Thursday, December 13, 2007

Garden birding

I haven' updated my garden list for a while, and having added three new species (Wheatear, Mandarin and Hen Harrier) to it this year, I thought it time to do so! These make it 124 species. For full list see here.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Botswana 31 Oct - 12 Nov

More photos to follow!

A Speyside Wildlife holiday with Desert & Delta Safaris led by Steve Dudley/Toadsnatcher

Particpants: Felicita & Bruce, Janet & Paul, Val & Tony

Day 1 – Weds, 31 October
We all meet at Heathrow and say hello. Tony and Val are flying down separately as they are staying on in South Africa after the holiday, so we bid them bon voyage and arrange to meet up in Johannesburg. The five of us make our way through to our gate, but we are delayed for an hour.

Day 2 – Thurs, 1 November
We arrive in a cool Johannesburg c. 7.30 am, meet up with Tony and Val and transfer to Air Botswana and depart c. 10.10 am. We arrive in a very hot Maun at 12 noon. We transfer to an 8-seater Islander run by Safari Air bound for Camp Moremi in the Okovango Delta. The views across the landscape are fabulous. The mosaic of dry bush with the dead straight scars of roads and man-made tracks contrasts with the moss-green look of the wet delta edge areas. One of the largest man-made scars is the Buffalo Fence, and to the north of here, there are few straight scars, but a networks of meandering mammal tracks, often radiating from once plentiful water holes.

We land on the dirt strip at Camp Moremi to the near-deafening sound of cicadas. Our bags are soon off the plane and loaded, with us, on to four-wheeled drive 4x4s and we are whisked off to Camp Moremi, our home for the next two nights, spotting Greater Blue-eared and Burchell’s Glossy Starlings, Impala, Helmeted Guineafowl and Lilac-breasted Roller on the way.

The breakfast and brunch area at Camp Moremi

On arrival at the camp we are given welcome drinks and a light lunch. Seven travel weary travellers have at last arrived at our holiday destination – and within minutes we are loving it! MC, one of the camp managers, explains the does and dont’s of the camp, the most important of which is night time safety – no wandering around the camp at night without a guide as there are often Leopards hunting the area!

Over lunch we take in the wildlife around the camp centre – White-rumped Babblers, Grey Lourie (Turaco, Go-away-bird* – delete as applicable), Kurrichan Thrush, Bushbuck browsing the bushes, Bush Squirrels all over the place, loads of dragonflies, including clouds of little glider-types over tops of bushes, Black Crakes picking their way across the open lawn (not the shy and secretive types in West Africa!) and a decent sized Water Monitor.

We retire to our rooms for a brush up and rest before gathering for drinks and snacks ahead of our 4.00 pm bush drive. We haven’t been out long, and still getting out bearings of where we are and what everything is (including a pile of bones from a recently dead elephant, its skin some meters away being dragged off by hyenas!), when our guide, Mod, casually asks if we want to see a Leopard. Do we! Another group have spotted one nearby, so we speed off (well, as fast as the lumpy tracks can allow!) and come across a couple vehicles with occupants all staring intently to the right. Mod pulls up and we see the Leopard walking through the scrub by the vehicles. Mod moves ahead of the animal and parks. We can see it moving behind a bush and then its feet behind a fallen tree. Suddenly its head appears from behind the tree trunk. Next it rises and sits on the log. Wow! It seems happy in the shade here, but after a few minutes it drops off the tree and lies down along side it. It seems very little concerned that, by now, four vehicles filled with people are lined up watching it. All the camp visitors are here and enjoying this spectacle. The Leopard looks totally relaxed with us, so much so that it slowly rises its feet and walks straight towards us! As it gets within about 10 ft of the vehicles, it crouches, gives and hiss, and dashes between our vehicle and the one behind. It resumes its leisurely meander through the bush, circling us, before crossing the track in front of us and off in to the thick of the bush. She melts in to the grassveld scrub. Although we couldn’t see her, we could tell where she was heading by the reaction of the birds, and the close attention being given to her by a group of noisy Glossy Starlings.

We make our way back in to the bush and begin our search for new birds and animals. Val spots our first Crested Barbet, and we hear a Grey-backed Bleating Warbler (Comeoptera). Red-billed Hornbill are seemingly everywhere, and a pair of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters have exotic written all over them. Masked and Golden Weavers in are in a large tree which also yields a Bennett’s Woodpecker, Fork-tailed Drongo and Collared Barbet. Cape Turtle Doves can be heard calling all around us, along with its vlose relative, Red-eyed Dove. Next up is a very familiar fellow, Spot Flycatcher. A Grey Hornbill is found, and we are soon acquainted with Blacksmith Plover – little did we know this would be a bird we would see daily. Another nearby tree produces good views of both Puffback and Meyer’s Parrot.

Collared Barbet

There is Elephant dung and tree damage everywhere! Some areas look torn apart, like the end of a battle. Mod shows us the very distinctive Sausage Tree, which its long, sausage-shaped fruits, which many of the animals are partial to. Continuing through the bush we encounter our first Impala and Waterbuck

An open area produces a Black-shouldered Kite, several Grey-headed Sparrows and a single Red-billed Quelea, before we head over to a swamp area in the woodland for our first sundowners of the trip. There’s something about sipping cool drinks in the warm of the evening watching wildlife. Its great. Scouring the lagoon we find our first Crocodile and a troop of Chacma Baboons comes right past us, including several very small young clinging to their mothers. On and around the lagoon we see African Jacana, a family of Egyptian Geese, Spur-winged Goose, Squacco Heron, Yellow-billed and Cattle Egrets, loads of Broad-billed Rollers hawking over the swamp, and a heard of Impala grazing the far shore. Waders include Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers and Ruff – all familiar birds – whilst equally familiar European Swallows, Sand Martins and Swifts fill the darkening sky. A Hoopoe bounces by us flishing its black and white wings, and a Red-billed Oxpecker sits above us in a tree.

Day 3 – Fri, 2 November
We are woken at 5.30 am and over a light breakfast we enjoy the camp wildlife with a female Paradise Flycatcher showing off, squirrels everywhere you look and the unforgettable sound of a Emerald-spotted Wood-dove – ‘one of the sounds of the African savannah’ says Steve.

We’re on our morning drive with Mod just after 6.30 am. The open woodland is filled will bird calls and song, and the ever-present cicadas. We drive slowly through the woodland and scrub stopping frequently whenever anyone saw anything interesting. It doesn’t take us long to find our first good bird, with brilliant views of an African Green Pigeon eating fruit on the ground. We get our first glimpse of Carmine Bee-eater as a couple fly around briefly giving tantalising views. We seem to have hit on a very active patch with a Puffback, then a pair of Brubru, none of which hang around, but a Grey Hornbill is much more obliging. A pair of Chinspot Batis keep up the role of non-performing-shrikey-things!

We drive a little further when Mod points out a large domed structure in a nearby tree. Its a Hamerkop nest, complete with entrance tunnel. Like many herons, Hamerkop build in a tree, but they don’t nest on the top, but inside, with the nest chamber lined with mud to keep it cool. Other birds also use the massive structure from sparrows, which nest in the twiggy mass, Egyptian Geese, which nest inside, and eagles and vultures which nest on the top. We begin to drive away when Steve spots a Hamerkop sat on a dead tree a little further out from the nest itself. We get views as this whacky-looking heron preened without giving us any attention at all.

A little further long the bushtrack we come across a Black-shoulder Kite sat in a tree being mobbed by small birds. A Striped Skink diverts our attention and diving a little further Felix spots a couple of Water Dikkop right by the track. They are slightly smaller, less streaked versions of our own Stone-curlew, another thick-nee, and share the large eye for crepuscular living. A Red-billed Hornbill poses in front of the van for photos and we can see a couple of Purple Herons perched distantly atop some tall trees with a White-breasted Cormorant. A Great White Egret stalks through the long grass just through the line of bushes in front of us.

We stop by a large tree which has Hippo, Warthog and Greater Kudu bones. There are several weaver nests in the surrounding branches and a couple of Long-toed Plovers fly by.

We find another little spot which is rewarding. Several Little Bee-eaters hawk for insects from their twiggy perches, another Carmine Bee-eater passes overhead and a Black Flycatcher and Collared Barbet pose in the tree next to us. Mod spots a brilliant male Paradise Flycatcher which zips around and off with its long tail streamers chasing him. A little further on we come across the first of several noisy groups of Red-billed Wood-hoopoes, jumping around the trees flashing their black and white wings and tails, and brilliant red, long bills, which look great for probing trees for insects and grubs.

We drive out of the scrub into a more open area which holds a large herd of Impala. It is a herd of males of mixed ages including some full adult males with impressive horns. Crested Francolins call from the nearby scrub edge. We drive around the Impala when Mod spots a pair of the Wattled Cranes. We get fabulous views of these endangered birds. They seem to be a pair. The male is larger with paler wings, and both have long ‘tails’ formed by feathers coming down over their folded wings, black bellies, brilliant white necks, dark crown, brilliant red bases to the bills, and dangling white wattles. They feed actively in the grassland, their bills open slightly. Every now and then they raise their heads to swallow whatever they have found. A large circular lump is seen in one of the birds throat, slipping downwards, looking very much like a whole snail. In the sky we get views of a couple of Whalberg’s Eagles and White-backed and Hooded Vultures.
Just past the cranes we hit on another bit of scrub full of birds. Black Tits are first up, a party of four busily feeding as they pass by. A Lilac-breasted Roller and a Crested Barbet share a tree and a couple of male Red-backed Shrikes, fresh in from Europe, are sat in the top of another. A francolin walks through the leaf littler showing off a red face and throat which identify it as a Swainson’s. Steve then smells the distinct sweet, musty scent of fresh Elephant dung. About 20 ft from the vehicle is a glistening lump indicating an elephant has been here within the last couple of hours.

We stop for a sunbird, which as usual fails to show itself well to us, when Janet spots something moving through the bush further behind. ‘Giraffe!’ exclaims Steve. All we can see are four legs and a flicking tail, so Mod takes the track to our left and we are soon within 100 ft of a female Southern Giraffe. She stands serenely snacking on the twigs of a tree, chewing slowly seemingly unconcerned at our presence. She stands at about 3 m in height and plays host to three Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, one of which is hanging up-side-down from her belly! A troop of Vervet Monkeys wander between us and the Giraffe – a real picture of Africa. A second Giraffe is feeding a little further deeper in to the bush.

