I returned from another excellent trip to Botswana and the Delta with clients during which we picked up 365 species. Due to a lack of early rains in Botswana, a couple of migrants like Eur Roller, Black Coucal, Amur Falcon, Dusky Lark and some cuckoos were still absence.
We started off with good Karoo birding and species like Karoo Longbilled Lark, Double-banded Courser, Karoo Korhaan and Black-eared Sparrowlark. Between Beaufort West and Victoria West good birds were Booted Eagle, Hamerkop, Jackal Buzzard and Chat Flycather. The area around V West hosted Karoo Korhaan, a flock of Lesser Kestrels and Grey-backed Cisticola. The dam had Glossy Ibis, Great Crested Grebe and a number of the common duck species.
Between V West and Britstown we had more Black-eared Sparrowlarks and got our first SA Cliff Swallows. Proceeding to Kimberley we added inter alia Blue Crane, White-throated Canary, Secretarybird, Large-billed Lark, Greater Kestrel, Ludwig’s Bustard, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Eur Bee-eater, Kalahari Scrub-robin and Red-breasted Swallow.
In Kimberley we picked up Bradfield’s Swift at the Big Hole together with Alpine, White-rumped and Little. Kamfers Dam is still a mesh up. Flamingo numbers declined due to the high water and the best birds are between the N1 and railway line with Purple & Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis and White-faced Duck. It seems it will only be time during the raining season before the railway line will also be flooded and may be something will then happen.
Dronfield where we stayed at a number of birds to our list including Brubru, Banded Martin, Fawn-coloured Lark, Orange River Francolin, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Barn Owl, Jacobin Cuckoo and Kori Bustard.
The pan in the Dry Harts River south of Vryburg still has a bit of water and a lot of water birds congregated here which includes Great White, Yellow-billed and Little Egrets, Purple Heron, White-winged Tern, Spur-winged Goose, White-faced Duck, Ruff, Common Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. North of Vryburg we picked up a female Red-footed Falcon with Lesser Kestrel, Lanner Falcon and Lesser Grey Shrike.
We stayed at the Mafikeng NR and birding during the late afternoon was good with a pair of Coqui Francolin, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Cape Longclaw, Barn Owl and Spotted Dikkop.
As we entered Botswana we were within a couple of kilos met by a Montagu’s Harrier swirling over the open fields. A flock of vultures towards Gaberone includes Lappet-faced, Cape and White-backed. The area towards Francistown was still very dry and very few birds over the midday.
Next stop was Woodlands Lodge outside Francistown and we had more birds along the Tati River including White-crowned Shrike, Willow Warbler, Greater & Lesser Honeyguide, Tropical Boubou, Jameson’s Robbin, Violet-backed Starling, Comb Duck, Black Cuckoo and Gabar Goshawk. Moving further north we were pleased to see that the Boulder Chats are still at the hills on the way to Nata. Other birds on the way include Tawny Eagle, Temminck’s Courser, Afr Cuckoo and Afr Hawk Eagle.
The 2 day stay at Kasane was a feast of birds with Collared Palm-thrush welcoming us at Water Lily Lodge. We went on a boat trip the next morning following by a game drive in Chobe Nat Park in the afternoon. Birds on the boat trip included Slaty Egret, Rock Pratincole, Long-toed Lapwing, Broad-billed Roller, Afr Skimmer, Collared Pratincole, Whiskered Tern, Black Kite and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. A visit to Mowana Lodge produced 7 sunbird species, Coppery, White-bellied, Shelley’s, Collared, Scarlet-chested, Amethyst and Purple-banded. There were also Nth Grey-headed Sparrow, Luapula Cisticola, White-backed Night Heron and Yellow White-eye. On the game drive we could add Bradfield’s Hornbill, Black-chested Snake-eagle, Common Cuckoo, Saddle-billed Stork and Barred Owl.
We moved to Caprivi and stayed at Island View Lodge we saw Schalow’s Turaco, Swamp Boubou, Ashy Flycatcher, Purple-banded Sunbird, Brown Firefinch, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Afr Quailfinch, Plain-backed Pipit and Rufous-bellied Heron. The pans around Kalizo Lodge teemed with birds including thousands of Openbill Storks, Pygmy Goose, Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, tens of Black Herons and Slaty Egrets, hundreds of Marabou and Yellow-billed Storks, White-backed Duck, White-browed and Coppery-tailed Coucal, Brown Firefinch and Shelley’s Sunbird.
We moved to Mazambala Island Lodge in the Kwando River. We couldn’t pick up Arnott’s Chat and Racket-tailed Roller along the way. The Kwando delivered Rufous-bellied Heron, Meyer’s Parrot, Coppery, Purple-banded and Shelley’s Sunbird, Spectacled Weaver and Senegal Coucal. The trip through the Bwabwata Nat Park gave Purple Roller, Brown Snake-eagle, Cuckoo Hawk, Broad-billed Roller, Wood Pipit, Secretarybird, Bateleur and Dickinson’s Kestrel. Close to Divundu we had a beautiful sighting of 2 White-faced Owls with 2 juveniles in a tree, a pair of Eur Hobbies soaring overhead and Afr Harrier Hawk.
On the way towards Shankara Lodge we saw White-crested Helmet Shrike and where we found Rufous-bellied Tit also Brown-backed Honeybird. A distance further we found some Sharp-tailed Starling – even a lifer for me -, Striped Kingfisher, Red-chested Cuckoo and Red-footed Falcon. Shankara Lodge hosted Black Cuckoo, Giant Kingfisher, Square-tailed Nightjar and Sth Black Tit. The next morning on our way to Drotskys we saw Common Swifts, Mosque Swallows, Souza’s Shrike and Dark Chanting Goshawk.
A visit to Mahango Game Reserve produced the pair of Wattled Crane with a half-grown chick, Osprey, Slaty Egret, Double-banded Sandgrouse and Meve’s Starling.
At Drotskys we spent most of the day on the river and saw a good variety of birds including Grey-headed Kingfisher, Chirping Cisticola, White-backed Night Heron, Meyer’s Parrot, the first time I saw tens of Burchell’s Sandgrouses which come to the sand banks to drink, Pel’s Fishing Owl on two occasions, Osprey, Fulvous Duck, a lonely Ruddy Turnstone, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Little Bittern and Greater Swamp Warbler. We couldn’t find Lesser Jacana.
We moved from Drotskys to Maun finding Barred Wren-warbler, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Curlew Sandpiper and Wahlberg’s Eagle along the way. We stayed at Island Safari Lodge in Maun and were treated by a family of Allen’s Gallinule in the grass in front of the lodge. Pygmy Geese flew up and down the river.
After the last few years’ good rains the water is still flowing strongly out of the Delta and the Boteti River is flowing strongly towards Serowe. On the way to Palapye around the southern edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans gave Pied Babblers and Pink-billed Larks to add to the list. Beyond Palapye we saw a couple of Lesser Spotted Eagles which turned up after the previous day’s rain.
Back in SA we stayed over at Boereplaas Resort north of Vryburg. Here we had our last serious birding which includes Shaft-tailed Whydah, Barred Wren-warbler, Violet-eared Waxbill, Orange River White-eye, Red-billed Firefinch and more Orange River Francolins. Close to Hartswater we found our first Abdim’s Storks which arrived while we were in Botswana.