Malawi, 21st September to 10th October 2008

Several people have asked, "Why Malawi?" for my first trip to Africa. Well, Malawi wasn't high on my birding destination priorities - in fact none of tropical Africa was - but we have a friend who is working at Malosa in Malawi and we wanted to visit her.

It was essentially a self-organised trip, planned to take in a variety of habitats and regions in Malawi. Our friend Susannah took care of most of the booking of accommodation etc. We were also grateful for the use of Susannah's car for the trip.

This report covers several pages - to go to a specific page click on a photo or page heading below; to see them all start with Page 1 and follow the links to the next page at the ends of each page.

Senga Bay, 10-Oct-08 Mulanje, 28-Sep-08

Page 1: Itinerary and photos of scenery and people


Hadada Ibis, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08 White-backed Night-Heron, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08

Page 2: Grebes, Cormorants, Herons & Egrets, Hamerkop, Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills


White-backed Duck, Chilwa, 26-Sep-08 Lizard Buzzard, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08

Page 3: Ducks, Geese and Raptors


Red-necked Francolin, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08 Lesser Jacana, Chilwa, 26-Sep-08

Page 4: Spurfowl & Francolins, Quail, Guineafowl, Flufftails, Crakes, Coots, Waders (Shorebirds), Gulls, Terns and Skimmers


Pel's Fishing-Owl, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08 Lilian's Lovebird, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08

Page 5: Pigeons & Doves, Lovebirds & Parrots, Turacos & Louries, Cuckoos & Coucals, Owls, Nightjars, Swifts and Mousebirds


African Pygmy Kingfisher, Zomba Plateau, 26-Sep-08 Boehm's Bee-eaters, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08

Page 6: Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, Rollers and Hoopoes, Woodhoopoes & Scimitarbills


Crowned Hornbill, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08 Crested Barbet, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08

Page 7: Hornbills, Barbets & Tinkerbirds, Honeyguides and Woodpeckers


Wire-tailed Swallow, Mulanje, 29-Sep-08 Fischer's Sparrow-Lark, near Dzalanyama, 3-Oct-08

Page 8: Larks, Hirundines (Swallows, Martins & Sawwings), Pipits and Wagtails


Green-backed Eremomela, Dzalanyama, 1-Oct-08 Placid Greenbul, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08

Page 9: Cuckoo-Shrikes, Bulbuls, Greenbuls & Brownbuls, Thrushes & Alethes and Warblers (including Cisticolas, Prinias, Apalises, Camaropteras, Eremomelas, Crombecs and Hyliotas)


Collared Palm-Thrush, Liwonde, 25-Sep-08 Malawi Batis, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08

Page 10: Flycatchers (including Wattle-eyes & Batises), Robins & Chats


Malachite Sunbird, Nyika, 5-Oct-08 Amchieta's Sunbird, Dzalanyama, 2-Oct-08

Page 11: Babblers, Tits, Creepers, Sunbirds and White-eye


White-necked Raven, Nyika, 5-Oct-08 Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Vwaza, 4-Oct-08

Page 12: Orioles, Shrikes (including Puffbacks,Tchagras, Boubous, Bush-Shrikes & Helmet-Shrikes), Drongos, Crows & Ravens, Starlings and Oxpeckers


Montane Widowbird, Nyika, 6-Oct-08 Spectacled Weaver, Zomba Plateau, 27-Sep-08

Page 13: Sparrows, Weavers, Queleas, Bishops and Widowbirds


Red-backed Mannikin, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08 Yellow-crowned Canary, Vwaza, 5-Oct-08
Page 14: Estrildids (Twinspots, Crimsonwings, Waxbills, Seedcrackers, Pytilias, Firefinches & Mannikins), Viduids (Whydahs), Finches (Canaries, Citrils & Seedeaters) and Buntings


African Elephants, Vwaza, 4-Oct-08 Leopard, Nyika, 5-Oct-08
Nile Crocodile, Liwonde, 24-Sep-08
Hippopotamus, Liwonde, 23-Sep-08 Klipspringer, Nyika, 4-Oct-08

Page 15: Mammals, Reptiles and Insects




I found the following references helpful for this trip:


For information about where to watch birds in Malawi (and the rest of southern Africa), the Southern African Birdfinder by Cohen, Spottiswoode and Rossouw.


For more detailed information about what birds to expect when and where in Malawi, along with some useful information about their status, ecology and taxonomy, The Birds of Malawi by Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett.


For identification the best and most useful field guide proved to be Birds of Africa south of the Sahara by Sinclar & Ryan.


The Roberts Bird Guide by Chittenden was sometimes useful too, but the geographic coverage of this southern Africa field guide does not extend as far north as Malawi. Nevertheless a fair proportion of Malawi species are included in it.


I also spent a fair amount of time before the trip researching ID by comparing the field guides with photos on the Internet. Particularly useful online image databases are those of the African Bird Club and Flickr's Field Guide: Birds of the World group.

For mammals I used the Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Kingdon.


For Vitty, the Spectrum guide had the most information but was quite dry and lots of text; the Bradt guide was more useful with practical details like places to stay and good directions. We also found that the Rough Guide to first-time Africa had a useful overview.


If we return to Malawi (very possible) we will probably try and hire the local bird guide we met in Dzalanyama, Ben Mwapeyah. Currently Ben works for Land and Lake Safaris and can be contacted at mwapeyah AT

To go through all pages, starting with the itinerary and scenery photos, click here; alternatively click on any of the photos above to go straight to a specific page.