Saturday, 31 October 2015

Waterberg to Etosha

Wow - been having real problems trying to post anything on any social media over here in Africa for most of the tour. So we're going to catch up with everything straight away......

An early morning walk at Waterbury failed to produce any francolins, but thankfully a pair of Ruppell’s Parrots decided to appear in a large acacia tree right in front of our cabins as we were loading our luggage into the trailer. 

Ruppell's Parrots saved the morning...

There hadn’t been a sniff of them anywhere this morning and we’d all but given up, but here they were. Phew! There were also a few other birds in the area such as Verreaux’s Eagle, White-rumped Swift, Carp’s Black Tit, White-browed Scrub-Robin, but more importantly there was African Hawk-Eagle, Bradfield’s Swift and White-bellied Sunbird - new birds for our list. A group of Dwarf Mongoose were found near the restaurant, and we were joined by a few Banded Mongoose and a Chacma Baboon at our breakfast table. 

These Violet Wood-Hoopoes performed well...

Driving back to the main road we saw a pair of Monteiro’s Hornbills, Black-chested Prinia and a cute little Steenbok

A too close to photograph Monteiro's Hornbill...

From here it was around 90 kms to Otjiwarongo sewage pools and along the way we saw a Rattling Cisticola.

The pools held a few trip ticks such as African Swamphen, Black Crake, Cape Teal, Red-billed Duck, Squacco Heron, Three-banded Plover, Little Stint and Ruff. Our lunch stop was at a small lodge near Outjo and the gardens held a bunch of birds with Yellow-bellied Eremomela being new, but we also saw Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Pririt Batis and Crimson-breasted Shrike amongst others. Then it was another 100kms drive to the Anderson Gate entrance to Etosha National Park where Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and a Great Rufous Sparrow greeted our arrival. We quickly checked the first waterhole but there was only a few Ostriches present so we proceeded to Okaukuejo and checked-in. 

An African Cuckoo, Southern White-crowned Shrike and an Icterine Warbler were found near the swimming pool before we reached our rooms. After a rest we met just before dusk at the waterhole and waited for some Double-banded Sandgrouse to arrive. The early arrivals saw African Elephants and Giraffes, whilst 7 Kori Bustards were pretty spectacular. As dusk settled lots of sandgrouse came down to drink and just as it got dark a pair of Spotted Thick-Knees and a Rufous-cheeked Nightjar showed. After dinner at least 3 Black Rhinos and a Freckled Nightjar were present at the floodlit waterhole.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Daan Viljoen to Waterberg Plateau Park

At 6.30am we met up beside the minibus and walked a short distance along the road and I’m pleased to report that we had excellent scope views of a Rockrunner perched on a huge boulder   on the slope above us. We watched it singing for quite some time before heading back and after a predominantly quiet session then found a pair of Green-winged Pytilias, another Pearl-spotted Owlet, Golden-breasted and Cape Buntings, Violet-eared Waxbill, and a pair of non-breeding Long-tailed Paradise-Whydahs

Pearl-spotted Owlet

Upon reaching the minibus that was parked right beside our rooms, a Carp’s Black Tit appeared and proceeded to give very nice views, and at the same spot a Brubru appeared as well. As we walked to breakfast a Gabar Goshawk swooped into an acacia and took what was probably a Red-billed Quelea.

Carp's Black Tit


Carp's Black Tit

Following a very nice breakfast we headed out of the park, stopping to see a group of Giraffes feeding beside the road before setting out on the long drive to the Waterberg Plateau. Along the way we made several stops to look at White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Damara and Monteiro’s Hornbills and Brown Snake-Eagle, before taking a picnic lunch in the shade of a big Acacia tree.  A pair of Kalahari Scrub-Robins performed well nearby and there was also our first Marico Sunbird here, plus another Brubru flew in. 

