Part 4. Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and the Welwitschia.
The next step of our journey led us to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. We drove along the gravel road from Uis to Henties Bay – 100 kms. of gravel and desert – virtually treeless and bleak.
We based ourselves at Alte Bruke in Swakopmund camping for 4 days. Cloudy and misty for the first 3 days. Cold of course. The nice thing about camping here is that you get your own smart ablutions right next to your camp.
We made contact with Mark Boorman on arrival and the next day he kindly collected us in search of the Gray’s Lark. We headed north out of Swakopmund to the plains around Mile 4 Salt Works. It did not take us too long to find the Gray’s Larks. Once happy with our sightings we headed for the Salt Works and helped Mark atlassing. Since Mark rings in the area we were able to drive around where most people are not welcome. Thanks Mark – the numerous Black-necked Grebes were great to see.
The following day we met up with Mark again and took our vehicle to Walvis Bay to find the Dune Lark. Off into the desert we headed to the Nursery. A chilly morning. Once in the area we fanned out looking for the Lark. After some time Mark spotted one. We managed to get quite close and watched his antics for some time. We even saw him do a display flight.
Again we atlassed with Mark around the Salt Pans in Walvis Bay – getting into areas around the pans because Mark had special permission and a key for the gate. This was very special as we managed to get up close to many water birds. Probably the highlight of the day being several Red-necked Phalaropes in breeding plumage – very difficult to photograph due to the mist and poor light. Another interesting observation – pointed out by Mark – was the way the Chestnut-banded and 3-banded Plovers foraged for food. Standing on one leg they vibrate the other at speed in the mud.
Sally and I also spent time birding along the beachfront in Swakopmund as well as the local parks and the lagoon/estuary next to the campsite. We found a Crowned Cormorant posing with several Cape Cormorants.
We also searched everywhere for the Orange River White-eye – checking the parks around the lighthouse without luck. However the bird turned up in our campsite to bid us farewell. – just as we were packing up to head for the Waterberg. Here are some pictures of birds we saw in and around Swakopmund.
The last day was a sunny one so we headed inland to find the Welwitschia and bird along the way. The scenery was spectacular.
Sally had been to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay several times without going to see this fascinating plant – I knew nothing about it. It is amazing to think that it only has 2 leaves. Yet when you see it, it looks as though someone got this wrong – see pictures.
While there we saw a few birds – a friendly Tractrac Chat came to investigate and the odd raptor was seen along the way. However in one of the few trees around we saw several Yellow-bellied Eremomelas – they seemed quite out of place!
On the way back we had a fascinating experience with another Tractrac Chat. We came over a rise and I noticed a Tractrac quite close to the road. I stopped alongside to get a few pictures. The Tractrac was calling so I whistled tunelessly doing my best to imitate him- as one does. In response the Tractrac came closer until he was standing in the middle of the road beside me. I opened my door so Sally could see him and he did not fly. We kept up our conversation for a while until we realised that we were in a slightly dangerous position if someone came flying over the rise. The Tractrac seemed reluctant for us to go as he hung in there until we were out of sight.
Sadly the time came to say Good-bye to Swakopmund. And then we were back-tracking to the Waterberg and heading for the Caprivi. Part 5 to follow.