We eventually drag ourselves away from these majestic animals and coming up to a dense stand of trees come across a herd of Plains Zebra. They are in small groups, some rubbing themselves up against the trees for a good scratch. A small fowl is with one small group who retreat into the bush on our arrival. The others just huddle closer together, but like the Giraffe, they seem little bothered by us. We withdraw into the shade for a drink and some ‘safe’ bushes. Serenaded by a Hoopoe, we watch the Zebra, wandering around the scrub with a couple more Giraffe in the distance. We have stopped by an impressive termite hill, rising up, steeply out of the ground, its inner chamber super-cooled by natural air conditioning! Steve spots a Bateleur through the tree tops above us. We make our way to the edge of the trees and see an impressive female Bateleur pass low over us, close enough to see her red feet and bill! Within seconds we are watching more raptors: more White-backed Vultures circling high up; two African Hawk Eagles circle together quite low, the dark, pied adult and a gingery young bird; a Tawny Eagle is next up, its relatively long, straight pale brown wings tipped with black being very distinct. And if that were not enough, a magnificent Fish Eagle glides overhead, its head and tail gleaming white against its chestnut brown body and wings.

Raptor show over, we move on to a couple of large pools. The air is thick with Black-winged Pratincoles hawking over the pools. When we stop, they are also dotted around on the ground with Ruff, White-faced Duck, Hottentot Teal and a Cattle Egret. There are two groups of antelope-type animals. The herd to our right are the now familiar Impala, but the herd to our left are the larger, deeper reddish-toned, Red Lechwe. The males of this new mammal have rather magnificent and threatening horn. Two young males, with somewhat smaller offerings, are locked head-to-head wrestling one another.

A movement in the water alerts us to a huge grey lump. It moves again and the head of a Hippo appears. It raises its head, opening its mouth slightly to reveal its massive teeth. A second, smaller animal appears next to it. The large Hippos plays host to a couple of piggy-backing oxpeckers! Another movement much closer to us sees a Crocodile slipping from land into the water. Where did that come from? Glossy Ibis, Yellow-billed Egret, Squacco Heron and Sacred Ibis complete our heron list for the pool, and a Plain-backed Pipit runs around the mud nearby.

We move over to the second pool and find a couple of Reed Cormorants sat up on the mud, with Greenshank, Black-winged Stilts and Wood Sandpipers picking along the shallow pool edge. This pool also contains a couple of a crocs and a Marabou circles overhead.

We begin to head back to camp when Felix spots something large flapping on the side of a large tree. The head and neck of a Ground Hornbill appears from a tree hole! Wow! We take the track towards the tree and see another couple of hornbills walking towards us. The bird in the tree flies down, the outer third of its wing white against the black of the rest of the wings and its body. It joins the other two, making up an adult pair and youngster, and they wander through the grass right past the van! The adults have red wattles around the eyes and a red wattle sack hanging below their chins.

Back on the main track, Mod brings us to a halt and points to a clump of bushes were several Blue Wildebeest are laid up. None of us expected to see their first wildebeest shading under the bushes!

We resume our course for the camp when Mod spots another group parked by some bushes. They pull away and we draw up alongside to find three sleeping Lions! We stop within 20 ft of them. Not a movement from them to indicate they have even registered our presence. They pant heavily in the shade, two on their backs, back legs spread apart, the third on its side. Looking carefully we see the back end of a fourth animal under the bush. They remain asleep for five or so minutes. When Mod starts the engine, one of the Lions jumps to it feet. It seems to have reacted to us, but maybe it’s something else, as it turns and peers into the bush. It turns back round and settles back down alongside the others, closes it eyes and back to sleep. Well, it must be hard work being the queen of the jungle!
We eventually make our way back to the camp and brunch – chilli con carne, pasta, bacon and eggs – whatever we want! Just the ticket after a fab morning in the bush.

We are back out with Mod at 4.00 pm. We haven’t gone far when we come across a tree heaving with weavers. Closer inspection reveals a female Paradise Flycatcher and a pair of Puffbacks. A little further on, another group of trees and bushes is busy. Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters hawk for insects and a party of Black Tits bounce through. Steve picks out a Long-billed Crombec (something we had been discussing only minutes earlier) and everyone gets good views of this tailless nuthatch-like bird as it creeps along branches, frequently hanging upside down. An immature Fish Eagle is sat in a nearby tree, but as we approach it takes flight and lands a little further away.

We continue along the track to the airstrip when we come across a Waterbuck in among a group of female Impala. It stands sentinel glaring at us, and we at him with his rippled, long horns.

We drive out of the dense scrub into a more open woodland area with no ground cover at all. We immediately see a Golden-tailed Woodpecker and Crested Barbet on a fallen tree on the ground. We drive through the trees to a series of open pools. Two Sacred Ibis are on the first small pool, which is surrounded by Wattled Starlings feeding actively on the ground. The second pool hosts a Black Egret and on the third, larger pool, a couple of African Spoonbills. They feed in the shallow water only feet from a couple of Crocodiles. They’re either brave or stupid! A couple of Banded Martins appear over the pool which is surrounded by Impala and Red Lechwe. On a little puddle in front of us Mod and Steve spy a small wader chick. It has the characteristic white nape patch of a plover, so we presume it belongs to the nearby pair of Blacksmith Plovers. The next pool is home to two more Black Egrets and our first Little Egret, as well as a Water Dikkop. The last pool holds several waders including a couple of Three-banded Plovers.

We head off to view over a large lake which holds at least seven Hippos which snort and grunt at the water’s surface. Mod points out Hippo tracks coming out of the reedbed, double rowed, one containing a relatively fresh pile of female Hippo dung. The male Hippo, Mod explains, sprays his liquid dung, spreading it with his tail, on bushes to mark out his land feeding territory. Just before we get back in to the vehicle, four Stonechats bounce past through the reed fringe.

Back in the 4x4 we make our way back through the trees when Mod stops. ‘Wild Dogs!’ he exclaims excitedly. We rush off and within a minute we are feet away from a single Wild Dog! It’s stood motionless looking in one direction. It doesn’t even turn to look at us as we stop within 75 feet of it. It stands alert, looking. There is an air of excitement in our group, a palpable taste of awe as we watch this beautiful animal. Its markings are incredibly varied, a mosaic of black with white and golden centres, a golden shaggy collar, black face and pale inners to its huge, bat-like ears, fuller erect intently listening for something. More dogs are moving towards us through the trees to our left when Mod sees a couple of dogs to our right. Our first dog is off, making off to the right. An Impala speeds off with one dog in chase. They disappear. The first dog joins another and they trot purposely through the trees. They stop. They stand sentinel looking back through the trees. A third dog appears, and the first two greet it excitedly. The three stand around as if on guard. The third dog is wearing a radio-tracking colour, and so too is a fourth dog that appears. Mod explains this is the dominant pair of a known pack which hasn’t been seen in the area for over a week. The four dogs head off purposely. We follow and they lead us to the rest of the pack, which includes six three-quarter size pups, at one of the small pools. The adults are spread out alert whilst the pups drink. Then suddenly, without any indication, the whole pack make off through the trees. We track them, and Mod gets past them. Whilst searching for them we get great views of a couple of Spur-winged Geese and a Hoopoe right by the track. The dogs suddenly appear and come straight by us. One dog goes to stand on a mound overlooking the pool with the geese, but is spooked when a Green-backed Heron flies up from its feet and goes to sit the invasion out on a tree. The dogs work there way past, the pups, flanked by several adults, bringing up the rear. We head off after them, but they soon disappear in to thick scrub, their preferred hunting habitat. We continue along the track and are soon caught up again by the pack of dogs. They are really moving with a purpose, zig-zagging through the bush on the hunt. They melt into the bush again as quickly as they had reappeared. They’re gone. What a fabulous experience with an animal many of us never expected to see.
Time is getting on and we need to get back to the camp before 7.00 pm. The drive back is not without incident however. Steve spots a White-faced Scops Owl on a roadside log but we have sped past it and as Steve yells for the owl, Mod thinks he is shouting to avoid the Impala on the track ahead of us! We eventually get on the right wavelength and we reverse back to get great views of the owl in the fading light, A little further on we come across four Double-banded Sandgrouse at a track puddle. They crouch on our approach, allowing us a few moments view once we are stationery before and fly off in to the night. Near the camp entrance we see four Helmeted Guineafowl roosting in a tall tree. Very bizarre!

Back at the camp we thank Mod for another excellent drive and head off to freshen up before another sumptuous dinner.

Day 4 – Sat, 3 Nov
We wake to another cloudless sky. The night was been a noisy one in the camp by all accounts with many hearing roars and barks. Steve had a Hippo outside his room at one point, with twigs breaking and loud, low grunting noises, and Val saw a medium-sized golden-coloured cat which we are pretty sure must have been a Caracal. The day gets of to a great start bird-wise with a Saddle-billed Stork flying past the camp whilst we are having breakfast.

Golden Weaver

We’ve had an extra hour in bed this morning and after a 06.30 am breakfasting, we load up the boats and are off onto the Delta at 7.30 am. Mod takes us straight across the first large lagoon to view the source of our Marabou sightings – a mixed nesting colony of Marabou and Yellow-billed Storks, both with large chicks in the nest. There is also a single African Darter sat amidst them, but not on a nest.

We spend the next 1.5 hours meandering through the Delta, sometimes crossing wide sections, other times along tight, papyrus-lined channels.

We are travelling a bit too fast for meaningful birding for smaller birds, but there’s usually something in the air to look at – Marabou, Fish Eagle, kites, vultures. Mod amazingly spots a Malachite Kingfisher far enough ahead to stop right by it! We get glorious views of this little water kingfisher with its day-glow red bill and feet. Mod also spots a male Red-shouldered Widowbird which also sticks around to give us good views. We see a handful of Pied Kingfishers, a Rufous-bellied Heron, several Hadeda Ibis and flush an enormous Goliath Heron. We fail to make out a few of the LBJs, but do get good views of a Luapula (Black-backed) Cisticola sharing a little tree with a more familiar Willow Warbler.

Red-shouldered Widowbird

We pull over to the bank to join a little harbour of boats, some from Camp Moremi and others from Xugana (pronounced Ku-ga-na) Island Lodge and Camp Okovanga. After a drink, our bags are transferred to another boat, and we bid farewell to Mod, our excellent Camp Moremi guide, and take a boat to Xugana with our new guide, Lets.

