Zululand and the Kruger – Part 9

Malelane 17 to 19 November

Paul & Sally Bartho

We left Skukuza early morning and arrived at Malelane about 10h00. As you can check in at the Malelane Gate, we took advantage of that rather than checking in at Berg-en-dal. here we heard there had been a Leopard kill at the turn-off to the camp a couple of days earlier – all gone when we got there.

The first thing we noticed was that there had been a massive fire. It turned out that the fire had burnt all round Berg-en-dal from Malelane S110 as well as the S110 dirt roads back to the bridge over the H3. Massive burnt area with little bird life.

Malelane entrance
Malelane entrance

The campsite was empty and so we chose a site near the viewing point over the Crocodile river.

Campsite birds were calling – Diderick and Klaas’s Cuckoos; White-throated and Red-capped Robin-Chats – and the Swallows were everywhere – on the ground and in the air.

Our neighbours on the fence-line were adult and juvenile Dwarf mongooses. The little one crept along our side of the fence and was not too concerned about us. It could be heard cheep cheeping and the adult responding in a lower pitch – keeping in contact no doubt or perhaps it was the other way round with the adult asking, “Where the heck are you?”

Dwarf Mongoose
Dwarf Mongoose

This was the first time we had camped at the Malelane campsite- and it won’t be the last despite the lack of shade. Having said that we are beginning to realise that shade is not really essential in winter or if a silver cover is put over the campervan. Level ground and a good birding outlook is far more important and grass is a bonus.

During the short time we were there we planned to look for the Cocqui Francolin which we heard several weeks earlier (we had its GPS co-ords); visit Berg-en-dal to look around the grounds and to go to the bridge over the Crocodile river to see what birds were below.

Early the first morning we set off to try and find the Cocqui. At the bridge over the Matijulu we see a small herd of buffalo and a male Comb Duck perched at the top of a bare tree. In the nearby tree there were his 5 wives!

Further along on the S114 we find a bare patch of grass and two pairs of African Wattled Lapwings with chicks. Then an Eurasian Hobby in the gloom of a tree some way away followed by a pair of lovebirds – canoodling European Bee-eaters.

We push on towards the jock of the Bushveld Plaque where we had heard the Cocqui before. No luck – not even a peep this time. However in a tree beside the road out pops a Stierling’s Wren Warbler giving us some excellent views.

On the way back we spot a king of the Beasts in all his majesty lying beside a fallen tree close to where we had just seen several White Rhinos and a number of elephant. Birds adorned the route as well.

Despite such a short visit we observed 126 different bird species. Here are a few more pictures of other birds we had seen.

And then we were on to Ndumo for one of the Game Rangers’ Weekends. More in Part 10.

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