the species lists of birds
and mammals seen on tour, please click
This was a relaxed 15-day tour, from 15 to 29 November 2009
Areas visited: Sossusvlei, Walvis Bay, the Erongo Mountains, Brandberg,
Hobatere, Etosha and the Waterberg
Number of bird species: 254 species seen, 3 heard, 4 seen
by the participants only, 1 seen by the leader only.
Top ten birds: Burchell’s Courser, Rockrunner, Dune
Lark, Herero Chat, African Quail-Finch, Violet-eared Waxbill,
Rueppell’s Parrot, Damara Tern, Bare-cheeked Babbler,
Bradfield’s Hornbill, Double-banded Courser, Rosy-faced
Lovebird, African Hawk-Eagle, Orange River Francolin,
Blue Crane, Double-banded Sandgrouse,
Violet Woodhoopoe, Chestnut-banded Plover,
Black-faced Babbler, Great Sparrow and
Number of mammal species seen: 42 species, including Striped Polecat!
Top mammals: South African Porcupine, Dassie Rat,
Bat-eared Fox, Cape Fox, Black Mongoose, distant views of Meerkat,
Spotted Hyaena, a pride of Lion with very young cubs, two tiny Black-backed
Jackal cubs at play, Caracal, African Wild Cat, Black Rhinoceros,
Damara Dikdik and the rarely seen Striped Polecat.
also saw 15 reptile species, the Marbled Rubber Frog and the Namib
Scroll down for the trip summary and detailed report.
Peringuey’s or Side-winding Adder, Namaqua Chameleon,
Palmato Gecko and Shovel-snouted Lizard © Michael
Mills on this Birding Africa
Namibia tour during the Living Deserts Optional Excursion.
Trevor & Jenni Franks and Gillian & David Jackson ©
Trevor and Jenni Franks on this Birding
Africa Namibia tour.
This relaxed Namibian tour took
in the essential birds of the country, allowing enough time to thoroughly
enjoy prolonged views of the specials, and savour the varied scenery,
abundant mammal and reptile life, and superb lodges and sunsets.
And there was even a little time for shopping! Our circular route
took in Sossusvlei, Walvis Bay, the Erongo Mountains, Brandberg,
Hobatere, Etosha and the Waterberg, over a 15-day period.
Burchell's Courser and Double-banded Sandgrouse © Trevor and
Voted Top Ten birds of the trip were: (1) the stubborn Burchell’s
Courser, which only relented on day 12, but gave superb
views when it finally did, (2) confiding Rockrunner seen
on several occasions, on both the first and last full days of birding,
(3) a fearless Dune Lark that foraged within 5
m of us, (4) prolonged views of Herero Chat on
the very first day of birding, a flock of 30 African Quail-Finch
that foraged in the road for at least 15 minutes, allowing us to
approach within 10 m, and Violet-eared Waxbill,
for sheer gaudiness (all in tied fourth), (7) Rueppell’s
Parrot for dazzling with its orange socks, (8) Damara
Tern for perfection in a tiny package, (9) Bare-cheeked
Babbler for pure entertainment and (10) Bradfield’s
Hornbill for being unexpected. Other noteworthy highlights
included Double-banded Courser, Rosy-faced
Lovebird, African Hawk-Eagle hunting Orange
River Francolin, Blue Crane, thousands
of Double-banded Sandgrouse drinking after dark,
Violet Woodhoopoe, Chestnut-banded Plover,
Black-faced Babbler, Great Sparrow and
Mammals of note included South African Porcupine,
Dassie Rat, Bat-eared Fox, Cape Fox, Black Mongoose, distant views
of Meerkat, Spotted Hyaena, a pride of Lion with very young cubs,
two tiny Black-backed Jackal cubs at play, Caracal, African Wild
Cat, Black Rhinoceros, Damara Dikdik and the rarely seen Striped
Reptile highlights included the Peringuey’s or Side-winding
Adder, Shovel-snouted Lizard, Palmato Gecko, Namaqua Chameleon,
and several species of Agama.
