Red-headed Finch (Amadina erythrocephala)

The Red-headed Finch (Amadina erythrocephala) (also known as the Paradise Finch or the Red-headed Weaver) is a common species of estrildid finch found in Africa.

They have quite a large range in southern Africa.  I found this one while driving through Etosha NP in Namibia.

LEARN MORE ABOUT RED-HEADED FINCHES

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Biodiversity Explorer

VIDEOS

It’s hard to find video clips of non-captive birds as this species seems to be very popular as aviary birds, but here’s one!

 

Hotel Review: Protea Ondangwa

Ondangwa is not going to be high on the list of eco-tourism must-sees, but it does make a handy layover point when traveling between Etosha NP (92 kms) and Ruacana (192 kms) which is the access point to Kunene River Lodge.  The Protea Ondangwa is a good deal which usually costs less than $100 or a category 1 in Marriott Rewards points.

We checked in around 8pm and it was pretty dark and the hotel is not well sign-posted from the main road so we had to pull into a petrol station and ask directions.  If we had arrived in the daytime, we probably would have seen the hotel sign, it’s just not lit at night.  It’s accessed on a back road around the corner so a bit tricky but this is what you are looking for.

The reception area looks clean and new and has some cool African art on display.

The room was a good size and nice to see bird art!  The wifi worked ok.

Just what you need after a long, dusty drive!

The next morning, we finally got a look at the hotel and grounds.  They have a security guard on duty and the property is fenced so we felt very safe.  Breakfast is included in the rates and served in the restaurant next to the hotel building.

This is more a business hotel than a tourist destination but it is a decent place to spend the night.  You can book online at their website.

Purple Roller (Coracias naevius)

The Purple Roller (Coracias naevius), or rufous-crowned roller, is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. Compared with other rollers its colours are rather dull and its voice rather harsh and grating.

They have a large range throughout southern Africa.  I saw this little guy in Etosha NP, Namibia.

LEARN MORE ABOUT PURPLE ROLLERS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Siyabona Africa

VIDEOS

I found a couple clips of this beautiful little bird!

Etosha National Park Part 2 – Afternoon

Continuing on from Part 1:  It’s lunch time and we have now arrived at Halali Rest Camp for a break to eat our packed sandwiches and have a look around, also use clean facilities!

It’s located 9kms down a side road.

We had a drive around first to suss it out and find the best picnic spot.

Plenty of tables here and you can drive right up to them!

Always nice to have a peek at the Tourist Shop!

Opening and closing times are always posted at each gate so we made note that we had to exit the park before 5:30pm.

Not much going on at this time.  This is a typical gravel road in the park.

Springbok

Spotted Thick-knee

African Grey Hornbill

Starling

Lilac-breasted Roller

We finally made it to Namutoni Rest Camp and decided to have a look and take advantage of the last facilities before the hotel.

The grounds are very nice here and since it was getting cooler by the time we got there some birds were out and active.

There’s a cool fort here but the shop was closed.

The museum was open, free to enter and had some interesting exhibits about the park.

Even the Go-Away Birds here are friendly and didn’t tell us to go away!  They get along with starlings too!

I missed the shot but interesting colour combination on this bird!

Getting close to 5pm and not wanting to miss the curfew, we drove on to the exit gate.

While I normally don’t approve of road-side bird sellers (meaning real birds), these ones are perfectly fine.  I even bought a few birds from one of these guys!

Headed down the road to Ondangwa where we would spend the night before continuing on to Kunene River Lodge.  Gorgeous sunset!

 

Shaft-tailed Whydah (Vidua regia)

The Shaft-tailed Whydah or Queen Whydah (Vidua regia) is a small, sparrow-like bird in the genus Vidua. During the breeding season the male has black crown and upper body plumage, golden breast and four elongated black tail shaft feathers with expanded tips. After the breeding season is over, the male sheds its long tail and grows olive brown female-like plumage.

They have a large range over much of southern Africa.  I saw several in Etosha NP, in Namibia, especially near Okakuejo Rest Camp.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SHAFT-TAILED WHYDAHS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Flax Photography

VIDEO

There weren’t many options for this beautiful and graceful bird on Youtube but I did find one!

 

Etosha National Park Part 1 – Morning

Etosha National Park is one of the highlights of any trip to Namibia, whether you are birders or not.  It’s very easy to explore the park on your own as the gravel roads are well-maintained, can be done in a sedan car and there are signposts at all intersections.

