Babblers

Publication Name Publication Type Description File
Babbler 50 Babbler

Editorial

From afar I try to keep track of the development of BirdLife Botswana and am constantly amazed just how the organisation has grown. Thanks are due of course to our Director, Kabelo Senyatso, all the staff and volunteers and not to be forgotten, to our tireless Chairman, Harold Hester, who has steered the fledgling organisation through to the large organisation it is today with its increasing number of staff. A large organisation is not the goal; the real goal is an organisation with enthusiastic effective staff, an organisation respected by government and one that makes a real difference to bird conservation. We seem to be well on our way to reaching this goal.

In a semi-desert country birds are always moving about in response to rainfall. The recent drought has certainly caused some birds to move away from normal haunts and others to turn up in strange places. Particular excitements have included sightings of Burchell’s Coursers at Lake Ngami and at Dautsa Flats west of Sehitwa by Mark Muller, Ali Flatt, Richard Randall and Chris Brewster. This species has previously been a rarity only in the south and southwest. A real surprise was the Rose-coloured Starling seen by Robert Self and Katie Hoff among Wattled Starlings on the golf course at Mowana Lodge at Kasane. This was the first record of this species for Botswana and only the second record from southern Africa. Common Quails at Lake Ngami and Stark’s Larks at Dautsa Flats are among other notable sightings (see records sections in this Babbler.

Contributions for Babbler continue to trickle in. This issue includes an important paper by Pete Hancock, Mark Muller and Brian Bridges on their surveys of breeding Lappet-faced Vultures in northern Botswana and a response by Dieter Oschadleus to a previous note in Babbler on Spectacled Weavers in the Okavango. There is also the regular waterbird counts report and a range of interesting notes on species such as Mosque Swallow, Ashy Tit, Swamp Boubou and Dusky Sunbird from Chris Brewster, Mark Muller, Richard Randall and Brian Rode.

Editor

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Babbler 53 Babbler

EDITORIAL

It was exciting to be in the Okavango in August with water pouring down the Boteti River to Xhumaga and beyond and also down the Nhabe River to Lake Ngami for the first time in about 30 years. Other rivers in the Delta such as the Shashe, Boronyane, Khwai and Gomoti were also flowing strongly. Lake Ngami with water from the Nhabe as well as the Kunyere had by early August crossed the road running north from Sehitwa and had flooded surrounding Acacia woodland. Unseasonal rain in June had also helped fill many pans throughout Botswana but with so much water available for waterbirds, counts were inevitably rather low.

Great excitment was caused by two yellow-breasted Crimson-breasted Shrikes, one first found near Maun by Andy Moore, and it and another subsequently seen and photographed by many birdwatchers. In five years at Ruretse I saw just one yellow-breasted bird and that only once. Nicky Bousfield has seen several at Khama Rhino Sanctuary and she remembers a bird caught by her husband, whose plumage in captivity turned from red to yellow!

This issue of Babbler will I hope contain articles of interest to all members. The Chairman’s Annual Report is included as a permanent record of the achievements of Birdlife Botswana during 2008/2009. Dr Mark Bing has documented the occurrence of many interesting species that he has recorded around his farm above Nnywane Dam near Lobatse. Dr Steve Boyes who has carried out extensive research on Meyer’s Parrot in the Okavango Delta, outlines some of his findings. Kevin Grant, who manages a large property near Ghanzi has written about a matter that will be of concern to all members – the poisoning of carcasses to kill predators and that ends up killing vultures, eagles and other birds as well as small mammals.

Incidentally, when staying at Kevin’s house north of Ghanzi in dry bush in August it was exciting to see a Black Crake and breeding Moorhens at a small pool that he had created.  Kevin reported too that other waterbirds had also visited this isolated pool during 2009. Waterbirds can turn up anywhere, many kilometres from any other waterbody.

Errata in babbler 52:

The thick-billed cuckoo photo on page 41 was wrongly attributed to mark muller. It should have been credited to Wessel Steyn; likewise the photo of a garganey with Hottentot Teal on page 52 was in fact taken by mark muller and not Richard Randall. My apologies for these mistakes.

