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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Namibia, July 2002,
A journey through 2,000 million year old landscapes,with the world's oldest deserts, the second largest canyon, highest dunes and biggest surviving iron meteorite. Not to mention; 600 plus bird species; superbly designed tarmaced and graded gravel roads; many rare mammals including Gemsbok ( Oryx ); plus good reptiles, insects and endemic flora; excellent non-chemical organic local German beer, excellent cheap accommodation and hire of a go anywhere Mercedes 180 for £ 150 per week and petrol at £ 1.38p a gallon. Oh..and perfect sunny cloudless skies with temps down to 1C overnight and 22C during the day in their mid winter.( June to September).
Wednesday July 10th
Arrived at the Safari Court Hotel in
Thursday July 11TH
Set off at 6 45 am and by nine-o-clock we were birding at the Hardap Dam Game Reserve, Namibia's largest and main source of water, which in the ultra-arid south and west is a more valuable commodity than the diamonds and other scarce minerals found there. After ticking off about 50 species including the first Goliath Heron, Kittlitz's Plover, Palm Swift and not supposed to be found there Racket-tailed Roller, amongst others, we raced south stopping only at Keetmanshoop to fill up.
West of there the landscapes were immense and sometimes intimidating with no sign of any habitation, other cars or people for hundreds of kilometres. On every other telegraph pole sat a Pale Chanting Goshawk, with Rock Kestrels on the other. Greater Kestrels, Red -necked Falcons andJackal Buzzards were on some and hordes of LBJ's flashed past, including huge flocks of the nomadic Grey-backed Finchlark, some of which were later sadly 'obtained' from the Merc's radiator grill.
Reaching Aus, we turned south on the gravel road to Rosh Pinah, only 165 kms distant, and were amazed to see the Karoo and semi-desert in full bloom with swathes of purple, yellow and white flowers. We were soon travelling through lime-green grasslands and had the endemic Ludwig's Bustard flying about the roadside.then it went dark in about five minutes, very, very dark.
The remaining journey was like experiencing a very stressful computer driving game, with diversions, huge dust clouds, no sign of the road, ginormous lorries with banks of full beamed headlights and one section were we literally ploughed through an enormous sand dune, the size of Doncaster. Arrived safely at 6.44pm and met our client Norman Green of Anglo, outside the Rosh Pinah petrol station and bottle-shop. 77 species recorded.
Friday July 12th
Awoke in the pleasant batchelor houses allocated to us for our stay in Rosh Pinah with Red-eyed Bulbuls and Redfaced Mousebirds flying about. All day spent in meetings and tours around the 5km site that is the Skorpion Project, but still managed to see more Jackal Buzzards and several endemic chats and larks, including the almost red, spot chested Barlow's Lark that was only separated from the endemic Dune Lark in 1996, but which is common around Rosh Pinah. Our evening meal consisted of very tasty fish, chips and from the takeaway next to the bottle-shop, for an exorbitant N$ 175, ( £1 .15p ) for two. We never did find the three 'pubs' in Rosh Pinah, but perhaps that's just as well. 85 species recorded.
Saturday July 13th
Up and out before dawn on the road down to the Orange River, which was eerily shrouded in thick low-level cloud. The graded gravel road eastwards along the northern banks of the river wasn't marked on our 2000 maps, but proved to be very well maintained as we had begun to expect in Namibia. Soon ticking off hordes of stuff, including a fruiting fig tree full of Bulbuls, Cape White-eyes, Dusky Sunbirds and Great and Cape Sparrows. More Goliath Herons, Black Storks and our first Hammerkop. Malachite Kingfisher and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater were seen as we crossed the confluence of the Fish River Canyon and the Orange River.
We pressed on to the
Fantastic, mind-blowing experience, with the whole of the gigantic scar that is the Fish River Canyon laid out below me, as 45 minutes later we gently came into land next to the river. Andre couldn't pass up the chance either and he even saw a Black Eagle on his flight.
Everything else was a an anticlimax, even the Freckled Nightjar disturbed from the road, as once more we wended our weary way back to Rosh Pinah, on a superb road that doesn't officially exist. 102 species now recorded and 544 kilometres there and back.
