Zambia, Botswana and Namibia_____________________
This was the first time we have operated our three-country African tour starting in Zambia and working slowly west along the Caprivi Strip visiting Botswana and extreme Northern Namibia. The results of visiting this unique area which seasonally floods in March produced some interesting sightings including rains related species such as Lesser Jacana and Lesser Moorhen. Regional specialities observed included Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Bat Hawk, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Amur Falcon, Chestnut-banded Plover, Schalow’s Turaco, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Bradfield’s Swift, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Trumpeter Hornbill, Olive Woodpecker, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Eastern Clapper and Pink-billed Larks, Luapula and Chirping Cisticolas, Collared Palm Thrush, Black-faced Babbler, Miombo, Meves’s and Sharp-tailed Starlings, Shelley’s Sunbird and African Quailfinch. The final species total was 354.
My thanks go to Neil and Robbie from Safariwise who operated the tour and showed us some exceptional birds. The next scheduled departure is March 2013.
March 13th/14th: Heathrow, Johannesburg, Livingstone, Waterfront, Maramba.
Weather: Overcast and humid 25 C.
We all met up at Heathrow for the flight with South African Airways down to Johannesburg and onto Livingstone the second city of Zambia. The airstrip at Livingstone had Egyptian Geese and Cattle Egrets. Passport control and customs was quickly negotiated and we met up with Neil and Robbie our guides for the next two weeks. On the road towards The Waterfront one of the first birds observed was a juvenile African Cuckoo Hawk consuming prey on a telegraph wire. Also in the area were the scarce and localised Dickinson’s Kestrel, Trumpeter Hornbill and Red-winged Starling. Arrived at The Waterfront Lodge which is located by the Zambezi River. From the decking we watched a beautiful Half-collared Kingfisher a rather uncommon bird of Southern Africa. On the river and in trees a multitude of birds including; Sacred Ibis, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Openbill, Giant Kingfisher, Wire-tailed Swallow, and African Palm Swifts. A late lunch was taken and then onto Maramba River Lodge our base for the next two nights. Along the way African Golden Oriole, Long-billed Crombec, Village Indigobird, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and a Dark Chanting Goshawk crouched up on a telegraph pole. Checked in at Maramba River Lodge located in bird-filled grounds. On the water and nearby trees White-fronted Bee-eaters, Malachite and Brown-hooded Kingfishers, Holub’s Golden Weaver, African Green Pigeon, Black-collared Barbet and Striated Heron. A slow walk in the grounds was very productive as a noisy flock of Arrow-marked Babblers revealed the presence of an African Wood Owl which showed well in a thorn tree. Notable other species included several Grey-headed Bushshrikes, Red-chested Cuckoo, Southern Red-billed Hornbill and Blue-breasted Cordonbleau. Outside the lodge gates large trees attracted Pale Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Black-backed Puffback and a migrant Willow Warbler. On the track White-browed Sparrow Weaver and Jameson’s Firefinches. Returned to the decking area to watch the water again with a reward of a male African Finfoot feeding on insects. Birds going to roost included Wood Sandpiper, Pied Kingfisher and hordes of Cattle Egrets.
March 15th: Maramba, Victoria Falls, Rapid No7, Zambezi River.
Weather: Hot and sunny with rising humidity 30 C.
At 0700 the group assembled on the decking to watch birds along the riverside. The sun hit one tree in particular which attracted White-fronted Bee-eaters, Pied Cuckoos and the commoner birds found within the lodge grounds. A bare tree attracted an African Darter whilst overhead several European Bee-eaters were noted on their northward migration. Breakfast taken followed by a visit to the world famous Victoria Falls. En route we witnessed Hooded and African White-backed Vultures and Maribou Storks using the thermals to gain height. Arrived at the falls and made several short walks along the well marked trail system. The falls were extremely full this year and the millions of gallons of water pouring over this natural wonder of Africa was magnificent. Birdlife was scarce but included Long-tailed Cormorant, Pied Kingfisher, Rock Martin, Trumpeter Hornbill, Red-winged Starling and brief flight views of Schalow’s Turaco. At 1100 we visited another sector of the Zambezi River locally called Rapid No7. This was a very good area to watch and study swifts (as you look down on them). The canyon allowed us excellent views of African Black and Little Swifts, Steppe Buzzard and a soaring African Fish Eagle. Another stop was made in area of long grasses by a river which attracted Piping and Red-faced Cisticolas, White-winged Widowbird, Common Waxbill and Bronze Mannikin. Returned to Maramba for lunch followed by a sunset cruise on the Zambezi at 1630 hours. We boarded the boat and went upstream searching for birds and other wildlife. African Openbills and Sacred Ibis were particularly numerous flying from one side of the river to the other. A dead tree attracted a Bennett’s Woodpecker which was new for most of the group; this was followed by a male Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah another localised species. The few areas of bank not flooded with water attracted Water Thick-knee, White-headed Lapwing, Spur-winged Geese and family parties of Egyptian Geese and White-faced Whistling Ducks. Other species present included Great, Cattle and Black Egrets, Squacco Heron, Hamerkop and African Black Crake. Evening meal was taken on board with the adjacent waters and banks attracting African Finfoot, African Jacana and dozens of White-fronted Bee-eaters. Returned to the embarkation point with the added bonus of a hunting Bat Hawk a fitting end to the day.