Stephanie Tyler

 

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Babbler 54 Babbler

EDITORIAL

Apart from the paper on waterbird counts which documents the counts for two years – from July 2008 to January 2010, there are no other substantive papers in this issue of Babbler. However, it contains many interesting notes and a backlog of sight and breeding records and early and late migrant dates from 2009 and 2010. Some of these records have been extracted from Tickbird so please continue supporting that and the more information you can provide, especially on numbers of any species seen, the better.

Among the notes are several from Mark Muller and Ali Flatt on birds in their Maun garden, at nearby pans and along the Thamalakane River. Richard Randall has contributed two notes – on the important Pink-backed Pelican breeding colony at Kanana and on sightings of Rufous-eared Warblers in the Kalahari. His description of Croaking Cisticolas that he saw in February in Kazuma Forest Reserve, serves as a good model for your own rarity sighting! Maria Eifler, a new contributor, writes of a memorable camping trip at Masetlheng Pan in SW Botswana; her sighting of an African Openbill was unusual but late 2009/early 2010 will go down in history as the season of a huge invasion of Openbills into South Africa. Nicky Bousfield provides an update on ‘her’ Tachila Nature Reserve near Francistown, a wonderful initiative whilst Chris Brewster writes on that elusive skulking species, the River Warbler which turned up at Notwane in SE Botswana. Both Mark Muller and Nicky Bousfield sent notes to me of Pygmy-Kingfishers that they had handled. Ann Gollifer, another new contributor, reported on the deaths of Palm Swifts after prolonged wet weather.

I do not always see Honeyguide, a journal on birds in Zimbabe, but have caught up with some interesting papers. Do please look at the summaries of some of these recent papers in Honeyguide which is an excellent publication. Many cover parts of Botswana or discuss birds that occur in Botswana.

Finally, I would like to thank our hard-working and far-sighted Chairman, Harold Hester for all that he has done and continues to do for BirdLife Botswana. I am sure this echoes the sentiments of us all. He does far more than any Chairman should be expected to do. I would also like to thank Doreen McColaugh for proof-reading this issue – a thankless task but she finds various things that I missed.

Stephanie J. Tyler, Editor
 

 

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EDITORIAL

2010 was the year of big floods in northern Botswana. It was exciting to learn from Pete Hancock that in November there was water flowing into Lake Xau. This lake, south of Mopipi in the Makgadikgadi system, has been dry since the 1970s.  At the end of December Chris Brewster visited the site to do a count of waterbirds and his results are in this issue of Babbler. The lake should develop into an important site in future years. The Savuti Channel also now again has water and is attracting numerous waterbirds. The depth and extent of floodwater in the Okavango delta made access and travel somewhat difficult in the late winter. All good news for waterbirds!

Rarities including Pectoral and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Grey Wagtails and a Golden Pipit have been appearing in South Africa in late 2010; others as Long-crested Hawk Eagle and White-faced Ducks were seen well outside their usual range. Of interest to Botswana were a Tree Pipit and a Chestnut Weaver just outside our border at Nossob in the KTP in late November 2010 and early January 2011 respectively. Ian White found and photographed a Levaillant’s Cisticola at Gaborone Game Reserve in early January 2011, only the second record in Botswana. What other exciting birds I wonder have we been missing with our sparse scatter of birdwatchers?

Vultures have been very much in the international news recently. We have our own problem in Botswana with poisoning but in Kenya recent studies have shown a 60% decline over three decades in White-backed, Ruppell’s Griffon and Hooded Vultures in the Masai Mara in SW Kenya and a 70% decline in central Kenya. Deliberate poisoning of livestock carcases with the pesticide Furadan to kill large predators such as Lions is blamed. In Swaziland, loss of and disturbance to nesting and foraging habitat as well as poaching of vultures for parts for traditional medicine are blamed for declines.

This issue is rather ‘thin’ but a second part of Peter Ginn’s Makgadikgadi visits previously published in Wagtail in Zimbabwe, is reproduced here – Peter was in the Makgadikgadi system in a wet period in the 1970s. Pete Hancock provides some data on additional summering areas for Wattled Cranes and my apology to Chris Brewster for inadvertently omitting his River Warbler note from the last Babbler; the note is printed in this issue. I thank contributors of articles or records and photographers, especially Dian Derksen for some stunning photographs of a Temminck’s Courser and chick, a Three-banded Plover chick and a Pririt Batis nest.

