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Namibia West

Galton Gate to Anderson Gate

23rd September Etosha

As we had breakfast a pair of cheeky Damara hornbills came to peck around outside with clearly no fear of humans given how close they came. We paid our bill, luckily with credit card and set off to Galton Gate. On our way out of the concession we were pleased to spot both an owlet and a Lanner Falcon in the trees.
Damara Hornbills (Tockus damarensis) prefer Acacia woodlands in hilly areas with large trees, especially mopane. They are seen in pairs before breeding and are regular sun and dust bathers. Favourite roosts are in acacia and buffalo thorn trees, on branches close to the trunk. They live only in north-western Namibia; Etosha, Damaraland and Kaokoland, eating crickets, caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants/termites, beetles, scorpions, spiders and centipedes. Sand frogs and the flap-necked chameleon are eaten, but less often. These medium hornbills with black and white, with grey and brown plumages. Fledglings and eggs are preyed upon by monitor lizards, black-tailed tree rats, African hawk eagle and buzzards.
Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) are most frequently sighted in open grassland, singly or in pairs, often roosting from a prominent site such as a nest cliff. They have a rufous crown and nape, grey tail and flight feathers. The Latin biarmicus means 'two-armed' perhaps a reference to the notches on each side of the bill. They live throughout Namibia inc Namib Desert, Etosha, Kalahari Desert, Orange River and Fish River Canyon.
Pearl-Spotted Owlet (Glaucidium perlatum) can be observed over a wide range of bushveld and woodland habitats, especially with mopane trees. This species is a very small owl bereft of the normal 'ear' tufts. They have strong legs, feet and bills. Glaucidium is Greek 'a very small owl'. Perlatum is Latin 'wearing pearls'. It is widespread in northern and central Namibia inc Etosha, Windhoek, Skeleton Coast, hunting mainly at night for grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and small invertebrates such as rodents, bats, lizards, frogs, birds and snakes.

We entered the park as it opened the gates and went to pay the entrance fee (with the usual admin of fill in one form with details inc car reg, find a second place to fill in another form and pay, be provided with the rules):
N$ 150.00 per adult per day. N$ 50.00 per vehicle per day.
Gates at entry points and resorts are open sunrise to sunset. Gates must be reached before sunset, so travelling times between gates must be considered. Day visitors have to leave the Park before sunset.
The speed limit in the Park is 60 km per hour.
The following are strictly prohibited: plastic bags, drones, open vehicles, leaving indicated roads, leaving the vehicle, pellet guns, catapults, unsealed firearms, disturbance of game.
We promised not to take in an unsealed gun (!). Steve almost went to facetious comment, because how would we have managed this, but decided against it! However, the second place was useful as it had a small shop from which he bought a map and an animal identification booklet. Then, finally, we were off!
The name Etosha can have a few meanings; from Ndonga word meaning "Great White Place" referring to the Etosha pan, or "Place of Emptiness”(the salt pan), or "Lake of Mother's Tears” (the grief of a Hai//om mother when her infant died), or "run falteringly across" (the fatigue an early hunter felt attempting to cross the pan). The Hai//om called the pan Khubus which means "totally bare, white place with lots of dust". For most of the year a vast shallow pan, once a lake the size of Holland, shimmers a glaring bright white from crystallised salt across its entire surface. Surrounding the pans is a variety of grass and woodlands amongst which live a wonderful variety of animals and birds, insects and reptiles. The west end of the park is much less known and less frequented than the east end, so mostly we had the viewing all to ourselves.
For simplicity our route between waterholes (+ main animals seen) was :-
Miernes hornbill, birds
Aasvoelbad mountain zebra
Luiperskop giraffes, dove
Klippan jackal, springbok, red hartebeest
Rateldraf mountain and plains zebra (zebras can interbreed and the fact we saw them literally together suggests some at least would be crossbreds), wildebeest, springbok
Renostervlei falcon wildebeest, white-browed robin-chat,
Jakkalswater/ Duikerdrink impala, duiker, jackal (who loped in front of the car, careless to us, for a good km or more)
back to Dolomite camp
Dolomietpunt wildebeest, mountain zebra, ostrich, giraffe
Duineveld mountain zebra, hornbill, guinea fowl (in a large flock with a lot of babies and a lot of noise)
Nomab kori bustanrd, heron, mountain zebra, impala, springbok, giraffe, oryx, red hartebeest, ostrich
Olifantsrus waterhole and camp (for a picnic lunch) pied crow, goshawk, red hartebeest, wildebeest. A sad place as it is named after an elephant massacre there.
Tobiroen plains zebra, giraffe, blacksmith lapwing,
Teespod ostrich, plains zebra, dik-dik
Bitterwater antelope, lions (3 females with cubs under a shady wooded area found by ourselves!), oryx, giraffe, ostrich
Duiwelsvuur termites, oryx, plains zebra
Sonderkop ostrich, wildebeest, antelope
Arendsnes oryx, ostrich, impala,
Grunevald ground squirrel, vulture

