Cape, Namibia and the Shakawe area in Botswana
14th October - 12th November 1996
A report by Jan Vermeulen
- Itinerary (summary)
* South Africa (The Cape)
- Systematic List of Birds
- Systematic List of Mammals
This report is based upon a trip (14th October - 12th November 1996) taken by Jan Vermeulen, with Ken & Beverley Thorne and Eric Wille for the whole period and Gerald Broddelez and Vital & Riet van Gorp for the last three weeks. My interest in Southern Africa was first fired up by my meeting on Stewart Island (New Zealand 1991) with Ken and Beverley Thorne, South African birders and members of the Witwatersrand Bird Club in Johannesburg.
Two years later Vital and I visited South Africa (Transvaal and Natal) and Vital returned to South Africa in the summer of 1995. This trip we focused mainly on the Cape, Namibia and the Shakawe area in Botswana.
There are over 165 birdspecies that are only found in Africa south of the Zambezi and Cunene Rivers and most of them can readily be seen in Namibia and South Africa.
The list of birds mentioned in the sites which follows is purely taken at random from each days events highlighting some of the more interesting species. For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.
The great wonder of Southern Africa is not just the birds, but a second, almost equally feature:the game.
NAMIBIA & BOTSWANA
Despite their aridity, little‑known, but among the last great wildlife strongholds on earth, Namibia and Botswana offer fabulous game‑watching, a host of special birds, and abundant photographic opportunities.
The many national parks and game reserves are superb, and far, far away from the tourists hordes of East Africa and South Africa (Kruger NP).
Namibia and Botswana are extensive and sparsely populated countries, situated on the Tropic of Capricorn in the sub‑tropical desert region of Southern Africa.
Namibia is famous for its stark beauty and is a geologist's and naturalist's paradise.
Until recently most Namibia's tourists were from South Africa. Now, a few years after independence, there are a great number of visitors from overseas, though the infrastructure and facilities developed for the South Africans remains.
The rules for Namibia's National Parks are the same as for South African National Parks. Only closed vehicles are allowed in the wildlife reserves.
Namibia is a good choice for the serious birder, even if you had birded elsewhere in Africa previously. The country has a formal birdlist of 609 species of which 423 are resident. Namibia is one of two African countries (the other being Kenya) with the highest degree of endemicity.
In Botswana we only visited Shakawe Fishing Camp, a superb lodge along the Okavango.
Although Namibia holds many endemic species, those who wish to see the great majority of the endemic species restricted to Southern Africa must also visit the Cape Province. This region is one of the five floral kingdoms of the world, with its incredibly rich diversity of fynbos plants such as proteas and aricas. Here is a motherlode of southern African endemic birds, birds of the fynbos, sea and mountains and semi-desert.
The southwestern Cape have a number of interesting endemics and specials. Three species are found only in this region, with another seven being more easily seen here than elsewhere.
We spent full nine days covering the southwest Cape Province and a part of the northern Cape Province. We decided against a pelagic, for various reasons but mainly because we hardly could see any new species on this trip.
FLIGHT AND VISA
We travelled to Southern Africa via Brussels and Frankfurt. The flight was fast, approximately 10 hours and 30 minutes.
Our return-ticket (Lufthansa) for the air journey cost us about ¦ 1575,--. The flights were almost punctual and troublefree.
No visas are necessary for any of the three countries visited. When you're leaving South Africa or Namibia, you don't have to pay departure tax. Be sure to confirm your reservations for your return flight at least 72 hours before the flight.
The South African currency is the Rand. It was low at the time of our visit giving us good purchasing power.
The rand fluctuated between 2.55 - 2.60 to the Guilder. The South African Rand is accepted in Namibia, but the local currency is the Namibian Dollar, which has the same exchange rate. All major credit cards and traveller cheques are accepted. Changing money at any of the commercial banks is usually easy and often, but not always, quick.
No complaints on this front. Wherever you are in Namibia, you can almost always find somewhere to camp - either there will be a campsite nearby, or you will be so far from a settlement that you can just camp by the side of the road.
Most of the nights we slept in a chalet. At Etosha National Park we had to pay 40 N$ per person per night.
We had our own tents, only used at four sites in Namibia. There are communal shower and toilet blocks and barbecue stands in all the camps. The rest camps within Etosha are well run with restaurants, cafeterias, shops and petrol stations. At night you are locked in the camps from 18.45 p.m. until 6.30 a.m. These times vary according to sunrise and sunset.
In Botswana we stayed in the expensive Shakawe Fishing Lodge.
Hendon Park, Gordon's Bay, 145 Rand - chalet with 2 double bedrooms
Campsite, Swellendam , 120 Rand - chalet with 1 double bedroom
Campsite, Potberghuisie, 100 Rand - 2 tents for 4 persons
Pine Forest Holiday Resort, Ceres, 123 Rand - chalet with 2 double bedrooms
Campsite, Lambert's Bay20 Rand - per person (camping)
Campsite, Springbok , 12 Rand - per person (camping)
Hardap Dam , 120 Rand - chalet for 3 persons
Campsite, Waterberg Plateau Park , 6 Rand - per person (camping)
Etosha National Park , 12 Rand - per person (camping), 180 Rand - chalet for 4 persons
Kaisosi Lodge, Rundu,120 Rand - chalet for 2 persons
Popa Falls, 12 Rand - per person (camping)
Shakawe Fishing Camp, 300 Rand - lodge for 2 persons
Campsite, Otavi, 85 Rand - chalet for 2 persons
Omaruru Caravan Park, 85 Rand - chalet for 2 persons
Kalahari Sands Hotel, Windhoek, 515 Rand - **** hotel, room for 2 persons
FOOD AND DRINK
Generally quite good and inexpensive. The meals in the restaurants are excellent and pretty cheap (31 rand).
Cool drinks can be found anywhere.
ENTRANCE FEES RESERVES AND NATIONAL PARKS
Entrance fees of reserves and national parks in South Africa varied between 3 - 5 Rands per person.
In Namibia we paid 10 -12 N$ per person.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Namibians are very friendly people, but beware of muggers in Windhoek (Independence Avenue) and Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.
Southern Africa is generally a healthy place to visit, and the water is safe to drink almost everywhere.
Vaccinations, consult your own doctor for up to date advice. Be sure to get enough malaria tablets for your trip, and do take them! You are at the greatest risk in the northeast part of Namibia. Nowadays with the Lariam Roche tablets (mefloquine) you only have to take one tablet a week.
Do not approach elephants, lions or other large animals too closely.
Lock your car at all times, never leave valuables in open sight.
Finally, beware of the sun. Hats and long‑sleeved shirts are essential kit.
Again I was in a country were people speak my own language. Afrikaans (Dutch) and English are spoken throughout South Africa and Namibia. In Namibia a lot of people also speak German.
English is the official language in Botswana and is widely spoken in the main towns and tourists area.
During the time we spent in Southern Africa it was mostly dry and sunny with the exception of a few days in the Cape, where we had very bad weather, storm and rain.
Since this is the Southern Hemisphere, mid‑winter is June/July and mid‑summer is December/January.
The best time of the year to visit Namibia (Etosha) is in the dry winter months when game is forced to concentrate around remaining sources of water, either natural springs or artificial boreholes. Game-viewing is at an optimum from June to October. For birdwatchers the best time is from November through February or March, when large numbers of migrant waders are present, despite the fact that the northern rainy season falls within this period.
TRANSPORT AND ROADS
It is very difficult to get around in Southern Africa (especially Namibia and Botswana) without personal transport as public transport is virtually non‑existent and birding on foot is not allowed in some national parks.
In Southern Africa, it's best to hire a car if you can afford it. For car rental, you will need a major credit card and a valid international driver's license.
Rates of Budget Rent a Car and Avis in Windhoek:
Toyota Corolla 1300:
7 days: 252 N$ per day, 200 km free per day, insurance etc. 78 N$ per day, daily rates per extra km 1.18 N$.
7 days: 545 N$ per day, 200 km free per day, insurance etc. 115 N$ per day, daily rates per extra km 2.82 N$.
Getting around in Southern Africa is easy as the standards of the roads are high and the traffic often sparse.
The relatively traffic‑free roads and quiet lanes and byways are added attractions. For someone used to the busy highways of The Netherlands, it is nothing less than miraculous to drive for an hour or more and not see another car. This is not unusual in Namibia, which is about twenty times the size of The Netherlands, but has a total population of only 1.6 million people. Even in Etosha, the country's most popular tourist attraction, one can enjoy relative solitude at a water hole, observing birds and game with little interference in the way of other vehicles.
Our transport was cheap (Ken Thorne's minibus), fast and entertaining, Damon Hill driving the minibus at top speed.
It is forbidden to alight from one's car away from specified areas in some National Parks and Game Reserves. This is no great disadvantage as we found most of the birds and animals most confiding, and the car provided a superb hide.
A small tape recorder and the excellent bird call sets of South African birds by Len Gillard or Guy Gibbon is quite useful for drawing in birds. Guy Gibbon's new and comprehensive set of pre‑recorded southern African bird calls is now available at approximately $60 for a set of 6 cassettes.
The set may be ordered from Southern African Birding at PO Box 24106, Hillary Road 4024, South Africa.
A good torch is a must. A telescope is useful at coastal sites and lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides.
Photography is NOT difficult, as birds are easy to approach and light conditions are good.
Clothing can be T‑shirt and short anywhere (during the daytime).
NOMENCLATURE & TAXONOMY
In Africa there is much confusion regarding the English names for birds, and often each author, having their own preferences which results in the same species having up to 3 or 4 different names.
Cossypha natalensis : Natal Robin (Newman and Roberts), Red-capped Robin-Chat (Clements and Howard & Moore).
Pycnonotus nigricans : Redeyed Bulbul (Newman and Roberts), African Red-eyed Bulbul (Keith/Urban/Fry), Black-fronted Bulbul (Clements).
Pycnonotus barbatus : Blackeyed Bulbul (Newman and Roberts), Garden Bulbul (Howard & Moore), Common Bulbul (Clements), Yellow-vented Bulbul (Williams/Arlott)....ridiculous!
I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (July 1991, Birds of the World, A Check List).
Species in brackets are the English names in "Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa" by Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, but only mentioned when these differ significantly from the Clements Check List.
MAPS AND SKETCH MAPS
A road map is essential and these can be bought from any petrol station. A good map is the Road Atlas South Africa put out by Map Studio (including town plans and tourist areas).
