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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Namibia - 24th September to 6th October 2000,Keith Shepherd
Sunday 24th September
Itinerary: Windhoek - Waterberg Plateau
We landed in Windhoek at 08:15 after our 11 hour flight with Air Namibia via Frankfurt to a warm and sunny morning, and from the plane we could see many hirundines or small swifts flying around the terminal buildings, and once on the ground, with binoculars in hand, we soon identified three species, African Palm Swift, Rock Martin and Little Swift. These were followed by the routine House Sparrow, a species found in most airport terminals around the world.
The local security were keen to usher us into the airport building, and once our luggage had been located we found our driver, Willem, and his assistant, Suzie from Chameleon Safaris, the company who had arranged all the ground arrangements for the trip. A short delay whilst we changed some money into local currency and then we started to load up the 20 seat truck, our transport for the trip. We also saw Cape Wagtail around the terminal building before we set off on the drive to our first scheduled stop at Waterberg Plateau.
Our first stop was to be some 70 km along the road, where we would break for lunch, or rather picking up snacks for lunch, but we were obviously going to glimpse some species on the drive, and despite being unable to identify a number of the smaller species, we did connect with Glossy Starling, Laughing Dove, Pale-winged Starling, many Black-shouldered Kite's, regular Purple Roller and Fork-tailed Drongo.
We eventually stopped and picked up supplies, but as is the way with all stops in a foreign country, we were more interested in the birds than the food, and several smaller species became apparent at this stop. White-browed Sparrow Weaver was the first identified, and only shortly afterwards were we to realise just how widespread this bird was. A pair of much smaller birds eventually revealed themselves as Chestnut-vented Tit Babbler and then we added Blue Waxbill and finally, before we were forced to leave, a more regular species in the form of Hoopoe.
Later on, we realised that a small sunbird sp. we had seen was in fact a Marico Sunbird.
Our lunch break was taken another hour further on, but we added 'domestic' Ostrich, although our guide assured us that all Ostriches in Namibia were 'wild'!, and several Lesser Grey Shrike.
Immediately we stopped by the roadside we starting scanning and a number of new birds were added, Marico Flycatcher, Black-chested Prinia, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Pririt Batis, Crimson-breasted Shrike, the Namibian national bird, and so stunning we immediately understood why, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, a very obliging Kalahari Robin, although all the cameras had been left on the truck, and lastly, after several attempts, we finally identified a pair of Yellow Canaries.
There was still an hour or so to Waterberg, and more birds were starting to appear, although again, we failed to identify many. Those we did included a stunning adult Bateleur, distant Grey Hornbill and several small parties of Helmeted Guineafowl, together with an increasing number of mammals, most being Striped Ground Squirrel, although we also saw Chacma Baboon and distant Giraffe, our first of the large mammals!
At the entrance to Waterberg we had to stop for a couple of minutes to register, and the stop overlooked a lush garden with many smaller passerines present, amongst which were stunningly attractive Melba Finch, Grey-headed Sparrow and Red-eyed Bulbul.
Several more minutes passed whilst we waited for our keys at the reception allowing us time to stroll around the vicinity and adding close Burchell's Starling, and extremely obliging White-crowned Shrike, before the short drive up to the bungalows added Red-billed Francolin.
We settled into the bungalows, very pleasant and detached, watching a Slender Mongoose outside, before having a final stroll around in the late afternoon, adding Grey-backed Bleating Warbler and Grey Lourie plus many roaming Chacma Baboon's, whilst the impressive plateau above us had both Alpine and Bradfield's Swift flying around in good numbers. The nearby bungalows added several new birds, Greater Scimitarbill, Carp's Tit and also Damara Dik-Dik, a wonderfully approachable small deer, before we watched small flocks of Rosy-faced Lovebirds settling into roost in the tree line just below the plateau cliff face.
Monday 25th September
Itinerary: Waterberg Platreau
As was to be the case on most mornings, our guides provided a very welcome home cooked breakfast outside their bungalow at dawn. Today we had a four hour game drive scheduled to start at 7.00am with one of the resident guides, and as the light improved we saw several species familiar from yesterday and also added Common Swift in amongst the Alpines flying around the plateau, and also added an Icterine Warbler in the trees outside our own bungalow, although only two of the group were fortunate enough to see this bird, and it turned out to be the only one of the trip.
