Thursday, September 29, 2011

With water comes life . . .

It is a well-known fact that the 2011 Okavango flood is one of the highest on record - water has surged past Maun (especially when the bridge over the Xotego River broke!), down the Nhabe towards Lake Ngami, and down the Boteti for over 250 kilometres to Lake Xau. While this has had its downside (such as the escape of numerous crocodiles from flooded enclosures at the Sitatunga Crocodile farm!), the news for birds has been overwhelmingly good. BirdLife Botswana has long realised that Lake Xau is likely to become a birding hotspot as it fills, although this did not really materialise last year when the water barely reached the lake-bed. We have been monitoring the situation closely, and BirdLife members Pat Nurse and Ray and Val Lovett recently conducted a partial count of the now extensive lake.Marabou Storks are among the first birds to find new areas such as Lake Xau

Highlights of their count are as follows:
Little Grebe 6
Grey Heron 12
Goliath Heron 1
Great Egret 2
Yellow-billed Egret 9
Little Egret 20
Cattle Egret 20
Squacco Heron 3
Marabou Stork 15
Glossy Ibis 163
White-faced Duck 1
Red-billed Teal 65
Southern Pochard 19
Spur-winged Goose 2
Wood Sandpiper 2
Black Crake 1
Common Moorhen 2
African Jacana 1
Kittlitz's Plover 3
Crowned Lapwing 30
Blacksmith Lapwing 76
Wattled Lapwing 1
Common Greenshank 6
Black-winged Stilt 11
Collared Pratincole 18

The lake is still filling, and it is early days yet. The lake-bed is very uneven with ridges and channels so the water is spreading out into a system of fingers of water. Migrant waders are only just now returning, so it is going to be very interesting to keep an eye on this exciting new birding destination.

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