Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
African Scops Owl
African Barred Owlet
This trip report is for a self-organised two and a half week birdwatching holiday that I went on with my mother (RMB). Although this was the first time that either of us had visited Namibia we both have extensive experience of birding in Africa, and I have spent several months birding in southern Africa, so most of the birds were familiar. Of the 380 species that we saw, 19 were lifers for me and over 50 were lifers for RMB who had not birded in the south-west of Southern Africa before.
Our visit was just before the summer rains started so many of the summer visitors had not arrived. Although this reduced our bird list it meant that animal watching in Etosha was at its best. It also meant that the Kovango River was still low so Rock Pratincoles and African Skimmers were relatively easy to see. The start of the rains is quite unpredictable; two years previously a large amount of rain had all ready fallen by the start of November. Summer birding can be amazing, however, we had an absolutely brilliant time and would recommend anyone to go.
Namibia is a huge country, with many of the birding sites being widely spaced apart. We drove nearly 4000kms, a huge amount, but spread this out so in any one day didn’t drive more than 400kms. The roads were in excellent condition, however it is worth bearing in mind that the distances between petrol stations are large. We had one very nervous final 50kms to a drive with the petrol warning light on.
This trip report starts with a daily diary, followed by more detailed site accounts, and concludes with some practical notes and links to useful websites.
18th October. After a long but fairly relaxing flight, and having picked up our hire car from the centre of Windhoek we headed up to Erongo. There weren’t many roadside birds (just a few Pale Chanting Goshawks and Sociable Weaver colonies) to delay us so the journey only took about three hours.
We arrived at Erongo with about three hours until sunset so were able to enjoy the spectacular scenery and to start birding. There was plenty of activity with Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Black-chested Prinia and Great Sparrows all showing well. A pair of Monteiro’s Hornbills feeding in front of the restaurant were our first Namibian endemics of the trip, and the waterholes in front of the restaurant were alive with birds including Cape and Golden-breasted Buntings and a few gorgeous Rosy-faced Lovebirds. I managed brief views of a Rockrunner in scrub by our cabin. We checked out the site for the Hartlaub’s Spurfowl (more as a recce for the following morning), though there was no sign of them.
The action continued after dark with Freckled Nightjars calling and catching insects above a floodlit waterhole. Best of all was a Porcupine drinking at the waterhole for about five minutes.
19th October. We were up and walking up the trail to the Hartlaub’s Spurfowl site before it was properly light (at about 6am). We found that they were calling before we had found a good vantage point so scrambled up a large boulder that gave us a good view of the slope. It took about ten minutes before we found one of the Spurfowl during which time a Rockrunner had given seriously good, but distracting, views as it ran up rocks and sang very close to us. Our first sighting of the Spurfowl was of two in flight, but not long after a male flew to a boulder twenty metres from us and proceeded to call there for ten minutes or more. We reckoned that there were more than five birds calling between 6:10am and 6:45am, however all had fallen silent after this.
There was a lot of other activity around us during this time, including a pair of Short-toed Rock-thrushes, Mountain Wheatears, Familiar Chats, and beautiful Black-faced Waxbills. A little later on we picked up a pair of Carp’s Tits up in scrub at the top of the slope, then suddenly realised that a pair of White-tailed Shrikes were feeding in the same area. The Shrikes then moved down the slope, flying within ten metres of us, though unfortunately they did not stick around. We left the slope after about two hours and walked down the lodge’s access track, where we soon found the White-tailed Shrikes again. We watched them for fifteen minutes or more as they fed and preened, and generally gave incredible views down to five metres.
Over breakfast we were rather distracted by the throngs of birds around the waterholes, including over twenty Rosy-faced Lovebirds. A pair of Grey Hornbills perched on the balcony less than two metres from us, with the male serenading the female with its piping call, and then defending its territory by hitting its reflection in one of the windows a couple of times. Apparently this is a daily morning ritual.
Having seen the key endemics here we rather reluctantly set off from this beautiful lodge for Swakopmond. The journey was on a good tarmac road so fairly easy and we arrived at the salt pans 4 miles north of the town at around lunchtime. We found the area a little disappointing as there were thousands of terns and hundreds of thousands of cormorants here, but all the tracks leading to the action were fenced off. We did see quite a few waders, including Chestnut-banded Plovers, and amongst a closer group of bathing terns we found Swift, Caspian and Damara Terns.
Heading south we reached Walvis Bay mid-afternoon and at high tide. Having dropped our stuff off at the hotel we drove round the lagoon and salt pans finding that there were thousands of waders, the vast majority of which were Curlew Sandpipers. Viewing conditions were not easy due to quite a strong wind but we eventually notched up a lot of species, including an absolutely stunning female Red-necked Phalarope in breeding plumage.
20th October. Another early start as we headed to Rooibank where after much frustration and a fair bit of walking we had superb views of a Dune Lark running about on the sand. We didn’t see much else here, although an Ashy Tit came very close, as did a few Dusky Sunbirds.
We headed back to Walvis Bay, and having had breakfast and a quick visit to the garage to get the car seen to we headed off round the lagoon and salt pans. The tide had just started dropping and the edge of the lagoon was covered in thousands of Curlew Sandpipers and smaller numbers of Sanderling and Turnstone, and we managed to find a single Terek Sandpiper running about over the sand flats.
We decided to do a quick seawatch, even though it was 2pm, and had a brilliant three quarters of an hour. We saw over 50 Sooty Shearwaters, over 75 Cape Gannets, 10 or more White-chinned Petrels and two species of Skua. I saw a brief African Penguin just off-shore, and an even briefer Storm Petrel that I didn’t have time to identify conclusively. We also saw a few Cape Fur Seals surfing in the waves.
Driving back past the pans we picked up 6 Red-necked Phalaropes (different birds to yesterday’s), and coming back to the lagoon found a feeding frenzy going on. A small channel right next to the road had been cut off from the rest of the lagoon and hundreds of terns and gulls, together with 3 Great White Pelicans, were tucking into a shoal of small fish that had become trapped in the shallow water. We sat watching totally entranced for nearly an hour, by which time it was nearly dark. There was time for a bit more action however, as on looking over the lagoon from our hotel balcony I picked up a small pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins out at the back of the lagoon.
21st October – Aiming to reach Spitzkoppe at dawn we left Walvis Bay at 4:30am, however, we were slowed down considerably by thick fog inland of Swakopmond. On reaching Spitzkoppe we searched scrub and small trees along the edges of the high rocky slopes for a couple of hours but could not find any Herero Chat, our main target here. We did see lots of other birds however, many of which were very approachable, highlights being pairs of Layard’s Tit-babblers and White-tailed Shrikes.
