Mozambique Trip Report by Sue Bryan
November 19th – December 7th 2021
Sue Bryan and John Geeson
Bruce and Winifred Staples
Mozambique had never really featured as a birding destination for us, but the lure of trying to complete my Brooke Bond Tropical Birds album quest (50 species that I want to see) and our good relationship with Birding Ecotours www.birdingecotours.com who are so accommodating to our needs, had us approaching them to organise a customised tour for us visiting Zimbabwe and Mozambique. We gave them a list of bird and animal species that we wanted to see. After much negotiation we had a perfect tour with a good guide. However the world was then engulfed with a pandemic and covid had other ideas that meant that Zimbabwe closed its land borders and the tour was reorganised into two tours of a much longer length, meaning that I would not be able to do both. We opted to do the second half joining 4 others in Beira and travelling to central Mozambique.
Guide Dylan Vasapoli
19th November Heathrow - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
20th November Addis Ababa - Blantyre, Malawi – Beira, Mozambique
21st November Rio Savanne, Beira – Casa Msika, Chicamba
22nd November Casa Msika – Mount Tsetserra
23rd November Casa Msika – Chimamimani NP
24th November Casa Msika – Mount Tsetserra
25th November Casa Msika – Gorongosa Adventuras
26th November Gorongosa NP
27th November Gorongosa Adventuras – Mphingwe
28th November Mphingwe (Coutada 12)
29th November Mphingwe (Coutada 12)
30th November Caia – Grown Energy Eco Farm (Sofala)
1st December Mphingwe (Coutada 12)
2nd December Mphngwe Lodge
3rd December Mphingwe – Beira
4th December Beira (Rio Savanne and Rio Maria)
5th December Dondo
6th December Beira – Addis Ababa
7th December Addis Ababa - Heathrow
International flights to Beira, Mozambique via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Blantyre, Malawi with Ethiopian Airlines www.ethiopianairlines.com cost £1400 each. We booked this reasonably last minute (as Mozambique had just come off the Red list) in the Trailfinders office in Norwich. Some routes were either unavailable or far too expensive.
Birding Ecotours Mozambique African Pitta Special cost £4462 each
A visa is necessary that took 3 weeks to process cost around £90 including post office tracking
The ATM machine at the airport was broken which meant we were unable to get any local currency. However since everything on the tour was paid for and Dylan supplied water and soft drinks whilst we were out birding we ran a tab for any alcohol we consumed at the lodges which we settled up with Dylan at the end of the tour.
Mozambique was extremely hot and humid whilst we were there. Mozambique has a tropical climate with two seasons, a wet season from October to March and a dry season from April to September. Climatic conditions, however, vary depending on altitude. Rainfall is heavy along the coast and we suffered some rain on our first day’s birding which I was a bit unprepared for! Some days the temperature nearly reached 40 degrees!
The country is divided into two topographical regions by the Zambezi River. North of the Zambezi River, the narrow coastal strip gives way to inland hills and low plateaus. In the west there are rugged highlands and the Makonde plateau which is covered with miombo woodlands. To the south of the Zambezi River, the lowlands are broader with the Mashonaland plateau and Lebombo Mountains located in the south. We spent much of our time in central Mozambique where we saw much degraded forest with areas of small plots of agricultural land being ploughed by bullocks. Very sadly we witnessed the devastation of logging activities without any replanting of the forests.
John and I left home and drove to Heathrow where we caught and overnight flight to Addis Ababa. This was not straight forward as we had messages from the Trailfinders office that the Foreign Office were advising against all travel to Ethiopia but as the airport at Addis is a major hub for Africa the airport itself fell into the ‘all but essential travel category’. We set off with great trepidation as we knew it wasn’t essential travel but were prepared to take the risk. By the end of our trip we were glad that we had chosen this route because had we transited through Johannesburg our flights would have been cancelled because of the unexpected red-listing that our government did to South Africa whilst we were away and they cancelled all flights leaving South Africa.
We caught an early morning flight from Addis Ababa to Blantyre in Malawi.
Malawi was very hot and sunny and we were glad of some fresh air. We watched Pied Crows cavorting around the airport along with House Sparrows but mostly watched the Wire-tailed Swallows that were flying around and landing on airport buildings. After a few hours we re-boarded the plane and set off for Beira in Mozambique.
