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Recent Sightings - Kruger National Park - 2006
Pafuri – July ‘06
Please see below for some exceptional sightings at Pafuri over the weekend from guide Simon Stobbs who had these sightings with guests who stayed there for 4 nights:
Monday pm - Drive to Mangala: Black Eagle's at nest site on Hutwini cliff face.
Tuesday am - Luvuhu east to Crooks Corner and back. Saw 17 hippos at Crooks. During the day I birded in camp with my guests for an hour. Saw black throated wattle eye and yellow white eye. There was also two buffalo in front of camp and an elephant bull came down to drink at the river.
Tuesday pm - Big baobab. The highlight was seeing 3 banded courser.
Wednesday am - Mutale Gorge. Saw 2 big herds of buffalo on the way to the gorge. Found black stork nest at the gorge.
Wednesday pm - Went to Limpopo at Mangeba. On way back to Middle road heard impala alarm calling on Middle road east of Mangeba. Waited for about 30 minutes as they continued to call. Next thing we saw a male leopard emerge carrying an impala in his mouth.
Thursday am - While having pre-game drive tea on the main deck we saw a Bat Hawk catch a bat right in front of the deck. It flew off south of the river carrying it in its talons. Drive to Lanner Gorge: On the drive we saw a cuckoo hawk and a eastern nicator. Black eagle at the gorge.
Thursday pm - Spent 2 hours at Nwambi Pan in the middle of the day. Stacks of game. Herd of buffalo, nyala, impala, kudu, baboon, monkeys.
Thursday pm - Drive to Spokonyolo Pan on the Limpopo. Saw 2 eland on the way. On the way back we saw porcupine, 3 black backed jackals and a large spotted genet as well as a spotted eagle owl.
Thursday dinner - As I am driving big birders I went to check for Pel's in front of camp during dinner. There he was on a log right in front of the deck. We checked a bit later and there were 2. While we were watching them the one caught a fish. Yes, Pels and Bat Hawk both seen from the deck making a kill on the same day!
Possible Rarity at Pafuri
On a recent trip to Kruger, my wife videoed a greenbul feeding at Pafuri. I didn’t give it much notice as I was busy chasing a Thick-billed Cuckoo around the picnic site.
I remember thinking something was odd about the bird. I was watching the video again recently and noticed the following.
The bird had a very ash-grey head, a large white crescent above the eye and a yellow belly but becoming paler towards the throat. The bird was hawking from a perch on the forest fringe and pounced on some unknown item of food on the floor. It didn’t seem particularly shy.
I am very familiar with Yellow-bellied greenbul, growing up in Zululand and making regular forays north of the Tugela. I also videoed a Yellow-bellied Greenbul at St Lucia later on in the same trip. Side by side the birds are very different. I have never birded Zimbabwe and have never seen Stripe-cheeked Greenbul so I don’t know what it looks like but the bird on the video resembles the drawings in both Africa, South of the Sahara and Roberts VII.
Could it have been an aberrant Yellow-belly or perhaps stripe-cheeked?
New Kruger Bird? – July 2006
I recently visited the Kruger National Park and although I did not observe anything new to me….I did have two interesting observations.
The first being a Great Sparrow at Leeupan….this is the first Great Sparrow I have seen in the Kruger Park, even after living there for a period. I see the bird is also not on their bird list. Has anyone else seen Great Sparrow in the Park?
Another interesting observation was at Berg en Dal camp where I saw literally hundreds of red billed oxpeckers flocking over the camp at dusk….I presume they must roost in large numbers? Again, haven’t seen a large group like that before.
Satara Swallows - July ‘06
We were surprised to see a couple of Lesser Striped near Satara in Kruger NP on 4 July. We were also happy to see Mosque Swallows in the same area - I usually associate them more with the northern region of the park.
Rudi Von Staden
Northern Kruger – early July ‘06
Northern Kruger is as green as it should be in February, and we had a nice Grey-headed Parrot perched along the tar road, just before one turns to Punda Maria Camp. En route up to Pafuri we had excellent close up views of a Senegal Coucal at Klopperfontein, and nearby at least 7 Harlequin Quails, including males and several juvenile birds. A pack of Wild Dog was seen along the road north of the last Big Baobab on the left. At Crookes Corner a number of the riverine race of the White-fronted Plover were in evidence on the river - is this really the same species as the more angular, larger and paler coastal races? We watched a Hooded Vulture performing some antics as it battled to collect nesting material, which involved breaking off a large stick in a tree and then flying rather awkwardly with the thing in its bill. A number of Grey-rumped Swallows patrolled the air low down above the open areas near Crooks corner, At t the picnic area at Pafuri we met up with Ben and Lisa from Kurisa Moya who had seen a Bat Hawk at the bridge and later got Raquet-tailed roller, near the border post (Ben is also one of the authors of the new Limpopo Birding Routes booklet – which is a must-have if you are in this region). This area produced White-browed Robin-chat, Paradise Flycatcher, Village Indigobird, White-crested and Retz' Helmet Shrike and a cracking pair of Black-throated Wattle-eye, which are resident there, but sometimes require a fair bit of patience, or better still the assistance of Frank, the local guide. Waterbirds were few on the river and we had to compensate with great views of a foursome of Red-faced (blushing) Cisticola.
On the road southwards, the 27 milestone produced great views of a Dickinson's Kestrel perched on a Baobab. We also had White-headed and Lappet-faced Vulture in flight. The Mahonie Loop produced another Dickinson's (close to the start) if going anti-clockwise. The Mahonie loop also produced a flock of Mosque swallow, more Grey-headed Parrots and another flock of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters.
