show you in one chart our birdlist for the entire Kruger and which birds we identified when based in each camp area.
comment on the birds we thought we might see but didn’t.
make comments on our time in the Park.
show you photos of the birds we could not identify.
show you photos of what we considered “Special” birds.
show you photos of animals we took.
show you photos which we considered to be of reasonable quality.
Despite the dryness of the Park we still identified a wide variety of birds in all 230 different species. Click here to see the total list of birds we identified in our stay in the Kruger also showing a summary of the birds we saw in the area of each camp.
Having said that, we were surprised not to identify any of the following:
* We attributed these particular missing birds due to the dryness of the Park.
Some Comments and Observations:
Our favourite camps were Lower Sabie in the South, Balule in the middle, Tsendze and Punda Maria in the north. And Malelane in the south as a gateway for both entering and leaving the Park.
Yellow-billed Oxpeckers have thrived in the north and now it is unusual to see a Red-billed Oxpecker on Giraffe or Buffalo.
Yellow-billed Oxpeckers have extended their range and it is not unusual to find them lower down at Tsendze.
It is about time that Punda Maria management bought a washing machine for their laundry.
The Deck at Lower Sabie gave us many interesting sightings not only of birds but interacting animals too.
The swimming pool at Shingwedzi was a real life saver.
Crocodile Bridge area looked like a desert – trees all knocked down, barren and dusty sadly
Of the birds we photographed there were two which we could not identify. Perhaps you can?? And there is one snake for ID please.
The following photos are of birds that we considered to be special – either because they are hard to find or they are not birds we regularly see where we live or they show something about the bird..
Other birds we can’t forget:
And that’s it Folks. We hope you have enjoyed the series.
Our journey from Satara to Lower Sabie produced some exciting sightings.
Leaving early we headed to Tshokwane for breakfast. As we neared the picnic site we encountered quite a few cars watching lions sleeping. A quick squizz and we went through.
Within minutes, another bunch of cars watching a Leopard asleep in a tree. A little more time here to try and get a photo and then we were off leaving the mêlée behind.
Not much further along we noticed an animal slowly crossing the road. Our first impression was that it could be a mongoose of some sort. But it had a humped back. A quick look with our binoculars told us to get up there quickly. We arrived just as it was entering the scrub by the road.
At Tshokwane there was no monkey business with our breakfast this time!! Still a paucity of birds around – a few Starlings and one African Mourning Dove. However in the river bed we heard a Red-faced Cisticola. It was so loud it was unmissable. Eventually it came close and I got a snap.
From Tshokwane we decided to head down towards Skukuza instead of taking the direct route to Lower Sabie. All of the dams were dry and the journey passed quietly except for a Sable sighting. About five in the bush beside us about 30 metres away.
Once we had crossed the Sabie River we drove towards Lower Sabie with the river alongside us all the way. As expected there was much going on in the river. Elephants and Buffalo all the way along – sometimes in their hundreds. Hippo out of the water and many birds to be seen.
Even a Grysbok made an appearance – something we have found hard to spot.
Birds too were in the air and in the trees. There were dozens of Vultures and Tawny Eagles were seen in a couple of trees from the main Skukuza bridge over the Sabie River. In another tree we saw three Hooded Vultures, one of which was a youngster.
As the river “roared” down the rapids we also had a few sightings of other birds in the bushes.
Eventually we arrived and set up camp. By the time we were through the temperature had soared up into the 40s C. So after a lunch at Mugg and Bean we took the rest of the day off to enjoy a rest and the swimming pool.
At our site we found a couple of Grey Go-away-birds anting in the dust.
The heat was draining our energy and having had such good experiences over the past month we decided to only stay 2 nights at Lower Sabie and then head to Malelane for one night and return home directly from there. In other words we cut our stay short by three days.
The following day we took a drive along the river to Skukuza and Lake Panic hide. A stop at Sunset Dam first to watch the Hippos and Crocodiles and see what birds were around. On the round concrete tank close to the road there were Giant and Malachite Kingfishers as well as Green-backed Herons.
Then there was a Red-billed Oxpecker using a Hippo’s eye to perch on while it had a drink.
A Yellow-billed Stork was showing off its finery.
And not to be outdone a Black-crowned Night-Heron was seen in the territory of the Green-backed Herons.
Immediately after Sunset Dam the lions were seen feasting on a Buffalo. Some exhausted from eating were seen taking a rest nearby.
On one of the many loops we came across a gathering of White Storks much to our surprise.
At the Skukuza camp we had a quick look at the river – seeing very little of interest – and hurried to get out of the bedlam.
