Namibia and the Okavango Panhandle - 7th to 23rd December 2006
Tour leader & trip report compiled by Cuan Rush
Tour participants David & Amanda Mason and Pat & Judy Hayes
After arrival at Hosea Kutako International Airport, we transferred directly to our accommodation, Tamboti Guest House in the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek. We managed to pick-up White-backed Mousebird and a beautiful Scarlet-chested Sunbird male at the guest house before heading out to Daan Viljoen which lies to the west of Windhoek. Before we entered the reserve we had sightings of Monteiro's Hornbill and Rufous-crowned Roller, two attractive species. Daan Viljoen, situated in the rolling hills of the Khomas Hochland, is a great little reserve for birding and mammal viewing and it did not disappoint. Some of the more exciting birds seen during the afternoon there were Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Barred Camaroptera, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Pririt Batis, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Pale-winged Starling, Rufous Sparrow and Violet-eared Waxbill. Our game drive through the rocky hillsides dotted with Acacia trees and scrub was excellent and we had great views of most of the larger mammals in the reserve including comical Chacma Baboons, the Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, Giraffe, Greater Kudu, Eland, Gemsbok (Oryx) and Blue Wildebeest. The afternoon went so well, that we had to race for the exit gate in order to make it before closing time. We left the reserve and went back to the guest house to freshen up for a scrumptious dinner at the famous Joe's Beerhouse.
A long day awaited us, so we enjoyed an early breakfast at Tamboti and then headed out towards Walvis Bay. Shortly after hitting the dirt track we descended into a deep dry river valley and we were extremely fortunate to encounter a covey of the highly sought-after near-endemic Orange River Francolin. We marveled at the unsurpassed views we had of at least six of these francolins close to the road as they called to each other completely out in the open. This site also produced other specials, namely: Damara Rock-jumper (Rockrunner) and Crimson-breasted Gonelek. The rest of the journey through the Khomas Hochland was also quite productive and we added South African Shelduck, Black Cuckoo, Damara Hornbill, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Gray-back Sparrow-Lark, Groundscraper Thrush, Desert Cisticola, Rufous-vented Warbler, Southern Anteater-Chat and Black-cheeked Waxbill. Spreetshoogte Pass, the gateway to desolation and endless plains, produced the goods yet again on this tour. Firstly, at the top of the pass, we had fairly brief but good views of the White-tailed Shrike. Then, as we neared the bottom of the pass, we struck gold. Herero Chat, a near-endemic to Namibia and probably the most desired bird in the country, perched out in the open for us and we watched a pair calling at close range!!! After this success, we had lunch before venturing out into the desert. The rest of the afternoon was long and fairly tiring but the birds did not stop coming. Ostrich, Pale Chanting-Goshawk, Augur Buzzard, Ludwig's and Rueppell's Bustard (great birds!), Namaqua Sandgrouse, Stark's and the near-endemic Gray's Lark, Tractrac Chat, Cape Crow, Red-headed Finch and White-throated Canary are but a few of the species seen during the rest of the day. Interesting mammals for the day (new for the trip) were South African Ground Squirrel, a family of Meerkat and Springbok.
This morning we opted for a lie-in and a later start to compensate for the long day on the road the day before. So, after breakfast we descended on the Walvis Bay lagoon in search of waders and seabirds. The lagoon was alive with activity and colour. Thousands of Greater Flamingo created a pink wash across the water while Common and Great Crested Tern and Hartlaub's Gull filled the skies. Waders in the form of Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Black-bellied and White-fronted Plover, Common Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff littered the exposed mudflats of the lagoon. Specials seen during the morning included Chestnut-banded Plover, over 25 Red-necked Phalarope, the breeding endemic Damara Tern and 2 American Golden-Plover. The Golden-Plovers are a mega-rarity for southern Africa and were an awesome pick-up. We also had smaller numbers of Arctic, Caspian and White-winged Tern and a brief sighting of jaeger but it was too distant to get a positive ID. The afternoon was spent in Swakopmund and at the salt-works near Mile 4 north of the coastal town. Sorting through the Greater Flamingos we finally found a few Lesser Flamingos. The guano platforms nearby were teeming with Cape Cormorants and we were unable to find any Bank Cormorants amongst these masses. Late in the afternoon we scoured the shoreline near Mile 4 for African Oystercatcher but to no avail. Other birds seen during the day were Kittlitz's Plover, Cape Wagtail, Orange River White-eye and Common Waxbill. The Raft was our dinner venue for the night and a great meal was had by all.
