Namibia and Okavango Delta, Photographic Trip Report, March 2015

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09 – 22 MARCH 2015



09 March 2015Windhoek to Sossusvlei (Arrive)Sossusvlei Lodge
10 March 2015Walvis BayLagoon Lodge
11 March 2015Walvis BayLagoon Lodge
12 March 2015ErongoErongo Wilderness Lodge
13 March 2015ErongoErongo Wilderness Lodge
14 March 2015Etosha National ParkOkaukuejo Camp
15 March 2015Etosha National ParkOkaukuejo Camp
16 March 2015Etosha National ParkHalali Camp
17 March 2015Etosha National ParkHalali Camp
18 March 2015Etosha National ParkMushara Lodge
19 March 2015RunduTambuti Lodge
20 March 2015ShakaweXaro Lodge
21 March 2015ShakaweXaro Lodge
22 March 2015Maun (Depart)Johannesburg



From the outset, photography was our goal, and so it was expected that the total number of species seen would be lower than on previous trips to these destinations. We still had a very successful birding tour, recording 309 species of birds (including seven that were heard only), 10 species of reptiles, and over 40 species of mammals, including all of the sought after “Big 5”, which consisted of countless black rhinoceros, African elephant, and African buffalo, half a dozen lion sightings, and a male leopard on a kill, which was outshone by a mother cheetah and her cubs attempting to hunt at a waterhole.

Most of the country had recently received good rainfall, and what is normally a barren desert was bustling with life. The weather held out throughout the trip, and we only received a few drops of light rain on our final afternoon. Most of the migrant bird species appeared to have already set out on their return journeys north, unfortunately, potentially brought about by the recent rains. We did, however, manage to locate all of our target species, including an obliging pair of one of Namibia’s two endemic species, the Dune Lark, as well as the second endemic species, Damara Red-billed Hornbill.

Traveling in the region of 5500 km (including the vehicle’s round trip from Johannesburg), we managed to incorporate a vast array of habitats, and with that came an abundance of local fauna and flora, from barren desert and coastal shores right through to swampland and riparian woodland. The border crossings were quiet and took little time to complete, and although we did endure a few minor car mishaps, these were all sorted out without too much hassle, hardly affecting our daily itineraries, but they certainly created room for a lot of table talk!

Day 1, 9 March 2015

Our first day commenced with a mid-morning collection from the airport situated outside of Namibia’s capital. With meets and greets out of the way, we headed directly to a local dam and reserve within the capital city of Windhoek.  Birds surrounded us from the moment we left the vehicle, with White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Blue Waxbill, White-backed Mousebird, Little Swift, Rock Martin, Laughing Dove, Cape Wagtail, and Chestnut-vented Warbler showing well.  A covey of Orange River Francolins entertained us along the pathway for some time, before we pushed on towards an active bird flock consisting of Common Waxbill, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black-throated Canary, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Southern Red Bishop, Black-chested Prinia, Familiar Chat, Pririt Batis, Cape Penduline Tit, and a single Spotted Flycatcher. Scouring over the dam from its wall we located Grey Heron, White-breasted Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Egyptian Goose, European Bee-eater, Greater Striped Swallow, African Palm Swift, Common Sandpiper, African Fish Eagle, Reed Cormorant, White-throated Swallow, and Little Egret.

A small patch of scrubby thornveld close by yielded Acacia Pied Barbet, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Red-billed Spurfowl, Black-winged Kite, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Village Indigobird, Icterine Warbler, Red-billed Firefinch, Long-billed Crombec, and Black-faced Waxbill, as well as a pair of Rockrunner and Short-toed Rock Thrush along one of the rocky ridges running above the dam. With a good initial haul and both rock hyrax and chacma baboon on the mammal list, we pushed on towards the west coast to the splendid sand dunes of Sossusvlei.  Along the way we encountered a hatchling leopard tortoise, no larger than a matchbox. Arriving in Sesriem, the tiny town in which we would be spending our first night, we enjoyed springbok, South African ground squirrel, and gemsbok, while birds included Pale-winged Starling, Sociable Weaver, Ring-necked Dove, Cape and Pied Crows, Dusky Sunbird, Tractrac Chat, and a single Spotted Eagle-Owl roosting in a large thorn tree.  A lot of ground was covered on the first day, but the birding was still very rewarding, as was the enormous buffet for dinner.

Day 2, 10 March 2015

The morning was devoted to landscape photography, and there is no better place to do it than Deadvlei, a dried-up pan full of dead trees, with its white soils and surrounding red sand dunes, which contrast so well with the blue skies Namibia is justly famous for. One could spend hours in here, and we did. The roughly 60 kilometers to the dune system was traveled without much stopping so that we did not lose the best of the morning light, considering that we still had a bit of a hike ahead of us in the soft sand to reach the pan itself. It was weird to see how such a barren landscape could keep one enchanted for such a long time, but eventually, with the sun high above us and shadows of the trees vanishing, we had to pull ourselves away and move on north to Walvis Bay.

Arriving at Walvis Bay, a small coastal town with a variety of habitats to work through, it was unanimous that we would head directly for the salt works. Here rafts of Black-necked Grebes were on show, while White-breasted Cormorants and a lonely Cape Gannet flew overhead. Grey Heron, Western Cattle Egret, and both Greater and Lesser Flamingos were abundant, with Cape Teal, Common Ringed Plover, White-fronted Plover, Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Little Stint making up the bulk of the mixed flocks feeding along the salt-encrusted shorelines.

In the nearby lagoon exposed sandbanks sheltered a flock of over one hundred Bar-tailed Godwits most likely preparing for their flight back to their summer breeding grounds. A few Whimbrels, Pied Avocets, and Black-winged Stilts were squeezed among them. Kelp Gulls and Hartlaub’s Gulls scavenged along the edge of the bank, whilst Caspian and Greater Crested Terns worked the nearby waves. Common bottlenose dolphins passed through the bay as well as a lonely black-backed jackal along the beachfront, presumably picking up bits and pieces of the flamingos that had washed up on shore.  A flock of roughly two dozen Red-necked Phalaropes, a rarity in southern Africa, was a highlight of the day, as they fed in their circular fashion in the shallows of the salt ponds.

