Zululand and the Kruger – Part 3

Satara 26 to 30 October 

Paul & Sally Bartho

Leaving Crocodile Bridge we drove to Lower Sabie, crossed the Sabie River and headed for Satara via Tshokwane arriving early afternoon.

Stopping for tea at Tshokwane we noticed this unusually dark African Mourning Dove.

African Mourning Dove - dark form
African Mourning Dove

After setting up camp we had a message on Trevor Hardaker’s Rare Birds report that a Green Sandpiper had been seen at the Sweni bridge just south of the camp. We went to have a look and it did not take us long to find it. This would have been a lifer for me had I not seen one a month earlier at Darvil sewerage works in Pietermaritzberg.

The following day we drove along the S100 to the Sweni Bird Hide near the N’wanetsi picnic site. Along the way we came across what we thought was a pair of Red-necked Spurfowls – however on advise from Trevor Hardaker they are in fact hybrids – Red-necked and Swainson’s. As there were two together, we hope that they are both of the same sex!

The Sweni Hide was one of the highlights of our trip. We were entertained there for hours not only by the crocodiles and hippos camouflaged by the weed but also by the variety of birds which visited the hide – including a pair of what we think might be Dwarf Bitterns (possible Green-backed Heron juvenile but for the heavy black streaking on the front – unfortunately not shown well in the photos) and several Black-crowned Night Herons.

Hippos resting in peace
Hippos in repose

The following morning we set off really early to get to the Sweni Hide as we had enjoyed it so much the day before. On the way as we crossed a bridge and looked down we saw 2 elephants digging for water. There was a pool nearby but it was obviously not to their taste. What was interesting was that the hole they dug with their trunks was perfectly round and several feet deep. The elephants knew the water was there and that the sand would filter the water for them.

Elephants searching for water
Elephants searching for water

 As we reached the hide we first went to the river crossing and looked back up to the hide. What a good decision. In the closest part of the river Sally noticed an unusual bird – the first of four different sightings of this bird.

Some of the other birds and animals we managed to photograph in the area include:

Altogether we found 140 different bird species in and around Satara.

Next we moved on to Tsendze – the satellite camp to Mopani. It is situated next to the Mooiplaas picnic area. See Part 4 of this series.


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