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Birders

Recent Sightings - Kruger National Park - 2005

Tamboti, Olifants and Letaba - Christmas-time 2005

Ek en my vrou het ons gebruiklike "kerstyd in die bos" hierdie jaar in Tambotie, Olifants en Letaba deurgebring. Buiten die baie warm eerste dag in Tambotie was ons geseend met heerlike koel weer, ek het selfs by tye my trui gemis. Tambotie het ook ons eerste "lifer" opgelewer in die vorm van 'n gevlekte koekoek (Greater Spotted Cuckoo) wat eers voor ons in die pad gevlieg het en toe ewe inskiklik vir ons in 'n boom gaan sit het sodat ons hom mooi kon bewonder.

Van Tambotie is ons na Olifants waar ons heerlik vir ure kon rondry weens die gunstige weer. Hier het ons heelwat donker lewerikke (Dusky Lark) teengekom, ook later noord van Letaba van hulle gekry. Ons gebruiklike oukersaandete in Olifants se restaurant met die wonderlikste uitsig oor die rivier, was 'n hoogtepunt.

By Letaba is die wonderlike koel weer net een dag onderbreek deur 'n "scorcher". Die Letaba rivier het nie baie water in gehad nie, maar gelukkig was die Engelhard dam lekker vol. Dit wil egter voorkom of hiasinte ook hier 'n probleem raak soos elders in die park. Van die "birdhide" het ons egter wonderlike "scope views" gehad van 'n kleinkoningriethaan (Lesser Purple Gallinule), rooivlerk sprinkaanvoels (Red-winged Pratincoles) en geelbekwitreiers (Yellow-billed Egrets).

In die Letaba omgewing het ons die volgende roofvoels gesien: roofarend (Tawny Eagle) met kleintjie op nes, 'n jong oostelike rooipootvalk (Eastern Red-footed Falcon), wahlbergse arend (Wahlberg’s Eagle), swart aasvoel (Lappet-faced Vulture) asook 'n moontlike europese boomvalk (Eurasian Hobby) wat teen skemer voor ons hut vlermuise en swaels gejag het.

By 'n klein pannetjie naby Letaba het ons 'n klein waterhoender (Lesser Moorhen) gekry terwyl die hoogtepunt onteenseglik die gryskopvisvanger (Grey-headed Kingfisher) was wat vir ons 'n nuwe voel was en ook heel inskiklik vir ons lank stilgesit om die mooi diep blou op sy rug te bewonder asook die kaneel op sy maag.

Lekker voels kyk in 2006

- Hendrik Viljoen

Skukuza - mid December 2005

Having just gotten back from the Kruger National Park I can gladly say that I recorded my first sighting of Dusky Lark for the season just south of Skukuza on the S114 towards the Stevenson Hamilton Memorial.

I also saw a Lesser Swamp Warbler from the Lake Panic Birdhide. This was a first for me in the park.

- Robert Wienand

Southern Kruger - mid December 2005

We have just returned from a wonderful 8-days in southern Kruger, where we camped at Lower Sabie and Berg-en-Dal.

Although this was ot a "lean and mean" birding tour, we still managed to record 226 species, with Steppe Eagle (lifer) as a definite highlight. We had been looking for this bird the previous time (Dec. 2002) when we were there in summer, but had no luck. This time we had excellent and prolonged <25m views of a juvenile (orientalis subsp.) at Renosterkoppies dam on the S114, 14 km south of Skukuza. Other notable sightings were:

  • Great Reed-Warbler and Little Bittern (payesii) from the deck at Lower Sabie.
  • Grey-headed Kingfisher on the Matjulu loop just outside Berg-en-Dal.
  • Half-collared Kingfisher from the bridge at Malelane gate
  • Dusky Indigobird at Lower Sabie, but dipping on its host, Blue-billed Firefinch
  • African Black Duck at a seasonal pan at the junction of the S128 and S129, 19km north of Lower Sabie. This was our first record for the park.
  • Male Fan-tailed Widowbird in breeding plumage near Tshokwane, also our first record for the park.
  • White-crowned Lapwing from the deck at Lower Sabie
  • Dusky Lark on the S114 near Berg-en-Dal, also our first record for the park.
  • Allen's Gallinule, a very vocal and conspicuous pair, allowing excellent viewing at the Lake Panic hide near Skukuza.
  • Stierling's Wren-Warbler at the Nkumbe viewpoint on the H10 to Tshokwane.
  • Garden Warbler in thick growth at Lower Sabie campsite.
  • Grey-rumped Swallow on the Sabie River near Nkuhlu picnic site.
  • Croaking Cisticola on the S37 near N’wanetsi, our first record for the park.

- Dawie Kleynhans

Mopani - December 2005

Pallid Harrier seen to the east of the S50 which is east of Mopani camp where there are a herd of water holes (and a dam) called Nshawu and a large marshy area.

- Ian Grant

Early December 2005

On final Bushman Wilderness Trail of the year 4-7 December. Confirmed breeding Broad-billed Roller. 3 Adults taking insects to nest in dead tree in the Matjulwane valley. Over the same period Monotonous Larks widespread Napi trail area. Monotonous Larks heard near Berg en Dal today, 13 December.

- Nic Squires

Nkaya Pan - 1 December 2005

At 10:30 this morning a Red-necked Phalarope at Nkaya Pan which is between Tshokwane and Satara - Kruger National Park.

- Peter Lawson

This bird was photographed by Kruger staff member Dr Ian Whyte and the pics are on the photo gallery. 2 days later after heavy rain where the level of the pan rose considerably, the bird had moved on.

Pafuri - end November 2005

Apologies for the late posting. Our abortive BBD at Pafuri Camp (24 000ha between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers in northern Kruger) on the 26th of last month while light on numbers still produced some excellent birds (our consolatory motto for the day was "quality not quantity"). We started the day at 19h00 at the guides' three-banded courser stake out and were ecstatic to add this as our first bird. Bronze-winged courser, scops, spotted eagle owls, water dikkop and two baby porcupines followed before Pel's fishing owl. An auspicious start. The following day we dipped on some of the local specials such as the spinetails and black-throated wattle-eye, but were happy with Meves's starling, grey-headed parrot, white-crowned plover, green-capped eromomela, Dickinson's kestrel, yellow-billed oxpecker and great views of gorgeous bushshrike. We ended the day (after covering an area of only about 10 000ha in the concession combined with a short foray to Klopperfontein Dam) on 175 with our final bird being a helmeted guineafowl (crested came in the first 30). The following day we found a black-throated wattle-eye nest in camp (Frank at the picnic site apparently also has a pair engaged in nest

building) and after dark a splash in the Luvuvhu in front of my tent revealed a Pel's which then flew onto a sandbank to dry off.

- Chris Roche

Berg-en-Dal - 30/11/05

Broadbilled Roller 30 November

- Nic Squires

Pafuri - Late November 2005

Thick-billed Cuckoo, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Long-tailed Starling, Tropical Boubou

- Jon Anderson

Lower Sabie - Late November 2005

Shelley’s Francolin, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Barred Owlet

- Jon Anderson

Shingwedzi - Late November 2005

Brown-headed Parrot, Southern Ground Hornbill

- Jon Anderson

Lower Sabie and Satara Areas - Mid November 2005

Some good birding in the last 10 days produced some excellent birds. Probably most notable was a nice Thick-billed Cuckoo on the H10 North of Lower Sabie. The bird was foraging along the top of some big trees on the left of the road, about 6.4km beyond the S29 (to Mlondozi Dam). Mlondozi Dam itself produced some 60 species in as many minutes, including 12 Great White Pelicans, Black Stork and several coveys of Shelley's Francolin, which called from across the river. Lower Sabie itself produced a Finfoot - seen from the main deck/Pub. Satara produced four woodpecker species in 90 seconds, including a comic sequence where the group was split and arguing about the identity of one bird which turned out to be both Golden-tailed and Bennet's Woodpecker on different branches. Not everyone saw the Bennets and moments later when I thought I had tracked it down, the third bird turned out to be a Bearded. Scops Owl rewarded as usual with cracking close views, and one of the more interesting things seen was a pair of African Hoopoes which are nesting in a hole in the ground in Satara Camp. Odd to see a hoopoe carrying a large spider dive into the ground and vanish! The Satara area also produced numbers of Montagu's Harriers, European Roller etc. - Etienne Marais

Nyalaland Trail 9 to 12 November 2005

A list of 201 species was achieved for this trail, with many highlights. Crowned Eagle; Grey-headed parrot; 2 sightings of Pel’s and much more. It is unfortunately one of the most under-utilised of our 7 trails, and has so mush value to offer. Any support would be greatly appreciated. - Nic Squires

Last week our group of 8 birders experienced a close personal encounter with nature on the Nyalaland Wilderness trail in the Kruger National Park. The wilderness trails allow visitors to visit large areas of unspoiled wilderness on foot, under the guidance of armed rangers. Our very experienced trail ranger, Nic Squires, made this visit an unforgettable encounter with the area north of Punda Maria. The trail camp is situated on the bank of the Madzaringwe Stream near the Luvuvhu River. Our group chose this trail essentially for the prolific birdlife for which the area is well known.

