I recently returned from a trip through Botswana and Caprivi. In total we saw 384 species and most of the clients had a good number of lifers.
Leaving B/West we were shortly entertained by a Secretarybird and towards Victoria West we had Booted Eagle, Karoo Korhaan, Black-eared Sparrowlark and Lesser Kestrels. We made a breakfast stop at Victoria West dam where the water level is low and water birds abundant. Birds included Greater Flamingo, Curlew Sandpiper, Maccoa Duck, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron, Bar-tailed Godwit out of range, Black-necked & Great Crested Grebe and White-winged Terns.
Towards Hopetown we saw some SA Cliff Swallows, Greater Kestrel, Cape Glossy Starling, Sociable Weaver, White Stork and Kori Bustard. Just north of Hopetown a group of White-backed Vultures were feeding on a carcass.
First night, we stayed at Dronfield Game Ranch just north of Kimberley. This place has excellent accommodation and the birds are as good as well. We found Ashy Tit, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Spotted Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike with ease. Other birds were Brubru, Black & African Cuckoo, Gabar Goshawk, Secretarybird, Violet-eared Waxbill and Burchell’s Sandgrouse.
Day 2 we proceeded north to Mafikeng and saw our first Abdim’s Storks near Hartswater. Mafikeng NR was good as ever with birds and specials included Crimson-breasted Shrike, Kalahari Scrub-robin, Crested Barbet, Temminck’s Courser, Coqui and Orange River Francolins, Plain-backed Pipit and Burchell’s Coucal. During the night we heard Rufous-cheeked Nightjar and Barn Owl.
On Day 3 we crossed the border into Botswana without problems to get to Francistown. Some birds along the way were Red-billed Oxpecker, Brown & Black-chested Snake Eagles, Wahlberg’s Eagle and Black-throated Canary.
Woodlands are a good overnight place with excellent facilities. Birding around the lodge is also productive with Black Cuckoo, Woodlands Kingfisher, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Jacobin Cuckoo, Black-faced Waxbill, Piet-my-vrou, Monotonous Lark and Burnt-necked Eremomela.
Day 4 we were continuing to Kasane and Chobe Safari Lodge. We tracked down the Boulder Chat with ease and it gave us the best views I ever had. We also had Afr Golden Oriole, African Cuckoo, our first Lesser Spotted Eagle and some Shaft-tailed Whydah. Other birds included Ground Hornbill, Lanner Falcon and Bradfield’s Hornbill.
Chobe Safari Lodge is probably the best value for money in Kasane. I recommend that you buy the 2 or 3 day package they offer. Food is excellent and abundant, more than anyone can eat. Birding around the lodge is just excellent with White-browed Coucal, Collared Palm-Thrush, Brown Firefinch, Collared Sunbird, Schalow’s Turaco, Nth Grey-headed Sparrow, Trumpeter Hornbill and Meyer’s Parrot.
A morning boat trip delivered inter alia Rock Pratincole, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Long-toed Lapwing, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Black Heron, Slaty Egret and Goliath Heron. The afternoon game drive gave us good game including lions and birds like Lesser Spotted Eagle, Martial Eagle, Little Bee-eater, Carmine Bee-eater, Red-headed Weaver, Black Cuckooshrike, Amur & Red-necked Falcon and Levaillant’s Cuckoo.
A quick visit to Mowana Lodge produced beautiful sightings of Coppery & Purple-banded Sunbird, Greater Reed Warbler and Common Swift.
On Day 6 we moved across to Kalizo Lodge and along the road we saw Dark Chanting Goshawk, Bateleur, Broad-billed Roller and Shrika.
Kalizo stayed one of those must visit places in Caprivi. Good birds around here included Pygmy Goose, Whiskered Tern, Grey-rumped Swallow, White-backed Duck, White-crowned Lapwing, Golden Weaver, Black Coucal, Pallid Flycatcher, Red-necked Falcon, Lesser Gallinule, Comb Duck and Denham’s Bustard – a first for me up here.
My clients were overwhelmed by the Carmine Bee-eater colony and to get so close to these magnificent birds. Shelley Sunbird gave us an excellent display after a bit of struggle to find it.
Near Katima Mulilo we heard Emerald Cuckoo calling, got some White-helmet Crested Shrikes and Tawny Eagles. We also found the Arnot’s Chats at the regular spot but due to the demolishing of the natural bush, they will probably soon move far from the road.
Next stop was Shankara Lodge along the Kavango River. Birds around here included Violet-backed Starling, Golden-breasted Bunting, at least 3 Souza’s Shrikes, Sharp-tailed Starling, Bearded Woodpecker, Marico Sunbird, Steppe & Lesser Spotted Eagle and a Barred Owl in the garden.
From Shankara we moved back into Botswana to Drotsky Cabins. We first had a drive through Mahango Game Reserve where we saw the Wattled Cranes with its young chick, Meve’s Starling, Bradfield’s Hornbill and Red-billed Francolin.
The area around Drotskys teemed with birds which include Meyer’s Parrot, Afr Hawk Eagle, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Wood Owl, a beautiful Bat Hawk in the campsite and Brown-throated Weaver.
Next morning we were off on a boat trip with an excellent guide, Otto. Going north towards Shakawe we soon started collecting interesting birds with Chirping Cisticola, Greater Swamp Warbler, Sand Martin, African Skimmer, White-backed Night Heron and Pel’s Fishing Owl of which we had excellent views, Slaty Egret, great views of Lesser Jacana, Collared Pratincole, Grey-hooded Kingfisher and Osprey. We dipped on the Western Banded Snake Eagle.
After all the birds at Drotskys we moved to Maun. We picked, strangely enough, our first White-crowned Shrike up, some Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Burchell’s Starling and Purple Roller. Near Sehitwa a group of Pink-baked and White Pelicans flew from the direction of Lake Ngami towards the delta.
In Maun we stayed at Crocodile Camp which offers good value for money. Most of the people went for a flight over the Delta which was quite an experience. We didn’t see many birds from that height, but saw some elephants and the beautiful mosaic patterns of the Delta.
Around the lodge we had Meyer’s Parrot, Comb Duck, Little Bittern, Allen’s Gallinule, Piet-my-vrou and Pygmy Goose.
We drove from Maun via Ghanzi to the Kalahari Rest near Kang. We didn’t pick new birds up along the road, but Kalahari Rest is beautifully set in Kalahari veld. Here we found Great Spotted Cuckoo, Great Sparrow, Barred Wren-warbler, Bearded Woodpecker, Burnt-necked Eremomela and Common Swift.
Next day we proceeded back to SA. We made a quick try for Short-clawed Lark towards Botsalano GR without success. The drive back to B/West added only Verreaux’s Eagle as new bird. Not was the people’s birding finished and a late afternoon drive at B/West produced Karoo Lark, Ludwig’s Bustard, Rufous-eared Warbler and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
What a fantastic trip!!