Thursday, 1 May 2014

Okaukeujo to Halali. Etosha Rules!

Began the day with a short drive out across the open plains in search of larks, and after an hour or so we did find both Spike-heeled and Pink-billed Larks – both giving good views. And an African Pipit was also new, but small groups of African Quailfinch never settled long enough for a perched view. 

Spike-heeled Lark

After breakfast we walked over to the waterhole where lots of Plains Zebra and some Blue Wildebeast were coming into drink, and the resident pair of Verreaux’s Eagle Owls were also quite obvious in the large tree. 

Blue Wildebeast

Zebras at Okaukuejo Waterhole

Then we set out on safari and drove across the savannah for the rest of the morning, and apart from a wild Cheetah search, mammals were pretty thin on the ground. Well new ones I mean, as there were hundreds and hundreds of Springboks, lots of Oryx and just a few Black-faced Impala

Large herds of Springbok can be seen in Etosha.

Our luck changed however, when we approached a large waterhole and saw quite a few other vehicles there. Sure enough there were a pride of 11 Lions, including a huge adult male with his golden mane. 

These Beisa Oryx were waiting for the Lions to leave.

The Lion pride

We killed the engine and watched them for some time and it was interesting to see a long line of Oryx waiting to come in to drink when the Lions left. The pride eventually began to move off so we drove around and managed to stop in just the right place as the Lions came straight towards us and we had amazing views as they sauntered through the grassland. Wow!

The Lions walked right towards our vehicle

But we were not finished yet and at another waterhole a huge herd of over 40 African Elephants were present and they really seemed to love the water. There was splashing, some submerged totally, others were rolling around like children, whilst the older beasts just washed themselves sedately by spraying water over their backs with their trunks. Some very small youngsters brought a few gasps of “ohh” and then half the herd left and passed quite close to our vehicle. And it was then we truly realised how huge these animals are. I love Elephants!

These Elephants were  really enjoying the water - around 40 were present here.

On the birding front a Rufous-eared Warbler was special, as it sang from some low bushes, and there were quite a few previously seen species to keep us occupied, including this superb Double-banded Courser

Double-banded Courser
African Scops Owl at Halali

We reached Halali Lodge at lunchtime, seeing a flock of African Grey Hornbills close to the entrance, with a day roosting African Scops-Owl in the grounds, before spending the afternoon driving around the woodland here. A great burst of action caused by the owlet tape resulted in a flock of White-crested Helmetshrikes coming in, both Golden-breasted and Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, African Hoopoe, Brubru, Violet-eared Waxbill and for some, a fine Long-billed Crombec

Violet-eared Waxbill - very sexy!

White-crested Helmetshrike

A Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill was upstaged by our first Damara Red-billed Hornbills, and Carp’s Black Tit was much appreciated. 

Black Rhinos

At the last waterhole we checked there was a pair of Black Rhinos and an African Jacana, and as we drove back to the lodge a Swainson’s Spurfowl was spotted calling from a fallen tree. 

Swainson's Spurfowl

This evening a Spotted Hyena came into the waterhole and was followed later by an African Elephant and a Rufous-cheeked Nightjar flew by

Loving this African birding, although eating far too much and being stuck in the truck means very little walking. Easy life!

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