March 16th: Maramba, Chundu, Zambezi River (into Botswana), Chobe Safari Lodge.
Weather: Hot and sunny 32 C.
Breakfast was taken at 0700 hours with the usual birds around the lodge grounds. At 0830 we set off towards Livingstone recording Gabar Goshawk on the way. In the centre of the city we turned down the road towards the border where four countries meet; Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. The road runs through pristine woodland habitat with common roadside birds including Lilac-breasted and European Rollers, Grey Go-away-Bird, Meyer’s Parrot, Red-backed Shrike, Scarlet-chested Sunbird and Yellow-fronted Canaries. Before turning to Chundu a migrating Yellow-billed Kite was noted flying overhead. Chundu is an interesting location with a mixed bag of habitats next to a tributary of the Zambezi River and farmland dotted with large trees and scrub. The first stop yielded Lappet-faced, White-headed and Hooded Vultures, Banded Snake Eagle and Plain Martins. Our main destination was an area of reeds with large trees and maize fields making up the habitat. In a distant tree we could study a European Honey Buzzard and circling Maribou Storks. The main interest however was in the reeds and two old trees. Mike managed to flush a Little Bittern of the form payesii which appears to be a good split from the migratory European race, Half-collared, Malachite, Pied and Giant Kingfishers, Red-faced and Luapula Cisticolas, Southern Brown-throated and Village Weavers, White-fronted and European Bee-eaters. A vine-covered tree attracted Icterine Warbler, Collared and Copper Sunbirds, Chinspot Batis, Dideric Cuckoo and the uncommon Olive Woodpecker. Near the van Neil located the beautiful and localised Collared Palm Thrush and brief views of Shelley’s Sunbird which is on the extreme edge of its range in southwest Zambia. Retraced our steps and stopped again to take a short walk through secondary bushes dotted with large trees. This produced Bearded Woodpecker and the beautiful Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike. Time was getting on as we approached the border and went through the usual formalities. Around the customs building Northern and Southern Grey-headed and House Sparrows. Near the ferry crossing the reeds held Southern Red Bishop, and overhead Bateleur, Lanner Falcon and a distant African Marsh Harrier. We had to wait to cross the river due to two of the ferries being out of action. Once in Botswana and another passport check we proceeded to Chobe Safari Lodge. Near the border several Greater Blue-eared Starlings and Green-winged Pytilias in a dead tree. Further up the road a lake with a sand surround proved to be a magnet for birds; Great and Little Egrets, Collared Pratincole, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Three-banded and Kittlitz’s Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwings and migrant Yellow Wagtails. The road to Chobe was rather potholed although the telegraph wires held many Lilac-breasted Rollers and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters. Picked up supplies before checking into the lodge for two nights. From the panoramic view point overlooking the river and marsh a pair of bat Hawks patrolled the river looking for prey.
March 17th: Chobe River.
Weather: Hot and sunny 32 C.
