July 23-August 6
This was our first visit back to Namibia after a gap of several years. The group visited all the main birding areas of the country including Etosha, Spitzkoppe, the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. In the interior we spent a few days around Omaruru and also around the capital city of Windhoek which proved to be very productive for birdlife. I decided to visit Namibia at the end of the winter season where water levels were low thus attracting good numbers and a wide range of mammals. Bird life was also exceptional with five species of bustards being recorded and several regional endemic species.
The following trip report and bird list should bring back memories of an excellent tour. The next departure is scheduled for 2024.
July 23rd: Johannesburg, Windhoek, Daan Viljoen
Daily 29 New 29 Running 29
Weather: Mainly sunny with a light E wind 23c
After arriving into South Africa on the 22nd we spent the night near the airport and transferred to Windhoek on the 23rd. The flight was uneventful but the immigration process and passport control was painfully slow mainly down to Covid-19 certificate checks. Picked up our 4x4 and headed towards Windhoek the capital and onto Daan Viljoen a nature reserved dominated by acacia trees, hills and rocky areas. At the entrance gate several pairs of Rock Martins and Little Swifts which were later joined by around 50 Alpine Swifts and the localised African Palm Swift. The area around the dam provided us with views of Crowned and Blacksmith Lapwings, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Red-billed Teal and Three-banded Plover. The drier areas and chalets had Pale-winged Starling, Mountain Wheatear, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Grey Go-away-Bird and dozens of Ring-necked, Laughing and a single Namaqua Dove.
Mammals: Chacma Baboon (6), Common Giraffe (1), Warthog (5), Blue Wildebeest (20) Dassie (2)
July 24th: Daan Viljoen, Swakopmund via C28 country road
Daily 75 New 50 Running 79
Weather: Sunny with light NW winds 25c
Breakfast was arranged for 7am where the adjacent gardens held Groundscraper Thrush, Cape Wagtail, Lilac-breasted Roller and high numbers of Red-billed Spurfowl and Helmeted Guineafowl. A walk around the chalets added a calling Pearl-spotted Owlet whilst the wetter areas had Grey and Black-headed Herons, Hamerkop and a perched African Fish Eagle. In the chalet area we located a family party of Familiar Chats, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Chestnut-vented Warblers. A drive to the head of the dam proved to be productive with sightings of Southern Masked Weaver, Anteater Chat, Black-faced and Blue Waxbills, Pririt Batis, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and a perched juvenile Gabar Goshawk. On leaving the park we added an adult Verreaux’s Eagle and a Black-chested Snake Eagle. I then headed west along country road C28 which passes through spectacular scenery of rock outcrops, acacia woodland, small pools and a total absence of human life apart from isolated farmsteads. The first fifty kilometres added an adult Lappet-faced Vulture, Grey Go-away-bird, African Hoopoe, Kalahari Scrub Robin and a few Sabota Larks. Further on a stop was productive for Black-chested Prinia and Black-throated Canary plus an adult African Hawk Eagle. Before an area of savanna a Kori Bustard by the roadside was a surprise find along with Rock Kestrel and groups of the rather nondescript Lark-like Bunting in small roving flocks. On the savanna we had sightings of Karoo Long-billed Lark, Red-crested Korhaan, and a large nest of Sociable Weavers, White-tailed Shrike and a lone Monteiro’s Hornbill. The last birding leg was remarkable for views of Ruppell’s Korhaan and a flock of Ludwig’s Bustards a scarce southern African endemic. We ended the days birding with a pair of Lanner Falcon, Greater Kestrel and Namaqua Sandgrouse. It seemed to take an age to reach our base in Swakopmund where we stay for three nights.
Mammals: Chacma Baboon (c), Blue Wildebeest (30), Rock Hyrax (1), Meerkat (1), Banded Mongoose (1), Sable Antelope (1), Impala (1), Klipspringer (8), Sengi (1), Damara Ground Squirrel (1)
July 25th: Swakopmund, Walvis Bay including pelagic trip, C14 lagoons, Rooibank
Daily 43 New 27 Running 106
Weather: Cloudy with a NW wind 15c
Walvis Bay was our destination today which is located south of our base and the major port of Namibia. At 0830 we embarked on a pelagic trip into the Benguela Current a cold water system driven by SE trade winds. In the harbour area we located Great White Pelicans (several of which landed in our boat to be fed), Cape and Crowned Cormorants, Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gulls. Our journey passed Pelican Point with its thousands of Cape Fur Seals and roosting terns which included Greater Flamingo, Greater Crested, Sandwich and the uncommon Damara. Our boat trip went around 15km into the Atlantic Ocean where we found Cape Gannet, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Brown Skua and unusually three African Penguins. On our return to port we witnessed returning Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone and in the harbour a pair of African Oystercatchers. Next stop was the remote settlement of Rooibank with a walk through the scrub and dune areas. Birding was tough here with a pair of Black-chested Snake Eagles, Namaqua Dove, Southern Fiscal, Chestnut-vented Warbler and Cape Sparrow. A return to Walvis Bay and a search of the roadside lagoons revealed Lesser Flamingo, White-fronted and Chestnut-banded Plovers, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Blacksmith Lapwing and Red-billed Teal. Back to Swakopmund and a stop at the guano platform for hordes of roosting cormorants and related seabirds.
