By Shingirai Sakarombe
The outing on the 9th of March 2019 was just a regular BirdLife Zimbabwe Saturday Bird walk at the Harare Botanical Garden in the Avenues. But as a first time birder, filled with passion and interest, I was very keen to find out how birds were identified and named and craved to broaden my knowledge therein.
Harare Botanical Gardens is situated about 4 km north of the City Centre, off Sandringham Drive next to the National Park offices. As we drove along 5th street in Alexandra Park, we were welcomed by a flock of Abdim’s Storks, slackly waving their stretched necks as they flew past in search of a park area in which to forage for insects, I guess!
It was a peaceful and still morning with only a few clouds scattered across the sky to the east. As we stood in the car park waiting for late comers, the cheerful songs of the Dark-capped Bulbul and Variable Sunbird could be heard from the nearby thickets and trees.
Just over half of the area was developed to feature Zimbabwean woodland types including Miombo, Acacia, Lowveld Tree Savannah, Lowveld Riverine and Zimbabwean Rainforest. In addition to plants from other parts of Africa there is a section comprising of species from Australia, the Far East and South America. Approximately 215 species of birds have been recorded in the Gardens, though at present, the pond is dry and the forest streams are not being pumped, so some of the water birds are lacking.
Satisfied that everyone had arrived and having exchanged pleasantries, we divided into sub-groups and set off in different directions. My group’s attention was first attracted by an assortment of Sunbirds namely Variable, Miombo Double – collared and Amethyst feeding from an array of Mexican Marigold flowers that have taken advantage of the empty pond just behind a thicket behind the car park. As a new comer, I was gripped with impatience as my fellow group members could easily identify and name the birds. I had to catch up!
There were plenty of birds in certain spots of the garden. In the nearby Miombo Woodland, we found Willow Warbler, Fork-tailed Drongo, Brubru, Whyte’s Barbet, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Common Waxbill, Jameson’s Firefinch, Yellow-fronted Canary, Spectacled Weavers, Cardinal Woodpecker and lots of Southern Masked Weavers. A dense thicket at the foot of the reservoir revealed another haven for a variety of birds: Tawny-flanked Prinia, African Fish Eagle, Red-eyed Doves, Crested Barbet, Tambourine Dove, Purple-crested Turaco.
To everyone’s surprise, a walk that had been scheduled to last for two hours, had lasted longer as members greatly enjoyed exploring the gardens treasure of birds. The sun had journeyed some miles through the sky when we eventually gathered in the car park again for the checklist. The outcome was remarkable; a total of 63 bird species were recorded in just over three hours.
BirdLife Zimbabwe Mashonaland Branch organises regular bird walks for its members and non-members free of charge (however there may be entry fees e.g. National Parks or a tip required depending on the location). For further information please contact Innes Louw: firstname.lastname@example.org, 0778 090632. Or check out the BLZ website: www.birdlifezimbabwe.org