Namibia with Rockjumper. 4. Rundu

To: "birding-aus" <>, <>, <>, "birdchat" <>
Subject: Namibia with Rockjumper. 4. Rundu
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 09:46:05 +0100

                                                NAMIBIA WITH ROCKJUMPER.

>From the Etosha park we drove c 450 km in northnortheasterly direction,
via Grootfontein (where I saw my first Yellow-breasted Apalis) to Rundu,
on the Kunene river which forms here the border with Angola. This marked
great changes: gradually the thornveld of the Etosha region changed into
miombo forest. But there were also many other and more significant
changes. Where in the Acacia savanna habitation mostly was in the form of
isolated and far apart farms---most of the land was fenced, and cows
competed with the antelopes for the grazing---, here the population was
much denser and in the form of small groups of round thatched huts, a
number of which were often further fenced in with reed-screens as some
sort of family compound. These 'villages' were almost continuous along the
road; the people had spared a number of trees (and clearly they also
planted trees), but there was, at least now in the dry period, virtually
no undergrowth at all, probably also courtesy of the many goats, which
Willem regularly had to dodge on the road. There were also cows here, and
surprisingly many donkeys, which clearly have taken the place of horses
here. Every five km or so there was a public school. This dense population
would follow us most of the way to the Zambian border (fewer people in the
Caprivi NP, although also there there were many villages), although in the
far east and especially in Botswana, the huts tended to be a bit larger,
square instead of round, and in many cases made of reinforced mud, and
even concrete blocks instead of thatch; probably a sign of 'progress',
although I could not help thinking that the concrete huts would be a lot
hotter than the thatch ones inside. There is also agriculture here, but
the fields were now dry and barren, and I am uncertain what will be grown
here in the wet season.

Our lodge here, Nkwazi, was on the banks of the Kunene river, so the
superenthousiasts could start up an Angola list with the birds on the
other bank. Birdlife around the lodge showed clearly that we had arrived
in a different habitat: in the mornings we were greeted by the
enthousiastic and melodious song of the White-browed Robin-Chat , a very
nice-looking bird; here were Red-eyed Doves, Emerald-spotted Wood Doves,
and even the first African Mourning Dove, the bulbuls were Dark-eyed
Bulbuls (there were also Yellow-bellied Greenbuls here), and the babblers
Hartlaub's Babbler. Other newcomers were Little Bee-eater,Green Wood
Hoopoe, Magpie Shrike, Swamp Boubou, African Cuckoo---we were too early
for most of the migrant cuckoos---, Kurrichane thrush, S. Black
Flycatcher, and Red-billed and Jameson's Firefinches, while most of the
typical thornveld birds now were absent.

As good birders we were of course irresistibly drawn to the
euphemistically called Rundu Waterworks (the smells soon betrayed their
true nature), and here we found a lot of water and marsh birds, that in
the coming days would in many cases become daily visitors on our lists:
the likes of Hottentot Teal, Knob-billed Duck, Yellow-billed Stork,
African Darter, Black Crake and African Swamphen. African Marsh Harriers
glided over the ponds, there were several swallows and swifts, and Pied
Kingfishers fished from the air, while the 'waterbottle-sound' betrayed
the presence of Senegal Coucals. The degraded fields near the villages
yielded yet another lark, this time the Fawn-coloured Lark.

The next morning we started out with a walk around the lodge, paying
special attention to the reedy fringes along the river. Here S.
Brownthroated Weavers were present, a flock of Bronze Mannikin fled, and
Tinkling Cisticola tinkled. Also around the lodge here there were many
different weavers, and we added Spectacled, Red-headed and African Golden
Weavers to our ever growing lists.

 Soon we were on our way towards Botswana and the Okavango River. On the
way we poked around in the very hot and seemingly bird-poor miombo
forest---every time we spotted a drongo from the bus we hoped for a mixed
bird group, but we experienced little success this morning. Nevertheless,
we did find a nice Striped Kingfisher, and also added Pale Flycatcher and
finally some White-eyes to the trip list.

And so up to Xaro, after a very smooth and easy crossing at the Botswanan

Vader, Tromsø Museum
9037 Tromsø, Norway

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