We haven’t been travelling long when our new guide Lets, stops by another colony of Yellow-billed Storks. The smell is delightful! Above them are a couple of Palm Swifts and a European Marsh Harrier.

We continue a little further only to pullover to view a herd of six Elephants chewing at some small trees. Fantastic! Our first Elephants of the trip, and it’s not long before we are adding another mammal to our trip list, when we stop to view a small herd of Zebra amongst which are several Tsessebe. the fastest of the antelopes which can only be caught by Cheetah. A Chirping Cisticola pops up here too for good measure, but all are over-shadowed (quite literally!) by a bull Elephant we come across at the water’s edge. He is huge, and as we approach he makes his slow retreat along the swamp edge, creating a great splashing noise and constantly lifting his trunk high in order to smell the intruders. Unbelievable!

Just short of the lodge we chance on a pair of Pygmy Geese. The male is stunning with his white, green and black head and orange-yellow bill. They swim off down and channel and we continue on our way.

Xugana Island

We arrive at Xugana Island Lodge and over brunch we are given our intro talk and are entertained by several Paradise Flycatchers, Chinspot Batis, weavers and a Lesser Honeyguide. We retire to our ‘cottages’, all with balconies under the tall swamp woodland edge, and rest up for the early afternoon before reconvening at 3.30 pm for drinks before our afternoon excursion.

The welcome at Xugana Island Lodge

'Cottage' at Xugana Island Lodge

Brown Firefinch

We set off across the Delta with Lets by boat. He stops at an area of water lilies and explains about the Delta, which covers an area about the size of Wales! We continue and passing an area of water fig trees, we flush a day roost of Black-crowned Night-herons.

We arrive at the moroko launch area where we can see a male Giraffe eating sausage tree fruits and some distant Elephants. We take to the morokos, two people per boat, with a ‘poler’ and we snake slowly through the shallow channels through the papyrus and sedge beds. We see a couple of tiny frogs, Pale Reed Frog and Leopard Frog. The Pale Reed is the smallest frog in Botswana. The odd bird rises from the dense vegetation including Yellow-billed Ducks, Purple Heron. There are also plenty of interesting sounds including Coppery-tailed Coucal, Elephant and Hippo! We turn and make our way back in the setting sun with White-faced (Whistling) Ducks flying around us and a never ending procession of egrets heading to roost.

We transfer back to the main boat after thanking our trusted polers, and head out in to the open Delta area and stop by the area of water figs which earlier held the Night-herons. The trees are already peppered with Great White Egrets, and in among them Darters and Reed Cormorants. There are birds flying in from all directions, but we seem to be on one particularly busy flight path with over 70 Great White Egrets in total passing us. Single Yellow-billed and Black Egrets complete the species tally.

After our sundowners we head back to camp to freshen up before dinner.

Day 5 – Sun, 4 Nov
African Darter

We get our early morning call at 5.30 am, and after breakfast take a half-hour boat trip to Palm Island for a walking safari. On arrival we are given a brief safety talk and what to do in the event of being charged by a Lion or Elephant! The chances of this happening we are told are reassuringly low, and why our two guides don’t carry guns.

We set off through the open savannah. There are birds calling all around us – Woodland Kingfisher, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Swamp Boubou; but none are wanting to show themselves. Elephant and Hippo dung is everywhere. We walk along a narrow, well-worn path. Paul asks what has made this and the other paths. ‘Elephants’ replies Lets. He goes on to explain that like many other animals, they use the same path to and from preferred water areas. The path is incredibly narrow for such a large animal.

Paul with a mighty bit of Elephant pooh!

There is a large, scattered herd of Red Lechwe. We stop to watch them when Lets spots a Warthog. The Warthog wanders off behind a stand of trees, so we take the opportunity to use the trees as cover and approach closer. At the trees the Warthog isn’t obvious. Two other more distant hogs are seen and these disappear, the original one reappears trotting back towards us. It hasn’t seen us and, stopping every so often to sniff at the ground, it comes ever closer and ambles right past us to within around 80 ft.

We continue to a large pool area. Hadeda Ibis are sat up on a dead tree on the other side, and White-faced Ducks and Spur-winged Geese are flying in and out of the pool. Yellow-billed Kites are the only raptor in the air but give terrific views.

Beyond the pool, Lets stops us and points to our right. In the middle distance, below a line of trees, there are three Elephants feeding on the trees. Two adult females and another animal about two-thirds their size. We are up wind of them, and after a short while it’s clear they have our scent.

We head off with Palm Swifts in the sky, and a Whalberg’s Eagle flies low over us. Another small pool holds a single White-winged (Black) Tern and several Pied Kingfishers. Nearby a couple of Hadeda Ibis are feeding among a group of Spur-winged Geese when a couple of Knob-billed Ducks ply past.

It’s ever so peaceful. Apart from our own voices, there is no other human noise, just the sound of birds, insects and the odd distant rumble from an Elephant! A troop of Chacma Baboons are seen a little distantly walking across the plain and two Red-breasted Swallows are new for the trip. Steve spots a Blue Waxbill in a tangle of branches in a nearby tree. It sits in full view, all powder-blue, and we all get very good views in the scope.

Among the Lechwe we see two Impala and we get good side-by-side comparison for the first time. As we approach a large tree, we see a troop of Vervet Monkeys scamper across the savannah from one stand of trees to another.

We stop in the shade of the large tree for drinks. Up until now there has been thin cloud cover which has kept the temperature down, but the sky is now blue and the heat is suddenly switched to very hot. Whilst in the shade Steve notices the heads of two storks jutting above a nearby ridge. They turn out to be a Saddle-billed and Marabou and provide the entertainment for our drinks stop. Three Sacred Ibis chase on another over head before heading towards the pools.

We set off back the way we walked in. It’s stinking hot, and the priority is getting back to the boat. Most of us are clutching water bottles to keep sipping whilst we walk. We stop only a few times on the return; once to view a distant hard of six Elephants, and other stops include Striped Kingfisher and Levaillant’s (Striped) Cuckoo which is being mobbed by bulbuls.

We arrive back at the boat where Lets hands out fruit juice and nuts which are gratefully received! Its been a long three hours, and now the sun has reached its hottest, we’re glad to back under the canopy of the boat and on our way back to camp for brunch.

The communal dining area at the camp

After a quick freshen up, we are all reconvened at the camps communal dining table for brunch. The staff join the guests at the table and some of us continue our spotting enjoying a Blue-grey Flycatcher feeding from branches above us, as well as Paradise Flycatchers, Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starlings and Chinspot Batis.

Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling

After brunch, Steve gives most of the group a ‘garden safari’. It begins at Tony and Val’s cottage, where there are a dozen fruit bats hanging above the steps.

Although it’s seriously hot in the sun, in the shade of the garden area, there are still many birds active. Grey-headed Sparrows feed on the open grass and the ever-present Grey Louries and various glossy starlings fill the air with constant chatter. We manage to find several White-browed Robin-chats feeding out in the open. These are gorgeous birds, with a brilliant white stripe over the eye through their black head and burnt-orange underparts.

Crested Barbet

We also find a couple of Green Pigeons and a Crested Barbet, when Steve spots a male Plum-coloured Starling high in one of the trees. Its no sooner vanished when a couple of Black-headed Orioles land right above us giving great views. We’re all beginning to feel the heat, so we retire for a rest and siesta.

Female Paradise Flycathcer on nest

We all meet up again at 3.30 pm for ‘high tea’. At 4.00 pm we are back on board our boat with Lets and meandering through the papyrus channels of the Delta. An unexpected find is a Crocodile in one of the rather sterile channels, and we get very good views before it decides it has had enough of us and simply lowers itself out of view. We continue and the channels get narrower and narrower to the extent we are handing off the papyrus stems which cross the channels from both sides. It occasionally widens, and one such place is clearly where large numbers of animals use as a crossing point. There is debris everywhere where the Elephants have been crashing through the papyrus swamp. We also get very good views of a small Water Monitor sat up on the bank. We see few birds, but what we do see is spectacular. Several Fish Eagles, a party of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, several Little Bee-eaters, Red-shouldered Widowbird, and an amazing spot by Steve of an immature Dwarf Bittern doing its best to look like the reed stems around it.

We come out in to a large area of open water and are greeted immediately by several ‘blowing’ Hippos. We’ve arrived at the Hippo Lagoon. Lets ignores this first group and heads straight on. Suddenly, a huge movement up ahead as a party of Hippos rushes from the shade of an island. The wave surge is huge, and is it settles and we approach nearer, the extent of the family party can be seen. The main group comprises 15 animals with many more dotted around. The main group has two very large members, one clearly the bull and the other the matriarchal female, with Hippos of all sizes making up the numbers. They are quite docile at our presence. They eye us inquisitively, seemingly taking it in turns to submerge, each re-emerging with a blow of nostrils and a shake of the ears. Occasionally there are loud, low, grunts like a cross between and a pig and a cow.

We move on to another group. These are a bit more lively, with plenty of ‘smiles’. It’s a smaller family, but still with what appears to be a couple of dominant animals. There is much more grunting from these, and occasionally one of them appears to be standing on the bottom, as its whole back is out of the water, but not bobbing as if it were floating. On the nearby shore there is also Black Crake and Water Dikkop, and Whiskered Terns are flying around the lagoon. As we leave the Hippos, the bull makes a surge in our direction which is pretty damn impressive. But we haven’t seen anything yet! We round the small island and find another, much larger family. This group has a huge in its midst. Our arrival coincides with a lot of activity, with ‘smiles’ and several Hippos doing full head-tosses revealing those enormous teeth. We spend some time with this group as they are so active, but their activity is not aimed at us, but simply interaction between family members. They seem pretty oblivious at our presence!

We begin to make our way back through the papyrus channels when Lets spots a Hyena. Wow! He brings the boat to a stop and over to our left we see a single Spotted Hyena in the middle distance, on the edge of where the swamp meets the dry land. It walks off and out of view. We continue long the channel and just round the bend, we pull up and get out of the boat, following an Elephant through the swamp (well if it can support the weight of an Elephant it can cope with us lot!) and eventually the Hyena comes in to view. A Red Lechwe and a Spur-winged Goose look nervously on, but neither take flight and we get great views of the powerful predator.

We have our sundowners in a large lagoon watching the sun set and egrets and other birds head off towards their roosts before returning to camp.

