Zino's Petrel off Madeira - June 2018

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Friday, 19 October 2018

Namibia - Day 18 19/10/18

Avis Dam

Well this is it, the last morning and birding opportunity in Namibia. Avis Dam is only a five minute drive from the B&B and therefore I set that as my destination this morning. 

It was very cold and wish I’d taken a jumper, something I’d not worn all trip. The birding was very good with many southern African near-endemics seen, and I even managed a trip tick, this being a finely plumaged Pin-tailed Whydah. Four Rockrunners were also good value. 

I only spent two hours here before heading back to the B&B to sort things out and drive to the airport, where my very clean hire car was dropped off. The queueing then commenced for security and immigration. The flight departed WDH half hour late, but that meant half hour less in Jo’burg airport where an overnight flight awaits. 

It’s been a very enjoyable adventure. In total I’ve driven 4986 KM in 18 days seeing a total of 313 species of bird and a long list of mammals which will be shown here in the near future. The number of lifers was expectedly low, with around 50 new birds, and the undoubted highlight being the Pel’s Fishing Owl in Botswana. 

Hope those who’ve read the trip on here have enjoyed it somewhat. Now back to the doldrums of birding in Sussex. 

Photos from the trip will be added next week. 

Highlights for this morning are as follows:

Black-headed Heron - 1
Blacksmith Lapwing - 4
White-rumped Swift - 10
Rosy-faced Lovebird - 5
Pririt Batis - 4
Ashy Tit - 1
Greater Striped Swallow - 3
Rockrunner - 4
Black-chested Prinia - 4
Barred Wren-Warbler - 1
Chestnut-vented Warbler - 2
Wattled Starling - 5
Cape Starling - 2
Kalahari Scrub-Robin - 1
Marico Flycatcher - 3
Short-toed Rock Thrush - 2
Southern Masked Weaver - 2
Red-headed Finch - 6
Pin-tailed Whydah - 1
Black-throated Canary - 10

Barred Wren-Warbler at Avis Dam

Pririt Batis

Marico Flycatcher
Swimming not an issue in 
the dry season

Avis Dam

Windhoek Intl Airport

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Namibia - Day 17 18/10/18

Waterberg NP - Windhoek

This morning was my last chance of finding a Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and so I had no choice but to wake up at 5am and start and finish the ascent onto the plateau in the dark. However soon after starting I got lost and instead of turning around and re-starting like a normal person, my tripod came in handy in smashing the undergrowth to pieces, and eventually after climbing two fences and a few cuts I made it onto the rocky path at the foot of the cliff face. By this time the light had crept up on me and I had already heard a Spurfowl calling, which was far from ideal. Still, I made it onto the ridge and waited. After 90 minutes there was surprisingly no more calls from any Spurfowl and so that was that. It wasn’t wasted though, a good number of near endemics were seen from my position including only my third sighting of Monteiro’s Hornbills this trip, a Carp’s Tit and some superb aerial displays from many Bradfield’s Swifts. Baboons were also in good numbers (possibly explaining the lack of Spurfowl) and posed beautifully for the camera. 

The 330km drive to Windhoek was up next and I made very good time arriving before 2pm, and also having a car wash on the journey down. 

Vineyard B&B is situated on the east side of Windhoek on the way to the airport and is surrounded by some good looking acacia hillsides. After a catch up on WiFi and a swim, I walked a long circuit around the hillsides finding myself a lifer, this being a Barred Wren-Warbler. Other good birds were found, but mammals took over slightly with two Scrub Hare, a Steenbok and best of all a Four-striped Grass Mouse. 

This now was my final evening in Namibia and I was hoping to end it in fine African style, however this soon turned into a Nando’s as the restaurant was closed! Still one more morning to soak in and enjoy what has been a fantastic trip. 

Highlights for today are as follows:

Bateleur - 1
Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk - 2
Freckled Nightjar - 1
Alpine Swift - 50
Bradfield’s Swift - 75
White-backed Mousebird - 2
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater - 4
Common Scimitarbill - 2
Monteiro’s Hornbill - 2
Pririt Batis - 1
Carp’s Tit - 1
Cape Penduline Tit - 2
Rattling Cisticola - 3
Black-chested Prinia - 2
Yellow-bellied Eremomela - 1
Green-winged Pytilia - 6
Cape Wagtail - 1

Baboon also enjoying the views
on Waterberg Plateau

Alpine Swift

Bradfield's Swift
Sunrise on Waterberg Plateau

Looking onto the plateau

The last part of the ascent

Countryside east of Windhoek

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Namibia - Day 16 17/10/18

Grootfontein to Waterberg Plateau

Another relaxed morning because yet again I woke up feeling a bit grim. Not ideal as a 250km drive was ahead of me. 

On the way to Waterberg I stopped off at the famous Meteorite near to Grootfontein. Apparently it fell 80,000+ years ago and is the largest known anywhere. Well it took all of one minute to get my meteorite fix before heading back to the main road through various cultivated fields. These fields held a plethora of Larks including large numbers of Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks and a single Rufous-naped Lark, whilst overhead a Wahlberg’s Eagle drifted over. 

