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Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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WackoRhino
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Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by WackoRhino » Thu Feb 04, 2016 3:56 pm

Well I did not even think to check Kruger weather before making my reservations last week. :doh:
I will be in Kruger from the 12th to the 25th and I begin to wonder what I will be able to observe. :roll:

Anybody with experience of such conditions can tell me ?

Thanks in advance for any answer :thumbs_up:
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George_Brits
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by George_Brits » Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:02 am

My apologies for a belated reply, WackoRhino, I have been to the Kruger recently and the birdlife has been as abundant as ever.

Highbury
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by Highbury » Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:34 am

I was at the Honorary Rangers weekend at Punda in early February , and also drove south to north on the way there and back.Some of the areas are very dry , especially Satara to Letaba. The numbers of quelea are significantly down because of the lack of water.The number of insects is down significantly and red backed shrikes and similar birds appeared less than usual as a result. I didn't see a single white stork which was highly unusual , and lesser kestrels which were fairly abundant in recent years were absent. In my view the lack of rainfall has impacted on insect numbers and therefore numbers of seasonal migrants dependant on this. The only areas that seemed to have received normal rainfall were the extreme north and the south west. We encountered double figure numbers of dead hippo and several buffalo that seemed to have succumbed to the lack of grazing and water.

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Awake
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by Awake » Thu May 05, 2016 8:11 pm

I was in the Kruger this weekend. My first ever visit in April. Was struck by the lack of birds in the Satara/Olifants area. The usual summer migrants had left, but there were lots of regulars that we did not see: No Grey Hornbills, no smaller raptors, no white-crowned shrikes, a handful of lilac-breasted rollers and a single purple roller.

Is this the effect of the drought, or is there usually a lag between the departure of the migrants and the return of the residents? I have noticed in the summer than the number of lilac-breasted rollers seems to decrease.

Interestingly, once we got down to the Sabie, the bird numbers picked up considerably. I suspect because of the permanent water.

On the plus side, have never seen so many vultures. Is this because the predators are having a field day because of the drought?
Kruger 2016: :D
January: Lower Sabie
March: Olifants
April: Satara, Olifants, Lower Sabie
May: Lower Sabie
June: Talamati
July: Lower Sabie
August: Lower Sabie

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DotDan
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by DotDan » Fri May 06, 2016 2:47 pm

Look this time of year is not the best for birding. Birds are busy congregating in bird parties closer to remaining water sources but I would definitely say the drought has played a major role in bird numbers and their distribution this year.

Satara is not a very wet area in general and the drought hasn't helped so I would only think that a lot of birds are congregating around water sources such as Lower Sabie.

One migrant that was very absent this year was Montagu Harrier. Normally a very good bet around Lower Sabie and Satara but due to the lack of grass, insects and rodents, I think they stayed away from those areas.

Vultures will be having a field day for sure!!

Hopefully now that El Nino is clearing up we will have a normal rainy season and bring those numbers in again.

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Awake
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by Awake » Fri May 06, 2016 4:06 pm

Thanks DotDan

Your reply makes sense. Have read somewhere that birds such as lilac-breasted roller are altitudinal migrants and return to the lowveld in greater numbers in winter. Also very striking was the extreme lack of birds in the Satara camp itself. I suspect due to the drought, the only area that is being watered is the small patch of lawn in front of the restaurant and even there were very few birds. :thumbs_up:
Kruger 2016: :D
January: Lower Sabie
March: Olifants
April: Satara, Olifants, Lower Sabie
May: Lower Sabie
June: Talamati
July: Lower Sabie
August: Lower Sabie

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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by wildebeeste » Wed Jun 08, 2016 8:39 am

I have just returned from spending all of May 2016 in Kruger, travelling from Lower Sabie up to Mopane. I was also wondering where all the birds had gone and many people were also asking this. I did see lots of Vultures (due to the available carcases from the drought), and there were some water birds, but not in the numbers that I have seen in my annual trips to Kruger every year since 2005. I did manage some "special and unusual" bird photos with the Raptors. I guess that the drought has had a very significant effect on Kruger. It is still a very special park.

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wildtuinman
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by wildtuinman » Wed Jun 08, 2016 10:51 am

Only around half of the 500 or so species recorded in Kruger are residents.
May is very late to still see any of the migrant birds that visits Kruger from further north.

_________

Satara is not the best birding area in the Park. I have participated and guided during BBW's from north to south in Kruger and Satara has delivered the lowest species count out of all the camps (Punda, Shimuwini, Letaba, Satara, Pretoriuskop).

How many species have you recorded Awake and wildebeeste?

_________

Highbury, I have been to Kruger countless times and I have only ever seen White Storks and Lesser Kestrels on one occasion, coincidentally, on the same trip, north east of Satara in 2013.

_________

I guided a BBW at Leataba in February, this year. Yes, it was incredibly dry, but the combined species total was still around 222. Sure, the drought does affect birding, especially species which are dependent on high rainfall, such as crakes, quails etc. But the little water that the Letaba river had the time attracted fast numbers. The only strange thing I have noticed really, was the absence of Red-chested Cuckoos this past summer. I have recorded 431 species this year so far and not a single Red-chested Cuckoo!!
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DotDan
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by DotDan » Wed Jun 08, 2016 11:59 am

You need to open up your eyes and stop looking for cats. Just on my last trip I had Lesser Kestrels just north of Lower Sabie in Jan and two White Storks on the Sabie river at Lower Sabie camp. The numbers were smaller than last year, but they were still there.

Stop going to Satara all the time WTM. :twisted:

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DotDan
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by DotDan » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:00 pm

I agree, Piet-my-vrou was very absent, even on the highveld I think I only ever saw one.

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Albert
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Re: Effect of drought on Kruger Birding this february

Unread post by Albert » Wed Jun 08, 2016 2:40 pm

My 2 cents' worth...
We spent 6 nights in the park (last week of May). Drove from Kruger Gate north to Balule, then on to Tsendze and then south to Tamboti for the last night before we left. What is interesting to me is that the tick list numbers are about the same (slightly better) than a similar trip in May 2014; however the species seen are quite different. We missed a lot of expected "regulars", like most of the weavers, and several waders and waterbirds (like Moorhen and Hamerkop!), yet still saw some summer stragglers (there were still a few White-rumped Swifts mixed in with the Little Swifts on the Olifants). Around the Mopani area the Chestnut-backed Sparrowlarks abounded (saw only very few previously), as did the Cinnamon-breasted Buntings. We found a sizeable flock of Temminck's Coursers (about 30 birds) at Thihonyongeni, yet hardly saw any Southern Grey-headed Sparrows the entire trip.

Interesting observation about the Red-chested Cuckoos DotDan and Wildtuinman: did not hear a single bird around the Stellenbosch area the entire summer.
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