Khangela Lodge is located in the Kuleni Game Park. The turnoff to Kuleni is on the left about 15 kms from Hluhluwe railway crossing on the way towards Sodwana – just past Badenhorst Broedery on the left.
The lodge consists of a communal lounge, dining area and kitchen with a deck and pool overlooking a private waterhole. Then there are 3 free-standing double bed rooms each with their own bathroom including an extra outdoor shower.
The Kuleni Game Park habitat is predominantly coastal sand forest interspersed with the odd waterhole and grassland areas. There are a number of walking trails through the bush.
Sally and I visited friends there and prepared a bird list for them – based solely on what we saw and or heard during the three days that we were there. In all we accounted for 72 different bird species. (We were told that the total bird list for Kuleni was over 300 species). Most of our birding was done on foot. Each morning we were up with the sparrows leaving the lodge at 05h30. The first day we circled the outer edges of the game park – taking just over 3 hours. On the other days we explored several of the trails also taking over 3 hours.
Animals are free to roam throughout the Park. There are none of the big five but Giraffe, Warthog, Nyala, Wildebeest, Kudu, Zebra & Impala are regularly seen. of course there are many butterflies to be seen too.
Some of the special birds we recorded included:
All three Apalises, African Emerald & Red-chested Cuckoo, Southern-banded Snake-Eagle, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, African Pygmy & Striped Kingfisher, Green Malkoha, Eastern Nicator, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Bearded & Brown Scrub-Robin, Black Sparrowhawk, Grey Sunbird & Purple-banded Sunbird in partial eclipse plumage, Green & Pink-throated Twinspots, Grey Waxbill.
Birds we were lucky enough to be able to photograph include:
I think it is quite usual for the White Storks to be around at this time of the year, but they are usually found a few hundred metres to the south on the Marianhill Landfill Site. I have seen them there a few times, and I was there this morning. I didn’t bother to count them, (difficult to count against the matching black and white bits of plastic) but I would say a good hundred or so. Not exactly the same awesome sight as the Edgewood College grounds! There were at least as many YBK’s too, and a number of Woolly Necks – but that is all year round.
These are pictures I took almost exactly 3 years ago at Marianhill Landfill Site.
Try counting these birds!
Weather – Generally overcast with temps around 32C . If the sun did come out in full, temps jumped up into the 40ties.
Kruger camps – clean and tidy and staff pleasant and accommodating.
Birds IDed 161 with 3 lifers.
We decided to take Nick Norman’s advice from his book (GEOLOGY – OFF THE BEATEN TRACK exploring South Africa’s hidden treasures). We drove Gingindluvu to eMkhondo on R66/R34/R33. This is a far more direct route, easier driving without giant transport trucks & one can see a wealth of geology too.
We had an overnight stop in Hazyview & then through Bushbuckridge to enter Kruger at Orpen Gate. We were immediately amazed at the lush green bush & golden grasses of a wet mid-summer.
Our first VERY exciting observation was of a Burchell’s Starling feeding a sub-adult Great Spotted Cuckoo in the middle of the road.
The Letaba river and all the main streams and rivers were pretty full with loads of hippo. Yellow-billed, White and Saddle-billed Storks were plentiful as well as Openbills.
The Engelhart Dam was overflowing & Woodland Kingfishers seemed to be calling from every tree.
We saw many Carmine Bee-eaters as well as a Great White Egret in breeding plumage with his emerald green eye & plumes off his rump.
Our first outing was a visit to Olifants Rest Camp & we had to change route twice due to low level crossings being flooded. The Olifants viewing sight provided us with our first experience of a full flowing Olifants river.
Rain overnight & overcast weather dropped the temperatures to the 30s for the rest of our trip.
En route to Satara we stopped at Timbavati where the guard pointed out a Scops Owl sleeping in a huge Boer-bean tree.
European Rollers were far more common than the Lilac-breasted Rollers.
It seems that some birds flock this time of the year especially with the heavy rains -Blacksmiths Lapwings & Three-banded Plovers were frequently seen in large flocks, especially next to the wet roads.
A drive to Nwanetsi for a cooked breakfast is compulsory & we saw Southern Ground Hornbill as well as Kori Bustard on the way.
Sweni Hide was not as rewarding as usual, due to it being filled to capacity but this did set up a photo opportunity with a family of Thick-billed Weavers as well as Green backed herons.
