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Johan van Rensburg's Makuleke Mission, October 2016.

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Johan van Rensburg
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Johan van Rensburg's Makuleke Mission, October 2016.

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:07 am

In the 2015 Balule Bash report-back I have referred to my Kruger birding activities undergoing a bit of a change this year. Over the last eight years I have arranged and participated in nine Balule Bashes. That is enough for now... (got THAT T-shirt!) My Kruger Park birding plan for 2016 is a Bash-like stint in the Makuleke Consession (the far northern part of the Kruger National Park between the Limpopo and Levuhu Rivers) from 28 to 31 October with super-guide Brenden Pienaar. We have dubbed this outing the Manic Makuleke Mission. Like with the Balule Bashes places for only 8 people are available per Mission.

The weekend we reserved for the first Mission is at the beginning of “peak season” for birding in the northern parts of Kruger NP. The species that serve as drawcards: the pennant-winged nightjar would just have arrived and I hope to find a spot where we can see the male’s spectacular display flight; some cuckoos and many raptors should enrich our chase of the specials resident in this area. The targeted attractions are: Senegal Coucal, Grey-headed and Meyers Parrots, Lemon-breasted Canary, three-banded Courser, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Racket-tailed Roller, Arnot’s Chat, Dickenson’s Kestrel, Bohm’s Spinetail, African Yellow White-eye and Black-throated Wattle-eye. I’m sure it is not too much of a stretch for some of the more exotic non-migratory birds like Narina trogon, Miombo blue-eared starling, plain-backed sunbird, orange-winged pytilia, the twinspots, black-faced and orange-breasted waxbills and maybe even African broadbill to make it onto the Manic Makuleke Mission list of sightings…

Accommodation would be in the unfenced but comfortable Makuleke Trails tented camp neatly situated near the banks of the Luvuvhu River. The bush camps move around to lessen the long-term impact on any particular area, but great scenic sites are always chosen. Accommodation at these spots comprises spacious two-person tents, comfortable beds with bedding supplied, en suite chemical toilet and separate hot water shower facilities.

Catering is undertaken by the 5-star Pafuri Lodge and I can assure you of a culinary treat in the bush! Most days will revolve around a solid morning walk in search of specials and an afternoon birding drive with scenic sundowners. We will also visit some of the places in the Concession that have a reputation for its spectacular vistas. The incredibly stunning panoramas of the fever tree dominated floodplains between the Limpopo and Levuhu Rivers will often serve as the habitat for many of the bird species we will be looking for.

We will also make a trip to Lanner Gorge, cut by the Levuhu River to a depth of 150m over a distance of 11km in granite formed by an ancient desert that existed in the middle of the super-continent Pangea. The geology of the Gorge is extraordinary. The upper parts of the Gorge is relatively young (less that 2M years) and contains the raw material for Stone Age implements that was used extensively, especially for the manufacture of hand axes of which there are many examples laying about.

In my experience Brenden’s skill/reputation as a KNP bird guide is unequalled. He will once again deliver the goods on this ground-breaking birding event where we will have access to all areas in the Concession, “off limits” to people not staying at the Concession Lodges.

Anyone interested to participate in one of the Makuleke Missions just requires sending me your email address per PM and we can take it from there…
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:00 am

The first Manic Makuleke Mission sold out in the blink of an eye... Looks like we will have to look at another opportunity for the many 'mites that sent me PMs but didn't make it onto the inaugural Mission... If something materialises, I'll post the news here.
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Albert » Tue Sep 13, 2016 9:47 am

The 'Mission is approaching.... :lol: :lol:

Just 40 days before we leave home.... :dance: (that number brings back memories ... :shock: )
Latest lifers: House Crow, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ludwig's Bustard, Tractrac Chat, African Reed Warbler, Black-bellied Starling, Plain-backed Pipit, Common Buttonquail, Cutthroat Finch, Freckled Nightjar

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Sat Sep 17, 2016 1:21 pm

40 days... To get BACK!! :lol: Kind of... No Balule Bash this year. But, I expect the Mission in all aspects to take over as the No 1 Stiffnecks outing to the great KNP.

Anyhow, I'll post an update later this week after I've had a powwow with our guiding team on this trip.

Bushie Baptiste and I will again pool our resources as Team OF with two pre-mission days at Mopani. This year we will not spend extra time in Kruger after our Siffie event, but, on special request (read: long-ago promises come to roost) I will be 'guiding' Mr Baptiste to the delights of northern Zululand, using St Lucia as our base. THAT story we will relate on the Stiffie page.