Sunday July 14th
The leaving of the Sperrgebeit, the Forbidden Zone, and Rosh Pinah, hopefully to return one day. We headed northwards along the gravel road to Aus and the main tarmac road to Luderitz, 290 kms away. To keep us occupied we decided to census the raptors on the roadside telegraph poles, all of the 165kms back to Aus.
The result, Kestrel 48, Pale Chanting Goshawk 13, Jackal Buzzard 7, Augur Buzzard 1, Red-necked Falcon 3, Greater Kestrel 13 and one superb adult Lanner. However, nearly all raptor sightings were in the obviously more productive vegetated plains between the 'koppies' and we once went 56 kms without seeing one BOP. However, a back-wheel puncture livened things up for a while.
10kms south of Aus we came to the bustard country again and soon had our first Ruppell's and Northern Black Korhans along with flights of Double Banded, Burchell's and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
The 125kms from Aus to Luderitz takes you across the total wilderness of the Namib Desert, with the blacktop road stretching to a vanishing point in the far distance. A derelict railway line accompanies the road, with a deserted spooky station situated halfway. Walking about amongst the wind-blown tumbleweed, it wasn't difficult to imagine huge ants coming out of the dunes..like the classic SF movie, 'Them'.
Less than an hour later we were at Cape Dias Point in Luderitz, where the icy Benguela current produces excellent fishing for seabirds and piratical Spanish fishermen, three of their trawlers being under arrest in the harbour.
Jackass Penguins, White-chinned Petrel and various unidentified albatrosses and petrels were soon seen, plus Subantarctic Skua, Hartlaub's Gull, Kelp Gull, White-fronted Plover, Avocets, Grey Plover and small flocks of overwintering Turnstones.
Despite trying to strand us in the huge dunes suitable only for 4WD vehicles, we returned tired and happy to check in at the 4* Nest Hotel in Luderitz Bay, where fortunately Owen Williams, the site manager at Rosh Pinah was in residence .An enormous seafood platter for all of £ 6 followed and I went to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing on the beach outside my window... I had died and gone to heaven
Tomorrow morning we face the 826 kms return journey to Windhoek in central Namibia.
128 species recorded to date and 303 kms driven.
Monday July 15th
After a tour of the port, we bid farewell to Owen and his party and set off back across the Namib desert towards Aus and Keetsmanshoop once more. The trip was fairly uneventful apart from the huge numbers of nomadic and suicidal Grey-backed Finchlarks, determined to plaster themselves to our vehicle as we sped through them. Large flocks of Bradfield's Swifts were feeding low just beyond Aus, with small numbers of Alpine Swifts amongst them.
Roadside pole spotting between Luderitz and Keetsmanshoop, came up with Kestrel 15, Greater Kestrel 7, Red-necked Falcon 3, including a pair copulating and Pale Chanting Goshawk 6. A large party of 47 Ostrich strolled across the grasslands near Aus and 2 Double-banded Sandgrouse flew over.
We stopped off for lunch at the Klippen Terrace just outside Seeheim, probably the most isolated diner in the world and then pressed on towards Keetsmanshoop and the north. Pole spotting from there to the Hardap turn-off revealed 18 PCG's and only 8 Kestrels, but a flock of 20+ Burchell's Sandgrouse flew over.
Hardap was superb as ever with game coming down to drink at the dam late afternoon, we even witnessed two Springbok locking horns and fighting fiercely on the road, not 20m away from us. New birds included Osprey, c20 Marabou Stork, 3 African Spoonbills, Ruff, Kalahari Robin, Rosy-faced Lovebird and Acacia Pied Barbet, plus flocks of all three sandgrouse.
We were so preoccupied with trying to see the wildlife that we forgot the time and had to race back to the game reserve entrance.to find the gates locked and padlocked. Luckily, the warden was still walking back to his jeep and came back to let us out, otherwise we would have had to spend the night with the Rhinos.
The remaining 250k to Windhoek was covered in the velvety black African night, but the 'road of death' was excellently surfaced as usual, with all hazards, bridges and bends clearly indicated in plenty of time; Namibians obviously haven't tried the M1/M6 in the pouring rain, in November, on a Friday evening. The only real danger is of nodding off on the arrow straight stretches and drifting in to one of the huge lorries thundering towards you. Not recommended.
