In theory this is the quietest time for birding. Dedicated bird trips would go in our Winter, their Summer, when the number of migrants is much higher. Even so, we got 217 on the whole trip, and 153 in the Delta without really pushing it on the lbj front!
I'll try and deal with them in a semi-logical way. The first thing which I was slightly surprised about was the raptors. I was expecting there to be large numbers but we only got 11 different species comprising 3 different vultures, 5 eagles, Dickinsons kestrel, black-shouldered kite and african marsh harrier.
|These are white-backed vultures, the commonest of the 3 we saw. These ones just reminded us of the ones in the Jungle Book, pretending to be the Beatles. They are actually waiting around near a lion kill.|
|By contrast this is a hooded vulture, also waiting around at the same lion kill. The last one, which I don't have a good photo of is the lapped-faced vulture.|
The other large raptors in evidence were the eagles. Mostly they were fairly fleeting glimpses and to be honest I relied very much on the guides to i.d. them. The issue is that compared to here, there are so many potentials and they look pretty similar when soaring.
One we did see close-up and on more than one occasion was tawny eagle. This is a rare bird in europe but is common-ish across sub-Saharan Africa.
Get it in the air and the light-brown underwing with darker trailing edge and squared-off tail become visible. What you have is a majestic bird of prey.
The commonest of the eagles though, and one which in Nxabega and Shinde we were seeing many of each day, was the bataleur. In adult plumage this is a handsome crested bird. The one here though was a particularly confiding juvenile bird. It just sat in its tree as we got closer and closer, peering down at us. We sat for almost 10 minutes hoping to get a shot of it flying it. We tried stsarting the engine, moving away and back but it just sat there, so we left it in peace to enjoy the late afternoon sun.
Over and around water though, and with a cry which echoed across the marshes were the African fish eagles. Similar to the American bald eagle in some ways, pairs occupied territories around the larger bodies of water, catching fish off the surface. Often though you saw them declaring "this is mine, keep off" from the top of the tallest tree.
This rather poor photo is a marsh owl which was on a path only just outside the camp at Shinde.
Of course, during the day the owls don't disappear, they just lie up in trees and if you are lucky you can find them awaiting nightfall. This is a Scop's owl, the same type as we saw at night, but this time in a tree about 20 feet outside our dining room. It sat there all day.
Finally on the theme of carnivorous birds are the kingfishers. Three different ones stood out. First, the malachite. This is a tiny bird, smaller by far than our common kingfisher but relatively common in the wet areas of the delta. It perches on reeds waiting to find what must be tiny fish in the pools below.
Another family we saw a lot of was the hornbills. In Botswana you can see 5 types, red-billed aka flying chili pepper, yellow-billed aka flying banana, grey hornbill, ground hornbill and Bradfields hornbill. We saw the first 4 commonly and got the last in Victoria Falls.
Even though we weren't in the best season for them, some of the colourful residents are the bee-eaters. We saw 4 different types with the commonest being the smallest, the little bee eater.
By contrast the swallow-tailed bee-eater is larger and much less common. We only saw them in Shinde but they are easy to tell apart, with their longer tail.
This handsome specimen is a white-fronted bee-eater and was from Lagoon camp where we actualy saw it whilst on our river cruise.
Almost the first bird we saw when we got to Nxabega was the lilac-breasted roller, or lbr as it is known. I was excited, the guide less so. I soon realised why. They are ubiquitous and widespread. You would see dozens, literally, every day. That shouldn't detract from them though, for me they are the spirit of the place - beautiful, charismatic, exotic.
As well as the lbr, you also get their larger and rarer cousins the purple roller.
For the rest of the birds, I will just show a selection of some of the better shots or better birds. I'll split them into water-based and land-based as a sort-of logical classification.
with so much water, there are clearly a lot of birds relying on it for food and shelter. This is a small cormorant., the reed cormorant
A much smaller bird is this squacco-heron. This is more of a lurker near reeds, like its many allies such as black, rufous-bellied and green heron.
One almost unique bird, and one impossible not to notice is the hammerkop. It is named because of its extraordinary-shaped crest on its head. It is a relative of the herons and every small pool seemed to have one catching frogs and small fish as the waters receded.
Most ecological niches have a similar solution, so where we have coots and moorhens, the delta has jacanas. I have already mentioned these, the top in the commoner african jacana, whilst the lower is the much rarer lesser jacana.
Of the birds on land, many were seen around the camps. This is a created barbet, a large finch-sized bird with a very strong bill.
Many are adapted to eat the numerous insects, such as this black-crowned tchagra.
There were lots of lbj's around, and we missed identifying quite a few. Those that did show could be identified eventually, though again I often relied on our guides. This is an african pipit.