Namibia – 14 Nights & 15 Days General Birding

NAMIBIA – GENERAL BIRDING

Windhoek – Spreetshoogte – Sossusvlei – Swakopmund – Erongo – Damaraland – Etosha – Waterberg – Windhoek

14 Nights / 15 Days

Day 1: Windhoek

On arriving at Hosea Kutako International Airport, you will be met by your guide.  We will be staying in Windhoek from where we will be exploring the sparsely wooded hills and valleys surrounding the city.  Rocky slopes should yield Short-toed Thrush, White-tailed Shrike, Barred Warbler and with luck Rockrunner. At Avis Dam we should see Bradfield’s and Palm Swifts, Rock Martin, Greater striped and Pearl-breasted Swallow.  Wetland birds are also abundant and South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveller and Red-billed Teal are usually present.  In the shrub-lands surrounding the dam Desert Cisticola, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Black-chested Prinia and a variety of seed-eaters are easily seen.  Migrant waders are usually present in good numbers during the summer months. 

Day 2: Windhoek – Spreetshoogte

After birding the dry thorn savannas of the highlands  of Windhoek, we proceed towards Rehoboth, species we can expect to encounter today along the route  include the pretty, near-endemic, Rosy-faced Lovebird, White-tailed Shrike, Buffy Pipit  and a number of Southern African near-endemics, Ashy Tit, Southern Pied Babbler, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Mountain Wheatear, Southern Ant-eating Chat, Kalahari and Karoo Scrub-Robins, Black-chested Prinia, Marico and Chat Flycatchers, Pririt Batis, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Cape Glossy and Pale-winged Starling, Dusky and Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Great Sparrow, Sociable Weaver, Scaly-feathered Finch, Lark-like Bunting, Groundscraper Thrush, Rockrunner and the possibility of raptors, such as Martial, Booted, Tawny and African Hawk-Eagle. Pale-chanting Goshawks and Rock Kestrel are abundant over the Spreetshoogte pass, a spectacular pass overlooking the vast Namib Desert plains and inselbergs.  We will be stopping regularly along the way to look for Rufous-eared Warbler, White-throated Canary, Karoo Eremomela, Chestnut-vented and Layard’s Tit-Babbler, Karoo Scrub-Robin and a number of lark species, including the Karoo Long-billed Lark.  Large game is common on the farms here and we could see Oryx, Springbok, Mountain (Hartmann’s), Greater Kudu and Klipspringer on the pass.

Day 3: Spreetshoogte – Sossusvlei

Descending the Spreetshoogte Pass we will enter the oldest desert in the world, the Namib. Species we can expect to encounter here are Herero Chat, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, and the possibility of a variety of raptors such as Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk and Rock Kestrel over the pass. We will also look for Karoo Chat, Rüppell’s Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard, Burchell’s Courser and other arid adapted species such as, Karoo Scrub Robin, Yellow Canary, Ashy Tit, Cardinal Woodpecker, Pririt Batis, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Pale-winged Starling, White-throated Canary, and with luck Karoo Long-billed Lark and Karoo Eremomela. We should arrive at our hotel early enough to spend some time looking for Dune Lark on the massive red dunes of the Sesriem area.

Day 4: Sossusvlei – Swakopmund

A pre-dawn departure will find us heading for some of the largest sand dunes in the world, near Sossus Vlei.  We will spend several hours exploring this magnificent landscape with its unique natural history.  We will spend the rest of the day driving to the coast, stopping regularly to look for arid zone specials such as Ludwig’s Bustard, Sociable Weaver, Pygmy Flacon, Lappet-faced Vulture and Burchell’s Courser.  The dry river courses and drainage lines are relatively well wooded and we should see species such as Dusky Sunbird, Rosy-faced Lovebird and Scaly-feathered finch along the way. After a lunch break in the desert we will drive towards the coast where the cold Benguela current from the Atlantic Ocean brings in dense coastal fogs. There is also a good chance of encountering Lappet-faced Vultures and a few other species of raptor such as Greater Kestrel, Lanner Falcon and Black-chested Snake-Eagle.  We will arrive late afternoon in Swakopmund and complete our list for the day before going out for dinner.

