Contributors: Paul Kilham & Samuel Chihana
Known for its high-altitude climates, lush highlands and ample forested areas, the Nyika Plateau is home to approximately 400-450 bird species, many of which have highly restricted distributions. Situated in the south of Malawi and endowed with pristine rivers, woodlands and floodplains, Liwonde National Park harbours nearly 300 bird species, with many migrant species finding sanctuary in the park during the rainy season. Owing to their high variety and density of birdlife, both Nyika and Liwonde National Park serve as extremely popular destinations for birding trips, even to the most discerning and experienced birders.
With nearly two-thirds of Malawi’s 650 recorded bird species occurring on the plateau, Nyika National Park is a true birder’s delight all year round. However, the best time of the year to experience Nyika’s thriving bird populace is the Green Season, when the plateau and park are bursting with life and activity. The personalized safaris offered by CAWS at Chelinda Camp and Chelinda Lodge in Nyika National Park allow birding enthusiasts to explore the park’s scenic terrains in search of a wide array of rare bird species such as bar-tailed trogon, Sharpe’s akalat and Denham’s bustard. During the rainy season, guests visiting Chelinda Camp and Chelinda Lodge can also observe interesting sightings of spotted eagle-owls nesting and protecting their chicks in the crevices of the chalet decks. With the help of an expert team of birding guides, bird-lovers visiting Chelinda Camp and Lodge are sure to get the chance to tick off many species on their lists.
During the Green Season, Liwonde National Park is teeming with birdlife, as many different species breed, give birth to their offspring, tend to their newborns and display interesting behavioural patterns. With the onset of the rainy season, many migrant species from the north of the equator make their way to the park due to climates in their original habitats becoming less hospitable. Thus, the Green Season is the best time of the year to spot of a wide array of migrant bird species such as African pitta, long-tailed barred cuckoo, eastern nicator, Livingstone’s flycatcher and Hildebrandt’s spur-fowl.
Guests exploring Liwonde’s lush mopane woodlands during the rains have good chances of enjoying spectacular sightings of thick-billed cuckoos, speckle-throated woodpeckers, Dickinson’s kestrels, Lillian’s lovebirds, Arnott’s chats, brown-headed parrots and mosque swallows, as well as incredible sightings of racket-tailed rollers. Liwonde National Park is also home to a broad variety of eagle species, nearly all of which can be spotted during the Green Season. Types of eagles occurring in the park include western-banded snake eagle, black-chested snake eagle, African hawk-eagle, as well as the martial eagle which is frequently seen preying on Nile water monitor lizards.
In early January, as the rains intensify, the water levels in the Shire River gradually rise, allowing guests staying at Mvuu Camp and Lodge to enjoy sightings of the extremely rare Pel’s fishing owl. Birders can also expect to sight hybrid lapwings and spur-winged lapwings exhibiting distinctive breeding patterns, whilst also looking forward to sightings of purple-banded sunbirds, green Malkohas and brown-breasted barbets thriving in numbers amidst the greenery in Liwonde.
Green Season Birding Tips:
- Birding enthusiasts visiting Mvuu Camp and Lodge over the Green Season can opt to wake up at around 5.00 AM and catch a glimpse of white-backed night herons returning to the woods at the end of their nightly fishing hunt.
- During this season species such as barred cuckoo, eastern nicator, Livingstone’s flycatcher and Hildebrandt’s spur-fowl are often seen in the thickets around Mvuu Camp and Lodge
- Guests exploring the park’s mopane woodlands in the Green Season can keep an eye out for thick-billed cuckoos that can be identified by their hawk-like thick bill, as well as Arnott’s chats that possess distinct black and white crowns.
- Sightings of Dickinson’s kestrels are most probable amidst dead trees in the woodlands, where guests can observe the species’ unique behavioural patterns.
- Lillian’s lovebirds and brown-headed parrots are frequently seen perching on fever and flowering baobab trees. At times, these co-existing species also tend to flock with mosque swallows (the largest and heaviest African swallow).
Sign up for an exclusive birding weekend at Mvuu: Full board Mvuu Camp and Lodge guests are invited to join a special birding weekend from 19th to 21st January 2018, to sign up or register for this event, or to receive a programme highlighting all activities during the birding weekend, kindly e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Central African Wilderness Safaris:
Central African Wilderness Safaris (CAWS) is an ecotourism company that offers the finest quality safari experiences and the ultimate holiday getaways in Malawi, the warm heart of Africa. CAWS offers both up-market tailor-made luxury safaris as well as more affordable budget safari options. The company is dedicated to offering personalised and authentic travel experiences that have a minimal impact on the planet and a lasting impact on people.
Photo credits: CAWS Archive, Bentley Palmer, Abby Tochterman & Alan Grimes (Owner of Baobab Travel)
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