Tailormade Herping, Birding and Landscapes tour.
8 March – 15 March 2022
This tour was tailormade to focus on Birds, Wildlife, Reptiles and Landscapes. Time was limited to a week and started in the coastal Namib desert and continued through to the red dunes of Sossusvlei. We then spent two nights at the Fish River Canyon and overnighted in the Kalahari Desert on route to Windhoek.
Elon and Moshe arrived on the 8th of March in Walvis Bay and the tour started officially the following day.
Day 1: The entire morning was spent in the coastal dunes of the Namib desert. Elon and Moshe learnt how the Namib dunes were formed and got a grasp of the ecology of this fragile ecosystem. Entering the dune field, we had a pair of Black-backed Jackal with a youngster. A Rock Kestrel was observed hunting from a dune top. We managed to have a good mornings herping finding Namaqua Chameleon, Peringuey’s Adder, Namib Web-footed Gecko, Shovel-snouted Lizard, Common Namib Day Gecko and Fitzsimmon’s Burrowing Skink. We had good views of Tractrac Chat collecting food for its chicks.
We continued to the gravel plains north of Swakopmund and easily located a group of Gray’s Lark. Although Moshe had seen most of the common waders and sea birds around Cape Town, we added Damara Tern and few other common migrants such as Sandwich Tern, Common Whimbrel, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Greater and Lesser Flamingoes and Grey Plover.
After lunch we spent the afternoon around the Walvis Bay lagoon doing some wetland birding. We also spent some time on pelican point with the Cape Fur Seals. Several new species were seen including White-winged Tern, Bar-tailed Godwit, African Black Oystercatcher, many more Damara Tern and Black-necked Grebe. Also, an unusual sighting of a Lanner Falcon hunting along the lagoon on the way back.
Key Species: Peringuey’s Adder (Bitis peringueyi), Namaqua Chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis), Shovel Snouted Lizard (Meroles anchietae), Namib Web-footed Gecko (Pachydactylus rangei), Fitzsimmon’s burrowing Skink (Typhlocontius brevipes), Common Namib Day gecko (Rhoptropus afer), Tractrac (Emarginata tractrac), Gray’s Lark (Ammomanopsis grayi), Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus), Damara Tern (Sternula balaenarum).
Day 2: We quickly ticked off Orange River White-eye before departing southward toward Sossusvlei, through the Namib Naukluft Park. We made several stops on routeat Kriess se Rus for the Quiver trees, Kuiseb Canyon, Gaub Canyon for lunch and a quick stop at Solitaire before arriving at our lodge late afternoon. The route through the park produced several colonies of breeding Chestnut Weavers as well as Rosy-faced Lovebird, Black-chested Prinia, Booted Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Pale-chanting Goshawk, Bradfield’s Swift, Double-banded Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, thousands of breeding Larklike buntings, Stark’s and Grey-backed Sparrow larks and the most Lanner Falcon I have observed in the Namib since 2011/12 seasons. Plain Sand Lizard, Variable and Western Rock Skink were seen around the Canyons. Due to the recent good rains the Namib was draped in knee high green grass. The endless landscapes were the most impressive it’s looked in 10 years. We observed Springbok, Oryx, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Black-backed Jackal and Common Ostrich. We arrived at Namib Desert Lodge in the rain.
Key Species: Stark’s Lark (Spizocorys starki), Bradfield’s Swift (Apus bradfieldi), Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra , Oryx antelope, Chacma Baboon.
Day 3: A pre-dawn excursion into the Sossusvlei and Deadvlei. Entering the park at sunrise we had the most beautiful green and red vistas draped with plenty Springbok and Oryx antelope due the exceptional rainfall this season. We got Namibia’s only true endemic bird species, the Dune Lark. Wedge-snouted Lizard and Namib Sand Snake were added at the first stop. Plenty of Golden mole signs but didn’t manage a sighting. We added Ruppel’s Korhaan a little further down the Tsauchab valley. A walk into the picturesque Deadvlei took us into the heat of the day and Moshe and Elon climbed the famed ‘Big Daddy’, a dune well over 300m high. Lunch was under a tree at the actual Sossusvlei, which still held a large amount of water. Pygmy Falcon was added at Sesriem while busy feeding on a Sociable Weaver.