We made an early start to the day and headed out to Rooibank and the dry Kuiseb Riverbed south of Walvis Bay in search of the ochre-coloured Dune Lark. The scrubby dunes were alive with Gray-backed Sparrow-Lark and Cape Sparrow and it took us many passes up and down the dunes to eventually find a single Dune Lark. However, the riverbed also produced Eurasian (African) Hoopoe, Black-chested Prinia, the endemic Bokmakierie and the pretty Yellow Canary. Then it was back to the hotel for breakfast, followed by another visit to Swakopmund. We made several stops between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund in search of Bank Cormorant and African Oystercatcher. These birds did not materialize, but we did find Gray Heron, Crowned Cormorant, a very approachable Damara Tern and a few Cape Fur Seals. After lunch we braved the heat and barrenness of the Welwitschia Plains to admire the plains' namesake. The plants were in attendance as usual but the conditions and harsh bumpy track were not condusive to good birding. However, we did see Red-capped Lark, the desert form of Tractrac Chat, Zitting Cisticola and a substantial herd of Springbok in the area. It is difficult to imagine how any living creature survives out there on that rocky lunar landscape! On the way back to town we stopped at a causeway over the Swakop River and were surprised to find some water in the riverbed. Here we observed Cape Teal, good numbers of Kittlitz's Plover, Three-banded and Blacksmith Plover, Sanderling and Pied Avocet. Thereafter, we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
After a fairly late breakfast, we left the coast behind us and continued onward to the famous Spitzkoppe. En route we made a quick stop just outside Swakopmund at the Swakop River mouth and had scope views of Cape Shoveler, our only one for the whole trip. Spitzkoppe, also known as the “Matterhorn of Namibia”, which are giant granite inselbergs that rise-up out of the flat desert floor, was our next stop. We arrived during the heat of the day but our picnic site in the small community reserve around the mountain was well shaded by a large Camelthorn Tree. Here we had a few gate-crashers to our luncheon in the form of Mountain Wheatear, Pale-winged Starling, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and a bold Four-striped Mouse. This allowed for some close-up views of these birds and a few good photographic opportunities. At this site we also had the beautiful Rosy-faced Lovebird, the attractive Acacia Pied Barbet and one of the endemic targets for the area, Layard's Warbler. Stomachs full, we continued on to the ancient Erongo Mountains. These mountains are exposed volcanic rock and were created over 100 million years ago. Not far from our destination for the night we made a stop at the dry Khan River. Unfortunately, the stop was not very productive due to the heat; however, we did find Burchell's Starling and had good views of a pair of Damara Hornbill. Thereafter, it was onto Erongo Wilderness Lodge which is nestled in the magnificent Erongo Mountains. Not long after arrival, we were treated to absolutely amazing close-up views of a roosting family of Freckled Nightjars. It was incredible to see how well camouflaged the birds were, they literally blended into the rock substrate they were roosting on. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing around the lodge.
