Namibia, day 7 ... lions and waterholes

Day 7, 17 November – Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo, day 1)
A simple pre-breakfast event: meet at the waterhole and stroll through the camp to breakfast (John and Gill joining us at the restaurant). Geoff picked up – literally – three sociable weavers bound together by string. Happily Darrin had his penknife and they were freed to join the throng. Their huge nests were all inside the camp, perhaps as there is plenty of grass for nest building, unlike the grazed land outside.

Sociable weavers' nest. Plenty of grass for nest-building inside the fence.
Sociable weaver close-up (Tim Hunt).

Our first stop on the morning’s drive on Etosha’s dirt roads was to see two male lions in the shade under a small tree. One of the lions, perhaps brothers, had a collar for radio tracking. In that tree was one then three greater kestrels, complete with white eye-ring (not eye as the book said), on or near a nest.

Another drive, another waterhole, the next with a small and obviously artificial pond nearest to where we’d parked our vehicles. Zebras squabbled, biting and kicking, both outside and inside the pond. 

"Zebras squabbled, biting and kicking" (Cheryl Hunt). 
Grey-backed sparrowlark, seen well at last and two Namaqua sandgrouse were added as we moved to a second artificial concreted pond, this one with ostriches and a Kittlitz’s plover. A third waterhole, called Olifantsbad, had attracted an ostrich crèche with 20 chicks of two sizes and a steppe buzzard. Geoff’s bus reported icterine warblers, brown-chested snake-eagle and ground agamas. 
Ostrich crèche (Cheryl Hunt).
Lunch was sandwiches made and collected on Geoff’s stoop. In the meantime Jeremy was finding shaft-tailed whydahs in a tree. During our siesta we kept an eye on these and other birds, encouraged by water provided by Helen in plastic containers reused from the recycling bin. Over by the park’s shop was the best place to find butterflies, albeit a limited range. As well as the inevitable African monarchs, Jeremy photographed hintza blue on a patch of heliotrope, there were many sooty blues here and in grassy areas and a white was probably African migrant. 
African monarch.
Greater kestrel (Jeremy Galton).
The afternoon drive was south on tarmac towards the National Park’s exit, before turning into an area of dry grassland and open scrub. There were good views of perched birds of prey, black-shouldered kite and greater kestrels especially, any number of northern black korhaans and our first spotted thick-knees. The final stretch was past where the lions were this morning. Two females were lying on the edge of the road and a cub was nearby. That’s how it was as Geoff’s bus left. 
Black-shouldered kite (Jeremy Galton).

For Darrin’s bus, shortly afterwards, there was a moment of drama. The two male lions seen this morning had sprung into the scene and were contesting a springbok just caught. And there was a sighting of caracal as the sun was going down. Both buses and various other vehicles made into Okaukuejo Camp just before the gates were shut for the night.

I went back to my room during dinner and had to sweep out a scorpion that I saw slip inside under the door. At the waterhole there was a family party of elephants and the three black rhinos included a youngster that seemed to be suckling while it and mother were in the water. The five barn owls were there again and both nightjar species called. 


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