Monday, November 29, 2010

Waterbirds arrive at Lake Xau

The arrival of waterbirds at Lake Xau since it started filling has been less than spectacular! However, there is no doubt that the lake is Botswana 13th Important Bird Area (IBA) in the making.

The extent of flooding of the lake in 2010 (Photo: P Hancock)

By mid-November, the Boteti floodwaters, over 250 kilometres south of Maun and still moving, trickled out onto the long dry bed of Lake Xau. They extended about eight kilometres into the huge sump – the river’s natural terminus – and then spread out laterally and formed a shallow, open mudflat before stopping flowing. This waterbody has been colonized by a few dozen Red-billed Teal and Southern Pochard, and lesser numbers of Little and Cattle egrets and Grey Herons.

A Grey Heron drops in for a bit of fishing (Photo: P Hancock)

Wader numbers and diversity are still low, with a few Ruffs, Common Greenshanks, Wood Sandpipers and a single Black-winged Stilt being present. Other species seen at this time include Blacksmith Lapwing, Glossy Ibis and two Yellow-billed Storks.

The shallow mudflats are suitable for waders, including the Common Greenshank (Photo: P Hancock)

There have been quite good rains in the general area of Lake Xau, so that there is standing water on small pans and mudflats between Rakops and Mopipi, and this may have diluted the number of birds. However, the area is still worth a visit as it is likely to attract large numbers of waders still. The habitat is ideal for the incoming Palaearctic migrants and species such as Black-winged (and Collared) Pratincole and Caspian Plovers could reach good numbers. Birders visiting the area are requested to keep good records, and to send this information to Pete Hancock at