July 26th: Walvis Bay including the saltpans and guano platform, Swakopmund saltpans
Daily 45 New 15 Running 121
Weather: Sunny spells on an N wind 17c
After breakfast I headed south back to Walvis Bay with a visit to an area near a shopping complex. This was notable for high numbers of Hartlaub’s and Kelp Gulls plus a few Grey-headed Gulls an uncommon bird in Namibia. A lone Glossy Ibis was a good sighting here. It was time to visit the extensive saltpan complex of Walvis Bay starting with an exploration in front of the more expensive properties in town. The group had close views of Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Great White Pelican, White-fronted and Grey Plovers, hundreds of Greater Crested Terns, Caspian Tern and on the watered lawns Cape Sparrow and Cape Wagtails. Further along the road another stop with views into the mudflats added Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling. The road passes the salt-works and close to the open ocean. The shallow pans attracted Cape Teal, Western Cattle Egret and the commoner species of the area. At the end of the track hundreds of roosting terns included several Common, Sandwich and a single Damara Tern. I then returned to Walvis Bay where we picked up supplies and stopped at the guano platform, similar birds to yesterday afternoon with a huge increase in African Oystercatchers numbering around 50 birds. After passing through Swakopmund I headed to the saltpan complex where we added Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, Little Egret and several other species. A short walk into the gravel plains quickly revealed Gray’s Lark feeding around bushes. The day ended along the waterfront at Swakopmund with Helmeted Guineafowl and a tamarisk bush held a preening Lesser Swamp Warbler.
Mammals: Bottle-nosed Dolphin (2)
July 27th: Swakopmund, Road 1918, Spitzekoppe, Omaruru
Daily 39 New 9 Running 130
Weather: Sunny and warm with light N winds 11c-28c
Checked out and headed north towards Henties Bay and turned east along Road 1918 which is mainly gravel. On the outskirts of Swakopmund a single Pied Crow which was new for the tour. The journey along R1918 was largely uneventful until we encountered a large flock of birds which proved to be a mix of Grey-backed Sparrow Larks and Stark’s Larks. In the same area a female Ludwig’s Bustard and several Namaqua Sandgrouse. Further along the road a Greater Kestrel and a hunting Black-chested Snake Eagle. On arrival at Spitzekoppe I checked in and proceeded to the campsite in search of birds. At one of the camp pitches we located numerous Lark-like Buntings, Pale-winged Starling, African Red-eyed Bulbul and Cape Sparrows. A bonus came in the form of a Layard’s Warbler feeding in an acacia bush. Further searching of the area added Karoo Long-billed Lark, Monteiro’s and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills, Common Scimitarbill and a pair of Carps’s Tits. Despite a lot of searching no sign of the uncommon Herero Chat so we moved on to the town of Omaruru.
Mammals: Chacma Baboon (c), Giraffe (1), Klipspringer (6), Greater Kudu (6), Damara Ground Squirrel (1)
July 28th: Omaruru, Erongo
Daily 48 New 21 Running 151
Weather: Hot and sunny with no wind 27c
The group met up at 0645 to explore the road towards Erongo. The sandy areas en route held good numbers of Crowned Lapwings flying off the road. After passing through the gate I stopped to look at the boulder strewn slopes for Hartlaub’s Spurfowl which were calling all the time. The commoner acacia species were present in the area. On the return to base a covey of Red-billed Spurfowl were noted. Breakfast was taken at the hotel with Crimson-breasted Shrike and Scarlet-chested Sunbird in the garden. Back along the Erongo road with a stop at a parking area for Southern Masked and Lesser Masked Weavers, Greater Blue-eared, Pale-winged and Cape Starlings. Passed through the gate again and just beyond a patch of acacia trees attracted Southern White-crowned Shrike, Acacia Pied Barbet, Ashy Tit, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Nicholson’s Pipits perching in trees. At the junction I turned down the remote road leading to Erongo Lodge. On the corner Damara Red-billed Hornbill feeding on the ground. Further along the track sightings of Purple Roller, Marico Flycatcher and a female Red-crested Korhaan. At the river several groups of White-tailed Shrikes and a surprise find in Karoo Prinias. Other species present included Great Sparrow, African Grey Hornbill, Kalahari Scrub Robin and Pririt Batis. On the return a bonus in the form of Little Sparrowhawk which offered us great views. In the afternoon we made a visit to Omaruru campground where the feeders had Rosy-faced Lovebirds and a juvenile Ruppell’s Parrot. In the larger trees Southern Red-billed Hornbill and Black-backed Puffbacks concluded a great day in Namibia’s acacia woodlands.
