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 Post subject: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:50 pm 
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Hi Guys

I'll be visiting Kruger from UK for 5 weeks in Sep/Oct. I'll be starting in the south and working my way up to Punda Maria and back. I'm day visiting all the main camps and staying nights at all except Olifants, Mopani and Orpen. I'll also be staying at Balule and Maroela satellite camps.

Two of my main interests are photography and birds and I would like to know if you guys know any good spots for photographing birds either in the camps or on the roads. Maybe bird baths in the camps or good low fruiting trees or a quiet pond/stream good for kingfishers, that sort of thing.
I'm not expecting "bird x will be on bush y at 10:00am" :wink: but just wondered if you had any tips or favourite spots. I'll be using a DSLR with lenses up to 500mm.

Lilac-breasted Roller. I'm hoping I'll see quite a few of these guys but most of the photos I've seen are looking up at the bird, presumably taken from a car. Are there any spots where I might be on eye-level with or slightly above favourite perches. I'll be in a small car. Are there any areas where they're more common, Do they visit any of the camps or areas you can get out of the car. This is one seriously beautiful bird and is at the very top of my bird photograph most wanted list.

Other birds on my photograph wanted list are ...

White-fronted Bee-eater, Is Skukuza golf course a good spot for these? Purple-crested Turaco, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Lesser-striped Swallow and Twinspot. Would Carmine Bee-eaters be around in mid-October.


My plan at the moment is to leave camp when the gates open and drive around slowly, looking for game and birds, visiting picnic spots for lunch when possible. Maybe then return to camp to Bird and go out again later. I'll be doing sunset drives probably every night. Is the birding still good in the camps late morning early afternoon or should I try and mix morning drives with mornings birding in camp. Should I miss a few sunset drives so as to bird the camps late afternoon. What about picnic sites, should I aim to visit these early morning or is lunchtime ok for birding.

Are the organised morning walks any good for bird photography.

Thanks all


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:23 am 
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Hi Koshka,

Quite a few question you raise here :doh: . I'll try to adress some of them.

Camps: Mopani and Olifants are very good camps for bird photography. As you are not spending nights there try to visit these two during the day. Olifants is located on top of a hill and due to thermal upcurrents soaring raptors can be observed nicely. Mopani has a lot of old trees in it (including baobabs) that host a lot of birds. The large pioneer dam viewed from camp hosts a lot of waterbirds. If lucky, rarer species like collared pratincole might be observed.

Favourite spots for birding and photography in KNP:
Many differernt ones all over the park. The top 5 for me personally are:
1. Pafuri picnic spot - in the far north is the birding hotspot of KNP. Talk to the local Bird guide Frank Mabasa - you will be delighted!
2. Lake Panic Bird hide near Skukuza - very good hide for many different birds
3. Skukuza Camp - the biggest camp in KNP, but it is very good for birding - purple-crested turaco, African green pigeon, eurasion hobby, bat hawk, kingfishers.... just to name a few.
4. Lower Sabie camp, nearby bridge over the Sabie (African black duck) and Nkuhlu picnic spot (African finfoot) are very good too.
5. Punda Maria camp: The flycatcher trail inside camp can be very rewarding. Also check out the bird bath near the picnic site (finches, waxbills, pytilia).

Lilac-breasted rollers are common in many areas of KNP. They are often perched on small trees along roads waiting for insect roadkills. Some can be perched quite low or you might get them "diving" for insects along the roads.

White-fronted bee-eater: fairly common along the Sabie close to Skukuza and lower Sabie. Also in the far North along the Luvuvhu (for example Crooks Corner).

Purple-crested turaco: riverine forest, thickets for example at Skukuza, Afsaal picnic spot, Berg en Dal camp

Pearl-spotted owlet: fairly common in many areas. Best located by its ascending and later descending whistling calls (can be heard already in the afternoon).

Green twinspot: Difficult one :hmz: more a winter migrant and thus difficult to see in October.

Southern carmine bee-eaters turn up late in KNP - you need luck to see them in mid-October.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:14 am 
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koshka wrote:
Two of my main interests are photography and birds and I would like to know if you guys know any good spots for photographing birds either in the camps or on the roads. Maybe bird baths in the camps or good low fruiting trees or a quiet pond/stream good for kingfishers, that sort of thing.
I'm not expecting "bird x will be on bush y at 10:00am" :wink: but just wondered if you had any tips or favourite spots. I'll be using a DSLR with lenses up to 500mm.


