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Kruger birding: Birding sites in Kruger

All topics and discussions with reference to birds in all SANParks
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Unread post by deefstes » Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:02 am

Fires are, believe it or not, a neccessary part of nature's cycle. I'm not saying demented tourists can now set Kruger alight but fire is not as bad a thing as one might intuitively expect.

I can't find the name of it though but there is a species of feinbos which was concidered extinct until a patch of vegetation burnt down and all of a sudden this feinbos flourished again. Thanks to the extreme heat, its seeds could germinate.

Anyway, back to the issue of birds and fires. At a veld fire you often see Storks that come to prey on grasshopper etc. that are flushed by the fire. Even in burnt fields, Storks are a common sighting as they're munching on grasshoppers BBQ.

The Temminck's Courser, as Owl pointed out, is a common sight in burnt fields. These birds even prefer nesting in burnt fields and their eggs are perfectly coloured to be camouflaged in burnt fields. It suggests that they have evolved over the centuries in close association with fires and that fires have been much more common than we might know.
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Unread post by deefstes » Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:46 am

Owl wrote:And then of course there is Dumbledore's pet Phoenix Fawkes in the Harry Potter series! :wink:


There are actually real birds that are known by some as "Firebird" due to their spectacular colours. I have seen the Vermilion Flycatcher and it is indeed a beauty.

Check out:
Vermillion Flycatcher
Scarlet Tanager
Baltimore Oriole

I'm not aware of the Northern Cardinal going by the name of Firebird but I can well imagine that it'd be a good candidate. I've seen them also and they are quite spectacular.
Northern Cardinal
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Rare Sunbird currently on view in Pafuri area

Unread post by Owl » Tue Sep 11, 2007 11:41 am

Some recent reports from the SA Bird Network indicate that Variable (formerly known as Yellow-bellied) Sunbird has been recorded by several independent birders in the Crook's Corner area of Pafuri in Northern Kruger.
This is a rare bird in South Africa. Many reported sightings turn out to be the superficially similar Collared Sunbird which is common throughout Kruger, particularly in the Pafuri area, but smaller and with a much shorter and less decurved bill.

If anyone wants more info, contact JP Le Roux at 082 717 5691.

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Unread post by Owl » Tue Sep 11, 2007 3:54 pm

Hi Bentley,

Newman's book on Kruger Birds (which I think was last revised in 1991) is a great general guide, but contains a lot of erroneous information based on popular feedback from inexperienced birders. In the original Newman's it indicates "Rare generally, uncommon in the far north where it is probably resident." However it is the opinion of many of the top park birders that many of the reported sightings were of collared sunbird or juvenile white-bellied (which has a yellow belly).

Other examples where Newman's Kruger guide is misleading include the inclusion of Mangrove Kingfisher. Most (if not all) of the reported sightings that were checked out turned out to be immature Woodland Kingfisher (which frequently have all red bills) and the inclusion of Yellow Weaver with an indication that it is "irregular and upredicatable. A breeding summer visitor along the Sabie River, abundant in some years and absent in others." Birders in the park who lived in the staff village at Skukuza for over 20 years will tell you they have never seen this bird (a coastal species) in all their years in the park. Some of them who birded with dear old Ken felt that nice a bloke as he was, his birding was somewhat loose.

But to taking KN and his guide out of the equation, these latest sightings were first issued by Trevor Hardaker on his site of national rarities where he indicates "This is a particularly good record for South Africa."

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Unread post by Owl » Wed Sep 12, 2007 9:38 am

On the matter of books illustrating juveniles, you will find them in several of the field guides. However there is often a spatial contraint in such guides and where one might find more information is in larger volumes like Roberts or in the multi-media CD. Then of course time in the field and interacting with more experienced birders is a great way to learn.

