Despite having drawn an almost complete blank at the waterhole the previous evening I was up and out of bed and sat ready and waiting at around 6.45. It was a grey, miserable morning and still very damp after the previous night's rain.
In an hour of watching nothing came to drink and the only mammal that I saw was a grey rat that came and sat on the floor about one metre away from my bench. Pretty little thing, I think probably an Acacia Rat. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera for a confirmation shot until I returned to the room to get one once the light improved.
The damp atmosphere had no doubt brought about an insect fest. The birds were very active at this early hour and there were a couple of new ones too.
Southern White-crowned Shrike
There seemed to be a family gathering.
And it wasn't just insects they were interested in either. Anything that caught their attention.
A very loud calling bird in a nearby tree gave me the run around. Constantly on the move but always well obscured I had both the movement and poor light to contend with but I did get enough to confirm the ID after some searching in my reference book.
Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, another lifer! This one wasn't but at last an opportunity for a clear shot.
I don't like man made material in my shots but hey, beggars can't be choosers!
There's a huge Sociable Weaver nest on a tree by the waterhole viewing area and they were out gathering material at an early hour.
The light was getting better and despite it being dull, it's easier to cope with than brilliant sunshine.
Claire had by now come to see what I'd got, and was armed with her iPad.
I had packed a camera and lens especially for her but she seemed to prefer the iPad and iPhone. In fairness they take excellent photos and do tricks a DSLR can't!
This was the shot she took.
By now it was time for breakfast so off we went wondering what would await us after the simply awful meal the night before. In fairness it wasn't bad at all. Self-service as was dinner, they had a decent choice and despite standing at the egg cooking station for several minutes before someone decided to do something about serving me the omelettes they produced were very good indeed but that might be because I was involved in cooking them ! Strangely, the pre-beaten egg was put on the hot plate and then I had to pick the fillings and put it on the egg. Never had that happen before but my omelette was well loaded with cheese as a result. Yum,yum!
The weather didn't look like any improvement was likely so Claire opted to come with me once again taking the wheel to leave me free for photography sitting in the back of the car.
We headed out towards Halali camp to explore some new ground beyond where I'd visited from Etosha Village previously. We did opt in to Nebrownii waterhole as it is right on the edge of the road we were travelling.
We got some close up views of Pied Crow
and a quick check showed the Blue Crane were still there but we didn't hang too long around as I had spent lots of time there previously. What we did notice as we drove along was the total lack of mammals, even the Springbok seemed to have disappeared.
I already knew that the waterholes at Sueda,Salvadora and Charitraub would be empty so I wouldn't be disappointed when we got there!
Bird wise though it turned in to a cracking day!
Despite being very common I hadn't taken a shot of a Fork-tailed Drongo yet so I decided I'd make an effort today.
I also determined to try on improve on Lesser Grey Shrike
and Common Fiscal but both are extremely uncooperative taking flight immediately you stop the car, if not before even.
For me of course it was an interesting challenge but for Claire it was a case of responding to my requests of stop! forward a bit, backward a bit, etc,etc. In fairness she put up with it not just all day then but for many days during the trip. I'm very lucky to have such a wonderful partner in life.
The Photographers Guide said the detour road was a definite must, possibility of Cheetah amongst others. No way was our luck in for them but it proved to be an outstanding birding spot on an open grassland area that backs on to the Pan.
We came across a Kestrel sat very close to the road and this I was sure wasn't Greater Kestrel either.
Looking around there were lots of them all sat at varying distances and some showed quite clearly I was looking at Lesser Kestrel.
I have only ever had one possible sighting that I can recall in the past so this was special.
Some were very distant. others not quite so much so.
This one was eating what I think was a dragonfly or similar.
Today I was very pleased I'd decided to bring my 600mm lens because I was also using the 7D and my 2.0x teleconverter with it too. Because the light was poor you don't get the contrast but you don't get the effect of heat haze either.
Way in the distance, perhaps as far as 200m There was one Kestrel that wasn't !
I am now convinced it's Red-footed Falcon not as I suspected Red-necked.
The Red-footed is uncommon in Namibia hence my doubt but I have seen them in Hungary in the past.
and they looked just like this!
Another good sighting was the only African Harrier-hawk of the trip too. Again, a long way off so my camera combination paid off again.
We got to the end of the detour road but decided to head back again, this time to check outage Rietfontein waterhole.
Along the route we had picked up African Grey Hornbill
what I'm sure is juvenile Large-billed lark
and this Haven't Got a Clue Bird.
Actually I have an inkling it's a juvenile Robin but I can't see anything vaguely similar in my reference book.
At the waterhole we picked up Red-headed Finch
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
and a Whydah
We also spotted another pair of Blue Crane somewhere along the route and they had successfully produced two young.
and what had been really noticeable were the numbers of European Bee-eaters that were along the pan road.
All in all a very good morning as far as I was concerned. Not so much for Claire of course but the light suited me, especially for contrasting birds like the Blacksmith Plover.
Anyway, Claire suggested we head back to base for the time being and I was more than happy to go along with her request.
We had a plan to implement!
We had decided that there was no way we were eating at the camp restaurant again. Quite simply a waste of money.
We would self cater!!
Now the Waterhole Chalets, despite being more expensive , don't have a Braai or BBQ as it's know elsewhere. We had spotted communal ones though out near the restaurant the previous evening. We'd spoken to the ladies who were enjoying a nice dinner and had been envious!
First stop on our return to base was the camp supermarket to see what was on offer but that was very disappointing indeed.
Beware! If you intend self catering take your own food from outside the NP. The camp shops are really poorly stocked. It was lunch time but when we looked the options were so limited we decided on sandwiches! We were fortunate to buy the last loaf of bread, the last packet of margarine ( no butter) one of only a couple of packs of sliced spam like meat and a packet of cashew nuts. They had frozen meat and sausages but no vegetables. Tinned offerings were next to nothing but the good news was they had lots of beer and potato crisps! We decided to forget the Braai as it might rain and that involved possibly having to buy wood and lighting materials and it was too complicated just to cook a sausage ring. No, crisp butties it would be then!
Having taken this back to the room we later headed off for an afternoon run out, this time returning westwards to Leeubron Waterhole, as yet unvisited, which was at least occupied when we got there. Quite a few Zebra! However, I was now thinking Lion, must see! Okondeka had been very productive for others in the past. This was my last chance to visit before heading east in the morning. We'd leave it a bit later and chance our luck.
Well we had some luck on the way, that's for sure.
Best views yet of Double-banded Sandgrouse .
and the Courser too
The drier terrain in this area obviously suits some better than others.
Capped Wheatear .
but alas, there were no Lion to be seen, we made do with another Jackal.
A cute and inquisitive youngster.
Dinner was there to be had, several Wildebeest were at the waterhole area.
But no hungry predators. Well, not today anyway. The signs were there though , lots of sun bleached bones were some unfortunates had met their fate back in the past.
Oh, well, never mind. We were hungry so we headed back to the camp for a picnic by the waterhole.
The sun was shining through now, that at least lifted the spirits and made the Starling by our door look stunning.
Sitting on our bench nibbling our cashew nuts ( did they really cost £8 for 200 gms or had there been a mistake?!) waiting and watching we really enjoyed our crisp and spam sandwiches washed down with cold beers.
Shame the waterhole was completely deserted all evening!