146 species recorded to date and 826 kms covered in the day.
Tuesday July 16
Our first day in Windhoek arranging appointments and generally checking the place out. Beautiful city with lots of character, good architecture and visibly good management. It's reputed to be the cleanest, safest and most crime-free city in Africa and I wouldn't argue with that.
The colonial German pre-WW1 Bahnhof was an irresistible draw to me, and we were soon chatting with the stationmaster and curator of the small railway museum..apparently two steam locos are still stored at Keetsmanshoop, for possible restoration. Most rail services are overnight affairs, with passenger coaches and freight being marshalled together in one train.
Later in the afternoon we were lucky enough to meet with Ken Hart, one of the pioneering geologists on Skorpion who gave us a fascinating insight into the geology of Namibia and the background to the project.
No birding possible, but we did see half a dozen new species in the verdant suburbs of Windhoek, including Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Burchell's Starling and Grey Louries.
152 species now recorded.
Wednesday July 17th
We decided to get up with the dawn and visit the Daan Viljoen Game Reserve in the Khomas Hochland hills, 20 kms west of Windhoek. In two and a half hours we added loads of mammals to our list including Kudu, our first Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Mountain Zebra and Eland.
The birdlife was brilliant with Red-billed Francolin investigating the rubbish bins plus Crowned Plover, Monteiro's, Southern Yellowbilled and Redbilled Hornbills, Lesser Honeyguide, Forktailed Drongo, Cape Penduline Tit, Ashy Tit, White-browed Sparrow Weavers, Augur Buzzard and the endemic Rockrunner. Our first and only Yellow-billed Egret was on the dam, with cormorants and other herons, including Black-crowned Night Heron.
Appointments all day until mid afternoon, after which we managed to sneak in an hour or two before dark at the Avis Dam on the eastern outskirts of Windhoek. Excellent spot with some good birds such as Chestnut-vented and Layard's Titbabblers, Shaft-tailed Wydah, Scaly-feathered Finch, Black-cheeked Waxbill, Yellow and White-throated Canary and flocks of White-browed Sparrow Weavers.
171 species recorded so far.
Thursday July 18th
After an early morning appointment in downtown Windhoek, we set off for Walvis Bay and an interview with Namport, a return journey via Swakopmund of 766kms.
A long tiring day, but we did add Black-necked Grebe, Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Purple Roller and an obliging Pearl-spotted Owl to our list.
Unfortunately we didn;t have much time as we were due back in Windhoek for a dinner appointment with Ken and Nicole, so we were unable to look for Damara Tern, Chestnut Banded Plover or Dune Lark, but there's always next time.
178 species to date and 766kms covered in the day.
Friday July 19
As we had to travel to Johannesburg later today to connect with our KLM flight to Amsterdam, we decided to have an all out effort for the invisible, yet supposedly common Crimson-breasted Shrike. The sewage works was recommended as the most likely spot, so despite several wrong turnings we eventually found ourself amongst the settlement ponds, behind the main buildings, where half an hour's searching gave us brief views of said national skulking bird.
We met with Ken again at lunchtime and decided to have one last walk around the Avis Dam, to see what we could find. Excellent decision as we added another 25 species to our trip list in the process including Rock Bunting, Quail Finch, Melba Finch, Pin-tailed Wydah, several weavers, Rufous Eared Warbler, up to six Willow Warblers, Groundscraper Thrush, Bearded Woodpecker ( only one of the trip ) and Lilac -Breasted Roller.
Suitably birded out, we made our way to Eros Airport to start our journey back to 'civilisation' and the other 59.6 million consumer units, 'living' here on our little windswept island.
Altogether we recorded 201 species in Namibia, with three more in Joburg. Unusual/scarce sightings included a 'lilac-breasted' Racket-Tailed Roller and Osprey at Hardap, plus the 'overwintering' Willow Warblers at both Hardap andAvis Dam.
If you ever get the chance to go to Namibia, just do it ! It's the best place ever in the world to visit and I would even sell my signed copy of ' Life in the Nationwide ' the mournful memories of Alex Ferguson, to get back there as soon as possible, especially as I haven't even been to the best birding areas yet ( Etosha and Caprivi,etc.)