We all clambered aboard the four wheel drive land rover, 11 of us, Suzie and the driver cum guide, and headed out towards the restricted part of the park, but we had a couple of brief stops outside the park on the way, the first of these brought excellent views of Cape Turtle Dove, and also an absolutely stunning pair of Violet-eared Waxbill's as well as several swallows which we couldn't positively identify. Whilst our second stop just inside the gates were to watch a very obliging Pearl-spotted Owlet.
The climb up to the plateau provided both Ruppell's Parrot and Red-breasted Swallow as well as very obliging Rock Dassie (we know them in Europe as Hyrax), and then we reached the top. The landscape was not much different than at ground level, although much sandier soil provided the base for the tracks, the vegetation was similar, with plenty of scrub and small trees with the occasional larger tree; but the sheer size of the plateau could now be appreciated as there was no real evidence of any cliff!
Several new species, both of bird and mammal were soon added, Southern Pied Babbler, Bennett's Woodpecker and Tawny Eagle along with both Roan and Sable Antelope and Steenbok kept us interested whilst on the continuing drive we stopped several times for White-bellied Sunbird, Black-breasted Snake-Eagle, Fawn-coloured Lark, a species we found somewhat difficult to identify due to the light, and briefly, a Red-crested Korhaan. We also watched two dung beetles and prevented another vehicle from running them over whilst they went about their routine business, of moving dung! Namaqua Dove, Three-streaked Tchagra and Grassveld Pipit (also known as Richard's!) were also seen before we reached our final destination, the regular feeding station of the Cape Vulture, although no feeding was taking place outside the breeding season so no birds were visible on the ground, but we did have the luck to watch one bird circling high above us, perhaps thinking we were food!
We headed back and as well as Southern Anteater Chat, Sabota Lark and Pale Chanting Goshawk we also saw three adult Giraffes on the road just in front of us, providing excellent photographic opportunities, and we also saw Impala just before making our descent. Bradfield's Hornbill, White-crested Helmet Shrike, Brubru and a brief Desert Cisticola made up the final species in our game drive which lasted nearly an hour longer than expected, and had been very rewarding for all of us.
We relaxed for a few hours, having lunch in the superb park restaurant, whilst watching a Familiar Chat on the balcony and outside our bungalow whilst we waited for it to cool down slightly we also saw White-browed Robin.
The area around the park entrance had looked very appealing when we arrived so we decided to spend a couple of hours around the area and during this time we saw several new birds for the trip, Acacia Pied Barbet, Long-billed Crombec, Lesser Masked Weaver, Wahlberg's Eagle, Golden-tailed Woodpecker and Red-billed Hornbill.
But the day was not completely finished as we also watched several Tree Rats as dusk descended and on out stroll down to the restaurant for our evening meal we also saw Bushbaby!
Quite an excellent end to an absorbing day.
So after less than two days in the country we had seen a total of 75 species of bird plus another dozen mammals, and tomorrow we were heading to the world famous Etosha reserve, home to many species of game and bird life, and we couldn't wait.
Tuesday 26th September
tinerary: Waterberg Plateau - Okakuejo (Etosha)
Today we had a slightly later breakfast and left Waterberg behind and although we saw no new species were seen before we departed, we did have good views of both Acacia Pied Barbet and also a couple of very obliging Damara Dik-Dik.
Shortly after leaving the park we added Monteiro's Hornbill, which was to become more common as we headed north, and then we also saw Steppe Eagle.
A scheduled stop to change currency, stock up on drink and snacks in one of the larger towns saw us watching large numbers of Little and Palm Swift and also Feral Pigeon, although the queue for stamps in the post office must have been the longest 45 minutes I have ever spent, and there were only three people in the queue before me!
Our drive to Etosha took several hours with no new birds en-route, but the minute we stopped at the entrance to register we got out to stretch our legs and immediately added three new birds for the trip, the first, Secretary Bird, in flight high above us, was one of my target species, and added to this we had a single White-backed Vulture and also a brief view of a Barn Owl.
We detoured to a waterhole en-route to the centre at Okakuejo, and not only did we see our first 'wild' Ostrich, we also saw a number of the game species for which Etosha is so famous, Burchell's Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Springbok, Gemsbok and Kudu were all seen extremely well and very close! The cameras and videos didn't stop for nearly half and hour, but then we had to leave to settle into our accommodation as we had another game drive scheduled for late in the afternoon.
