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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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Best Birding Camps @ Wintertime

Unread post by sbobln » Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:01 am

Hi Snoobab,

thanks for your welcome and your tipps for the north part of Kruger park.
Is it correct to say, that we have to visit the north part, otherwise we would miss some good birding, which can not be done in the south part ?

Background: Our idea is to make a four week loop from Kruger/Blyde Canon to Ndumo,St Lucia Wetlands, then Drakensberg and back to Jo'burg. So the north part of the Kruger would add additional miles.

By the way, from Kruger to Ndumo Park we have to pass through swasiland or to go around. What would you recommend ?

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Unread post by Jen » Sat Jan 26, 2008 1:01 pm

Hi sbobln

I agree with Snoobab it is defiantly worth travelling that little bit further & visiting the north of the Kruger Park if you are birders. Shingwedzi is a fantastic camp & the river road will always produce many birds especially in Winter. 8) Punda & Pafuri are famous for their bird-life & well worth a visit.
As for your question about travelling via Swaziland to Ndumo & think it is a great idea. I would try and include one night in Swaziland (it also has a few good game parks) as there is much to see and the Swazi's are a very friendly nation.
Your trip sounds fantastic!!!! :clap:
KNP for Christmas & New Year 2016 :dance: :dance: :dance:

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Route via Swaziland

Unread post by wingman » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:10 pm

It is far shorter to go via Swaziland and the roads are not bad, the best would to exit Crocodile bridge or Malelane gate enter Swaziland thru the Managa border gate (on R571) and take the road via Tshaneni to Mhlume thru Hlane game sanctury to Siteki, on the Siteki road only go 4kms turn right down to Big Bend at Big Bend go via Nsoko to Lavumisa and exit via Golela onto the N2. This route is +/-250kms from Komatipoort to where you will join the N2 33kms south of Pongola. Ignore the 80kmh speed signs they are outdated the general limit is 100 to 120kmh, you will have to pay a road levy in Swaziland but it is not expensive, passports are required.
For others who are interested this route distance is 610kms from Durban to Komatipoort.
regards Paul

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Unread post by sbobln » Sun Feb 03, 2008 7:13 pm

Hey Paul,

thanks for this good advice. I must say, that I'm looking forward to travel through south africa, since people are already so helpful and friendly in the internet.

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Unread post by BunnyHugger » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:53 am

Hi Kevin.

In the river bank just outside the fence at Letaba (at the resturant deck) there are a lot of bee eater nests as well. IIRC they are white fronted bee eaters.
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Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:38 am

Hello, hanus Bernard.

Burchell's are the most common of the coucals you'll see in Kruger. You may be lucky to see white-browed and Senegal coucals in the far northern parts of Kruger and black coucal in the central and southern parts. There is even a remote possibility of seeing green malkoha in the south as well.
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Unread post by deefstes » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:05 am

Johan van Rensburg wrote:Hello, hanus Bernard.

Burchell's are the most common of the coucals you'll see in Kruger. You may be lucky to see white-browed and Senegal coucals in the far northern parts of Kruger and black coucal in the central and southern parts. There is even a remote possibility of seeing green malkoha in the south as well.

I find it VERY hard to imagine a White-browed Coucal in northern Kruger.
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Unread post by Pumbaa » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:36 pm

Hi Kevin,

just came back from a wonderful KNP trip and bee eaters where plentiful.

Carmine bee eater are most easily to be found on the S100 and on the H6 - presently this are is the best spot to find them - also last year in February plenty of carmine bee eaters on the S100.

On the Biyamiti loop (s23) we saw plenty of little bee eaters.

Good luck :thumbs_up:

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Unread post by Owl » Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:33 pm

Hi Guys,

Burchell's Coucal is indeed the dominant coucal in the park and for many years was thought to be the only coucal with red-eye, blackish head, neck and tail, rufous back and wings and pale underparts. However in the last decade or so, birders started noticing that some of the coucals in the far north of the park have no barring on the rump, thus indicating they are Senegal Coucal which is the dominant species across the Limpopo in nearby Zimbabwe.

Whether they were always there and just overlooked, or if they have been expanding their range is debatable.

