We heard it long before we could see it! The Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers were in full flood, roaring past the confluence bank to bank. The turbulent water sped through making huge waves and whirls.
Close to the river it was impossible to have a normal conversation, never mind listening to the birds waking up, but if you stood 50m or so away, the sounds of the waking bush could be heard well enough for Nick to make one nomination ID after another. Some of the forumites, laksman in particular and Skopsie to a lesser degree, could join in the auditory fun. The rest of us either didn't know the bird sounds, or, like me, could not hear it due to impaired hearing. Confirming the IDs made of the bird calls by getting a visual is often not possible and takes way too long. Poor Nick must have been the most frustrated person in KNP that morning!
He must have passed up on 20 IDs because we were incapable of confirming his nominations.
Good sightings were African Yellow White-eye, all three eremomelas (burnt-necked, green-capped and yellow-bellied) and tropical boubou. Eventually we moved on to the Pafuri picnic spot. En route we found a little sparrow-hawk and after some fancy explaining, everyone got to spot it, a lifer for most of us. We had breakfast and unsuccessfully tried to locate the resident black-throated wattle-eye. We moved on through areas I just cannot locate on the map, having lost any sense of direction yet again. Good views of shaft-tailed whydah on a fly-over and fawn-coloured lark (apparently the only spot in Kruger where they can be seen is this sandy geological intrusion into KNP near the Pafuri border Gate) both on the ground and in the trees were had by all.
At the Matlakusa Pan (I think
) we found a heard of buffalo and their accompanying yellow-billed oxpeckers. The toughest sighting of the day was made here by Skopsie when he found a well-hidden dwarf bittern under a tree on the other side of the pan. In the meantime that 30% afternoon thunderstorm prediction gathered momentum and turned into an indisputable downpour. Our rangers knew that if we kept on going along the row of fence posts, a remnant of the old boundary marker that use to separate South Africa and Mozambique, we'd get through the storm soon enough. Don English was in the 10-seater ahead of us and lead the way along the jeep tracks. Within twenty minutes we were through, but many of the people were soaked to the skin. The Don-team were all dressed in T-shirts and they could easily pass for contestants in a wet T-shirt competition! (Not that they stood any chance of a podium place, though).
The last stretch back to the H1-7 runs over a marshy area bordering the Nkutumbeni ?River? The sighting of the whole trip was made here (expected by Don and Nick, because they recently saw it on recce) when a pallid harrier hen (we think) was flushed and then in quick succession were followed by two males.
This was basically the only picture I can publish... the Big Birding Day Proper does not lend itself to the making of good images, especially when bad light prevails throughout the day. I knew the significance of the sighting and twisted my back in an effort to get this shot. The Pallid harriers hugged the tree tops in their flight, making autofocus and flight shots impossible. Only one critical moment the bird had to pass an open spot without intervening vegetation. POW! Gotcha! Here's the evidence...Large view