The mopane woodland is green, green, green – what you would normally expect in February! At 8km from Punda Maria (on the H13-1) the tall woodland was particularly productive and we saw no less than 4 Arnot's Chat, a pair of Bennett's Woodpecker and heard Stierling's Barred Warbler.
The tropic of capricorn loop produced my first ever Kruger Roan antelope, Rock Kestrel and several huge bull elephant.
The Pioneer dam at Mopane was also very full and did not produce as many birds as usual, although a pair of Goliath Heron nesting on a tree in the water provided some interest. In the evening a Freckled Nightjar was heard calling from the koppie near the entrance gate to the camp, and a walk around the camp produce cracking spotlight views of both Barn and Verreaux's (Giant) Eagle Owl.
The vegetation along the road towards Letaba was lush and green and we encountered a calling Red-crested Korhaan, several Southern Ground Hornbills, Martial, Bataleur and the usual array of regular Rollers along the road. Mammals included elephant, Steenbok and Cheetah.
Letaba is one of the best camps to bird in, and here we saw Bearded and Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Red-headed Weaver, African Mourning Dove and Scarlet-chested Sunbird. From the deck at the Restaurant we saw Marabou Stork and a variety of swallows, including Grey-rumped Swallow, and several different species of Starling and firefinch. A walk in the camping area produced a “winking” Scops Owl and several Ashy Flycatchers.
At the bridge just north of the Letaba River, produced more of the "riverine" White-fronted Plovers, while the Matambeni Bird Hide on the northern bank of Engelhard Dam, (which is incidentally one of the best birding spots in Kruger particularly if you have a scope) produced an Osprey - certainly a young bird (which are the ones over-wintering in South Africa). We also saw a variety of herons, Lesser Striped Swallow, Little Swift, and perhaps surprisingly, Horus Swift. A large herd of Buffalo moved through the reedbeds on the other bank and careful watching produced good scope views of Yellow-billed Oxpecker.
Mopani – end June ‘06
I have just returned from four days at Mopani Camp. Both birds and animals were hard to find probably because the area from Phalaborwa gate to Mopani and surrounds are reminiscent of mid-summer after good rains. The grass is about 1M high and the mopane is as green and dense as ever. Water abounds, the Pioneer Dam is full, nShowa Dam has re-established itself and all in the entire park is a beautiful sight.
One of the highlights was the number of ground Hornbills that we saw:
At Mooiplaas we saw 6 including 2 immature On the flats close to the Letaba River a family of 4 (too far to distinguish maturity) on the Shongololo Loop 2 groups of three, widely separated, comprised of 2 adults + 1 immature
Another good sighting was of a melanistic Gabar Goshawk being harassed by a Lilac Breasted Roller and 2 Blacksmith plovers.
Northern Kruger – June ‘06
Just spend a great few days in northern Kruger in and around Punda Maria and Pafuri. The highlight was four Racket-tailed Rollers near Crook's Corner. The birds were around the TEBA camp's pump house. To get there, you need permission from the managers of TEBA camp. TEBA camp offer affordable accommodation in the Pafuri area. It is near the border post and has two self catering houses. They can be contacted at 013 735 6883 and are keen birders so will be able to tell you if the birds are still around. The only draw back is the generator noise and lights from the border post, but being able to bird the area early morning and late afternoon makes it well worth a night or two.
Other highlights were a Bat hawk fly past on the Levubu river bridge, and Arnot's Chat on the tar road between Punda and Shingwedzi. We also saw 5 hornbill species including many Crown and Trumpeter around Punda. Two Grey headed Parrots were also seen on the Mahonie loop around Punda. Black Throated Wattle-eye were in the Picnic site at Pafuri. Grey Rumped Swallows were also common in the Pafuri area.
Pafuri – June 2006
Following up the birding theme/thread ... For the past two weeks there have been regular sightings of Pel's fishing owl in the Luvuvhu River from the dinner table at Pafuri Camp. There is a small island and a deepish pool in front of camp and this bird (or birds) has been using this as its perch with regular 'plops' into the water punctuating dinner conversation...
Pafuri – 8th to 11th June 2006
We ran our first Pafuri Wilderness Trail last week (in the Makuleke concession in northern Kruger between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers) and although we had a group of non-birders we managed a couple of the local specials. Meves' long-tailed starling is abundant of course, as is the tropical boubou, yellow white-eye was good, but the birding highlight was a Pel's fishing owl overlooking a pool in the Limpopo River as the light was fading.
Of interest too were individuals of eastern paradise whydah in full breeding plumage, and the first records of striped pipit and groundscraper thrush (on recently burnt firebreak) for the concession in the past year.
Mammal highlights, apart from elephant and buffalo, were an aardvark, greater canerat, yellow-spotted rock dassie, Sharpe's grysbok and a nightly bushpig boar in camp.
Biyamiti and Pretoriuskop areas – 4th to 6th May 2006
We were in the Kruger Park on the 4th/5th May. As we were passing below Ship Mountain we stopped to watch a very large herd of buffalo crossing the road (H2-2 from Pretoriuskop to Afsaal). I always check the oxpeckers and we were excited to see 3 Yellowbilled Oxpeckers on the herd. We have been following the slow progress south of these Oxpeckers over many years, our most southerly sighting prior to this had been in the Djuma Lodge area in the Sabi Sand. We would love to hear of any similar sighting south of the Sabi River from fellow birders.
