Saturday, 22 December 2012


Dear birding friends, 

as birdwatching is a relatively new and one of the fastest growing and a most popular pursuit, it attracts people of all ages around the world. There can hardly be a better place than southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa) to nurture an interest in birds as it supports almost 1000 bird species, which is about 10 per cent of the world's entire bird. Taking birding to new heights Hobby-Ornithologist Stefan Rust represents some of the ontour bird sightings to showcase the fun of birding, promote citizen science, highlight conservation, indicate where to view what birds and raise awareness of southern Africa's (sometimes international) birds and their habitats. 

Okavango Ontour Birdlife Report (Zimbabwe-Botswana-Namibia): Personal Highlights: SOUZA'S SHRIKE, AFRICAN SNIPE, RED-CAPPED ROBIN-CHAT 

22.11.'12   Inbetween Windhoek and Nunda River Lodge   Greater Striped Swallow (plenty)   Perhaps the most often seen bird on todays trip.

22.11.'12   Otjiwarongo, 30km south   Violet-backed Starling (3)   Might have been intra-African migrants. 

22.11.'12   Rundu   Red-billed Oxpecker (1)   One of estimated 1 600 individuals in Caprivi. 

22.11.'12   Inbetween Rundu and Nunda River Lodge   Black Kite (11)   In the V11th Roberts edition of 2005 the Milvus migrans parasitus and the Milvus migrans lineatus were only considered as subspecies to the Black Kite (Milvus migrans migrans). Then in the Roberts Field Guide of 2007 the Black- and Yellow-billed Kite were regarded as two different species, named Milvus migrans and Milvus aegyptius. And to top this the Roberts Geographical Variation published in 2012 distinguishes between Black Kite (Milvus migrans) and Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus aegyptius) and even splits the Black Kite (Milvus migrans) again into two: Namely the Milvus migrans considered as an uncommon non-breeding migrant and Milvus lineatus considered as a rare vagrant. 

22.11.'12   Inbetween Rundu and Nunda River Lodge   Yellow-billed Kite (±130)   Huge flock followed termite emergence after local rain. 

22.11.'12   Inbetween Windhoek and Nunda River Lodge   Steppe Buzzard (5)   Summer arrivals. 

22.11.'12   Nunda River Lodge   Woodland Kingfisher (1)   First summer arrival. As it had rained, he was bathing while touching raindrop-wetted leaves during repeated flights, causing his feathers to become soaked. 

23.11.'12   Inbetween Nunda River Lodge and Katima   Red-backed Shrike (1)   Summer arrival. 

23.11.'12   Inbetween Nunda River Lodge and Katima   Yellow-billed Kite (±40)   Following local rains. 

23.11.'12   Katima Mulilo, 25km west   Souza's Shrike (1)   White wingbar on back erades confusion with similar Red- backed Shrike. This little known bird is considered as a rare resident or seasonal visitor to northern Namibia and this record matches all sightings of single birds in the time from July to November. 

23.11.'12   Inbetween Katima and Ngoma Border Post   Bradfield's Hornbill (1)   Carrying food to nest in tree cavity. Little is known about their breeding. 

23.11.'12   Inbetween Katima and Gorges Lodge (Zim)   Red-billed Oxpecker (12)   On this stretch of road only 2 were seen in Namibia, 7 in Botswana and 3 in Zimbabwe. The reason for this might be that in the parts of Namibia and Zimbabwe that I passed there are mainly only cattle to feed on whereas on Botswanas stretch of road there was a variety of different wild animals that are hosts to this bird. 

23.11.'12   Gorges Lodge (Zimbabwe)   Augur Buzzard (3)   Adults accompanying their Juvenile on its "Learner" flights. In this corner of Zimbabwe this species is not seen often, although at Gorges Lodge there is a territorial couple, ideal to view them from this marvelous Lodge. 

23.11.'12   Gorges Lodge   Verreauxs' Eagle (2)   Although not even registered for this place, there lives a couple. Debbie and Chris, the managers of the Gorges Lodge, offer at least once a day the most spectacular scenes for photographers and observers with their optional Verreauxs' Eagle feeding activity. This is a must for any person with an interest in wildlife traveling to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. 

24.11.'12   Gorges Lodge   Little Sparrowhawk (1)   With an abundance of one pair on 1 400 ha in average, Gorges Lodge can be thankful to show this species on their birdlist. 