We freshen up and once escorted from our rooms to the bar where we relax with the lodge staff. We take our seats for dinner at the long, communal table, and the nightly performance of the staff begins. Five of the staff sing three marvellous songs whilst dancing, and finish off with an ‘enjoy your dinner’ ditty! We’ve enjoyed each night’s performance, but tonight certainly sets a new marker! After another exceptional dinner (including local ‘pounded’ beef) we retire to the bar for the checklist.

Day 6 – Mon, 5 Nov
Most of us have a lay in and we meet up for an 8.00 am breakfast. We have a short walk around the camp seeing White-fronted Bee-eater, Crested Barbet, lots of Paradise Flycatchers, Blue-grey Flycatcher, Chin-spotted Batis and White-browed Robin-chat.

White-fronted Bee-eater breeding in the camp gardens

Hippo print in the camp

We take the boat to the airstrip where we see what is probably the same Giraffe as the other day, and we are soon collected and on our way after bidding farewell to Lets. We make a brief stop at Okovango Camp to drop off MC (manager of Camp Moremi) and collect a couple of guests. We are airborne again and winging over the Delta, spotting the odd Elephant in the rich tapestry below. We are soon away from the Delta and over a parched landscape where water is precious and those water holes with water can be clearly seen, glistening in the sun, and with well worn paths radiating from them. A couple have visitors, Elephants.

We land at Savute airstrip and meet our Savute guide Moronga, and head off for the lodge. We soon come across our first group of Elephants – and boy, are they close! Not the distant views we’ve had so far, but up close and personal.

Moronga says this is nothing, and only a few minutes later he is proved right with a family herd with at least three small calfs in the middle of the circle. This is breathtaking! And it only gets better! A little further on we see a Slender Mongoose just before we stop for a group of male Giraffes and also get lucky with a Temminck’s Courser and a couple of Warthogs. We come up to a water hole with a bull Elephant making its way towards it. We pull up and wait for the bull to arrive. It begins to drink, its massive trunk only feet away from a Common Sandpiper. We drag ourselves away and head to Savute Game Lodge for check-in, lunch and a siesta.

Kudu coming in to the lodge waterhole

We meet up at 3.30 pm on the deck overlooking the water hole. There is already a single Elephant drinking at one of the pools when a small herd of Kudo come in to drink. Red-billed and Yellow-billed Hornbills bounce around from mole-rat hill to mole-rat hill with some success by the looks of things.


Yellow-billed Hornbill

After drinks we make our way out for our afternoon drive with Moronga. We aren’t out of the lodge long when Steve spots a Pearl-spotted Owlet in a tree by the track. Moronga then spots a couple of African Hawk Eagles which duly fly displaying their distinctive black and white wing patterns. A little further on we stop for the first of many Lesser Grey Shrikes, and hit on an active bird area with Pale Flycatcher, a stunning Violet-eared Waxbill, Brown-throated Weavers, Scaly-feathered Finch and our first Kori Bustard – the king of bustards.

The area is nothing like the lush Delta we have been used to. The landscape is flat with low scrub and the occasional tall tree. The ground is parched but the trees are very green in contrast. The most marked feature however are the number of small hills around us, rocky outcrops jutting through the Kalihari sand.

We encounter more Elephants, several right by the track, only a few meters from the 4x4. But the Elephants don’t seem a least bit interested in us and just keep on munching. We spend some time with a single bull which is trying hard not to be seen behind a small bush. He just looks straight at us as his trunk rips tuft after tuft of grass and passes it to its mouth. A couple of small groups of Elephants walk slowly away from us as we approach, disappearing amazingly easily into the bush. Now you see me, now you don’t!

A stop to view the nest of Red-billed Buffalo Weaver not only produces a single weaver, but also brief views of Dwarf Mongoose and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. We pass a raft of Hooded and White-backed Vultures sat up in a group of dead trees, in amongst the a single adult Tawny Eagle and a couple of Marabou Storks perched up nearby.

Marabou Stork

We eventually arrive at our target, a couple of Lions. The female is led by a bush, but the male is stood some way away eyeing up some Buffalo. The Buffalo saunter off, and the male turns to face us and the female. He is amazing. His thick main frames his soft face, but his eyes look ferocious. He walks slowly towards the female. His walk is almost arrogant, with an ‘I’m the boss’ swagger. He comes to a stop and lumbers to the floor. He lays for a while head up, looking around. The female, some yards from him, acknowledges his arrival merely by lifting here head briefly, before resuming her restful repose. He maintains his watchful position, but you can see his eyelids slipping over his piercing eyes, and he eventually succumbs and lies down to sleep. What a view!

Having only seen the Buffalo briefly, we make to follow them. We arrive at a water hole surrounded by Egyptian Geese and a small group of Buffalo making towards it. They arrive, stop at the waters edge, but are wary. One pees in the water and then they are off again. Steve then spots movement on the ground at the other side of the water hole. It’s a mongoose with pale sandy body and a grey head. Yellow Mongoose. Our third mongoose species in a day.

We follow the Buffalo who make for a water hole across the plain with a herd of nearby Zebra. A Black-backed Jackal stops us in our tracks before it heads off and we pursue the Buffalo again. We watch the Buffalo and Zebra for a short while before doubling back on ourselves to find a Two-banded Courser by the first water hole. Fantastic! We cross the plain a short way and Moronga stop and points out a couple of Leopard Tortoise in the grass.

We move on to have our sundowners on the edge of an open plain. It’s Africa through and through. The threatening rain clouds make a perfect red and leaden grey sky backdrop to the open grassland savannah which is peppered with Impala, Marabou Storks, Kori Bustards and the odd Elephant.

Elephants are really that close!

Janet spots a large Water Monitor right by the vehicle and we get our best views yet of this impressive lizard, all three plus feet of him. Several of the male Kori Bustards are displaying, head up with their neck feathers all fluffed out, but the nearby females don’t appear to be very impressed! Lastly, we add Red-naped Lark to our bird list.

Our first afternoon at Savute has been unforgettable. The contrast in terms of habitat, camp and animals with the previous camps is marked. It looks like we are going to enjoy our stay!

Day 7 – Tues, 6 Nov

Arrow-marked Babbler

We get our 5.30 am wake up call. Some have had a sleepless night due to the prolonged thunderstorm (with one of the loudest thunder claps imaginable – ‘enough to make me think of reconverting to Christendom’ says Steve) and the constant noise of animals visiting the water hole and moving round the camp. Those with rooms overlooking the water hole were closest to the Elephant action, which was pretty constant, and most heard the Lions roaring outside the lodge, and Steve was lucky enough to find out over breakfast that the rasping noise right behind his room was a Leopard.

We gather at the car park for our morning game drive. Here we hear Swamp Boubou, unusual for the area but the camps artificially greened environment due to constant watering allows this and other species to survive in this otherwise arid place. We see Arrow-marked Babbler, Puffback and Chinspot Batis before we depart on our drive.

We haven’t gone far when we come across yesterday’s pair of Lions. Led down, but when the male gets up, the female follows. She rubs against him amorously, but when he seeks to takes things further she walks away. He stands around a little before finding a shady spot in which to lie down. We move on and find the female sat down in the shade of a bush and the male eventually wanders over all magnificently and flops down under a nearby bush.

We haven’t got much further when Steve spots a Dwarf Mongoose on a fallen tree by the track. We stop and find two mongoose together, then Moronga spots a cuckoo sat up in a nearby tree which although reminiscent of our own cuckoo, but is a young Red-chested Cuckcoo. Lilac-breasted and Broad-billed Roller are also here, and we also see a pair of Le Vailliant’s Cuckoo briefly.

Driving further we pass several Giraffe and a Long-tailed Cuckoo flies past when Steve spots a Yellow Mongoose under a trackside bush. We stop and Moronga spots a pair of displaying Black-crowned Tchagra which are stunning.

We stop at a rocky outcrop and climb up to see the rock paintings. The walk is nearly aborted when Moronga disturbs a Black Mamba, but the snake moves away and we continue up. The paintings depict a long-horned antelope, an Elephant, a Buffalo or Wildebeest and a snake. Older, faded drawings include what looks like a Giraffe. No one knows how old these paintings are, or there meaning.

Female Bateleur

We resume our drive but we are soon halted when Steve spies a raptor which he soon identifies as a European Honey-buzzard. Whilst we are stopped a female Bateleur comes over low and Steve then finds a Brown Snake Eagle sat up in a nearby tree when two Tawny Eagles come by us. A second Brown Snake Eagle is soon seen and driving a little further, Moronga spots a Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl sat under the canopy of a large spreading tree. We stop and further examination of the tree reveals another two owls sat together partially hidden. The first bird however gives brilliant views, flashing its pink eyelids at us. ‘The Eddie Izzard Owl’ exclaims Steve. Nearby Steve spots our first of many Magpie Shrikes. A small party of them appear with a party of Red-billed Buffalo Weavers for company.

Verreaux's (Giant) Eagle Owl

This Elephant dies overnight by the waterhole

We make our way to the old swamp area, now dry, it is a flat area of open grassland with scattered bushes. A large herd of Zebra graze in the distance. We arrive at a water hole which holds many Zebra and a single Wildebeest.

Wildebeast or Blue Gnu at waterhole

Behind lies a dead Elephant. Moronga says it will have died overnight. Nearby is a small herd of Elephants shading under some tree, certainly the dead animals family. We’re all surprised that a dead carcase can lay around without predatory and scavenging animals moving on it.

This is the herd to which the dead Elephant belong. Animals often stay around a dead corpse for up to a week and will often revisit it even when reduced to bones

Moronga explains that the ranger service will come to burn it in order to stop the spread of disease which sometimes happens with dead Elephants. Birds come and go around the water hole, nearly all doves, but Moronga spots a Burchell’s Sandgrouse among them which we all see briefly before it flies off.

We head away from the water hole, through the herds of Zebra, including one group with a very small fowl, across the plain and come across a group of five Ostrich – a single male with his harem of females. We follow them and come across another pair of Ostrich with seven tiny chicks running around between their long legs. ‘Like walking slippers’ exclaims Paul.

Tsessebe - the fastest antelope - only Cheetah can catch 'em

We continue to drive through the old swamp area seeing another Yellow Mongoose and a couple of Kori Bustard. We stop under a large tree for coffee and cake before driving back to the camp. On the way a very obliging Rufous-naped Lark sings from a little tree right by the track, and Moronga spots a lone Steenbok grazing in the tall grass which makes it impossible to see at times.

