Namibia birding, 21-30 Oct 2021

Here are some highlights of a 10 day birding trip to Etosha and Caprivi in October 2021, with a birder from Germany [following a different trip last month!].

Kappsvalley Lodge, 21-22 Oct

Our first stop was at Kappsvalley Lodge, between the international airport and Windhoek. The dam had a small amount of water which still attracted resident Dabchick, Egyptian Goose, 4 Grey Herons, Blacksmith Lapwings, Black-chested Snake Eagle and Verreaux’s Eagle were seen overhead. Three-banded Plover and visiting Hamerkop, Wood Sandpiper and African Spoonbill. Many typical savanna species were found including Common Scimitarbill, Acacia Pied Barbet, Cardinal Woodpecker, Pririt Batis, Brubru, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Burnt-neck Eremomela, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey-backed Camaroptera and Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler.

Several chat species were seen near the lodge buildings: Groundscraper Thrush, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Mountain Wheatear and Familiar Chat. White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Lesser Masked-Weaver and Southern Masked-Weaver had nests and the masked weavers were in breeding plumage. The canary family was represented by Black-throated Canary, Golden-breasted Bunting, Cape Bunting and Lark-like Bunting.

Verreaux’s Eagle

 

Okaukuejo, Etosha, 22-23 Oct

Our next stop was two nights in Etosha, starting with Okaukuejo.The road to the camp yielded a Purple Roller. Visiting the waterhole after dark had several sightings amongst the herd of elephant that came to drink: 2 Egyptian Goose and a Little Grebe on the water and 2 Black-headed Herons feeding in the shallows for a while. Several Rufous-cheeked Nightjars were foraging aerially and then perching on the ground. A Barn Owl called in camp near the waterhole, but flew off when we tried to see it in torchlight.

The next morning we birded in the campsite, seeing European Bee-eater, Acacia Pied Barbet, Cardinal Woodpecker, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Short-toed Rock-Thrush and Dusky Sunbird. At the waterhole several species came to drink: 2 Cape Crow, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Red-capped Lark, while some African Pipits foraged on the field around the water.

There were 4 Sociable Weaver colonies in the camping area. One of the colonies had the whitewash of Pygmy Falcon but we did not have time to look for the falcon.

Cardinal Woodpecker, male

Okaukuejo to Halali, Etosha, 23 Oct

Mid-morning we headed to Halali via Gemsbokvlakte, Olifantsbad and Aus.

Along the way we had great sightings of Northern Black Korhaan and it was intresting to see the clear white eyebrow on a Common Fiscal. At Gemsbokvlakte were a number of Kittlitz’s Plover, many Red-capped Lark. 2 European Bee-eater, a juvenile Pale Chanting-Goshawk and a male Common Ostrich came to drink.

Common Fiscal

 

Olifantsbad was fairly quite with some seed-eaters present: Red-billed Quelea, Red-headed Finch, Great Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, in addition to many Namaqua Dove, but we did not stay here for long.

A stop at Rietfontein was very productive. Two Lappet-faced Vultures arrived to drink soon after our arrival.There were several waterbird species, including a Black-winged Pratincole. We came back early the next morning for another look before breakfast. We noticed several waders and a flock of Namaqua Sandgrouse flew over.

Lappet-faced Vulture

 

Halali, Etosha, 23-24 Oct

In Halali camp the usual birds were seen including Bare-cheeked Babblers and Violet Wood Hoopoes. A Pearl-spotted Owlet was foraging in the late afternoon. At the waterhole seedeaters included Red-billed Quelea, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Black-throated Canary and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. After dark both Spotted Eagle-Owl and a Marsh Owl were seen drinking.

Spotted Eagle-Owl and Marsh Owl, digiscope

 

The next morning a Marabou was feeding on a terrapin – the stork bashed the terrapin and then pulled bits of flesh out, leaving the shell – after eating the bird drank water. Helmeted Guineafowl, doves, sparrows and finches came to drink too. Back in camp, a Bare-cheeked Babbler attacked its reflection in a car mirror.

Halali to Namutoni, Etosha, 24 Oct

A brief stop at Kalheuwel waterhole was rewarded with two adult Bateleurs and a Tawny Eagle resting on the ground near the water.

Klein Namutoni was busy with a Lappet-faced Vulture, 16 White-backed Vulture, and an immature Bateleur at the edge of the waterhole.

We stopped at Namutoni camp for drinks and birding. We found a Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, a pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers, Long-billed Crombec, Burnt-neck Eremomela and Brubru in the thorn trees in camp. A calling raptor soon alerted us to the Red-necked Falcon perched in a palm tree at the swimming pool. Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers foraged on the lawn.

Onguma Game Ranch, 24-25 Oct

Onguma Game Ranch is just outside the east side of Etosha, and we overnighted in the bush lodge. The first new bird for our trip was found that night at the waterhole – a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl came to drink. Fiery-necked Nightjar and Pearl-spotted Owlet were heard calling.

The next morning we walked the campsite area and found Double-banded Sandgrouse, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Black-backed Puffback, Long-billed Crombec, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Rattling Cisticola and White-browed Scrub-Robin. At the waterhole, a Gabar Goshawk was hunting. At the reception I had a good but brief view of an Eurasian Golden Oriole.