After a tedious long drive (only enlightened by a large wild fire sweeping through a valley) I finally arrived at Waterberg NP, checked into my chalet and fell asleep for a couple of hours. I still felt ropey but I really wanted to walk to the plateau which involves a semi-steep ascent over mainly fallen boulders. Not only for the view, but I also wanted to get to grips as to where will be a good place to stand at first light for Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, and unfortunately this is at the top meaning an early morning ascent in the dark. On the way up a Snake species was found and a Rockrunner scuttled across my path. The views at the top were worth the trek and I felt much better for it. 

As it became dark I set myself up halfway between the chalet and plateau as I knew this area is good for Freckled Nightjar. However after dark there was no sound of them and so I retreated to have dinner, although finding two Bush-Babies on the way back was excellent. 

After dinner I was then surprised to hear a couple of Freckled Nightjars, and although distant, one bird did the decent thing by calling right next to me and then flying into view, phew!! An African Scops Owl was also calling but failed to find it after a half hearted attempt. 

Highlights for the day are as follows:

Wahlberg’s Eagle - 1
African Hawk Eagle - 2
Speckled Pigeon - 2
Bradfield’s Swift - 20
Golden-tailed Woodpecker - 1
Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark - 50
Rockrunner - 1
Chat Flycatcher - 3
Scaly-feathered Weaver - 5
Black-faced Waxbill - 10
Black-backed Puffback - 2

Wahlberg's Eagle

Hoba Meteorite

A wild fire

Views from the plateau

View from the front door

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Namibia - Day 15 16/10/18


Today was planned as a rest day to sort out the final sites for birds I still want to see and to try for the Black-faced Babblers one last go. 

I started the day walking around the grounds of Pondoki finding a lovely flock of Southern Pied Babblers. A flock of 30 Egyptian Geese also flew over heading north as if they were migrating. 

The rest of the day was spent chilling out until it was deemed ‘cool’ enough to head 40km back up to Roy’s Camp for one last go of the Babblers. A police road block held me up for five minutes as the grumpy women deemed it my fault that the ‘ZA’ sticker on the rear windscreen was on show, and not the hire company. Anyway I was soon on my way again and into Roy’s Camp. Again the staff were very friendly and allowed me to walk all around the grounds. I felt semi-confident but after three laps of the camp I hadn’t had a sniff of a Babbler. I was close to giving up but in the distance I heard what I knew were Babblers. I got out of my weary state and sprinted around to the other side of the complex. I finally set eyes on the birds but neither of them were facing me meaning I couldn’t see their pale eyes. Therefore I charged into the scrub and long grass until I was nearly on top of them where they gave superb views for about ten minutes. A huge relief to have finally found them. 

The drive back produced seven Red-Crested Korhaans as the sun started to set. 

Egyptian Goose - 30
Crested Francolin - 2
Swainson’s Spurfowl - 3
Red-Crested Korhaan - 7
Southern Red-billed Hornbill - 6
Acacia Pied Barbet - 3
White-Crested Helmetshrike - 4
Chestnut-vented Warbler - 2
Red-billed Buffalo Weaver - 4
Golden-breasted Bunting - 15

Southern Pied Babbler at Pondoki

Black-faced Babbler at Roy's Camp
The entrance to Roy's Camp -
no doubt the best site to see the Babbler

Monday, 15 October 2018

Namibia - Day 14 15/10/18

Rundu to Grootfontein

Despite still feeling a bit ropey I was keen to head back to Rundu Sewage Works where yet again there was a good array of species present. A couple of hours here produced two stunning Southern Brown-throated Weavers, a Southern Pochard and two species of Pratincole. 

I didn’t want breakfast and had a snooze for a while before driving south to Grootfontein to Pondoki Rest Camp. Another lovely accommodation with good WiFi and a nice pool. 

For the second time, I headed to Roy’s Camp to try for the Black-faced Babbler. Last time I tried it was midday and there was obviously no sign, although this time I felt fairly optimistic. The person on duty allowed me to sit in the baking sunlight and wait near the small waterhole. A Pearl Spotted Owlet showed very well as some White-crested Helmetshrikes battered it, but sadly despite overheating no Babblers came in. With this site only being 40km away I’ll keep trying for the next two days if I’m allowed to. 

The drive back to Pondoki produced a smart Red-Crested Korhaan at the side of the road, and a lovely sunset. 

Highlights today are as follows:

Hottentot Teal - 2
Southern Pochard - 1
Red-Crested Korhaan - 1
Kittlitz’s Plover - 1
Marsh Sandpiper - 1
Black-winged Pratincole - 1
Pearl Spotted Owlet - 1
Southern Red-billed Hornbill - 1
Orange-breasted Bushshrike - 2
White-Crested Helmetshrike - 6
Red-breasted Swallow - 2
Wattled Starling - 50
Ashy Flycatcher - 2
Red-billed Buffalo Weaver - 4
Southern Brown-throated Weaver - 2
Red-billed Firefinch - 2
African Pipit - 4
Black-backed Puffback - 2

Red-breasted Swallow at Rundu 

Western Cattle Egrets

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Namibia - Day 13 14/10/18

Divundu to Rundu

The first day of the trip that I’d felt slightly under the weather and so I didn’t have much enthusiasm to bird all hours. Another visit into Mahango Game Reserve at long last produced a good array of raptors, and some good Antelopes with the best being a superb Sable Antelope. 