Rufous-naped Lark

We arrive back at camp at 11.00 am and head for brunch overlooking the water hole which plays host to a single Elephant for the duration. We all head off for a few hours rest. The strengthening winds soon bring in the clouds and with them the rumbles of thunder and a brief rain shower. This triggers all the birds in the camp to sing and the whole place is filled with a cacophony of song.

After afternoon tea, we head out and call in at the campsite next to the lodge. Under a bush is a dead Impala, a Leopard killed from last night, but there is unfortunately no sign of the big cat. We head out towards the airstrip and come across a Zebra herd. Walking amongst the grazing animals are Marabou and Woolly-necked Storks and Kori Bustards. We get great views of a calling Crested Francolin, as a party of Banded Mongoose bounce past. They investigate holes in the ground, fallen trees and termite mounds using their ultra-keen sense of smell. They really are active and very comical as they wander, seemingly aimlessly trying to sniff out a meal. But they’ll have to be wary as this is raptor country, and as if to emphasise this, five Tawny Eagles are sat up in nearby trees, as well as a small flock of Wattled Starlings. The run of raptors continues with the first Fish Eagle of the wet season sat overlooking a mud whole (and no doubt wondering what he was doing in this desolate place) and then a Steppe Eagle perched atop a dead tree. Nearby the male Lion from this morning is led on the ground.

We move on a see a Black-backed Jackal up ahead. It’s keen to get away from us, so we console ourselves with a pair of Double-banded Coursers and a Capped Wheatear. Nearby we chance upon another jackal stretched out on the ground right by the track which makes up for the one that ran off on seeing us! Across the track are a superb female Kori Bustard and a Marabou Stork, the closest we’ve seen on the ground. The tree ahead of us has another Marabou and a White-backed Vulture when Steve spots a small bird near the vulture. ‘Long-tailed Paradise Wydah’ both Moronga and Steve pronounce. Long-tailed it might be named, but long-tailed it ain’t. This is a non-breeding male, so we have to make do with the gorgeous colours instead.

We continue on through the bush when Val spots a movement by the side of the vehicle. ‘Karhaan!’ exclaims Steve. Moronga stops and right by us is a male Red-crested Karhaan, a small bustard. It begins to make clacking noises with its bill, then a repeated high-pitch whistle. It repeats this, but instead of standing still, it rises vertically in a ball of feathers and then parachutes back down to ground. Wow! How good is that! We reverse and pull alongside it, but despite more calling, and the calls coming from another male, we don’t get a repeat performance.

Continuing along the track seeing Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and another Karhaan. Moronga and Steve manage to nail one of the LBJs as a Neddicky and we see a Levaillant’s (Striped) Cuckoo. Next up are four Dwarf Mongeese swarming over a fallen tree before we park up under an enormous Baobab tree, reputedly to be 1200 years old. It doesn’t matter how old the tree is, it’s huge and damn impressive! We have our sundowners and a chill out. A small dark raptor zips by us. ‘Gabar Goshawk’states Monongsa, ‘dark morph’. ‘Well that’s a new morph tick for me then’ says Steve. We watch the sun go down when Paul yells. He’s been stung by a bee. Moronga very quickly and expertly nips the sting out of Paul’s neck. Steve calls everyone to the vehicle and we are on board and off. Steve administers some antihistamine cream and Paul seems none the worse for the experience and we move on a little to watch the setting sun and a fantastically red sky. Time to get back to the camp, but on route Steve spots a large lump in a tree. We stop to find a Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl. Another is calling from another tree nearby, and a third is seen briefly in flight. What a great way to end the day!

We freshen up and are escorted to the bar for pre-dinner drinks. Tonight, instead of a handful of staff, the whole Savute choir appears and performs several songs for us before heading in to the dining room for another sumptuous meal.

Day 8 – Weds, 7 Nov
We wake to a damp, cloudy morning and during breakfast it begins to rain. Breakfast talk is all about who sounded the emergency horn last night and what for? It was the couple of young South African women who had freaked out at a spider on the bed. Wow! Big emergency! But they maintain it was one of those elephant-eating ones!

At 6.30 am we head off in to the bush with Moronga but stop within minutes to get out the safari capes as the rain is worsening. This doesn’t dampen our spirits or the birds and animals. First up today are three Ground Hornbills sat up in a dead tree. Two males are trying to impress a female, one by uttering low booming calls, the other with what looks like a dead frog. She doesn’t seem too impressed with either of them!

Driving through the scrub savannah Steve spots both a Fan-tailed Warbler and two Great Spotted Cuckoos, as well as an impressive mixed flock of weavers and Red-billed Queleas. Steve then sees a Shikra fly through the scrub and land in a tree but somewhat distantly. Felix sees something walk across the track ahead of us, but on investigation we can’t find anything. She describes the animal, and although daytime, it sounds pretty much like an Aardvark, which may have ventured oiut as it was so cool and damp. Further on, Moronga finds a set of Leopard prints in the freshly dampened sand. Unfortunately, no sign of the Leopard. We stop a little further along and Moronga draws the tracks of the main predators in the sand. This is educational and also allows us to stretch our legs and find a safe bush. Moronga finds a little Leopard Tortoise, about two years old, really well hidden in the leaf-litter, and Steve finds a large moth caterpillar and a perched African Common White butterfly. We move on a little further when Moronga stop and points to some fresh prints in the sand on our right. Another Leopard! A little further on another set of prints belong to a Hyena following one of the many Elephant trails.

We arrive at an open area with scattered trees to find three Spotted Hyenas, two Black-backed Jackals and a Hooded Vulture picking over the last remains of an Elephant. There is nothing more than bones and the hide left, but two of the Hyenas pick at the same part of the skeleton and another chews away at the hide. The Hackals and Hooded Vulture wander around the bare ground licking and picking at whatever they can find. One of the Hyenas is larger and browner than the other two. This is the female, and the two males are completely subordinate to her and this is illustrated when one of them refuses to let her in on the chewing of the hide and a quarrel ensues with the male cowering and whimpering. She loses interested, clearly more intent in proving a point to him than wanting to eat the hide, and she wanders off for a drink at the nearby water hole.

We head off back in to the grassland and come across several Kori Bustard and Red-crested Korhaan. Driving through the scrub we find a couple of Broad-billed Weavers collecting nesting material and a pair of Crimson-breasted Boubous doing the same. We move back in to open grassland and immediately see our first Northern Black Korhaan. They seem to be everywhere, including a couple of displaying males. We see at least 17 before moving on.

We drive into an area with large numbers of Zebra on both sides of us. Several Wildebeest are on the left a single Giraffe on our right. We also hear a Rattling Cisticola. We stop for a safe bush a little further on and Steve finds a Pin-tailed Paradise Wydah sat atop a bush in the middle distance. We drive on further and eventually find our hoped for quarry for the morning, Cheetah. Two males, brothers, are lounging around a grassy area, one led across a slightly raised up mound (very typical of Cheetah). We spend ten minutes with them and in that time one treats us to a walk about before resettling on a new bit of grass on which to lie. It’s amazing how they melt into their surroundings. The spotting and the stripes down the face both blend in with the grass around them perfectly. We have to leave as we have a prior engagement with a plane. The drive back is pretty direct but we do manage to get excellent views of a Martial Eagle perched in a tree not far from the track, a few Elephants, a Warthog, a couple Giraffe and a European Cuckoo. A highlight though was a single Yellow-billed Kite getting a hammering from drongo after drongo as it flew through half a dozen different territories. The drongos were relentless, with one attacking as it entered its air space and handing over to its neighbour to continue the bombardment, with several birds actually hitting the kite on the back

We make it to the airstrip bang on time with the plane waiting for us and our bags being loaded on board. We bid farewell to Moronga who has been a fantastic guide and good fun over the last couple of days, board our plane and head for Kasane. We fly west with the Chobe River on our left across the now familiar mosaic landscape. The open bush is visibly criss-crossed by Elephant trails and eventually we begin to see straight roads and fence lines, and even a tarmac road! We land at Kasane, adding Crowned Plover on the runway to our trip list, collect our bags and head for Chobe Game Lodge, the only lodge within Chobe National Park. No sooner are we in the park itself and we begin to see things. A group of Kudu are stood right by the track, including a splendid male with fantastic horns, a single Kalahari Scrub Robin with its tail cocked, and distantly, Hippos out of water! We check in, and introduction talk over we head to our rooms to freshen up before lunch. The gardens are full of wildlife including a Warthog family, White-browed Robin-chat, Paradise Flycatcher, Puffback, Swamp Boubou, Long-billed Crombec, and a new species for us, Yellow-bellied Bulbul.

After lunch we rest up before our 4.30 pm game drive with our new guide Florence. We go down to the water front in the driving rain, all of us wrapped up against the cold and damp. The flood plain is covered with Impala and a handful of Buffalo, through which several Open-bill Storks meander. Both Marabou and Water Dikkop are dotted around, but it’s in the sky where all the action is. There has been a huge hatch of ant lions and these are being hoovered up by anything that can catch them. Water Dikkops run around after them. A Hamerkop jumps on the spot to catch them, and the sky is an absolute soup of ant lions, swallows, martins and swifts. In among them are a couple of Yellow-billed Kites hawking for them ala Hobby style. They twist and turn, snatching with their feet and then in a single movement transferring each prey item to their bill. Fantastic to watch.

Between the scrub and the plains are shallow pools holding waders (Three-banded Plover, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Ruff, Greenshank), egrets, herons and a couple of Red-billed Duck. An African Spoonbill feeds alongside a Great White Egret under which a diminutive Squacco Heron stands. By contrast, a lone Goliath Heron stands enormous as it preens out on the marsh. Steve picks up the first of two Yellow-bellied Eremomelas hopping around low down in the scrub, as well as a Great Reed Warbler. We spy our first Hippos in the water, and on the plain in front of them a handful of Kittlitz’s Plovers run around feeding. Paul then spots a couple o Crocodiles on the nearside of the small channel below us and from here we also see our first Puku (antelope), an African Pied Wagtail, and up to half a dozen African Skimmers, a couple of which delight us with some skimming. A little further on we find a couple of Marbou Storks and Hooded Vultures picking over the remains of a burns Elephant carcass near which an impressive Waterbuck is grazing.

Its beginning to get dark, so Florence takes us to a high spot to have a drink and snack, complete with views of passing Elephant, before heading back to the lodge. We freshen up and meet up at 7.30 pm and enjoy our first meal here, which is a novel self service, choosing the ingredients for a stir fry (inc. local Ostrich meat) and handing your plateful of meat, veg and any sauces to a chef who griddles it or you can have it flambéed in a wok! Fabulous to watch and you know everything is fresh. After dinner we retire to some comfy chairs for our evening checklist (adding at least 17 new bird species to the list today) and then bid one another good night and off to our rooms to prepare for our early start in the morning.

