I want to start this post with a huge thank you to the people who made it possible for me to attend the Kruger Park Birding Week-end at Punda Maria. Thank you Johann du Preez, Jakkalsbessie & Bosnimf , Francois Dreyer and Tertius Gous. I met up with Johann early, but not to early, the morning of the 25th January from where we headed to Jakkalsbessie. Bosnimf came to pick us up and the journey started north. A long awaited (two weeks
trip was a reality and everyone was discussing the possibilities of the week-end. This report exlcudes the 25th as we spend it mostly on the way to Louis Trichard (Machado) and the 28th, the day we left the park as we only spend half an hour the morning to the gate. The action starts in Louis Trichard at Khaya Guesthouse.
26th January 2007
The morning started earlier than Bosnimf preferred and we were on the road just after 05:00 am. Not bad starting a birding morning with the call of a Spotted Eagle Owl. The first part of the morning was spend on the road to the Pafuri gate where we planned to enter Kruger National Park. Early morning didn’t add anything spectacular to our list, as the road was in good condition and we moved along without any problems. We were welcomed into the park by calling Red-crested Korhaan, Rattling Cisticola and Grey Hornbills. Not far into the park a huge Baobab tree gave shelter to a host of Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and Red-headed Weaver. Once again a Stierling’s Wren-warbler proved to be too elusive, and I for one will have to wait a little longer before I can add it to my life list. A new member to my SA list, and the first of many for the trip, was brightly coloured Broad-billed Roller.
Shortly after this we crossed the bridge that formed the boundary of the Kruger Birding Week-end Punda Maria area and the birding started in all earnest. One of the first to be added to the list was a most obliging pair of Greater Spotted Eagle, a much better view for me than the one flying across the road a few months ago. This set the tone for the week-end and from here on the excitement and our list kept on growing. The number of species on the bridge gave us a small taste of what was waiting for us during the dawn chorus the next morning. Red-faced Cisticola, Wood Sandpiper, Green-backed Heron, Lesser Masked Weaver were just a few birds that kept us entertained.
From here we headed towards Pafuri campsite where we enjoyed a lovely breakfast. Breakfast with a calling Gorgeous Bush Shrike and a Bearded Scrub-Robin is always a treat, and this one was no different. Not far from where we were having breakfast a young Large Spotted Genet was calling for its parents to no avail. It seemed oblivious to all the photos being taken of it and went to sleep out in the open. After breakfast we slowly made our way to Crook’s Corner. On the way we added African Openbill, Goliath Heron, Woolly-necked Stork and Lemon-breasted Canaries to our list. The latter another species that has been avoiding me for some time.
It was time that we headed back to Punda Maria for the meeting of the teams at 17:00. The birding didn’t stop which was supplemented by a few Elephant along the way. Klopperfontein dam proved to be the gem everyone keeps on talking about. At the dam we added a host of species to our trip list; Three-banded plover, Yellow-billed Duck, Comb Duck, Red-billed Teal, African Jacana and many more. Well content we left Klopperfontein heading towards Punda. Still it wasn’t the end as we stunning sightings of Grey-headed Parrots and a Eurasian Golden Oriole. The latter being a first without me realizing it at the time. I simply couldn’t remember if I have seen the Eurasian or African Golden Oriole before.
We ended the day with our trip list on 199, another 2 lifers for me and our Kruger Park Birding Week-end list on 124.
27th January 2007
THE early morning start!! Up at 02:20, that is correct, that is twenty minutes past two in the morning. Up and ready to go at 03:00. A 02:50 start to the day’s birding was bound to deliver at least a few owls, nightjars and other interesting nocturnal species. Not to be. No Pennant-winged Nightjar, no Three-banded Coursers, hardly any owls. Bosnimf spotted a Southern White-faced Scops-owl which almost everyone else missed as it flew up as we drove past. We did however found a Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, a Spotted Thick-knee, a Spotted Eagle Owl and we had cracking views of a Small Buttonquail. The next sighting was not of the feathered kind, but a pride of lion. All three vehicles had good views of the felines and after a short while we were rolling again towards the bridge and the dawn chorus.