On the Mangrove Kingfisher front, I did say most (if not all) turned out to be immature Woodland, but in the Avian world one can never say for sure, because most birds can fly. What can be taken into consideration is the recognised distribution pattern and prefered habitat. Some distribution maps will only show their distribution in a narrow coastal strip on the SA east coast, while others will show this narrow strip and have vagrant circles dotted in the Kruger Park. This could of course be on the basis of erroneous popular records. MK does undergo local migration. For example it is only found in the Richard's Bay/Mtunzini mangroves in winter time and in the Transkei in summer. MK apparently moves up rivers to breed, rather than staying at the coast where it spends the non-breeding season. Perhaps some of them do move up the major rivers that flow into the Indian Ocean and do reach the Kruger in breeding season (Spring and Summer), but I know too that many of the bird experts are sceptical about this.

All part of the mysteries that make birding so wonderful!

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River Warblers and Skukuza Nursery Boardwalk

Unread post by Owl » Thu Nov 08, 2007 1:10 am

There have been a couple of independent reports of River Warbler from the boardwalk at the Skukuza Nursery.

First from Philip Coetzee in October and more recently from Torsten Algotssen in November.

River Warbler is a rare species to see in SA and quite a difficult bird to grip. It does have a striking call though, so familiarise yourselves with this if you have access to sound recordings.

For those of you who don't know it, the Skukuza Nursery Boardwalk is an excellent place to bird. It takes people through some indigenous bush and then through and over a wetland between the nursery and the Skukuza Golf Course, before entering more indigenous woodland on the other side of the wetland. It was only a matter of time before something special turned up here.

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Unread post by Mgoddard » Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:14 am

Hi Junior1449
As I just started getting into birding I am not an expert, but seeing that I have been going to the Park for the last 40 years, I would think that any place in KNP is good for birding. At LS you have the river as well as sunset dam less than 1km away. I have also had some very good sightings from the low water bridge. Also nice is Nkuhlu picnic spot, where you can get out and walk around. I know that there is a hide on the S28?, but also know that ppl commented on it not being so good. Also take a drive to Lake Panic, close to Skukuza, I am sure you wont be dissapointed with that. Another option is the Nursery at Skukuza. That is awesome :D Hope you have a super time, enjoy :D

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Unread post by Bush Baptist » Mon Nov 12, 2007 11:35 am

MG has just about done it.

1) The restaurant area at LS. Order a toasted ham & tomato sandwich, open it up and walk away from your table. You should see bulbul, lesser masked weaver and a few others interested in your butty, while you look out across the river for waterbirds, and I get castigated for suggesting this :twisted:
2) Parking area at LS. Have seen a few here including wagtails & bee-eaters.
3) Sunset dam for waterbirds, fish eagles, kingfishers etc.
4) Low water bridge on H10, cormorants, goliath heron, kingfishers, swallows etc.
5) Hide (forgotten name) on S28 (south of LS) for brown headed parrot, black headed oriole, woodland kingfister etc.
Good luck!
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Possible Mega Rarity in Kruger (Isabelline Wheatear)

Unread post by Owl » Tue Nov 27, 2007 6:03 pm

The Isabelline Wheatear is an extremely rare vagrant to Southern Africa. It has been recorded a couple of times in Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana. It usually breeds in Central Asia and Eastern Europe and migrates to India, the Arabian Peninsula and Sahelian Africa as far south as Tanzania. Patrick Cardwell who has some experience with the bird in central Africa reckons he might have seen one between Orpen/Talamati. Although it is an unconfirmed record, any of you travelling to that area of the park are encouraged to look out for it and try and secure a photo. Below are Patrick's notes:

Hi All,
Given the rarity worth of the above this observation has been posted with caution as an advisory to birders who may be visiting the KNP in the next couple of weeks.

