A boat trip on the Chobe River on a winter morning
In the vicinity of the Chobe River Camp the reeds and papyrus as well as the tall trees which characterise the banks of the other rivers on Namibia’s north-eastern border are absent. On Botswana’s side the Chobe River is lined by a range of hills with numerous large trees and an abundance of animals.
Our guide, Nelson Sabata, not only has a keen eye for antelope and crocodiles, but also for the countless bird species which dwell on the open grassy spaces well-camouflaged and at times motionless. Collared Pratincoles are easily detected on the dark ground. These intra-African migrants are not always found in Namibia’s northeast throughout the year. Apparently their presence depends on the water level and the availability of food on the floodplains. This year the water masses of the Zambezi River pushed into the Chobe, forcing the river to flow in reverse. The plains were flooded for kilometres upstream which increased the habitat of waterbirds considerably. On our trip in July, in the middle of winter, the Chobe followed its usual easterly direction again.
Jacanas, sometimes called Jesus birds, are foraging for food on the banks. Their very long toes enable them to walk on floating vegetation. Some of the males still have nearly fledged chicks with them. In a jacana family the males build the nest, incubate the eggs and raise the young.
Several stork species, like the Yellow-billed Stork and the saddle-billed stork, are resting on the riverbank.
A Little Egret devours a rather big fish, while a Grey Heron waiting for prey stands motionless in the water just a few metres away from a crocodile. Its long red legs enable the Black-winged Stilt to search for food in much deeper water than a lapwing.
White-faced Whistling Ducks have watched the approaching boat for quite a while before they fly up but settle down again at some distance. Egyptian Geese, on the other hand, loudly make their annoyance with the boat known and strut away from the water’s edge.
A Fish Eagle sits on a dry old tree and enjoys his breakfast. He is not bothered by the boat, and neither are the antelopes on the riverbank. But Darters, Reed Cormorants and White-breasted Cormorants make sure that people do not get too close. These birds take off as soon as they feel the flight distance has been intruded.
At the end of July, during a boat trip in the morning, a total of 31 wetland bird species were counted along the Chobe River and within two days altogether 97 bird species in and around Chobe River Camp. Only a few migratory birds were seen because at that time of the year most of them still linger in the northern hemisphere.
Author: Dirk Heinrich