Friday, 20 September 2013

131 | BIRDSCONTOUR REPORT 01.09.'13 - 19.09.'13


BIRDSCONTOUR REPORT (01.09.’13 – 19.09.’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):

Blyde River Canyon (South Africa)
Chamäleon Reisen
Chobe NP. (Botswana)
Chobe Safari Lodge (Botswana)
Dumela Lodge (Botswana)
Etosha Safari Camp (Gondwana Collection) (Namibia)
Etosha NP. (Gemsbokvlakte and Okondeka Waterhole) (Namibia)
Gallmeister Petra & Volkmar
Gemsbokvlakte Waterhole (Etosha NP) (Namibia)
Gondwana Collection (Etosha Safari Camp) (Namibia)
Gross Günter
Hannah Lodge (South Africa)
Jwaneng (Botswana)
Johannesburg (South Africa)
Kazungula (Botswana)
Krüger NP. (South Africa)
Lianshulu Lodge (Mudumu NP.) (Namibia)
Lobatse (Botswana)
Maope (Botswana)
Mapungubwe NP. (South Africa)
Mopane Bush Lodge (South Africa)
Mudumu NP. (Lianshulu Lodge) (Namibia)
Nunda River Lodge (Namibia)
Ohange Game Lodge (Namibia)
Okondeka Waterhole (Etosha NP.) (Namibia)
Olifants Camp, Krüger NP. (South Africa)
Onjala Lodge (Namibia)
Pack Safari (Namibia)
Rudnick Erika & Jürgen
Schaumann Uwe
Shingwedzi Camp, Krüger NP. (South Africa)
Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (Zimbabwe)
Windhoek (Namibia)

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


Distance traveled: 6 070 km

01.09.'13  Windhoek, Namibia  Tawny Eagle (1) Because of trapping and poisoning in Namibia, numbers decreased and this species provisionally got classified as endangered in this country. Thus it is good news to have found one bird nesting in a nest on top of a tree about 10 km east out of Windhoek, ± 200 m north of the B6.

01.09.'13  Onjala Lodge, Namibia  Scaly-feathered Finch (100’s) Clearly they find appropriate seeds as a food source on the property of the Onjala Private Game Reserve because there are quite a few swarms feeding at seed on the ground. Altogether they must be in their hundreds with a few individual Violet-eared Waxbills associating with the big swarms of Scaly-feathered Finches (not mentioned in the Roberts bird book).

02.09.'13  Onjala Lodge, Namibia  Freckled Nightjar (2) One bird, supposing the male, gave a sound that is different to the usual all year-round sound (pow-wow). This call is a for a long time continuous blub, blub, blub, blub, blub, blub, … repeated sound. It is possible that this is the mating call of the male.

02.09.'13  Turnoff to Mount Etjo  BirdsConTour for a cleaner Bird Habitat Another BirdsConTour for a cleaner Bird Habitat cleaning sessions were held while being on a Limpopo tour with a six German guest group. Not only can the rubbish lying around, including glass bottles, cause a bush fire and threaten bird- and wildlife in general, but it is no good impression for guests. Areas that have been cleaned are the turnoff to Mount Etjo, Namibia, and the parking area at the Mapungubwe NP museum in South Africa. These places were in dire need of attention.

02.09.'13  Etosha Safari Camp, Namibia  Pearl-spotted Owlet (1) Probably the hunger drives these birds to become active by day. Although it is reported that they are often active by day, they are clearly more active now than with previous observations. Another reason might be or even additional, that it is now their peak-breeding season.

03.09.'13  Okaukuejo Waterhole, Etosha NP., Namibia  Tawny Eagle (2) Because of trapping and poisoning in Namibia, numbers decreased and this species provisionally got classified as endangered in this country. Thus it is good news to have found one pair nesting in an old vulture nest west of the Okaukuejo Waterhole.

03.09.'13  Etosha Safari Camp, Namibia  Southern Masked-Weaver (100’s) Here 100’s of birds roost communally in the alien trees of the garden. Singing and chattering, they fly in, in small groups, from up to 45 minutes before sunset.

04.09.'13  Klein Namutoni Waterhole, Etosha NP., Namibia  Marsh Sandpiper (1) This juvenile bird arrived quite early, for these fairly common Palearctic-breeding migrants, in our region, but it is not uncommon for juveniles to arrive at this time. It is observed that foraging birds sometimes leave the water to defecate, probably to reduce parasite infection. Storks also have this habit.

04.09.'13  Ohange Namibia Lodge, Namibia  Red-billed Hornbill (2) This is the most habitat restricted one of all small hornbills. It favors open, wooded savanna with sparse ground cover, such as areas that are heavily trampled by game or livestock. Therefore drought years are in their favor and often drive them into areas outside their normal range.

