Yellow Crimson-breasted Shrike

From : The Livingstone Weekly

By : Gill Staden

13 May 2012

Who says that we don’t enjoy four seasons in Zimbabwe?  The colours along the road up to the park, especially after turning off the Falls road to Main Camp, through those amazing teak forests, and various other patches of mopane within the park itself, were positively autumnal.  The trees were out in glorious capes of tarnished yellows, burnt oranges, russet reds, burnished copper – truly stunning.  Much of the road sides through Insuza and the forest areas had been mown and cleared with the short cut grass fading to old gold. Quite, quite breathtaking.

As we were going up to Msuna for a family wedding, we took the opportunity to drive through the park, from Main Camp to Sinamatella, to see how the water situation was faring. After a brief meeting with Warden Jura and a quick chat to Warden Gomwe, our first water was at Balla Balla which is holding a surprisingly good amount of water for this time of the year. Dom and Nyamandhlovu were as expected and quite good while Boss Long One is totally dry and Long One just a green, murky puddle. There were a couple of other muddy patches along the road being frequented by some old ellie bulls enjoying a mud bath. Due to problems with elephant damage, Guvalala was not holding much water but work is being done to restore pumping there. There is very little water at White Hills. Shapi has dropped a bit but the windmill is keeping the trough full and although Danga held marginally more water than our last report in January, there still isn’t much there. There appeared to be good water in front of the Nehimba lodges, however. Late rains further along the road have obviously topped up Roan which was holding an amazing amount of water. Dwarf Goose Pan was looking delightful with three hippos wallowing, four elephant bulls drinking, some red billed teal fossicking about in the shallows, one adult spurwing goose with five youngsters, a couple of sacred ibis digging about in the mud, one open billed stork battling with a frog and a lady bateleur which popped in for a paddle. The windmill  at Shumba is up and running again and the pan held fairly good water. There was excellent water at Masuma, both in the dam and in the big pan which can be seen from the hide with fourteen hippos sunning themselves on the side of the dam, while three big ellies were taking a drink from the pan on the other side. The water in Mandavu dam has dropped somewhat since our visit in January.  It would appear that pumping should be resumed in earnest and the park is certainly drying out fast and looking fairly wintery already.

 On our way back from our wedding weekend, we called in at Main Camp again, hoping to have a further meeting with Mr Jura.  However, he wasn’t available but we were fortunate enough to see and photograph the much talked about yellow crimson breasted shrike!  What a bonus.

Prior to our trip up there, Owen Mangwana collected six new diesel engines and a large number of engine spares kindly donated by Hwange Conservation Society UK (John Dillon) and SAVE Australia (Nicolas Duncan).  Mr Jura, the Regional Manager of Hwange Main Camp, was very grateful for this donation which had been brought in duty and VAT free. We have also been given a very generous monetary donation from John Wurr of the Kent Scouts in the UK which is most appreciated and will be put to good use. We have been told that Nick Ruddy of Metmar wishes to donate all costs involved in one pan this winter. He intends to supply a new Lister diesel engine and pay for all the fuel, oil and maintenance costs.  Once again, this will be a most generous and much appreciated donation

John and Jenny Brebner.