Thursday, 21 March 2013

057 | BIRDSCONTOUR REPORT (10.03.'13 – 19.03.’13)

BIRDSCONTOUR REPORT (10.03.'13 – 19.03.’13)

Text from Stefan Rust

(In terms of the Geneva Convention the copyright of these texts belong to Stefan Rust)

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 together with BirdsConTour represents some of the ontour bird sightings and several other interesting birding aspects 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. 

BirdsConTour Report (Namibia) Personal Highlights: 


Have a quick look if you, your site or neighborhood is included in this scientific informational work (alphabetically arranged): 

A-Little-Sossus Lodge
Amkela Lodge (Sonja & Kai Martens)
Etendero Guestfarm
Etosha N.P.
Etosha Safari Camp
Ghaub Guestfarm
Hosea Kutako Airport
Immenhof Gästefarm (Von Seydlitz)
Kroll Regine (Etendero)
Kuiseb River
Martens Sonja & Kai (Amkela Lodge)
Sea Breeze Guesthouse
Tietz Horst (Etendero)
Von Seydlitz (Gästefarm Immenhof)

Distance traveled: 3 050 km

10.03.'13  Hosea Kutako Airport  Groundscraper Thrush (3 adult, 2 juvenile) Regarded as the most social thrush of southern Africa, I observed 3 adult birds altogether feeding 2 juvenile birds. It appeared to be a family group. Having this species in your garden is of big value for pest control. Within 5 minutes one monitored bird caught 23 insects on the lawn in front of the departure hall. Throughout foraging this individual stayed on the ground in the shadow of two bushes (± 1.5 m. high) and one tree (± 3 m. tall).

11.03.'13  Rehoboth, 50 km southwest on C24  Wahlberg's Eagle  (1) Their less occurrence than last season same time is most probably linked to poor rainfall in regions of the route traveled with this expedition.

11.03.'13  Sesriem, 9 km east  Ludwig's Bustard (3) Classified as vulnerable in South Africa. This near-endemic species is partial migrant in Namibia. In winter it moves west deeper into the Namib Desert and in summer east to the escarpment.

11.03.'13  A-Little-Sossus Lodge  Bokmakiri (1) The moment I see a Bokmakiri at this lodge, I get reminded of an incidence whereby I observed a bird of this species using a stone as an anvil to crack a dry and hard piece of bread into edible pieces. This behavior is rare, but has been noted by me here at the A-Little-Sossus Lodge in Namibia and on the grounds of the Chobe Safari Lodge in Botswana. This anvil use has attracted considerable attention because of the apparent intelligence displayed by the certain bird. More information about this observation is in the article “Käferschmiede” under

12.03.'13. Solitaire, 50km north  Jackal Buzzard (1)This handsome colored species is endemic to southern Africa. The Jackal Buzzard has the habit of favoring recently burnt areas and that is exactly where this individual was seen.

12.03.'13  Solitaire  Ludwig's Bustard (4) Again these four birds were seen close to the escarpment, underlining the occurrence at the escarpment in summer time as mentioned before.

12.03.'13  Kuiseb River  Lappet-faced Vulture (26) It is overwhelming to see so many of these large birds (98-105 cm, ± 6.5 kg, ± 2.8 m wingspan) altogether at one zebra carcass. There was one bird with a yellow wing tag. Unfortunately it took off before I could read the number. One of the reasons of tagging is to find out more about the movement of this species. Up till now little is known.

12.03.'13  Kuiseb River  White-backed Vulture (8) About 40 000 birds of the estimated 270 000 world population live in southern Africa. Despite from being absent in true deserts, these 8 were present at the zebra carcass in the middle of the Namib Desert.

12.03.'13  Kuiseb River  Cape Vulture (1) Its conservation status does not look good at all – globally classified as vulnerable, in Swaziland regionally extinct and in Namibia critically endangered. Within 20 years about 510 breeding pairs were swiped off the globe, from ± 3 460 breeding pairs in 1980 down to ± 2 950 in 2000. Traditional medicine practices, human disturbance and poisoning are the main threats.

13.03.'13  Sea Breeze Guesthouse, Swakopmund  Orange River White-eye (3) Sea Breeze Guesthouse offers good chances to view this endemic bird in its garden. Although common to very common in southern Africa, little is known about the foraging, food, breeding and moult aspects.

