ANOTHER KRUGER NATIONAL PARK BIRDING REPORTPosted on the 10th September 2014
ANOTHER KRUGER NATIONAL PARK BIRDING TRIP
We have run ourselves into terrible conditions given heat, strong wind and horrific smoke from fires further south. This, together with us gearing up for Elaine's birthday bash tomorrow brought about our decision to stop reporting on our trip at this stage - I will keep brief notes and finish this report when we return to Onrus.
(Each new addidtion to this report will be posted to the top of the page. Previous reporting can be found lower down.)
It was extremely hot when we moved from Mopani to Sirheni and we decided to get to the bush camp as quickly as possible. The gravel road between Shingwedzi and Sirheni remains one of our favourite birding roads in Kruger and it once again produced the goods. There were huge numbers of BUFFALO and ELEPHANT on view. We spent a lot of time at a dead Buffalo and watched in amazement as vultures started tearing into it systematically. We returned this morning and in the end managed to see all the regular vultures to be seen in Kruger: CAPE, HOODED, LAPPET-FACED, WHITE-BACKED and WHITE-HEADED VULTURES were on show. What a priviledge to witness something as special as this! To crown this all we were able to add SOUTHERN GROUND HORNBILL.
Our day started with the sighting of four WHITE-FACED SCOPS-OWLS near the offices. We have now seen all four of the small owls to be found in Kruger. Wilfred, Marcia, Elaine and myself took a very slow realy morning drive along the gravel road. We added ACACIA PIED BARBET, GREY-BACKED CAMEROPTERA, YELLOW-SPOTTED PETRONIA, WHITE-BROWED SCRUB-ROBIN and MARICO SUNBIRD, but most excitedly were fortunate to come across several bird parties. In most cases these parties were at fruit baring trees and once again THIN-LEAVED JACKAL-BERRY trees were the star of the show. Our trip total now stands on 289 species and our Kruger count on 171.
The afternoon was spent on the patio and we watched a pair of HOODED VULTURES and a pair of YELLOW-BILLED KITES carrying sticks and building nests some 50 metres apart. It would be interesting to see if these birds will get their chicks to fledge. Just before dusk just about the entire group of visitors to the bush camp were standing looking up into a tree with some SANParks staff members ¬ there were two young BLACK MAMBAS hanging out of a hole in the tree. Apparently the two adult snakes regularly move down to the water and back and pass between chalets 2 and 3 at about 14h00 each afternoon. Creepy stuff.
Tomorrow we are off to Punda and will be able to report more regularly.
14 AND 15 SEPTEMBER: MOPANI RESTCAMP
In the afternoon we visited the hide at Pioneer dam and the water hole at Mooiplaas. We added GOLIATH HERON, PIED KINGFISHER, AFRICAN OPENBILL and RED-CAPPED ROBIN-CHAT at the hide and were particularly impressed with the vast numbers of ZEBRAS at Mooiplaas. There were many COLLARED PRATINCOLES around the water hole ¬ the flight patterns of these birds are something else. In the evening we heard calls of SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, FRECKLED and RUFOUS-EARED NIGHTJARS, BARN OWL, PEARL-SPOTTED OWLET and AFRICAN SCOPS-OWL. On Monday we decided to do the Tropic of Capricorn loop road and were able to add SOUTHERN BLACK FLYCATCHER, SABOTA LARK, BARRED OWLET, STRIPED PIPIT, DOUBLE-BANDED SANDGROUSE and BROWN SNAKE-EAGLE. Ironically an out of range CAPE SPARROW was the best sighting of the day. Trevor stated that this is a good sighting for Kruger. Pierre and Suzette joined our group later on in the afternoon and that was the end of birding for the day.
|Sunset over Pioneer Dam|
|Collared Pratincole (Image: Wilfred)|
12 AND 13 SEPTEMBER: SHIMUWINI BUSH CAMP
We entered the Kruger National Park at Phalaborwa and I had the wonderful surprise of getting one of my favourite little birds, Cut-throat Finch, as my first bird in the park. Hopefully this would be a sign of things to come. We headed straight for Shimuwini as we wanted to settle in as soon as possible. Wilfred and Marcia joined us a few hours later and we mostly birded from the patio. Highlights included a HOODED VULTURE drinking in front of our chalet and DARK CHANTING GOSHAWK, PEARL-SPOTTED OWLET and COLLARED PRATINCOLE, with large numbers of RUFOUS-CHEEKED NIGHTJARS hawking overhead at dusk and calling throughout the night.