Day 3, 11 March 2015

Heavy mist this morning allowed us to enjoy a slightly longer breakfast than usual while we waited for it to lift.  With the first gap in sight, we headed back to the lagoon to photograph the thousands of Greater and Lesser Flamingos that were on offer. Kelp Gull, Great White Pelican, Grey Heron, Chestnut-banded Plover, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, and Grey Plover were abundant, while we were treated to Black-necked Grebe, Common Greenshank, Caspian Tern, Hartlaub’s Gull, Curlew Sandpiper, and a pair of Three-banded Plovers. Having met our targets for the morning we returned to town with the addition of Barn Swallow, Sanderling, White-fronted Plover, Black Tern, Common Tern, Common Ringed Plover, Ruff, and yet another small flock of Red-necked Phalaropes. Bird of the morning, however went to a partially breeding-plumaged Pacific Golden Plover, a major rarity to southern African soil.  After spending a few minutes with some black-backed jackals and distant Afro-Australian fur seals, we headed right for the nearby dune systems.

Luck was on our side, and within the first quarter of an our we had both our targets in the bag, a splendid pair of snow-white Tractrac Chats, and one of Namibia’s two endemics in the form of a displaying Dune Lark, which we managed prolonged views of as it spun overhead and from the few exposed perches spread across the sand dunes.

A quick visit to one of the nearby rocky beaches produced Greater Crested Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Plover, African Oystercatcher, Cape Cormorant, and a small number of breeding-plumaged Red Knot.

With time on our hands we made a detour through Swakopmund, adding Cape and House Sparrows, Damara Tern, Red-capped Lark, and the very well camouflaged Gray’s Lark, which is restricted to the gravel plains of Namibia and Angola.

Day 4, 12 March 2015

Today we moved inland, leaving the misty oceans behind us. Scouring the arid landscapes early in the morning is always rewarding, and today was not different. Chat Flycatcher and the western race of Southern Fiscal were easily located, while Karoo Long-billed Lark took longer than expected, but we were treated to full-frame views by a pair feeding next to the car, undeterred by our presence, moments before the guttural territorial calls of Rüppell’s Korhaan broke the desert silence. We were onto a trio of them in no time, a real highlight of the morning watching these large birds going about their morning routines.

We left for the Spitzkoppe not long thereafter, the most unique granite outcrop Namibia has on offer. Along the way we found Spike-heeled and Stark’s Larks as well as large numbers of Capped Wheatears in the sparser grasslands. Arriving at the entrance gates to the reserve itself we were mobbed by Pale-winged Starlings, while a leaking tap had drawn the attention of Violet-backed Starlings, Cape Buntings, Rosy-faced Lovebirds, White-browed Sparrow-Weavers, and a single Black-chested Prinia. Heading for the rocky slopes, we located a pair of dainty Pririt Batis, Mountain Wheatear, Common Scimitarbill, Dusky Sunbird, and Monteiro’s Hornbill.  Scanning the skies yielded flocks of Alpine Swift and an Augur Buzzard, and by mid morning we had had enough of the heat and called for an early lunch, making our way to the Erongo Mountains directly afterwards.

With the luxury lodge situated deep within more granite outcrops, one is surrounded by pristine habitat for a number of special species. Having unpacked the car and our welcoming refreshments out of the way, we headed along a short circular path around the facilities, which yielded countless Rosy-faced Lovebirds, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Pale-winged Starling, Acacia Pied Barbet, Laughing Dove, Dusky Sunbird, and the minute Pearl-spotted Owlet. Black-throated Canaries and Southern Masked Weavers were active around the restaurant, while a pair of Great Sparrows and a handful of Speckled Pigeons fed off the remaining seeds scattered around the famous bird feeder adjacent to the restaurant. A late evening walk into the rocky ridges produced a pair of Rock Kestrels, a soaring Verreaux’s Eagle, Green-winged Pytilia, Red-billed Spurfowl, Monteiro’s Hornbill, Carp’s Tit, and just before sunset a pair of Freckled Nightjar hawking insects and calling from the reception roof.  The highlight of the day was awarded to a single Damara dik-dik seen on the afternoon walk, one of the most unique-looking of the region’s antelope species.

Day 5, 13 March 2015

This morning we devoted to some photography around the now replenished feeders in front of the restaurant during the course of breakfast. The earliest arrivals were a pair of dassie rats, a unique species of rodent found in these arid rocky areas. Not long thereafter the masses arrived, and the trees were covered with over a hundred colorful and very noisy Rosy-faced LovebirdsRed-billed Spurfowl bullied them off the seed, while Laughing and Ring-necked Doves patiently waited their turn. Acacia Pied Barbet, Golden-breasted and Cape Buntings, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Mountain Wheatear, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Dusky Sunbird, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, and Great and Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, as well as Southern Masked Weaver and Green-winged Pytilia all put in an appearance by the time our food had been served. Stomachs full, a brief walk around the pool area yielded Grey Go-away-bird, Namaqua Dove, African Palm Swift, Red-faced Mousebird, Fork-tailed Drongo, and the sought-after Rockrunner, which gave us great views.

Opting for a longer walk while taking advantage of the cloudy and cooler weather, we ventured right in among the granite formations, where we found Verreaux’s Eagle, Helmeted Guineafowl, African Cuckoo, Lesser Honeyguide, Familiar Chat, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Barred Wren-Warbler, Black-chested Prinia, and Spotted Flycatcher. Suddenly the valley erupted with the harsh but surprisingly beautiful call of Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, our main target in the area, and it was only a matter of minutes before we found ourselves right in the middle of a territorial battle between two coveys of these near-endemics. At least nine birds from the two groups gave us lengthy views and fantastic photographic opportunities to capture the sexual dimorphism found within the species. After flushing a pair of klipspringer on the way back to camp we hopped in the vehicle to get as much birding done as possible before the heat caught up with us. The bush was alive with birdcalls, and we added Brown Snake Eagle, Shikra, Purple Roller, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Sabota Lark, Southern Pied Babbler, Groundscraper Thrush, Capped Wheatear, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, and Marico Flycatcher in quick succession.