We drove south for the last 3 nights at Byamiti where we had our first sightings of Red-backed Shrikes & Lesser Grey Shrikes.
We experienced a sight of White Storks & Carmine Bee-eaters feeding opportunistically while hovering above a herd of Impala.
In general we saw or heard most of the cuckoos but seeing the Common Cuckoo was exciting as this was a lifer.
Could not resist the targeted backsides of 3 Waterbuck!
In general we saw lots of raptors, Bateleur being most common and also many large flocks of vultures. Also seen frequently were Brown & Black-chested Snake-Eagles , Wahlberg’s , African Harrier Hawk, African Fish Eagle, Lesser Spotted and Tawny Eagle.
On a drive to Crocodile Bridge on our last day we came across a pack of Wild Dogs on the road. As we hadn’t seen any cats this was very rewarding. (Most other visitors had seen cats on numerous occasions).
Our last special sighting were Senegal Lapwings near CrocodileBridge which was a lifer for us & a great end to our holiday.
PS Anyone driving through Swaziland be warned as pot holes are very bad & beware of road works between Malelane & Nelspruit with 40min hold ups.
One of the residents at le Domaine – Di Wayne, took the following photo of a mystery duck seen on the property. The photo was taken 7 years ago and I thought it might still be of interest to our followers.
Sally and I have puzzled over its ID and believe it to be a female Wood Duck – native to North America.
We started off with 19 members and ended up with 27 (some late risers!!). Early in the morning the mist was lying over Shongweni but soon started to lift and turned into a lovely hot day’s birding. Our total bird count was 84. Thanks to Herman for leading the other group.
We had some great sightings and the bird of the day has to be the Osprey flying over the dam wall and down the river.
No eagles! but we had Common Buzzards
African Harrier Hawks, YBK’s, White-necked Ravens and later on the Lanner Falcons appeared on the cliff face. We heard but did not see the Gorgeous and Orange-breasted Bush Shrikes. Rufous-napped Larks, Neddickys, Rattling Cisticolas, Twany-flanked Prinias called and displayed all morning. Some bird photos:
As well as a number of Butterflies and another creature.
We had a Dideric Cuckoo begging to be fed by ‘Mama’ Village Weaver, the cuckoo fluttering and squawking and chasing after Ma demanding food whilst poor Ma was desperately hunting for ‘tidbits’ for her monster chick!
Later on we walked to the ‘giant’ steps but the birding was not too successful.
We then walked to the bottom of the dam wall & weir and picked up some nice stuff there. There was a mystery fledgling on a concrete block, maybe it was an Egyptian Goose but as Liz remarked where were the parents, normally Egypo’s are very protective of their chicks.
As the day was getting too hot we parked off under the shade of some trees and did a little ‘armchair’ birding – checking out the cliff face.
Thanks to Penny de Vries, Dave Rimmer, Herman Bos, John Bremner & Paul Bartho for the pics.
The following photos are of a Little Rush-Warbler doing his “helicopter” impression! Flying up 2 or 3 feet and down again. He must have done this at least 30 times, rising almost vertically and hovering for a second or so before landing and then repeating this every 10 seconds or so. He seemed totally relaxed about me standing quite close to him.
My Roberts’ states “ song sometimes followed by brief prrrr.prrrr wing-rattling flight display above sedges lasting 2-3 seconds.”
I will be interested in your comments about this behaviour.
I could not resist putting out the following 2 photos (also taken by Frank) of a Reed Cormorant and its chicks. Especially seeing the colour of the chicks’ heads.
Cumberland Private Nature Reserve is run by John and Stella Behn. They have chalets dotted around in the reserve, a large campsite and rooms at the top of the hill. All very reasonably priced. Note: if you book the campsite then only your party may share the whole campsite – irrespective of whether there are 2 of you or 20 and you are charged R60 per person. There is a female and male shower/toilet on site with good hot water. There is no power but you can rent the use of a campsite fridge.
There were 14 people on the Weekend Outing – joined by another 10 or so for the Sunday Outing.
The weather played its part in making the outing successful – from a birding point of view. Friday was hot, hot hot. So those who arrived early did not get a lot of birding done. In fact it was best sitting in the shade of the campsite and watching the birds in the surrounding bush and stream. A late afternoon swim up on the hill by the rooms was a great way to cool off.
