Mmegi Online :: Notwane beckons birders
About 230 (about 40 percent) of a possible 593 bird species in Botswana occur in the general area either as residents or migrants. The combined sitings on Botswana tickbird nationally show that 93 percent of all the possible Botswana bird species have been observed by it’s members.
The range of bird species in the Notwane area is diverse because the habitat – high and low woodland, rocky kopjes, river-side woodland, riverine forest, river islands, lakeshores and reed swamps – is favourable for numerous species, many of which breed throughout the year.
“Situated 11km south of Gaborone, on the Lobatse road, Notwane Siding is a good place to start the day. Notwane is dominated by Acacia and Terminalia woodland and is easily accessible by car. Numerous roads lead to many parts of the suburb, but walking provides the best results. Some of the interesting species that you can expect in the early hours of the morning include Pearlspotted and Barn Owl and Rufouscheeked Nightjar. A pair of Giant Eagle Owls nest on the Notwane River, and can be heard calling in late summer. After dawn, Scimitar billed Woodhoopoe, Pied Barbet, Ashy Tit, Brubru, Great Sparrow, Marico Sunbird, Crimsonbreasted Shrike, Whitebacked Mousebird, Titbabbler and Jacobin Cuckoo as well as both Kalahari and Whitebrowed Robins are common and may be heard calling. The Rattling Cisticola and Marico Flycatcher are particularly common, the latter being identified by its white underparts and contrasting darker upperparts.
Acacia thickets are particularly productive for many of the smaller species. Keep your eyes and ears open for Burntnecked Eromomela, Violeteared and Blackcheecked Waxbill as well as Melba, Redheaded, Scalyfeathered and Cutthroat Finch, and in winter look out for the delicate Fairy Flycatcher. A few of the more colourful migrants to enter the area during summer include Bluecheecked and Carmine Bee-Eater, Woodlands Kingfisher and European Golden Oriole. Whitethroat and Icterine Warbler are both present as well as the beautiful Barred Warbler. The larger but more secretive Olivetree Warbler, which has been returning to the same Acacia mellifera thicket in Notwane for the last three seasons can also be seen. Keep your eyes open for Pintailed, Shafttailed and Paradise Whydah, which can be seen flying above the treetops or sitting on the power lines. Pied Babbler may be seen moving through the trees, listen for their babbling calls. The Notwane River, which is flanked by private estates, is lined with large Acacia Karoo and Combretum trees.
Giant Eagle Owl have bred along the river for the past few years, and they may be seen on most winter evenings hunting in the surrounding bush. Malachite, Brownhooded, Pied and Woodland Kingfisher all frequent the river, while Blackcrowned Night Heron roost in large numbers in trees overhanging the water. Quiet shores provide an excellent home for Black Crake, Little Bittern, Black Egret and Greenbacked Heron. The large trees fringing the river are home to many Cuckoo species. African, Redchested, Striped, Klaas, Diederic, Black and Jacobin are all seen regularly.” Six of the nine Kingfisher species found in Botswana can be seen at Notwane. But when the dam water levels are low, many more wading species
flock to the area including the Black Winged Stilt, Open Bill Stork, yellow-billed stork and the African spoonbill. At high water level, such species are almost absent and the only shallow banks available are those within the protected water embayments, mostly on the South African side of the Notwane River. Here large congregations of White Faced Whistling Ducks with fewer numbers of Egyptian Geese and Egrets search for food amongst the water lilies and hyacinth. Along the Notwane Dam birds nest in the riverine forest, the thick reed beds and also in the branches of the dead trees found in the shallow depths of the Schuinsdam River, upstream of it’s tributary with the Notwane River and also the Notwane Dam wall. African Darters and Egyptian Geese breed here. Darters, Dabchicks and a number of species of Cormorant are excellent underwater fishermen in the murky waters of the Notwane Dam. A pair of resident Fish Eagles have stayed at Notwane Dam for a number of years. Other pairs of Fish Eagles are found downtream of the Notwane Dam after the confluence of the Metsemaswaane and Notwane Rivers. Other birds of prey include the Yellow-billed Kite and Honey Buzzard.
The Notwane Dam is also a popular roosting place for Egrets and, in winter, the European Swallow. In summer, hundreds of Egrets come to roost at dusk on the large island on the Notwane Dam and hundreds of thousands of Swallows roost in the reed beds.Between December, 2002 and March, 2003, Van den Brink (2003) reports that of between 500,000 and one million European Swallows, 3,778 birds were ringed for scientific purposes in 66m of mist nets along the Notwane Dam. Birds from Finland, United Kingdom, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Hungary, Israel and South Africa were present in the ringed selection. Herons belong to the Family Ardeidae Scopidae. Globally there are 64 species, of which 24 occur in Africa south of the Sahara. Some are called Egrets or Bitterns instead of Herons. Eight of the nine Herons found in Botswana are to be seen on the Notwane Dam and along the riverine forest which backs up to Ramotswa. The only missing Heron species, which is only found in north-west Botswana, is the Rufous- Bellied Heron.
Almost twice the size of the Grey Heron, the Goliath Heron, as its name suggests, is the giant of the species. Standing almost 1 1/2m tall, it is the world’s largest Heron. It flies very slowly with slow ponderous wing beats. It feeds on the Barbel and Carp in the dam. The Black Crowned Night – Herons rest in groups amongst the leaning Syringa trees, which spill over into the Notwane River upstream of the dam. They are shy during the day and feed at dusk and mostly eat fish, frogs, aquatic insects and young birds in Heronries.The smallest Heron seen in the area is the Green-Backed Heron. They eat mostly dragonflies, water-beetles, locusts, spiders, small crabs, molluscs and small fish.