We then headed for Brandberg, and while the road was in fairly good condition our journey was continually interrupted by some quality birds including our first Violet Woodhoopoes, Ruppell’s Korhaans and Karoo Chats. A perched Martial Eagle was very impressive. Arriving at Brandberg a little tired, JB caught up on some sleep whilst RB had superb views of a Pearl-spotted Owlet. We then drove slowly up the D2359 looking for larks and bustards. Of the former, we could only find masses of Sabota Larks, however, had very good views of 2 Northern Black Korhaans and 10 Ruppell’s Korhaans. Namaqua Sandgrouse became increasingly conspicuous as dusk approached.
22nd October – We spent the first hour searching for a wetland that the owner of the lodge had told us about but could not find it. The early morning was not wasted as we had reasonable views of a party of Bare-cheeked Babblers, our only ones of the trip as it turned out. Having had a brief breakfast we headed up the D2359 again and found that there was much more about than the previous evening. A Double-banded Courser right by the road kicked off the action, followed by some larks flying up. They landed not too far off and we immediately realised that we’d found a pair of Benguela Long-billed Larks. We had close and prolonged views of them, and also found a pair of Stark’s Larks and another Double-banded Courser in the same area. Despite searching several different areas we were unable to find any Gray’s Larks.
And so we headed for Etosha, somewhere I for one had been dreaming of visiting for many many years. We had one brief birding stop at a small farm dam north of Brandberg where we saw Grey-backed and Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks, and then stopped for food and fuel in Outjo before reaching Etosha at about 4pm. Having checked in we had a slow walk around the camp having incredibly close views of a calling African Cuckoo, and brief views of a male European Golden Oriole. There didn’t seem a huge amount of decent habitat in the camp so we headed to the waterhole which turned out to be a very good call.
As we’d find at most of the waterholes that we visited masses of animals surrounded the waterhole, with the most numerous being Springbok, then Gemsbok, Kudu, Burchell’s Zebra and Giraffe. There was a constant procession of doves coming down to the water to drink, with small numbers of Namaqua Sandgrouse making brief visits, and two Kori Bustards and a column of more than 100 Helmeted Guineafowl wandering down over the rocky slopes. As the sun set a group of giraffe were drinking giving us a wonderful sight for our first evening in the park. The action did not stop however as a male Black Rhino approached the waterhole whilst it was still light. We left to have a quick meal and returned to find three Black Rhino, the same male and a female and calf at the waterhole. The male was trying it on with the female and after a while she got bored of his attentions and she and the calf wandered off. Over the next hour a herd of 30 elephant came to drink, as did four more Black Rhino and a male Lion. As I was watching two more rhino wandering in I realised that their jaws were square, and that I was actually watching two White Rhino. They drank briefly, and the female even had a face-off with a female Black Rhino. There can’t be many places left where you can compare the two species face to face like that.
23rd October – We were up at first light dawn again, and as the gate only opens at sunrise paid a brief visit to the waterhole where we saw Double-banded Sandgrouse and Spotted Thick-knee. Finally out of the gate we headed up the western side of the pan towards Okondeka waterhole. We stopped frequently to scan the grasslands seeing some good species like Greater Kestrel, Desert Cisticola and Spike-heeled and Red-capped Larks, and had very close views of Double-banded Coursers and Kori Bustards. Arriving at the waterhole we were amazed by the numbers of Namaqua Sandgrouse around the waterhole – thousands on the ground and in the air.
Large numbers of Wildebeest, Gemsbok and Springbok were standing off from the water, and the reason soon became apparent, as a female lion wandered out from the dunes with a male in close attendance. We stayed for nearly two hours enjoying the sights and sounds of all the birds and animals surrounding the waterhole, and were further rewarded by watching a Red-necked Falcon pluck and eat a small bird that it had caught above the waterhole. We headed back to Okaukuejo and spent a further hour there. Highlights were a superb and much hoped-for female Pygmy Falcon and a Verraux’s Eagle-owl perched in the one large tree near the waterhole. Our first Black-faced Impala wandered down providing a very good look at this distinctive animal.
We then headed for Halali, stopping at a few small waterholes on the way. The first had over three hundred Red-capped Larks around it, together with a bull Elephant standing in the middle of the water keeping a load of Springbok, Zebra and Gemsbok waiting. We saw another Red-necked Falcon at Salvadora waterhole, then stopped at the large Reitfontein waterhole. This was a superb site that we spent many hours at over the next couple of days. More than 250 Zebra in the area was pretty spectacular.
At Halali we decided to spend the rest of the day at the waterhole as it was threatening to rain (all though it did stay dry). A Brown Snake-eagle perched at the top of the radio mast was our first of the trip, and a procession of birds and animals coming to drink kept up the interest levels until an immature male lion came to drink at dusk. The real action started as the sun dipped below the horizon and the first Double-banded Sandgrouse dropped in. Birds started appearing from all directions, until there were over 300 sandgrouse on the ground, and judging by the noise, all calling. Having had dinner I headed back to the waterhole and found that there were 3 Black Rhino there, 2 males and a female. There was a bit of pushing around as the males competed for the females attention, however she didn’t seem too impressed and eventually wandered off into the night leaving the males standing face to face.
24th October – We decided to spend the morning exploring the fairly large area of dry woodland inside the camp. First stop was the waterhole where five female lions had just finished drinking and were wandering off into the bush. Two security guards then showed us 2 African Scops Owls and a White-faced Scops-owl, all asleep and trying not to be noticed in trees in the middle of the camp. Other highlights included a calling male Swainson’s Francolin, another Red-necked Falcon perched very close to us, and Carp’s Tit and White-crested Helmet-shrike. Unfortunately we were unable to find any Bare-cheeked Babblers or Violet Wood-hoopoes.
After breakfast we headed to Reitfontein where there were several species of waders again, and a pair of Lappet-faced Vultures on the ground drinking. There were huge numbers of animals in the area – over 1000 Springbok, over 300 Zebra and 40+ Kudu. A herd of 25 Elephant drinking and rolling around in the water and mud was great fun to watch.
Back at Halali we headed back to the waterhole. It was fairly quiet during the afternoon, although we had stunning views of an African Cuckoo drinking. At dusk six lions came down to drink giving fantastic views as they drank side-by-side. Large numbers of Double-banded Sandgrouse came down to drink again. After dinner I returned to the waterhole, and stayed until midnight hoping for a leopard. I had a really good time even one didn’t put in an appearance, as a Black Rhino and calf spent some time in the water, only leaving as a large male Lion arrived. For much of the time there were Rufous-cheeked Nightjars hawking overhead and a Verraux’s Eagle-owl catching small mammals on the edge of the lit area. Spotted Hyenas called a few times from not too far away. As I walked back into camp I went via the campsite and finally found a Honey Badger. It hid under a car as I approached, but then decided that I was no threat and that it was hungry so returned to the bin that it had been feeding in. It wasn’t exactly a totally wild experience, but I was thrilled as it was the first one I’d seen.
25th October – Driving out of the camp at dawn we saw the 200th species of our trip – a rather unexpected Black-crowned Night-heron. Back at Reitfontein we watched a male Lion for ten minutes or so, until he wandered past us, less than 3 metres away. Having had a quick drink he roared a couple of times close enough for us to feel the bass in our chests. We then drove towards Salvadora checking the grassy plains. On reaching a large field of bare earth I light-heartedly commented that it looked perfect for Burchell’s Coursers, and a quick scan did indeed reveal a pair of absolutely gorgeous Burchell’s Coursers.
