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GRAY'S LARKSOCIABLE WEAVER Namibian birds 46 Travel Namibia drive slowly, exploring the park's many waterholes. At Sueda a pair of blue crane and their fully- grown youngsters was the highlight. At Salvadora, on the pan's edge, a red- necked falcon orchestrated a tactical mid- air kill on a hapless Namaqua dove. Who needs a lion kill? The intimate Halali Camp, nestling beside a dolomite kopje in soothing mopane woodland, is famous for violet wood- hoopoe, and the camp security guards showed us a roosting white- faced owl too. We left Etosha through King Nehale Gate, and crossed the plains. Here springbok mingled with cattle belonging to the local tribesmen, and we found the spectacle in summer, when it supports more than 150,000 birds. Apart from the fl amingos, the mudfl ats are home to masses of pelicans, terns, grebes, plovers, gulls and migratory wader species. Even if you are not a birder, you cannot help being impressed by the numbers. The imposing dunes at the nearby settlement of Rooibank harboured another gem: dune lark. In the crisp morning air their rattling calls and distinctive tracks betray their presence. A walk on the southern side of the dry river course found us stumbling over a foraging group of these birds. After a whirlwind 48 hours in Walvis and Swakopmund we continued northwards, but not without several essential stops. Slightly anxious, we left Swakopmund early - we were in search of an illusive bird: the Herero chat. From the abandoned mining town of Uis we worked the dry, wooded drainage lines, and eventually found one. It was very shy and not anywhere as colourful as the traditional dress of Herero ladies. Perched unobtrusively in a shepherd's tree, the bird fl ew closer to us as if to reward us for all the hard work. Next, in the rocky mountain slopes north of the Brandberg, Namibia's highest mountain, we found the Benguela long-billed lark. This distinctive bird with a long, downward- curving bill is often located by its whistling call, likened to the sound of a falling bomb. In Damaraland the fl at- topped Etendeka Mountains and red- rocky plains dotted with welwitschias create a dramatic birding habitat. This is interrupted by the Huab and Aba- Huab Rivers - linear oases with beautiful specimens of camel thorns, ana trees and Salvadora bushes, home to some sought- after endemic birds and desert- adapted elephants. An early morning walk along the Aba- Huab started off fairly slowly, until we tried a whistled imitation of pearl- spotted owlet ( a diurnal owl species that often preys on small birds). This soon produced the goods and in no time we had Damara hornbill, the bizarre white- tailed shrike and a noisy fl ock of bare- cheeked babblers trying to fi nd the ' owl' in the tree above us. Walking on fresh elephant tracks, I felt like the late Dr Austin Roberts on one of his pioneering ornithological fi eld trips. Next up on our fast- paced ' twitch' was Etosha National Park which, apart from the abundant wildlife, offers superb birding. From Okaukeujo Camp, the drive towards the natural spring at Okondeka crosses vast fl at plains, and we spotted many different larks and the distinctive secretary bird. In Etosha, the key to success is to Wooden platform in Walvis Bay used to collect guano PALE CHANTING GOSHAWK

Travel Namibia 47 Walvis Bay Lagoon is one of the most valuable wetland sites along the west coast of Africa. This haven is a phenomenal spectacle in summer, when it supports more than 150,000 birds. Apart from the flamingos, the mudflats are home to masses of pelicans, terns, grebes, plovers, gulls and migratory wader species. Even if you are not a birder, you cannot help being impressed by the numbers beard. Their camp, situated right on the Kavango, is perfect for exploring the area. On a boat with Mark it is possible to see most of the Okavango specialities, yet it was the woodlands that were the most exciting. Here the birds move in mixed feeding flocks. Incredibly, we identified 30 species in minutes as the flock moved through. Mark even knows spots where you can find the rare Souza's shrike and elusive sharp- tailed starling. The Erongo Mountains near Omaruru were a fitting finale to our birding trip. Erongo Wilderness Lodge is set amid huge granite boulders, and one does not have to go far to find birds. At dawn, from our vantage point, the bird sounds were incredible. Hartlaub's spurfowl called raucously from the tops of boulders and the liquid song of the evocative rockrunner echoed around us. With a drink in hand, I quietly toasted Namibia's feathered jewels, just as rosy- faced lovebirds landed nearby. Lunch was promptly interrupted. Again. Birding Namibia certainly delivered - we amassed 367 bird species and countless memories that will stay with me long after the Namib dust has worked out of my trusty binoculars. When you next travel in Namibia, remember the birds. You might just become the next birding junkie. brackish wetland at Okashana. An artesian well burst here a few years ago and has flooded an area, to the delight of livestock, birds and wildlife. We were thrilled to find Caspian plovers here - another good addition to our ever- growing list In the far northeast of Namibia, the Caprivi Strip is a narrow stretch of land very different to the rest of the country - the Kavango River and the teak woodlands offer many mouth- watering bird specials. By chance we ended up at Shumvura Camp, owned by Mark and Charlie Paxton. This couple are certainly eccentric - the first time I met Mark, he had a speckled mousebird clinging to his