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Recent Sightings - Kruger National Park - January to July 2004

Kruger - June/July 2004

Just returned from a 5 night stay in Letaba, followed by 4 nights in Lower Sabie . The weather was good and we even had light rain on 30 June. The Tshokwane/Skukuza area actually had quite a shower. The park is lush at the moment and I believe the "game-spotters" as an American visitor called them, had a tough time finding animals in the thick undergrowth. We certainly found fewer animals than expected.

The birding, however, was excellent and we recorded 198 species, despite having a non-birding driver amongst the four of us. He should be commended for his perseverance, patience and braking skills on the often congested roads in the park! The "Birdwatching - Please Pass" sign on our rear windscreen did little to appease his nerves when he was frequently called/commanded/begged to stop on very short notice! Neither did our advance warnings that birders are prone to sudden stops ;-))

On 3 consecutive nights in the Letaba campsite we were entertained by African Barred Owlet, African Scops-Owl and Pearl-spotted Owlet, all calling simultaneously and providing good views. The African Barred Owlet even called from the concealment of a leafy tree around noon one day and was found after some searching. Thick-tailed bushbabies were very active and vocal at night, right above our tent. The Matambeni hide on the Engelhard dam is excellent and provided an assortment of birds.

On 29 June we recorded a formation of 42 Greater Flamingo flying in a southerly direction over Letaba. This was a new winter record for us. So was a single Pied Avocet, rare in the Kruger, which was present at Sunset dam outside Lower Sabie from 2-4 July.
Another Pied Avocet was also seen at Leeupan on 2 July. Leeupan also provided excellent scope views of 2 juvenile Allen's Gallinule, with the adults nowhere in sight. The recently reported African Pygmy-Geese could not be found, but a single Red-knobbed Coot (rare in the Park) was seen.

We were quite surprised to find a young Levaillant's Cuckoo being tended by its Arrow-marked Babbler foster parents and young Babblers in the riparian woodland on the Letaba river, about 4 kms north of camp on the H1-6. This indicates very late egg-laying by the cuckoos (late May). Even more surprising was the sighting of two active and vocal adult Levaillant's Cuckoo in Crocodile Bridge camp on 2 July!

At Hippo Pools on the Crocodile river we recorded Yellow Weaver, a new addition to our Kruger list and seldom seen in the park, according to Sinclair and Whyte's field guide to Kruger birds.

We have never seen so many Black-shouldered Kite in the park as on this trip! On 30 June we counted in excess of 60 birds in a 5km stretch of grassland between Olifants and Tshokwane. Other nice birds we recorded were Shelley's Francolin, Cape Wagtail (sparse in Kruger) and Bronze-winged Courser at Lower Sabie, Bennett's Woodpecker, Black Cuckooshrike (female) and Lesser Honeyguide at Croc Bridge, Mosque Swallow, Bearded Scrub-Robin (in camp) and Square-Tailed Nightjar at Letaba, White-crowned Lapwing at Nkuhlu and Olifants lookout.

Notable and disappointing dips on this trip were, amongst others, African Finfoot (most probably due to driver impatience), Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Spotted Thick-knee (!!), Red-capped Robin-Chat (not even a squeak), Senegal Lapwing, Secretarybird, 3 accipiters, Coqui Francolin, and the list goes on... - Dawie Kleynhans, Sasolburg

Kruger Park - June 2004

We walked the Sweni Trail in June 2004 on which we recorded 102 species.
Some interesting ones were:

  • Bennett's Woodpecker - Satara Camp
  • Cardinal Woodpecker - Sweni Camp
  • Namaqua Dove - S100
  • Green Pigeon - Sweni Camp
  • Scops Owl - Satara
  • Double Banded Sandgrouse - Sweni Route
  • Longbilled Crombec - Satara
  • Black headed Oriole - Satara

3 days after the Sweni trail we went back to the park and camped at Shingwedzi and Punda Maria. Special ones we recorded:

