Sunday, 27 July 2014

Erongo Hills - Etosha

We headed to the Erongo Hills at dawn and walked up onto an open area where we could scan the surrounding rocky hills. It was very quiet and rather cool here which may have been the reason we saw very little to start with and only had a very brief view of a White-browed Scrub-robin to show for our efforts. So we walked back down to the minibus and drove further along the road, playing the call of Hartlaub’s Francolin as we drove along. Sure enough we got a response a short while later and were then treated to a male, found by Jenny, calling back at us from the top of a large boulder. All of a sudden it flew down towards us and landed maybe 8 metres away from us, looked up at us and then flew away.

Hartlaub's Francolin

A few minutes later we saw the same pair and a small juvenile working their way across the rocky slopes, and then they began calling back at us giving marvellous looks through the scope. At the same spot some Rosy-faced Lovebirds flew over, then a Rockrunner appeared, and a pair of White-tailed Shrikes perched on top of a nearby acacia. Plenty of Rock Hyraxes were here and a Slender Mongoose was also a nice find.

Another White-tailed Shrike

After a superb breakfast we set out on the drive towards Etosha National Park. It was quite a long drive to our lunch stop at Outjo, but was enlivened by views of Common Ostrich, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, a party of Southern Pied Babblers, Fawn-coloured Lark, Southern Ant-eating Chat, Wattled Starling, Black-faced Waxbill, Shaft-tailed Whydah and many Common Warthogs.

Southern Pied Babblers

At lunch we had a lively time with a number of birds responding to the owlet tape, including Lesser Masked Weaver, White-bellied Sunbird, Violet-eared Waxbill and Rattling Cisticola being new. There was also Crimson-breasted Shrike, more Black-faced Waxbills, Marico Sunbird, Pririt Batis, Grey-backed Cameroptera, Burnt-necked and Yellow-bellied Eremomelas, Blue-breasted Waxbill, and many Red-eyed Bulbuls – all this in one tree! In the garden, Groundscraper Thrush, Red-faced Mousebird and Striped Tree Squirrel were also new additions to our lists. Driving on we had Shikra, Southern White-crowned Shrikes, and a gang of Banded Mongoose.

Once we reached Etosha the excitement duly kicked in as the first waterhole held 30 African Elephants, some Plains Zebra and Black-faced Impalas. Not a bad start huh?

We saw these African Elephants shortly after entering Etosha

Then we took a loop circuit towards Okaukeujo, and around the first bend was a flock of Namaqua Sandgrouse that allowed us to drive up next to them. 

We got quite close to this Namaqua Sandgrouse

But the next section was very quiet apart from a perched Greater Kestrel, until a huge Kori Bustard appeared, and then the first of many Northern Black Korhaans was seen. Continuing on we came across more Zebra, Springbok and Impala, but then a pair of Secretarybirds was seen. We stopped to admire them and what we thought initially was a Spotted Hyena walking behind them. But the stripes on its back were a bit of a giveaway, as it was an Aardwolf! Holy cow! I just couldn’t believe it, but there it was and we had very nice scope views of it walking across the grassland. One of my most wanted mammals – BANG!!

Obviously everyone was elated with this and we continued driving towards our destination, but further on a pair of Bat-eared Foxes were spotted and we spent a magical 10 minutes watching them. Unbelievable! 

This pair of Bat-eared Foxes were a huge surprise

At the nearby waterhole a bunch of Giraffes were present but we had to leave as the sun was setting and we wanted to get to Okaukuejo waterhole in time for some sandgrouse action. 


So we hot-footed it and made it with a few minutes to spare, watching the sun set behind the horizon and within minutes the first Double-banded Sandgrouse arrived. And then more and more came in, until there must have been up to 300 present. It was just a shame some of them were hidden and then disturbed by a couple of Elephants at the waterhole! Anyway, as the light faded the sandgrouse flew off and we headed for a shower and then dinner.

Probably THE most magical experience of any Etosha visit, is the floodlit waterholes you can find at the main lodges. In my opinion Okaukuejo is the best of the lot, as the viewing area is quite large and you usually get a good variety of mammals. This evening was superb, as after dinner and checklist we walked over and upon arrival there were 4 Elephants and a couple Black Rhinos. Shortly after another 2 Rhinos, a mother and well grown youngster, came in. It was simply wonderful to watch the Elephants huddled up together with the Rhinos drinking behind, and their reflections in the water were crystal clear. As time went on, Black-backed Jackals and a few Springbok appeared. But the appearance of a mature male Lion and a large Lioness really put the icing on the cake. They walked slowly across the scene in front of us, and at one point the Lioness began stalking a Springbok, making a short dash for it that came to nothing. As the Lions continued walking away a solitary Giraffe came in, and then a herd of 14 African Elephants all came in to the waterhole in a line. Absolutely magic!

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