1 Jul 2023

1 Jul 23 - Angola - A Bonus Endemic

It was another early start, but at least it was only a twenty minute drive back to a spot on the Tundavala Escarpment that we had scouted the previous afternoon. As we entered the rocky area at the top of the road, we flushed a couple of Freckled Nightjars from the road. Fortunately, they landed again & they provided me with a bonus pre-dawn Tick. This area had long parts of the escarpment that was heading away from us on the left and the right. The key endemic we were looking for was Swierstra's Francolin. They call in the first few hours of light & we were expecting that they would call from a prominent position to allow their call to carry from the escarpment edge.
The Tundavala Escarpment: There are some stunning views from the edge of the escarpment
After about thirty minutes of searching, a Swierstra's Francolin started calling from part of the escarpment that was heading away to our left. It sounded like it was about a half mile from us, but there was a lot of the cliff and at varying elevations to scan and it wasn't possible to figure out exactly where it was calling from. Swierstra's Francolins are the most difficult of the Angolan endemics to see. Most trips only hear them or if they are really lucky, they get a brief flight after flushing one: so I wasn't optimistic. Still there were worse places to sit in Angola & scan for a Tick, whilst supping on an early morning coffee, especially as it was warmer than we were expecting.
Another view from the Tundavala Escarpment
We spent a couple of hours scanning up and down and from near to far along the escarpment cliffs. Finally, after a couple of hours of looking, Niall shouted that he could see a Swierstra's Francolin. We were spread out & looking from various viewpoints. There was a quick scramble to get to where Niall was sitting, but quickly we had all enjoyed prolonged scope views. Niall was happy as it was one of the few Ticks for him: as he hadn't connected on previous trips. It was a calling from a prominent position that was maybe six hundred metres away and lower down the escarpment than our position. The photos aren't brilliant, but given most Birders fail to see Swierstra's Francolin, it was an achievement to get them.
Swierstra's Francolin: This is a West Angolan endemic
I hadn't taken my scope on this trip and I was using the camera to photograph distant objects of interest to zoom into to check they weren't a calling Swierstra's Francolin. When I sorted my photos in the UK, I found a photo I had taken of the rock it was calling from, well before it was found. But it wasn't on there at the time. It appears that some of the time it was calling from rocks that weren't in our view, before finally moving to a rock we could see.
The Swierstra's Francolin was calling from a prominent rock on this escarpment
After twenty minutes of watching it, I saw it walk off its rock & disappear back into the vegetation. This was the sign we could go back to the 4WD & have our field breakfast.
Buffy Pipit: This is the neumanni subspecies which breeds on the Angolan plateau and disperses to Namibia & Botswana
After breakfast, we drove down a couple of miles to an area of forest with barbeque grills set up.
Pied Crow: This monotypic species occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, Aldabra & the Comoro Islands
Part of the forest with the barbeque grills: Initially, the attendants didn't want us to enter. But it was a language problem and we didn't appreciate there was an entrance fee. Once the one US dollar fee per person was paid, we were OK to enter
The barbeque area: This was a mixture of tables, surrounded by areas of flowering plants, dry bush areas, as well as, some bigger fruiting trees around a small stream
Black-collared Barbet: This is the bocagei subspecies which occurs from South Angola to North Namibia, North Botswana, South Zambia & West Zimbabwe
Cape Crombec: This is the flecki subspecies which occurs from South Angola to East Namibia, East Botswana, South West Zambia & West Zimbabwe
Variable Sunbird: This is the falkensteini subspecies which occurs from Gabon to North Angola, the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia & Zimbabwe
Variable Sunbird: This was the commonest Sunbird we saw at Tundavala
Variable Sunbird: The same individual
Variable Sunbird: The same individual
We saw plenty of Variable Sunbirds at Tundavala. But the species we were looking for was an adult Oustalet's Sunbird. Finally, we found one in the barbeque park. We had seen a number of out of plumage immature Sunbirds and seeing the adult Oustalet's Sunbird confirmed my suspicions that the immatures were all Variable Sunbirds.
Oustalet's Sunbird: This is the nominate oustaleti subspecies which occurs in Central & South Angola. A second subspecies occurs from North East Zambia to Malawi & extreme South West Tanzania
Angolan Agama sp.: This appears to be an Agama & is perhaps an immature male Namib Rock Agama which have a brick red head and blue body
Angolan Agama sp.: Another photo of the same individual
Congo Rope Squirrel: They were easily seen in the barbeque area
We had spent a couple of hours of the morning unsuccessfully looking for the last Angolan endemic, Angola Slaty-flycatcher. We decided to try another Birding site below the escarpment in the afternoon & to leave Angola Slaty-flycatcher for a final look on the last day.