  • Open-billed Stork at low water bridge near Shingwedzi.
  • Pearl-spotted Owlet early moring sitting in open tree near Kanniedood dam.
  • Woolynecked Storks near Shingwedzi.
  • African Jacanas - Klopperfontein dam
  • Goliath Heron - Shingwedzi River
  • Trumpeter Hornbill - Mahonie Loop

- Dirk Human

Kruger: 29 March to 7 April

Just reading through the recent sightings pages in Kruger National Park and thought we would write and let you know some of our highlights. We had 10 days in the park - 29 March to 7 April and then stayed with friends at their lodge for a few days on the banks of the Crocodile River near to Crocodile Bridge. In that time we had 156 different birds ( apart from several leopards around Malelane and Lower Sabie, Lions in various different locations in the park and a caracal at Satara) the highlights with the birds were as follows:

  • Pygmy goose - near Mopani on the H1-6
  • African Black Duck - Crocodile River at Crocodile Bridge
  • Kittlitz's Plover - on S25 on Byamiti River
  • Wood Sandpiper - same as above
  • Common and Harlequin Quail - several on S128 near Rietpan
  • Booted Eagle - H4-2
  • Peregrine Falcon - just out from Berg en Dal taking out a European Roller
  • Lanner Falcon (several) along stretch H10 towards Muntshe
  • Ground Hornbill in several locations
  • Sabota and Rufousnaped Lark - several around Mooiplass on S49/S50 junction including Tsessebe
  • Black Cuckooshrike
  • Redbacked, longtailed, lesser grey, puffback and whitecrowned shrike
  • Yellowthroated longclaw - H10 to Muntshe
  • Mocking Chat - Mopani
  • Rock, goldenbreasted and cape bunting

There we are, a few highlights of yet another great time in Kruger. We look forward to our next trip.

- Your UK Kruger fanatics, Simon Bachelor and Alison Means

Kruger National Park - April 2004

Anybody in Kruger in April who is only going for the animals could be disappointed. The rains have made it so lush and dense, with no need for the animals to search for water and food, but birding is tops. I was hoping for 100 in the week 11 to 18 April, and totalled 121 species.

First timers included (I'm a Capey and we don't see these down south so please forgive me)

  • Carmine bee-eater in the S100
  • Golden breasted bunting
  • Lizard Buzzard
  • Bronze winged courser
  • Emerald spotted dove - many
  • Knob billed duck
  • Black egret (heron) at Gudzani Dam
  • Jameson's firefinch
  • Woodland Kingfisher
  • Harlequin quail (it looked like a francolin chick except for the even smaller chicks with it)
  • Red billed Quelea (many)
  • Tawny flanked prinia
  • European Roller (H1-3)
  • Double banded sandgrouse (some merc mugu ruined my photos by trying to get between me and the birds in about 1 metre space)
  • Marsh sandpiper
  • Lesser grey shrike
  • Puffback shrike
  • White bellied sunbird (Malelane bridge while waiting 90 minutes to enter the Park on Easter Sunday with only 2 serving in the office)
  • Red billed buffalo weaver (It took a while to work out what they were)
  • Paradise whydah (four stunning sightings - S90 & corner of H9 and H14)

- Peter Sumner

Kruger - February 2004

I've just returned to England from another wonderful 2 weeks in Kruger and the birdlife was even more spectacular than ever.

2 unusual sightings were: Kittlitz Plover at Mooiplaas waterhole just outside Mopani and a Tropical Boubou in Tamboti Camp (I watched it for a whole afternoon checked every guide book I had with me and it was definitely not a Southern Boubou!)

We also had 5 sightings of Ground Hornbills which I duly logged at Satara. - Kathryn Haylett, England

[Editor: This is the most southerly record for Tropical Boubou for the park I am aware of. The 2 species, namely Southern and Tropical Boubou are distinguished by the former having an orange belly fading to a white throat, the latter a uniform off-white throat, chest and belly. Both have resonant calls usually in duet with a mate, although there are more harsh grating sounds emitted by the Tropical species. Other Birders please look out for this species!]