We made a pre-dawn start to the day in search of the elusive and very special near-endemic Hartlaub's Francolin. Just as dawn was breaking we had fairly distant and dim views of a pair calling at the top of the ridge. Other birds that were around in the area during our morning walk included Pearl-spotted Owlet, Red-backed Scrub-Robin, Pririt Batis, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Familiar Chat, Carp's Tit, White-tailed Shrike, Violet-backed Starling, Green-winged Pytilia and Black-cheeked Waxbill. Then it was time for breakfast and some relaxing as we watched an endless stream of birds come in to drink just in front of the dinning area. After breakfast we packed up and headed for the world famous Etosha National Park. En route we took a shortcut on a dirt track and were rewarded with some good sightings of raptors which included Black-shouldered and Yellow-billed Kite, Brown and Black-breasted Snake-Eagle and Wahlberg's and Tawny Eagle. We also stopped in at Tandala Ridge in search of Hartlaub's Francolin and Bare-cheeked Babbler. The babblers were found fairly easily but the francolins proved extremely tough and we were frustrated by their close calls but could not get any visuals. The road from Tandala to Etosha was very wet due to some heavy thunderstorms and we had to take it slow. Not long after entering Etosha through Andersson gate we were fortunate to find a pair of Spotted Eagle-Owl close to the road. Mammals seen en route to Okaukuejo were Springbok, Black-faced Impala, Gemsbok, Burchell's Zebra, Giraffe, Banded Mongoose and Black-backed Jackal. We also spent some time at the waterhole after dinner and picked up Black Rhinoceros and Spotted Hyena.
Before breakfast we left the camp to explore the open grasslands and gravel plains north of Okaukuejo. We were fortunate to see a stunning Red-necked Falcon and a few Lanner Falcons. Secretary-bird, Kori Bustard, Double-banded Courser, both Gray-backed and Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Red-capped, Spike-heeled and Pink-billed Lark, Capped Wheatear, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Scaly Weaver were a few of the other species recorded on the morning's drive. Probably the best sighting of the morning though, was two Lappet-faced Vultures feeding on a zebra carcass not far from the road's edge. After breakfast we spent a couple of hours birding the camps' grounds and this proved quite fruitful. The camp and waterhole produced great sightings of African Cuckoo, Cardinal Woodpecker and an immature Gray-headed Kingfisher, Ashy Tit, Brubru, Crimson-breasted Gonelek and a huge flock of Red-billed Quelea. We then rested through the heat of an Etosha day until mid-afternoon when we headed out on another game drive. In the low scrubby vegetation we found one of our target birds for the area, Rufous-eared Warbler. This small population in northern Namibia represents an isolated distribution in Etosha. Greater Kestrel, Red-crested Bustard, Rufous-naped Lark and Desert Cisticola were also seen on our game drive. On the mammal front we recorded Burchell's Zebra, Springbok, Giraffe, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Yellow Mongoose and Scrub Hare. The highlights of the evening spent at the Okaukuejo waterhole included hundreds of Double-banded Sandgrouse flying in to drink, brief views of a Pygmy Falcon and hunting Gabar Goshawk. We also had sightings of Water Thick-knee, Barn Owl, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Tree Rat, African Elephant and Black Rhinoceros.
Today we were continuing on to Halali Camp in central Etosha. So, it was another early start for a game drive before breakfast. The more notable species that we encountered were a group of 3 Ludwig Bustards, Southern Anteater Chat and Kalahari Scrub-Robin. Shortly before leaving Okaukuejo camp we visited the waterhole for the last time. There were animals everywhere – the black and white patterns of the Burchell's Zebra dominated proceedings as they mingled around drinking and shouting out to the morning. Another spectacular site was a small herd of Greater Kudu bulls coming in from the bush to quench their thirst. The scene was so amazing that we literally had to drag ourselves away to leave the camp. En route to Halali we observed some Giraffe drinking at another waterhole just off the road, the usual mix of other game species and a herd of Red Hartebeest. In the Mopane woodland mid-way to Halali we found a noisy flock of White Helmet-Shrike, Southern White-crowned Shrike and Golden-breasted Bunting. We also added some Red-billed Duck to our waterfowl list and our first Bateleur for the trip. Arriving at Halali, we ate lunch and then checked into our chalets. A short walk in the camp grounds during the heat of the day produced a roosting Southern White-faced Owl, a pair of Carp's Tit and the striking Groundscraper Thrush. Unbeknown to us, we were to have an excellent afternoon game drive, despite starting off slowly. We headed further east from the Halali camp to a usually productive waterhole and were rewarded with some great sightings. The highlight (animal-wise) was a breeding herd of African Elephant drinking, feeding, mud-bathing etc….and when they left the waterhole we were perfectly positioned for a close encounter. Truly an awe-inspiring moment! While watching the elephants we spotted our first Dwarf Bittern and Comb Duck for the trip. Then, a short stint in some woodland allowed us to find a pair of Bronze-winged Courser very close to the road. Dusk was fast-approaching and we raced back to camp but not before recording an immature African Hawk-Eagle drinking at a roadside puddle. That night the waterhole at the camp produced a hunting Red-footed Falcon and we also searched the camp for African Scops-Owl and eventually located this tiny bird low down in a Mopane tree and enjoyed great views.