05.09.'13  Nunda River Lodge, Namibia  Violet-backed Starling (1) This individual male seen can either be a member of the small number that is present year-round or he is a breeding intra-African migrant from tropical Africa having arrived early.

05.09.'13  Nunda River Lodge, Namibia  Meves’s Starling (1) Officially this species is not threatened, but potentially it is threatened by the destruction of trees (potential nest sites) by the African Elephants, especially in areas where the population size of these big mammals is unnaturally high (see Chobe NP.), and by uncontrolled firewood collection.

06.09.'13  Lianshulu Lodge, Mudumu NP., Namibia  White-browed Robin Robin-Chat (2) Especially during their breeding season, these birds are ideal guards in the gardens, they even scold and attack large snakes such as Boomslangs Dispholidus typus.

07.09.'13  Lianshulu Lodge, Mudumu NP., Namibia  Bird & Birder Friendly Award BirdsConTour traveled to Caprivi in Namibia to reward the Lianshulu Lodge. This establishment is putting in effort to conserve the wild birds not only on the lodge property but also in the protected park area surrounding the lodge.

08.09.'13  Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana  Southern Brown-throated Weaver (10) This uncommon species is easily overlooked in winter, non-breeding season. The garden of the Chobe safari Lodge is a fine place to spot the subspecies Ploceus xanthopterus castaneigula. Northern Botswana and northeastern Namibia are the only areas to see this subspecies in southern Africa.

09.09.'13  Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana  Bar-throated Apalis (1) A definite identification is the white eyes. This is not their registered distribution area! According to identification, this individual is the Apalis thoracica flaviventris, with a rather indistinctive breast band, an identification aid that separates this subspecies from the 12 other subspecies occurring in southern Africa.

10.09.'13  Kazungula, Botswana, to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe  Southern Ground-Hornbill (15) An astonishingly high number of these birds were seen alongside a 50 km stretch of road in between Kazungula, Botswana, and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, – 15 birds. The grouping was 4, 4, 3, 2 and 2. This results in an estimated density of circa one group per 10 km. The highest recorded density for southern Africa was one group per 20 km at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. Laying dates are from August till January. A dominant breeding pair can be together with 0 till 9 helpers, mainly being males and juveniles from previous broods.

10.09.'13  Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Zimbabwe  Marabou Stork (16) Primarily a scavenger, the Marabou Storks feed at this Vulture Restaurant, initiated and managed by the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, in association with Hooded, White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures. Being subordinate to these Vultures, they wait at the side of the feeding frenzy and at a sudden run in to grab scraps. Daily at one o’clock vulture feeding takes place and for the effort in vulture conservation, this lodge received a Bird & Birder Friendly Award from BirdsConTour some time ago.
BirdsConTour urges the staff and visitors of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge to be on the look out for Marabou Storks that are tagged with a yellow plate provided with a black writing on and to report such sightings. The aim of these marked Storks is to observe the movement of these birds. Better knowledge of their movements is important for better conservation.

10.09.'13  Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana  Red-faced Cisticola (1) It is clearly distinguishable from the Singing Cisticola by its “tsk-tsk-tsk, up-up-up-DOWN-DOWN-down-doown-dooown” voice phrase. (Chamberlain’s LBJs)

10.09.'13  Chobe Safari Lodge, Botswana  African Marsh-Harrier (1) In the morning at 6:30 one adult bird flew and collected reed stems as nest material. Males can be observed adding grass or stems to the nest when they guard the eggs or chicks while the female is away feeding. Peak laying dates are September, December and January till June. It is sad to know that the African Marsh-Harrier is, although globally not threatened, classified as vulnerable in South Africa and even as endangered in Namibia. The fires during the species’ breeding season in the Caprivi Strip have a major impact on their population. In regard of animal conservation, these regular fires are a big concern and more attention should be put on finding ways to reduce these Caprivi fires!

11.09.'13  Dumela Lodge, Botswana  Bird & Birder Friendly Award  BirdsConTour honoured the second lodge in Botswana with a two penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award. Find out more under the

11.09.'13  Maope, Botswana  Common Myna (3) Being native to India, they have been introduced to southern Africa at Durban about 1900 to control insects and have spread over southern Africa since then. They prefer urban areas and are often unconcerned of proximity of people or traffic.