Camp birding is always exceptionally rewarding! Try and bird as much as you can within the boundaries of the camps. You will have a very rewarding time from the car as well. We were in the Shimuwini area 2 weekends ago. The bridge over the Letaba river along the H14 was great for Giant Kingfishers and Pied Kingfishers. We also saw Little, White-fronted and European Bee-eaters here. The White-fronted are nesting in holes in the river bank. Another super spot for White-fronted Bee-eaters is from the Malelane Bridge just outside the Malelane gate. I have also seen them nesting along the Nwatimiri causeway just off the H4-1 between Skukuza and Lower Sabie.

Image

Image

koshka wrote:
Lilac-breasted Roller. I'm hoping I'll see quite a few of these guys but most of the photos I've seen are looking up at the bird, presumably taken from a car. Are there any spots where I might be on eye-level with or slightly above favourite perches. I'll be in a small car. Are there any areas where they're more common, Do they visit any of the camps or areas you can get out of the car. This is one seriously beautiful bird and is at the very top of my bird photograph most wanted list.


You'll see loads of them. Yes, they are seen mostly sitting in a tree or bush(Chances are good that the bush will be at eye level.) next to the road, but they very often catch prey from the road and this is when you get opportunities to take shots like these.

Image

So perhaps hang around when you see one. You never know. :wink:

koshka wrote:
Is Skukuza golf course a good spot for these? Purple-crested Turaco, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Lesser-striped Swallow and Twinspot. Would Carmine Bee-eaters be around in mid-October.


People have seen Green Twnispot around Skukuza, but I think you need a helluva lot of luck. The only Twinspot regularly seen in Kruger is Pink-throated, but unfortunately along the Mozambique boundary road in the Sandveld just south of Pafuri which is unfortunately off limits for normal tourists and can only be visited during Birding Big Weekends from Punda Maria and the Lebombo 4x4 trail along the boundary fence.

Purple-crested Turaco is quite common in Skukuza and Pretoriouskop. Check out fruiting fig trees. Pearl-spotted Owlet is far more conspicuous during winter times when they call more often and are very often seen next to roads in trees, most often whilst mobbed by various other small birds. There is a very nice African folklore why birds mob owls, it is a story for another day.

Lesser Spotted Swallow is very common in Kruger. Concentrate around water for them. We also saw them regularly from the H14 Letaba bridge.

Carmine Bee-eater is more common from December. But perhaps in the Northern reaches of the Park you might be lucky with them in October.

koshka wrote:
My plan at the moment is to leave camp when the gates open and drive around slowly, looking for game and birds, visiting picnic spots for lunch when possible. Maybe then return to camp to Bird and go out again later. I'll be doing sunset drives probably every night. Is the birding still good in the camps late morning early afternoon or should I try and mix morning drives with mornings birding in camp. Should I miss a few sunset drives so as to bird the camps late afternoon. What about picnic sites, should I aim to visit these early morning or is lunchtime ok for birding.

Are the organised morning walks any good for bird photography.

Thanks all


As I said earlier, camp birding is always rewarding, but no one can argue that early morning is the most productive time for birding. It is always easier to bird on a foot so organized walks could work, but birds also seem far more skittish when you approach them on foot. Also keep in mind that other people in your group on the walk might not share your sentiment.

If you have a good flash, then sunset drives, as it extends to well after dark, will be superb for nocturnal bird photography.

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Last edited by wildtuinman on Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:17 am 
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Another favourite birding spot of mine is Sunset dam just outside Lower Sabie. Magnificent spot. Especially for water birds.

The Biyamithi weir area is also always very productive. IMO one of the hot spots for Cuckoos.

Always concentrate a little bit more around waterholes and other major water sources such as rivers. Water is life and that is where you will find most of your feathered friends. :wink:

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Latest Lifer(s): White-winged Flufftail, Dickinson's Kestrel, Senegal Coucal, Three-banded Courser, African Broadbill, Thrush Nightingale, Rufous-bellied Heron.

Follow me as I bird on Twitter @wildtuinman


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:11 am 
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Let me just add that there is a brilliant book with loads of tips on birding in Kruger:

http://www.primeorigins.com/pls/cms/po_ ... il?p_pid=2

Get your hands on one of those copies!