Etosha has dozens of waterholes, some natural, others fed from boreholes. During the dry season, staking out a position at a waterhole viewpoint is a rewarding way to watch game without moving from one spot. A veritable 'Noah's Ark' of species queue up to take a drink! Game such as zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, springbok, impala and eland abound in great numbers on the grasslands and congregate at waterholes in the dry season. Herds of fifty elephants are not unusual and often walk right down the middle of the road giving an incredibly close and thrilling encounter. Lions and hyenas must be searched for, but silver-backed jackals trot around almost oblivious.
IMG_6725.JPGWhite-browed Robin-chat
The oryx, upon which the mythical unicorn must be based, will certainly be seen here along with the impressive curly horned kudu. Etosha contains endangered black rhino and unusual species like the black faced impala, a larger and darker subspecies found only in southwest Angola/ northwest Namibia. Etosha birdlife is absolutely wonderful with every kind of feathered friend.
Red-Billed Hornbills (Tockus erythrorhynchus) are territorial birds, usually seen in pairs or small family groups. They spend much time running around on the ground and are dust and sunbathers. These hornbills roost in trees close to the trunk or a large branch. Predators include Martial, Tawny and Wahlberg's eagles and Lanner Falcon. Their main areas are in northern Namibia including Etosha. They eat small insects such as beetles, termites/ ants, grasshoppers, centipedes and scorpions. These larger hornbills have slightly longer de-curved red bills and typical plumage, both males and females. Often confused with the southern yellow-billed hornbill which has similar plumage and calls but a broader yellow bill (not red). Nest damage by elephants is a major cause of chick starvation.
Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) is named after mythical Greek hero Meleager. Their preferred habitat range is wide and includes open-country terrain from sub-desert to forest fringes, bases of mountains and in savannah maize and wheat growing regions. Other natural habitats include along rivers and around wetlands and will venture into parks and gardens as well as agricultural areas. Predators include most eagles. They are widespread and abundant throughout the country and especially common from Windhoek north to Etosha. At times they are mostly vegetarian and feed on underground bulbs and stems of plants, grass and other abundant seeds. Helmeted guineafowls have characteristic heads, topped with a distinctive bony ridge. They have short wings and rounded spurless legs. The loud, cackling voice is a give away to their presence and the noise is aggravated when food is in abundance and they form large flocks.

Miernes hornbill, birds; Aasvoelbad mountain zebra, impala; from Galton Gate to Miernes; Miernes waterhole (above); Aasvoeld waterhole (below)

Black-Backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas) gets its name from the broad, dark saddle on the upper parts of the body. Although an efficient hunter, it relies heavily on scavenging. It is common for shoes left outside bungalows in Etosha to go missing in the night and jackals are the culprits. Jackals are common throughout Namibia, including the Namib Desert. Carrion is high on the menu, but they also survive on insects, birds, rodents and occasionally small antelope. They can kill the young of sheep and goats. Features that set it aside from its close relative, the side-striped jackal are its black, bushy tail and reddish flanks and limbs. Black-backed jackals are one of the few mammals that have long-term bonds. Females litter in holes with two entrances. Both males and females take part in rearing and feeding the young.

