26 March 2024

Pitta Camp, here we come!

30 November 2023 - Harare to Pitta Camp in Lower Zambezi Valley; Day 5

We had all packed the night before and were up early for coffee waiting for Wouter. Once he arrived, it was all hands on deck to pack the trailer behind the people wagon and hit the road, just after 6am for the 3-hour drive north of Harare on the A11 and then A12 to the drop-off point. The trip has now really begun and there was palpable excitement with the whole gang on the bus.

We arrived at the drop-off (-16.244, 30.697) where the two Landcruiser's with Siras and Adam our guides were waiting, along with the returning guests who would jump into our people cruiser back to Harare. They looked sunburnt and complained about the intensity of the mopane flies at the camp due to the unrelenting heat - but were also very happy birders. 

We unpacked our trailer and packed all the gear into the two Cruisers for the slow drive to  Pitta Camp hosted by Derek Adam's of Birding Safari's Victoria Falls. Whilst waiting, we started our list for the next 3-days with a Miombo Glossy Starling in the trees on the side of the road. They can be ID'd in flight by the single row of wing covert spots (Cape Glossy and Greater Blue-eared both have 2 rows of wing covert spots)

Mike K, Rory and I jumped onto the back of one Cruiser, whilst the others got into the second and we were off - birding on the way to camp. We had a few stops for various birds, but a longish stop on a bridge over a fairly dry river where we added a few more species. I was able to photograph a few against a greyish sky; Southern Carmine Bee-eater

Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides)

Lesser-striped Swallow

Lesser-striped Swallow (Cecropis abyssinica)

and a fast and erratic flying Böhm's Spinetail which was a great bird for most of our party

Böhm's Spinetail (Neafrapus boehmi)

We continued on our journey and finally, after another 3-hours, passed through the Mosoka Village, before arriving at the rustic Murara Camp in the Lower Zambezi Valley (-16.245, 30.234) where we were welcomed by Derek Adams and the other camp staff. We quickly unloaded the Cruisers and were shown to our respective chalets. Glynn and I bunked together and it didnt take us long to unpack and get back down to the main reception and meeting area. I logged on and got some work done, before we had a welcome thunderstorm to quench the parched earth, before lunch was served.

After lunch we explored the camp, finding a few great birds like this young Eastern Nicator

Eastern Nicator (Nicator gularis)

and the really cool Livingstone's Flycatcher up in the canopy of a large tree which was a bird I was really excited to see

Livingstone's Flycatcher (Erythrocercus livingstonei)

I had a really good spot for my bush 'office' overlooking a birdbath, whilst the others went to chill for the afternoon. We met up again in the late afternoon and split into two groups for the afternoon drive which was a little cooler following the earlier rain. Our Cruiser had the 'singles' (Mike K, Rory, Glynn and I) whilst the other took the two couples (Richard, Shirley, Billy and Gayleen). Not too much early on in the drive, but we made our way to a small waterhole for afternoon sundowners. As we stopped, we had a Eurasian Hobby flyby in the fading light

Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo)

A Saddle-billed Stork walking away from the waterhole

Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)

We setup our chairs, poured a G+T and waited and watched to see what would come to drink. There was a fairly big flock of Red-billed Quelea's that came down to drink en-masse and then would suddenly take off in a whirr of wings and then return again, frequently - it was an amazing sound. I tried to get creative with a slow shutter speed to try and capture the organised chaos of the flock

Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea)

Once the sun had set, we focused on the pool waiting for the Nightjar's to arrive. As it got dark, there was suddenly a vision of this mystical and magical bird with long white wing streamers (pennants) that appeared out of the darkness and then as quickly disappeared into the darkness - almost like a spirit. We had a single torch trying to track them and get decent views of this mega Pennant-winged Nightjar. 

Photographing them was a challenge on a different perspective completely, given we only used one torch - but I did manage to get a few record images of the large female Pennant-winged. 

Female Pennant-winged Nightjar (Caprimulgus vexillarius)

But the whole experience in the stillness of the night certainly was both magical and mystical - what a magnificent way to end the first day!

But tomorrow morning is the day on this trip we have all waited for and dreamed about - sleeping was going to be difficult....

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