Mozambique – Part 1

Not written anything in a few weeks! I’ve been off adventuring in the beautiful country that is Mozambique. I got a small grant to do some research and so headed there to look at the birds and most importantly, record their lovely songs.

So…

Firstly, getting there. I met my supervisor, Tomasz, in Poznan and we got a train to Warsaw. We then met Michał our colleague at the airport and we took our first flight. It went like this, Warsaw to Doha (6 hours), Doha to Johannesburg (9 hours) and then Johannesburg to Beira (2 hours). I was a little bit shattered after all that. But…. it was exciting to be in Africa again!

The first night in Mozambique was spent in Beira and in a lovely little hotel in the city. I was the only woman in our little group and so I got my own room which was pretty sneaky! We washed up and went and got some supplies for our upcoming camping escapades. This included lots of sardine tins, pasta and beer. The staples. First impressions of Mozambique was that it wasn’t as crazy busy as other places in Africa I’ve been to. The roads weren’t chaos, it was nice! After getting supplies we wanted food and so I asked the man at reception for a recommendation of where to eat. He suggested a take away place called 2+1 and drew me a map. We headed out and couldn’t find it so, naturally, I asked a man with a huge gun if he could help. He had a big smile on his face and his friend escorted us to make sure we found it! We got there and just ordered some beer and fries. A local girl who was also ordering helped me order. She spoke English and so we could chat a little. She taught me how to say thank you (obrigado) which was brill! I don’t like going to a different country and not being able to say certain things! It’s just manners! Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t setting out to learn full blown Portuguese, but a few words helps! And a smile goes a long way!!

On the 1st of May we loaded the car and headed to Gorongosa National Park where we would be doing our research. The 1st of May is a national holiday in Mozambique and so the roads were jam packed, with people, there was a carnival going through the streets! We managed to zig zag our way out of Beira and drove past small little hamlets of mud or corrugated metal buildings. The recent cyclone has destroyed many of these buildings and taken the roof off of most buildings, even the big cement ones. At one point in our journey we came to a complete traffic stand still. We waited for about an hour and so me and Michał got out and did a spot of bird watching! We saw a gorgeous southern red bishop. He was carefully breaking off bits of vegetation for his nest. I could have watched him all day. Gorgeous!!! I also spotted a lovely flower at the side of the road, it was shaped like a purple star! Anyway, eventually the traffic started to move and we realised it was because there was a bottleneck at the bridge to cross the river. The cyclone had swept half of the bridge away and so there was only enough space for one lane of traffic. Eventually we got to the park entrance and drove for about an hour through jungle to reach Chitengo camp. The jungle smells like the jaguar exhibit at Chester zoo! Hehe We pitched our tents and headed for something to eat. Within the camp grounds there’s baboons, vervet monkeys and warthogs. The warthogs just eat all the time and the vervet monkeys are cheeky!! Always peeking from behind something. We had a wander around the air strip to do some bird watching. There were waterbuck having a munch on the grass, they’re lovely! And we saw some lovely birds. It’s so exciting starting a new bird list!!

The next day we got up early to go on a game drive and a bird watch further away from the campsite. We picked up a ranger and headed out! We found a small lake and stopped there for a while and saw loads of stuff there! African jacana, spur winged geese, knob-billed geese, white faced whistling ducks, saddle billed storks, open bills, just loads!!!! I spotted a really chunky centipede (or maybe it was a millipede), gorgeous butterflies and a massive monitor lizard! It was such a lovely trip!! My favourite butterfly was one that was bright blue with bright orange on the tips of the wings. Such cheerful colours! We had some lunch, I had a traditional Mozambique meal of chicken and rice with a sort of peanut sauce. It was bloody delicious!! We then went to cut some poles to use for our bird ringing nets and then had a walk to a river bank. The sun was setting and it really looked beautiful. There’s just something about sunsets!!

Early start for bird ringing. Although we’d asked for the gate to be opened for us, the ranger wasn’t there and so we climbed over and headed to our site. We placed 4 nets and waited patiently to see if we’d catch anything. Now, I won’t lie, this time of year, the birds are really quiet. They aren’t really singing as it isn’t their breeding season and not much is flying about. So, we really didn’t have a great catch. But, we caught a beautiful pair of red throated twinspots! We took the measurements we wanted and set them back on their way. Shortly after we closed the nets and headed back to camp. I had a shower and was joined by a huge earwig type creature. I was rather intimidated by it but I just made sure he didn’t get too close to my titchy toes!! We had lunch and then I went with Marek, who also works at my uni in Poznan, to see the lab! He’s an entomologist and was out in Gorongosa to collect specimens of butterflies and moths. The lab was so interesting, he showed me specimens of all sorts of creepy crawlies. So so beautiful! There were stick insects, grasshoppers, crickets, dung beetles and creatures that actually looked like leaves!! After the tour he then showed me the database, chock full of information about all the different species of animals seen in the park!! I spoke to my Mum and Nana and then with my Dad which was lovely. Always nice hearing their voices and always makes me smile! That afternoon I went with Tomasz to do some recording of birds near the air strip. It was roasting hot and not much was singing, but I saw some oxpeckers utilising a warthogs back for a perch which was nice. I also saw a pair of yellow fronted canaries chattering their beaks.

Saturday came and we had another early start to try another go at catching some birds. We got to the gate and the guard wouldn’t let us out so we waited until he’d gotten confirmation we were allowed to leave. We wandered along the track and I spotted elephants!!! Gorgeous elephants plodding towards us. They were still pretty far away but I started to back off in case we got too close for comfort, it is their home after all! Wouldn’t want to intrude!! We watched them from a distance, ambling their way into the jungle and crashing through the vegetation. We gave it a while before we carried on along the track. As we did we passed entire trees they’d knocked over and bits of vegetation they’d munched on. The power of the giants of the jungle eh!! The catching of birds was even worse than the previous days efforts, but I saw a lovely male african paradise flycatcher (you should google this!!) and a collared sunbird. When we got back to camp we spotted an amazing spider building her web. The female was this magnificent (and huge) blue and yellow beauty. The male was about a quarter of the size and an orange/ brown colour. I felt very smug that the female spider was the best one! I felt like giving her a high five, but I don’t know which of her legs I’d have to pat!! Later, we had some food, I had another lovely local dish, this time with fish! And afterwards we went on a game drive with some of the other researchers spending time here. I saw a purple crested turaco and a water thick-knee which was exciting, but….. then we saw lions!!! A beautiful female and a younger one by her side. She was wearing a radio collar which was pretty cool. Good way of keeping track of the movements of the lions within the park. We watched the pair for a while. Such huge and powerful felines!! We finished the game drive and then to top it all off, we saw a pangolin next to camp!!!! A bloody pangolin!! I was so happy. What a day!! Pangolins are really heavily poached and so this one had been rescued and was being guarded for the time being. I was asking about the poaching of pangolins and apparently their scales are believed to have certain qualities and they are also used for necklaces in certain places. Personally, I’d much rather see one ambling around, wearing its scales than have them around my neck!

Anyway, I’m leaving it there for now. Part 2 and 3 still to come!!

Xx