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 Post subject: Francoisd's sightings : Kruger 27/01-5/02
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2006 11:01 pm 
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Time is nearly at hand. Wednesday I'll do some birding trying to add 3 rareties to my list. Thursday fly to JHB. Friday KRUGER!! :lol:

Will try and supply updates daily.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 1:14 pm 
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Well let's start reporting. I'll post a report for each day. I've tried and include info such as routes travelled and animals seen during the day.

In the reports I've included a number of photos. To enable those with slower connection to also get to see this I've reduced the file sizes and tried to keep most of them below 200K each, a few may however be larger files, the size of the file is indicated with the photo. If the majority of members do however experience problems due to the file size I'll concider reducing them more.

Day 1
Date: 27 January 2006

Roads travelled:
H1-9, Pafuri loop, S64 (Nyala loop), H1-8, S61 (Klopperfontein loop), S60 to Punda Maria

Animals seen:
Impala, Kudu, Squirrel, Nyala, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Elephant

Special sightings:
Jakkalsbessie, Bosnimf and Johann (in no particluar order)

Report:
After packing the Landie, filling the tank and buying some last stuff at the petrol station's shop we left Pretoria around 00:45. We travelled via the N1 to just past the Baobab toll gate which is ±60 km north of Louis Trichardt (Makhado) where we turned right on the R525 which passes Tshipise and Masisi which is close to Tshikondeni where my parents used to stay for a number of years before their retirement.

After passing through the foot-and-mouth- control gate we still had ±20km to travel to the Pafuri gate. About 3km from the gate we saw a huge flock of birds flying overhead and after stopping we identified them as Abdim's Stork. A new tick for us. After another 200m we found another flock sitting of to the right of the road on farm property. What a pity that they were not inside the park so that we could add them to our birding weekend list! (201K)
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Eventually at 08:25 we reached Pafuri gate. The last time we entered at this gate was in 2002 when the reception was still just a large trailer so it was a pleasant surprise to see the beautiful new building. The only comment I have to make is "SANParks please get those guys an air conditioning unit for the office!" Even at that time of the morning it was very hot in there. After check-in procedures we posted our "We are birding" signs and also attached our Yellow Ribbon. At last we were home! Back in Kruger again. It is difficult to describe that feeling that runs through your whole body when you enter Kruger again after a long time away, but I'm sure most of you will know exactly what I mean.

We slowly worked our way down the H1-9 towards the Pafuri turn-off, tuning our senses into the bush frequency again. On the bridge over the Luvuhu river we were first greeted with a strong flowing river and then by the ultimate African bush sound. Two African Fish-eagles calling to each other from different sides of the bridge. Sure beats anything Mozart ever written. We shared this sound feast with another vehicle, which later turned out to be Owl.

At Pafuri picnic site there was surprisingly very few birds around and also no Frank. Due to the high level of the Luvuhu river we also did not see the usual Great White Egret, Goliath Heron and other waders but did manged to find a couple of White-crowned Lapwing (189K).
Image

At Crook's Corner we were first greeted by an abandoned double cab bakkie ±20m from the river. As we got the river into few we saw a lone spotting scope and turning in we found a birding group taking a group picture, all out of their vehicle. The far north of the Park is a "new" destination for us and this was the first time in 6 years that we saw water in the Limpopo river and what a sight it was.

This photo of the abandoned bakkie was taken as we turned back from Crooks Corner (193K)
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The birding party taking a group photo (166K)
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The full Limpopo river (125K)
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From Crooks Corner we travelled to the Nyala loop where we saw absolutely nothing and then made our way down to Punda Maria via the H1-8, S61 and S60. We arrived at camp around 14:30 and then reported to the Honorary Ranger on duty, got our welcome packs and tent number. Our party was allocated tents 5,6 and 7. Tent 6 being our tent. At the tent parking to the tents we met Pieter who took WTM's spot in our group.

After unpacking SO went for a swim while I visited the hide in the camp without much luck. After this it was time for some rest and after a nice nap I noticed that JB, BNF and Johann arrived. My SO and I went around to JB's tent to meet the crazy lady for the first time. It turns out that she is much more of a large mouth here on the forum than in real life. But both very pleasant people and my SO really enjoyed having other ladies around for the first part of the trip. Soon after meeting them Johann also made an appearance and it turns out he is quiet a decent guy!

JB, BNF and Johann decided they are going to do the Mahonie loop while SO and I revisited the hide adding our 5th new bird for the day, a Purple Indigobird. With the hot temperatures and a long absence from Kruger the birding went slow but by the end off day one we did manage 52 birds of which 5 were new ticks to our lists.

The evening consisted of a braai in the camp where everyone got to see the other birders and get to hear what the programme for the next day is. Each group was allocated to a expert who would accompany them on the vehcile and we had the fortune of having Dr Ian Whyte with us. We were also told where each group will be spending their time during the dawn chorus. Our group, the Off Coursers, would be up at Crooks Corner. We were also treated to talks by Dr Ian Whyte and our own Owl (Chris Patton). Then it was off to bed, as we had to get up at 02:00 to ensure a strict 03:00 start to the birding day.


