Namibia with Rockjumper.3. Etosha

To: "birding-aus" <>, <>, "birdchat" <>, <>
Subject: Namibia with Rockjumper.3. Etosha
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2008 21:11:14 +0100

                                 NAMIBIA WITH ROCKJUMPER. 3. ETOSHA

Driving NE from Walvis Bay towards Etosha, the film runs backwards: we
start out with a bare sandy desert, but gradually the first small bushes
and tufts of grass appear. It is a long drive and we make a stop at the
inselbergs of Spitzkoppe, of great landscape interest and also showing a
few San rockpaintings. Here we find still another lark, the quite rare
Karoo Long-billed Lark, and nearby also our first courser, the
Double-banded Courser . Our aim for tonight is another isolated mountain
group, the very scenic Erongo mountains and what in my eyes was the most
picturesque lodge of the entire tour, the Erongo Mountain lodge. Here we
were back in Acacia savanne, this time in a mountainous area of enormous
stoneblocks (Complete with Hyraxes, here the local Kaokoveld Rock Hyrax),
and we find again the characteristic birds of this habitat; in the evening
Freckled Nightjars show themselves near the small lighted pool and a large
Porcupine ambles unconcernedly past. The next morning we are up early and
search for the near endemic Hartlaub's Francolin, which show themselves
well and close by. A Barred Wren Warbler sings in a bush and adds to the
steadily growing list, and at breakfast we have trouble eating because of
the steady procession of colourful birds, with the Rosy-faced Lovebirds as
the big stars, that parades at the feeders outside the windows. A very
pleasant place and a pity we had so little time here!

We have an other 'appointment' on this already quite hot day, in a dry
riverbed full of loose sand, and surrounded by taller riverine woodland.
And this area does not disappoint at all! We find the very local
white-headed Damara Hornbill (split from the Red-billed Hornbill, which we
will see later the same day in Etosha), and later come across a mixed bird
flock, with i.a. Brubru, Carp's Tit, Black-backed Puffback, the noisy S.
Pied Babblers, the surprisingly large Burchell's Starling (almost like
small crows in bad light) and the black Buffalo Weavers. We missed the
other local near-endemic here, the Violet Wood Hoopoe, but that one Keith
and Gavin conjure up in another river bed, the Omaruru river, some hours
later, it was well worth waiting for!

Late in the afternoon we pass through the gates of Etosha park, and find
our first lodge here, Okaukeoja, where we are to stay two nights. Etosha
pan is a vast (130km long) former lake that became mostly dry after the
Kunene changed its course. It now forms the northern half of the large
Etosha National Park, while its southern borders consist of mostly thorn
savanna and form the park where one drives through (the western 1/3 is
closed to the public). The Acacia and other bushes are mostly quite low,
so that the giraffes stick out above the forest and have to bend down in
order to eat. Towards the east the trees get gradually taller. The earth
is also here mostly sandy and there are ground squirrels galore.

Now, towards the end of the dry season, much game has concentrated around
the not all that many waterholes (some artificial) and there one now often
meets throngs of Springbok, Gemsbok, Black-faced Impala, Kudu, Zebra,
Giraffe and surprisingly many elephants. And we meet lions every day, so
understand why one is not allowed to leave the vehicles in the park! The
biggest birds here are the Ostriches, some with young, and the also most
stately Kori Bustards, that come to drink at the waterholes, and take
their time doing so.There are also always lots of doves around the
waterholes, usually some Blacksmith Plovers (the also common Crowned
Plovers prefer somewhat drier terrain) and now and then the nimble tiny
Three-banded Plovers. Sandgrouse come to drink at fixed hours, especially
the Double-banded Sandgrouse, that come in their hundreds just after
sunset, but were invisible the rest of the day. The still more common
Namaqua  Sandgrouse were less bound to the clock, it seemed. (But a few
days later we suddenly found hundreds of the uncommon Burchell's
Sandgrouse at another waterhole, in the middle of the day.).

The lodges have their own waterhole, which is floodlighted at night. At
Okaukeoja, where half an hour after sunset  Rufous-cheeked Nightjars
cavorted above the Giraffes, Wildebeest, Guineafowl, and Jackals I one
evening returned to the waterhole after dinner, at c 9 30 pm., to find no
less than 10 Black Rhinos, including two suckling calves,  spread out
around, and even in, the waterhole, until a big grumpy elephant chased
some of them. This rhino was an animal I never had seen in the wild
before, so a very special experience indeed. (In fact, we found another
Black Rhino in the thornveld the next day, and for good measure a massive
White Rhino the day after that again!).

We usually drove several game drives each day, the first one before
breakfast, and during the days at Etosha our bird lists grew apace. The
first vultures, mostly White-backed, but also the huge Lappet-faced (and a
single Marabou), the amusing Bateleurs, feisty Red-necked Falcons, neat
Gabar Goshawks, Brown Snake Eagle, and still the daily Tawny Eagle; and
let's not forget the diminutive Pygmy Falcons, who lived in a Sociable
weavers nest, and who put up  a frenzied show for us.

In the open areas we foung more larks, Red-capped Lark, Grey-backed
Sparrow-Lark and even a Pink-billed Lark, and we also had the good fortune
that the Burchell's Coursers, which our leaders spotted far away, coursed
in our direction, so that we could watch them at ease. The common small
bustard here was the conspicuous Black Korhaan, and one day there were
also Caspian Plovers on the grassy fields bear the pan. We found the
endemic Bare-cheeked Babbler and the also local Black-faced Babbler; I
missed this latter one, however, as I missed out gave one of the exhauting
backseat runs one afternoon a miss. And we found more typical thornveld
birds: S. Black Tit,  White-crested Helmet-Shrike, White-crowned Shrike,
Red-breasted Swallow, Scaly-feathered Finch (a Weaver!) and the Greater
Blue-eared Glossy Starling. We spent one night ar Halali and 2 at
Naumutoni, where the trees were a bit larger. Here a round trip around the
mainly dry Fisher's Pan yielded a nice Blue Crane, and where there still
was water, lots of pelicans, flamingos and Stilts, as well as our first
Grey-hooded Gulls. Naumatoni had a roosting White-faced Owl, as well as
Scops owls, and a side trip to the grassy Andoni plains lots of game, new
Secretarybirds, as well as my very first Quaill Finches, seen otherwise
than as a rapidly diminishing dot in the air; these were drinking and
posed in the scope. and still another lark, the Clapper Lark.

>From here it was almost 500km to Rundu, near the border with Angola, so we
were in for a looong day on the bus.

                                                            Wim Vader,
Tromsø Museum
                                                           9037 Tromsø,

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