2 Jul 2023

2 Jul 23 - Angola - Rapidly Running Out Of Time

We had now reached late morning on our last day of Birding in Angola and we were still struggling to find our last Angolan endemic, Angola Slaty-flycatcher. Even worse, we had to be back at the Casper Resort by 15:00 to collect the bags, pack away the cameras etc, as Phil & I needed to be at Lubango airport for an early evening flight back to the capital Luanda. Richard and Niall were staying at the Casper Resort for that evening, before starting the long drive back to Johannesburg. Niall decided to try another location at the top of the escarpment that we hadn't tried before.
First we tried the far side of the main tourist gorge
There weren't a lot of trees on the far side of the main tourist gorge and it didn't look hopeful for Angola Slaty-flycatcher. But there were several Short-toed Rock Thrushes in this area. Somehow only Richard had managed to see one in the first day and a half. It wasn't a Tick for me, but I'm always happy to see Rock Thrushes.
Short-toed Rock Thrush: This is the nominate brevipes subspecies which occurs in Angola, Namibia, Botswana & the West of South Africa. A second subspecies occurs in South East Botswana, central South Africa & Swaziland
Short-toed Rock Thrush
With only an hour of Birding time left, Richard suggested we should try an area of trees at the escarpment edge that he had seen as we were driving to the first location of the day. It seemed a worthwhile last try, given the only other option was to revisit previous sites.
We had to cross this open grassy area & then there was a deep valley with a lot of trees in it
Initially there didn't seem to be much activity in the woodland below us. But finally one of the guys picked up a Flycatcher moving furtively in the trees. It wasn't close, but I managed to get some photos & I could see it was an Angola Slaty-flycatcher: our last Angolan endemic.
Angola Slaty-flycatcher: This is the nominate brunneus subspecies which occurs in the North end of the West Angolan escarpment. A second subspecies occurs around Mount Moco and the central Angolan highlands
Just for icing on the cake, Neil said he could hear a distant Bocage's Akalat singing. This was a species we had heard, but not seen. With a bit of encouragement, it came a bit closer. With more time, we could have walked about 100 metres down the slope to get closer to the trees and hopefully got some better views & photos. However, time was pressing & we were happy with having seen both species.
Bocage's Akalat: This is the nominate bocagei subspecies which occurs in the Western highlands of Angola. It will be an armchair Tick when I upgrade to IOC as it is split from the subspecies I've seen in Cameroon
None of the reports for the tours that we looked at managed to see all of the endemics. In reality, the tours seem to get higher species totals than we achieved, but they also spent a bit of time chasing common species at the coast and elsewhere, which wasn't a priority for us as we had all spent a lot of time Birding in Africa. Additionally, these tours visited in the Sep to Nov and they are much closer to the rainy season. Undoubtedly, this should be better if it increases the activity and singing. But we weren't complaining with what we had seen.
Namib Rock Agama: Thanks to my mate Steve Morrison for helping to identify a number of the Lizard species from my published photos
It was time to leave. We collected & repacked the bags and said goodbye to Richard: who was going to enjoy an early drink in the hotel. Niall dropped Phil & I at the airport with time to get a meal before the plane went. Typically, the plane was running a couple of hours late and so we had a longer wait than hoped for. Finally, we arrived in Luanda airport about 23:30 and the pre-arranged taxi driver was waiting to take us to the uninspiring & overpriced Golden Park Hotel.
Namib Rock Agama: Another individual. Thanks to my mate Steve Morrison for helping to identify a number of the Lizard species from my published photos
After far too little sleep, the alarm was ringing to wake us for the 06:00 taxi back to the airport. There was time for breakfast in the airport and to say goodbye to Phil as he headed off to his flight back to Sydney. My flight to Lisbon & then Heathrow was mercifully uneventful & I was back into Heathrow about 22:30. After a food shop, I arrived home about 02:00. It had been a really good trip with some good mates and worked out about two-thirds of the price of the main tour groups. I am much happier travelling with a group of mates than on an organised tour & I would look forward to teaming up with Phil, Richard & Niall again if circumstances allow. A final thanks to Phil, Richard & Niall for being such good company.
Niall (left) Phil & Richard (right) at Kinjila Forest (20 Jun 23)