Thursday, 25 July 2013

113 | BIRDSCONTOUR REPORT (06.07.'13 - 25.07.'13)


BIRDSCONTOUR REPORT (06.07.'13 – 25.07.’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):

Antl Norbert
Brüning Stefanie & Heinrich
Camp Olifant, Krüger NP. (South Africa)
Camp Shingwedzi, Krüger NP. (South Africa)
Chobe Marina Lodge (Botswana)
Chobe NP. (Botswana)
Chobe Safari Lodge (Botswana)
Davis Marc
Dumela Lodge (Botswana)
Etosha Safari Camp (Gondwana Collection)
God’s Window (South Africa)
Gondwana Collection (Etosha Safari Camp)
Gumlich Sigurd
Hannah Game Lodge (South Africa)
Johannesburg (South Africa)
Kang (Botswana)
Krüger NP. (South Africa)
Lianshulu Lodge (Namibia)
MacMac Falls (South Africa)
Mapesu Nature Reserve (South Africa)
Mapungubwe NP. (South Africa)
Mopane Bush Lodge (South Africa)
Morgenstern Werner
Mudume NP. (Namibia)
Nata Lodge (Botswana)
Nunda River Lodge (Namibia)
Ohange Lodge (Namibia)
Onjala Lodge (Namibia)
Rückleben Sybille & Uwe (Sonnleiten Farm Residence)
Rust Ute (Sonnleiten Farm Residence)
Sonnleiten Farm Residence (Namibia)
Victoria Falls NP. (Zimbabwe)
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (Zimbabwe)
Walgering Peter

BirdsConTour Report (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe & South Africa) Personal Highlights:


Distance traveled: 6 320 km

06.07.'13  Sonnleiten Farm Residence  Bird & Birder friendly Award  For their efforts in taking the wild birds into consideration in the large garden of the Sonnleiten farm Residence, Sybille & Uwe Rückleben, the owners, got rewarded with a two penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award. This establishment integrated part of the natural trees and bushes in the garden and thereby the wild birds are attracted to this area. Also feeding of birds takes place to give back to nature, in this case to the birds, for the space that was used for erecting infrastructure. Congratulation to Sybille & Uwe Rückleben!

07.07.'13  Onjala Lodge  Mountain Wheatear (1) As a species the Mountain Wheatear is classified as a near-endemic to southern Africa and the subspecies Oenanthe monticola atmorii is a near-endemic to Namibia. This grey morph represents 46% of the species population whereas the black morph (O. m. monticola) represents 54%.

08.07.'13  Etosha Safari Camp  Golden-tailed Woodpecker (1) To avoid that the fine dust, created while chiseling the wood with their strong bill, does not enter their lungs when breathing, nature equipped them with a mouth and nose protection in form of fine feathers growing over their nose holes.

09.07.'13  Etosha NP., Gemsbokvlakte  Grey-headed Gull (1) It is an unusual sight to see a gull in such a dry area, as is the Gemsbokvlakte waterhole in the Etosha NP. But arriving there with a group of guests we found a single Grey-headed Gull flying over the waterhole, later landing on the parking area to rest. But it is not unusual to find this gull species at inland waters, nonetheless it is seldom recorded at the Gemsbokvlakte waterhole.

10.07.'13  Etosha NP., Rietfontein Waterhole  African Fish-Eagle (1) Possibly a sign of our severe drought. Not only was another Grey-headed Gull observed at this waterhole, but also a African Fish-Eagle. Unfortunately it was too far away to having been able to identify what it was feeding on as it was sitting on a dead tree lying on the ground at the edge of the water. It seemed like a waterfowl but not sure. Usually this eagle feeds on fish. Mr. Marc Davis saw this bird a few days before as well.

10.07.'13  Ohange Lodge  Common Ostrich (3) How many of the southern African ostriches are pure wild animals is uncertain because of the translocation of the domesticated Oudtshoorn ostriches.

11.07.'13  Nunda River Lodge  Bird & Birder Friendly Award  For their efforts in bird conservation by maintaining a bird friendly garden and being part of the Kavango Open Africa Route project that strives to protect the endangered African Skimmer and the Grey-headed Parrot, the Nunda River Lodge was rewarded with a three penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award.