Day 5:  Swakopmund & Walvis Bay

Today we spend most of the morning birding around the Walvis Bay lagoon and if we have not   located the Dune Lark the day before we will do a concerted effort to find it today.  The ideal time to visit Walvis Bay is from October to April, when the migrant birds have moved in from the northern hemisphere in their thousands.  The sheer numbers of the birds around the lagoon are impressive and the area has the highest density of Chestnut-banded Plover in the world.  The Lagoon happens to be one of Africa’s most important shorebird stopovers (it is a RAMSAR site), where we will see incredible numbers of Greater and Lesser Flamingos and some extremely localised species, such as the diminutive Damara Tern.

Some of the most abundant of the migratory species are Common Greenshank, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Black necked (Eared) Grebe, Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone and Curlew Sandpiper. Whimbrel, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit occur in smaller numbers. This lagoon is one of the few sites in southern Africa where Common Redshank, Eurasian Oystercatcher and Red-necked Phalarope are fairly regular. This phenomenal wader spot also regularly attracts Greater and Mongolian Sandplover, Terek Sandpiper and birds that are much more typically found on the subtropical east coast of southern Africa. Resident birds of the lagoon include Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, White-fronted Sandplover, and the sought-after Chestnut-banded Sandplover.

Swakopmund:

 Swakopmund is a popular seaside resort because of its old-world charm and relaxed atmosphere. Swakopmund exudes romance and history which makes it a rich cultural melting pot of old and new. The town is an eclectic mixture of Bohemian and Bavaria which make it home to artists, hippies, strait-laced descendants of German settlers, stately Herero women in Victorian dresses, and hardworking miners, game rangers, safari operators and fishermen.

 Our target bird around Swakopmund is the Gray’s Lark, this pale coloured desert lark can be difficult to locate as it blends in perfectly to the expansive gravel plains which it frequents in the true Namib Desert If time allows we can stop in at an area to see the enigmatic plant, Welwitschia mirabilis, a weird desert adapted plant distantly related to the conifers of Europe, some of these plants are estimated to be 300 – 550 years old, the oldest determined age was 920 years.  The pale form of Tractrac Chat as well as Familiar Chat, Red-capped Lark and with luck Rufous-eared Warblers are other species that we will be looking for.  Once we located the  Gray’s Lark we will work our way back to the salt works at Swakopmund and scope for any interesting waders such as Kittlitz’s and Chestnut-banded Plovers as well as African Black Oystercatcher, White-breasted, Bank, Cape and  Crowned Cormorants, Maccoa Duck, Cape Shoveler, Grey-headed Gull and Little Grebe (Dabchick).                       

Day 6: Swakopmund – Erongo Mountains

After breakfast we depart for the Erongo Mountains via the Spitzkoppe.  The Spitzkoppe is one of a series of impressive granite inselbergs   that rise steeply out of the desert plains.  It is at this imposing Batholith where we have our best chance of finding Herero Chat, should we have missed out on this species at the Spreetshoogte.  On the way we may also encounter the rare and declining Burchell’s Courser and many other sandy desert species like Stark’s Larkand other strategic species like Karoo Long-billed Lark. On the plains surrounding these hills we should see Rüppell’s Korhaan,  Namaqua Sandgrouse, Chat Flycatcher and Karoo Chat,  Verreaux’s and Booted  Eagle, Augur Buzzard, African Hawk-Eagle and Lanner Falcon also occur in the hills as do Rosy-faced Lovebird, Carp’s and Ashy Tit, White-throated Canary, Layard’s Tit-Babbler,  White-tailed Shrike, Double-banded Courser, Starks, Sabota, Red-capped, Spike-heeled, Fawn-coloured and Rufous-naped Larks, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Mountain Wheatear, Pale-winged Starling, Bradfield’s Swift, Rockrunner,  Monteiro’s and Damara Red-billed Hornbill.

We will stay at the nearby spectacularly situation Hohenstein Lodge, named after the highest peak of the Erongo Mountain. Birding in this area is very rewarding and supports many of the Namibian near-endemics such as, Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Rüppell’s Parrot, White-tailed Shrike, Carp’s Tit, Rockrunner, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and other specials like Freckled Nightjar & Rosy-faced Lovebird.