Zebra (subgenus Hippotigris) are African equines with distinctive black-and-white striped coats. There are three species: Grévy's (Equus grevyi), plains (E. quagga), and mountain zebra (E. zebra). Zebras share the genus Equus with horses and asses. Zebra stripes come in different patterns, unique to each individual. Zebras inhabit southern Africa in a variety of habitats inc savannah, grassland, shrub, and mountainous areas. Zebra species differ in social behaviour, with plains and mountain zebra living in harems of a stallion, several mares, and their foals. Zebras communicate with various vocalisations, body postures and facial expressions. Social grooming strengthens social bonds in plains and mountain zebras. The IUCN lists mountain zebra as vulnerable and plains zebra as near-threatened. The quagga (E. quagga quagga), a plains zebra, was driven to extinction in the 19th century.The English "zebra" is from Portuguese ezebro, derived from Latin equiferus, wild horse. In 1591, Italian explorer Pigafetta recorded "zebra" referring to the African animals by Portuguese visitors. Zebra was called hippotigris (horse tiger) by the Greeks and Romans. Equus originated in mid Pleistocene North America with 4 mya for the most recent common ancestor. Horses split from asses and zebra around this time and colonised Eurasia and Africa 2.1–3.4 mya. Zebra and ass diverged from each other 2 mya. The mountain zebra diverged from the other species around 1.6 mya. Hybridisation has been recorded between plains and mountain zebra, though it is possible these are infertile due to the difference in chromosome numbers between the two. The stripes function hypotheses include the following:
- crypsis hypothesis- stripes allow it to blend in with its environment or break its outline from predators. Stripes were well suited for camouflage in tall grass and woodland. However, zebra graze in the open and are noisy. They do not freeze when detecting a predator, and lions and hyenas do not perceive the stripes, making them useless. Unlike tiger stripes, the spaces of zebra stripes do not line up with their environment.
confusion hypothesis- it is harder to distinguish individuals or numbers in a group, reducing a predator's ability to keep track of a target during a chase. However, lions have no difficulty targeting and catching zebras when they get close and take them by ambush
aposematic hypothesis- stripes serve as warning colouration. However they are frequently preyed on by lions, suggesting that stripes do not work on them. They also do not possess adequate defences to back up the warning pattern.
- social function hypothesis- stripes serve individual recognition, social bonding, mutual grooming or a signal of fitness.
thermoregulatory hypothesis- stripes help control body temperature. There is evidence to both support and refute this.
- fly protection hypothesis- stripes deter blood-sucking flies. Horse flies, in particular, spread diseases lethal to equines such as African horse sickness, equine influenza, equine infectious anemia and trypanosomiasis. Zebra hair is as long as the mouthparts of these flies. Flies prefer landing on solidly coloured surfaces over those with black-and-white striped patterns. However, the width of stripes does not affect their ability to repel flies; thus the difference in patterns between species may have evolved for difference reasons
Hartmann's mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae) is a subspecies of the mountain zebra found in far south Angola and western Namibia, easily distinguished from other zebra species by its dewlap as well as the lack of stripes on its belly. They are agile climbers and are able to live in arid conditions and steep mountainous country. Hartmann's mountain zebras prefer to live in small groups ranging from 3 to 12. Herds will either be a breeding herd comprising one stallion and several mares or a bachelor group of young males. Young males are sent away at 2 years and may become the stallion of their own herd in as little as 5 years. When two breeding herds come into contact with one another each stallion will engage in an elaborate posturing ritual. Hartmann’s Mountain zebra engage in a unique dust bathing behaviour which creates a persistent depression known as a rolling pit; these provide a favourable microsite for native vegetation, leading to denser growth. Hartmann's mountain zebras have a defining dewlap hanging from their throat and they are striped all the way down to their hooves with white bellies, whereas other mountain zebra species only have stripes down to their knees and lack the completely white belly. It has been argued that Hartmann's mountain zebra should be considered a separate species from the Cape mountain zebra, but this is not supported by genetic evidence. Mountain zebras do not aggregate into large herds like plains zebras; they form small family groups.