Lake Panic Hide had had some rain and there was a lot more water in it compared to when we visited a month earlier. There were even elephant cavorting and getting stuck in the mud. Trying to get out of the mud involved kneeling down to push itself out. Eventually it succeeded and actually pushed too hard resulting in it falling over onto its back.
A number of birds arrived and some were photographed. The star of the show in our minds was the Woodland Kingfisher.
At the deck of Mugg and Bean we had a sundowner and watched the activity in the river below us. There were some excessively large Crocodiles making a meal of a Hippo. And Lions on the opposite bank in full flow chasing Wildebeest without much joy – giving up and resting under the shade of the large trees.
Of course the pair of Western Barn Owls were still to be seen in the rafters. We spent some time at the reception entrance bird bath hoping to see the Olive-tree Warbler which Jane had told us about. No luck. However it was good to watch all the activity and inter-action between the different birds. Also it was a pleasure to listen to the call of the White-browed Robin Chat.
From the M&B deck we noticed a Black Heron doing its thing in fishing mode.
Then there was this beauty. which really confused me the first time I had ever seen one.
In the Lower Sabie area we identified 131 different bird species. Click here to see the list.
We spent most of our last morning getting to Malelane. Once there our goal was to try and find the Egyptian Vulture which Jane and Mike had seen along the S25 a few days earlier. No luck. So we returned via Berg-en-dal. The dam had water in it unlike our first visit four weeks earlier. Sally noticed some Ducks flying around and we went to investigate. They had landed beside the water. I think we counted thirteen Knob-billed Ducks. Several males were showing off their colourful finery. Notice the yellow feathers near their vent.
And in the short time we were in Malelane there were 46 birds identified. Click here to see the Malelane list.
Despite the heat and dryness we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Kruger. Hopefully the next time we go the Park will have had pleanty of rain to fill up all the dams.
We hope you have enjoyed these reports.
By request we shall make one final report summarising our highlights. Kruger Part 10 – Summary.
Satara and the surrounds were very dry. None of the dams had any water. Only the N’wanetsi Dam had a little water in it. In which the Buffalo lay side by side with the Crocodiles.
The camp was empty. We had a choice of sites so elected to try one by the fence for a change. Choice spot under a shady tree we thought. Unfortunately it was also the choice spot for the birds to roost resulting in a lot of cleaning of the canvas when we decamped.
Definitely the best birding was in the camp and we did spend one of our mornings doing just that.
There was the Woodland Kingfisher in glorious vibrant colour.
Squabbling Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers.
And many others.
Knobbly roots of a fever tree in the grounds by the reception.
Driving around the area we came across some a giraffe with its new born, the odd Kudu, a Scrub Hare and a spotted Hyena relaxing on the road with its back feet neatly tucked in.
Some other birds seen:
At one of the pumped waterholes just north of the camp there were dozens of Vultures – perhaps waiting for bath time. Mostly White-backed.
A drive down to the Muzandzeni picnic site for breakfast one morning proved to be a potentially scary experience. On arrival two cars drove out as we drove in to the empty picnic site. We chose a shady table and enjoyed our breakfast. Then as we were about to leave an army truck with soldiers drove in. Quite casually they asked Sally if she was aware of the lions under a tree not 100 metres away!! Hmmm no!
As we watched so the Impala approached the lions cautiously to keep a beady eye on them and their potential movements. As I said, we had enjoyed our breakfast but we could easily have been theirs.
We had planned to be here for five nights. The heat and dryness of the area led to our change of mind. Three nights was enough. We changed our itinerary to go to Lower Sabie for two nights, two nights at Skukuza and finally 2 nights at Malelane before heading home.
On our last day there we over-lapped with some other friends from Durban – Mike and Jane Roseblade. We had an evening braai together and a good chinwag. As we returned to our campsite the heavens started to brighten – lightening everywhere around us yet no thunder. Eventually the much wanted rain came. Enough to cool things down but not nearly enough to quench the parched soil.
In the morning we left early and headed for Lower Sabie.
Next Installment – Kruger Part Part 9 – Lower Sabie to follow.
We arrived at Tsendze after checking in at Mopani. A bit of a shlep especially if you are coming from the south as it is about eight kms north of the camp. The camp is well treed and great for birding. It is right next to the Mooiplaas picnic site and you can walk through if you ask permission (saves driving the three kms all the way round). The picnic site is also well treed and right next to the Tsendze river so birding is excellent there too.
The one thing we loved was the early morning dawn chorus. We (mainly Sally) identified numerous different birds calling before getting out of bed.