We birded the camp and surrounds in the early morning and found Pearl-spotted Owlet, Rufous-crowned Roller, Familiar Chat and Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver. Heading out after breakfast further east towards Namutoni, the northern-most camp, we notched-up some great birds. These included a soaring Martial Eagle, a flock of Bare-cheeked Babbler (one of the main specials in Etosha), Mosque Swallow, Secretary-bird and an adult Gray-headed Kingfisher and shortly before arriving at Namutoni we had fantastic views of a pair of endemic Blue Crane resting in the shade of an Acacia tree close to the road. The cranes in this area represent a small isolated population in northern Namibia with the majority of the population being confined entirely to South Africa. The area around Namutoni is very scenic and when we were there it was lovely and green. On our afternoon drive we went north of Namutoni camp and circled around the seasonal Fischer's Pan. Double-banded Courser, Crested Francolin, Black-winged Stilt, Ruff, a single Pied Cuckoo, Red-billed Hornbill, a flock of Southern Pied-Babbler and Blue-breasted Cordonbleu were all on the menu. Mammal highlight were 3 lionesses relaxing in the scrub near to the road and a large herd of at least 100 Oryx in the short grasslands. Upon our return to camp, we made an obligatory stop at the waterhole and for good reason. We had a hunting Red-necked Falcon in the fading light, Water Thick-knee coming out to feed at the water's edge and a lioness strolled in for a drink as she bellowed out that mighty roar into the near darkness. A fitting end to a great day in Etosha!
Before breakfast, an early morning drive found us heading north towards the Andoni Plains. African Harrier-hawk, African Golden Oriole, European Roller, Fawn-coloured Lark, Rufous-vented Warbler, Mariqua Sunbird, Black-cheeked Waxbill and Yellow Canary were some of the species encountered on the morning drive. Mammals seen were Spotted Hyena walking along the dirt track next to our vehicle, the diminutive Steenbok and small numbers of Giraffe. Before leaving the incredible Etosha National Park, we took a drive on the circular Dik-dik Drive. The main aim of this drive was to find the tiny Damara Dik-dik which we did with flying colours, having sightings of at least 10 animals. Other mammals seen included Elephant, Warthog, Greater Kudu and Black-faced Impala. Birds recorded on the drive were White-backed Vulture, Tawny Eagle and Lilac-breasted Roller. Unfortunately, we only had brief views of another target bird, Black-faced Babbler, as we were leaving Etosha. We tried to rectify this at Mokuti Lodge just outside the Von Lindquist Gate but to no avail. Instead, we had an amazing sighting of a beautiful Dwarf Bittern on the grass lawns of the lodge. Other birds seen during the short visit included Black-backed Puffback, a male White-bellied Sunbird and breeding plumage Eastern Paradise Whydahs. We then continued on our way towards Rundu, some 400km of hard tar road to negotiate. Just north of Grootfontein we were delayed slightly by a blow-out to one of the vehicle's rear tyres. Thankfully, the rest of the journey proceeded without any hiccups and the further north we ventured, the taller the vegetation became with stunning Teak woodlands dominating the area near Rundu. Arriving at the rustic N'Kwazi Lodge in the early evening we managed to add Hartlaub's Babbler and Village Indigobird to our list. The lodge is situated on the banks of the majestic Okavango River and we enjoyed our ice-cold beers as we watched another stunning African sunset!