We did a late afternoon walk, along the Fossilized dunes, which produced several colour forms of Mountain Wheatear, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Violet-backed Starling, White-backed Mousebird,Scaly-feathered Finches and the subcoronatus race of Southern Fiscal which shows a white supercillium. A few breeding Shaft-tailed Whydahs were chasing a few females around. A night excursion gave us good views of Small-spotted Genet, the grass was very thick and night work for reptiles was quite tough
Key Species: Dune Lark (Calendulada erythrochlamys), Ruppel’s Korhaan (Eupodotis rueppelii), Pygmy Falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus), Namib Sand Snake (Psammophis leightoni namibensis), Wedge-snouted Lizard (Meroles cuneirostris), Small-spotted Genet (Genetta genetta).
Day 4: An early start had us heading toward the Fish River Canyon via Maltahohe. The first stop was at a site I had found Rockrunner before. He was calling as we exited the vehicle and managed to have good views of Rockrunnner as well as Herero Chat. A small number of White-throated Canaries were active around the hillsides.
Plenty of Pale Chanting Goshawk were observed as well as a few Black-chested Snake Eagle. The area around Maltahohe had received large amounts of rain and most of the water crossings held South African Shelduck, breeding Southern Red Bishop and a surprise male Yellow-crowned Bishop which was slightly further south than normally expected. The lunch stop produced Brubru, Common Scimitarbill and plenty of Little Swifts. A stop at the Fish River had Alpine Swift. We made our way toward the Canyon in a very large thunderstorm which continued the entire night.
Key Species: Rockrunner (Achaetops pycnopygius), Herero Chat (Namibornis herero), Black-chested Snake Eagle (Circaetus pectoralis), Yellow-crowned Bishop (Euplectes afer), Brubru (Nilaus afer), South African Shelduck (Tadorna cana).
Day 5: The rain continued until around 11am and we did a birding walk down a dry riverbed. This produced a few karroid type species like Karoo Scrub Robin, Grey Tit, Acacia Pied Barbet, Bokmakierie and Dusky Sunbird. A trip to the Fish River provided spectacular views of the second largest canyon in the world. Due to the cooler overcast weather, we did not find many reptiles but finally had good views of Karoo Long-billed Lark, Chat Flycatcher, Red-headed finch and Karoo Eremomela. Many Bradfield’s, Common and Alpine Swifts were actively feeding over the canyon.
After lunch we did a lenthy walk in the hillsides. Proof of the drought was evident, as we found several dead wildlife like Mountain Zebra and Klipspringer.
Key Species: Karoo Eremomela (Eremomela gregalis), Bokmakierie (Telephorus zeylonus), Karoo long-billed Lark(Certhilauda subcoronata), Karoo Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas coryphaeus), Grey Tit (Melaniparus afer).
Day 6: We departed the Canyon toward the Kalahari via Keetmanshoop. Several stops along the road provided Southern Rock, Knobel’s and Anchieta’sAgama. I had a large Rock Monitor escape down a crevice in a cliff face.We arrived late afternoon and did a walk checking Sociable weaver nests for Cape Cobra but no luck. Good views of Fawn-coloured Lark and Diederick Cuckoo were enjoyed. A Yellow Mongoose showed well as did several herds of Springbok, Common Ostrich and Oryx antelope.We got lucky and had a young Puff Adder at dinner which we removed for the lodge and would release it away from camp the next day.
Key Species: Southern Rock Agama (Agama atra), Ground agama (Agama anchietae), Knobel’s Agama (Agama Knobeli), Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis), Fawn coloured Lark (Calendulauda africanoides), Diederick Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx caprius), Puff Adder (Bitis arietans), Yellow Mongoose.
Day 7: Day of departure to Windhoek. We released and photographed the Puff Adder and had views of two Cheetah on the way back to the lodge. We continued to the capital and had some time for a quick walk around Avis Dam which produced European Honey Buzzard, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Blue Waxbill, Grey-backed Cameroptera, Pin-tailed Whydah and African Paradise Flycatcher. The resident leacistic Red-knobbed Coot was still present. Several Helmeted or Marsh Terrapin were spotted around the dam edge.
Afterwards I dropped Moshe and Elon at the airport for their flight out.
Key Species: European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Crimson-breasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus), African Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis), Cheetah.