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Many exciting discoveries are emerging from the use of satellite transmitters and other technology. One remarkable migratory movement that caught my eye was the fact that European Cuckoos tagged in China have been shown to migrate to Africa. Another was the tracking of Honey Buzzards from Europe into Africa and through Botswana into South Africa. An International Slaty Egret Workshop was held in Maun, hosted by BirdLife Botswana back in 2010. Following on from the AEWA (Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds) workshop an International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Slaty Egret was written. Unfortunately since then very little action has taken place to address the priorities outlined in the plan, largely through a lack of resources for further research in Botswana. It is therefore good news that in Zambia, a team from the BirdLife partner Birdwatch Zambia is trying to prove that Slaty Egrets breed in the Barotse floodplain where large flocks are often seen with recently fledged juveniles.
There are a few notes in this issue of Babbler about important places or particular species but more accounts would be very welcome. Chris Brewster has produced an account of an interesting trip in March to Kalkfontein in western Botswana, in an arid area between Ghanzi and Charles Hill, whilst Ursula Franke writes on a few days spent at Lake Ngami in the rainy season during February. There are accounts of the apparent change in the status of Orange-breasted Waxbills in Botswana and the exciting discovery by Tshepo Phala of Ross’s Turaco in the Linyanti in August, only the second substantiated sight record for Botswana as well as a report on atlassing fieldwork for the next southern African Atlas and the twice yearly waterbird counts carried out by some of you.
The main part of the issue contains a revised Category A and B list and ‘A’ and ‘B’ sightings, unusual records and breeding records sections. If your records are not included then perhaps you didn’t submit them? Several observers are very diligent in their submissions but a lot more sightings must go unrecorded and so are lost to ornithology. Please let us have any records that you may have. They all add up to provide a picture of bird distribution and abundance and the seasonal use by birds of particular sites.
As I write this editorial I have learnt that water has crossed the road west of Mopipi so water may again reach Lake Xau. If it does, do go and see what is there.
Stephanie Tyler (Editor
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The continued mass poisoning of vultures in Botswana is so depressing and now with the drug diclofenac being used in Europe too, it is hard to feel optimistic about the vultures’ future. In mid October Harold Hester mentioned to me that Dr Mark Bing had expressed his alarm at the reduction in numbers of vultures on the western side of the Delta. In his words, “The meat poaching in the delta, commercial buffalo and giraffe, is SO SEVERE, and the Habu, Etsa and Gumare area has nearly no vultures left. I have had two weeks darting there, with NO VULTURES coming to elephant carcasses from Nata on the Zimbabwe border as well as the western Delta. Some Vulture restaurants like Du Plessis in Lobatse have to keep moving the restaurant around as humans are stealing the meat; he needs money for a secure fenced area to be built.” Pete Hancock then told me of another 10 vultures including a Lappet-faced Vulture poisoned in the Chobe Enclave in early October.
Amid all the depressing news for Botswana’s wildlife we must rejoice at the fact that the Okavango Delta was listed as the 1,000th World Heritage site, on 22 June 2014, following the recommendation of IUCN, UNESCO’s advisory body on nature. The IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, commented that “The Okavango Delta has long been considered one of the biggest gaps on the World Heritage list and IUCN is proud to have been able to provide support to this nomination. “We congratulate Botswana’s authorities on their extraordinary commitment to make this historic listing a reality.”
On a lighter note – it is not often that a new species is added to the southern African bird checklist so there was much excitement when a Rednecked Buzzard was identified in the Caprivi Strip in Namibia on 28 July 2014. Then a photograph of a Red-necked Buzzard was published taken by Peter McCalmont on 11 July 2014 – in Chobe National Park so it looked as though the first record went to Botswana. However, photographers dug out their old photos and other records of the buzzard materialised - in the KTP in June 2001, in Ngepi Camp in west Caprivi on 8 March 2009 and in the Mahango Game Reserve in Namibia on 11 August 2012. This species of buzzard is usually found in Angola so perhaps it is a regular visitor to the southern African region especially in the austral winter but had been overlooked as a phase of the very variable Steppe Buzzard.
Stephanie Tyler (Editor)