Rundu Treatment Works was the first birding site for the day and it was alive with birds. The settling ponds and reedbeds at the treatment works gave us Black-crowned Night-Heron, Hottentot Teal, Southern Pochard, Baillon's Crake, Purple Swamphen, Marsh Sandpiper, Senegal Coucal, Malachite, Pied, Giant and Woodland Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Magpie Shrike, Swamp Boubou, Burchell's Starling, Southern Red Bishop, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Red-billed Firefinch. We also scoped a distant Osprey that was perched on a dead tree in the middle of the vast reedbeds. A really productive morning! During breakfast at the lodge we found Striated Heron and Lesser Jacana on the river. From N'Kwazi Lodge we continued to head eastwards through the Teak woodlands on towards Mahango Game Reserve. The good birding for the day did not stop and en route we sighted Dark Chanting Goshawk, Dideric Cuckoo, African Black-headed Oriole, Striped Kingfisher, Pale Flycatcher, Meves' Glossy-Starling, Wood Pipit and Scarlet-chested Sunbird. Close to Divundu we picked-up our first Southern Carmine Bee-eaters for the trip. These stunningly coloured birds are almost magical to look upon! After checking in to our chalets near Mahango Game Reserve and enjoying a light lunch, African Mourning Dove, Black-collared Barbet, Ashy Flycatcher, White-browed Robin-Chat, Purple-banded Sunbird and Holub's Golden-Weaver were spotted in the lodge grounds. Later that afternoon we embarked on an optional boat cruise up the Okavango and it turned out to be an awesome choice. The sudden rise in the water level of the Okavango River had forced some of its inhabitants to concentrate on the remaining sandbanks. This resulted in us observing a huge flock of 400 Collared Pratincole both on the sandbank and in flight. We were also fortunate to find a solitary Rock Pratincole flitting from remaining sandbanks to almost submerged rocks in the river. Other Okavango specials seen on our river cruise were Slaty Egret carrying nesting material, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-backed Night-Heron, Long-toed Lapwing, African Skimmer, Coppery-tailed Coucal and both Winding and Chirping Cisticola. What a splendid ending to one of the best birding days of the tour.
Our destination for the day was Xaro Lodge, south of Shakawe village in northern Botswana. We would spend two nights in this paradise alongside the Okavango River. En route we took the scenic riverside drive through Mahango Game Reserve which traverses moist grassland, wetlands, open plains, woodland and riparian vegetation. A flock of Woolly-necked Stork was seen briefly on the floodplains before they took flight followed by a sighting of the enigmatic African Fish Eagle. The thickets produced White-browed Scrub Robin and White-browed Coucal, while the riverine forest held Broad-billed Roller. Temminck's Courser was seen on the main dirt track in the reserve and a pair of Wattled Crane was scoped from a picnic site. Some of the larger antelope seen in Mahango were Red Lechwe, Roan Antelope and Impala. An African Cuckoo-Hawk was spotted near to the first border post on the Namibian side and it gave good views before flying away. After clearing customs and immigration we set-off into Botswana, but not before bumping into a flock of Arrow-marked Babblers. The riverine forest near Drotsky's Cabins gave us our first views of Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove. The bird was not shy and it showed off its sparkling green wing-spots very well as the bird wandered into patches of sunlight. A siesta during the hottest part of the day was greatly appreciated by all, before gearing up for the final birding of the day. Typical of life on the Okavango, we ventured out on a boat trip in the late afternoon to explore the quiet backwaters and lily-covered channels of the river. We were rewarded with sightings of African Openbill, White-backed Night Heron, Little Bittern, African Pygmy Goose, African Marsh Harrier, White-fronted Bee-eater, Brown-throated Martin, African Stonechat, Greater Swamp-Warbler and Southern Brown-throated Weaver. Shortly before dusk, on the way back to the lodge we came across a flock of Whiskered Tern foraging over the river.
