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Birding Trip Report: Namibia & Botswana
Namib Desert, Spitzkoppe, Etosha, Okavango Panhandle & Waterberg Plateau
24 March - 6 April 2009


For the species lists of birds, mammals and reptiles seen on tour, please click here.

Overview:

This was a 14-day tour in March 2009, with focus on birds.
Areas visited: Namib Desert, Spitzkoppe, Etosha, Okavango Panhandle, Mahango Game Reserve and Waterberg Plateau
Timing: this tour was held during one of the wetter summers in northern Namibia. The Kavango River was at its highest level in 40 years and many areas were flooded.
Number of bird species seen: 370 species (356 species on average among the participants)
Number of mammal species seen: 42 species
Number of reptile species seen: 14 species


Detailed report:

24 March 2009 - Windhoek and Daan Viljoen Game Reserve

On arrival at Windhoek Airport, the tour participants were met by Birding Africa guide Joe Grosel and proceeded to our accommodation. After lunch we drove to Daan Viljoen Game Reserve for an afternoon of birding.

Highlights of the day: Monteiro's Hornbill, Bradfield's Swift, Red-footed Falcon, Pale-winged Starling, Ashy Tit, Great Reed Warbler, Rockrunner, Sabota Lark (herero sub-species), Mountain Wheatear, Bearded Woodpecker, Violet-eared & Black-faced Waxbill

Mammals: Hartmann's Mountain Zebra.

Reptiles: Namibian Rock Agama

25 March ­ Windhoek to Walvis Bay

After an early breakfast in Windhoek we drove to Walvis Bay with a few birding stops along the way. After lunch, we birded the estuary and salt works. We concluded the evening with a splendid barbeque.

Highlights of the day: Carp's Tit, Icterine Warbler, Yellow-bellied & Burnt-necked Eremomela, Chestnut Weaver, Damara Tern (plus seven other tern species), Chestnut-banded Plover, Great White Pelican, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Sanderling, Common Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover and Peregrine Falcon.

26 March ­ Walvis Bay & Swakopmund

We started the day with a trip to Rooibank for Dune Lark. Thereafter did a trip further into the desert to view Welwitchia's. After a picnic lunch on the beach at Swakopmund, we visited the local saltworks. Back in Walvis Bay we did some birding along the promenade and ended the day with dune climbing and photography at Dune 7.  Dinnl?er was taken overlooking the Atlantic ocean.

Highlights of the day: Dusky Sunbird, Black-necked Grebe, Orange River White-eye, Dune Lark, Gray's Lark, Tractrac Chat, Cape Gannet, White-backed Mousebird and Chat Flycatcher.

Mammals:  Cape Fur Seal.

Reptiles: Shovel-snouted Lizard.

27 March ­ Walvisbay to Omaruru via Spitzkoppe

Early departure for Spitzkoppe with several good birding stops along the way. Unfortunately very hot conditions cut short our aspirations of finding Herero Chat, although many other good birds were seen. After Spitzkoppe we headed for Omaruru via Karibib. After arriving at the our accommodation in Uis, we went for a birding walk in the sandy Omaruru riverbed.

Highlights of the day: Augur Buzzard, Ludwig's Bustard, Ruppell's Korhaan, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Rosy-faced Lovebird, White-tailed Shrike, Bokmakierie, Rufous-eared Warbler, Karoo Chat, Layard's Tit-babbler, Pririt Batis, Sociable Weaver, Little Sparrowhawk, Karoo Long-billed, Monotonous and Stark's Lark, White-throated Canary and Damara Hornbill.

Mammals: Klipspringer and Dassie Rat.

Reptiles: Giant Plated Lizard.

28 March ­ Omaruru to Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo)

We started with an early morning bird outing to the nearby Erongo Mountains before a wonderful breakfast. We traveled on to Etosha where we had lunch and settled into our accommodation. The afternoon we birded along the western edge of the pan.

Highlights of the day: Rockrunner, Hartlaub's Francolin (brief views), Damara Hornbill, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Pygmy Falcl?on (in the camp), Ruppell's Parrot, Kori Bustard, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Barred Wren-warbler, Brubru, African Paradise Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed and Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Green-winged Pytilia, and Crimson-breasted Shrike.  Mammals: Yellow Mongoose, Ground Squirrel, Black-faced Impala and Gemsbok.

Reptiles: Flap-necked Chameleon.

29 March - Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo to Halali)

We started with an early morning game drive, then returned to camp for breakfast. We then drove on to Halali Camp, birding along the way. Our late afternoon drive produced Black Rhino. After dinner, we enjoyed a few hours at the floodlit waterhole observing several large mammals..

