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How to find the Namibian Endemics, 09th January - 07th February 2003,
A report by Christian Wagner Christian.Wagner@bio.tum.de
This report is the result of the preparation for and the experiences made on a 4 week trip to Namibia and Northern Botswana. The major aim of the trip was, to find the Namibian endemics and near-endemics. So the focus of this report is on these species. I hope that it will be useful, in order to find the Namibian specials.
Key areas to find the Namibian specials (except Herero Chat; see below) are Lüderitz, Swakopmund/Walvisbay, Erongo Mountains near Omaruru, Etosha National Park, Waterberg Plateau Park and some places in or around Windhoek, if you missed some species at the other places.
Jarvis, Alice M. & Robertson, Antony (1999): Predicting population sizes und priority conservation areas for 10 endemic Namibian bird species. - Biological Conservation 88, 121 - 131 (essential issue; description of habitat requirements and distribution for 10 Namibian endemics).
Sinclair, Ian; Hockey, Phil, Tarboton, Warwick (2002): SASOL Birds of Southern Africa, third edition. - Struik, Cape Town, 447 pages (best field guide for southern Africa, the third edition includes the recent splits).
Ryan, Peter G. & Bloomer, Paulette (1999): The Long-billed Lark complex. A species mosaic in southwestern Africa. - Auk 116(1), 194 - 201.
Boix-hinzen, Christian (2002): Namibia, Africa's secret realm -Tropical Birding 1 august 2002; pages 11-13.
Homepage of the Southern African Birding C. C.: www.sabirding.co.za (birding hotspots of southern Africa, very essential information).
Stratford, Jos (2001): Namibia & South Africa Birding Report, October - December 2001. - www.birdtours.co.uk (funny and helpful trip report).
Pallesen, Torben; Meedom, Jesper; Molgaard, Erik (1990): Namibia & South Africa 1990. (old but very good).
Benstead, Phil and Benstead Charlotte (2002): Namibia 24.Nov. - 18.Dez. 2002 http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/namibia/namibia7/nam-nov02.htm (new trip report with good site descriptions; not yet inserted into this report)
Hines, Christopher (1996): Namibia's Caprivi Strip. - Bulletin of the African Bird Club, volume 3.2, www.africanbirdclub.org/feature/caprivi.html (if you want to visit the Caprivi strip, you need this paper).
Pritchard Duncan (2002): Botswana Trip Report. -mail from 13.1.02 in SABN (Shakawe Fishing Camp and Okavango panhandle).
And some additional more or less good trip reports from different authors and sources.
http://napha.50megs.com/cgi-bin/i/images/etosha.jpg (Etosha National Park).
http://napha.50megs.com/cgi-bin/i/images/map%20W_berg.jpg (Waterberg Plateau Park, better than the official map).
Many thanks to Callan Cohen and Richard Randall for their support.
Finding the Namibian Endemics
Hartlaub's Francolin (Pternistes hartlaubi)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 26,500 individuals (conservative estimate).
Habitat: confined to kopjies, rocky outcrops and scree slopes with vegetative cover.
Note: Calls a quarter before sunrise very distinctive "wiich ter wideo". Stops calling at sunrise. Otherwise very secretive.
Where to go: I found this species at the following places:
Erongo Mountains near Omaruru (Pallesen et al.): Take the road (C33) from Omaruru out towards Karibib and turned right on the D2315 (signposted "Erongo Wilderness Lodge", also accommodation available here, but I camped at the Hotel Staebe in Omaruru) 1.5 kilometres after crossing the large bridge just outside the town park the car near the sandy riverbed exactly 8 km from the turnoff from the C33. Follow the riverbed upstream to the cliffs (maybe 200 or 300 meters) and climb up the cliff at your right to a good view point at the top of a boulder (problem: the area is private property and it is signed, that you should not entry the farm). At 18th January individuals were calling at 5 different places. Pallesen et al. saw in 1990 20 different Hartlaub's Francolins in three groups. The place is also good for Freckled Nightjar (Caprimulgus tristigma), Rockrunner, Carp's Tit and White-tailed Shrike.
