Sunday, 19 May 2013

076 | BIRDSCONTOUR REPORT (06.05.'13 - 19.05.'13)


BIRDSCONTOUR REPORT (06.05.'13 – 19.05.’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.


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

Ababis Farm
Agrimark Shell Service Station (Rehoboth)
A-little-Sossus Lodge
Avis Dam
Bwabwata NP
Casa Piccolo Pension
Camp Chobe (Caprivi, Namibia)
Chamäleon Reisen
Chobe NP (Botswana)
Etosha Safari Camp (Gondwana)
Gorges Lodge (Zimbabwe)
Mahangu NP
Nunda River Lodge
Pack Safari
Redecker Irmi
Seidarap Gästehaus
Susuwe Island Lodge (Birre Island)
Victoria Falls Airport (Zimbabwe)
Victoria Falls NP (Zimbabwe)
Voigtland Farm (Stefan Voigts)
Voigts Stefan (Farm Voigtland)
Windhoek, Von Falkenhausen Str.

BirdsConTour Report (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe) Personal Highlights:


Distance traveled: 5 103 km

06.05.'13  Farm Voigtland  Lappet-faced Vulture (1) In Kenya they are known to break open Common Ostrich eggs with their bill.

06.05.'13  Pension Casa Piccolo, Windhoek  Rock Kestrel (1) Prey availability motivates a post-breeding movement whereas the territory-holding males stay longer in nesting area than females. Also see more interesting observations on these Kestrels in the article nr. 68 under

07.05.'13  Agrimark Shell Service Station, Rehoboth  House Sparrow (2) The occurrence of these two birds at this recently opened new petrol station about two weeks ago proof the adaptability of this species. Making use of a scavenging niche in urban and suburban areas they spread throughout southern Africa since the 1800’s when they were introduced at Durban in South Africa.

07.05.'13  Farm Ababis, Naukluft  Black Stork (2) Seemingly this pair will start laying eggs soon and if conservation continues possibly one day this species will not be classified as endangered in Namibia anymore. This winter breeding habit is explained through having an abundance of food in ponds where the water level is receding this time of the year.

07.05.'13  Avis Dam, Windhoek  Great White Pelican (40) Mrs. Irmgard Redecker reported fourty Great White Pelicans at Avis Dam in Windhoek. Greatest movements of these large birds occur when water levels of wetlands get low, but mostly they remain within 200-300 km of breeding sites. Occasionally, such as in extremely dry years such as the current year, they wander in groups more widely.

07.05.'13  Sossusvlei  Temminck’s Courser (3) They are often found next to the road that leads from Sesriem to Sossusvlei. It is possible that they feed on the insects that are killed or injured by the passing vehicles. This habit might have developed from their method of feeding on killed or injured insects by fire.

07.05.'13  A-little-Sossus Lodge  Short-toed Rock-Thrush (1) During winter time they are found predominantly in flat country, whereas in summer in rocky outcrops and escarpments. This explains the absence of this bird at A-little-Sossus Lodge during summer.

08.05.'13  Walvisbay Lagoon  Egyptian Goose (1) This long living bird, up to 15 years,  is South Africa’s most abundant waterfowl on wetland surveys. Although historically it was probably restricted to flood plains and large rivers, it nowadays can even be found in the ocean, such as this individual bird.

08.05.’13  Seidarap Gästehaus  Great White Pelican (8) Stephan Lukaschik, owner of Guesthouse Seidarap, reported 8 Great White Pelicans flying over his property in eastern direction. Greatest movements of these large birds occur when water levels of wetlands get low, but mostly they remain within 200-300 km of breeding sites. Occasionally, such as in extremely dry years such as the current year, they wander in groups more widely.

09.05.'13  Sea Breeze Guesthouse, Swakopmund  Laughing Dove (1) Sometimes it is worth it to take some time to even observe a common bird like the Laughing Dove. During nesting time you might be lucky to be a witness of the behavior when a brooding bird is disturbed from the nest and gives a distraction display where it apparently falls from the nest and then drags itself along the ground as though being unable to fly.

09.05.'13  Etosha Safari Camp  Green-winged Pytilia (1) Interestingly the adults remove their chicks’ droppings for only about 4 days and then allow it to accumulate in the nest. Obviously there is a reason to it but is up till now not known. Like some doves for example use their droppings to strengthen their nest.

10.05.'13  Etosha NP, Okaukuejo  Barn Swallow (1) This palearctic-breeding summer migrant usually departs late February till April and some as late as May in Zimbabwe. So this individual seen at Okaukuejo is either a very late departure, not recorded for Namibia or it is a rare overwintering bird, although written to happen perhaps most frequently in Western Cape.

