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The extreme south – eastern Botswana is one of the best places in Southern Africa to find the endemic Short-clawed Lark. Together with this endemic lark, the area hosts a variety of species from both the drier Kalahari and the moister grasslands of the east.

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Specials

The area is home to at least 13 members of the Alaudidae family including the very localised Short-clawed Lark. Other specials include Northern Black Korhaan, Eastern Clapper Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Pink-billed Lark, South African Cliff-Swallow, Southern Pied Babbler and Sociable Weaver. In wet years Cape Longclaw and Melodious Lark move into the area.

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Habitat

The area is characterised by sandy thornveld (Camelthorn Acacia erioloba and Umbrella Thorn Acacia tortilis trees) interspersed with grassy plains. In some parts the vegetation is heavily overgrazed.

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Facilities

There are no formal campsites in this area, but as in many parts of Botswana, visitors using a bit of discretion can find a campsite in most places. When looking for potential campsites ensure that your spot is not visible from the main road or villages and remember to respect all agricultural land. Visitors should also keep suitable amounts of water.

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Birding

1. Pitsane to Ramatlabama. Stopping just south of Pitsane, the mature woodland produces Coqui Francolin, Acacia Pied Barbet, Sabota Lark, Rufous-naped Lark and Short-clawed Lark, Southern Pied Babbler, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Southern Black Tit, Barred Wren-Warbler and Shaft-tailed Whydah. In winter, bird parties hold many familiar thornveld species such as Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Rattling Cisticola, Black-chested Prinia, Chinspot Batis, Brubru, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Violet-eared Waxbill. Open grassy areas south of Pitsane are good for Lesser Kestrel, Lanner Falcon, Northern Black Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Kurrichane Buttonquail, Eastern Clapper Lark, Short-clawed Lark, Desert Cisticola and African Quailfinch.

2. Ramatlabama. Moving further south, one approaches the small town of Ramatlabama. The open plains north of the village of Ramatlabama are good for species such as Northern Black Korhaan, Swainson's Spurfowl, South African Cliff-Swallow, African Pipit and Long-tailed Widowbird. The Alaudidae family is well represented in the area with the Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Spike-heeled Lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Pink-billed Lark, Fawn-coloured Lark, Melodious Lark (wet years), Red-capped Lark and Eastern Clapper Lark all being present. Large Camelthorn Acacias hold some of the most westerly Sociable Weaver nests in Botswana. In summer, check the skies for Pallid Harrier and Montagu's Harrier, Common Swift and Lesser Kestrel. Damp areas can be checked for Cape Longclaw and Marsh Owl. Driving west out of the town of Ramatlabama, one enters mature Kalahari woodland holding species such as Great Sparrow, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Barred Wren-Warbler, Olive-tree Warbler, Ashy Tit, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Marico Sunbird and Golden-breasted Bunting.

3. Kgoro Pan, Goodhope. Kgoro Pan, is one of the best places to find the localised and endemic Short-clawed Lark. The lark is particularly fond of degraded areas and can be identified on its large size, distinctive "crescendo" call and eyebrow stripe. Approaching the pan from the south look out for Abdim's Stork, Greater Kestrel, Double-banded Courser, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Red-capped Lark, Yellow Canary, quail, Red-capped Lark and Scaly-feathered Finch. Depending on recent rainfall, the pan may hold water and the associated waterfowl including Red-knobbed Coot, South African Shelduck, White-faced Duck, Red-billed Teal, and a variety of waders including Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and Common Greenshank. The scrub surrounding the pan holds species such as Short-clawed Lark, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Scaly-feathered Finch, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Swainson's Spurfowl.

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General

The region between the villages of Ramatlabama, Pitsane and Goodhope can be easily accessed by 2-wheel drive vehicle. Roads linking the three towns are all tarred and there is petrol available at Ramatlabama and Pitsane. A 4X4 will give access to some of the sandy areas off the main roads, however many of the birds can be seen within walking distance from the road.Kgoro Pan is situated north of the town of Goodhope. Approaching Goodhope from the east (Pitsane) take the only dirt road heading north on the eastern side of town. Follow this road towards the only hill on the horizon. The dirt road will lead straight towards the pan, which is situated immediately west of the hill. Depending on the condition of the road, which varies depending on recent rainfall, a 4X4 may be necessary.

A round trip from Pitsane to Ramatlabama and then to Kgoro Pan should take one the better part of a mornings birding.

Andrew Hester 2001.



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