Day 9 – Thurs, 8 Nov
We get our 5.30 am wake up call and after coffee and a muffin we are on our boat for our Chobe River cruise at 6.00 am. We meander aimlessly at first with relatively little to see. We do however pull up alongside the Namibian bank in order to ‘tick touch’ Namibia! Back on the Botswana side we see a sizeable Croc slide into the river and submerge. Malachite and Pied Kingfishers share the same dead tree branch and nearby another fallen tree holds a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron, Green-backed Heron, Darter and Reed Cormorant. Our first of countless Fish Eagles is perched above us and a single Cape Wagtail on the bank. A Yellow Mongoose bounces along the bank, a large number of White-backed Vultures are perched around in the dead trees and we see our first White-crowned Plover and Wire-tailed Swallows. Back on the Namibian side, we see a proper wooden mokoro (canoe-like boat) pulled up on the bank. We get our best views so far of Openbill Stork, and we see another Croc and a Hippo in the water. Several Yellow-billed Storks are feeding in the pools and channels along the river’s edge, and Steve spots a Croc hauled up on the bank in the middle distance. A Fish Eagle launches itself off a nearby tree and makes a bee-line for something. It suddenly pursues a Grey-headed Gull which is carrying s fish. The gull drops the fish and the eagle snatches it from the water’s surface.

A flock of Red-winged (Collared) Pratincole,s flashing their red underwings, takes up from the Namibian bank and a single White-winged (Black) Tern passes by. At the top of a channel there is a gathering of Hippos half out of the water with a Squacco Heron stood on the back of one of them. Unfortunately, our guide says the channel is too shallow to get up and we turn round. We head up the main river again and Steve finds a large Water Monitor sat up on the bank. We approach to within a couple of meters and get fabulous views. An African Marsh Harrier quarters the land nearby, its dark head one of the ways to separate tit from the European Marsh Harrier.

In the distance there are masses of vultures and Marabous gathered on the ground. Its clear there is food there so we make our way up and stop just offshore. There must be over 100 vultures in four main groups. There are at least two dead animals, possibly three. A small Hippo in a water channel is being picked at by three Marabous and a couple of White-backed Vultures, but the main action is on the land where a mass of vultures and several Marabous squabble over something large. Steve then spots a pink head in a group of vultures sat up between the two feeding frenzies. ‘Lappet-faced Vulture!’ he announces excitedly and directs everyone on to the larger, darker vulture with the fleshy pink head and white feathered legs. We eventually find two Lappet-faced Vultures at the larger dead animal and both fly off, showing their immense wingspan, and land on the ground out of site. It’s a breathtaking scene, and a perfect image of wild Africa. Occasionally the wind brings the stench of the decaying animal across to us! Behind the vultures we see the odd Red Bishop toing and froing from the tall grasses to the short grass areas. The near shore and marshy area isn’t without interest either, with Night-herons, Purple and Grey Herons, Ruff, Hadeda Ibis, Yellow and Openbill Storks.

We make our way back to the lodge, past three Puku and a couple more Lappet-faced Vultures sat up among the White-backed Vultures, their larger size and darker colour very obvious. We then find a small Croc lying on the shoreline and approach it within only a meter or so and get fabulous views and photos. Its eye is pale apart from a very sliver of a slit, it looks haunting and emotionless.

We arrive back at the lodge at 8.15 am and head for breakfast, where even here we can watch Puffback, Yellow-bellied Bulbuls, White-browed Robin-chats, Paradise Flycatchers and Woodland Kingfishers. Steve spots some swifts in the sky and after careful study we identify them as White-rumped. After breakfast we have an hour to ourselves before meeting up again at 10.30 am for our game drive.

We set out through the bush. It’s a desolate place of bare ground and dead trees with the occasional green bush. A small herd of Kudu shade from the sun under a tall tree whilst behind them a party of Banded Mongeese are busy looking for food, one of them digging a whole and the front half disappearing into it. There are lots of Helmeted Guinefowl in the area and we see a couple of Arrow-marked Babblers before Val spots a Pearl Spotted Owlet atop a dead tree.

We turn down out of the bush on to an open grassland savannah. An African Marsh Harrier is perched in a tree then takes flight for us all to see how different it is from our own Marsh Harrier. Steve then spots the first group of Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks feeding on the track ahead of us. The males have lovely chestnut backs and black and white heads, making them extremely distinctive. A find several Capped Wheatears around a sandy area with a fallen dead tree plus a single Grassveld Pipit. A huge Water Moniter is then spotted by Paul. It plods off to our right where it suddenly moves for something. It turns to reveal a large frog in its mouth and proceeds to gulp it down. What a sight! A single Red-winged (Collared) Pratincole flies by and as it lands flashes its red underwing at us and Steve spots a Kori Bustard on the nearby skyline. A stop for another Capped Wheatear also produces a Buffy Pipit preening in some short scrub whilst ahead of us there is a cloud of Red-winged Pratincoles mobbing a Steppe Buzzard which eventually loses the pratincoles and circles over us before drifting off (and attracting the attention of the pratincoles agead!). Steve then spots a number of vultures circling to our right and soon picks out an adult and immature Lappet-faced. Their size, in particular their broader, parallel sided wings with huge fingers easily separate from the White-backed, you don’t even need to see their bright pink heads. The Lappet-faced stay together and then amazing one turns on the other and the pair talon-grapple briefly in the air. This is repeated four or five times before they wander off towards the river. A Lualula Cisticola shows well, showing off its rufous head and wings and white tips to the tail when Steve spots another gathering of vultures and Marabou on a dead animal in the distance.

We turn along the riverfront looking across to Namibia. There is a small grass hut village on the other side. The grassy near shore is full of water birds including quite a few Openbill Storks, Glossy Ibis, Malachite Kingfisher and Jacanas. There are a couple of Crocs too, including an absolute monster. The pools just in from the river hold more herons, egrets and storks including a single Black Egret, plus a few Little Bee-eaters. A Plain-backed Pipit amazingly feeds alongside a Grassveld Pipit on the track ahead for easy comparison when Tony spots a large raptor up ahead. The all white underparts and dark head are instantly recognisable to Steve as an adult Martial Eagle. We get cracking views as it circles before drifting off over towards Namibia. Driving back across the grass savannah Steve spots a Kittlitz’s Plover. ON closer inspection there turns out to be 15 brilliantly camouflaged against the sand and short grass sward.

We drive back to the lodge via the scrub again. Steve spots a Pearl-spotted Owlet in a tree and when we stop we see the adult Steve first saw, calling agitatedly at our presence, then a large young sat on a nearby branch which also begins to call. The young bird still has immature head feathers and lacks the false eyes on the back of the head. Seeing a movement to his left, Steve then finds a White-browed Scrub-robin near the base of a scrubby bush. We get great views when another bird appears, Brown-crowned (Threestreaked) Tchagra! Two little finch-like birds then appear in the adjacent bush. One is grey-fronted and heavily barred and the other has a stunning red face and throat, green chest band and barred belly. ‘Green-winged Pytilia’ announces Steve as we all gaze at these handsome little birds. A Grey-backed Bleating Warbler flits around the top of the same tree and a little further along the track, Steve spots what at first he things is another Levaillant’s (Striped) Cuckoo atop a tree, but soon finds it is unstreaked and is actually a Jacobin Cuckoo. What a mad five minutes! We arrive back at the lodge an hour later than scheduled, but no one cares as we’ve had fabulous morning.

We head out again with Florence at 4.30 pm and within a few minutes Felix has spotted a group of Banded Mongoose. We get some terrific views of a pair of Brown-crowned Tchagra, and in a nearby dead tree, Spotted Flycatcher, Broad-billed Roller and as couple of Black Flycatchers. Another group of nearby bushes holds Scaly-feathered Finch, Green-winged Pytilia, Blue Waxbill and Red-backed Shrike. It’s as if everything has come out again, all at once! We next find a magnificent male Kudu trying to hide from us behind a spindly bush. After a few minutes it moves out in to the open and is limping badly. It can’t be too long before the local predators pick him off.

We continue driving through the desolate bush. A pair of Crested Francolins pick around beneath a bush and a pair of Double-breasted Sandgrouse wander across the track in front of us. We hit on another group of bushes which are bird-rich, with Tropical Boubou, Little Bee-eater, our first Red-billed Firefinches and cracking views Grey-backed Bleating Warbler.

Val wishes for something big and colourful, and she sorts of gets her wish. The big comes in the form of a Spotted Hyena led in the shade of a bush. It looks large and is probably a female. Nearby a dead male Impala covered in flies and smelling all non-too-pleasant is no doubt her handy work. Whilst watching her, the colourful part of Val’s wish comes in the form of a flock of Carmine Bee-eaters heading over. We move along the track a little further and come across another active bush. We get our best views yet of Thick-billed Weaver and Tropical Boubou when a flock of about 30 White-fronted Bee-eaters descends on us! They wheel around before perching up in the bushes, then some land on the track and begin dust-bathing right in front of us. They get spooked, but within seconds they are back rolling around in the dust. Wherever we look we have bee-eaters – in the air, in the bushes and on the ground – and the air is filled with the sound of them chattering away to one another. Wonderful!

We pull out of the scrub and on to the river plain to view an impressive herd of Impala grazing. Four Sacred Ibis are sat up on the plain in front of us and a couple of Spur-winged Geese fly in and land in a dead tree in the middle of the flats. We continue until Florence spots a Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl sat in a dead tree. We view from distance to start with, with also a couple of Spotted Dikkop running around the scrub to our right. We approach the owl ever closer until we are right underneath it and within 30 ft of this magnificent owl. It calls a high pitched squeal and Steve says there must be other owls nearby. We drive around the corner and two more owls are sat atop a large bush. One flies across the plain on our approach and lands on a tree stump on the flat. The other flies along the edge of the plain and lands in a dead tree by a fourth owl. Watching the one on the flats we see a Hyena wandering towards it out on the flats. Wow! We continue to the two together and again, one flies as we arrive, but the other is intent on eating what appears to be a dried frog.

With time pressing and dusk falling fast, we head off, past a group of White-fronted Bee-eaters at their nest holes, and spotting our third Spotted Hyena of the evening in the near dark by the track. What a great way to end a fantastic bush drive!

