May 2007 Travel Zambia 25 Interview done so far. Zambia has the most miombo woodland of any African country and probably holds the most species endemic to this habitat, yet we know almost nothing about their biology – or the impacts that woodland clearance is having on them. What does the future hold for Zambia’s birds? I’m fairly optimistic, as Zambia has plenty of national parks. But charcoal production poses a serious threat to many woodland and forest species, and our precious wetlands are very poorly protected from threats such as over-fishing and irrigation. Also, global warming may cause tropical species to expand their range southwards, which could bring threats such as competition or disease to range-restricted species, such as Chaplin’s barbet. What do you enjoy about your work? I study a fascinating group of animals and, hopefully, contribute in some way to their conservation – and to the continued advancement of biological science. I also get to see some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. What challenges do you face in the field? The heat is probably my biggest challenge, as Chaplin’s barbets breed in October, in the peak hot dry season. Fortunately they are sensible creatures and are active in the cool morning and late afternoon, which allows me to escape the worst of the midday heat. Have you had time to explore Zambia? I do as much exploring as possible. Mutinondo Wilderness, near Mpika, ranks amongst my favourite spots. It is one of the few places in Zambia that is set up for hiking. Bangweulu is special too, with the wattled cranes and shoebills that are high on any birder’s wish list. This magnificent wetland deserves much greater protection. What have you most enjoyed about working here? The friendliness of the people, the relative safety of working in rural areas, and the fact that there are still vast areas of wilderness out there. Plus the sunrises, of course! What’s next for you, once this project is finished? More research on birds, hopefully in Zambia. Find out more about the work of the Zambian Ornithological Society, and how you can help, at www.wattledcrane.com. “It would not look good for Zambian conservation if we allowed this charismatic species to become extinct.” Derek Solomon is one of Zambia’s top bird guides. He has written and contributed to several books on birding in Africa and has a passion for recording wildlife sounds. Derek made his personal selection of the country’s five top twitching spots for Travel Zambia. 1. Bangweulu Swamps is home to the bizarre shoebill, best searched for between April and July. Large flocks of wattled cranes are another endangered highlight of this area. 2. Busanga Plain, in Kafue National Park, is a prime destination for both grassland and miombo specials, including the stunning rosy-breasted longclaw and its yellow-breasted cousin, Fuelleborn’s longclaw. 3. Mwinilunga in the northwest is off the tourist track, but this birder’s haven offers numerous forest specials, including Afep pigeon, red-bellied paradise flycatcher, Forbe’s plover, Bates’s sunbird and blue-breasted kingfisher. 4. South Luangwa National Park is Derek’s backyard and a top destination for the African pitta, one of Africa’s ‘most wanted’ birds. December is the best month for this elusive migrant. 5. Zambezi River above Livingstone is the place to search for African finfoot and half-collared kingfisher, both found in the quiet backwaters. LIZANNE ROXBURGH Chaplin’s barbet has a powerful bill. LIZANNE ROXBURGH Lizanne and colleague carrying ducks for bird flu research. BIRDER’S BIG FIVE MIKE UNWIN Fish eagle: one for beginners.
26 Travel Zambia May 2007 KIERAN DODDS NORTHERN EXPOSURE