1 Apr 2008

Finally Catch up with the Dune Lark a Namibian Endemic on a Stunning Morning.

Peregrine's Bird Photographer Recommendations

When I first embarked on Bird Photography I was constantly looking at lenses and the one I thought would be ideal was the Sigma 300-800. Sadly too expensive and even now I am not sure whether I would really like it as it doesn't have image stabilisation. A Canon 500 f4 I think would be a better option using converters when necessary. However there were two Bird Photographers whose work with the Sigma 300-800 that I was really impressed with. Firstly a rarity in the Bird Photography World a lady by the name of Sue Tranter , who is from England and her website can be found Here. The other was a Phillipino Bird Photographer called Romy Ocon who incidentally is colour blind not that you would know it from his photography Here. and his BlogHere. I have recommended him for the Photographer’s Award for Lifetime Commitment to Wildlife Photography. This is a new category in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year
"This award will be given to the photographer whose work and commitment to wildlife photography is considered worthy of commendation. This can either be through the sheer power and beauty of their imagery or the positive impact the imagery has made. All entrants can nominate candidates for this award."

Tuesday 26th February

I got up at 5.30 and headed the thirty minutes to the gate at Sesriem.
I was only a few cars back from the gate and only had to wait for about ten minutes. I had read in Southern African Birdfinder where to look for the Dune Lark and it mentioned stopping at a place to look for Dune Lark.(I have to say I really do recommend this book it is absolutely excellent) I got to the site and photographed my shadow first of all as it was so long.
Then a shot of the contrast between the sky and the dunes.
I then started to look, initially with no luck, until two landed down in front of me. I followed them and tried to take photos.

Feeling quite pleased with myself for having seen this endemic bird I headed further into the park in the hope that I would see the Namaqua Sand Grouse again. The first thing I came across was this lone Oryx or Gemsbok as they are known locally. They really are a magnificent animal. The Oryx has adapted wonderfully to the Desert environment. They can go for weeks without water; They tend to feed at night when the moisture content of the vegetation is higher.Their bodies retain so much moisture that when they urinate it is like treacle. In the evenings they go and stand on top of dunes to pick up the evening breezes and sometimes will run to cool down.

On the other side of the road was this Pied Crow in a nest.

I then set up my tripod to take some more photos of the dunes
and while doing so a flock of sandgrouse flew overhead and then landed a few hundred yards in front of me. I walked very slowly towards them but they were very wary and took off again.

Penny was going for a ride back at the Desert Homestead and I had promised that I would be back by 12.00 in order that we could move onto our next destination and as time was disappearing fast I headed back to the gate and made a quick stop at a dried out riverbed which had a lot of trees alongside. It was to be a fruitful stop. The first bird I saw was an Ostrich walking along the riverbed.Then I saw a Swallow Tailed Bee Eater which is much smaller than the European one. It was flying out from a tree catching flies and returning to its perch.

Much of this trip I have been photographing birds as soon as I see them and after look at them through the binoculars and then later when I download them onto my laptop I can ID them with the help of my SASOL Birds of South Africa. I also saw a Chestnut-Vented-Tit-Babbler, an Acacia Pied Barbet, Rock Dove, Namaqua Dove, a number of Cape Sparrows and a Pale Chanting Goshawk and this Dusky Sunbird which had been singing.

I had spent quite a lot of time here and was annoyed with the time pressure I was under as I was really enjoying my birding.As I got back into the car I saw the moon on top of this tree.

I then headed back to the Desert Homestead and found Penny had had a good ride and met up with another snake this time a non poisonous one!!
This is the Desert Homestead.

We packed paid and headed off to Walvis Bay a five hour journey. We stopped to refuel at Solitaire
and had another sandwich and a massive slice of apple pie which they are well known for plus a couple of soft drinks. This came to about £3 cost for both of us. This country is very cheap for eating out.

It was a long and hot drive and we drove through amazing scenery yet again.We also saw our first Kudu.

The real desert was fairly bleak
and we covered about a 120 kilometres without seeing another vehicle. Then two brand new Mercedes drove past us at very high speed and we thought it must have been some government minister. It wasn’t until we got to our hotel in Walvis Bay that we realized that Mercedes were doing desert testing of their new vehicles. There were about twenty vehicles in the car park some all blacked out and most with covers on.

We checked in to our hotel The Pelican Bay Hotel. It was right on the lagoon.
We then headed out for a bar snack in the Raft restaurant. It was a real treat and we had a fish course which was absolutely excellent. 2 Pints of lager, a bottle of wine , 2 starters and 2 mains came to £18 / $34. We decided there and then to return the following night. The evening was made even better, as the restaurant is built on stilts and sits out over the lagoon, watching the sunset with the Flamingos and Pelicans flying off to their roosts.


Gallicissa said...

Those dune shots and thier composition are first class!

Chrisss said...

Hi Just discovered your blog and it's very informative. Will be sure to vist again.

Mike said...

This trip sounds fantastic. Love your photos!

wolf21m said...

Excellent photos. It looks like a great trip. I am no expert on lens. I use a Canon IS 100-400mm f4.5-5.6. Having used it for one year, my order of priority is as follows:
1. Image Stabilization. Greatly increases quality in hand held situations.
2. f-stops. f5.6 is just not enough in most lighting situations.
3. Additional zoom.
Thanks for a great post.

Vernon said...

I couldn't help but correct some of the info about Orxy. Firstly, Gemsbok is the Southern Oryx. There are several other kinds of Orxy further up in Africa and Arabia.

Oryx do have amazing adaptations to living in the desert. They can not only go for weeks without water, they can go for years without water. We observed the Oryx at Sossusvlei through the period from August 2001 until June 2004 when there were no puddles of water at all at Sossusvlei. And several Oryx remained in the area throughout that time. They could occasionally like fog moisture, and there were some drizzles of rain. But they certainly didn't have a drink of water.

Their urine is more concentrated than ours, but not enough that they become like treacle. The Cape Ground Squirrel, also found in this area comes much closer.

Oryx can, when heat stressed, let go of their body temperature control. Then they climb a dune ridge or hill to cool down (or sweat fast.) Sometimes this is referred to as 'thermal dumping.' They don't run down to cool off. Running heats up and animals body very much. They may run down the dune, but it has nothing to do with keeping cool.

Anyway, great blog and I will keep reading it. Would love to know what birds you saw in Walvis Bay.