Thursday, 29 November 2012

Birdwatching in Namibia

I love to watch birds and other wildlife but I'm pretty incompetent so it always feels likely that there's an osprey twenty yards away flagrantly sitting on a branch and I've missed it. I'm happy to listen to blackbirds and to watch flocks of sparrows but what I love above all is to be somewhere that contains astonishing birds which are easy to see, where you don't have to look hard, and then they constitute a marker of the exotic. When you're floating along the Nile, the Nile kingfisher is simply there, pied black and white and hovering over the water. So in Namibia, which I visited recently, there were three different kinds of eagle which could be regularly seen and I saw thirty white-backed vultures circling over a road, and, in one place, flocks of rosy-cheeked lovebirds flaunting their astonishing colours. Even more amazing there was a lit pool, visible from a restaurant, which was visited in daylight by baboons and warthogs, and which at night was visited by a giant kudu with a broken horn and had a speckled nightjar swooping around it, the bird which was audible through the night making an incongruous yapping sound. At the same pool one night an eagle owl sat nonchalantly, not caring he was visible to twenty diners, or that a genet was prowling around, and apparently that powerful bird is quite common now even in the suburbs.