Stephanie J. Tyler, Editor

 

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Editorial

I was very sorry to hear that Huw Penry died on 23 April 2011 in Bristol after a short battle with cancer. Huw will be known to many birders in Botswana as the man who wrote the Botswana Bird Atlas in 1994. He personally spent an enormous amount of time doing the fieldwork for the Atlas, visiting numerous far-flung squares. Since he left Botswana Huw remained on the Records sub-committee and provided a valuable input to many decisions on rarities. Our sympahies go to Susan, his wife. Another sad loss to the birding world is flamingo specialist Dr Brooks Childress who died in July (see obituaries on pages 54 and 55)

On another matter entirely, there is an article in African Birds & Birding by Phil Hockey suggesting that the Palaearctic migrant, Black-winged Pratincole might be in serious trouble. Very few pratincoles, relative to 20 years ago, are now being recorded in South Africa (a flock of 1,000 in NE Free State in February 2011 was of note) on their non-breeding grounds. Pesticides in South Africa, as well as ploughing of steppes in their breeding range, may be causing the species’ decline. The most recent estimate is of 68,000 to 90,000 pairs in the world. Phil Hockey suggested that they have possibly moved northwards to northern Botswana; this is not likely to be true though, judging by our rather few records from this area.

In this issue of Babbler I am pleased to include our Chairman’s Annual Report and a paper on Red-billed Quelea by Wendy Borello and Bob Cheke. Bob and colleagues have been working for many years on this so-called pest species although the spectacle of tens of thousands of quelea flying in a dense flock is a memorable sight for any bird watcher. Wendy and Bob report on Queleas that were ringed at Atthol Holme Farm and subsequently caught or seen again in later years, showing site fidelity of some birds when not breeding. Chris Brewster writes on breeding of Klaas’ Cuckoo near Tshabong and Nicky Bousfield continues with her interest in Pygmy-Kingfishers and in Heuglin’s Robins, documenting more birds of both species seen or caught and ringed in Francistown. There are short notes on birds seen at Lake Ngami and at Lake Xau by various observers

 

Stephanie J. Tyler, Editor

 

 

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Babbler 57 Babbler

Editorial

I write this editorial from a rain-soaked Britain which is ironic as I read of the drought in Botswana and the very low levels at various dams. Chris Brewster has told me that Bokaa Dam is only 5% full and many other dams are similarly drying up. Waterbirds will of course move to wherever there is water in southern/central Africa. Numbers of flocks of Lesser Flamingos and a few Greater Flamingos moving through the Okavango has been of particular note in August.

I have been saddened to learn of several cases of persecution of protected species of birds, both deliberate and incidental, in Botswana in the last year. The poisoning of vultures has been highlighted already in the Birds and People Newsletter and BirdLife Botswana is working hard to combat this. A particularly horrifying event was the shooting of some Great White Pelicans at a new breeding colony at Lake Xau as documented by Pete Hancock and Ken Oake in the Birds and People Newsletter no. 34. This resulted in the colony with hundreds of eggs and chicks being abandoned and left to die.

I was also concerned to learn of the stoning and killing of chicks of storks, egrets and other waterbirds at the Kasane (Seboba) Rapids colony on the Chobe River. Phil Zappala noted that the chicks that could be collected by local people were taken home to eat or braaied down at the rapids. This seems to be a new occurrence as for years the colony has been left undisturbed. Chris Brown had been impressed by the sheer numbers of African Openbills nesting there in September 2011 – see page 14 – but Phil reports far fewer Openbills and Yellow-billed Storks in August 2012 possibly because of the disturbance last year. Hopefully DWNP staff and others can prevent the same thing happening this year.

On a more cheerful note this issue of Babbler contains a fascinating account of Lilac-breasted Rollers breeding in Francistown by Mike Soroczinski and unusually, a paper on birds – Black-necked Grebes – in Zimbabwe by David Ewbank; there is also a two year report on the waterbird counts in Botswana as well as the usual Category B records and other interesting sightings from a very welcome increased number of observers.