Dylan met us at the airport and took us to our hotel by the beach in Beira. After a quick change and meeting up with some of the group we were soon on our way to Rio Maria marshes where we familiarised ourselves to some common African species. It was good to be back amongst Pied Kingfisher, African Jacana, Pygmy Goose, Yellow-billed Kite, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Woolley-necked Stork, Yellow-billed Stork and Sacred Ibis.
After the arrival of Simon last night we drove to the Rio Savanne flood plain where we pulled a rope across the grassland in the hope of seeing a few specialities. We watched African Pipit, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Quailfinch as well as admiring a few overhead raptors in the shape of Black-chested Snake Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle and Steppe Buzzard. All of a sudden a Black-rumped Buttonquail flew from the grass which we all enjoyed watching.
It started to rain, which I was a bit unprepared for and we returned to the hotel for breakfast. We had a very long drive ahead of us. We packed the minibus and trailer and headed off westwards to Msika. After watching a Long-crested Eagle we were soon in trouble as continuous beeping and warning lights appeared on the dashboard of the minibus. Bruce, Simon and Dylan were soon out and trouble shooting. I made use of the time by taking a photo of a Red-necked Falcon. After a few phone calls to the hirer who made suggestions and the use of a roll of masking tape later plus some water being drained out from somewhere underneath we were soon on our way. Rain was the problem apparently!
It was a long drive and eventually we reached Msika where we managed a short walk before our evening meal. Our rondavel was in a beautiful setting by Lake Chicamba with Yellow Baboons and Impala running around.
We were up at 5am for a very quick short breakfast at Msika adding Hammerkop, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, African Fish Eagle, Tropical Boubou Black-backed Puffback and Amethyst Sunbird to our list before piling into the minibus for a 2 hour drive before a tea and coffee stop. The track after breakfast was a rough one as Dylan laboured with the minibus. Many birds were familiar to me as trip ticks were soon added. Black-capped Tchagra, Violet-backed Starling, White-crested Helmetshrike, Black-headed Oriole, Kurrichan Thrush and then a new bird for me of Green-backed Woodpecker.
Photography was challenging as although it was hot we were up high and we had misty conditions which as photographers know play havoc with the focus on lenses. We were in a heavily forested area too which meant there was little light but I kept persevering and was pleased with some of my photos. Overhead we watched Black Saw-wing, White-rumped Swift and African Black Swift. We came upon a scrubby area which produced; Red-faced Crombec, Red-faced Cisticola, African Firefinch and Burchell’s Coucal. Red-winged Prinia was another new bird for me as we watched Singing Cisticola and Variable Sunbird.
Birds came thick and fast as I struggled to write them all down, take photographs whilst keeping my eyes open for any new birds appearing. A Cardinal Woodpecker drummed whilst a Bar-throated Apalis appeared at the same time as a Robert’s Warbler pair became very noisy but hiding in the roadside scrub. It took a while before we had all had satisfactory views. Life ticks were soon added as a Stripe-cheeked Greenbul hid as a White-eared Barbet showed well enough to have its photo taken. A White-crested Flycatcher added itself to my world list as did a Black-fronted Bushshrike. I was keen to see the Livingstone’s Turaco which we could hear calling. Seeing it was quite a different matter until we reached the top of the hill and out into an open area. We watched an Olive Bushshrike as well as Olive Sunbirds before making our way back down the hill to the bus and lunch.
However we did stop to admire the Semango Monkeys all playing in the trees.
After lunch we stopped on our way back down the hill as we could hear a Striped Pipit singing. It was sometime though before I located it singing from a distant tree overlooking the hillside. We eventually had good views of it.
On our way back to camp we saw a Golden-breasted Bunting sitting in the road, Fork-tailed Drongo and Speckled Mousebird. You can never have too many Lilac-breasted Rollers though and I enjoyed watching the little Grey Waxbills flitting around.
Back at our camp the steak evening meal was excellent!
Today we travelled to Chimanimani National Park. The roads in Mozambique are not that good. Tarmaced roads are full of pot holes and the tracks which are 100kms long are very rough, so progress is slow.