Shortly after leaving for the trail camp we were surprised by a White-breasted Cuckooshrike (Witborskatakoeroe) close to our game viewing vehicle. Due to the dry conditions, very few of the trees have sprung new leaves and the bird was completely exposed in the canopy of a Mopani tree. We were all thrilled at the sight of the first Broadbilled Roller (Geelbektroupant) only to discover that this striking bird is actually very common in the area during the summer months.

The area supports variety of raptors and we enjoyed excellent sightings of Verreaux's Eagle (Witkruisarend), Steppe Eagle (Steppe-arend), Wahlberg's Eagle (Bruinarend), African Hawk-Eagle (Grootjagarend), Tawny Eagle (Roofarend), Martial Eagle (Breëkoparend), African Crowned Eagle (Kroonarend), Little Sparrowhawk (Kleinsperwer), Lesser Kestrel (Kleinrooivalk), Gabar Goshawk (Witkruissperwer), Dark Chanting Goshawk (Donkersingvalk) and African Harrier-Hawk (Kaalwangvalk).

During the 2 morning walks (Thursday and Friday) we stumbled upon the rare Pel's Fishing Owl (Visuil) along the riverine vegetation. The first bird was seen on the Luvuvhu River and a second bird was found on the same river bank in the Pafuri area. Both these birds were enjoying fish for breakfast and were quite accommodating, allowing us more than enough time to appreciate their beauty.

A total of 201 species were recorded during the 2½ days we spent with Nic. I was tempted to list all the species we recorded, but decided to give you only a glimpse of the birds that I consider special and/or rare (not mentioned above):

  • Crowned Hornbill (Gekroonde Neushoringvoël)
  • Broadbilled Roller (Geelbektroupant)
  • Klaas's Cuckoo (Meitjie)
  • Grey-headed Parrot (Savannepapegaai)
  • Böhm's Spinetail (Witpensstekelstert)
  • Mottled Spinetail (Gevlektestekelstert)
  • Southern White-faced Scops-Owl (Witwanguil)
  • Verreaux's Eagle-Owl (Reuse-ooruil)
  • Freckled Nightjar (Donkernaguil)
  • White-crowned Lapwing (Witkopkiewiet)
  • Tropical Boubou (Tropiese Waterfiskaal)
  • Gorgeous Bush-Shrike (Konkoit)
  • Retz's Helmet-Shrike (Swarthelmlaksman)
  • Black-throated Wattle-eye (Beloogbosbontrokkie)
  • Black Cuckooshrike (Swartkatakoeroe)
  • Mosque Swallow (Moskeeswael)
  • Eastern Nicator (Geelvleknikator)
  • Green-capped Eremomela (Donkerwangbossanger)
  • African Yellow White-eye (Geelglasogie)
  • Stierling's Wren Warbler (Stierlingse sanger)
  • Red-faced Cisticola (Rooiwangtinktinkie)
  • Arnott's Chat (Bontpiek)
  • Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Geelbekrenostervoël)

The Kruger National Park remains one of the prime wilderness areas of Southern Africa. To experience this on foot was one of the best birding experiences I have ever had. Nic's knowledge of the bush and wildlife was humbling for most of us. He knew the call of every bird we encountered and his love for the bush was an inspiration.

Many visitors avoid the far northern region of the Kruger due to the relative scarcity of game. Our group encountered Elephant, Buffalo, African Wild Cat, Wild dogs, Black-backed Jackal, Large-spotted Genet, Nyala, Dwarf Mongoose, Steenbok, Kudu, Waterbuck, Spotted Hyena fighting a Crocodile for his prey, and about 20 sightings of Sharpe's Grysbok.

Persons interested in the Kruger wilderness trails can obtain more information by logging on to: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/tourism/activities/wilderness/default.php

Happy birding! - Hanlie Slabbert

Bushman trail - 6-9 November

95 mm rain recorded.

  • Jackal Buzzard
  • Cuckoo Finch
  • Green-capped Eremomela
  • Broad-billed Roller and the ultimate highlight displaying Pennant-winged Nightjar.

Enough to make a Southern Kruger List not too shabby indeed. - Nic Squires

Balule Causeway - Green Sandpiper 5th and 6th of November 2005

On Saturday evening just before camp closing time Charles Marais and I saw a sandpiper in a shallow puddle on the Olifants side of the Balule causeway. While it could have been a Wood sandpiper the gizz was wrong. The bird appeared to have shorter legs and a slightly longer bill and was very "busy" in shallow water moving its bill rapidly from side to side in the water. Its legs were greenish.

Frankly, given the time constraints, we didn't spend too much time on it and the possibility of a green sandpiper only occurred to us the following day when we were browsing through Newman’s.

I'm not sure how far this is from the Timbavati reserve but is there an outside possibility that this could be the same bird reported by Dan Sonnenburg’s father? - Peter Oosthuizen

Balule - 6 November 2005

On Sunday morning, 6 November 2005, my wife Charmaine and I (together with two friends), spotted a Green sandpiper in a shallow puddle in the riverbed, on the Northern side of the Balule causeway. The bird was also very busy, and what was nice is the fact that there was a Wood sandpiper in close proximity (and a Black stork). We spent quite some time in positively identifying it as a Green sandpiper and comparing it with the Wood sandpiper (unfortunately did not take any photos).

My guess is thus that we saw the same bird as you did! - Derick Oosthuizen (no relation to Peter)

Napi trail- 26-29 October

Classic observation of Red-crested Korhaan male displaying to female, including many antics not observed before. - Nic Squires

Bateleur Bushveld Camp – Grey-backed Camaroptera (Bleating Warbler) – 22nd October 2005

On the 22nd October 2005 I identified Grey-backed Camaroptera (Camaroptera brevicaudata), first in the morning the again in the afternoon in Bateleur Bush Camp while I was staying there.

In Roberts Birds of Southern Africa 7th edition (2005), it shows that Grey-backed Camaroptera does not occur in the Kruger National Park, but in Newman's Birds of the KNP (published by Macmillan S.A. 1981) it shows that it occurs uncommonly but resident in Pafuri and Stolznek regions.

I would appreciate your opinion on this matter. - Benjamin Snipelisky

Although Green-backs are the dominant species in the park, grey-backs are not infrequently recorded, particularly in the Pafuri region. The current drought in the park is probably making conditions more favourable for Grey-backed. - Editor

Bushman trail 19-22 October

We experienced a small shower 4mm of rain on Thursday morning. Only 1 Redchested Cuckoo and 1 Black Cuckoo heard in 3 days. Pleased as always to see the Matjulwane valley Cinnamon Rollers back. - Nic Squires

Pafuri – 17 en 18 Oktober 2005

Ons het verlede week Maandag en Dinsdag in die Teba huis gebly en die Pafuri omgewing geniet.

