The clamour of Smith’s bush squirrels, which measure 35 cm with tail, makes some visitors look to the treetops as soon as they arrive at Namushasha River Lodge on the banks of the Kwando. A group of Hartlaub´s Babblers and/or Arrow-marked Babblers are also kicking up a racket. In the morning the loud calls of Hadeda Ibises greet guests at the jetty. A boat trip on the Kwando River is a wonderful experience not only for bird lovers. Mammals in the water and on the banks are also part of the diverse animal world. In contrast to the other Gondwana lodges in north-eastern Namibia, Namushasha River Lodge does not have a neighbouring country on the other side of the river, but the Bwabwata National Park.
Here, too, at the Kwando, the migratory birds have left before the start of winter. But several species of swallows are busy at the steep riverbanks. Everywhere else in the northern and eastern-central parts of Namibia the Banded Martin is considered to be a migratory bird. Only in the Zambezi Region is this species found throughout the year.
Brown-throated Martins, Lesser Striped Swallows and Wire-tailed Swallows are also non-migratory and can be seen up close. Together with colourful Little Bee-eaters and White-fronted Bee-eaters they hunt flying insects over the water and on the riverbank.
Hippos watch the approaching boat with curiosity and then submerge themselves in the river again. A troop of baboons arrive to quench their thirst, and in the bushes kudus carefully test the wind before they, too, approach the water. Small groups of lechwe, usually a ram and several females, stand in open patches among the dense papyrus. Long-toed Lapwings also prefer open patches on the riverbank, from which they rise with loud calls as soon as they feel threatened.
The ornithologists were particularly interested in the Cape Wagtail, because Cape Wagtails at the Kwando and also at the other rivers in this region only have a smallish dark spot on the creamy breast instead of the broad dusky breast band that is typical for the species in the rest of Namibia and in South Africa. This colour variation will possibly be listed as a separate species in the near future.
Many birds of prey circled over the river or sat on the tall trees looking for prey: not only African Fish Eagles but also Martial Eagles and Bateleurs as well as African Marsh Harriers. They are the only harrier species occurring here that does not spend our winter further north.
A total of 19 wetland bird species were recorded during the boat trip and altogether 84 bird species at Namushasha River Lodge during two days in mid-July this year.
Author: Dirk Heinrich