Red-necked Phalarope in Moremi Game Reserve

27 September 2011: Brent returned from a safari in Moremi Game Reserve this week with exciting news of a Red-necked Phalarope which spent two days at a pan right alongside the campsite where his group were staying in the 4th Bridge area of the reserve. The bird was quite confiding and allowed everyone to get excellent photographs as well as some shaky video taken through a spotting scope which shows the feeding behaviour of the bird very well. There are very few records of Red-necked Phalarope in Botswana, the last one we know of was reported by Nick Polonakis who photographed the bird in Nxai Pan National Park in 2009. Below are some photographs and a video clip taken by Brent Reed.

Avian Adventures Safari

23 September 2011: Brent Reed and Ray Tipper have just completed the 2011 Avian Adventures safari which covered Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai Concession Area, Lake Ngami, the Okavango Panhandle (Shakawe), Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and Livingstone in Zambia. 294 species were recorded in the 12 day safari, almost twenty species shy of last years total as a result of many of the rain-dependant migrants having not yet made an appearance. Access to Lake Ngami was also extremely challenging and this will probably require a boat in future as massive floods of 2011 have pushed the lakeshore far back into theAcacia woodland. Click here to view a copy of the bird checklist for this safari. Ray will be publishing his trip report in the next few weeks and you will be able to view that by visiting the Avian Adventures website.

Moremi Game Reserve – A River Runs Through It

07 June 2011: Our first June safari returned from Moremi today with reports that more that 80% of the road network in the Xakanaxa area of the reserve are now under water. For those familiar with the park the following areas are all inaccessable: Dead Tree Island, Setshe Pan, Lion Park, Pelican Pools, Maya Pan, Little Baobab, Doug’s Island, Top Jessie’s, Big Baobab and the eastern-most Third-Bridge road which runs alongside the BOGA 10 site. The good news of course is that the birds are loving it and when this water eventually recedes the feeding grounds will be incredibly rich. Our last safari reported two sightings of wild dog as well as multiple lion sightings in the Xakanaxa area along with good numbers of elephant. Fresh cheetah tracks were found not far from camp as well as two sets of leopard tracks on the Fourth Bridge road so the mammals are still there, you just have to have a bit more luck to find them in an accessible area. Savuti is home of the leopards this year with two seperate leopard sightings in one day. The Savuti marsh is still expanding and we eagerly await the migrant season to see what interesting species stop over on their way south.

The road through Setshe Pan towards Dead Tree Island - Moremi June 2011

Gull-billed Tern at Lake Ngami

04 June 2011: Well-known local birders Ken Oake and Richard Randall recently reported a Gull-billed Tern at Lake Ngami. Grant Reed went out there on today to have a look but didn’t manage to find the bird. The lake however is looking magnificent although it is virtually impossible to access from land at this stage as the shoreline has migrated far into the acacia woodlands and is likely to rise even higher this year as record floods flow down the Kunyere river system to empty into the lake. Birding on the lake is spectacular once you get a boat out onto the open water with thousands of birds in the sky and on the water. Hopefully further searching will result in a sighting of the Gull-billed Tern which would be a first for most Botswana birders.

Okavango Magic

30 May 2011: The Okavango is set to break last years record flood levels by a significant margin. Levels in Maun are predicted to be as much as 40cm higher than last years peak. The peak is also expected to be much earlier this year, last year the peak came around mid-August whilst this years peak is expected before mid-July and possibly as early as the end of June. So what does this mean? Well, for one it means that the surface area of the Okavango Delta (or the Okavango Alluvial Fan as it is more properly known) will be around 15% larger than it has been in the past 35 years. There is of course much debate as to how this water will move through the Okavango system but at the end of the day it is the fish and birds that will benefit the most from the spectacular event and should these flood levels continue to rise we can certainly expect an increase in bird numbers particularly during October/November when the passage migrants find massive expanses of mud flats left behind by the receding waters. For more information on the current flood data visit Piotr Wolski’s excellent web resource (created for the University of Botswana) here, where you can view daily flood data for a number of locations throughout the delta.

