By David Dalziel, BirdLife Zimbabwe
Wetlands are tremendously important as they hold tonnes of water in the rainy season and slowly release clean water in the dry season. Around Harare these wetlands are the start of many of our rivers. They provide homes for a great diversity of life. Among this teaming life are the many bird species that call wetlands their home.
There are birds, with unusual names, that are seldom seen. Flufftails, Cisticolas and Crakes who live their secret lives in the grasses, providing an occasional glimpse to interested observers but are usually located by their calls. Amazing Owls like the Marsh Owl and African Grass Owl live in these wet areas, nesting in the thick grass. Inter Africa migrants like the Black Coucal, Striped and African Crake arrive and breed during the rains and are joined by Palearctic migrants like the Corn Crake which do not breed here but spend the rainy season in our wetlands. Apart from the migrants and hard to see ‘specials’ the wetlands come alive with colour as Southern Red Bishop, Yellow Bishop, Red-collared, Yellow-mantled and White-winged Widowbird can be seen in flocks, flying backwards and forwards, displaying and feeding. The beautiful Waxbills, Mannikins and Canaries add to the colour and movement.
Every now and then an unexpected bird may arrive. Recently a Spur-winged Lapwing arrived at the wetlands near Chivero. These birds were a long way from their normal range. Spur-winged Lapwing occurs in sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal, east across the Sahel to Somalia and Kenya. They are occasional in Northern Tanzania and vagrant to Zambia (apart from Bangweulu Swamps) and Malawi. Up to four adults were seen and there were at least 4 chicks noted, the first breeding record for Southern Africa. A number of people from as far away as Cape Town came to see these visitors and even more people may have made the journey but for the fact that other Spur-winged Lapwing arrived in Port Elizabeth a few weeks later. It will be interesting to see whether these birds are able to establish themselves in Southern Africa.
Next time you are passing one of our amazing wetlands, spend a moment to appreciate the beauty and diversity of life these special places sustain.
BirdLife Zimbabwe Mashonaland Branch organizes regular bird walks for its members and non-members free of charge (however there may be entry fees e.g. National Parks or a tip required depending on the location). For further information please contact Innes Louw: email@example.com, cell: 0778 090632. Or check out the BLZ website: www.birdlifezimbabwe.org
Images by Birdslife Zimbabwe