12.07.'13  Kwando River, Kongola  Saddle-billed Stork (1) Of this uncommon species there are estimated 150 breeding pairs in southern Africa and is only in South Africa classified as endangered.

12.07.'13  Lianshulu Lodge  Gabar Goshawk (1) Out of the entire southern African population 7-25% are dark morph birds. The one seen here is part of the 10% dark colored Gabar Goshawks in Namibia.

13.07.'13  Lianshulu Lodge  African Green-Pigeon (5) It is said that this species does not drink but feeds on a variety of juicy fruits and occasionally on pieces of flesh, dried blood and wet and dry mud and soil. Only in southern Africa alone one finds seven subspecies, in this region it is the Treron calva damarensis.

13.07.'13  Mudume NP.  Meyers’ Parrot (4) Being the only bird that is able to break open the pods and seeds of leguminous trees in miombo woodland, it has abundant food with little competition.

14.07.'13  Chobe NP., Botswana  Wahlberg’s Eagle (1) One pale morph in the Chobe NP. It is recorded that some birds, possibly juveniles, remain south of the Equator during our winter and a few as far south as Zimbabwe. This sighting shows that they also occur in northern Botswana during winter.

14.07.'13  Chobe Marina Lodge, Botswana  African Skimmer (1) Here in the Chobe River, bare sandbars and islands are used for breeding and roosting. This breeding habit leads to this species probably being endangered in southern Africa. Disturbance through uncontrolled tourism, local people and habitat loss through mismanagement of breeding areas are cause for the rapid population decrease.

15.07.'13  Chobe Marina Lodge, Botswana  Pied Crow (2) In general, this species is closely associated with human settlements. They generally increase in numbers, probably because of the increase in numbers of roadkills and decrease of enemies. One pair attacked a flying African Fish-Eagle and mobbed it for about five minutes, repeatedly dive-bombing at it after having gained some height over the eagle.

15.07.'13  Chobe NP., Botswana  Southern Ground-Hornbill (3) Numbers are decreasing in southern Africa, especially in areas of high human population density and/or intensive farming. Here in the northeastern part of Botswana they are widespread but not common. Conservation efforts include hand-rearing of the second-hatched chicks (otherwise redundant), captive breeding and reintroduction. (2)

15.07.'13  Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana  Collared Palm-Thrush (2) The garden of the Chobe Safari Lodge is a guaranteed place to see this bird. Kasane is the most western distribution area in southern Africa.

16.07.'13  Chobe Marina Lodge, Botswana  Black Heron (9) This bird is mostly known because of its behavior of forming an umbrella with its wings. Being in the water it forms an ‘umbrella’ by flicking the wings forward over its head for two to three seconds. The wing tips often touch the water. Often it swallows prey within the umbrella. Presumably it forms this umbrella to eliminate the reflection on the water and to lure fish to this false refuge.

16.07.'13  Victoria Falls NP., Zimbabwe  Trumpeter Hornbill (2) Today two of these birds have been observed in the tall trees in the Victoria Falls NP. Not often seen in rural areas but in this protected park they seem to be safe. Little is known about their breeding behavior. Not only are the Victoria Falls a UNESCO World Heritage Site but is the Victoria Falls NP. a Ramsar Site. The Ramsar Convention (The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat) is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. It aims to stem progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future and it recognizes the significance of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971.

16.07.'13  Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Zimbabwe  Bird & Birder Friendly Award  The role of vulture restaurants in vulture conservation is receiving considerable attention from conservationists because most vulture species around the world are endangered. It is estimated that about 150 Hooded Vultures visit the vulture restaurant, managed on the lodge property by this vulture friendly lodge, daily. BirdsConTour encourages and supports this vulture restaurant project by rewarding the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge on the 16th of July with a two penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award.

17.07.'13  Nata Lodge, Botswana  Bird & Birder Friendly Award  The Nata Lodge in Botswana is ideally placed halfway between Chobe and Francistown to offer tired travelers a break. Nata Lodge supports birdlife with a wild bird support station in the garden and offers bird watching trips into the Nata Bird Sanctuary. For these efforts in bird conservation and tourism, the Nata Lodge is rewarded with a two penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award.

