8th September 1998 - 27th September 1998.
A sound recording trip to Zimbabwe, with Natural History film producer Dan Freeman, wildlife cameraman Tony Allen and story originator Juliette Mills for an ITV film called Nzou: The Elephant who thinks she's a Buffalo, made by Green Umbrella Productions in Bristol.
From Harare Airport it was just over an hours drive south to our filming location at Imire Safari Ranch west of Marondera. We were there to tell the story of Nzou and the captive herd of African Buffaloes, which are a valuable resource for the ranch, as being reared in isolation, are foot and mouth free. This was the first of two trips at different times of year, this being the dry season. New species for me will be in bold.
Dan and my accommodation at Imire.
Our first day and we started by finding Nzou and the herd of female buffaloes feeding in an area south of the lodge. During our stay this was the main area where the herd fed, before moving up to the shade of the trees on the rocky ridge to the east for midday. In the afternoons they also spent time at the small river, feeding on aquatic vegetation and wallowing in the mud along the banks - Nzou particularly liked this.
Species seen today were Grey Go-away-bird, Fork-tailed Drongo, Pied Crow, Black Crow, Common Bulbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, Kurrichane Thrush, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Stonechat, Miombo Double-collared Sunbird, White-browed Robin-Chat, Tropical Boubou, Red-billed Quelea, Southern Masked Weaver, Blue-breasted Cordonbleu, Black-cheeked Waxbill, Smith's Bush Squirrel, Crowned Plover, Bar-throated Apalis, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Grey Hornbill, Village Weaver, Red-breasted Swallow, Grey-headed Bush-shrike, Pied Kingfisher, Impala, African Elephant, African Jacana, Greenshank, Common Zebra, Eland, Blacksmith Plover, Hippopotamus, Wood Sandpiper, Egyptian Goose, Great White Egret, Little Egret and Spotted Eagle Owl.
On several evenings we would go, with the ranch owners, to a lake north of the lodge, here there was a platform which overlooked a lake and as the sun went down would drink 'sun-downers', while watching the Hippo in the water and herd of Impalas and Elands come in to drink.
Alarm snorts from several as they came in to drink at the lake.
Several Eland walking past at the lake, sounds of their ankle joints clicking, which presumably keeps them in contact with each other in thick bush.
Nzou and the buffaloes.
I only made note, on a daily basis, of the species new or significant to me or the trip, so, below are recordings of some of the birds seen today that were made during our stay.
with Black-headed Oriole and other birds in the background. with Chinspot Batis calling in background.
A common bird in the lodge gardens, 1st two different alarm calls, then one of the many songs this species gives.
These birds give a variety of calls. African Turtle Dove, Grey Go-away-bird, Greater Blue-eared Starling and other birds in background.
Calls, then display as female briefly flies in. White-browed Robin-Chat, Southern Masked Weaver and other birds in background.
Display song. African Cuckoo, Greater Blue-eared Starling and other birds in background.
Song, which can be very variable. Common Bulbul, Senegal Coucal and other birds in background.
A common bird in all areas, weavers and doves in background.
Flock calls, then calls from a single bird.
Tony Allen filming Nzou and herd
Dan Freeman at Imire.
All day following Nzou and the buffalo herd in similar areas as yesterday. Today seeing Yellow White-eye, Black-collared Barbet, African Turtle Dove also called Ring-necked or Cape Turtle Dove, Red-eyed Dove, Crested Barbet, Chinspot Batis, Golden-breasted Bunting, African Golden Oriole, Southern Black Flycatcher, Red-headed Weaver, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Blue Wildebeest, Black-headed Heron, Greater or Black-throated Honeyguide, Streaky-headed Seedeater or Canary, African Long-tailed Shrike, Rufous-naped Lark, Greater Striped Swallow, Grey-rumped Swallow, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Pearl-breasted Swallow, African Hawk-Eagle, Kestrel, Yellow-billed Kite, Sable Antelope, Namaqua Dove, Little Bee-eater, Tsessebe a sub-species of Topi, Common Waxbill, White-bellied Sunbird, Hamerkop, Black Crake, White-breasted Cuckoo-Shrike, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Vervet Monkey, African Yellow-throated Sparrow, Wahlberg's Eagle, Reed Cormorant, Giant Kingfisher, Wattled Plover, Helmeted Guineafowl, Lilac-breasted Roller and Scrub Hare.