Last edited by francoisd on Wed Feb 22, 2006 12:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 1:59 pm 
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Day 2

Date: 28 January 2006

Roads travelled:
We travelled various normal tourist routes and also a lot of non-tourist roads

Animals seen:
Impala, Kudu, Squirrel, Nyala, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Elephant, Leopard, Crocodile (not actually an animal but we recorded them anyhow), Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Genet, Rabbit, Sharp's Grysbok

Special sightings:
Definitely the leopard mother and cub we saw in a tree next to the Luvuhu river close to the Thulamela archaeological site. Also Pennant-winged Nightjar

Report:
02:00 came all to sudden but the prospects of what the day might hold had us out of bed in a flash. A quick shower to refresh the body, pack the provisions for the day and off to the meeting place at reception. Our vehicle was one of the first to leave camp and very soon we were adding birds to our list. For the birding event birds were added either by call or sight but for my SO and my list we only recorded those birds we could visually identify. In a short space we added 4 new birds; Verreaux's Eagle-owl, Barn Owl, European Nightjar and Square-tailed (Mozambique) Nightjar. A couple of other owls and nightjars were added by call. It turned out that BNF was really great at identifying bird calls and JB was also not to bad. As the day progressed I was really glad we had these two ladies on our team and SO was really impressed by BNF knowledge of bird calls.

Our aim was to arrive at Crooks Corner at 04:30 but only got there just after 05:00. Now for someone who is bird call challenged it was quite an experience standing there in semi darkness, listening to the cacophony off bird calls and having the other birders identifying the birds they hear. After a while one manage to pick up on some of the calls though.

First light at Crooks Corner (69K)
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Sunrise at Crooks Corner (could not find any decent spot to cut out the tree in the photo) (165K)
Image

Shortly after adding a Green-capped Eremomela to our life list, excitement broke out as two Lemon-breasted Canaries was spotted. Another lifer and one of the birds on my wish list for this trip!!

After sunrise we started to work our way back towards Pafuri picnic spot. We would travel a short distance ticking birds and then we would stop the vehicle to listen to calls or get out and walk around a bit. This felt strange at first being out of the vehicle but was sort of nice.

After adding Southern Black Flycatcher, Grey-headed Parrot, Long-tailed (Eastern) Paradise-Whydah and Grey-backed Camaroptera to our life list it was time for breakfast at Pafuri. And then it was time for Frank to do his stuff and with a crowd of 20 people behind him he took us directly to a spot where we got to mark Black-throated Wattle-eye (Wattle-eyed Flycatcher). Another bird on my wish list ticked!

From here we slowly made our way to Nyala loop and the by now famous leopard sighting so well described by JB. What a way to bring some spark back to some tired people!

Mom and cub (203K)
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Mom (208K)
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The plan was now to travel down the H1-8 turn off onto the Northern Trails 4x4 route and then travel to Langtoon dam to add some water birds, which up to now was very scares. We did manage to get unto the Northern Trails route and SO got to add Dark Chanting Goshawk when disaster struck our team with our total on 138 birds for the morning. JB described the events in such a accurate way that there is no need for me to add anything else accept maybe a couple of photos.

This is what the wheel spanner looked like after our first try to loosen the wheel nuts (152K)
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Maybe if we stare at the wheel long enough it will loosen itself. (189K)
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Edward, our driver, posing for the Tower de Kruger (197K)
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Back at camp everyone was tired after our ordeal and while SO decided she will cool off in the pool I just had to do the Mahonie loop. Did not see to much animals but did get good views of Brown-headed Parrots and Broad-billed Rollers. I also manage to add Striped Kingfisher to my life list.

At 18:30 it was time for our night drive and in addition to adding Bronze-winged Courser as a lifer I got to add a Pennant-winged Nightjar to my list. Number 3 on my wish list ticked leaving only Pel's Fishing-owl, which we did not get to see during our trip. The day was ended with another braai and a lucky draw. We also said ggod-bye to JB, BNF, Johann and Pieter as we planned to leave very early the next morning as we had to travel down to Letaba.

Also see JB's excellent report of this eventful day.


Last edited by francoisd on Wed Feb 22, 2006 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 2:12 pm 
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Day 3

Date: 29 January 2006

Roads travelled:
Early drive:
H13-1, H1-7, stop at Babalala then on to Shingwedzi taking the S55 loop, S134, S50 to Kanniedood dam, H1-6, Mopanie, H1-6, Letaba

Late drive:
S46 back to H1-5 and Letaba

Animals seen:
Impala, Squirrel, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Elephant, Crocodile, Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Buffalo, Blue wildebeest, Warthog, Bushbuck

Special sightings:
2 Ground Hornbills, Large group of buffalo, Ostriches

Report:
Our planned early start did not materialise and JB and them left even before we did. We eventually left Punda at 06:00 and was greeted by a large herd of buffalo not far from camp and also the first Red-billed Oxpeckers of our trip.

After a quick stop at Babalala which revealed good views of a Diderick Cuckoo we were on our way again. A couple of kilometres from Babalala while looking at some Red-billed Teals at a waterhole formed by the rain, a car pulled up and it's BNF, JB and Johann!! Apparently they decided to leave Punda early to do the S56 loop at Babalala before leaving the Park.