Before breakfast a short watch over the Chobe River where some of the group added Glossy Ibis and African Pygmy Goose to the tour list. At 0815 hours we set off by boat to watch and study the birds and mammals found in the river and adjacent national park. A stand of dead trees was attractive to Blue-cheeked and Southern Carmine Bee-eaters, Broad-billed Rollers and a flock of Violet-backed Starlings. Continuing along the river we watched over seasonally flooded grassland which had feeding Barn and a single Grey-rumped Swallow. Also present were a migrant European Honey Buzzard, African Black Crake, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Long-tailed Cormorant and African Darter. We then switched direction to watch birds and mammals along a tree-lined shore. The first section from the old wardens huts to a small bay attracted Black and Little Egrets, African Fish Eagle, Olive Woodpecker, Grey-headed, Half-collared and Pied Kingfishers, Red-billed Francolin, Wood and Common Sandpipers, Yellow Wagtail of the race lutea, and a Red-billed Oxpecker sitting on the back of a hippo. The next sector was a sandy bay where African Elephants were coming down to drink. This area was also good for White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, Kittlitz’s Plover, Cape Wagtail and two bonus species in the form of Bradfield’s Hornbill and Gabon (Swamp) Boubou. Before heading into the main channel of the Chobe River a group of Comb Ducks were observed on the water edge. Our main interest was the flooded grassland which proved to be an excellent spot for White-faced and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Wattled and Long-toed Lapwings, African Stonechat, Sedge Warbler, Chirping Cisticola and Yellow-crowned Bishop. Back to the lodge for lunch and at 1530 hours another trip along the Chobe River. We retraced our journey and started birding beyond the last point visited. Flocks of Red-billed Quelea were in evidence above the tree line. An isolated island attracted Intermediate Egret in breeding plumage plus close views of White-headed Lapwing and migrant sandpipers from further north. Back to the river shore with a stop next to some dead trees (elephant damage). This was extremely productive as Grey-headed Bushshrikes and Gabon Boubou showed in the open along with a Bennett’s Woodpecker, African Golden Orioles and a Lanner Falcon. The situation livened up even more as a pair of Pearl-spotted Owlets came into view and were mobbed by many birds. Just around the corner a colony of White-fronted Bee-eaters gave us very close views as they clung to the sandy cliff side and participated in dirt baths. Also present were Grey-backed Camaroptera, Long-billed Crombec and a Bearded Woodpecker. A short visit upstream produced nothing new so we turned round and headed back to base. On the way we recorded a single Whiskered Tern and a Black-headed Heron the latter looking out of place in such a wet habitat.
March 18th: Chobe, Kasane Water Treatment Works, Ngoma Bridge, Road to Katima Mulilo, Zambezi River Lodge.
Weather: Hot and sunny 35 C
Before breakfast we had a walk around the lodge grounds and campsite. Our first new trip bird was a pair of African Mourning Doves perched on a telegraph wire. An immature Little Sparrowhawk showed well in a large tree and shortly afterwards sightings of Lesser Honeyguide and White-browed Coucal. Further searching of bushes, shrubs and trees added Yellow-breasted Apalis, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Crested Barbet and the uncommon Hartlaub’s Babbler. Migrant species included a singing Icterine Warbler and several Willow Warblers. Checked out of Chobe and made a short walk along the road searching for birds. One particular tree attracted Levaillant’s Cuckoo, African Paradise Flycatcher, Black-backed Puffback and Long-billed Crombec. Loaded up the van and we were on our way westwards towards Namibia. Our journey did not last long as telegraph wires held substantial numbers of Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Mosque Swallow, Red-backed Shrike and Eastern Paradise Whydah. High above us a party of northbound House Martins. Next on the agenda was Kasane Water Treatment Works where hundreds of Marabou Storks were on the ground and flying overhead on the warm thermals. At least two Booted Eagles were also present among the stork flock. The first settling pond attracted many shorebirds including a Marsh Sandpiper. Dead trees and other prominent perching places lured Magpie Shrike, Lesser Striped Swallow and Dark Chanting Goshawk. Over the forest a Martial Eagle cruised by and African Pipits and Yellow Wagtails were on the grass fields. On the main road towards Namibia observing Tawny Eagle, Yellow-billed Kite and European Bee-eaters plus a lot of African Elephants. We crossed the border into Namibia and stopped on the Ngoma Bridge for our picnic lunch. This was a productive spot for waterbirds including Fulvous Whistling Duck, Hadada, Glossy and Sacred Ibis, Long-toed Lapwing, Greater Blue-eared and Miombo Starlings, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and Grosbeak Weaver of the race maximus. Crossed into Namibia and made our first birding spot at a series of seasonal pools. The second of these held Little Grebe, Common and Lesser Moorhens and African Pygmy Geese. Shortly afterwards we turned down the road to the Zambezi River Lodge a beautiful place by the river.
March 19th: Katima Mulilo, Bum Hill, Divundu.
