Arid Areas Birding – Part 3, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay

It was a pleasure arriving in Swakopmund and being able to enjoy some cooler weather after the inland heat.  Swakopmund is a sophisticated destination where one can stay in first class accommodation and enjoy very good food.  Added to that, the area, especially around Walvis Bay, is a birder’s paradise.

We had our first taste of what was to come with a visit to the salt pans north of the town, but the real bonanza was the area south of Walvis Bay!  This must rank as one of the birding wonders of the world, with thousands of waders wherever one looks!  Of course, we were not only interested in waders as we wanted to see the rare Dune Lark, but we were once again, not successful.  Sure, we could have hired a professional for around R3000 for the two of us, but we wanted to do it alone.  We did, however, see many Gray’s Larks.

The area is a real tourist destination and there were desert tours going in every direction, specially to Sandwich Harbour.  We decided not to spend the extra time driving there, although it might have produced our Dune Lark, and concentrated instead on the salt pans. It really was wonderful to see so many birds and we had quite a time trying to identify them all – needless to say, we failed in a number of cases.  Nevertheless, our Challenge list was starting to grow, after a long period of nothing new.

Of special interest was a Pacific Golden Plover.  I sent a small image to Trevor Hardacre and he suggested it was an American Golden Plover, but I had studied it for a long time and stick with my identification.

Arid Areas Birding – Part 2, Aus to Swakopmund

The drive from Aus to Savanna Farm, our next stop was uneventful.  We decided to go via Keetmanshoop as we were told that the gravel road from Seeheim to Grunau was really bad.  We have stayed at Savanna Farm previously and knew what to expect.  Strangely it was quite cool as a cold front was blowing through.

We wanted to see Rosy-faced Lovebirds and were not disappointed when a flock flew past.  Our drives around the farm also gave us the opportunity to see Stark’s Lark and a number of other species.  We were now in the land of the Sociable Weavers and their nests littered the skyline.

Our next stop was at the tented camp in the dunes at Teufelskrallen, near Kalkrand.  By now the temperature had soared and we spent the afternoon alternately standing in the shower, or sitting in the breeze getting cool with wet clothes on!  Birds were few and far between!

We spent a night in Windhoek, hoping to do some birding in the Daan Viljoen Reserve, but we were bitterly disappointed to find it so hot and dry that there was nothing to see!  The same applied to the Avis Dam site and the Botanical Gardens, so that we were quite glad to move on to Swakopmund, but more about that later!

Arid Areas Birding – Part 1, Hermanus to Aus

Nam Kgal 2
Our proposed route in blue.  The red route was in November.

Having completed an extensive trip around eastern and northern SA in November, we decided to try our luck in the arid western portion of the area, including southern and central Namibia.  Our first leg was to drive to Springbok, a long, hot drive with little opportunity to see new species.  We did have a serious attempt at finding a Cinnamon-breasted Warbler or two in the granite koppies around the town, but to no avail.

Next day saw us heading down to Port Nolloth and on to Alexander Bay, where our target was the Barlow’s Lark.  Once again we were disappointed not to find this elusive little bird, but we were astounded by the beautiful day in Port Nolloth.  The sea was like a lake and it was warm and sunny – a perfect beach day with no wind at all.  There were thousands of cormorants on the small islands offshore and we saw some waders, including a Ruff, on the beach.

Crossing the border into Namibia at Alexander Bay was an interesting experience and we made a brief stop in Oranjemund – a place where we spent many years!  It has certainly changed, especially as it is now an open town.  We took the drive along the north bank of the Orange River to Rosh Pinah.  This has recently been tarred and is an excellent and comfortable way to see this section of the Richtersveld.  Birds, however, were few and far between.  From Rosh Pinah to Aus, a section of around 170 kms, we drove through a virtually lifeless desert, and did not see a single living creature over a 150 kms stretch!!

We stayed in the charming Orange House in Aus.  It is close to the jail, so we heard some loud shouting from the inmates until they quietened down as evening fell (Thank Goodness!)  Aus is a quaint little village with a good hotel and gives one access to the wild horses of Namibia, but we only saw two.