Larking About in Namibia. UI Birds.

Birds and Beasts for you to ID.

We failed to identify the following on our return from Namibia. Do you want to have a go? Add your comments at the end of this post. In some instances I have one or two more photos. Do ask if you think they will help.

Enjoy the challenge.

Paul Bartho

Larking About in Namibia. Part 5.

Part 5. The Waterberg, Roy’s Camp and Shamvura.

Leaving Swakopmund it was off and on to the Waterberg for 3 nights. Sally had booked us in to the Waterberg Plateau Campsite 8 kms from the Waterberg National Park. Along the way we by-passed Spitzkoppe as you can see in the photos.

The campsite was well managed and we even had hot water early in the mornings – despite the donkey. The sites are set reasonably far apart – are level and not rocky. We even had our own ablutions.

At a number of places it was a real effort to try and get the pegs in, the ground was so hard and stony. Anyone got any secrets on how to get your pegs into very hard ground?

There were 2 lodges on the property – the old and the new. The new was situated on the top of a hill with a wide view of the area below – chalets nestled in the rocky cliff. The old lodge was approached through well wooded established grounds. And it was from here that we started our early morning walks – along the side of a cliff and up to the head of the valley where there was a spring or fountain. Water flowed/seeped down the valley all the way back to the lodge. Certainly the purest and best tasting water we had.

The birding was excellent. We heard the Harlaub’s Spurfowl calling at the old Lodge but never bumped into it.  Some of the other specials we saw there included the Damara Hornbill, Rosy-faced Lovebirds,  Ruppel’s Parrot, Rockrunner, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Carp’s & Ashy Tits and Violet Wood-Hoopoe.

We did see an unusual mongoose – very black with red eyes – see pictures and please id it for us.

From here it was on to the Caprivi.  Shamvura with Mark and Charlie Paxton to begin with. We decided to break the journey with one night at Roy’s camp. We were hoping that we might have a chance to see the Black-faced Babblers which we had dipped on in Namutomi, Etosha.

We took the direct route – 100 kms of gravel to Grootfontein – rather than go all the way back and round which would have added at least 100 kms to the journey – albeit on tar.

And it is on this journey that my bad luck with tyres continued. We were cruising along quite nicely enjoying the scenery. Stopped for a break and I noticed we had a flat tyre. It took us an hour to change it – mainly because the wheel had stuck to the hub and I tried everything to loosen it. In frustration I gave it a kick and to my surprise it broke loose. During that hour not another car passed us. It was as we were about to get into the car to continue that a car raced past covering us in dust – talk about adding salt to the wound.

We stopped in Grootfontein to get the tyre fixed. On arrival at the new Kwik Fit centre, we checked the other tyres to discover that the other back tyre also had a puncture! The sidewall of the first had buckled and the other had a sidewall puncture!  Two new tyres later and R7600 poorer we set off for Roy’s camp 50 kms further along. So instead of arriving there at 10:30 we got there after 1 pm.

Nevertheless we set up our 3 Second tent in a flash, got organised and relaxed going for a walk later on to see if we could find the Babblers. Not to be.

We planned to leave the next day after a leisurely early morning walk and breakfast. So up with the sparrows dressed for the cold we wandered around the camp birding. We had hardly started than we heard them – rather Sally heard them. About 7 Black-faced Babblers appeared heading for the restaurant.  They stayed and wandered around each campsite and were still there 2 hours later when we left.

On to Shamvura, stopping in Rundu to do some shopping for Mark and Charlie’s latest addition to their family.

On arrival we set up our camp in the Ushivi campsite – slightly more expensive but level sandy ground with your own ablution and kitchen.

We met the baby – so cute, soft and furry. Their latest Cape Clawless Otter.

At Shamvura we went for a walk with Mark to look for the Rufous-bellied Tit, Tinkling Cisticola and Sharp-tailed Starlings. We dipped on all three, however in passing we saw several Souza’s Shrikes, Green-capped Eremomelas, Dark-Chanting Goshawk and Arnot’s Chat amongst others.