Tsendze is also known for its owls – the African Scops-Owl, the Barred and Pearl-spotted Owlets in particular. In the past we also saw and heard the Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl there. This time only the Owlets were heard calling.
Story time. On arrival Sally went off to check the plumbing. She returned rather quickly with news that the ladies loo had been closed because a suspected Black Mamba had been seen inside the day before. Fortunately there was another set of loos further into the campsite.
Our first morning was full of surprises.
It started with a Cheetah kill right beside the road. We watched for a while as it got fatter and fatter. After a while we left it in peace but determined to return to watch the Vultures flock to finish it off.
Further on next to the marshes we came across a Honey Badger doing its thing with a number of avian followers hoping to catch the tidbits.
Yet further we stopped as we heard a Red-crested Korhaan calling. It was right in front of us in the road. It called three times and immediately after it had finished the third call it took off heading vertically for between 5 and 10 metres before flipping onto its back and falling out of the sky – much like those acrobatic planes do. Just before it hit the ground it opened its wings and pulled out of the dive. A truly amazing sight to see.
On return along the same road we had another Red-crested Korhaan do the same thing. Our cameras however were not ready to catch either event.
Returning now to see the vultures at the kill, we came across some Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Larks at the Mooiplaas waterhole.
As we were looking at them another vehicle approached and asked us what we were looking at. Their response was not the usual “Oh” and drive off. They told us to proceed a little further and look to our left in the open area by the waterhole.
We were more than pleased that they had suggested this as we came across a bird in full display. It was something neither of us had ever seen before and remains as one of the highlights of our trip.
At first it was hard to recognise although we immediately knew what it was. Listening to its call was something else too. We did a short video which unfortunately I cannot post on this website. However here are some of the photos we took.
After it moved off into the bush, we moved off to check the vultures at the Cheetah kill a short way away.
On arrival we were very surprised to see that the whole carcass had been eaten. In the 4 hours after we had seen the Cheetah kill there was very little left and all the vultures had gone. Except for these two.
What a morning.
The weather became cloudy and rain was forecast. So after a long lunch and rest we took a ride around and ended up at the Mooiplaas Picnic Site. The wind was blowing and the birds scarse. Something was up and they knew about it.
Looking across the river we realised we better get back to camp quickly. There was a massive dust cloud coming our way and rather fast. Perhaps the rain was behind it, we thought. Although the camp was right next door we had to drive about three kms to enter through the gate. By the time we reached the gate so had the dust cloud. Opening the gate we quickly got back to our campsite and battoned down the hatches as best we could. Thunder and lightening all around but very little rain unfortunately.
The next day we explored Mopani, its dam (the Pioneer Dam) and we took a drive down the way to Joubert’s Grave.
As we turned off the main road to the Mopani camp, there below us were Tsessebe and young. In the past Tsessebe were unusual to see, this trip we had numerous sightings of them predominantly in the area around Mopani.
There is a walk around the fence line below the Mopani restaurant and next to the Pioneer dam. Definitely worth a walk round as you can see the waterbirds up close and in the bush below the restaurant birds are seen and heard. Probably the sweetest of those was the call of the White-throated Robin-Chat.
We did encounter a Dove which had us perplexed for a while.
Here are some of the birds we saw along our walk.
On the opposite side of the dam from the camp there is a hide. And another hide is on the way there overlooking the dammed Tsendze river. Driving round to the first of the hides we came to a road block.
We waited patiently for them to clear off – and they did – up the bank to the right towards us in the photo. Just to the right across the bridge is the hide overlooking the river. However there was not much about while we were there. Every time that we have crossed that bridge we have seen Black Crake to the left. It was no different this time.
Opposite the entrance to the hide is a rocky koppie on which elephants were grazing and Sally noticed this ground Euphorbia.
A bit further along there is a turn off to the right to the Hide overlooking the Pioneer Dam. The view from the hide shows the size and extent of the dam.
The birds were on the other side and required the scope to identify them. On this side there was one camouflaged to the shoreline.
Next we headed down the S146 to Jopubert’s Grave. At first this seemed a lost cause at that time of day. Half way there we came across a tall koppie of rock with a rather interesting and large Baobab half way down it – facing us as we came along.
From a distance it looked evil as though it wanted to capture us in its arms.
It was a very unusual looking tree. Some photos from different angles. Not so creepy.
When we eventually got to the end of the road – having battled with a few elephant to get through we came to a river but no sign of a Grave. Now wondering if we weren’t a bit stupid trying to get passed the elephants which were on both sides of the road.