Waterberg: Viewpoint at top of the plateau, accessible through Mountain View walk (40 minutes walk one way) or Figtree walk (20 to 30 minutes walk one way). At the 5th February one individual was calling from the plateau and one from the bottom of the escarpment rocks. You have to start before dawn. Also seen Rockrunner and Freckled Nightjar here.
There is also a chance to see Hartlaub's Francolin at the Hobatere Game Reserve. The tour operator Birdquest is looking for the bird there.
Rüppell's Korhaan (Eupodotis rueppellii)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 100,000 individuals.
Habitat: Restricted largely to areas of low rainfall (< 200 mm) along the coastal desert strip, encompassing the gravel plains of the Namib desert and extending eastwards into the more vegetated and hilly Namibian escarpment zone. A desert species.
Where to go: Widespread (for example: driving the C28, C34 or C35; near Trekkoppie or near Sossusvlei). Own observations at:
Spitzkoppe: Gravel plains 10 km west of the westgate (not the main entrance, see also Herero Chat). The vegetation cover declines and after 10 km the gravel plains are substantially without any plants (also good for Gray's Lark and Stark's Lark (Eremalauda starki). At the 13th January I found 1 male and 2 females along this road on the sparsely vegetated plains. After some 20 km you can turn left at a T-junction and beyond turn left again so you will drive back to the Spitzkoppe area (total distance 50 km).
Damara Tern (Sterna balaenarum)
Not a Namibian endemic, but breeding range is restricted to the coastal line of Namibia and western South Africa.
Habitat: Sheltered coastlines, bays and lagoons, nests at gravel slacks near coast and at the edges of saltpans.
Note: A very small, uniformly coloured and short billed Tern with a distinctive two-syllabic call (kid-ick).
Where to go: Widespread in the Swakopmund and Walvisbay area. Regular sightings at the Walvisbay esplanades, at the salt works south of Walvisbay and at the coastal line between Walvisbay and Swakopmund. I observed the Damara Tern easily at the salt works of Swakopmund just west of the C34 8 km north of Swakopmund (14th January). A scope is useful. Also a good place to see Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor).
Rüppell's Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 30,000 individuals.
Habitat: Primarily a riverine species, distribution largely dependent on mature riparian woodland. Occurring at highest concentrations within, and at the fringes, of the Mopane zone. A locally high population density is found around Waterberg Plateau Park.
Where to go: Occurs regularly at the Waterberg Plateu Park and is often seen in the vicinity of the reception and the campground. I found Rüppell's Parrot at the 4th and 5th February in the trees shadowing the campground. It is helpful to listen for the typical parrot-call.
There are also sightings from the Etosha National Park.
Stratford reports a sighting from Twyfeltontain: He followed the dry river course at the community campsite for several kilometres and picked up Rüppell's Parrot and Carp's Black Tit.
Bradfield's Swift (Apus bradfieldi)
This Swift also occurs in the north-western part of South Africa, but is more easily found in Namibia.
Habitat: Inland cliffs.
Note: In the field not easy to separate from the Common Swift (Apus apus), which occurs in the same habitat. Call is two-sybillic (I always first heard the bird), mottled underparts are only seen at close range and under good light conditions. More easily seen in the evening.
Where to go: This species is widespread in Namibia:
Omaruru: In the air above the hotel Staebe (Pallesen et al.).
Windhoek downtown: There is no better place than Windhoek's city centre to obtain excellent views of Bradfield's Swift.
Waterberg Plateau Park.
Spitzkoppe: Have a sun downer at the detached hills left of the main entrance while watching this bird. Looking from north, the peak to the right is accessible without heavy climbing. From the top good views of Bradfield's Swift in the evening of 12th January.
Violet Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus damarensis)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 1,850 individuals.
Habitat: Normally in dry thornfeld and broad leafed woodland along major river courses. Scarce resident, with highest concentrations along the eastern edge of the Namibian escarpment zone and an isolated pocket within and around the Waterberg Plateau Park.
Note: The violet (not bottle-green) head, mantle and back is not easily seen, also not at very good conditions. Maybe ask some experts for further distinctive determination details, to separate this species from the Green Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus).
