Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Namibia - Hobatere

Lion grooming
Namibia - The Desert
Namibia - Ocean and Mountains

From the Erongo Mountains we went north to Etosha National Park. Our first stop was just outside the west park entrance at Hobatere, a local people conservancy with a fantastic lodge, game watering hole, and plenty of animals. This was our first location where the lodge grounds were fenced with electrified wire. It's a strange feeling to realize you are no longer even close to the top of the food chain... 

The late afternoon arrival gave us time before dinner to watch animals coming to the waterhole from the lodge deck in the near 100F heat.  We also signed up for the night game drive for some after dark action.

Waterhole view from the deck. There is a second, larger pond in the upper left before the hill.
The night excursion was quite amazing as we saw the local pride of three lionesses and five year plus youngsters. Owls and other night animals put on a show as well. 

The eyes of hundreds of Double-banded Sandgrouse reflect in the spotlight

African Wild Cat


Small-spotted Genet
Small-spotted Genet

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl
In the morning we walked the grounds for birds before retiring to the shade to watch the action at the waterhole. Several new species were added to our list. 

Hobatere morning bird list

Bare-cheeked Babbler

Black-backed Puffbird

The puffbird "puffs" his back

Desert Rose

Meeve's Starling

Violet-backed Starling
By late morning we were sitting in the shade and watching the lions as they worked the waterhole, sometimes making half-hearted attempts at a meal. Our guide Charly said we weren't going anywhere as the lion behavior was indicative of a serious hunt. Animals came and went all morning as the two big lionesses lounged in the shade and gave them all the eye. With the local drought and heat of summer, the animals had no choice but to come to the waterhole.

A lioness stalks prey

A lioness cruises through the waterhole area


Giraffes and Southern Oryx

Greater Kudu

Mountain Zebra

Zebra mob at the waterhole
The radio collared lioness charges
A spooked Impala

The animals watch the lionesses warily
As the heat of afternoon climbed and the lions dozed in the shade, everyone thought the action might be over until later. But the lions were obviously hungry and started back up in the middle of the afternoon. One lioness even took a shot by herself at a giraffe. 

A lioness chases a giraffe
And then behind a grove of trees we couldn't see past, a cloud of dust and stampeding zebras indicated some more action. Nobody was quite sure what had happened until a little while later we saw one of the lionesses with blood on her face. 

Lioness with bloody face heads toward the young lions
That indicated a likely kill and we were pretty sure where it might be. Soon the lioness brought the youngsters in to the water for a drink. After watering, the entire pride moved toward the suspected kill area and out of view.

The young lions come in for a drink

At the waterhole
Our afternoon drive with the local guide time was approaching, so Charly talked him into starting a little early and heading the safari vehicle to the area where we suspect the kill had happened. It wasn't long before we came to the pride gorging on fresh zebra. The young lions were going at it heartily as the adults watched.

Lions are definitely messy eaters
After a good long watch of the feeding lions we moved on with our drive. One new cool bird showed shortly later.

White-crested Helmet-Shrike
As we passed by the lions on the way back it appeared they were sated for the time being, mostly lounging and playing around a little.

The sun set on an epic day as we rolled back into the lodge. 

We move on to Etosha National Park next!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Namibia - Ocean and Mountains

Sunset rainbow in the Spitzkoppen Mountains
[In case you missed our first Namibia post - The Desert]

We arrived at the desert coastal town of Walvis Bay in the early afternoon. It's such a strange feeling to clearly be in the desert with large sand dunes around, and yet on the beach. Apparently when the wind blows here, as it does for about three months a year, it can be quite scary with the dunes moving into town by the truckload. We hear that one of the chief exports of Walvis Bay is sand - by truck back out into the desert.

We cruised the shoreline in our wagon for the afternoon and saw tons of great shorebirds, terns and gulls, and thousands of Lesser and Greater Flamingos.

Walvis bird list

Black-winged Stilt

Cape Teal

Chestnut-banded Plover

Greater Flamingos

Greater Flamingos

Lesser Flamingos

Leser Flamingos

White-fronted Plover
The next morning was an outing on the bay by tourist dolphin boat. The hope for the few other passengers was the endemic Benquela Dolphin. While we would be happy to see them, our motivators was of course the birds. There weren't any dolphins but lots of other things to see. The tourist thing was a little cliche' too (and kind of fun), as they have trained seals and pelicans to come for fish. 

Walvis Bay boat cruise list

Selfi with a Cap Fur Seal

Great White Pelican waits for his fish
A very out of range African Penguin was lounging on an oil platform being repaired
Great White Pelican

A Black-backed Jackal cruising the beach in search of food

Cape Cormorant

Cape Fur Seals

Cape Fur Seals

Hartlaub's Gull

Kelp Gull
In the afternoon we were back on the beach in search of the local and tiny Damara Tern. They breed on the Namibian coast and most have moved back to South Africa now, but we found a few.

Bird list

Damara Tern

Damara Tern
Leaving Walvis Bay the next morning we were in search of two rare cormorants, Crown and Bank. We got them both with only the Crown close enough for photos.

Crown Cormorant
We moved on, northeast across the desert. The barren scenery was amazing. And a stop for one of the world's most interesting plants was special. Welwitschia mirabilis is the only species in its genus. Its stem leaves sprout and continue to grow for hundreds of years, and up to 13 feet long, fraying at the ends. Some individuals are considered to be over 2000 years old. 

Desert landscape
Ostrich on the moon

Susan checks out a young welwitschia, probably only a few hundred years old

Female cones

Both male and female welwitschia growing together
We finished our drive through the desert in the Spitzkoppen Mountains, ready for new birds and adventure. These mountains reminded us of many places near home, with rounded granite boulders, arches, and pictographs. 

Susan at the arch

One of the most poisonous snakes in the world, Black Mamba

Layard's Tit-babbler

Kaokoland Black Mongoose

Monteiro's Hornbill

Mountain Wheatear

Spitzkoppen Mountains

The Namibian "Matterhorn" in the Spitzkoppen Mountains


Rock Hyrax were abundant

Rock Hyrax

Rock Hyrax

Rock Hyrax

Ruppell's Korrhaan (Bustard)

Ruppell's Korrhaan (Bustard)

Sabota Lark

Sunset that night

And sunrise the next morning
After some early birding and breakfast we were off to the nearby Erongo Mountains. The drive produced some fascinating botany.  

Spitzkoppen bird list

Butter Tree

Euphorbia virosa, or Poison Tree

Euphorbia virosa flowers

Moringa Ovalifoli
In the evening we did a hike to the top of a nearby rock outcrop for sunset and a beer. Nice.

Rock Fig high on a cliff

Hanging out and watching a beautiful sunset

Birding the lodge grounds and surrounding area produced many great birds, the best being the tricky Hartlaub's Spurfowl. Lots of other great things to see too.

Erongo bird list

Looking at the Hartlaub's Spurfowl
Harlaub's Spurfowl

African Paradise Flycatcher

Damara Red-billed Hornbill

Dassie Rat, or Noki

Freckled Nightjar

Green-winged Pytillia

Red-billed Spurfowl

Namib Rock Agama

Namib Rock Agama

Red-backed Shrike

Rosy-faced Lovebird

White-throated Canary

Yellow-throated Skink
Lots and lots to come, next up is the incomparable Etosha National Park area.