Our schedule allowed for a full days exploration of the Okavango Panhandle near our lodge. This meant an early start to search for one of the MEGAS of the riverine forest in the area, Pel's Fishing-Owl. The woodland around the lodge was good to us and before long we had added African Green-Pigeon, African Wood Owl, Crested Barbet, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Great Reed-Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Violet-backed Starling, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Collared Sunbird to our bulging bird list. Before breakfast we eventually located a pair of the elusive Pel's and managed to squeeze off a few photographs of the birds, semi-hidden in the canopy of a Mangosteen tree. After scouring the woodland and riverine forest we boarded our boat for another river cruise. Our only Hadada Ibis was recorded for the trip, Little Sparrowhawk was seen on several occasions, bee-eaters were everywhere and African Snipe and Yellow Wagtail were seen on the flooded grasslands. Some of the other species found on the morning boat trip were the brilliantly-coloured Wire-tailed Swallow and the attractive Yellow-billed Oxpecker with bi-coloured yellow bill and red tip. Lunch beckoned and was thoroughly enjoyed by our group. Thereafter, while the others rested, David and I went for a short walk through the riverine forest behind the lodge. We found an African Barred Owlet which showed well for a long period and had great views of an adult Little Sparrowhawk perched in a large Jackal-berry tree. Nearer to the lodge, the localized and very pretty, Brown Firefinch was seen foraging on the ground. Very good going for the hottest part of the day! We headed downstream for our afternoon boat session and found Allen's Gallinule, the only new species for our trip list.
On our last morning in the Panhandle, David and I walked the woodland near the lodge for the final time. This proved to be fruitful, as we found some good birds including Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-faced Mousebird, Green Woodhoopoe, Terrestrial Brownbul, Kurrichane Thrush, Red-billed Oxpecker and Retz's Helmet-Shrike. We then consumed a sumptuous breakfast before heading upstream to Drotsky's Cabins where our vehicle awaited us. A short walk in and around the grounds at Drotsky's gave us a flying African Goshawk, roosting Barn Owl, the stunning Narina Trogon and the intra-African migrant African Paradise-Flycatcher. We crossed back into Namibia and headed directly for Mahangu Safari Lodge. It was a sweltering day and the birding was fairly quiet, but we did manage to spot a Dusky Lark on the main dirt track. As usual we relaxed for most of the early afternoon by sitting on the viewing deck and gazing out over the Okavango River. Some of the birds recorded during, what I like to call 'perfect birding conditions', were a single Saddle-billed Stork, our only Yellow-billed Duck for the trip and Southern Black Tit along with most of the birds seen on the first visit to Mahangu. Our last boat ride on the Okavango River was also very relaxing, but did not produce as many specials as the original trip. Nonetheless, we found perched Lesser-striped Swallow in the reedbeds, the lonely Rock Pratincole, Black Crake and the richly-coloured African Jacana. A sundowner on the river ended yet another fascinating day.