At Etosha NP, but also in most other reserves good maps of the parks are available at the entrance gates.
Nearly all sketch maps in this trip report are orientated so that north is at the top. Although I have tried to make all the maps as accurate as possible, please allow for the vagaries of memory. The sketch maps are NOT to scale!
The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:
Little Grebe, Long‑tailed (Reed) Cormorant, Great (White‑breasted) Cormorant, Egyptian Goose, Cattle Egret, Sacred Ibis, Black‑shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Pale Chanting‑Goshawk, Eurasian (Rock) Kestrel, Helmeted Guineafowl, Cape Francolin, Red‑billed Francolin, Red‑knobbed Coot, White‑quilled Bustard (Northern Black Korhaan), Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Blacksmith Plover, Crowned Lapwing, Hartlaub's Gull, Namaqua & Double‑banded Sandgrouse, Speckled (Rock) Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Ring-necked (Cape Turtle) Dove, Namaqua Dove, Little Swift, Rufous‑crowned (Purple) Roller, African Hoopoe, Southern Yellow‑billed Hornbill, African Grey Hornbill, Fork‑tailed Drongo, Cape (Black) Crow, Pied Crow, Common Fiscal (Fiscal Shrike), Pale‑winged Starling, Red‑winged Starling, Red‑shouldered Glossy‑Starling, African Pied Starling, Common Starling, Spotted Flycatcher, Cape Robin‑Chat, Familiar Chat, Rock Martin, Barn (European) Swallow, Greater Striped‑Swallow, Black‑fronted (Redeyed) Bulbul, Cape Bulbul, Karoo (Spotted) Prinia, Willow Warbler, Rufous‑vented Warbler (Titbabbler), Red‑capped Lark, Rufous (Great) Sparrow, Mossie (Cape Sparrow), Cape (Southern Grey‑headed) Sparrow, White‑browed Sparrow‑Weaver, Southern Masked‑Weaver, Yellow Canary, Brimstone (Bully) Canary.
I would like to thank Ken & Beverley Thorne for putting up with us for the full four weeks and to let us use their minibus. I know it was not easy for them. Also many thanks to Mark van Beirs and Henk Hendriks for their great help and valuable advices in planning this trip.
Please remember that this is only a report, not the bible, you'll find mistakes, misleading maps and gen, grammatical errors, species seen that don't occur within a thousand kilometres of the site, but who really cares as long as you see a hatful of ticks - after all that's what your going out for, I think.
With the help of my report you'll see far more than if you had no information at all. Good luck.
Witwatersrand Bird Club
PO Box 7048
Cape Bird Club
P.O. Box 5022
Cape Town 8000
PO Box 12
- HUGH CHITTENDEN. TOP BIRDING SPOTS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA.
- James F. Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List.
- Gordon Lindsay Maclean. Robert's Birds of Southern Africa.
- Chris McIntyre & Simon Atkins. Guide to Namibia & Botswana.
- KENNETH NEWMAN. Newman's Birds of Southern Africa, 1991 UPDATE.
- Willie & Sandra Olivier. A Guide to Namibian Game Parks.
- WALLY PETERSEN AND MEL TRIPP. BIRDS OF THE SOUTHWESTERN CAPE AND WHERE TO WATCH THEM.
- IAN SINCLAIR, PHIL HOCKEY & WARWICK TARBOTON, ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA.
- Ian Sinclair. Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa.
- Chris and Tilde Stuart. Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa.
- E.K. Urban, L.H. Brown, K.B. Newman. The Birds of Africa, volume I. Ostriches to Falcons.
- E.K. Urban, C.H. Fry, S. Keith. The Birds of Africa, volume II (Gamebirds to Pigeons), volume III (Parrots to Woodpeckers) and volume IV (Broadbills to Chats).
- Nigel Wheatley. Where to Watch Birds in Africa.
I brought two field guides, Newman's Birds of Southern Africa" and Sinclair's "Illustrated Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa", but referred mostly to Sinclair, in my opinion the best birding field guide for the southern African subregion.
We also took Hugh Chittenden's "Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa" and Wally Petersen's "Birds of the Southwestern Cape". Both, especially the latter, were very useful but the country is changing rapidly and it is worth checking any facts given in either book, or in this report, if you can.
In planning the trip, I relied primarily on Ken Thorne's itinerary.
There is a quite incredible array of books on all nature topics in Southern Africa, and most of them appeared to be available in the excellent shops in the large reserves we visited. Apart from the need for bird guides to do one's homework prior to a trip, the visiting birder may well wish to wait until arriving in South Africa to purchase guides on other topics such as the mammals.
REPORTS AND ARTICLES
- Rob Bouwman. Namibia 1991, 16th July - 20th August.
- Clive Green. Birding South Africa & Namibia. May 29 - July 31 1992.
- Henk Hendriks. Southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa), July 3 - August 18 1994.
- Rupert Higgins & Dawn Lawrence. Cape Province, South Africa, September 1995.
- Christopher Hines. Bulletin of the African Bird Club, Vol 3 no 2 September 1996. Birding Namibia's Caprivi Strip.
- Jon Hornbuckle. Namibia and the Cape, 1st - 25st November 1994.
- Erik Mřlgaard. Birdwatching in Namibia and South Africa, 24.9.90 - 3.11.90.
- Ken & Beverley Thorne. Namibia & Kalahari Gemsbok N.P. A Report on a Birding and Naturalist Visit made between 7th - 29th June 1996.
I found the detailed notes by Henk Hendriks & Rob Bouwman most useful, with additional information from the report by Jon Hornbuckle.
October 14 Chaam * Brussels * Frankfurt * Cape
October 15 Cape Town * Kommetjie * Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve * Rondevlei Nature Reserve * Strandfontein Sewage Works * Gordon's Bay
October 16 Sir Lowry's Pass * Stony Point * Harold Porter Botanical Gardens * Gordon's Bay
October 17 Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve * Bontebok Nature Reserve * Swellendam
October 18 Swellendam * Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve * De Hoop Nature Reserve
October 19 De Hoop Nature Reserve * Gordon's Bay
October 20 Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens * Table Mountain * Gordon's Bay
October 21 Helderburg Nature Reserve * Paarl Mountain Reserve * Paarl Bird Sanctuary * Ceres Nature Reserve
October 22 Ceres * West Coast National Park * Rocherpan Nature Reserve * Lambert's Bay Bird Island
October 23 Lambert's Bay * Springbok * Goegap Provincial Nature Reserve
October 24 Goegap Provincial Nature Reserve * Hardap
Dam Recreation Resort and Game Park
October 25 Hardap Dam Recreation Resort and Game Park * Waterberg Plateau Park
October 26 Waterberg Plateau Park
October 27 Waterberg Plateau Park * Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo)
October 28 Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo)
October 29 Etosha National Park (Halali)
October 30 Etosha National Park (Namutoni)
October 31 Etosha National Park * Rundu
November 1 Rundu * Rundu Sewage Works
November 2 Rundu * Popa Game Park (Popa Falls)
November 3 Popa Game Park * Mahango National Park
* Shakawe * Popa Game Park
November 4 Popa Game Park * Mahango Game Park * Shakawe Fishing Lodge
November 5 Shakawe Fishing Lodge
November 6 Shakawe Fishing Lodge * Mahango Game Park
November 7 Otavi * Erongo Mountains * Omaruru
November 8 Omaruru * Spitzkoppe * Henties Bay * Cape Cross Seal Reserve * Swakopmund
November 9 Swakopmund * Walvis Bay Lagoon * Namib Naukluft National Park * Swakopmund
November 10 Swakopmund * Namib Naukluft National Park * Windhoek
November 11/12 Windhoek * Daan Viljoen Game Park * Windhoek * Frankfurt * Brussels * Chaam
Details of most of the sites are well documented in Wally Petersen's "Birds of the Southwestern Cape and Where to Watch them", in Hugh Chittenden's "Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa" and in the reports by Henk Hendriks, Rob Bouwman and Jon Hornbuckle et al , but the following notes may be useful.
KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANICAL GARDENS
Kirstenbosch Gardens, lying on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, may be your first introduction to a number of the more common fynbos endemics and some elusive forest specials. The low‑lying cultivated area of the gardens contains many common garden species. It is good place to stay, when you have a free afternoon after arriving etc. There are standard opening hours for the site!
Mountain (Forest) Buzzard, Cape Francolin, Striped Flufftail, Cinnamon Dove, Ground Woodpecker, Southern Boubou, Cape Batis, Bokmakieri, Black Sawwing, Sombre Greenbul, Knysna Scrub‑Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Orange‑breasted Sunbird, Forest Canary, Cape Siskin.
This is said to be the most accessible good sea‑watching point now. "The Kom" near the coastal village Kommetjie consists of a small outcrop of rocky shoreline protruding into the Atlantic waters. We did not try a sea‑watch because we had very bad weather. The area is also used by a large selection of sea and shorebirds as a roosting and foraging area.
Black‑browed, Shy & Yellow‑nosed Albatross, Northern & Southern Giant Petrel, Pintado, Softplumaged, Great‑winged & White‑chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Cape Gannet, Crowned Cormorant, Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, African (Black) Oystercatcher, Hartlaub's Gull, Subantartic & Antarctic Skua, Antarctic Tern.
THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE NATURE RESERVE
This reserve is situated at the tip of the Cape Peninsula and Africa's most southwestern extremity. The reserve's most extensive habitat is mountain fynbos.
Seawatching from the Cape of Good Hope during winter northwesterlies probably ranks among the best in the world.
Black‑browed, Shy & Yellow‑nosed Albatross, Northern & Southern Giant Petrel, Pintado, Softplumaged, Great‑winged & White‑chinned Petrel, Sooty & Great Shearwater, Cape Gannet, Crowned Cormorant, Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, African (Black) Oystercatcher, Hartlaub's Gull, Subantartic & Antarctic Skua, Antarctic Tern, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rock‑Thrush, Sentinel Rock‑Thrush, Cape Sugarbird, Orange‑breasted Sunbird.
RONDEVLEI NATURE RESERVE
Rondevlei NR is situated on the Cape flats next to Zeekoevlei about 25 km south of Cape Town.
Rondevlei is a marshy area, encompassing a large seasonally fluctuating vlei with a surrounding vegetation of reedbeds.
There are a few bird hides and towers situated along a waterside trail.
Cape Shoveler, African Marsh‑Harrier, Cape Francolin, Caspian Tern, Burchell's Coucal, Pied Barbet, Southern Boubou.