We left Msika at 5am and travelled in the dark to begin with but added Black-winged Kite and Marabou Stork near Chimoio Airport. African villages were strung along our route and near Sussundenga we added Red-backed Mannikin and Gorgeous Bushshrike. By 7.30am we had arrived at the park and signed in. The tracks were interesting to say the least, but our minibus refused to go up one of the inclines despite some of the group’s efforts of pushing!
Heave! The bus would not go up.
Dylan wanted to try an alternative route to Mount Tsetserra today. We were birding here as our plans to bird in Zimbabwe on the other side of the mountain were thwarted when Zimbabwe closed the land border because of Covid. We were right on the border but on the Mozambique side. It was a new adventure for us all. It was a bumpy route but a fascinating one as we passed many African villages. The scenery was spectacular and far more enjoyable than two days ago.
The birds were plentiful as we added some more familiar species, Ashy Flycatcher, Common Sandpiper, Little Sparrowhawk and Grey-back Camaroptera. We stopped to peer into a bush for Terrestrial Bulbul whilst a Golden-tailed Woodpecker appeared above us. A few Arrow-marked Babblers appeared but I was keen to see a Miombo Tit as along with the Eastern Miombo Double-collared Sunbird they were lifers! Cape Robin Chat and White-tailed Robin added themselves to the list too.
We stopped along the track and I took the opportunity of taking photos of African Paradise Flycatcher, Emerald Wood Dove, Grey Waxbill and Striped Pipit. Later a Cinnamon-breasted Bunting impeded our progress on the track.
We stopped further along the road by a bridge where down in the river the locals were washing clothes and the children having great fun in the searing heat. It was certainly one way to keep cool. We spotted African Firefinches and Simon spotted Red-throated Twinspots. John was delighted. It was a lifer for me. Wire-tailed Swallows were resting on a wooden structure.
African Golden Oriole
Another short stop produced an African Golden Oriole before we headed back to camp and another evening by Lake Chicamba at Msika.
We were up at 5am and after a quick drink we birded the grounds of our accommodation at Msika. My first world tick came in the shape of an Eastern Nicator which we saw after following it through some scrub. A Trumpeter Hornbill flew over as Purple-banded Sunbirds and a Yellow-breasted Apalis flitted around us. A Crowned Hornbill flew over as we neared the lake.
At the lake we added some more familiar African birds to our trip list and it was good to see them again. These included, African Darter, Three-banded Plover, Striated Heron, Water Thick-knee, and Spotted Thick-knee.
We spotted a distant raptor across the other side of the lake which was an African Cuckoo-hawk. I needed it as a lifer and was disappointed that it was so far away. However luck was on my side as a few minutes later as we rounded the corner, having been obscured by the trees, it was sat on top of a nearby tree. By the time we returned to the lodge we had added Bronze Mannikin, African Palm Swift and Southern Masked Weaver to the trip list.
After breakfast we loaded up the minibus and trailer and we started the long drive to Gorongosa. The pot-holed road and track to the park took some time but we stopped in the buffer zone to do some birding in the hot weather. We watched a delightful Black-backed Puffback displaying and watched a Speckled-throated Woodpecker as well as adding Grey-headed Bushshrike, Spotted Flycatcher, and Bearded Scrub Robin. Common Waxbill, Greater Honeyguide, African Hoopoe, Cuckoo, Black-crowned Tchagra and Golden Oriole were also seen.
Sue at Gorongosa
Covid hand washing!
We reached the entrance to the park where the covid hand washing facilities took some working out! But we all got it in the end!
African Wood Owl
After paying our dues we continued along the track to the campsite where we were to spend the next 2 nights under canvas. However a herd of Elephants had other ideas about our use of the entrance track. There were several baby Elephants in the herd and the mothers were not impressed by our presence and immediately surrounded them sending out the matriarch to deter our progress. A vehicle with park staff tried to beckon us through but we needed to be sure that we would be safe and not startle the Elephants. Eventually we drove by and the Elephants all crossed over safely. Waterbuck, Impala and Yellow Baboons were everywhere. We also saw Nyala and Blue Wildebeest.
After a wonderful barbeque at our campsite we could hear an African Wood Owl calling above our tent. So with a spot light and torch in hand we soon found a pair calling to each other.
I love the ambiance of camping in Africa listening to all the night sounds. In the warmth of an African night there is nothing like it. It is such a privilege to be here.
