Drought in the Kalahari

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10 years 8 months ago #5062 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: Drought in the Kalahari
We've had lots of reports lately (my own included) of unusual sightings in the Kruger Park as a result of the severe drought in the Kalahari and Bushveld regions. Species such as Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Red-headed Finch, Larklike Bunting, Common Fiscal and Crimson-breasted Shrike have all been recorded in areas where they do not usually occur. So what is happening in the drought areas from which these birds have come?

I am just back from a 2-day visit to the Hotazel area, and was also there overnight 3 weeks ago. I managed to get in one 2-hour walk and one 2-hour drive over the two trips. On this particular farm while I was working there from June-Oct last year (note the winter months also) I chalked up 116 species - this year over the 4 hours of birding a whole 17 species, ironically adding 2 new ones to the 116. I know the farm well enough to know what I can find where and am quite sure that the dearth of birds is due to the drought, since last year was a particularly wet late summer in the region and winter veld conditions have gone from the best in many years to the worst in years in just 9 months.

This year I have seen no larks or sparrowlarks - my 'definite' spots for Stark's and Fawn-coloured gave no joy. There are no Violet-eared or Black-cheeked Waxbills, no Ashy Tit, no Yellow Canary, very few Chestnut-vented Titbabbler (last year one in every other bush!), no Chat Flycatcher or Ant-eating Chat, no Green-winged Pytilia and even the ubiquitous Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Scaly-feathered Finch are both thin on the ground. However, one bird that seems more prevalent this winter than last is the Marico Flycatcher.

The birding was not a complete loss though, as I saw my first melanistic Gabar Goshawk - too close to sunset to get a photograph unfortunately.

Neil Gray

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