Mashatu birds in January

This is the first post after a long break due to an overseas trip and having caught Covid on the flight back from overseas. I intend to resume my regular wildlife posts. I have a significant backlog to catch up from 2022.

Mashatu is a private game reserve in the south eastern section of Botswana called the Tuli Block. The landscape and fauna is diverse and so too is the wildlife.

“Climb on to the game vehicle after your cup of coffee and a rusk and get ready to be bewitched for the next few hours.” ~ Mike Haworth

The next three posts offer a small glimpse into the wide variety of birds that can be seen on a few game drives in Mashatu. This post shows a few examples of different birds in flight.

“Tame birds sing of freedom. Wild birds fly.” ~ John Lennon

January in Mashatu is a time when the migrants are around. Some of the more notable migrants are Lesser Spotted eagle, White storks, Carmine and European bee-eaters, European rollers, and Woodland kingfishers to name just a few.

The next image is of a Lesser Spotted eagle having just taken off from its perch. This eagle is insectivorous and is not seen every summer in Mashatu. We saw numerous members of this species during this trip so there must have been many insects around.

The White-fronted bee-eater is a resident in Mashatu and is seen mainly along the banks of the Majale river, the main river flowing through Mashatu into the Limpopo river. In the hot mornings and afternoons when there are plenty of flying insects in the air, these bee-eaters are very busy hawking the insects.

This female Saddle-billed stork had just taken off after feeding in a pool in the Majale river. The female Saddle-billed stork has a yellow eye-ring and no yellow wattle under her beak. This stork had been hunting for frogs and fish in the shallow pools of water in the Majale river.

There were numerous White storks in the open grassland in Mashatu. They were feeding on insects in the grass. These storks urinate on their legs making them appear white. This provides a cooling mechanism similar to sweating, a phenomenon known as urohidrosis.

Summer brings the Yellow-billed kites. They are wonderful, agile fliers and are recognisable in flight by their brown plumage and forked tail. The Yellow-billed kite and Black kite ranges overlap and look very similar. The simplest way to tell them apart is by looking at the beak. The Yellow-billed kite has a totally yellow beak and the Black kite has a yellow beak with a black tip.

The banks of the Majale river provide a wonderful hunting ground for the skulking Burchell’s coucal. This bird flushed as we drove towards it. The Burchell’s coucal is identified by its finely barred upper tail coverts. It’s beautiful plumage disguises its predatory nature.

I have only seen a Lanner falcon on rare occasions in Mashatu. On this particular trip I had good sightings of a Lanner on two occasions. I was interested to see how it had fanned out its wing and tail feathers on take off to get maximum lift at low speed.

On a different occasion we found a lone Lanner falcon on a patch of bare earth. I could not see what it was eating but it looked more like an insect than a bird. Those black tear drops below the eyes are so characteristic of these falcons.

In Mashatu, the Kori bustards are skittish. It would be very unusual to have one walking towards you. They are normally walking or flying away. The Kori bustard is the heaviest flying bird native to Africa. These birds have to run to take off but are good fliers though only for a short distance to get away from a perceived threat. Kori’s thrive in the grasslands of Mashatu and are omnivorous, tending to be more carnivorous than most other bustards.

Mashatu is a wonderful place to see and photograph birds or all sizes and colours. We spent a week at the syndicated camp called Rock camp and its guide Justice is particularly knowledgable about birds. If the guests on the game vehicle enjoy their birds, Mashatu offers a stunning variety which will keep you and your guests enthralled for hours.

“Life is a photo album. Loaded with some black and white memories, some colorful dreams, some abstract expressionism and some out of focus images.” ~ Biju Karakkonam

In the next post I will show a variety of wild birds which are perching or feeding.

I hope you enjoyed the flights of fancy!

Have fun,

Mike

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