Kruger: July 2004

We had a great Kruger trip at the beginning of July. We spent one night in Skukuza, three in Satara and three in Biyamiti. The birding was excellent and although my friend is not a birder, we managed to identify 126 species and had a couple of really interesting sightings.
On the way up to Satara on 4 July we saw a Saddle-billed Stork on a nest with a youngster. I have never seen one on a nest before so was pretty excited. When it finally hunkered down we were astonished to see that such a huge bird became totally invisible in the nest.

On 5 July I saw a Common Scimitarbill in Satara camp. (I don't find them very common in Kruger!) At Sunset dam near Lower Sabie on 7 July there was a Pied Avocet - a bird I have not seen in the park before although I have visited regularly for 22 years.

We found Mosque Swallows at the Biyamiti weir on 8 July - perhaps this is only significant for me because, strangely enough, it is a life tick! Near Biyamiti on 9 July we also had a nice sighting of an African hawk-eagle. On the Biyamiti road we spent a little time following a Levaillant's Cuckoo as it flitted through the bush.

The most interesting of all was on our way to Crocodile River on 9th, when we came across a female Bateleur hanging upside down from the end of a dead branch. She hung there for about ten minutes whilst we watched, although I have no idea for how long she was there before we arrived. She stretched out both wings and flapped them a couple of times, then a little later stretched out one wing and then folded it back against her side. Finally she put out both wings and gave a few strong flaps and swings upright onto the branch. I have no real idea what this behaviour implied, and no one I have spoken to can explain it. If you find yourself thinking: 'Took the photo upside down' 'it thinks it's a bat' or 'it's a female, what do you expect' - hey, I've been there. I have included a rather poor photo - the bateleur was a bit far away for anything worthwhile.

On 10 July we came across a Tawny eagle with what looked like the remains of a leguavaan, and, in the same tree but a little higher up, eyeing it hungrily, a juvenile bateleur. A little later, also on the Crocodile River road we saw a bateleur with a juvenile that was begging to be groomed. It sidled very slowly up the branch to the adult, placed its talons quite far apart on the branch and bent submissively so that its head came below the adult's beak. The adult then started pulling at the feathers of its poll, one at a time. We saw large numbers of juvenile bateleurs and a lot of Southern Ground Hornbills, which was very pleasing considering their uncertain status outside the Park.

One other observation - I have never seen as many black-shouldered kites in the park as I have this year. There was almost an epidemic of them on the road between Satara and Ngotso dam on 6/7/04. If you are going that way - enjoy the trip. We have 339 sleeps before our next one… - Sal Davies

Northern region, Kruger: July 2004

We visited the park on the weekend of the 24th, 25th of July and ticked some nice ones:

  • Pearl Spotted owlet near Phalaborwa gate.
  • Common Scimitarbill near Phalaborwa gate.
  • Kori Bustard between Phalaborwa gate and Letaba.
  • White headed and whitebacked vultures between Orpen and Satara.
  • Ground Hornbill between Letaba and Olifants and near Satara.
  • Yellow billed storks near Olifants.
  • Saddlebilled Stork near Olifants.
  • Goliath Heron near Olifants.
  • Brownheaded kingfisher near Olifants.
  • Scarlet-chested Sunbird at Olifants.
  • Marico Sunbird at Satara.
  • Golden breasted bunting near Phalaborwa gate.

- Dirk Human, Pretoria

Kruger National Park: July 2004

My wife and I returned on Sunday from a trip to the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

We had a lovely time and returned with a list of 206 species, including 30 lifers. The highlight of the trip was extended views of a male and female African Finfoot searching for a roosting spot at sunset. This was seen on the Nyala trail.

Other highlights included Black-throated Wattle-eye (Pafuri), Yellow White-eyes (Pafuri), Female Black Cuckooshrike (Leeupan), a host of different raptors (5 Vulture, 17 Birds of Prey and 5 Owl species), Böhm's Spinetails (Punda Maria), Common Quail and Small Buttonquail to just name a few.

