Here are some highlights of a two week birding trip to Etosha and Caprivi in September 2021, with a bird photographer from Germany.
Camp Mara, Omaruru, 8-9 Sept
Our first stop was Camp Mara near Omaruru, where we stayed one night (8-9 Sept). After arriving we walked around to start photographing birds. We found Pearl-spotted Owlet and after dark a African Scops-Owl by torch light. Other specials included Rosy-faced Lovebird, Rüppell’s Parrot, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Bearded Woodpecker, Pririt Batis, Groundscraper Thrush and Great Sparrow. The next morning during breakfast, we were treated to about 30 Damara Red-billed Hornbill, 4 Monteiro’s Hornbill and 2 Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and other birds coming to feed on the ground.
Erongo Wild, Omaruru, 9 Sept
On 9 Sep we visited Erongo Wild, across the road from Camp Mara. Before the sun was up, we heard Freckled Nightjar calling many times and a nightjar flew past us. At dawn we waited for Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and eventually a pair appeared – we had good views but a bit far for good photos. Other specials seen included White-tailed Shrike, Carp’s Tit, Rockrunner, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Short-toed Rock-Thrush and Pale-winged Starling. Large numbers of Rosy-faced Lovebird and other species came to feed near the pub. A trickle of water from the rocks attracted Green-winged Pytilia, Yellow Canary, White-throated Canary and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.
Okaukuejo, Etosha, 9-11 Sept
Our next stop was a few days in Etosha. We arrived at Okaukuejo in the afternoon and had time to do some birding in the camp – female Cardinal Woodpecker, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Black-chested Prinia, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler and lots of Red-headed Finches. There are also several Sociable Weaver colonies, mostly in the campsite area and some chicks were heard calling in one nest.
Next morning we drove around the Okondeka loop. We saw many Northern Black Korhaan and some Spike-heeled Lark and a pair of Red-breasted Swallow. Raptors included Secretarybird, Pale Chanting-Goshawk, Gabar Goshawk and Greater Kestrel. Mammals included a Spotted Hyena, Cape Fox, and herds of Gemsbok.
Mid-morning we headed to Gemsbokvlakte and then to Olifantsbad. Specials included flocks of Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark and Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, many single Sabota Lark, Red-capped Lark, Rufous-eared Warbler, Desert Cisticola, Chat Flycatcher and Double-banded Courser.
Halali, Etosha, 11 Sept
From Okaukuejo we drove to Namutoni, but with a midday stop at Halali. The waterhole at Halali attracted lots of seedeaters including Shaft-tailed Whydah, Great Sparrow, Black-throated Canary, Golden-breasted Bunting, Lark-like Bunting and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. In the campsite we found several specials: Southern White-crowned Shrike, Bare-cheeked Babblers and Violet Wood Hoopoe (adults with two juveniles). Hornbills were well represented with African Grey Hornbill, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Southern Red-billed Hornbill and Damara Red-billed Hornbill.
Namutoni, Etosha, 11-13 Sept
A variety of birds were seen in the Namutoni campsite. The reeds at the waterhole attracted roosting Cattle Egret, Southern Masked-Weavers, Red-billed Quelea, Lesser Swamp Warbler, African Reed Warbler and African Red-eyed Bulbuls. Starlings and weavers drank water on the lawns from the sprinklers. Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers were seen at their nests near the restaurant.
Several roads around Namutoni were searched for birds. Fischer’s Pan Loop yielded a pair of Burchell’s Sandgrouse, as well as Kori Bustard, Red-crested Korhaan and Northern Black Korhaan. Some other species included Crowned Lapwing, Black-shouldered Kite, Tawny Eagle, Purple Roller, Brown-crowned Tchagra and Southern Ant-eating Chat.
At Chudop waterhole we saw a pair of Kori Bustard that had come to drink. We saw out first Black Crake for Etosha and otherwise the usual doves, sparrows, etc. Along the Dik-dik drive we found typical bushveld species like White-backed Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Long-billed Crombec, Black-chested Prinia, Rattling Cisticola, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Violet-eared Waxbill and Blue Waxbill. Some Green-winged Pytilias were feeding on a termite mound. At the Klein Namutoni waterhole we added a flock of feeding Namaqua Sandgrouse.