Highlights of the day: Northern Black Korhaan, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Bateleur, Greater Kestrel, Ant-eating Chat, Great-spotted Cuckoo, Double-banded Courser, Violet Woodhoopoe, African & Southern White-faced Scops Owl, Spike-heeled, Pink-billed and Red-capped Lark.

Mammals: Black Rhinoceros seen on the afternoon drive and at the camp waterhole, as well as Spotted Hyaena.

30 March ­ Etosha National Park (Halali Camp to Namutoni)

Pre-breakfast walk around the camp. Drove on to Namutoni via several waterholes and the southern edge of the pan. Afternoon drive along the northern banks of Fisher's Pan (too wet to do the entire loop). Our delicious meal and comfortable accommodation was very welcome.

Highlights of the day: Secretarybird, Blue Crane, Franklin's Gull (this vagrant was seen at Okerfontein on the edge of the pan), Lesser Moorhen, Double-banded Sandgrouse, South African Shelduck, Comb Duck and Sabota Lark (Weibeli).

Mammals ­ Damara Dikdik, Lion (two sightings) & African Elephant

31 March - Etosha National Park to Rundu at the Kavango River

Early morning walk to look for Black-faced Babbler. After breakfast, we departed for Rundu. Lunch was taken at a clean roadside picnic site in good palm savanna habitat. We arrived at our riverside lodge in Rundu and enjoyed a short walk along the flooded Kavango River before nightfall. The good food, the accommodation and the great views were a nice surprise.

Highlights of the day: Black-faced Babbler, Thick-billed Weaver, White-backed Vulture, Martial Eagle, Striped & Grey-headed Kingfisher, Grey-rumped Swallow, Marabou Stork and Black Cuckooshrike.

Mammals: Straw-coloured Fruit Bat.

Reptiles: Mozambique Spitting Cobra, Eastern Tiger Snake and Marsh Terrapin.

01 April - Kavango River (Namibia) to Okavango Panhandle (Botswana)

The day started with a pre-breakfast visit to the Rundu sewage ponds and surrounding floodplain. After returning for breakfast we drove to the Botswana border. The border crossing was relatively hassle-free. Before dinner one of the guides offered to take the guests out by boat to look for Pel's Fishing Owl at a spot where he had seen it the previous night. This venture proved successful as the second boat got to within 15 meters of the bird sitting a few feet above the water.

Highlights of the day: Pel's Fishing-Owl, African Rail, Purple Swamphen, Hottentot Teal, Mosque Swallow, African Mourning Dove, Hartlaub's Babbler, Brown-throated Martin, Little Rush-Warbler, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-browed Robin-Chat, African Quailfinch, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Greater Blue-eared, Violet-backed, Burchell's and Mevesl?'s Starling and African Openbill.

Mammals: African Elephant, Hippo and Slit-faced Bat.

Reptiles: Mole Snake.

02 April - Birding the Okavango Panhandle by boat (Botswana)

After an early breakfast we boarded two boats and headed upstream on a very high Okavango River. Along some stretches one could even do some woodland birding by boat! The boat cruise proved very popular with the clients, some of whom did another two private trips while the rest were enjoying midday siestas. A long afternoon walk into the surrounding woodlands produced a good variety of birds.

Highlights of the day: Malachite and Giant Kingfisher, White-backed Night-Heron, Squacco Heron, African Golden Oriole, Swamp Boubou, White-browed and Coppery-tailed Coucal, Wire-tailed Swallow, African Marsh-Harrier, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Southern Black Tit, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Fan-tailed Widowbird and Golden Weaver.

Mammals: Sitatunga (only seen by three of the group) and Hippo.

Reptiles: Stripe-(yellow) bellied Sand Snake and Nile Crocodile.

03 April - Okavango Panhandle (Botswana)

An early morning walk into a relatively dry patch of Acacia was followed by breakfast back at camp and another walk into some good riparian terrain. With limited driving options and exhausted walking trails we decided to take an afternoon boat ride downstream to where (we were told) there would be better chances of locating flooded grassland habitats. We did eventually get to some flooded grassland É. two meters under water. After dinner the clients were taken on a search for African Wood Owl in the nearby riparian forest.

Highlights of the day: Vil?llage Indigobird (Okavangoensis), African Wood Owl, Southern Black Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Magpie Shrike, Montagu's Harrier, Allen's Gallinule, Little Bittern, Chirping Cisticola, African Green-Pigeon, Retz's Helmet-Shrike, Southern Pied Babbler, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Collared Sunbird, Ashy Flycatcher, Meyer's Parrot, Terrestrial Brownbul & Brown Firefinch.

Mammals: Spotted-necked Otter.

Reptiles: Nile Monitor.

