Posted on the 14th March 2012

Trip to Kgalagadi, February 2012

Although this has been my 13th trip to the Kalahari, I have never been in February, supposedly the best month for birds in the Kalahari. After following the weather report for about a month I knew Twee Rivieren had 36mm+ of rain and I imagined that the Kalahari would be green – but HOW green, would be the highlight of the trip !

Classic landscape











I left home on Saturday morning at 05:30, it was an early start and just north of Piketberg there is a stop/go situation of 20 min continuing until you get to Citrusdal. We had a lovely brunch at Trawal and then continued on to Calvinia, seeing lots of Greater Kestrels and crows on the telephone poles, about 50 km north of Calvinia we started picking up on Pale Charting Goshawk, Karoo Korhaan, etc. We stayed over at De Werf in Keimoes, who has got a few exotic birds, but also a pair of Shelduck and lots of swifts sweeping over the Orange River.

An early Sunday start took us via Upington to Twee Rivieren rest camp, at Askam we encountered our first Rollers and a beautiful GREEN Kalahari. Once unpacked we took the road to an overflowing Samevloeiing, we saw some Egyptian Geese, Crown & Blacksmith Lapwings at the waterhole, surprised to see no Black-winged Stilts. The road towards Nossob is still closed and you could only get as far as the turnoff to Rooiputs, once turned, we encountered a Lioness and two very small cubs – one wonders how they will survive as I read there is a 50% mortality on little cubs in this part of the world.



Mud bath







Back in camp I started looking for the camp specials, Yellow-billed Hornbills, but nothing, although I did find a Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Acacia Pied Barbet, Common Scimitarbill and all the other small ones.

A beautiful evening with lots of lightning in the distance and a few drops of rain.

Monday, we left camp at 07:30, destination Mata Mata, we saw 3 lions, a cheetah on a kill and later in the day we encountered another 3 cheetahs.

Young Lanner Falcon








At the Kamqua/Dune Road turnoff we watched a Spotted Hyena clan going about their daily life. We were very privileged to see, what looked like the introduction of a new born pup to the rest of the clan. What an joyous occasion, but the poor pup ? Eventually the introduction was done and the little one was put back safely into the den. On the other side in the riverbed 2 Secretarybirds were chasing off a White-backed Vulture coming for a drink/bath, the vulture eventually gave up, again lots of Crowned Lapwings around.

At 14 Borehole an Ostrich pair was looking carefully after their 15 young as the Tawny Eagles were circling, also some Tawny’s feeding on the ground. Now we started picking up on Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Martial Eagle, Pygmy Falcons, Pale Chanting Goshawk. Lots of juvenile birds of prey, which is not always so easy to identify? I was amased at the amount of Black-shouldered Kites that were around. Also Red-necked Falcon and lots and lots of mature and juvenile Lanners, but no owls ?

All the little ones were also showing well, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Crimson-breasted Shrike, they must have one of the most beautiful repertoires. I was amased to see so many Red-headed Finches, compared to September, the Southern Mask-Weavers were all very busy building nests, a beautiful pair of Burchell's Sandgrouse (Q20 bird). A beautiful sighting of a Brown Snake-Eagle, that swallow a snake, head first.  Lots of Kalahari Tent Tortoises, from very small till adult size.

Abdin's Storks


Northern Black Korhaan








On Tuesday we left camp at 07:00 - an overcast day with thunder clouds in the distance. Lots of Wattled Starlings in various stages of breeding colours. Big herds of Springbok, lots of White-backed Vultures, they surely know something we don’t ? We encountered another 3 Cheetahs just after Craig Lockhart, such graceful animals. We briefly stopped to photograph a Yellow-billed Kite and while checking it out, a male lion got up from under the trees, slowly making its way up the dune. Further along the road we met up with 3 lionesses and a young male. A brief stop to look at a newly born Blou Wildebees calf, giraffe in the distance and some springbok turned out a Striped Kingfisher, a pair of African Cuckoos and a view more resembling the Serengeti, than the dry Kalahari.

Our late afternoon/sunset drive produced lots of birds of prey more lions, giraffe, etc. That evening, staying in the new accommodation at Mata Mata produced Barn, Pearl-spotted, Scops and White-faced Owls. After a brief thunder storm we decided to call it a night as it was just …….. goggas everywhere !!!

At 06:00 on Wednesday while having coffee on the stunning stoep I got another lifer, a Greater Spotted Cuckoo, out in the open and hunting on the ground, also Ground-Scraper Thrush, African Grey Hornbill with a juvenile as well as Yellow-billed Hornbill.

We took the road to Nossob, at 14de boorgat we saw another 4 lions and some immature Lanners hunting on the ground. We again stopped at the hyenas and although the baby was nowhere to be seen, the adults were having a bath/swim in their own little backyard pool, Kamqua waterhole. We had our brunch at the picnic site before we took on the Dune road to Nossob. Although always very quiet, we did get Double-banded Courser, Northern Black Korhaan, lots of Secretarybirds, as well as big herds of Gemsbok and Rooi Hartebees.