large_IMG_6806.JPGlarge_IMG_6803.JPGBurchell’s Plains Zebra (Equus burchelli) is a horse-family herbivore named after traveller and naturalist, W.J. Burchell. They inhabit savannah, from treeless grasslands to open woodlands. Zebras stay in family groups of a stallion and several mares, but different families will come together in huge herds of hundreds. They are distinguished from Hartmann's mountain zebra by: yellowish or greyish shadow stripes between the black on the hind quarters, a lack of 'gridiron' pattern on the top of the hind quarters and the absence of dewlap (loose fold of skin hanging under the throat). Each zebra has an individual stripe pattern and no two are alike. Herds mingle with wildebeest, ostrich and antelope while they graze and even come to depend on them as additional protection against predators! The herd runs away at the pace of the slowest animal, followed by the herd stallion at the back. Backwards kicking zebras can kill a lion. Zebras are the second most common animal in Etosha with numbers c20,000. They can also be found throughout Namibia. Zebras are predominantly grazers on grass, leaves, bark, roots and stems, but occasionally browse on herbs. The characteristic coat of the zebra make them easily identifiable; broad black stripes on an off-white body, with shadow stripes superimposed on the off-white stripes. The stripes extend down the underparts. The mane is short, erect and bristle-like. A single foal can be born at any time of the year. For future recognition, the mare positions herself between the foal and the rest of the herd as it studies her stripes. This is done straight after birth. High mortality rates within the first year are caused by lion and spotted hyena predation, disease and accidents.
grasslands from Aasvoeld to Luiperskop
Luiperskop above and below
Blacksmith Lapwings (Vanellus armatus) can be found in a wide range of habitats that sport moist, short grassland and mudflats around lakes, rivers, salt pans, estuaries, road verges, airports and sports fields. A noisy bird, they will think nothing of flying up to challenge raptors. Bathes regularly by wading into deep water. Widespread throughout Namibia inc Etosha, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, it eats small aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates such as molluscs, worms, insects and crustaceans. Armatus refers to their carpal spurs. Colour includes a black head with a white forehead and neck. 1- 4 eggs are laid in a nest, close to water, in a hollow in the ground such as a hoof-print, lined with vegetation.
Crowned Lapwings (Vanellus coronatus) venture into mainly dry, open grassland often adapted by man such as pastures, airports, golf courses, sports fields and road sides. Occasionally they will congregate in flocks of up to 100 although smaller groups of up to 5 are more common. Distribution: Common throughout Namibia it eats mainly termites although will take ants, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders and millipedes. Coronatus is Latin for 'crowned' which refers to the black breast band which contrasts to the white lower breast and belly. Often confused with the black-winged lapwing which is darker brown above and lacks the distinctive breast band. Predators include the secretary bird, crowned hornbill and bateleur as well as snakes, herons, rats and vervet monkey.
Luiperskop to Klippan (below); Klippan waterhole
Rateldraf waterhole and between Rateldraf to Renostervlei
Klippan jackal, springbok, red hartebeest, dove, kori bustard, heron
Rateldraf mountain and plains zebra (zebras can interbreed and the fact we saw them literally together suggests some at least would be crossbreds), wildebeest, springbok