11.05.'13  Etosha NP, Okaukuejo  BirdsConTour for a cleaner bird habitat  Today the initiative “BirdsConTour for a cleaner bird habitat” was officially launched. To celebrate this happening, Stefan Rust, founder of BirdsConTour, bird conservation and tourism, together with members of a tour group, chose to clean the big Sociable Weaver nest in Okaukuejo rest camp in the Etosha National Park from ropes. Several birds already got entangled in the litter, which they found lying all over in the camp and incorporated in their nests. This nest is most probably Namibia’s most prominent nest. Many visitors have photographed it and spend some time observing the nest building activities of these busy little Sociable Weavers. For more information on this initiative please read the article nr. 75 under

11.05.'13  Etosha NP, Klein Namutoni  White-headed Vulture (1) This uncommon species in southern Africa has an estimated African population of 7 000-12 500 birds whereof about 500 pairs live in southern Africa. This species is not a very typical vulture as it is a scavenger, predator and a pirate. Being able of killing small mammals and kleptoparasitising eagles, it is dominant over Tawny Eagle, Marabou Stork and vultures except the Lappet-faced Vulture.

11.05.'13  Etosha NP, Klein Namutoni  Lappet-faced Vulture (3) Little is known about the movements of this species. Sometimes non-breeders move further than 1 00 km. Researchers attach yellow wing tags with a black number on certain birds to find out more about their movements. Today three Lappet-faced Vultures were seen at the Klein Namutoni waterhole in Etosha NP, Namibia, at 12:00 with one having a yellow tag with the number E152 on it. Where was this bird tagged, by whom and how old is this bird?

11.05.'13  Etosha NP, Klein Namutoni  Greater Flamingo (3) This juvenile and the two adult birds are still here, since the 2nd of May ’13. Most probably these three birds make use of Klein Namutoni while dispersing from the drying out of Fishers Pan. See article nr. 72 under

11.05.'13  Seidarap Guesthouse  Bird & Birder Friendly accommodation  What a joy! Celebrating the birthday of one of the guests of the Caprivi tour on the verandah at Seidarap Guesthouse with coffee and cake, while enjoying the wild bird activity at the bird restaurant only about 30 m away. Read more about this bird and birder friendly accommodation in the article nr. 25 under How to register your establishment of whatever kind, find out in articles nr. 61, 67 and 71.

12.05.’13  Nunda River Lodge  Pygmy Goose (7)  Its main distribution is set by the availability of water lilies. Its diet consists mainly of ripe seeds and flower parts of water lilies. In South Africa this species is classified as near-threatened.

13.05.’13  Mahangu NP  Spur-winged Goose (150) Perhaps this large group is preparing for a Large winter moult gathering. These localities are often traditional.

13.05.’13  Susuwe Island Lodge  Lesser Striped Swallow (many breeding) There are two subspecies in southern Africa, the Hirundo abyssinica unitatis and the H. a. ampliformis. Interestingly the breeding times of these two subspecies differ greatly. The peak breeding season for the H. a. unitatis is in October till January, whereas the other ones peak is in May. These peak breeding seasons match with the rain season in the distribution area of the H. a. unitatis and with the high water of the rivers in the distribution area of the H. a. ampliformis. These are the times with the most food abundance.

13.05.’13  Susuwe Island Lodge  Long-toed Lapwing (2) This natural rare species in southern Africa due to its need of special habitat, is found only in the Caprivi Strip, Namibia, Okavango Delta, and Chobe River in northern Botswana, and at the Zambezi River at Kazungulu in northwestern Zimbabwe. This uncommon bird is found only one bird per 146 km river in northern Botswana and perhaps in Namibia as well.

14.05.’13  Susuwe Island Lodge  Grey-headed Bush-Shrike (1) In Namibia this is an uncommon species, in eastern Caprivi Strip. They make ‘larders’, where they impale prey on thorns or spikes. Its diet can be prey as large as a 1 m long Bird Snake. In case of prey to big to swallow, they often wedge it into a forked twig or crevice to tear it to pieces with their beak.

14.05.’13  Bwabwata NP.  Red-billed Oxpecker (3) In Namibia live estimated 2 800 birds. Their food consists mostly of ticks. In one birds stomach there were 1 665 ticks found and almost all food is obtained on host animals.

15.05.’13  Camp Chobe  Whiskered Tern (±50) Our southern African population is quite small, less than 7 500 pairs. Although this species is not classified as threatened, one needs to be aware that the global population of Chlidonias hybrida sclateri is a small and breeds mostly in southern Africa. Unfortunately cattle wrong managed can be a big disturbance. Birds will abandone their nests if this disturbance occurs before egg laying.

15.05.’13  Chobe NP., Botswana  Luapula Cisticola (2) In whole southern Africa this species is only found in north central and northeastern Namibia, northern Botswana and northwestern Zimbabwe. The foraging and food of the Luapula Cisticola is until present undescribed.

16.05.’13  Chobe NP.  African Fish-Eagle (9) One pair on the southern side of the Chobe River started already with the incubation of eggs. Fishing activities by locals is direct competition for the eagle. Uncontrolled fishing decreases the African Fish-Eagle population. This was clearly proved when guerilla activities drove people away, where after birds returned because large fish abundance increased.

