15th February to 4th March 2022
Our hoped for objective was to see a variety of raptors feeding on the thousands of Red-billed Quelea on the open plains in the park which we were led to believe congregated at this time of the year.
Our first destination was Lower Sabie, followed by Satara, Shingwedzi and the Pafuri area (based at Nthakeni Bush and River Camp just outside the Pafuri Gate).
15th to 18th February 2022
One of the first sightings as we entered the Kruger – a very welcoming sight.
The campsite on arrival was fairly full. We managed to find a suitable spot but it did lack shade. Not to worry as it was almost constantly overcast while we were there.
Concerns started after our first outing. The batteries for car and car fridge were completely run down. