Namibia Birding-Part 3 —— Etosha National Park and Waterberg Plateau ——- November 9-13

From Toko Lodge we drove to the western gate (the Galton Gate) into Etosha National Park, which, along with the Namib Dunes, is the leading tourist attraction in Namibia.  Most of the western part of the Park is Mopane woodland, interspersed with granite hills and outcrops.  The drought has resulted in severely dry conditions throughout the Park.  Etosha is the largest and most important of Namibia’s conservation areas.  Large game animals and birds are present in good numbers.

There are 3 lodges within the Park, all government run.  The lodges and, in particular the food served at the lodges, were outstanding.  Because of the many wild animals, we were not allowed to get out of our vehicle at any time, unless within the fence at one of the lodge areas.  Moreover, the lodges close their gates at 7:00 p.m. (sundown) and they remain closed until 6:00 a.m, or so (sunrise).  We had to be inside the fence within those hours.  At each of the lodge areas, however, is a lighted water hole which attracts animals that can be viewed at all hours of the day and night.

From Galton Gate, we drove toward Okaukuejo Lodge where we would spend the night.  Among the first animals seen as we moved away from the Gate were Black-faced Impala, a subspecies of Impala found only in Namibia.

black-faced-impala

The Black-faced Impala were just one of the 8 species of African Antelope we saw at Etosha.  The others were Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Kirk’s Dik-Dik, Oryx, (also known as Gemsbok), Steenbok, Greater Kudu, and Blue Wildebeest.

At the waterholes, we saw Lions, Black-backed Jackals, Elephants, Blue Wildebeests, Springbok, Oryx, and much more.

watering-hole-1 watering-hole-2 watering-hole-springbok

In the category of “life is tough out there”, the Ostrich action shown below involves a female ostrich killing the chicks of a male/female pair in order to get the male to mate with her.

ostriches

Although the main attraction in the park is the abundant wild game, some new birds were found there as well, including

White-headed Vultures

white-headed-vulture

Tawny Eagle

tawny-eagle

Double-banded Courser

double-banded-courser  

Temminck’s Courser

temmincks-courser

Burchell’s Sandgrouse 

burchells-sandgrouse

Namaqua Doves

namaqua-doves_0

After dinner at the Okaukuejo Lodge, we saw our first and only Black Rhinos at the Lodge water hole.  The arrival of the Rhino eased the fears of the 11 giraffes that had appeared, very tentatively, on the horizon and advanced ever so slowly in ghostly formation toward the lighted waterhole until they determined the source of the noise they were picking up was the Rhino and her baby, and not lions.

black-rhino

Giraffe and Kudu

giraffe-kudu

On November 10th (day 8 or our trip) we travelled further east through the park to Halili Camp.  Not much new showed, but toward the end of the day we came upon a small herd of elephants, including a couple of young.

elephants

New birds for the day were:

Secretarybird 

secretarybird

Cinnamon-breasted Buntings

cinnamon-breasted-bunting

Golden-breasted Buntings

golden-breasted-bunting

On November 11 (day 9 of the trip) we left Halili Camp to drive toward our evening lodging, Namutoni, the eastern-most camp within the Park.

Today we saw a lot of plains game and several Spotted Hyenas.

hyena

The highlight of the day came late in the afternoon when we drove the famous Dik-Dik Drive, where we had great views of cute little Kirk’s Dik-Diks, which weigh around 10 pounds, compared to their largest antelope cousin, the Eland, which weighs nearly 2,000 pounds.

dik-dik

We also saw:

Swainson’s Francolins

swainsons-francolins  

Southern Red-billed Hornbills

southern-red-billed-hornbill

Grey Go-away Birds

grey-go-away-bird

We stopped for a look at the animals at the Klein Namutoni waterhole, where we saw several Spotted Hyena, Black-faced Impala and Elephants.  Steve had to put the pedal to metal to get us back to camp before the gate closed, and we barely made it as the sun set and the gate was coming down.

