BIRDING IN ZIMBABWE
Matusadona National Park & Kariba
Lake Kariba stretches endlessly into the lazy blue distance, a holiday destination that arouses images of houseboats, skeletal drowned trees with elephants on the foreshores beneath and spectacular sunsets. Of course there is also birding …
Being a clean and vast lake there is often not a lot to seen in the middle and bays, islands and estuaries are where you should look for waterbirds. Herons and egret fish the shores and amongst the water weed and to find night-herons it is best to explore the smaller narrowing channels overhung with dense trees up the river mouths. White-backed Night-heron and even African Finfoot have been found up the Sanyati Gorge whilst on the western side of Matusadona National Park the Ume basin is good for nesting Marabou Storks and White-backed Vultures and look for Arnot’s Chats near the Chura. The Ume is great to explore and Western Banded Snake-eagles sit quietly in the tall trees and Senegal and White-browed Coucals forage low down; the wail of Trumpeter Hornbills resounds from riverine patches and down at the ground you can find Bearded Scrub-robins in the thicket tangles. You could be lucky and have a lion kill on the foreshores of Matusadona and get all the other vultures attending, with Bateleurs quartering the skyways and where African Fish-eagles are always calling. If you want Grey Crowned Crane try the Mukadzapela River of the park and look out for Black-bellied Bustards on the Panicum foreshores. Water Thick-knee and strident White-crowned Lapwings are common along the waterline; look out for Long-toed Lapwings where there are extensive stretches of Kariba weed – the shallow area between Zebra Island and the Kariba mainland is good when the water level is low. The common gull is Grey-headed but the occasional Lesser Black-backed turns up on Kariba. If you see a buffalo herd or rhino on the Matusadona foreshore check them out for Red and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers. If you on land, such as in the park or Bumi Hills, it is a good idea to search the dry thickets for Orange-winged Pytilia and Broad-tailed Paradise-whydahs could be near by – examine widowfinches carefully for the Green Widowfinch which is easily overlooked.
Image credits: African Fish-eagle, Arnot’s chat & Hooded Vulture by Roger MacDonald