Zambia birding trip - Part 1 - Kasanka National Park

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6 years 9 months ago - 3 weeks 2 days ago #50143 by
created the topic: Zambia birding trip - Part 1 - Kasanka National Park
Following my return to Lusaka from the UK I headed north for a 7-day birding trip, very ably organised for me by . I had three specific destinations – Kasanka National Park, Shoebill Island and the Mutinondo Wilderness area.

The first of these, Kasanka National Park, is an approximately 7-hour drive from Lusaka, sitting in Zambia at the end of the so-called “Pedicle” of the DRC that separates the Copperbelt from the remote northern Luapula Province. Kasanka, although a national park, is run by the Kasanka Trust ( ). Accommodation is either camping or chalets, but visitors to the chalets must supply all their own food. Kasanka supply the cooks. The chalets in the main Wasa Camp are situated in miombo woodland (evergreen broad-leafed woodland dominated by brachystegia [‘miombo’ is the Swahili word for brachystegia], julbernardia and isoberlinia).

Some of them like the one I stayed in overlook Wasa Lake, home to many birds such as African Pygmy Goose, Rufous-bellied Heron and Lesser Moorhen.

Lesser Moorhen - immature bird; I was not going to get a better view than this through the flooded grass.

I arrived just after lunchtime and was able to do a circuit of Wasa Lake through the miombo with bird guide Webby, who certainly seems to know his bird calls and the habits of the local birds very well. A surprising sighting, only raptor of the walk, was a European Honey Buzzard. One of the miombo specials seen was Yellow-bellied Hyliota. Miombo birding is not for the faint-hearted, as it is “low density” birding – great species diversity, but no great numbers of anything. The secret is to latch onto one of the multi-species bird parties and follow them. As many of the species flit around in the canopy a stiff neck is also guaranteed, and also makes for ‘interesting’ angles for photos if you are even able to pin down any of these highly mobile birds.

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird

The next day I had a morning drive/walk and a late afternoon/night drive/walk, accompanied by Webby and Frank Willems the resident ecologist for the Kasanka Trust. First stop of the day was the Fibwe lookout, some 16m up a fig tree and overlooking extensive papyrus beds, home to one of Africa's largest populations of the shy and elusive sitatunga, smallest member of the kudu family. Spotting a big male that might just make 2m to the tip of his horns in papyrus that grows to 4m is quite a challenge, but with the assistance of Frank's spotting scope I eventually succeeded in adding sitatunga to my mammal list. Fibwe is situated in mushitu (riverine forest) and supports a somewhat different bird population to the miombo. Highlights here were a beautiful male Narina Trogon, Schalow's Turaco, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike (lifer), Böhm's Bee-Eater (lifer), Brown-headed Apalis (lifer) and Pallid Honeyguide (lifer).

Böhm's Bee-Eater

male Narina Trogon

Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird

The commonest barbet of this region - Black-backed Barbet

Less than 1km from Fibwe and a comfortable walk through the mushitu, is a viewing site on the edge of a dambo (seasonal wetland) for one of the truly remarkable sights of Africa - the annual migration and arrival at Kasanka of millions of Straw-coloured Fruit Bats, and then their departure a mere 2 months later. This spectacle takes place in November and December every year. In the dambo, however, I picked up Croaking Cisticola and another lifer in Anchieta's Tchagra, southern counterpart of the west and central african Marsh Tchagra.(N.B. The IOC still regard Anchieta's Tchagra as sub-species anchietiae of the Marsh Tchagra)

Anchieta's Tchagra - female and juvenile

Back at camp for lunch Frank showed me a resident African Wood Owl in a tree right outside his house.

The afternoon drive and walk targeted miombo species and I was not disappointed, adding more lifers in Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Black-necked Eremomela (a highly photogenic little bird, but it flits around on steroids so no hope of a photo), Böhm's Flycatcher and one of my biggest bogey birds Arnot's Chat.

Not a great shot of a female Arnot's Chat, she was doing her best to camouflage herself - but then any shot of a bogey bird is worth having.

Böhm's Flycatcher

Others seen were Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, Miombo Scrub-Robin and -

Cabanis's Bunting, this one an immature bird

The day was rounded off with after dark sightings of Spotted Dikkop and this Spotted Eagle-Owl

A highly successful day and a half at Kasanka to get the trip off to a good start, with a total of exactly 100 species seen including 9 lifers.

Last Edit: 3 weeks 2 days ago by nkgray. Reason: Updating image links

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6 years 9 months ago #50265 by Birdlover
Birdlover replied the topic: Re: Zambia birding trip - Part 1 - Kasanka National Park

I will most probably repeat myself over your next three post, but WOW ! What a wonderfull opportunity to see these beautiful birds. Also your photo's of the area.
Thanks for sharing, Fantastic.

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6 years 9 months ago #50339 by peter sharland
peter sharland replied the topic: Re: Zambia birding trip - Part 1 - Kasanka National Park
Great stuff Neil!

In December Jenny and I visited Western Zambia (including Mwinilunga area), and managed a morning's birding with Frank Willems at Kasanka on the way home. He knows his area's birds inside out, and was a superb host.

Well done on the pics and lifers.

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