Stephanie J. Tyler, Editor

 

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Babbler 58 Babbler

Editorial

I have been fascinated by the accounts of birds at Savuti Marsh and Channel over the last two years mainly from Gavin and Marjorie Blair, Richard Randall, Mark Muller and Ali Flatt. By June this year the marsh had however, dried up again and the channel just had a few remnant pools. In the 1990s and early 2000s I only ever saw this area dry. The changes from wetland to dryland or vice versa are one of the special features of Botswana. Lake Ngami, Lake Xau and the Boteti River are presently enjoying a rebirth with plenty of water and the birds to go with it but in the 1980s and early 1990s these wetlands were all but dry. The speed with which water birds find new wetlands is incredible. I was able to visit Lake Xau for the first time in January and was impressed with the sheer numbers of birds present and the luxuriant aquatic vegetation.

Reports of about 160 dead pelicans in late 2012 in Chobe suggested that botulism or something similar at Savuti Marsh might have been responsible. However, I understand that the birds may have been weakened by a heavy roundworm infestation; Lions and other predators had then been hunting the weakened birds.

There are countless news items about the persecution of birds around the world or their demise due to habitat destruction but one I found particularly depressing was the news about mass killing of Amur Falcons. These small falcons migrate from Siberia to Botswana and South Africa each year but are being slaughtered in their thousands as they pass through NE India. Some 12,000 to 14,000 are hunted daily in Nagaland, giving an estimated 120,000 to 140,000 killed every year during their passage through the State. As India is signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) it must be beholden on the Government to stop this slaughter.

Southern African ornithology has recently lost some stalwarts. Bob Stjernstedt who came to the Slaty Egret workshop in Maun back in March 2011, died in his adopted country of Zimbabwe. British-born Phil Hockey from the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute, a prolific writer and lead author of the new Roberts also died prematurely. In Botswana we have sadly lost Sue Major who was a leading light for many years in the old Botswana Bird Club and secretary of the Rarities sub-committee. The death of Zenzele Dumisile Mpofu, Zee to her friends, was also a real shock. I first met Zee in 2003 when she had started work with DWNP in Maun and expressed an interest in helping with Slaty Egret research and roost counts. She was a wonderful warm and enthusiastic young woman and in March 2011 gave the presentation for Botswana at the Slaty Egret workshop in Maun. She was so keen to do more work on the egret but then was moved by DWNP to Kasane where she quickly settled in. Sadly a sudden aneurism cut her life short in December 2012.

 

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Babbler 59 Babbler

Editorial

Poisoning of vultures has been very much in the news recently. In Namibia there were three cases of poisoning in the Caprivi between June 2013 and August 2013. There is a report in this issue of Babbler by three vulture enthusiasts Dr McNutt, James Bradley and Pete Hancock on the dreadful incident in the Kwando concession where more than 300 vultures were killed at poisoned elephant carcasses.This is a huge concern, as poaching incidences particularly with poison at waterholes are on the increase in the area and our vulture populations are very much at risk. Dr Kabelo Senyatso has been drawing attention to this outrage in the media and in Government.

I was interested to see the BirdLife Kasane branch report sent in May to head office – so much is happening up in Kasane with the extension of the airport runway, new sewage ponds developments and new residential and commercial buildings. The Kasane branch drew attention to the disturbance and direct persecution of the African Openbill breeding colony at Seboba Rapids in 2011; subsequently birds did not breed there in 2012. There is now a fence around this area and the area is to be run by Botswana Tourist Board with BirdLife’s involvement in this project. The branch also drew attention to the need for more permanent monitoring of the White-backed Vulture colony in Lesoma Valley and re-iterated their concern about poisoning of vultures. They also noted that the use of rat poison is still very common in southern Africa, with Aldicarb - up until recently - being able to be bought over the counter in Kasane. Rat poison in the U.K. and elsewhere is known to kill many Barn Owls, kites and other raptors through secondary poisoning; the same thing must be happening in Africa with owls particularly at risk.

In this issue of Babbler there are some varied and interesting articles from the overlap in range of African Red-eyed and Black-eyed Bulbuls and hybrid bulbuls by Dr Mark Bing to competition for nest sites at Crocodile Pools by Jim Dayton. Mike Soroczynski demonstrates that Lilac-breasted Rollers are indeed double-brooded contrary to what is said in the literature and Chris Brewster describes the avifauna of the Crocodile Pools over the nine years he has lived there. After a report by me on waterbirds, Marjorie Blair writes of the rewarding trip she and Gavin made to count birds in Chobe National Park at pans and at Savuti Marsh There are also the usual reports from the Records Sub-committee on Rarities, Category B and other interesting records as well as breeding records.