Weather: Hot and humid 35 C.
This morning before breakfast a walk around the lodge grounds. It was fairly quiet to start with although we could hear the distinctive call of a Dwarf Bittern. By the lodge entrance a fruiting fig tree attracted Shalow’s Turaco, African Yellow White-eye, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Chinspot Batis, Pale Flycatcher, Southern Brown-throated Weaver and a Grosbeak Weaver. Breakfast was followed by a walk around the campground which proved to be an excellent place to observe birds. Large trees attracted Cardinal Woodpecker, White-bellied and Shelley’s Sunbirds, Brown-hooded and Grey-headed Kingfishers, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Willow and Icterine Warblers and a Great Reed Warbler catching insects by the fence. At 0910 we were on the road westwards to Divundu via Bum Hill a remote camp near the border with Angola. The first section of road provided us with our first views of Rufous-crowned Rollers, Groundscraper Thrush, Grey Cisticola and hunting Brown Snake Eagle. By the police post at Bum Hill another stop produced Lesser Striped and Wire-tailed Swallows, Long-billed Crombec, Brubru and White-rumped Swifts. At the campground we consumed our picnic lunch. On leaving a magical few moments for birds with sightings of Retz’s and White Helmetshrikes, African and European Golden Orioles, Kurrichane Thrush, Grey Go-away Birds and a calling African Barred Owlet. The journey through the national park had a few birds notably Ostrich, Red-crested Bustard, Green Woodhoopoe and Shaft-tailed Whydah. At 1630 we turned down the road to our base alongside the Mahangu Game Reserve.
March 20th: Mahangu National Park.
Weather: Overcast morning then sunny spells 30 C.
The day dawned rather overcast and cool for northern Namibia. After breakfast we travelled towards Mahangu National Park. Along the entrance track a Purple Indigobird showed in the top of a dead tree. After entering the national park our first birding stop produced Southern Yellow-billed and African Grey Hornbills and a Red-billed Francolin calling from a bush. Further along the track we stopped at an acacia bush which was attracting a multitude of birds; Crimson-breasted Gonolek, Black-backed Puffback, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Marico and Purple-banded Sunbirds, Rattling Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia and a rather bright yellow Icterine Warbler. Further along the track brief views of Coppery-tailed Coucal, Woodland Kingfisher, Common Scimitarbill, Cardinal Woodpecker, Arrow-marked Babbler, Brubru and Collared Sunbirds. The reserve was suffering from severe flooding so our journey was curtailed by this event. After turning round we stopped for a coffee break watching a Woolly-necked Stork perched in a dead tree. On the return journey an area of acacia scrub added Marico Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Warbler and several Ostrich. Our luck changed when a Slaty Egret was noted feeding along the shore a scarce and nomadic bird of southern Africa. The morning ended when we crossed a causeway watching African and Lesser Jacanas the latter being a rains-related African bird, several were seen at close range. On the far side of the causeway we noted breeding plumaged Pin-tailed Whydah and a female African Stonechat. Returned to base for lunch and back out again at 1530 hours. A stop at the park entrance gate proved to be productive as we observed Red-headed Weaver, Southern Black Tit and Amethyst Sunbird. A different road was taken into the main wetland area where wintering Spotted Flycatchers were seen. In an open area dotted with acacia trees an African Cuckoo was pestering the local White-browed Sparrow Weavers. Nearby a Pearl-spotted Owlet came into view which drew attention from various starlings, Red-backed Shrike and others. Beyond this point the road was shut for repairs so we turned around and stopped at another area of trees where a Chat Flycatcher was singing from a tree-top. Before leaving the park Gabar Goshawk and Fawn-coloured Lark was added to the day list. On the way home a maize field attracted Greater Blue-eared Starlings and Black-throated Canaries whilst a pair of Mosque Swallows perched in a roadside tree.
March 21st: Mahango, Shakawe, Okavango River.
Weather: Sunny periods followed by thunderstorms and heavy showers 30 C.