STRANDFONTEIN SEWAGE WORKS
This large sewage works is situated on the Cape flats on the north coast of False Bay. The ponds are fringed by reeds and the verges grassed. There are no birds especially restricted to the sewage works, but the ponds support a large number of waterbirds. You are permitted to drive around the ponds and where the reeds are low there is good birding to be had.
Great (Eastern) White Pelican, Maccoa Duck, South African Shelduck, Greater & Lesser Flamingo, African Marsh‑Harrier, African (Black) Oystercatcher (on ponds near the sea), Karoo Scrub‑Robin.
SIR LOWRY'S PASS
The pass is situated in the Hottentots‑Hollands mountain range east of Somerset West. If the wind and clouds permit you will enjoy an oxygen‑rich stroll at Sir Lowry's Pass, with the quest birds including Cape Rock‑Jumper and Victorin's Scrub‑Warbler. Park at the car park at the top of the pass and then walk to the disused entrance at the other side of the road (Don't park your car at the start of the Boland Hiking Track Trail, as mentioned in Petersen's "Bird of the southwestern Cape etc"). Walk along the upper of two tracks (1,5 km) till you reach a well vegetated stream course crossing it. We found the Cape Rockjumper along the footpath which climbs a shallow saddle to the historic wagon tracks and a pair of signal cannons.
Red‑chested Flufftail (marshy patches near railway line), Ground Woodpecker, Cape & Sentinel Rock‑Thrush, Cape Rock‑Jumper, Red‑headed (Grey‑backed) Cisticola, Victorin's Scrub‑Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Orange‑breasted Sunbird, Southern (Lesser) Double‑collared Sunbird, Cape Siskin.
Stony Point is situated close to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens (2 km). The small colony of Jackass Penguin at Stony Point is one of only two mainland colonies in South Africa. The penguins can be viewed from a fence or the viewing platform.
Jackass Penguin , Crowned Cormorant, Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, Hartlaub's Gull.
HAROLD PORTER BOTANICAL GARDENS
This is a fine botanical garden, just beyond Betty's Bay, which trails into the surrounding hills. The ridges above the kloofs are an excellent spot to see Cape Eagle‑Owl, which are resident in the garden. It is often seen at dusk from the green railed bridge over the river up the left hand trail.
Cape Eagle‑Owl , Ground Woodpecker, Cape Batis, Cape & Sentinel Rock‑Thrush, Cape Bulbul, Sombre Greenbul, Victorin's Scrub‑Warbler, Cape Grassbird, Orange‑breasted Sunbird, Southern (Lesser) Double‑collared Sunbird, White‑winged Seedeater (Protea Canary), Cape Siskin, Cape Bunting.
HELDERBERG NATURE RESERVE
This reserve near Somerset West is situated on the slopes of the Helderberg. The pond near the entrance is particularly good for ducks. The upper slopes are covered with mountain fynbos and on the lower slopes there is renosterveld.
In the reserve all five fynbos endemics can be found.
Black Crake (at the duck pond), African Harrier‑Hawk (Gymnogene), Grey‑winged & Cape Francolin, Black‑rumped Buttonquail, Red‑chested & Striped Flufftail (seldom seen) Cape Eagle‑Owl, Black Sawwing, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Rock‑Jumper, Sentinel Rock‑Thrush, Victorin's Scrub‑Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Swee Waxbill, Orange‑breasted Sunbird, White‑winged Seedeater (Protea Canary), Cape Siskin.
PAARL MOUNTAIN RESERVE
Paarl Mountain Reserve is situated on the plateau of Paarl Mountain. The vegetation consists primarily of fynbos and some stands of evergreen trees within the smaller granite koppies. The wildflower garden lies below the rocks.
Cape Sugarbird is a very common bird in this reserve. We found the reserve a bit disappointing, but we were there in the morning on a very rainy and windy day.
African Black Duck, African Harrier‑Hawk (Gymnogene), Verreaux's (Black) Eagle, Cape Francolin, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Batis, Cape Rock‑Thrush, Black Sawwing, Cape Sugarbird, Orange‑breasted Sunbird, Streaky‑headed & Black‑headed Canary, White‑winged Seedeater (Protea Canary), Cape Siskin.
PAARL BIRD SANCTUARY
The sanctuary is situated within the sewage works of Paarl and contains five large shallow ponds with islands.
There is no restriction on birdwatchers who visit this area but it remains a working area.
Nearly 140 species have been recorded with a predominance of waterbirds.
Maccoa Duck, African Black Duck, Greater & Lesser Flamingo, African Marsh‑Harrier, Hartlaub's Gull.
CERES NATURE RESERVE
The Ceres NR is situated in the mountains near Ceres next to the Pine Forest Holiday resort. The rocks are the most striking feature of this small reserve.
Cape Rock‑Thrush, Sicklewing Chat, Karoo (Spotted) Prinia, Orange‑breasted Sunbird, White‑winged Seedeater (Protea Canary), Cape Siskin, Cape Bunting.
VROLIJKHEID NATURE RESERVE
The Vrolijkheid NR (1850 ha) lies in the Breede River Valley, about 15 km south of Robertson on the McGregor Road. The vegetation of this rocky part of the Little Karoo is known as arid Robertson Karoo.
The dams on the reserve also attract a variety of waterbirds. Walk along the Heron Trail (3 km) to the first hide at the lower dam. Accommodation and shops are in nearby McGregor.
South African Shelduck, Pale‑Chanting Goshawk, Black Bustard (Southern Black Korhaan), Red‑chested Flufftail, White‑backed Mousebird, Ground Woodpecker, Fairy Flycatcher, Karoo Scrub‑Robin, Karoo Chat, White‑breasted (Namaqua) Prinia, Rufous‑eared Warbler, Cape (Longbilled) Crombec, Layard's Warbler (Layard's Titbabbler), (Southern) Grey Tit, Southern (Cape) Penduline‑Tit, Clapper, Long‑billed & Thick‑billed Lark, Cape (Orangethroated) Longclaw, Rock Pipit, Southern (Lesser) Double‑collared Sunbird, White‑throated & Black‑headed Canary.
BONTEBOK NATIONAL PARK
The park is situated a few kilometres south of Swellendam. This reserve was proclaimed in 1960 to protect the Bontebok, an antelope which was then in danger of extinction. The vegetation of the park is a combination of coastal fynbos and renosterveld. The most productive area for birds is the dense riverine thicket belt along the banks of the river, which includes the rest camp area and the two trails. Accommodation can be found at the camp/caravan site in the park and in nearby Swellendam.
African Black Duck, Grey‑winged Francolin, Stanley Bustard, (Acacia) Pied Barbet, Olive Bush‑Shrike, Southern Boubou, Red‑headed (Greybacked) Cisticola, Bar‑throated Apalis, Clapper, Long‑billed & Thick‑billed Lark, Southern (Cape) Penduline‑Tit, Swee Waxbill, Cape (Orangethroated) Longclaw, African (Grassveld) Pipit, Plain‑backed Pipit, Long‑billed Pipit, Orange‑breasted Sunbird, Southern (Lesser) Double‑collared Sunbird, White‑throated Canary, White‑winged Seedeater (Protea Canary).
GROOTVADERSBOSCH NATURE RESERVE
Grootvadersbosch NR is situated about 22 km northwest of Heidelberg (close to Bontebok NP and De Hoop NR), and comprises 250 ha of forest and a wilderness area of 14,000 ha.
The indigenous forest is the most noteworthy in the southwestern Cape. A hiking route - the Bushbuck Trail - winds through dense and leafy vegetation known as Knysna high forest, and offers excellent bird watching opportunities, while the wilderness area offers walks in pristine mountain fynbos. A canopy‑level bird hide offers opportunities to observe canopy and aerial feeders. Grootvadersbosch NR is for several of the forest specials the western distribution limit.
There are good camping facilities and chalets for hire but no food. Ask the rangers at the information centre for the latest birds 'news'.
Crowned Eagle, Mountain (Forest) Buzzard, Red‑necked Spurfowl, Buff‑spotted Flufftail, Cinnamon Dove, Sharp‑billed Honeyguide, Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckoo‑Shrike, Olive Bushshrike, Narina Trogon, Knysna Scrub‑Warbler, Victorin's Scrub‑Warbler, Yellow‑throated Woodland‑Warbler, Greater Double‑collared Sunbird, Forest Canary, Cape Siskin.
DE HOOP NATURE RESERVE
The De Hoop NR (36000 ha) is situated at the southern tip of Africa, about 50 km south of Swellendam.
This popular reserve comprises of four distinct habitats: the Potberg, breeding place of the rare Cape Griffon (Vulture), the coastal fynbos, the Hoop Vlei, a landlocked brackish expanse of water in the heart of the reserve and, last, there is the coastline of alternating rocky outcrops and sandy beaches.
Accommodation is available and advance booking is essential. Note that the gates into the main entrance to De Hoop close at 18.00, but there are no gates at Potberg.
Cape Griffon (Vulture) , Black Harrier, Grey‑winged Francolin, Blue Crane, Stanley Bustard, Black Bustard (Southern Black Korhaan), Karoo Bustard (Korhaan), Spotted Thick‑Knee (Dikkop), African (Black) Oystercatcher, White‑fronted Plover, Cape Eagle‑Owl, Southern Boubou, Karoo Scrub‑Robin, Black Sawwing, Karoo Chat, Red‑headed (Greybacked) Cisticola, Orange‑breasted Sunbird, Cape Bunting.
WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK
This coastal area is particularly good for Black Harrier, Black Bustard (Southern Black Korhaan), migrant waders and coastal fynbos species. There are three hides overlooking the large Langebaan Lagoon, but there appears to be no viewing of the sea, without trespassing, apart from going to the very end of the loop road, a long way. The fringes of the lagoon include extensive reedbeds and sedge marshes. The terrestrial section of the park is dominated by fynbos with some old lands providing more open habitat. The offshore seabird breeding islands are less well vegetated.
Jackass Penguin, Cape Gannet, Crowned, Bank & Cape Cormorant, African Marsh‑Harrier, Black Harrier, Red‑chested Flufftail, Grey‑winged & Cape Francolin, Black Bustard (Southern Black Korhaan), Chestnut‑banded Plover, African (Black) Oystercatcher, Hartlaub's Gull, White‑backed Mousebird, Karoo Scrub‑Robin, Red‑headed (Greybacked) Cisticola, Karoo (Spotted) Prinia, Layard's Warbler (Layard's Titbabbler), (Southern) Grey Tit.