Day 7:  Erongo Mountains – Damaraland

Today will take you via the mighty Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain and this will be our last chance to locate the Herero Chat if we missed out on it previously. The surrounding plains are home to Rüppell’s Korhaan, Benguela Long-billed Lark, Burchell’s and Double-banded Courser, Northern Black Korhaan and several raptor species. We shall be looking out for the large-billed form of Sabota Lark (sometimes split as Bradfield’s Lark) while other species we should record today include Grey-backed Sparrow-lark, Common Fiscal, Bokmakierie and Red-headed Finch. 

Huab Lodge is ideally situated in granite hills on the banks of the ephemeral Huab River in habitats where several near endemic Namibian bird species occur, which makes them easy to see. The area boasts nine of the near endemic bird species including Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Rüppell’s Parrot, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Carp’s Black Tit, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Damara Rockrunner and White-tailed Shrike. This evening our ears will be kept open for the unmistakable grunts of the Giant Eagle Owl, our largest owl as well as the African Scops Owl our smallest owl species, Pearl-spotted Owlets will also no doubt provide us with their “music”.  Here we will spend the entire next day.

Day 8: Damaraland

Today you will catch up on many species that you have not seen during the trip.  Late September the Madagascar (Olive) Bee-eater arrives to breed in Namibia and provides excellent photographic opportunities.  The Violet-backed Starling, the Rosy-faced Lovebird and the boisterous Bare-cheeked Babbler can be seen from the camp.  There is also a hide just below the main house for bird watching and photography. The water at the hot spring is maintained between 37 and 40 degrees and you may want to follow a soak with a choice of one of the many treatments available with the resident masseur. Again, with luck on returning from a game drive we may encounter Bronze-winged (Violet-tipped) Courser, Nightjars and Owls.  

 Day 9, 10, 11 & 12: Etosha National Park

Today we will enter the Etosha National Park via the Galton Gate in the West, once in the park we have our first opportunity to see four of the big five and an abundance of antelope, giraffe and other game.  Most of the western area is Mopane woodland, interspersed with granite hills and outcrops.  The Park is the flagship of Namibia’s conservation areas, teeming with large game and boasting about 380 species of birds.  You will be based in the park during the next 3 days and will spend time visiting a range of habitats.  The grassy plains north of Okaukuejo Camp are the best areas in the park to see Pink-billed Lark, Double-banded Courser, Northern Black (White-quilled) Korhaan and Spike-heeled Lark.  Raptors are abundant and we should see Martial Eagle, Secretary Bird, Bateleur, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Tawny Eagle and Greater Kestrel.  Migrant raptors such as Western Red-footed Kestrel, Lesser Spotted Eagle and Yellow-billed Kite can be seen in large numbers during the wet season.  The camp situated in the centre of the park, Halali is the best site to see Violet Wood-hoopoe, Bare-cheeked Babbler and Carp’s Tit.  In the East around Namutoni the open grasslands are home to Namibia’s isolated population of Blue Crane, Temminck’s Courser, Grey-backed and Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark and Eastern Clapper Lark.  The elusive Black-faced Babbler occurs in dense Terminalia woodlands in this area.  Floodlit waterholes at all three camps provide wonderful game viewing at night as well as providing opportunities to see nightjars and owls.

Etosha is famous for its large game populations and during our stay here we should see Lion, Elephant, Burchell’s Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Springbok, Oryx, Giraffes, Greater Kudu and several smaller antelope.  Among the rarer species regularly seen are Black Rhino (especially at waterholes at night), Cheetah and Black-faced Impala, a subspecies only found in Namibia.  Your visit here will be taken at a leisurely pace and there will be excellent photographic opportunities.

Key Species – Okaukuejo Area:

Secretarybird, Kori and Ludwig’s Bustard, Northern Black and Red-crested Korhaans, Glossy Starling, Yellow-bellied and Burnt-necked Eremomela, Fork-tailed Drongo, Blue Crane, Burchell’s and Double-banded Sandgrouse, Rüppell’s and Meyer’s Parrots (the east only), Alpine Swift, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Cape Shoveler, South African Shelduck, Green-winged Pytilia,  Sociable Weaver, Pygmy Falcon, Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Violet-eared Waxbill, Red-headed Finches, Marsh and Barn Owls and Rufous-cheeked Nightjar around the lights, Shaft-tailed and Pin-Tailed Whydah, Grey-backed and Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Larks, Red-capped, Spike-heeled, Rufous-naped and Pink-billed Lark, Capped Wheatear, Scaly-feathered Finch, Red-necked and Lanner Falcons, Lappet-faced, White headed and White-backed Vultures, Double-banded and Temminck’s Coursers, Cardinal Woodpecker, Brubru, Crowned Lapwing, Ashy tit, Red-billed Quelea, Rufous-eared Warbler, Red-breasted Swallow, Greater Kestrel, Desert Cisticola, Water Thick-knee, Southern Ant-eating Chat, Pied and Black Crow, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Martial and Tawny Eagle, Southern Yellow-billed and Grey Hornbill.