Die twee riviere staan - volgens Frank die eerste keer in sy 8 jaar in Pafuri dat daar nie water by die piekniekplek is nie, maar die laaste km van die Luvuvhu, voordat dit in die Limpopo invloei het ‘n lang kuil gevorm, met reiers (Herons) wat baljaar, ’n aantal waadvoëls (Waders) en Witkop kiewiete (White-crowned Lapwings).

Die olifante grawe watergate in die sand en die krokodille is so gevreet dat hulle op die sandbanke lê met stukke vis wat by hul bekke uithang.

Dinsdagoggend 07h00 het ‘n Visuil (Pel’s Fishing Owl) reg bo ons koppe in ‘n groot boom kom sit en reg gemaak vir ‘n dag se slaap - dit was aan die end van die kuil naaste aan die Limpopo.

Ons het hom daar gelaat na 15 minute (selfs die teleskoop en kameras het hom nie ontstel nie), maar ander voëlkykers het hom 4 ure later op dieselfde plek gekry - ek dink hierdie kuil het genoeg vis om hom vir ‘n hele ruk daar te hou.

Hoewel Pafuri piekniekplek minder verskeidenheid as gewoonlik gehad het,het ons ‘n Geelglasogie (Yellow White-eye) en Donkerwangbossanger (Green-capped Eremomela) asook die Stekelsterte gesien (Spinetails) en Konkoit (Gorgeous Bush-shrike) hoor roep.

Van Punda tot Letaba is alles verbrand of verdor,maar nou kan jy natuurlik baie meters ver in die Mopanie insien. Veral Papegaaie (Parrots) - Bruinkop (Brown-headed) en Bosveld, is besonder volop, asook aasvoëls en arende.

Die voëlskuiling by die Engelharddam is ‘n ongelooflike gesig, met olifante, seekoeie en buffels soos miere.

Baie waadvoëls (waders) ook hier op die sand banke, met ‘n paar Rooivlerk-sprinkaanvoëls (collared/red-winged pratincoles) te siene. - Frans en Adele van Vuuren

Metsi trail 5-8 October

Blue-billed Firefinch; nesting Lilac-breasted Roller. Summer migrants arrivals very poor.

Bushman trail- 2-5 October

The area received a welcome 12mm of rain measured 31 October. Birding highlights include Grey-hooded Kingfisher; Thick-billed Cuckoo, Wryneck and a pair of Sharp-billed Honeyguides.

Nyalaland trail 2-5 October

Comments on highlights and of target birds!

  • Black (Verreaux’s) Eagle- sightings of 2 pairs, 1 at Makahane gorge and the other at the trails camp. The gorge pair had a brief contact with a pair of Hawk Eagles.
  • Rock Kestrel- nesting at Makahane cliffs
  • Mottled Spinetail- only 2 birds seen over the camp on 1 day
  • Broad-billed Roller- 1 sighting on the Levubu. Nothing else heard
  • Sand Martin- skim drinking at Klopperfontein
  • Arnots Chat- great visuals of male and female in Cathedral Mopane trees on the Punda Pafuri gravel road
  • Wattle-eyed Flycatcher- a pair at Madzaringwe Levubu confluence
  • Yellow-billed Oxpecker- sightings on Buffalo bulls and of 3 birds drinking at Klopperfontein. 1 immature bird accompanying 2 adults.

The area is extremely dry. Of interest was the total silence of the Nicator, a bird which starts to call in Summer. - Nic Squires

Mopani – 1st to 3rd October 2005

I have just returned from a long weekend staying at Mopani Camp in the Kruger Park. The hot dry conditions we have been experiencing in Gauteng are nothing to what this area has been going through - it was pushing 40C on Sunday at Mopani. What really worried me, though, was the fact that the Kanniedood Dam on the Shingwedzi River is bone dry, the famous vista from the lookout at Olifants Camp is now one of sand with one puddle of hippo-filled water and the Letaba River at Letaba Camp is virtually non-existent. I hope the rains come soon.

Interestingly, I saw breeding plumage Whitefronted Plovers beneath the Letaba River Bridge, at Stapelkop Dam and at ponds in the Shingwedzi River bed. I have not seen this species at these places before, or in the general area, and wondered if anyone can confirm my suspicion that maybe the Whitefronted Plover will be more common in an area in drier years.

The Collared Pratincoles and Mosque Swallows can still be seen at Stapelkop Dam despite low water levels, but I picked up the pratincoles also at the Pioneer Dam at Mopani, and from the Mantambeni Hide on the Engelhard Dam below Letaba. Are they also becoming more widespread?

There was a glut of Black Egrets, with sightings at Pioneer Dam, Mantambeni and at several places along the Shingwedzi River. With the extreme heat, the larger birds were looking for ways to cool off and I saw African Fish Eagle, Bateleur, African Hawk Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Booted Eagle and Wahlberg's Eagle all standing in shallow water mid-afternoon presumably to keep cool.

Highlight of the trip was 6-8 Mottled Spinetails, dawn and dusk, flying around the Mopani Camp. Perhaps they are nesting in the baobab tree in the camp. Has anybody else seen these birds here?

Despite the heat, the wind, and apparent absence still of the more obvious summer species such as Carmine and Eurasian Bee-Eaters, Woodland Kingfisher, European Roller, several of the cuckoos, Violet-Backed Starling, etc. I still managed a trip list of 154.

Would appreciate some feedback on the Whitefonted Plovers, Collared Pratincole and Mottled Spinetails. - Neil Gray

I can confirm that the Collared (Red-winged) Pratincoles have established themselves considerably in the park in the area between Shingwedzi and Letaba since their first recorded breeding on Englehard Dam in the mid 1980s. The Shawu Pans are other frequent haunts.

I imagine the plovers do thrive in the sandy conditions of dry river beds and that the current drought is providing attractive habitat for them.

The spinetails at Mopani are not something I’ve any personal knowledge of, but then I’m not in the park much anymore these days. The local ranger there is a birder and his name is Johann Oelofse. I’ve copied him on this reply and perhaps he can add some more. - Editor

In response to Neil’s queries:

i) The white-fronted plover has been around during summer on most “Birding Big Days” for the past 18yrs. From Pafuri all the way to Olifants river. Further south?

ii) Collared pratincoles? Is this the new name for the red-winged pratincole? The latter have been regulars at the now rehabilitated Nshawu dam, Pioneer dam, around Mooiplaas windmill and even seen on the tarred between Mopani camp and the T-junction to the main road.

iii) I must admit that I have not seen the mottled spinetails, but will be on the lookout for them now that I have been alerted. - Johann Oelofse, Section Ranger: Mooiplaas

Pafuri, Punda and Orpen –September 2005

Levubu River

White-crowned Lapwing, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mottled Spinetail, Bohm's Spinetail, Tropical Boubou, Dickinson's Kestrel, Trumpeter Hornbill, Purple-Banded Sunbird, Crowned Hornbill, White-throated Scrub-Robin, Bearded Scrub-Robin, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Golden-breasted Bunting, Common and Wood Sandpiper, Eastern Nicator, White-fronted Plover, Striped Kingfisher, White-fronted Bee-eater.

Pafuri Picnic Spot

Tropical Boubou, Mottled Spinetail, Crested Guineafowl, Red-billed Oxpecker, Lesser Masked-Weaver, Klaas's Cuckoo. We had the pleasure to meet with a very alive Frank, the local caretaker, who permanently walks around and does his work with a pair of brand new binoculars dangling around his neck.

Punda Maria

Crowned Hornbill, Mosque Swallow, Southern Ground Hornbill, Crested Guineafowl, Black Kite, which is now incorporated as one specie with Yellow-billed Kite.

Orpen

Brown-headed Parrot, Martial Eagle, Brown Snake-Eagle, Southern Ground Hornbill. - Peter and Gina Wilgenbus

Timbavati Picnic Site – White-breasted Cuckooshrike – 20 September 2005

Having returned from yet another successful safari to the Kruger Park I can happily say that I saw yet another White-breasted Cuckooshrike, but this time it was a female and was seen just west of the Timbavati picnic site. I could not believe my luck. - Robert Wienand

Comments: A good twenty years ago ( I know because we didn't have kids at the time) we had a sighting of a white-breasted cuckooshrike on our game farm which is virtually at the confluence of the Klaserie and Olifants rivers within Klaserie private nature reserve. At the time I did not realise the sighting was anything special! - Zephne’ Bernitz

Pygmy Falcon Poser?

