BIRDING IN ZIMBABWE
The Vumba area is an exciting eastern highlands birding destination with many montane specials in an area comprising montane forest and grassland, bracken-scrub, exotic vegetation, miombo and acacia woodland and streams and dams. The great variation in altitudes and moisture from the east means that our bird list should be used with caution as some species occur in the drier rain shadow, others in east facing habitats and others are marginal altitudinal migrants from the Burma Valley.
The montane forests and their edges are a favoured birding habitat with like Swynnerton’s Robin, White-starred Robin, Red-capped Robin-chat, Orange Ground-thrush, Chirinda Apalis, Roberts’s Warbler, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler, Dark-backed Weaver, Yellow-streaked and Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Grey Cuckooshrike, Square-tailed Drongo, White-eared Barbet, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Livingstone’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, African Broadbill, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Green Twinspot, Red-faced Crimsonwing, African Firefinch and others. Gorgeous Bush-shrike can be found lower in thicket and is replaced higher up by the Black-fronted whilst Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher is an occasional lowland bird and is replaced higher up by the White-tailed Crested.
Barratt’s Warbler is found in tangles and bracken scrub and Cape Grassbird is in montane grassland but replaced at lower altitudes by Moustached Grass-warbler, whilst Red-winged Warbler is rare but occasionally creeps up from the lowlands. Pale Batis can be found around the Mozambique border area to the east (a round trip through the Burma Valley can give you Green Widowfinch and other lowland specials). Protea plantations have Gurney’s Sugarbird and gardens – such as the botanic garden – Malachite and Bronzy Sunbird.
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill fly about looking for fruit and visit woodlands too, and in the woodlands are Green-backed Woodpecker, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Miombo Tit, Spotted Creeper, Miombo Rock-thrush, Western Violet-backed Sunbird and Cabanis’s Bunting with Bearded Scrub-robin coming up from the lowlands.
Blue Swallow fly the montane grasslands in summer and Common Quail can be found in related habitat. Overhead many habitats are Eastern Saw-wing and raptors include Long-crested Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Peregrine and Lanner Falcon, Rock Kestrel and others.
Image credits: Landscape & Silvery-cheeked Hornbill by Ian Riddell; Bronzy Sunbird & Swynnerton’s Robin by Roger MacDonald