I just returned from an excellent trip to Botswana and Caprivi. We saw 381 species which includes a lot of rare birds not often seen. The rivers up north are already high (the Zambezi is 1,7 m higher than normally this time and the Kavango already 1 m higher as normally). Most of the rocks and sandbanks in these rivers are already covered by water and from here on birding on the rivers will become more difficult.
I picked up my clients in Cape Town on 2 Jan and on a hot summers day we proceeded to Beaufort West, adding along the way Karoo birds like Karoo Chat, Chat Flycatcher, Blue Crane, Pale-winged Starling, Layard’s Titbabbler and Black-headed Canary. They stayed at Beaufort Manor which has very comfortable chalets in the garden and which is highly recommended to birders. (www.beaufortmanor.co.za.; e-mail: email@example.com ; Tel 023 4152175.)
We started the next morning at 5 am as we had a long drive to Mafikeng. In the cool morning birding was quite good with Ludwig’s Bustard, Martial Eagle, lots of Lesser Kestrels around Victoria West, SA Cliff Swallow, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Lanner Falcon and Eastern Clapper Lark added on the way to Britstown.
From Britstown to Kimberley we saw Common Swift, Greater Kestrel breeding, an Eur Roller northeast of Strydenburg, Afr Palm & Bradfield’s Swifts in Hopetown, hundreds of Abdim’s Storks along the Orange and Riet Rivers, Yellow-crowned Bishop and good numbers of Amur Falcons & Lesser Kestrels around Modder River.
As we were leaving Kimberley just after midday, thunder clouds were rolling in and soon big drops were plunging on the road. We had a quick stop at Kamfers Dam where we added Lesser & Greater Flamingoes, Hottentot & Redbilled Teal, White-faced Duck and Glossy Ibis. Kamfers Dam’s water level was very high. Further along the road to Mafikeng we had Desert Cisticola, hundreds of Abdim’s Stork at Hartswater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and White-backed Vulture.
We arrived at Mafikeng Nature Reserve just after 4 pm and met up with the other birder from Natal who joined us here for the trip. After we settled in, we went birding again and saw inter alia Marico Flycatcher, Tinkling Cisticola, Common Swift, Barred Wren-Warbler, Jacobin Cuckoo, Village Indigobird and Monotonous Lark inside the reserve. We stayed at Hunter’s Rest inside the reserve which is very comfortable accommodation. (www.tourismnorthwest.co.za/mafikeng ; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel +27(0)18-381 5611/1411)
We left early the next morning for Botswana and crossed the border without any hassles. On the way to Gaberone we saw Groundscraper Thrush, more Abdim’s Storks, Lanner Falcon, Marico Sunbird and Rufous-naped Lark. We filled up with fuel in Gaberone and while we had breakfast we found a Black-throated Canary nest in the tree next to us – the male with a lovely black throat. Red-breasted Swallow was found just outside town.
New birds between Gaberone and Francistown were Redbilled Oxpecker, Tawny Eagle and Redbilled Buffalo Weaver. It was quite hot and birds along the road keep a low profile.
In Francistown we stayed at Woodlands 4x4 lodge outside the town on the road to Nata. (www.woodlandscampingbots.com; e-mail: email@example.com ; tel. +267 244 0131). We had time to bird around the lodge in the afternoon and the next morning and saw Brown Snake-eagle, Golden-breasted Bunting, Orange-breasted Bush Shrike, Woodland Kingfisher, Black Cuckoo, Icterine & Willow Warbler, Greater Reed Warbler, Comb Duck and a juvenile Gabar Goshawk. This lodge is a regular stop for me and facilities are excellent.
The next morning we took the road from Francistown to Kasane. We couldn’t find the Boulder Chats north of Francistown, but had good sightings of Afr Golden Oriole and Afr Cuckoo. The road between Nata and Kazangula is still under construction and about 120 km is bad with lots of potholes and detours. Birding was also slow with a couple of Sth Carmine Bee-eaters in Nata and some Meyer’s Parrots and Plain-backed Pipits along the way. Near Pandamantenga we found about 15 Steppe Eagles in a ploughed field of which some were flying overhead and we saw our first Yellow-billed Oxpecker on the donkeys. We also had a couple of elephants in the road towards Kazangula.