ROCHERPAN NATURE RESERVE
Rocherpan NR is situated along the coast en route from West Coast NP to Lambert's Bay. It is a seasonal pan and provides habitat for a variety of waterfowl. The coastal vegetation surrounding the pan supports a good variety of terrestrial birds. Two bird hides are sited on the water edge.
Cape Gannet, Cape Shoveler, Greater & Lesser Flamingo, African Marsh‑Harrier, Black Harrier, Cape Francolin, Chestnut‑banded Plover, African (Black) Oystercatcher, Hartlaub's Gull, Karoo Scrub‑Robin, Red‑headed (Greybacked) Cisticola, Karoo (Spotted) Prinia, Layard's Warbler (Titbabbler), (Southern) Grey Tit.
LAMBERT'S BAY BIRD ISLAND
Lambert's Bay Bird Island is a must to see breeding Cape Gannets. At Lambert's Bay there is a short causeway along the harbour to the island. Other species present at the island include Jackass Penguin, Crowned, Bank & Cape Cormorant. Kelp and Hartlaub's Gull can always be seen and a small colony of Cape Fur Seals has recently become established on the outermost rocks of the island.
Cape Gannet, Crowned Cormorant, Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, White‑fronted Plover, African (Black) Oystercatcher, Gray‑headed Gull, Hartlaub's Gull.
GOEGAP PROVINCIAL NATURE RESERVE
Goegap Provincial NR (15000 ha) is situated near Springbok. The reserve consists of granite hills with sandy flats in between. The largest part of the reserve represents Namaqualand broken veld, while the southeastern section of the reserve is false desert grassland. One of the main attractions of the reserve is the very rare Red Lark.
Verreaux's (Black) Eagle, Martial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Ludwig's Bustard, Karoo Bustard (Korhaan), Double‑banded Courser, Cape Eagle‑Owl, Fiery‑necked Nightjar, Ground Woodpecker, Karoo Chat, Tractrac Chat, Yellow‑rumped (Karoo) Eremomela, Cinnamon‑breasted Warbler, Clapper Lark, Karoo Lark, Red Lark, Grey‑backed Sparrow‑Lark, Thick‑billed Lark, Stark's Lark, Dusky Sunbird.
DAAN VILJOEN GAME PARK
Daan Viljoen Game Park, may be your first introduction to the bird species of central Namibia.
It is a good place to stay, when you have a free afternoon after arriving etc. The acacia savanna, woodland and dams within this small reserve near the capital, Windhoek, support a handful of southern African specialities, including the rare Damara Rock‑Jumper (Rockrunner) and many of the commoner desert species can be seen here quite easily.
There is a short loop drive in the park and the hiking trail is good for birds and mammals in the morning.
Orange River Francolin, Rosy‑faced Lovebird, Bradfield's Swift, Violet Woodhoopoe, Monteiro's Hornbill, White‑tailed Shrike, Pririt Batis, Short‑toed Rock‑Thrush, Black‑chested Prinia, Barred Wren‑Babbler, Damara Rock‑Jumper (Rockrunner), Ashy Tit, Southern (Cape) Penduline‑Tit, Bradfield's & Stark's Lark, Buffy & Long‑billed Pipit, Lark‑like Bunting.
OMARURU * ERONGO MOUNTAINS
Omaruru, a small village inhabited by German settlers, lies at the base of the rocky slopes of the Erongo Mountains, and is situated by a wide river bordered by tall trees and thick reed beds. The Omaruru Caravan Park, along the wide river, is a good place to stay. The river will undoubtedly be dry and indeed this region sometimes goes for years without appreciable rainfall.
The area supports the near‑endemic Hartlaub's Francolin and the rare Herero Chat.
Lanner Falcon, Hartlaub's Francolin, Burchell's Sandgrouse, Verreaux's (Giant) Eagle‑Owl, Freckled Nightjar, Bradfield's Swift, Monteiro's Hornbill, White‑tailed Shrike, Pririt Batis, Herero Chat, Yellow‑bellied Eremomela, Layard's Warbler (Layard's Titbabbler), Southern Pied‑Babbler, Stark's Lark.
SPITZKOPPE AND SURROUNDING PLAINS
Also referred to as the Matterhorn of Namibia, the 1728 metre high mountain is a typical pointed inselberg rising sharply from the surrounding flat plains. The Spitzkoppe is a landmark mountain with bushman paintings and the rare Herero Chat is the target here.
The Spitzkoppe is situated on the northern side of the road when travelling from Usakos to the coast.
Lanner Falcon, Hartlaub's Francolin, Ludwig's Bustard, Rueppell's Bustard (Korhaan), Double‑banded Courser, Rueppell's Parrot, Rosy‑faced Lovebird, Bradfield's Swift, Monteiro's Hornbill, Herero Chat, White‑tailed Shrike, Damara Rock‑Jumper (Rockrunner), Bare‑cheeked Babbler, Stark's Lark.
Near Swakopmund and Walvis Bay (30 km apart), immense dunes line the coast, while rich lagoons and offshore waters support flamingos, cormorants, shorebirds, seabirds and other wetland species. The cold water of the Benguela Current is rich in nutrients and the birdlife here is abundant and varied. There are tens of thousands of cormorants that breed on specially constructed off‑shore platforms. Vast numbers of terns, gulls and cormorants make this one of the great birding spectacles of Southern Africa. Cape Gannet, African (Black) Oystercatcher, Damara Tern, Hartlaub's Gull, Chestnut‑banded Sandplover and Dune Lark are some of the specialities that frequent this area.
The Walvis Bay Lagoon and saltworks are the best area to visit in terms of numbers of birds.
White‑chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Cape Gannet, Crowned Cormorant, Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, Greater & Lesser Flamingo, Chestnut‑banded Plover, African (Black) Oystercatcher, Hartlaub's Gull, Arctic Skua, Damara Tern, Dune Lark (Rooipoort), Gray's Lark.
NAMIB NAUKLUFT NATIONAL PARK
Namib Naukluft NP is one of the largest parks in the world and is a vast area of desert and rocky mountains along the coast of Namibia southward from near Swakopmund. There is no accommodation in the park, only camping.
We only explored a small part on a day trip from Swakopmund to the Welwitschia plains. Actually classified as trees, many welwitschia are very old (2000 years!) and are perfect examples of adaption to an extremely hostile environment.
A permit is required to enter the park unless you stay on the two main roads across the northern part.
Permits can be obtained from the Directorate of Nature Conservation, in Bismarck Street, Swakopmund, or from the Walvis Bay Service Station, 7th Street, Walvis Bay, before entering this park.
Birds are few and far between in the desert and scrubby riverbeds but include the endemic Dune Lark and near‑endemic Gray's Lark, as well as Ludwig's and Rueppell's Bustard.
Rosy‑faced Lovebird, Ludwig's & Rueppell's Bustard, White‑backed Mousebird, Common (Greater) Scimitar‑Bill, Monteiro's Hornbill, (Southern) White‑crowned Shrike, Sicklewing, Tractrac & Karoo Chat, Dune Lark, Gray's Lark.
HARDAP DAM RECREATION RESORT AND GAME PARK
Hardap Dam is situated about 25 km northwest of Mariental and 245 km south of Windhoek. The dam is on the upper Fish River, and is surrounded by rocky slopes and rolling hills. The vegetation of the park consists of the dwarf shrub savanna type. Often regarded as no more than a convenient overnight stop, this resort and its game park warrant at least a two‑night stay if they are to be fully appreciated.
Tourists often arrive late in the afternoon and leave early the following morning without exploring the park.
The park contains a rich diversity of birdlife in an otherwise harsh, dry environment. Hardap is best known for its waterbirds. There are good camping facilities and bungalows for hire.
Great (Eastern) White Pelican, African Black Duck, Greater & Lesser Flamingo, Rufous‑bellied Heron, Little & Dwarf Bittern, Pygmy Falcon, Red‑billed Francolin, Ludwig's Bustard, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Rosy‑faced Lovebird, Pied (Jacobin) Cuckoo, Bradfield's Swift, Fairy Flycatcher, Short‑toed Rock‑Thrush, Karoo Scrub‑Robin, Mountain Wheatear (Chat), Karoo Chat, Southern Anteater‑Chat, Black‑chested Prinia, Cinnamon‑breasted Warbler, Yellow‑bellied Eremomela, Rufous‑vented Warbler (Titbabbler), Sclater's Lark, Green‑winged Pytilia (Melba Finch), Red‑headed Finch, Dusky Sunbird, White‑throated Canary.
WATERBERG PLATEAU PARK
If Monteiro's Hornbill and especially Bradfield's Hornbill are a 'have to see' on your trip, you have to go to Waterberg. The Waterberg Plateau Park is situated about 60 km east of Otjiwarongo. The plateau is one of the most spectacular features of the northern region. Towering some 200 m above the surrounding landscape, the plateau with its sheer sandstone cliffs and fascinating rock formations is the habitat of Namibia's only breeding colony of Cape Griffon (Vulture). At the swimming pool you can't miss Violet Woodhoopoe.
There is a good network of trails along the base of the plateau and one trail that winds up to a lookout at the top of the cliffs on the edge of the plateau; check these out for Damara Rock‑Jumper (Rockrunner).
Although the park is a popular stopover for those travelling to Etosha or the Caprivi Strip, birders planning to spend a few days here will not be disappointed. There are good camping facilities and chalets for hire.
Ovampo Sparrowhawk, Verreaux's (Black) Eagle, African Hawk‑Eagle, Booted Eagle, Hartlaub's Francolin, Rueppell's Parrot, Rosy‑faced Lovebird, Pearl‑spotted Owlet, African Barred Owlet (Barred Owl), Freckled Nightjar, Bradfield's Swift, Swallow‑tailed Bee‑eater, Violet Woodhoopoe, Monteiro's Hornbill, Bradfield's Hornbill, Damara Rock‑Jumper (Rockrunner), Short‑toed Rock‑Thrush, Burnt‑neck Eremomela, White‑winged Black‑Tit (Carp's Tit), Black‑cheeked Waxbill.
ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK
Etosha National Park - huge white area - in the language of the local Bushmen, is a vast region packed full of birds and mammals. The park ( 22,270 km2) is mainly mixed scrub, mopane savannah and dry woodland surrounding the huge Etosha Pan. Etosha Pan is an apparently endless pan of silvery‑white sand, upon which devils play and mirages blur the horizon. As a game park it excels during the dry season. The plains are dotted with game and their attendant predators. Over 320 species of birds have been recorded in the park.