July 29th: Erongo, Roads C33, B1, C38 Namutoni in Etosha NP
Daily 36 New 8 Running 159
Weather: Cool in the morning and then rather warm 4c-27c
I decided to return to the rocky outcrops at Erongo. Departure was 0645 onto the gravel roads where we disturbed Crowned Lapwings off the road, we were lucky to find a Double-banded Courser sitting on the road which gave us excellent views. Further on a scan of the rocks revealed a pair of Hartlaub’s Spurfowl a localised and uncommon species. Back to base for breakfast adding a pair of hunting Black-winged Kites. At 0900 hours we were on the road north towards Etosha using the C33, B1 and C38 roads. Along the road frequent sightings of Augur Buzzard, Lilac-breasted and Purple Rollers. At the first rest stop Grey-backed Camaroptera and Pririt Batis. The second stop where we consumed lunch had White-backed Vulture and Crimson-breasted Shrikes for company. Eventually we turned down the C38 to Namutoni which is the eastern most point of Etosha. A pair of Bataleur was hunting along on the entrance road. Checked In at the camp with the grass areas having Greater Blue-eared and Burchell’s Starlings, Blacksmith Lapwings, Red-billed Spurfowl and Helmeted Guineafowl. Outside our chalets Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills feeding in a fruiting tree. A walk around the grounds added a single Ruppell’s Parrot and a pair of Red-billed Buffalo Weavers to end the day with.
Mammals: Chacma Baboon (c), Giraffe (2), Warthog (1), Blue Wildebeest (5), Banded Mongoose (30), Impala (7), Burchell’s Zebra (6), Scrub Hare (1), Bush Duiker (20) African Elephant (12), Spotted Hyena (1)
July 30th: Namutoni, Twee Palma, Aroe, Tsumor, Kalkheuwel, Chudob
Daily 56 New 18 Running 177
Weather: Warm and sunny 29c
A pre-breakfast walk around the grounds added a pair of Red-necked Falcons resting in an acacia tree. Nothing new of note in other areas of the grounds so we visited the restaurant for breakfast. Twee Palms were our first destination with an acacia tree attracting high numbers of Red-billed Quelea, Red-headed and Scaly-feathered Finches, Green-winged Pytilia and several Marico Flycatchers. Out on the pan we located Common Ostrich, c50 Kori Bustards, Northern Black Korhaan and Chestnut-backed Sparrow Larks. In the larger trees Pale Chanting Goshawk, Fawn-coloured Lark, Chat Flycatcher, Anteater Chat, Southern Red-billed and Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills and a solitary White-backed Vulture. Further along the track the group located Rufous-naped Lark, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Black-chested Prinia, Yellow Canary and Shaft-tailed Whydah. On the return to our base we observed Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Brubru and Violet-eared Waxbills. A detour to Tsumor was productive for Emerald Spotted Wood-doves and Southern Pied Babbler. Out again at 1515 with a visit to Kalkheuwel where we had excellent views of a singing Dusky Lark perched on a bush and up to five Temminck’s Coursers wandering around in the bare earth on the savannah. Kalkheuwel had the familiar species so I returned back to Namutoni recording the uncommon Little Bee-eater. Chudob was a fitting end to the day as the pool had water attracting a variety of animals and birds. Many doves were joined by White-backed Vulture, Blacksmith and Crowned Lapwings and surprisingly a Little Grebe on the open water. Back to base and after dinner a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl was perched on posts by the waterhole.