Mammals were frequently seen, especially Springbok, and we had very good close-up views of two beautiful Bat-Eared Foxes on the gravel road down to Rosh Pinah. Sadly, we also found one recently run-over on the return run to Aus. Apparently the game reserves, such as Daan Viljoen and Hardap, supplement their game stock from the 'real wild' from time to time, so it's hard to say which of the ones we saw, were genuinely native to the area, bur who cares. The Gemsbok were stunning.
Hartmann's Mountain Zebra
Cape Fur Seal
We also saw some 'wild' horses down by the Orange River, the origin of which is debatably from ex- German Army releases in the 1890's, which have become adapted to the arid conditions. Had we the time, we could have easily seen Cheetah, which is particularly common on stock farms in central and northern Namibia as there are no Lions, which kill Cheetahs at every opportunity. Leopards are also common and widespread, but also extremely elusive and nocturnal, so we would have had to had amazingly luck to see one.
One of the most endangered animals in southern Africa is the Wild Dog, as it needs a huge home range > 500 sq.kms and we will not allow any other creature that much space anymore. The African Elephant and both Rhinoceros species are much less threatened, except in 'loonytunes' Mugabeland of course, where all wild animals, previously well protected are now being hunted for food and shot to extinction.
The Cape Fur Seals at Luderitz and Walvis Bay are preyed upon by Brown Hyenas, which wade across to their island colonies at night and the Namib deserts have an enormous variety of smaller mammals, almost entirely nocturnal.