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Latest Lifer(s): White-winged Flufftail, Dickinson's Kestrel, Senegal Coucal, Three-banded Courser, African Broadbill, Thrush Nightingale, Rufous-bellied Heron.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:29 am 
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wildtuinman wrote:
The White-fronted are nesting in holes in the river bank. Another super spot for White-fronted Bee-eaters is from the Malelane Bridge just outside the Malelane gate. I have also seen them nesting along the Nwatimiri causeway just off the H4-1 between Skukuza and Lower Sabie.

Image

Image





Wildtuinman -- I'm not a great bird expert , but these look like Little bee-eaters to me , and not white fronted :hmz:

Herewith pics of white fronted , taken at Crook's corner :

Image


Image

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:35 am 
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Ja WTM.. can't you ID a Little Bee-Eater anymore?? :twisted:


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:53 am 
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DD, did you read Kruger Birding Hot Shots hence the reason you came in here to add your opinion? :twisted: :twisted:

Hi Okie, yes, they are indeed Little Bee-eaters and not White-fronted. I commented on 3 Bee-eater species in my post and merely posted these Little Bee-eater photos Laine took 2 weekends ago in the vicinity of the H14 Letaba bridge to just illustrate the type of Bee-eater sightings one can expect there currently. :wink:

Here is a photo of a very unusual Bee-eater we took last year during BBW in Pafuri.

Xanthochroic White-fronted Bee-eater (Red replaced by yellow)
Image

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Latest Lifer(s): White-winged Flufftail, Dickinson's Kestrel, Senegal Coucal, Three-banded Courser, African Broadbill, Thrush Nightingale, Rufous-bellied Heron.

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:12 am 
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You know.. for once I just don't a joke you made?

Hot Shots? :twisted:


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:19 am 
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:wall:

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:31 am 
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What?

Jou grap was kek :lol: :twisted:


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:00 pm 
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Khoska,
In my experience car window photography is the most rewarding in Kruger from sunrise until around 10h30 when the sun is too harsh and the animals start getting unobtrusive, then again from around 15h00 until sunset. So you can plan your day according to that times taking lunch during the very hot hours of the day..
The bird hides in Kruger were not designed by Photographers so that means it is either too high or too far from the waters edge, or like Lake Panic hide which faces north, there will always only be side lighting on the subjects unless you get an overcast day..

For the mammals I would say 70-200mm and 300mm will be a great focal length to use and for the birds I will invest in a very good extender as you know with birds 500mm will never be enough! Then obviously a beanbag which you can fill up when you arrive in SA for the window support.

Unfortunately July is the best time to photograph sunbirds at the aloes in the camps so that will be a bit too late, but Berg-en-dal camp is a very good place to take a stroll through camp as they left a lot of the natural habitat intact which supports different species including some riverine species as the Purple Crested Turaco, so is Punda Maria with it's own walking trail....

The S128, and then follow on the Salitje road from Lower Sabie towards Skukuza is a very nice road to try out as the vegetation is rather close to the road which means bringing the subjects closer to you, like those Rollers you need.
The gravel road towards Kanniedood dam from Shingwedzi camp is the same - running all the way next to the river with very dense vegetation close to the road and the S63 leading to the Pafuri Picnic site and Crooks Corner as well.

The Balule low water bridge and the Biyamiti weir is the closest you will get to eye level Kingfishers and other waterbirds, the sunset dam outside Lower Sabie is also nice for morning light photography.

I would say your suggestion of driving out very early and see what comes your way is the best plan and then work the camps in the late afternoons, keeping the very hot times of day for lunch at the picnic sites.

Well I'm sure you are still going to get a lot of different opinions on what to try, but all in all you are going to have the time of your life!!

Enjoy!
Lizet


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:45 pm 
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:thumbs_up: Thanks guys for all the tips. Also nice photos I hope I get as good.

:( Pity about the Sunbirds I was hoping to get some nice shots of those too.


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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:54 pm 
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Hey Koshka - I am not a Kruger fundy like many of the others, but let me say that birding in the Kruger is the greatest birding treat you'll have in a long time. I agree with getting out early and doing the camps in the heat of the day. I try and stay in the smaller bush camps that have GREAT birding any time of the day. The southern picnic sites often have owls in the trees and you must get on a night drive for the nocturnals. Happy birding. :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Kruger Birding Photo Hot Spots
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:52 pm 
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The low water bridge at Shingwedzi and the dam at Mopani are rewarding.
Kingfishers and other waders at the Shingwedzi bridge

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