The sound of Africa, also called Ring-necked Dove, Black-headed Oriole in background.
Calls and song, Southern Lesser Blue-eared Starlings in background.
with White-browed Robin-Chat song in background.
with Greater Honeyguide, African Cuckoo and other birds
Also called Black-throated Honeyguide, distant Black-headed
Oriole in background.
Also called Streaky-headed Canary, song and calls at end.
Calls from several at start, then mainly from one bird.
One of the male Elephants from the northern part of the ranch.
On several days we spent time in the northern part of the ranch, here there were 4 Black Rhinoceroses and 4 youngish male African Elephants, the rhinos were part of a breeding programme and the elephants were there to guard them, ridden by armed guards, which all came into the story.
Although we could get close to the rhinos, they were unpredictable, so we needed a guard with us. The elephants were used to the guards, but we still had to be wary and not get too close.
On one occasion a rhino became upset at being moved on and one of the elephants was brought to help, the rhino confronted the elephant, at which the elephant extended its truck to the rhinos head and pushed it back as if it was nothing, that brought home how incredibly strong these animals are.
On another occasion, two rhinos got into a dispute and there was lots of growling and roaring, but the elephants soon sorted it out by pushing them apart.
Contrary to what you hear on wildlife films, elephants make very little sound, you can't hear them walking, the most heard is tail slapping, occasionally breaking wind and sometimes a few rumbles. But you hear what they are doing when they rip off Acacia branches and push over trees.
Panting from two rhinos walking through the grass.
Panting, snorting and growling from three rhinos.
Submissive calls from a rhino after losing
confrontation with an elephant.
Panting and roars during conflict between two rhinos.
A bit further east in the same part of the ranch was a small herd of Wildebeest and Common Zebra, also a herd of Sable Antelope, and, in the Acacia woodland a few Giraffe. I spent a little time trying to record them, even though they didn't feature in the film.
Snorts from several.
Snorts, mane shaking and chasing each other from a family group.
Snorts from a herd.
Tail swishing, mane/ear flapping and a snort from a female and two
large young. Giraffes are said to be silent and this is the only recording
that I know, of any kind of vocalisation.
One of the male Elephants with a guard, Juliette and Tony.
Another day following Nzou and the buffalo herd around, not only in the grassland, but also feeding in the river.
New birds seen today were Swainson's Francolin, Woodland Kingfisher, House Martin, Dickinson's Kestrel, Eastern Black-headed Oriole, Groundscraper Thrush, Bennett's Woodpecker, Cardinal Woodpecker, Green-capped Eremomela, Yellow-fronted or Yellow-eyed Canary, Greater Scimitarbill, Northern Grey Tit, Blue-mantled Flycatcher also called African Crested-Flycatcher, African White-throated Robin and Glossy Starling.
Song, wind in trees.
White-browed Robin-Chat, Black-headed Oriole and other birds in background.
Calls from a single bird.
Herd feeding in grassland giving grunts and snorts. Blacksmith Plovers, Striped Kingfishers and other birds in background.
Herd feeding on grasses and other water-plants in river. Greater Honeyguide and other birds in background.
Dueting from a pair, female flies off and male continues to call, male flies off at end.
Calls, other birds in distance.
The garden around the lodge was good for birds, and, I spent some early mornings, before breakfast, and a few afternoons after we returned, collecting recordings when it was quietest. Just watching the colony of Village Weavers and Red-billed Queleas by the small pool was fascinating. But the stars were the White-browed Robin-Chats with their variable, musical songs.
Song, with Arrow-marked Babblers, Common Bulbuls and other birds.
Song, with Grey Go-away-bird, Tropical Boubou and other birds in background.
Song, with low and metallic-like calls and mournful whistles
from Tropical Boubou.
Display song from several hanging from their nests while
female is present.
Today, again we followed the herd around, new species were Long-billed Crombec, Bush or Common Duiker, Lesser Striped Swallow, Yellow Bishop, Bronze Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Fan-tailed Cisticola, White-rumped Swift, Southern Reedbuck, Brown Snake Eagle, Familiar Chat and Black-eared Seedeater.
Another attempt to record the Southern Masked Weavers which were nesting next to our hut, before the cleaner arrived. Then at the pond to record Egyptian Geese before the gardeners started.
