Return to SA Birding Main Site

Robert McIlwaine Recreational Park

Modified: 2008/10/03 16:06 by admin - Categorized as: Zimbabwe
This Recreational Park includes Lake Chivero (formerly Lake McIllwaine) and the nearby Lake Robertson, which together are Harare's main water supply. The Park is 5500 hectares in extent and lies approximately 30km west of the city centre just off the main road to Bulawayo. With a bird list of over 400 species, this is one of Zimbabwe's premier birding destinations.

A 1600 ha game park situated on the south bank has its own rest camp with self catering accommodation facilities. White Rhino, Giraffe, Zebra and a variety of antelope can be seen in the game park. On the north bank there is a caravan and camping facility, as well as a hotel and an upmarket safari lodge. An area of approximately 60ha has been set aside as a bird sanctuary, although access is restricted.

Edit

Specials

Augur Buzzard, Spotted Creeper, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Southern Hyliota, Whyte's Barbet, Miombo Tit, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Boulder Chat, Pennant-winged Nightjar. Rarities include Garganey, Lesser Black-backed Gull, African Skimmer, Slaty Egret, and Western Marsh-Harrier.

Edit

Habitats

The predominant vegetation is miombo woodland, with rocky outcrops and ridges, extensive areas of open grassland and vleis, and the reeds and sedges along the lake shore.

Edit

Birding

There are four main areas for birding;

  • On the south bank, all the habitats described below are available in the National Parks' game park. However, birding may only be done from your vehicle, excepting in and around the hutted camp, picnic sites and lodges, and the walking area at Bushman's Point. Guided walking is available through Manyame Bush Trails (see below).
  • The north bank is an easily accessible area with generally good birding, especially in the woodland along the Hunyani range of hills, and in the hotel area.
  • There is a gravel road along the lake shore which links the north bank area with the bird sanctuary, and there are many places along the way to stop and look for birds.
  • The bird sanctuary is maintained by Birdlife Zimbabwe in conjunction with the Department of National Parks. Access is restricted to prior arrangement. Call Richard Dennison - +263-4-747567 or Jennifer Carter - +263-4-300082 (after hours). Harare Safari Lodge also has access to the area.

Within these areas, the birding is dependent on the available habitat;

1. The extensive woodland is probably the most exciting to visiting birders as this is where you can find the many miombo endemics - Spotted Creeper, Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Southern Hyliota, Whyte's Barbet, Miombo Tit, White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Retz's Helmet-Shrike are but some of these species which occur here. A visit to the hotel area on the north bank combined with a walk in the nearby woodland could produce all of these species. Other woodland birds include a variety of woodpeckers, hoopoes, barbets, kingfishers and starlings. Partcicularly good spots for Spotted Creeper are the woodland around the hotel and along the Hunyani range, and also around the national parks camp in the game park.

2. Waterbirds are a main feature of this park and a variety of cormorants, herons, egrets breed along the lake shore. The huge Goliath Heron is fairly common and Black-crowned Night-Heron is another species to look out for. White-faced Duck, Red-billed Teal and Southern Pochard are the most common ducks to be seen on the lake, but Fulvous Duck, Maccoa Duck, Hottentot Teal, sometimes Cape Teal and Cape Shoveler can be found there. Garganey has been recorded on several occasions in the summer months. Other unusual waterbirds which have appeared on occasion include Lesser Flamingo, Great White Pelican, Lesser Black-backed Gull, African Skimmer and Slaty Egret. Depending on the rains, the shoreline can be excellent for waders in summer, but in seasons of exceptionally heavy rain there is little suitable habitat for these birds. Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Broad-billed Sandpiper are some of the exceptional species found in this area.

3. Raptors are prevalent in the area and many pairs of African Fish-Eagle breed around the lake shore. African Marsh-Harrier is fairly common, while Western Marsh-Harrier is more common in summer. Peregrine Falcon and Lanner Falcon and in summer, Eurasian Hobby and both Amur Falcon and Red-footed Falcon can be seen in the park. Wahlberg's Eagle is a regular summer breeding visitor and Augur Buzzard is often recorded here. A good area for falcons and other raptors is along the Hunyani Range on the north bank. The odd Black Eagle and Ayres' Hawk Eagle are sometimes seen near the spillway area.

4. The grassland along the lake shore is good for Cape Longclaw, Yellow-throated Longclaw and sometimes Rosy-throated Longclaw as well as a variety of cisticola including Croaking Cisticola, and Pale-crowned Cisticola. Also look out for Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Yellow Bishop, White-winged Widowbird and Red-collared Widowbird in the vlei areas. The reedbeds are home to Black Crake, African Purple Swamphen, Allen's Gallinule, Common Moorhen and Lesser Moorhen as well as various warblers.

5. Any rocky outcrop is worth checking for Boulder Chat. Likely spots that have proved successful in the past are the outcrops around the hutted camp and lodges in the game park, and the walking area at Bushmans Point.

6. The speciality of any night drive in the area would be to locate Pennant-winged Nightjar. These birds prefer to display in open patches within or close to woodland. This species has been recorded from the open area at the entrance to the game park.

Edit

General

The north bank can be accessed via two routes. One is via the turnoff at Lake Service Station approximately 17km from Harare and this takes you to the bird sanctuary and Harare Safari lodge. The other is 29km from the city at Turnpike Service Station. This takes you to the hotel and tea garden area. There is a gravel road along the lake shore which links this area with the bird sanctuary and there are many places along the way to stop to look for birds.

Access to the south bank and Game Park is at the 32km peg just after the Manyame river bridge which also leads to the dam wall and spillway. The route to the Game Park is well signposted. An entrance fee is payable into the Game Park on the south bank (currently US$10 for visitors). Note that on my last visit this camp was looking rather run down GG

Walking in the park can be had with Manyame Bush Trails, under supervision of a Professional Guide, making all parts available. Half-day or Day trips can be arranged with lunch/drinks in the woodlands, a very nice 3-course braai lunch or sundowners, etc. whatever suits. Contact Andy Francis +263-4-707306, 706129, cell (+263) 011-206522, Box CY 2671, Causeway, Harare.

Accommodation is available in the area.

Birdlife Zimbabwe .

Ian Riddell and Guy Gibbon 2002.
Derek Solomon 1997.



Copyright © 2008 SA Birding cc