With the road not being very productive I decide to take the short S55 loop at Lamont waterhole before going to Shingwedzi. Close to joining the H1-7 again we find our first Ground Hornbills. 2 Male birds. A visit to the Kanniedood bird hide did not deliver much and after refuelling at Shingwedzi we continue our journey to Letaba. In addition to a few general game and one elephant we did not see much on the road to Mopani. It was interesting to note that the rock at the Tropic of Capricorn sight is actually a artificial rock something I did not notice before as we never stopped there before. (202K)
Image

The H1-6 from Mopani to Letaba did not deliver much and the only highlight was a group of 5 ostriches 3km from the S62 on the Mopani side.

And then we arrived at Letaba. First disappointment was the unfriendly service we received at reception. Seemed the lady at reception was baptized in lemon juice. Second disappointment, when asking her to swipe our WILD card she replied that they do not swipe WILD cards if you use a booking agent other than SANParks as the price is already discounted! Although the price I pay through my booking agent is the same as listed on SANPark's website I decided to leave it at that. We did not have any problems with this at Satara or Skukuza however. We booked a safari tent and was given tent 11. Third disappointment was the state of the ablution facility. It is the one closet to tent 11, the swimming pool and the shop. We arrived on 29 Jan and left on 31 Jan, in that time the ablution facility was not cleaned once!

We unpacked and then had lunch at the restaurant. We immediately noticed that there were no birds around! From the restaurant we saw the usual Marabou Storks and also impala, waterbuck, elephant and also 1 Saddle-billed Stork.

After the long hot drive of the first part of the day we decided to relax at the tent and then took a late afternoon drive on the S46 round back to the H1-5 and then back to Letaba. We saw a huge crocodile, some general game and a herd of elephant on the H1-5 returning from drinking water. There was a number of small ellies in the group. (103K)
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We ended the day with a nice braai and taking in the night sounds. As we went to bed the tent was very hot and the little fan battled to keep us cool.


Last edited by francoisd on Wed Feb 22, 2006 12:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 2:40 pm 
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Day 4

Date: 30 January 2006

Roads travelled:
H1-6, S62, S48, S131, S69, H9 back to Letaba

Animals seen:
Impala, Kudu, Squirrel, Zebra, Vervet monkey, Elephant, Crocodile, Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Blue wildebeest, Warthog, Bushbuck, Chameleon, Monitor lizard without tail

Special sightings:
2 Groups of Ground Hornbill

Report:
The day started out hot early on. We travelled north on the H1-6 and then turned right on the S62 to visit Matambeni bird hide. Very few birds around but we did find plenty of Corn crickets around in the parking area (121K).
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From Matambeni we travelled down the road running next to the Makhadzi river. At the end of the road where it looks out over Engelhard dam we came upon one of the largest impala herds we saw in a long time. As we worked our way back to the H1-6 we saw 1 male Ground Hornbill.

We returned to camp for a quick bite to eat and on our way there about 2km from camp we found another 3 Ground hornbills, mom, dad and juvenile.

After we ate breakfast we went up the H1-6 and then turned left on the S47 to Mingerhout dam. At the end of the loop we used the S131 to return to the H9 then on to the S69 where we have seen lion on numerous occasions. Well not this time. Day 4 and still lionless and time to return to camp for lunch. After lunch we did some in camp birding managed to add Cut-throat Finch as a new tick.

Male (148K)
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Female (169K)
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After the drought the lawns in the camping area have not yet grown back and during our walk there we came across this Rock monitor without a tail. Would be interesting to know how it lost his/her tail. (219K) (226K)
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Image

By this time it was really hot and we made good use of the new swimming pool. We had a safari tent reserved for Skukuza, but the high temperatures we experienced so far made my SO decide that it was time to upgrade to a bungalow so a phone call was made to our booking agent who quickly sorted everything out for us.

We spend the rest of the day lazying around at camp and had ice cream at the restaurant area for sundowners.

Through out Letaba there are a couple of bat hotels that I did not notice during our November 2004 trip. Below is one of these "hotels" (169K)
Image

Tomorrow we move on to one of our favourite areas, that being the Satara area and surely we will now found some lions and rhino.


Last edited by francoisd on Wed Feb 22, 2006 1:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 3:28 pm 
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Day 5

Date: 31 January 2006

Roads travelled:
Early drive:
S46, H1-5, H1-4, S91, S92, Olifants camp, H8, H1-4, S39, S40, S12, H7, H1-4 to Satara

Late drive:
S100 up to Shibotwana and back, H7 to Nsemani dam and back to Satara

Animals seen:
Impala, Squirrel, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Elephant, Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Rabbit, Buffalo, Blue wildebeest, Warthog, Bushbuck, Giraffe, Hyena, Lion.

Special sightings:
4 Hyena

Report:
As we packed the car the night before we were out of the gate at 04:30. As it is 31 January it is also the last day on which the gate open at this time of day as from 1 Feb gates open at 05:30. Because it was still dark out we had opportunity to see some nightjars and coursers and found 4 hyenas shortly after joining the H1-5 again.