A complete trip report is available on my website, under the trip reports tab (aprox. 4000 words long), and a complete trip list (a complete list as well as seperate daylists for the entire trip) is available under the sightings journal tab.

A gallery with some of the photo's we took will be posted as soon as possible. - Hanno Langenhoven

Northern Kruger: July 2004

Matambeni Birdhide near Letaba Camp - 21 July- Imm Greater Flamingo, 2 birds. Blackbacked Cisticola. Kittlitz's Plover abundant, highwater bridge over the Letaba river also a good spot to view them.

Olifants trail 21-24 July- Common Sandpiper; African Marsh Warbler; Pearlbreasted Swallow and Whitecrowned Shrike. - Nic Squires, Wilderness Trails

Kruger: July 2004

A winter break to Satara in Kruger produced multiple sightings of Harlequin Quail on the H 1-4. They were present in impressive numbers! Mosque Swallows were also sighted on the S100. - Herman van Heerden

Kruger: July 2004

  • Leeupan 7 July - Pygmy Geese 3 + 2 birds
  • Olifants trail 7-10 July - Moorhen( confirmed breeding); Painted Snipe
  • Whitecrowned Plover; Horus Swift; Crowned Hornbill; Greyrumped Swallow
  • Yellowbellied Bulubul; Blackbacked Cisticola and Streakyheaded Canary
  • A field highlight was a pair of Redwinged Starlings perching on and feeding off a Klipspringer ram

- Nic Squires

Sirheni, Pafuri and Mopani, Kruger: July 2004

Recently returned from Kruger Park. We spent 4 nights in Serheni and 1 night in the hide outside Mopani. We also managed to get up to Pafuri for a day.

The park is very wet for this time of year. Lots of standing water and lots of long grass. the grass is not good for animal watching - fortunately that did nothing to dampen the spirits of the birding members of our family! There are also large areas of flooded grassland that are great for skulking reed species.

We mangaed a total list of 142 birds. This is the biggest winter list that we have ever managed. Notable birds included the following: all the storks that could be seen - this included two beautiful saddle bills, lots of black shouldered kites - haven't seen these in park before, red bileld helmet shrikes (in Punda Maria); red capped robin chat (natal robin) in Serheni; yellow billed oxpecker; crested guineafowl (pafuri); wattle-eyed flycatcher (pafuri); yellow white-eye(pafuri); common quail - first time that we have ever seen quail in the park - and we managed to see 2!! (according to the atlas these birds can still be around at this time of year).

Frank at the Pafuri picnic site is very helpful. He knows all the birds of the area and is always willing to help. Further about the sleeping over in the hide. We booked accommodation there from Mopani. Apparently this can also be done centrally through parks board. These hides are a new concept, I think, whereby guests are allowed to stay over in selected hides. The Park provides bedding, crockery and cutlery and water. At the hides there are beds that fold down off the wall. There is also a lovely boma where you can safely braai. All in all a very memorable experience. Only problem is that you can only enter the hide 30min before gate closing time and you have to be out by 30 min after gate opening. This can be a problem during the summer! Cheers and happy birding - Gerard

Kruger: June/July 2004

Just returned from a 5 night stay in Letaba, followed by 4 nights in Lower Sabie . The weather was good and we even had light rain on 30 June. The Tshokwane/Skukuza area actually had quite a shower. The park is lush at the moment and I believe the "game-spotters" as an American visitor called them, had a tough time finding animals in the thick undergrowth. We certainly found fewer animals than expected.

The birding, however, was excellent and we recorded 198 species, despite having a non-birding driver amongst the four of us. He should be commended for his perseverance, patience and braking skills on the often congested roads in the park! The "Birdwatching - Please Pass" sign on our rear windscreen did little to appease his nerves when he was frequently called/commanded/begged to stop on very short notice! Neither did our advance warnings that birders are prone to sudden stops ;-))

On 3 consecutive nights in the Letaba campsite we were entertained by African Barred Owlet, African Scops-Owl and Pearl-spotted Owlet, all calling simultaneously and providing good views. The African Barred Owlet even called from the concealment of a leafy tree around noon one day and was found after some searching. Thick-tailed bushbabies were very active and vocal at night, right above our tent. The Matambeni hide on the Engelhard dam is excellent and provided an assortment of birds.