On reaching Salvadora we found a family of 4 Red-necked Falcons in one tree and a Greater Kestrel at the top of another. Another lion was lying in the shade of a bush 5 metres from us. On the way back to Halali we saw a couple of Lanners circling together. After a quick breakfast we headed for the eastern-most camp, Namutoni. There were hundreds of animals around Goas waterhole, mostly Springbok, but also the largest number of Black-faced Impala and Red Hartebeest that we’d encountered. Three male Lions crammed into a tiny bit of shade nearby gave fantastic photographic opportunities.
On arrival we set up our tent, which was lucky as 20 identical camper vans pitched up shortly after us. Having ticked off Crimson-breasted Shrike by our tent we headed to the waterhole where two stunningly elegant Blue Cranes were at the edge of the water, and 5 hulking-great Kori Bustards were close-by. We were very surprised to find a male Greater Painted Snipe out in open in the marshy edge to the pond. We then decided to drive round Fischer’s Pan, but birding was a bit slow as it was completely dry, although there was another Blue Crane at the eastern end. Better still were several small parties of Burchell’s Sandgrouse at the north-eastern side of the pan, with one group coming very close to us on the ground. Coming back to camp we found two young lions, and by the time we were back at the waterhole they’d come in to drink. Our evening was cut short by a very heavy rain storm, but it did at least allow us to get an early night.
26th October – Even though Hyena and Lion were calling from close to the camp we decided to explore the acacia thickets around the camp during the early morning. We were rewarded with masses of species, and had great views of Crimson-breasted Shrike, Black-faced Waxbills, Burnt-neck Eremomela, Lesser Masked Weaver and tons of Grey Go-away birds amongst others. At the waterhole we saw two Glossy Ibis and 5 Great White Pelicans fly past, and 25 Grey Herons circling above us.
We then headed a little way up the east side of the main Etosha pan picking up Capped Wheatear and a Double-banded Courser. There was some water remaining at the very eastern edge of the pan and we could see a few Chestnut-banded and Kittlitz’s Plovers, Ruff and Wood Sandpiper. It was a frustrating time however as there were a lot of waders that were too far from us to identify. Heading round Fischer’s Pan again we came across a family of 5 Lions next to a Zebra carcass right by the road, which we reckoned was a very good final sighting in Etosha.
The drive to Roy’s Camp was not too long, so we arrived with time and energy to do some birding, although it was still very hot. That didn’t stop us finding our target species straight away – Black-faced Babblers out in the open. One of the other guests kindly showed us where they were nesting, and while we were watching an adult came in and fed the two chicks. As it got dark 15 Eland came to the waterhole to drink, and a Spotted Dikkop had to take evasive action to avoid being trampled.
27th October – An early morning walk produced yet more very confiding Black-faced Babblers, together with a very brief Southern Pied Babbler (a lifer for both of us and the only one of the trip). There were masses of birds around, and whilst we didn’t see any other rarities we had a very enjoyable walk. More fun was watching two Fork-tailed Drongos mobbing a Wahlberg’s Eagle, and they even appeared to be landing on its back every so often in their attempts to drive it off.
Arriving in Rundu we headed straight for the sewage works. It was very hot so we only spent about an hour there but still managed a few good birds including African Marsh Harrier and African Swamphen. We headed for Sarasungu Lodge looking forward to returning to the sewage works the next morning, but also to a cold drink. Refreshed, we wandered round the grounds finding that there was masses of bird activity despite the heat and it being midday. A Bearded Woodpecker allowed a really close approach and we also had very good views of Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-headed Weaver, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike and African Paradise Flycatcher. Hartlaub’s Babblers showed very well, and we then found a party of Arrow-marked Babblers, our forth species of Babbler of the day.
Black Cuckoos were fairly active and conspicuous and we watched one being mobbed by 6 Paradise Flycatchers around a small woven nest, presumably trying to prevent it parasitizing the nest. We spent the rest of the afternoon around the lodge grounds, but didn’t see anything new. An African Scops-owl started calling as darkness fell.
28th October – We spent the first couple of hours at the sewage works and had an excellent time. Nearly the first bird was a Baillon’s Crake out at the edge of some reeds briefly. On checking one of the lower ponds we found a Lesser Jacana which ended up giving us superb views out for over ten minutes. We picked up a Magpie Shrike, several Hartlaub’s Babblers and a pair of huge Coppery-tailed Coucals in the adjoining scrub. Down on the floodplain we found a Collared Pratincole and a Yellow Wagtail flew past us calling. There were several Squacco Herons on the edges of the ponds, and a few Black-crowned Night-herons flying about. Back up near the road 5 Bradfield’s Hornbills flew past us – our only ones of the trip.
Back at Sarasungu we walked around the grounds again finding a Spotted Flycatcher, an immature Little Sparrowhawk and a pair of Violet-backed Starlings, the male in stunning iridescent purple plumage. We then drove east to Shamvura a lovely camp on a wooded hill overlooking the Kavango River. It was very hot so we didn’t do much birding, however we still managed to see some quality birds like Jacobin Cuckoo and Southern Black Tits mobbing an African Barred Owlet. At dusk Fiery-necked and Square-tailed Nightjars started calling. We also heard Pearl-spotted Owlets and a Barn Owl.
29th October – This morning’s mission was to find Souza’s Shrike at one of the only sites for it in Southern Africa. But before we’d left the camp grounds we got caught up in a large mixed bird party, and had good views of Chinspot Batis, Yellow White-eye, Tawny-flanked Prinia and Black-collared Barbet. 5 Grey-headed Parrots flying overhead was a superb bonus. We then headed out into the dry woodlands along the B8. We had a superb first stop seeing a very close Racket-tailed Roller, and in a mixed bird party RB saw a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, and I saw Brown-backed Honeybird.
We then wandered around a large area of open woodland that had recently been burnt looking for the Souza’s Shrikes. After two hours we’d pretty much had enough of the heat so headed off empty-handed. The only birds of note here were a few Tinkling Cisticolas and a Lesser Grey Shrike. After a welcome cold drink back at the camp we headed to Popa Falls getting there just after lunchtime. It was still very hot so we spent a couple of hours drinking cold drinks and sitting in the shade, however there was still a fair bit of activity. We saw Lesser Honeyguide, Yellow-bellied Greenbuls, Terrestrial Brownbuls, White-browed Robin-chats, and masses of Violet-backed Starlings coming down to drink and bathe on the lawns.