On Saturday morning it was cool, misty and windy, with the result that Conrad and myself joined the camp's staff for the rugby test – close, but very exciting. Later we had the priviledge of watching 24 species of birds feasting on the fruit (and associated insects) of a SMALL-LEAVED JACKAL-BERRY right in front of our chalet. There were RETZ'S HELMET-SHRIKE, three different hornbills, BROWN-HEADED PARROT, AFRICAN GREEN PIGEON, GREY-HEADED and ORANGE-BREASTED BUSH-SHRIKES ¬ too many too mention. A total celebration of sound and colour. Later in the afternoon we investigated all the loop road between the camp and the bridge across the Letaba River. We had great sightings of GOLDEN-BREASTED BUNTING, TAWNY EAGLE, JAMESON'S and RED-BILLED FIREFINCHES, GREEN-WINGED PYTILIA and WHITE-HEADED VULTURE. At the bridge there were lots of swallows and swifts, together with LITTLE and WHITE-FRONTED BEE-EATERS. I was particularly delighted to find COMMON, MARSH and WOOD SANDPIPERS feeding in close proximity to each other ¬ 'summertime & living is easy'.
|The Thin-leaved Jackal-berry tree|
This morning we moved to Mopanie rest camp and managed to add BATELEUR, WALBERG'S EAGLE, WHITE-CRESTED HELMET-SHRIKE, BLACK-CHESTED SNAKE-EAGLE and WHITE-BACKED VULTURE. We arrived too early to have our guest house allocated to us and had lunch at the restaurant overlooking the dam. From here we added GREAT EGRET, AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE, AFRICAN JACANA, GIANT KINGFISHER and MARABOU and SADDLE-BILLED STORKS and what must surely be the smallest baby elephant that anyone of us had seen. It was still wobbly and was falling around all over the place, with the adults being extremely watchful and protective. What an experience!
|The baby elephant|
I am completing a BIRP card and it looks as if we have 111 species for Shimuwini, our trip total standing on 178. Everyone is resting now as it is 40 degrees out there – no sense in briding in such conditions. We'll continue with this report tomorrow evening.
We are on our way to the north of Kruger again, this time it was Elaine's wish to spend her 60th birthday at Punda Maria and, as ever, her wish is my command. We are currently spending two days on Niklaas and Maureen's smallholding at Vastfontein, to the north of Pretoria. Conrad is flying in from London and Ronel from Cape Town. Wilfred and Marcia and Pierre and Suzette will join as in Kruger.
I don't think that I will have enough time to report properly on all our sightings and experiences, but will attempt to post brief notes and hopefully images as regularly as time permits. Only five lekker birds seen each day will be mentioned, together with a few short stories. Each new report will be posted at the top of the page, so that you can only read the most recent news. We will also complete BIRP cards at each camp where we stay.
We had a fairly quiet trip through the Karoo. On Monday we found YELLOW-BILLED KITE at Hermanus, lots of BLUE CRANES in the Overberg, a magnificent adult BLACK HARRIER quartering over Renosterveld outside Worcester, many SOUTHERN PALE CHANTING GOSHAWKS and BURCHELL'S SANDGROUSE along the N1. We stayed on a guest farm to the south of Kimberley and yesterday morning we could see that we were in a different area with RED-EYED BULBUL, ORANGE RIVER FRANCOLIN, KAROO THRUSH and ORANGE RIVER WHITE-EYE on the farm. Sadly also COMMON MYNA this far south. There are zillions of flamingos on Campher's Dam outside Kimberley at the moment – a simply awesome sight. One of my favourite birds, MAGPIE SHRIKE, was found at dusk as we approached Vastfontein.
This morning we woke up just knowing that we were in the bushveld. The bird calls were beautiful and I could pick up on both CRESTED and BLACK-COLLARED BARBETS, GREY-HEADED BUSH-SHRIKE, GREY GO-AWAY-BIRD and WHITE-BROWED SCRUB-ROBIN whilst still lying in bed. A walk around the property produced LONG-BILLED CROMBEC, WHITE-THROATED ROBIN-CHAT, MARICO SUNBIRD, a bright RED-HEADED WEAVER and a KURRICHANE THRUSH building a nest three metres from the patio! A lovely introduction to what promises to be a memorable trip.