Day 6, 14 March 2015

Unfortunately this was our last morning in the Erongo Mountains, so with our bags packed we set out for one last walk around the lodge. An overhead Tawny Eagle was a pleasant surprise, while the usual suspects were hanging around the feeders once again. A pair of Short-toed Rock Thrush feeding a recently fledged youngster was a welcome addition to the trip list, and we spent a fair amount of time watching them forage and then muffle the young one’s noises with an insect or two. Scanning the distant rocky ridges produced a pair of Hartlaub’s Spurfowl announcing their presence, while Pied Crows soared overhead and Monteiro’s Hornbills displayed above the pool. We left not long after they had completed their duet to start our long drive north to the famous Etosha National Park.  En route we had numerous Common Buzzards, Lanner Falcon, and Long-tailed Paradise Whydah to briefly keep us busy before we reached the park’s gate.

With all the administration out of the way, we offloaded our luggage and set straight to work. Mammals were now abundant, and on the grassy plains surrounding a waterhole just outside the lodge we located black-backed jackal, countless springbok, and a herd or two of greater kudu, which came down to drink. In the distance common wildebeest, plains zebra and giraffe were making their way too. The area was active with birdlife, as one would expect at any water source in the scorching climate. Red-headed Finch came to drink alongside Cape Starling, Fork-tailed Drongo, Blacksmith Lapwing, European Bee-eater, Wattled Starling, and Red-capped Lark. Pale Chanting Goshawks quartered over the plains while an African Harrier-Hawk chased after them. Rock Martins and Barn Swallows drank on the wing, and an out-of-place African Cuckoo visited briefly.  As it cooled, we took a quick drive in the park and spent time with Sociable Weaver, Ant-eating Chat, Chat Flycatcher, Dusky Sunbird, the elegant Blue Crane, Cape Crow, Crowned Lapwing, Northern Black Korhaan, Greater Kestrel, and the heaviest flying bird in the world, Kori Bustard. Secretarybirds were abundant. After returning for dinner we did our checklists at the floodlit waterhole, adding Marsh Owl, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, and a number of thirsty mammals in the form of African elephant, a dozen black rhinoceros over the period of our stay, and a lone male lion, who stole the show late in the evening.

Day 7, 15 March 2015

Etosha National Park does not contain the most diverse of vegetation, and so today, although we did not add much in terms of species, the photographic opportunities and countless surprises around each corner sure made up for it. Our first bird out of the camp gate was yet another Kori Bustard, which then became one of the most commonly seen birds of day. Yellow-billed Kites were scavenging over the roads, whilst Lesser Grey Shrikes hawked from nearby trees. Scaly-feathered Weavers were active along the roadside with Red-headed Finch, Lark-like Bunting, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, and an unexpected Pink-billed Lark. Ring-necked Dove, Sociable Weaver, and Burchell’s Starling were common, while the colorful Lilac-breasted Roller was not in short supply either. Another waterhole produced in excess of 500 Abdim’s Storks and a dozen or so African Openbills, while a large shaded tree housed a family of five Lanner Falcons. A pale morph Booted Eagle sent everything into flight as it came down low over the water.

Mammals once again did not disappoint, and we had great views of South African ground squirrel, Cape hare, plains zebra, common warthog, giraffe, common wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok, steenbok, and black-faced impala. A clan of spotted hyaena entertained us today, as well as a pride of lions next to the road, and then another large, old, battle-scared male lion occurred right next to the vehicle on the way back to camp.

Day 8, 16 March 2015

Having worked the west of the reserve extensively, we moved further east to the large tracks of mopane bushveld. Along the way we encountered Common Ostrich, Greater Kestrel by the dozens, flocks of Blue Cranes, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, African Grey Hornbill, Marabou Stork, Black-winged Stilt, African Harrier-Hawk, Little Grebe, and the same flock of African Openbills and Abdim’s Storks as yesterday. A small seepage produced Quailfinch, Red-billed Teal, South African Shelduck, and a bathing Bateleur.

Moving towards Halali in the center of the park we picked up Lilac-breasted Roller, Secretarybird, Yellow-billed Kite, Tawny Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Crowned and Blacksmith Lapwings, Wood Sandpiper, European Bee-eater, Sabota Lark, Red-capped Lark, and Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark. Barn Swallows and Red-breasted Swallows were numerous, while the open plains produced Cape and Pied Crows, Capped Wheatear, Ant-eating Chat, African Pipit, Lesser Grey Shrike, Wattled Starling, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, and Shaft-tailed Whydah. A clan of spotted hyaena entertained us for a while before further up the road we ran into a pride of lions resting in the shade of a tree, watching over large numbers of impala, plains zebra, giraffe, common warthog, common wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok, and a small group of gemsbok.

A brief stop for a magnificent specimen of a black rhino in the road was much enjoyed by all, before we arrived in the well-wooded area around our new accommodation, which produced Violet Wood Hoopoe, African Hoopoe, and White-crested Helmetshrike, while Eurasian Hobbies emerged at

Day 9, 17 March 2015

Birding the new landscape today was bound to be rewarding, and directly after leaving the campgrounds we ran into a flock of Common Ostrich and a pair of black rhino on the road, followed by White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, and Secretarybird flying overhead in search of their feeding grounds for the day.  Arriving at a small dam situated in the mopane bush yielded Pale Chanting Goshawk, Helmeted Guineafowl, Kori Bustard, African Jacana, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Wattled Lapwing, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, and an unsuspected Dwarf Bittern, which we watched skulking alongside the water’s edge.