It was a bit cooler around 4pm so we headed off down to the wooded islands and river. We had brief views of Green-backed Heron and Giant Kingfisher, then African Cuckoo-hawk and Steppe Buzzard soaring overhead, however, our main quarry eluded us so I took a very refreshing swim in the rapids. We then headed into town to buy some water, and on seeing that there were a lot of exposed rocks up-river from the Falls turned down a track to the river. The first bird that we found was a Turnstone, which was a little strange, but we were then quickly onto our main target: a superb pair of Rock Pratincoles. As dusk approached we had a final walk along the river where there was quite a bit of activity, including a couple of very distant Rock Pratincoles.
30th October – We spent most of the day in Mahango NP and it was one of the best days of the trip with our day total of 136 bird species being our highest by quite a long way. The mammals were also superb. The first things we saw in the park were two Roan antelopes and although they wandered off too quickly we saw three more just round the corner. We took the first track that we came to down to the floodplain and found a small pool covered in over a hundred egrets, herons, storks and African Spoonbills, together with 15 Buffalo with Yellow-billed Oxpeckers in attendance.
Further down the floodplain we came across a larger pool and an extensive area of open grassland. There were over 100 Red Lechwe on the grass with small numbers of Waterbuck, Tsessebe, and Southern Reedbuck, and a load of Hippo in the pool. There were birds everywhere, with Long-toed Lapwings and Collared Pratincoles on the grasslands, and African Skimmers fishing over the pool with a single Whiskered Tern. A small heron in long grass at the side of the pool turned out to be a Rufous-bellied Heron and as they can often be hard to find we were very pleased. There was also a pair of African Fish Eagles by the pool with a fish that they’d just caught. Further on down the floodplain we found a Goliath Heron, a couple of Black Herons and a couple of Water Thick-knees.
The scrub on the edge of the floodplain proved very productive too with Lesser Grey Shrikes, African Hoopoe, Green Woodhoopoes and a Crested Barbet and we had brief views of a male Lesser Kestrel. We drove back along the floodplain and struck gold back at the northern end. A family of three Wattled Cranes were out on the floodplain feeding, and then we found a Slaty Egret on the pool that had been covered in birds earlier. Further good birds were in the woodland – Burnt-necked Eremomela and a Broad-billed Roller being two of the more note-worthy.
We cleared the border very quickly and without hassle and arrived soon after at Shakawe Lodge. There were masses of birds about and we found several species new for the trip such as Southern Brown-throated and Spectacled Weavers, a pair of Collared Sunbirds and a group of Retz’s Helmet-shrikes moving through the canopy above us. We went for a walk through the riverine forest looking for Pel’s Fishing-owl. Although we couldn’t find an owl we saw a small group of Brown Firefinch, and spent some time watching Carmine and White-fronted Bee-eaters at their nest bank. Malachite and Pied Kingfishers were also nesting in the bank, and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers were at a nest hole in an adjacent tree.
31st October – We had a very relaxing day birding around Shakawe. At first light we had Woodland Kingfisher and Wire-tailed Swallow by the river, then boarded a boat for a trip up the river. We had an excellent time seeing some quality birds. There were loads of herons flying over the reedbeds, African Skimmers nesting on sandbanks, and best of all, we found a White-backed Night-heron in thick bushes by the river. We had superb views of it, though sadly it was a bit too dark in the bushes for me to get a decent photo. We took the opportunity to have a quick walk on the floodplain and found a large group of over 70 Burchell’s Sandgrouse on the ground which was superb.
Back at the lodge we went into the riverine forest again, but again could not find a Pel’s. There was plenty of activity with masses of Meves’ Starlings in fruiting trees, and we picked up a pair of European Golden Orioles amongst them. Spending the heat of the day watching the river flow by was fairly productive as I saw an African Hobby powering overhead, and an African Skimmer sauntering upstream. Croaking Cisticolas and Greater Swamp Warblers were very vocal in the riverside vegetation. When it had cooled down a bit we went into the forest again, and after dark went for a boat ride looking for a Pel’s, still with no luck.
1st November – Another dawn search for the Pel’s, another dip. We had a very good walk however, with the first birds being Chirping Cisticolas and Greater Swamp Warblers out in the open. We watched a newly fledged Greater Swamp Warbler swim across a small channel with its parents looking on, hoping that it didn’t get nailed by a large fish or Crocodile. The riverine forest was very busy with masses of Common Bulbuls, weavers and starlings in the fruiting trees, as well as Black-headed and European Golden Orioles. Both Carmine and White-fronted Bee-eaters were feeding low down inside the forest giving beautiful views. We also heard the deep bass of a couple of Southern Ground Hornbills calling fairly distantly.
It was then back to Namibia, where we only spent a few hours in Mahango as it was over 35 degrees. The heat resulted in there being fewer birds about, but we did have much better views of (presumably) the same 3 Wattled Cranes and a few Squacco and Goliath Herons. A Grey-rumped Swallow over the floodplain was new for the trip. There were also a couple of large kettles of White-backed Vultures overhead, with a few Bataleur and Marabou Storks amongst them. Mammals were good again with Sable and Elephant the more notable ones. As we left we found a Roan antelope at the northern end of the park again.
We returned to Popa Falls and when it had cooled down a bit went for a walk on the wooded islands again, where a perched male African Goshawk was the highlight. The final birds of the day were a small group of Brown Firefinch showing very well by the campsite.
2nd November – Before we headed back west we checked the river and as well as seeing two Rock Pratincoles we found an African Wattled Lapwing, our only one of the trip. Back into the dry woodland roughly 65kms from Divundu we struck lucky at one of our first stops, finding a pair of Rufous-bellied Tits investigating nest holes in a small tree right by the road. There were other good birds there too such as gorgeous Cut-throat Finches and Yellow-fronted Canaries. We then tried the Souza’s Shrike site again but dipped – Mark Paxton saw a pair about half an hour before us which was a bit frustrating. Some consolation came in calling Dideric Cuckoo and Coqui Francolin, and even better was a Sharp-tailed Starling flying past us, and perching briefly.
Back at Rundu we went to the sewage works again. There were a few more waders than on our previous visit, such as Wood and Marsh Sandpipers and Ringed Plovers, but nothing to get too excited about. The best bird was a rather unexpected European Hobby drifting slowly over the ponds. With a blustery easterly wind picking up and rain threatening we headed back to Sarasungu for a relaxing end to what had been another very hot day.
3rd November – We headed to the woodland around the radio mast 20km south of Rundu at dawn. The first bird that we saw was a Rufous-bellied Tit, which we picked up on call, and we had cracking views of this striking looking bird again. There were a few other birds around such as Grey-hooded Kingfisher and Yellow-throated Petronia, but we couldn’t find any of the other dry woodland specials. I couldn’t help thinking that the woodland here looks a bit too degraded. As we were leaving two guys walked out carrying a tree trunk that they’d just cut down.
It was then a fairly long drive down to the Waterberg Plateau, with us arriving there at about 2pm, where we chilled out by the pool for a couple of hours. We then went for a fairly leisurely walk where first off we heard a Rockrunner calling from fairly high up the slope. Soon after we found 5 Ruppell’s Parrots feeding on figs near the swimming pool. We had excellent views of this beautiful endemic for over 10 minutes, some having really bright yellow legs and shoulder patches. Down at the reserve entrance we found a family group of Violet Wood-hoopoes.