So to kill some time to give the elephants time to move on we took a side road to see where it went. Straight to Stapelkop Dam as it turns out. Very unexpected and a great surprise as it had a load of water in it and there was game and many waterbirds about. Also Vultures by the dozen on the dam wall – presumably coming for a dip. We stayed for over an hour with nobody else around.
Mopani was always a camp we used to avoid as driving though mopani trees never seemed to be productive for wildlife. However after the first time we stayed at Tsendze our impression changed drastically and this has become a must whenever we come to the Kruger.
Here are some photos of other birds we saw in the area.
In total we identified 140 different bird species. To see the list click here.
One of the least expected sightings was that of a Zebra with a Yellow-billed Oxpecker on its back. The furthest south that we have seen a Yellow-billed Oxpecker in the Park.
We arrived at Punda Maria quite early. Two signs greeted us at the entrance. One read “Go to reception to check in before choosing your camping site” and the other “no caravans to be taken to reception”. We ignored the former and chose our site before checking in.
There is a large waterhole just the other side of the fence next to the Hide. Also there is an ablution block with only one loo for men right there. Now this is the choice for everybody it seems – one on top of the other. Well not for us – we found a hardly known spot well away from the others – peace and quiet and a decent sized ablution block unused by most people. A level site in the shade to boot. Rocky helped with the set up.
Our normal routine was up at 04h00 and out of the camp before 05h00. We spent two long days in the Pafuri area and one early morning on the Mahonie loop round the camp. Another day was spent celebrated Sally’s birthday with a lie in till 06h00!! and then a relaxing time round the camp in the pool and with a short drive later in the afternoon.
Entertainment was never far away. And the elephants made sure of that. Every afternoon they arrived at the waterhole and what followed was much hooha. Elephants barging each other to get to the freshest water, male dominance displays especially when the hundreds of Buffalo came for a drink. Tussles between two males frequently and much bellowing – sometimes all night long. When we arrived the water level seemed reasonably high, on leaving it was almost bare.
Then there were the Cicadas. On previous visits they were most noisy along the road to the Klopperfontein Dam – sometimes deafeningly so. And it was unusual in the camp. This time they did a Mexican wave of sound in the camp. You could hear it coming and going from one end to the other. Fortunately it was not deafeningly loud but it did interupt conversations.
The Pafuri area next to the Livuvhu River is the place to visit for all birders. Unfortunately it is a one and a half hour drive to get there – very necessary therefore to get going as the gates open. Most birding is done between the bridge and Crooks Corner and sometimes a drive on the Nyala road. Probably the most productive place is the Pafuri Picnic Site.
Here we saw many of the species that we were hoping to see again along with some unexpected birds like the Black-throated Wattle-eye, Black Cuckoo and a close up view of an African Hawk-Eagle.
Most notable was the abundance of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers. They were once a dream to see, now the tables have turned and you hardly see any Red-billed Oxpeckers on Buffalo and Giraffe. The Red-billed are now on the smaller game – Impala and Warthogs.
We toyed with the idea of going on a sunset drive to see the Pennant-winged Nightjar but in the end we did not go. It is still being seen on those sunset drives. Fortunately for us we had seen them the last time we visited. I guess our decision was based on the fact that we had seen them before and we did not fancy spending three hours on a game vehicle. Here is a shot of one from the past:
The camp was relatively quiet except for those surrounding the hide on the fenceline. It still has the old-fashioned feel. We intended to catch up on our laundry as we were there for five nights. Not to be – the washing machine broke down in 2011 and now has disappeared as they could not fix it. About time they replaced it.
The restaurant still operates but the fancy food is highly priced and of questionable taste. I did let their management know in polite terms of course.
Everywhere was dry and dusty yet we had good sightings of many species – the most productive of the camps at 151 different bird species. Our bird list for Punda Maria can be seen by clicking here.
These pictures show the extent of the dryness and some of the scenery.
Animals too entertained us. Numerous elephants and Buffalos everywhere. No Rhino nor cats to be seen. A collared Kudu female was spotted on the Nyala Road in Pafuri – not seen one collared before.
The odd Leguaan also made an appearance;
Of the 10 South African Kingfishers, we saw seven and heard one other – the Striped Kingfisher. We had heard the Woodland Kingfisher from time to time on the way up to Punda and around Punda but it was only on our last day there (28 November) that we had our first viewing. Subsequent to that they were everywhere on our trip back down through the park.
We saw some of the specials seen mainly in that area, White-crowned Lapwing, Meve’s Starling and Tropical Boubou. No sign of any Spinetails and the more unlikely Senegal Coucal or Racket-tailed Roller.