Mammals: Giraffe (15), Blue Wildebeest (c), Banded Mongoose (20), Black-faced Impala (30), Black-backed Jackal (5), Greater Kudu (25),Burchell’s Zebra (c), African Elephant (8), Springbok (c), Steenbok (1), Cheetah (2), Southern Oryx (10)
July 31st: Namutoni, Dikdik Drive, Ngbib, Halali Camp
Daily 55 New 7 Running 184
Weather: Sunny and warm 27c
After checking out I headed towards the Dikdik Drive which is productive for birdlife. The commoner species were widespread and an acacia bush attracted Blue and Violet-eared Waxbills. I then headed west towards Halali Camp along the ‘pan road’ where the drier areas with bare ground attracted Red-capped Larks and roving groups of Common Ostrich. A stand of acacia bushes with a few flowers added the localised White-bellied Sunbird, African Pipit Dusky and Fawn-coloured Larks. Further along the road Northern Black Korhaan, Groundscraper Thrush and an immature Gabar Goshawk perched in a tree. Finally in a patch of grassland a solitary Secretarybird was located and a Rattling Cisticola in a sector of trees. It was starting to get hot when we checked in at Halali Camp which is in need of updating. By our chalets we quickly located a party of the uncommon Bare-cheeked Babbler and a family group of White-crowned Helmetshrikes. After dinner a visit to the waterhole added nothing of note apart from a few mammals which are listed below.
Mammals: Giraffe (30), Warthog (4), Blue Wildebeest (c), Black-faced Impala (50), Greater Kudu (8), Burchell’s Zebra (c), African Elephant (39), Springbok (c), Southern Oryx (8), Damara Didik (4), Hartebeest (20), Tree Squirrel (6), Black Rhinoceros (1), Spotted Hyena (1)
August 1st: Halali Camp, Rietfontein, Salvadora, Sueda, Rhino Drive
Daily 60 New 7 Running 191
Weather: Warm and sunny 24c
Around the camp this morning we recorded Cape, Burchell’s and Greater Blue-eared Starlings, Bare-cheeked babbler and the two common dove species. I headed west towards Rietfontein with roadside species being particularly common especially Northern Black Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Ostrich, Sabota and Red-capped Larks. The water at Rietfontein held Egyptian Geese, Common Moorhen, Cape Teal, Western Cattle Egret and Namaqua Sandgrouse coming down to drink. Back on the main road we added Great Sparrow, Marico Flycatcher, Scaly-feathered and Red-headed Finches. In an area of grasses I was surprised to find a White Stork and a Greater Kestrel perched in a tree. The track to Salvadora held a pair of Spike-heeled Larks whilst the pool had a single Red-billed Teal. In the only large tree a pair of Red-necked Falcons was in residence. In the skies a Lappet-faced Vulture slowly flying around looking for food. On a nearby pool we found South African Shelduck, juvenile Pale Chanting Goshawk and Zitting Cisticola. Back to base for lunch along Rhino Drive with Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and both roller species for company. In the afternoon we drove to another sector of the park where White Helmetshrikes were seen along with close views of Red-crested Korhaan. Before arriving back at the camp a pair of Double-banded Sandgrouse showed on the track. After dinner a visit to the floodlit waterhole added a pair of Spotted Thick-knees and a singing Square-tailed Nightjar.
Mammals: Chacma Baboon (c), Giraffe (25), Blue Wildebeest (50+), Black-faced Impala (20), Black-backed Jackal (3), Damara Ground Squirrel (4), Burchell’s Zebra (c), African Elephant (20), Springbok (c), Tree Squirrel (10), Hartebeest (30), Black Rhinoceros (6), Eland (10)
August 2nd: Halali, Gemsborvlakte, Okaukujo, Outjo, Waterberg
Daily 70 New 1 Running 192
Weather: Cooler than previous days -2c-20c
The usual birds were around the camp as we checked out and drove westwards to Okaukujo via the water plant at Gemsborvlakte. En route a juvenile African Harrier Hawk was walking around searching tree stumps and holes for food. The acacia bushes held Chat and Marico Flycatchers, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Brubru and a resting Black-winged Kite. In the flowering acacia bushes White-bellied and Dusky Sunbirds, Yellow Canary, Red-headed Finch and a pair of Great Sparrows. Okaukujo was good for birds in and around the waterhole. The trees here held Ashy Tit, Layard’s Warbler, Black-chested Prinia, Acacia Pied Barbet, White-throated Canary, Green-winged Pytilia, Brubru and African Red-eyed Bulbul. I then drove to Outjo to pick up supplies and then to Waterberg. On the way a few White-backed Vultures, Black-chested Snake Eagle and several Kalahari Scrub Robins. At Waterberg we checked in and arrived at our chalets below the cliffs. A pair of Verreaux’s Eagles, Rock Kestrel and Rock Martins put on a display to end the day.
