Larking About in Namibia

Larking About in Namibia

June & July 2013

Sally and Paul Bartho

Over the next week there will be a serial report-back on our birding expedition to Namibia.

The series will include pictures of places we stayed and birds we were lucky enough to photograph in each place.

Please email me if you interested in receiving detailed reports including our route and tracks, accommodation contact details, accommodation assessment. Also available is our Bird List in Excel format. You are able to see what birds we saw or heard in each place as well as where specific birds were seen.

The journal begins:………..

At very short notice we decided to go to Namibia. Our preparation was frantic over a 2 week period. Bird Lists to prepare, accommodation and route decisions and bookings, banks and credit cards, car & health insurance, knowledge of border crossing requirements, etc.

Our main goal was to get to Kunene River Lodge to see the Angola Cave-Chat with Peter Morgan – and to be there before the start of the school holidays. Of course we also intended to find as many of the Namibian specials as possible – in particular those we had not seen before.

We departed on Tuesday 11th June spending the first night in a Hunting Lodge in Botswana, Phuduhudu south of Lobatse. We entered Botswana through the quiet border post Ramatlabama. As we were staying only one night and needed an early start the next day, we stayed in one of their fancy chalets – which at R200 per person was very reasonable. Our birding began around the camp.

The next day we were up early. It was freezing outside. From there we took the Trans Kalahari highway to the Mamuno border post into Namibia. Again a pleasant crossing. Zelda was the campsite we were headed for. Once there we put up our 3 Second tent on grass with power to run our electric blanket. The cost to camp was exceptionally reasonable considering the facilities available. To cap it all their buffet dinner was tasty & value for money. On site were a number of interesting orphaned animals to see including Leopard, Cheetah and a huge porcupine.

The following morning we spent a bit of time enjoying Zelda before our short hop to our next campsite near Windhoek airport – Odekaremba at 1800 metres.

Ondekaremba has a small campsite with 4 spots. We had a site at the top of a hill on the only bit of level ground. It was open to the biting wind and the ground so hard it was exceedingly difficult to get the pegs into. Our ablution was very rustic and hot water only available when the staff got the donkey working – tepid water at best first thing. On top of that it was very expensive. We would be loathe to stay there again – except the birding round the camp was very good.

We had booked for 3 nights to give us a break from the long journeys and to have a base to bird around Windhoek while we were in the area.

We visited both Avis Dam and Daan Viljoen. Avis Dam was the more interesting but Daan Viljoen produced the first lifer for me – Rockrunner – Sally had seen it previously.

Sunday 16th we headed north stopping over in Kamanjab Rest Camp in our 3 Second tent again. For one night it is not worth the effort after a long days driving, to put up the trailer only to take it down again early the next day.

We were the only people in the camp. The facilities were good and clean. We managed a walk round the camp grounds late afternoon. As usual most of the birds were to be seen around the camp area – including Bare-cheeked Babblers and White-tailed Shrikes – in numbers.

The next day we arrived at Kunene River Lodge – staying for 5 nights. We had been before and it remains an oasis along the stretch of the river. Birds in camp were plentiful and special.  Cinderella Waxbills, Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrush, Swamp Boubou, White-tailed Shrikes to name a few.

No sooner had we set up camp than we were on an sunset cruise heading for the rapids up river. On the way back we stopped on the banks for sundowners. A Pearl-spotted Owlet greeted us.

During our stay Peter Morgan took 4 of us to find the Angola Cave-Chat in the Zebra Mountains. We left early to get there at dawn. Not a drive for sissies – pre-dawn.

Once there we set ourselves up for a wait hoping they would appear close by. Peter had not been there for a month so he did not know what to expect. After some time once the sun had finally generated some warmth we heard one call. A lovely melodic call slightly different from its cousins in Angola apparently. Sean from Batis Birding was with us and his recordings made in Angola were decidedly different to what we heard.

Anyway, having heard the call we soon spotted the culprit for a fleeting few seconds. Then within minutes a pair were seen slowly making their way up the steep rocky slopes. The scope was soon on them so we all had very good views despite them being some way up the slope. The Cave-Chat looks kinda like a Swamp Boubou with a white eyebrow. As an after thought I managed to get a few very poor photos. The light was poor and the birds were moving.

The Grey Kestrel was our next target bird. The area around the Lodge had not had any decent rain for 2 years so there was no food for the Kestrel – and we had no expectations of seeing it. However Sean said he was heading for the power lines in Ruacana to find the Kestrel – leaving very early one morning intending to be there at the crack of dawn. Sally and I followed but could not keep up the pace. We dipped on the bird but Sean had a fly past on arrival.

On the way back we popped in to Hippo Pools and as it happened we unexpectedly bumped into Mark Boorman who was bird ringing. Before leaving home we had been in contact with Mark about birding in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, so this was a pleasant way to make his acquaintance. Mark was ringing his way down river to Kunene River Lodge where he and Peter intended to have another go at ringing an Angola Cave-Chat. We learnt later that he was successful.

Our next instalment will include our time in Etosha which followed on from Kunene. Second instalment to follow soon.

Paul Bartho

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