One other sighting that left us totally bemused where three Mosque Swallows sitting on an old leadwood stump above the waterhole at the extreme northern end of the Biyamiti private road (S139). We are aware this should be far to south for the bird, but as we are very familiar with the species having had numerous sightings in the north of the park we where confident in the sighting.
My most southerly sighting of yellow billed oxpecker is of a single bird in a buffalo herd about 200m north of Malelane Gate. I've had two birds investigating a nest hole just west of Orpen Gate (although they did not breed here) and I think there's no doubt that they have spread, in varying densities, throughout the park.
Chris Roche – Wilderness Safaris
Malelane, Satara, Talamati and Balule areas – May 2006
Our recent trip to the park was great! We saw 4 different sightings of Ground Hornbill groups. 3 of the groups had juvenile birds, 2 with 2 and 1 group with 1 juvenile. The areas they were seen were near Malelane, twice near Satara / Gudzani dam, and once near Balule. Hopefully the numbers are remaining constant.
We saw quite a few Martial Eagles, Saddle-bill storks, of the big birds, no Lappet Faced vultures though, however saw plenty White-backed and Hooded and a few White-headed. A pair of Giant Eagle Owls roosting near the Ratel Pan bird hide was quite a sighting too.
A first for me were Bronze-winged Coursers, on a night drive near Talamati - now I just need to see the 3-Banded to complete the family. Scops Owls were all over the camp, so we got a few decent sightings of them.
Pafuri – April 2006
A quick update on recent sightings at the Wilderness Safaris Camp at Pafuri for anyone heading up to the northern Kruger or to the camp itself.
- Grey-headed parrots - plenty around but no longer linked to specific nest or other sites
- Racket-tailed Rollers - still being seen, two pairs now known but reasonably difficult to find
- Arnot's Chat - good stake out that the guides can take people to
- Pel's Fishing Owl - good nocturnal stake out and a few day time sightings as the pans along the Limpopo and Luvuvhu dry out
- Crowned Eagle - occasional in the riverine and riverine fringe
- Temminck's Courser - new addition in area to supplement resident bronze-winged and three-banded coursers
- Cuckoo hawks - regular including three separate sightings in the course of one game drive recently
Northern KNP – April 2006
Thank you to all who replied to my requests for stakeouts for Greyheaded Parrots in the Northern KNP. (Especially Ettienne, Andre,and Mostert. Chris and Dewald – got your replies too late)
Unfortunately, they seemed to be completely absent while numerous Brownheaded were recorded at the various stakeouts. In 10 days of intensive searching we did not even hear the call of these birds.
On the upside we recorded over 210 species with sightings we found of interest being:-
10/04/06 Tickbilled Cuckoo
Northern bank of Levuvhu flying from treetop to treetop – good views – also seen by Frank at the Pafuri picnic sight.
10/04/06 Arnott's Chat
Tall Mopani woodland on ridge on road to Pafuri gate
10/04/06 Dickenson's Kestrel
Two sightings - Punda Maria to Klopperfontein Dam road.
11/04/06 African Crake
Klopperfontein Dam – standing in road in the rain – also Small Buttonquail and Harlequin Quail were numerous in this area.
16/04/06 Dusky Lark
Between Mopani and Shingwedzi
On a cautionary note – the sightings book and discussions with other birders at the camp indicated sightings of Mangrove Kingfisher and Gargeny (6 birds) at the small lily pond outside Punda Maria. We checked these out and found a Woodland Kingfisher with rather grey grizzling in amongst the blue around the head and very little black on the lower mandible. The “Gargenies“ turned out to be immature Comb Ducks, the mistake being understandable due to a lack of illustrations of these birds in my Sasol or Birds of Subsaharan Africa
Southern & Central Kruger – early April 2006
Diane and I just spent a week at Sanbonani in Hazyview.
We went into the Kruger Park almost daily and some highlights of our trip were.
Juvenile Thick-billed Cuckoo on the S3 next to the Sabie River being cared for by its Retz's Helmet-shrike adoptive parents.
Half-collared Kingfisher along the same road.
African Scops-Owl in the car park near the Satara reception.
On the 2nd April I saw an Allen's Gallinule at Lake Panic Bird Hide by Skukuza, I had about 20 seconds of viewing when it disappeared into the reeds. I went back several times during the week but was unable to relocate it.
Pafuri Concession – March 2006
Birding has been very good this month with a grand total of 243 recorded species. Some of the specials spotted were: Mottled spinetail, Pel’s fishing owl, freckled night jar, lesser gallinule, and glossy ibis. Other sightings include: Racket-tailed roller, thick-billed cuckoo, black-winged stilt, little sparrow hawk, steppe eagle, white-backed night-heron and dwarf bittern.
Southern Kruger 25/26 March 2006
Just a short note to let you all know Southern Kruger National Park is teeming with River Warblers. We recorded 3 different birds on the two mornings of this previous weekend. One was on the Salitje road north of Lower Sabie (this also had African Crake walking in the road on 2 occasions), another just south of Lower Sabie and a third bird close to Biyamithi camp further south. Broad-tailed Warblers and Croaking Cisticolas were also recorded - both these spp. are certainly not common in Kruger. Also of interest was a Black Coucal just north of Tshokwane picnic spot.
