the region. If anyone wishes to stay
there, contact Maans Booysen directly.

Donald MacGillivray

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 January 2010 12:04 )  


Text and photographs by Dan Nuttall 
(taken from Africa Birds and Birding February 1998 Vol.3, No.1)

A first sighting is a rare pleasure, something that lingers in the minds of most birders. Today is no exception. What makes this particular sighting so indelible is my awareness that very few people have seen this species. But here, literally in hand, are 12 Olive-headed Weavers - an intriguing and rarely seen species. Courtesy of Robert Prys-Jones, I am sitting amidst the vast avifaunal collection of the Rothschild Zoological Museum in Tring, England. The collection forms a part of the larger faunal collection of the British Natural History Museum.