Stephanie Tyler (Editor)

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Editorial

The continued mass poisoning of vultures in Botswana is so depressing and now with the drug dichlofenac being used in Europe too, it is hard to feel optimistic about the vultures’ future. In mid October Harold Hester mentioned to me that Dr Mark Bing had expressed his alarm at the reduction in numbers of vultures on the western side of the Delta.   In his words, “The meat poaching in the delta, commercial buffalo and giraffe, is SO SEVERE, and the Habu, Etsa and Gumare area has nearly no vultures left. I have had two weeks darting there, with NO VULTURES coming to elephant carcasses from Nata on the Zimbabwe border as well as the western Delta. Some Vulture restaurants like Du Plessis in Lobatse have to keep moving the restaurant around as humans are stealing the meat; he needs money for a secure fenced area to be built.”  Pete Hancock then told me of another 10 vultures including a Lappet-faced Vulture poisoned in the Chobe Enclave in early October.

Amid all the depressing news for Botswana’s wildlife we must rejoice at the fact that the Okavango Delta was listed as the 1,000th World Heritage site, on 22 June 2014, following the recommendation of IUCN, UNESCO’s advisory body on nature. The IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, commented that “The Okavango Delta has long been considered one of the biggest gaps on the World Heritage list and IUCN is proud to have been able to provide support to this nomination. “We congratulate Botswana’s authorities on their extraordinary commitment to make this historic listing a reality.”

On a lighter note – it is not often that a new species is added to the southern African bird checklist so there was much excitement when a Red-necked Buzzard was identified in the Caprivi Strip in Namibia on 28 July 2014. Then a photograph of a Red-necked Buzzard was published taken by Peter McCalmont on 11 July 2014 – in Chobe National Park so it looked as though the first record went to Botswana. However, photographers dug out their old photos and other records of the buzzard materialised - in the KTP in June 2001, in Ngepi Camp in west Caprivi on 8 March 2009 and in the Mahango Game Reserve in Namibia on 11 August 2012. This species of buzzard is usually found in Angola so perhaps it is a regular visitor to the southern African region especially in the austral winter but had been over-looked as a phase of the very variable Steppe Buzzard.

Stephanie Tyler (Editor)

 


 

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Babbler 61 Babbler
Editorial 
I trust that the array of notes in this issue of Babbler will be of interest to all BirdLife Botswana members. The birding hotspots will become a regular feature so if any reader has a favourite and productive area for birdwatching then please consider writing a note. In this issue Dean Hatty who with his wife Ellen has lived at Pandamatenga Farm 50 since 2006 has summarised the highlights to be seen on the extensive area of farmland there. His article details the birds of greatest interest but to wet your appetite, in one email he wrote: “The Pandamatenga farming area is a unique area in Botswana for birding. It is a great place to watch and study raptors of all shapes and sizes. If you want to see Kori Bustard and huge flocks of Yellow-throated Sandgrouse then this is the place. In summer Grey Crowned Crane can be seen along with Stanley’s Bustard, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers and Lesser Kestrels. There are White-backed Vultures breeding in the tall trees near the Pandamatenga/Zimbabawe border post.”
 
Chris Brewster, a regular contributor, writes on an unusual array of waterbirds in western Botswana in April 2015; he also spent Christmas 2014 at Lake Xau and his observations are provided in his article on birds at the lake. It takes dedication to count 17,700 loafing Black-winged Pratincoles along the shore. This huge number certainly merits the lake being an Important Bird Area. Harold and Geraldine Hester visited the lake in mid-January and their observations are provided too. Pete Hancock’s observations of Black-collared Barbets nesting in his garden and the sneaky Lesser Honeyguides which harass them and his, Mark Muller’s and Ken Oake’s note on a new heronry all provide much of interest too.
 