4th November – For our final morning’s birding in Namibia we were out at first light. Rockrunners were calling from up the slope, but having seen them earlier in the trip we didn’t try to track one down. We headed down to the entrance of the park and soon were finding some good birds. The Violet Wood-hoopoes were there again, though not particularly approachable whereas Groundscraper Thrush, Purple Roller and Brubru came really close. We heard several Barred Wren-warblers but did not see any of them. We headed back up towards the cliffs where over 100 Bradfield’s Swifts were circling with over 30 Alpine Swifts, then walking through the hillside scrub we had superbly close views of a Ruppell’s Parrot and a Monteiro’s Hornbill.
Following a fairly easy drive south to Windhoek we had a couple of hours to spare so went to the sewage works. The ponds were teeming with birds, the most common being Red-knobbed Coots and Common Moorhens, with a lot of Hottentot and Red-billed Teal amongst them. Green-backed Herons and Black-crowned Night-herons were fairly common in the surrounding vegetation and we had excellent views of Black-chested Snake-eagles and a Black-shouldered Kite. There were hundreds of Wattled Starlings, a few of which were beginning to develop breeding plumage.
And so, after an amazing two and a bit weeks we headed back to the car hire company to drop the car off and start the long journey home, arriving back in London at the same time as the returning England cricket team.
We mainly used the SA Birdfinder for directions to sites, so I’ve only included directions in this section if they add anything to those that are in the Birdfinder.
The Erongo mountains are a great place for a few hard-to-see Namibian endemics. We stayed at the Erongo Wilderness Lodge which is one of the best places to see the local specials. Although it is a little expensive, it is a beautiful place and the birding is superb.
A very good area to search for Hartlaub’s Spurfowl can be found by following the dirt road past the reception buildings, and taking the path that heads off right and is marked by a carved wooden eagle. We clambered up a boulder about 150 metres along this path – pick one with a good all-round view, and be on site at first light.
Key species seen: Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Rockrunner, White-tailed Shrike, Carp’s Tit, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Freckled Nightjar
Other species: Black-chested Prinia, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Pale-winged Starling, Short-toed Rock-thrush, Rock Kestrel, Pririt Batis, Dusky Sunbird, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Long-billed Crombec, Black-faced Waxbill, Black-throated Canary, Mountain Wheatear, Familiar Chat, Cinnamon-breasted, Golden-breasted and Cape Buntings, Acacia Pied Barbet, Great Sparrow, Red-headed Finch, Green-winged Pytilia.
Mammals: Porcupine are regularly seen around the waterholes and restaurant at night. Dassie Rat, Rock Hyrax and Damara Dik-dik are all common.
Swakopond Mile 4 Salt pans
Salt pans and a huge Cormorant nesting platform (for guano collection). Excellent for waders and terns.
Key species seen: Chestnut-banded Plover, Lesser Flamingo
Other species: masses of terns and common waders
Other possibilities – Gray’s Lark (search the gravel plains east of the pans thoroughly – we didn’t and therefore dipped!). Vagrant waders – Common Redshank regular here.
A must-visit site on any tour of Namibia for its huge flocks of wintering western Palaearctic waders, terns and gulls, and for its close proximity to sites for Dune and Gray’s Larks.
Walvis Bay Lagoon and salt pans – when the tide was out thousands of waders (mostly Curlew Sandpiper) lined the shores of the lagoon all the way round to the salt pans.
Species seen: Turnstone, Sanderling, Little Stint, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed and White-fronted Plovers, Ruff, and a single Terek Sandpiper. Hartlaub’s and Grey-headed Gulls, Caspian, Swift, Sandwich, Common and Damara Terns, Great White Pelican. Lesser Flamingo, Black-necked Grebe, Cape Teal, South African Shelduck, Marsh Sandpiper, Chestnut-banded Plover and Red-necked Phalarope on the salt pans.
Other possibilities – there were very few flamingos at Walvis Bay (less than 50) which was disappointing as there can be thousands here. This is a top site for vagrant waders.
Paaltjies beach – we did a seawatch here for only 45 mins at midday, but still saw masses of birds. There had been quite a strong westerly blowing for the previous few days so it would have been great to have had time to do an early morning sea watch.
Species seen: Sooty Shearwater, White-chinned Petrel, Arctic and Pomarine Skua, African Penguin, Cape Gannet. Also saw a very brief Storm Petrel sp..
10+ Cape Fur Seal, including several surfing.
Walvis Bay water works – meant to be good for freshwater species. We could only find large areas of dry reedbeds, so no birds apart from a few Common Waxbills.
We stayed at Lagoon Lodge – very comfortable with a balcony over-looking the lagoon, from which we had distant views of a pod of dolphins one afternoon. There were Orange River White-eyes and Common Waxbills in the garden.
We spent two nights in Walvis Bay, but could easily have spent longer as we left in the middle of the second night to get to Spitzkoppe for dawn. Extra time would have given us the opportunity to either do an early morning sea watch, or to visit Sandwich Bay, which although holding similar species to Walvis is meant to be spectacular. Sandwich Bay is pretty much only accessible by organised tour.
One of the best sites for Dune Lark, it is a 30 to 40 minute drive on good roads from Walvis Bay. Aim to be on site at dawn. Several Dune Larks were singing intermittently at dawn, and although we had a couple of brief flight views it took well over an hour to finally get great ground views of one. Other species included Bokmakierie, White-backed Mousebird, Cape Sparrow, Ashy Tit and Dusky Sunbird.
The road towards Rooibank is said by the Birdfinder to be good for Gray’s Lark. We didn’t spend enough time looking for them here.
This is one of the best-known sites for Herero Chat. We left Walvis Bay at 4:30am aiming to be here at dawn. However, a thick fog covered the road east from Swakopmond for at least 50kms slowing us down to a crawl, although other (crazy) drivers were passing us at more than 100kph. Consequently we arrived on site a little late, and did not even hear a Herero Chat singing. If we did the trip again we’d consider camping here over-night as it’s a beautiful spot and you’d be able to start birding from first light. Although we missed the Chat we saw many species including several southern African endemics, and had a really enjoyable morning’s birding.
Key species seen – Augur Buzzard, White-tailed Shrike, Carp’s Tit, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Layard’s Tit-babbler.
Other species seen – White-throated Canary, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Cape, Golden-breasted and Lark-like Buntings, Ashy Tit, Bokmakierie, Scaly-feathered Finch, Mountain Wheatear, Acacia Pied Barbet, White-backed Mousebird.
Other possibilities – Herero Chat, Peregrine Falcon
The grasslands surrounding Namibia’s tallest mountain harbour several Namibian endemics, and are also a good place to catch up with Benguela Long-billed Lark in the extensive grasslands that the access road passes through on the way to the mountain. We stayed at the Brandberg White Lady Lodge on the northern side of the mountain.
