Axel Wilhelm: A reconstructed “diary” of his life in southern Africa with emphasis on his bird collection, Lanioturdus 55.1

by Eckart Demasius

Another good find was a Jackal Buzzard collected on 20 February 1877, not unusual for Namibia, but at Omaruru it would be uncommon.

The fifth unusual bird in the collection is a Broad-billed Roller, which Eriksson collects on 24 February 1877. This bird is far out of its current range.

Thereafter Eriksson equips a large expedition to hunt elephant at the Kavango River. They follow the traditional route to Ondangwa, where he bags a White-browed Sparrow- Weaver and two Black-winged Pratincoles at Etope (today Oshakati) on 5 April 1877.

On 29 May we find him at the Okavango, where he collects a Swamp Boubou and four days later at “Okavango Floden” a Little Bee- eater.

On 10 June the bag contains a Double-banded Courser and a Grey- headed Parrot collected at “Omuramba Onggama”. This location caused some confusion until I realised that “onggama” means “lion”. The Kriegskarte von Deutsch Südwestafrika of Sprigade and Moisel indicates the omuramba as “Löwen Omuramba”. As can be seen from the label, Eriksson knew the bird as Cape Parrot. The current name is due to a split of the species (Demasius, 2009).

On this excursion Eriksson decides to take his family along as it was planned to be a long one. A week later, on 18 June 1877, disaster strikes and Eriksson’s favourite little daughter, Anna, dies at Omuramba Onggama. The loss of his daughter grieves him so much that he abandons the excursion and returns to Omaruru on 1 August 1877. The expedition continues under the leadership of brothers Carl and Albert and Axel Wedberg.

Eriksson now remains in Omaruru and conducts his business from there until 15 April 1879. Palgrave was in the country again for the second commission and had four meetings, which Eriksson also attended. One meeting took place at Ameib in the Erongo on 9 and 10 October 1878. On his return to Omaruru he collects two birds at the Erongo, a Long-billed Crombec and the near-endemic Carp’s Tit.

Demasius, E. 2013. Charles John Andersson: Founder of Namibian ornithology. Lanioturdus 46(5).

Lindhom, K.J. 2006. Wells of experience: A pastoral land-use history of Omaheke, Namibia. Uppsala: African and Comparative Archaeology Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University.