The two notes on Speckled Pigeon and Black Coucal were prompted by some recent records – by Marjorie and Gavin Blair at Katchikau and by James Wilson on the Puku Flats. Please do keep an eye open for these species. Although a common bird, Speckled Pigeon records away from the species’ stronghold in the east and south-east are welcomed. Likewise do keep an eye or ear out for Black Coucals in northern Botswana and all other B species.
Maun Bird Forum is an excellent way of encouraging birders in the area and there are some great records and photographs on the Forum.
Finally my thanks to Doreen McColaugh for proof-reading a draft of this and previous issues of Babbler and to Harold Hester for ‘seeing’ it through the printing process.
Stephanie Tyler (Editor)
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Editorial

I was sad to hear news from Pete Hancock that the heronry at Xakanaxa Lediba was abandoned when he visited the lagoon in early September 2015. Not a single Yellow-billed Stork, Marabou or Purple Heron was nesting there; moreover there was very little Water-Fig left due to Elephants having destroyed these trees. There were some Black-crowned Night Herons roosting there and although no nests were seen, Rufous-bellied Heron were almost certainly nesting in reeds. Thankfully there was better news from the Kanana heronry in the Okavango Delta where Pink-backed Pelicans were nesting at the start of August as described by Mark Muller and Ali Flatt. A hot fire in the area may however, have an impact that will become apparent during September.

The drought has taken its toll on wetlands with Gavin and Marjorie Blair and Richard Randall reporting that Savute Marsh and Channel in Chobe National Park were dry from July except for a few tiny pools. The note by Grant Reed on Lake Ngami also shows how quickly large water bodies such as this can revert to dry lake beds. Botswana is after all, subject naturally to cyclical periods of wet and dry.

Depressing news from the Chobe River where Gavin and Marjorie Blair reported that netting was widespread and when the water was gone there were heaps of fishing nets left discarded and tangled up all over the floodplains and dry river courses. Birds are then caught up in the nets and drown when the water returns. The Blairs collected and took to the dump as much discarded fishing net as they could but fishermen need to be more responsible. Marjorie in a letter also comments on the lack of pumping in pans in Chobe National Park.

Chris Brewster provides much of interest in his report of his trip along the Botswana/Namibia border fence east of Mohembo. Also of interest were aerial surveys over the Kafue Flats in Zambia by the International Crane Foundation for Wattled Cranes. In April 2015 the ICF estimated a population of 2,300 birds, the largest population in the world. Around 3,000 were noted there in the 1970s but numbers then declined. With an estimated 2,000 Wattled Cranes on the Lliuwa Plains and 1,200 in Bangweulu Swamp, Zambia holds 25% of this species of crane in Africa.

The summer of 2015/2016 was an excellent season for Spotted Crakes with birds turning up in South Africa but also at Phakalane sewage ponds and in the wetland at Gaborone Game Reserve. The most bizarre new bird species recorded in Botswana was a Great Frigate-bird at Gaghoo Diamond Mine on the north-east boundary of the CKGR in early December.

I apologise for several mistakes in the last issue of Babbler but the most notable was attributing the photos of landscape in the Orava region of Slovakia and of the nest and Lesser Spotted Eagle chick in Slovakia to Gavin and Marjorie Blair. These photos were in fact taken by researcher Dusan Karaska. The Blairs took the photos of the bird within Botswana. Thanks to Doreen McColaugh and Harold Hester for their help in editing and finishing this issue of Babbler.

Stephanie Tyler (Editor)

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Editorial

Many exciting discoveries are emerging from the use of satellite transmitters and other technology. One remarkable migratory movement that caught my eye was the fact that European Cuckoos tagged in China have been shown to migrate to Africa. Another was the tracking of Honey Buzzards from Europe into Africa and through Botswana into South Africa. An International Slaty Egret Workshop was held in Maun, hosted by BirdLife Botswana back in 2010. Following on from the AEWA (Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds) workshop an International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Slaty Egret was written. Unfortunately since then very little action has taken place to address the priorities outlined in the plan, largely through a lack of resources for further research in Botswana. It is therefore good news that in Zambia, a team from the BirdLife partner Birdwatch Zambia is trying to prove that Slaty Egrets breed in the Barotse floodplain where large flocks are often seen with recently fledged juveniles.