1 African ( Jackass ) Penguin - large colonies at
2 Little Grebe - widespread
3 Black - Necked Grebe - >20 at Walvis Bay only
4 Giant Petrel sp. - > six off Cape Dias, Luderitz
5 White - Chinned Petrel - two close inshore Luderitz Bay
6 Cape Gannet - > 40 off Luderitz
7 White Breasted Cormorant - locally common, both coastal and inland
8 Bank Cormorant - scarce, seen off Luderitz and Swakopmund
9 Cape Cormorant - uncommon, seen off Luderitz and Walvis Bay
10 Reed Cormorant - locally common inland
11 Crowned Cormorant - scarce, Luderitz only
12 Darter - locally common inland
13 Eastern White Pelican - locally common
14 Goliath Heron - one Hardap below the dam and two along the Orange R.
15 Purple Heron - one Avis Dam
16 Black Headed Heron - uncommon
17 Grey Heron - locally common
18 Intermediate ( Yellow billed ) Egret - one Daan Viljoeen dam
19 Little Egret - locally common
20 Cattle Egret - uncommon
21 Black-crowned Night Heron - one Windhoek sewage works
22 Black Stork - two Orange R.
23 Yellow-billed Stork - two Hardap soaring with vultures
24 Marabou Stork - 14 roosting Hardap
25 Greater Flamingo - locally very common
26 Lesser Flamingo - locally common
27 African Spoonbill - two Hardap
28 Hammerkop - one Orange R./ Fish R. confluence
29 Egyptian Goose - locally very common
30 South African Shelduck - four Hardap
31 Southern Pochard - one Windhoek sewage works
32 Cape Shoveller - uncommon
33 Cape Teal - locally common
34 Red-billed Teal - locally common
35 Lappet Faced Vulture - one Hardap soaring with W B Vultures
36 White backed Vulture - >50 Hardap
37 Osprey - one Hardap
38 Black Eagle - one seen by Andre from microlight at 3,000 feet.
39 Jackal Buzzard - locally common in the southwest.
40 Augur Buzzard - scarce
41 Black Winged Kite - locally common , esp. in the southwest.
42 Pale Chanting Goshawk - very common roadside hawk.
43 Red-necked Falcon - A pair on the Rosh Pinah to Aus road and three more E of Aus
44 Lanner Falcon - a suoerb adult close to the above on the Rosh Pinah to Aus road.
45 Rock Kestrel - falco tinniculus very common, esp. in southwest.
46 Greater Kestrel - local but quite common in the southwest.
47 Red-billed Francolin - three searching in rubbish bins at Daan Viljoen GP
48 Helmeted Guineafowl - locally common
49 Ostrich -wild population, locally common in the southwest
50 Red-knobbed Coot -locally common
51 Moorhen - locally common
52 Secretarybird - only sighting, one by the roadside 100kms S of Mariental
53 Ludwig's Bustard - two south of Aus
54 Ruppell's Korhan - 14 south of Aus
55 Karoo Korhan - five south of Aus
56 Northern Black Korhan - nine south of Aus
57 African Black Oystercatcher - > 12 Luderitz/Cape Dias
58 Black-winged Stilt - widespread in small numbers
59 Avocet - locally common, esp. Luderitz
60 Ringed Plover - two overwintering birds at Walvis Bay
61 Three-banded Plover - locally common, only has two black bands!
62 Kittlitz's Plover - locally common
63 White-fronted Plover - > six Luderitz
64 Crowned Plover - only one seen, at Daan Viljoen
65 Blacksmith Plover - common and widespread
66 Knot - 10 overwintering at Walvis Bay
67 Curlew Sandpiper - >100 overwintering at Walvis Bay
68 Grey Plover - Four Luderitz and two Walvis Bay
69 Ruff - 10 at Hardap
70 Turnstone - >20 overwintering at Cape Dias and six Walvis Bay
71 Terek Sandpiper - > six Walvis Bay
72 Bar-tailed Godwit - 12 Walvis Bay
73 Whimbrel - one Luderitz and one Walvis Bay
74 Subantarctic Skua - two Cape Dias
75 Kelp Gull - locally common on the coast
76 Hartlaub's Gull - common on the coast
77 Grey-headed Gull - commonest gull inland and also seen on the coast
78 Caspian tern - two Luderitz and one Walvis Bay
79 Swift Tern - > ten Luderitz
80 Double-Banded Sandgrouse - widespread in the southwest
81 Namaqua Sandgrouse - widespread, not seen as often as Double-Banded
82 Burchell's Sandgrouse - uncommon, only seen twice.
83 Rock Pigeon - locally common
84 Feral Pigeon - locally common
85 Cape Turtle Dove - abundant
86 Laughing Dove - abundant
87 Namaqua Dove - locally common
88 Rosy - Faced Lovebird - localised
89 Grey Lourie - common and widespread
90 Pearl-spotted Owl - one on telegraph pole, 20km north of Windhoek
91 Freckled Nightjar - one flushed from Orange R. road.
92 Alpine Swift - two with Bradfield's Swifts just east of Aus
93 Bradfield's Swift - low feeding flock of >250 near Aus
94 Little Swift - 12 Hardap Dam
95 Palm Swift - scarce but widespread
96 Red-faced Mousebird - locally common
97 White-backed Mousebird - scarce north of Windhoek
98 Pied Kingfisher - three Orange R.
99 Malachite Kingfisher - one Orange R.
100 Swallow-tailed Bee-eater - local but widespread
101 Lilac - breasted Roller - local but widespread
102 Racket-Tailed Roller - watching a 'lilac breasted' Roller at Hardap, we realised that the obvious rackets on its tail belonged only to this species.
103 Purple Roller - five seen on roadside wires between Windhoek and the coast.
104 Monteiro's Hornbill - locally common in northern Namibia
105 Grey Hornbill - local but widespread
106 Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill - Daan Viljoen only
107 Red - billed Hornbill - Daan Viljoen only
108 Greater Scimitarbill - two Hardap Dam
109 African Hoopoe - uncommon but widespread
110 Lesser Honeyguide - one Avis Dam. Honeyguides lay their eggs in various host's nests, then slaughter their young with a sharp hook on their mandible..nice.
