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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Namibia

2017 Narrative

After three years of drought it was an absolute pleasure to see Namibia getting some rain again, and the sight of flowers and grasses growing, birds in full breeding regalia and 34 additional species compared to our previous tours was a real contrast!

We started near Windhoek and slowly made our way down to the dunes at Sossusvlei, seeing White-tailed Shrike, Bradfield’s Swift, Golden-tailed and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Rockrunner, Herero Chats, Violet Wood-hoopoe and Monteiro’s Hornbills on the way. The dunes themselves were as spectacular as ever although as the rains hadn’t reached this area the birds were few and far between.  However, with a pre-breakfast Dune Lark, a nice sunrise, picnic breakfast and a fascinating explanation of dune formation from Sean, it was certainly a memorable day, made all the better with having such a nice lodge to return to – superb location, great food and lovely accommodation.

From the desert, we journeyed north, taking in Gray’s Larks and more Rüppell’s Korhaans on the way, before arriving at the incongruous Walvis Bay. Our seaside bed and breakfast not only offered us a great breakfast but both flamingo species on our doorstep, plus numerous terns, including the much-desired Damara Tern, Chestnut-banded and White-fronted Plovers, and nearby African Black Oystercatchers, Red-necked Phalarope as well as our first Cape Cormorants, and Hartlaub’s and Kelp Gulls. On two evenings, we ventured to a local restaurant for seafood and, as in previous years, Sean told us we would have the best calamari in the world, (other options were available) and as usual he was right!

Leaving the bird rich waters of the coast behind we first headed to Swakopmund for Bank and Crowned Cormorants, Kittlitz’s Plover and African Swamphen before striking inland to the famous Erongo Hills, seeing more Carp’s Tit, Damara Hornbill, Rockrunners, Hartlaub’s Francolin, Freckled Nightjar, another Herero Chat, and plenty of raptors including Pygmy Falcon, Tawny Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, and Amur Falcon. Another couple of nice lodges followed, along with more great food, a nice bar (ideal when the rain set in), Madagascar Bee-eater for some, and Burchell’s Courser for others.

By now we were ready to head for Etosha, forewarned by Sean that mammal numbers would be much reduced due to there being water everywhere. He was of course right but we still managed to see African Elephant, Lion, Spotted Hyaena, Bat-eared Fox, plus plenty of antelopes, giraffe and zebras. Those travelling in the first vehicle also managed to see a Leopard before it vanished into the undergrowth. Etosha is not all about mammals and we saw plenty of great birds. There seemed to be Northern Black Korhaans everywhere, plus Kori Bustards, Blue Crane, Double-banded Courser, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted and Purple Rollers, and Spike-heeled, Pink-billed, Rufous-naped, Monotonous, Red-capped and Sabota Larks, many of which were in full song.

Fischer’s Pan was full of water, and if the rains continue then maybe Etosha pan itself will have water this year – a very rare event. The wet areas produced lots of ducks and waders, including a pair of Caspian Plovers and this all after a short stop at Halali for African Scops and Barn Owls. One night at Namutoni gave us a great morning’s birding the following day with White-browed Scrub Robin to add to Kalahari and Karoo Scrub Robins already seen. Wintering migrants were also much in evidence with Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Icterine and Willow Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher, Eurasian Golden Oriole joining European Honey-buzzard and lots of Steppe Buzzards. Add in a splash of local colour from Southern Red Bishop, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Marico Sunbird and you start to get an idea of why Namibia is such a great birding country. Even on travelling days we were in for some surprises, like the flooded fields at the side of the busy main road to Waterberg, with Yellow-billed and Woolly-necked Storks, and best of all a Dwarf Bittern!

Once at Waterberg there were African Paradise Flycatchers, African Hawk Eagle, Swainson’s Francolin, yet more Rockrunners, Rüppell’s Parrots and best of all a Porcupine feeding outside the restaurant during dinner.  Tourism in Namibia is increasing every year, as if the world has suddenly realised what a fabulous place it is! 

 -        James Lidster

Created: 16 March 2017