However, before we got to our accommodation we had to check in, and we watched small flocks of Red-billed Quelea whilst waiting for the keys, and then also added several Blacksmith Plovers on the lawns around the bungalows.
A quick check on the accommodation and then several of us headed for the waterhole just a few yards away, seeing Southern Masked Weaver and Striped Ground Squirrel even before we got there. And the sight that greeted us, of an African Elephant bathing in the middle of the waterhole, for those who had never experienced wildlife of southern Africa before, will remain with us always!
Several species of bird were also seen around the waterhole coming down to drink, including new species like Pied Crow, Red-headed Finch, Red-capped Lark and Great Sparrow, plus on our way back to have a quick freshen up before out game drive, many female Wattled Starlings.
The game drive started slowly, and we had good, if somewhat distant views of two Kori Bustards and then very close views of Northern Black Korhaan before watching several Black-backed Jackals. We took the opportunity to stop and watch game and birds which included Chat Flycatcher, Fiscal Shrike, Black Crow, a very obliging Greater Kestrel and then the brakes slammed on and we all oohed and aahed as four African Lions were seen just off the path close by. Unfortunately, all our noise disturbed them enough to disappear after just a few seconds, but we were more fortunate on our way back when they had returned and stayed more visible for somewhat longer.
Only one other species was seen before we raced back to the gates just five minutes before they closed for the night, and that was Crowned Plover.
A final visit to the waterhole after our evening meal saw the wonderful sight of an adult male Lion drinking, a nightjar species, which we later found out could only have been Rufous-cheeked Nightjar and last, but by no means least, two Black Rhino came down to drink.
And we thought yesterday had been excellent, well today had surpassed it, with now nearly 100 species of bird and over 20 species of mammal, we went to bed happy, even if we were watching carefully for mosquitoes, which had become visible here!
Wednesday 27th September
Itinerary: Okakuejo (Etosha) - Opuwo
Today we were again having an early game drive, so up at dawn and out to the waterhole where many Double-banded Sandgrouse had come to drink, and also at the waterhole were a few Spotted Dikkop, so a good start even before breakfast.
Breakfast over, we had 15 minutes before setting off on the game drive so several of the group went in search of the impressive nest of the Sociable Weaver in the campsite, but we were soon surrounded by hundreds of these birds long before we reached the nest, feeding all over the open areas just like sparrows!
Our game drive started and along with more usual game and bird species we saw large flocks of Chestnut-backed and Grey-backed Finch Larks, Gemsbok, a very close pair of Pale Chanting Goshawk, one feeding on a lizard, several Namaqua Sandgrouse, a distant, although strutting Secretary Bird and a very impressive waterhole where good numbers of both Burchell's Zebra and Blue Wildebeest were coming to drink.
Soon after leaving the waterhole we saw close Kori Bustard, and then, as we turned to head back we added Double-banded Courser, several of these impressive birds showing close to the truck, and then a Kestrel, which turned out to be our own common variety.
Our last species before departing Etosha were Yellow Mongoose, several showing on the drive back to the lodge, then an Ashy Tit just as we were stocking up on refreshments for our long drive north, and finally, as we were about to leave the park, Black-faced Impala.
We now had a 450 km drive across not so well kept roads and very little else was seen before our lunch stop , which came as a welcome break. A short stroll through some scrub close to where we were lunching, despite it being very hot, provided both Black-cheeked Waxbill and Barn Swallow.
The drive of 200 km or so on to Opuwo, the capital of the Himba country, was on reasonably well surfaced roads but no new birds were seen during the four hours it took, although we did stop once to watch a White-backed Vulture sitting on its roadside nest.
As Opuwo was an interim stop, the locale was somewhat different to previous accommodation, being fenced off not from the wildlife, but the locals, who definitely provided the most hassle of the entire trip, but mainly in trying to sell their merchandise!
Thursday 28th September
Itinerary: Opuwo - Epupa Falls
Today was scheduled to be another long drive up to the Angolan border at Epupa Falls, and although the distance was not great, only some 200 km, the last 100 km was on supposed to be on some definitely rough roads (much worse than Elmley was at its worst)!
However, we made such good progress after our start, covering the first 140 km in just two hours, that we half expected the reports of the road to be vastly exaggerated. During this time we saw much larger numbers of Monteiro's Hornbill than elsewhere, and also common was Meve's Long-tailed Starling and the further north we progressed, White-tailed Shrike.