Today was a little different to our other days as Dylan had booked us all a game drive by a park ranger. He knew his birds too. It was wonderful to be back in amongst African game and birds. The birds were abundant and we tried to concentrate on new birds for the trip unless Bruce or I requested a photographic opportunity stop. I had no new world ticks today but it didn’t matter as it was just such a perfect day for game and bird watching.
We all relaxed and enjoyed ourselves as we watched Greater Kudu, Nyala, Oribi Common Warthog, Impala, Waterbuck and Hippopotamus on the plains and in the forest. Meanwhile many birds were added to the trip list including, Carmine Bee-eaters, European Bee-eater, Wattled Starling, Flappet Lark, Black-bellied Bustard, Grey Go-away-bird, Blacksmith’s Lapwing, Grey-crowned Crane, Jacobin Cuckoo, Grey Penduline Tit, Blue Waxbill, Lilac-breasted Roller and Moustached Grass Warbler.
We all enjoyed the game drive and Bruce and I enjoyed taking our photographs. A Green-winged Pytilia and Red-chested Cuckoo brought smiles to several faces as did a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater to mine. A Red-backed Shrike was quite shy as it tried to camouflage itself unsuccessfully. We returned to the campsite for late morning for some much-needed down time before setting off for another game drive at 4pm.
Down at the water’s edge a Hippopotamus made a run for the water as we admired a Saddle-billed Stork, Kittlitz’s Plover, Little Stint, African Spoonbill, Collared Pratincole, European Roller, Long-toed Lapwing and a Great White Pelican. I was fascinated by the congregation of African Skimmers. Bruce and I tried our best in failing light to photograph them actually skimming for food in the water. It wasn’t easy!
After celebrating our wonderful day with a few gin and tonics as we watched the sun go down we started our return drive for a night drive. We had come prepared with a spotlight and a torch. We watched a few Square-tailed Nightjars, Thick-tailed Bushbaby, Civet, Genet and a Porcupine as well as a Southern White-faced Owl.
We were up at 4.20am, had our breakfast, packed up the minibus and trailer and left the campsite at 6am. We drove along the entrance track and birded in the buffer zone for a while. It was another beautiful morning with ideal conditions for photography. Bruce and I made the most of it as we took photos of African Hoopoe, Diederik-Cuckoo, Red-headed-Weaver and Retz’s Helmetshrike.
Dylan nearly stepped on a snake which scuttled off and hid in the base of a tree.
Soon we had to be on our way and we boarded the bus for another long drive along on very rough tracks. We stopped off at Nhamapaza where I took a few photos of Little Bee-eaters that were nesting in a sandy quarry. After a bite to eat we continued our journey. After journeying for quite a while the rough track was having an impact on my bladder and I requested a comfort stop. It was just as well I did as we discovered to our horror that part of the trailer was missing.
I had heard an enormous thud a few miles back but we had had quite a few thuds on the rough track. Now we realised that this thud was a bit different as not only had we lost a box off the trailer, the bolts holding the tow bar on had all lost their thread and could not keep the nuts in place. We were in danger of not being able to tow the trailer. Bruce had had the foresight to buy some more bolts earlier in the trip but they were not quite long enough and were made of steel that was too soft. He did a temporary fix and we limped our way to the next biggest settlement where we managed to obtain some second-hand bolts that did the trick. Phew....quite a relief!
We made it to M’Phingwe Lodge and after unloading and putting the cases into our rooms we had a quick wander around the grounds where to John’s delight we added one of his target species, Livingstone’s Flycatcher.
During the early evening we learnt that Mozambique had been put on the Red List by the UK government as scientists in South Africa had discovered a new covid variant. For 3 of us it meant going into quarantine upon our return to the UK and for one of our group he had his flight from South Africa back to the USA cancelled. It was not a good evening. With no internet and no phone signal in a remote part of Mozambique this was not good news as we could not do or find out anything.
We were up at
3.30 am and told to take something to lie on as we were going to have a nap in
the hottest part of the day on the forest floor. With temperatures over 30 degrees
in the middle part of the day we were going to need a rest after such an early
start. John asked the bus to be brought to a halt as he had spotted a
kingfisher. This turned out to be a good shout as it was a Mangrove Kingfisher, a world tick for most of us.