   

Key Species – Halali: 

Crimson-breasted Shrike, Great Sparrow, Violet-eared Waxbill, Southern Pied Babbler, Red-headed Finch, Kori Bustard, Scaly-feathered Finch, Marico Flycatcher, Namaqua Dove, Blue Crane, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Pallid and Montagu’s Harrier, Little Sparrowhawk, Gabar Goshawk, Bateleur, White-crested Helmet Shrike, Southern White-crowned, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Golden Breasted Bunting, Ground Scraper Thrush, Lanner Falcon, African  and Southern White-faced Scops-Owl, Lilac-breasted and Purple Rollers, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Long-billed Crombec, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher,  Grey-backed Camaroptera,  Martial Eagle, Mosque Swallow, Crested Francolin, Red headed Weaver, Carp’s Tit, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Rüppell’s Parrot and Burchell’s Starling and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater.

 Key Species – Namutoni:                                  

Blue Crane, Temminck’s and Double-banded Courser, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Eastern Clapper and Dusky Lark, Black-faced and Southern Pied Babbler, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Tawny Eagle, Rattling Cisticola, Ruff, Common Sandpiper, Egyptian Geese, Marico Flycatcher, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Banded and Sand Martin, Red-billed Hornbill, Marico, White-bellied and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Fawn-coloured Lark, Kurrichane Button-Quail, African Harrier-hawk, Violet and Black-cheeked Waxbill, African Golden Oriole, Gabar Goshawk, European Roller, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Southern White-crowned Shrike, African Paradise Flycatcher, Meyer’s Parrot, Violet-backed Starling, Crested Spurfowl, Caspian Plover, Emerald Spotted Wood dove, White -browed Scrub Robin and African Palm-Swift.

Key Species – Etosha Pan if it fills up with water:

Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Great White Pelican, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, Caspian Plover, Yellow-billed Stork, Cape and Red-billed Teals, Black-winged Stilts and  rarities such as Gull- billed tern.

 Day 13: Etosha National Park – Waterberg 

Our final destination is the Waterberg Plateau Park. This park was created as a sanctuary for the rare and endangered species of the Caprivi, The table top mountain plateau comprises a sandy plain flanked by 100 m high cliffs and scree slopes.  The high diversity of birdlife in this semi-arid region is due to the location of the Waterberg at the meeting point of broad-leafed woodland on northern Kalahari sandveld on top of the plateau and mixed thorn bush savannah below, a third habitat is provided by the cliffs and scree slopes.  The Acacia savanna and woodland here abounds with birds and is one of the best sights in the country to see near-endemics such as   Rüppell’s and Meyer’s Parrot, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Violet Woodhoopoe, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Carp’s Tit and Rockrunner.  Hartlaub’s Spurfowl occurs on the boulder-strewn slopes above the camp and an early start will offer a reasonable chance at seeing this difficult endemic.  

Other exciting species that we might encounter during your limited stay include Bearded Woodpecker, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Bradfield’s, Alpine, African Palm, Little, Common and White-rumped Swifts, Freckled Nightjar, Red-billed and Spurfowl, Bradfield’s, Southern Yellow-billed, African Grey and Red-billed Hornbills.  The Waterberg is also home to the last remaining population of Cape Vulture in Namibia which breed on the northern side of the plateau.  With luck you will see some of these magnificent birds as well as other raptors including African Hawk-Eagle, Booted and Verreaux’s Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Augur Buzzard.  

Day 11: Waterberg – Hosea Kutako Airport, Windhoek

We do some early morning birding and then travel back to Windhoek either in time for your return flight or overnight in Windhoek