We then moved on to a much larger dam, and the surrounding woodland in the area produced Egyptian Goose, South African Shelduck, Red-billed Teal, Cape Shoveler, Ring-necked Dove, Namaqua Dove, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Pearl-spotted Owlet, European Bee-eater, African Pipit, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Purple Roller, African Hoopoe, and African Grey Hornbill. A huge breeding herd of over 40 African elephants came down to drink and play in the mud among drinking plains zebra and giraffe, a real highlight of the morning as we watched the youngsters learning how to use their trunks. Spending a little more time in the area was worthwhile, as at the very same waterhole we encountered a mother cheetah and her teenage cubs, which came down to drink and attempted to hunt some springbok unsuccessfully before vanishing into the woodland.

Heading for a late-afternoon walk in camp we enjoyed Violet Wood Hoopoe, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Barn Swallow, Fork-tailed Drongo, Eurasian Golden Oriole, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Groundscraper Thrush, Willow Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, White-crested Helmetshrike, Wattled Starling, Cape Starling, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Red-headed Weaver, and White-browed Sparrow-Weaver.  A small pond with a viewing platform on the camp’s boundary allowed us to watch Violet-eared Waxbill and Golden-breasted, Cinnamon, and Lark-like Buntings, while a Smith’s bush squirrel fed around our feet on recently fallen fruit. A Bocage’s mabuya made it onto our list no long thereafter, a rather robust arboreal lizard, which actively hunts insects.

Day 10, 18 March 2015

Our plan for today was to move towards the eastern boundary of the park, leaving the mopane woodland behind and venturing into the thorny savanna system. Northern Black Korhaan, Kori Bustard, and Common Ostrich were abundant on the plains, as too were springbok, the dainty steenbok, and common wildebeest. A small body of water along the way housed Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, White Stork, Abdim’s Stork, Egyptian Goose, African Jacana, Common Moorhen, South African Shelduck, Red-billed Teal, Cape Shoveler, and bathing White-backed Vultures. A brief flyover of an adult Shikra was welcome, while Pale Chanting Goshawk and African Harrier-Hawk gave us slightly longer views. Crested Francolin as well as small numbers of Red-billed Spurfowl and Helmeted Guineafowl patrolled the roadsides.  Around the corner we stumbled upon a brilliant pair of Double-banded Coursers, which allowed for some really good photographic opportunities, given the heat haze, while up the road a small spring yielded a single Saddle-billed Stork, Blue Crane, and a very unusual find for the area in form of a single Wattled Crane.

Exiting the park briefly to visit a salt pan produced Blacksmith Lapwing, Crowned Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, White-fronted, Chestnut-banded, and Kittlitz’s Plovers, and large quantities of Temminck’s Coursers on the nearby grasslands.  Venturing back along the thorny edge of a large but dry pan turned up a pair of Burchell’s Sandgrouse, Grey Go-away-bird, Lilac-breasted Roller, European Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, African Hoopoe, African Grey Hornbill, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, a single Bennett’s Woodpecker, Fork-tailed Drongo, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Marico Flycatcher, African Pipit, Buffy Pipit, and Red-backed Shrike, as well as Ring-necked, Namaqua, and Laughing Doves and Emerald-spotted Wood Dove.  A pair of Damara dik-dik was also a pleasure to view, as were all the other usual antelope species we encountered along the way.  Not long before departing the park a pack of black-backed jackals on the local airstrip were acting very strangely, and it took us a few minutes to realize why: Hidden beneath a thorny tree stood a beautiful male leopard, which had seemingly just caught an unsuspecting springbok and was in the process of trying to catch his breath. Although the photographic opportunities were dismal, the sighting itself was one of the best of the trip, as we had searched long and hard to connect with this somewhat elusive species of cat for the last few days in a number of very likely areas around the park.

Day 11, 19 March 2015

After a rewarding visit to Etosha National Park our stay here drew to an end, and we made our way north towards the Caprivi Strip, bordering Botswana and Zambia. Our first stop was alongside the road to view a displaying Red-crested Korhaan, a species that we had heard but that had eluded us numerous times up until this point. The drive ahead of us was a long one, but we managed to fit in some time for brunch at a quaint campsite along the way, which also boasted a healthy number of bird species. While the cooking was underway we sauntered around the campgrounds, where we found the likes of Red-billed Spurfowl, Grey Go-away-bird, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Little Sparrowhawk, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Black-backed Puffback, Blue Waxbill, Golden-breasted Bunting, and the bird of the day in form of the fairly localized Black-faced Babbler. A small group of these birds was actively feeding around the restrooms throughout the duration of our meal and allowed for some great photographic opportunities.

Back in the car, our trip north continued. Again with time on our hands we visited the local sewage works in Rundu late in the afternoon. The area was well flooded and overgrown, and this certainly improved the birding. Southern Carmine Bee-eaters hawked over the flooded grassland alongside Whiskered Terns and a small flock of Little Bee-eaters. Burchell’s Starling, Wattled Starling, and Western Cattle Egret chased after the insects flushed from a herd of cattle passing through the area. Scanning the fringe of a larger body of open water produced African Darter, African Swamphen, Black Crake, Striated Heron, and African Sacred Ibis. A walk through the marsh allowed us views of countless Rufous-bellied Herons, African Rail, Greater Painted-snipe, Black Heron, African Jacana, and African Marsh Harrier. In the thorny thicket back at the car we saw Hartlaub’s Babbler, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Mourning Collared Dove, Red-eyed Dove, White-browed Robin-Chat, Woodland Kingfisher, and flyovers of both Giant Kingfisher and Long-toed Lapwing, before we left for dinner and a well-deserved rest after a fairly long but rewarding travel day.