24.11.'12   Gorges Lodge   Peregrine Falcon (1)   Hopefully this area will stay as remote as now in future because this species is sensitive to disturbance. Globally one only finds ±40 000 birds and in southern Africa an estimated population of between 800 and 1 200 breeding pairs of this near-threatened species. 

25.11.'12   Victoria Falls, 50km west of Vic.Falls   Southern Ground Hornbill (1)   High human population density and intensive farmig causes a decrease in the Zimbabwe population. 

25.11.'12   Kazungula   White-backed Vulture (18)   In South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho classified as vulnerable. 

25.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   African Fish-Eagle (±11) 5 Juveniles.   Botswana boasts highest abundance of this species of whole southern Africa, mainly in Okavango Delta and rivers in northern Botswana. 

25.11.'12   Kasane dumping site   Marabou Stork (121)   As a cooling mechanism this scavenger excretes urine onto its legs, giving the legs the appearance of being white. 

25.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Reed Cormorant (±28)   Feeding on the emerged termites that fell into the water. 

25.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Long-toed Lapwing (12) 2 newly hatched chicks.   Taking into consideration that 73 % of laying takes place in the time July to September, the timing of these two chicks is out of schedule. 

25.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   African Snipe (1)   Until the 1940s it was regarded as a popular bird to hunt. 

25.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Black-winged Pratincole (±150)   There is uncertainty of the world population size of this high regional conservation concerned species. 

25.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Collared Pratincole (6)   Associated with Black-winged Pratincole. 

25.11.'12   Chobe Safari Lodge   Wire-tailed Swallow (2)   Mud cup nest built under the boat and they even continue nesting while boat is cruising. 

26.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Southern Ground Hornbill (13)   Two Juveniles in group. 

26.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Lesser Grey Shrike (1)   Arrival of summer visitor. 

26.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Hooded Vulture (2)   This species was observed following Wild Dogs for foraging purposes. 

26.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Red-backed Shrike (±250/100 ha)   Although Roberts V11th mentions high arrival rates in north-west of southern Africa and high concentrations in north-east which gives idea of loop migration, I observed plenty of birds during this arrival time in the Chobe N.P. which is situated in the middle of northern part of southern Africa. 

26.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   Yellow-billed Oxpecker (2)   Foraging on Buffalo, associating with Red-billed Oxpeckers, but on different Buffalo in same herd. 

26.11.'12   Chobe N.P.   White-backed Vulture (47)   Although not classified as vulnerable in Botswana, care must be taken of new method of game poachers, who poison Vultures so that their living presence does not give away their tracks of killed game such as elephants. 

26.11.'12   Gweta, 50km east Southern   Ground Hornbill (3)   Southern edge of distribution in Botswana. 

26.11.'12   Planet Baobab   Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver (6)   Males are busy building nest of thorny twigs (serving as protection) in Baobab tree. 

26.11.'12   Planet Baobab   Meyer's Parrot (4)   Classified as endangered. Planet Baobab serves as an ideal habitat for them due to the high Baobab trees on and around its property. 

27.11.'12   Planet Baobab   Spotted Flycatcher (1)   Summer arrival. 

27.11.'12   Mankwe Bush Lodge   Red-billed Hornbill (2)   Forages emerging termites on ground. 

27.11.'12   Mankwe Bush Lodge   Red-capped Robin-Chat (1)   Out of registered distribution. Habitat here is dense undergrowth with sandy soil, near garden of Lodge. He emerged onto a path to forage in last hour of light. Mr. Roux Wessels of the Mankwe Bush Lodge confirmed this first official sighting for Botswana and will gladly assist people that are interested to see this speciality at Mankwe. He will take special care that the bird does not get disturbed because now it is its peak breeding season. 

28.11.'12   Mankwe Bush Lodge   African Cuckoo (1)   From moonrise to moonset he called his song: coo-coo. Repeated many times continuing almost the whole night because it was the night before full moon. 

28.11.'12   Moremi N.P.   Marabou Stork (±350)   Currently they find plenty of food, especially emerging termites. 

28.11.'12   Moremi N.P.   Woolly-necked Stork (130)   Considering the fact that this species is regarded as generally uncommon with an estimated global population of maximum 135 000 birds and with an African population of maximum 100 000, seeing an amount of 130 of these birds together in one flock is an absolute positive record! 