Where to go: Etosha National Park: Halali-Camp (good place), I saw a family in the vicinity of the entrance gate (22nd January).
Etosha National Park: Okaukuejo-Camp.
Waterberg Plateau Park: At the campground or at the swimming pool (I found only Green Wood-hoopoe (?) at the Waterberg Plateau Park).
Monteiro's Hornbill (Tockus monteiri)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 340,000 individuals.
Habitat: Dry thornfeld, broad leafed woodland.
Where to go: South of Windhoek: 2 adults at a farm (10th January).
Windhoek (Stratford): Avis dam.
Erongo Wilderness Lodge (near Omaruru).
Waterberg Plateau Park: At the campground or at the Kambazembi walk (there I picked up 2 individuals at the 5th February). Waterberg Plateau Park is also a good spot for Bradfield's Hornbill (Tockus bradfieldi), a rare bird seen more easily here than elsewhere.
Damara Hornbill (Tockus damarensis)
Recent split from Red-billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus) and endemic to central and northern Namibia and southern Angola.
Habitat: Semiarid scrub and woodland.
Note: Totally white head and dark eye are diagnostic.
Where to go: I saw Damara Hornbills south of Windhoek at a farm (17th January) and at the Waterberg Plateau Park at the entrance area (4th February) and at the Kambazembi walk (5th February).
Benguela Long-billed Lark (Certhilauda benguelensis)
The former Long-billed Lark species is now split into 5 separate species (see the Ryan and Bloomer issue).
Habitat: The Benguela Long-billed Lark occurs in northern Namibia and southern Angola. You can find the lark at arid rocky hill slopes and plains north of the Brandberg.
Where to go (location given by Callan Cohen): 34,5 kilometres north of Uis the C35 (gravel road) crosses the Ugab river. You can't miss the riverbed. At the slopes upstream on the left and right side of the river I found three larks calling their distinctive Long-billed Lark call. One individual foraged in the riverbed.
Dune Lark (Certhilauda erythrochlamys)
Restricted to the Namib desert south of Swakopmund/Walvisbay.
Habitat: Scrub growth on gravel plains between sand dunes in the Namib desert.
Where to go: A classic place is the Kuiseb river bed at Rooibank (Rooikop) (Pallesen et al.). Take the road towards the airstrip (C14) and then go right along a dirt road for some 20 kilometres (signposted). Rooikop is a fenced settlement. To the right of the settlement, there is the dry riverbed with bushes and red dunes with long tufty grass. Leave the road to the right 100 or 200 meters before the fence and drive again to the right after two signs (Coca Cola, Accommodation) (4-wheel drive only! You also can walk this track). This way you will reach the riverbed. The lark may best be searched for between the Nara hummocks and the tussocks at the base of the small dunes in the dry riverbed. Don't search directly at the base of the main dunes (as described at the homepage of the Southern African Bird Club).
Richard Randall found the Dune Lark driving along the Kuiseb River from the Walvisbay salt works towards Rooibank (4-wheel drive essential).
Barlow's Lark (Certhilauda barlowi)
An endemic species in southern Namibia and the extreme northwest of South Africa.
Habitat: Arid scrublands and vegetated dunes.
Where to go: South Africa: most accessible at Porth Nolloth, see Callan Cohen's and Claire Spottiswoode's book (2000: Essential Birding. - Struik, 137 pages).
Namibia (Stratford): At the B4 (Keetmanshoop - Lüderitz) exactly 3 km west of the "Luderitz 50" signpost. The site is marked by low Euphorbia bushes north of the road.
Gray's Lark (Ammomanes grayi)
Uncommon and nomadic resident along the coastal desert strip of Namibia.
Habitat: Sparsely vegetated gravel plains.
Where to go: Spitzkoppe: See Rüppell's Korhaan.
Swakopmund: Gravel plains just north of Swakopmund, or plains just east of the Swakopmund salt works (see Damara Tern). This was the place, where I saw this species. I scanned the sparsely vegetated gravel plains along some tracks east of the C34, maybe 2 km south of the salt works (4-wheel drive necessary, if you don't want to walk) and picked up a flock of maybe 15 individuals (14th January).