Day 12, 20 March 2015

Today we moved towards our final leg in Botswana. En route we encountered Greater Blue-eared Starling in the town of Bagani after a fairly long mornings drive. Arriving at a quaint lodge near the border we birded the ground until lunchtime, where we enjoyed Bateleur, Dark-capped Bulbul, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, African Paradise Flycatcher, Woodland Kingfisher, Green Wood Hoopoe, Terrestrial Brownbul, Meves’s Starling, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Red-billed Oxpecker, and White-fronted Bee-eater. We then rushed our way through Mahango Game Park, part of the large Bwabwata National Park, where we briefly stopped to view a pair of Wattled Crane among a number of tsessebe, roan antelope, impala, and a herd of African elephant, before photographing a leopard tortoise drinking from a rain puddle that had formed in the road.

The weather was brewing, and, with a long boat ride ahead of us once reaching Botswana, we made the call to push on through the unusually quiet border post and drove straight through to Shakawe to try and avoid being caught in the storm we were heading for. Upon arrival we had a quick cup of coffee before packing the boat and covering all we had in plastic, just to be on the safe side.  The boat trip along the Okavango River, the starting point of the incomparable Okavango Delta, was an absolute highlight.  From the papyrus fringes we flushed Reed Cormorant and African Darter, Great Egret, Little Egret, Western Cattle Egret, Hamerkop, African Marsh Harrier, Coppery-tailed Coucal, and Striated Heron.

Arriving at our luxury accommodation built on a temporary island on the river, we flushed a flock of African Pygmy Geese, and not long after a pair of White-backed Night Herons from a thick tangle of overhanging vegetation along the banks.

A quick late-afternoon walk along the riverside before dinner produced Black-winged Kite, European, Little, White-fronted, and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Bateleur, Black Crake, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Arrow-marked Babbler, Hartlaub’s Babbler, Dark-capped Bulbul, Terrestrial Brownbul, White-browed Robin-Chat, Chinspot Batis, African Paradise Flycatcher, African Pied Wagtail, Cape Wagtail, Magpie Shrike, Swamp Boubou, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Water Thick-knee, Red-eyed Dove, Pied, Woodland, and Giant Kingfishers, Laughing Dove, African Green Pigeon, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, calling African Barred Owlets, and a stunner of a Pel’s Fishing Owl roosting not far from the campsite. Wire-tailed and South African Cliff Swallows hawked insects over the river alongside Brown-throated MartinsBurchell’s, Meves’s and Greater Blue-eared Starlings showed well, as did both Yellow-billed and Red-billed Oxpeckers, while White-bellied Sunbirds actively fed on the nectar of flowers in the area, with both Spectacled and Holub’s Golden Weavers in close proximity. Just before dusk we glimpsed a female sitatunga, a species of antelope adapted to these swampy, which is not regularly encountered.

Day 13, 21 March 2015

Today was very special in that we had a full day on the island as well as the boat at our disposal. We opted for a boat ride first thing in the morning, where we located Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Striated Heron, Hamerkop, and the same pair of White-backed Night Herons at the lodge. A large dead tree had a few roosting Hadada Ibis in it, while both Spur-winged Geese and African Pygmy Geese were seen from the boat. Raptors were fairly abundant, and we had Yellow-billed Kite, Black-winged Kite, African Marsh Harrier, Bateleur, African Fish Eagle, and a flyover of a Western Banded Snake Eagle.  Moving upstream we added African and Lesser Jacanas, Grey-headed Gull, and another of the sought-after Pel’s Fishing Owls hiding out in a well-wooded garden near the town of Shakawe, where we also added Bradfield’s Hornbill and Chirping Cisticola.

Back on dry ground another walk around camp and along the river allowed us views of Red-billed Spurfowl, Black Crake, African Swamphen, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-eyed Dove, Meyer’s Parrot, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Red-faced Mousebird, Pied, Giant, Woodland, and Malachite Kingfishers, Broad-billed Roller, Green Wood Hoopoe, Black-collared Barbet, Crested Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Lesser Striped Swallow, Spotted Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Swamp Boubou, Southern Brown-throated Weaver, and the beautiful Brown Firefinch just before  the trip’s final dinner.

Day 14, 22 March 2015

Today marked the end of a very successful tour. With only enough time to make it to the airport, we boarded the boat at first light and made our way back to the vehicle a couple of kilometers upstream. En route we picked up a couple of the regular waterbirds as well as Nile crocodile and a pod of hippos, before packing the vehicle and making the lengthy drive to Maun just in time for lunch and our good-byes before departing