Johann & Lizett Grobbelaar
Wolhuter Trail – mid-March 2006
A group of eight birding friends "did" the Wolhuter Wilderness Trail in the south of KNP last week. We had a wonderful time and saw a good few birds, but mainly enjoyed the vegetation, insects and lush veld on the trail. We were very lucky to have Callie as our Trail Ranger, whose broad and deep knowledge and enthusiasm contributed greatly to the success of our trip. Among the sightings we had on the trail were :
Croaking Cisticola, White-Faced Owl and a very fleeting view of a Whitebacked Night Heron - as well as a curious Honey Badger. We heard Shelley's Francolin and Stierling's Barred Warbler.
After the trail, on Wednesday 15 March, some of us drove from Berg en Dal to Pretoriouskop. On the way, at the foot of Ship Mountain, on the Voortrekker Road, we came across a pale-phase Honey Buzzard sitting in a tree about 20 metres from the car and giving us ample opportunity to examine its identification features. Photos of the bird are available.
Other "good" birds seen were Black Coucal (north of Crocodile Bridge) and a mixed group of vultures bathing in a river, among which were a possible pair of Egyptian Vultures, identified by one member of our party only, from a single, good sighting of the underwing patterns. Do EVs join mixed parties of vultures at a kill?
Lower Sabie 11/12 March 2006
We recently spent 2 nights in Lower Sabie (11 and 12 March) and one night in Biyamiti. We were surprised to see a pair of wattle-eyed flycatchers in the trees behind number 99 in Lower Sabie. Are they regularly seen this far south? We also saw a hunting European Hobby at Biyamiti.
While they are most regularly recorded in the park from Pafuri, there are several records from Lower Sabie and Crocodile Bridge. A great sighting!
Pafuri Area – 6 March 2006
Following our sighting and familiarisation with the thrush nightingale call at the Pafuri picnic site last week, Simon Stobbs and the other guides at Pafuri camp managed to locate another calling bird just outside our camp on the northern bank of the Luvuvhu and obtain very good views of it.
Other good birds seen over the weekend included three-banded courser, grey-headed parrots, lemon-breasted canaries, bat hawk, cuckoo hawk, dusky larks, four bee-eaters, six hornbills and, new for the list, a number of olive tree warblers.
Sooty Falcon at Lower Sabie – 4 March 2006
Robert Wienand reports an adult Sooty Falcon 1,9km south of the S28 turn-off south of Lower Sabie in the Kruger National Park today.
It was perched in a Leadwood tree about 100m east of the road since this morning and was still there in the same tree later the same afternoon afternoon.
If anyone wants further info, they can contact Robert at 083 299 2484.
Photos of the bird can be viewed at: http://www.zestforbirds.co.za/sootyfalcon01.html
Corncrakes – 28 February 2006
He has apparently just returned from the Kruger where he saw no fewer than 10 Corncrakes, with 8 of them being along a single 2km stretch of road.
If anybody is interested in getting more info from him on where exactly this was, you can contact him on 083 299 2484 or email@example.com
Pafuri Area – late February 2006
Have just spent a few days up in northern Kruger which has received a fair amount of rain (gravel roads around Punda all seemed to be closed).
Some sightings worthy of mention Thrush nightingale still present in Pafuri Picnic site - very furtive, elusive and quick moving. Vocal in the early mornings on the eastern end of the picnic site between the Thulamela display and the second ablution block. Frank Mabasa on the ball of course and totally familiar with the two common calls. We found that pda playback elicited no response from the bird and instead it remained quiet for long periods after our two attempts at this. Best technique is to stake out a call site (there seem to be two, one in a Gymnosporia senegalensis close to the Thulamela display and one below the Capparis tomentosa at the ablution block), get a view into the interior of the low canopy and just wait. Thanks to the Lawsons for alerting everyone.
African Crake is present in the Elandskuil area near Punda Maria. We saw three birds on the road on a rainy morning. The rank grass on the edge of the northern plains looks ideal for this species at the moment.
Ayres' hawk eagle along the Luvuhvu River at midday.
A brown-headed parrot with the characteristic yellow shoulder patches of the Meyer's parrot (these two species plus grey-headed are all seen in the area between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers). Rowan and the new Roberts I think both mention possible hybridisation between these two species, but also the possibility of aberrant colour forms within the brown-headed. The guides will be looking more closely at the various parrots to see how common this is. Any opinions out there as to xanthochromism versus hybridisation as the most likely explanation?
Frank also pointed out a yellow-billed oxpecker nest in a fig tree opposite the picnic site that we later located from our private concession on the northern bank. An adult bird was perched outside the nest (rotten hollow in a sycamore fig where a branch had broken off at about 12.5m) for perhaps the entire morning. Interestingly enough yellow-billed oxpeckers are more commonly encountered in the concession than red-billed.
Pel's viewing is currently difficult because of the swollen waters of the Luvuhvu and the abundant water and fish in the pans along both the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers.
A friend also had a sighting of a pallid harrier north of Mopani Camp on Friday last week.
Comments from a Parrot expert:
There are no known records of hybridisation between Brown-headed Parrot Poicephalus cryptoxanthus and Grey-headed Parrot P. fuscicollis suahelicus (I guess this would be much like a Trumpeter and Crowned Hornbill hybridising ). Clancey documented the hybridisation of Meyers P. meyerii and Brown-headed Parrots in the northern Kruger region which is a lot more likely as they are more closely related (and of similar size). In this region there may also be confusion with identifying Meyers and Brown-headeds due to the occurrence of aberrant forms. I seem to recall that Brown-headeds in this region also often have yellow visible on the wing when perched (like Meyers), and there is variation with the degree of yellow on the front of Meyers. The two ranges do overlap so caution is required with identifications. The Grey-headed Parrot is more closely related to the Cape Parrot P. robustus and although no records of hybridisation in the wild are documented they are known to hybridise in aviculture. Capes are highly unlikely to occur here unless escapees!!