My heart rate excellerates just thinking of this outing... Maybe it is old age taking its toll, :lol:

Much looking forward to birding with some of the repeat Stiffneckers as well as sharing space with a new couple.

The Cape eagle-owl is not likely to make an appearance at the Mission, but some other very special owls are on the menu! :twisted:
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:46 pm

So, I had a talk with Wayne and laid down the law: we must make BIG waves in the birding world with this, the first exclusively birding 'walk' in the Consession. :lol:

We discussed an itinerary - Wayne is in the busy part of his guiding season, but promised to produce a basic Mission plan for when we will do what by next week. Obviously the venues like Lanner Gorge, the Levuhu/Limpopo Confluence (opposite Crooks Corner), the fever tree forest; and especially some of the Limpopo floodplains (if we get rain soon) will take center stage. Also having a major influence on the trip structure would be finding the area specials like Arnold’s chat, racket-tailed roller, Pel’s fishing owl, Bohm’s Spinetail, African yellow white-eye, Senegal Coucal, Grey-headed and Meyers Parrot, Lemon-breasted Canary and three-banded Courser.

We talked about the Hot stuff - with a week or so to go Wayne will tap into his network of specialists and guides working in that Consession for news of some specials. I'm hoping for things to pop up like a pennant-winged nightjar stake-out; I'm sure it is not too much of a stretch for some of the more exotic non-migratory birds like Narina trogon, Miombo blue-eared starling, plain-backed sunbird, orange-winged pytilia, the twinspots, black-faced and orange-breasted waxbills and maybe even African broadbill to make it onto the Manic Makuleke Mission list of sightings…

Like Albert said the other day: we have reached the 40 days stage... The remaining time will fly like a swooping falcon and before long we will be meeting as the first-ever manic Makuleke Missionaries for a birding trip of a lifetime!

I will write another update note soon... Hope this one gets you as excited as I am right now!
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Wed Sep 21, 2016 6:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Oct 05, 2016 7:32 pm

Three weeks to go now... I have started my list of the items that must go with. Because we are going to be without electricity while at the Trails Camp, fully charged equipment and power packs are priorities.

I don't expect much rain to materialise before our trip starts, but mozzie repellent and sunscreen follow as sensible. And Monday the Landy is going in for a service.

Things are coming to a head! :dance: :dance: :dance:
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Thu Oct 06, 2016 9:24 am

hilda wrote:Looking forward to read all about the Makuleke Mission once it is over and done with Johan and team! :dance: :dance:


Bush Baptist, Albert and Lady Birder are sure to make significant contributions. It should result in a very entertaining trip report. :thumbs_up:

MATTHYS wrote:Wishing you and your team a very successful making BIG waves in the birding world, JvR :D :thumbs_up:


I hope your wishes for us come true, MATTHYS. The dry spell is sure to impact on migratory arrivals. For instance, we will be superbly placed to record the first Woodland kingfisher sightings of the season. If that happens in spite of the dry conditions it will be a precursor of the success of this trip.

DinkyBird wrote:Going to miss you guys again this year :( But wish you a fantastic Magical Mission!!


Our 'weekend' is the last on the Trails Camp calendar. It is a few weeks earlier than we used to have the Balule Bashes, but we don't have much of a choice as the Trails Camp is closed for November through to the end of March. It would have been fantastic to see you and hubby Hawk again, Deebs, but their fixed calendar dictates.

I'm sure everyone understands that due to the nature of this pilot "mission" (rem: it is the first birding-focussed event organised for a group in the Makuleke Consession!) our guide, Wayne Te Brake, could only put together a rough outline of our proposed itinerary during the Manic Mission. This is sure to change somewhat, depending on the knowledge we get from local guides before the trip proper starts, although we will keep to the basic structure of this plan.

Generally a day will start with tea/coffee and rusks before we first head out in the mornings. Tea/coffee and snacks will also be provided during the morning activity. We'll try to be back at camp by around 11:00 for brunch, followed by a few hours to rest for those who need it, while the less tired birders will continue birding in the mature riverine forest surrounding camp. At about 14:00, we have a light lunch and head out for the afternoon, being back in time for dinner, usually around 19:00.

Having said that, nothing is set in stone, and we can play with meal times a bit, depending on what is happening on the birding front.

Day 1 - 28 October:
We meet at Luvuvhu Bridge at 12:00. We will bird there until 13:00 when we drive to Pafuri Camp (1km away). We will hop on an open game-viewer and be taken to the Trails Camp. Our vehicles will be left behind at Pafuri Camp under covered parking.