About 800m from the H8 (leading to Olifants) we once again found a group of Ground Hornbills, this time 4 males. We pass the H8 and take the S91 towards Balule. Lots of general game on this stretch of road. On the low water bridge to Balule this Pied Kingfisher allowed us to come close enough for a nice photo (116K). While photographing the Kingfisher my SO drew my attention to a sunbird couple to the left, which turned out to be Marico Sunbirds, another new tick to our list.
Image

We slowly made our way up to Olifants and after enjoying the view from the lookout we had a decent breakfast at the take-away area. Was good to see plenty of water in the Olifants river again

As we have never before visited the lookout / waterhole on the S39 and being enticed by the photo of this place in "Where to watch game in the Kruger Park" we made the S39 Roodewal road our next route. Unfortunately there was no water at the waterhole and no animals. A little further down the road we saw this reptile in the road, which we think might be a Nile Monitor hatchling. (171K)
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And a few meters further this tortoise thought of crossing the road but after the photo session he decided to retrace his steps. Is this a Leopard tortoise? (196K)
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At the Roodewal waterhole there were a large number of impala, zebra and wildebeest and it looked like a good spot for guest at Roodewal to spend some time during late afternoon. Just past the waterhole we found another lifer when we ticked Great Spotted Cuckoo. Halfway between Roodewal and Ratelpan we met an elderly couple that approached from the front and waved us down. After discussing what we saw on our route they informed us of a male lion a couple of kilometres down the road lying about 30 meters from the road. The spot was not to difficult to find as all the tyre tracks on the side of the road testified of people manoeuvring to see better. As we stopped Mr Lion lifted his head and allowed us to take a photo. But soon it looked as if he heard something in the distance, maybe pride members calling, and he got up and left the scene. (187K)
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There was no water at Ratelpan bird hide and also no birds. We carried on to Timbavati picnic spot for a rest room stop and did not see the usual bushbuck there. We followed the S40 to Girivana where we only found Egyptian geese and a number of White-faced ducks. From here we travelled down the S12 and then visited Nsemani dam before travelling via the H7 to Satara. On our way to camp we watched a baboon troop and the infighting between a number of males, and what a racket that was. Just before the junction with the H1-3 we came upon this zebra mare and foal. From the bloodstain on her right hindquarter we think the foal is not more than 1 or 2 days old. (243K)
Image

We were met with the usual Satara friendliness at reception and was allocated bungalow G166 that is next to the perimeter fence on the restaurant side. In future G-block will be our preference. After unpacking we took a stroll around camp and once again was astound at all the Woodland Kingfishers calling all around. Never before had we heard so many of this bird specie in Kruger. At the little water feature garden we saw Diderick Cuckoo, Woodland Kingfisher, Lesser Masked Weaver, African Mourning Dove and Green (Redbilled) Wood-hoopoe.

Diderick Cuckoo (117K)
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Green (Redbilled) Wood-hoopoe (198K)
Image

To my amazement a Woodland Kingfisher came flying in, perched on a branch with a newly hatched chick of unknown species in its mouth and proceeded to hit it to a pulp on the branch. Do I have photos? Yes, a number of blurry, out of focus stuff!!!

After a nap in our air-conditioned bungalow it was time to visit one of my favourite roads, the famous S100. The sightings board showed a lion sighting not far from Shibotwana waterhole. The area close to this waterhole has in the past deliver numerous lion sightings for us. Well, about a kilometre before the waterhole SO spotted the male lion lying down in a little bush surrounded by tall grass. How she spotted him I really do now know. He rolled over once or twice but was not interested in showing too much of himself. Looking at the height of the grass I do not think people in normal sedan would be able to see him. From the tracks one fool decided to drive into the grass for a short distance to get a better look! We decided to carry on to Shibotwana and then turn around to visit Nsemani again. Good decision as at Shibotwana we found a large flock of Senegal Lapwing. Another lifer. In the end the S100 delivered impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, warthog, buffalo, waterbuck, elephant and Kori Bustard.

Nsemani did not deliver much excitement, but scanning an impala herd close by two buck did not fit in and turned out to be two young waterbuck that was about the size of an impala. The rest of the waterbuck herd grazed on the opposite side of the road. (207K)
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On our way back to camp we found another elephant herd with young (144K) and also some more beautiful Southern Carmine Bee-eaters
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Back at camp I decided to print a couple of photos at the Kodak machine just to see what it looks like. As it was the first time I used one of these machines I found the whole process easy and soon had to ask the shop attendant behind the main till for the password. After entering it the machine indicated that the request is being processed and that my photos would be printed in a matter of minutes. I have to add that I only wanted to print 8 photos. As time went by we strolled around the shop and after 20 minutes still no photos! We enquired from the guy at the till (will not mention his name) and his reply "The machine does not print photos as the cartridge is empty" What!! His reply to me asking why he let my wait around 20 minutes without saying anything. "I thought you want to write a CD"

The take-away area is closed down due to construction, but you can still order at a counter set up outside the restaurant. Maybe they are upgrading it?

A nice fire and braai made up for the last part of the day though.


Last edited by francoisd on Thu Feb 23, 2006 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 4:20 pm 
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Day 6

Date: 01 February 2006

Roads travelled:
Early drive:
H7, S36, S33, H1-3 down to Tshokwane, H1-3 back to Satara

Late drive:
H1-3 to Ngotso dam and back

Animals seen:
Impala, Kudu, Squirrel, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Elephant, Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Buffalo, Blue wildebeest, Warthog, Giraffe, Black-backed Jackal, White rhino, Steenbok.

