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Zambia is a treasure trove for birders: huge expanses of wilderness means that birding is rewarding wherever you go and every roadside stop is potentially exciting. It is hard to miss such dazzling species as bateleur and lilac- breasted roller, but to experience the full diversity of Zambia's birdlife, you need to visit the very best sites. Pete Leonard is author of Important Bird Areas in Zambia and has coordinated many important ornithological projects around the country. Now back in his native UK, he here selects 14 of the top birding locations around the country. Vakacha Around Zambia · Zambia by water · safari news · travel latest · a helping hand · reviews Around Zambia: Top Birding Spots 46 Travel Zambia November 2008 1 Mwinilunga District A must for any serious Zambian birder, with an array of species unknown elsewhere in the country. Hillwood Farm, near Ikelenge, makes an ideal base from which to explore. Try the Chitunta Plain ( Grimwood's longclaw ( left), black- and- rufous swallow), the Zambezi Source ( honeyguide greenbul, red- breasted paradise flycatcher), the Zambezi Rapids ( Forbes's plover), the forests in the Jimbe drainage ( chestnut wattle- eye, white- spotted flufftail) and the mavunda forests of Lukwakwa GMA ( gorgeous bush shrike, Margaret's batis). Timing: all year, best July– Oct. 3 Simungoma In thickets beside the Sesheke road look for specialities such as tit- babbler, crimson- breasted shrike and scaly- feathered finch. To the south, explore the Zambezi floodplain for kori Bustard and Burchell's sandgrouse. In the mopane south- east of Mulobezi, look for Africa's most localised parrot, black- cheeked lovebird ( above). Timing: all year ( July– Oct best for lovebirds). 6 Lochinvar National Park Zambia's premier wetland, famous for staggering concentrations of waterbirds such as white pelicans ( left), openbill storks and wattled cranes. Worth exploring thoroughly as the best areas change with the seasons. Timing: all year; best July– Nov and hard- going after heavy rain. 7 Kasanka National Park A wonderful variety of habitats and birds. Look for Böhm's bee- eater ( left), Lady Ross's turaco and Pel's fishing owl around the forests, black- collared eremomela and Anchieta's barbet in the miombo, and scan pans for African pygmy goose. Timing: all year. 4 Mutinondo Wilderness Superb miombo birding and one of the best places to see species such as bar- winged weaver, thick- billed cuckoo and red- and- blue sunbird. Search the kopjes for mocking chat and freckled nightjar, and begin your quest for long- toed flufftails in the dambos. Timing: all year. 5 Eastern Highlands Over 40 Zambian species are restricted to the Nyika Plateau and Mafinga Mountains. Best accessed through Malawi, the forests are particularly special ( bar- tailed trogon, white- chested alethe), but ensure you also explore the grasslands ( Denham's bustard ( left), blue swallow) and the protea scrub ( scarlet- tufted malachite sunbird). 2 Bangweulu Swamps Deservedly famous for its population of shoebills, which are easiest to see in the Chikuni area. Also home to large numbers of other waterbirds, such as wattled cranes. In the rains, displaying long- tailed whydahs ( aka widowbirds) are obvious from the main Samfya road. Timing: some areas all year but less accessible in rains; Apr– June best for shoebills. mik e. harrison@ harrisonclear. coco. uk 1 3 11 12 Pete Leonard Mike Unwin Pete Leonard Pete Leonard Liuwa Plain NP Sioma Ngwezi NP West Lunga NP Kafue NP Mwinilunga Solwezi Limulunga Mongu Kaoma Livingstone Kazungula Victoria Falls Zambezi River Kafue River

0200 miles1000300 km100200NTZPeoplePeopleVakachaVakachaHabitatHabitatNkaniNkaniCultureCulture November 2008 Travel Zambia 47 11 Plains of western Zambia Liuwa Plain National Park is a great starting point for this vast region, with large numbers of water birds ( African spoonbill ( left), wattled crane, slaty egret), as well as many larks, bustards and raptors. The more adventurous still can take a their 4WD and GPS across the river at Chavuma into western Zambezi District, in search of white- throated francolins and cloud cisticolas. Timing: best July– Dec. 9 Nkanga River Conservation Area Just north of Choma, this is arguably the best spot for Zambia's striking endemic, Chaplin's barbet ( left). Easy access and a wide range of habitats ensure great birding at all times, with species such as Schalow's turaco also regular. Visit at the onset of the rains to witness a spectacular roost of swallows, weavers and bishops. Timing: all year. 8 Mutulanganga These seemingly mundane thickets along the road to Siavonga hold several gems. Crested guineafowl, Livingstone's flycatcher and white- throated nicator are present throughout the year, but barred long- tailed cuckoo, red- capped robin ( above) and the ultimate prize, African pitta, are present only in the rains. Timing: all year ( Nov– Jan for pittas). 13 Shiwa Ng'andu A fascinating historic site with an impressive selection of birds: Bocage's robin, black- backed barbet ( left), splendid starling and black- bellied seed- cracker in the forest patches; white- cheeked bee- eater and black- chinned quailfinch in the dambos. Keep an eye out for palm- nut vultures overhead. Timing: all year. 14 Luapula Valley Search the extensive papyrus swamps ( often close to the road) between Mwense and Nchelenge for marsh tchagra, greater swamp warbler, swamp flycatcher, papyrus yellow and white- winged warbler. Timing: all year. 12 Livingstone The famous Victoria Falls are not the only attraction here. Explore the Zambezi upstream for African fish eagle, African finfoot, rock pratincole and African skimmer, and downstream spot black eagles, peregrine falcons and other raptors in the gorges. Timing: all year. 10 Luangwa Valley Justly famous for its big game, this magnificent area is also full of big birds. Vultures and eagles are ubiquitous overhead, drying lagoons are fished out by white pelicans and various storks, and huge colonies of carmine bee- eaters breed in the river banks. The mopane woodland is alive with long- tailed starlings, Lilian's lovebirds and white- browed sparrow- weavers. Timing: all year, but access limited during the rains. For more information on all of these sites, see Important Bird Areas in Zambia by Pete Leonard ( Zambian Ornithological Society), and Birds of Zambia by Dowsett, Aspinwall & Dowsett- Lemaire ( Turaco Press). Available from the Natural History Book Society ( www. nhbs. com) Pete Leonaeonard Andrea Leonaeonard m ike. harrison@ harrisonclear. coco. uk m ike harrison 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 13 14 Lower Zambezi NP Kasanka NP South Luangwa NP North Luangwa NP Luambe NP Sumbu NP Lusenga NP Lukusuzi NP Blue Lagoon NP Lochinvar NP LUSAKA Kitwe Ndola Chipata I soka Kasama Mpulungu Chirundu Kapiri Mposhi Mkushi Mfuwe Mpika L. Tanganyika L. Bangweulu L. Mweru Wantipa L. Mweru L. Kariba Zambezi River Luangwa River