A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 5 – Chimanimani to Seldomseen

Anyone who is interested in birds and has been to Zimbabwe for that reason, must surely have visited Seldomseen.  This is an area famous not only for its birds and scenery, but also for the incredible enthusiasm of its local guides. First there was Peter, who first showed me Swynnerton’s Robin and my first Flufftail in 2011. He has  now retired and his place taken by the ever enthusiastic Bulawezi, known to his friends as Bully.

He was on hand to meet us when we arrived after an uneventful journey from Chimanimani.  He soon showed us round the gardens pointing out Collared, Olive and Bronzy Sunbirds, Chirinda Apalis, Purple Crested Turaco, Red-faced Crimsonwing, White-browed Robin Chat and Swynnerton’s Robin. Failure to see what he was pointing at would cause him to become highly frustrated and he would desperately encourage his audience to open their eyes and LOOK!

We visited some nearby cliffs in the evening to see the Scarce Swifts coming in to roost and were not disappointed.  They came and circled above us, accompanied by two Augur Buzzards – a great sight!  In her enjoyment, Alice lost her favourite glasses and despite many return trips to the site and detailed searching around, including in our vehicle, they could not be found. (It was a week later that Renee spotted something glistening under the front seat, and there they were!)

We encountered our first guti (thick mist) in the Bvumba, as the area is known, and we were grateful for warm fires in our accommodation, as it became quite cold.

To be continued….

A Winter Birding Traverse – Part 4 – Chilo Gorge to Chimanimani

The road from Chilo Gorge was awful!  En route to Chimanimani we were to spend two nights on a farm in the Chipinge district.  This would give us relatively easy access to the magnificent Chirinda Forest – type locality for the elusive Chirinda Apalis.  Our farm stay was comfortable and we were well looked after by our generous hostess, Hazel.  She is hanging on to what is left of her farm, most of it having been grabbed by the war vets, and runs a successful dairy herd under trying circumstances.

Walks around the farm revealed a wealth of interesting birds, but the highpoint was the visit to the forest.  How this remnant of forest has been preserved is anybody’s guess, but it is a wonderful place with trees that have to be seen to be believed. Birding under such a high canopy was not easy, but just being there was amazing. The ‘Big Tree’ was a high point – in every sense of the word – it is a truly magnificent example of what I thought is a Pod Mahogany.  High above, the Silvery-cheeked Hornbills kept us well entertained and there were many butterflies for Alice who seemed to know them all them all.

Our next stop was at The Frog and Fern, a self catering establishment on the outskirts of Chimanimani (it used to be Melsetter). Our accommodation consisted of three very comfortable cottages.  Whilst the birding was, as ever, good, the area is known for it’s spectacular scenery and we visited both the Bridal Veil Falls and the beautiful Tessa’s Pool at the base of the Chimanimani mountains.  A bird party on the track to the former produced my first lifer of the trip – a Cinnamon-breasted Tit! Amongst our sightings were Tree Pipit, Miombo Rock Thrush, Red-faced Crombec, Roberts’s Warbler, Southern Hyliota and a variety of Bush Shrikes..

It was sad to see the degradation and squalour that the town of Chimanimani has been reduced to. What was once a thriving community, now barely manages to keep its head above water.  The same can be said for much of the country, with the best parts where there are no people!

To be continued….