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The Great Escape, Namibia. (1 Viewer)

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
And so it begins ... the COVID Christmas gripfest ... Congratulations on a great plan and a great escape. Looking forward to hearing more. I reckon you must have a pretty good chance of digging a Nearctic wader or two out of the Walvis Bay salt pans/waterfront while, ahem, "working". That is if the dazzle of 60,000 flamingoes is not too much of a distraction!

Cheers
Mike
 

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
Scotland
Yeah.... he sure knows how to wind us all up, doesn't he!!:rolleyes:
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
Yeah.... he sure knows how to wind us all up, doesn't he!!:rolleyes:
Thank goodness for that!
For those of us who are pretty much confined to walking distance from our apartment, escaping to Namibia vicariously is just wonderful.
Keep them coming, Jos!
 

Arbu

Well-known member
Good for you Jos, sounds like an inspired move to spend winter down there. I'm very envious and tempted to head to Namibia myself. But the prospect of paying £140 for a very invasive test is off-putting. And then what if I fail the test or a temperature check? All the time in organising the trip and probably a fair bit of money would have to be written off I imagine.
 

rosbifs

Well-known tool
France
Good for you Jos, sounds like an inspired move to spend winter down there. I'm very envious and tempted to head to Namibia myself. But the prospect of paying £140 for a very invasive test is off-putting. And then what if I fail the test or a temperature check? All the time in organising the trip and probably a fair bit of money would have to be written off I imagine.
I guess it's money well spent if you find out either way that you're clear or not. Worse still you're wandering around oblivious that you are infecting some others who might be more at risk than you...

The money will soon be recuperated with the savings of living cheaply there and as you say an inspired move.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
But the prospect of paying £140 for a very invasive test is off-putting. And then what if I fail the test or a temperature check? All the time in organising the trip and probably a fair bit of money would have to be written off I imagine.
Worth the risk in my book - a relatively small financial gamble for several months of living a far better experience than the situation currently back at my home base 👍
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
23-27 November. Walvis Bay.

Week two, another week of working to the backdrop of flamingoes, pelicans et al, not total torture. Pretty much similar birds in Walvis Bay as the week before, perhaps wader numbers slightly higher, especially Ringed Plovers and Turnstones, also maybe more Caspian Terns. Also managed a seawatch off Paaltjies ...though I have to confess it was more a pleasant sit on the beach than an active seawatch. Nevertheless, not bad birding - thousands of Common Terns streaming past and occasional Black Terns, rafts of Cape Cormorants too, plus a dozen or so White-chinned Petrels heading south, several Arctic Skuas and one Pomarine Skua. Away from Walvis Bay, also visited the Bird Sanctuary and Rooibank again - Red-billed Teal and Egyptian Goose as additions at the former, while a Diderik Cuckoo and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater among the scrubland birds at the latter.
 

rosbifs

Well-known tool
France
Stop it.... Not really

Weather temperatures taken a plunge. Birds hard to come by. I have fantastic views, relative peace so I can't complain really...
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
28-29 November. Spitskoppe.

Another predawn departure from the coast, timed to arrive at the Spitzkoppe at sunrise. Rising from the desert plains, a geological masterpiece of towering rock pinnacles and rounded boulders, Spitskoppe is an amazing sight in itself, but for the birder it is also renowned as one of the most reliable sites for the difficult Herero Chat.


Day One.

A thousand acacia spikes and thorny grass seeds through my sandals, four hours from dawn I searched for Herero Chat, the temperature already climbing above 25 C. Banana-nosed Monteiro's Hornbills, a couple of Grey Go-away Birds, plenty of Dusky Sunbirds, Mountain Wheatears, Pritit Batis and Yellow-bellied Eremomela, a pair of Long-billed Crombec, several Sabota Larks, not bad birding at all, but as for Herero Chat, not a sign.

As temperature climbed and bird activity declined, chances of finding the usually reclusive chat dwindled, but quite a number of hyper active butterflies began to appear. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, I spent the hot hours pursuing the butterflies, also not too easy with them very rarely settling for more than a millisecond here and there. Nethertheless, reflecting the appearance of acacia stands rather than pure desert, eight species on the wing, my highest day count so far - at the one end of the size spectrum, tiny Grass Jewels, along with slightly larger Velvet-spotted Blues, while at the other end, several Natal Acaria and one Citrus Swallowtail. Sitting in the middle, and the most abundant butterflies of the day, four species of whites - one Zebra White, 30 or 40 Common Orange-Tips, one Lilac Tip and several Brown-veined Whites.
As the heat eventually began to wain from its peak of 35 C, gave the Herero Chat another attempt ...and again zilch on that front! Still, did see Acacia Pied Barbet, a couple of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters and, as evening approached, a number of mammals - numerous Rock Dassies, three Cape Hares, one Black Mongoose (a rare Namibian endemic), a brief Western Rock Elephant-Shrew and two nimble-footed Klipspringers picking their way up a rockface.

At an exquisite site surrounded by high rocks, I camped out, total silence in the desert, a full moon illuminating the desert floor. Bat-eared Fox and Small Spotted Genet during the night.


Day Two.


