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Birding in Orpen
Orpen and the surrounding area is a good region for general bushveld birds and 5 of the "big 6" are regularly seen and breed in the area, with only the Pel's Fishing Owl being absent.
The plains immediately east of Orpen Camp are one of the more reliable places to see the nomadic Senegal (Lesser Black-winged) Plover (Search at the turn off to Tamboti and Marula Camps). Montagu's Harrier has also been recorded on a few occasions in this grassland area.
White-faced and Comb (Knob-billed) Ducks, Little Grebe (Dabchick) and Lesser Moorhen breed in the flooded vegetation at Rabelais Pan. 1999 saw the first Kruger breeding record of Painted Snipe here.
African Rail and African Crake are regularly recorded in dense, marshy areas, particularly on the dirt roads around Talamati. These species early in the morning or late afternoon or on overcast, rainy days when they are foraging on the edge of the road. Fairfield Waterhole near Talamati is a regular haunt. Also just outside Talamati Camp Saddle-billed Stork breed. Of the other storks, Wooly-necked, Open-billed (African Openbill), White and Black may be seen, the latter two being locally common when food is abundant. Marabou Stork is regularly seen at the waterhole outside Orpen Camp.
The Orpen area hosts a wealth of raptors, especially in the summer months. Tawny (breeding outside of the camp), African Fish (at Rabelais Pan), Wahlbergs, Lesser Spotted, Steppe, African Hawk and Brown Snake Eagles, Bateleur, Black-shouldered Kite, Gabar and Dark Chanting Goshawk, Little Sparrowhawk and Amur and Red-footed Falcons (Eastern and Western Redfooted Kestrels) are all regularly seen. Less frequently seen are African Goshawk, Martial and Black-chested (breasted) SnakeEagles and African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene). Five vulture species may be seen in the area, although the Cape Griffin is least often observed despite a breeding colony near the Strydom Tunnel at Manoutsa.
Night drives, and dawn and dusk produce Pearl-spotted and African Barred Owlets, Scops, Verreaux’s(Giant) Eagle, Spotted Eagle and Barn Owl, as well as Fiery-necked, Square-tailed ( Mo za mbique ), Freckled and European Nightjars. Less common are Marsh and Grass Owl and Rufous-cheeked and Pennant-winged Nightjar.
Rarities to come out of the area include Plain-backed (Blue-throated) Sunbird at Orpen Camp, Long-crested Eagle on the Timbavati River , Olive Bush Shrike at Tamboti Camp and in the incredible wet season of 1999-2000 plenty of Black Coucal. In 2001 a Narina Trogon (not previously recorded in the area) flew into the window of one of Talamati’s cottages and killed itself.