As to the explanation of xanthochromism versus hybridisation - individuals, in most of the parrot species mentioned, often show unique levels of what could possibly be referred to as xanthochromism (some have linked this to diet) and it could be possible that hybridisation plays a role. However, even in populations of "pure" Capes a number of birds will have yellow feathers. I have observed a Cape in the wild at Ngele that had an almost completely yellow belly. It may be a character of certain populations, or within males or females.
Saw a Brownheaded yesterday (Sunday) yesterday in Shingwedzi camp. Saw it well, very close for about 10 mins (there are many in the now-fruiting fig trees on the riverfront). I saw no sign of yellow shoulder-patches while it was sitting. I don't know if this helps.
Southern Kruger – 23 – 27 February 2006
We spent 4 nights birding (obviously) over the last weekend in southern KNP (Pretoriuskop – Skuku za - Lower Sabie x 2). Although we knew the bush would be thick, we still expected to see some good birds and were not disappointed on either accounts. And the bush was very thick …
The highlight of the trip was two sightings of Corncrake (both crippling views) on the S29. The grassland is thick and long providing ideal cover for these skulkers. In both cases the birds ventured out onto the road and although jumpy – took their time getting back to the cover of the grass.
Other sightings/observations of interest were:
Cape Weaver in the Pretoriuskop Camp
Wahlberg’s Eagle (by the ton – strangely though – no Steppe or Tawny eagles)
Groundscraper Thrush - around Pretoriuskop
Woodland Kingfisher – Every fourth tree
Rattling Cisticola – Every second tree
Lizard Buzzard – stunning views and photos
Bushveld Pipit , Lesser Kestrel, Lesser Grey Shrike– were new ones for our KNP list (and the Corncrake)
European Hobby Falcon – quite a few sightings
A lot of Green-backed Heron
Village and Dusky Indigo birds
A few sightings of the range increasing Thick-billed Weaver
We were not sure about one – which was a possible Spike-healed Lark … it showed the diagnostic little tale, plumage was right but it didn’t hang around when we figured out it was out of range …
Other than that – it was interesting to see how few water birds we saw and how many birds of prey we saw (19 in all – with no Accipiters, Tawny or Steppe Eagles)
Next up will be a trip to the fairest Cape (or what’s left of it after the fires) which will be interesting for us as we have never really birded south of the Free State … should produce many lifers …
Ruth and Andrew Pike
Pafuri – 18 February 2006
Thrush Nightingale at Pafuri Picnic Site on 18 Feb 2006! Frank (the SANParks’ attendant) can find it for interested persons
Comments from others:
Also have a report from Ian Whyte (senior scientist: large herbivores) of a Thrush Nightingale calling around his garden in Skukuza. Still no views of it yet!
It seems to be a bumper year for this bird and their unmistakable calls have been heard at Pafuri, Punda, Shingwedzi and over the weekend Ian Whyte took me to one calling outside his garden at Skukuza.
Also had a River Warbler calling from a Dichrostachys thicket at the Skuku za airport towards the end of January.
Southern Kruger Wilderness Trails – 8 – 15 February 2006
Two consecutive trails 8-15 February( Bushman and Napi) with a birding group afforded us the opportunity to get to grips with how the birdlife has reacted to the excellent summer rains which have fallen November to present. If African and Corncrakes; White-winged; Red-shouldered and Red-collared Widows; Croaking and Fantailed Cisticolas are in some way good wet season indicators, then the situation is outstanding to say the least. Desert Cisticola and Quail Finch were good ticks on the Shithlave gabbros. The Desert Cisticola was also recorded on a grassy granite bottomland. In general the accipiters were also phenomenal. A low note was the almost non existent calling of Harlequin Quail and Kurrichane Buttonquails. Monotonous Larks, which were prolific in the Napi area December last, were absent. They were however recorded in the Far North i.e. Nyalaland trail this month.
Letaba – 6 February 2006
I have just spoken to one of our guides, who is currently staying up at Letaba and he has told me that he saw a Wattled Crane from the restaurant area flying past in a northerly direction!!
He has guided for over 12 years and has a very good knowledge of southern African birds. He says he is 100% positive on the id and I have no reason to doubt his sighting.
Sounds absolutely amazing to me considering that in South Africa I have only ever seen them around Dullstroom.
If anyone is heading out that way soon, please keep and eye out for this bird.
To my knowledge this bird has not been recorded in the park before.
Comments from others:
I guess that wattled cranes would be pretty good flyers, and theoretically it is possible that one got lost on his way to somewhere, but I would not put this on any official bird list until it was definitely confirmed!!
Dr Ian Whyte
Skuku za Area - 6 February 2006
We saw three Senegal Lapwings last Monday (6th Feb) on the H4-1 on the section between Skuku za and the bridge at the confluence of the Sand and Sabie Rivers.
Golden Pipit – Punda Maria – 3 February 2006
I have received a report of a possible male Golden Pipit recently seen in the Kruger National Park. The sighting was in the Punda Maria area and requires confirmation but from the description provided by the observer, the bird certainly sounds like the real thing!
