Saturday, July 28, 2012

Subic, 26 - 28 July

A quick trip to Subic before the beginiing of term trying to catch up with the three remaining specials in the area. Rufous Coucal was the first found, on the Thursday. I inadvertently separated a group of three, and had agitated birds calling on either side of me for 20 minutes. As with many blockers, once unblocked they seem to appear everywhere. On Saturday morning I found at least 4 groups on the trail at Hill 394. When I learned the call I found them to be quite common.

On the way out, at the parking area to the trail I found the second of the key birds. A pair of White-lored Orioles feeding in a fig tree. They were calling softly to each other, and took a little while to locate, but were magic when I finally got on to them.

This leaves just White-fronted Tit to find from this area. Next time.

Other endemics in the area included Red-crested Malkoha, Scale-feathered Malkoha, Blackish Cuckoo-Shrike, Luzon Flameback, Luzon Hornbill, Guiabero, Philippine Coucal and Plain Bush-hen.

One of several Rufous Coucal I finally found in the Subic Area. Having got on to the call I realise I have almost certainly heard them many times, but dismissed them as probably squirrels, or parrots!

Northern Sooty Woodpecker. One of a group of three.

Fan-tailed Cisticola. A brief trip down to the fields at IRRI. A fair number of commoner species evident.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Etosha, 6 - 9 July

After leaving Khamanjab we entered Etosha at Okakuejo, and drove east to our camp at Halali. We spent two nights there, then two further nights at a camp just outside the gate at Namatoni. Our last two nights in Namibia were in Bushmanland at Tsumkwe, near the Botswana border.

The birding changed between Halali and Namatoni. In Halali there were still a few Namibian specials, specifically Violet Woodhoopoe and Bare-cheeked Babbler (though I failed to find the latter at this site), by the time we got to Namatoni these had disappeared, being replaced by birds more common in the east. The camp staff at Halali have two or three owl species staked out, and it's well worth asking where the roosts are. Other birds of note included Kori Bustard and Red-crested Korhaan.

From a mammal perspective it was a great trip. The grass was still long which made it hard to find some things, and the waterholes were fairly full, meaning that the game was not as concentrated as it might be, but it was still brilliant. We saw Lion on every drive, and a good selection of plains game at almost every waterhole. Variety was less than similar parks elsewhere in Africa, but the size of the herds, and the ease with which we found predators made this a minor niggle. Elephant were strangely absent, with only one male being seen, though sign of their presence was everywhere. The star mammals for me were undoubtedly the Black Rhinos which are easier to see here than anywhere else in the world.Our mammal list included (Angolan) Giraffe, Black-faced Impala, Gemsbok, Springbok, Steenbok, Damara Dik-Dik, Red Hartebeeste, Blue Wildebeeste, Burchell's Zebra, Black Rhino, Elephant, Warthog, Kudu, Lion, Black-backed Jackal, Spotted Hyena, Black-tailed Scrub Hare, Ground Squirrel, Mopane Tree Squirrel, Banded Mongoose and Large-spotted Genet.

We didn't get around to any night-drives, way too expensive, but we were treated to a visit in our camp at Namatoni gate by a Large-spotted Genet, as well as Black-backed Jackal.

Tsumkwe was also interesting, with the pans at Nyae-nyae being full to the brim, with breeding flocks of both Greater Flamingo and Lesser Flamingo. Lots of other waterbirds, including a surprise Slaty Egret on one of the smaller pans in the area, and a Bradfield's Hornbill on the Maun road.

African Scops Owl roosting in Halali camp. Wonderfully chamouflaged, I would never have found this without help.
Roosting Barn Owls, also in Halali.
Double-banded Sandgrouse, male...
...and female.
Violet Woodhoopoe. Easy to find in the grounds of Halali.
Meyer's Parrot, which replaces Ruppell's parrot somewhere between Halali and Namatoni.

Southern White-crowned Shrike.
Crimson-breasted Shrike. Very common, but always a treat to see.
Kori Bustard. Another bird which always gives me a thrill.
This strangely marked Burchell's Zebra stood out like a sore thumb, surely a dangerous trait in a land with so many predators...
Damara Dik-Dik. A wonderful new antelope for me. The oddest thing to me is the strange, almost mini trunk-like nose.
This large female Lion was part of a group of five which killed a Gemsbok a few minutes before we arrived at the pan. She is so fat she may even be pregnant as well!
Black-faced Impala.
It was fantastic to see Black Rhino again, it's been many years since I saw one in the wild, possibly not since I was a child in Luangwa...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Namibian Escarpment, 1 - 5 July

After leaving the coast at Henties Bay we drove inland to Brandberg, where we camped for a couple of days. We hiked into a canyon to view the rock art there, particularly the White lady painting. Our next stop was on the Huab river at Aba Huab for a day, followed by two days at Khamanjab, just south of the western gate to Etosha.

Birding was great in this area, with Hornbills appearing, as well as more bushveld type species, and a different suite of Larks. Endemics and near-endemics included Hartlaub's Francolin, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Monteiro's Hornbill, Bare-cheeked Babbler, White-tailed Shrike, Benguela Long-billed Lark, Ruppell's Parrot and Chestnut Weaver (sadly in non-breeding plumage). Other birds of note included Double-banded Courser, Barred Wren-warbler, and the pale Namibian races of Tractrac Chat and Karoo Chat. 

Mammals were less plentiful in this unprotected area, though I did add Dassie-Rat to my mammal life-list, as well as several reptiles.

Barred Wren-warbler
Benguela Long-billed Lark, at almost the southern limit of its distribution, just south of Brandberg. Separated from the Karoo Long-billed Lark by a noticeably shorter bill.
Damara Red-billed Hornbill. A very white head and dark eye separate this new split from the Red-billed Hornbill elsewhere in southern Africa.
Female Hartlaub's Francolin, my last Francolin spp. for southern Africa. we encountered this hard to find bird on the road north from Aba Huab to Khamanjab, and also at the farm where we camped in Khamanjab.
And a male nearby...
Monteiro's Hornbill. A common and noisy resident of the campsite at Brandberg.
Tractrac Chat ssp. hoeschi (or possibly albicans. My version of Howard and Moore allocate albicans to "N coastal Namibia" and hoeschi to "S Angola, N Namibia")
White-quilled Korhaan.
White-tailed Shrike. Common as soon as we hit Mopane woodland.
Boulton's Namib Day Gecko. A few kilometres east and north of Brandberg.
Giant Plated Lizard.

Namibian Rock Agama, female...
...and a young-looking male (the body of an adult male is quite blue)
A herd of Gemsbok in one of the 900 rock paintings at Brandberg.
And a Red Hartebeeste at the same site.