Kalahari sunset







But once we got the Dikbaarskolk picnic site, the amount of birds was mind blowing, Yellow-billed Kites hanging like fruit on a tree, Lanners hunting over the water in the loop in front of the picnic site, where all the Namaqua Doves were trying to have a drink. The Lanners would use the groups of YBK as disguise flying with them and then the next moment they would launch an attack – very clever I though, also some Tawny’s and Black-chested Snake-Eagles.

The Nossob river was an abundance of antelope, beautiful green grass and acacia trees. Another lifer for me as we saw Eurasian Golden Oriole, White Stork, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Yellow Canary, all the little ones !

As we got to Marie se Gat I could just see more and more YBK (70+), 10 Abdim’s Storks, Lanners having a drink and two Spotted Hyenas very well camouflaged under a tree. We arrived safely at Nossob.

That night we were delighted to see a Brown Hyena coming for water and a Verreaux Eagle-Owl flying in and landing a mere metre from us to prey on the moths coming to the bird hide lights, moving his head up and down. His mate caught something on the ground, but a Black-backed Jackal quickly scavenges it off him.

Thursday, after an early morning coffee we set off north in search of more birds and animals. We saw a beautiful pair of mating Bateleur, they pair for life and will aggressively defend their territory year round. The word bateleur means marvellous face, they are opportunistic feeders, that could fly up to 400km a day and they take up to 7 years to obtain its full adult plumage.

Bateleur pair


Gemsbok in a field of lilies (Nerina Laticoma)







At Kwang waterhole there were lots of smaller birds, including lots of Black-cheeked Waxbill, Red-headed Finches, and a single Three-banded Plover and again hunting Lanners.

At Cuptje waterhole we witnessed a Kori Bustard coming to the waterhole it took him more than 30 minutes to have the courage to actually attempt a drink. On our way back 6 species of Bird of Prey were busy hunting, it seems that there was an outbreak of insects after the previous night’s thunderstorm. We saw Lanner, Eurasian Hobby, Red-necked Falcon, PC Goshawk, Steppe Buzzard , YBK and lots and lots of Fork-tailed Drongos.

At 14:00 I dragged myself in the 40 degrees heat to the Nossob waterhole, but what a wonderful afternoon, Abdin's Storks, over 300+ YBK were joined by Juvenile Bateleur, juvenile Black Kite, as many as 12 Shaft-tailed Whydah’s fighting it out, large numbers of Wattled Starlings. The juvenile Lanners made several attempts at hunting, but had no luck. At last light a strange bird came to drink, it turned out to be a juvenile Gymnogene. The sunset drive was well presented and we had good sightings of owl, porcupine, etc.

On Friday morning we left fairly early, but not before we witnessed a herd of 84 adult Blue Wildebeest coming to drink at Nossob waterhole. On our way back to Twee Rivieren we had some more wonderful birding opportunities, the best to be at KijKij waterhole.

Unfortunately the trip came to an end far too early, but we were blessed to have seen a total of 116 species, of course still no Honey Badger ! I am looking forward to September when I will be back in this wonderful place !


(Ultimately I just had to end off with this brilliant sequence of images of a Lanner catching & devouring a dragonfly- Ed.)
















Kites everywhere




WILL (posted: 2012-10-07)
wonderful description of a great trip. any shots of the tent tortoises?
JILL MORTIMER (posted: 2012-04-25)
Great write-up Carin. You had a marvelous time. Lanner pics simply wonderful but i just love the mud bathing hyena. I have been to the Kgalagadi 5 times in February - no doubt it is the very best time for birding.
ANGELA KEY (posted: 2012-04-05)
Loved reading your magical account of trip, thank you Carin. Visited Kgalagadi end January/1st week Feb and also encountered the 'bathing beauties' at 14th waterhole as well as Verreaux's Owl/Jackal antics @ Nossob Hide... your Lanner sequence is breathtaking! Hope the PCGs lead you to best-ever badger sighting. Book a night @ Urikaruus and drive into dunes at dawn. A visit to Vaalpan and Moravet is often rewarded with badger sightings.
MARIANA DELPORT (posted: 2012-03-21)
Stunning pictures and a trip report that has me green with jealousy! Thanks for sharing it.
MERYL (posted: 2012-03-15)
Wow what an amazing story, my best is the mud bath - I would like to see your photo of the Kori Bustard.
Well done.
CARIN MALAN (posted: 2012-03-14)
Dear Greg, Thank you for your kind words, pls contact me on
Regards, CARIN
GREGG DARLING (posted: 2012-03-14)
Tfs Karin, a great trip report and lovely images. Would like to see the Lanner images at a better resolution , as they are stunning.
ANTON ODENDAL (posted: 2012-03-13)
Dankie dat jy dit gedeel het Carin. Uitstekend.