Namib-Naukluft Park: For example Welwitschia drive (permission required)
Rooibank: At the gravel plains before Rooibank (see Dune Lark)
Bradfield's Lark (Miafra naevia)
The large and heavy billed form of Sabota Lark (Miafra sabota) is maybe a future split. The Bradfield's Lark is common and for example easily seen at Etosha National Park.
Habitat: thornveld and arid savannah.
Carp's Black Tit (Parus carpi)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 500,000 individuals.
Habitat: thornveld, arid savannah.
Where to go: Halali-Camp is said to be an excellent place (Etosha National Park), but I didn't see the bird there.
Waterberg Plateau Park: up on the plateau (only accessible by walking the mountain view walk to the view point or with a guided tour)
Omaruru (see Hartlaub's Francolin), I saw one individual at 18th January.
Twyfeltontain: See Rüppell's Parrot.
Bare-cheeked Babbler (Turdoides gymnogenys)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 79,000 individuals.
Habitat: Dry, broad leafed woodland and wooded koppies; and mopane woodland. Occurs almost exclusively north of 21° latitude, corresponding to the southern distribution limit of the mopane-dominated vegetation with which it is closely associated.
Where to go: Etosha National Park: Halali-Camp (maybe the best place). I found 2 individuals at the edge of the chalets (1st February). The Bare-cheeked Babbler is also reported from Anderson Gate, Okaukuejo and the Goa waterhole.
Herero Chat (Namibornis herero)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 108,000 individuals.
Habitat: Restricted to the sparsely vegetated gullies and slopes of the Namibian escarpment vegetation zone with centres of highest density in the rugged Kaokoland region in the north and the steep escarpment fringe in the south. Dry scrub and thornveld at the base of hills and in boulder-strewn country.
Note: Spends much time perched in trees and bushes and is mostly silent except during the breeding season. So the bird is not easy to see.
Where to go: Spitzkoppe: The Herero Chat is the main special of the Spitzkoppe, but still not easy there (I tried it 3 days without luck).
Usakos foothills (Pallesen et al.): From the centre of Usakos take the road leading south until you pass under a railway bridge. Turn right after the bridge. The road will follow some small mountains to the left for some kilometres, and a track will turn off up in a pass as the mountains become lower and the road leaves them. On the slopes of the mountains just before the track you can find Herero Chat. Pallesen and friends worked 3 hours in 1990 to see the shy and restless bird.
Some of the best places to see the Herero Chat is said to be in the north at the C35. Unfortunately I have no further details.
Rockrunner/Damara Rock-jumper (Achaetops pycnopygius)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 96,500 individuals.
Habitat: Rocky habitats. Confined to hillsides, rocky outcrops and scree slopes. Highest densities of this species are to be found within the highlands to the south of the arid woodland vegetation zone and the rocky slopes in the vicinity of Waterberg Plateau Park.
Note: Calls loud and distinctive, but skulks normally in bushes and trees and is therefore not easy to see.
Where to go: Spitzkoppe: Good place to tick Rockrunner, although I didn't.
Erongo Mountains near Omaruru (see Hartlaub's Francolin) (18th January) and
Waterberg Plateau Park: view point (see Hartlaub's Francolin) (6th February) and Kambazembi walk (5th February).
Windhoek: Hoffmeyr walk, Daan Viljoen Game Reserve und Avis dam in the vicinity of Windhoek are also said to be good places.
White-tailed Shrike (Lanioturdus torquatus)
Estimated population size (Jarvis & Robertson): 1,5 million individuals.
Habitat: Dry thornveld and scrub desert.
Note: looks like a big Batis (Batis spec.; actually thought to be a terrestrial Batis (Boix-Hinzen)) and is conspicuous, so you should tick it without problems.
Where to go: I saw the bird several times, for example at a farm south of Windhoek (17th January), at Spitzkoppe (12th January) and at the Erongo Mountains near Omaruru (see Hartlaub's Francolin) (18th January).
Another good place is the Hoffmeyr walk in Windhoek.
Pallesen et al. saw the White-tailed Shrike at the Usakos foothills (see Herero Chat).
Etosha National Park: Okaukuejo Camp.