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Page History: Mwinilunga District

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Page Revision: 2008/10/03 10:49


Paul Bourdin & Peter Leonard

In the extreme northwest of Zambia, where it meets Angola and Congo (formerly Zaire), occur a large number of birds more typical of the Congo basin. The area is remote, and rarely visited by tourists. It consists of a mosaic of habitats, woodland, grassland and forests, and provides Zambia with some of its most interesting birding.

Hillwood Farm (11°15'S, 24°19'E), 10km east of Ikelenge, is one of the only large scale farms in the area, and around it has grown a thriving community. A 2000ha game Reserve has been established, complete with camping facilities, and the farm sees a steady trickle of the more adventurous tourists. This is the ideal base for a Mwinilunga trip, it is within easy distance of most of the good birding sites and the farm owners (the Fisher family) are very helpful.

BIRDING

1. Nchila Reserve, Hillwood. The farm lies at about 1400m, and is bisected by the Sakeji River. Over much of the area the habitat remains largely undisturbed. The three dominant habitats are grassy plains (both wet and dry), miombo woodland and Groundwater Forest or mushitu (the local name for which is lito). Over 400 species of bird have been recorded in the area around Hillwood, and the Zambian ranges of over 30 species are confined to this small corner of the country. Many of these 'specials' can be found within the Nchila Reserve.

The large areas of woodland here contain most of the miombo specialists, but these are as easily found elsewhere in Zambia. It is the forest patches along the drainage lines that provide the most interesting birding here. In the canopy look for; Afep and Bronze-naped Pigeons, Lady Ross's Turaco, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Western and Eastern Least Honeyguides, Honeyguide Greenbul, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Buff-throated Apalis, Bates's Sunbird, Splendid Starling and Dark-backed Weaver. In the mid-stratum look for; Narina Trogon, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Green Coucal, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Rufous Ant Thrush, Laura's Warbler, Red-breasted Paradise Flycatcher, Bannerman's Sunbird and Little Greenbul. Ground stratum birds include; Buff-spotted Flufftail, White-spotted Flufftail, Crested Guineafowl, Cabanis's Greenbul, Grey-winged Robin, Red-capped Robin, Bamboo Warbler and Black-bellied Seedcracker.

Nchila also contains grassy plains which are home to; Dickinson's Kestrel, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Corn Crake, Denham's Bustard, Temminck's Courser, Natal Nightjar, White-cheeked Bee-eater, Angola Lark, Black-and Rufous Swallow, Fulleborn's and Rosy-breasted Longclaws, Short-tailed Pipit, Sooty Chat, Wing-snapping, Black-tailed and Croaking Cisticolas, Marsh Whydah, Locust Finch and Black-chinned Quailfinch.

Other interesting birds in the area include; Palmnut Vulture, Bat Hawk, Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, African Broadbill, Long-billed Pipit, Black-collared Bulbul, West African and Groundscraper Thrushes, Short-winged and Whistling Cisticolas, White-chinned Prinia, Yellow-bellied and Coppery Sunbirds, Fawn-breasted Waxbill and Broad-tailed Paradise Widow.

Northwest of Hillwood are 'The Rapids', interesting species include Forbes' Plover, Cassin's Grey Flycatcher, Black Duck and Long-tailed Wagtail.

2. ====Source of the Zambezi====. Lying along the Congo border, about 50km north of Mwinilunga, the focus of this site is the strip of forest along the small valley which constitutes the source of the Zambezi. The forest is surrounded by rich miombo. The birds of most interest in the forest are; Bronze-naped Pigeon, Bristlebill, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher and Bamboo Warbler.

3. ====Chitunta Plain====. This site comprises the confluence of the Chitunta and Luakera Rivers, and is 30km north of Mwinilunga on the road to Ikelenge. The habitat consists of wide areas of grassland that are a mixture of dambo, floodplain and dry plain. There are doubtless many similar patches in the area, but this is the easiest of access, and the best known. This is the best known locality for Grimwood's Longclaw. Bocage's Weaver breed colonially along the Luakera. This is near Zambia's only regular site for Red-throated Wryneck, which occur in the stunted miombo. Angola Lark and Black-tailed Cisticola are all resident, Great Snipe, Black-and-Rufous Swallow and Wattled Crane are non-breeding visitors.

Access to Hillwood is easiest by air as the farm is serviced by a small airstrip, though most visitors drive. The main road is via the Copperbelt. A reasonable tar road reaches Mwinilunga town in Northwestern Province, the distance from Kitwe being about 500km. The road north to Ikelenge is dirt, though four-wheel drive should not be necessary except during the rains (October to April/May). Hillwood is about 10km east of Ikelenge.

If you are interested in Mwinilunga, and would like to know more, please contact Paul Bourdin on; abourdin@iafrica.com, or write to; P.O.Box 3747, Halfway house 1685, Gauteng, South Africa.





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