17.07.'13  Dumela Lodge, Botswana  White-bellied Sunbird (1) With the blackthorn acacia starting to flower on the property of the Dumela Lodge just outside Francistown, immediately triggers the male White-bellied Sunbird to advertise its territory by giving its canary-like warble to its best.

18.07.'13  Mopane Bush Lodge, South Africa  Bird & Birder Friendly Award Adjoining the new Mapungubwe National Park, South Africa’s northernmost National Park, Mopane Bush Lodge is situated on the 6 000 hectare Mapesu Nature Reserve. It is a working game farm, not only protecting mammals but also birds. The lodge and the nature reserve offers particularly rewarding birding and plans are on the table to incorporate this Mapesu Nature Reserve into the proposed Limpopo Shashe Transfrontier Park, incorporating the Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana and adjacent areas of Zimbabwe, and the Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve in South Africa. For these efforts in bird conservation, Mopane Bush Lodge is rewarded with a two penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award.

19.07.’13 Mopane Bush Lodge, South Africa  Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver (1) Males built a nest by interlacing thorny twigs into a bulky mass containing ‘lodges’, each with 1-6 (sometimes up to 11) nest chambers. The more sticks a male adds to a nest, the more females he has got in his harem. Frequently the nests are built in trees or windmills adjacent to human habitation. Should people abandon the site, the birds vacate their nest. Probably this strategy minimizes predation by snakes and/or baboons.
Because of cloudy weather for a few days in a row, the males started constructing nests. This is unusual for this time of the year.

19.07.’13 Mapesu Nature Reserve neighborhood, South Africa  Collared Palm-Thrush (1) Except at Shingwedzi in Kruger NP., this sight is the only place in South Africa to see this bird. Mr. Andrew Rae, the MD from the Mopane Bush Lodge, will gladly assist in viewing this vagrant speciality.

19.07.’13 Mapungubwe NP., South Africa  Black Sparrowhawk (1) In this area this species is scarce. Historically they were distributed in the Karoo and in some northern Namibian places, like Otavi and Omaruru.

20.07.'13  Shingwedzi Camp, Krüger N.P., South Africa  Crested Guineafowl (1) Often this bird is overlooked, due to its secretive nature and because of dense vegetation it lives in. Uncertainty exists if the isolated Karkloof Forest population in KwaZulu-Natal is genetically distinct. If it is genetically distinct, it probably is threatened by local habitat destruction.

20.07.'13  Shingwedzi Camp, Krüger N.P., South Africa  Martial Eagle (1) An alarming drop of 60% in the population size occurred in the last few years. Of biggest concern are areas with a high density of powerlines, areas where temperatures increased, areas where prey abundance diminished and where small stock farming is practiced. Although protected areas are a stronghold, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Kruger National Park show a decline of 45%. What causes this is busy being studied and sightings of tagged birds should please be reported to

21.07.'13  Shingwedzi Camp, Krüger N.P., South Africa  Brown-headed Parrot (3) The fairly large population (± 2 500) in the protected area of the Kruger NP. saves this species from being classified as threatened in South Africa. The main causes for drastic decrease in its historical range are habitat loss (loss of large trees) and illegal trapping. Some several hundred wild chicks are harvested annually for cage bird industry, especially in Mozambique. The 1990 floods in southern Mozambique and the 2012 floods in the Limpopo region, South Africa, probably led to considerable mortality.

21.07.'13  Camp Letaba, Krüger N.P., South Africa  Southern Ground-Hornbill (5) In an attempt to conserve the endangered Southern Ground Hornbill in South Africa, a few projects are running. In the Krüger NP., some juvenile birds are ringed with color-rings to find out more about their movement, territory size, foraging range and habitat use. The public is asked to report sightings of ringed birds with the date and time, GPS coordinates if possible, details of location, number of birds, age and sex if possible and color-ring combination to, or to
Four adults have been seen at 13:45 foraging on the ground next to a herd of Impala together with a color-ringed juvenile. On its left leg it has a yellow ring at the bottom and above it a red ring, on the right leg a silver metal ring. This sighting was close to the Camp Letaba-Phalaborwa-Camp Olifants crossing.