The roads are all navigable in a 2WD, its rest camps have excellent facilities, and it is never very busy in comparison with the crowded parks in the rest of Africa.
The lodges and campsites are situated inside the reserve alongside floodlit waterholes, where mammals and birds come to drink 24‑hours a day. The park has three camps (Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni) which offer reasonably priced bungalow and chalet accommodation and there is also a campsite.
Cape Griffon (Vulture) , White‑headed Vulture, Bateleur, Martial Eagle, Secretary‑Bird, Red‑necked Falcon, Swainson's Spurfowl (Francolin), Blue Crane, Ludwig's Bustard, Kori Bustard, Red‑crested Bustard, White‑quilled Bustard (Northern Black Korhaan), Double‑banded Courser, Caspian Plover, Burchell's, Namaqua and Double‑banded Sandgrouse, Rosy‑faced Lovebird, White‑faced Scops‑Owl, Spotted Eagle‑Owl, Rufous‑cheeked, Fiery‑necked & Freckled Nightjar, Violet Woodhoopoe, (Southern) White‑crowned Shrike, White‑tailed Shrike, White Helmetshrike, Pririt Batis, Groundscraper & Kurrichane Thrush, Chat & Mariqua Flycatcher, Kalahari Scrub‑Robin, Rufous‑chested (Redbreasted) Swallow, Desert Cisticola, Burnt‑neck Eremomela, Cape (Longbilled) Crombec, Yellow‑bellied Eremomela, Black‑lored (Blackfaced) Babbler, Southern Pied Babbler, Bare‑cheeked Babbler, White‑winged Black‑Tit (Carp's Tit), Rufous‑naped, Clapper, Bradfield's, Monotonous and Spike‑heeled Lark, Grey‑backed & Chestnut‑backed Sparrow‑Lark, Shaft‑tailed Whydah, Scaly Weaver (Scaly‑feathered Finch), Social Weaver, White‑breasted Sunbird, Dusky Sunbird, Cinnamon‑breasted (Rock) & Golden‑breasted Bunting.
Namibia's Caprivi Strip is a long narrow extension of land, running about 450 km from the the northeast corner of the main body of the country to the flood‑plains and islands of the Zambezi River. Here it is possible to see all of the Okavango specialities:
The best birding spot at Rundu is the area a few km to the east of the town by the zoo, golf course and Sewage Works. The best access is through the golf course which is easily found off the old main road. Park near the clubhouse. The Sewage Works lie immediately adjacent to the golf club. The security fencing has all been stolen from around the ponds. The best areas to bird are the upper settling ponds, which are usually good for a variety of wildfowl, herons, terns and waders.
A few km further to the east there is a small marsh along the Okavango at Vungu Vungu Dairy. A few hours at this site should be enough. Kaisosi Lodge, in between the Sewage Works and Vungu Vungu Dairy, is a very good place to stay.
Black Heron, Rufous‑bellied Heron, Slaty Egret, Little Bittern, Dwarf Bittern, Kaffir (African) Rail, African Crake, Black Crake, Allen's (Lesser) Gallinule, Red‑chested Flufftail, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana, Greater Painted‑Snipe, African (Ethiopian) Snipe, Burchell's & Bronze‑winged Courser, Black Cuckoo, Coppery‑tailed Coucal, Marsh Owl (Vungu Vungu Dairy), Pennant‑winged Nightjar, Gabon (Swamp) Boubou, Magpie (Longtailed) Shrike, Chirping Cisticola, Angola (Hartlaub's) Babbler, Brown & Jameson's Firefinch, Shaft‑tailed Whydah, Quail Finch.
2) MIOMBO WOODLAND EN ROUTE RUNDU - POPA FALLS (THE RUNDU DIVUNDU ROAD) AND NEAR THE ENTRANCE OF MAHANGO NATIONAL PARK
The 240 km between Rundu and Divundu, which runs parallel with the Okavango, is definitely worth making an early start, to bird the broad‑leaved woodlands en route, to find a good list of typical species.
Don't bother stopping near settlements and on cleared agricultural land as there is much pristine woodland.
Regular stops along the way in tall, mature woodland should give good views of the bird specialities.
The woodlands around Katere (100 km from Rundu at the radio mast) have reached near mythical status as the place to see the specialities, but they are readily seen in mature woodland all along the main road.
In the miombo woodland about 6 km north of the entrance of Mahango NP the same specialities can be found (see map).
Red‑footed Falcon, Amur (Eastern Red‑footed) Falcon, Dickinson's Falcon, Cape Parrot, Woodland Kingfisher, Racket‑tailed Roller, Bradfield's Hornbill, Bennett's Woodpecker, Chinspot Batis, Souza's Shrike, Sharp‑tailed Glossy‑Starling, Pale (Mousecoloured) Flycatcher, Tawny‑flanked Prinia, Yellow‑breasted Apalis, Stierling's Barred Warbler, Greencap Eremomela, Arrow‑marked Babbler, Southern Black‑Tit, Rufous‑bellied Tit, Dusky Lark, Red‑headed Weaver, Golden‑breasted Bunting.
3) POPA GAME PARK (POPA FALLS)
Popa Falls is a small (30 ha), but very popular camping and accommodation site along the Okavango in Namibia's Caprivi Strip. It is named after a low series of rapids which drop about 5 m. Some small trails exist around the hutted accommodation and are worth exploring.
African Cuckoo-Falcon (Cuckoo Hawk), African Finfoot (rare), Rock Pratincole (summer), Meyer's Parrot, African Wood‑Owl, African Barred Owlet, Black‑collared Barbet, Gabon (Swamp) Boubou, Sulphur‑breasted (Orange‑breasted) Bushshrike, Violet‑backed (Plumcoloured) Starling, Yellow‑bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Brown & Jameson's Firefinch.
4) MAHANGO NATIONAL PARK
South of Popa Falls, about 15 km on the main road to Botswana (D3403), is the Mahango section of the about to be re‑proclaimed Okavango National Park and is without doubt the prime site for birding in the western section of the Caprivi. There are three residents pairs of Wattled Crane in the Mahango and these are mostly seen on the northern flood‑plains and near the Giant Baobab picnic site, which is also the best place to watch the flood‑plain.
The most important areas of this small national park are accessible by two‑wheel‑drive vehicle (except the western section) and you are - surprisingly - allowed to walk in the park!
However, you should exercise extreme caution when birding in the Mahango. Elephant, Buffalo, Lion and Hippo all occur and are, needless to say, highly dangerous.
The major feature of Mahango is the Okavango River with its flood‑plain. There are two picnic sites with beautiful lookout points over the flood‑plain and are interesting for bird and wildlife.
A frustration for birders is that the park closes at sunset and it is difficult to see nocturnal species.
There is no accommodation in the park, but the rest camp at Popa Falls is a convenient base.
Rufous‑bellied Heron , Slaty Egret (summer), Dwarf Bittern, Saddle‑billed Stork, African Cuckoo‑Falcon (Cuckoo Hawk), (Western) Banded Snake‑Eagle, Dickinson's Kestrel, Wattled Crane, Lesser Jacana, Long‑toed Lapwing, African Skimmer, Coppery‑tailed Coucal, Giant Kingfisher, Pel's Fishing‑Owl, African Barred Owlet (Barred Owl), Southern Carmine Bee‑eater, Bradfield's Hornbill, Bennett's Woodpecker, Gabon (Swamp) Boubou, Sharp‑tailed Glossy‑Starling, Chirping Cisticola, Greater Swamp‑Warbler, Brown & Jameson's Firefinch, Black‑lored (Blackfaced) Babbler, Southern Brown‑throated Weaver.
SHAKAWE FISHING CAMP
If Pel's Fishing‑Owl and White-backed Night‑Heron are a 'have to see' on your trip, you have to go to Shakawe, about 30 km south in Botswana. Shakawe is the first village in Botswana. It takes 15 minutes to cross the border as you have to fill in forms on both sides, but's straight forward. The Shakawe Fishing Camp (Lodge) on the banks of the Okavango, is run by Barry and Elaine Price and is an excellent place to stay, with a remnant of mature forest in the grounds. There is also a campsite near the lodge.
An evening boat trip on the river with Duncan Pritchard or Elaine Price is a must and you will surely see your two quest birds. A daytime boat trip is highly recommended for viewing waterbirds and bee‑eaters.
Rufous‑bellied Heron , Slaty Egret (summer), Dwarf Bittern, African Cuckoo‑Falcon (Cuckoo Hawk), (Western) Banded Snake‑Eagle, Wattled Crane (sandbanks Okavango), Water Thick‑knee (Dikkop), African Skimmer, Pel's Fishing‑Owl, African Wood‑Owl (around the lodge), African Barred Owlet (Barred Owl) [around the lodge], Southern Carmine Bee‑eater, White‑bellied Cuckoo‑Shrike, Green‑backed Honeyguide, Retz's Helmetshrike, Chirping Cisticola, Greater Swamp‑Warbler, Brown & Jameson's Firefinch, Black‑lored (Blackfaced) Babbler, Southern Brown‑throated Weaver.
Monday 14th October
Our trip started with a Lufthansa flight from Brussels via Frankfurt to Cape Town. The flight touched down at Cape Town at 21.30 a.m. local time (no time difference with Holland). Following the punctual arrival of Lufthansa at Cape Town Ken & Beverley Thorne transferred us to the formule I hotel in Cape Town.
Tuesday 15th October
The following morning the birding started in earnest, when we left Cape Town for the first of eight days in the Cape Province. We were soon speeding down the road to the Cape peninsula. We were greeted by overcast skies, wind and light rain. Just out of town, Kommetjie was our first destination. We made a stroll along the beach to the Lighthouse.
Amongst the birds we saw were White‑chinned Petrel, Cape Gannet, Cape Cormorant, African (Black) Oystercatcher, Antarctic Tern and Karoo Prinia.
Hereafter we headed to the Cape of Good Hope Reserve, Africa's most southwestern extremity. One of the first birds we saw upon entering the reserve was the endemic Orange‑breasted Sunbird. We spent a short time at the Cape, but there was too much wind. Amongst the other birds we encountered were Cape Francolin, Cape Rock‑Thrush, Tinkling (Levaillant's) Cisticola, Clapper Lark, Cape Sugarbird and Southern (Lesser) Double‑collared Sunbird, most of them lifers for us. We also saw a few mammals including Bontebok, an antelope brought back from the brink of extinction, and Chacma Baboon.
