Zambia ringing, October 2023

Adding 20 ringing lifers required hard travelling to a remote part of Zambia, but was completely worth it! This trip was organised by Frank Willems and I led the ringing part.

Lusaka to Kakoma!

The trip started by flying to Lusaka on 29 Sept, and staying at Fringilla Lodge in Chisamba, 1 h north. Lots of birds are on the farm, although arriving shortly before dark did not leave much time for birding. Early the next morning many of the attendees met here and we set off in 2 vehicles. The road to Ndola in the Copperbelt was very busy with trucks.

The bypass past Ndola was quiet but the road was fairly pot-holed. A birding stop along this road at a bridge had several swallow species, including Angola Swallow, Lesser Striped Swallow and Red-throated Cliff Swallow. By late afternoon we arrived at Mutanda Nature Lodge, another really great birding stop. We ticked many birds, including Yellow-throated Leaflove, Cassin’s Flycatcher and Bocage’s Akalat.

The next morning, 1 Oct, we had time for a short ringing session. We caught 2 kingfishers, an African Pygmy Kingfisher and a Grey-headed Kingfisher.

After ringing, we left for our next long drive. At Unwana, we turned onto the 4×4 Kakoma road, a mostly sandy road, but also with various rough sections. A few birding stops along the way yielded species like Little Bee-eater, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, European Bee-eater, Rufous-naped Lark, Angola Lark, Flappet Lark, Tinkling Cisticola and Wing-snapping Cisticola. A great sighting was Dickinson’s Kestrel that allowed great photos (it was nearly thought to be the very rare Grey Kestrel). We arrived at dusk at our tented bush camp, on the banks of the West Lunga River next to the large forest patch – Nyachisala Forest.

Kakoma bush camp – the river next to the lapa with tables for dining and ringing

The bush camp, 1-7 Oct

The camp was set up by Frank and his staff, only a few kms from the DRC. We had comfortable tents with camping beds. There were 2 long-drops and 2 mobile showers – the staff filled the suspended bags with warm water every evening. Every day we could swim and cool off in the clear water of the river.

At night we heard birds calling in and and around the camp site – African Wood Owl, Red-chested Cuckoo, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, and Swamp Nightjar. Two special Congo birds, that were only found in Zambia in recent years, were also heard several times – Vermiculated Fishing-Owl and Spot-breasted Ibis.

The birds ringed, 1-7 Oct

All our ringing was in different habitats in the vicinity of the camp. [Latin names of species in Table and eBird trip report – see below]

One of the top birds caught was a Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush. This may be the first one of the species to be ringed in Zambia (see more about this record).

Several cisticola species were caught, being tricky to identify, but easy with Frank’s guidelines!

Two greenbul species were caught – several Little Greenbuls and two Cabanis’ Greenbuls.

Other bulbul species included the striking Black-collared Bulbul and Yellow-throated Leaflove (the latter is actually a greenbul species).

Some warbler type species:

Special waxbills – Grey Waxbill and Fawn-breasted Waxbill:

Two more colourful species!

Quite a few widowbirds were caught, including two new species for me:

Probably the ringing highlight of the trip for me was a Compact Weaver, another species with a very limited range in Zambia.

Some more special birds caught included Speckled Mousebird (which looks like it should be a different species to the South African subspecies), Marsh Tchagra (a recapture!, ringed by Ursula), Shining-blue Kingfisher, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Laura’s Woodland-Warbler, and a Grey-winged Robin-Chat (caught in a spring trap).

Bird calls

Lots of interesting birds were heard calling, during the day and night.Wood Owls called in the camp site every night. Swamp Nightjars called from the grassland dambos. Red-chested Cuckoo and Paradise Flycatcher could be heard during the day or night. Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Afep Pigeon and Bronze-naped Pigeon were very vocal during the day.

Two of the rarer birds are shown below. These were both added to the Zambia bird list in recent years by Frank Willems and colleagues when they recorded the birds at this site.

