BIRDING IN ZIMBABWE
Chizarira National Park
African Crowned Eagle
Chizarira National Park (191,000 ha) is a remote and beautiful wilderness forming part of the southern lip of the Zambezi Valley overlooking Lake Kariba. The north section of the park is the most utilized and where you will find the camp sites. The habitat along the escarpment edge is miombo, thinning to the south into savannah and mopane with vleis, grasslands and abundant springs. The Mucheni and Ruzuruhuru rivers incise deeply as they cut through the escarpment forming spectacular gorges 400+m deep. Access to the south and the Busi River, which has Apple-ring acacia Faidherbia albida floodplains reminiscent of Mana Pools and thickets, is dependent on road maintenance – check with National Parks about which roads and tracks are open.
The park is best appreciated on foot so having a Professional Guide is an advantage – National Parks may be able to supply a scout. Most raptors can be found; Verreaux’s Eagles nest in the Mucheni Gorge at the view point, frequently harassed by Peregrine Falcon, African Crowned Eagles in the riverine of Makula Spring, and Ayres’s Hawk-eagle down to Taita Falcons which breed in the gorges where Black Storks nest on the cliffs. Check the Access Gorge for Narina Trogons, African Broadbill, African Pitta, Livingstone’s Flycatchers, River Warbler, Crested Guineafowl and Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo – some of these breed here and in November the gorge resounds with their calls. The woodland along the escarpment produces Black-eared Seedeater (September is good when the trees flower), Racquet-tailed Roller, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Miombo Rock-thrush, Stierling’s Wren-warbler, Tree Pipit in season, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird and Miombo Tit.
Dickenson’s Kestrels can be found here and south into the savannah, where Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah is sometimes encountered. The top of the Access Gorge is good for Pennant-winged Nightjar displays around October-November. Pel’s Fishing-owl can be found along the Mucheni from Manzituba Spring and down into the gorge and Arnot’s Chat in the woodlands nearby.
Access from the Harare-Bulawayo road is easy via Kwekwe or Chegutu, through Gokwe on tar to the Karoi-Binga dirt road. High clearance vehicles are recommended for the dirt road to the turnoff (S17.57399 E27.81767) but 4×4 is needed to climb the Access Gorge and for roads in the park click here and scroll down for directions to the park and information on facilities. Visitors need to be self-sufficient and well-equipped down to water containers and carry enough fuel to refill at Binga (about 85km from the airstrip).
Image credits: White-breasted Cuckooshrike by Ian Riddell; African Crowned Eagle by Celesta von Chamier; African Pitta by J.R. Peek