The day had started well with 6 world ticks as I added Black-headed Apalis, Woodward’s Batis, Green Malkoha, East Coast Akalat, Lowland Tiny Greenbul as well as a trip ticks of a Black-bellied Starling. However it was the African Broadbill that I enjoyed watching so much as it was a displaying male that did a little dance on a horizontal branch. I was mesmerised by it. It was such a joy to watch.
By now the day was exceedingly hot and we laid our towels down on the ground and tried to have a nap on the forest floor. However ants had other ideas and I did not find the experience as restful as I would have liked! A Narina Trogon came and landed above our heads but I was too close for a decent photograph. We watched an Orange-breasted Bushshrike before spotting an African Barred Owlet which Bruce and I struggled to get a decent angle on without branches getting in the way. Dylan heard a Plain-backed Sunbird calling but seeing it was quite a different matter as we scrabbled through dense tangled vegetation before it flew yet again.
A Variable Sunbird in the same tree did not make things easy for us. Overhead Bohm’s Spinetails were flying around as we added a Crowned Eagle to our trip list on our return trip back to the lodge. We had seen some good birds today and we had all enjoyed our day.
The lodge put on an excellent supper and the ambiance was just perfect with a wonderful host as well. A few beers were very much enjoyed as well as yet more gin and tonics!
A Bushbuck was also seen today at the lodge and added to our mammal list
We were up at 4am and after a quick drink were in the bus for a drive around the local tracks stopping off at forest patches to search for the pitta without any luck at all. An African Hobby flew over us. Luckily I had turned around with Dylan and was looking the right way as a Green Twinspot flew in front of us landing in the scrub beside us. Sadly most of the group missed it. We also saw the Garden Warbler that was lurking inside the bush too. The Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher played hard to get but the Swallow-tailed Bee-eater posed beautifully as it kept flying around, catching insects to feed to its youngster sat beside it.
A Carmine Bee-eater also sat beautifully and posed for the camera. We continued driving along the tracks stopping if and when we saw a good bird and walking for a while in the heat. We took many photos today as the light was so good including: Chestnut-fronted-Helmetshrike, Golden-tailed-Woodpecker and Bearded-Scrub-Robin.
Dylan also spent some time with me trying to show me a technique for taking photos of fast flying birds such as the Bohm’s Spinetails that were flying above our heads. I had a go and took a lot of shots of empty sky but did manage a few where I actually had a bird in the photos, out of focus mainly but being a better digital camera and lens than I used to have with a much quicker response I had a few successful attempts.
We watched Mottled Spinetails too before deciding at 37 degrees it would be good to return for lunch at the lodge where we could eat in the shade with a few cool beers and have a break for a few domestics for a while.
In the afternoon we walked a dry river bed at the lodge and saw almost nothing except for a pair of Brown-hooded Kingfishers that posed nicely.
We all enjoyed a wonderful steak meal sitting out in the warmth of a wonderful African evening listening to the sounds of the forest. How I love Africa and the ambiance that it has in the evenings as we sit and relax with a few beers and gin and tonics.
We were off once again at 4am for a long drive to the Grown Energy’s Eco Farm where a colony of Bohm’s Bee-eaters had been discovered. However this was a private site that needed permission for entry. We stopped by the Zambezi River where a concrete tower provided an excellent view over the surrounding area. Even though it was still very early in the morning it was already hot. After taking a few photographs we went back down to ground level and watched the areas around the marsh where we added lots of trip ticks to our list. These included Southern Brown-throated Weaver, Rufous-winged Cisticola, a lifer for me, African Reed Warbler, Copper Sunbird, Little Rush Warbler, Southern Red Bishop, and Little Bittern.
Sue by the flood plains of the Zambezi River
We motored on our way along the rough track and stopped at a wetland area. It was a delightful stop as we enjoyed our breakfast that enabled us to wander at will taking photos and watching the birds. Here we added Comb Duck, Black Heron, Yellow Wagtail, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Orange-breasted Waxbill, European Honey Buzzard and Olive Tree Warbler which Dylan had heard and we investigated where it was calling from the other side of the wet area. It took a while to see it but eventually it showed well to us all. I also took photographs of: African-Fish-Eagle, African Pipit and Wahlberg’s Eagle. It was just such a delightful spot to wander and enjoy the best of African birding. We watched the pools where Ruff and Wood Sandpipers were amongst the Black-winged Stilts too.
