Trip Report: Namibia Endemics Tour 2021

Namibia Tailor made endemics tour  24 July – 9 August 2021

 

Introduction:

Although we only had one serious birder in the family, we still managed a respectable late winter bird count of 254 species, with several overwintering palearctics and African migrants still present.  We also had some incredible Mammal sightings (47 species) and even had a respectable winter reptile list (16 species).  Challenging east wind conditions only made us work for one bird, the Herero Chat, otherwise all the Endemic and near endemic species were seen well and easily.  We observed a Pygmy Falcon catching a Sabota Lark, which was quite a special sighting,  A standout mammal sighting of a Brown Hyena carrying an old Oryx hide whilst being chased by two Oryx into the dunes at Sossusvlei was also a highlight. A large male Leopard in the Salvadora tree, in Etosha National Park, being another standout sighting.

 

Day 1:

Pickup from Airport to River Crossing Lodge.

Afternoon spent in Daan Viljoen Game Park doing a small game drive. Due to Covid restrictions there was no access to the Dam wall or garden area, which prevented birding those areas.

Key Birds:  Damara Hornbill, Montiero’s Hornbill, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Cardinal Woodpecker,  Red-billed Spurfowl,  Booted Eagle,  Red-crested Korhaan, Bradfield’s Swift, Pririt Batis,  Ashy Tit, Chestnut-vented Warbler,  Lilac-breasted Roller, Great Sparrow, Rosy-faced Lovebird,  Short-toed Rock Thrush, Cape, Pale-winged and Burchell’s Starling.

Key Mammals:  Oryx, Springbok, Chacma Baboon, Angolan Giraffe, Yellow Mongoose.

 

Day 2:

An early pre-breakfast walk for an hour at Avis Dam with Jonathan. Very cold temperatures and easterly winds didn’t assist birding much and not too much was active that early. An After breakfast departure to Namib grens, along the C26 gravel road with a packed lunch.

Key Birds:  South African Cliff Swallow, Maccoa Duck, South African Shelduck, Common greenshank, Three-banded Plover, Cape Shoveler, Kittlitz’s Plover, Cape, Red-billed and Hottentot Teal, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle,  Northern Black Korhaan, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Pygmy Falcon, Bokmakierie, Southern Fiscal, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Layard’s Warbler, Nicholson’s Pipit, Cape, Karoo Scrub-robin, White-tailed Shrike, Red-header Finch,Yellow Canary, Desert Cisticola, Black-chested Prinia, Spike-healed Lark and Larklike Bunting.

Key Mammals: Western Rock Sengi, Rock Hyrax, Dassie Rat, Steenbok.

 

Day 3:

We did a pre-breakfast walk around Namib Grens. After breakfast we departed to Sesriem with stops on the Spreetshoogte pass, Solitaire and the Namib-Naukluft Park.  Staying at Sossus Dune Lodge, in the Park, we were able to do a late afternoon drive and return after sunset.

Key Birds:  Rockrunner, Southern grey-headed Sparrow, White-throated Canary, Martial Eagle, Dune Lark, Ruppell’s Korhaan, Burchell’s Courser,  Stark’s Lark,  Grey-backed Cisticola, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Karoo Long-billed Lark.

Key Mammals:  Brown Hyena, Greater Kudu, Klipspringer.

 

Day 4:

We did a pre-dawn departure into Sossusvlei and Deadvlei to enjoy sunrise in the dunes.  It is the firtst time in 10 years that Sossusvlei received water and we were lucky to still see a significant amount of water still in the vlei.  We returned via Dune 45 to the lodge for lunch and spent the afternoon exploring the Sesriem Canyon and Elim dune area.

Key Birds:  Ludwig’s Bustard, White-backed Vulture, Greater Kestrel, White Stork, Cape Crow, Greater Flamingo.

Key Mammals:  Cape hare, Four-striped Field mouse, Black-backed Jackal.

 

Day 5:

We departed Sossus Dune Lodge to the coastal town of Swakopmund. Birding and sightseeing en-route with stops at the Tropic of Capricorn, Kuiseb Canyon, through the Namib Naukluft Park via Ganab and Hotsas to the Welwitchia Plains and Moonlandscape in the Swakop river valley.

Key Birds:  Tractrac Chat, Karoo Chat, Rufous-eared Warbler, Gray’s Lark, White-backed Mousebird, Lesser Flamingo, Cape Cormorant, Chestnut Banded Plover, White-fronted Plover, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Hartlaub’s Gull, Kelp Gull, Swift tern, Orange-river White-eye.

Key Mammals:  Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra

 

Day 6:

We had an early morning marine cruise in Walvis Bay and Pelican Point and did a Sandwich Harbour excursion in the afternoon.

Key Birds:  Black-necked Grebe, African Pengiun, White-chinned Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Sooty Shearwater,  Great White Pelican, Cape Gannet, Crowned cormorant, Auger Buzzard, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey-headed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Heron.

Key Mammals:  Cape Fur Seal, Humpback Whale, Heaviside’s Dolphin.

 

Day 7:

This morning was spent birding around Mile 4 Saltworks and in the afternoon enjoyed an Eco Dune (Living Desert) tour.

Key Birds: African Black Oystercatcher, Red-faced Mousebird, African Reed Warbler,

Key Species: Namaqua Chameleon, Shovel, Snouted Lizard, Namib Web-footed Gecko, 

 

Day 8:

We had an early departure due to predicted heavy east winds and went into the Khan river valley, around Spitskoppe, upper Khan River and through the Erongo mountains to Erongo Wild.