Continuing on through the heat of the day we paused to look at Pale Chanting Goshawks, a pair of Cape Vultures flying over, and as we approached the base of the plateau several Pale-winged and Burchell’s Starlings. As we waited to check-in an African Hoopoe gave point-blank views before we drove up to our bungalows and enjoyed a nice hour’s rest. 

Verreaux's Eagles

White-browed Scrub-Robin

Afterwards we checked out the surrounding area below the cliffs where a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles were constantly on view. It took some time but eventually we located a group of 4 Violet Wood-Hoopoes that flew around us several times, perching briefly and calling loudly back at us. A pair of White-browed Scrub-Robins were also found in the bushes nearby.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Back in Namibia

Following an overnight flight the group met up with Nick Bray and our excellent local guide Charles Rhyn at Windhoek Airport and within a short while had seen a few South African Cliff Swallows and a pair of the scarce Orange River Francolins before reaching Windhoek. Not a bad start to what promises to be an exciting African adventure.

Orange River Francolin

South African Cliff Swallow

By early afternoon we had arrived at our destination of Daan Viljoen Reserve near Windhoek and as it was almost 2 o’clock we dived straight into the restaurant for a late lunch. Afterwards we had a little time to rest in our very nice bungalows before meeting at 4.30pm for an afternoon walk along the road. The strong wind hampered our birding and the surrounding area was a little quieter than we would have liked, but we still managed to see a number of really nice birds. A favourite of mine is Golden-breasted Bunting and we had some rather brief views of a pair feeding on a slope above us, in company with another star bird – Violet-eared Waxbill. We also had nice scope views of Mountain Wheatear, Short-toed Rock Thrush and Red-billed Spurfowl before continuing our walk along the road. 

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

We picked up quite a lot of commoner species such as both Common and  Black-faced Waxbills, Marico Flycatcher, Familiar Chat, a distant soaring Martial Eagle, Rock Kestrel, Namaqua Dove, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Alpine Swift, Greater Striped Swallow, Groundscraper Thrush, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, African Hoopoe, with several nice close views of the delightful Swallow-tailed Bee-eater. So not a bad haul, although a pair of Pririt Batis, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Long-billed Crombec, Cape Bunting and Rufous-vented Tit-warbler were also rather cool, whilst a Crimson-breasted Shrike posed briefly as well.

It was also really good to kickstart our mammal list with Chacma Baboon, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Giraffe, Gemsbok (Southern Oryx), and Eland. Safe to say we were all rather tired tonight after a long journey to get here from the UK and after an excellent dinner we headed straight to our nice rooms for some well earned rest.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Cape Town: Jaws and Jumpers

With a couple of days free before joining my Zoothera Birding group in Windhoek for our exciting Namibia, Botswana & Zambia tour I wanted to strike off another biggie on my Bucket List. So despite looking an idiot in a wetsuit, I went into a cage and got really up close and personal with a few Great White Sharks..

In all, there were 8 different sharks coming in to our boat and once in the cage I had awesome close views, so close you could have reached out and touch them (which I didn't!). Such an awesome experience and one I will never forget! Many thanks to Marine Dynamics ( for making my dream possible - I would thoroughly recommend their services if you ever want to give this a try.

We also saw a couple of Southern Right Whales in the bay as well.

Southern Right Whale

From here we headed back towards Cape Town, but made a few roadside stops and I picked up quite a few easy lifers with endemics such as Karoo Prinia, Cape Robin Chat, Cape White-eye, Cape Canary, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Bar-throated Apalis and Cape Weaver.

Bar-throated Apalis

Cape Bulbul

Cape Weaver
Next up was Bety's Bay and the African Penguin colony. And what a place this is as you get really close to these fascinating birds that are nesting right beside the path. Spent a pleasant hour trying to get some photos of the adults returning to shore and fighting their way through the surf....

You could almost P P P P P Pick Up A Penguin here.... Get it?