In the map below, I have highlighted our route for a day trip in yellow.  We entered at Anderson Gate, drove through via Okaukuejo, stopped at Halali for lunch, then continued on to Namutoni Gate to exit just before the park closed.

We were up at the crack of dawn to be the first ones inside the gate, an easy 10 minute drive from Eldorado Guest House & Camping.

First in line at Anderson Gate!

Once they opened, we were given a form to fill out and told to pay at the office in Okaukuejo.

Sunrise brought the birds out!

Okaukuejo Rest Camp is in a large complex with an office, restaurant, shops and all kinds of accommodation from tent spaces to cabins. 

Get this map & bird book at the gift shop. I’ll be using it to identify the birds below since we didn’t have a guide with us.

Get down to the watering hole as quickly as possible to catch the early birds and animals.

We saw a lot of these beautiful little birds – Shaft-tailed Whydahs.

These cabins are near the watering hole and there were quite a few tourists hanging out here.  We couldn’t get a room here as it was full and here was the evidence.

Cape Turtle Dove

Shaft-tailed Whydahs in flight.

Red-headed Finch

Sociable Weaver

Crimson-breasted Shrike

African Red-eyed Bulbul

Starling

Red-headed Finch

Crowned Lapwing

Oryx

Black-crowned Tchagra

Northern Black Korhaan

Blue Wildebeest

Fork-tailed Drongo

Purple Roller.

There actually isn’t a real toilet here, just pull up a bush!

Ostrich

Blue Crane

Kudu

Oryx Pied Crow

All this before lunch!  We turned off towards Halali Rest Camp to find a picnic area.

“Follow me to Halali!”

Lodge Review: Eldorado Guest House & Camping

If you can’t actually stay inside the park, this is the next best thing.  Eldorado Guest House & Camping is only 8 kms from the Anderson Gate so you can still be one of the first ones in Etosha NP.  It’s easy to find, just follow the signs.

When traveling in the bush, always leave a gate the same way you find it.

With the sun setting rapidly, we were trying to check in while we could still see the property.

Reception and restaurant area.

The garden is very nice.

This is our cabin, I just loved the stonework! 

The private BBQ on the patio.

The stonework was all through the room with a very cool bathroom feature.

For self-caterers, there is a microwave, kettle and fridge.

We didn’t get a chance to swim due to late arrival and early departure but they do have a very nice pool.

For the price we paid (using Orbitz 15% off coupon) this was an amazing bargain so check your online travel agent portals or you can book with them directly.  It’s a great place to stay and very convenient to Etosha NP!

The Namibian Road Trip Begins

As I mentioned before, the only practical way to see Namibia is with your own rental car.  In most cases, if you stick to the beaten paths you will be fine with a sedan car so that is what I booked with Hertz.  So when we arrived at WDH after the delay of the previous day, we were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to a Toyota Rav4!

As usual, we did the walk around inspection with photos.

And we were off and running!  It was nice to finally be able to drive ourselves, go at our own pace and do what we wanted!

The first part of the trip is from Windhoek to the border of Etosha NP, the blue dot just before Okaukuejo..

This was our grocery stop.  No, we did not buy any guns but I thought it was strange to see a gun shop right next to a supermarket!

Most of the trip is on the main highway which was in excellent condition although they did have some road works going on which made us slow down a bit.

We stopped in Outjo to top off the tank, it’s cheaper here than it would be in the park.

And then it was back on the road, headed to our first stop and making it just before sunset.

 

Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis)

The Fork-tailed Drongo, also called the Common Drongo, African Drongo, or Savanna drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis), is a species of drongo in the family Dicruridae, which are medium-sized passerine birds of the Old World. It is native to the tropics, subtropics and temperate zones of the Afrotropics.

This cheeky little bird is very common in Africa and you will see them just about everywhere!  These photos were taken in Namibia.  I have also seen them in Tanzania (everywhere) Kruger in South Africa and South Luangwa in Zambia.

LEARN MORE ABOUT FORK-TAILED DRONGOS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

National Geographic

Tech Times

VIDEOS

They start out innocent enough.

Some can be friendly.

Others not so much.

Still others are downright devious!

 

 

 

Planning A Birding Safari To Namibia

Namibia is a very user-friendly country with fantastic national parks and good roads so it is a great choice for a novice eco-tourist.  You can rent a car, drive yourself around or join a birding tour, whatever suits you best!  The parks here are much less crowded than those in South Africa but the wildlife is amazing!  Birders can look forward to seeking 706 species of which one is endemic.