Today was mainly spent over the border in neighbouring Botswana. Near the border post a Swainson’s Francolin showed by the dirt road before running into cover. At the border we encountered several species of hirundines on the wires including; Sand and House Martins, Barn, Grey-rumped, Lesser Striped and Mosque Swallows, plus Little Swift and hunting Gabar Goshawk. The habitat in this part of Botswana is badly degraded grassland, large marshes dotted with papyrus and phragmites stands and stands of large trees. The grassland had several groups of Crowned Lapwings, African and Plain-backed Pipits and White-browed Coucal. Our main objective today was a boat trip down the Okavango River. The riverside vegetation proved to be attractive to Little, Blue-cheeked and White-fronted Bee-eaters, Southern Masked Weaver and Southern Red Bishops. The boat arrived near a stand of large trees where careful searching revealed an African Harrier Hawk. Jack our boatman then found two Pel’s Fishing Owls perched high in a tree. Luck was with us as we could study this uncommon and localised African owl through telescopes. Further down river we encountered a Long-crested Eagle another scarce species of the region. Careful searching revealed wintering Sedge Warblers plus close views of African Reed Warbler and Chirping Cisticola. We also had poor views of Greater and Lesser Swamp Warblers before returning to the lodge for a late lunch. The weather then deteriorated to a mixture of strong winds, thunder and lightning and torrential downpours. After leaving the lodge we visited another area of the grounds without success and then returned to the main road via a sandy track. This proved to be productive for Pied Barbet, White-crowned and Red-backed Shrikes, Marico and Purple-banded Sunbirds and Rufous-vented Warbler. A bonus came in the form of Sharp-tailed Starlings a little known species endemic to southwest Africa. Back over the border into Namibia again with the first pool attracting a Rufous-bellied Heron which showed well in the top of an acacia tree. Revisited another track from yesterday with a Slaty Egret and our first Goliath Heron of the trip.
March 22nd: Daviva, Buffalo National Park, Divundu to Rundu via rural roads.
Weather: Unsettled with sunny periods and heavy showers 25 C.
Checked out of Daviva at 0800 hours and made a final look for birds within the extensive grounds. The usual species were around with the addition of Terrestial Brownbuls feeding along a rotten tree trunk. Along the exit track a cattle pen attracted Green-winged Pytilia, Namaqua Dove and Purple Indigobird. We then made the short journey to Divindu to fill up with fuel and purchase supplies for lunch. We then retraced our journey in an eastwards direction in order to visit Buffalo National Park. Before reaching the turn off a field dotted with large trees and bushes was attracting many species of birds; Brown Snake Eagle, Red-billed Francolin, Greater Blue-eared, Burchell’s, Meves and a single Wattled Starling, White-crowned Shrike and the uncommon regional endemic Black-faced Babbler. After paying the entrance fees we entered Buffalo National Park which contains a large area of derelict buildings dating back to the conflicts of the 1970’s. Our first stop was again good for birds including Greater Whitethroat, Southern Black Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Southern Masked Weaver and a Pearl-spotted Owlet. Passed through the old buildings area to the marshy area with a Steppe Buzzard, Gabar Goshawk and several Shikra being observed. The commoner birds were in the area with the addition of a Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Retz’s Helmetshrikes, Bradfields, African Grey, Southern Yellow-billed and Southern Red-billed Hornbills, Hartlaub’s Babblers and Bateleur. Exited the park and travelled westwards in heavy rain before turning north towards the Angola border. Here we went on dirt roads looking for suitable birding spots although large areas had been set aside for large scale agricultural production. A good area was reached with a muddy shore and shallow waters. Careful searching revealed Red-billed Duck, Grey-hooded Gull, White-fronted Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Three-banded Plover and African Pipit. Overhead a Lanner Falcon gave us close views. Headed towards the frontier town of Rundu (no border crossing here) and diverted to an area of grassland flooded with water in places. This was good for Fulvous Whistling Duck, Spur-winged Geese and Southern Pochard. The remainder of the day was spent looking at the pools near Rundu. The first attracted Little Grebe, Hottentot Teal, Red-knobbed Coot and Common Moorhen plus a Little Bittern and a group of Black Egrets. The second pool gave us brief but good views of the uncommon African Rail, Black Crake, Purple Swamphen and a pair of Cape Teal. In the reeds several African Reed Warblers and African Bush Warbler. We entered Rundu a rather run down place with plenty of services and shops and a good lodge where our stay for the night was located.
March 23rd: Rundu Lagoons, Tsumeb.
Weather: Hot and sunny 32 C.
