The Under-rated Metropolis of Maun

With all due respect to Moremi, Chobe and Makgadikgadi, the birds you can see in and around Maun rival them all. In fact, pound-for-pound or especially dollar-per-bird, Maun wins hands-down. Especially  when you’re staying in your little sis’ house, eating her food and driving her car!

So here’s a good recipe for Best Botswana Birding: Don’t just land in Maun and buzz off elsewhere! Rather stay in this lovely home:

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Drive this superb 4X4. With 400 000km of all-Botswana roads experience on the clock, it didn’t even need much steering:

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and bird the immediate vicinity:

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Here are some of the birds seen in and around Janet’s home and along the Thamalakane where she walks her dogs. Forty one shown, but there were more.

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Added bonus: Visit the spots like The French Connection, Miguel’s Place, Tshilli Cafe, Lodges along the river – and Ann’s CinemaMultiPlex for breakfast. Wonderful food and they all serve alcohol! What more could you want?

But the best and best-value meals are found here: Janet’s cottage in the salubrious Tsanakona suburb and Bev’s cottage in the salubrious Disaneng suburb. Neither had vegetarian-only or no-alcohol policies. Um, actually quite the contrary!

On a drive out towards the Boro River Janet and I stopped at a flooded grassland and watched a bird party frolicking on three little acacia trees, dropping down to drink clear water in some tyre tracks. Here’s the spot: Most of the action was in that small acacia dead-centre.

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Twenty three species within half an hour! It got quite “Shu’ Up! Another One?” Here are fourteen of them (Lee Ouzman pics mostly).

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These two black birds were mingling with the unsuspecting colourful hosts that they parasitise!

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Longtailed Paradise Whydah / Green-backed Pytilia; Purple Indigobird / Jameson’s Firefinch.

The Indigobird was a LIFER for me! Long time since I nailed a lifer.

Here’s some other stuff as we searched for the Boro – and there’s the lily to prove that we found it.

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Yet another advantage to having a little sis who’s a nineteen year Maun veteran is she can sweet-talk curmudgeons into showing you their patch. So we ended up one morning walking the Tamalakhane flood plains in Disaneng guided by an old bullet with a long lens after drinking free coffee here:

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Imagine if he got a wife how she’d make him smarten up that stoep, ne!

We saw three of these birds plus a bat hawk flying. These are his pics, but from his website. His lovebirds he shot in Namibia, but we saw a few in his garden that morning! Escapees? Or had they followed him home?

Janet Home Maun

Read about the history of Maun here where Lee Ouzman has more old photos like the one on top of Maun ca1985.

From Maun we ventured North-east to Mgotlhong and south-west to Khumaga.

Mogotlho Lodge on the River Khwai

Ten days in a verdant green Botswana in the ‘off-season’ – or ‘out-of-season’. What bliss. Here’s my lil sis Janet doing our pre-trip inspection of her trusty 1989 Toyota Hilux which clicked over to 400 000km on our way to the community trust area we visited on the Khwai river near where the Moremi and Chobe game reserves share a boundary.

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We thought of “getting out and pushing it a mile” ala John Denver “back in 1958, we drove an old V8” but we thought, nah, let’s just sing about it!

It was this green:

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In places it was muddy:

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Knee-high grass and lots of water meant the animals were sparsely scattered all over. Even the Mababe Depression was wet. The first time I saw it was 1985 and it was bone-dry. That was also the last time I had been there overland. In-between I have visited Maun and the Delta often, and flown to Kasane, Savuti, Chobe river and Hwange.

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Janet organised it all along with outback trader, photographer and established curmudgeon Lee Ouzman; also with keen wildlife enthusiasts and expert 4X4 drivers Bev and Ash Norton, all hard-drinking Maun locals. I had to smack back the gin to keep up. I’ll add a random few photos taken from Lee’s website (not taken on this trip). His website is worth a visit! Do go and check it out.

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What a wonderful trip. Peaceful and fun with lovely laidback folk and cold beers and gin n tonics! We had all of my kind of good weather: showers, sunshine and massive thunderheads, and especially: no wind; lots of animals; plenty of good birding. My specials included Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, African Marsh Harrier, Rufous-bellied Heron, Kori Bustard.

Night sounds included Pearl-spotted Owlet, White-faced Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, African Scops Owl, hyenas, lions and elephants. We also saw three lions, lots of eles, hippo, croc, kudu, waterbuck, impala, zebra, buffalo, slender mongoose, dwarf mongoose, tree squirrels, baboons, and one ear-fly.

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The red represents swear-words

We were here: (click to enlarge)

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Map Moremi_Chobe border
in the yellow circle

Back to the metropolis of Maun, and then on to Khumaga after a few days.

Wisdom and Beauty

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Janet Humphrey got this magic pic of a young Giant Eagle Owl and a Paradise Flycatcher in her old garden on the banks of the Tamalakhane river in the suburbs of Maun in Botswana.

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BTW – Owl wisdom? Not so much

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Owls are “eyes and ears on wings”. That brain cavity above is about the size of a large peanut. Two-thirds of the owl brain is devoted to sight and hearing. Of the one-third that is left, about 75% of it is devoted to hard-wired instinct and lower functions. That leaves a tiny little sliver for learning which is mostly taken up by remembering good hunting grounds and hunting strategies that work.

Owls are not social creatures like parrots or crows, so they don’t need a lot of cerebral cortex. Think of them as the sharks of the sky. Very good at what they do (hunt, see, hear and reproduce). Mediocre at everything else. (Thanks Mercedes R. Lackey on quora.com).

Geoffey Widdison, also a quoran, asks why we associate owls with intelligence and wisdom and decides “the most likely reason is that they have large depressions around their eyes (which, ironically, are apparently there to direct sound more than to help vision), and that makes them look ‘intelligent and deliberative’ to humans. In other words, not only are we judging by appearance, we’re judging another species on something that has no connection to the quality we attribute to it. (We’re ‘anthropomorphising’).

Which suggests that, while owls aren’t especially bright, neither are we”.

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Here he is a few months later in a neighbour’s garden: