Birding the Chobe river - Botswana (Photo Extravaganza)

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT

Participants: Nigel Blake


bird photo - Pied Kingfisher

Birding the Chobe river - Botswana with Nigel Blake

The Chobe river forms Botswana's northern border with Namibia and the boundary of southern Africa. Its water helps maintain a lush floodplain and rich variety of habitats vital to the multitude of animals that inhabit Chobe National Park. Not surprisingly, the whole park and river complex have become a superb birdwatching area. Recently I was there to witness and photograph the massive migration of elephants that move into northern Botswana from the arid Kalahari desert as the dry season starts to make its presence felt.

One of the highlights of the trip is a "cruise" in a small and seemingly unsafe boat along the river from Kasane to the Puku flats - this is a birding wonderland. We had hardly set off before being treated to stunning views of Giant Kingfisher and Water Dikkop. These, along with numerous other birds, seemed unperturbed by our slow progress along the waterway, offering excellent opportunities for bird photography.

bird photo - Giant Kingfisher

bird photo - Pied Kingfisher

Green-backed Herons occupied almost every bush overhanging the water, as did Pied Kingfishers. I have never before seen such numbers of the latter. In one place there were over 20 on one dead tree, although the reason became obvious as we closed in - the bank held possibly as many as 50 nest holes.

bird photo - Malachite Kingfisher

bird photo - Sabota Lark

On the next stretch of bank a large colony of White-fronted Bee-eaters busily dug nest holes, sometimes flying out to catch huge bugs that buzzed around. We could hear their bills snap shut - they were so close.

We also saw White-backed Night Heron nesting in the base of one bush, within crocodile biting distance from the waters surface.

Hammerkops are very busy nesting and courting at this time of year. One highlight was finding a Barn Owl nesting in an old Hammerkop home, six fledglings in total blinked out at us in the harsh sunlight.

bird photo - Hammerkop

bird photo - White-fronted Bee-eater

Approaching Sidu Island a herd of thirty or so African Elephants swam across in front of us to feast on the tall grasses that grow there, holding their trunks up high as snorkels. Unperturbed, the Yellow-billed Oxpeckers that feed on the ticks of these lumbering beasts followed them across.

wildlife photo - elephants

Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, African Darter, Egyptian Goose, Spur-winged Goose and White-faced Duck abounded along with Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Storks. In three hours we clocked up 62 species of birds. I also shot 14 rolls of film. This will long be one of my best African memories.

In all I took nearly two thousand pictures on this trip and over 100 are now on my website with a full trip report and species list.

bird photo - Crowned Plover

bird photo - Black-shouldered Kite

If you've enjoyed these images then there really are hundreds more from Nigel's trip on his web-site - just click on the address above or to the left to see more shots as stunning as these of the Crowned Plover and Black-shouldered Kite. Honestly this is probably the best collection of African wildlife and bird photos we've ever come across on the web !!