After settling into our tents at the Trails Camp, we head out on a short afternoon drive along the Luvuvhu River. After sundowners we will head back to the bridge, hoping to catch the Pels Fishing Owl.

Day 2 - 29 October:
Wake up call is before sunrise, and after coffee and a rusk, we take a drive to the Limpopo floodplain. With a bit of luck, :pray: rain would have fallen by then, and we will visit the most productive pans.

Mid-afternoon, we are back in the vehicle for the short drive to the entrance of Lanner gorge. We take a short walk in the river before moving on to the Lanner gorge viewpoint, where, after the afternoon birding session, we enjoy sundowners with arguably the most spectacular backdrop in Kruger.

Day 3 - 30 October:
An early start gets us to the fever tree forest soon after first light. Here we go for a slow walk, hoping to encounter the resident Racket-tailed Rollers. We travel back to camp through the 'Rhino Boma' area, a very productive thornveld patch.

After lunch it is back east along the river towards crooks corner, birding the riverine thicket along the way, after which we enjoy the final sunset of the trip.

Day 4 - 31 October:
After coffee, we head towards the Sandveld Area for the final mornings birding. At 10 am we arrive back in camp, and after breakfast, we make our way back to Pafuri Camp to where our vehicles await, and conclude the trip.
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Thu Oct 06, 2016 9:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Albert » Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:37 am

Johan van Rensburg wrote:
hilda wrote:Looking forward to read all about the Makuleke Mission once it is over and done with Johan and team! :dance: :dance:


Bush Baptist, Albert and Lady Birder are sure to make significant contributions. It should result in a very entertaining trip report. :thumbs_up:


We will try....but we will leave the bulk of the report to Johan.... :twisted:

Johan van Rensburg wrote:Generally a day will start with tea/coffee and rusks before we first head out in the mornings.


I read this and thought: hmmm, this does not sound quite right.... :hmz:

But wait...

Johan van Rensburg wrote:Wake up call is before sunrise


That's more like the Johan I have come to know :lol:



.
Latest lifers: House Crow, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ludwig's Bustard, Tractrac Chat, African Reed Warbler, Black-bellied Starling, Plain-backed Pipit, Common Buttonquail, Cutthroat Finch, Freckled Nightjar

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:07 am

The Makuleke Mission has started for the two BOFs. I fetched BB at ORT and taking the long way to Middelburg via Mkhombo Dam and Verena we managed to add two lifers to BB's already impressive list.

Anyhow, after a short nap, we are ready to hit the road with Phalaborwa as our gate of entry.

I hope to get most of the other Mission team to participate in posting on this thread so that we again have a lively interactive TR, much like the TR for the last Balule Bash.

Watch this space...
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Bush Baptist » Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:15 pm

Arrived home this afternoon from the Mission and a post mission birding trip with Joh.

As he said, he fetched me at ORT and we set off on a circuitous route to his home, via Nkombo? Dam where at last I saw a quail finch lifer. In fact there were many that flew off before I could get a good look at them, but at last a few were was brave enough to sit and let me ogle them. Then they became so plentiful I almost got bored with them. Right place right time.

Joh then proceeded down all roads that had no eateries on them, and as I had only eaten a snack on the plane at about 6h30, I became rather peckish, but we went in search of a melodious lark, which was found after a search, but now it was mid afternoon far from Steers, Wimpy or the like, so we set off for Joh's house in Middelburg. Earlier we had not been able to connect at the airport - reception issues and I had phoned my wife to tell Joh where to find me. I am sure that a foodless conspiracy occurred between them.....

As we sat down at the supper table later, all was forgiven, and I did not go short.

Just after I put my head on the pillow, the alarm went off and it was all systems go for the 2 Mopani night pre bash as Joh has told you.

That turned out to be quite something. But that will have to do for now.
Whatever (according to BB): "You are correct but I don't want to admit it".

In a world of grey, be RED

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by CarolvanR » Wed Nov 09, 2016 8:40 pm

Albert and I arrived, exhausted, at Mopani, the evening before the Makuleke Mission was due to start. However, a solid meal in good company (Johan, Bush Baptist, Barry and Hilda) followed by a comfortable nights’ rest, revived us enough to follow Johan and Bush Baptist at dawn to Mooiplaas water hole in pursuit of a (as it happened, obliging) Caspian Plover. Albert and I then headed back to Mopani for some fuel, and spotted two Grey-headed Bushshrikes in the trees next to the filling station arguing about a snake.
thumb_IMG_0048_1024.jpg

We made our way steadily towards Pafuri bridge, the meeting place for the Makuleke Mission, with some interesting sightings along the way, including a Great Spotted Cuckoo.
cuckoo.jpg

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Albert » Thu Nov 10, 2016 11:15 am

I may just mention that our journey to Mopani started pretty close to the southernmost tip of Africa about 28 hours previously...
It was a real pleasure meeting Hilda and Barry (and of course seeing the other 2 BOFs again).