Later we drove to the Rondevlei Nature Reserve. The wide variety of waterfowl present included Cape Shoveler, Black‑crowned Night‑Heron, Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamphen and Caspian Tern.
In the late afternoon we visited Strandfontein Sewage Works. Lesser Flamingo, Southern Pochard and Black‑winged Stilt were amongst the additions to our fast growing list. Unfortunately the rain got heavier and heavier and continued until dark so feeling rather frustrated we left the reserve.
It was almost dark when we arrived at Hendon Park in Gordon's Bay. Ken did not see a bump in the road at the campsite and ... boom .... suddenly clouds of steam escaped from Ken's minibus. Bad Luck.
Wednesday 16th October
The next morning the weather was not much better. While Ken was in a garage with his minibus, the rest of us hired a car with driver in Somerset West and then headed to the nearby Sir Lowry's Pass. We were quickly amongst real mountains and some truly impressive scenery. A hard wind sabotaged our stroll in the pass, but we still managed to get a proper view of Cape Rock‑Jumper. The elusive Victorin's Warbler gave us a very hard time. Despite having a very loud song it proved to be an accomplished skulker and getting more than a fleeting glimpse of this bird required a great deal of perseverance. Amongst the other birds we encountered were Jackal Buzzard, White‑necked Raven, Red‑headed (Grey‑backed) Cisticola, Piping Cisticola (Neddicky), Cape Sugarbird, Orange‑breasted Sunbird and Cape Canary.
From the pass we drove to Betty's Bay and then on to Stony Point. The very tame Jackass Penguins gave very good views as well as four species of cormorants: Crowned, Bank, Great (White‑breasted) and Cape.
The rest of the afternoon we spent in the nearby Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. Walking the trails in this fine garden was a birder's delight. A wealth of birds here included Cape Francolin, African Paradise‑Flycatcher, Cape Batis, African Dusky Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Grassbird, Pale (Cape) White‑eye and Cape Siskin,
When we returned to Gordon's Bay, Ken was already waiting for us with the minibus and an ample supply of cold Castle Lager beers.
Thursday 17th October
The following day the weather had improved and we were pleased to see a Black‑chested Snake‑Eagle near Sir Lowry's Pass as we headed for the Vrolijkheid NR near Robertson.
At the reserve we did a small part of the Rooikat Trail with the car. Amongst the birds we encountered were the first of many Pale Chanting‑Goshawks, Spotted Thick‑knee (Dikkop), White‑backed Mousebird, Klaas' Cuckoo, Karoo Chat, White‑breasted (Namaqua) Prinia, Cape (Longbilled) Crombec, (Southern) Grey Tit, Thick‑billed Lark and Cape (Orangethroated) Longclaw. Hereafter we made a walk along the Heron Trail and visited two hides overlooking the small pond. Amongst the waterbirds we saw here were South African Shelduck, Yellow‑billed Duck, Purple Heron and Three‑banded Plover.
In the afternoon we headed to Bontebok NP. When we arrived at the entrance we had the first of the five flat tires
we would get during the whole trip. In the park we made a stroll on the trails in the riverine thickets and we saw a good variety of birds including (Acacia) Pied Barbet, Southern Boubou, Bar‑throated Apalis, Southern (Cape) Penduline‑Tit, Swee Waxbill, White‑throated Canary and White‑winged Seedeater (Protea Canary).
In the low‑lying plains Pin‑tailed Whydah, African (Grassveld) Pipit and Plain‑backed Pipit were amongst the additions to our list. Mammals too were well represented with Red Hartebeest, Bontebok and Springbok.
We spent the night at a chalet/camp site in Swellendam.
Friday 18th October
We were out early next morning, exploring the forest around the camp site and the very vocal Red‑chested Cuckoo turned out to be hard to miss, as well as a beautiful male Cape Batis.
Leaving Swellendam we drove east to Grootvadersbosch NR and en route to the reserve we added our only Brown‑hooded Kingfisher of the trip to our list.
The ranger at the information centre was very helpful and very knowledgeable about our target birds. We did a few tracks. Forest Canaries were all over the place, a Yellow‑throated Woodland‑Warbler and Knysna Warbler responded to our tape and as we set off down the track, we had good views of a male Olive Woodpecker.
Amongst the other noteworthy forest birds were Mountain (Forest) Buzzard, Knysna Woodpecker, Grey Cuckoo‑Shrike, Southern Boubou, Olive Bushshrike, Cape Batis, Sombre Greenbul, Greater Double‑collared Sunbird and Cape Siskin.
Many of the birds we saw here were not seen elsewhere.
Moving on we journeyed south to the De Hoop NR. Blue Crane, Karoo Bustard (Korhaan), Capped Wheatear, Karoo Lark and Cloud Cisticola were found amongst the birds found en route from Swellendam to Potberghuisie.
Unfortunately the afternoon was marred with rain, as is sometimes the case at this time of year.
At Potberghuisie we had a comfortable camp especially set up in the grounds of a landowner.
Ken Thorne, as always our chef de cuisine, prepared a delicious meal around a blazing campfire.
Saturday 19th October
We headed to De Hoop Nature Reserve - complete with rain - the following morning.
Our drive across the fynbos was memorable for the superb sight of a Cape Eagle‑Owl in the top of tree.
Other birds of note we saw here were African Marsh‑Harrier, Stanley Bustard, Black Bustard (Southern Black Korhaan), Pied (Jacobin) Cuckoo, Pearl‑breasted Swallow, Black Sawwing and Cape Bunting.
We also spent a short time along the coast and at least a dozen Southern Right Whales gave spectacular views cruising just off the coast. After a picnic under a rainy sky, we left the reserve and headed back to the Cape Town area.
Some birding stops en route from De Hoop to Bredasdorp added Common Quail and Wattled Starling to our list and we counted no less than 72 Blue Cranes.
We made a stop at Saldomsdam NR but did not add any new species to our list. It was already dark when we again arrived at Gordon's Bay.
Sunday 20th October
At 7 o'clock the following morning we drove to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens lying on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. During the course of the morning walk in the gardens we did not see any new species, but we had not expected that. Amongst the endemic birds we saw were Cape Francolin, Southern Boubou, Cape Bulbul, Pale (Cape) White‑eye, Karoo (Spotted) Prinia, Cape Sugarbird, Orange‑breasted Sunbird and Southern (Lesser) Double‑collared Sunbird. I bought some new books at the bookshop and we then headed to the airport and did not have to wait very long before Vital and Riet van Gorp arrived. Cape Town has not been getting much good press lately, largely because of the high level of street crime, especially in the downtown area, but we did not notice anything when we made a stroll in the city.
In the afternoon we visited the nearby Table Mountain and used the very crowded cable car to reach the top of the mountain. We made a stroll on the misty top, made a few photographs of Cape Town and then headed back to Gordon's Bay. An evening stroll along the rocky beach at the campsite turned up two Damara Terns in a group of Great‑Crested (Swift) Terns and an African (Black) Oystercatcher.
Monday 21st October
Early in the morning we headed out to nearby Helderberg NR. We spent some time near the duck pond and of course noted a few duck species like Cape Teal, Yellow‑billed Duck and Red‑billed Duck. The newcomers Vital and Riet quickly began catching up with the birds they had missed so far. The protea area was not very productive, but we managed to see African Harrier‑Hawk (Gymnogene), Cape Sugar Bird, White‑winged Seedeater (Protea Canary) and Cape Siskin.
Near the town of Paarl we visited both Paarl Mountain Reserve and Paarl Bird Sanctuary. Our visit to both reserves was marked by exceptionally rainy weather and during the small time left that we could leave the car we did not see anything special, except White‑winged Seedeater (Protea Canary), which has the most restricted range of all the target endemics. We travelled through wine farms and in the early afternoon we visited a winery at Paarl. We tried at least ten different red and white wines and at last we bought a dozen bottles of wine and then headed on via Bainkloof Pass to Ceres.
When we arrived at Ceres NR there was still time for a few hours of birding. One of the first birds we encountered was our only Sicklewing Chat of the trip. Amongst the other birds we encountered were Cape Rock‑Thrush and Cape Bunting, but then consistent heavy rain sabotaged further birding. We spent the night in the Pine Forest Holiday Resort at Ceres.
Tuesday 22nd October
Leaving Ceres long before dawn we headed north to West Coast National Park. It took us nearly four hours to travel to this reserve. It did not take long before we saw a pair of Black Harriers, one of the quest birds of our trip.
In the fynbos, which looks for all the world like maquis, we noted amongst others Grey‑winged Francolin, Black Bustard (Southern Black Korhaan), Spotted Thick‑knee (Dikkop) and the minuscule Cloud Cisticola.
One of the attractions of West Coast NP is the wide variety of passage waders. Many species of waders were present, including Bar‑tailed Godwit, Marsh Sandpiper, Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper and Pied Avocet; in addition we found a few White‑winged & Sandwich Terns.
Next it was off to the north to Lambert's Bay. En route we made a stop at Rocherpan NR, visited the hides, but did see almost the same species as at West Coast NP. A little bit further we saw a VERY long train and I was sure that the length of the train was more than two kilometres!
In the late afternoon we arrived at Lambert's Bay and were joined by Gerald Broddelez who was waiting for us at the local hotel. In this small town we visited the Bird Island, an unforgettable experience, though most of us preferred to forget about the smell. We again saw four species of cormorants, a few Jackass Penguins and 6000 pairs of breeding Cape Gannets. We spent the night in a tent at the campsite in Lambert's Bay and had a typical braaivlei (barbecue).
Wednesday 23rd October
The next day we were up early and set off for the Great Karoo of the Northern Cape. The drive proved less of an ordeal than we thought it would be. On our long journey north through this vast semi‑desert we made many roadstops and found amongst many others Black Harrier, the beautiful Ludwig's Bustard, Karoo Bustard (Korhaan), Chat Flycatcher, (Southern) Grey Tit, Rufous‑eared Warbler and Larklike Bunting. In this 'Mecca' for Larks we noted Bradfield's, Long‑billed, Karoo, Spike‑heeled, Thick‑billed, Red‑capped and Sclater's Lark and Grey‑backed Sparrow‑Lark.
We set up our tent at Springbok and then decided to visit nearby Goegap Provincial NR. We did not have much time in this place of dome‑shaped granite hills with sandy flats in between. We made a walk along the road and highlights included Booted Eagle, Ground Woodpecker (in the top of a small tree!), Tractrac Chat, Yellow‑rumped (Karoo) Eremomela and Cape Bunting.