A friend who owns a game reserve near Hoedspruit, bordering Kruger, recently mentioned a sighting of Pygmy Falcon on the reserve. He said it was from the Eastern population of this bird that associates with Red-Billed Buffalo-Weaver. This had me scrambling for my reference books, as I always assumed this was a South Western, desert species and was oblivious of an Eastern population. My old "Sasol" was not much help as it only showed the SW distribution. "Roberts V" mentions the East African population and possible records for S Mozambique and N Kruger, although these are not in indicated on the distribution map. "Birds of Africa South of the Sahara" was more helpful, showing an East African distribution ranging as far south as northern Mozambique and mentioning that it associates with "Buffalo-Weavers".

"Sasol - Birds of Prey of Africa and its Islands" also shows an East African distribution, but only as far as Kenya (not nearly to Mozambique) and mentions that this populati! on associates with White-Headed Buffalo-Weaver. The plot thickens though with the latest Newman's showing what appears to be a separate SOUTHERN Mozambique population bordering on northern Kruger? This begs the following questions (I do not have any other reference sources):- What is the status of the southern Mozambique population if any? Why are there two populations that are so geographically separated when there are plenty of Red-Billed Buffalo-Weavers in the in-between regions (e.g. Botswana, Limpopo etc.)? Are there any other sightings recorded for eastern South Africa? I would be most interested if anyone has the answers or could point me to the best source of information. - Clyde Porter

Comments: Last year in August, my parents told me of a Pygmy Falcon they saw on the S100 in Kruger which I reported to Kruger. Chris Patton replied saying that at that stage it was the first reporting of the year, but that Pygmy Falcon has been recorded in Kruger in previous years. Apparently they are usually seen in the Nwambiya Sand Forest north of Shingwedzi which I believe is not open to the general public for access (Except for people doing the Lebombo Trail or Far Northern 4x4 route) . As far as I know they were not reported in Southern Mozambique during the Atlas period, however that does not preclude the possibility that a small resident population does exist that has not been shown on most distribution maps for this area. (though Newman’s 2002 does indicate a population here) Alternatively, these sightings could be vagrants moving south from Kenya (I presume in late winter/early spring) but I suspect this is not the case. A good sighting though! - Kevin Ravno

Pygmy Falcons had previously been recorded around the Orpen area by amongst others Dr. Peter Milstein. - Dalene Mostert

Bateleur Bushveld Camp

During our visit to Karongwe, we spent two nights at the Bateleur Bush Camp in the Kruger National Park. Close by the camp (3' x 3' grid square 2331AA25) we had excellent views of an African Cuckoo Hawk. A very good identification feature of this bird, if it has got its back to you, is the small pinkish-brown patch on the hind neck, which is illustrated in Sasol but not referred to in the text. This bird is not recorded on the list published by BirdLife for this camp and surrounding area.

This was our first visit to Bateleur and we enjoyed it very much. The camp birds were led by a flock of nine Arrow-marked Babblers, which were very tame and would accept food from the hand. The front of the stoep was bounded by a dwarf wall with a painted top and as some of the A-m Bs flew in, they landed on the wall and skidded to a halt, reminiscent of the behaviour of small boys on a slippery floor.

There is a hide overlooking a waterhole in the camp which was very good in the early morning but less so in the evening. - Roger Fieldwick

Sweni Wilderness Trail 14 to 17 September 2005

A Grey Lourie mobbing party revealed adult Gymnogene on the Nwanetsi River. This bird was surrounded by several Louries and proceeded to call several times, a call not often heard. The Louries are really reactive birds, and frequently lead us to Giant Eagle Owls. Seeing the Gymnogene this time round was a pleasant surprise.

Descending Vultures led us to a double zebra kill. Everything pointed to them being killed by Hyaenas which is common place here. - Nic Squires

More comment on Yellow-billed Oxpeckers

There were no introductions of YBOs into Kruger. The original plan was to do so, but just before Geoff Lockwood and team went to Caprivi to do the capture, they were discovered in Kruger in the Punda Maria area. We preferred to allow the recolonisation to occur naturally (not assisted by re-introductions), so the birds captured by Geoff went to Natal Parks instead (Hluhluwe/Imfolozi). We found that we could recognize YBOs from the helicopter when we did our annual buffalo census. When we flew low over the herds to split them into smaller groups for photography, we could distinguish them from RBOs by the distinct yellow rumps. We searched for them systematically on each herd thereafter and could thus plot their distribution. The YBOs have recolonised much of Kruger now. You can refer readers to the paper:

WHYTE, I.J., A.J. HALL-MARTIN, J.J. KLOPPERS & J.P.A. du T. OTTO. 1987. The status and distribution of the Yellowbilled oxpecker in the Kruger National Park. Ostrich 58(2): 88-90.

Dr Ian Whyte

Pafuri - 10th September 2005

David Pretorius

Skukuza – Grey Waxbill – 10 September 2005

Dear Kruger-birders, I've spend the last week in Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, and although I was visiting researchers, I did find some time for birding. The highlight for me was a pair of Grey Waxbills seen from approximately 9h30-12h00 on the 10 September 2005.

The pair of adult Grey Waxbills, which we watched for about 2 hours (I was also joined for part of the time by Deirdre Vrancken and Gus Mills), spent most of their time foraging, resting and preening in dense thickets. The exact area of the sighting was just a few hundred metres outside the public restcamp in the staff and research area, so while birders can't access the exact spot, the birds themselves are likely to have moved and could easily turn up in denser vegetation on the western edge of restcamp itself.

Diagnostic features included their mostly grey plumage, with black on the chin, lores and around the eye, as well as the vent and on the tail. Red extended from the uppertail coverts to the lower back. Bills were black with blue-grey around the cutting edges.

Also of interest was an African Yellow Warbler calling loudly from the reeds near the Sabie River. - Callan Cohen

Renosterpan – White-breasted Cuckooshrike – 5 September 2005

On the 5th Sept I entered the Kruger through the Malelane Gate and proceeded north towards the Afsaal picnic site. Approximately 800m south of the turn off to the Renosterpan waterhole I noticed a grey bird fly across the road in front of me and first thought it may be a Little Sparrowhawk. Something told me to stop and make sure, and was I glad that I did. To my surprise what I was looking at was a single male White-breasted Cuckooshrike. This was a 14h30pm and I managed to get good views as he briefly flew from tree to tree before disappearing into the bush. What made the sighting so special was the fact that it was so far south in the park. I know the Punda Maria area is normally the place to search for this species in the Kruger, but I have never had any success when I was in that region. I have also searched for this bird in Botswana and northern Namibia, to no avail. The other surprising thing was that the area in which I saw this bird was completely burnt, with only the large Marulas and bushwillows left. I assume the bird was on its way to more suitable habitat.

This was definitely a highlight for me and a great tick for my life list, SA list and Mpumalanga list. - Robert Wienand

Pafuri – early September 2005

Recent sightings in the last while from this part of the country:

  • Racket-tailed Rollers - have been seen regularly and the guides are beginning to understand what habitat to look for them in
  • Three-banded Coursers - first sighting at the beginning of September - 3 birds at night - fantastic scope views. Have since been heard regularly and seem to be in full cry at the moment
  • Pel's Fishing Owl - continue to be viewed regularly with a sighting of a fledgling this morning
  • Peregrine Falcon - seen once in Lanner Gorge
  • Bat Hawk - continued sightings along the Luvuvhu River
  • Yellow-billed Oxpeckers - largest flock seen was 13 - regular sightings on buffalo

Both spinetails, Grey-headed Parrot, the wattle-eye and Meve’s Starling remain regular. - Chris Roche

Rare bird alert! Black-eared Seedeater - 27 August 2005

Great views of a BLACK-EARED SEEDEATER on the Mahonie Loop near Punda Maria in the Kruger National Park on Saturday, 27 August.