16.05.’13  Camp Chobe, Namibia  Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver (7) These birds tend to build their bulky thorn twig nest with 1-6 nest chambers into high trees, windmills, towers or similar within the vicinity of water. They do not only benefit from artificial water but also from the disturbance of woodland, the presence of domestic livestock and rural settlements. Altogether they profit from human neighborhood.

16.05.’13  Camp Chobe, Namibia  Wing-snapping Cisticola (1) Although not yet being registered for this area, the exploitation of this species, easily confused with the Cloud Cisticola, into this further west region can be explained with the rapid transformation of grasslands to croplands in its natural habitat.
Camp Chobe unconsciously creates an ideal habitat for this species in that they regularly mow the grass around the infrastructure and having occasional bare patches between natural grass tufts.
This occurrence of the Wing-snapping Cisticola (Cisticola ayresii) at Camp Chobe, 4 km east of Ngoma border post to Botswana, is a first timer for Namibia. 
Read more in the article nr. 77 under

17.05.’13  Chobe NP, Botswana  Southern Ground-Hornbill  (2 adults, 4 juveniles) Nowhere in southern Africa common and allover vulnerable to human activity. The low density and slow population turnover leads to the alarming disappearance and slow recovery of these birds. To rescue the Ground-Hornbills, one of the actions taken is in gathering and hand-rearing of otherwise redundant last-hatched chicks.

17.05.’13  Chobe NP., Botswana  Green-backed Heron (1) This secretive and solitary bird prefers sites not fished by humans. Because of its shyness no precise population numbers exist.

17.05.’13  Victoria Falls NP, Zimbabwe  Trumpeter Hornbill (2) This species is vulnerable to forest exploitation. Droughts that effect tree growth is another matter of concern because the Trumpeter Hornbill depend on warm, coastal, lowland forest.

17.05.’13  Gorges Lodge, Zimbabwe  Verreaux’s Eagle (1) They are known to be territorial year-round. Because of political circumstances in Zimbabwe illegal hunting is a matter of concern and this again influences the available prey for the Verreaux’s Eagle. To support this terrestrial pair of eagles the managers of Gorges Lodge are feeding this wild pair for quite some time. By now they got accustomed to the feeding that this eagle feeding developed to an additional guest attraction. Read more about this in the article nr. 4 under

18.05.’13  Gorges Lodge, Zimbabwe  Little Sparrowhawk, Lanner Falcon, Augur Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle ( ) An absolute paradise for people enjoying birds of prey is the Dibudibu lapa at the Gorges Lodge. Here you can set up your scopes and do some undisturbed and unforgettable birds of prey spotting.
Breeding Booted Eagles arrive at breeding area mid July and depart by March. This individual can well be an overwintering bird.

18.05.’13  Gorges Lodge, Zimbabwe  Black Stork (2) It is good possible that this is a breeding pair. May is the month when most observed birds in Zimbabwe started with egg-laying. Winter breeding is an adaptation to make use of the abundance of prey when the water levels are receding. In all southern Africa the only country where this species is not classified as threatened or similar is in Zimbabwe.

18.05.’13  Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe  Violet-backed Starling (1) Normally a migrant from tropical Africa, this male bird seems to be a member of a small year-round population in the northern parts of southern Africa.

18.05.’13  Caprivi Strip, Namibia  Spotted Eagle-Owl (7 roadkills) On a 500 km length of road 7 roadkill owls were seen. It seems as if they are feeding on roadkill carcasses more often as thought, whereby they collide with vehicles. This Trans Caprivi Highway is especially by night highly frequented by trucks.

18.05.’13  Bwabwata NP, Namibia  Southern Ground-Hornbill  (2 adults, 2 juveniles) Nowhere in southern Africa common and allover vulnerable to human activity. The low density and slow population turnover leads to the alarming disappearance and slow recovery of these birds. To rescue the Ground-Hornbills, one of the actions taken is in gathering and hand-rearing of otherwise redundant last-hatched chicks.

18.05.’13  Windhoek, Von Falkenhausen Str.  Spotted Eagle-Owl (1) They are often territorial in towns and cities, hunting insects and rodents under street lights and nesting on buildings. They increasingly move into urban and suburban habitats.
Just before sunset, a dark juvenile African Harrier-Hawk mobbed this individual and later a handful African Red-eyed Bulbuls.

18.05.’13  Windhoek, Von Falkenhausen Str.  African Harrier-Hawk (1 dark juvenile) This dark version juvenile was recognized while being busy mobbing the Spotted Eagle-Owl. It would be interesting to know if this juvenile was born here in Windhoek. Over the past almost two years regularly adult African Harrier-Hawks were observed in this area. This needs some closer observation, because Namibia has surprising scarce breeding records of this species. Previously written about this bird in article 53 under

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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