Today was basically a travel one southwards to Etosha National Park and the outlying town of Tsumeb. Before starting this long drive we spent an hour or so visiting the lagoons around Rundu. Visits to the first two pools produced similar birds to the previous afternoon. Another area was visited with views over flooded grassland, fields and river shore. This proved to be an excellent place for birds with the lagoons attracting Little Bittern, Striated Heron, Purple Swamphen, Lesser Swamp and African Reed Warblers and Fan-tailed Widowbirds. The flooded fields were alive with Wood Sandpipers and a single Common Greenshank. In the taller grasses Great, Intermediate, Little Black and Cattle Egrets and Rufous-bellied Herons. A bonus came in the form of a pair of Yellow-billed Ducks a rare visitor to northern Namibia. Revisited the first pond when Marilyn located an African Rail feeding along the edge of a reedbed; great views. Back at Rundu supplies were purchased for the journey and Neil filled up with fuel as service stations are few and far between in this part of Namibia. The journey was fairly uneventful until we turned off into an area of woodland. Careful searching revealed several Golden-breasted Buntings, African Yellow White-eyes and Shaft-tailed Whydahs feeding on the ground and perching in trees. Picnic lunch under the shade of a large tree. Continued in a southerly direction passing small villages, farms and seasonally flooded fields. Passed through the agricultural customs post into the next province. Birds were few along the route including Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures, Pale and Dark Chanting Goshawks the latter being rare in this area, Lanner Falcon and Red-breasted Swallows. Tsumeb was reached our base for the night at 1645 hours.
March 24th: Tsumeb Sewage Lagoons, Etosha from Namutoni to Halali.
Weather: Hot and sunny 34 C.
First stop today was the water treatment works at Tsumeb. On the first lagoon we had great views of a female Greater Painted Snipe standing on a rock. The scrubby areas held large flocks of Black-throated Canaries, Zitting Cisticola and Cape Starlings. Tsumeb has many industrial areas and we passed several mines, railway workings and factories before entering an area of low scrub and bushes. This area added new trip birds including Greater Striped Swallow, Red-eyed Bulbul and singing Cinnamon-breasted Buntings. A bonus came in the form of a juvenile Ovampo Sparrowhawk perched on a telegraph pole. Namutoni is one of the entry points into the vast Etosha National Park; on the boundary we encountered large numbers of White-backed Vultures and a few Lappet-faced. On the entrance track a pair of Crested Francolins with well grown young. After a light lunch a short detour on a loop road visiting arid grassland and seasonal lagoons. Acacia trees attracted Sabota Lark, Black-chested Prinia and Lesser Grey Shrike. On the shallow lagoon Black-necked Grebe, South African Shelduck and Maccoa Duck. Exposed areas of salty mud had hordes of migrant waders; Wood, Marsh and Common Sandpipers, Ruff, Greenshank and Little Stint. Further along the track Double-banded Courser, Crowned Lapwing, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Red-headed Finch, Desert Cisticola, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks and our first Kori Bustards. Our journey went in a westerly direction along the main track with another lagoon holding the commoner duck species and up to four Blue Cranes walking in the lush grasses. A diversion into a sector of Etosha Pan was very productive as a female Amur Falcon was observed sitting on a stunted acacia bush before flying off. Red-capped Lark and the rare Chestnut-banded Plover were also seen. Before arriving at Halali we added White-quilled Bustards, Red-footed Falcon and African Hoopoe.
March 25th: Halali to Okaukuejo.
Weather: Warm and Sunny 30 C.
Breakfast at 0600 hours in order to leave the camp one hour later. The first session of birding was along one of the many tracks which were bordered by small trees and scrub. Bare-cheeked and Southern Pied Babblers were added to the list along with singing Sabota and Rufous-naped Larks. On the road edge a few Violet-eared Waxbills were seen before flying into cover. Returned to Halali to pack up and check out. Before doing this an African Scops Owl was watched at close range sleeping at its roost site. On the road again at 1000 hours to visit the largest camp in Etosha at Okaukuejo. Interesting birds included Red-footed and a male Amur Falcon, White-quilled and Kori Bustards, Chat and Marico Flycatchers and a Kalahari Scrub Robin. In the more open arid areas sightings of Ostrich, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Double-banded Courser, Crowned Lapwing, Fawn-coloured Lark and Desert Cisticola. Another area with a few trees attracted the localised Greater Kestrel and overhead a migrant Steppe Eagle. On the approach to Okaukuejo we added Secretary-bird and the attractive Scaly-feathered Finch. Checked in at camp with Gill and Mike visiting the waterhole where they observed Abdim’s Stork and a colony of Social Weavers. Lunch taken followed by a break and out again at 1500 hours. Late afternoon spent along another road bordering grassland with bare patches of earth and isolated trees. Capped Wheatears and Grey-backed Sparrow Larks were soon located plus high numbers of Double-banded Coursers. This followed by a good selection of larks; Pink-billed, Red-capped, Spike-heeled and Sabota. The open grasslands attracted a wide variety of game, bustards and larks. A damp area added the rather localised and scarce African Quailfinch. Isolated bushes were good for Southern Anteater Chats whilst migrant Barn Swallows and Banded Martins hunted for insects. Returned to the main camp with sightings of Temminck’s Courser, Common Fiscal and a migrant Spotted Flycatcher. A highlight for many was three Black-backed Jackals being unsure of a rather large Rock Python resting by the road – end result not known!! Before dinner a visit to the waterhole added Square-tailed Nightjars hunting for insects around the lights and resting on the pebbles.