We get back to the hotel about an hour later than planned (but getting usual for us), but no one is complaining! We freshen up and meet up at dinner which this evening is accompanied by a large African band which plays from near the swimming pool throughout the evening.

Day 10 – Fri, 9 Nov
We receive our usual 5.30 am wake up call, and at 6.00 am we are again heading out in to the bush with Florence. Along the river plain we get great views of a Goliath Heron, plus a huge Croc and a handful of vultures on a dead Buffalo. The Buffalo was killed by the local Lions three days ago, and having had their fill left it for others to scavenge. We pass a herd of Waterbuck, and the nearby pools is full of birds – African Spoonbills, Yellow-billed Storks, waders. Out on an island there are four African Skimmers and a couple of White-winged (Black) Terns flying backwards and forwards.

We turn in to the thick scrub woodland and come across a couple of splendid male Kudu. We see herds of Waterbuck and Buffalo moving through the trees and come across four Red-breasted Swallows which appear to nesting or nest prospecting under a little road bridge. We continue through more open scrub and come across a large herd of Buffalo moving in the same direction as ourselves. We get ahead of them and then park up and watch them pass to within 30 ft of the vehicle. Absolutely brilliant!

We continue past the Buffalo and eventually find our intended quarry – Lions. We’ve found the pride of 11 adult females and cubs local to the area. They have recently killed a Buffalo and all bar one of the dominant females are at the carcass. Here, a couple appear to have had their fill and are on their backs behind the carcass, but the others are busy gorging. We are so close we can hear the flesh being ripped from the dead beast. One of the dominant females is at the Buffalos rear end, and between chews at the exposed flesh, she regularly licks the hide of the carcass. A couple of Lions have their heads buried deep in the carcass and when they stop to look round, their faces are completely blood-covered. One, a young male less than a year old, finishes and goes and sits next to its mother. She begins to lick his face clean of blood.

To our right we see the herd of Buffalo coming straight towards us and the Lions. The Buffalo can see us, but they almost certainly can’t see the Lions on one of their own kind. Eventually the cats sense the oncoming herd, and for the females, impending danger for their young. One of the cubs gets up and stalks closer to the oncoming Buffalo herd. The other cats sit up and stare intently at the Buffalo. The Buffalo still haven’t seen the cats and edge ever closer. One of the dominant females stands up and walks high, past the cub laying in wait, and walks slowly at the mass of Buffalo ahead of her. Her meaning is clear. She has made herself known to warn off the Buffalo rather than keeping low in order to ambush them. But the Buffalo have many young themselves which they keep as much as possible in the middle of the herd. The Buffalo see her. They stop. The leading animals, all large adults including a couple of large bulls, edge forward. It’s a stand off! The rest of the pride, including the lone female who was resting elsewhere, are now walking towards the Buffalo. The cubs are eager to give chase, but the adults are more cautious. Their priority must be to see off the danger, but now there is a stand off this will only happen in one way. The leading female Lion bursts in to speed. The Buffalo turn and run. The other cats are quick on the female’s heels. She jumps on to the back end of one of the smaller Buffalo, but the other cats are too far behind to support her, and the Buffalos instantly turn and round on her. She lets go and flees, and the Buffalos charge through the trees at the advancing pride. It’s the cats turn to run this time. But the Buffalo too want to get away from this confrontation unscathed if they can, and seeing the fleeing Lions, they halt. The herd re-gathers and stands as one facing the scattered Lions. The adult female Lions move again. The herd turns and runs for a second time. Another Buffalo is grasped by one female, but again, she remains unsupported and the Buffalo again round on her and the pride again flees. The Buffalos defensive charge this time is stronger. More animals and a longer chase causing the Lions to scatter more with a couple taking to the trees! Two more confrontations later, the Buffalo are firmly pushed away from the pride’s already dead Buffalo. The Lions retreat, some to the carcass, others to the shade of a large tree where a couple of the younger cats get playful with one of the females. The Buffalo wander off in to the bush. Confrontation over, no more lives lost. For now.

We leave the Lions. Birds are now back on the agenda and a little eagle-fest occurs with juvenile Bateleur (which throws Steve but not Florence!), a dark morph adult Tawny Eagle (both perched) and a circling Lesser Spotted Eagle. Some trees and bushes around a puddle produce several Red-billed Quelea and a fantastic male Plum-coloured Starling, whilst a group of drinking doves at the puddle contains a single Laughing Dove. We pass a couple of Warthog, then three Kudu at another puddle before arriving back at the lodge for lunch. What a morning!

At 10.30 am we head out on to the Chobe River with Kelly. We come across a large Croc straight away and there is a herd of 12 Elephants on one of the islands. Openbill Storks are numerous and a Goliath Heron stands huge by a herd of Impala. A single Puku grazes the edge of one of the islands and allows close approach. A Pied Kingfisher is on a tree stump smacking a very large (for the kingfisher) fish against the wood. This goes on for some time, but before the kingfisher can finish the fish off and swallow it, a Yellow-billed Kite swoops down scattering everything, including the kingfisher, which escapes with its catch. A small herd of Buffalo feed in a lush, marsh channel which is also full of herons, egrets, jacanas and waders. To our right, a dead Buffalo lies forlorn on the high ground by the shore. This is the animal we could see on the evening of our arrival being surrounded by vultures. But nothing has eaten it. There are no big predators out here and the hide is too thick for the vultures to open up themselves. Instead a lone Red-billed Oxpecker uses it as a preening perch and the back of the Buffalo is peppered with the excrement of frustrated vultures!

Nearby several Marabou and two vultures are waiting expectantly. Steve looks at the two vultures. ‘Wow! White-headed Vulture!’ exclaims Steve. One of the vultures clearly has a white head and its primaries are also white, sexing it an adult female. We move closer and also see the white ‘trousers’ and the thick, almost woolly, neck feathering. Concentrating on the adult female, Steve hasn’t given any thought to the other bird until Bruce suggests it too is a White-headed. Steve looks carefully, and sure enough it is a juvenile. It is all brown, but clearly the same size and structure, and it has the same type of neck feathering. To further confirm, the two birds approach one another and there is some mutual pecking which suggests a mother-child pair.

We cross the river to look more closely at a small Namibian fish landing area. Three people are there, two by the shore sorting through fish, and fish lay spread out on the ground in the hot sun. Kelly then spots a large herd of Buffalo crossing between two of the islands. We head down to the island on to which they are heading. The dust cloud as they leave one island, and the splash of the swim and arrival on the other adds to the drama. The herd gathers on the small island. The lead Buffalos seem very reluctant to cross the next channel, presumably wary of Crocs. They more forward tentatively, then suddenly dart for the water. They start to jump as soon as they hit the water. The dust from the beach rises and then the splashing commences again. The herd moves in a long, thin line rather than a broad front. The crossing seems to go on and on. The first Buffalo reach the next island, and as soon as they are clear of the water, rather stupidly stop dead in their tracks! Those arriving behind them are backed up and those in the water can either not get out or are forced wider. It’s a good job there aren’t any Crocs laying in wait or else they would have had an easy time of it.

We continue. A sandy spit holds Grey-headed Gulls and a mix of White-winged (Black) and Whiskered Terns. The next island has a small herd of Elephant, but much more interesting are the pair of Skimmers with a large juvenile bird. The juvvy, although it can fly it isn’t able to ‘skim’ for itself yet as its bill isn’t yet fully developed, so it begs its parents for food.

We turn round and pass another dead Buffalo, this time in the water, when Paul spots a Croc at its rear end. The Croc has its tail, but on our approach, even at some distance, it disappears and rises back to the surface away from the dead animal. Shame. Over to our left there are two Hippos grazing on one of the island in the distance, and away from any channel we could use to get closer to them. In the sky Steve spots a Bateleur and a more distant Harrier Hawk circling. Scanning the Botswana bank of the river, Steve counts at least 70 Elephants dotted along the length we can see. Most are now beginning to make their way back out of the river and marshes and back up to the bush.

We approach the Lodge when Kelly points to a huge herd of Elephants further upstream. She asks if we want to go and see them and it’s an immediate yes! We are there within five minutes. Over 100 Elephants are gathered at what is obviously is regular spot judging by how wide and worn the area of bank is where they are. There is almost too much to take in! There are Elephants everywhere and doing all sorts of things. Some are on the bank dust bathing by grabbing trunkfuls of earth and throwing it over themselves, or scratching themselves up against open faces of ground. These animals are peppered in white dust with the odd one totally covered and looking chalky-grey. Others are drinking from the shore, whilst others waded out and completely submerge themselves. The ones drinking are funny in that they rarely took water from tight in front of them, but would extend their trunks as far as possible to collect water, or frequently reach to another animals trunk tip to ‘steal’ their water. The bathing animals are the most boisterous and playful. They submerge and then bob back up and use the upwards momentum to clamber on to the back of one of their neighbours. The only squabbling appears to be onshore between smaller members of the herd, when one would let out a loud trumpet to ward off the offender. In amongst the herd were some tiny infants, only around five months says Kelly. None of these were in the water, but by their mothers at the shore or well on land, and usually not in the thick of the action. The whole scene was simply breathtaking, and sitting only meters away from them at times, we really got the sense of the hugeness of not only the individuals, but of the herd.

After lunch we go on our last bush drive of the holiday. Florence takes us back to the Lions, but it’s not a direct drive as far too many birds get in the way! We come across a group of those ‘magic’ bushes, where when all the surrounding area appears devoid of bird life, a small clump of bushes comes alive with birds. We chance upon a group of Long-tailed Paradise Wydah comprising a non-breeding male and three females. There is also a male Green-winged Pytilia and a Tropical Boubou repeatedly bashing a large caterpillar against a branch. There are several Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes sat up on perches and a couple of Black Tits feed in a small spindly bush. A White-browed Robin-chat appears and sits up on a high perch and sings away whilst behind in the sky is a circling Steppe Buzzard.

All the puddles from this morning have gone, evaporated in the sun, and partly drank by birds and passing animals. We arrive at the Lions. Vultures are sat up all around the area including a splendid male White-headed Vulture overlooking the Buffalo kill which is still being gorged on by several of the pride. Other members of the pride are asleep in the shade nearby. A huge dung beetle is rolling an equally large piece of Elephant dung across the track, its intended use is to hopefully attract the attention of a passing female on to which she will lay her eggs.