Special sightings:
5 Black-backed Jackal

Report:
The first route of the day is a very long one and coupled with the high temperature and humidity proofed to be quite a tiring one as well.

The morning started out with a bang. Shortly after turning into the H7 as we came around a corner there was 5 Black back Jackals standing in the road. By the time that the camera was operational 4 left the road to the left and in the long grass you could hardly see the ears. SO might have caught all of them on video, but we did not view the video footage yet. One decided to stick around and ran in front of the vehicle for a while before swerving off to the right. (179K) (102K)
Image
Image

Just before Nsemani dam we met a herd of buffalo numbering 100+. We saw 2 with collars and a couple of the animals were branded. A vehicle of the TB Research group was also on the scene and the two guys were taking notes and identifying individuals. During our time in the Park it seemed to me that buffalos like to use tarred roads as toilets. It is as if they say "Hey guys, here is one of those funny black roads again let's pee and poo on it!" (203K)
Image

The vehicle on the other side of the herd is the TB Research guys (142K)
Image

One of the branded animals (228K)
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After travelling on the H7 for a while we turned left onto the S36. We saw a number of giraffe and impala on the first strech. Just before Muzandzeni we saw our first White Rhino of the trip. At Muzandzene waterhole there were plenty of impala and zebra and also a few wildebeest. Quick stop at Muzandzeni to use the "famous" long drops to get rid of the morning's coffee before carrying on. (181K)
Image

The rest of the road to Nhlanguleni did not deliver much but we did get to see 2 more Saddle-billed Storks. Up to about 5km from Nhlanguleni the condition of the road surface varied from good to acceptable, but then we hit a strech that could shake every thought off seeing Sable right out of W@H's mind! We then turned unto the S33 and made our way back to the H1-3. Apart from birds and 2 elephant the S33 was also very unproductive, but by now we were getting close to 11:00 and the heat force most animals to seek shelter. Judging from what looked like snake tracks and the varying sizes of these tracks, the S33 is not a place you would want to be at the height of snake activity!

At the junction with the H1-3 we turned right to visit Tshokwane and strech our legs. We bought a nice sandwich at the shop and as we sat down to enjoy it, the lack of birds was immediately noticeable. We saw one lone dove walking around. Even in the rest of the picnic area there was hardly any birds. We left Tshokwane and made our way back to Satara via the H1-3. Our visit to the Baobab tree did not deliver any animals and at this stage I personally will not advice people driving normal sedans to visit there as the grass came right up to window level of the Landrover! If your only reason is to see the tree, then it's fine; at least you can still see the tree.

About 2km past the S126 turn-off on the H1-3 we saw another group of ostriches.

Back at camp we took some time to rest after the long first drive of the day. As the sighting board indicated lion at Ngotso dam we decided that it would be our late drive destination. We did not find any lion there but met up with another rhino enjoying the water. On our way back we found 6 more ostriches close to Witpens waterhole.

After returning to camp the idea was to visit the camping area to photograph that famous Satara sunset but due to the cloud cover the photo opportunity did not present itself. There were only about 5 groups in the camp area and a large part has been cordoned off due to building off what seems to be a new ablution facility. This building is right on the perimeter and in my opinion not only lessening the number of perimeter sites but also do not look good there.

View the first 2 pictures as a "panoramic photo" to get an idea of where the new block is situated to the old block. (242K) (157K) (183K)
ImageImage
Image

This has been a long, tiring day and it was off to bed early for two tired travellers.

Oh yes, the swimming pool was open to Satara residents although construction work to some of the facilities is still in progress. No photos as there were always people in and around the pool when we visited the site.


Last edited by francoisd on Thu Feb 23, 2006 11:48 am, edited 2 times in total.

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It took me the whole morning to upload the photos of this report to Photobucket!! I'll start uploading photos for the last 2 days now but can not guarantee that the reports will be posted today though.

Day 7

Date: 02 February 2006
Roads travelled:
Early drive:
H1-4, S90, S41, H6, H1-3 to Satara

Late drive:
S100 to Gudzani dam and back the same way

Animals seen:
Impala, Kudu, Squirrel, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Elephant, Crocodile, Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Buffalo, Blue wildebeest, Giraffe, Hyena, Mongoose (Afrikaans: Swartkwasmuishond)

Special sightings:
2 Mosque Swallows, Bull elephant (probably Shimatsi)

Report:
At the start of this day our bird total was at 156 and as we have set a target of 160 at the beginning of our trip it was time to dig in and get serious again. We decided that after missing out on Mocking Cliff-chat at Mopanie and Olifants we would include N'wanetsi in our route hoping to find them there, but no luck. I also still wanted to see Red-breasted Swallow, as they are my favourite swallows. In the past we had good luck on especially the S100 with them but also on the S41.