March 26th: Okaukuejo.
Weather: Cloudy to start followed by sunny spells 18 C/25 C.
Breakfast was arranged for 0600 hours so we could be in the field when the gates opened at 0700. The weather was cool and light conditions poor. Our first stop at an area of low shrubs allowed us to study Rufous-eared Warblers at close range a locally common species within Etosha National Park. Further down the track we witnessed the display flight and call of an Eastern Clapper Lark another bird with a large but patchy distribution. Travelled on several tracks watching and recording similar birds to yesterday although the number of European migrants had dwindled. Near the Oliphant’s Waterhole up to three Double-banded Sandgrouse were seen at close range a hard species to track down in the rainy season and the period afterwards. Slowly returned to base with great views of Red-headed Finches and a pair of Dusky Sunbirds. Out again at 1600 hours for our final drive in the park. A different route and direction was taken towards the west of the park. Larks again featured with sightings of Spike-heeled, Pink, Sabota and Red-capped, Chestnut-backed and Grey-backed Sparrow Larks. At the end of the track we witnessed the marvellous spectacle of hundreds of Abdim’s Storks on their northward migration. A Yellow Canary gave us the run-around for a while until it showed in the top of an acacia. As the sun started to go down a Steppe Eagle roosted in a dead tree and Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures were also noted. Back at base the waterhole attracted nightjars and at least two Verraux’s Eagle Owls.
March 27th: Okaukuejo, Anderson Gate, Otjiwarango, Windhoek.
Weather: Overcast with afternoon rain showers 25 C.
After checking out of Etosha we made the decision to exit via Anderson Gate. On the way Ainslie located a juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo perched in an acacia tree. Our journey was broken by a stop at Otjiwarango water treatment works which is rather overgrown in places. In addition to the commoner water birds species of interest included Wahlberg’s Eagle, Greater Striped Swallow, Striped Kingfisher and Black Crake. A short stop for refreshments on the outskirts of town with the entrance track having Red-faced Mousebird, Pririt Batis and overhead hunting Black-chested Snake Eagles. Lunch taken at the next town where the gardens had nesting Lesser-masked and Southern Masked Weavers. The road to Windhoek was busy with traffic although short birding stops produced Tawny and Steppe Eagles, Ruff, Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper.
March 28th: Windhoek including the Botanical Gardens and Avis Dam.
Weather: Warm and humid 25 C.
The grounds of the lodge was good for birdlife being set in among the mountains covered in low scrub with rocky slopes and the occasional tree. Interesting birds in the grounds included Mountain Wheatear, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Rattling Cisticola, Golden-breasted and Cinnamon-breasted Buntings and a pair of Green-winged Pytilias building a nest in an acacia bush. After breakfast we headed into Windhoek to visit the botanical gardens. At the entrance building nesting Little Swifts. A slow walk in the grounds revealed White-backed Mousebird, Rufous-vented Warbler, Pied Barbet, Black-cheeked Waxbill, Groundscraper Thrush and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters. Overhead many feeding swifts including Bradfield’s. Back at the entrance gate a pair of Rosy-cheeked Lovebirds and Cut-throat Finches. The road to Avis Dam was impassable due to recent flooding so we entered at another place. A few water birds here including White-breasted Cormorant, African Darter, Egyptian Geese, Red-billed Duck and Blacksmith Lapwing. The acacia trees had a Pearl-spotted Owlet, Southern Masked Weaver, Pin-tailed Whydah and Blue-breasted Cordon-bleau.
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