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Showing posts from November, 2018

Namibia, day 6 ... mammals on the move

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16 November – Etosha National Park (Namutoni to Okaukuejo) We were out at sunrise again, pausing to look at two red-necked falcons near Namutoni. There were lots of plains mammals around, all looking relaxed so last night’s lions must have been elsewhere. A superb male kori bustard with neck feathers fluffed out gave an impression of haughty arrogance as he walked slowly into the bush.
Two capped wheatears were new for some and buffy pipit for all. There was a small, loose flock of sparrowlarks on the ground but by the time we’d grasped that there are two species, black-eared and chestnut-backed, and that finchlark = sparrowlark, they’d gone. More straightforward was the large, tight flock of red-billed queleas perching on small acacias before massing on the ground.
After a relaxed cooked breakfast, we packed and headed west towards Okaukuejo (pronounced Ok-a-koo-yoo). There were quickly interesting sightings: a black morph Gabar goshawk, chestnut-bellied sparrowlark seen well this ti…

Namibia, day 5 ... birdwatching in Etosha

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15 November – EtoshaNational Park (Namutoni, day 2) Meet at 06:05 as the gates open at 06:15, was the instruction, and actually the gate was open already a little before that as the two buses went in separate directions around a large salt pan area called Fischer’s Pan. I was in Geoff’s bus and we soon saw several kori bustards walking close to or across the road: the heaviest flying bird in the world, says Geoff, though in Extremadura (Spain) that’s also claimed for great bustard. Other bustards were a single red-crested korhaan (the crest is rarely seen, only when a male is displaying) and several northern black korhaans including a male with a fine black face and neck with a large white cheek spot vaguely reminiscent of a goldeneye, as Malcolm observed, and a smart vermiculated pattern on the back, as Mary described. We agreed counts of 36 wildebeest and 54 elands. The eland group clearly had a big age mix and was joined by three others, probably bachelor males, and spent a long tim…

Namibia, day 4 ... from Waterberg to Etosha

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14 November – from Waterberg to EtoshaNational Park (Namutoni, day 1)
I think only Jeremy went on the ‘official’ pre-breakfast walk, though everyone seemed to be taking a leisurely stroll with various wildlife sightings as 7am neared. Female red-veined dropwings were soaking up some warmth on roadside stones and a party of violet wood-hoopoes chased each other around tree trunks. We took our time over breakfast and had the luxury of a lift back to our chalets. It was 8:30 as we drove away from Waterberg. There were several stops before we re-joined the main north-south road for southern white-crowned shrike, purple roller and tawny eagle. A bateleur twisted and turned as it was chased by a small bird of prey. At 9:30 we turned north towards Otjiwarongo, making steady progress until we stopped in the town for fuel and supplies from the Spar supermarket. Heading out of Otjiwarongo we passed a sign saying ‘no public urinating’, not a risk with the comfort stops Geoff plans, and nearing Et…

Namibia, day 3 ... Waterberg

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13 November – WaterbergNational Park
Breakfast was at 7am, with a lift for those who wanted one down the hill, so we could make a 7:30 rendezvous with our game drive for the morning. There was room for all of us in the open-sided truck with driver and guide Nelson. The route on wide dirt tracks through the lowlands below the cliff, pausing go through several gates, included stops to see a steenbok crossing the road, warthogs and hornbills. To our right a couple of hamerkops flew through and on the grass on the left was our first crowned lapwing. Somewhere we passed a farmstead under a flowering jacaranda tree before the route took us up the escarpment to the plateau at the top of the cliffs.
The sandy track through scrub brought us, in time, to three waterholes, at least waterholes of sorts. By an impressive stone wall to mark the spot, a sandy walkway took us to a large hide overlooking a large area of sand with a stone pond in the centre, close enough to see but far enough so visitin…

Namibia, day 2 ... dik-diks outside chalets

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12 November – Windhoek Botanic Gardens and drive to Waterberg National Park Breakfast was at 7am and we were away just after 8am, to take advantage of the relative cool of the morning. We then took the short drive to Windhoek Botanic Gardens where we were greeted by some 150 little swifts circling and calling around us. We saw their mud nests on the buildings once we were inside. 
After a covered area with drought-loving succulents the wide paths took us around helpfully labelled shrubs and trees, though most had little more than a few leaves showing. There were two types of skinks, variegated and striped, and a low rocky outcrop had a pair of rock agamas displaying, the orange-headed and orange-tailed male doing press-ups to impress the female. Scarlet-chested sunbird and diderick cuckoo were nice finds for some of the group, some saw rosy-faced lovebird, Gill saw a rock hyrax and red-headed finch was probably a new bird for everyone. The showiest butterfly seems to be a good match for…

Namibia, day 1 ... Windhoek

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This is the first of what is intended to be a series of Honeyguide blog postings about Honeyguide's holiday in Namibia, November 2018. 
Namibia Day 1, 10/11 November – Heathrow to Windhoek

A bright English morning turned to driving rain on the M25, but everyone made it to Heathrow Terminal 2, including David and Steph who had flown in from Manchester. A walk to the distant departure gate was followed by the long, smooth and very full overnight flight to Johannesburg, punctuated by meals and sleep as best everyone could manage while sitting. Passport control and luggage reclaim was quick, on this occasion. 
Observant Jeremy noticed the rock martins outside as we walked – albeit not far – from Terminal A to Terminal B to check-in for Windhoek, then walked back to Terminal A to go through security again and catch the Windhoek flight. Outside there were little swifts. The onboard meal, an early lunch, was welcome; less so the wobbles in turbulence as we descended. The pilot took us round…

A Tale of Two Bugs

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November’s guided walk at NWT Thorpe Marshes was on a lovely mild morning. Stonechats are overwintering on the reserve for the third time and both of the pair showed well for the group of 20 people. However winter birds, such as ducks on the gravel pit, St Andrews Broad, were all but absent.
The riverside footpath isn’t always the nicest with some muddy patches, but it feels sheltered and lush. Keen eyed group members found two interesting bugs tucked into the stinging nettles and white dead-nettles.
I guess any experienced bug observer would know them, but I couldn’t name them straight away and that feels like a good reason to share their names and pictures. Much as most of us would know blackbirds and chaffinches, or red admirals and large whites, common bugs feel like a learning curve worth tackling.
Thorpe Marshes regular Susan Weeks showed herself to be that experienced bug observer and came up with the right IDs on the spot. Well, I was impressed.
The red and black bug is Corizus h…