Halfway down the S90 we met a giraffe bull that had a couple of zebra mare groupies following him around (148K).
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At Gudzani we found one Lappet-faced vulture sitting in a tree. The grass on certain sections of the S41 was also quite high and the photo below was taken with the camera resting on the door of the Landrover (204K).
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A couple of kilometres before the S41 cross the Gudzani river there is another stream crossing not indicated on the map. As we came towards the crossing I saw two swallows having a drink in the road and first thought they were the Red-breasted Swallow we were looking for but it turned out they were Mosque Swallows. Although we've seen them before (on the S100 WTM) it was still great to see these scares birds (scares in SA). As we crossed the stream we saw our first Malachite Kingfisher of the trip and also this small crocodile enjoying the little bit of sun (196K).
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At Gudzani dam we were treated to an ellie having a swim. He went under the water then jumped out with lots of splashing and then disappear under the water again. Was a little to far for good photos though but we did get it on video. There was also a African Fish Eagle enjoying a meal, but as he sat behind a lot of twigs it made photographing it very difficult.

An uneventful drive followed to N'wanetsi where nothing much was happening. We did see some nice "lizards" though

View from N'wanetsi lookout showing how green the area is (250K)
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Have not yet positively identified this "Blue tailed lizard" (159K)
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Five-lined (also called Rainbow) skink (182K)
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A quick detour to Sweni bird hide did not deliver any birds at the hide, but there was some hippos to look at, at close range. They were on the "wrong side" of the hide however and the glare from the water made photography very difficult. The trip via the H6 back to Satara did not deliver much. Back at camp I SMS-ed WTM to tell him things was going slow and added that we still have to travel on the S100 though. I still remember the short reply "Voertsek! Geniet dit!" {tr: Go away! Enjoy it!}

And boy did we enjoy our afternoon drive on the S100. There was large numbers of impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and waterbuck. Numerous elephants including this youngster who for a moment thought that he'll be able to tackle the Landrover (218K)
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We also got to see our first Little Bee-eaters of the trip and get a sort of decent photo of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters (220K)
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And off course the elephant bull! Here are some photos, so I hope that some off you might be able to confirm that it is Shimatsi as suggested. (I reduced the original number of photos I wanted to post, but these show both sides and the ear markings so they should suffice for identification) (152K) (202K) (178K)
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Here are some photos of the new Day visitors' area at Satara, which is still under construction. It is nearly on the same spot as the old one but as it is larger it comes closer to the H1-4.

These 2 photos taken from the H1-4 (180K) (165K)
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This photo taken from close to the camp entrance gate (227K)
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Last night at Satara, tomorrow we are off to Skukuza for the last 2 nights of our Kruger visit. With the sound of many Woodland Kingfishers in our ears and the mating dance of a Natal Francolin pair we enjoy our braai.


Last edited by francoisd on Thu Feb 23, 2006 11:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Day 8

Date: 03 February 2006

Roads travelled:
Early drive:
H1-3, S83, H1-2, Lake Panic bird hide

Afternoon drive:
H1-1, S114, S112, H3, H1-1, S65, S1, S4, tar road back to Skukuza

Animals seen:
Impala, Kudu, Squirrel, Nyala, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Elephant, Crocodile, Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Blue wildebeest, Warthog, Giraffe, White Rhino, Steenbok, Mongoose (Afrikaans: Swartkwasmuishond), Dwarf Mongoose, Cheetah

Special sightings:
7 Cheetah (mother and 6 cubs), Family of Dwarf Mongoose

Report:
This day would turn out to be one to be remembered for some time to come.

A 05:30 start saw us travelling south on the H1-3. After an hour of travelling small shapes next to the road drew our attention. Stopping a safe distance away so as not to scare whatever it is away we got the binoculars out to get a closer look. A family of about 8 Dwarf mongooses. As it was down hill towards them we let the car run free as we edged our way closer. They were a little skittish so we could not get too close.
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Along the way we found a baboon troop. One male had a branch full off berries with him. As he tried and get as many in his mouth at one time as he can, one must have entered the wrong way and he started coughing. First time I heard a baboon cough. Sounds a lot like WTM chocking on his biltong when reading one of the S100 reports.

We visited Nyaka pan, the Baobab and Tshokwane with only few general game seen. Silolweni dam, Leeupan (maybe they should call it impala pan as we've only seen impala there in all our visits), Jonesdam, Mantimahle dam and Olifantsdrinkgat held nothing worth special mention.

Crossing the Sabie river we saw some Marabou Storks having a board meeting and I thought I might get to spot WTM, W@H and Jacov between them, but I think they were off somewhere looking for some cold Castles. Also had an opportunity to photograph a Hamerkop.
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As there was still time left before our 12:00 book in time we decided to visit Lake Panic. What a surprise to find it filled to the brim and a hippo keeping an eye on the birders.
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There was some "dragonflies" around
Common Tigertail
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Think this is a Violet Dropwing
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Red-veined Dropwing
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I also managed to get plenty of shots of an African Jacana walking around on the vegetation, here are some of them.
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Book-in at Skukuza was an absolute pleasure with the two friendly people at the front desk. We were allocated unit 28, this is a 3 bed bungalow but it does not have a stove plate. It is also close to the movie screen. The new upgraded deli really looks great and there is even an Internet café if you really want to catch up on the crazy forum talk
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Planning our afternoon drive I though I must have a look at the destruction WTM caused when he rolled up the S65. We started off to Renosterkoppies dam and entered the S65 from the south end, as it seemed that WTM did not take it all. At the south entrance this sign was posted but due to events further up the road I never concentrated on seeing the mentioned tower so cannot show you a photo of it.
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And then about 2km south off N'waswitshaka waterhole the sighting of sightings during our holiday. Coming down a hill I saw shapes in the shade of a tree. As one got up I immediately recognised it as cheetah. At that stage SO was taking a nap but the word "cheetah" brought new life to her. We stopped some way off to get video and some photos before going closer for in case they decide to get up. We edged closer and sat watching them for 2 minutes when I heard a vehicle approaching from the back. Looking in the side mirror I saw a Safari vehicle and indicated that they should slow down. As the SV pulled in next to us it turns out to be forum favourites Untamed Africa. The guide looks at the animals under the tree, turns to me and ask "Is it cheetah" What!! Mister guide asking me if it's cheetah. "Yes sir it is" Out comes the radio and he calls another vehicle. As the other vehicle is 5km away we at least have another minute to go.

