Roberts No 807
by Pompie Burger
When writing an article a while back on the various weavers and their building abilities, I realised that the Thick-billed Weaver’s nest is probably the most beautiful of all weaver’s nests. I also realised that I’d never seen one.
The solution to my dilemma was obvious. Ask Mark Paxton to phone me as soon as one of them starts nesting at Shamvura. Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple, because this meant driving 1 600 kilometres in two days and hoping that there would be good light for photography when I got there.
Arriving at Shamvura on a Friday evening during January under thick cloud cover with lightning all over the show made me somewhat skeptical about Charlie Paxton’s weather forecast of ‘clear skies’ for Saturday and Sunday. The next morning the cloud cover was even more extensive, adding to my skepticism, and the hours I spent at the nest produced only dark and grey images of the male Thick-billed Weaver. Fortunately, at about 17:30, the sun broke through for about 30 minutes and I managed to take some good shots.
Two very interesting snippets of information I picked up during my hours at the nest was that, contrary to Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, Thick-billed Weavers breed in colonies. We found four nests in the area, about 100 metres apart. The other very interesting observation we made was that the female actually did help with the building of the outside of the nest and not, as maintained in Roberts, only when the interior decoration was being done. These weavers differ from ‘true weavers’ insofar as they build a very finely woven nest with strips of grass and rushes, and also by bringing several pieces simultaneously when building.
Thick-billed Weavers occur only in the far north along the Okavango River and in the Caprivi, their prime habitat being the edges of a forest, although they nest along water in the reeds.
About the author:
Based in Windhoek, Pompie Burger is an orthopaedic surgeon whose part-time passion is photography, in particular wildlife, and specifically birds. This regularly takes him to the most remote corners of the country, resulting in riveting images and articles.
Pompie is the author and photographer of the coffee table book Birds of Namibia, which was published in 2008. The book contains articles and photographs which attest to the insight and knowledge of an accomplished observer.
Read more of his articles in our Birding Section.
This article appeared in the April ‘07 edition of Travel News Namibia.