Johan is correct that there are coucals with white-brows in the park, but these are sub-adult Burchell's or Senegals. The White-browed Coucal is only found along the Caprivi and Zambezi Rivers in the sub-continent.

Then, Black Coucal is a regular but uncommon summer visitor to suitable vleis and marshy areas throughout the park. It is most common in wet years. The Green Malkoha (formerly Coucal) has also been seen at Pafuri, but it is probably a rare vagrant moving along the riverine vegetation.

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Unread post by Owl » Wed Mar 26, 2008 11:18 am

Posted on SA Birdnet on 25/03/08 by Duncan McKenzie:

Easter Birding in Kruger:

We spent the long weekend birding the length of Kruger and thought I would share some of the sightings.

The entire park is currently quite dry, with the exception of Punda Maria which had good rain and is green and lush. Otherwise it is very brown top to bottom and all the rivers are low, with the exception of the Olifants which is bordering flood level. Many dams are already dry or almost so (like Mlondozi near Lower Sabie) but surprisingly those between Satara and Skukuza are half full for a change.

Our trip started in Punda Maria where although wet and green, no real surprises were found. Best birds in the general vicinity of the camp included Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Grey-headed Parrot (base of Dzundzwini Hill), Grey Penduline Tit, a few Marsh Warblers, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Retz's Helmetshrike, Tambourine Dove and a pair of Mosque Swallows. A few hours of atlasing produced 103 species in the Punda pentad but considering the habitat condition this was a bit disappointing.

Pafuri, although dryer, produced some good park birds but very few wanted warblers. A lone calling River Warbler was heard briefly near Crook's Corner but this was all in terms of the "goodies" that could be expected at this time of year. Nonetheless, this eastern Levuvhu/ Limpopo pentad produced 87 species with the highlights being Senegal Coucal, Grey-rumped Swallow, African Cuckoo Hawk, African Openbill, Lemon-breasted Canary, a pair of Lanner Falcons, White-crowned Lapwing, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Namaqua Dove and four species of bee-eaters including Blue-cheeked. A single Peregrine caught a swift over the Limpopo.

Pafuri picnic site pentad teemed with birds (and mammals!). We had the good fortune of 2 lion prides of 3 individuals each, a leopard and her cub, 2 single wild dogs and then a pack of 16 wild dogs all in the same pentad!!

Birding highlights included the omnipresent Meves's Starlings and Tropical Boubous, White-crowned Lapwing, a single Green Sandpiper on the river, Mottled and Boehm's Spinetails, Retz's Helmetshrike, Hooded Vulture, Eastern Nicator, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Harlequin Quail, Tambourine Dove, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Eurasian Honey Buzzard, Lizard Buzzard, African Crowned Eagle displaying and Grey-headed Parrot. A reasonable total of 123 species in the Pafuri pentad, but there were some obvious absentees.

Birding north of the river up to Pafuri gate was rather quiet, with the solitary highlight being a Stierling's Wren Warbler. No doubt the time of day had an influence.

Moving further south the Klopperfontein Dam produced a Lesser Moorhen and Double-banded Sandgrouse and Dungile Vlei at Babalala picnic site a lone Black Coucal. Nshawu Vlei north of Letaba still had some water in and here we confirmed two Hottentot Teal, Little Stint, African Quailfinch, Rufous-winged Cisticola and Orange-breasted Waxbill.

The best bird recorded in Olifants, according to Linda, was a medium-sized Southern African Python which afforded great views.

The central plains are brittle-dry in places, conducive to dry west species in early autumn already. Chestnet-backed Sparrowlark, Kori Bustard, Namaqua Dove, Senegal Lapwing, Lesser Grey Shrike and plenty Ostrich were seen here, and the drainage lines produced four Black Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, Green-capped Eremomela and our reliable spots produced lion and leopard.

An hour of scanning at Leeupan south of Tshokwane produced nothing of huge excitement, bar the Pygmy Goose pair which has raised three chicks. Loads of adult and juvenile African Jacana, White-faced and Comb Ducks are present.
Kumana dam held plenty of common waders and waterbirds, including some Red-billed Teal.

