Botswana-Africa's top birding spot

SHARE   |   Sunday, 15 March 2015   |   By Ontametse Sugar
Botswana-Africa's top birding spot

Some people love nature and the wild, everything around from vegetation to animals. But some have specific love for birds, so much that they tour the world in search for the most beautiful birds. This was demonstrated last year when a bird lover Vernom Head launched the book: The search for the Rarest bird Nechisar Nightjar in which he claimed that he had seen the bird with friends after so many years of searching but  did not manage to capture it on camera. To some people this might be a hilariously far-fetched idea but to bird watchers and bird monitors, it was quite a fascination that caused a stir.
Bird Life Botswana, who monitor birds in the country and research on them explained that bird watching and bird monitoring is a phenomenal aspect that most Batswana are experiencing at the moment and are beginning to love. Bird watching is an activity of observing wild birds in their natural habitat or rather learning to identify the birds and understand what they are doing. Bird Population Monitoring Programme coordinator at Birdlife Botswana Keddy Moleofi said birding can be done by anyone even in their backyard. It can be enjoyed for the whole life in any part of the world. "Birding also fulfils another basic instinct which is the quest for knowledge because it is all about acquiring knowledge not only on the birds’ names but also about their sounds, their behaviour and how they relate to the rest of  nature," she said.
Bird monitoring on the other hand is a record of birds in a region or study site over an extended period of time using specific procedures to survey birds in exactly the same way each times. This is normally done to monitor changes and study seasonal and annual fluctuations in bird populations. Moleofi said if done well monitoring can be a research tool on its own that can provide suitable environmental data which provides early pointers towards the underlying causes of trends in species numbers. She said there are 590 different bird species recorded in Botswana. The Okavango delta is named as the greatest stronghold in Africa for the wattled cranes, boasting the continent's largest population as well as most of the world's slaty egrets. Other important bird species in the country includes white-backed night heron and peel's fishing owl. Botswana is also an important habitat for the African skimmers. "Botswana also has the most renowned greater flamingo and lesser flamingo breeding sites in Southern Africa. The country does not have any endemic species of birds," she added. The northern part of the country which is a hub for tourism is considered the best place for bird watching.
The country is regarded as one of Africa's top birding areas because of its protection of a number of threatened endangered species.  The great seasonal variation of winter, autumn, summer and spring is the one that is said to bring the fascination because birds changes according to season. Summer is considered the best birding season which is from November to March, because it provides the best birding when migrants from the northern hemisphere have arrived in good numbers and have joined the resident species, many of which are engaged in breeding. Chobe is said to have 450 species recorded in the Northern Chobe National Park and surrounding areas. Makgadikgadi Pans and Central Kalahari areas are said to attract great numbers of aquatic bird species mainly being the hundreds of thousands of greater and threatened lesser flamingos in rainy season. The species are said to congregate and breed there in the shallow water in the early part of the year to provide one of Africa's great birding spectacles.
In the South Eastern Botswana there is the near endemic short-clawed lark found in large population. Few traces of the population has been recorded in South Africa in the Limpopo province. Kgalagadi is home to the restricted species among them the national bird kori bustard, raptors, sociable weavers, korhaans. On talking about her fascinating experiences about birds, Moleofi said it is the beauty that strikes and the colours, while her favourite sites are bee-eaters perching, kingfishers and rollers. Birdlife Botswana advised Batswana to stop endangering the local bird species like vultures by poisoning dead meat carcasses which the vultures eat.  which then leads to their death in large numbers. She said they are currently holding workshops to educate the public against such a practice, especially farmers.

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