I always enjoy visiting Macha, as I have mentioned. The pace of life there seems slow and peaceful. Of course it helps that I don’t actually have any work to do usually so can take it pretty easy. With the kids getting old enough to play for long periods with little supervision, I have the ability to spend an hour or more out walking on the paths and just relaxing. We visited Macha twice last year. These pictures are from our first trip in August when we visited our friends and co-workers, the Ulbrichts. We went on many walks together and they indulged me in all of my birding adventures.
On that particular trip, I added four new birds to my Zambian list (three were “lifers”) and enjoyed seeing many more.
We saw many of these Magpie Shrikes. They are so striking with their long tail and black and white markings. Really beautiful. I had seen these in Zimbabwe but this was the first time to see them in Zambia.
While out for a walk, just at dusk, we saw a Black-bellied Bustard, and then flushed this Marsh Owl out of the tall grass, the first and only time I have seen one. It was already half dark out and I was unable to identify it without the pictures Jonathan took, so I was really thankful that he got some decent ones. Owls always seem magical to me. It is no wonder there are many superstitions about them.
Here is the female Black-bellied Bustard we were chasing. . . I mean hunting. . . I mean stalking . . . ummm, looking at, when we flushed the owl. What a beautiful bird she is. Her camouflage is excellent, but it also gives her a subtle beauty. It always feels exciting to be out in the bush and find one of these. (If you are wondering about the name, the black belly is only on the male. We didn’t see any that particular day.)
Two other “lifers” for me included Jameson’s Firefinch and this tiny Grey Penduline -Tit. I managed to i-d the Firefinch on my own, but again needed a photo to i-d this Penduline-Tit. He was hiding quite well in this leafy tree. The photo wasn’t so great, but at least helped with identifying.
What great memories! I think I will just finish off, with my favorite photo of me and my friend Natasha walking on the path near Macha Dam.
This past weekend we had a retreat at Sandy Beach on Lake Kariba in Siavonga. I didn’t really do any real birding while I was there as our main purpose was relaxation and spending time with our fellow co-workers, but we went for a couple short walks and of course I had my binoculars with me. I was excited to get two “lifers” while we were there without any real effort at all. Since I wasn’t really putting in any effort, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of results, but it definitely helps to just keep your ears and eyes open as you never know what you will find.
The first new bird were these colorful Orange-winged Pytilias.
Here is the male and female. They spent a lot of time in this palm tree right in front of our cabin, perhaps building a nest or feeding young ones. A palm tree on the beach is not exactly the habitat listed in the book for them, but I guess the miombo woodland and scrub was back behind the beach a little ways.
The second “lifer” for me was a Cut-throat Finch. Unfortunately, I never had a camera with me at the right moment. I really must do better about taking it with me. So the only photo we got was this one of the female, which I include here only for documentation purposes. These finches had me quite confused. I was alerted to their presence by a loud commotion coming from a weaver nest. Eventually the male and female finch both flew out of the nest and I got a good look at them so they were easy to identify. I was confused by the use of the weaver nest though, but finally concluded they must have re-purposed it. Sure enough when I looked it up back home in my copy of Beat about the Bush: Birds, this behavior was listed as common among them. Mystery solved.
To see a good photo of a male Cut-throat Finch, and also to see why it has cutthroat for its name, please go to this link here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlp390/6957371207/
Other interesting birds that we saw included this White-breasted Cormorant,
and these Kittlitz’s Plovers, which I probably couldn’t have identified without that second photo. We found these on a rocky point just down the beach a little ways. There was a small group of them, maybe 6 or 8. Not too shabby for a non-birding weekend away.
One of the places where MCC focuses their work in Zambia is in Macha in Southern Province. Although we do not work there, we occasionally have meetings there and enjoy visiting our co-workers there when we can. Since we don’t have much work to do when we are there, it always feels like a quiet retreat out into the bush, away from the noise, traffic, and pollution in the city. There are many paths to walk in the bush and plenty of birds to see. If the truth were to be told, I would rather live in the country than in the city.
So here are a few pics of some of the birds I saw while in Macha last November for meetings.
African Paradise Flycatcher: It’s hard to capture their entire tail in the frame. These are always so beautiful to see.
Black-cuckoo: These were everywhere, singing their haunting song. It took me forever to figure out what they were, because they were always against the bright sky, and I didn’t realize they were actually black. I thought I was just unable to see any colors due to the contrast. Finally I realized they really were just plain black.
Gymnogene: My first sighting of one of these, so it was a “lifer” for me. It hung around on this tree for a while, upside-down, trying to get at some insects. It was fun to watch.
Brown-crowned Tchagra. A cheerful bird that likes to be a bit shy. I love the name of this bird.