(E) = country endemic, H = heard only. Status: NT = Near-threatened, VU = Vulnerable, EN = Endangered
Common Name (IOC 5.3)Scientific Name (IOC 5.3)Trip
Common OstrichStruthio camelus1
Ducks, Geese and SwansAnatidae
Spur-winged GoosePlectropterus gambensis1
Knob-billed DuckSarkidiornis melanotos1
Egyptian GooseAlopochen aegyptiaca1
South African ShelduckTadorna cana1
African Pygmy GooseNettapus auritus1
Cape TealAnas capensis1
Cape ShovelerAnas smithii1
Red-billed TealAnas erythrorhyncha1
Hottentot TealAnas hottentota1
Helmeted GuineafowlNumida meleagris1
Pheasants and alliesPhasianidae
Orange River FrancolinScleroptila gutturalis1
Crested FrancolinDendroperdix sephaena1
Hartlaub’s SpurfowlPternistis hartlaubi1
Red-billed SpurfowlPternistis adspersus1
Little GrebeTachybaptus ruficollis1
Black-necked GrebePodiceps nigricollis1
Greater FlamingoPhoenicopterus roseus1
Lesser Flamingo – NTPhoeniconaias minor1
African OpenbillAnastomus lamelligerus1
Abdim’s StorkCiconia abdimii1
White StorkCiconia ciconia1
Saddle-billed StorkEphippiorhynchus senegalensis1
Marabou StorkLeptoptilos crumenifer1
Ibises, SpoonbillsThreskiornithidae
African Sacred IbisThreskiornis aethiopicus1
Hadada IbisBostrychia hagedash1
Glossy IbisPlegadis falcinellus1
Herons, BitternsArdeidae
Dwarf BitternIxobrychus sturmii1
White-backed Night HeronGorsachius leuconotus1
Striated HeronButorides striata1
Squacco HeronArdeola ralloides1
Rufous-bellied HeronArdeola rufiventris1
Western Cattle EgretBubulcus ibis1
Grey HeronArdea cinerea1
Goliath HeronArdea goliath1
Purple HeronArdea purpurea1
Great EgretArdea alba1
Black HeronEgretta ardesiaca1
Little EgretEgretta garzetta1
HamerkopScopus umbretta1
Great White PelicanPelecanus onocrotalus1
Gannets, BoobiesSulidae
Cape Gannet – VUMorus capensis1
Cormorants, ShagsPhalacrocoracidae
Reed CormorantMicrocarbo africanus1
White-breasted CormorantPhalacrocorax lucidus1
Cape Cormorant – ENPhalacrocorax capensis1
Anhingas, DartersAnhingidae
African DarterAnhinga rufa1
Secretarybird – VUSagittarius serpentarius1
Kites, Hawks and EaglesAccipitridae
Black-winged KiteElanus caeruleus1
African Harrier-HawkPolyboroides typus1
White-backed Vulture – ENGyps africanus1
Lappet-faced Vulture – VUTorgos tracheliotos1
Brown Snake EagleCircaetus cinereus1
Western Banded Snake EagleCircaetus cinerascens1
Bateleur – NTTerathopius ecaudatus1
Booted EagleHieraaetus pennatus1
Tawny EagleAquila rapax1
Verreaux’s EagleAquila verreauxii1
Pale Chanting GoshawkMelierax canorus1
ShikraAccipiter badius1
Little SparrowhawkAccipiter minullus1
Ovambo SparrowhawkAccipiter ovampensis1
African Marsh HarrierCircus ranivorus1
Yellow-billed KiteMilvus aegyptius1
African Fish EagleHaliaeetus vocifer1
Common BuzzardButeo buteo1
Augur BuzzardButeo augur1
Kori Bustard – NTArdeotis kori1
Rüppell’s KorhaanEupodotis rueppelii1
Red-crested KorhaanLophotis ruficrista1
Northern Black KorhaanAfrotis afraoides1
Rails, Crakes and CootsRallidae
African RailRallus caerulescens1
Black CrakeAmaurornis flavirostra1
African SwamphenPorphyrio madagascariensis1
Common MoorhenGallinula chloropus1
Red-knobbed CootFulica cristata1
Blue Crane – VUGrus paradisea1
Wattled Crane – VUGrus carunculata1
Stone-curlews, Thick-kneesBurhinidae
Water Thick-kneeBurhinus vermiculatus1
African Oystercatcher – NTHaematopus moquini1
Stilts, AvocetsRecurvirostridae
Black-winged StiltHimantopus himantopus1
Pied AvocetRecurvirostra avosetta1
Long-toed LapwingVanellus crassirostris1
Blacksmith LapwingVanellus armatus1
Crowned LapwingVanellus coronatus1
African Wattled LapwingVanellus senegallus1
Pacific Golden PloverPluvialis fulva1
Grey PloverPluvialis squatarola1
Common Ringed PloverCharadrius hiaticula1
Kittlitz’s PloverCharadrius pecuarius1
Three-banded PloverCharadrius tricollaris1
White-fronted PloverCharadrius marginatus1
Chestnut-banded Plover – NTCharadrius pallidus1
Greater Painted-snipeRostratula benghalensis1
Lesser JacanaMicroparra capensis1
African JacanaActophilornis africanus1
Sandpipers, SnipesScolopacidae
Bar-tailed GodwitLimosa lapponica1
WhimbrelNumenius phaeopus1
Common GreenshankTringa nebularia1
Wood SandpiperTringa glareola1
Common SandpiperActitis hypoleucos1
Ruddy TurnstoneArenaria interpres1
Red KnotCalidris canutus1
SanderlingCalidris alba1
Little StintCalidris minuta1
Curlew SandpiperCalidris ferruginea1
RuffPhilomachus pugnax1
Red-necked PhalaropePhalaropus lobatus1
Coursers, PratincolesGlareolidae
Temminck’s CourserCursorius temminckii1
Double-banded CourserRhinoptilus africanus1
Gulls, Terns and SkimmersLaridae
Grey-headed GullChroicocephalus cirrocephalus1
Hartlaub’s GullChroicocephalus hartlaubii1
Kelp GullLarus dominicanus1
Caspian TernHydroprogne caspia1
Greater Crested TernThalasseus bergii1
Sandwich TernThalasseus sandvicensis1
Damara Tern – NTSternula balaenarum1
Common TernSterna hirundo1
Whiskered TernChlidonias hybrida1
Black TernChlidonias niger1
Namaqua SandgrousePterocles namaqua1
Double-banded SandgrousePterocles bicinctusH
Burchell’s SandgrousePterocles burchelli1
Pigeons, DovesColumbidae
Rock DoveColumba livia1
Speckled PigeonColumba guinea1
Mourning Collared DoveStreptopelia decipiens1
Red-eyed DoveStreptopelia semitorquata1
Ring-necked DoveStreptopelia capicola1
Laughing DoveSpilopelia senegalensis1
Emerald-spotted Wood DoveTurtur chalcospilos1
Namaqua DoveOena capensis1
African Green PigeonTreron calvus1
Grey Go-away-birdCorythaixoides concolor1
Senegal CoucalCentropus senegalensis1
Coppery-tailed CoucalCentropus cupreicaudus1
Klaas’s CuckooChrysococcyx klaas1
African CuckooCuculus gularis1
Barn OwlsTytonidae
Western Barn OwlTyto albaH
African Scops OwlOtus senegalensisH
Spotted Eagle-OwlBubo africanus1
Pel’s Fishing OwlScotopelia peli1
Pearl-spotted OwletGlaucidium perlatum1
African Barred OwletGlaucidium capenseH
Marsh OwlAsio capensis1
Rufous-cheeked NightjarCaprimulgus rufigena1
Fiery-necked NightjarCaprimulgus pectoralisH
Freckled NightjarCaprimulgus tristigma1
African Palm SwiftCypsiurus parvus1
Alpine SwiftTachymarptis melba1
Little SwiftApus affinis1
White-rumped SwiftApus caffer1
White-backed MousebirdColius colius1
Red-faced MousebirdUrocolius indicus1
Purple RollerCoracias naevius1
Lilac-breasted RollerCoracias caudatus1
Broad-billed RollerEurystomus glaucurus1
Woodland KingfisherHalcyon senegalensis1
Malachite KingfisherCorythornis cristatus1
Giant KingfisherMegaceryle maxima1
Pied KingfisherCeryle rudis1
Swallow-tailed Bee-eaterMerops hirundineus1
Little Bee-eaterMerops pusillus1