About 60 km from Epupa we had a short break, after which the road deteriorated significantly, and it then took us over two hours to cover the last 40 km, when the truck was sometimes crawling at no more than 5 kph on the extreme surfaces!
Despite this, we arrived at least two hours earlier than we had hoped, and so we spent the first couple of hours relaxing and unwinding alongside the Kunene River, which roared by the camp, just a few metres away from our tents.
It wasn't long before we were finding new species for the trip, including a stunning Short-toed Rock Thrush along with Water Dikkop, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and African Pied Wagtail as well as several small or young Nile Crocodiles.
We just relaxed watching good numbers of species around the river, Pied Kingfisher, Chestnut Weaver and many Wire-tailed Swallows before one of the prime reasons for visiting the are, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush was spotted. This species can only be found in this corner of Namibia, so to find it so easily, and it appeared to be quite common, so this was a good bonus.
Our last bird seen whilst in the camp area was African Darter.
Some of us decided to have a stroll along towards the local Himba village, and we did see several Familiar Chats, African Mourning Dove and Hamerkop, but were hassled somewhat by the local children, so decided to beat a retreat to the camp, just in time to see on the far bank, a skulking Swamp Boubou.
Another excellent day, the site of Epupa could not be enjoyed enough, a delightful spot, picturesque and full of birds; we ended the day with over 120 species for the trip, as well as 23 mammals.
Friday 29th September
Itinerary: Epupa Falls
We had the whole day without the need for the truck, so we could lounge around and do our own thing today, but the routine pre-breakfast walk, which started at dawn, was taken by most of the group as usual.
Before leaving the camp we saw Black-crowned Night Heron and Common Sandpiper, and just after leaving found a party of Red-billed Firefinches and four Red-faced Mousebirds in quick succession.
Soon after we strolled through the Himba village and found a tidal area of the river with little water in it, and this provided good views of some species seen at distance yesterday, including Swamp Boubou and Chestnut Weaver plus a number of Black-throated Canaries.
Other birds which showed well during our stroll back for breakfast were Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Brubru, whilst those of us at the front had a flyover Yellow-billed Oxpecker which alighted on top of a nearby tree for a few seconds before moving off. Our only oxpecker of the entire trip!
After breakfast we decided to go back through the village again, this time Groundscraper Thrush was the first bird seen, as well as excellent views of Short-toed Rock Thrush. The tidal area was filling up quickly and very few birds were now visible, although just past here we had excellent close views of a Three-banded Plover, a quite majestic little wader.
We decided to try to follow the river, but after stopping to watch a number of species we were confronted by a very large official who clearly was unhappy about us being in this sensitive area with binoculars and explained that if he thought we were taking photographs he would 'shoot us'; no compromise!
Moving quickly on we found ourselves at the river again, only some 30 metres from the Angolan side; no wonder it was so sensitive here, but we did find several other species in the area, Little Bee-eater, Blue-grey Flycatcher and also Steppe Buzzard.
We delicately and very carefully retraced our steps, not slowing down until out of sight of the camp, noticing a small group of Ruppell's Parrots as we passed.
Our final bird of the morning was a splendid Giant Kingfisher which showed very well.
The afternoon we spent relaxing, but finally all came to terms with one of the local African Fish Eagles, a quite splendid species, and a bird already seen before breakfast by those who hadn't made the effort to come out on the pre-breakfast stroll
The last bird of the day was a male Scarlet-chested Sunbird which performed for me whilst I was in one of the outdoor conveniences!
Yet another excellent day, and very relaxing. The temperature had been hot throughout , and our tally had risen to over 135, and another mammal species, Striped Tree Squirrel brought the tally of other animals positively identified to nearly 25.
Saturday 30th September
tinerary: Epupa Falls - Hobatere Lodge
The entire group decided to lay in this morning, or at least not go out birding before breakfast; probably we were all contemplating the trip ahead!
So after breakfast we headed off, seeing several Rock Pigeons as we were leaving the Epupa camp area, and on the drive to Hobatere we also added African Hawk Eagle.
On arriving at the Hobatere Lodge, a government run concern, managed by Steve Brain, an excellent birder, we were falling over several birds either not seen previously or only distantly.
As well as Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-headed Finch and Red-billed Quelea, there were hundreds of Chestnut Weaver and Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting, as well as good numbers of Great Sparrow and Golden-breasted Bunting.