On the 20/11 at 11.00 while traveling north on the S145 approx 1km south of the Talamati Bush Camp turnoff a large wheatear flew across the road and settled in the top of a bush close to the road. Conspicuous wheatear rump patch and terminal black band were clearly observed in flight. Perched the stance was upright reminiscent of a Sentinel Rock Thrush and the legs were noticeable long giving the bird a 'lanky' appearance. Profile of the head was long and pointed. Only other feature of note of this otherwise sandy plumaged bird was the pale white throat. My first reaction based on sightings of the species at Lake Baringo in Kenya was an Isabelline Wheatear.

Attempts to obtain a digital image with a totally unsuitable camera were frustrated by frequent flights from bush to bush in the immediate area. The only image I have shows that the vegetation at the site was lush and the habitat clearly atypical of that associated with Capped Wheatear. Given the foregoing and the fact that the Danish birders with me were bemused by my agitated state of interest, in what is regarded as a fairly definitive sighting in the course of their travels, I decided to post the observation.

Who knows with a now heightened sense of awareness other birding groups passing through the area may just pick up on the bird. Sadly, the presence of a breeding herd of elephants on the opposite side of the road and KNP rules prevented me from following the bird around in an attempt to secure a better shot. The bird is actually in the photo but impossible to see due to the lack of sufficient definition.

Anyway that's my 'rarity' experience for what it's worth.

Patrick Cardwell
Avian Leisure

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Bateleur is for the birds!

Unread post by naomi c » Wed Nov 28, 2007 12:23 pm

During our recent four night visit to Bateleur we spent a lot of time in camp, on the stoep of no 7, enjoying the endless parade of birds visiting the bird bath and immediate vicinity.
We listed a total of 35 different species which I found quite amazing! I even added two lifers - Lesser Honeyguide and Bennett's Woodpecker.
Herewith the list:
(1) Natal Spur Fowl
(2) Lesser Honeyguide
(3) Crested Barbet
(4) Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill
(5) Green Wood Hoopoe
(6) Woodland Kingfisher
(7) Jacobin Cuckoo
(8) Levaillant's Cuckoo
(9) Grey Go-away Bird
(10) Laughing Dove
(11) African Mourning Dove
(12) Emerald Spotted Wood Dove
(13) Black Headed Oriole
(14) African Paradise Flycatcher
(15) Forktailed Drongo
(16) Orange Breasted Bush Shrike
(17) Southern Balck Tit
(18) Dark-capped Bulbul
(19) Arrow-marked Babbler
(20) Tawny-flanked Prinia
(21) Southern Black Flycatcher
(22) Cape Glossy Starling
(23) Greater Blue-eared Starling
(24) Violet Backed Starling
(25) Wattled Starling
(26) Red Headed Weaver
(27) Spectacled Weaver
(28) Southern Masked Weaver
(29) Blue Waxbill
(30) White Bellied Sunbird
(31) Bennett's Woodpecker
(32) Kurrichane Thrush
(33) Black-backed Puffback
(34) Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
(35) Longbilled Crombec

As mentioned in my post under Bateleur Bushcamp, the birdbath is cleaned and filled up every morning. I followed the advice of adding a few blocks of ice and voila! -non stop entertainment. The wattled starlings, about a dozen of them, enjoyed the bath so much that we had to fill it up afterwards!

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Recent sightings in Kruger

Unread post by Owl » Fri Dec 07, 2007 1:13 pm

Byran Groom posted the following Kruger sightings to the SA Bird network:

Hi all,

Spent 4 days in Kruger last week, together with family and visiting brother-in-law from Australia.

This was not a concentrated birding visit, but we did however manage to accumulate 165 species, which included 7 HERON/EGRET species, 5 STORK species, COMB DUCK were abundant at all dams & pans, 6 CUCKOO species. Other 'not seen every day birds' included RED-CRESTED KORHAAN; BLACK-BELLIED BUSTARD; WHITE-CROWNED LAPWING; BROWN-HEADED PARROT; MOSQUE SWALLOW; EURASIAN GOLDEN ORIOLE; YELLOW-BELLIED GREENBUL & RETZ'S HELMET-SHRIKE.

