Inhambane area

Inhambane city is situated on a peninsula on Mozambique's south - central coast. Reachable by reasonable tarred roads from Maputo in the south and Beira from the north, Inhambane provides relatively easy access to a number of lowland specials. The city itself is also worth visiting; besides being one of the oldest cities in southern Africa, it boasts impressive architecture and an extremely interesting museum. Good accommodation is available to birders and birding can be done on the tarred roads or by walking along the dirt tracks. For full exploration, a 4x4 vehicle is necessary.

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Specials

Crab Plover, Greater Sand Plover and Lesser Sand Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Lesser Crested Tern, Magpie Mannikin, Collared Palm-Thrush, African Pygmy-Goose, Mangrove Kingfisher, Rufous-winged Cisticola, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Purple-banded Sunbird, Pale Batis, Brown-headed Parrot, Coqui Francolin Crowned Hornbill, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Sooty Falcon.

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Habitats

The town itself is situated on the edge of tidal mudflat and estuary directly opposite the town of Maxixe. Mangrove swamps flank the water along the edge of the peninsula, all the way up to Ponta da Barra. Inland a variety of shallow pans and wetlands are to be found. Sandy grassland occurs in patches throughout the indigenous woodland areas. A lot of ground has been cleared for cultivation and of course the area is known for its huge stands of exotic palm trees. Isolated patches of secondary dune forest are to be found near the coast.

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Facilities

Although there are reasonably good tarred roads to Inhambane, visitors who wish to explore the area fully will need a 4x4 or at least a vehicle with high clearance to get to the key sites. The tracks are mostly very sandy and in some areas also muddy and wet. Birding is excellent along the extensive network of tracks leading to the smaller villages and coastal resorts. Walking is usually not a problem although it might be advisable to stay on the tracks and footpaths used by the locals. Accommodation is available at a variety of excellent lodges dotted throughout the area. These range from upmarket luxury lodges, to camping sites and chalets.

Birding Starting at Inhambane town, check the mudflats on the western and northern edges of the town for a variety of migrant waders at low tide. Common Whimbrel is very common, and others include Greater Sand Plover and Lesser Sand Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover and White-fronted Plover, Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwit etc. Rarities are bound to pitch up from time to time and this site is in a good position for tropical vagrant waders ' a single Great Knot was recorded in 2004 for example. Crab Plover might be found anywhere from the town up to Ponta da Barra on the far north of the peninsula. Search for them in isolated, quiet areas on the edge of the mangroves.

The lake also supports a variety of gulls and terns, with Lesser Crested Tern being very common in summer, but also present in smaller numbers in winter. Try the long pier for scanning the waters for terns and gulls feasting on the small fish. Also keep an eye open for the rare Dugong, which is seen once in a blue moon according to the locals. Work your way up to Ponta da Barra and Barra Lodge. Between the town and Bar Babalaza there are some interesting pans along the road. From Bar Babalaza one can either keep heading left towards Barra Lodge or right towards Tofo (Greater Frigatebird has been seen from the lighthouse there). Between Bar Babalaza and Barra Lodge, the wetlands support Rufous-winged Cisticola and Red-faced Cisticola, Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, African Jacana, African Pygmy-Goose, Fan-tailed Widowbird, and a variety of common waterbirds. The woodlands in this area, are good for Pale Flycatcher, Lizard Buzzard, Black-eared Seedeater (small numbers), White-browed Scrub-Robin, Black-crowned Tchagra, Rattling Cisticola, Neddicky, Yellow-throated Longclaw, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Yellow-fronted Canary, Lemon-breasted Canary and Golden-breasted Bunting.

Approaching Barra Lodge, the mangroves in this area are worth exploring for Mangrove Kingfisher and Black-throated Wattle-eye. Both these species will be heard before being seen and are best located by walking along the boardwalk trail directly behind Barra Lodge's reception. A variety of waders also inhabit these areas, and millions of tiny mangrove crabs are entertaining to watch as they swing their huge claw around. There have been reports of Green-backed Honeybird and Black-headed Apalis so birders should keep in mind that anything might pitch up. Barra Lodge itself is home to Collared Palm-Thrush, Red-billed Firefinch and other common bush birds. Birders should also keep their eyes open for the occasional Magpie Mannikin in-between the flocks of Red-backed Mannikin and Bronze Mannikin. One can continue along the sandy track past Barra Lodge to eventually arrive right at the official Ponta da Barra. This is another good area for waders and is probably the most reliable stakeout in southern Africa for Crab Plover which gather in flocks of up to 200 birds on a daily basis during high tide. Note that this area can be difficult to reach when the tide is high, and might require a rather long walk from Barra Lodge or Flamingo Bay Lodge. Greater Flamingo is sometimes around and Sooty Falcon has been seen flying over the mangroves in the summer months.

Another area that is quite productive bird-wise, is the Guinjata Bay / Jangamo / Paindane area to the south-east of Inhambane city. south of Inhambane there is a signposted turn-off to these resorts. From here the road seems to split up and rejoin a hundred times but eventually most of the roads lead to the resorts, which are all situated within walking distance of each other. If you do struggle to find the place, there are always locals along the roadside who are more than willing to point you in the right direction. These sandy tracks wind their way through the coconut groves and every now and then pass an interesting pan or wetland. This habitat supports Green-backed Heron, African Rail, Purple Heron, Zitting Cisticola, Malachite Kingfisher, African Jacana, African Pygmy-Goose, Squacco Heron, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Wire-tailed Swallow, Black Crake, White-faced Duck and African Spoonbill, while Lesser Jacana, Rufous-bellied Heron and other rarities can be expected under the right conditions.

Woodlands along these tracks are great for Pale Batis (listen for the distinctive call), Lizard Buzzard, Crowned Hornbill, Lilac-breasted Roller, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Burchell's Coucal, Purple-crested Turaco, Little Bee-eater, Sombre Greenbul, African Stonechat, Long-billed Crombec, Tawny-flanked Prinia, African Pipit, Yellow-throated Petronia and Brimstone Canary. The coastal resorts of Guinjata Bay, Jangamo Beach and Paindane, host a number of interesting species. Isolated patches of dune forest and scrub are to be found within the camp, and they are home to Fiery-necked Nightjar, Spectacled Weaver, Purple-banded Sunbird, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-backed Mannikin, Black-bellied Starling, Crowned Hornbill, Southern Boubou, White-throated Robin-Chat, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Red-eyed Dove. The beach and occasional rocky areas here provide refuge for flocks of Sanderling, Turnstones and other waders, Common Tern and Lesser Crested Tern and Pied Crow. Sea watching from the high dunes can deliver the occasional shearwater, skua, petrel or albatross, especially after cyclones. Also keep an eye open for rare tropical terns, noddies, boobies and frigatebirds.

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General

Birders who wish to visit this relatively unexplored stretch of coastline and bush should contact one of the lodges in the area for information on directions, local conditions, availability of petrol etc. beforehand. It is easiest to contact these lodges through South African travel agencies, as telephone numbers are not always in order, but most have good websites (e.g. www.flamingobay.co.za).

Faansie Peacock 2007