Another time to relax and soak up the atmosphere, we visited the hide out by a small waterhole where Gemsbok and Springbok were joined by Hartman's Mountain Zebra and distant Warthog.
Back at the lodge as dusk settled we waited for sandgrouse to appear, but first were rewarded with the resident pair of Giant Eagle Owl which were roosting in one of the nearby trees. The sandgrouse finally appeared, several hundred, all Double-banded.
A much quieter day bird wise but we had two guided trips planned for tomorrow, pre-breakfast and a night drive.
Sunday 1st October
Itinerary: Hobatere Lodge
Many birds were up early, as we were today, and we were treated to the pair of Giant Eagle Owl again before we left on our bird drive with Steve Brain.
As we left, a party of noisy Bare-cheeked Babblers could be seen around the swimming pool area.
Steve had decided on two special birds here he could guarantee, but despite playing tapes over and over we could not connect with one of these species, Hartlaub's Francolin.
But other birds were seen, firstly Shikra, although before we had stopped the truck we had already seen a beautiful pair of Bat-eared Foxes close to their den, and next to the Shikra was a wonderful Klipspringer.
The second of Steve's target species, despite being difficult to find, we did connect with and had excellent views as it lived up to it's name, Rockrunner.
Asking a question is often a good idea, and pointing to a nearby nest found that we had passed a number of Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, a common species hereabouts, and we were now watching them close up.
No new species of bird were added on the trip back, but Dassie Rat and closer views of Warthog left us very satisfied, and ready for our brunch.
The heat became almost unbearable after this, rising to over 120F in the peak of the afternoon, so swimming and sleeping were the order for the rest of the day, although a brief stroll late afternoon provided a few of us with a Gabar Goshawk, and a visit to the hide also had a male and two female Eland in attendance.
After our evening meal we boarded the lodge truck for the night drive, the main objective to seek out night creatures, although a good possibility of a nightjar or two helped.
We saw several mammals very well in the headlights of the truck, several Cape Fox as well as another Bat-eared Fox were followed by the wallaby like Springhare, which hopped along in front of us for a few hundred metres.
We also saw Scrub Hare, a giant rabbit, the secretive and scarce Aardwolf and lastly a wonderful Porcupine, but alas no nightjars. Still you can't have everything!
Monday 2nd October
Itinerary: Hobatere Lodge - Brandberg -Brandberg Rest Camp
Today we were leaving Hobatere and heading out towards the coast which would take several hours drive, but several of the group had a last look at the waterhole before breakfast, and good numbers of Rock Pigeon were coming in to drink, and we also saw the Giant Eagle Owl again, as well as a small party of Quail Finch.
We finally departed and en-route to our lunch stop saw a pair of Secretary Birds flying away in front of us, the closest views we had throughout the trip.
Mid-afternoon brought us to the mountain area of Brandberg, the highest in Namibia, but the temperature was still very hot, so the walk along the track was hard work, but we immediately were seeing new species, starting with Dusky Sunbird and Mountain Chat before we even entered the reserve area.
A small open pool in a dried up stream had a couple of Lark-like Buntings coming down to drink, and as we continued more Mountain Chat were seen, and then a large bird of prey flew over which we managed to identify as an Auger Buzzard.
We were also getting some splendid sightings of the Rock Agama, a lizard; the male quite spectacular in his deep blue and orange coloration.
Our last species in Brandberg was when we got back to the stream when the buntings had been joined by White-throated Canary.
Our overnight stop was at the Brandberg Rest Camp in Uis, but before we were more than a few minutes out of Brandberg we stopped the coach as there were hundreds of Grey-backed Finch Larks flying up from the side of the road, and amongst them were a number of Stark's Lark.
Then, we stopped again as several Ludwig's Bustard could be seen in the distance, these being followed by four more and several Namaqua Sandgrouse.
So ended another day, with the total now exceeding 150 species.
Tuesday 3rd October
Itinerary: Brandberg Rest Camp - Swakopmund - Walvis Bay
The morning started slowly, with a long drive to the coast beckoning, and a possible disaster after nearly two hours drive when we found that one of the party had left her purse back at the rest camp, in it her money and passport! Fortunately, although it took us until the Thursday, we finally had the purse, complete with money and passport, back with it's owner.
There was, however, one high spot on the drive to Cape Cross in the form of a fly past Lanner, unfortunately only seen by two of the group.
