Today we’re going birding in a patch of beautiful miombo woodland in Zimbabwe. The trees are tall and green, and there was a storm last night, so the birding should be great. But be warned: things are often quiet in miombo habitats – until you hit a bird party!

Read along:

Sho, it’s hot, hey?

And quiet. 

What’s the time? Okay, so we’ve been walking through this miombo woodland for almost an hour, and…we haven’t added much to our list. But these Brachystegia trees are just so beautiful – I mean just look at that one…it must be 30 m, 35 m tall! It does make it pretty tough to spot birds up in the canopy though.

Remember, we should to stick together hey. It’s quite easy to get lost in this habitat. It’s happened to me many times before. I think the problem is the understorey is open, so it’s easy to walk beneath the trees, but you can’t see any landmarks. Speaking of which, which way is the car again? Oh yes, no, I can see it there between the trees.

I think I can hear an oriole there in the distance? Would that be a Black-headed Oriole or African Golden? Nah, I think it’s a Black-headed. Let’s walk in that direction.

Yes, no, I can see him up there. Second big fork, keep going left and up; he’s at about 11’o clock in the tree. Definitely a Black-headed.

Don’t worry – I’m sure we’ll cross paths with a bird party soon. What? A bird party? Ja, that’s when lots of different species, usually insect-eaters, come together into a mixed flock. There are more eyes to find food and also more eyes to look for danger. It’s crazy! One minute there’s nothing, and the next you don’t know where to look first. And the other thing…hey! Listen!

I think I can hear a Miombo Tit. Yes! That’s a great sign! Tits are often at the heart of bird parties. Let’s go check it out!

There! There’s something small moving up there. See it? Uhm, oh, it’s a Chinspot Batis. But there’s something lower down too….a Puffback, I think? Yes. Puffback! Things are heating up! Are you ready? The bird wave is coming!

Some stuff flying in on the right here. Dark-capped Bulbuls I think. And yes, there’s a white-eye, no two, no three…there’s bunch of them! African Yellow White-eyes! Yes, they sound pretty much identical to Cape White-eyes. And there’s something creeping about on the bark of that tall tree that side. Hm? No, it’s too big for a creeper. Mmm, it’s a woodpecker. Golden-tailed! It’s just gone behind the trunk…there on the right now. Can you see its head poking out? 

Hold on. Look at these white-eyes again. Some of them have dark green heads. They’re Green-capped Eremomelas! Can you see their white eyes? Awesome. And there’s the tit we heard earlier. Definitely a Miombo Tit. And that’s a lifer for you isn’t it? Fantastic!

Some small birds flying in here. Yes, just there above the Fork-tailed Drongo. Let’s listen to what we can hear… That sound is a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird. And that little song….can you hear it? That’s an Ashy Fycatcher. Nice. And I can hear some sort of sunbird… Must be Eastern Miombo Sunbird in this habitat. Yep, there, a male! Also African Paradise Flycatcher. Also some weavers over here. Look’s like a pair of Spectacled Weavers. Yes, there’s their descending call. Unmistakable. 

But what’s that beautiful song? Those whistles? Hear it? Let’s go a bit closer. I’ve got him here! Come, take a look! On that big horizontal branch with all the lichens? Yes, that’s right! A male Miombo Rock Thrush. And there’s something big with a broad tail in there too. I can’t see it properly behind all the leaves right now. Mm? Oh yes, I’ve got a view here. Can you ID that one? That’s right, White-breasted Cuckooshrike. Nice!

We should probably start writing all these down before we forget. I’ll make a quick list, you keep scanning. 

Yes. I can hear that. It’s a petronia…ag, I mean, Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow as it’s called now. Check, you can even see its yellow throat spot. 

Okay, almost done, let me count it up.  Okay, including the bush sparrow, we’re on 16 species. It looks like the birds are moving in that direction. Come, we have to keep up! 

Oh hey, did you see that yellow thing that flew up from the ground? Hold on…there it is, 3’o clock in that smaller tree there. Yes. Cabanis’s Bunting. Come, it sounds like there’s some action over there.

Sho, I’m out of breath. What’s that with the white on its tail? It does like look like that Ashy Flycatcher we had earlier, but this guy is constantly swinging his tail around! That means it’s a Grey Tit-Flycatcher. You can hear its sad little song, tree-troo.

Whoa! Listen! Do you hear that super-high pitched song? That thin, wispy one? That, my friend, is a Spotted Creeper! Come, quickly! It must be somewhere in this tree, it sounds really close! Yes, there, on the left hand side of the trunk, moving upwards quickly. See? Yes! Nice one! 

Something’s making a racket behind us. Can you see anything there? Oh yes, I see them too. Black birds with red bills. Retz’s Helmetshrikes. Here they come! Oh wow, I love helmetshrikes. This is fantastic. I can’t believe we were complaining just five minutes ago! It just goes to show that in miombo…yellow bird, flying in! Top right, by that cluster of pods. I can hear it! African Golden Oriole. Yes!

And that sound? The one that sounds like a bug? That’s Stierling’s Wren-Warbler. Look, there he is! And he’s doing his display flight! How cool is that!?

We haven’t seen anything in a while. And the cicadas are back. Haha, ja, I think you’re right. They were always there, but we were just too distracted to hear them! What an awesome bird party! Man, I love miombo birding!

Birds featured:

Black-headed Oriole | Swartkopwielewaal (p. 366) | 01:02

Miombo Tit | Miombogrysmees (p. 375) | 02:02, 03:45

Chinspot Batis | Witliesbosbontrokkie (p.351) | 02:19

Black-backed Puffback | Sneeubal (p. 357) | 02:30

Dark-capped Bulbul | Swartoogtiptol (p. 379) | 02:53

African Yellow White-eye | Geelglasogie (p. 411) | 02:56

Golden-tailed Woodpecker | Goudstertspeg | 03:14

Green-capped Eremomela | Donkerwangbossanger (p. 409 ) | 03:32

Fork-tailed Drongo | Mikstertbyvanger (p. 365) | 04:03

Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird | Geelblestinker (p. 345) | 04:06

Ashy Fycatcher | Blougrysvlieëvanger (p. 371) | 04:16

Eastern Miombo Sunbird | Miombo-rooibandsuikerbekkie (p. 418) | 04:29

African Paradise Flycatcher | Paradysvlieëvanger (p. 369) | 04:45

Spectacled Weaver | Brilwewer (p. 439) | 04:59

Miombo Rock Thrush | Angolakliplyster (p. 288) | 05:21

White-breasted Cuckooshrike | Witborskatakoeroe (p. 363) |  05:44

Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow | Geelvlekmossie (p. 426) | 06:16

Cabanis’s Bunting | Geelstreepkoppie (p. 476) | 07:00

Grey Tit-Flycatcher | Waaierstertvlieëvanger (p. 371) | 07:35

African Spotted Creeper | Boomkruiper (p. 335) | 07:54

Retz’s Helmetshrikes | Swarthelmlaksman (p. 353) | 08:26

Stierling’s Wren-Warbler | Stierlingsanger (p. 405) | 09:11