Birding in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
The Kalagadi Transfrontier Park has a list of approximately 280 species of which only about 92 are resident. The remainder comprises mainly nomadic, migratory and vagrant species, which number about 17, 50 and 121 respectively.
A variety of raptors may be seen, the commonest being Tawny and Black-breasted (chested) Snake Eagle, Bateleur, White-backed and Lappet-faced Vulture, as well as smaller species such as Pale Chanting Goshawk, Gabar Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon and Greater Kestrel.
Less common are Martial Eagle and Red-necked Falcon. Barn, Spotted and Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl are common, while Pearl-spotted Owlet, White-faced and African Scops-Owl may also be seen.
Larks and Sparrowlarks (Finchlarks) are abundant particularly after good rains which is also a good time to see seed-eaters such as Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-throated Canary, Shaft-tailed Whydah and Lark-like Bunting. Kori Bustard is common along both the Auob and Nossob riverbeds with Ludwig’s Bustard being relatively common during summer.
Species that can be seen throughout the year include White-browed Sparrowweaver (which breeds in the camp), Crimson-breasted Shrike, Brubru, Pririt Batis, Black-chested Prinia, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Common Scimitar-bill, Red-eyed Bulbul, Marico Flycatcher, Red-headed Finch and Yellow Canary. These species are however all widespread in the park.
During the summer months species such as Diderick Cuckoo, Willow and African Marsh Warbler, as well as Barn (European), Greater Striped, South African Cliff and White-throated Swallow amongst others may be seen. All occurring swallows are widespread in the park during summer.
Rufous-cheeked Nightjar can also be heard at night during summer.
Other species present in summer are Spotted Flycatcher, Cape White-eye and Long-billed Crombec.
The winter season is a good period for spotting Fairy Flycatcher and Dusky Sunbird that move into the park. Spotted Eagle Owls are resident in camp and Pearl-spotted Owlet and Whitefaced Owl may occasionally be heard or seen. European, White-rumped, Little and Bradfield’s Swift ay be seen during the rainy season while passing through.
This camp exhibits a variety of typical woodland birds that may also be found in and along the dry river courses of the park.
Species that are present year round include Cardinal and Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Pied Barbet, Swallowtailed Bee-eater, Ashy Tit, Glossy Starling and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow.
Pearl-spotted Owlet and Whitefaced Owl are also common while Scops Owl can be seen or heard in some years.
Striped Kingfisher occurs throughout the year and may be heard calling from the riverbed outside the camp. Great Spotted Cuckoo can also be seen in summer during some years.
Nossob Camp and its surrounds exhibit a blend of species typical of the other camps, and has the added attraction of a wide variety of raptor species.
Typical birds of the camp include Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Glossy and Burchell’s Starling (mainly in winter), Cape (Black) Crow, Fork-tailed Drongo, Kalahari Scrub Robin and Violet-eared Waxbill.
A special to look out for is the Great Sparrow that frequents the campsite as well as the surrounding waterholes.
Summer migrants include European Golden Oriole, Jacobin Cuckoo, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrike. Other species that move into the area during summer are Marico Sunbird and Long-billed Crombec.
The two dry riverbeds in the park, namely the Nossob and Auob, support a wide spectrum of bird species and are the focus points of bird activity.
The higher number and density of bird species may be primarily attributed to the large camel thorn trees (Acacia erioloba) found along these river courses, which provide important nesting and roosting sites for a variety of birds. Although the two riverbeds essentially support similar bird populations, some species are more likely to be encountered in one or the other.
The Nossob Riverbed is rated as one of the best places in South Africa to view raptors, particularly during the summer months when large numbers of migratory eagles, kites and falcons move through the park. Resident raptors are few and often far between throughout the whole park, although some species may be common during the summer season.
Resident eagles to be seen include Martial, Tawny, Bateleur, Black-breasted (-chested) and Brown Snake Eagle (which is somewhat uncommon), while the migrant species include Steppe, Wahlberg’s, Booted and Lesser Spotted Eagle.
Other migratory raptors include Black and Yellow-billed Kite, Steppe Buz za rd, Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier, European Hobby, and a number of kestrel species.
Black Harrier and Gymnogene occur as vagrants and can be seen at any time throughout the year.
Species that are irregularly seen in the extreme northern reaches of the Nossob are Rosy-faced Lovebird and Grey Hornbill. The latter has also been recorded from Twee Rivieren during the winter months when there appears to be some northward movement of these birds from areas south of the park.
Groundscraper Thrush is reasonably common and can be found under or near the canopies of Camel Thorns, where they feed on the ground.
Bokmakierie is a species not easily seen and appears to be shyer that the birds in the southern and eastern parts of its distribution. African (Grassveld/Richard’s) Pipits may be seen during particular years in the patches of short grasslands of the riverbed, and where the patches of grass are dense and long, one is bound to find Desert Cisticola.
The wet season (November to March) marks the time when numerous migrating storks and other water related birds find their way into the park.
Large numbers of White and Abdim’s Stork can be seen feeding on insects along the riverbed, while less common species such as Black and Marabou Stork may be found in limited numbers near waterholes. Unusual species which are either migrating or that are blown off course by strong winds may also be found by chance, such as members of the heron, egret and duck families.
Waders such as Little Stint, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Three-banded Plover and sandpipers amongst others, may also stop over to utilise the waterpoints for feeding.
Birds that should be looked out for in the riverbed include Striped Kingfisher, Green (Red-billed) Woodhoopoe, Purple Roller, Capped Wheatear, Mountain Chat and Short-toed Rock Thrush (the latter two species are only occasionally seen in winter).
Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owl can be spotted in dense camel thorn trees, particularly along the short loop roads along the northern part of the riverbed. The waders as described for the Nossob River may also be found after rainstorms either at large water pools or waterholes,
There are 2 roads that cross the duneveld in the park, the one being 55 km long the other 35km. These roads traverse mainly through open grassland with occasional shrubs and trees, and provide many birders with good views of a number of species.
Birds to look out for on these roads are Ant-eating Chat, Rufous-eared Warbler, Chat Flycatcher, Cape Penduline Tit, Clapper, Spike-heeled and Fawn-coloured Lark.
Grey-backed and Black-eared Sparrowlark (Finchlark), Pink-billed and Stark’s Lark may be found after good summer rains where there is an abundance of grass seed. Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark (Finchlark) has been recorded in the park and may also be seen.
One should also look for Burchell’s and Namaqua Sandgrouse that frequent the verges of these roads. With luck some Buffy Pipit may be found in limited numbers in he dune areas.
Kurrichane Buttonquail, Common and Harlequin Quail have all been recorded and may be seen (with an exceptional amount of alertness and luck) where grass patches are dense.
The Northern Black Korhaan and the less obtrusive Red-crested Korhaan may be seen anywhere in the duneveld together with the Double-banded Courser which is easily overlooked while driving.
Thornveld and Botswana Wilderness Trail (including the Mabuasehube area)
The Acacia thorn savanna that characterises the areas covered by wilderness trail and the Mabuasehube section of the Kalahari Transfrontier Park, supports additional species that are rarely encountered along the wooded riverbeds.
These species include Southern Pied Babbler, Bennett’s and Bearded Woodpecker, Brown-crowned (Three-streaked) Tchagra, Helmeted Guineafowl, Red-billed Francolin and Little Banded Goshawk.
Species such as Golden-breasted Bunting and Black-faced (Black-cheeked) Waxbill have been recorded but are not easily found.
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