Exiting at Numbi gate, we added Martial Eagle, Dark-chanting Goshawk, Pale Flycatcher, four more Black Stork and more African Quailfinch. All in all a good trip with 242 species without stopping for every raptor.


Duncan McKenzie

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Unread post by Owl » Wed Apr 02, 2008 11:13 am

It will depend on the species Nightjar, but most migrants will have left.
Of the highly visual species European Roller and Carmine Bee-eater leave in March.
European Bee-eater end of March to early April
Red-backed Shrike leaves in April, as do a couple of the cuckoos, though most also leave in March.
Woodland Kingfisher may still be around as they leave late April or even early May.
Then you might pick up one or two stragglers.

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Unread post by FishingOwl » Sat May 31, 2008 8:21 pm

Anybody know of a reliable spot for Narina Trogon, perhaps around Punda Maria or Parfuri?

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Unread post by Owl » Mon Jun 02, 2008 12:53 pm

Hi Fishing Owl,

The Trogons undergo considerable local movement into and out of the park, but as you allude, Pafuri, and the Mahonie Loop around Punda Maria are the 2 reliable spots to record them particularly between November and February.

The trick is to learn their call and try and track them down through that. It is particularly tricky though as they are ventriloqual (can throw their voice).

At Pafuri, the picnic site can produce them, especially if you follow the little foottrail to the west of the site to where one comes to a large mound of earth.

The Mahonie Loop is tough because one is confined to one's vehicle, but I've seen them in the woodland around the little waterhole one first gets to when doing the loop anti-clockwise, at a spot just as the road heads south after it travels west in an AC direction, and in the wooded hillside one encounters soon after leaving the tar road in a clockwise direction.

I have not personally seen them in Punda itself, but it would seem plausible that they occur in the camp woodland from time to time.

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Whitebreasted Cuckooshrike

Unread post by Owl » Mon Jun 02, 2008 1:01 pm

Andre Botha posted the following interesting record on the SA Birdnetwork today 2/6/08:

On Behalf Of Andre Botha
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2008 6:18 AM
Subject: [SABN] White-breasted Cuckooshrike

Hi All
Doing a power-line transect north of Satara in the Kruger National Park on Saturday (31st of May) looking for possible avian mortalities, I was very surprised to see a male White-breasted Cuckooshrike flying past in what could only be described as a-typical habitat. The habitat in this part of the part is very open woodland with a scattering of Acacia nigrescens and dominated by open grassveld.

This is certainly the farthest south that I have seen this species in the Kruger Park. Apart from its more well-known haunts in the far north, I recall only two other sightings from the Letaba River in 2003. Unfortunately, the site is not open to public access.

Other highlights were watching a pair of White-headed Vultures nest-building and mating in the Mooiplaas section on Saturday and Sunday as well as a single Dickinson's Kestrel about 500m from the entrance gate to Punda Maria rest-camp last night.

Kind regards

André Botha
Manager: Birds of Prey Working Group
Endangered Wildlife Trust

Owl replied with the following:
Hi Andre,

I've kept record of many of the unusual reported sightings posted on SABN in the National Parks over the last few years. In 2005 there were 2 southerly records for WBCs, one from Timbavati Picnic Site, the other from Renoster Pan between Afsaal and Malelane Gate. I post them below for your interest.

Renosterpan - White-breasted Cuckooshrike - 5th September 2005

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

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

Robert Wienand

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

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

Robert Wienand

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

Zephne' Bernitz

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Unread post by Owl » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:08 pm

One further response below on WTCs that has been sent to me privately from Johan Van Vuuren. Seems like they're moving southward or have been overlooked in the past. The best places to see them in the park are on the Mahonie Loop, at Sirheni Camp and in the Pafuri Area though:

"Just a quick word on the White Breasted Cuckooshrike. On 11 April this year I saw a male WBC in full view next to the road after having left the Timbavati Picnic site en route to Orpen Gate. The bird was perched in a tree next to the road and afforded me a long time for, in the words of Trevor Hardaker, saturated views of itself."


Johan van Vuuren

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