Namibia with Rockjumper. 5.Two days along the Okavango

To: "birding-aus" <>, "birdchat" <>, <>, <>
Subject: Namibia with Rockjumper. 5.Two days along the Okavango
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 20:36:57 +0100


As soon as we had crossed the border into Botswana, we saw the spectacular
large red Carmine Bee-eaters on the telephone wires along the road,
dwarfing even the normal-sized White-fronted Bee-eaters, let alone the
Little Bee-eaters. The somewhat neglected looking fields and hedgerows
here also held another most interesting bird, Bradfield's Hornbill, and in
a swamp close to the river a lapwing with almost entirely white wings flew
up, the Long-toed Lapwing. Some 30 km inside Botswana, we followed a very
bad dirt road to Drotsky's Cabins, a lodge situated along the Okavango
River inside a tall forest (with Vervet monkeys!). Here we had hopes to
find the legendary huge Pel's Fishing Owl, as a local guide knew where the
bird roosted. It was there, too, but sadly all we saw was a large owl
flying rapidly away, and we never found it again. There were other new
birds, though: Chinspot Batis, Paradise Flycatcher, Golden-tailed
Woodpecker, and a noisy flock of Arrow-marked Babblers; and surprisingly
even a pair of African Cuckoo Hawks, busy building their nest.

This was also the place where we changed to an open boat for the short
trip to Xaro Lodge, our home for the next two nights. The Okavango river
is here fringed with tall reeds and most picturesque large papyrus, while
water-lilies flowered in quiet bights; a most idyllic area. Lots of birds
to be watched from the boat: Openbill Storks, herons and egrets, i.a.
Black Egrets, and many Purple and Squacco Herons. Pied, Giant and
Malachite Kingfishers galore, and in steep sandy banks large colonies of
bee-eaters. In shallow water there were small flocks of White-faced
Whistling Ducks, and on sand banks another dream came true: African

Xaro Lodge lies along the river banks---hippos come onto the lawns at
night!-- and on walks here we discovered one bird after another, though
not the hoped for Pel's Fishing Owl (There were Barred Owlets and African
Wood Owls, though, as well as the almost ubiquitous Pearl-spotted Owlet).
I spotted an unmistakable Saddle-backed Stork overhead, and  there were
also regularly small groups of Red-faced Mousebirds in the air, as well as
the long-tailed Meve's Starling, clearly a communal rooster. Both
Black-collared and Crested Barbets made themselves heard regularly and
were quite easy to spot, and on the sandy ground large flocks of
firefinches searched for grass seeds, i.a also Brown Firefinches, as well
as Blue Waxbills. The large trees---there was an enormous baobab on the
premises-- held Green Pigeons and  Bennett's and Cardinal Woodpeckers, and
in the bushes we found White-crested and Retz' Helmet-Shrikes and
Terrestrial Bulbul. as well as the spectacular Orange-breasted Bush
Shrike. And I finally was shown the Red-billed Oxpeckers, that I missed
out on several times before; Gavin had not forgiotten that I still
'needed' those!

We were a whole day at Xaro, and used the time i.a. for several boat-trips
up and down the river, where amazingly for a long time we could not find
any of the reed-living songbirds. We did note the large Coppery-tailed
Coucal and the colourful African Pygmy Geese (which look like a duck to
me!), as well as the enormous Goliath Heron and the inconspicuous Water
Thickknee; and after much searching we also discovered the shy
White-backed Night Heron and could watch them at leisure. But the reed
birds were seemingly all AWOL, and it was not until the next morning  that
we finally saw and heard the Chirping Cisticola, the Little Rush Warbler
and the Greater Swamp Warbler.

That next morning was already our farewell to Xaro, one of the places I
yearn to come back, have lots of time and less ambition to achieve a very
large list. One could spend an excellent week here. But we had to go back
to Drotsky's cabins, where Pel's Fishing Owl still was not to be found.
Astounding enough, acting on some rumours, we went on another very short
boat-tour at Shakawe, not too far away, and there a local pointed out the
silhouette of a huge owl up in a tree on the bank, Pel's Fishing Owl!

Vader, Tromsø Museum
Tromsø, Norway

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