22nd June 2021
There is a particular little bird which spends part of the year in East Africa and then when the time is right it heads back to Europe. Only this time it turned the wrong way on leaving and became the first of its kind which has been positively identified south of the equator. And that was in Marloth Park bordering the Crocodile River on the south of the Kruger National Park.
It was immediately reported to Trevor Hardaker – administrator of the WhatsApp group “Rare Birds Report”. And he immediately posted it as a MEGA alert to the birding community on the WhatsApp group. Seen and photographed on Saturday 18th June 2021.
Our immediate thought was ” Pity it was so far away” (about 700 kms away). “Too far to go and probably would not be there if we were to try – also it is so small that we thought it unlikely that we would find it even if it was there”.
Over the weekend the news kept coming through that it was still there and in the same place. Eventually on Monday evening we decided to go the next morning – for 3 days! Our thinking was: “Well we need to get away and we would be right beside the Kruger if the bird disappeared”.
We booked a rondavel in Henk van Rooyen Park -the location where the bird was seen.
So Tuesday morning we left really early – before daylight but after the curfew which ends at 04h00. Arriving about 14h00 to see a number of birders from all over the country scouring the trees near the entrance. Many coming from Gauteng (4 hour journey) as a day trip.
Before we check in we mix with the birders there and learn that it had been seen earlier in the day. The bird hung out in the same general area in the trees close to the entrance we learned. We mill around with everyone for a while then check in and unpack before returning.
And then it appeared to everyone’s delight flittering back and forth among the trees. The bird was forever on the move thwarting the efforts to get a good look and take photos. You had to be persistent to spot it out in the open for any length of time. Being in the right spot at the right time was imperative.
I realised when I saw it for the first time that it was quite non-descript and that I would never have identified it nor would I have realised that it was extremely rare.
Having seen the bird we relaxed and made a plan to look for it each morning and evening and spend the rest of the time in the Kruger.
But first we did some birding around Henk van Rooyen Park.
As it happened my sister her husband and 2 grown children were in the south of the Kruger at the time we were there. We met up at Lower Sabie for lunch on one day and happened by chance to meet again at the Skukuza Golf club on the next day.
As usual the lower part of the Kruger has a great variety of birds to see. It is not unusual to see over 120 different species in a morning. Our count for the 2 mid-days we spent in the Kruger amounted to just that – 120. Not bad considering we did not get into the park early. Click on the link below to see the list of birds we identified.
We managed to see Lions on several occasions and had the luck to see a Leopard too.
There were 4 male Lions on the S28 at one sighting and one of them with a majestic mane.
Our Leopard sighting along the S25 was quite sad.
It had just caught its lunch only to be chased off by a roving pack of Hyenas. It sat and watched as the Hyenas guzzled the lot – squabbling among themselves.
Then there was the unusual sighting of a Tawny Eagle sitting beside a Black-backed Jackal which was devouring a meal – waiting for its opportunity to scrounge a bit.
I am sorry I have digressed. Back to the sighting in Henk van Rooyen Park. Here are some photos I managed to get. And yes it was a …………. see below..
Sally and Paul Bartho