From nowhere – a heronry

About 150 km west of Windhoek in Namibia, the Black Nossob River runs through the farm “Vendetta” on its way to join up with the White Nossob before winding its way into the Kalahari Desert.  Well, for most of the time that description will give the wrong impression entirely, in that for most of the time the Black Nossob is just a dry river bed, punctuated here and there with small dams.

Approaching the heronry

We have visited “Vendetta” a number of times and the only water present along the otherwise dry course of the Black Nossob has been two relatively small dams, steadily shrinking in volume over the past two years.  Until the rains came at the end of 2010.  At first the rain had little impact, but it rained regularly and heavily through the first three months of 2011, bringing several times the average annual rainfall in just a few months, and eventually the Black Nossob began to flow.  The two dams on “Vendetta” became submerged as the water rose and what we had seen on previous visits as dry veld became a fast flowing river.

Little egret

Trees that had stood for the past few years in the dry bushveld were suddenly in the midst of water a metre or more deep.  And in a surprisingly short time after the river began to flow, the water birds arrived.  Surprising, not just because they found this “new” river and congregated here from who knows where, but because with so much surface water in the rest of Namibia due to the widespread rains, they arrived at this particular spot in such numbers.

Squacco heron

A variety of herons and other water birds took up residence in a small group of large trees that were now surrounded by water, and within a few weeks had established a nesting colony that was crowded with crude stick nests typical of the herons, and bustling with adults coming and going with nesting materials and food for the growing number of chicks.  The two trees which housed the major portion of the heronry are very exposed, surrounded as they are by open water, but Jane and I were able to drift slowly and quietly past in a kayak to get a fairly close look at the birds.  We didn’t want to approach too closely, because it was clear that some  of the adult birds were incubating eggs and others were tending to young chicks, and they were obviously quite nervous of any activity too nearby.

Chicks

It was very difficult to take photographs from the kayak because of the choppy water (the wind was blowing quite strongly) and the lack of any way that we could anchor the kayak in one spot.  Most of the photographs shown here were therefore taken from well away from the heronry, whilst standing in water that was over a metre deep and flowing quite briskly.

Black-crowned night heron

We were able to identify a surprising variety of birds from that single spot – African spoonbills, Little egrets, Cattle egrets, Squacco  herons, Black-crowned night herons, Grey herons, Reed cormorants, Great egrets and two species that are seldom found in this area, the Glossy ibis and Black heron.  In the same vicinity, but not actually nesting in the herony, we saw Blacksmith lapwings, Red-knobbed coots, Red-billed teals and Egyptian geese.  All these water birds nesting, breeding and raising families in an area that was dry bushveld just a few weeks ago!  Absolutely astounding!

Glossy ibis

Grateful thanks to Adri and Marie-Anne for a wonderful weekend and the opportunity to photograph these magnificent birds.

Birds

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