Just some proof of our early morning dash to the Mooiplaas dam for the Caspian Plover:

IMG_4972.JPG
Latest lifers: House Crow, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ludwig's Bustard, Tractrac Chat, African Reed Warbler, Black-bellied Starling, Plain-backed Pipit, Common Buttonquail, Cutthroat Finch, Freckled Nightjar

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Bush Baptist » Fri Nov 11, 2016 11:12 am

The coffee at the shop at the Phalaborwa gate after checking in was hot and strong.

Because Joh has some 'easy' birds missing from his Kruger list, like Cape sparrow, we birded right at the gate in case something like that arrived outside and stuck a wing over the fence. No such luck, but we did pick up a dozen or so species to get us off the mark for the trip, including a Eurasian hobby that flew over, giving me a Kruger tick before we were in the car again.

The Sable dam was a sorry sight as the water was far from the hide and the birds few. Animals were just not around to see through the stick world that used to be a Mopani forest. It was very strange because the ground was damp and the watercourses, albeit dry, showed signs that water had flowed recently. We learnt that a good thunderstorm hit the area 2 nights ago, but the veld had not had time yet to react.

It was heavily overcast and we were hopeful of more rain, but it was poor for photography. Nevertheless here is one of the birds in the vicinity of Sable, a Southern white crowned shrike.

Image

We were told of a sighting on the tar road to Mopani and found it easily. A buff carcass that hyenas were busy with.

Image

Image

Apart from Buffalo, the animals were scarce on the drive. The birding was steady without being spectacular. Wahlberg's and martial eagles were present as were fish eagles when we encountered water, and for my poor eyesight, it was easier to spot the birdies in the sticky trees rather than the lush foliage.

After checking in, we drove around and it was after 16h00 that we saw our first, rather listless elephants.

We spent the last hour of daylight at one on Joh's favourite hangouts, the restaurant deck at Mopani. It was a tad disappointing to see the irony of the dam fuller than usual, and the spits and islands were covered with water, and the interesting waders that frequent them had gone to find better vistas. Still it is a magnificent view and the pick of the birds we did see was a collared pratincole.

Then our good friends Barry & Hilda arrived to join us for dinner and a wonderful evening was had by the 4 of us before retiring for the night.

But we had made plans to go out together the following day to see if we could up B & H's bird lists considerably. What a day it turned out to be!
Whatever (according to BB): "You are correct but I don't want to admit it".

In a world of grey, be RED

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Albert » Fri Nov 11, 2016 12:18 pm

Just to backtrack and to coincide with BB's tale: the day that we arrived in the park (also Phala, a day and a bit later than BB) it was very hot: we birded resolutely on as we travelled to Mopani: where we could find shade we stopped and looked around:

Look what I brought you!
IMG_4925.JPG


Not really all that impressed....

IMG_4921.JPG
Latest lifers: House Crow, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ludwig's Bustard, Tractrac Chat, African Reed Warbler, Black-bellied Starling, Plain-backed Pipit, Common Buttonquail, Cutthroat Finch, Freckled Nightjar

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Re: Makuleke Mission

Unread post by Bush Baptist » Fri Nov 11, 2016 3:59 pm

:redface: I should also have welcomes cvr to the forum too. We have met, birded and eaten together a few times, with her SO Albert and others mentioned in this thread.

Elsa, I am afraid you will have to go searching for the birdies yourself. Some were easy, some were timing. Others were missing......

Sal, the hyena and all other predators we found were engorged because of the extreme drought killing off and weakening the prey.

BTW, Barry, Hilda and I were in the company of the expert birder.

Hilda, I will wait a while before starting on our great day out to give Joh a chance to respond, but he could well be off tonight chasing the European oystercatcher in St Lucia. The strange thing is that last Friday evening we were waiting for our supper overlooking the estuary at St Lucia and he thought he saw the said EO at a distance. I, who had not seen it, questioned his ID of it as it was no longer visible, and we left it at that......
Whatever (according to BB): "You are correct but I don't want to admit it".

In a world of grey, be RED


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