Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

Thursday 21st to Sunday 24th July 2016

Sally and I were invited by Jenny and Dave Rix to join them for their visit to Mkuze. They had booked into the Tented Camp but the only one available was a double. All the huts, cottages and Tented Camp sites were full most nights we were there. The Camp Site only had one occupant.

The park is exceptionally dry. Dave, who has been coming to Mkuze since the 70s, says he has never seen it so dry.

Most of the animals were in the southern reaches of the park in the Fig Forest area.

All the roads are being upgraded and some repaired so access to various parts of the park were not possible. Basically we were limited to the northern part of the park. We were unable to get to Nsumo Pan as well as the road leading down to the hunting camp and the Loop Road off it.

kuMasinga and kuMahlahla Hides were both open and had water. The new kwaMalibala hide remains closed.

The first afternoon we took a drive to kuMasinga hide. As we were on the Beacon Road we were unable to take the first dirt road to the hide – it was closed. So we continued south to the next turn off to the left – again the road ahead was closed. Eventually we got to the hide. A number of animals came for a drink as well as numerous Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves.

The next morning we went with Patrick to the Fig Forest. It was the first time in weeks that the Fig Forest was open so we were very fortunate. New swing bridges greeted us and another treat was the Lookout Tower in the Fig Forest – standing some 10 metres tall in the canopy of the surrounding trees. Apparently this has been there for 5 years.

Our initial goal was to find the Pel’s Fishing-Owl. It did not take long for Patrick to find it and although it was distant we had good views of it.

Otherwise birding in the forest was productive unlike the arid areas of the park although we did find a Burnt-necked Eremomela. Here are some of those we did manage to photograph.

Most of our birding revolved around the main camp as well as the two hides and the campsite.

At kuMahlahla it was not as busy as kuMasinga except for the Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves. However a Black Sparrowhawk did make an appearance at the far end of the dam. Several Tambourine Doves also came down to drink.

On an evening walk around the Main camp we found an African Goshawk perched atop of the Reception – much like a weather vane.

The campsite too was relatively quiet birdwise. The place was a large dust bowl.

As expected we had several unwanted visitors around the tented kitchen. During the day it was monkeys at breakfast and lunch. At night it was the Bushy-tailed Bushbabies. During the evening braai one took his chance and swiped half of a rump steak. We would have been quite cross but the steak was tough and flavourless.

Crested Guineafowl and tame Nyala visited at breakfast. One naughty adult Nyala male kept coming up behind us and giving a nudge – probably wanting water.

Crested Guineafowl
Crested Guineafowl

In total we identified 93 different species – not a bad count considering the arid nature of the park. Click here to see our bird list.

Paul and Sally Bartho


Oribi Gorge Outing

Report by Elena Russell.

16th and 17th July 2016

Jenny Norman and I drove down early on Saturday morning to Oribi Gorge.  We met up with Sally, Paul and Mike White at the cane loading zone where we had arranged to meet Andy Ruffle to go on and view the vultures.

Although the morning was cold and a little overcast, the sun kept appearing and on those occasions we had 70 to 80 vultures soaring overhead and wheeling back to land on the cliff face.

Cape Vulture
Cape Vulture


There are nests with chicks and the whole experience is fantastic.

Outside the hide there are a number of carcasses in various stages of decomposition and the smell can be rather powerful!! It was mainly White-necked Ravens feasting on the carcasses.

Carcass at the vulture restaurant
Carcass at the vulture restaurant

The hide has been rebuilt after a fire destroyed the old one. It is very well made with brick and concrete roof. Inside is Andy’s abode. He even has cooking and bedding facilities.

There was a pair of Lanner Falcons, Rock Martins, Alpine Swifts etc flying around and by the hide we had Plain-backed and African Pipits.

Lanner Falcon
Lanner Falcon

Andy mentioned that on one occasion when visiting the hide a Black-rumped Buttonquail popped out of the head of a Zebra carcass presumably eating maggots inside the skull.

We then went on to Leopard Rock for coffee – the birding can be very good whilst sitting and drinking a good cup of coffee – and to name a few of the birds we saw there: Crowned Hornbill, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Pintailed Whydah (non-breeding plumage), Red-backed and Bronze Mannikin, Greater Double-collared Sunbirds.

If you want a viewing you need to book with Andy Ruffle as the site is on private property. Here are Andy’s contact details 072 893 3794 or

We then drove leisurely back to camp birding along the way: Grey Crowned Crane, Cape and Yellow-throated Longclaw, Grey Cuckooshrike and Jackal Buzzard. Red-backed Mannikin and African Firefinch became the trash birds of the weekend.

Back at camp Mike proceeded to cook us each a perfect mushroom omelette – how good can the weekend get?

Enjoying Mike's omelets - delicious
Enjoying Mike’s omelets – delicious

But then it started to rain on Saturday night (I am seriously considering offering my services as a ‘rain maker’) and it was still raining early on Sunday morning.

We went down to the picnic area just in case any crazy birders pitched up for the Sunday Outing and along came Sandi, Roz and Prem.  Along the road we had good views of Lemon and Tambourine Doves.

Tambourine Dove
Tambourine Dove

We then took a slow drive up to the bridge where we had heard Knysna Woodpecker a number of times on Saturday. As it was still raining and the birding was abysmal we headed back to camp for coffee.  On the way down we met up with Sally, Paul and Mike and it was decided to go on to Leopard Rock for breakfast.

Sally and Paul had to leave but the rest of us had a superb English Breakfast – we sat inside as there was a thick mist in the gorge but every now and again the mist would partially lift and strange and fantastic views of the gorge would appear.

Some views of Oribi Camp and the Gorge itself:

By 9h00 the rain stopped and we took a slow drive back to Oribi Gorge and on the way the flying ants were coming out and the birding took off!! Fan-tailed Widowbirds, Village, Cape and Yellow weavers, Croaking Cisticola and masses of Rock Martins all hawking from the edge of a cane field.

An obliging Knysna Turaco made an appearance near the bridge at the bottom of the Gorge.

Knysna Turaco
Knysna Turaco

We stopped a number of times and one spot near the farm dam was exceptionally good – Lesser Honeyguide, Dusky Flycatcher, Black-collared Barbet, Fork-tailed and Square-tailed Drongos, Little Bee-eaters and much much more.

There is a rather nice dam at the entrance to the camp and we saw a pair of African Black Ducks, Egyptian and Spurwing Geese, Common Moorhen, Yellow-billed Duck and Reed Cormorant.

A Chorister Robin was fossicking around by the swimming pool on our return to camp. We had a good bird party going through the camp with Grey and Black Cuckooshrikes, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black, Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers as well as the Drongos!

On Monday morning we took another drive through the gorge and had gorgeous views of the Olive Woodpecker! And added a few more birds to the list so our total bird count for the weekend was 120.

A new one for the Oribi list was African Hoopoe which we saw twice.

African Hoopoe with wild hair-do
African Hoopoe with wild hair-do

One bird which maybe we were not so pleased to see was the Common Starling!

Elena Russell