Key Birds:  Herero Chat, Carp’s Tit, Ruppell’s Parrot, Violet Woodhoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Freckled Nightjar, Barn Owl, Secretarybird, African Hawk-eagle, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Bearded Woodpecker, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Brubru, Black-backed Puffback, White-crested Helmetshrike,  a pair of Red-headed Weaver ( out of range),  Chestnut Weaver, White-browed Scrub-robin and Black-faced Waxbill.

Key Mammals:  Scrub Hare, Small-spotted Genet, Damara Dik-dik.

 

Day 9:

Early morning bird photography around the bird feeders followed by a walking trail. Afternoon was spent on a nature drive to Paula’s cave to view some San rock art.

Key Birds:  Acacia Pied Barbet, African Hoopoe, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Grey-backed Cameroptera, African Barred Wren-warbler, Green-winged Pytilia, Violet-eared Waxbill,

Key Species:  African Flat Gecko, Namibian Rock Agama, Western Rock Skink.

 

Day 10:

We departed Erongo Wild toward the Brandberg in search of Benguella Long-billed Lark and Desert Adapted Elephants travelling via Uis, Ugab Valley, Sorris Sorris, Khorixas, Outjo and ending in Okaukuejo camp in the Etosha NP. We spent sunset at the Okaukuejo waterhole.

Key Birds:  Benguela Long-billed Lark, Swainson’s Spurfowl, Black-chested Snake eagle, Brown Snake eagle, Gabar Goshawk, Eastern Clapper Lark, Southern Pied Babbler, African Pipit, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.

Key Mammals:  Desert adapted Elephants, Black Rhinoceros, Acacia Tree Rat, Banded Mongoose, Plains Zebra, Striped tree Squirrel.

 

Day 11:

The morning was spent game driving the park– Okondeka, Leeubron, Sprokieswoud, Ozonjuitji M’bari and an afternoon drive to Nebrownii, Gemsbokvlakte, Olifantsbad and Aus.

Key Birds:  Pink-billed and Red-capped Lark, Chestnut and Grey-backed Sparrowlarks, Bateleur, Kori Bustard, Double-banded Courser, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Southern Ant-eating Chat.

Key Species: Lion, Spotted Hyena, Red Hartebeest, Common Eland and Helmeted Terrapin

 

Day 12:

We departed Okaukuejo to overnight at Halali camp. Waterholes that we visited en-route were, Nebrownii, Homob, Charitsaub, Salvadora, Rietfontein, Etosha Lookout, Naumses and Goas.  The afternoon was spent at Moringa waterhole and birding in the Halali grounds. After dinner we did a night drive into the park. It must be added that due to the break of a decade long drought, there was a huge explosion of rodents and the amount of Barn owl and Marsh owl was amazing to say the least. At least 40-50 Barn owl and 30+ Marsh owl were observed (there were lots more I am sure) in and around the campgrounds.

Key Birds:  White-faced Scops Owl, Marsh Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Little Sparrowhawk, Auger Buzzard ( rare for the area),  White-headed Vulture,  Black Crake, Spotted Thick-knee, Southern Red-billed Hornbill and Red-necked Falcon.

Key Mammals:  Leopard, African Wild Cat, Lesser Galago, Smith’s Bush Squirrel, and African Pygmy Mouse.

 

Day 13:

We departed Halali Camp toward the East of the Etosha NP. Key waterholes visited along the way were Goas, Springbokfontein, Okerfontein, Kalkheuwel, Chudop and Koinachas. We spent lunchtime at Namutoni Camp and an afternoon drive around Fischer’s Pan via Two Palms ending at Klein Namutoni. The night was spent at a private camp situated outside the park, called Mushara Bush Camp.

Key Birds:  Crested Francolin, Marabou Stork, African Harrier Hawk, Shikra, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Burnt-necked Eremomela, White-bellied and Marico Sunbird, Rufous-naped Lark, Red-breasted Swallow, Rattling Citicola, Pin-tailed and Shaft-tailed Whydah

Key Species:  Slender Mongoose, Common Duiker, Bushveld Gerbil, Etosha Agama and Puff Adder.

 

Day 14:

The day we spent game driving through East Etosha NP. Visited Two Palms, Klein Okevi, Andoni Plains, Tsumcor, Pans edge, Koinachas, Chudop, Doring draai, Ngobib, Dik-dik Drive and Klein Namutoni. Tonight we spent at Mushara Bush Camp.

Key Birds: Black-faced Babbler, Blue Crane, Common Moorhen, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Meyer’s Parrot and Fawn-colored Lark.

Key Species:  Bat-eared Fox, Turner’s thick-toed Gecko.

 

Day 15:

We did some pre-breakfast bird photography and departed toward the Waterberg Plateau. En-route we stopped in Otjiwarongo for lunch and visited the water treatment plant continuing to Waterberg wilderness Lodge. Some spent the afternoon on a Rhino drive and some spent the afternoon birding the surrounds.

Key Birds: African Scops Owlet, Bradfield’s Hornbill, White-faced Whistling Duck, African Swamphen, Squacco Heron, Striated Heron, heard African Rail, African Jacana and African Green Pigeon.

Key Species: White Rhinoceros,  Blesbok, Plain sand Lizard and Common Clawed Frog.

 

Day 16:

After an early morning walk up the valley we departed toward Windhoek to get the PCR tests done early in the day.  The afternoon was spentbirding the Gammam’s water treatment facility. We spent the night at River Crossing Lodge.

Key Birds:  Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Lesser Swamp Warbler.

 

Day 17:

We did a pre-breakfast walk around Avis Dam and after breakfast we departed to the airport.

Key Birds:  Orange-river Francolin, Red-billed Firefinch. Southern Red Bishop.