I am not aware of any previous records for the park, but I could be mistaken? - Andre Botha

Pafuri – late August 2005

  • Crowned Eagle in the Riverine Forest, 2km east of the Pafuri Picnic Site on Sunday. One of only a handful of personal records of this species from Kruger.
  • Wattle-eyed Flycatcher in the fig tree on the "corner" at the confluence at Crooke's Corner. This is the second consecutive sighting of this species in the same spot, the first having been made in February. - Andre Botha

Miscellaneous August Sightings

I recall a thread some time ago about the distribution of these birds in Kruger. Last year this time we got a flock on buffalo just south of Shingwedzi, this year we got a similar number of birds south of Tshokwane. Are they moving south, or have they always been there?

Other interesting sightings - the juvenile whitebacked night heron at Lake Panic Dawie referred to, also a stunning adult at Sweni bird hide (near Nwanetsi). Peregrine falcon near Skukuza, allowed close-up photographs. Back of this bird is almost pitchblack. - Rob Hattingh

Pretoriuskop – 6 to 9 August 2005

We haven't seen a Trumpeter hornbill for a long time, so we enjoyed seeing one near Pretoriuskop. Interesting was that the Trumpeter hornbill we saw, trying to eat a tortoise.

Meesal gaan ons na die noordelike dele van die Nasionale Kruger Wildtuin. Ons was die slag in Pretoriuskop. (6 tot 9 Augustus 2005) 'n Entjie suid van Pretoriuskop het 'n Gewone Boskraai sy hart gesit en uit kraai. Dit was sy geluid wat ons laat stop en soek het, sowaar, daar sien ons die ou in die top van 'n boom met sy oorgroot snawel. Ons was lanklaas in 'n omgewing waar hul voorkom en vir my 'n heerlike verassing om hom so mooi te sien waar hy sit en "kraai".

'n Dag of wat later kom ons af op 'n so agt karre wat in die pad opdam - toe nie die slag leeus nie - 'n paar Bromvoëls is in en om die pad. Toe sien ons dit, 'n Bromvoël in die middel van die teerpad, wat 'n klein skilpad vreet. Die skilpad se lengte was seker so twaalf sentimeter. Die voël trek sy kop terug en pik dan met mening na die opening waar die skilpad se kop moes wees. Soms raak - dan lyk dit of hy 'n smulhappie wegsluk, soms mis, dan wip die ronderige prooi elders heen. So pik die voël die skilpad heen en weer en naderhand uit die pad. Hier kan mens nie meer so mooi sien nie, maar dit lyk tog asof hy die dop van die skilpad effens oopgepik het. Nou-ja, hoeveel raarder is dit nie om so iets te sien as 'n leeu wat lê en slaap nie! - Almari

Shipandani Hide – Mopani

Just south of Mopani there is a bird hide that one can book and overnight in. An elephant in the river flushed a white-backed night heron from the reeds on the far bank. It maybe an idea to keep an eye out if you are passing through? - David Morrey

Responses:

I used to see White-backed Night Heron practically every night I past over the Sand River as you go over the low level bridge – in the shallow water on the right hand side of the bridge. - Duncan MacFadyen

We’ve stayed in this hide once, it’s called Shipandane for those who might be interested. Although we didn’t see any birds or mammals of particular interest I will always remember the night in that hide for the most awesome firefly performance over the river. The cloud of fireflies with their reflection in the water doubling the spectacle was an out of this world experience. - Déwald Swanepoel

Sirheni and Pafuri – mid August 2005

Spent two nights at Sirheni and had the following interesting sightings, White-breasted Cuckooshrike at Sirheni, Grey headed Parrot at Punda Maria, Yellow-billed Oxpeckers at Babalala and Böhm’s Spinetail at the Pafuri picnic sight. - Ben

Yellow-billed Oxpeckers

I recall a thread some time ago about the distribution of these birds in Kruger. Last year this time we got a flock on buffalo just south of Shingwedzi, this year we got a similar number of birds south of Tshokwane. Are they moving south, or have they always been there?

Other interesting sightings - the juvenile white-backed night heron at Lake Panic Dawie referred to, also a stunning adult at Sweni bird hide (near Nwanetsi). A Peregrine Falcon near Skukuza, allowed close-up photographs. The back of this bird is almost pitch black. - Rob Hattingh

Responses:

Apart from a number of records in the Punda/Pafuri/Shingwedzi areas over a number of years, we got a few adults 10 km south-west of Tshokwane on 30 September 2000.

Glad you found the White-backed Night-heron at Lake Panic. I hope it posed better than it did for us. - Dawie Kleynhans

Last year I visited the Kruger Park each month - saw YBO very frequently on the buffalo herds in the area around Shindwedzi...I also saw birds around Satara as well as just north of Skukuza. - Duncan MacFadyen

Hi Rob and others, I have had a single bird 100m north of Malelane Gate about 3 years back and there are fairly regular sightings in the Sabi-Sand (mostly Mala Mala, but also west onto Londolozi and perhaps Singita). Further north at Ngala west of Orpen Gate sightings are reasonably regular - mostly associated with buffalo, but also recorded on giraffe, kudu and warthog - and I had a sighting of a pair investigating a nest hole in a mopane although breeding was not confirmed (as far as I know there is still only a single confirmed breeding record for the park - mid-80s near Punda Maria). Largest group seen in that area was 5, while further south in the Sabi-Sand I have only heard of groups of 2. In short, I believe this species is widespread in Kruger with a definite stronghold north of the Olifants, and could be seen on any buffalo herd. I think for a time the KNP aerial census recorded them (paler rumps very visible from the air while counting buffalo herds), and given the renewed interest in buffalo because of bovine tuberculosis perhaps the yellow-billed oxpeckers are being noticed again. Anyone out there know anyone involved? Nic Squires from the KNP Wilderness Trails might be able to tell us more about their occurrence in the Bushman and Wolhuter Trails areas in the south of Kruger. - Chris Roche

As far as I remember the Yellow billed oxpeckers were reintroduced to the southern parts of KNP some years ago. The original plan was to reintroduce them to the northern parts as well, as they also disappeared from these parts at some stage. Before the people could reintroduce them to the northern parts, they started to return from the north by themselves and it was decided not to reintroduce any in the "artificial" way up north. - Almarí

Yes, the intention was to re-introduce yellow-billed oxpeckers to Kruger, they then were found to have recolonised naturally (it was thought that this was likely to have occurred from Zimbabwe as the first sighting was on a hippo at Pafuri I think, the theory was that the war in Rhodesia disrupted cattle dipping and alllowed a local range expansion there that spread to the north of the Park) and the reintroduction was shifted to Hluhluwe-Umfolozi. - Chris Roche

Wilderness Trails – mid August 2005

Bushman trail highlights 10-17 August 2005. Bully canary drinking at birdbath in the trails camp. My first record in Kruger. . Rock Kestrel and Jackal Buzzard recorded in the same area on the same morning. Area rainfall over the last 2 years has dropped by 285mm. There is a natural spring in the mountains which has all but dried up. In previous years over the winter period, higher flows in the spring have hosted Long-tailed wagtails. No such luck this time round. On a more positive note we are seeing a lot of a lone lioness with 2 cubs in the same vicinity. Lastly daytime visuals of White-faced Owls roosting in Torchwood Trees, over several days. - Nic Squires

Malelane Gate – 13 August 2005

We had a wonderful trip to the KNP this weekend and was not proud to record our first Acridotheres tristis Common (Indian) Myna for the flagship national park at Malelane Gate! Could this be the beginning of the end, or how long before we take action? - Pieter Du Plessis

Comments:

I somehow recall Common Mynahs being reported from that part of the country before, but by whom and when exactly....best is to go to the Interesting Bird Sightings Page at this link http://adu.sanbi.org/adu/ibs.htm and we could monitor what's happening. - David Swanepoel

Southern Kruger – 7/8 August 2005

On 7 and 8 August we visited the Kruger as day-visitors, using our Wild Card to good effect. 7 August saw us at the new Phabeni gate at 07:00 and about 15th in a long line of day visitors. We had to wait about 25 minutes to gain entry. I think all Wild card holders must insist on a special Wild Card lane for quicker access ;-)). Actually, it would be interesting to know how many birdnetters are Wild Card holders.

