It’s Monday 25th April and the ZOS were in the Valley

It’s Monday 25th April and the ZOS were in the Valley

All birders out there will be delighted with this week’s memorable report from Tina from Zambian Ornithological Society (ZOS) who stayed at Nkwali on their annual trip to South Luangwa.

But before that just a quick note to thank to all supporters that voted in us for The Safari Awards which is now closed and, thanks to you, we are finalists in the following categories:

  • Best Mobile Safari Operator (winners in 2009)
  • Best Safari House with Luangwa Safari House (winners in 2009 and 2010)
  • Best Personal Contribution to Safari Tourism to Robin & Jo Pope
  • Best Safari Accommodation Group (finalists for the 2nd successive year)
  • Best Safari Guiding Team (winners in 2010)

Back to the bush, let’s see the valley through the eyes of bird experts Tina and Steve Williams:

The whole party met at the domestic departure lounge at Lusaka Airport, the Copperbelt contingent having landed earlier from Ndola. Proflight flew us to Mfuwe on time and we were met by an RPS vehicle as well as a White Stork strutting around the airport and giving us our first “tick.”

ZOS teamPuku

We drove to the park gates at the bridge across the Luangwa River, where we were met by three game-viewing vehicles and taken for our first drive with RPS guides Kanga Banda, Braston Daka and Sebastian Kamwendo. A volunteer in each vehicle kept notes of all the sightings which were consolidated later by Annette. Sundowners gave us a chance to catch our breath and get to know each other and then we made our way slowly back to camp. Thirty or so birds were seen that first evening – as well as plenty of elephants, hippo, impala, puku and a small group of lion quite close to and heading in the direction of the camp – to the trepidation of some of the group.

African Grey CuckooBaboons

Porridge and toast were served around a fire at 05.30 the following morning where we exchanged stories of all the night noises which included lion, baboons and a leopard but sadly no owls or nightjars. We knew that the morning drive would be productive when it took us twenty minutes to leave the grounds of the camp and another three and a half hours just to get to the park gates! A lot of this time was spent trying to identify a cuckoo which skilfully avoided giving us a clear frontal view. Eventually it obliged and we all agreed on African Grey Cuckoo. We did later see Jacobin Cuckoo but only heard the distinctive calls of the Emerald and Black Cuckoos. The trilling of the Woodland Kingfishers and the monotonous chirruping of the Whitebrowed Sparrow-weavers followed us everywhere we went.

cuckooWoodland Kingfisher

By around 11.00 hours we were ready for our morning coffee but had a wonderful surprise when we found Daudi and his catering staff under a tree by the side of a lagoon awaiting us with a cold towel, a drink and our lunch. After a gin and tonic and a couple of glasses of wine, Annette had some trouble coordinating the rabble, but eventually we reached a total of eighty two birds seen and thirteen heard. There was also a long discussion about the parrots we saw which the RPS guides insisted were Cape rather than Grey-headed. Bob Sternstejd has been consulted and considers the confusion to be just of names. The Cape Parrot is an endangered species which occurs only in very limited areas of South Africa. The only two parrots occurring in Zambia are Meyers and Grey-headed. The fact that some parrots in the Luangwa Valley seem to have more brown than grey heads and that a female has been spotted with a red front (forehead) did not seem to influence his determination. We were also not sure whether the Grey-headed sparrow was Northern or Southern. We have put Northern on the list but according to Bob we could well have also seen the Southern which has a prominent white wing patch, is a smaller bird and probably endemic to mopane woodland.

boat tripsunset

After a short post-prandial drive we parked the vehicles on the bank of the river opposite the camp and were taken across on a boat (this is such a plus for Nkwali as one can be in and out of the park within a couple of minutes this way).

Some of the group took a dip in the new pool by the dining area and there was quite a bit of shut-eye all round. That evening the party split between a river cruise, two birding vehicles and one game-viewing vehicle. The highlight of the evening was a beautiful female leopard which walked within a few feet of the vehicles and we also saw a solitary old male lion drinking from a puddle in the road. Sundowners produced the biggest laugh of the trip. Steve chose the call of the Pearl-spotted Owl to show off the capabilities of his PDA. Unknown to us there was one nearby who responded with an identical call a few seconds later much to the amusement of all and adding another tick to the “heard” list.

The following morning, after another early start, we again crossed the river and then drove through the park back to camp adding a few more to the list. We stopped for a hyena strolling into the bushes and spotted a magnificent Dwarf Bittern which posed for us for several minutes. After lunch we were taken to the airport – some stopping over at Tribal Textiles – for our flight back to Lusaka.

The final total of birds was 127 seen and 16 heard.

A great trip with great company and we look forward to next year” Steve and Tina

Thank you guys for the exciting report.

Have a great week,


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