Key species seen – Bare-cheeked Babbler (in the dry river bed near the lodge), Benguela Long-billed Lark, Stark’s Lark, Ruppell’s and Northern Black Korhaans, Namaqua Sandgrouse.
Other species seen – Double-banded Courser, Sabota and Red-capped Larks, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Alpine Swift, Mountain Wheatear, African Scops and Pearl-spotted Owls.
Other possibilities – Gray’s Lark
The highlight of the trip. We spent four nights in the park however we both agreed that we could have spent at least one more night at Okaukuejo. Our visit was at the end of the dry season so birding was not as good as it would be when the breeding season was in full swing. However, most of the mammals were congregating around the waterholes creating extraordinary spectacles, and providing some amazing lion, rhino and elephant sightings.
In general the accommodation was very good, with reasonable restaurants in each camp. The camps were very good for birding, both around the grounds and at each camp’s floodlit waterhole. There are only 3 camps open to the public within the park, so I’ve divided sites up between each one.
There were a couple of down-sides to Etosha to be mindful of, but please do not let them put you off. The lack of information about wildlife sightings is striking, as is the apparent lack of serious wildlife watchers, so if you do meet like-minded people share information!! Worth mentioning and recommending are the security guards (not the game wardens) in Halali who went out of their way to show us roosting owls. As there are very few roads in the park it can seem to get quite busy with big coaches a too regular occurrence. Also the check-in procedures are more than a little annoying – handing over 500 Namibian dollars as a deposit for our room key began to irritate slightly by the end of the few days.
The waterhole was brilliant – in the evening 7 Black Rhino, 2 White Rhino (which are being reintroduced to the park), 1 Lion, herd of 30 Elephant, Black-backed Jackals, Spotted Thick-knee, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.
During the day Kori Bustard, Verraux’s Eagle-owl (in single large tree nr w.h.), Pearl-spotted Owlet, Pygmy Falcon, Sociable Weaver (large nest above seating area), Namaqua Sandgrouse, Barn Swallow, European Bee-eater, Shaft-tailed Whydah.
Camp grounds – species seen included African Cuckoo, Groundscraper Thrush, European Golden Oriole
Drive from Okaukuejo to Okondeka (at the north-west side of the pan) – an excellent road for grassland species, worth heading out as soon as the gates open as the road gets quite busy.
Species seen include Greater Kestrel, Bataleur, Secretarybird, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Spike-heeled, Fawn-coloured and Red-capped Larks, Desert Cisticola
Okondeka waterhole – thousands of Namaqua Sandgrouse, hundreds of Sparrowlarks (mostly Grey-backed, though lots Chestnut-backed), Ostrich, Red-necked Falcon (eating small bird it had caught above the waterhole)
Other species possible include Ludwig’s Bustard, Burchell’s Courser and Eastern Clapper Lark, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse (seen by another birder when we were there)
Mammals: Lion, Spotted Hyena, Yellow Mongoose, plus many of common ungulate spp.
A really good camp for birding as has fairly extensive woodland inside the fence so you can explore on foot together with some top endemics, and the waterhole also attracts hundreds of Double-banded Sandgrouse. Spending time at the waterhole after dark is likely to be very productive.
The security guards in the camp are worth asking about birds as they showed us roosting African and White-faced Scops-owls, and told me that Honey Badgers regularly raid the bins in the camp site after dark (where I subsequently saw one). The surrounding park is great for birding – it is well worth spending time exploring the grasslands on the southern edge of the pan and staking out Reitfontein, Salvadora and Goas waterholes.
Key species seen: Burchell’s Courser, Red-necked Falcon, Damara Hornbill, Carp’s Tit.
Other species seen: Cape, Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures, Greater Kestrel, Lanner, Brown Snake-eagle, Bataleur, African and S. White-faced Scops-owls, Verraux’s Eagle-owl, Swainson’s Francolin, Cinnamon-breasted and Golden-breasted Buntings.
Following waterbirds on Reitfontein waterhole: Wood and Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, Three-banded Plover, Cape and Red-billed Teal
Other possibilities: Violet Woodhoopoe, Bare-cheeked Babbler – search the woodland in the camp although they do spend time outside the camp boundaries.
Namutoni is another good camp for birding as there are fairly large areas of acacia woodland which gives a different mix of species to the camps further to the west. The waterhole is well worth spending time at as it has a large reedbed, and therefore offers a few different species (we had a male Painted Snipe). The surrounding park and the eastern edge of Etosha Pan hold some key species, and Fischer’s Pan is excellent for waterbirds when it holds water (for some time after the rains end).
If you don’t see Blue Cranes at Namutoni waterhole or around Fischer’s Pan the Andoni Plains are a reliable site for them, together with other grassland species like Ludwig’s Bustard and Eastern Clapper Lark
Key species seen: Blue Crane, Burchell’s Sandgrouse,
Other species seen: Kori Bustard, Double-banded Courser, Capped Wheatear, Glossy Ibis, Greater Painted Snipe, Black Crake, Whiskered Tern, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Burnt-neck Eremomela, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Black-faced Waxbill, Red-billed Buffalo-weaver, Acacia Pied Barbet, European Golden Oriole, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper
Other possibilities: Ludwig’s Bustard, Eastern Clapper Lark, Barred Wren-warbler
Mammals: many lions including a family at a fresh zebra-kill, spotted hyena,
One of the best sites for Black-faced Babbler, a Namibian endemic with a very limited range, Roy’s Camp is conveniently situated on the road north to Rundu and the Caprivi Strip. It is notable for its comfortable cabins and delicious home-cooked food. We found the babblers very easily, as they were foraging around the cabins just past the restaurant, and a little later on were shown their nest, about 2.5 metres up in a bush in the same area. Although they can be fairly difficult to see here they were around the whole time that we were. There were also a lot of other birds here and we really enjoyed our brief stay.
Key birds seen: Black-faced Babbler, Southern Pied Babbler
Other birds seen: Rosy-faced Lovebird, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Red-billed Buffalo-weaver, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, White-bellied Sunbird, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Black-backed Puffback, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Hornbills. Also many common woodland species.
An expanding busy town on the banks of the Kavango River, offering access to superb wetland and woodland birding. It’s about a three hour journey from both Roy’s Camp to the south and Popa Falls to the east. The town has a large supermarket, banks and a good internet café.
Sarasungu – a nice lodge on the edge of town, close to the sewage works, with lush gardens that provide some good birding, especially in the middle of the day when there is plenty of shade.
Key birds – Hartlaub’s Babbler, Senegal Coucal, Golden Weaver.
Also seen – Bearded Woodpecker, Arrow-marked Babbler, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Black Cuckoo, White-bellied Sunbird, Spotted Flycatcher, African Scops-owl, African Paradise Flycatcher, Little Sparrowhawk, Violet-backed Starling.
