Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Okavango fish traps
by Grant Atkinson and Helena Faasen (Okavango Wilderness Safaris)
The recent high water levels in the Okavango Delta are now a thing of the past. One result of this year’s big flood is the exciting bird viewing that is taking place as thousands of fish become trapped by the receding waters.
These fish become a magnet for many species of waterbirds, and on a recent visit to Chitabe Camp we got to experience some of the action associated with these so-called ‘fish traps.” Instead of viewing birds just flying overhead, or standing somewhere, the fish traps bring many species together and the interaction that occurs between them is fascinating. Forced into close proximity with one another, the birds compete, co-operate, fight and steal from one another. The particular pool that we spent most time at near Chitabe was dominated for a while by a pair of Saddle-billed Storks. The pair were happy to share the pool with several smaller species of birds, but objected to a flock of Yellow-billed Storks, and some Pink-backed Pelicans, that joined in the action. For almost an hour the two Saddle-billed Storks chased all the other storks and pelicans away, but eventually they either grew tired of the effort, or else they had caught enough fish for themselves.
Birding action like we observed will be happening all over the Okavango over the next few months, and it will last until the annual floodwaters arrive and once again bring the sanctuary of deep water to the fish.