Rundu, Tambuti lodge, 13-15 Sept
From Etosha we drove to Rundu, where we stayed at Tambuti lodge. The lodge had lots of great species in the garden and along the nearby Okavango River. Residents in the garden included White-browed Robin-Chat, Swamp Boubou and Hartlaub’s Babbler. Holub’s Golden Weaver came to feed on nectar every day. Other visitors included Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Red-faced Mousebird, Hoopoe and White-bellied Sunbird.
We also visited the Rundu WTP. In addition to a few waterbirds, there were many seedeaters including Red-billed Quelea, Black-faced Waxbill, Common Waxbill, Blue Waxbill and Red-billed Firefinch. A little further along the road we found our first Southern Carmine Bee-eater. More birds were found at the Rundu Sewage Works, including African Snipe, Three-banded Plover, Blue-billed Teal, Red-billed Teal, Little Egret, Little Bee-eater and Pearl-breasted Swallow.
Mahangu Safari Lodge, 15-18 Sept
Mahangu Safari Lodge and adjacent Game Reserve yielded the most species of any site we visited. On arrival at the lodge, we were immediately shown Brown Firefinch, African Mourning-Dove and Grey Go-away-bird. The restaurant overlooks the Okavango River, with resident African Fish-Eagle calling. Waterbirds flying past included White-faced Whistling-Duck, Yellow-billed Stork, Great Egret, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Giant Kingfisher. African Harrier-Hawk and Meyer’s Parrot were also seen flying over the river. Regular species in the lodge trees were Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Violet-backed Starling, Burchell’s Starling, Meves’s Starling, Greater Blue-eared Starling and White-browed Robin-Chat. We were shown a White-backed Night-Heron in the reeds. Weavers foraging in the garden included Southern Brown-throated Weaver and Thick-billed Weaver, but they did not seem to be breeding yet. At the lodge entrance we usually saw Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Coppery-tailed Coucal.
Although the close-by Mahangu Game Reserve has many similar species to the lodge, we found many additional species in the reserve: Swainson’s Francolin, a pair of Double-banded Sandgrouse, Long-toed Lapwing, African Jacana, Common Greenshank, African Openbill, Hamerkop, Squacco Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, Glossy Ibis, African Spoonbill, Malachite Kingfisher, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Southern Black-Tit and Plain-backed Pipit.
We also visited a patch of woodland beyond Bagani airport to look for typical woodland species, including Bradfield’s Hornbill.
Caprivi Houseboat Lodge, 18 Sept
We had time for a drive to Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge in Katimo Mulilo, specifically for Schalow’s Turaco. We were also shown a roosting African Wood-Owl. Several species came to the bird bath and feeder – Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, Holub’s Golden Weaver and non-breeding Southern Brown-throated Weaver. Unfortunately the Yellow-throated Leaflove were not present (and had not been for some time).
Windhoek, 19-21 Sept
Our last days were spent in Windhoek, staying at the Trans-Kalahari Inn. There was a good selection of species at the inn, including Monteiro’s Hornbill, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Pririt Batis, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Burnt-neck Eremomela, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Scarlet-chested Sunbird and Violet-eared Waxbill. Numbers of African Red-eyed Bulbul, Pale-winged Starling and Southern Masked-Weaver fed on the insects and nectar in a large tree with red flowers.
We visited the National Botanical Gardens and Avis Dam. At Avis Dam we ticked Bradfield’s Swift and African Palm-Swift. Lappet-faced Vulture and White-backed Vulture soared past. A pair of White-tailed Shrikes entertained us for a fair time, allowing some good photos. Scaly-feathered Finch and White-browed Sparrow-Weaver were foraging near their nests, but Southern Red Bishops and Southern Masked-Weavers were not breeding here yet (a male weaver in full breeding plumage was building a nest in Klein Windhoek when I went to get my PCR test). Finches included Black-faced Waxbill, Violet-eared Waxbill, Blue Waxbill and Green-winged Pytilia.