The Pipit was seen south-west of Punda Maria camp on the gravel Mahonie loop road that skirts around Punda Maria camp, a few kilometres after the start of the road when travelling the loop road in a clockwise direction.
Will all birders visiting the area please keep a lookout for this rarity and inform us if they find this highly desirable mega!
Limpopo River – 29 January 2006
A periodic Coordinated River Bird Count on the Limpopo River in first Mapungubwe National Park and then northern Kruger by a team from Limpopo/Soutpansberg Birding Route took place over the last weekend in January. Full details at www.limpopobirding.com
KNP section highlights while in park: Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, European Hobby and Böhm’s Spinetail
95 birds (18 species) were recorded during the Waterbird Count.
114 birds recorded in the park
Punda Maria Big Birding Day 2006 (27 – 29 January 2006)
Every year for the past 8 years the West Rand region of the SANParks’ Honorary Rangers Corps organises and coordinates a mass birding census come fundraiser weekend open to the general public and taking place throughout the park. (To read more about this event’s history go to http://www.sanparks.org/groups/birders/birddays/knp_bird_days.php) Paying guests travel to select camps (14 camps were used in 2006) and are treated to guided birding drives to special local spots with the added advantage of travelling outside normal tourist hours and in some cases off the regular tourist roads. The aim is for participant teams and individuals to record all the birds the see in the area around their base camp over the given weekend. This year 630 participants took place, along with several Honorary Ranger organisers and invited birding experts who compliment the HRs and accompanying park guides/drivers.
Punda Maria usually records the highest cumulative totals once all participants’ sightings are merged into one list and invariably tops 300 species, while over 400 are recorded throughout the park by all involved camps. I was thus thrilled when the HRs asked me to be one of the vehicle bird guides
I arrived quite at Punda late on Thursday afternoon, so there was no time to bird that evening. Didn’t see anything unusual between the gate and the camp, but I was staying in one of the new safari tents and there was a Nicator calling constantly from the surrounding bush for the 4 nights I stayed there. Didn’t get to see it, but nice background music!
Hennie, the HR organiser at Punda asked me to go to Pafuri on the Friday to do a bit of a recce on conditions there, as he was doing the 4x4 trail and the other guides Don English and Ian Whyte were only flying in on Friday.
Unfortunately with me doing the interview about the event on the John Pearlman show, I only left Punda at about 7ish which meant it was 9ish by the time I got to Pafuri. I had a Crowned H’bill outside my tent during the interview. The veld via Klopperfontein was teeming with Monotonous Larks and Harlequin Quails. Highlight of trip there were 2 Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest and a calf. When I got to Pafuri I did the bridge first and found the water level high and flowing swiftly. No waterbirds in sight and could only pick up Little Swift.
I then did Nyala Drive, hoping to notch up Crowned Guineas especially (I didn’t get this bird at all either at Pafuri or Punda this trip). Bit of general activity, with a vocal gymnogene the highlight. Then went across to Crook’s Corner – again nothing too special there or en route (it’s late morning), with only village and dusky indigobirds as things I didn’t see again. There was one moment of excitement when I saw a canary on a roadside puddle on the Crook’s access road, but it was Yellow-fronted. Don English, who was at Crook’s for the DC (dawn chorus) with his vehicle on Saturday saw 2 LBCs.
Next stop was at the picnic site where I discovered Frank Mabasa (resident attendant and bird guru) was on leave until Feb 11. (I did see him at Punda later in the day and he told us he was guiding some people from Teba House the next day) Picked up the Trop. Boubou and a couple of other things, but was concerned as I saw no storks, herons, egrets, waders or thick-knees during my morning there. Water Thick-knee and White-crowned Lapwing apart the same applied the following day.
Speaking of which, I was assigned Jerry Nkuna as my driver (he is the guide at Shimuwini – very pleasant and pretty knowledgeable too) and our DC destination was to be the bridge, which at first I was unhappy about (picnic site and Crook’s the other options), but was probably much of a muchness and the bridge was quite accessible for me.
Having left 15 minutes behind the 3 other trucks (entirely my fault) we set off purposefully. Our first bird was a nice VEO and then we caught up with one of the other trucks as they were trying to spish for an Arnot’s Chat at a known haunt despite the nocturnal hour (don’t know if they got it, but we didn’t). We then got a barn owl eating a mouse. These proved to be the only owls seen or heard on my entire time in the park which extended to the Tuesday after the event!
The DC at Pafuri Bridge was great. Nothing spectacular seen, but woodpeckers, robins, tits, apalises, collarded sunbirds, hornbills, tropical boubous etc were enough to entertain the masses. What was great was we had license to roam from the Levuvhu Bridge to the Levubu Bridge and a bit beyond on the road.
After a while a vehicle of birders with Frank and co pitched up. Then both our vehicle and theirs set off down Nyala Drive. Nothing too dramatic, but we went down a closed road at the end of the drive to try out 2 regular roosts of the Pel’s. Unfortunately they both proved blank.
We then all went to the picnic site. 2 of the other groups were there too having breakfast. We traded brief notes. Frank found the Wattle-eyes and the entire group (except me) went to see them.
We went on to Crook’s, but not too much to add. Did see some vultures circling above. I could only confirm White-backed & White-headed, but others in the truck were convinced they had Lappet-faced as well. Speaking of big 6 birds, soon after this we added Southern Ground Hornbill. This was the only member of the park’s big 6 birds I saw the entire time, although I found a second family group as I drove from Punda Maria down to Shingwedzi.