13.03.'13  Etendero Guestfarm   White-tailed Shrike (1) In a narrow country strip, ± 900 km long from north (near Bengo in Angola) to south (Namib Naukluft in Namibia) one finds this Namibian near-endemic bird. The population in Namibia numbers about 1.5 million birds and a good place to use as a base to search for this near-endemic is the Etendero Guestfarm near Omaruru.

13.03.'13  Etendero Guestfarm   Rüppell's Parrot (6) Another birding highlight on Etendero is the Namibian near-endemic Rüppell’s Parrot. It favors the large Acacia stands in the ephemeral river nearby the guestfarms infrastructure. This near-endemic is far more patchy distributed in Namibia with an estimated population of 13 000 – 46 000.

13.03.'13  Etendero Guestfarm   Burnt-necked Eremomela (1) Etendero is a good place for endemic and near-endemic bird sightings. For the first time during my visits to Etendero I found this southern African near-endemic. One finds three subspecies in southern Africa. In our region it is the Eremomela usticollis baumgarti. Only about one fifth of the southern African population is found in Namibia.

13.03.'13  Etendero Guestfarm  Damara Hornbill (5) With its large Acacia trees in hilly areas growing in stony ground, Etendero serves an optimal Habitat for the Damara Hornbill. The population size of this species is unknown and in southern Africa it is only found in Namibia. The density along the ephemeral river running through the farm is about 1 pair per 0.8 km2.

13.03.'13  Etendero Guestfarm  Fork-tailed Drongo (1) A short tour like this one, offers sufficient time for the Fork-tailed Drongo to display all its tricks when it comes to saving energy while feeding. At etendero for example the Fork-tailed Drongo was observed associating with a flock of foraging Helmeted Guineafowl to catch flushed insects. See further tricks on the 17.3. at Ghaub Guestfarm Fork-tailed Drongo, 17.3. Ghaub Guestfarm Bare-cheeked Babbler and 17.3. Ghaub Guestfarm Rattling Cisticola.

14.03.'13  Etendero Guestfarm  Verreauxs' Eagle (1). According to the managers of Etendero Guestfarm, Horst Tietz and Regine Kroll, there is since recently a couple Verreauxs’ Eagle resident on their farm. Every new couple settling somewhere is good news, as this species is classified as near-threatened in Namibia because of its small population of 500 to 1 000 pairs. That is why I am eager to hear of a sighting of the recently tagged juvenile Verreauxs’ Eagle on Farm Sonnleiten (yellow wing tag nr. N083), with the hope that it will reveal a bit more about the migration routes and behavior of this species. Together with the observed Verreauxs’ Eagle on Etendero a proud list of 67 species in three hours birding was established.

14.03.'13  Immenhof Gästefarm  Red-backed Shrike (1) Numbers decreased significantly in Europe, especially in northwestern parts. This population decrease reflects in numbers in Namibia. Increasing bush encroachment seems to create new preferred habitat. It is known that they spear prey on thorns and twigs to attract females into their territory and to store food.

14.03.'13  Immenhof Gästefarm  Great Spotted Cuckoo (1 Juvenile) In Namibia they depart for their migration about one month later than elsewhere in southern Africa, around May. It is fascinating that the juveniles leave after that the adults have left and find their migration route to Europe without ever have flown the route before and no adult bird showing them the way.

14.03.'13  Etosha N.P.  Lanner Falcon (1) The alarming rate of increasing bush encroachment in Namibia is surely not in favor of this species as it lives in open grassland and open woodland. In South Africa the Lanner Falcon is regarded as near-threatened.

15.03.'13  Etosha N.P.  Lappet-faced Vulture (2) These two birds were seen about 2 km southwest of Okaukuejo in the distance on a bigger Acacia tree, copulating on top of the tree. According to Roberts the main laying time is June till September. Perhaps this early breeding behavior is linked with for the vultures good food availability, because of the Kudu rabies and the drought.

15.03.'13  Okondeka, Etosha N.P.  Jacobin Cuckoo (2) In this vicinity the Fork-tailed Drongo, Yellow-breasted Bunting and African Red-eyed Bulbul can possibly be there host. In protected areas such as the Etosha N.P. this species is well represented.