111 Acacia Pied Barbet - widespread in small numbers
112 Bearded Woodpecker - our only woodpecker sighting was well picked up by Andre below the Avis Dam
113 Clapper Lark - locally common
114 Monotonous Lark- locally common
115 Karoo Lark - locally common
116 Long -billed Lark - local and uncommon
117 Sabota Lark - scarce
118 Red Capped Lark - locally common
119 Sclater's Lark - uncommon and local
120 Stark's Lark - widespread in the southwest
121 Grey-backed Finchlark - nomadic and abundant in Namib en route to Luderitz
122 Spike-heeled Lark - widespread in the southwest
123 Barlow's Lark - only separated in mid 90's, common north of Rosh Pinah.
124 Pearl Breasted Swallow - uncommon
125 Brown -throated Martin - local but widespread
126 Rock Martin - abundant
127 Fork-tailed Drongo - locally common
128 Pied Crow - uncommon but widespread
129 Black Crow - locally common
130 Ashy Tit - Daan Viljoen only
131 Red-eyed Bulbul - abundant and widespread
132 Groundscraper Thrush - one Avis Dam
133 Short-toed Rock Thrush - locally common
134 Familiar Chat - locally common
135 Sickle-winged Chat - Orange R. only
136 Tractrac Chat - locally common
137 Karoo Chat - Orange R. only
138 Mountain Chat -common and widespread. Black headed form at Avis Dam
139 Capped Wheatear - common and widespread, esp. in the southwest.
140 Southern Anteating Chat - uncommon but widespread
141 Cape Robin - Orange R. only
142 Kalahari Robin - Ai-Ais area only
143 Karoo Robin - Orange R. only
144 Willow Warbler - >12 at Hardap and six at Avis Dam. ( Is this usual ? )
145 Burnt-necked Eremomela - scarce
146 Yellow-bellied Eremomela - locally common
147 Cape Penduline Tit - uncommon
148 African Sedge Warbler - Orange R. only
149 Cape Reed Warbler - locally common
150 Rockrunner - one seen early morning at Daan Viljoen
151 African Barred Warbler - uncommon
152 Greybacked Bleating Warbler - uncommon
153 Layard's Titbabbler - Avis Dam only
154 Rufous-vented Titbabbler - locally common, esp. Avis Dam
155 Longbilled Crombec -scarce
156 Fan-tailed Cisticola - common at Avis Dam
157 Desert Cisticola - locally common, esp. in the southwest
158 Grey-backed Cisticola - recorded at Avis Dam
159 Namaqua Prinia - Avis Dam only
160 Black-chested Prinia - locally common
161 Chat Flycatcher - regularly seen roadside bird.
162 Marico Flycatcher - uncommon roadside bird
163 Cape White-eye - abundant and widespread. Second commonest passerine.
164 Pririt Batis- two seen at Orange R. only
165 Cape Wagtail - widespread and abundant. Commonest passerine
166 African Pied Wagtail - common along the Orange R. Not seen elsewhere.
167 Grassveld Pipit - common and widespread
168 Long-billed Pipit - widespread but not as common as above
169 Cinnamon - Breasted Shrike - supposed to be a common bird, but we couldn't find it until our last morning, when one was flushed at Windhoek sewage works.
170 Fiscal Shrike - widespread roadside wires bird.
171 Glossy Starling - abundant
172 Burchell's Glossy Starling - uncommon
173 Pale-winged Starling - locally common
174 Wattled Starling - uncommon
175 Scarlet-chested Sunbird - Windhoek gardens
176 White-bellied Sunbird - as above
177 Dusky Sunbird - common and widespread
178 Marico Sunbird - Windhoek gardens
179 Great Sparrow - locally common
180 House Sparrow - abundant
181 Cape Sparrow -common
182 Grey-headed Sparrow - local
183 White-browed Sparrow Weaver - locally common
184 Sociable Weaver - locally common
185 Southern Masked Weaver - local
186 Red-billed Quelea - abundant
187 Red Bishop - female types only at Avis Dam
188 Shaft-tailed Wydah - Avis Dam only
189 Red-headed Finch -locally common
190 Scaly-feathered Finch - Avis Dam only
191 Black cheeked Waxbill -locally common
192 Common Waxbill - Avis Dam
193 Melba Finch -Avis Dam
194 Quail Finch - Avis Dam
195 Yellow Canary - locally common
196 White-throated Canary - Avis Dam
197 Cinnamon Breasted Rock Bunting - Avis Dam
198 Larklike Bunting - locally common
199 Black Browed/ Shy/ Yellow Nosed Albatross sp.- >10 off Luderitz
200 Petrel sp - possibly Great-winged - >6 off Luderitz
201 Harrier sp. probably Black - one Orange River
JOHN BANNON & ANDRE MORRALL, Liverpool, UK