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Spring birding in Chobe

Spring birding in Chobe

Martial Eagle in action, Chobe National Park, Botswana
Martial Eagle in action, Chobe National Park, Botswana


Byline :            Lawrence Alroy

Photographer:  Phil Zappala

Caption  : Marital eagle in action

In September, while the mercury rises and the bush is still dry and dusty, there is plenty to keep the birder interested around Chobe – if you can pull yourself away from your deck chair in the shade.

Spring marks the return en masse of the colourful carmine bee-eaters and the ever-aerobatic yellow-billed kites, and is also a good time for the larger birds of prey such as the martial eagle, as there is less cover for their favourite prey, the helmeted guinea fowl. This large, powerful raptor normally hunts on the soar, with a speedy descent that ambushes its prey in a flurry of dust and flying feathers.

Should you brave being away from water, the Kasane Forest Reserve yields species such as the red-crested korhaan, kori bustard and coqui francolin, as well as the racket-tailed and purple rollers.

Any pockets of inland water that remain will attract parties of doves and sandgrouse that come to quench their thirst, providing birds of prey like the lanner falcon and tawny eagle with tasty snacks.

By comparison, take a walk through Chobe’s lush riverine areas, which provide refuge for yellow-breasted apalis, African yellow white-eye, broad-billed weavers, Retz’s helmet-shrike and green-winged pytilis (Melba finch). On the river, professional guides on boat cruises will, if asked, show you Skimmer Island where skimmer juveniles may be glimpsed, and point out long-toed lapwing and saddle-billed stork too.

International Vulture Day on 5 September highlighted the worldwide plight of these threatened carrion-eaters. Fortunately white-backed vulture nest counts in Lesoma Valley and Chobe National Park have remained steady, while reports of hooded, lappet-faced and white-headed vultures at kill-sites are encouraging – but we should not forget that just one poisoning incident could wipe out an entire colony of these much-maligned birds!