Eventually we turned off the main road and into Cape Cross, the well known seal sanctuary, and the Atlantic Ocean beckoned.
Immediately we stopped, birds were being identified, and being on the coast, they were all new for the trip; starting with the South African endemic Cape Cormorant, Kelp Gull, Swift Tern, Grey-headed Gull and Great Cormorant.
We then moved on to the seal colony, we were confronted with thousands of Cape Fur Seals, the sight was amazing, as was the smell!
More birds were being seen, Turnstone, Cape Gannet, White-fronted Plover, Sanderling, Sooty Shearwater and Hartlaub's Gull all being found in quick succession, whilst scanning the distant seas added both Pomarine and Arctic Skua. We didn't know which way to look next.
The birds continued to be seen, with Curlew Sandpiper and Caspian Tern being followed by a close in White-chinned Petrel, a bird not really expected; whilst the final species before we reluctantly left was the more familiar Grey Plover.
This really was a wonderful place, and we could have stayed for much longer if we didn't still have a lengthy journey ahead of us.
Our next port of call was the tourist town of Swakopmund, and a party of Egyptian Geese were located on the outskirts of the town, and here we had a couple of hours for lunch and shopping, or birding, before we had to make the short trip south to Walvis Bay.
The group split up here, many wanting to eat or shop, and others wanting to bird! The latter wandered down to the beach finding a party of Common Waxbills in the local school field, and then we added Cattle Egret and Whimbrel amongst the tropical gardens.
Then along the shrub filled promenade we saw a stunning male Cape Sparrow and lastly an African Marsh Warbler.
Too soon we had to find something to eat before we departed for the short drive to Walvis Bay, which provided us with our only true sand dunes of the trip, and even on the very edge of the Namib desert, we couldn't help but be impressed with the size of them!
As soon as we reached the lagoon at Walvis Bay we added two new species, White Pelican and Greater Flamingo, both of which were obvious, whereas the vast myriad of waders were not so obvious, and would have to wait until we had checked into our rooms.
The weather on the coast, particularly in the evening was decidedly cool, reaching no higher than 12-15C, a far cry from the day before, so many of the group donned jackets, jumpers and even fleeces on the stroll down to the lagoon where by far the most numerous bird was Curlew Sandpiper, thousands being seen, along with Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Cape Teal, the local and very elegant Damara Tern, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Stint and Avocet.
Next was a delight when we found a Kittlitz's Plover, unfortunately not everyone saw it today; the final birds for the day were a party of Black-necked Grebe, Yellow Wagtail and Grey Heron.
The group total was now rapidly approaching 200 and we had exceeded 30 species of other animal.
Wednesday 4th October
Itinerary: Walvis Bay
Today was basically a free day to do what we liked, but on a birding holiday, free days usually mean birding, only more relaxed!
Some of the group had a pre-breakfast look at the vast lagoon where we met the president of the local conservation organisation who is seeking funds for protecting the lagoon. He offered to take us that afternoon out to the far side, an area not usually accessible.
However, that was going to be later in the day and before then we had other birds to watch, and along with the enormous numbers of waders, terns, cormorants and gulls seen yesterday, several additional species were located, including Common Tern, a single Lesser Flamingo amongst the hundreds of Greater, Black-winged Stilt, Sandwich Tern and Knot.
Then on the stroll back for breakfast a swallow passed quickly, which we eventually pinned down as a South African Cliff Swallow.
We strolled around the lagoon after breakfast getting very close views of some of the species including Cape Sparrow, several Kittlitz's Plover and Great White Egret.
The afternoon found us, in our own truck driving along the narrow tracks with the lagoon lapping around the vehicle on both sides, and at one location, we had to drive through shallows where the track had been breached, but our driver, Willem, was up to the task, and we knew he would not risk his vehicle, so we were fairly relaxed about the whole event.
We added Little Egret and then Chestnut-banded Plover before we saw a couple of Black-backed Jackals, which apparently live on the lagoon. They survive by feeding on flamingos!
Our main reason for coming to the far side of the lagoon was our only realistic chance to see a speciality of the area, and after adding Marsh Sandpiper, we were finally able to see several African Black Oystercatchers at close distance.
A single Curlew was also seen here, and on the drive back we had a very close Sooty Shearwater fly straight in front of the truck; the last bird of the day was Ruff.
We had now exceeded 200 species and with two days left were hoping to reach about 225!
