Recent Updates From the Field
Namibia (August 2010) Guided by Ken Behrens
My most recent trip was to Namibia, one of my favorite countries in Africa. This was a custom trip for a married couple with dierent goals in mind. One wanted to see as many of the near-endemic birds as possible. The other was keener to see Namibia’s sweeping landscapes, cultural sites, and big mammals. These dierent goals mesh remark- ably well in Namibia, and our trip was quite successful on all counts. We saw nearly all of the possible new birds for the birder, while taking in the red dunes of Sossusvlei, ancient rock engravings at Twyfelfontein, and big mammals of Etosha National Park.
One of the birding highlights was seeing two groups of Violet Woodhoopoes facing o along a dry riverbed near the Erongo Mountains. This highly social species travels around in groups that take any challenge from a rival group very seriously. Cackling, bobbing, and posturing went on for over 30 minutes! We also much enjoyed seeing the local and bizarre-looking Bare-cheeked Babbler at a site conveniently near the cultural attrac- tion of Twyfelfontein. The afternoon was spent marveling at ancient rock engravings such as the famous‘lion- man’, while the following morning was dedicated to chasing the babbler, allowing the non-birder to sleep in! Everything worked out quite nicely, and we celebrated our all-round successes at a late break- fast soaking in the incredible views from our lodge dining room.
We visited Etosha National Park at the best possible time of year: late in the dry season. Hundreds of big mammals were milling around most
of the waterholes, and the surround- ing plains were crisscrossed with lines of commuting animals headed for the precious water. Though we didn’t see lions make a kill, we did see a pride that had staked out a waterhole and were waiting for some wary springbok to come in for a drink. The tension was intense. One night when driving back to our lodge, we saw a drama involving a much smaller pairing of predator and prey. It started when we came upon a Pearl-spotted Owlet sitting in the road. This seemed odd behavior, but when I spotted a scorpion, everything made sense – the owlet was after this treacherous prey. It bobbed around the scorpion a
couple of times before making a lightning-fast strike in which it knocked o the tail and ate the body in almost the same instant. The tiny owl departed into the night, leaving only a poison- laden barb lying in the dust of the road. Many who have seen lions kill many times have never witnessed such a thing.
This trip was a good example of Tropical Birding’s versatility in designing a custom tour that will take in the best of a country in a short amount of time, even if the participants have very dierent goals in mind. Our next Namibia tours are sched- uled for 28 January – 12 February 2011, and 8 – 23 September 2011.
Our next Namibia tours (with Botswana) are scheduled for 28 Jan -12 Feb and 8 - 23 Sept 2011