Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Windhoek to Walvis Bay

I thought yesterday was a good day, but today was even better – fantastic in fact. We began the day driving to a rocky area just after first light and were very fortunate to find a Cinnamon-breasted Warbler creeping around the boulders on the hillside above us. It came in reasonably close to check us out, and the views through the scope were great but it wasn’t good for photos. A pair of Cape Buntings were also a good find here. We drove back to the lodge, and along the way saw a pair of African Hawk-Eagles and flocks of Namaqua Sandgrouse flying in the distance, and had repeated views of the very common Grey-backed Sparrow-lark.

A small drinking pool in the garden had lots of birds coming to drink including Namaqua Dove, Cape Sparrows, Lark-like Buntings and other common birds, and there was also a pair of Dusky Sunbirds feeding on some nearby flowers. I was surprised to see quite a few Rosy-faced Lovebirds flying out of the large trees in the garden, and we managed to see a couple of them perched as well a little later. After breakfast we loaded the luggage into the trailer of our minibus and had a quick walk around the grounds, but it was getting quite hot by now and apart from some very nice butterflies we really only saw a pair of Green-winged Pytilia. It was a shame a Bokmakierie was only heard as we very much wanted to see this species. John and Jenny also saw a Verreaux’s Eagle here, whilst everyone saw a pale-phase Booted Eagle.

Solitaire Guest Farm - gardens

The rooms

This is the Solitaire Guest Farm where we stayed

Leaving here we called into the Solitaire Filling Station for fuel and a chance to purchase some cold drinks before setting out on the drive towards Walvis Bay, passing through the Namib Desert. We spent much of the time scanning for bustards along the way but for the first couple of hours we drew a blank. Our first stop was for a Lappet-faced Vulture feeding on something close to the road, and as we watched it was joined by a White-backed Vulture. 

Lappet-faced Vulture

The usual Pale Chanting Goshawks were also around, and we also saw Greater Kestrel, Rufous-crowned (Purple) Roller, Cape Crow, Tractrac Chat, and the mega Dune Lark which took some work but everyone saw it quite well. Mammal highlights were Mountain Zebra and a family group of Meerkats – the latter was found as we watched the Zebras. Lucky or what?

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk - common on this tour

 Just before lunch John C pulled the rabbit out of the hat when he spotted a pair of Ruppell’s Korhaan feeding a couple of hundred metres away in the desert. 

Ruppell's Korhaan - more a habitat shot really......! But can you see them...?

And afterwards we had our picnic lunch in the shade of some trees before continuing our journey for another 130kms. A pair of Namaqua Sandgrouse and a small chick were present right on the edge of the road, prompting us into a hasty three-point turn to get a better look.

Namaqua Sandgrouse

We eventually arrived at Walvis Bay around 3.30pm and began birding along the lagoon immediately. As the tide was high there were many birds on the water on the inland side of the road, as well as out on the marshes at the edge of the bay. Tom spotted our first White-fronted Plover and I was amazed to see so many present as we drove along. 

White-fronted Plover and chick

A flock of Greater Flamingo held some Lesser Flamingo and you could see how much smaller the latter species was. There were hundreds of familiar waders (for UK birders) with the most numerous species being Curlew Sandpipers, some of which were in breeding plumage. There were also Common Greenshanks, Little Stints, Sanderlings, Common Ringed Plovers and a Whimbrel – all familiar fare admittedly, but it was fun scanning through so many birds. Undoubtedly, the highlight was a flock of 32 Damara Terns – the most wanted bird here and to see such a big flock perched on a sandbar was amazing as you can easily miss this species here. Other birds seen included Cape Cormorant, Great Crested (Swift )Tern and lots of Hartlaub’s Gulls.

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