Rundu Sewage works – I could not find detailed maps or directions before our trip, furthermore Callan Cohen told me that access tracks around the site change, so we did a bit of exploring and found some really good birds. We visited before the majority of summer migrants had returned – during the rains the birding here is meant to be superb. Best birding conditions are very dependent on water levels and time of year, however, a visit is very worthwhile even outside peak times.
Directions: The road from town that runs past the turnoff to Sarasungu soon turns into a dirt road. After approximately 3kms there are two large ponds visible on the left. The first (western) pond you reach from town is fairly small and is lined by a lot of emergent vegetation and reeds. We saw a Baillon’s Crake here early morning, as well as several African Swamphens and Black Crakes.
The second pond visible from the road is much larger and has several small islands and clumps of reeds. Large numbers of duck and a few waders were seen here, and we had a European Hobby over the pond during one late afternoon.
A path runs downhill along the western side of the first pond to another couple of ponds that are not visible from the road. We had to jump across a metre-wide ditch containing what looked and smelt like raw sewage going this way! A Lesser Jacana showed really well at the edge of the first pond down the hill which again had a good sized reedbed and plenty of emergent vegetation.
At the bottom of the hill water runs out onto the floodplain. This looks amazing for crakes, rails, herons etc, most of which arrive once the summer rains have set in. There are large areas of flooded grasslands here, and I don’t think that we saw nearly all of the floods. The best birds that we could manage were a few Black-winged Stilts, a Collared Pratincole and a Yellow Wagtail. Scrubby thickets can be found between the ponds and down the hill, in which we found White-browed and Coppery-tailed Coucals, Magpie Shrike, Jameson’s and Red-billed Firefinches. Five Bradfield’s Hornbills on the eastern side of the ponds were a good surprise.
You can then walk round the ponds keeping the ponds on your right all the way back up to the road. Alternatively it is possible to drive down a sandy track that is on the eastern edge of the two roadside ponds. Several tracks in various states of condition wind their way across the floodplain. Track conditions and accessibility would probably be very different in summer.
Key birds seen – Lesser Jacana, Baillon’s Crake, Coppery-tailed and White-browed Coucals, European Hobby, African Marsh Harrier, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Hartlaub’s Babbler.
Other birds – Comb Duck, Hottentot and Red-billed Teal, African Swamphen, Black Crake, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Collared Pratincole, Little Stint, Curlew, Marsh and Common Sandpipers, Three-banded and Common Ringed Plovers, Greater Honeyguide, Lesser Swamp Warbler.
Other possibilities – African Pygmy Goose, and in summer Lesser Moorhen, Allen’s Gallinule, African Crake, Dwarf Bittern (in acacia thickets by the wetlands). Also various bee-eaters, migrant waders and warblers, Marsh Owl and Brown Firefinch. African Hobby and Bat Hawk at dusk.
We left our car by the road here, as did another couple of birders, and had no trouble. However, we were told that other people have had problems at this site. As everywhere, do not leave valuables in the car and make sure it is locked.
Rundu Radio mast – approx 20km south of the town this is an area of dry woodland well-known for Rufous-bellied Tit. It seemed that the woodland is under quite a bit of pressure from logging, however we still saw the Tit very easily.
Key birds – Rufous-bellied Tit
Other species seen – Grey-hooded and Striped Kingfishers, Yellow-fronted Canary, Yellow-throated Petronia, Spotted Flycatcher, White-crested Helmet-shrike, Neddicky.
Other possibilities – White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Arnott’s Chat, Souza’s Shrike (rare), Wood Pipit.
Shamvuru, and woodland along B8
A camp on a hill overlooking the Kovango River roughly midway between Rundu and Divundu. It is owned and run by Mark Paxton a very experienced birder with expert knowledge of surrounding area’s birdlife. This is the best area in southern Africa for a load of woodland specials such as Souza’s Shrike. Boat trips available on the river for more Okavango specials.
Key birds seen – Racket-tailed Roller, White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous-bellied Tit, Tinkling Cisticola, Brown-backed Honeybird, Sharp-tailed Starling, Grey-headed Parrot, African Skimmer
Other birds – Coqui Francolin, Dideric and Jacobin Cuckoos, Cut-throat Finch, Lesser Grey Shrike, White-crested Helmet-shrike, African Openbill, African Barred Owlet, Fiery-necked and Square-tailed Nightjars,
Other possibilities – Souza’s Shrike, Wood Pipit, Green-capped Eremomela, Arnot’s Chat, large numbers of summer-visitor raptors such as Amur Falcon. Lesser Moorhen and White-crowned Lapwing on the river.
This is a small National Park protecting some riverine forest on the banks of the Kavango River, and is a well known site for Rock Pratincole. It is a very scenic spot to spend the night, and the forest and reedbeds hold an interesting variety of species.
Whilst we did see Rock Pratincoles over the Falls, we found that we got much better views of them a little bit further north. We saw from the road that there were plenty of rocks sticking out of the middle of the river north of the Falls, so took a short dirt track (much-used by people collecting water) down to the river and immediately found a pair of the pratincoles (and a Turnstone) sitting on the rocks.
The walking trail around the wooded islands is well worth exploring. We had Brown Firefinch in scrub at the south end of the campsite.
Key species seen: Rock Pratincole, Brown Firefinch.
Other species seen: African Wattled Lapwing, Giant Kingfisher, Green-backed Heron, Little Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, African Cuckoo-hawk, Steppe Buzzard, White-browed Robin-chat, Lesser Honeyguide, Thick-billed Weaver, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Black-collared Barbet, African Wood Owl, Barn Owl, African Green Pigeon, Black Cuckoo, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Coppery-tailed Coucal, House Martin.
Other possibilities: Sharp-tailed Starling – can be seen from the road in summer in fields with livestock on road from Divundu to Mahango
Mahango National Park
A superb park, we saw some amazing birds here, even if our visit was before the onset of the rains when it gets even better!! We drove up and down the dirt road that runs alongside the floodplain visiting the two view points and stopping to scan whenever the floodplain and the few remaining pools were visible.
This is also an amazing place for those interested in mammals, with Roan, Sable, Red Lechwe and Sitatunga all possible. We saw Roan at the northern end of the park on both our visits, and Sable were visible both visits on the shallow grassy valley that the road crosses 200 metres north of the border post at the southern end of the park.
Key species seen: Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Skimmer.
Other species seen: White-headed and White-backed Vultures, Tawny, Osprey, Lesser Kestrel, Broad-billed Roller, Yellow-billed, Open-billed and Marabou Storks, Black, Goliath and Grey Herons, Great, Intermediate, Little and Cattle Egrets, Sacred Ibis, Long-toed Lapwing, Collared and Black-winged Pratincoles, Whiskered Tern, Lesser Grey Shrike, Meves’ and Burchell’s Starlings, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, Green Woodhoopoe, Crested Barbet, Southern Black Tit, Burnt-neck Eremomela, S. Carmine, White-fronted and European Bee-eaters,
Other possibilities: Western Banded Snake-eagle.