On the 12th we saw Red-billed Buffalo Weavers, Jacobin Cuckoos and White-bellied Sunbirds before leaving the Lodge ground.  We then left the Park via the east gate and visited the private Mokuti Lodge.  There we saw:

Yellow-breasted Apalis 

yellow-breasted-apalis

Crimson-breasted Shrike

crimson-breasted-shrike

Along the road to Waterberg Plateau we saw many pipits and larks. We were fortunate to find one of my target birds, a Wahlberg’s Eagle, standing guard in a tree near its nest as we approached the Waterberg Plateau.

Klipspringers were common and relatively tame at the Waterberg Plateau Lodge grounds.

We watched the super moon just before sunset from the patio.

super-moon

As we were finishing dinner one of the staff came to our table excitedly announcing that there was a Cape Porcupine just outside the kitchen window. We quickly left our table to go look, and indeed, there was a very large Porcupine, apparently accustomed to dining on the kitchen waste.  The angle and the lighting were not good enough for a picture.

The next day we took the long drive back to Windhoek Airport with many warthogs nibbling the newly green grass along the highway.

Steve and Louise Braine are good partners in the Batis Birding Safari operation.  I cannot imagine a better qualified guide for anyone seeking to see the birds of Namibia.  Louise manages the arrangements, communicates with clients, and goes above and beyond the call of duty to make clients feel welcome and at home.   We enjoyed our Namibia birding safari, and it was much more than a birding safari.  We enjoyed the variety and closeness of the animals, particularly the 10 Antelope species seen in Namibia, adding to the Eland, Bontebok, Grey Rhebok and Cape Grysbok seen the previous week in the Cape Town, South Africa area.  We also were greatly impressed with the food, accommodations and people of Namibia.  We certainly hope that the rains come soon.

I returned home with my World Bird Species List at approximately 3,060, substantially more than the 3,000 that I had planned on (very conservatively) for the combined South Africa and Namibia trip.

Namibia Birding-Part 2 Swakopmund to Damaraland November 7-8, 2016

On November 7, (day 5 of our tour) we drove from Swakopmund to the beautifully situated Hohenstein Lodge in the Erongo Mountains near Spitzkoppe.

The day yielded several excellent sightings, some along the way and and others near our lodge:

Pearl-spotted Owlet

pearl-spotted-owlet

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

so-yellow-billed-hornbill

Rosy-faced Lovebird

rosy-faced-lovebird

Hartlaub’s Spurfowl

hartlaubs-spurfowl

Ruppell’s Parrot

ruppells-parrot  

Elephant Shrew (now called Western Rock Sengi)

elephant-shrew

On the 8th  (day 6 of our tour) we drove from Hohenstein Lodge via the mighty Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, to the Rustig Lodge, located on private farmland in Damaraland.

Along the way we found, after much effort, a Herero Chat which is near endemic.  We also saw

Violet Woodhoopoe

violet-wood-hoopoo

Bearded Woodpecker 

bearded-woodpecker

Lesser Masked Weavers

lesser-masked-weaver

Northen Black Korhaan

no-black-korhan

Red-crested Korhaans

red-crested-korhaan

Nomoqua Sandgrouse

nomoqua-sandgrouse

Along the way we witnessed a case of animal abuse of a team of skinny donkeys being lashed at top speed along the road in the noon-heat.  Also, to our surprise, several women along the way in colorful traditional garb, excluding tops.

One of the most enjoyable episodes of the trip was a night-drive through the farmland around the Lodge.  This night drive yielded good views of a few night birds and several animals that I had hoped, but not expected, to see in Africa:

Aardvarks (2 of them)

aardvark-2 aarkwark-1

Aardwolf

aardwolf

 

The next morning, November 9th, (day 7 of our tour) we headed for our major destination in Namibia, the huge and game-rich Etosha National Park, where we would spend the next 3 nights.

 

 

 

 

 

Namibia Birding (plus mammals) —– November 3-13, 2016 ——— Part 1-November 3, 4, 5 and 6

On November 2 Barbara and I flew from Cape Town to Windhoek, Namibia.  We had arranged a 10-day private tour with Batis Birding Safaris.  Batis is a family operation based in Swakopmund, operated by Steve and Louise Braine and their sons, Dayne and Sean.  Steve was our driver/guide for our entire stay.