In Kasane we stayed at Chobe Safari Lodge along the Chobe River. That is an excellent lodge, very neat and very professional staff. It is highly recommended. (www.chobesafarilodge.com; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; tel +267 6250 336) The next morning we went on a boat trip on the Chobe River which was excellent with lots of bird including Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Luapula Cisticola, Long-toed Lapwing, White-winged Tern, Lesser Jacana, Slaty Egret, Saddle-billed Stork, White-backed & Black-crowned Night Heron, Senegal Coucal, White-crowned Lapwing and Afr Skimmer. Hundreds of elephants came to the water and we had good sightings of huge crocodiles, Red Lechwes, Sable Antelope coming to drink and hippos. Inside the lodge gardens we saw Trumpeter Hornbill, Klaas’ Cuckoo and Collared Palm-Thrush.
Chobe Game Drive:
Yellow Wagtail, Red-billed Francolin, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Sth Black Flycatcher, Kori Bustard, Broad-billed Roller, Bateleur, Retz’ Helmet Shrike, Barred Owl.
Brown-throated Weaver, Nth Grey-headed Sparrow, Rock Pratincole, Brown Firefinch, Collared Palm-Thrush, Bronze Mannikin, Village Weaver, Coppery Sunbird, Swamp & Tropical Boubou
Kazangula / Lesoma:
Sth Ground Hornbill with juveniles, Little Bee-eater, White-browed Coucal.
Kasane to Katima Mulilo:
Martial Eagle, Sth Ground Hornbill, Trumpeter Hornbill, Broad-billed Roller, Lizard Buzzard, Sth Black Tit, Grey-hooded Kingfisher, Afr Golden Oriole, Greater Reed Warbler.
It is still the best birding place around Katima Mulilo.
Broad-billed Roller, Afr Pygmy Goose, Collared Pratincole, Afr Green Pigeon, Flappet Lark, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Senegal, Coppery-tailed, White-browed & Black Coucal, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Rufous-bellied Heron, Black-bellied Korhaan, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Marsh Owl, Square-tailed Nightjar with nest, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Gallinule, African Crake, African Rail, White-backed Duck, Purple Indigobird, Shelly’s Sunbird, Hooded Vulture, Sand Martin.
Katima Mulilo to Ngepi:
Striped Kingfisher, Afr Cuckoo Hawk, Arnot’s Chat breeding at 70 km mark from Kongola and again 14 km before Kongola, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, and Afr Cuckoo.
Thick-billed Weaver, Chinspot Batis, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, White-browed Scrub-robin, White-bellied Sunbird, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Common House-martin.
Mahango Game Reserve:
The roads in Mahango are been upgraded and most of it is finished. It is now a pleasure to drive on them, even when it is wet. They still have to do the wetland part along the river.
Kori Bustard, Dwarf Bittern, Slaty Egret, Brown Firefinch, Olive-tree Warbler, Painted Snipe (pair), Lappet-faced Vulture, Yellow-billed & Saddle-billed Stork, Wood Pipit, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Sedge Warbler, Lizard Buzzard, White-crested Helmet-Shrike.
Sth Black Tit, Afr Golden Oriole, Rufous-bellied Tit, Purple Roller, Shelley’s Sunbird, Barred & Barn Owl, Grey-headed & Meyer’s Parrot, Souza’s Shrike, Black Cuckooshrike, Lesser Spotted Eagle.
Purple Heron, Sand Martin, Long-crested Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl (brilliant views), Long-toed Lapwing, Lesser Jacana, Greater Swamp Warbler, Osprey, Chirping Cisticola, Collared Sunbird, Barred Owl, Greater Honeyguide, Pygmy Goose, White-backed Night Heron.
Shakawe to Ghanzi:
Greater Honeyguide, Green & Wood Sandpiper together, Afr Cuckoo, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Afr Hawk Eagle, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Pink-billed, Rufous-naped & Eastern Clapper Lark.
Thakadu Camp, Ghanzi:
Violet-eared Waxbill, Pririt Batis, Lesser Moorhen, African Crake, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Steppe & Lesser Spotted Eagle, Barred Wren-Warbler, Tinkling Cisticola.
Ghanzi to Vryburg:
Afr Hawk Eagle, Sth White-crowned Shrike, Tawny & Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Eur Golden Oriole, Gabar Goshawk, Dusky Lark.
Vryburg to Beaufort West:
Abdim’s Stork, White Stork, Karoo Lark, Secretarybird, Red-headed Finch, Black-eared Sparrowlark.
Karoo Nat Park:
Grey-backed & Black-eared Sparrowlark, Karoo Longbilled Lark, Bradfield’s Sabota Lark, Rufous-eared Warbler, Peregrine Falcon.