By Holger Kolberg
REGULAR wetland bird counts have been conducted in Namibia twice a year since 1992. Birds are good indicators of wetland “health” and as a signatory to the Convention on Wetlands (the Ramsar Convention) Namibia has an obligation to monitor the condition of all wetlands within the country’s borders.
Counts are conducted at a variety of localities throughout the country each summer and winter. The results of the counts over a long period of time allow for conclusions to be drawn on trends and population sizes of wetland birds.
The environmental office at the Gondwana Collection extended an invitation to conduct counts at their four lodges in north-eastern Namibia. This invitation was gladly accepted because it would extend the number of sites covered in that area.
A trial count was done at Namushasha River Lodge during the winter of 2017 and since the count proved very successful it was decided to expand the counts to all four Gondwana lodges in the area.
The team, consisting of Mark Boorman, Hartmut Kolb and Claire and Holger Kolberg, arrived at Hakusembe River Lodge on 13 February 2018 and a count was done the next day resulting in 211 birds of 22 species being recorded. The team then moved to Namushasha where a count was conducted on 16 February. Regrettably the count had to be curtailed due to a heavy rainstorm but nevertheless 61 birds of 20 species were counted. Two days later it was Zambezi Mubala Lodge’s turn where for once the sun was shining and this is reflected in the count of 373 birds of 32 species. Finally, on 20 February a count was done on the Chobe River and here the highest numbers of both birds and species were recorded (659 birds, 40 species). In total, 1304 birds of 51 species were recorded. Only four red data book species were recorded viz. Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Fish Eagle and African Marsh Harrier.
Although the primary aim of the visit was the wetland bird counts, we also did some bird mapping (atlasing) at each lodge. The aim of the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAB2) is to map distribution, abundance and seasonality of birds throughout southern Africa and Namibia has been participating in the project since 2012. Here Chobe River Camp again came out on top with 126 species recorded, followed by Hakusembe (112 species), Mubala (109 species) and Namushasha (105 species).
My sincere gratitude goes to our guides Bernhard (Hakusembe), Buzz (Namushasha), Joseph (Mubala) and Nelson and Evens (Chobe). We would not have spotted half the birds without their help! The staff and management at each of the lodges are thanked for their support and hospitality. We are indebted to the management of the Gondwana Collection whose support and generosity made these counts possible. Thank you!
Caption: Guide Nelson from Chobe River Camp and Holger Kolberg discussing a bird with the apprentice Evens taking notes.
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