There are a few notes in this issue of Babbler about important places or particular species but more accounts would be very welcome. Chris Brewster has produced an account of an interesting trip in March to Kalkfontein in western Botswana, in an arid area between Ghanzi and Charles Hill, whilst Ursula Franke writes on a few days spent at Lake Ngami in the rainy season during February. There are accounts of the apparent change in the status of Orange-breasted Waxbills in Botswana and the exciting discovery by Tshepo Phala of Ross’s Turaco in the Linyanti in August, only the second substantiated sight record for Botswana as well as a report on atlassing fieldwork for the next southern African Atlas and the twice yearly waterbird counts carried out by some of you.

The main part of the issue contains a revised Category A and B list and ‘A’ and ‘B’ sightings, unusual records and breeding records sections. If your records are not included then perhaps you didn’t submit them? Several observers are very diligent in their submissions but a lot more sightings must go unrecorded and so are lost to ornithology. Please let us have any records that you may have. They all add up to provide a picture of bird distribution and abundance and the seasonal use by birds of particular sites.

As I write this editorial I have learnt that water has crossed the road west of Mopipi so water may again reach Lake Xau. If it does, do go and see what is there.

Stephanie Tyler (Editor

 

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Editorial

I was sad to hear of the death of Michael Irwin in Zimbabwe aged 92 in September 2017. He was a huge figure in African ornithology.

There are so many bad news stories for birds that it was heartening to read of some good news. Back in November 2012 we were made aware that an estimated 100,000 Amur Falcons were netted and killed for food in Nagaland in north-east India when migrating to southern Africa. Happily BirdLife partners notably the Bombay Natural History Society and ministers in India have put an end to this slaughter through education and laws. We should see now more of these falcons surviving to reach Botswana.

BirdLife, as IUCN’s Red List authority recently updated the threat categories of bird species worldwide. Of 62 species that are doing worse than in the previous Red List three are found in Botswana. Two are only rarely recorded – Black Harrier that has gone from Vulnerable to Endangered and Mountain Pipit from No Concern to Near Threatened. The third species however, is Maccoa Duck, found in eastern and southern Africa. This duck, still not uncommon in southeast Botswana, has gone from Near Threatened to Vulnerable on account of recent rapid declines in parts of its range. All records of this duck are needed so if you see any Maccoa Duck anywhere in Botswana please let Chris Brewster, the BirdLife Botswana Recorder, know (number of birds, location and date). Usually they are noted on various dams and sewage ponds but they disperse to widely scattered pans when breeding.

I cannot believe that this issue is the 33rd that I have edited. I took on the role as Editor with some trepidation after Marc Herremans left back in 1997. Babbler No. 32 was my first effort and this is now No.64 and 21 years have passed. As I am no longer living in Botswana and so cannot as easily solicit articles and notes, I believe that there should be a new younger editor who is Botswana-based. Having said that, I do enjoy seeing all the articles that do come my way and the bird records and I hope that you find this issue of interest.

Firstly there is a fascinating atlas of birds in Kasane by Grzegorz Kopij from Namibia, showing detailed distribution maps for the various species around the town. Then Dieter Oschadleus responds to my note on the status of Orange-breasted Waxbills and he appeals for photos of nests of weavers and other species that are used by these waxbills. Chris Brewster as usual has supplied me with notes on all manner of things from Yellow-bellied Greenbuls at Kanye where Tracy Buchan, Andrew Hester and I discovered them back in 1999, to a wetland on the Metsemotlhaba River near Gaborone that he ‘discovered’ this year.

He also writes on a trip he made to the south-west of Botswana during July and August 2018 and on the status of Palaearctic migrants in south-eastern Botswana in the summer of 2017/2018. Chris also has put a lot of work into the Category A Rarity records, Category B and Interesting Records and the Breeding Records. Thanks Chris.

Stephanie Tyler (Editor)

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Editorial

Well, here is another edition of Babbler. I thought I had relinquished the post of editor last year but it seems nobody has come forward to take over from me so I will keep going until they do.

It was heartening to read a report in July 2019 from Birdwatch Zambia on a survey of Slaty Egrets in the Barotse floodplain. When we held a workshop to produce a Slaty Egret Action Plan in Maun all those years ago I had naively thought that it would lead to further studies of the species throughout its range. Botswana holds the largest population but birds occur in good numbers in Zambia as well as in Zimbabwe and Namibia. Sadly lack of funding has meant that many of the actions we included in the plan have not come to fruition. So I give full marks to Chaona Phiri and Clara Nanja for their study in Zambia and for raising awareness about the species. They recorded 31 birds, mainly in floodplain grasslands along the Zambezi in the Liuwa National Park but found no evidence of breeding.

