On this final day working out of Berg-en-Dal, I added another eight birds to the Pentad list (black cuckoo, the southern boubou, a southern masked-weaver, scarlet-chested sunbird, golden-tailed woodpecker, black crake, African hoopoe and crested francolin), closing it on 73. I didn’t feel like doing Afsaal again, so I chose the Crocodile River Drive to Crocodile Camp and back as my day trip, including another turn at Malelane Gate which netted another four sighting for that Pentad (noteworthy were Sabota’s lark, red-faced mousebird and Swainson’s spurfowl), taking its tally to 93.
The drive along the river is a bit disappointing from the PoV that access to river views are few, especially the close-up kind where one would be able to see a Cape wagtail (a bird that still remains unseen by me in KNP).
At one of the low-water crossings, I found the water monitor.
…and in a nearby culvert (their favourite nesting sites) this red-breasted swallow waited for me to move on so that he could continue with nest construction.
Raptors were again plentiful and I managed shots of a martial eagle…
… and a Tawny, both within a hop-skip and a jump of each other.
At the Hippo Pools, I met up with Daniel, the field ranger that accompanies tourists onto the short walk originally designed to show the Bushman paintings at the top of the cliff. Daniel has been doing this specific job since 1990. He tells me his day starts at 06:00 when he leaves Croc Bridge on his bicycle. If he cycles the long way around (which he does in summertime because the one-hour shortcut is then too overgrown and therefore too dangerous) the trip takes two hours, if he does not get a flat tyre. Punctures occur about once every two weeks, he says. His day at the Pools ends at 14:00 when he tackles the return trip.
Daniel took me up to what remains of the Bushman paintings after the 2000-floods: the front half of an eland. We sat at the painting site and surveyed the river. I told him of my mission to find a Cape wagtail.
“Ons kry hom hier,” he assured me in Afrikaans. The two of us sat down and thoroughly scanned the river. Tawny-flanked prinia in the reeds close by, Grey and Goliath herons, Hadeda, pied kingfisher, Wood sandpiper, little and great egrets, black crake, African Jacana, water thickknee, wire-tailed swallow, reed cormorant, three African black ducks (again!), blacksmith lapwing and even a fly-over of a young fish-eagle… but no wagtail other than the pied version.
Daniel says he has seen some amazing birds at the Pools in his time, including flamingo and pelicans. We talked birds for quite a while until I cut our conversation short, realising that it could go the whole day if it depended on Daniel.