BIRDING NAMIBIA – WINTER 2018. ENDEMICS and NEAR-ENDEMICS
Posted on the 15th July 2018
I had 5 weeks birdwatching in Namibia between 3 June and 8 July 2018. I have decided that a chronological trip report will not hold any reader’s interest long enough to cover 5 weeks of pretty intense birding and rather will submit special interest topics. This first will be on the Namibian endemic and near endemics. Why bird Namibia in the middle of winter?
The timing was cast in stone as I was fortunate enough to have a training assignment to deliver in Windhoek. There are many reasons for visiting Namibia. It is a beautiful, vast and largely sparsely populated country with superb infrastructure – border posts easy, currency simple, roads (including gravel) superb, all types of accommodation available and at this time a lot less expensive – petrol at the moment is R3 a litre cheaper. The only qualification here is the National Parks where SanParks offers better value than NWR. Finally, for the birder, a diversity of habitats and a number of “Namibia Specials”.
Near the top of most birder’s interests in a region will be endemism. Namibia only has 1 true endemic, the Dune Lark and this was not amongst my targets as this trip excluded the coastal and desert areas of Namibia. (I plan to do this following my next training assignment which is February and the migrants will then be present). At the next level of 90% endemism the list grows to 15 birds and this is where my initial emphasis was directed. Of these, 3 more were outside my areas of travel – Damara Tern, Barlow’s Lark and Gray’s Lark (which I did look for round Spitzkoppe but did not find).
This left 11 potential near endemics. The first success was Rockrunner which were found on a few occasions at DaanViljoen Game Park outside Windhoek and later at Waterberg Plateau Park at the end of the trip. This was probably one of the birds I prized most as I did not want to miss out on a species that can be defined by just one word - Rockrunner - and does not need “Cape” or “Something-breasted” to distinguish it from other birds.
Next stop was Spitzkoppe. I loved Spitzkoppe which is a spiritual place with stunning landscapes, private camp-sites and I tracked down 4 of the near endemics. Herero Chat was found on 2 of the 3 days, White-tailed Shrike and Monteiro’s Hornbill every day and a pair of Ruppels’ Korhaan only once. There were also the Bradfield’s form of Sabota Lark and the Namibia Common Fiscal with its white supercilium. I looked for but failed with Gray’s Lark and Benguela Long-billed Lark as Spitzkoppe is on the edge of their range.
Following recommendations from Carin I booked into Camp Mara outside Omaruru in the Erongo Conservancy. I had the camp-site to myself, Ecki was a welcoming host and I had access to Erongo Wilderness Lodge which is directly opposite Camp Mara. In the company of Glassius on a morning walk at the lodge, we located Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and Damara Hornbills were reasonably common at Camp Mara. The Highlight though was breakfast with Ecki and his guests outside his lodge where there are birdbaths and feeders and you are treated to close encounters with the local birds, especially Rosy-faced Lovebirds.
This left 3 near endemics and I was now reaching Etosha. Nothing new from Okaukeujo and I then had 5 nights in Halali which is apparently noted for Bare-cheeked Babbler and Violet Wood-Hoopoe. The wood-hoopoes were fairly easy to track down but no success with the babblers. I did not leave the camp-site for 3 of the 5 days, climbed the kopje (twice) and scoured the surrounding woodland, but no babblers. I would imagine they are pretty noisy and conspicuous when they are around, but as they say, birds have wings and fly, and will not always be where you expect to find them. Halali produced plenty of other fascinating sightings but more of that under a separate article.
The final near endemics were Ruppel’s Parrot and Carp’s Tit which along with the babbler, I thought would be a bogey bird. A pair of Carp’s Tit was located at Namutoni and thereafter at Roy’s Camp and in the Caprivi. The first bird I saw when I got to Waterberg Plateau Park was the Ruppel’ Parrot and they were present feeding in the tree which shaded my camp-site for most of my 3 days there – they talk incessantly so you can hardly miss them. So, I had 10 of the 11 species I had searched for with 4 left for a future trip which will be the coastal, desert and Western and North Western regions (where there will be another opportunity at Bare-cheeked Babbler.)
The endemics have been allocated their own article, but that does not mean they are the only (or even the main) birds of interest. There are numerous others including Angolan and Zambian birds reaching into our region plus all the Okavango and Caprivi Strip specials. These will be covered in a separate article which will describe the “photo lifers” captured during the trip.
- Richard Masson