White-fronted Bee-eaterMerops bullockoides1
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaterMerops persicus1
European Bee-eaterMerops apiaster1
Southern Carmine Bee-eaterMerops nubicoides1
African HoopoeUpupa africana1
Wood HoopoesPhoeniculidae
Green Wood HoopoePhoeniculus purpureus1
Violet Wood HoopoePhoeniculus damarensis1
Common ScimitarbillRhinopomastus cyanomelas1
Damara Red-billed Hornbill (E)Tockus damarensis1
Monteiro’s HornbillTockus monteiri1
Southern Yellow-billed HornbillTockus leucomelas1
Bradfield’s HornbillLophoceros bradfieldi1
African Grey HornbillLophoceros nasutus1
African BarbetsLybiidae
Yellow-fronted TinkerbirdPogoniulus chrysoconus1
Acacia Pied BarbetTricholaema leucomelas1
Black-collared BarbetLybius torquatus1
Crested BarbetTrachyphonus vaillantii1
Lesser HoneyguideIndicator minor1
Bennett’s WoodpeckerCampethera bennettii1
Golden-tailed WoodpeckerCampethera abingoni1
Caracaras, FalconsFalconidae
Rock KestrelFalco rupicolus1
Greater KestrelFalco rupicoloides1
Eurasian HobbyFalco subbuteo1
Lanner FalconFalco biarmicus1
Peregrine FalconFalco peregrinus1
African & New World ParrotsPsittacidae
Meyer’s ParrotPoicephalus meyeri1
Old World ParrotsPsittaculidae
Rosy-faced LovebirdAgapornis roseicollis1
Wattle-eyes, BatisesPlatysteiridae
Chinspot BatisBatis molitor1
Pririt BatisBatis pririt1
White-tailed ShrikeLanioturdus torquatus1
White-crested HelmetshrikePrionops plumatus1
Black-backed PuffbackDryoscopus cubla1
Swamp BoubouLaniarius bicolor1
Crimson-breasted ShrikeLaniarius atrococcineus1
BrubruNilaus aferH
Magpie ShrikeUrolestes melanoleucus1
Southern White-crowned ShrikeEurocephalus anguitimens1
Red-backed ShrikeLanius collurio1
Lesser Grey ShrikeLanius minor1
Southern FiscalLanius collaris1
Figbirds, OriolesOriolidae
Eurasian Golden OrioleOriolus oriolus1
Fork-tailed DrongoDicrurus adsimilis1
African Paradise FlycatcherTerpsiphone viridis1
Crows, JaysCorvidae
Cape CrowCorvus capensis1
Pied CrowCorvus albus1
Tits, ChickadeesParidae
Carp’s TitMelaniparus carpi1
Penduline TitsRemizidae
Cape Penduline TitAnthoscopus minutus1
Spike-heeled LarkChersomanes albofasciata1
Gray’s LarkAmmomanopsis grayi1
Karoo Long-billed LarkCerthilauda subcoronata1
Grey-backed Sparrow-LarkEremopterix verticalis1
Sabota LarkCalendulauda sabota1
Dune Lark (E)Calendulauda erythrochlamys1
Stark’s LarkSpizocorys starki1
Pink-billed LarkSpizocorys conirostris1
Red-capped LarkCalandrella cinerea1
African Red-eyed BulbulPycnonotus nigricans1
Dark-capped BulbulPycnonotus tricolor1
Terrestrial BrownbulPhyllastrephus terrestris1
Swallows, MartinsHirundinidae
Brown-throated MartinRiparia paludicola1
Barn SwallowHirundo rustica1
White-throated SwallowHirundo albigularis1
Wire-tailed SwallowHirundo smithii1
Rock MartinPtyonoprogne fuligula1
Greater Striped SwallowCecropis cucullata1
Lesser Striped SwallowCecropis abyssinica1
Red-breasted SwallowCecropis semirufa1
South African Cliff SwallowPetrochelidon spilodera1
Crombecs, African WarblersMacrosphenidae
RockrunnerAchaetops pycnopygius1
Long-billed CrombecSylvietta rufescens1
Leaf Warblers and alliesPhylloscopidae
Willow WarblerPhylloscopus trochilus1
Reed Warblers and alliesAcrocephalidae
Greater Swamp WarblerAcrocephalus rufescensH
Lesser Swamp WarblerAcrocephalus gracilirostris1
Icterine WarblerHippolais icterina1
Cisticolas and alliesCisticolidae
Chirping CisticolaCisticola pipiens1
Zitting CisticolaCisticola juncidis1
Black-chested PriniaPrinia flavicans1
Yellow-breasted ApalisApalis flavida1
Grey-backed CamaropteraCamaroptera brevicaudata1
Barred Wren-WarblerCalamonastes fasciolatus1
Yellow-bellied EremomelaEremomela icteropygialis1
Black-faced BabblerTurdoides melanops1
Arrow-marked BabblerTurdoides jardineii1
Hartlaub’s BabblerTurdoides hartlaubii1
Southern Pied BabblerTurdoides bicolor1
Sylviid BabblersSylviidae
Chestnut-vented WarblerSylvia subcaerulea1
Starlings, RhabdornisSturnidae
Wattled StarlingCreatophora cinerea1
Cape StarlingLamprotornis nitens1
Greater Blue-eared StarlingLamprotornis chalybaeus1
Meves’s StarlingLamprotornis mevesii1
Burchell’s StarlingLamprotornis australis1
Violet-backed StarlingCinnyricinclus leucogaster1
Pale-winged StarlingOnychognathus nabouroup1
Yellow-billed OxpeckerBuphagus africanus1
Red-billed OxpeckerBuphagus erythrorynchus1
Groundscraper ThrushTurdus litsitsirupa1
Chats, Old World FlycatchersMuscicapidae
Kalahari Scrub RobinCercotrichas paena1
Chat FlycatcherMelaenornis infuscatus1
Marico FlycatcherMelaenornis mariquensis1
Spotted FlycatcherMuscicapa striata1
Ashy FlycatcherMuscicapa caerulescens1
White-browed Robin-ChatCossypha heuglini1
Short-toed Rock ThrushMonticola brevipes1
Tractrac ChatEmarginata tractrac1
Ant-eating ChatMyrmecocichla formicivora1
Mountain WheatearMyrmecocichla monticola1
Capped WheatearOenanthe pileata1
Familiar ChatOenanthe familiaris1
White-bellied SunbirdCinnyris talatala1
Dusky SunbirdCinnyris fuscus1
Old World Sparrows, SnowfinchesPasseridae
White-browed Sparrow-WeaverPlocepasser mahali1
Sociable WeaverPhiletairus socius1
House SparrowPasser domesticus1
Great SparrowPasser motitensis1
Cape SparrowPasser melanurus1
Southern Grey-headed SparrowPasser diffusus1
Weavers, WidowbirdsPloceidae
Red-billed Buffalo WeaverBubalornis niger1
Scaly-feathered WeaverSporopipes squamifrons1
Spectacled WeaverPloceus ocularis1
Holub’s Golden WeaverPloceus xanthops1
Southern Brown-throated WeaverPloceus xanthopterus1
Southern Masked WeaverPloceus velatus1
Red-headed WeaverAnaplectes rubriceps1
Red-billed QueleaQuelea quelea1
Southern Red BishopEuplectes orix1
Waxbills, Munias and alliesEstrildidae
Green-winged PytiliaPytilia melba1
Red-headed FinchAmadina erythrocephala1
Brown FirefinchLagonosticta nitidula1
Red-billed FirefinchLagonosticta senegala1
Blue WaxbillUraeginthus angolensis1
Violet-eared WaxbillUraeginthus granatinus1
Common WaxbillEstrilda astrild1
Black-faced WaxbillEstrilda erythronotos1
QuailfinchOrtygospiza atricollis1
Indigobirds, WhydahsViduidae
Village IndigobirdVidua chalybeata1
Pin-tailed WhydahVidua macroura1
Shaft-tailed WhydahVidua regia1
Long-tailed Paradise WhydahVidua paradisaea1
Wagtails, PipitsMotacillidae
Cape WagtailMotacilla capensis1
African Pied WagtailMotacilla aguimp1
African PipitAnthus cinnamomeus1
Buffy PipitAnthus vaalensis1
Black-throated CanaryCrithagra atrogularis1
Buntings, New World SparrowsEmberizidae
Lark-like BuntingEmberiza impetuani1
Cinnamon-breasted BuntingEmberiza tahapisi1
Cape BuntingEmberiza capensis1
Golden-breasted BuntingEmberiza flaviventris1