We begin to make our way back. A female Gabar Goshawk flies in front of us and into a bush. She continues through the bush but out to the left comes a smaller, grey raptor which perches in the open briefly before taking cover. It’s a male Little Sparrowhawk. Within only a few minutes we see our second black morph Gabar Goshawk of the trip whilst watching a Grey-headed Kingfisher. We see the Red-breasted Swallows from this morning, and a lone Hyena moving through the bush. Driving through thick Rhodesian Teak forest we find a Cardinal Woodpecker, a pair of Pearl Spotted Owlets, four Ground Hornbills (including an amorous male with inflated throat sack) and a Crested Barbet. We also come across our largest mongoose troop, with 10-12 Banded Mongeese busy searching the ground for food, digging little holes all over the place. It’s near dark so we head back to the Lodge. A nightjar flies over us at one point, its large size, profile and lack of any white markings identifies it as a female Pennant-winged. It’s the end of our last safari drive, but what another cracker.

Day 11 – Sat, 10 Nov
We get a lay in and breakfast at 8 am before checking out and our transfer to Livingstone. We are driven by jeep to xxx where we cross the Zambezi River by boat and transfer to a coach for our hour or so drive to Livingstone. We check in to the Zembezi Sun hotel, lunch and then go on a walking tour of the Victoria Falls. It hadn’t occurred to any of us that because it is the end of the dry season the waterfalls would be reduced. In fact, they are only around 5% of the wet season peak! We come away disappointed and transfer to the African Queen for a sunset cruise on the mighty Zambezi.

Day 12 – Sun, 11 Nov
After breakfast we transfer to the Royal Livingstone hotel and take a boat over to Livingstone Island, the islands that in 1855 David Livingstone first viewed the falls and named them after Queen Victoria. Yesterdays disappointment is banishes. Here we are at the head of the main fall during the dry season, and it at least gives us a little flavour of what the wet season will be like. Then, the several very small falls are extended to around 1.7 km length of waterfall and all the islands in the immediate area are swamped and it is wall to wall water. The area isn’t without its birds, and we add Rock Pratincole to our trip list.

We return to the hotel and transfer to Livingstone airport for our flight to Joberg. At Joberg we bid farewell to Val and Tony who are heading off to Cape Town for a few days, and the rest of us make our way to our flight back to Heathrow.

Day 13 – Mon, 12 Nov
We arrive back in England around 8.30 am. We say our goodbyes and head off home with vivid memories of a fantastic African safari adventure.

Numbers are from Robert’s Birds of Southern Africa
English names are from the Sasol Birds of Southern Africa guide

1 Common Ostrich
55 White-breasted Cormorant
58 Reed Cormorant
60 African Darter
62 Grey Heron
64 Goliath Heron
65 Purple Heron
66 Great (White) Egret
67 Little Egret
68 Yellow-billed Egret
69 Black Heron (Egret)
70 Slaty Egret
71 Cattle Egret
72 Squacco Heron
74 Green-backed Heron
75 Rufous-ellied Heron
76 Black-crowned Night-heron
79 Dwarf Bittern
81 Hamerkop
86 Woolly-necked Stork
87 African Openbill (Open-billed Stork)
91 African Sacred Ibis
93 Glossy Ibis
94 Hadeda Ibis
95 African Spoonbill
99 White-faced Duck
102 Egyptian Goose
104 Yellow-billed Duck
106 Hottentot Teal
114 African Pygmy Goose
115 Knob-billed Duck
116 Spur-winged Goose
121 Hooded Vulture
123 White-backed Vulture
124 Lappet-faced Vulture
125 White-headed Vulture
126a Black Kite
126b Yellow-billed Kite
127 Black-shouldered Kite
130 European Honey-buzzard
132 Tawny Eagle
133 Steppe Eagle
134 Lesser Spotted Eagle
135 Whalberg’s Eagle
137 African Hawk-eagle
139 Long Crested (Hawk) Eagle
140 Martial Eagle
142 Brown Snake Eagle
146 Bateluer
148 African Fish Eagle
149 Steppe Buzazrd
157 Little Sparrowhawk
159 Shikra
161 Gabar Goshawk
164 Western (European) Marsh Harrier
165 African Marsh Harrier
169 African Harrier-hawk
189 Crested Francolin
194 Red-billed Francolin
199 Swainson’s Spurfowl (Francolin)
202 Helmeted Guinefowl
207 Wattled Crane
213 Black Crake
223 African Purple Swamphen (Purple Gallinule) (heard only)
230 Kori Bustard
237 Red-crested Korhaan
239 Northern Black Korhaan
240 African Jacana
248 Kittlitz’s Plover
249 Three-banded Plover
255 Crowned Lapwing (Plover)
258 Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover)
259 White-crowned Lapwing (Plover)
261 Long-toed Lapwing (Plover)
264 Common Sandpiper
265 Green Sandpiper
266 Wood Sandpiper
270 Common Greenshank
284 Ruff
295 Black-winged Stilt
297 Spotted Thick-knee (Dikkop)
298 Water Thick-knee (Dikkop)
300 Temminck’s Courser
301 Double-banded Courser
304 Collared (Redwinged) Pratincole
305 Black-winged Pratincole
306 Rock Pratincole
315 Grey-headed Gull
338 Whiskered Tern
339 White-winged (Black) Tern
343 African Skimmer
345 Burchell’s Sandgrouse
347 Double-banded Sandgrouse
352 Red-eyed Dove
353 African Mourning Dove
354 Cape Turtle Dove
358 Green-spotted Dove
361 African Green Pigeon
364 Meyer’s Parrot
373 Grey Lourie
374 Common (European) Cuckoo
377 Red-chested Cuckoo
380 Great Spotted Cuckoo
381 Levaillan’s (Striped) Cuckoo
382 Jacobin Cuckoo
398 Coppery-tailed Coucal
396 African Scops Owl (heard only)
397 Southern White-faced Scops Owl
398 Pearl-spotted Owlet
402 Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl
405 Fiery-necked Nightjar (heard only)
410 Pennant-winged Nightjar
412 Common (European) Swift
413 White-rumped Swift
421 African Palm Swift
428 Pied Kingfisher
431 Malachite Kingfisher
433 Woodland Kingfisher
436 Grey-headed (Greyhooded) Kingfisher
437 Striped Kingfisher
438 European Bee-eater
440 Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
441 Southern Carmine Bee-eater
443 White-fronted Bee-eater
444 Little Bee-eater
445 Swallow-tailed Bee-eater
447 Lilac-breasted Roller
450 Broad-billed Roller
451 African Hoopoe
452 Green (Red-billed) Wood-hoopoe
455 Trumpeter Hornbill
457 African Grey Hornbill
458 Red-billed Hornbill
459 Yellow-billed Hornbill
463 Ground Hornbill
464 Black-collared Barbet
465 Pied Barbet (heard only)
470 Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird (Tinker Barbet)
473 Crested Barbet
476 Lesser Honeyguide
481 Bennett’s Woodpecker
483 Golden-tailed Woodpecker
486 Cardinal Woodpecker
494 Rufous-naped Lark
497 Fawn-coloured Lark
515 Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark (Finch Lark)
518 Barn (European) Swallow
522 Wire-tailed Swallow
524 Red-breasted Swallow
529 Rock Martin
532 Sand Martin
534 Banded Martin
541 Fork-tailed Drongo
545 Black-headed Oriole
554 Southern Black Tit
560 Arrow-marked Babbler
562 White-rumped Babbler
568 Black-eyed Bulbul
574 Yellow-bellied Greenbul (Bulbul)
576 Kurrichan Thrush
587 Capped Babbler
596 Stonechat
599 White-browed Robin-chat (Heuglin’s Robin)
613 White-browed Scrub-robin
615 Kalahari Scrub-robin
628 Great Reed Warbler
643 Willow Warbler
651 Long-billed Crombec
664 Zitting (Fan-tailed) Warbler
672 Rattling Cisticola
675 Luapula (Black-backed) Cisticola
676 Chirping Cisticola
681 Neddicky
683 Tawny-flanked Prinia
689 Spotted Flycatcher
691 Ashy (Blue-grey) Flycatcher
694 Black Flycatcher
696 Pale Flycatcher
701 Chinspot Batis
710 Paradise Flycatcher
711 African Pied Wagtail
713 Cape Wagtail
716 African (Grassveld) Pipit
718 Plain-backed Pipit
719 Buffy Pipit
731 Lesser Grey Shrike
733 Red-backed Shrike
735 Magpie (Long-tailed) Shrike
737 Tropical Boubou
738 Swamp Boubou
739 Crimson-breasted Shrike
740 Puffback
741 Brubru
743 Brown-crowned Tchagra
744 Black-capped Tchagra
760 Wattled Starling
761 Violet-backed (Plum-coloured) Starling
762 Burchell’s (Glossy) Starling
763 Meve’s (Long-tailed Glossy) Starling
764 Cape Glossy Starling
765 Greater Blue-eared (Glossy) Starling
769 Red-winged Starling
771 Yellow-billed Oxpecker
772 Red-billed Oxpecker
779 Marico Sunbird
787 White-bellied Sunbird
793 Collared Sunbird
797 African Yellow White-eye
798 Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
799 White-browed Sparrow-weaver
801 House Sparrow
804 Grey-headed Sparrow
805 Yellow-throated Sparrow
806 Scaly-feathered Finch
807 Thick-billed Weaver
814 Masked Weaver
815 Lesser Masked Weaver
816 Golden Weaver
818 Brown-throated Weaver
819 Red-headed Weaver
821 Red-billed Quelea
824 Southern Red Bishop
828 Red-shouldered Widow
834 Green-winged Pytilia (Melba Finch)
842 Red-billed Firefinch
843 Brown Firefinch
844 Blue Waxbill
845 Violet-eared Waxbill
860 Pin-tailed Wydah
862 Long-tailed Paradise Wydah

230 species

Chobe Bushbuck
Southern Impala
Greater Kudu
Red Lechwe
Blue Wildebeest
Chcma Baboon
Bush Squirrel
African Elephant
Southern Giraffe
Spotted Hyena
Black-backed Jackal
Banded Mongoose
Dwarf Mongoose
Slender Mongoose
Yellow Mongoose
Vervet Monkey
African Wild Dog
Common Genet
Fruit bat sp
Bat sp

Other wildlife
Water Monitor
Catfish sp
Pale Reed Frog
Leopard Frog
Bell Frog
‘flat-headed’ Frog
Painted Reed Frog
Skink sp
Leopard Tortoise
Fire Fly
Giant Dung Beetle
Antlion sp