Mammals: Chacma Baboon (c), Giraffe (16), Warthog (2), Blue Wildebeest (c), Black-faced Impala (20), Greater Kudu (1), Burchell’s Zebra (c), African Elephant (3), Springbok (c), Steenbok (1), Damara Duiker (1), Southern Oryx (4), Tree Squirrel (6), Hartebeest (20), Slender Mongoose (2)
August 3rd: Waterberg
Daily 46 New 8 Running 200
Weather: Warm and sunny with a S wind 26c
The cliffs at Waterberg were attracting Bradfield’s and Alpine Swifts swirling around for insects. A pair of Verreaux’s Eagles was roosting in a large tree. I drove down towards the restaurant area where a fig tree was luring several birds in to feed. Species of interest included African Grey Hornbill, Grey Go-away Bird, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Scarlet-chested and White-bellied Sunbirds and Rock Martins flying around the car park. After consuming breakfast we headed down towards the reception area where a Pearl-spotted Owlet was perched quietly in a tree. A walk towards the German Cemetery c1904 was productive for Ruppell’s Parrot, White-browed Scrub Robin, Lesser Honeyguide and Yellow Canary. On the return we located Black-chested Prinia, Black-eared Waxbill, and Yellow-bellied Eremomela. In the campground we located a family of the scarce Violet Woodhoopoe feeding young in an old tree. Other species present included Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Black-backed Puffback and Marico Sunbird. After lunch we watched birds from our bungalow with close views of Cardinal Woodpecker, Groundscraper Thrush and Pririt Batis. At 1530 we walked towards the picturesque cliffs of Waterberg where we located a party of Bare-cheeked Babblers and another Pearl-spotted Owlet.
Mammals: Chacma Baboon (c), Warthog (10), Banded Mongoose (20), Scrub Hare (1), Damara Dikdik (6)
August 4th: Waterberg, Windhoek
Daily 65 New 5 Running 206
Weather: Warm and sunny with light winds 27c
I checked out of Waterberg and headed along the sandy road in an easterly direction. A surprise find by the junction was a Lesser Striped Swallow singing from the telegraph wires. Birding along the road revealed several feeding flocks which included Cardinal Woodpecker, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Acacia Pied Barbet, Green-winged Pytilia and a party of Burnt-necked Eremomela. It was time to head south back towards Windhoek along the B1. This was largely uneventful although a pair of White-browed Scrub Robin at our picnic site was welcome. Further down the road we encountered a large number of vultures in a single flock which comprised of White-backed, Lappet-faced and Cape. The road into Windhoek was hazardous due to roaming groups of livestock including a herd of goats which I narrowly avoided.
Mammals: Chacma Baboon (c), Warthog (3), Black-faced Impala (15), Damara Ground Squirrel (2), Greater Kudu (2), Bush Duiker (1), Damara Dikdik (6)
August 5th: Windhoek including Gammas and Avis Dam
Daily 72 New 16 Final 222
Weather: Warm and sunny 26c
Today we concentrated on birding sites in and around the capital city of Windhoek. Our first destination was the water treatment works at Gammas where a reed-fringed lagoon regularly attracts birds which are rare or scarce in Namibia. On arrival huge numbers of African Wattled Starlings perched on the edges of the treatment works. I parked up near the lagoon and scanned the open water areas and reeds for birds. Birds of interest included Pied Kingfisher, African Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Black Crake, Western Cattle Egret, White-breasted Cormorant and a Black-headed Heron sitting atop a pylon. Other species we found were Cape Teal, Red-billed Duck, Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, African Darter and a perched Black-winged Kite. The buildings near the lagoon had Short-toed Rock Thrush, Cape and Pale-winged Starlings, Rosy-faced Lovebird, African Grey and Monteiro’s Hornbills, Striated Heron and a non-breeding plumaged Southern Red Bishop. Back to base for lunch and out at 1545 for a visit to Avis Dam which is the only major water body near Windhoek. On arrival we located several species of wildfowl comprising of Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck, Mallard, Cape Teal, Red-billed and Maccoa Ducks, Red-knobbed Coot and a pair of uncommon Southern Pochards. On the shore and rocky edges Three-banded Plover, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Mountain Wheatear, Ashy Tit, Common and Blue Waxbills, Red-billed Firefinch and a single Brown-throated Martin.