Did you ever wake at night to eerie crying sounds of birds flying over your camp? We did, almost every year we lived in Etosha.
And although we truly love our sleep, these interruptions delighted us & got us all excited, 'cause they were final signs that the rainy season had truly started.
These nightly bird cries belong to greater and lesser flamingos, who spend the Southern winter at Namibia's coastal lagoons, particularly Sandwich Harbour & Walvis Bay. As soon as the rainy season kicks off in Etosha, they suddenly pack up & head for inland wetlands, such as the Etosha Pan in Namibia and the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana, in their thousands.
How they know that Etosha's had good rain has long puzzled scientists. Having finally ruled out the possibility that they secretly intercept our National radio weather forecast, they presume that the birds read the build-up of storm clouds & the lightning occurrence in the Northern sky more than 500 km away. Quite far-sighted, I would say ;-)
What draws them to the North is a rich supply of water insects, crustaceans, mollusks & blue-green algae, that especially Fisher's Pan in the East of the Etosha National Park provides in the rainy season (see photo below, Greater Flamingos, Namibia).
In some years, when conditions look promising, both greater & lesser flamingoes attempt to breed far out on the Etosha Pan in mixed colonies. Although most breeding attempts are unsuccessful as the water around the colonies often subsides before the chicks are fully fledged and able to leave with their parents, luckily now and then a new generation of flamingoes leaves the Etosha pan & heads back with their parents to the coastal waters.
So if you happen to be in the Etosha National Park in the rainy season head over to Fisher’s Pan for some flamingo sight-seeing. There you have good chances of taking great images of flamingo portraits, behavior & groups (see photo below, Greater Flamingos, Namibia).
Happy rainy season. Talk to you soon,
Claudia & Wynand du Plessis
Namibia wildlife & nature photographers