Kori Bustards (Ardeotis kori) frequent fairly dry, open savannah, some grassland areas and shrublands with water that can provide some shade and cover when disturbed. Common in sandy soil associated with Kalahari Desert. They are usually observed singly or in groups. Very large bustards with crested heads. They have black bellies and their rufous crests are only visible 'on display'. Kori is taken from the Tswana name for the bird 'Kgôri'. Ardeotis is Greek for 'heron bustard’. Distribution: Common throughout Namibia especially the waterholes of Etosha, it feeds by walking and pecking on the ground or in trees and low bushes for locusts, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, termites, scorpions, snakes, birds' eggs, lizards and chameleons, small rodents and carrion. The largest flighted bird of Africa it weighs 12kg and has a wingspan of 2.5m.
Grey Herons (Ardea cinera) inhabit estuaries, rivers, lakes, marshes, lagoons and other suitable shallow water bodies. They are solitary birds, active both day and night, often standing still for long periods. Trees and cliffs are favoured roosting sites. Widespread throughout Namibia it is found in Etosha, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, Sandwich Harbour, Orange River, Fish River Canyon. It stands and waits or hunts in shallow water for fish, amphibians, insects, birds, reptiles and small rodents. Ardea is Latin for 'heron' and cinera for 'grey'.
between Renostervlei and Jakkalswater; on the way to Jakkalswater
Renostervlei falcon wildebeest, white-browed robin-chat, Jakkalswater/ Duikerdrink impala, duiker, lapwing, jackal back to Dolomite camp [Steve
Jakkalswater waterhole
Dolomietpunt wildebeest, mountain zebra, ostrich, giraffe Duineveld mountain zebra, hornbill, oryx
Dolomietpunt waterhole; from Dolomietpunt to Duineveld; Duineveld (below)
Duineveld waterhole (above), Nomab waterhole (below left), Olifantsrus (below right)
Nomab mountain zebra, impala, springbok, giraffe, oryx, red hartebeest, ostrich, wildebeest
Olifantsrus waterhole and camp (for a picnic lunch) pied crow, goshawk, red hartebeest, wildebeest. A sad place as it is named after an elephant massacre there
Pied Crows (Corvus albus) are closely associated with human settlements as well as open savannah woodland, shrubland, farmlands and urban type habitats. They are usually in pairs or small flocks, roosting in trees and on buildings in large numbers. Common except in the Kalahari Desert it forages on the ground around the base of shrubs for plant material, fruits and grain. Invertebrates such as locusts, beetles and molluscs as well as some vertebrates such as fish, birds, birds' eggs, lizards and small mammals are taken. along with reptiles such as the puff adder, short-snouted grass snake and tree agamas. It has a glossy black, except for a white breast which extends into a broad white collar. Like most crows, it has a harsh voice when foraging.
Damara dik-dik (Madoqua kirki) lives in central-north Namibia, Waterberg, Etosha and Kaokoland. It is Namibia's smallest antelope; easily identified from steenbok by its much smaller size. It is adapted to arid areas and prefers a mixture of bushes and spare grassland cover. Damara dik-diks are particularly common in Etosha, and will often sit motionless beside the road whilst they are passed by without being seen. They are active during the cooler hours of the day as well as the night and almost exclusively browsers. The Damara dik-dik is a protected species in Namibia. Although regularly seen alone, they mate for life. They are very territorial and should competition be too stiff, will move to a new territory. Their proboscis nose can be moved in any direction to scent for specific food sources. Their hooves have well-developed black rubbery pads that act as a shock absorbers when their feet strike the hard ground, a feature of the terrain they habit, mainly dense woodland and thick scrub. Despite their name, they are not found in the Damaraland region of Namibia. They are predominately browsers and because they are so small, they need to eat the most nutritious part of a plant; leaves, pods, flowers and occasionally sprouting grass. Although they are independent of drinking water, they will drink from puddles when it is available. The upper parts of the body are yellowish-grey in colour while neck, shoulders and sides are browner. The chest and underparts are light compared to the rest of the body. The mother gives birth to one young a year after a gestation period of 6 months, which coincides with the rainy season Dec- Apr, which gives nursing mothers the advantage of plentiful food. Average size; 40cm, weight 5kg. Males carry spike-like horns.
Tobiroen waterhole (above); Teespod (below)
Bitterwater antelope, lions (3 females with cubs under a shady wooded area found by ourselves!), oryx, giraffe, ostrich
Bitterwater and Bitterwater to Duiwelsvuur
Duiwelsvuur termites, oryx, plains zebra
Sonderkop ostrich, wildebeest, antelope
Arendsnes oryx, ostrich, impala
Duiwelsvuur; Sonderkop; Arendsnes waterhole
Grunevald ground squirrel, vulture
The roads were pretty awful as we headed further east and the scenery changed from low shrub and scrub to grassy savanna and finally to more dusty open land. As it was the dry season the wildlife clustered around the waterholes, giving us plenty of viewing opportunities. We finally left the park at Anderson Gate (same admin to leave as we had to formally check out; also our last chance for petrol) and made the short drive to Overland Lodge.
Tobiroen plains zebra, giraffe, blacksmith lapwing
Teespod ostrich, plains zebra, dik-dik

Posted by PetersF 12:53 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals birds zebra namibia antelope lion giraffe springbok etosha hornbill weavers hobatere

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