The birding was excellent in the area and was enhanced by a boat trip (a must do) down the river where we saw Little Bittern, Skimmers, Rufous-bellied Heron, Long-toed Lapwing, African Rail, Slaty Egret and Luapula Cisticola amongst many others.

During the time there we came across a flowering (pale yellow) Albizia full of many different Sunbirds. Amongst the White-bellied, Marico and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds we spotted one which stood out and was being chased away especially by an out-of-plumage Marico Sunbird. It was a Copper Sunbird.

We spent time driving about the area and went down to the wetland area near the river’s edge close to the camp. Coppery-tailed Coucal, African Marsh Harrier and Lizard Buzzard were present amongst the variety you would normally expect.

Around the camp, some of the specials we saw included Bradfield’s Hornbill, Meyer’s Parrots, Swamp Boubou, Mosque and Grey-rumped Swallows. However there were 2 birds that stood out  for us. Both seen around our tent and in the gardens – Red-faced Crombec and Shelley’s Sunbird. The Shelleys’ Sunbird was singing its heart out all round the camp.

Too soon it was time to leave Shamvura. In 2 days we had seen 117 species – the most we had seen anywhere.

Good-bye Shamvura
Good-bye Shamvura

Larking About in Namibia. Part 2.

Larking About in Namibia. Part 2. 

After five days camping at Kunene River Lodge we headed for Etosha.  We left on Saturday 22nd June. Our plan for Etosha was 2 nights at Namutomi followed by 3 nights at Halali.

Etosha as expected was very expensive. Not just the campsites but also the daily charge for 2 people and the car. Namutomi was R440 and Halali R290 per night plus the  daily charge of R130!! Our mistake, we should have camped just outside the Park.

Namutomi  was run down. The only saving grace was the flat grassy campsite.

The Park was exceptionally dry and very dusty. The man-made waterholes were the main source of interesting birding. And of course this is where the animals congregated.  The natural springs and fountains near the Pan’s edge were all dry.

We circled the Dikdik Drive 3 times looking for the Black-faced Babblers without success – we did see lots of Dikdik though.

The highlights were the waterbirds and the raptors.

Halali campsite is flat and reasonably shady – not that the shade was so important in winter time. It has a very good waterhole and viewing platform. In the evenings after a day out in the Park, it was rewarding sitting there and watching the interaction of the various animals which came – many Elephant and surprisingly at the same time, Black Rhinos (see photos). While we were there one Elephant cheekily intentionally sprayed water over a Black Rhino.

We spent one day in the area around Halali – mainly going from one waterhole to another. At the Goas Waterhole we had an interesting time watching the elephants and many different birds coming in to drink. It was here that we fleetingly saw an interesting bird which we could not identify at the time – see if you can – check the few photos I did manage to get.

More Photos taken around Halali:

The second full day that we had at Halali was spent Larking About just north of Okaukuejo. This was our challenge in Etosha – to test our skills at identifying as many Larks as we could and this was the best area to find them.

To make life simpler, we listed all the possible Larks we could find in the area (excluding summer visitors) and wrote down the key features for identifying each one. There were 9 possibles in all and only one of these with a long decurved bill. This certainly helped and we were reasonably confident with our ID in most instances.

It was on this road out to Okondeka that we saw a number of other interesting birds – Double-banded Courser, Northern Black and Red-crested Korhaans and Ludwig’s Bustards.

Another highlight towards the end of this road near Okondeka was a pride of about 20 lionesses all lying down tightly together. They were being followed by a film crew who were waiting patiently for them to do something! They were set in for a long wait.

A mound of Lionesses - about 20 all cuddled together
A mound of Lionesses – about 20 all cuddled together

Five dusty days in the cold of Etosha were enough. We set off for Erongo and Brandberg on the way down to Swakopmund.

Part 3 to follow. Erongo Mountains and Brandberg.

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