So with time pressing I still wanted to have a crack at seeing my number one target - Cape Rockjumper. Having not really planned ahead I didn't know how this would be possible as I didn't have the call (and it's the breeding season so that wouldn't have been the right thing to do anyway), so I bowled up at the usual site not too optimistic. However, a couple of Swedish birders were just leaving and told me they had seen a family of rockjumpers a kilometre and a half along the path. What luck! But I think their estimation of distance was grossly under exaggerated as i walked a LONG way before, sure enough, I spotted a family of 4 Cape Rockjumpers. Wow! I spent a pleasant half an hour watching the adult male bring food to his almost fully grown young from the path and was amazed when they kept coming closer. I was crouched behind a boulder and some bushes and managed to get these photos...

Loved watching this family of Cape Rockjumpers

Walking back to the car a cracking male Orange-breasted Sunbird was feeding on some flowers beside the path, a pair of Cape Sugarbirds were further up the hill and a pair of Cape Rock Thrushes brought my lifer tally to 11 for the day... What a day!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Papua New Guinea

I have been asked if i can organise a trip to Papua New Guinea for late June/early July 2016 and am in the process of compiling an itinerary. If anyone is interested then just fire off an email to and I can send you more information.

Of course this tour is all about those Birds of Paradise such as King, Blue, Superb and Magnificent BOP's, Queen Carola's Parotias, Black Sicklebill and many more. There's also a bunch of endemic families with such delights as Wattled Ploughbill and Blue-capped Ifrits on offer, and what about Barred Owlet-Nightjar..... Oh and a visit to New Britain is on the cards as well....

Brehm's Tiger Parrot

Brown Sicklebill

Karawari View from our Veranda

King of Saxony BOP

Mountain Firetail

Raggiana Bird of Paradise

Ribbon-tailed Astrapias

Monday, 5 October 2015

Bobiri Forest

My last morning’s birding was at nearby Bobiri Forest and as soon as I stepped out of the minibus a Blue Cuckooshrike was calling and we had good scope views as it sat calling from a tall tree. The surrounding area was very active and we also had great looks at the superb Buff-throated Sunbird, which is a really rubbish name for such a stunning bird. Also seen here was a pair of Little Green Woodpeckers, a flock of Red-billed Helmet-Shrikes, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Slender-billed Greenbul and a pair of Tit Hylias. Working our way slowly along the forest track I think the low cloud, mist and drizzle was literally dampening down bird activity as we saw not a lot else for quite a while until entering a clearing where we had the first Green Sunbird of the trip, along with a Hairy-breasted Barbet and Grey-headed Negrita. So we decided to retrace our steps and along the way a burst of activity produced Sharpe’s Apalis, West African Wattle-eye, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, and best of all a pair of African Piculets. And that was a fitting end to an all too brief six and a half days birding of Ghana’s forests that had given me 88 lifers amongst 233 species seen but above all that some much needed and valuable experience. 

To sum up, I think Ghana is a fantastic birding destination with many potential lifers even if you've visited The Gambia and Kenya before. My visit to Kakum canopy walkway was awesome, the Yellow-headed Picathartes experience was also awesome and the potential of Ankasa Forest was mind-blowing! Yes it's hot and humid, but the accommodation and food were both much better than I expected and I didn't get crowds of kids following me around when out birding like in The Gambia. Overall, the birding is excellent, of course there are some tough skulking species, and it would be difficult for an individual to see 100% of the species seen on a bird tour. But you'd see most of them with a little effort. 

So what's to come back for? Well how about Capuchin Babbler, Congo Serpent-Eagle, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Egyptian Plover, Forbes's Plover, Pel's Fishing Owl, Nkulengu Rail, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Akun Eagle Owl, Black-shouldered Nightjar, Rosy Bee-eater, Blue-Moustached Bee-eater, Yellow-footed Honeyguide, Black-Casqued Hornbill, Many-coloured Bush-Shrike, Green-tailed Bristlebill and so much more. I can't wait...!