My next accommodation was halfway between Divundu and Rundu but annoyingly it appeared they had no food on site and the place didn’t have a nice feel about it. After pondering on the bed for ten minutes I quickly turned on my mobile data and booked myself into Sarusunga Lodge at Rundu. Without saying goodbye (but trip ticking African Paradise Flycatcher), I left and was soon arriving back at Rundu. 

My illness hadn’t improved and so I lazed around for a while before walking around the grounds finding a nice pair of Ashy Flycatchers. As darkness fell, the sound of Rufous-cheeked and Fiery-necked Nightjars started. 

No lifers today can only mean I’m nearing the end of a so far successful trip. 

Highlights for today are as follows:

Black-chested Snake Eagle - 1
Brown Snake Eagle - 1
Martial Eagle - 1
Wattled Crane - 2
Rock Pratincole - 10
Bradfield’s Hornbill - 2
Meyer’s Parrot - 1
Chinspot Batis - 2
Magpie Shrike - 1
African Paradise Flycatcher - 2
Yellow-bellied Greenbul - 5
Willow Warbler - 1
Hartlaub’s Babbler - 10
Yellow-billed Oxpecker - 5
Kurrichane Thrush - 2
Ashy Flycatcher - 2
Marico Sunbird - 1
Red-headed Weaver - 1
Jameson’s Firefinch - 4

Emerald Spotted Wood Dove
at Mahango Game Reserve

Rock Pratincoles at Popa Falls

Kurrichane Thrush at Sarusunga
The not so mighty Popa Falls
in the distance

Another riverside chalet

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Namibia/Botswana - Day 12 13/10/18

Xaro Lodge to Popa Falls

This morning was the whole reason why I came into Botswana, a chance to see a Pel’s Fishing Owl. Xaro Lodge is a known spot for this species as they are regularly seen in the gardens. However, they change their roost site each day and so finding them can be very difficult, and are certainly not guaranteed. 

I was outside my chalet at first light dodging the fruit that the Vervet Monkey was throwing at me, to be confronted by lots of noise from all the birds. Giant Kingfishers were settling on my balcony and a whole possession of new birds for the trip were seen. 

I had arranged to meet Rohane again who is an exceptional birder who doesn’t even carry binoculars, yet still finds and identifies birds long before I’ve seen them. Rohane asked me whether I wanted a birding walk, or to just find the Owl. Certainly a daft question but the Owl was all I wanted. The first 5-10 trees failed to produce anything and I had already given up hope. A pair of African Barred Owlets that I found failed to cheer me up much, but then Rohane calmly waved me over to a tree, and looking up into the dense canopy was sat a superb Pel’s Fishing Owl, by far the bird of the trip. It was accidentally flushed but landed in full view with the sun shining on it. A stunning bird and even better a short while later another Pel’s was found. All of this was going on as an Elephant was keeping a close eye on us at about 40 metres range. 

After a hefty breakfast it was time to get the boat transfer back to the car and return into Namibia. It was too early to check in at Shametu River Lodge at Popa Falls, and therefore I took the loop circuit at Mahango Game Reserve, where a good list of mammals were seen, including the Red Lechwe. 

Now at the lodge I chilled for a while before heading back into Mahango where a large herd of Elephants came close to the car, and another good list of new trip birds were seen. The unexpected lifer here were a pair of Green-backed Honeyguides, and the more expected Bradfield’s Hornbill. 

By the time I got back to Shametu, it was dark but I still noticed an Owl fly into the tree from my balcony. The silhouette looked good for an African Wood Owl and so I rushed in and got my torch, and I was pleased to see it was indeed a Wood Owl. A three Owl day on an Eade tour is almost unheard of! 

No WiFi for the next two nights after tonight and only five full days left. 

Long list of highlights for the day are as follows:

Crested Francolin - 3
Swainson’s Spurfowl - 1
Yellow-billed Stork - 2
African Spoonbill - 2
Bateleur - 7
Dark Chanting Goshawk - 2
Little Sparrowhawk - 1
Wattled Crane - 8
Temminck’s Courser - 2
Collared Pratincole - 5
Black-winged Pratincole - 1
Rock Pratincole - 2
African Wood Owl - 1
Broad-billed Roller - 4
Common Scimitarbill - 2
Black-collared Barbet - 5
Orange-breasted Bushshrike - 2
Retz’s Helmetshrike - 10
Southern Black Tit - 2
Burnt-necked Eremomela - 9
White-browed Robin-Chat - 4
Yellow-fronted Canary - 1

African Barred Owlet at Xaro Lodge

Pel's Fishing Owl

Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike at 
Mahango Game Reserve

Wattled Cranes

Bradfield's Hornbill

Southern Carmine Bee-Eater

African Wood Owl at Shametu
Pel's in the dark green tree

View from the chalet at Xaro Lodge

Mahango Game Reserve

Giant Baobab Tree