Both the Untamed vehicle and we edge a litter closer. Every now-and-then the radio crackles and the other vehicle indicates how far away they are. As the other vehicle arrives the cheetah got up and moved off into the bush but at least the people got to see cheetah and their faces shone.
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What an end to our day!! On our way back to camp we saw a Little Grebe (Dabchick) swimming with her chicks on her back at N'waswitshaka waterhole and also made a stop at Lake Panic where we were greeted by this sight!
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Last edited by francoisd on Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Day 9 (the last full day)

Date: 04 February 2006

Roads travelled:
H4-1, H4-2, S130, H4-2 to Crocodile Bridge, H4-2, S28 (with detour to Jones dam), H4-2, cross low water bridge, S128, S30 (Salitjepad) H12, H4-1 to Skukuza

Animals seen:
Impala, Kudu, Zebra, Baboon, Vervet monkey, Elephant, Crocodile, Hippopotamus, Buffalo, Blue wildebeest, Warthog, Giraffe, White Rhino, Mongoose (Afrikaans: Swartkwasmuishond), Duiker, Banded Mongoose

Report:
This is the last full day in Kruger and we planned a very long route.

As we still have not added African Green Pigeon to our list the most obvious place to see them is Lower Sabie. We travelled down the H4-1 to Lower Sabie, but first a stop to capture the sunrise next to the Sabie river.
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Nearing Sunset dam I saw a man and a women in a Landrover trying to hit a Common Sandpiper with two 10-inch PVC water pipes. Oh no, it just their huge white camera lenses that nearly reach the ground! Some crocs, impala and hippos at Sunset dam as well as 2 Yellow-billed Storks
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At Lower Sabie they are busy with construction work on the ladies toilets and a temporary facility has been erected at the parking area. According to my SO it is very clean, just a little cramped with all the ladies trying to get rid of coffee. We did not see much from the deck and proceeded to the area around the bungalows to find the pigeons. Following their call we found a number of them perched in a tree.

They are busy constructing new bungalows. Actually they demolish the old ones and build new ones in their place. They have already finished the two closest to the shop and the third one has been demolished. It is again two units attached to each other.
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We travelled further towards Crocodile Bridge in the hope of finding Wild dog but did not achieve that goal. On our way there we did find 2 White rhino at the intersection of the S130 and S137.

From Croc Bridge we travelled up the S28 and visited Nhlanganzwane dam, Duke waterhole and Nthandanyathi hide without seeing more than giraffe. While videotaping a Goliath Heron on the low water bridge a car pass us from the front. Shortly after we pulled off I notice the car making a u-turn and as we stop to look at hippo the car pull in next to us. It's Johann and his dad! They just drove Salitje Road without much success. I mention our Cheetah sighting on the S65 the day before and later that evening I find out that Johann relocated them again!

My decision to travel the S30 (Salitje Road) was based on a pin on the sighting board at Nkuhlu that indicated that someone spotted Sable there the morning. Knowing how much W@H would like to see a photo of them we decided we’d try and get him one. What a waste. We saw absolutely nothing on the whole stretch of road. Well nearly nothing. I saw a bakkie approaching from the front and the driver flag us down. He wanted to know where the road leads to as they do not know where they are. I thought it strange as the angel next to him had a Kruger map on her lap. Maybe the answer lie in the fact that the angel had the map? After indicating their position and where the exit gates are they decided to turn around and sped off into the distance.

Back at Skukuza we enjoyed a late lunch / early dinner and then had an ice cream while looking at a fast flowing Sabie river. That evening we decided to go down and watch the nature movie, which was about a leopard. What a disappointment. Even though we sat in the front row we could hardly hear the sound track so it had the same effect as watching a silent movie. Maybe this is something SANParks can look at? Many people came to watch the movie just to leave after a minute or two, as they could not hear the sound track. I'm sure a solution can be found to make it possible for everyone to hear the sound track, while not spoiling the tranquillity of other residents.

With a sad heart we loaded everything into the Landrover, as we knew that tomorrow morning it would be a straight route to the Kruger gate.


Conclusion

We left Kruger on Sunday 05 February around 06:00 to travel back to Pretoria.

We had a wonderful time in Kruger despite a couple of days with very high temperatures. It did not rain once during our stay, which we are really glad for. We usually visit Kruger during end of October beginning of November when the rains have not yet started. It was therefore nice to see Kruger clothed in its green jacket.

We enjoyed the Birding weekend as well as meeting other forum members. We had no other yellow ribbon sightings during our stay.