Thursday 5th October
Itinerary: Walvis Bay - Sundown Lodge
Another pre-breakfast visit to the lagoon added no new species, just vast numbers of species we had seen before, although getting good views of South African Cliff Swallow, Kittlitz's Plover, Damara Tern, Common Waxbill and Cape Sparrow amongst others was very worthwhile.
Although we were now going to head back inland towards Windhoek, our first stop was the local sewage works, which have been turned into a reserve, and it didn't take more than a couple of minutes to realise why.
Before we had even parked up, we saw Purple Gallinule, Purple Heron, Great Crested Grebe and Red-knobbed Coot.
Then on scanning the first medium sized pool, a range of new birds could be immediately seen; Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, Little Grebe and Hottentot Teal all being easily seen, along with African Marsh Warblers which appeared to be singing everywhere.
The other, larger pool had similar species plus Cape Shoveler, Moorhen and African Darter, whilst the walk along the reed fringed tracks had fleeting glimpses of warblers, all of which turned out to be African Marsh, and then we saw several Reed Cormorants in another pool, and a teasing view of a heron which was misidentified several times before finally being confirmed as a Black-crowned Night Heron.
We went into Swakopmund for a brief stop, to pick up the lost purse, and a big sigh of relief was felt by everyone when Anita was finally reunited with it.
As we had plenty of time, we persuaded Willem to take us to the Swakopmund golf course where there was a possible chance of Bokmakerie, and although we didn't see one, here or anywhere else, we did get superb views of a Tractrac Chat, and also Pearl-breasted Swallow and a small party of White-backed Mousebirds, all within a few yards of the clubhouse.
Our drive to Sundown Lodge was fairly uneventful, but the lodge itself was in a wonderful setting and a number of birds were easily seen here, even if none were new for the trip. Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Tawny Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, a melanistic Gabar Goshawk, Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Pririt Batis, breeding Familiar Chat, Greater Scimitarbill, White-backed Mousebird, and last, but by no means least, Rockrunner.
Our last night in Namibia, and the lodge laid on a special treat for, cook your own stir fry! And we relaxed and some of us sampled several of the local liqueurs!
Friday 6th October
Itinerary: Sundown Lodge - Daan Viljoen - Windhoek
So, our last day in Namibia had arrived, and to make the most of it, we covered the grounds of the lodge pretty thoroughly before breakfast, Rockrunner being one of the first birds seen.
We then added Long-billed Crombec, White-backed Mousebird, Black-chested Prinia, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-cheeked Waxbill and Melba Finch, to name a few; plus the resident Lesser Masked Weavers which were extremely photogenic.
We drove through Windhoek and out to Daan Viljoen, our last site of the trip, and our last game was seen here, namely Giraffe and Blue Wildebeest, as well as Chacma Baboon.
In addition a number of bird species were also seen, some of which we had seen once or twice before on the trip, but others which had previously eluded us.
The birds included; Egyptian Goose, Greater Striped Swallow, Cape Bunting, Red-billed Teal, Blacksmith Plover, Cape Vulture, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, several obliging Mountain Chats, Hoopoe, Three-banded Plover, Helmeted Guineafowl, Wood Sandpiper, Brown-throated Martin, Groundscraper Thrush and finally Long-billed Pipit.
All of the species could be seen well in the lake land setting, and we also had a couple of brief views of Striped Mouse.
Our trip was now coming to an end and we had a final farewell drink at the Chameleon Safaris headquarters in Windhoek, meeting the organiser, Jackie Burton, and the companies two pet Meerkats, before heading off to the airport and our late evening return flight to London, via Frankfurt.
During the trip I had seen a total of 224 birds species, 30 mammals and a number of other reptile and insect species.
The group total reached over 230 species and we covered some 3000 kilometres.
Thanks must go to Jackie Burton, of Chameleon Safaris for the ground arrangements which had been superb throughout; in particular Waterberg Plateau, Okakuejo (Etosha), Epupa Falls, Hobatere and Sundown Lodge.
Also, the excellent driving, cooking skills and good humour of our principal guide Willem, and his joyous and fun loving assistant Suzie.
But most of all my thanks go to the group who were excellent company throughout; Jean Biller, Bob & May Borlase, Mike Brimson, Steve Cutt, Pat Harrowing, Anita Heath, Ron Philp & Jane Thomas, not forgetting Valerie Newman.
I hope you all enjoyed the trip as much as I did.