15.03.'13  Okaukuejo, Etosha N.P.  African Wattled Lapwing (4) For the first time I observed this species at the Okaukuejo waterhole. Seldom they visit pans with such exposed area around such as Okaukuejo. This resident and local migrant becomes nomadic after breeding and they most probably move from the flooded Zambezi river habitat into northern Namibia.

15.03.'13  Okaukuejo, Etosha N.P. Common Sandpiper (3) The departure time for this non-breeding migrant to European Russia from our area is for adults late March and April, whereas some juveniles remain into early May. But even very few juveniles were observed overwintering.

15.03.'13  Etosha Safari Camp  Bare-cheeked Babbler (5) Nowhere else in southern Africa but in Namibia, one can find the Bare-cheeked Babbler. And here the Etosha Safari Camp offers good chances to see them. Here they favor the woodland thickets on the rocky hillsides around the chalets.

15.03.'13  Etosha Safari Camp  Willow Warbler (1) As the only European bird species, the Willow Warbler annually undergoes two complete moults.
This non-breeding migrant becomes most vocal in its non-breeding grounds between February and April, before it departs.

16.03.'13  Etosha N.P.  Secretary Bird (2) On a stretch of 3 050 km traveled, only 2 birds were seen. Seemingly highly nomadic in our dry western regions, they soon will settle down for breeding. Although nesting year-round, 62% of Namibian birds start laying eggs in April and May. They occupy an average area of 50-60 km2 around their nest. The second bird seen was on the 18th, 50 km north of Otjiwarongo.

16.03.'13  Halali, Etosha N.P.  African Cuckoo (Juvenile) Its only known host is the Fork-tailed Drongo. In southern Africa 1.3% of 531 inspected nests were parasitized by the African Cuckoo.

16.03.'13  Fischers Pan, Etosha N.P.  Lesser Flamingo (3 000) Globally the Lesser Flamingo is near-threatened because of dwindling numbers across Africa and threats to all three known regular breeding sites in Africa, Lake Natron (Tanzania), Etosha Pan (Namibia) and Sua Pan (Botswana). At Lake Natron the Tanzanien government is pushing plans to establish a large-scale soda ash plant, building a network of pipelines over the lake for extraction. Therefore roads and railways need to be set up as well. Another threat factor will be the governmental plans to construct a new road through the famous Serengeti Park. It will pass close by Lake Natron, adding pressure onto the sensitive Lesser Flamingo.
Poaching and egg robbery of the Lesser Flamingo seems to be a threat at Botswanas Sua Pan.
Threats to the Etosha Pan includes use of pesticides, rising human population in northern catchments and lowered underground water in the eastern catchments resulting into reduced water inflow to the Etosha Pan.
The estimated 5 million African population in 1975 decreased to ± 4 million by 1995, a loss of 1fifth in 20 years time. That results in a loss of 50 000 birds per year.

16.03.'13  Fischers Pan, Etosha N.P.  Cape Teal (36) Proved age achieved can be ten years and ten months. The Fishers Pan with its open brackish wetland is a very suitable habitat for this species.

16.03.'13  Klein Namutoni, Etosha N.P.  White-backed Vulture (14) The Klein Namutoni waterhole seems to have developed to a traditional drinking and bathing site of this species. Here they can regularly during midday be observed drinking, bathing and then drying their feathers with spread wings, simultaneously sunbathing.

16.03.'13  Klein Namutoni, Etosha N.P.  Marabou Stork (7) In dry areas flocks wander widely in search of food. It has highly specialized cooling mechanisms. They excrete urine onto their legs on hot days for evaporative cooling, giving them the appearance of having naturally white legs. The inflatable gular pouch is also used to regulate the body temperature.

16.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm, Otavi  Eurasian Golden Oriole (2) This bird is the coat of arms bird of the family of a German speaking caricaturist, Vicco von Bülow. His artist name is Loriot, the French name for Oriole.

16.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm, Otavi  Wattled Starling (19) Next to the lodge infrastructure is a pasture where cattle are kept. A flock Wattled Starlings associated with the cattle by accompanying them moving on the ground catching the disturbed insects. A present Fork-tailed Drongo competing with the prey was mobbed and chased by the Starlings. They are also known to be the only African Starlings to probe into the grass mat to catch prey. Seeing this association, it becomes clear how important it is for farmers not to use poison that would kill or drive away these important pest controllers.