On 29 June we recorded a formation of 42 Greater Flamingo flying in a southerly direction over Letaba. This was a new winter record for us. So was a single Pied Avocet, rare in the Kruger, which was present at Sunset dam outside Lower Sabie from 2-4 July.
Another Pied Avocet was also seen at Leeupan on 2 July. Leeupan also provided excellent scope views of 2 juvenile Allen's Gallinule, with the adults nowhere in sight. The recently reported African Pygmy-Geese could not be found, but a single Red-knobbed Coot (rare in the Park) was seen.

We were quite surprised to find a young Levaillant's Cuckoo being tended by its Arrow-marked Babbler foster parents and young Babblers in the riparian woodland on the Letaba river, about 4 kms north of camp on the H1-6. This indicates very late egg-laying by the cuckoos (late May). Even more surprising was the sighting of two active and vocal adult Levaillant's Cuckoo in Crocodile Bridge camp on 2 July!

At Hippo Pools on the Crocodile river we recorded Yellow Weaver, a new addition to our Kruger list and seldom seen in the park, according to Sinclair and Whyte's field guide to Kruger birds. We have never seen so many Black-shouldered Kite in the park as on this trip! On 30 June we counted in excess of 60 birds in a 5km stretch of grassland between Olifants and Tshokwane.

Other nice birds we recorded were Shelley's Francolin, Cape Wagtail (sparse in Kruger) and Bronze-winged Courser at Lower Sabie, Bennett's Woodpecker, Black Cuckooshrike (female) and Lesser Honeyguide at Croc Bridge, Mosque Swallow, Bearded Scrub-Robin (in camp) and Square-Tailed Nightjar at Letaba, White-crowned Lapwing at Nkuhlu and Olifants lookout.

Notable and disappointing dips on this trip were, amongst others, African Finfoot (most probably due to driver impatience), Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Spotted Thick-knee (!!), Red-capped Robin-Chat (not even a squeak), Senegal Lapwing, Secretarybird, 3 accipiters, Coqui Francolin, and the list goes on... - Dawie Kleynhans, Sasolburg

Kruger Park: June 2004

We walked the Sweni Trail in June 2004 on which we recorded 102 species.
Some interesting ones were:

  • Bennett's Woodpecker - Satara Camp
  • Cardinal Woodpecker - Sweni Camp
  • Namaqua Dove - S100
  • Green Pigeon - Sweni Camp
  • Scops Owl - Satara
  • Double Banded Sandgrouse - Sweni Route
  • Longbilled Crombec - Satara
  • Black headed Oriole - Satara

3 days after the Sweni trail we went back to the park and camped at Shingwedzi and Punda Maria. Special ones we recorded:

  • Open-billed Stork at low water bridge near Shingwedzi.
  • Pearl-spotted Owlet early moring sitting in open tree near Kanniedood dam.
  • Woolynecked Storks near Shingwedzi.
  • African Jacanas - Klopperfontein dam
  • Goliath Heron - Shingwedzi River
  • Trumpeter Hornbill - Mahonie Loop

- Dirk Human

Kruger: 29 March to 7 April 2004

Just reading through the recent sightings pages in Kruger National Park and thought we would write and let you know some of our highlights. We had 10 days in the park - 29 March to 7 April and then stayed with friends at their lodge for a few days on the banks of the Crocodile River near to Crocodile Bridge. In that time we had 156 different birds ( apart from several leopards around Malelane and Lower Sabie, Lions in various different locations in the park and a caracal at Satara) the highlights with the birds were as follows:

