Zimbabwe, Zambia

Kariba & Middle Zambezi

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To bird or not to bird? That is the question!

To bird or not to bird? That is the question!

To bird or not to bird? That is the question!
RUSSELL CLARK

RUSSELL CLARK

Zambia’s Lower Zambezi River and its hinterland offer the bird watching enthusiast a multitude of habitats and, as one would expect, a diverse range of bird species.

There are breeding residents, intra-African migrants and the more adventurous summer visitors from the Palearctic ecozone of Europe and Northern Asia. Lower Zambezi also has its fair share of rare and uncommon vagrants.

As a frequent visitor to the Royal Zambezi Lodge in this area, what doI think all these big words mean to the staff there?Well, in addition toits top class game viewing and world class fishing, the Lower Zambezi offers birders of all levels the opportunity to watch, photograph and discuss with others the local avifauna. Birders can easily tick off more than ten of the smallerspeciesin the riverine scrub right outside their room before breakfast, having been awakened by their morning chorus.

On one visit I remember a very enthusiastic 12 year-old boy who spent most of his holidayexploring the lodge environs and found at least two species which were rarely noticed, even by the staff. A wake-up call indeed!

The guides are always armed with Roberts Bird Guide and are more than willing to stop,go backand check out that mysterious sighting, so don’t be shy about tapping the driver’s heador waving frantically at the boatman!Actually they usually see therarer LBJs(‘Little Brown Jobs’) before visitors do.Guides thoroughly enjoy explaining why that is a resident wire-tailed swallow and not a migrant barn swallow, or recountingthat sighting of the African pitta in the leaves under the riparian vegetation.What’s more important is that they are always willing to learn and they thrive on the company of passionate naturalists.

Lodge activities typically group birderstogether,whether they’re on foot, in a boat or on an overland vehicle, as birders usually like birders and often have their own viewing and photographic preferences,admittedly often tiresome to others – but not always!

“There’s nothing more stimulating,”an operations manager once told me,“than to listen to birders discussing sightings and hearings back at the lodgewhile enjoying the piercing calls of the crowned hornbills feasting up in the canopy of Natal mahogany trees.”To that I might add the plop of a pied kingfisher catching a meal under the bar decking.

From the cry of the African fish eagle overhead,the flight of the skimmer low over the water, or the bleating of the grey-backed cameroptera in the bushes outside your chalet, there’s never a dull moment bird-wise. In fact the roaring of lion in the distance, the grunting of hippoand the haunting call of hyena over the river can be real distractions!

Read more articles from this issue:
Main menu (Issue 16, March 2014)
Full contents listing
Birds & Birding

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
Kariba & Middle Zambezi Destination Profile
Kariba & Middle Zambezi News