2 Jun 2008

Ongava Lodge

Peregrine's Bird Photographers Recommendations Well this time I am not recommending a bird photographer but my best friend Jeremy Pollard who is a documentary cinematographer and photographer.He has been nominated for a BAFTA in 2001 and an EMMY in 2002. He is looking to branch out from documentary work and more into photography. When he was making documentaries over the years he has always carried his camera with him and has just set up his website www.jjpollard.com I really like his portraits. We first met when we both lived on Martha's Vineyard in 1984.

We left the Erongo Wilderness Lodge fairly early in the morning for our final two nights in Namibia. We drove to our final and most expensive lodge of our trip. Ongava Lodge. This is situated along the southern boundary of Etosha National Park set in the privately owned Ongava Game Reserve. it was about a three hour drive from The Erongo Mountains. As we drove along there were a number Eagles and Birds of Prey sitting on the telegraph posts.

Tawny Eagle ( Aquila rapax)

Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus)

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk (Melierax canorus)

On arrival at Ongava we were met at the car parking area and were handed ice cold flannels to wipe the dust etc from our faces and then our luggage was taken to our chalet. At Ongava Lodge there are ten twin and double air conditioned chalets.They are pretty comfortable. When you arrive you climb up a small hill to the main open air lounge, bar and dining area which is under a thatch roof and has commanding views over the game reserve and a couple of floodlit waterholes immediately below.

As we were signing in the first thing I noticed was this Masked Weaver making a nest right beside the veranda. I was told it had already made two nests both of which had been rejected by the female and now it was working on its third!!!

Weaver on third nest with one of the rejects.

Female Southern Masked Weaver (The one causing all the grief!!!)

Male Southern Masked Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus)

After lunch Penny and I went to our chalet for a rest before going out in the evening in one of the lodge's Landrovers on a game drive. With the idea that we would go out the following day with them into the Etosha National Park.

We went out with another two couples who were more interested in the animals than the birds :-( However I did try and get the driver to slow down if I came across anything I hadnt seen.The first bird I saw was the African Grey Hornbill

African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus)
followed by Kori Bustard. As we were driving round the reserve we saw Red Hartebeest,


Springbok, Wildebeest, Warthog and a Black Rhino which had been imported into the reserve. The best animal to me was the family of Giraffes.

There were a number of African Palm Swifts flying about.They have thin wings and a diagnostic deeply forked tail.

African Palm Swift Cypsirius parvus

Nearby a Lilac Breasted Roller flew overhead and I spotted an African Hoopoe with the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen in its beak.

African Hoopoe Upupa africana

We were driving down a track and there was a real racket coming from the bush and it was being created by a
Swainson's Spurfowl Pternistes swainsonii

and I wasn't sure why until I saw this Eagle sitting in a dead tree.

I reckoned it was a Juvenile Hawk Eagle and when I returned home posted it on Birdforum to get more expert opinion.
Here is the LINK. it looks as though I am wrong and it is probably a Snake Eagle. It was being mobbed by a Long-Tailed Paradise-Whydah one of those birds with enormously long tails compared to their bodies.

Time was getting on and a sunset was beginning to appear with distant peals of thunder in the distance. Our driver decided it was time for our sundowner which had been pre ordered before the gamedrive. So Penny and I drank Gin and Tonics with a stunning sunset in the background with the black rhino very close to the vehicle.What really annoyed me on this gamedrive was the surprising lack of knowledge of the guide when it came to bird identification. At this point I decided that we would drive ourselves into Etosha and not take the Lodge tour.

We then made our way back to the Lodge where we had a reasonable meal the only downside was the staff hovered over the table and the moment you finished your plate it was whisked away before the other person had finished their course. This happenned on both nights we were there and I found it really tiresome.As we had drunk a reasonable amount of wine we decided to go to bed in order to get an early start the following morning to visit Etosha proper.