From afar I keep up with news from Botswana and am greatly saddened at the plight of vultures in the country but congratulate BirdLife Botswana on all it is doing to reverse the downward trend and to try to stop the horrific incidents of poisoning.

This issue includes several articles by Chris Brewster, a faithful contributor. One documents the low numbers of birds in the Artesia area in the dry conditions there whilst another describes the highlights of monitoring birds at Sita Pan. He has also produced a note on the status of Southern Fiscal in south-east Botswana. David Ewbank analyses his old records of birds at termite emergences in Zimbabwe. Such emergences attract many birds and provide a wonderful spectacle. Ian White writes on an extension in range of Short-clawed Larks and I have summarised results from waterbird counts over the last two years. These are biased towards south-east Botswana as coverage in the Okavango and Makgadikgadi is sadly, almost non-existent.

There are the usual Records Sections and also some summaries of papers of relevance to birds in Botswana. Harold Hester has written a review of Ken and Mel Oake’s wonderful book and another book well worth acquiring is Pete Hancock’ s new publication on the Makgadikgadi Pans. I thank Doreen McColaugh for editing this issue and Harold Hester for sorting photos and seeing it through publication.

Stephanie Tyler (Editor)

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Babbler 66 Babbler

Editorial

It is always exciting to find a species new for your patch or for your country so the discovery of a pair of Red-throated Twinspots at Chobe Bush Lodge at Kasane must have been a real bonus for the Viviers in late October 2019 (please read the first article in this issue of Babbler). How long have the twinspots been there – have they been overlooked or had they recently moved to the area with drought in their main range?

In the last 10 years some 13 new species have been discovered in Botswana from strange vagrants such as Greater Frigatebird at Ghagoo Mine to Lesser Yellowlegs in Moremi Game Reserve, Buff-breasted Sandpiper north-west of Rakops and an African Pitta in Maun. Other rariries have been seen again, for example a second sighting of Long-tailed Jaeger, well away from its marine haunts, in Moremi Game Reserve and also the third record of Cloud Cisticola, at Kgoro Pan (see separate note by Chris Brewster in this issue). We are lucky in having resident and visiting birdwatchers who keep their eyes and ears open for anything unusual and with luck, photograph whatever they find. A photograph makes assessing a rarity report so much easier.

This issue includes a short article by a visiting researcher from Australia. Roxane Francis was based in Kasane for two years investigating waterbirds’ abundance in relation to water flows but is now home in Sydney. She provides some useful counts from the heronry at Kasane Rapids and from two heronries in the Okavango Delta. There are notes on a visit to the western Kalahari in December 2019 by Chris Brewster, an account of the expansion of South African Shelduck in Botswana by me, a report of waterbird counts carried out in the Ghanzi District by Modiege Bakane and a breeding record of Carmine Bee-eaters in Mashatu Game Reserve by Duncan McKenzie, well away from their usual nest sites in northern Botswana. Some exciting records from the January waterbird counts are given, among them Pygmy Geese and African Skimmers at sites in south-east Botswana. The good rains have meant that waterbirds have been dispersing widely to pans to breed. It is of note too that January 2020 saw 30 years since waterbird counts began in Botswana. Chris Brewster, during lockdown in April 2020 at Crococdile Pools, Notwane, observed birds coming to drink and he describes the results in his article. He writes too, on counting waterbirds at Gaborone Dam and on an influx of Black-chested Snake Eagles into south-eastern Botswana in January 2020. As usual, recently accepted Category A rarities and sightings of B rarities are provided. Everyone could contribute by sending in your sightings to add to the picture. We are aware that many records are posted on local forums such as the excellent Maun Bird Forum but it is important to embrace as many of these records as possible and put them in print for posterity. It is so depressing to read of further vulture poisoning incidents such as the 1,000 vultures poisoned in Guinea-Bissau in West Africa, probably by strychine used to poison feral dogs at rubbish dumps.

Stephanie Tyler, Editor

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