Feathered features
Issue 4 (May 2009) Bird spotting is not just for the dedicated twitcher, it can add interest to even the shortest Namibian trip. All you need to know is where to look.


We’ve picked ten of our favourite birding spots. The best tip is to arrive early as birds are at their most active in the morning. In the midday heat you could try looking at nearby waterholes where the birds will go to drink and cool off.  Demasius Marais’ book ‘Birding in Namibia’ will help you with your identification, and it is worth investing in a pair of binoculars – cheap brands such as Opticron are perfectly adequate. Before you leave for Namibia, check out websites such as www.sabirding.co.za or www.fatbirder.com to see if there are any birding hotspots near to where you are staying. If you are a keen twitcher, try a specialist birding operators, such as Birding Ecotours (www.birdingecotours.co.za), that has trained ornithologist guides.


Walvis Bay & Swakopmund
October to April is best, when migrant birds arrive in their thousands and flamingos add colour to the scene. From Lagoon Lodge, an esplanade all along the lagoon makes birding easy. Chestnut-banded plover, Terek sandpiper, red-necked phalarope, common redshank and the endangered Damara tern can all be spotted. The rocky shoreline up to Swakopmund is good for marine cormorants and terns and the guano platform north of Walvis can be worthwhile in the morning. Gray’s lark and tractrac chat can be found in the gravel plains east of Mile 4 saltworks, 8km north of Swakopmund. 


The red dunes of Sossusvlei are home to the dune lark. Check out the grassy dune bases at Elim Dune or walk into the dunes from Sossuspoort lookout. 


Brandberg and Spitzkoppe
These granite inselbergs rise dramatically out of the surrounding barren desert plains. Spitzkoppe is one of the best sites for the shy Herero chat, which favours the dry boulder-strewn scrub at the base of the mountain. The stony plains here support Ludwig’s bustard, Ruppell’s korhaan, Burchell’s Courser and Stark’s lark.


Good birding spots around the capital include Avis Dam, Daan Viljoen Reserve and the Gammam’s Water Treatment Works. Expect to see your first black-faced waxbill and the city is also one of the best areas for Bradfield’s swift. 


The Kunene River from Ruacana to Swartbooisdrif is the best place to find three highly localised bird species – grey kestrel, Cinderella waxbill and rufous-tailed palm thrush. Kunene River Lodge is a birder-friendly camp with great local knowledge in finding these birds. At the basic Hippo Pools campsite you’ll see wheeling Madagascar bee-eaters and bubbling white-browed coucals. 


Hobatere Lodge managed by Steve Brain, one of the top birders in the country, borders Etosha National Park. In the mopane woodland close to camp look for the endemic violet wood-hoopoe, Ruppell’s parrot and Carp’s tit.


Etosha National Park
The three main camps are all very different habitat-wise and staying at each is advised. The gardens of Mokuti Lodge just outside Von Lindequist Gate, is also excellent for birding especially for black-faced babbler. 


Caprivi Strip
Along the Kavango River expect rufous-bellied heron, swamp boubou, lesser jacana, African skimmer and coppery-tailed coucal. Woodland specials include rufous-bellied tit, racket-tailed roller and Arnott’s chat. Bwabwata National Park and the Kwando River area are great for spotting most of Okavango’s birds.


Erongo Mountains
The dramatic granite domes of the Erongo Mountains offer many quality endemics in one of the country’s most distinctive settings.


Hardap Dam
Great for spotting white pelicans, pinebacked pelicans, African fish eagles, flamingos, cormorants, darters and African spoonbills.

Orange River
Canoe past African fish eagles and electric blue malachite kingfishers. Access to Oranjemund is restricted but wetlands there contain 64 different species.

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