Golden-tailed Woodpecker, male

 

Mukuku Rest Camp, Rundu, 25-26 Oct

From Onguma we travelled to Mukuku Rest Camp on the Okavango River, past Rundu. We could bird in the lodge gardens and along the river, both after arriving and again the next morning. A resident flock of Helmeted Guineafowl had normal plumage as well as individuals with various morphs. A group of Red-billed Oxpeckers settled to roost in a large tree at dusk. Diederik and Black Cuckoo called. During the night, Rufous-cheeked and Fiery-necked Nightjar were heard, as were Barn Owls that woke me up in the middle of the night with their screeching outside my room.

Quite a few African Wattled Lapwing were next to the river, with Black Crake and other waterbirds. Hartlaub’s Babblers warmed themselves in the sun, Several African Paradise-Flycatchers were actively chasing each other in the lodge area. A pair of African/Holub’s Golden Weavers was active at a new nest. A female Red-headed Weaver entered a nest in the lodge area.

Hartlaub’s Babbler

 

White Sands (Popa Falls), 26 Oct

On our way to Mahangu, we stopped at White Sands (Popa Falls) for drinks. We saw and heard a variety of species but by far the highlight was a number of Rock Pratincoles, flying between different rocks in the rapids. We watched them for an hour without tiring of them.

 

Rock Pratincoles

 

Mahangu Safari Lodge, 26-28 Oct

Mahangu Safari Lodge and adjacent Game Reserves were again a real birding treat. In the early morning flocks of waterbirds flew past, especially White-faced Whistling-Duck, Knob-billed Duck and Spur-winged Goose, as well as a few Skimmers. Jacobin Cuckoo, Klaas’s Cuckoo and Black Cuckoo were heard. On one morning we enjoyed the breakfast boat cruise. Birds seen from the boat included Water Thick-knee and several wader species, Rock Pratincole, African Skimmer, Woolly-necked Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, cormorants and egrets, Goliath Heron and a small colony of White-fronted Bee-eaters.

Other bee-eaters seen at the lodge were Little Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, European Bee-eater and nearby we had Southern Carmine Bee-eater. A few other specials around the lodge were Woodland Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Meyer’s Parrot, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Red-billed Oxpecker (with cattle!) and Brown Firefinch.

African Skimmer

 

Bwabwata National Park – Buffalo Core Area, 27 Oct

The Buffalo Core Area lies on the opposite side of the Okavango River from Mahangu, and seemed to have a more extensive floodplain. Waterbirds included various duck and wader species, three lapwings (Long-toed, Blacksmith and African Wattled), Saddle-billed Stork, Marabou Stork, Yellow-billed Stork and Squacco Heron. We also had great views of three Wattled Cranes. A number of White-backed Vultures and a Lappet-faced Vulture were feeding in the distance and also circled above us. A large leafless tree provided an ideal resting spot for many Barn Swallows, with a few Greater Striped Swallow and a Mosque Swallow.

Wattled Crane

 

Bwabwata NP–Mahango Core Area, 28 Oct

After some early morning birding in the lodge area, picking up a pair of Yellow-fronted Tinker Barbets, we visited the Mahangu Reserve. We had light rain for much of the morning but were still able to do some good birding in the park. A Lesser Grey Shrike had to ruffle its feathers to shake off the rain droplets. Again we found migrant waders, cuckoos and swallows. Some Southern Carmine Bee-eaters were feeding on large cicada-like insects.
Rufous-naped Larks foraged on the open fields. Red-billed Oxpeckers and African Jacanas were seen on top of some hippos in the water.

Southern Carmine Bee-eater

Rundu WTP, 28 Oct

We stopped at the WTP for just under an hour. The only duck present was a single Blue-billed Teal. There were, however, quite a few waders, including Black-winged Stilt, many Blacksmith Lapwing, Three-banded Plover, Ruff, Little Stint, Marsh Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper. A Whiskered Tern circled endlessly, occasionally perching. Some other species were Green-backed Heron, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater and Lilac-breasted Roller.

 

Pondoki Rest Camp, Grootfontein, 28-29 Oct

From Mahangu we drove to Grootfontein to overnight at Pondoki. Southern Masked-Weavers were in full breeding plumage and already breeding. The evening we arrived, there was a termite eruption, so in the morning birds were feeding on the ground on termites that had lost their wings (very few were flying at this stage) – this included Black-backed Puffback, Southern Masked-Weaver, Violet-eared Waxbill, Blue Waxbill, and Green-winged Pytilia. A Red-billed Quelea in the distance seemed to be hawking.

Black-backed Puffback, just before dropping to ground to pick up termite

Avis Dam, 29 Oct

On arrival for a quick stop at Avis Dam in Windhoek, we saw 14 White Pelicans resting on the far side. There was a pair of Mallards, probably escapees. Among the many Red-knobbed Coot was one albino plumaged coot, which had been reported to be present for some time. There were also waders, ducks and passerines.

Trans Kalahari Inn, 29-30 Oct

Our last days were spent in Windhoek, staying at the Trans-Kalahari Inn. There was a good selection of species at the inn, including Pririt Batis, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Scarlet-chested Sunbird and Violet-eared Waxbill.

Rock Kestrel on tree
Dieter
Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.