While most of the group had a sleep-in, David and I ventured out into the grasslands behind the lodge and found some good birds. Rufous-naped Lark called from the grassland, Meyer's Parrot screeched from the riverside trees, a Bradfield's Hornbill saluted us with a fly-over while Coppery-tailed Coucal was ever-present. However, we were made to work for good views of Black Coucal, a denizen of rank vlei areas, which after some coercing responded to playback. Another bird that kept us on our toes was the attractive African Quailfinch. We flushed this species many times from the short grassland, waited for them to land and then tracked them, but somehow the small birds blended into the surroundings extremely well. Just as we thought we were going to step on them, they flushed and the cycle repeated itself. Eventually, we managed to get fairly decent views of a pair on the ground and satisfied with our efforts returned to the lodge for breakfast. Today's travel day would take us back to N'Kwazi Lodge near Rundu, so after our morning meal we left the Mahango area and re-traced our footsteps from a few days ago. The journey was fairly uneventful but did produce a flock of Abdim's Stork in a cultivated field next to the main highway. We also had a pair of Rufous-chested Swallow at the same location as the storks. At the lodge, we found Yellow-bellied Greenbul in the gardens and had awesome views of Black Cuckoo which responded very well to tape playback. We decided to spend the late afternoon birding the Rundu Treatment Works again, as it had been so productive on the first visit. The usual waders and waterfowl were available, but we also recorded birds worth a mention, namely: Black Heron, Eurasian Hobby, Lesser Moorhen, Allen's Gallinule, Greater Painted Snipe, Three-banded Plover and a large flock of the 'bumble-bee look-alikes' Yellow-crowned Bishop. Heading back to N'Kwazi Lodge for the night, we observed a massive flock of Comb Duck foraging in a recently ploughed field at the roadside. Quite a spectacle to end the days birding.
The second last day of the tour was a travel day to the rugged Waterberg Plateau National Park south of Rundu. The first half of the journey was on good tar road and past by easily. We only added Southern Black Flycatcher at the veterinary checkpoint and a Brown Snake-Eagle further on down the road. Then it was onto some good gravel tracks through cattle farms north-east of the Waterberg. The only stopping we did in this section was to open the gates of each farm we passed through and for a fly-over Bradfield's Hornbill. All of a sudden, the dirt track's condition changed and we had to deal with an extremely slippery and muddy road for about 50km. We successfully negotiated this obstacle with a few nerve-racking moments and peak concentration and also managed to find a nesting colony of Chestnut Weavers in breeding plumage. The camp at Waterberg is nestled into the base of the harsh, red-coloured cliffs and it is full of birds. So, after a short break, we walked around in search of the specials of the area. We found good numbers of the beautiful Red-billed Francolin, a pair of the endemic Rueppell's Parrot, Rufous-crowned Roller, and Mariqua Sunbird and spent a good few minutes photographing a pair of very confiding Pearl-spotted Owlet. The cliffs are ideal for flying swifts and we had a large mixed flock which included Alpine, Bradfield's, Little and Common Swift. We were also treated to great views of the dark race of Dwarf Mongoose. The family was moving through camp in search of food and went from bungalow to bungalow looking for tidbits. That night we went to sleep to the barking calls of Chacma Baboon and the ‘kow-kow' shouts of Freckled Nightjar.
The final morning of the tour began with a pre-breakfast walk on the lower slopes of the Waterberg Plateau. It was pretty quiet, but we still found Rosy-faced Lovebird, Acacia Pied Barbet, White-browed Scrub-robin, Gray-backed Camaroptera and Green-winged Pytilia. We also came across some extremely fresh Leopard tracks which made us wonder if we were being watched from the dense bush around us! Other birds seen closer to the camp were Gabar Goshawk, Common Scimitar-bill, Burnt-neck Eremomela and Violet-eared Waxbill. Just outside the restaurant was a mixed breeding colony of Lesser and Southern Masked-Weavers. Two male Lesser Masked-Weavers got into a brawl and flew into one of the restaurant's windows and were promptly stunned. We rescued them and took them to a shady spot to recover from their testosterone-filled battle. We were fortunate to see a pair of Verreaux's Eagle soaring above the cliff face just before we departed from the Waterberg. Heading back to Windhoek we were amazed by the large flocks of Yellow-billed Kite near to the road and we suspected a termite emergence had created this stir. Our Namibian adventure ended, where it had all begun, in the capital city, Windhoek. After final farewells we went our separate ways and headed home filled with good memories.
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