We loaded the minibus back up and continued on our way to the farm where although we had pre-arranged our visit the gate-keeper would not let us in. Dylan tried his best to explain but the chap was adamant that we were not going to pass. A few phone calls were made and a man on a motorbike was despatched whilst we sat it out. After quite a wait the gate was unlocked and we were let through as the owner of the farm appeared and welcomed us. Sugar-cane was being grown and the tall vegetation meant that we could not see very much. Dylan parked the van and we walked through some scrub to the banks of the Zambezi River. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were flying around but they were not our quarry and we returned to the minibus. We drove a bit further and got out again. Bohm’s Bee-eaters are not typical in that they don’t perch out in the open like other bee-eaters do and prefer to sit under the canopy of trees making them a bit more difficult to see. Dylan could hear them calling and eventually we spotted them.
We saw around ten Bohm’s Bee-eaters but could only find one with tail streamers. Other birds abounded here in the trees and it was good birding as we managed to find a little bit of shade in the searing heat that reached 38 degrees. White-fronted Bee-eater showed well as did a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird that pleaded to have its photo taken. Klaas’s Cuckoo sat still whilst I took its photo whilst Common Swift and Long-billed Crombec added themselves to the trip list. I also took photos of Copper Sunbird and Brown-headed Parrot. We had our lunch and were glad of the cold drinks as we parked in the shade of the trees whilst bee-eaters flew around us.
After lunch we headed back along the track and back to M’Phingwe and the lodge. Later we drove the track the other side of the main road and walked some agricultural fields. How the locals laboured in the searing heat I do not know. The fields produced a Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul and House Sparrow for our trip list but little else. We were glad to return to the lodge for a cold drink but we had a fruitless evening trying to book a quarantine hotel with the limited internet that we had available. The UK government obviously doesn’t realise that not everywhere has internet in remote Mozambique! I felt sorry for our fellow travellers that had had their flights cancelled too!
Bearded Scrun Robin's Nest
We had an extremely early start this morning as we wanted to drive the tracks in the dark to search for nightjars. We flushed a European Nightjar and a female Pennant-winged Nightjar. As daylight came we visited areas that we had stopped in before but we were still out of luck for either hearing or seeing any pittas. It was clear that they simply had not arrived yet. We added Black Cuckoo to our lists and saw a cuckoo’s egg in a Bearded Scrub Robin’s nest. A Scaly-throated Honeyguide was a new world tick for me.
Once again it was extremely hot and the birds thought so too as they seemed to disappear. We decided to return to the lodge and have the afternoon to ourselves. I spent much of the afternoon trying to sort out John’s camera which had ceased to function. I managed to get it to work on a couple of settings but suspected that there was sand in the shutter mechanism somewhere.
After dark some of us drove back to the bridge where once again we flushed some European Nightjars but the night sky full of stars of the galaxy was something else! Amazing!
After a cup of tea we walked around the camp grounds where we added Orange-winged Pytilia to the trip list. Suni and Duikers stood and watched us as we wandered around. After a short drive around we stopped at the waterhole where we had a very relaxing time sitting in chairs watching the animals come and go. Warthogs and Greater Kudu came in for a drink as did Tambourine Doves. We returned to the lodge for breakfast as we had to sort out PCR tests and passports in preparations for our return to the UK.
The day was extremely hot once again and after lunch we tried for the pitta once again. I think most of us had accepted that we were not going to see it by now. A huge disappointment for us all but we had enjoyed our birding and the beautiful birds we had seen. We kept trying though but returned to the lodge empty handed. We had a frustrating evening trying to book quarantine hotels but with the UK government website not accepting credit cards and with limited internet we were unsuccessful. Several hours were totally wasted!
