BIRDING IN ZIMBABWE
Cecil Kop may be a relatively small area, perched above the small eastern highlands city of Mutare, but is a worthwhile place to stop for a bit of birding on your way to the Vumba. At the very top of Christmas Pass as you start to descend into Mutare is a small road on the left that leads through a boom and up to the radio mast at the top of the mountain. There is tall woodland below the road as you start and some dwarf miombo higher up. This length of road is good for Cabanis’s Bunting and Cinnamon-breasted Tits, which is a good pair to have under your belt whilst Augur Buzzard floats above – also keep looking out for Mottled Swifts!
Striped Pipit and Whyte’s Barbets, Miombo Tit, Spotted Creeper, Red-faced Crombec, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Miombo Rock-thrush and Orange-winged Pytilia frequent the miombo, with Tree Pipit in summer… and not forgetting the Collared Flycatcher! Green Twinspot, Yellow-bellied Waxbills and Cape Bunting are also to be found. The nearby Cross Kopjie is the place to look for Boulder Chats.
The game section of Cecil Kop can be entered through the town and there is also Thomson’s Vlei to explore. Variable Sunbird is a certainty and Miombo Double-collared will also be flitting about. Look for the small stuff near forest edge and you could find the delightful Grey Waxbill, Red-throated Twinspots, Green-winged Pytilia and others like the Black Widowfinch hanging around the African Firefinches and Bronze and Red-backed Mannikins.
Tambourine Doves call from the forest patches and Gorgeous Bush-shrikes may come out and give you a look while Trumpeter Hornbills noisily traverse the open ground. White-eared Barbets monotonously sing from the tree tops and lower down Singing Cisticolas do just that whilst Eastern Saw-wings, other swallows, martins and swifts swoop across catching insects, and that ‘know-it-all’ songster that you can’t see is likely to be a Red-capped Robin-chat. Dark-backed Weaver, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird and Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler can be found in the higher patches, with both Livingstone’s and Purple-crested Turaco, Mocking Cliff-chat, Scaly-throated Honeyguide. The reedbeds can produce Red-chested Flufftail and Stripe-cheeked Greenbuls are common.
Image credits: Hamerkop by Ian Riddell; Red-backed Mannikin, White-eared Barbet & Livingstone’s Turaco by Roger MacDonald