For more information on this tour to see the African Pitta click on this link – African Pitta Tour
The South Luangwa National Park is part of the Great African Rift Valley system, running through Eastern Zambia. It spans 9050 square km and is one of the world’s finest game parks with huge concentrations of birds and wildlife. Its main river, the Luangwa, meanders through the park valley creating sandbars, through cut offs and oxbow lakes and is bordered by stunning groves of riparian trees. Away from the river, woodland (particularly mopane) predominates, and in the escarpments Miombo is found
Animals regularly spotted are Elephant, Buffalo, Kudu, Eland, Bushbuck, Impala, Zebra, Lion, Hyena, Leopard, African Wild dog. Endemic sub-species in the Luangwa Valley, are the graceful Thornicroft giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest.
Huge numbers of Nile Crocodile and Hippo concentrate and compete for space in fast drying lagoons in the dry season,, and disperse in the swollen floodwaters of the wet season
This massive concentration of wildlife has a huge impact on the ecology of the valley, particularly the birds. With over 458 bird species, and nearly 50 migrating species from the northern hemisphere, this is no doubt a birder’s “must visit destination”. Intra African migrants and Palearctic migrants includes Barred long-tailed Cuckoo, African Crake, Allens Gallinule, Dwarf Bittern, African Pitta, and huge concentrations of Carmine Bee eater. In more recent years Greater Spotted Eagles have been tracked to the area using satellite Telementry.
Resident Yellow and Red-billed Oxpeckers are found de-ticking larger animals, and large flocks of Lillian’s Lovebirds seem to almost disappear in the foliage of the Leadwood trees.
Shallow waters attract the African Skimmer, a regular breeder here, with important concentrations. White fronted Plover and White Headed Lapwing jostle for space on the sandbanks with Water Thick-knee. Giant and Pied Kingfisher compete with the jewel-like Malachite kingfisher for small fish, and their woodland relatives jostle for the insects. The Senegal, Chestnut-bellied and Pygmy Kinfishers are particularly beautiful as they flash past.
Horus Swift, White fronted Bee-eater’s and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters do co exist and breed in the dry river banks.The latter in huge numbers. Water birds such as White Pelican, Saddle-billed stork, Yellow-billed stork and Marabou concentrate in oxbow lakes, where during the dry season there is an abundance of fish. “Large Feeding Frenzy Bird Parties” are an incredible sight as we near the hot dry season, especially with large aggregations of Fish Eagle stealing prey from them
Western Banded Snake Eagles, Narina trogon, African Broadbill, of course the African Pitta and Black throated Wattle-eyes are just few of the birds that enjoy the thick riparian vegetation along the river side. A must see is the Pel’s Fishing Owl which can often be spotted on an evening game drive. Larger birds are well represented, which include the Lappet-faced, Hooded and White-headed and White-backed Vultures, as well as numerous large resident and migrant Eagles such as the Bateleur ,Marshall and Steppe.
Giant ,Pel’s Fishing Owl and Spotted Eagle Owls, Saddle-billed Stork, Southern Crowned Crane and Southern Ground Hornbill are frequently encountered
The Mopane woodlands is the home of the Racket-tailed Roller, Red-billed hornbill, Meves’s Starling, Arnot’s Chat, White-browed Sparrow-weaver, Red–headed Weaver and colourful flocks of Lilian’s Lovebirds. The Scops owlet calls incessantly and tests the birders eyesight, and in the rains the strident call of the Senegal Kingfisher rings out.
Bat-like and Mottled Spinetails swifts are just two of the nine species of Swifts which have been recorded at the Mfuwe bridge, the latter, along with Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, particularly associated with the numerous Baobab trees.
The crepuscular Bat Hawk can be seen hawking bats along the trees of the lagoons, while the Skimmer feed in the moonlight.
Numerous game birds such as Helemeted Guineafowl, Swainsons and Red-necked Spurfowl forage alongside Hadeda and Sacred Ibis. Open-billed stork and Great White Heron breed in the valley as the oxbow lagoons swell with water.Here too the Dwarf Bittern arrives to breed and isolated sightings of Malagasy Squacco Heron are on record.
The smaller seedeaters are well represented at this time of plenty, and keep an eye open in particular for Cardinal Quelea. The weavers, especially the Village, breed in huge numbers, and the Collared Palm-thrush and Moustached Warbler make for an exciting addition to a “Must Visit” destination.