One of the trucks was going to the sand-flats and another tried, but got a puncture. Our truck elected to head back to Punda, which I was not too unhappy about, because it was terribly hot and humid. Klopperfontein had a couple of additional species, including 2 red-billed teals which are quite rare in the park. I saw a single bird on Monday as well at Magamba waterhole. But it was on the last stretch in the Mopane Woodland before getting back to the PM tar access road that we had out highlight of the morning. I asked Jerry to stop thinking we had a European Golden Oriole, but as it turned around we were all given a superb sighting of African Golden Oriole in a tree not 5m away. It stuck around for a fair bit of time which was superb. This was only my second sighting of this bird. After this we also got Yellow-billed Oxpecker on a buffalo before we got back to camp.
I spent the afternoon in my tents, had a shower and doing my list. At this point I was on 148.
We went out again at about 6 and headed clockwise on Mahonie to the hilly section to look for Pennant-winged Nightjar. We got a stunning roadside Bronze-winged Courser at a spot where one of our troop had seen it on Friday morning and I got a nice photo. We then saw a nice Li zard Buz zard, European Nightjar and Redbilled Oxpecker until we got to a little no entry road in a hilly and stony section. Jerry was telling us how he’d seen up to 6 Pennant-wings in flight at about this time of evening and at dawn, but we drove around and had no joy. On our way out we ran into a second truck and Ian Whyte said they had just seen one, but without the full pennants. Just before we got to back to the Mahonie, we saw our first one and then as I told you a couple more. They had unfortunately dropped their breeding pennants but their elongated primaries were clearly visible.
So end of Saturday I was on 153. Up Sunday morning I set off alone on the Mahonie Loop. Many of the guests were heading for home and while we had a delightful group in our truck it was nice to have the independence of being alone. First addition of the morning was a Narina Trogon calling from near the first dam (anti-clockwise on the loop). Soon after that I got only my second sighting of White-breasted Cuckooshrike and it was a quality viewing in comparison to my first. (it was in almost the same place too, 17 year and one and a half months on).
I then came upon a huge herd (over 100) elephant and one of them (I didn’t check if it was a mother or a young bull) started charging me as I approached. Luckily he/she acted alone and I beat a hasty exit.
Then as I turned off to Witsand, I heard parrots screeching. I managed to locate them in a baobab quite far off against the hill. 2 or 3 popped out of a hole in the tree. My first thought was that they were Brown-headed, but they did look very large. Then as they flew off I could see there was no yellow under-wing and had to be grey-headed. Not an ideal sighting because of the distance but having seen them regularly on the loop before I was confident in their identity.
At the point where the road turns 90° left and heads south I heard another Narina Trogon calling and got an excellent sighting of a purple indigo-bird, a first for me in the park. I had more elephant problems, this time a lone bull. Soon after that I cornered a marsh warbler in a bush. A bit of spishing gave me a brief sighting of it. There was a second bird calling from a nearby bush.
I had more parrots at Makutwale Dam, but these proved to be Brown-headed. It was by now about 9:30am, and although hot I thought I’d pop round to Thulamila which was good as I saw a few Red-Collared Widows.
So by the time I was ready to hand in my checklist I had 167 and went for a drink with the 2 Honorary Rangers and their spouses who had coordinated the event on the balcony of tent 4. We were sitting and chatting about birds when I looked up and there was a bat hawk flying above us. They’d seen it there on Thursday night too, so I asked for my list back and ticked 168. I had hoped to get 200, but with the dearth in water-birds as well owls, eagles plus a couple of expected regulars it just didn’t happen.
The journey down to Shingwedzi was enjoyable. Small/Kurrichane Buttonquail in the road and Pallid Harrier at Babalala were the highlights. Also added African Openbill to the trip list
I had to stop off at Shingwedzi for some work in camp. I went in over the drift and added Yellow-billed Stork and a Lanner Falcon perched in a dead tree over the river. The camp as always produced Mourning Dove, Bennett’s Woodpecker and Red-billed Hornbill all for the list. I then drove to Mopani on the Grootvlei road where I added a couple of additions. That evening I spent about half a hour at one of the hides and scratched a couple more for the list, plus the Mocking Cliff-chats that Mopani guarantees.
So with only the final morning left I was on 194. I tried hard to add African Scops-owl and fiery-necked nightjar that night but no joy.
I finally got Golden-breasted Bunting while packing my car and just after I joined the main tar road I had a Kittlitz’s Plover in the road in front of me.
European Hobby and Rufous-naped Lark were added as I approached Letaba, where I new some definite ticks awaited. Greenshank was seen at Letaba River Crossing and soon after that my only Wahlberg’s Eagle for the trip brought up 200. This was soon followed by Yellow-billed Kite and the brief stop in camp included Red-winged Starling on their nest at the cafeteria, 3 Black-headed Heron and the only egret of the trip, a Cattle in the river bed. Another pallid harrier was exciting to watch and for a moment I thought it was Montagu’s which in the context of the list would have been better. Searched in vain for African Palm-swift, another big dip, and set off content I’d cracked 200 but mildly irritated no saddle-bill storks were seen in the river bed. At Rhidondo Pan on the way out I added Spurwing Goose and Sacred Ibis and then as I turned down to Sable Dam for some waders I got a Gabar Goshawk. The Dam had Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper, but no Ruff. It also provided one last elephant encounter when I was trapped with nowhere to go.
210 was the final trip total.