Apart from the usual fare, the definite highlight of the day was a roosting immature White-backed Night-Heron in dense foliage on the island at the Lake Panic hide near Skukuza. I took a few reasonable digital photographs through my scope, as I have not seen many pics of this bird in juvenile plumage. Unfortunately the resting bird only showed its black bill with yellow base of the lower mandible a few times, but the huge dark eye with greenish yellow lores, dark breast and dark wings with beautiful elliptical beige spots allowed positive ID and erased any doubts about it perhaps being an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron. This is only our second record for the park, the first being at dusk on 6 July 2002 at the dam next to Berg-en-Dal. A nice Bearded Scrub-Robin close to the parking area provided added pleasure.

Other good ticks included Yellow-bellied Eremomela and African Openbill near Lower Sabie, White-crowned Lapwing at Nkuhlu picnic spot and killer views of African Barred Owlet near Croc Bridge. We have never seen so many Black Crakes in the park! They were abundant at all water sources. We left the park at Croc bridge with 98 species on our list. We also spotted the big 5 in the first 6 hours of our visit!

Gaining entry from Malelane gate on 8 August was even worse than Phabeni. We arrived at the gate at 07:00, about 35th in a long line, stretching back half a kilometer. Frustration! It took us almost two hours to get inside, but the gate guard allowed us to walk onto the bridge, from where we had nice views and good birding. An unexpected delight here was our third Kruger record of African Goshawk, previous records being from much further north at Punda and Olifants. Grey-rumped Swallow was also seen from the bridge.

The picnic spot at Afsaal provided entertainment in the form of a pair of African Scops-Owls roosting in a tree right in the midst of the throng of visitors. Someone was kind enough to put up a little notice-board with an arrow pointing into the tree, reading "Scops Owl - find it". Best daytime views ever! Thanks to the unknown person for the note. Judging from the interest shown by many non-birders, you may just have made a few new birders out there! Many of us got hooked on birding by the sight of a special/beautiful/rare/skulking/ unexpected bird?

On the way to Pretoriuskop we had saturation views of a male Coqui Francolin walking gingerly next to the road. A speeding Gautenger with a huge, brand-new, top of the range Nissan 4X4 almost killed the bird and left us wondering what such idiots are doing in the park, apart from showing off their hardware.

Pretoriuskop itself provided good views of Brown-headed Parrot and an abundance of sunbirds (Black, Marico, White-bellied and Scarlet-chested) in the flowering Coral trees. Nearby a Grey-headed Bush-Shrike added to the eye-candy. Our disappointment at having to leave the park was somewhat alleviated by the sighting of a beautiful male Black-bellied Bustard, our first Kruger record. We saw the bird on the S7 north of Pretoriuskop, about 1km before the T-junction with the S1. We left at Phabeni with a total list of 130 species. Braai and beer OUTSIDE the park after such a glorious day INSIDE didn't exactly hack it for us. - Dawie Kleynhans

Wilderness Trails – early August 2005

The Nwaswitsontso river forms a great part of the Metsi Metsi wilderness area in the KNP. There is an impressive gorge close to the eastern boundry with Mozambique. An afternoon hike in the gorge to an isolated hippo pool allowed for some pleasant birding. Due to the low water levels there is a lot of Stork activity including Marabou and Yellow-billed Storks, highlighted by groups flying to their various roosts. The evening was topped off by fantastic visuals of a Bathawk, observed hunting in the twilight sky. Some ten years ago I was privileged to be shown a nesting Bathawk, complete with chick, on the Lebombos east of Letaba. Now years later I had my first experience of the bird hunting. Other interesting observations on this trail 31\7- 3\8 included a Lizard Buzzard feeding on Crested Francolin and a Giant Eagle Owl lying flat on a Red-billed Buffalo weavers nest. This was made special as it was situated in a massive Fever tree on the Metsi Spruit.

Another first was being able to cross the Olifants river on foot, and walk over to the Letaba river. The Letaba is very dry, and we were able to walk in it to the confluence with the Olifants. Here there is a known nest of peregrine falcons. We were treated to sublime views of the local pair, which included various flight sequences and a brief coupling by the two birds. Olifants trail- 24-27|7.

Other trail observations include a Pied Kingfisher catching and trying to prepare a Platanna for ingestion. Napi trail on the Mbiyamithi River. Lastly continued sightings of Kori Bustard ( 3 birds) on burnt Combretum woodland, Wolhuter trail. - Nic Squires

Kruger – July/August 2005

My husband and I just returned from a wonderful long weekend in the Kruger National Park. Travelling with 'non-birders' we were not able to identify nearly as many birds as we would've liked, but in only 2 and a half days we identified just over 100 different species.

From the small (e.g. Melba Finch, Green-capped Eremomela, Grey Penduline Tit), to the medium (e.g. Red-billed Helmut Shrike, White Helmut Shrike, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Scimitar-billed Wood Hoopoe), and the large (e.g. Lappet-faced Vulture, Ground Hornbill, Black Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, Saddle-billed Stork and Marabou Stork), it was a very interesting trip for us as relatively new birders.

The HIGHLIGHT however, was seeing four types of Owl, three of them in broad daylight.

First was the beautiful Pearl-spotted, seen from the road, then the Giant Eagle Owl on a night drive. The Scops Owl was spotted fast asleep in a tree right in the middle of a noisy picnic site, and we had the special treat of seeing the shy little Barred Owl on a low branch only metres from the dirt road we were travelling on - he opened his eyes for a quick look at us before going back to sleep.

Can't wait to visit again! - Geraldine Preston

Southern Kruger – late July 2005

5 Martial Eagle sightings including locating a nest under re-construction by a pair in southern Kruger.

  • 2 Tawny Eagle nests in the same region.
  • Several Whitebacked Vulture nest sites located in Kruger.
  • An adult Dark Chanting Goshawk feeding on a Rock Elephant Shrew near Pretoriuskop.
  • A juvenile Dark Chanting Goshawk that caught and was feeding on a male Yellowbilled Hornbill along the Sabie River.
  • Numerous winter sightings of Lesser Striped Swallows in Kruger.

It definitely seems as if we’re heading for an early summer and that the birding seems to be hotting up too! - André Botha

Pafuri – late July 2005

Just spent a week in Kruger at Punda Maria with two visits up to Pafuri. Firstly a compliment to SA Birdlife and Frank. I in passing I told Frank of my target birds and without any pressure from me he pulled me aside and showed me (Black-throated Wattle-eye, Variable Sunbird, Green-backed Camaroptera, Böhm’s Spinetail to name a few) we tried but could not find any Pel’s.

Other sighting’s of interest were Dickinson’s Kestrel on the H1-8 tar road to Pafuri and Lemon-breasted Canary on the same road. The H13-1 tar road to Punda is still the best road to see Arnot’s Chat. Great sighting of African Barred Owlet on Shigwedzi river road. The new bird hide at Punda Maria is great and I’m sure in summer months will produce many Nightjars.

Overall a six day winter stay with a trip list of 152 is not too shabby - John Vrey

Comments:

Very interesting birds seen in northern Kruger! Just a query regards Variable Sunbird - there are to the best of my knowledge no confirmed records of this species in Kruger NP. I think such a rare sighting needs to be accompanied by a few details such as field notes taken, etc. I am sure there are a number of people who would be very interested to hear more about this bird. And I would suggest reporting this on the Avian Demography Unit's website. - Warren McCleland

Pafuri Region – mid July 2005

Last week the Makuleke Concession produced the first racket-tailed roller since Pafuri Camp opened. It was seen by Fraser Gear in an area of quite tall mopane on the fringe of the section of Punda Maria sandveld just north of the Luvuvhu River. Other interesting sightings last week were a Pel's fishing owl and green capped eromomelas. - Chris Roche

Afsaal – 15 July 2005

On the 15th July I found a ringed Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) at the Afsaal picnic spot in KNP. I tried to get the writing on the rings, but didn't manage both rings. It had a yellow ring on its left leg with the number 7228, and a grey/silver ring on its right with the number 444. It also had other writing on it which I could make out as BA2004 and VGL but this might not be hundred percent accurate. From another observer, who claimed experience in pigeon racing, told me that one of the rings would indicate that it was a contestant of a race, and must have gone astray. Needless to say, an interesting record for my Kruger list. - Simon Vegter

Pafuri Region – 13 July 2005

On Friday last week 12km west of the KNP Pafuri Gate I had a single Crimson-breasted Shrike in the mopane woodland alongside the road. 39km west of the gate I had a flock of Pied Babblers also in a mopane/acacia mixed woodland.