The night was so cold that I awoke a few times to find frost on my sleeping bag and in my hair.
Thursday 24th October
It was time to get up and try to keep warm until the sun made it over the mountain tops to heat the valley bottom.
We made another short trip to Goegap. A few areas in the park looked like a perfect spot for Red Lark, but all we saw of them was the name on a checklist. Although we failed miserably we did see a group of Namaqua Sandgrouses.
After breakfast we departed for our long drive to Hardap. When we arrived at the border in Namibia we left the troublesome weather behind us. Greybacked Sparrow‑Larks were common and a short stop on the drive north in the ancient Namib Desert yielded three Black‑eared Sparrow‑Larks in the flocks of Grey‑backed Sparrow‑Larks.
At Keetmanshoop we made a trip to the Fish River. Stopping on the bridge over the river produced several species of swallows and swifts and we added Pririt Batis and Dusky Sunbird to our lifelists.
At 17.00 hours we arrived at Hardap Dam. After sitting in the bus for much of the day it was a pleasure to get out and make a stroll on the cliffs along the huge artificial lake. Some of the more notable species here included Rosy‑faced Lovebird, Pied (Jacobin) Cuckoo, Bradfield's Swift, Brubru, Short‑toed Rock‑Thrush, Yellow‑bellied Eremomela and Black‑chested Prinia. Dinner at the restaurant was excellent tonight.
After camping in the northern Cape it made a pleasant change to stay in a comfortable bungalow along the lake.
Friday 25th October
In the early morning we took a drive along the lake into the game park. Despite its alluring name, Bird Paradise was disappointing. This site near the southern tip of the dam was dry as a bone and we did not see anything there.
Amongst the species we spotted on the game drive were Tawny Eagle, Pygmy Falcon and White‑backed & Red‑faced Mousebird and a variety of game (including Kudu, Gemsbok and Springbok) were also notable.
A productive hour was spent in the area near the entrance of the park. Here the highlights were Red‑billed Francolin, Rufous‑vented Warbler (Titbabbler) and Mariqua Flycatcher.
Moving on we journeyed north to Waterberg. As the country got drier so Sociable Weaver got commoner. In the late afternoon we arrived at Waterberg Plateau Park. We put up our tents and then began our exploration of the reserve.
One of the first birds we encountered, just a hundred metres from our camp, was the Beautiful Swallow‑tailed Bee-eater.
Large numbers of Bradfield's Swifts flew overhead and above
us Rueppell' Parrots landed in a tree and gave good views. Amongst the other
birds we encountered was (Southern) White‑crowned Shrike and we were also
fortunate to have excellent views of Bradfield's Hornbill, a rare bird seen
more easily here than elsewhere.
Saturday 26th October
We were all out at first light and on our walk to the foot of the scenic mountain, we ticked off Ovampo Sparrowhawk, Violet Woodhoopoe, Monteiro's Hornbill, Bearded Woodpecker, Black‑backed Puffback, Grey‑backed Camaroptera (Bleating Warbler), Burnt‑neck Eremomela and Black‑cheeked Waxbill.
Then we climbed the steep cliffs towering above the plains and were suitably rewarded by the spectacular sight of the park from the top of the plateau. Further exploration of the plateau revealed the very obliging elusive Damara Rock‑Jumper (Rockrunner) and White‑winged Black‑Tit (Carp's Tit), while a pair of African Hawk‑Eagles showed themselves very well.
The afternoon we spent at the swimming pool and later when it was not so hot any more we made a stroll in the Headquarters area. Interesting birds here included Pearl‑spotted Owl, Brown‑crowned (Threestreaked) Tchagra, Pririt Batis, Red‑backed Scrub‑Robin (Whitebrowed Robin) and Rattling Cisticola.
Sunday 27th October
At three o'clock in the morning I successfully taped out an African Barred Owlet (Barred Owl) and also had good views of two Springhares. Leaving Waterberg we drove north to Etosha, stopping first in the desert not far from the entrance, ticking off our first Scaly Weavers (Scalyfeathered Finches) and Violet‑eared Waxbills.
At midday we arrived at the reserve and were able to rent a chalet at Okaukuejo Camp.
The presence of quite a few birds at the campgrounds provided the perfect excuse for a bit of passive birdwatching by a swimming pool when it was really too hot to do anything else! White‑tailed Shrike, Kalahari Scrub‑Robin and Southern Pied‑Babbler were amongst the additions to our lifelist.
It was obvious that the dry, dusty conditions had taken their toll of birds in the surrounding area, and that many of them had found the camp a good source of food and water.
We then drove through this famous park and Etosha was great! Double‑banded Sandgrouse, White‑quilled Bustard (Northern Black Korhaan), Kori Bustard and Pink‑billed Lark were added to the list in short order.
Game animals were conspicuous and included several hundred Burchell's Zebra, Blue Wildebeest and good numbers of the distinctive black‑faced race of Impala.
In the evening we sat around the floodlit waterhole at Okaukuejo Camp admiring 7 Black Rhinoceros, Gemsbok, Elephant, Giraffe and 5 Lions. Rufous‑cheeked and Fiery‑necked Nightjars flitted over the pool and Double‑banded Sandgrouses were all over the place.
Monday 28th October
Next morning found us on the plains again. Despite the drought the birding at Etosha was good and we kept picking up 'new' birds all the time. White‑headed Vulture, Secretary‑bird, Red‑crested Bustard, Red‑billed Hornbill and Rufous‑naped Lark were amongst the additions to our list.
As we passed through Etosha, many mammals such as Elephant, Kudu, Gemsbok etc. were seen near the roadside, while later still we had Ludwig's Bustard. We were repeatedly treated to the spectacle of a low-flying, apparently tail-less Bateleur sweeping past.
A couple of interesting sightings in the camp included (Acacia) Pied Barbet, Crimson‑breasted Gonolek (Shrike), Kurrichane Thrush and Southern Yellow‑rumped Seedeater (Black‑throated Canary).
Tuesday 29th October
The next morning a rather less productive drive saw us arriving at Halali Camp, where we would stay for one night.
Birding in the camp itself again proved to be excellent, with an hour‑long leisurely walk producing about 30 species, amongst them Groundscraper Thrush, the very localized Bare‑cheeked Babbler and a White‑faced Scops‑Owl at its daytime roost.
In the late afternoon we visited several waterholes. The time spent at the artificial waterholes was not too exciting, however we could make excellent pictures of drinking mammals. I certainly did my best for the Fuji film sales.
On our way back we encountered a group of African Elephants and were greeted by a display of ear‑flapping from a bull who was obviously not pleased to see us.
The rest of the evening and night (Eric!) we sat around the waterhole at Halali Camp. A Lioness tried to catch a Porcupine, but it did not take long before the Lioness realised, that Porcupines can defend themselves very well.
At the floodlit waterhole we witnessed a stand off between a Black Rhino and a few Elephants over control of the waterhole.
Other noteworthy observations at the waterhole were Spotted
Eagle‑Owl, Spotted Hyena and just before dawn a herd of 70 Elephants.
Wednesday 30th October
Our pre-breakfast birding in Halali camp produced amongst others Swainson's Spurfowl (Francolin), a singing Willow Warbler and White‑winged Black‑Tit (Carp's Tit). We then left to make our way to Namutoni Camp.
During the dusty drive to the old German Fort of Namutoni raptors were very much in evidence and we also noted a Cape Griffon a very difficult to identify raptor. Another Etosha birding highlight was a magnificent immature Martial Eagle, which we studied at length as it was perched in an open spot high up in a tree along the road.
Our campsite at Namutoni was set up next to a beautiful old fort. It was build there before the turn of the century by the Germans. During the hot hours of the day we stayed along the swimming pool and ticked Rufous‑chested (Redbreasted) Swallows. We then headed to the Etosha Pan. En route we had great views of Black‑lored (Blackfaced) Babbler which turned out to be the only one of the trip and a few Shaft‑tailed Whydahs. With a pair of Blue Cranes and herds of Blue Wildebeests we ended our visit to the dusty plains of Etosha.
Just before dusk excellent views of a pair of Red‑necked Falcons catching Masked Weavers above the Fort Namutoni marsh were had as well perched views at close range.
Thursday 31st October
Having achieved our objectives at Etosha we set off for Rundu making a stop en‑route to have breakfast and to watch several Ashy Tits. Here the real Africa started, which scattered African huts all the way.
We arrived at 13.00 o'clock at Kaisosi Safari Lodge in Rundu. Once settled into our chalet and fully rested, we could sit at the bar and enjoy the sight of Rosy‑faced Lovebirds and Groundscraper Thrushes.
A first exploration of the surroundings of the lodge produced several new birds amongst them Magpie (Longtailed) Shrike, Black Cuckoo, Gabon (Swamp) Boubou and Blue‑breasted Cordonbleu (Blue Waxbill).
During the late afternoon we made a stroll along the narrow Okavango to Vungu Vungu Dairy. We saw lots of people who made the crossing through the very shallow Okavango from Angola to Namibia. On our walk along the Okavango we ticked off Rufous‑bellied Heron, Collared (Redwinged) Pratincole, Wattled Lapwing, Coppery‑tailed Coucal, Marsh Owl, Chirping Cisticola and Brown & Red‑billed Firefinch.
Friday 1st November
With a pre‑arranged early breakfast, we left next morning for the nearby Sewage Works. Sewage works can be depressing, but the Rundu Sewage Works is good enough for a picnic.
Our rail list quickly expanded as we added an African Crake and two Kaffir (African) Rails. Other marshland species included Hottentot Teal, Black Heron, Intermediate (Yellowbilled) Egret, Rufous‑bellied Heron, Allen's (Lesser) Gallinule, Greater Painted‑Snipe and African (Ethiopian) Snipe). A Sanderling was an unexpected bonus, as this wader normally is not found inland. At the same site we were lucky enough to find Lesser Moorhen a hard to find bird in Namibia.
The hottest hours of the day we spent in our chalet or at the bar of the lodge. At 16.30 we returned to the Sewage Works in search for Bronze‑winged Courser. We spent much time searching unsuccessfully for this 'night' bird, but in the meanwhile we picked up Great Spotted Cuckoo, African Cuckoo and Angola (Hartlaub's) Babbler.
