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The capital city of Harare lies in the centre of the miombo woodland belt in Zimbabwe, a savanna woodland made up of several species of Brachystegia, especially B. spiciformis and Julbernadia globiflora. Some of the 'miombo endemics' which occur in and around the city include Spotted Creeper, Miombo Rock-Thrush, Whyte's Barbet, Miombo Blue-eared Starling, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Red-faced Crombec, Southern Hyliota, Miombo Tit, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Wood Pipit and Western Violet-backed Sunbird. Birders visiting Zimbabwe should spend several days in the city before venturing into the outlying areas as many of these species, and others, are often easier to find here rather than in the outlying regions. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in the Harare area and the vleis which become very wet during the summer months attract yet another group of exciting birds including Streaky-breasted Flufftail, several species of crake and Black Coucal. The grassland next to the vleis are home to Yellow-mantled Widowbird and in some areas Cape Longclaw, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Rosy-throated Longclaw can be found.


Mukuvisi Woodland

The Mukuvisi Woodland, right on the edge of the city centre, is a prime venue for many of the miombo birds. The 275 hectare woodland is managed by a welfare organisation, the Mukuvisi Woodland Association. Many NGO's have their headquarters in the woodland and there is an environmental education centre run by the woodland Association with a full-time education officer in its employ. There is a safe parking area at the main entrance as well as a tea garden, and species such as Miombo Blue-eared Starling and Greater Blue-eared Starling are common in this area. Unfortunately this is not the best section for birding and visitors should rather go to the public walking area where most of the above-mentioned species occur. This is the best area to look for Spotted Creeper and Miombo Rock-Thrush, although the latter is becoming less common these days. On the causeway over the Mukuvisi River stop to look for Thick-billed Weaver, Golden Weaver, Southern Red Bishop and several species of reed warblers. Miombo Double-collared Sunbird and Variable Sunbird are often seen in the vegetation on either side of the river. As you enter the miombo woodland look for woodpeckers - Cardinal Woodpecker, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Bennett's Woodpecker and Bearded Woodpecker are all possibilities. In the summer months Black Cuckooshrike, Pennant-winged Nightjar, African Golden Oriole, Klaas's Cuckoo, African Cuckoo and Diderick Cuckoo are all fairly common. Stierling's Wren-Warbler calls from the tree tops and parties of Green-capped Eremomela are another regular sighting. Birding in miombo woodland is often difficult unless you are aware of bird parties, particularly in the winter months. Keep your eyes and ears open for these mixed species groups. Some of the species you could find in these parties include Spotted Creeper, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Chinspot Batis, the various woodpeckers and both Southern Black Tit and Miombo Tit. Winter is the time to look out for Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Copper Sunbird.

From the city centre travel along Samora Machel Avenue for approximately 4km, then turn right into Glenara Avenue (the woodland is signposted at this stage). Cross over the bridge over the railway line and Robert Mugabe Avenue. The main entrance to the woodland is well signposted on the left (a small entrance fee is payable here). To get to the public walking area continue along Glenara Avenue for another 2km, and at the next traffic lights (Chiremba Avenue) filter left and turn left again into Tokwe Road. Follow Tokwe right into Paget Road, proceed for 0.5km and park on the verge next to the entrance. DO NOT leave any valuables in your vehicle whilst you are in the woodland. For guiding contact Mukuvisi Woodlands Office on +263 4 747111 during office hours, or Birdlife Zimbabwe on +263 4 481496.


Marlborough Vlei

The prime time to visit this wetland is during the rainy season when, if the rains are good, much of the vlei is under water. At such times Black Coucal, Streaky-breasted Flufftail and Red-chested Flufftail are common in the vlei. The flufftails are easily located by their calls, but this does not mean that you will see them. Other skulkers, which can be found here during wet conditions, include Corn Crake, Striped Crake, Spotted Crake and African Crake. The Black Coucal can be found in the rank growth together with Cuckoo Finch, Great Reed-Warbler and Dark-capped Yellow Warbler and, if very lucky, the occasional Locustfinch. Rosy-throated Longclaw occur at the bottom end of the vlei and in the wetter areas with short grass look for Pale-crowned Cisticola. Another special for this area is Yellow-mantled Widowbird, which sports its obvious breeding plumage during the rainy season.

Take the Lomagundi (Kariba) Road from town and continue to the circle opposite the new Westgate Shopping Centre. Travel three quarters round the circle (do not go halfway and continue up the main Kariba Road) and follow the tar road signposted "old Mazowe Road". After approximately 1.5km you will see a housing complex on your right and a large house (currently incomplete) up on the hill on the left. Just after this take a short tar road to the left which runs down to the vlei. This is where you will have to leave your vehicle (DO NOT leave any valuables in the vehicle) and walk into the vlei to start your birding.


Monavale Vlei

This is another prime venue during the rainy season (December to mid March) but unfortunately much of the vlei is now planted under maize by local residents which has considerably influenced the bird life, in particular Yellow-mantled Widowbird which prefers the vegetation on the tops of the anthills, now under cultivation. This is another good spot for both Streaky-breasted Flufftail and Red-chested Flufftail, the latter more common in the grassy areas close to the stream. Cape Longclaw and Yellow-throated Longclaw breed in this area and Cuckoo Finch is another species to look out for. Croaking Cisticola and Zitting Cisticola are common in the drier sections and Red-faced Cisticola calls loudly from the rank vegetation along the stream. In the summer months large numbers of Amur Falcon can be seen flying back to their roosts in the late afternoon, and often Eurasian Hobby can be seen chasing swallows as they also fly towards the reedbeds just before dark.

From the city centre travel down Samora Machel Avenue which becomes the main Bulawayo road. Go past the Show Grounds and turn right at the next traffic lights into Gaul Avenue. At the next traffic lights turn left into Princes Road and continue to the sign to B. S. Leon Home where you turn right into Monavale Road. Follow the sharp left hand bend into Fenella Drive and you will see the vlei on your left. Park anywhere (at your own risk) on the grassy verge. The area can become very wet so it is a good idea to wear gumboots.



Zimbabwe Tourist Authority +263-4-758730/758712
Harare Publicity Association +263-4-705085.
National Parks booking Office +263-4-706077/8 fax 725089

Accommodation is available in the area.

Derek Solomon 1997.

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