04 April ­ Okavango Panhandle (Botswana) to Mahango Game Reserve (Namibia)

After an early breakfast we headed back to Namibia. The Mahango Game Reserve looked tempting so we explored several side roads which looked dry enough to negotiate. Although only limited access was gained, the reserve provided good mammal and bird sightings. After a picnic lunch in the park we headed for our Safari Lodge. The lodge itself was on dry land, but was surrounded by a flooded lagoon. Vehicles had to be left on a bank while guests and luggage were ferried across to the lodge by a small boat. With limited walking options around the lodge, the lodge proprietor offered to take us on a late afternoon boat cruise, which was duly accepted by all!

Highlights of the day: Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Plain-backed Pipit, Bennett's Woodpecker, Woodland Kingfisher, Eurasian Hobby, Luapula Cisticola, Pygmy Goose, Long-toed Lapwing, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Black-crowned Night-Heron and Black Heron.

Mammals: Red Lechwe, Bushbuck and Common Reedbuck.

05 April ­ to Waterberg Plateau National Park.

While we were enjoying our early breakfast, all the luggage was ferried across to the vehicles. We headed for a long journey to the Waterberg plateau and arrived in the ll?ate afternoon, allowing us time for walk among Damara Dikdik in stunning evening light.

Highlights of the day: Tawny Eagle, African Yellow White-eye, Golden-breasted Bunting, Abdim's Stork, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Amethyst Sunbird, Bradfield's and Alpine Swift.

Mammals: Lesser Bushbaby, Banded Mongoose and Damara Dikdik

06 April 2009 ­ Waterberg Plateau National Park to Windhoek.

The last day of the tour started with a walk to the base of the cliffs in an attempt to get better views of Hartlaub's Francolin. Although the francolin had the day off, many other good birds were seen. It wasn't easy to leave after a first-class breakfast. We set off for Windhoek, with a few stops for local crafts and luch near Okahandja. Windhoek was reached mid afternoon for a timely check-in for our return flight home.

Highlights of the day: Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Freckled Nightjar, Shikra, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Lesser Honeyguide, Bradfield's Hornbill and an out-of-range adult Ayre's Hawk Eagle.


For the species lists of birds, mammals and reptiles seen on tour, please click here.

Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Joe Grosel .

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.

Practical tour information:
Namibia & Okavango

Please also visit our tour calendar and other trip reports.

Please click this link for more detailed information about our upcoming tours to Botswana.
Focus For keen birders and mammal enthusiasts. The tour focuses on most of Namibia's endemic birds and wildlife, including unique desert-adapted species. The extension to the Okavango Panhandle offers specials such as Pel's Fishing Owl, Slaty Egret and White-backed Night Heron and involves an Okavango River boat trip. While the tour is designed to see as many endemic birds as possible, we are also able to spend a lot of time looking for other aspects of wildlife such as mammals, chameleons, geckos, butterflies and interesting desert-adapted plants, such as Welwitschia and Hoodia. We can also customise any guided or self-drive itinerary to suit to the keen birder, the wildlife enthusiast or both.
Photography Many participants on our trips are amateur wildlife photographers. And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter. Thus, while the photographic opportunities are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.

Have a look at Wim de Groot's pictures and Utz Klingenböck's pictures taken in 2009 on Birding Africa Namibia & Okavango trips.
Fitness No fitness is required. The few walks are generally in relatively flat areas with occasional small inclines.
Timing Good year round. At Etosha, birding is best in summer, but game viewing is easiest in winter. September to November may be best for birding in the Okavango panhandle region as Afritropical and Palaearctic migrants begin to arrive. However, late summer is equally interesting.
Climate Hot, especially in summer.
Comfort A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and rest camps.
Transport We travel by minibus or four wheel drive vehicle. The tour starts and ends in Windhoek.
Group Size This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Top birds Namibia: One endemic and almost 20 near-endemics in a spectacular setting; Herero Chat, White-tailed Shrike, Carp's Tit, Monteiro's Hornbill, Rockrunner, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Rueppell's Parrot, Hartlaub's Francolin, Dune Lark, Blue Crane, Secretarybird, Ludwig's Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Burchell's Courser, Rosy-breasted Longclaw.

Okavango Panhandle: Pel's Fishing Owl, White-backed Night Heron, African Skimmer, African Wood Owl, African Pygmy Goose, Slaty Egret, Swamp Boubou, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Luapula Cisticola and Southern Carmine Bee-eater.
Top mammals African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Springbok, Damara Dik-dik, Klipspringer, Gemsbok (Southern Oryx), Burchell's Zebra, Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, Hartebeest, Black-faced Impala, Meerkat, Dassie Rat. In the Okavango Panhandle, there is a chance of seeing Sitatunga and Hippopotamus.
Booking Please email us if you wish to book. You will receive the booking form and conditions and a tour information pack.

About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders.  We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent.  We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

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