12.09.'13  Mopane Bush Lodge, South Africa  Laughing Dove (1) A Laughing Dove at the water pond in the garden of the Mopane Bush Lodge delivered a good example of leucism in birds, in which portions or sometimes all of the plumage lacks pigment but the bare parts are normally colored. The chin and throat feathers of this bird were white in color. Natural selection ensures that abnormalities like this or even albinistic birds are rare and mostly short-lived because the white color makes the animal conspicuous to predators. Even evidence exists that their parents when young may discriminate against birds with color abnormalities and such birds have problems to attract a partner.

12.09.'13  Museum parking area, Mapungubwe NP, South Africa  BirdsConTour for a cleaner Bird Habitat Another BirdsConTour for a cleaner Bird Habitat cleaning sessions were held while being on a Limpopo tour with a six German guest group. Not only can the rubbish lying around, including glass bottles, cause a bush fire and threaten bird- and wildlife in general, but it is no good impression for guests. Areas that have been cleaned are the turnoff to Mount Etjo, Namibia, and the parking area at the Mapungubwe NP museum in South Africa. These places were in dire need of attention.

13.09.'13  Mopane Bush Lodge, Mapungubwe NP., South Africa  Double-banded Sandgrouse (2) Being a ground breeder, the soil would be too hot to breed during summer. That is why they breed during winter, April to October. Also its food, mostly seeds of legumes, is ripe in winter. One freshly killed half-grown chick was found near the Bushmen paintings on the western border of the Mapungubwe NP.

14.09.'13  Krüger NP, South Africa  Woolly-necked Stork (2) Classified as near-threatened in South Africa because of threats to breeding habitat, it is a delight to find these birds in this country where the population is estimated at less than 100. Here in the Krüger NP are about eight breeding pairs.

14.09.'13  Shingwedzi Camp Krüger NP, South Africa  Grey-headed Bush-Shrike (1) Often heard but difficult to see, these birds are in their breeding season. Their reproductive rate lies at 0.8 fledglings per pair per year.

15.09.'13  Krüger NP, Pafuri, South Africa  Saddle-billed Stork (1) In Krüger NP. live about 300-400 of them. Although they are not threatened globally, they are endangered in South Africa.

15.09.'13  Olifants Camp Krüger NP, South Africa  African Grey Hornbill (5) In this region, their peak breeding time is October and November. During this time the female moults her flight and tail feathers, while she is “trapped” in the nest. During this season the male provides the female and then the chicks with food, he therefore moults later, mostly November till May.

16.09.'13  Krüger NP, Phalaborwa, South Africa  White-headed Vulture (1) With African population numbers of estimated 7 000-12 500 birds, in southern Africa about 500 pairs and in South Africa together with Swaziland ± 80-120 pairs, one gets a thrill seeing one of theses uncommon White-headed Vultures. The increase of game-farming may have an influence of the increase of range.

16.09.'13  Hannah Lodge, South Africa  Bird & Birder Friendly Award  With a two penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Award in their possession, handed over by Stefan Rust from BirdsConTour, Hannah Lodge and its team, can now proudly market themselves as a bird and birder friendly establishment. More information under

17.09.'13  Panorama Route, Ohrigstad, South Africa  Red-backed Mannikin (1) These small birds fall prey to the Fork-tailed Drongo and even praying mantis.

17.09.'13  Hannah Lodge, South Africa  Bird & Birder Friendly Award  By traveling directly with BirdsConTour or making use of a guide from BirdsConTour you support bird conservation and create an economic platform for local livelihoods. Sometimes travelers also participate in other BirdsConTour projects. To say THANK YOU, every tour participant receives a Bird & Birder Friendly Award at the end of the tour.
Seven German-speaking guests were rewarded with one penguin-rated Bird & Birder Friendly Awards:
Petra & Volkmar Gallmeister
Günter Gross
Erika & Jürgen Rudnick
Uwe Schaumann
This Limpopo Tour, organized by Pack Safari and Chamäleon Reisen, took place from the 1st of September until the 20th of September 2013.

18.09.'13  Johannesburg, South Africa  Long-tailed Widowbird (1) Isolated populations are widespread, mostly on private land. Here they are vulnerable to land-use changes such as overgrazing, regular and too frequent fires, commercial afforestation and human establishments.

19.09.'13  Lobatse and Jwaneng, Botswana  Common Myna (6) Almost 70 years after their introduction to Johannesburg in about 1938, the Common Myna population seems to explode. Previously BirdsConTour recorded this species in Nata and Kang, Botswana, and today in Lobatse and Jwaneng, Botswana. Clearly visible a rapid northwards expansion takes place.

19.09.'13  Namibia  Black-shouldered Kite (3) With a thought southern Africa population of up to 100 000 they are not threatened. It seems they are benefiting from bush clearance in agriculture and from alien trees for nesting.

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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