Satara & Skuku za – end January 2006
A few bits and pieces from Kruger for those who will be attending the birding weekend there :
Had a single Honey Buz zard on the main road just south of Satara as well as a Corn Crake, on the road edge in a grassy area about 20 km's outside Skuku za toward Pretoriuskop.
Northern Kruger – late January 2006
- Some of my old stakeouts in Kruger didn’t disappoint and cracking views of Grey-headed Parrots in the Marula trees outside Punda Maria for the umpteenth time still makes this the best place in South Africa to get this species.
- A pair of Black-throated Wattle-eyes in the same fig at the Crooke’s Corner viewpoint for the 5 th visit in a row over 2 years.
- The northern parts of the Park have experienced excellent rainfall and extensive stands of water were evident all over. This of course produces great habitat for species such as Dwarf Bittern, Painted Snipe and Lesser Moorhen and these species were found with relative ease. Harlequin Quails were seen and heard calling all over the place and the chances of another sighting of Blue Quail must be very good at the moment.
- Despite large concentrations of Red-billed Quelea and Wattled Starlings that are breeding in the north, the numbers of raptors that are usually associated with such colonies were not observed on this trip. This can probably be ascribed to good conditions occurring over a large area and the birds being spread out over a much wider area than usual, resulting in fewer sightings.
- The normally very obliging Black Coucals at the Giriyondo turn-off were less obliging this time however.
- Eurasian Nightjar in the palms near the shop at Letaba. This sighting has been a given for more than 15 years now.
- The same applies to the pair of Barred Owl in the campsite. This time their presence was given away by the alarm calls of bulbuls, et al in the late afternoon.
- A Tawny Eagle was observed on the road between Letaba and Phalaborwa with a clearly dislocated left leg that hung uselessly while the bird was perched. It was however still in good condition and didn’t seem to be too impaired by the injury. I have photographs of the bird if anyone is interested.
- Good numbers of Dusky Lark and Temminck’s Courser at the usual spot north of Letaba.
Punda Maria and Shingwedzi – mid January 2006
We were up at Shingwedzi and Punda during the second week of January with the start of the rains (and were in fact flooded out in both camps' campsites - but that's another story) so were in the position of really assessing wet weather birds. The birds that seemed to really revel in the rain were:
1. Woodland Kingfisher - extre mely ubiquitous and extre mely noisy, even while light rain was falling
2. White Stork - large flocks around Punda
3. Monotonous Lark - particularly on tar the road from Punda turnoff towards Pafuri.
4. Rattling Cisticola - one on every tree! (not quite, but you get the picture)
5. Jacobin and Striped Cuckoos - who were both active and perched prominently.
Sooty Tern near Satara! – 5 January 2006
Reported on 5 January 2006 sitting on the side of the road some 20km west of Satara in the Kruger National Park! Photographs available on www.zestforbirds.co.za .
Willie Van den Heever
Far Northern Kruger – early January 2006
Just back from a short stay in the Kruger Park - 1 night at Shingwedzi and 2 nights at Sirheni. The northern end of the park has had major flooding in the past 2 weeks. The Luvuvhu is in full flow and the Kanniedood Dam below Shingwedzi has gone from bone dry at the beginning of October to overflowing and the river is bank to bank water almost to Shingwedzi itself.
None of this was good for waders. Not a White-crowned Lapwing in sight below Pafuri and only 1 Openbill and 1 Yellow-billed Stork along the entire stretch from Shingwedzi to Dipeni.
There were a few highlights, however, with 2 lifers in the form of Pallid Harrier drinking from the river just outside the main gate at Shingwedzi and Harlequin Quail in the middle of the road just out of Sirheni. 5 sightings of Broadbilled Roller (in 5 different 1/4 degree sheets), a pair of Dusky Lark on the Shongololo Loop NW of Mopani, Collared Pratincole on the Letaba River just north of the camp and at the Pioneer Dam at Mopani, Temmincks Courser and Kori Bustard at the same point south of Dipeni and definite Grey-backed (not Green-backed) Camaroptera and Yellow (not Cape) White-eye at the Pafuri picnic spot.
The park is crawling with Violet-backed Starlings this summer and I have never seen so many Comb Ducks. The Monotonous Larks in the Klopperfontein Dam area are performing exceptionally well.
This was a family trip with 3 non-birders in tow, so did rather well to tick off 166 for the trip.
Pafuri Region – Early January 2006
So far this month guides at our Pafuri Camp (inside a private concession owned by the Makuleke Community between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo river opposite the picnic site and Nyala Drive) have been seeing the following local specials. There has been a lot of rain up there and the Luvuvhu is full (and dirty). The beauty of this private concession is that is does offer access to a suite of pans along the Limpopo which after heavy rains do produce waterbirds in large numbers as well as species like pygmy geese and white pelicans. This does not appear to have happened yet this season. Birding remains good though. For further information on the camp please see our website: www.wilderness-safaris.com
Black-throated Wattle-eye; Gorgeous bush shrike; Pel's fishing owl; Barred owl; Blue-cheeked bee-eater; Lemon-breasted canary; Arnot's chat; Three-banded courser; Bronze-winged Courser; Cuckoo hawk; Dwarf bittern; Peregrine falcon; White-crowned Lapwing; Grey-headed Parrot; Meyers Parrot; Thick-billed Cuckoo; Great Spotted Cuckoo; Tambourine Dove; Senegal Coucal; Dusky Lark; Stierling's Wren-warbler; Mosque Swallow; Eastern Nicator; Meves's Starling; Yellow-billed Oxpecker; Crested Guineafowl; Böhm’s Spinetail