Botswana

Chobe

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Chobe’s green season birds

Chobe’s green season birds

Steppe Buzzard
Steppe Buzzard
Phillip Zappala

 

BY : LAWRENCE ALROY

While birding in the Chobe region is wonderful all year round, it peaks from November to March when the humid Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone flashes and rumbles southwards from Zambia and unplugs its moisture-laden clouds over our area. The soaking rain spawns a cornucopia of new-born creeping, hopping, flying and swimming creatures that will replenish the diets of the migrant birds that follow.    

The African paradise flycatcher, its cobalt blue head contrasting vividly with the fiery copper sheen of its long, graceful tail, forms the vanguard of the ‘green season’ avian invasion. It arrives during October’s shimmering heat to be first in the queue, and large numbers of European (barn) swallow follow suit.

Bird calls dominate this frenzied time, and provide excellent pointers towards ‘lifers’ that will bolster birding lists. Visitors will soon trace the beautiful woodland kingfisher by its persistent trilling, and enjoy tracking down that elusive brood parasite, the cuckoo, whose varied ‘come hither’ calls will betray the presence of  Jacobin, great-spotted, red-chested, Diederik’s and Klaas’s cuckoo, or even the African emerald cuckoo - many birders’ Holy Grail.

To verify the impression of ‘listen and you will find’ given above, be prepared to cover varied terrain. Head out to the Kasane Forest Reserve, home to Stierling’s wren-warbler, striped and grey-headed kingfisher, as well as the beetles and scorpions that will attract ground hornbill. Waders, such as grebe and moorhen, will be found at inland pans, and en route watch out for pennant-winged nightjar. 

In the Chobe National Park, seek out rosy-throated longclaw and shy crake on the Puku Flats, plus pallid, African marsh and Montagu’s harrier on the floodplains and Lechwe Flats, in company with numerous white-faced duck and scatterings of fulvous duck. 

The Chobe River frontage plays host to collared and black-winged pratincole in large flocks, feeding on the wing; woolly-necked and Abdim’s stork can also be spotted and it may be possible to hear the call of the white-browed coucal, also known as ‘the rain bird’.

In Kasane, the riverine bush around Seboba Recreational Park shelters thrush nightingale, the aerobatic broad-billed roller and flamboyant southern red bishop, while lucky birders could spot an olive bee-eater or two. Further along the river, yellow wagtail, pin-tailed whydah and Luapula cisticola, all in full breeding plumage, frequent the Kasane hot springs area, known locally as The Seep.

As a finale to your hot day in the bush, local birder, Phil Zappala, advises readers not to return to base too early – but rather seek out termite mounds that have just erupted and given rise to myriad flying ants that are voraciously preyed upon by wheeling, diving fork-tailed drongo, bee-eater, flycatcher and many other species that are not readily visible during their daily routines.

Raptors too will happily forsake other available food and snack on the protein-rich insects instead. It is a bizarre spectacle to witness upwards of 30 birds of prey, including steppe buzzard, yellow-billed kite and bateleur, walking along sandy tracks while picking off stragglers during such occasions.