Namibia’s gateway airport at Windhoek is very small and doesn’t have as many airlines as other safari destinations but careful planners can still use their miles to get here.    If you have limited time and finances you will really have to make some tough decisions on how many parks to visit. It really helps if you know what species are your priority. For some people this may be raptors or trying to check off all the endemics. For me it’s always parrots first, then songbirds, then other birds and mammals.

Rosy-faced (aka Peach-faced) Lovebird at Kunene River, Namibia

 

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

With so much on offer, you have to do lots of research online to find out your best chances of seeing the species you really want to see. I always check trip reports on Surfbirds and more recently added Cloudbirders to that. Xeno-canto has mapped locations where birders took sound clips of many species so that can pinpoint them even more.

I always check bird sightings on eBird, you can see my full guide on locating bird species .

I also look through trip reports by major birding companies such as Birdquest, VENT, Naturetrek, Rockjumper and more. The trip reports will show you which parks you need to concentrate on. Once you have this, you can start contacting birding tour operators or safari companies that are well-recommended for quotes.  If you are traveling on your own, it’s worthwhile to note when the birding groups will be in the area as they will have the best guides already reserved and you may not even find accommodation.

HOW I CHOSE MY ITINERARY

I had 2 definite target birds – Ruppell’s Parrot & Rosy-faced Lovebird.     My research revealed that the Lovebirds had a large range all over Namibia and were possible in Etosha NP, the Kunene River area near the Angola border and Omaruru area.  Ruppell’s Parrots were being reported at Huab Lodge.  Since I was prioritizing parrots knowing that plenty of other bird species would be in the same habitats I chose these locations:

ETOSHA NP:

Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis)

Plus it’s the major safari destination in Namibia!

KUNENE RIVER LODGE

Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis)

Slim chance for Cinderella Waxbill, a local speciality.

HUAB LODGE

Rüppell’s parrot, Poicephalus rueppellii

OMARURU AREA

Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis)

Here is a map showing the locations.

 

 

HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR OWN BIRDING SAFARI

A rental car is essential to visit the national parks in Namibia.  The public transport is very limited and only has buses between main cities and minivans linking smaller towns.  A few car rental firms to check are Hertz, Avis and Europcar.  Use coupon codes that can be found on Flyertalk to get the best deals.  In most cases, the roads (even gravel roads) are ok for sedan cars but in some cases you need at least an SUV if not a 4×4.  The road from Ruacana to Kunene River Lodge was hard for us in a Toyota Rav4 but we took it slow and made it.  A 4×4 would have no trouble at all, don’t try it in a sedan.

Doing a self-drive safari means you have to rely on your own bird spotting and identification skills.  I found an excellent book in the gift shop at Okakuejo Rest Camp in Etosha which has pictures of the most commonly seen birds and animals which was a huge help!  The book also has maps and helpful info, I’d say get one of these books straight away.

If you stay overnight in some national parks, check with the local rangers about guided day and night drives.

Namibia has many accommodation options for all budgets such as campgrounds, backpackers, budget motels and high-end luxury lodges.  As this report progresses you will see examples.  Before heading off to the bush, it’s best to stop at a supermarket in Windhoek to stock up on drinks, snacks and food for anything you plan to cook as it will be much cheaper.  Always top up the fuel when going through any reasonable sized town.

VISA FOR ZAMBIA

Good news, visitors from 52 countries do not need a visa to enter Namibia, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, and USA!

BEST SEASON TO TRAVEL

There’s a couple things to consider, the weather and potential crowds.  I always check the weather on Weather to Travel.  Namibian weather was a priority as I knew the places we were visiting would be difficult to reach if it were raining.  May is in the dry season and we enjoyed good weather throughout the trip.

 

If you have “must-see” bird species, always check eBird to make sure the birds are being seen that time of year by other birders.

OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES

NWR Resorts – this is where you book accommodation at the rest camps.  They fill up fast so you need to plan in advance.  I missed out as the camps (budget options) were full on our dates so we had to use alternatives which I will be explaining in detail.

BOTTOM LINE

Namibia is a great choice for both newbies and experienced birders as the infrastructure is so good for travelers.  Everyone speaks English, it’s a safe country, no malaria and you can do it on a budget!  There are wonderful birds and animals to be seen, Namibia never disappoints!