Talk Report – April2018

Namibia – Prime birding in magnificent and varied habitats
– By Otto Schmidt (17 May 2018)

From Vioolsdrif one crosses the Orange River. Canoeists paddle serenely past on a gently flowing river as one enters Namibia.  It’s a good place to visit as it’s not too far and the Namibian dollar is the same as our Rand.  It’s a land of such varied landscape, 67% the size of South Africa but with 87% of the bird species.

Otto and his wife Sandy have visited Namibia several times – a favourite destination.  The Reserves have become expensive for South Africans.  Several farms now offer self catering accommodation and camp sites. These are usually in beautiful surroundings and away from tourist crowds.

To do justice to the birdlife in Otto’s presentation one needed to be there to view his beautiful photos. We traveled through the huge sand dunes, dry caked rivers, overlooked the Canyon,  traveled over a pass so narrow that wheels were inches from a sheer drop.  We arrived at Luderitz, a quaint German coastal town.  Then north and east to the fast flowing Kunene River.  Otto’s photos were not just a list of the many birds he saw but of tiny insects, reptiles and mammals.  Each was living in its specific area, some looking so inhospitable and barren.  Of the birds only one is endemic.  Many are near endemic,  spreading  into neighbouring territories.  Often the area that they inhabit in Namibia is small and isolated.

On the road  from Aus to Luderitz are the desert horses that were left by the departing Germans in 1918.  There were about 115 of them moving to a waterhole to drink.

While watching at a waterhole near Rietvlei  a black Skimmer (from the west coast of North America)  flew in and landed on the water.  An exciting  rarity and a first for Africa.  Amongst the animal pictures we saw Gemsbok (Unicorn?) and little klipspringers looking good in their hostile environments.

A boat trip down the Kunene River in the Caprivi area produced lots of fish and many river birds.  Fish eagles and Kingfishers.  Carmine bee-eaters usually nest in river banks but here  mongoose were predators so these birds moved to the  top ridge of the river bank.

So many different birds that we don’t see in South Africa from the truly wild desert ostriches, yellow oxpickers on donkeys, a pygmy falcon co-habiting with social weavers. Near Kuisib a patient wait to see the only endemic, the Namibian Dune Lark, a real cherry on the top!

Thanks Otto for sharing such a lovely journey with us.

Andrea Benn