Song and calls around the nest, quivering its wings, but not full display hanging under the nest.
Calls from female, then both male and female, with display calls from
nearby Village Weavers.
Todays new species were Black-backed Puffback, Slender Mongoose, Wattled Starling, Rattling Cisticola, African White-backed Vulture, African Palm Swift and Long-billed Pipit.
With Greater Blue-eared Starlings, African Turtle Dove and
Black-headed Oriole in background.
Alarm calls from a pair.
Today started with us following Nzou and the buffalo again, they were feeding closer to the woodland, so, that is where I concentrated my effort. later, I and one of the guides went to the northern side of the ranch, to areas near the lake.
New species seen were Violet-backed or Plum-coloured Starling, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Icterine Warbler, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Senegal Coucal, Black-shouldered Kite, Nyala, Greater Kudu, Common Sandpiper, Cormorant, African Darter and Grey Heron.
Another bird with very variable songs.
I started today in the riverine woodland to the south of where the herd had been feeding, then later joined the others back on the grassland.
New species seen were Cattle Egret, White Helmetshrike, Brubru, Green Woodhoopoe also called Red-billed, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Wood Pipit and Grassveld or African Pipit.
Calls from one, then several.
With African Turtle Dove and Black-headed Oriole in background.
Back with the herd in the grassland, in the longer grass were Flappet and Rufous-naped Larks, overhead a Tawny Eagle and also saw Red-winged Starling.
With bulbuls, coucals, doves and cisticolas in background.
Later, I went back to the lake in the northern part, to record Giant Kingfishers, also seeing Malachite Kingfisher, Striped Kingfisher, African Jacana, African Spoonbill, Knob-billed Duck and Marico Flycatcher.
Calls from several, flight song from Rattling Cisticola in background.
Calls and display calls from a pair, mainly the male calling.
Only an African Hoopoe new for the trip list today, below, African Yellow-throated Sparrow which were seen on most days.
Calls from a single bird.
Another day with the herd, new species for the trip were Secretary Bird, Mariqua Sunbird, Warthog, Saddle-billed Stork, Gabor Goshawk and a Lizard Buzzard carrying a lizard.
A common bird in most habitats is Grey-backed Camaroptera which is more often heard than seen.
New birds for the trip today were Black-bellied Bustard, Coqui Francolin, African Cuckoo now seen well instead of just heard, and, Burnt-necked Eremomela.
Only one new bird today, Yellow-rumped Seedeater also called Black-throated Canary. A common bird of the Acacia woodland is Grey Hornbill whose calls carry some distance.
I spent most of the day in the northern part of the ranch with one of the guides, trying to find a place to record away from people. After quite a long, bumpy drive we found a forested, rocky outcrop surrounded by acacia woodland, then later, on the way back, stopped at the lily covered pool by the side of the track which ran east to west.
New birds seen were Boulder Chat, Southern Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Bearded Woodpecker, African Fish Eagle, African Black Swift and Little Grebe.
Calls and display song from a pair, doves and starlings in background.
Calls and alarm calls from several.
No new species seen today. A bird I kept hearing near the river was Levaillant's Cisticola which in East Africa is called Tinkling Cisticola, I never got a good view, so didn't count it, a situation I rectified on the 2nd trip here.
Today I returned to the area near the forested outcrop, where new for the trip was Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, African Barred Owlet, African Brown or Meyer's Parrot and Whyte's Barbet.
Calls from a pair, with Greater Blue-eared Starlings, African Turtle Dove and Crested Barbet in background.
Only three new birds added to the list today, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Mashona Hyliota and Purple Heron.
Todays new species were African Harrier-Hawk or Gymnogene, Osprey, Martial Eagle, Steppe Buzzard and African Green Pigeon.
New for the trip today were Three-banded Plover, Little Stint, Pintail, Cape Wagtail and Jameson's Firefinch.
No new species were seen today.
Our last day in Zimbabwe, we were about to leave Imire, when on a last look around the lodge I saw a Red-faced Mousebird.
Other recordings made during this trip are:
Song and calls from one with another in background. Doves, Senegal Coucal, Common Bulbul and other birds in background.
Flight alarm calls from a pair.
Single, flock and flight calls.
Below some extra photos of
African Elephants and Black Rhinoceros