  • Pygmy goose - near Mopani on the H1-6
  • African Black Duck - Crocodile River at Crocodile Bridge
  • Kittlitz's Plover - on S25 on Byamiti River
  • Wood Sandpiper - same as above
  • Common and Harlequin Quail - several on S128 near Rietpan
  • Booted Eagle - H4-2
  • Peregrine Falcon - just out from Berg en Dal taking out a European Roller
  • Lanner Falcon (several) along stretch H10 towards Muntshe
  • Ground Hornbill in several locations
  • Sabota and Rufousnaped Lark - several around Mooiplass on S49/S50 junction including Tsessebe
  • Black Cuckooshrike
  • Redbacked, longtailed, lesser grey, puffback and whitecrowned shrike
  • Yellowthroated longclaw - H10 to Muntshe
  • Mocking Chat - Mopani
  • Rock, goldenbreasted and cape bunting

There we are, a few highlights of yet another great time in Kruger. We look forward to our next trip.

Your UK Kruger fanatics, Simon Bachelor and Alison Means

Kruger: April 2004

Anybody in Kruger in April who is only going for the animals could be disappointed. The rains have made it so lush and dense, with no need for the animals to search for water and food, but birding is tops. I was hoping for 100 in the week 11 to 18 April, and totalled 121 species.

First timers included (I'm a Capey and we don't see these down south so please forgive me)

  • Carmine bee-eater in the S100
  • Golden breasted bunting
  • Lizard Buzzard
  • Bronze winged courser
  • Emerald spotted dove - many
  • Knob billed duck
  • Black egret (heron) at Gudzani Dam
  • Jameson's firefinch
  • Woodland Kingfisher
  • Harlequin quail (it looked like a francolin chick except for the even smaller chicks with it)
  • Red billed Quelea (many)
  • Tawny flanked prinia
  • European Roller (H1-3)
  • Double banded sandgrouse (some merc mugu ruined my photos by trying to get between me and the birds in about 1 metre space)
  • Marsh sandpiper
  • Lesser grey shrike
  • Puffback shrike
  • White bellied sunbird (Malelane bridge while waiting 90 minutes to enter the Park on Easter Sunday with only 2 serving in the office)
  • Red billed buffalo weaver (It took a while to work out what they were)
  • Paradise whydah (four stunning sightings - S90 & corner of H9 and H14)

- Peter Sumner

Kruger:- February 2004

I've just returned to England from another wonderful 2 weeks in Kruger and the birdlife was even more spectacular than ever. 2 unusual sightings were: Kittlitz Plover at Mooiplaas waterhole just outside Mopani and a Tropical Boubou in Tamboti Camp (I watched it for a whole afternoon checked every guide book I had with me and it was definitely not a Southern Boubou!)

We also had 5 sightings of Ground Hornbills which I duly logged at Satara. - Kathryn Haylett, England

[Editor: This is the most southerly record for Tropical Boubou for the park I am aware of. The 2 species, namely Southern and Tropical Boubou are distinguished by the former having an orange belly fading to a white throat, the latter a uniform off-white throat, chest and belly. Both have resonant calls usually in duet with a mate, although there are more harsh grating sounds emitted by the Tropical species. Other Birders please look out for this species!]

Lower Sabie and Tamboti Camps, Kruger: 29 Dec 2003 to 4 Jan 2004

We had a very productive week's birding in the park managing to record 177 species. Most of the stuff were park regulars for this time of year, but unusual sightings included:

  • Lesser Honeyguide parasitising Black-collared Barbet at Skukuza
  • A pair of White-crowned Lapwing (Plover) on the road about 50m west of Sunset Dam
  • 3 Black Heron (Egret) standing (one fishing) in the Sabie River on the H4-1, not far from the junction with the H1-1
  • A number of African Black Swift at N'wanetsi Lookout. (There were an extraordinary quantity of swifts in the park - more than I ever remember - Little, White rumped, Palm and Eurasian)
  • 3 Grey-rumped Swallows perching on the concrete circular drum in sunset dam (usually it is Wire-tailed that I've seen there)
  • Great-spotted Cuckoo being mobbed by Burchell's Starlings on more than one occasion at Tamboti Camp
  • Lesser Grey Shrike at N'wamatsatsa Water Hole

- Quentin De Bruyn, Ladybrand