Dawn, resuming the search for Herero Chat. Fortunately this day was rather more successful - after a half hour of birding, marked by Ashy Tits, Dusky Sunbirds et al, I heard a pleasant little song to my left ...and there atop a small acacia between boulders, one very nice Herero Chat! And moments later, a second joined it ... success, one pair of Herero Chats. After serenading a while atop its bush, off they both flitted, over a rock outcrop and gone.

Wandered a while longer, first butterflies rising as the temperature soared - Grass Jewels and Common Orange Tips - then decided for a complete change. Departed and drove across the stone deserts back to the coast, a fortuitous stop en route adding three Gray's Larks. And then there was Cape Cross, an assault on the senses on every angle ...a pong from a half kilometre away, a loud braying of incredible proportion from all sides, a seething mass of lumbering bodies occupying almost every conceivable patch of beach for hundreds of metres each way ...this was the Cape Cross Seal Colony, home to some 230,000 Cape Fur Seals, now right at the peak of their pupping season. Newborns all over the place, attendant Kelp Gulls looking for weaklings and afterbirth, numerous small youngsters desperately trying to avoid getting squashed by squabbling adults. No such thing as social distancing here, truly a remarkable sight. Off young, a dozen or so Black-backed Jackals snoozed in nearby desert, plenty of lunch available a little later.

Ponged out, eventually time to leave, headed to Swakopmund. Pick up truck reversed into my car, didn't bother stopping ...have some explaining to do with the rental company.
 

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
Quite enjoying this, if a little jealously. A nice reminder of my trip out that way a few years ago. Spitzkoppe is a stunning place.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Don't know if you need it but I'm sure I remember hearing that Cape Cross is a magnet for Brown Hyaenas as well as Black-backed Jackals. Maybe due a night visit sometime?

Cheers

John
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Don't know if you need it but I'm sure I remember hearing that Cape Cross is a magnet for Brown Hyaenas as well as Black-backed Jackals. Maybe due a night visit sometime?

Cheers

John
Indeed it is good for Brown Hyena. I have seen several Brown Hyena before, but I did consider an evening visit, though it closes at 5 pm, long before dark.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Indeed it is good for Brown Hyena. I have seen several Brown Hyena before, but I did consider an evening visit, though it closes at 5 pm, long before dark.
Ah. Didn't know that. Does make it a little difficult!

Keep the reports coming, anyway: they are keeping us sane!

Cheers

John
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
To give an idea of the sight and sound of the Cape Fur Seal colony, a couple of short videos on my phone. Play with volume!



A rather upsetting place when we were there. Ther was an ongoing outbreak of what we were told was canine distemper and there were dead and dying animals, absolutely, everywhere. So upsetting was it, that my wife only took a couple of shots and we left.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
30 November - 3 December. Swakopmund.

A final coastal week before heading inland, based myself in Swakopmund for this week, still working, but birding in gaps. Nowhere near as birdy as Walvis Bay, especially given the main attractions, i.e. the salt lagoons north of town, are now prohibited entry these days. Nethertheless, bits and bobs to entertain - best areas proved to be the golf course on the desert edge in the Swakop Valley and, to a lesser extent, landscaped gardens along the seafront.


Golf Course.
Greens dotted by Springbok, Egyptian Geese and Cape Wagtails, fairways edged by palms and inhabited by White-backed Mousebirds, Cape Sparrows and Fiscal Shrikes, Swakopmund golf course is the closest to open greenery in the area. Avoiding wayward golf balls, birding here was pleasant enough, albeit not really that productive - tops were two Tractrac Chats on a lower fairway, quite a number of Chestnut-vented Tit-babblers, a few colonies of Southern Masked Weavers and one Palm Swift. A little beyond, among the tamarisks in the otherwise arid Swakop Valley, a couple of remnant pools attracted additional variety - alongside Greater Striped Swallows and a small number of Greater and Lesser Flamingoes, a scattering of waders - African flavour with Kittlitz and Three-banded Plovers, Palearctic with a few Avocets, several Ruff, one Wood Sandpiper, a bunch of Little Stints and one Greenshank.


Seafront Gardens.
Swakopmund's glory, a slither of landscaped gardens and parks along the seafront. Aside hordes of noisy Helmeted Guineafowl, flocks of Cape Sparrows and plenty of both Speckled Pigeons and Laughing Doves, not actually many birds seen here. However, the saving grace was an additional three butterfly species for the trip - one Painted Lady and, both of dubious origin in western Namibia, a dozen or so Geranium Bronzes and several Large Whites. Native to South Africa and possibly a result of accidental introduction to the Namib coast, the exquisite Geranium Bronzes were appropriately enough enjoying the planted Geraniums in the flower gardens. No questions about the Large Whites, from first footholds in the Eastern Cape, this invasive from Europe has gradually spread on the southern African subcontinent, now present in human habitats at a number of coastal sites.

Atlantic Ocean.
Standard fare, nothing of note in comparison with the mighty Walvis Bay. Three species of cormorants, a couple of Damara Terns, an occasional Caspian and Swift Tern, beachline waders such as Whimbrels, Turnstones and Sanderlings.
 

rosbifs

Well-known tool
France
Didn't know you played golf Jos???

Amazing mixture of birds I can only dream of and more common more northern hemisphere birds...

My South African partner promises a trip soon though so I will have to start looking up some of them!
 

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