Some of the other species photographed include:
Despite the heat and the dryness we enjoyed being back in Punda Maria.
Our next camp – Taendze for three nights. See Kruger Part 7 – Tsendze comming soon.
We only planned to have one full day here – and it was enough. Temperatures had climbed reaching over 420 C at times. Thankfully there was a swimming pool to cool us down each afternoon.
On the way to Shingwedzi from Balule we stopped at Letaba for breakfast – hoping to see the mad woodpecker again – not this time.
We had tea and some birding at Mooiplaas picnic site. A must as it is an interesting birding site with tall trees by the river and next to the wild rustic Tsendze campsite.
At the Tropic of Capricorn both Splat and Rocky took a starring role.
Tsessebe appeared out of nowhere and Zebra and Buffalo gave us a crossed legged display of how to get down to the water at one of the waterholes.
We eventually arrived at midday at the camp.
The tree beside our chosen site was visited by three different types of Woodpecker as we set up in the deserted camp.
Our time at Shingwedzi was spent dawdling down to the hide and Kanniedood Dam as well as taking the loop road to Bateleur Bushcamp and back along the Redrocks Road.
It is a good time of the year to visit this far north because few people venture even as far north as Letaba.
The hide was not worth the visit as there was no water in sight. However on the last loop road before the hide Sally spotted movement – a skulking Leopard below us alongside the river bed.
Everything was quiet further down towards the Kanniedood dam. Lack of water and damn hot.
That first evening we noticed three Little Swifts flying madly around inside the nearest kitchenette building to us. They were flying up and down, round and round and bashing into the wall. Eventually one fell to ground. I picked it up and released it outside but it went straight back in and it was soon on the floor again. This time we took it to our campsite and put it in a cool bag to settle down – planning to release it in daylight. Back at the kitchinette another Little Swift collapsed. Again I took it back to our site and Sally suggested releasing it away from the light. We did and it flew off into the night so we released the other as well. Peace and calm in the kitchenette and two happy birds we hope.
What was interesting was not only the very soft feel of the birds but also it gave us an opportunity to see their real size with wings extended.
On our one full day there, we headed down the road to the Bateleur Bushcamp. Very quiet most of the way. Anthills had silly expressions – as this one pointing us skyward.
But we did have a couple of great sightings. The most exciting and least expected was that of a Allen’s Gallinule. It was on its own in a small stretch of water in the river.
The other sighting was that of two White-headed Vultures doing a fly-over for us.
The road from the camp to the bridge is always interesting as it overlooks the river and has numerous large trees to investigate for Owls and other birds. At the bridge our first Broad-billed Roller was spotted.
A Martial Eagle flew over and another sat close for a photo.
A Goliath Heron had a Mad Hair Day in the river among other sightings.
Southern Ground Hornbills appeared on our travels round the camp – none had been ringed – much like those we had seen previously.
Despite our short visit we did manage to identify 97 different bird species. See list by clicking here.
From Shingwedzi we headed north to Punda Maria stopping at Babalala Picnic site for breakfast.
Our time at Punda Maria forms the next instalment. Kruger Part 6 – Punda Maria
On arrival we found a site by the fence close to where we had camped previously. We goofed on our estimation of the direction of the setting sun and ended up enjoying our afternoons in its full glory at 36 degrees and beyond unfortunately.
In the evenings the Hyenas made their patrol around the camp and one lay facing us with beseeching eyes every night – the same as happened when we last stayed at the camp.
We spent time on both nearby bridges checking out whatever appeared. That is the bridge on the main road and the fjording bridge by the camp.
One day crossing over we noticed numerous African Openbills landing up stream. Quite a sight through the scope.
Last year we came to try our luck at finding the Egyptian Vulture often reported as seen from the main bridge among the many White-backed Vultures. This year the White-backed Vultures were also present but like last year no sign of the Egyptian Vulture. However we did see Hooded Vultures below the bridge.
On two occasions we saw Southern Ground Hornbills.
On one drive we ended up on a new road following the Ngotso North river – not shown on our old map nor on the GPS. Coming from Satara heading north, it is the first road on the right after the Timbavati turnoff (Ntomeni Road S127). There is a sign saying no caravans and that it is a one way road.
It is on this road that we encountered a female Leopard and her sub-adult on a number of occasions. Not to be outdone, there was another female Leopard and sub-adult seen in a tree beside the main road after crossing the main bridge heading north – with a huge carcass of an Impala hanging in the tree.
On a visit to Letaba we had a strange sight of a Bearded Woodpecker trying to get into a electric power box in the campsite.
Birding was excellent and we identified 116 different bird species – see list by clicking here.