Saturday 2nd November
The next morning we drove eastward to Popa Falls. We made quite a few stops en route to Popa Falls where we explored the miombo woodland known to be a site of Rufous‑bellied Tit. Although we failed to find it we did discover a good variety of birds. Small bird parties produced among others Bennett's Woodpecker, Chinspot Batis, Pale (Mousecoloured) Flycatcher, Tawny‑flanked Prinia, Yellow‑breasted Apalis, Arrow‑marked Babbler and Southern Black‑Tit.
The journey was straightforward, on tarmac all the way. The last few kilometres were unmettaled and at midday we arrived at the very popular campgrounds of Popa.
We put up our tents and impatient to get out birding, we were
soon walking along the banks of the nearby Okavango admiring Rock Pratincoles.
We spent all afternoon at Popa Falls and a wealth of birds here included African
Cuckoo‑Falcon (Cuckoo Hawk), Shikra (Little Banded Sparrowhawk), White‑browed
Coucal, Black‑collared Barbet, Violet‑backed (Plumcoloured) Starling,
White‑browed Robin‑Chat (Heuglin's Robin), Yellow‑bellied
Greenbul and Terrestrial Brownbul.
Sunday 3rd November
Early next morning found us on the river‑bank eagerly awaiting coffee and dawn. The early morning walk was rewarded with excellent views of a pair of Cape Clawless Otters.
We then headed to Mahango NP, which forms part of the huge Caprivi Game Reserve. We started well at Mahango, with a pair of the very localized Wattled Cranes with an almost fullgrown young.
Amongst the other birds we noted were Pink‑backed Pelican, Saddle‑billed Stork, Long‑toed Lapwing, African Skimmer, Grey‑headed Kingfisher, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Crested Barbet and Yellow‑billed Oxpecker.
Well‑grown crocodiles kept a watchful eye on us as they sunned themselves on a the sandbanks in the Okavango.
In addition to the birding, which was superb, Mahango was also great for game‑viewing. We enjoyed many excellent sightings of Hippo, Sable Antelope, Lechwe and several other mammal species, including Tsessebe and Common Duiker. Then we decided to make a quick visit to Shakawe in Botswana to make reservations for our planned stay there.
At the border we had to wait, but soon the inevitable paperwork was complete and we were heading off south to Shakawe. We stayed a few hours in the neighbourhood of the lodge, had lunch and ticked off Hooded Vulture, Spectacled & Southern Brown‑throated Weaver. We then returned to Popa Falls.
Monday 4th November
A pre‑breakfast walk at Popa Falls produced Sulphur‑breasted (Orangebreasted) Bushshrike and Jameson's Firefinch.
From Popa we moved on to Mahango. At Mahango we had marvellous photograph opportunities of a herd of Elephants, which decided to wallow and swim in the Okavango River and we saw a large flock of Abdim's Storks circling about half a kilometre away.
On then to Shakawe for two‑days of good food and exciting new birds. Shakawe Lodge, with its chalets set in natural woodland was a delightful place with a very relaxing atmosphere and the best food we enjoyed in Botswana..
Strolling around the grounds and along the steep riverbank revealed a few new species, but the site will probably be best remembered for its bee‑eaters. We saw five species of bee‑eaters including the stunning Southern Carmine Bee‑eater. A Giant Kingfisher, seemingly indifferent to our presence, posed for the photographers.
A river trip on the Okavango had us watching small groups of Collared (Redwinged) Pratincoles at close range with flocks of buoyant African Skimmers doing their thing beside our boat. Other observations included Goliath Heron, African Fish‑Eagle, Sanderling (!) and Greater Swamp‑Warbler.
At 19.00 hours we made an excellent spot‑lighting boat trip with local guide Duncan Pritchard. With the engine turned off we could float and enjoy a tremendous stillness and silence while the spotlight revealed several of the rare and secretive White‑backed Night‑Herons and we had stunning views of the incredible Pel's Fishing‑Owl. More than happy we set off for dinner at the excellent lodge. At dusk we successfully taped out African Wood‑Owl and African Barred Owlet (Barred Owl).
Tuesday 5th November
The wild yelp of the African Fish‑Eagle was our alarm clock this morning. Today we spent all day at Shakawe.
Strolling the grounds we added some nice quality sightings, such as Dwarf Bittern, Crested Francolin, African Black‑headed Oriole, Yellow‑fronted Tinkerbird (Barbet) and Collared Sunbird.
Another boat trip in the Okavango River Delta brought us to a very large Southern Carmine Bee‑eater colony. We avoided the Hippos with great dexterity and managed very close encounters with a pair of Wattled Cranes. During the trip we were treated to fishing African Fish‑Eagles and a group of more than 100 African Openbills. The rest of the day we spent at the swimming pool along the Okavango.
Wednesday 6th November
After a comfortable night at the lodge we had a pre‑breakfast stroll on the campgrounds and at last I saw my much‑wanted (Western) Banded Snake‑Eagle.
All too soon it was time to head off to central Namibia, but not before we made a last attempt to see a few miombo woodland specialities. We passed through Mahango and just north of the entrance we made a short visit to the very open woodland, where we turned up Woodland Kingfisher, Sharp‑tailed Glossy‑Starling and Greencap Eremomela.
The rest of the day was largely a travelling day as we headed
for Otavi in Namibia. We spent the night at a bungalow park at Otavi.
Thursday 7th November
Our next port of call was to be Omaruru and the Erongo Mountains. Our drive through the Namibian desert to Omaruru was only memorable for the only records of Brown Snake‑Eagle and Augur Buzzard during the whole trip.
In record time Ken (Damon) Thorne brought us in Omaruru at the local Caravan Park. Hereafter we made a long ride in the Erongo mountains area (Omaruru - Okombahe - Usakos - Karibib - Omaruru).
Near Okombahe we had good views of the unobtrusive Herero Chat, a rare Namibian endemic. Amongst the other birds we encountered were a pair of Lanner Falcons, Monteiro's Hornbill, Tractrac Chat, Bradfield's, Spike‑heeled and Stark's Lark. Back at Omaruru we made a stroll along the dry river course and here the most noteworthy birds were Common Cuckoo, Crimson‑breasted Gonolek (Shrike), Layard's Warbler (Layard's Titbabbler) and Southern Pied‑Babbler.
Friday 8th November
It was an hour before dawn and we were taking a brief stretch before we were attempting to visit a dry riverbed near Omaruru. Amongst the birds we noted there were Hartlaub's Francolin, Verreaux's (Giant) Eagle‑Owl and White‑tailed Shrike.
When we returned at the Caravan Park we made another stroll along the dry river course and had very good views of a male Blackcap, a very scarce migrant in Southern Africa.
A short stop on the drive westwards to the Spitzkoppe yielded Rueppell's Bustard (Korhaan). The Spitzkoppe, a large granite mountain rising sharply from the surrounding plains, was a big disappointment to us and it was a good thing that we already had seen the Herero Chat elsewhere.
Hereafter we headed west to the coast. We made a stop at a roadside souvenirshop and Eric bought quite a few beautifully polished stones.
At Cape Cross Seal Reserve, home of over 200,000 Cape Fur Seals we did not see any new birds and we then drove southwards to Swakopmund along the Skeleton Coast. Swakopmund, a popular beach resort on the Atlantic coast, looked for all the world like a Bavarian village, buildings complete with steeply angled roofs, so that the snow can slide off, naturally... We spent the night in a heavily guarded beach resort.
Saturday 9th November
Next day found us en route to Walvis Bay. The artificial wooden platforms along the coast erected for the guano industry were really packed with thousands of Cape Cormorants and smaller numbers of Crowned and Bank Cormorants.
At Walvis Bay Lagoon the birdwatching was excellent with thousands of waders seemingly posing for the Optolith scope. For instance the flock of 500 Chestnut‑banded Plovers, a bird I had dipped on my previous trips to Kenya.
The numbers of Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers were staggering. We stopped here and there along the muddy shoreline and witnessed a Peregrine Falcon killing a Chestnut‑banded Plover.
We made a short visit to the Namib Naukluft National Park and we had good views of a party of ghostly Gray's Larks.
On our way back to Walvis Bay we marvelled at some of the massive sand dunes at Rooipoort and here we quickly found the endemic Dune Lark. When we returned to Swakopmund a desert wind swept huge amounts of abrasive sand across the road.
Sunday 10th November
We bid the coast farewell and we headed to the Namib Naukluft NP. In the gravel wastes of the reserve, the prehistoric "Welwitschia bainesii " attracted our attention, as did a party of Gray's Larks.
Our picnic lunch we did at a oasis and amongst the most noteworthy birds we did see here were Rosy‑faced Lovebird, White‑backed Mousebird, Common (Greater) Scimitar‑Bill and Cape (Longbilled) Crombec.
Eventually it was time to drive on to Windhoek where, with the tour almost completed, we booked a room in the luxurious Kalahari Sands Hotel.
Monday 11th November/Tuesday 12th November
Our last morning in Namibia was largely devoted to sightseeing and visiting small shops. The trip now almost over, we spent the final afternoon birding at Daan Viljoen Game Reserve. The flocks of Common (European) Swifts were a reminder that it was winter back home. We had good looks of Lesser Honeyguide, Southern Penduline‑Tit, Long‑billed & Buffy Pipit and a breeding African Reed‑Warbler.
At Windhoek airport a few South African (Cliff) Swallows were there to greet us.
Windhoek airport provided some interesting last memories of Namibia, when an agitated woman of the Namibian customs tried to stop me to take two pieces of luggage into the airplane.
As soon as we had cleared the customs we boarded the Lufthansa Boeing and were on our way back to Europe.
Southern Africa has meant being knee‑deep in endemic birds (90 species). The final total for the four weeks trip was 478 species of birds. I finished the trip with 137 lifers, this in spite of having spent a lot of time previously in Africa. In addition to all these birds no less than 49 species of mammal were seen on the trip.
Technically, the rarest bird we found on this trip was a male Blackcap (the third for Southern Africa). But it is difficult to elect as Bird of the Trip - particularly when it is a breeding bird of your own backyard - and when the other contenders include quite a few quest birds.
Perhaps the most memorable sight of the entire four weeks was the Pel's Fishing‑Owl watched at night in a boat in the powerful beam of a hand‑held lamp as it perched obligingly in the top of a dead tree in the Okavango River Delta.
My five best birds of the trip? Easy. White‑backed Night‑Heron, Wattled Crane, Cape Eagle‑Owl, Pel's Fishing‑Owl and Herero Chat, lifers all of course.
Chaam, (29 Dec.1996)
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