Panda, Inhambane Province

Panda is the only locality in southern Africa where the Olive-headed Weaver has been seen since 1960. The birds are dependent upon the brachystegia woodland habitat and an 'old mans beard' lichen in which to feed and nest. As this particular lichen and woodland habitat is localised to this area, and fast disappearing through clearing for agriculture, the birds' existence south of the Zambezi is threatened. Many other interesting birds occur in the area, and around 180 species have been recorded.

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Specials

Specials include Olive-headed Weaver, Neergaard's Sunbird, Southern Hyliota, Green-backed Honeybird, Racket-tailed Roller, Pink-throated Twinspot, Black Coucal, Swamp Nightjar, Lemon-breasted Canary and Dickinson's Kestrel.

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Habitats

The most important habitat is the tall Brachystegia woodland. Other habitats include mixed woodlands, a river supporting extensive reed beds, and a large marshy area.

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Facilities

Facilities are non-existent. Visitors should bring their own camping equipment and drinking water.

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Directions and Birding

The town of Panda can be reached by turning inland off the main coastal road from Maputo either at Inharrime or at Maxixe. The road to Maxixe is horrendous and the Inharrime acces route is recommended both for road conditions and birding. The Panda area can be visited in a long days drive from Inharrime, although the Olive-headed Weaver is not guaranteed in a few hours birding.

1. The road from Inharrime to Panda provides some excellent birding, passing through extensive grassy wetland areas good for Black Coucal (in summer), Swamp Nightjar, and Rufous-winged Cisticola. Areas of palm savanna hold Lemon-breasted Canary, and mixed acacia woodland supports Pink-throated Twinspot. Look out for Dickinson's Kestrel along this route as well. It is best to set out from Inharrime and bird this route in the early morning. The road is not good and the trip to the Olive-headed Weaver site takes about three hours.

2. Approaching Panda from Inharrime, turn left at the T-junction in town. From Maxixe, continue straight through Panda. Follow the road heading west out of town. After 13km you reach mature tall Brachystegia woodland on both sides of the road, which stretches for the next 6 km. This is ideal Olive-headed Weaver habitat with other miombo specials also being common, including White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Racket-tailed Roller, (Pale Batis, Southern Hyliota and Neergaard's Sunbird. The birds seem most common about midway through the woodland. Look out for the 'old-mans beard' lichen in which the birds feed and nest. Also listen out for the contact call - a strong, high-pitched, rapid, and descending tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee. The other call is a weaver-like swizzle.

3. The new road out of Panda has been completed for 20km, after which it continues as a sandy track eventually crossing the river. The track eventually winds back to Xai-Xai on the main road to Maputo.

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General

Accommodation is available at Caja Afrique. See their advert.

Guy Gibbon 2007
Johann Grobbelaar 2002
Vincent Parker 2001

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