Some other highlights:
SOUTHERN GROUND HORNBILL. On finding the first group of 6 birds in a tree at the confluence of the Sabie & Sand rivers, we certainly did not expect to get the additional bonus of a total of 7 seperate sightings at various places during the 4 days. The sightings varied from 1 individual to 6 birds, with a total of 25 seen.
17 raptor species were seen. HOODED, CAPE, WHITE-BACKED & LAPPET-FACED VULTURES; YELLOW-BILLED KITE; TAWNY, LESSER SPOTTED (an adult & an immature together), AFRICAN HAWK, BROWN SNAKE, AFRICAN FISH EAGLES; BATELEUR; STEPPE & LIZARD BUZZARDS; PALLID HARRIER(female); AFRICAN HARRIER HAWK; EURASIAN HOBBY & AMUR FALCON. Stunning interaction between Cape, Hooded and Lappet-faced vultures was also observed at a kill. In spite of a number of visits to the Park, the Hooded and Lappet-faced Vultures were last seen by myself in 1995.

Trying to cover as much of the Park in a short space of time for the benefit of an international visitor, is not really conducive to atlassing, but I did however manage to cover pentad 2455_3135 which includes Skukuza Camp for 6 hours, recording 71 species. Certain other incidental sightings during the visit have also been & will be submitted.



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Unread post by salamanda » Fri Dec 07, 2007 2:14 pm

Fantastic list Naomi. We were at Biyamiti much earlier in the year and saw 23 species at and around the birdbath, including the Bennet's Woodpecker - this is the only place we see it in the park, although I'm sure it must be more widespread than this. I was interested to read about the ice in the birdbath, although I guess that's only for summer?

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Unread post by Owl » Tue Dec 11, 2007 7:18 pm

Andre Botha from EWT posted the following today (11/12/07)on SABN re a short drive through Kruger:

Kruger National Park (Phalaborwa – Skukuza)

Most areas in the Park that I traveled through seems to have received fairly good rain with most of the seasonal pans currently carrying water. Good sightings included Dwarf Bittern near Skukuza, a pair of Grey Hornbills preparing a nest with the female busy plastering the nesting hole with material supplied by the male, sightings of Steppe and Lesser Spotted Eagle and almost 20 active Wahlberg’s Eagle nests. A displaying Kori Bustard with attending female as well as a dancing Red-crested Korhaan were also seen at different spots between Phalaborwa and Letaba. There seems to be a sizeable outbreak of Mopani worm as well as another species of large, green caterpillar that are really hammering large patches of mopane trees, practically stripping them bare of leaves. Of course, this provides a great foodsource for a whole range of birds, including several Cuckoo species. I was also thrilled to re-sight one of the Marabou’s that I tagged at Moholoholo in January at Leeupan. This spot currently has a nice range of waterbirds and waders and had Saddle-billed-, Marabou-, Woolly-necked-,
Yellow-billed- and Black Stork during my short stop-over. The Kruger really seems to be pumping with bird activity and, as always, is definitely worth a visit after good rains.

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Best Birding Camps @ Wintertime

Unread post by sbobln » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:34 am

What would be the recommende camp side for birding in wintertime. I have read through the birder page here, however this page does not separate throughout the seasons. So my hope is to get here some more specific advice. Especially, if it is a must to visit a camp on the north side of kruger park.

Thanks a lot

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Unread post by Snoobab » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:00 am

Hi Sbobln and weclome

In the north during winter I would go with either Shingwedzi or Punda Maria. Both are great camps with loads of birds and very good birding roads around camp. From Punda you should take a trip to Pafuri which is very bird rich. The trip to Pafuri can be done from Shingwedzi but it is a long trip.
Shingwedzi also has the advantage of being on a river which always attracts more birds.
Good luck and enjoy, if you need any further help just shout, there are loads of people here who will give you all sorts of additional info.

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