Day Three – Botswana – August 12, 2017

This was the third day that I spent at the Moremi Game Reserve, the day of August 12, 2017. I had left Seattle on August 6; so this was one week after I had left Seattle.

The Moremi Game Reserve rests on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and was named after Chief Moremi of the BaTwana tribe. The Moremi Game Reserve covers much of the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and combines permanent water with drier areas, which create some startling and unexpected contrasts. In the Moremi Reserve one experiences excellent views of savannah game as well as bird-watching on the lagoons. There are also thickly wooded areas. Although just under 1,900 square miles, the Reserve is surprisingly diverse, combining mopane woodland and acacia forests, floodplains and lagoons. 70% of the Reserve is consists of the Okavango Delta. A map of the Reserve is presented below. The city of Maun (the third largest city in Botswana with a population of 56,000), the city where the plane landed that I took from Johannesburg, is in the bottom right corner of the map. After I landed, I traveled to and camped at the Xakanaxa area of Moremi Game Reserve in the famous Okavango Delta. That is in the top area, on the right, near the Third Bridge. We stayed at this camp on the nights of August 11, 12, and 13.

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On this day, August 12, we were fated to see much the same as the previous day: wildebeests, zebras, ostriches, red lechwe, giraffes, hippopotamuses, boars, wild dogs, and a variety of bird life.

Pictured below is a red lechwe. The Lechwe is a medium-sized antelope, closely related to the Waterbuck. The ram stands about 3 feet at the shoulder and has a mass of about 175 pounds The hindquarters are noticeably higher than the forequarters. Reddish brown on the upper parts and flanks and white on the under sides and inner legs. The fronts of the forelegs and of the hocks are black and it has white patches around the eyes. Only the rams carry lyrate-shaped horns. The hooves are distinctly elongated, which is an adaptation to the wet and soggy substrate of their preferred habitat. In Southern Africa the Red Lechwe is found only in the Okavango swamps in Botswana and the Linyanti swamps of the Caprivi Strip, Namibia.

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Pictured below is one of the wild boars (or warthogs) we sighted, part of a family. Warthogs are day animals and spend most of their time looking for food. They are normally found in family groups. Warthogs have the peculiar habit of kneeling on the front knees while feeding and foraging. They shelter in burrows at night, which they enter tail first. The young may be taken by eagles and jackal with lion, hyaena, cheetah, leopard and crocodile being the main enemies of the adults.

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The picture below depicts a lilac breasted roller. The Lilac Breasted Roller feeds on grasshoppers, beetles, occasionally lizards, crabs, and small amphibians. They take prey from the ground. They make unlined nests in natural tree holes or in termite hills. Sometimes they take over woodpecker’s or kingfisher’s nest holes. They lay 2-4 white eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for 22-24 days. At 19 days the chicks are fully feathered and grayish brown. Rollers get their name from their impressive courtship flight, a fast, shallow dive from considerable elevation with a rolling or fast rocking motion, accompanied by loud raucous calls. All rollers appear to be monogamous and highly territorial.

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Pictured below is a southern yellow-billed hornbill and two grey go-away birds. The two grey go-away birds is a bold and common bird of the sub-saharan Africa, present in arid to moist, open woodlands and thorn savanna, especially near surface water such as that found in the Okavango Delta. They regularly form groups and parties that forage in tree tops, or dust bathe on the ground. Especially when disturbed, they make their presence known by their characteristically loud and nasal “kweh” or “go-way” calls. The outhern yellow-billed hornbill feed mainly on the ground, where they forage for seeds, small insects, spiders and scorpions. This hornbill species is a common and widespread resident of dry thornveldt and broad-leafed woodlands. They can often be seen along roads and water courses. The hornbill beak is huge in comparison to its body and can account for up 1/6th of the entire body length.

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The bird pictured below is a Greater Blue-eared Starling. It breeds from Senegal east to Ethiopia and south through Eastern Africa to northeastern South Africa and Angola. It is a very common species of open woodland bird,  but uncommonly striking to birders for whom the greater blu-eared starling is a magnificent bird with spectacular plumage.

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Pictured below is the Great White Egret. A Great White Egret normally has a yellow bill except for a short time when breeding, when it turns black. Also known as the common egret, large egret or great white egret or great white heron, this bird is a large, widely distributed egret. It builds tree nests in colonies close to water. The great egret stands up to 3.3 feet tall, this species can have a wingspan of 4.5 to 5.5 feet. Apart from size, the great egret can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet, though the bill may become darker and the lower legs lighter in the breeding season. In breeding plumage, delicate ornamental feathers are borne on the back.

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