We arrived a day early and stayed at River Crossing Lodge between the airport and Windhoek.  From our lodging we saw our first of the 9 antelope species that we saw in Namibia, a Common Duiker, which munched its way slowly past our back deck.  Steve met us at the Lodge for dinner and the next morning we started the tour. We tried to locate the Orange River Francolins that inhabit the hillsides around the lodge, but with no success.  While trying to locate the Francolins, however, we were treated to good looks at a Montiero’s Hornbill.

monterors-hornbill

We followed up with a visit to Windhoek’s Sewage Treatment facilities.  Namibia is in the midst of a 3-year long drought, and as a result many birds flock to any water they can find, even if it is a Sewage plant.  The treatment ponds and environs were loaded with Egyptian Geese, South African Shelducks, South African Shovellers, Southern Pochards, Red-knobbed Coots, Little Grebes, and several species of Cormorants, Herons, Lapwings, Plovers, and Sandpipers.   Southern Red Bishops were present in good numbers, but not yet dressed in the brilliant red plumage that was sported by their brethren that we saw in the Cape Town area.  Wattled Starlings

wattled-starlings

and White-throated Swallows were present in the hundreds.

wt-swallos

Also skulking about the ponds was this Yellow Mongoose.

yellow-mongoose

We then travelled south through the Rehoboth area, for our night’s lodging, the spectacularly sited Villas at Namib Grens.

villas

Rehoboth is the center of the Baster community in Namibia.  Many of the residents are descendants of the Dutch men and African women who settled the area 100s of years ago.

Following a nap to help us survive the afternoon heat, we explored the area and among the birds seen were a Short-toed Rock Thrush

sh-toed-rock-thrush

and a Groundscraper Thrush.

groundscraper-thrush

Day 2 of the tour found us on the Spreetshoogte Pass on our way to Hoodia Lodge where we spent the night.  Along the road we saw many Sociable Weaver colonial nests, weighing down the host trees.

soc-weaver-nest

Also along the way were:

African Hoopooes

hoopoo

Southern Chanting Goshawks

s-ch-goshawk  

Sociable Weavers

sociable-weaver

Ruppell’s Korhaans were sheltering from the blazing sun in the only shade available, a road sign.

ruppels-korhan

And our first Klipspringer

klipspringer

Day 3 was scheduled for photography of the Namib Desert dunes near Sossuvlei.  We started very early to catch the sunrise, but the weather did not cooperate.  The skies were cloudy for the first time in a long time.  Nevertheless the photographs of the dunes that Barbara managed to obtain show why these dunes are the number 1 attraction for many tourists to Namibia.  We walked in the dunes, which are of the color and consistency of ground cinnamon.

dunes

Dune Larks were the highlight of the morning.  These lovely and entertaining little birds are the only true Namibian endemic species, found only in the Namib Desert.

dune-lark

We left the dunes and travelled on toward Swakopmund.  Along the way we saw Oryx

  oryx

and, unexpectedly, a beautiful Cheetah, apparently sizing up its intended prey.

cheetah

Ludwig’s Bustards were relatively plentiful.

ludwigs-bustard

We arrived at Swakopmund and our Hotel Pension, our only Namibian double night stay.  Louise joined us for an outstanding dinner at one of the nice Swakopmund restaurants.

Day 4 took us to Walvis Bay Lagoon on the Atlantic Ocean.  Amazing numbers of Lesser and Greater Flamingos populated the waters of the Lagoon.

greater-flamingo

Many other water birds were seen, of most interest being:

Chestnut Banded Plovers

chestnut-banded-plover

and White-fronted Plovers

white-fronted-plover

Diminutive Damara Terns flitted along the banks looking for small fish.

We saw a few Gray-headed Gulls.

grey-headed-gull

We left the coast and drove inland to a drier area and there found several Gray’s Larks one of which alerted us to the presence of a Horned Adder curled up at the base of one of the scrawny desert bushes.

We closed the day with another pleasant dinner with Steve and Louise, and retired for the night at Hotel Pension, ready for an early start to Day 5 of our Namibian trip, November 7th.