The dawn chorus was nothing short of brilliant. Water Thick-knee, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail, African Green Pigeon, Bearded Woodpecker, Grey-rumped Swallow (my first lifer for the day), Yellow-breasted Apalis and a juvenile Diderick’s Cuckoo (which caused many people to have a serious second look and debate the id for some time) were some of the highlights on the bridge. We left the dawn chorus with our list of the day on a very healthy 67 species. Next stop, breakfast! We once again headed towards Pafuri picnic sight for a much needed breakfast. Our guide Jerry did himself proud when he spotted a Lizzard Buzzard which everyone else missed. Other special sightings for the morning included good views of Brown-headed Parrots, Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and one of the highlights for me of the day, a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl in a stunning setting of big trees and beautiful light.
The Pafuri yielded more of the same but we did manage to add once again add Gorgeous Bush-Shrike together with Bearded Scrub-Robin, Marsh Warbler, Spectacled Weaver and White-backed Vulture to the day list. After we finished breakfast we changed guides and we were privilege to be teamed up with Dr Ian White. First order of business, find a spinetail! Not long after we left the picnic sight spinetail’s were spotted overhead, Bohms Spinetail! After everybody strained their necks to catch a glimpse we headed off towards Crook’s Corner and surrounds to search for the Racket-tailed Rollers. En route a sudden stop started a search for the Narina Trogon that gave Ian a very fleeting glimpse. After a few minutes Bosnimf spotted one of the birds and we were treated to good views of the female and a flying male. The morning kept on getting better! The next surprise waited for us at Crook’s Corner. Hooded Vulture, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Common Greenshank, White-fronted Plover were added to the list and then, a Golden Weaver!! A first for Ian in Kruger National Park! According to him this was the “rarest” bird we encountered on the day for Kruger National Park. Although not the first record of this species for Kruger, there aren’t a lot of other records of this species in the park. After no small amount of effort to find the Racket-tailed Roller without success we decided to slowly make our way back to Punda Maria
The rest of the morning was spend doing general bushveld birding and the list kept on growing like a patient cricket innings. On the way we added one of the first eagles of the day in the form of a Lesser Spotted Eagle! Not complaining we continued on. Once again Klopperfontein dam was teeming with life. Here we added Common Moorhen, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah and Double-banded Sandgrouse together with the species seen the day before to the day list. Getting closer to Punda Ian tried in vain to call up an Arnott’s Chat. We stopped a total of 14 times on a stretch of road, play the tape, but no answer, which made us conclude the there Ar-no Chats in the area. The stopping however was not in vain as Tertius spotted a White-breasted Cuckooshrike on the last stop. With Ian leading everyone got brilliant sightings of this beautiful little bird. The highlight of the day for me!
We arrived back at Punda at 14:30. That is almost 12 hours of solid birding, what a pleasure! Some decided to have a rest before 18:00 for our scheduled sunset drive. Tertius, Johann, Francois and I decided to do the Flycatcher trail in Punda Maria. We were rewarded with brilliant sightings of an Eastern Nicator, a lifer for Johann and Francois, and Martial Eagle amongst others. Afterwards we headed towards the hide at the edge of the camping site. This proved to be very productive as we added Cinnamon-breasted and Golden-breasted Bunting, Bronze Manikin, Red-headed Weaver and Retz’s Helmetshrike to the days list. The latter being yet another lifer for me.
We met up with Ian at 18:00 and headed out in the hope of finding Pennant-winged Nightjar. Another highlight of the day was finding a tree full of Grey-headed Parrots in perfect light. We watched these stunning little creatures for a little while before we moved on. Another quick stop and everyone was searching for a Southern Hyliota which Ian saw flying from tree to tree. We failed to find it but were treated to a stunning chorus of Fiery-necked Nightjars all around us. With time running out, we started to make our way back to Punda, unfortunately no Pennant-winged Nightjars. To cap a stunning day an adult Civet crossed the road in front of us not far from Punda.
We ended the day with a list of 171 species, our Kruger Bird Week-end list on 208, our trip list pushing 250 and I added another 6 lifers to my list.
From here I travelled with Tertius and Francois back to Pretoria. My trip concluded with a list of 300, 10 lifers (total up to 660), 170 added to my yearlist which brings the total for my year to 331 and 14 added to my South African list.
Enjoy the rest of the day, happy birding and I hope you get the chance to visit KNP soon. Chase the Green Sandpiper @ Klopperfontein dam.