Flood levels at Nxaraga Lagoon for the past three years

 

 

Mozambique Recce Trip

20/01/2011:Brent has just returned from a recce trip to central and northern Mozambique to visit some of the sites which will be including in future Mozambique itineraries as well as revisiting some of the sites we currently use. Due to the erratic rainfall in the lowland forests the African Pitta was not calling over the two-day period at M’phingwe and Coutada 12. January is unfortunately a little late for the Pitta which is why we normally target this bird between late November and the end of December when they are most likely to be calling.

Good birds on the trip included Green-headed Oriole, Mangrove Kingfisher, Eastern Saw-wing, Swynnerton’s Robin, East-coast Akalat, White-Starred Robin, Stripe-cheeked Greenbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Robert’s Prinia, Barrat’s Warbler, Singing Cisticola, Wailing Cisiticola, Red-winged Warbler, Chestnut-fronted Helmet-Shrike, Tambourine Dove, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Anchieta’s Tchagra, Moustached Grass-Warbler, Blue-spotted Dove, Cinnamon-breasted Tit, Red-throated Twinspot, Pink-throated Twinspot, Green Twinspot, Twinspot Indigobird, Bohm’s Spinetail, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Chirinda Apalis, Woodward’s Batis, Pale Batis, Whyte’s Barbet and White-eared Barbet.

Much of the country has been reduced to farmland but there are still large tracts of pristine lowland, coastal and montane forests where eastern specials abound. Look out for our new Mozambique itineraries for 2012!

Mount Gorongosa and the montane forest which is home to the Green-headed Oriole

Birdlife Botswana release Makgadikgadi IBA report

20/10/2010: Birdlife Botswana have released the 2009 report for the Makgadikgadi Pans IBA. Authored by G McCulloch, P Hancock, J Soopu and L Rutina, this is the first report of it’s kind to be released. Part 1 deals with the state of the Makgadikgadi Pans IBA, with particular emphasis on the ‘trigger’ species of birds that ‘qualify’ the area as an IBA.

Part 2 focuses on pressures or threats to the IBA – these were originally identified by Tyler and Bishop (1998), but some of these have been superceded and a current set of issues has been identified through fieldwork. These threats are ranked so that they can be incorporated into the World Bird Database (WBDB).

Part 3 of the report describes the conservation actions undertaken in response to the identified threats. These actions are a measure of progress made towards addressing or mitigating the threats. The actions are also objectively ranked for incorporation in the WBDB.

Read the full report (2.3Mb PDF file)

Receding floods create a paradise for visiting Palearctics

16/09/2010: The receding floodwaters of this year’s monster flood are leaving vast expanses of exposed mudflats that will provide enourmous feeding grounds for the early migrants this year. With the largest floods since the mid-sixties the recently flooded plains are home to billions of tiny invertebrates which form the majority of the diet for our Palearctic waders during the southern summer. Although the influx has only just begun the following month should see some great birding particularly along the fringes of the central and eastern-central delta. There is little doubt that 2010/11 season will produce some really special birding and very likely some surprising passage migrants. The image on the right shows the Letaka Safaris plot where BirdingSafaris.Com is headquartered, in a ‘normal’ flood year the river is contained in the channel to the left of the white point now formed by the flood wall around the plot (bottom right hand quadrant). We now live on what is, to all intents and purposes, a real Okavango island!

Savuti (Savute) – Chobe National Park

01/08/2010: For the first time in almost 30 years the Savuti Channel is flowing again. The Savuti Channel connects the Selinda Spillway to the Savuti Marsh after 80 meandering kilometres. The Savuti Marsh is the rightful owner of the title “Jewel of the Kalahari” which has been usurped by the equally spectacular Okavango Delta since the drying up of the Savuti Channel. Spectacular as the delta is, it is the Savuti Marsh which, from the air, really looks like an emerald set in the golden wasteland of the Kalahari. For nigh on 30 years the marsh has been a vast semi-arid grassland supporting a limited number of herbivores able to exist on the limited water supplies. This year with the channel flowing into the marsh once again there is likely to be an unforgettable birding spectacle when the palearctic migrants arrive to find mudflats that stretch for kilometres along the advancing ‘shoreline’. Because there is no established aquatic vegetation along the shoreline the visible birdlife will be astonishing and there will very likely be more than a few rarities turning up from October 2010 and onwards.