Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shamvura update

The past couple days have yielded a dozen or so new birds for my Namibia list. Tropical Birding guides Charles Hesse and Jerry Connolly brought a tour through the past two nights and I tagged along while they birded the area. I knew it was going to be an excellent couple days when I stumbled upon my first Thick-billed Weaver on my way to greet everyone – a common resident to the region but one that has eluded me.

Tropical Birding group
The following morning we headed off to explore the surrounding forests near Shamvura. Our first stop was the nearby quarantine station where cattle are held for a period of time to prevent the threat of foot and mouth disease. A couple small feeding flocks were present but nothing of interest and the area was fairly quiet. However, upon returning to the van, we discovered at least 20 Sharp-tailed Starlings drinking from a leaking pipe – a highly sought after specialty and a lifer for the whole group. Also present was a pair of Southern Black Flycatchers, a species I’m amazed I haven’t run into yet.  As the starlings moved on, we worked our way east along the B8 birding a couple locations where the habitat was still rather intact. Despite the increasing heat, we wondered around the broad-leaved forests in search of more feeding flocks. We found a few including one consisting of a half-dozen Green-capped Eremomelas – an uncommon and localized target bird. Other birds of interest include Purple Roller, Black-crowned Tchagra and a Dark Chanting Goshawk on our drive back to Shamvura. Around the garden I finally found a Purple-banded Sunbird in a good sized feeding flock – another bird that has eluded me this trip.

Observing a feeding flock
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Following lunch and an afternoon swim, the group reassembled and loaded a boat for a 3 hour trip down the Okavango River. As we drifted downstream, we counted numerous species of herons, egrets, bitterns among other waterbirds as well as Fan-tailed Widowbirds patrolling the floodplains. Plenty of great birds were recorded including Comb Ducks, African Skimmers, Collared and Rock Pratincoles as well as trip birds for me such as Wood Sandpiper, Gray-rumped Swallow and an unexpected White-winged Tern flying around the oxbow lake

From here on forward, it’s all target birding for me. My trip list has reached 320 and I hope to achieve 350 before returning to Cape Town. I’m very doubtful but if I remain up here into summer (southern hemisphere), I should be able to pick up quite a few birds including cuckoos and old world warblers.

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