Huge honour having you post here, my friend.
Thank you so much for the sneak view behind the "curtains". From my many wonderful times spent in your capable hands I know how much effort and hard work goes into hosting such events. It is just awesome for you to share the behind-the-scenes story. I hope this was just a taste of the story still to come...
Clever idea, that boabab
(Red Bull works for me)
"Idylic"... good and very apt word to describe the Bash experience, Trrp-trrrrrrrr!
Brenden, I think at the end of the trip report, we can list the specials. In the meantime I will highlight them as we go along with the account.
Thanks for your notes of appreciation barryels, addictedToBirds and yoda. Yoda, you should dust off those bird guides...
The Balule Bash List started from scratch at 14:00. In Olifants Camp we recorded red-winged starling, yellow-billed kite, yellow-billed hornbill, laughing dove. A rattling cisticola on route to the S92 punctuated an uneventful stretch. All the little drainage lines we crossed were running and stopping at each quickly added sightings…Grey heron, pied kingfisher, orange-breasted bush-shrike, Egyptian goose, Malachite kingfisher, three-banded plover and African pied wagtail all graced the first water crossing. In the surrounding habitat we got Southern black tit, golden-breasted bunting and a Sabota Lark mimicking allsorts… Where the S92 gets close to the Olifants River for the first time, we recorded a bateleur overhead, Southern masked-weaver male bird working away feverously at building a nest and yellow-billed and saddle-billed storks on the river. Scanning the wide expanse of shallow flowing water, we also got blacksmith lapwing and great egret. On the banks we recorded a single African pipit
Crawling along the river bank the ticks flowed steadily: lilac-breasted roller in the trees, Wood sandpiper, common greenshank and reed cormorant spotted on the river through a gap in the bank covering vegetation. At this stage we encountered a little bit of a bird party, more disjointed than I’m used to, but contributing to the list at a quick rate: a “mosque” swallow turned into a pair of red-breasted swallows when they banked so that good light fell on them. A white-browed scrub-robin called from its concealed perch and it took some work to pinpoint the bird. Red-billed and yellow-billed oxpeckers
shared a giraffe. I tried like mad to get a shot of both species on the longneck, but none came out OK. It is rather infrequent that one gets to see both species of oxpecker on a single host.
Blue waxbill and long-billed crombec often join bird parties, and this was no exception. A Cape glossy starling completed the party guest list.
The very next moment someone shouted “Osprey
!” Wow! Good bird for Kruger! For me this was the third trip tick added in the first hour of the Bash! Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the vehicle and I failed to get shots. I know some of the other bashers were successful and on playback we could see that the bird was carrying some type of fish in its talons.
Where the S92 becomes S91, we met a small traffic jam. Some type of kill was lying just out of sight below the river bank. White-backed and hooded vultures hunched in the trees throwing long shadows over the lions that we could just make out; the flick of an ear, the swish of a tail…
In the past it would have been possible to turn onto the Balule low water bridge, a favourite vantage point, but the road that had been washed away during the floods earlier this year, has not been repaired. Continuing on to the Olifants Satara Road, we logged white-fronted bee-eater, African fish-eagle, black-backed puffback and grey go-away-bird. The road took us through a sparsely covered area and all of a sudden lark-like buntings
were all around. Apart from being a trip tick, it is also a first for my KNP list! A red-crested korhaan applauded as we passed, turning onto the tar road. The bridge only yielded little swifts. Just on the other side of the bridge, there is a (no go) service road that we took, one of our favourite stretches on the way to Balule. Again it did not disappoint: white-throated robin-chat, African paradise flycatcher, chinspot batis, tawny flanked-prinia, emerald-spotted wood-dove, and Levaillant’s cuckoo. While we focused on a raptor overhead, (ID’d as a white-headed vulture) Tobie spotted a Temminck’s courser
in the floodplain thinly covered with grass and shrub, another KNP special and trip tick. Flushing a Namaqua dove from the road, we now reached the opposite side of the river to where we first found the carcass. Scanning the opposite bank a good 800m distant, we saw what appeared to be a dead hippo, probably killed in a territorial dispute.
Our bird sightings continued with another trip tick: grey-rumped swallow
were patrolling over the nearside bank. House sparrow, white-bellied sunbird, common waxbill, red-billed firefinch and giant kingfisher were noted along the Ngotso River. Brenden with his keen ears picked up the high-pitched song of burnt-necked eremomela
and, knowing how keenly they react to their call, we had three of them buzzing around the vehicle in half an eremomela syllable!
We had arrived at Balule. The gate that is kept closed were opened for us and we drove through to sort out baggage and settle in to our huts.
The two-hour drive produced 60 birds of which six can be listed as specials!