Mammals: Roan, Sable, Tsessebe, Southern Reedbuck, Red Lechwe, Buffalo, Elephant, Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Waterbuck, Zebra, Hippo
Set on the banks of the Kavango River in the Panhandle of the Okavango Delta this lodge offers some awesome delta birding in a beautiful setting. The key habitats are the papyrus and reedbeds that line the river and the riverine woodland at the end of the cabins.
The lodge offers boat trips along the river which offer good chances of some of the key species as the staff know roost sites for White-backed Night-heron and Pel’s Fishing-owl. African Skimmer and White-crowned Lapwing can be found on sand banks during the dry season.
The Pel’s can also be found roosting in the riverine woodland, and occasionally even perches on dead branches in front of the bar. The owls do sometimes go missing; we spent over 8 hours in total searching for the Pel’s in vain. A Southern Carmine Bee-eater colony can be found in a bank at the end of the riverine forest (don’t get too close to the bank to avoid disturbing the birds and to prevent subsidence).
The papyrus beds are good for Chirping and Luapula Cisticola and Greater Swamp Warbler. Try the bank at the left hand end of the lawns, where we had great views of the Chirping Cist and the warbler.
Key species seen: White-backed Night-heron, Brown Firefinch, Chirping Cisticola, Greater Swamp Warbler, African Skimmer, Retz’s Helmet-shrike, Burchell’s Sandgrouse
Other species seen: Southern Brown-throated, Golden, Spectacled and Lesser Masked Weavers, Malachite, Giant, Pied and Woodland Kingfishers, Purple, Squacco and Green-backed Herons, Southern Carmine and White-fronted Bee-eaters, Southern Ground Hornbill, Collared Sunbird, African Mourning Dove, Southern Pochard, African Hobby, African Marsh Harrier, Little Sparrowhawk, Fan-tailed Widowbird, European Golden Oriole, Wire-tailed Swallow, Meves’, Burchells and Violet-backed Starlings, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Meyer’s Parrot, Ashy Flycatcher.
Other possibilities: Luapula Cisticola, Pel’s Fishing-owl, White-crowned Lapwing
Animals: Bushbuck can be found in the forest, Crocodiles are common in the river, Spotted-neck Otters sometimes in the river.
Waterberg Plateau NP
Another beautiful location, loads of Namibian endemics and good acacia woodland birding made this a very enjoyable last stop of our trip.
Key birds seen: Ruppell’s Parrot, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Violet Woodhoopoe, Rockrunner (heard only), Bradfield’s Swift, Barred Wren-warbler (heard only)
Other species seen: Alpine Swift, Violet-eared and Blue Waxbills, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Familiar Chat, Groundscraper Thrush, Acacia Pied Barbet, Pririt Batis, Black Cuckoo, African Paradise Flycatcher
Other possibilities: Damara Hornbill (we only saw them by the road outside the park), Peregrine, Verraux’s Eagle
Waterberg Sewage Works
A scenic and fragrant last stop for our holiday, also can be a good site for some scarce freshwater species such as Maccoa Duck, Little Bittern and Baillon’s Crake (although we didn’t see any of these). It is conveniently close to the centre of Windhoek if you have a couple of hours to spare.
Species seen: Black-chested Snake-eagle (adult pair and immature), Black-shouldered Kite, Red-billed and Hottentot Teal, South African Shelduck, African Reed Warbler, Little and Cattle Egrets, Black-headed Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Green-backed Heron
A FEW SITES THAT WE DIDN’T VISIT
Ruancana – a town on the border with Angola, the site for Cinderela Waxbill and Rufous-tailed Palm-thrush and several restricted-range subspecies. We decided not to go as it would have added nearly 1000kms to our trip. Still regret the decision a little bit!!
Katima Mulilo – a town at the eastern end of the Caprivi Strip, holding a truck-load of tropical, wetland and dry woodland species. Best site in southern Africa for Shelley’s Sunbird.
Kaudom National Park – a fleet of 4x4s is needed to access this park, but you’ll be rewarded by some fantastic birding and wilderness.
Southern Namibia – Namibia is a huge country and we couldn’t have done it all in 3 weeks. Endemics like Barlow’s Lark at Port Noloth.
Erongo - http://www.erongowilderness.com/
Lagoon Lodge, Walvis Bay - http://www.lagoonlodge.com.na/
Brandberg White Lady Lodge - http://www.brandbergwllodge.com/
Sarasungu Lodge - http://www.sarasunguriverlodge.com/
Namibia National Parks - http://www.namibian.org/travel/parks.htm
Namibia Wildlife Resorts, responsible for accommodation in national parks - http://www.nwr.com.na/resorts.php
The campsite at Namutoni was the only one to have decent shade and a good covering of grass. A N$500 key deposit must be handed over if you’re staying in a chalet.
Shamvura, off B8 - http://www.shamvura.com/index.html They do not have credit card facilities.
Shakawe – no website, contact details in Southern African Birdfinder.
Southern African Birdfinder by C. Cohen, C. Spottiswoode and J. Rossouw, 2006.
This is an absolutely brilliant book covering all the main sites and specialities in the six countries that make up Southern Africa, plus Madagascar, Angola, Zambia and Malawi. I have used this book in three countries now and have found the maps, instructions and tips on how to find the target species invaluable.
There are several bird guides for Southern Africa, all of a very high standard – these 3 are all very good:
Sasol Birds of Southern Africa by Sinclair, Hockey and Tarboton
Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa by K Newman. Roberts Bird Guide by H Chittenden
For mammals this is still the best African mammals book by a considerable distance: Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by J. Kingdon
There is a pocket (and cheaper version available now too): Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals
Southern African Birding website, providing information on birding sites - http://wiki.sabirding.co.za/Namibia.ashx
The following two trip reports are very informative and also provide details on some less well-known sites.
Ruancana for Cinderella Waxbill and Rufous-tailed Palm-thrush
Coastal and central Namibian sites:
How to find the Namibian endemics by C Wagner and C Moning. Details of sites and how to see the endemics.
We hired a car and camping equipment from Asco Car Hire (http://www.ascocarhire.com/homepage_E.htm). The car that we hired was a few years old so was cheaper than their newer cars – the car was very good, giving us only one minor problem (the wheel alignment needed correcting). They provide a shuttle service to and from the airport. Petrol was much cheaper than in the UK (50p per litre).
We flew direct from Gatwick to Windhoek with Air Namibia although they only have two flights a week on this route. The other option is to fly to Johannesburg and then on to Windhoek.
DOING IT DIFFERENTLY
There are always elements to a holiday that in retrospect you think could have been planned differently. As always, there were not enough days to fit everything in so some element of compromise had to be made.
An extra day in Walvis Bay would have allowed a visit to Sandwich Bay or extra time sea-watching.
An extra day at Okaukuejo as the waterhole here was the best by some way.
A trip up to Ruacana – due to the distance would be best done by staying here for 2 nights.
One night at Popa Falls could have been traded for an extra night at Shamvura, allowing for more time in woodlands / on the river, although this would have upped the cost a bit.