This is a more detailed account
of our travels…
Detailed trip report
Avis Dam near Windhoek provides a superb introduction to central
Namibian birding, and shortly after arriving in the country we found
ourselves surrounded by thornveld full of birds. While most species
seen here would be seen again, our first White-backed Mousebird,
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Barred Wren Warbler, Burnt-necked Eremomela,
Mountain Wheatear, Dusky Sunbird, Black-faced Waxbill, Pririt Batis,
Ashy Tit and Cape Bunting were very welcome.
More noteworthy were Cape Penduline Tit, Grey-backed Cisticola,
Bradfield’s Swift and Icterine Warbler.
However, the undoubted highlights were a displaying male Monteiro’s
Hornbill and very confiding pair of snappy Rockrunner,
in full, melodious song. We also heard distant calls of Orange
River Francolin, but that was all they remained by the
time it was to move south to Sossusvlei.
We took the scenic route via a breathtaking mountain pass, where
we were thrilled to find a confiding pair of Herero Chat,
probably Namibia’s trickiest special. En route we also notched
up Karoo Long-billed Lark and Spike-heeled
Lark, before arriving on the flat desert plains near Sossusvlei.
Along the entrance road to our accommodation we notched up the first
of many Rueppell’s Korhaan and Stark’s
Lark, a watched a pair of striking Ludwig’s
Bustard feeding in the afternoon light. While Sossusvlei
is not an essential birding destination, it did give us the chance
to look for the localised Dune Lark whilst enjoying the world-renowned
scenery. At first several birds were heard in the distance, and
after trudging up a tall, orange dune we were rewarded with perhaps
the most memorable bird sighting of the trip, a Dune Lark
scurrying between wiry grass tufts not more than 5 metres from us,
focussed on finding breakfast and not in the least perturbed by
our presence. Other highlights during our visit included Double-banded
Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Desert Cisticola
and Tractrac Chat.The best mammal was Bat-eared
Fox, with its radar ears.
From Sossusvlei we headed for
Walvis Bay, making numerous stops en route to watch Black-chested
Snake Eagle, a striking Bokmakierie, impressive numbers
of Gray’s Lark, a very responsive Rufous-eared
Warbler and our first Karoo Chat. And
we were on the continual lookout for Burchell’s Courser,
of course, but to no avail. At Walvis Bay the hordes of waterbirds
were as impressive as ever, and included vast numbers of Great
White Pelican, Cape Cormorant, Greater
Flamingo and waders. Some careful sifting through the thousands
of birds turned up Common Redshank, Terek Sandpiper
and Red-necked Phalarope. Also spotted were Cape
Teal, Crowned Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher, Cape Gannet,
the ever-popular Chestnut-banded Plover and Orange
River White-eye. However, the star of the show was the
near-perfect Damara Tern, watched fishing for extended
periods less than 10 m away. We also made a return visit to the
desert to log some more hours unsuccessfully looking for Burchell’s
Courser, and took an exciting dune tour on which we saw
some fantastic reptiles, including Sidewinder Adder and Palmato
Rosy-faced Lovebird and White-faced Scops-Owl © Trevor and
Our next destination was the Erongo
mountains, specifically in the surrounds of our superb accommodation.
Here we were treated to prolonged views of two coveys of Hartlaub’s
Spurfowl, our first Red-billed Spurfowl,
flocks of Rosy-faced Lovebird near our breakfast
tables, Carp’s Tit, Short-toed Rock
Thrush, numerous Great Sparrow and gaudy
Violet-eared Waxbill. Nearby excursions to some
river beds turned up Verreaux’s Eagle Owl,
our first of many Rueppell’s Parrot, excellent
views of Bradfield’s Swift, Damara
Red-billed Hornbill, a band of Southern Pied Babbler
and Burchell’s Starling. To our
frustration all woodhoopoes we laid eyes on turned out to be Green
Woodhoopoe, and not the expected Violet Woodhoopoe!
At night we watched Caracal and
South African Porcupine drinking at the waterhole, and by day we
were accompanied by Damara Dik-dik, Dassie Rat and Rock Hyrax.