The Vermiculated Fishing-Owl was heard on several nights. On our last morning around 3.30am I woke up hearing these owls calling from the river next to camp, and I recorded the calls (low volume even though close).

Later that morning, at dawn, two Spot-breasted Ibis were flying in the forest and calling very loudly.I recorded a long section of their raucous calls, and glimpsed them flying through the forest leaves.

For more bird recording from the trip, see eBird trip report.

Return journey, 7-9 Oct

On 7 Oct we drove back to Mutanda Nature Lodge, arriving a little before dark. The next morning we caught an African Thrush in a spring trap before the long drive to Lusaka. Staying at the Lusaka Safari Lodge provided more great birding in the morning, while spring traps were out. We caught 2 White-browed Robin-Chats, a Dark-capped Bulbul and a male
Lesser Masked Weaver.

Table. Birds ringed 1-9 Oct

109 birds were caught of 45 species (102 birds ringed and  recaptures) for the trip. Totals of birds caught given by site. The retraps were either our own birds caught a day or few days later, or birds ringed by Ursula and Frank at the same site in 2018 and 2019.

Sp no Species Latin Kakoma Mutanda Lusaka
320 Blue-spotted Dove Turtur afer 1
390 Speckled Mousebird Colius striatus 1
398 African Pygmy Kingfisher Ispidina picta 1 1
401 Grey-hooded Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala 1
959 Shining Blue Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys 1
438 Yellow-rumped Tinker Barbet Pogoniulus bilineatus 2
545 Dark-capped Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus 2 1
1100 Black-collared Bulbul Neolestes torquatus 2
565 Little Greenbul Andropadus virens 9
1086 Cabanis’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus cabanisi 2
1194 Yellow-throated Leaflove Chlorocichla flavicollis 1
576 Stonechat Saxicola torquata 5
1168 African Thrush Turdus pelios 1 1
579 Red-capped Robin-Chat Cossypha natalensis 3
580 White-browed Robin-Chat Cossypha heuglini 1 2
1085 Grey-winged Robin-Chat Cossypha polioptera 1
1091 Laura’s Woodland-Warbler Phylloscopus laurae 1
1099 Buff-throated Apalis Apalis rufogularis 1
628 Grey-backed Camaroptera Camaroptera brevicaudata 2
636 Short-winged Cisticola Cisticola brachyptera 2
647 Croaking Cisticola Cisticola natalensis 1
915 Chirping Cisticola Cisticola pipiens 5
3152 Stout Cisticola Cisticola robustus 1
649 Tawny-flanked Prinia Prinia subflava 5
3180 White-chinned Prinia Schistolais leucopogon 4
682 African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis 1
2588 Fraser’s Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria ocreata 1
705 Pink-throated Longclaw Macronyx ameliae 1
716 Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta 1
762 Variable Sunbird Nectarinia venusta 1
766 Olive Sunbird Nectarinia olivacea 3
771 Collared Sunbird Anthreptes collaris 1
777 Yellow White-eye Zosterops senegalensis 2
791 Spectacled Weaver Ploceus ocularis 4
792 Lesser Masked Weaver Ploceus intermedius 1
3830 Compact Weaver Pachyphantes superciliosus 1
810 Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis 1
813 Red-collared Widow Euplectes ardens 11
815 Yellow-backed Widow Euplectes macrourus 4
971 Marsh Widowbird Euplectes hartlaubi 3
824 Red-backed Mannikin Spermestes bicolor 7
832 Red-throated Twinspot Hypargos niveoguttatus 1
833 African Firefinch Lagonosticta rubricata 1
842 Grey Waxbill Estrilda perreini 2
1090 Fawn-breasted Waxbill Estrilda paludicola 1

More photos

See eBird trip report, with more photos.

Birdwatch Zambia facebook post and Birding Zambia post..


A great thanks to Frank Willems and Inge and their staff for the planning, logistics and cooking! Also thanks to Frank and Wouter for showing and identifying all the amazing birds! Thanks to Claire Spottiswoode for the use of some ringing poles.

Trip organised by Frank Willems – see facebook and website.
Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.