Overall we experienced good service in the Park except for our problems at Letaba, which as was mentioned is not true to Letaba character. The new food shop at Skukuza looks really great and I hope that the construction at Satara means that they are changing that one next. The new swimming pools at Letaba and Satara are well placed and any noise caused by people using it should not affect most residents in the camps. I also think many people will see them as welcome additions, and my SO sure enjoyed the one at Letaba.

We managed to see the Big 5 although we had poor lion sightings this year compared to previous visits. Due to the rains certain sections of the park has very tall grass next to the road which will complicate matters for people driving normal sedans and if you make use of a hire vehicle I would suggest booking a Condor or X-Trail if your budget allows. It is however only certain sections and there are more than enough places with good visibility.

We choose not to use any prophylaxis during the trip and only used preventative measures. We used Tabbard stick, Tabbard lotion, Peacefull sleep spray and had one of those electric mosquito things plugged in and burnt the insect coils. We did not see or hear many mosquitoes but they were around. This is a hugely debated issue on this forum and the decision lies with you.

The 7 cheetah are definitely a highlight but we also saw 13 Ground hornbill, 3 different Ostrich sightings, the elephant bull with the large tusk, Dwarf mongoose and a coupe of large buffalo herds.

We also had a great birding time. Our total for the 9 day trip is 190 (2 of these were just outside Kruger). Of the 190 I have added 23 lifers to my list and Magdeline added 25 to her list. My life list now totals 413. All birds were ID’d on sight only. There are about 7 birds not listed as we only heard them.

New birds added to my list:
1. Abdim's Stork (outside Kruger)
2. Village Indigobird (Steelblue Widowfinch)
3. White-winged Widowbird (Widow)
4. Yellow-crowned (Golden) Bishop
5. Purple Indigobird (Widowfinch)
6. Verreaux's (Giant) Eagle-owl
7. European Nightjar
8. Square-tailed (Mozambique) Nightjar
9. Green-capped Eremomela
10. Lemon-breasted Canary
11. Southern Black Flycatcher
12. Grey-headed Parrot
13. Long-tailed (Eastern) Paradise-whydah
14. Black-throated Wattle-eye (Wattle-eyed Flycatcher)
15. Striped Kingfisher
16. Bronze-winged Courser
17. Pennant-winged Nightjar
18. Cut-throat Finch
19. Marico Sunbird
20. Great Spotted Cuckoo
21. Senegal Lapwing (Lesser Blackwinged Plover)
22. Klaas's Cuckoo
23. Dusky Lark

All in all a great trip and already long for the next one.

Farewell beloved land of Kruger till our paths cross again and we can feel your earth beneath our feet once more.


Last edited by francoisd on Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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[quote="francoisd"]
[b][i]Have not yet positively identified this “Blue tailed lizardâ€

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Jakkalsbessie wrote:
Don't know if you have id'ed this lizard in the mean time but according to me it is the Dwarf Plated Lizard / Dwerg Pantserakkedis (Cordylosaurus subtessellatus)

JB I went through my "Field guide to Snakes and other reptiles of southern Africa" last night but could not find the lizard in my photo. I made some large prints of it just now and will go back to the guide.

As to Dwarf Plated Lizard, the stripes on the body and head are not the same as the one in my photo. It was however also one of the "blue-tailed" lizards I first concidered. Kruger is also well outside the distribution area of the Dwarf Plated Lizard as indicated in my guide.

The body markings, tail and head colouration looks like a mixture between Dwarf Plated Lizard and Angolan Blue-tailed Skink. The only Lizard with a blue tail indicated in my guide, that occurs in Kruger is the Striped Sandveld Lizard which also do not have the same stripe pattern as the one in my photo.

So it seems we still have to do more research!


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Could it be the Neon Blue-Tailed Lizard (Hplaspis guentheri)? The head and the stripes on the body seem very similar to the one on your pic. There is a major difference in the amount of blue in the tail though. I also could not find any distribution areas for this Lizard, so don't know if it's found in Kruger. :?

You can find a pic of it in the top row here.

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LittleLeopard wrote:
Could it be the Neon Blue-Tailed Lizard (Hplaspis guentheri)? ... I also could not find any distribution areas for this Lizard, so don't know if it's found in Kruger.

According to my field guide the range of Blue-tailed Tree Lizard is:
Through tropical and coastal forest of central, east and west Africa, just entering the subcontinent in central Mozambique (Amatongas and Dondo)
I have emailed photos of the lizard to Prof. P le Fras N Mouton at Stellenbosch University and hope he may be able to identifiy it. When I receive a reply I’ll post it here.


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It seems Jakkalsbessie's expert replies faster than the person I've emailed!

Dr Graham Alexander identified the "lizard" for us. Thanks JB for making contact with him.

Without seeing the photos his impressions were:
My suspicion is that is a female Trachylepis margaritifer (name was Mabuya quinquetaeniata when the book came out). The common name is Rainbow Skink. The photo of the female in the book does not do the species justice - the tails can be electric blue. Lots of people confuse this species with the other blue-tailed species.

After seeing the photos we've sent him:
Yes it is a Rainbow Skink. This is a young individual that probably only hatch a few months back. This is why it is so brightly coloured and allowed the photographer so close.


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