North West – Botsalano Game Reserve

About the Birding

A wide network of roads crisscross the reserve, almost all of which are well-maintained and easily passable in any vehicle. The reserve is dominated by a mixed habitat of dry open grasslands and acacia thornveld, though acacia is widely present and the grassland patches remain small. Beginning at the entrance gate, denser stands of acacia are present, and hold the first set of species we’ll be searching for. The picnic site, just after the entrance gate, and the Mogobe Tented Camp in particular are great areas to wander around.

Common and widespread species you’ll encounter on a regular basis in the acacia are; Grey Go-away-bird, Red-faced Mousebird, Crested Barbet, Chinspot Batis, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Long-billed Crombec, Neddicky, Black-chested Prinia, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Marico Flycatcher, Marico and White-bellied Sunbirds, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Scaly-feathered Weaver and Black-throated Canary. In between all of these we’ll be on the lookout for some of the specials of the acacia thornveld, and include White-backed Mousebird, Common Scimitarbill, Acacia Pied Barbet, Brown-backed Honeybird, Brubru, Ashy Tit, Cape Penduline-tit, Barred Wren-Warbler, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Great Sparrow, Black-faced and Violet-eared Waxbill, Green-winged Pytilia, Red-headed Finch, Village Indigobird, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Yellow Canary and Golden-breasted Bunting. Knowledge of these species calls helps immensely in locating them, but if you are unfamiliar with them, do not despair, as patience while birding and following up on any strange birds or noises is a sure way to come across these scarcer birds. Alternatively, finding a good watering point during the midday heat is another great way to see many of these acacia birds – as they make their way down to drink – most notable of which are the colourful seedeaters. The waterhole in front of the Mogobe Tented Camp, for example, is an excellent area to wait out the midday period. The ‘Eastern’ Gate, where the bulk of the staff are located (the gate is not operational to the general public), is another excellent area to track down many of these acacia specials.

The bulk of the central, and northern parts of the reserve are cloaked in the Kalahari/grassland mixed habitat, their grassy plains intersperse small patches of stunted acacia woodland, and occasionally, other broad-leaved vegetation types. These are the primary areas where the prized Short-clawed Lark can be found. Despite its large size, this is an inconspicuous bird that rarely perches up and often prefers to call from the ground – where knowledge of their thin, wispy call is extremely beneficial in tracking them down. While searching for Short-clawed Lark, you’re bound to come across other prized birds that frequent these areas, such as Red-crested Korhaan, Tinkling Cisticola and Yellow-bellied Eremomela. In larger patches of grassy areas, you should search for the likes of Northern Black Korhaan, Ant-eating Chat and Melodious and Eastern Clapper Larks (again, knowledge of their calls helps in locating them), while the sparser grassy areas with lots of open ground should be scanned for Burchell’s Sandgrouse and Double-banded Courser, along with Spike-heeled Lark and Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark. Kori Bustard and Secretarybird stroll these plains and are frequently encountered.

The south-western and southern parts of the reserve play host to the bulk of the nesting raptors – where both Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures breed (look for their large, untidy nests atop acacia trees), along with others such as Pale Chanting Goshawk and Black-chested Snake Eagle. This area also hosts the only Sociable Weaver colony in the reserve.

A number of small dams can be found throughout the reserve, and while the water levels may vary substantially between them, invariably a few contain water, and a small selection of waterbirds can be found. Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal, Three-banded Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing and Grey Heron can almost always be found, and other species such as African Spoonbill, Black Stork and Black-winged Stilt move in from time to time.

If you’re spending the night, various owls are resident, and species such as Spotted Eagle Owl, Western Barn Owl, Southern White-faced Owl and Pearl-spotted Owlet all occur, while Verreaux’s Eagle Owl move through occasionally. Fiery-necked Nightjar are resident, and are joined in summer by Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.

Key species:

Secretarybird, Lappet-faced Vulture, Kori Bustard, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Short-clawed Lark, Melodious Lark, Tinkling Cisticola, Cape Penduline-tit, Great Sparrow, Sociable Weaver

About the Birding Site

The Botsalano Game Reserve is a 5800ha reserve, situated on the edge of the Kalahari and grassland biomes. This results in a unique overlap between these two vegetation types, and means many exciting birds occur in the reserve. This is an excellent area for the larger raptors and vultures including Lappet faced and White-backed Vulture breed in the reserve.

It is one of the few reserves with resident populations of the prized Short-clawed Lark, and to boost, a number of other larks are resident here as well, including the near-endemic and equally sought-after Melodious Lark, along with others such as Eastern Clapper and Spike-heeled Larks. Over 200 bird species have been recorded. The reserve has a strong contingent of game. Botsalono is also situated in one of the oldest volcanic craters in the world, which extends through the park into neighbouring Botswana.

Key species:

Secretarybird, Lappet-faced Vulture, Kori Bustard, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Short-clawed Lark, Melodious Lark, Tinkling Cisticola, Cape Penduline-tit, Great Sparrow, Sociable Weaver

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
The entrance gate is located precisely at these coordinates (25°33’52.3″S 25°39’44.7”E, or -25.564514, 25.662425), and this is where the reception office is. The main camp (Magobe Tented Camp) is located right in the centre of the park, where a smaller satellite office is situated (25°33’32.9″S 25°43’10.9”E, or -25.559145, 25.719681).

Other related information:

Adults: R35,00
Children (Age 2-12): R20,00
Pensioners: R20,00

Car (Sedan Etc.): R5,00
Combi: R26,00
Mini-Bus: R36,00
Bus: R80,00

Gate times:
Summer: 07h30 – 19h00
Winter: 07h30 – 18h00

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No BirdLife Recommended Accommodations are currently available in the area. Zeerust however, is located some 50km away (~1 hour), and there is a wide range of accommodation establishments to suit all budgets.

There is a mix of basic accommodation present within Botsalano Game Reserve – from self-catering safari tents, with en-suite bathrooms, to conventional camping sites, and to rustic bush camps (with no electricity or hot water). Please enquire with the contact details mentioned above (‘Accommodation’), or alternatively, click on this link:

Local guide information:
No BirdLife Recommended Tour Operators or local guides are currently available in the area.

Text prepared by:
Dylan Vasapolli (Birding Ecotours)

Key species:

Secretarybird, Lappet-faced Vulture, Kori Bustard, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Short-clawed Lark, Melodious Lark, Tinkling Cisticola, Cape Penduline-tit, Great Sparrow, Sociable Weaver

Contact details:

Park Manager: Elias Seutane
Tel: + 27 (0)18 386 8900
Fax2email: +27 (0)86 219 0901

Mafikeng Game Reserve
Cynthia Coetzee
Tel: +27 (0)18 397 1675 /6 /7
Cell: +27 (0)83 652 7896
Fax: +27 (0)18 397 1678
Fax2email: 086 662 7896

Click here to download the reserve brochure