28.11.'12   Mboma Island   African Skimmer (10)   Due to habitat loss this species is classified as endangered in southern Africa. In near proximity of the Mboma Island with its truly African tented Camp is a good spot to view them. Contact me if interested in an article about this species and its conservation matters (in German). 

28.11.'12   Okavango Delta   White Stork (2)   Different to most White Storks in southern Africa these two were observed in the wetland and flood plain of the Okavango Delta. Usually they stay in crop fields and pastures. 

29.11.'12   Okavango Delta   Black Coucal (2)   The foraging behaviour of this generally scarce bird is undescribed and in South Africa it is classified as near- threatened. 

29.11.'12   Moremi N.P.   Wattled Crane (2)   Encountering two birds of this uncommon to rare species can give a person, that is aware of the population number of birds alive in the world, goosebumps. The global population is ±8 000, this is by far less than lions, leopards, cheetahs and similar animals and therefore it is understandable if guests spend more time admiring the Wattled Crane than for example the lion. 

29.11.'12   Moremi N.P.   Levaillant's Cuckoo (1)   Arrival of summer visitor. The mating system of this unobtrusive and secretive species is uncertain. 

29.11.'12   Maun, about 100km west   Common Ostrich (11)   Nine about 20 days old chicks with the male and female alongside road. Hopefully they don't get overrun by speeding vehicles. With an incubation period of ±45 days, the adult birds must have started incubating about beginning of September. 

29.11.'12   Dqae Qare   Fork-tailed Drongo (1)   This bird is known to be kleptoparasitic, meaning it steals food from other birds. I became witness of an incident where a Drongo attacked a Yellow-billed Hornbill, carrying a lizard, in flight. The frightened Hornbill let go of the lizard, it dropped and the Drongo started feasting on the lizard on the ground. It fascinates me time and again how many interesting observations can be done basically in front of our doorstep, because this incident occurred right in front of my chalet on the Planet Baobab premises. 

30.11.'12   Ghanzi   Red-breasted Swallow (1)   Its range has expanded in southern Africa also because of provision of artificial nest sites through for example culvert construction. That is also the reason why they are seen often alongside roads. 

30.11.'12   Onjala Lodge   Greater Striped Swallow (5)   All five are in the process of moulting. This is interesting because Roberts V11 presumes moulting of this species to take place during winter on Equatorial non-breeding grounds. This is definitely worth further research. The Onjala Lodge with its bird-friendly practices is situated 30 minutes drive east of the Hosea Kutako International Airport. 

30.11.'12   Onjala Lodge   Rockrunner (13)   This Lodge offers the last good chance of viewing the Rockrunner while travelling east because Onjala is situated on the eastern border of this species distribution range. 

01.12.'12   Onjala Lodge   Freckled Nightjar (1)   Although on the eastern edge of its distribution one can be assured of encountering this bird in close proximity of the lodges infrastructure. 

01.12.'12   Onjala Lodge   Southern Masked-Weaver (3)   After yesterdays rain it is interesting to see how these birds catch emerging insects in flight, just like the Flycatchers do. 

01.12.'12   Onjala Lodge   Common Ostrich (12)   The first 10 chicks for this season in the Onjala Conservancy. 

01.12.'12   Onjala Lodge   Red-backed Shrike (1)   Summer arrival. 

01.12.'12   Onjala Lodge   Lappet-faced Vulture (4)   After yesterdays first rain a few small ponds of water gathered in the earth dam north of the lodge where these majestic birds came for bathing about 12:00 o'clock. 

01.12.'12   Onjala Lodge   Lesser Grey Shrike (1)   This summer arrival is on time because main arrivals for this species are in second half of November. Ever increasing bush encroachment throughout southern Africa through wrong grazing management results in habitat destruction for these useful birds.

01.12.'12   Onjala Lodge   Grey-backed Cisticola (1)   This species consists out of six subspecies out of which one carries the name of Namibia's capitol, Cisticola subruficapilla windhoekensis. This race is endemic to central and central western Namibia. Once again the C. s. windhoekensis is found at Onjala on the eastern edge of its distribution range. 

Make use of the holidays and enjoy the fun and challenge of birding, wishing you an exciting festive season with useful birding equipment gifts and a happy New Year, 

Stefan Rust

Please note: Most scientific information has been taken from Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, V11th edition! 

(For more information contact Stefan Rust on +264 (0)81 129 8415 or

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