On Sunday at Crooks' Corner Wilderness Safaris guides found their first Pel's Fishing Owl since their Pafuri Camp officially opened on Thursday last week. - Chris Roche

Wilderness Trails – early July 2005

Some interesting trail observations are as follows:

  • Metsi trail - Giant Eagle Owl observed feeding on termites.
  • Napi trail - Dark Chanting Goshawk observed clutching a Yellow-bellied Sandsnake.
  • Bushman trail – Violet-eared Waxbill female observed in burned Combretum veld, as part of a mixed bird party.

Discounts are only on offer December 05, Jan and Feb 06. November 05 and March 06 are at normal rates. - Nic Squires

Lake Panic – Skukuza – Striped Crake Alert – 3rd July 2005

Kevin Joliffe reports a STRIPED CRAKE from the Lake Panic bird hide near Skukuza in the Kruger National Park yesterday. - Trevor Hardaker

S1 near Skukuza - 24 June 2005

I've just got off the phone with Duncan McKenzie who is in Kruger Park at the moment. He and his wife Linda have been watching a superb Pel's Fishing Owl along the S1, which follows the Sabie River, several kilometres from Kruger Gate. A very difficult bird in the park, and even more so to see it from one's vehicle - perched out in the open!! - Warren McCleland

Pafuri Region - 9 June 2005

I was birding in Kruger on 9 June and met Jaqui and Eric Ehlers from President Ridge Bird Club who reported a Southern Hyliota in the Pafuri area that morning. This sighting was at the western end of the Pafuri loop road, on the S64 just beyond (west) of where the two roads leading westwards meet. - Etienne Marais

Bushman’s Wilderness Trail – April 2005

Comments on Bushman trails 6-13 April. Veld drying out earlier this year compared to last. Transitional colours especially Redbushwillows and Tambotis beautiful. The Mountain Seringas will follow shortly. Large numbers of European Swallows and Bee-eaters still around. Wahlbergs Eagle still around the camp, observed chasing a Tawny Eagle. Trails places available in June and July on Wolhuter and Nyalaland. - Nic Squires

Satara Camp – 9 April 2005

Picking up on an ongoing thread on the South African Bird Network about species of birds that indulge in Avian Image Bashing (pecking at their reflection in car mirrors, windowpanes etc.), a female Bennett’s Woodpecker was observed doing this to one of the tourists car mirrors in C- circle in Satara Camp at about 11h00. (A photograph of the bird is on view in the Bird Gallery under Kruger birds). - Chris Patton

Talamati – 7 April 2005

Large numbers of Senegal Lapwing (Lesser Black-winged Plover) were seen flying over the camp about an hour after dawn.

The following species were observed mobbing a boomslang in a tree next to cottage 5:

1. Crested Barbet
2. Southern Black Tit
3. Dark-capped (Black-eyed) Bulbul
4. Green-backed Camaroptera (Bleating Warbler)
5. Chinspot Batis
6. Black-backed Puffback
7. Three-streaked Tchagra
8. Orange-breasted Bush-shrike
9. Burchell’s Starling
10. Blue Waxbill
11. Red-billed Firefinch

- Chris Patton

Punda Maria and Sirheni – 18 to 21 March 2005

This weekend I added 3 new birds to my list:

  • White breasted Cuckoo-shrike: Sirheni
  • African Golden Oriole: Sirheni
  • Green-capped Eremomela: Punda Maria

- Ashraf Sayed

Southern Kruger – 14 to 18 March 2005

Some of the about to depart Palaearctic migrants were evident in large numbers prior to their departures for Europe and were clearly feeding furiously to build up energy resources. These included:

  • European Bee-eater
  • European Roller
  • Barn (European) Swallow
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Red-backed Shrike

Several quality sightings of accipiter species were seen in a tour of the southern camps of Kruger.

  • A melanistic Gabar Goshawk on the Berg-en-Dal access road in mid morning – 15 March .
  • Ovambo Sparrowhawk – perched to roost on tree about 100m from Pretoriuskop Camp Gate at dusk – 15 March.
  • Close encounter with Shikra in tree at turn off to Transport Dam – mid morning on 16 March.
  • African Goshawk emitting its characteristic flight call over Skukuza Rest Camp at about 08h00 on an overcast morning – 17 March

- Chris Patton

Tamboti Camp – 11 to 13 March 2005

We spent the weekend of 11 – 13 March in Tamboti Camp (Kruger). Specials were multiple sightings of Senegal Lapwings at the turnoff from the H1-7 tar road, and a Gorgeous Bush Shrike in Tamboti Camp. - Herman van Heerden

Lower Sabie – March 2005

We saw a corncrake - no doubt about the identification as we had a good 10 minutes view on the side of the road in early April 2004 on the on the S29 just south of the turnoff to the Mlondozi picnic site. Seen early in the morning on a very misty morning – within ½ hour of seeing an African crake (also stated by Sinclair to be rare) a couple of km earlier on the same road. - Cathy Burton

Northern Kruger – March 2005

My wife and I enjoyed a great week in Northern Kruger and added a few elusive birds to our life lists. We managed to flush a sleeping Pel’s at Pafuri as I was trying to assist my wife in locating a pair of wattle eye flycatchers in the canopy of the same tree. We did scan the tree for the Pel’s but he was in such thick foliage that we never saw him. Even more exciting though, was the sighting of a Bittern, also at Pafuri. We arrived at about 10 am and I immediately scanned the riverbed for anything unusual.

When I saw the bird, I called my wife over and she also saw it clearly. It was by then standing in the characteristic posture with the head pointing skywards. Within seconds it took off and flew in a short arc allowing a clear view of its dark cap. It then disappeared into the reeds on the riverbank. Despite returning to the spot a few times, I never managed to see it again. I know there might be sceptics so I will just report what I saw.

A fairly big brownish bird with heavy streaking on the breast. When it flew up, the legs were dangling prominently. At Punda we also saw a number of grey headed parrots on the Mahonie loop. - Hendrik Viljoen

Malelane - 24 February 2005

Lesser Moorhen walking on a gravel road , then into the strip of bush adjacent the Crocodile river at Malelane gate. Halfcollared Kingfisher and very vocal Great Reed Warbler also observed from the bridge. - Nic Squires

Nyalaland Trail – February 2005

Comments on Nyalaland trails 13-19 February. A wonderful week was spent birding in the far North, an area which always leaves one in awe.

  • Verreaux's Eagle-2 pairs seen on trail. Daily visuals of a pair near camp, their presence given away by Grey Louries.
  • Crested Guineafowl- frequent sightings in and around camp. 4 Chicks seen. These birds normally confine their activities to Ironwood forests. Suggested that the dry conditions have forced them into the Madzaringwe, a tributary of the Levubu.
  • Three-banded Courser- 1 individual on the road outside trail camp.
  • Grey-headed Parrot- Numerous sightings in the trail area and at Pafuri. Highlight seeing a pair in a Marula tree, I bird clutching and eating a fruit.
  • Mottled Spinetail- 5 birds the most seen in camp. These birds are seen daily from the trail camp, never seem to venture too far from their roost.
  • Batlike Spinetail- Dare I say trash bird. Patient sitting and skywatching at Pafuri picnic site above the river will produce.
  • Blue-cheeked Bee-eater- lot of activity on the Zimbabwe side of Crook’s corner.
  • Monotonous Lark- some calling in the block south of Klopperfontein.
  • Thrush Nightingale- 2 birds at picnic site.
  • Lemon-breasted Canary- lot of activity in Umbrella Thorn veld south of high-water bridge.