16.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm, Otavi  Barn Swallow (20) The outermost pair of tailfeathers (rectrices) elongate into long thin feathers (streamers) and are often absent in the non-breeding season (austral summer months). Nonetheless I observed one bird with streamers.

17.03.'13  Grootfontein, 45 km north  White-backed Vulture (8) In this area these big birds are particularly vulnerable to bush encroachment, having difficulties in landing and taking off.

17.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm  European Roller (4)  High numbers are linked to wet years. But this year is an extreme dry year in Namibia. The reason of haven’t seen as many European Rollers on the rest of the tour as seen here in the Otavi triangle, is most probably because of this part of the country being one of the greenest and thus this species accumulates in this area. But even this area had about only one fourth of its average rain up till now.

17.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm  Hartlaub's Spurfowl (3) Although being strongly territorial, they react sensitive to overgrazing and will leave such areas temporarily. It is possible that they get pushed away by higher populated Red-billed Spurfowl.

17.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm  Grey-headed Kingfisher (2) Present at southeastern limit of its range, this bird is in this area not associated with water. Because fish is not available, it feeds mainly on grasshoppers.

17.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm  Senegal Coucal (1) No other Coucal species is found in central northern Namibia. Regarded as generally uncommon for this area, Ghaub Guestfarm offers good chances to see the Senegal Coucal. Mostly it is recognized by its bubbling call.

17.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm  Fork-tailed Drongo (2) A short tour like this one, offers sufficient time for the Fork-tailed Drongo to display all its tricks when it comes to saving energy while feeding. Whereas on Etendero Guestfarm I observed this clever bird associating with a flock of Guineafowl, they were here on Ghaub Guestfarm associating with grazing cattle, to catch flushed prey.

17.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm  Bare-cheeked Babbler (5) The kleptoparasitic Drongo stole food from the Babblers by scattering them and them leaving their food behind through giving an alarm call.

17.03.'13  Ghaub Guestfarm  Rattling Cisticola (1) For the first time I experienced that the Rattling Cisticola gets kleptoparasitised by the Fork-tailed Drongo. While the Cisticola caught a grasshopper on the ground between dense dry grass, the Drongo sat in patience not even a meter away on a single 75 cm high dry weed branch, keeping an eye on the proceedings. As soon as the Cisticola had torn off the wings of the grasshopper, the Drongo fiercely attacked it from top, robbed the prey and swallowed it in one piece. This method of feeding by stealing food (kleptoparasitism) clearly is energy saving for this bird. What it comes down to, the Fork-tailed Drongo makes use of other birds working for him.

18.03.'13  Otjiwarongo, 50 km north  Secretary Bird (1) On a stretch of 3 050 km traveled, only 2 birds were seen. Seemingly highly nomadic in our dry western regions, they soon will settle down for breeding. Although nesting year-round, 62% of Namibian birds start laying eggs in April and May. They occupy an average area of 50-60 km2 around their nest.

18.03.'13  Otjiwarongo, 30 km north  Lappet-faced Vulture (3) In this area these big birds are particularly vulnerable to bush encroachment, having difficulties in landing and taking off.

18.03.'13  Amkela Lodge, Kapps Farm, Windhoek  Icterine Warbler (5) Interestingly the Icterine Warbler migrates to Europe on a more westerly route than on its way to us. Due to no research, its diet in southern Africa is still unknown. In Europe they are known to imitate not only animal sounds but also handy sounds.

18.03.'13  Amkela Lodge, Kapps Farm, Windhoek  Black Stork (1 Juvenile)  Unfortunately the Black Stork is classified as endangered in Namibia and therefore it is always positive to see this bird.
On the Amkela Lodge, only 30 minutes drive east out of Windhoek, I came up with a total number of 54 bird species within 2.5 hours of birding on only 20 hectares of land.

Enjoy Birding, 
Stefan Rust
Please note: Most scientific information has been taken from Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, V11th edition!
(For further reading see
(For more information contact Stefan Rust on +264 (0)81 129 8415 or  

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