Common Name (IUCN)Scientific Name (IUCN)Trip
Egyptian fruit batRousettus aegyptiacus1
Dassie ratPetromus typicus1
Acacia ratThallomys paedulcus1
South African ground squirrelXerus inauris1
Smith’s bush squirrelParaxerus cepapi1
Cape hareLepus capensis1
Rock hyraxProcavia capensis1
African elephantLoxodonta africana1
Hartmann’s mountain zebraEquus zebra hartmannae1
Plains zebraEquus quagga1
Black rhinocerosDiceros bicornis1
HippopotamusHippopotamus amphibius1
Common warthogPhacochoerus africanus1
GiraffeGiraffa camelopardalis1
Common wildebeestConnochaetes taurinus1
Red hartebeestAlcelaphus buselaphus caama1
TsessebeDamaliscus lunatus lunatus1
Common duikerSylvicapra grimmia1
SpringbokAntidorcas marsupialis1
KlipspringerOreotragus oreotragus1
Damara dik-dikMadoqua kirkii damarensis1
SteenbokRaphicerus campestris1
ImpalaAepyceros melampus melampus1
Black-faced impalaAepyceros melampus petersi1
Roan antelopeHippotragus equinus1
GemsbokOryx gazella1
Greater kuduTragelaphus strepsiceros1
SitatungaTragelaphus spekii1
BushbuckTragelaphus scriptus1
ElandTaurotragus oryx1
Spotted hyaenaCrocuta crocuta1
CheetahAcinonyx jubatus1
LeopardPanthera pardus1
LionPanthera leo1
Black-backed jackalCanis mesomelas1
Spotted-necked otterLutra maculicollis1
Yellow mongooseCynictis penicillata1
Slender mongooseGalerella sanguinea1
Banded mongooseMungos mungo1
Afro-Australian fur sealArctocephalus pusillus1
Chacma baboonPapio ursinus1
VervetChlorocebus pygerythrus1
Common bottlenose dolphinTursiops truncatus1


Common Name (Reptile Database)Scientific Name (Reptile Database)Trip
Namib rock agamaAgama planiceps1
Flapneck chameleonChamaeleo dilepis1
Black-lined plated lizardGerrhosaurus nigrolineatus1
Wedge-snouted desert lizardMeroles cuneirostris1
Koch’s chirping geckoPtenopus kochi1
Bocage’s mabuyaTrachylepis binotata1
Variable skinkTrachylepis varia1
Nile crocodileCrocodylus niloticus1
Marsh terrapinPelomedusa subrufa1
Leopard tortoiseStigmochelys pardalis1


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