It was a lovely clear chilly morning as I sat out on the edge of the lounge deck at Ker & Downey Botswana’s new property - Dinaka. I had been perched there for the hour and a half contentedly watching the comings and going of the birdlife that was drawn to the Lodge’s waterhole.
Huge numbers of Guineafowl had entertained me endlessly with their early morning antics and had cavorted around within meters of where I sat, even coming right onto the lounge deck to look for insects that had been attracted to the night lights. As the morning started to warm up, large numbers of Doves started to flight into the waterhole to drink and I was enjoying the spectacle of the constant comings and goings when my attention was drawn to the melodic “Choc lit” call of a small group of Burchell’s Sandgrouse.
I looked at my watch, and smiled as, as is always the case it was 08h45, the Sandgrouse had started to flight in for their morning drink at exactly the same time as they do every day.
Within fifteen minutes their numbers had built up and huge flocks were wheeling around the Lodge trying to pluck up courage to land and drink. What a wonderful spectacle these birds presented as, calling constantly, they wheeled and dove around the lodge grounds in a wonderful display of synchronized flying.
Eventually the first group, perhaps emboldened by the large numbers of birds now present dropped into land and ran up to the edge of the water to drink – immediately there was pandemonium as a magnificent Pale Chanting Goshawk swept into the area and tried, unsuccessfully, to take one of the drinking birds.
I realized immediately that there was a wonderful photographic opportunity about to present itself and ran to get my camera. I moved closer to the waterhole and sat, with my back to a tree some forty meters from the water. In a very short space of time the Goshawk returned to it’s favoured perch and settled patiently to wait.
Within ten or so minutes the Sandgrouse were once again back in numbers and a very large group came into land. The instant the birds were on the ground the Goshawk launched its attack and, this time, as the pictures show was successful in securing it’s breakfast.
It was a truly wonderful spectacle to watch and I was thrilled to have been able to get the sequence of pictures featured here.
For those of you who have yet to have been bitten by the allure of birding I advise that not only does the Lodge waterhole proved a wonderful birding spectacle – it also provides really great game viewing and one really need not go for game drives as there is a constant procession of game coming down to drink in numbers that should satisfy even the most demanding client.
Story and images by Mark Muller