Hi forum members
Am going to KNP in late August and visiting Mopani, Olifants and Skukuza. Any advice on particularly good birding spots/routes on the way down?
Hi there Tosha
August is a very nice time of year as the vegetation is not as thick and it allows for better views of both animals and birds. One or two migrant species should start arriving such as the first Yellow Billed Kite's, Steppe Buzzards and possibly a few species of swallow's should be back.
Unfortunately my knowledge regarding Mopani is rather limited as I have only birded around Letaba and the very north around Punda, but I have spent numerous times birding the area's between Skukuza and Olifants.
Some good "birding" roads and spots to try:
Olifants camp is good in its own right with Mocking Cliff Chats and Grey Headed Bush-Shrikes found between the chalets. From the viewing deck one can try and spot the odd uncommon raptor such as a Lanner Falcon or Peregrine Falcon, but the more common raptors would be the Bateleurs and Fish Eagles. During August you might get the Kite's flying over the Olifants river
One good road to travel is down the S90. A typical open plains habitat that will give you Kori Bustards, Red Crested Korhaan's and early morning is good to try and find the Harlequin Quail's along the edge of the roads. Keep a watch out for African Hawk-Eagle's around Olifants and Balule.. I have found them there on numerous occasions. Also keep a lookout for Sabota Larks and possibly Flappet Larks but the later should still be quiet and difficult to locate around August. This road and the the tar road leading down to Satara traverse through the same type of habitat so both should produce the same birds.
Around Timbavati Picnic spot you can expect to find Black Backed Puffbacks, African Scops Owl (at the picninc site, just ask the staff). Lookout for Saddle Billed Storks in the area. Martial Eagle's are numerous along the S40, as well as Orange Breasted Bush-Shrikes.
Around Satara try and do the S100 - H6 loop and lookout for Buffy Pipits, Senegal Lapwings, Temminck Coursers (especially if they burnt the grass in the area). This loop is also very good for Raptors and Vultures. Lookout for Peregrine Falcon's (especially on the H6), African Hawk-Eagle, Martial Eagle, Hooded and Lappet Faced Vultures. The odd Cape Vulture could also pop up. Kori Bustards, Red Crested Korhaan are numerous and you might find Verraux Eagle-Owl's early in the morning in the trees, and keep a lookout for the small Pearl Spotted Owlet.. (listen for his call)
Further down to Skukuza I would recommend driving down the tar road from Tshokwane to Lower Sabie and see if you can spot some Shelley's Francolin, Small ButtonQuail's, Kori Bustards, Senegal Lapwings.
The main tar road between Lower Sabie and Skukuza is a wonderful birding road, but be prepared to get irritated with the traffic on this road. If you stop for a bird, 20 cars will surround you to look for the Leopard you are busy looking at. None the less, this road is good for Brown Hooded Kingfishers, African Finfoot (if you are lucky enough. Stop at the high level bridges or try Nkulu Picnic spot and scan the river), Giant Kingfishers, Red Billed Firefinches, White Crested Helmet-Shrikes, Orange Breasted Bush-Shrikes, Green Backed Camaroptera, Saddle Billed Storks, African Green Pigeons, BruBru, Black Headed Oriole, Brown Headed Parrots, White Fronted Plover (especially around sunset dam), White Trhoated Robin-Chat, Shikra and Common ScimitarBill's
At Skukuza camp, lookout for the Purple Crested Turaco, Pygmy Kingfisher, Terrestrial BrownBul, Golden Tailed Woodpeckers, African Goshawks, Red Capped Robin-Chats and if you are lucky a Gorgeous Bush-Shrike. Green Twinspots have been recorded in camp during these months when they come down to feed from their higher summer areas. Remember to visit Lake Panic which can sometimes hold some good species when the water levels are good. Village Weavers, Black Crake, Red-Capped Robin-Chats and African Jacana are all easily found here.
Is there any particular species that you are after during this trip?