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The Great Escape, Namibia. (2 Viewers)

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Walvis Bay. 18-22 January.

Work week, interspersed with birding. Pretty similar mix of birds on the bay as on my visits in December At the water treatment pools, however, considerable change, not only increased numbers of waders, but plenty of breeding action - Maccoa Ducks and Hottentot Teals trailing youngsters, White-fronted Plovers and Kittlitz's Plover on eggs, Southern Masked Weaver colonies at full activity. Also excellent at Rooibank, Dune Larks breeding and far more productive for butterflies - in contrast to December when just a few butterflies, now hundreds of Brown Playboys, plus plenty of Velvet-spotted Blues, several Topaz-spotted Blues, one Otacilia Hairtail, one Common Zebra Blues and a migration of African Migrants and African Monarchs across the desert.

Highlights of the week though were on the sea - some reasonable seawatching producing a trio of skuas (many Arctic Skuas, one Pomarine Skua, two Long-tailed Skuas), a dozen White-chinned Petrels and my first Cape Gannet of the trip.

Pelican Point Boat Trip. 23 January.

Concluding my stay in Walvis Bay, the piece de la resistance of my week, this unexpected highlight was a touristy boat trip out to Pelican Point - I had expected a fairly pleasant cruise seeing the expected Cape Fur Seals and perhaps little else. Turned out to be three hours of unexpected pleasure ... minutes after departure, the first of many White Pelicans landed on the boat begging for fish handouts, moments later one huge White Pelican was sitting atop my head!!! And then Cape Fur Seals launched themselves onto the boat, the great brutes hauling themselves right round the boat, also happy for fish hand outs. Pelicans and seals at zero centimetres, very nice.

On the hour or so cruise to Pelican Point, also about 30 Arctic Skuas and a couple of Pomarine Skuas, plus one pod of Heaviside's Dolphins. Thereafter bobbed around at Pelican Point for a while, a breeding colony of 50,000 Cape Fur Seals on the beach adjacent, the waters either side of the boat heaving with further seals. And then to conclude, following a tip off, the boat crew steamed off north and, a hour later, encountered the final highlight - a highly active pod of about 18 Bottlenose Dolphins, breaching, swimming aside the boat, play tossing fish into the air.

Not a bad way to conclude my stay in Walvis Bay. And with that, we left Walvis Bay and headed back into the interior of Namibia. I had planned a return to Spitskoppe, but a weather system over Angola threatened to push heavy rain into north-west Namibia, so skipped that and drove to Windhoek instead, good weather forecast there for the following day.
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