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The Walvis Bay Ramsar Site is regarded as the most important coastal wetland in southern Africa, not only for the large numbers of resident species found here, but particularly for the vast numbers of both intra-African and Palaearctic migrants. It is renowned for the large numbers of both Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, and has been listed by RAMSAR as a Natural heritage site. Although there are many rare and special species, it's the sheer number and diversity, especially of visiting migrants, that is a major attraction. Black-necked Grebe can be observed in rafts of up to 800 individuals, and at times thousands of migratory terns are encountered. The best time to visit the area is between October and April. Damara Tern, Chestnut-banded Plover, Black Tern, Red-necked Phalarope and Black-tailed Godwit may usually be seen.



Dune Lark, Damara Tern, Chestnut-banded Plover, Black-necked Grebe, Black Tern, Lesser Sand Plover, Common Redshank, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Phalarope, Eurasian Curlew, Pectoral Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper. The more rare vagrants include American Golden Plover and Pacific Golden Plover, Broad-billed Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Wilson's Phalarope, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Franklin's Gull, Common Black-headed Gull, Subantarctic Skua, Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger.



Habitats include the Walvis Bay tidal lagoon, a sewage works wetland, the Walvis Bay Salt Refineries with their extensive evaporation pans, the Kuiseb dry river bed and dune area, and the open ocean and shoreline, in particular between Dolphin Park and Bird Island.



1. The Walvis Bay Ramsar Site supports major populations of migratory waders including Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Ruff, Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Greenshank and many more. Some of the more unusual species, which are seen fairly regularly, are Terek Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit and Red-necked Phalarope. The more rare vagrants include Broad-billed Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper. Because of the expanse of the lagoon most birding should be done on foot, keeping to the promenade or road and preferably with an incoming or outgoing tide. Damara Terns can usually be seen feeding over the lagoon, or roosting on the sand banks.

2. The Bird Sanctuary is a series of ponds formed by the out-fall from the sewage works. The sanctuary has resident Southern Pochard, Hottentot Teal, Cape Shoveler, Cape Teal, African Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Common Waxbill and African Reed-Warbler. Other species such as Great White Pelican, Hartlaub's Gull, Grey-headed Gull and Kelp Gull often arrive here to bathe in the "fresh" water. Little Bittern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Purple Heron are unusual, and Franklin's Gull and Common Black-headed Gull have also been recorded here on a few occasions. One can expect to see 30 to 40 species at this locality.

3. The Salt Pans, of the Walvis Bay Salt Refiners, are a vast area populated mainly by resident and African migrants such as Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, Black-necked Grebe, Chestnut-banded Plover, Cape Teal and Black-winged Stilt etc. Red-necked Phalarope may be seen on the way to Paaltjies throughout the year. Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Oystercatcher and Common Redshank may be seen during the summer at the oyster beds, although some may over-winter. Many of the commoner Palaearctics may be seen along these 2 routes.

4. Sea birds such as White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Pomarine Jaeger, Subantarctic Skua and Parasitic Jaeger are often seen from the shore. There are boat trips organised by Mola Mola, Levo, Catamaran Charters and Aquanaut Tours, which go out to sea beyond Pelican Point. The best time is during the months of January, February and March, when Cory's Shearwater, European Storm-Petrel, Southern Giant-Petrel and many other species may be seen.

5. The Rooibank area with the Kuiseb river bed, Nara hummocks and sand dunes is home to the true endemic of Namibia; the Dune Lark. These can best be searched for between the hummocks and tussocks at the base of the main dunes on the southern bank. Other species found here include Dusky Sunbird, Grey-backed Cisticola, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Great Sparrow, White-backed Mousebird, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Jackal Buzzard and Spotted Eagle-Owl amongst many others.

6. The coast from the Guano platform, about 9 km North of Walvis, to Dolphin Park can be rewarding. Here White-breasted Cormorant, Great White Pelican and the Crowned Cormorant may be seen along this rocky coastline. The Bird Island is one of the places on the Namibian coast where the Great White Pelicans are known to breed. Often African Black Oystercatcher may be seen here as well as the Red Knot.

7. Sandwich Harbour is approximately 45 kilometres south of Walvis Bay. It is a Ramsar site situated within the confines of the Namib Naukluft Park. It is a very beautiful setting with the lagoon flanked by high dunes to the East and the sea to the West. During our summer months, other than cormorants, the largest number of birds are the terns; where up to 200,000 can congregate on the sand banks. The quantity of waders and shorebirds are not found in the same numbers as Walvis Bay. It is on an extremely dynamic coast and the lagoon can change with the weather. It is not advisable to travel down there on your own as it is extremely tricky, as the sea breaks right up against the dunes. The best way is to go with a professional guide such as Turnstone Tours or Mola Mola.

Sandwich Harbour and Walvis Bay hold between them 90-95% of the world population of Chestnut-banded Plover and Walvis Bay 40% of the African sub-species of the Black-necked Grebe.



There are several hotels and B&B's to choose from within Walvis Bay, Long Beach and in Swakopmund, which is 30 km away. For further information on accommodation contact Namib Information at Swakopmund phone +264+64+404827 and Fax: +264+64+404827.

Keith Wearne 2007.

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