From the Erongo mountains, we
continued north towards Etosha, pausing en route at the Brandberg
to visit the famous White Lady rock art and to find Benguela
Long-billed Lark. And we continued logging many more miles
in Burchell’s Courser country, still without
reward. A roadside dam turned up South African Shelduck
and Southern Pochard, and a lunch stop en route
turned up the first flock of Chestnut Weaver (all
in non-breeding plumage).
Our first stop in the Etosha
area was at our fantastic lodge, where Bare-cheeked Babbler
was studied in detail, a snappy Rueppell’s Parrot
impressed with its orange socks, Olive Bee-eater
was breeding, Meves’s Starling walked on
the lawns and Red-headed Finch, Augur Buzzard,
Double-banded Sandgrouse and Pearl-breasted
Swallow visited the nearby waterholes. Our first Kalahari
Scrub Robin was seen further afield and a night drive turned
up Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, with three individuals
captured and ringed by Steve.
The nocturnal mammals were even
more impressive and we saw, in short succession, Bat-eared Fox,
Cape Fox and Striped Polecat. Other mammals seen were a pride of
Lion, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra and the scarce Black Mongoose.
Perhaps the most memorable birding
experience of the trip, however, was provided by two species…
distant calls of Orange River Francolin lead us
up a rocky hillside were we, after much persistence, managed to
track down our quarry and watch a group of eight birds stalking
through the rocky grassland. Suddenly all havoc broke loose a pair
of African Hawk Eagle swooped in, sending birds
running for cover and shrieking off in all directions. The francolins
were lucky this time, and all appeared to escape unharmed…
before we made our way to Etosha National Park.
At Etosha National Park, we worked our way from west to east. The
plains north of Okaukuejo were fertile hunting grounds for bustards
and larks, with Kori Bustard, Northern
Black Korhaan, Eastern Clapper Lark, Pink-billed
Lark and Red-capped Lark all seen well.
In camp, Shaft-tailed Whydah was in breeding plumage.
Towards Halali David spotted his much-desired and much-deserved
Burchell’s Courser, and we enjoyed prolonged
views of six birds, followed shortly by another two. Another highlight
of the trip was finding a flock of African Quail-Finch,
which fed in the road and allowed us to approach within
10 metres! Further east still the rains had come and the bush was
greening up quite nicely. Rufous-naped Lark sang
from the bushtops, we spotted a perched pair of very smart Red-necked
Falcon and a trio of Blue Crane fed near
the roadside. Raptors and vultures were numerous, and we found both
Lapped-faced Vulture and White-headed Vulture. In the dense Commiphora
bush near Namutoni we were treated to good views of Black-faced
Babbler and Crested Francolin crossing
the road. Before heading for the Waterberg we searched for Burchell’s
Sandgrouse and waited at a waterhole for them to come and
drink, but without luck.
Mammal highlights in Etosha included
a pride of Lion, Spotted Hyaena, Black Rhinoceros, Banded Mongoose
and Black-faced Impala.
Banded Mongoose, Lion, African Elephant, Black-backed Jackal, Greater
Kudu, Gemsbok © Trevor and Jenni Franks
we returned southwards back towards Windhoek, pausing for a night
at the Waterberg Plateau National Park en route where we immediately
found a smart Bradfield’s Hornbill, even before we could unload
our bags from the vehicle. Bearded Woodpecker and Golden-tailed
Woodpecker were also seen well and, after dark, Freckled Nightjar,
which landed nearby and called in the torch beam. At the last minute
we snatched Violet Woodhoopoe from the jaws of defeat, with a group
of six birds first rallying noisily above our heads and then watched
at eye level, feeding in the bright sunlight! What a fitting birding
end to our Namibia tour!
Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Michael
Many of the birding sites on this trip are described in detail in
the Southern African
Birdfinder which is widely available in South African bookshops
and on the internet. (e.g., www.netbooks.co.za
or www.wildsounds.co.uk). However
you're always welcome to contact
us if you're interested in a guided trip in this area.