Today we were due to travel back to Beira and so after breakfast we loaded up the minibus and what was left of the trailer and bid goodbye to our lovely hosts at M’Phingwe and set off on a 200 km rough track. We hadn’t gone far when at Inhamitanga a Crested Francolin stood in the middle of the road. For the next 196 km Dylan battled with the rough track often getting behind logging lorries taking away much of the forest. It was a sorry sight to see all the hardwood trees disappearing with little replanting taking place. We stopped occasionally for drinks and lunch but settled back and enjoyed the scenery as well as having a bit of a doze. Fourteen kilometres short of Beira we stopped at Dondo as Etienne, whom I had met in South Africa many years ago, had found a Lesser Seedcracker that Dylan and Bruce needed for their Southern African lists. It was very hot as we added Jameson’s Firefinch and Red-headed Quelea, a lifer for me, to the trip list. An African Harrier Hawk and a Lizard Buzzard posed for a photograph whilst another Little Bee-eater did too, but we failed to find the seedcracker.
We spent the evening by the Pacific Ocean at a restaurant on the beach. Had it not been for the loud music (one of my pet hates) we could have heard the waves crashing on the sand. It was a shame that John and I chosen badly from the menu and ended up with a dreadful meal but I did enjoy the rather large gin and tonic.
We were up early once again and piled into the minibus for another try on the Rio Savanne Flood Plain. We stopped near a small bridge adding Red-breasted Swallow and Malachite Kingfisher to our lists. It was obviously going to be another very hot sunny day. I took photos of Croaking Cisticola and Fan-tailed Widowbird whilst Dylan, Simon and Bruce prepared the rope for another try at finding Blue Quail.
We drove the minibus a bit further and then dragged the rope over the long grass. It was very hot work and I left my camera behind. Bruce and Dylan were ahead and all of a sudden a pair of Blue Quail flew out from behind them. I yelled and most of us saw where the quail had landed. We ran to the spot as best we could but they did not reappear. Luckily John and I had had quite good views as the birds were still ahead of us and not behind as they were for the rest of the group. Overhead we watched a Purple Heron and a Yellow-billed Kite flying by. A Great Snipe was flushed and we watched a Mosque Swallow back near the minibus. We continued our walk and luckily found a pair of Locust Finch that fed on the ground in front of us. I cursed at not having my camera with me at that point as they posed very well.
We made our way back to the minibus and drove a little bit further on the track and stopped to take photographs of a flock of Senegal Lapwings. I also crept across the land to take a photograph of a Collared Pratincole that landed nearby. Dylan could hear Cuckoofinch calling but it took a while to discover where they had landed as we all disagreed. Luckily I spotted them in nearby trees and we all had good views. We also had a Palm Nut Vulture fly over too. It was now nearly 40 degrees and after watching a Plain-backed Pipit we found some shade and had our breakfast which we shared with some locals who had wandered by. We needed to get back to the hotel as a lab technician was coming to do out PCR tests ready for our flight home. Once back in the minibus, we stopped at a small pool where a Three-banded Plover was showing well along with a Kittlitz’s Plover.
The afternoon was spent at the Rio Maria estuary where we got badly caught out by the tide. Here we added Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Terek Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper to the trip lists as well as watching White-faced Whistling Duck, Spur-winged Goose and African Pygmy Geese once again. I even managed a ride on a motorbike to save me getting my feet wet like all the others!
We drove back out to Dondo to a small dam where we had stopped 2 days ago to give the seedcracker another go. A Marsh Warbler was singing as we arrived and Dylan thought he could hear the seedcracker. We shifted around to the back of all the bushes and saw the Lesser Seedcracker hiding deep in the vegetation. Getting a photograph was not easy. We were all so pleased for Dylan as he had worked so hard for us throughout the tour with so many covid-related issues and other major issues to contend with. He took it all in his stride. On the way back to Beira we spotted a raptor at the top of a tree in the distance. I could not believe my luck when it was a Southern Banded Snake Eagle which had been a gap in my Southern African list for so long!
We returned back to the hotel to get our PCR test results which were all negative and completed passenger locator forms which took a long time to complete with limited internet from a hot spot from Dylan’s phone. John and I bid farewell to the rest of the group who left at 11am. We thanked Dylan and had a wonderful stroll along the beach walking in the warm sea of the Pacific Ocean. Bliss! It had been a wonderful trip and we were glad to have managed some excellent birding in Africa once again with a wonderful group of people and a lovely leader.
After an early breakfast we were taken to the airport at Beira where after a lengthy check in due to electricity cuts, meaning computer failures, we eventually flew to Addis Ababa.
We flew from Addis Ababa to Heathrow in London where after 12 hours from landing we found ourselves in a quarantine hotel where we eventually caught covid from the hotel staff!