Overnight we had rain and Saturday morning started overcast, misty and cool – which brought out the warblers – Broad-tailed Warbler in particular.
The Saturday walk started at 05h30 in the campsite, progressed through the extensive picnic area and up the hill to the alternative accommodation area. There we were treated by Stella and John to tea or coffee and home-made cheese scones.
On the circular route back to the campsite it started to drizzle. Mike and Jane (the weekend outing leaders) decided that a break was in order and that we would meet at 10h30 at the “hide” next to the dam immediately outside the entrance gate. At first the birding seemed quiet with little on the dam. Then it all started to change. African Black Duck appeared, Common Moorhen, White-throated Swallows, an African Purple Swamphen, Malachite Kingfisher to name a few.
Wandering upstream from the hide one bird in particular attracted us by its call. A Warbler. It was thought to be a Reed Warbler but we were unsure which one so we played the call to see if we could recognise it. It continued calling. Perhaps co-coincidently it stopped and remained quiet after we played the call of the Eurasian Reed Warbler. How we all would have liked to have had a positive ID on the bird. In the opinion of some the call was not as harsh or grating as the Great Reed Warbler nor as tuneful as the African Reed Warbler. Anyway we shall never know.
In the same area a Half-collared Kingfisher was spotted which seemed to be happy in the area with us about.
Further upstream, a Great Reed Warbler was spotted. Consequently many people felt that this must have been the bird which we had heard earlier, though as you might expect, there was disagreement amongst us.
Some photos of birds seen during the walk.
And some Butterflies and other creatures.
The rest of the afternoon we were left to our own devices, to recover from the previous evening braai in the campsite and to prepare for the one to come up the hill where a number of people were staying.
The rooms are in an excellent location right at the edge of the cliffs with fantastic views all round. We made good use of the facilities available to those staying in the rooms – a large kitchen and lounge plus outdoor covered patios with seating available for all. John and Stella joined us for the braai – again for some a late night!
Sunday started overcast but dry. Another 10 people or so joined us at 07h00 as part of the Sunday Outing. We split into 2 groups and both parties headed down to the Horseshoe Bend of the Umgeni River. One group checked the campsite gorge while the other went on ahead.. Two Mountain Wagtails were seen flying through the gorge.
The birding was good in both groups with Pygmy-Kingfishers seen by both groups and Little Sparrowhawk by one group. Further excitement was to follow as we approached the Umgeni River.
One group, aware that there was a Python mound checked to see if there was any activity. And there we saw a 4 metre 15 cm diametre (at least) python basking in the sun. Stella told us there were two that size there and someone had sent them photos of 7 little ones. Three of us got as close as we could to take the following photos.
Yet further down a Bearded Woodpecker was spotted and photographed. An incidental report will be sent to the Atlas Project.
On Horseshoe Bend is Horseshoe cottage where we relaxed. Some of us went to the river’s edge and saw a small crocodile.
That put paid to anyone’s intention to cool off in the river! Standing there on the edge, about 10 metres from us at the edge of the reeds, there was a sudden loud fluttering of a large bird scampering further downstream and darting back into the reeds. Those who saw the spectacle concluded that it was probably an African Finfoot – though none of us could be certain.
Some pictures of birds seen on the Sunday walk.
Then is was the long trudge back up the hill to the campsite. Lunch and preparation of the bird list for the weekend. Then for some of us packing up our camp as we all headed home.
Diedrick’s Cuckoo (juvenile) & Amethyst Sunbird by Paul Bartho.
The following is a series of excellent photos taken by Frank Kihn in LeDomaine.
As you will see the Diedrick’s Cuckoo juvenile is being fed by a female Southern Red Bishop. In one photo the cuckoo’s eye’s are closed as it is being fed. Frank asked if that was a sign of pure bliss.
The other photo below is of an Amethyst Sunbird chick which was found straying on the road in LeDomaine. Its nest had fallen out of the tree. Some residents returned it to its nest and put the nest up against the tree trunk and informed us.
On investigation, Sally and I noticed that the little bird was covered in ants. Painstakingly the ants were removed from its body. The nest too was infested in ants so Sally retrieved one of her woolly sox and sewed it on to a nearby Aloe. The chick was placed inside and happily cheeped away until the parents returned to feed it. Five days later we presume it left the nest.