21.07.'13  Olifants Camp, Krüger N.P., South Africa  Black Heron (8) A group of eight birds flew past at sunset towards their roosting site. This bird is mostly known because of its behavior of forming an umbrella with its wings. Being in the water it forms an ‘umbrella’ by flicking the wings forward over its head for two to three seconds. The wing tips often touch the water. Often it swallows prey within the umbrella. Presumably it forms this umbrella to eliminate the reflection on the water and to lure fish to this false refuge.

22.07.'13  Hannah Game Lodge, South Africa  Crimson-breasted Shrike (1) Hannah Game Lodge is probably the most eastern distribution area of this species in South Africa. To the Krüger NP it is a vagrant visitor.

23.07.'13  MacMac Falls, South Africa  Drakensberg Prinia (1) No published descriptions of its call exist on this endemic species. This individual bird draw attention by its call, like that of the Black-chested Prinia, a loud and repetitive chip-chip-chip, while sitting in a fynbos shrub. Little is known about its general habits.

23.07.'13  God’s Window, South Africa  Green-backed Camaroptera (4) Endemic to southern Africa, this species has the habit of being attracted by human movement, catching flushed invertebrate prey in the undergrowth.

23.07.'13  Hannah Game Lodge, South Africa  Common Fiscal (1) Interestingly this species is mostly absent from the Krüger NP., similar to the situation of the Crimson-breasted Shrike. This individual bird was observed carrying an about 10 cm long piece of cartilage leftover from a braai meat piece, recognizable on its shape and being spiced, to perch in its bill. Up in the acacia thorn tree the bird first tried to impale it on a thorn but the piece was very hard. So he held it in one foot and ate a bit of it but after a while succeeded in impaling it on another sharp thorn. After feeding but not finishing it, the bird flew off. Some time later the same bird arrived with a 3.5 cm long piece of bone, most probably a chicken bone (drumstick), also a leftover from a braai, and without trying to impale it on a thorn in the same tree, started feeding on dry meat on it by holding it in one foot, sometimes relieving the foot by taking the bone up with its bill, to then take it between branch and foot again to continue feeding on it. No record of feeding on braai leftovers by this species are published in the Roberts Birds of Southern Africa VIIth edition.
The purpose of impaling prey on sharp items such as thorns, barb on wire fence or similar, is to feed more conveniently on it, to mark its territory and/or to impress females during courtship.

23.07.'13  Hannah Game Lodge, South Africa  Bird & Birder Friendly Award  The BirdsConTour’s ‘Travel gives Wings’ division completed the Chamäleon Limpopo Tour under guidance of Mr. Stefan Rust. This division creates money through tourism, giving the guests the opportunity to be part of bird conservation. Through their participation, Mr. Rust gets paid for guiding the tour and he sets aside a certain amount of it for the multiple bird conservation projects arranged by his organization BirdsConTour. Today Rust awarded an one Penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award to each and every guest for participating on this Limpopo Tour:
Mr. Antl Norbert
Mrs. & Mr. Brüning Stefanie & Heinrich
Mr. Gumlich Sigurd
Mr. Morgenstern Werner
Mr. Walgering Petrus

24.07.'13  Johannesburg, South Africa  Common Myna (1) Being native to India, central and southern Asia, it was introduced to South Africa In Johannesburg the Common Myna was introduced at about 1938. Since then it spread northwards, even a record was reported from Nata, Botswana, in last year.

25.07.’13 Kang, Botswana  Common Myna (3) Almost 70 years after their introduction to Johannesburg in about 1938, the Common Myna population seems to explode. Last year BirdsConTour recorded this species in Nata, Botswana, and today in Kang, Botswana. Clearly visible a rapid northwards expansion takes place.

25.07.’13 Windhoek, Namibia  Rock Kestrel (2) Close observation proves how adaptable Rock Kestrel are to cities. More than two pairs of Kestrel were reported that have started breeding on buildings in Windhoek.

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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