- Nic Squires, Kruger trails

Satara and Pretoriuskop – February 2005

Just returned from a recent birding trip to Kruger where I was impressed by the amount of Nightjars & Owls at the moment. We did a nightdrive from both Satara and Pretoriuskop which were both excellent.

  • Satara: At least 50 Square-tailed Nightjars, 1 European Nightjar, 2 Marsh Owls, 1 White-faced Owl, 1 Barn Owl, 1 African Scops Owl.
  • Pretoriuskop: Many Square-tailed Nightjars again aswell as several Spotted Eagle-Owls along the more open grasslands around Shitlhave dam and Napi Loop.
    Also 2 Marsh Owls again.
  • Just before entering the Terminalia Woodlands again on the Pretoriukop side of the H1-1 a male Pennant-winged Nightjar in the road. This bird had lost its pennants but the long black primaries totally covered his tail at rest. Very noticeable thin rufous collar. On take-off the broad white in wing very striking !
  • 1 Fiery-necked Nightjar. Several Freckled Nightjars around the granitic outcrops of the Shabeni loop.

It is great to have so many different species out at the moment to get to grips with their diagnostic features. - Martin Benadie

Southern Kruger - February 2005

After a few great days at the Kruger I was surprised to find an Eleonora's Falcon on 06/02/05 on the S110 close to Berg-en-Dal. It was an adult of the pale form. It was pretty relaxed and I had a clear sight of it sitting in a dead tree for more than 20 minutes. I did take a photo, but I'm afraid it might be mere dot in a tree. Has anybody else seen this individual in this area recently?

[Ed The photograph confirms the identification and can be seen on the Zest for Birds website www.zestforbirds.co.za]

Other interesting birds were 3 adult male Montagu's Harriers hovering over the grassland areas of the H10 near Lower Sabie and a Black Egret at Gudzani Dam. - Simon Vegter

Kruger January / February 2005

A tour through the southern half of the Kruger Park from 30 Jan to 9 Febr 05 produced about 240 bird species. Some of the more unusual ones:

  • West of Satara we observed a Corncrake being caught by a Blackshouldered Kite. The crake took some time to die but the kite was able to hold on.
  • South east of Olifants Camp, on the basalt plains, we saw a male Pallid Harrier catching a frog or lizard beside the road.
  • Some kms west of Kruger Gate 2 adult Thick-billed Cuckoos were flying in circles with characteristic rowing wing motion. Now and then they perched in treetops but both were completely silent.
  • 1 Redbilled Helmetshrike, host species of the above, found in the vicinity.
  • Glimpses of 2 Fishing Owls that were wild and shy. I may do these two a favour by not giving their hide-out. The Natal localities are easier.
  • We saw a Falcon outside Berg & Dal under similar circumstances to the one reported by Simon Vegter. We thought it was a European Hobby, but it didn't
    have the large amounts of rufous reported by Simon.
  • 1 Greyhooded Kingfisher on the Berg & Dal loop road.
  • Bronzewinged Coursers fairly abundant on the Berg & Dal night drive.
  • 1 Painted Snipe near Letaba.
  • 3 Black Storks settled beside the Olifants River bridge. (Visitors are allowed to step out of their cars on this bridge but beware of Moz Spitting Cobra seen hiding in a bridge culvert and feeding on freetailed bats by night)

The improvements to the park and the services in general made a positive impression.

The appearance of exotic plant species present a worry. Lantana camara is frequent at Skukuza, Kruger Gate and Berg & Dal, while Melia azedarach grows at the bridge near Mkhuhlu. - Mostert Kriek, Faerie Glen Pretoria

Mopani: 24 January 2005

An excellent sighting of Collared Palm-thrush on the Tsende River loop near Mopani Camp Kruger Park. - Doug Wagner

Olifants – Honorary Rangers Big Bird Weekend – 20 to 23 January 2005

We participated in the Kruger Big Birding Weekend organised by the West Rand Honorary Rangers this past weekend. We were based at Olifants.

Our team got 149, however there were 40 odd people taking part. We won't receive the combined camp total for a week or 2, but I suspect it'll be around 200 (there were loads of expected birds we missed - Hamerkop, BC Barbet, Village Weaver and only got 1 cuckoo to name a few of our dips)

Special Species:

  • Stierling's Wren Warbler
  • Kurrichane Buttonquail
  • European Nightjar perched horizontally on a branch (plus thousands of Square-tailed (Mozambique) and Fiery-necked Nightjars too)
  • Lanner Falcon stooping at close quarters at camp lookout platform
  • Verreaux's (Giant) Eagle Owls raiding little swift nests on Olifants Bridge
  • Shikra at 5m for about 10min. Ruby eye glowing - mesmerising
  • [African Wild Cat and Honey Badger were added bonuses]

- Caroline Bull

Southern Kruger: January 2005

  • Pink-backed Pelican observed from Lower Sabie rest-camp.
  • Red-crested Korhaan observed pecking at and ingesting a multi-coloured centipede.
  • A resident in Malelane has Woodland Kingfishers roosting\nesting in a swallows nest at the entrance to his house.

- Nic Squires, Bushman trail ranger

Southern Kruger - February 2005

After a few great days at the Kruger I was surprised to find an Eleonora's Falcon on 06/02/05 on the S110 close to Berg-en-Dal. It was an adult of the pale form. It was pretty relaxed and I had a clear sight of it sitting in a dead tree for more than 20 minutes. I did take a photo, but I'm afraid it might be mere dot in a tree. Has anybody else seen this individual in this area recently?

Other interesting birds were 3 adult male Montagu's Harriers hovering over the grassland areas of the H10 near Lower Sabie and a Black Egret at Gudzani Dam. - Simon Vegter

Kruger Jan/Feb 2005

A tour through the southern half of the Kruger Park from 30 Jan to 9 Febr 05 produced about 240 bird species.

Some of the more unusual ones:

  • West of Satara we observed a Corncrake being caught by a Blackshouldered Kite. The crake took some time to die but the kite was able to hold on.
  • South east of Olifants Camp, on the basalt plains, we saw a male Pallid Harrier catching a frog or lizard beside the road.
  • Some kms west of Kruger Gate 2 adult Thick-billed Cuckoos were flying in circles with characteristic rowing wing motion. Now and then they perched in treetops but both were completely silent.
  • 1 Redbilled Helmetshrike, host species of the above, found in the vicinity.
  • Glimpses of 2 Fishing Owls that were wild and shy. I may do these two a favour by not giving their hide-out. The Natal localities are easier.
  • We saw a Falcon outside Berg & Dal under similar circumstances to the one reported by Simon Vegter. We thought it was a European Hobby, but it didn't have the large amounts of rufous reported by Simon.
  • 1 Greyhooded Kingfisher on the Berg & Dal loop road.
  • Bronzewinged Coursers fairly abundant on the Berg & Dal night drive.
  • 1 Painted Snipe near Letaba.
  • 3 Black Storks settled beside the Olifants River bridge. (Visitors are allowed to step out of their cars on this bridge but beware of Moz Spitting Cobra seen hiding in a bridge culvert and feeding on freetailed bats by night)

The improvements to the park and the services in general made a positive impression.

The appearance of exotic plant species present a worry. Lantana camara is frequent at Skukuza, Kruger Gate and Berg & Dal, while Melia azedarach grows at the bridge near Mkhuhlu. - Mostert Kriek, Faerie Glen, Pretoria

Mopani: 24 January 2005

An excellent sighting of Collared Palm-thrush on the Tsende River loop near Mopani Camp Kruger Park. - Doug Wagner

Southern Kruger: January 2005

  • Pink-backed Pelican observed from Lower Sabie rest-camp.
  • Red-crested Korhaan observed pecking at and ingesting a multi-coloured centipede.
  • A resident in Malelane has Woodland Kingfishers roosting\nesting in a swallows nest at the entrance to his house.

- Nic Squires, Bushman trail ranger

 
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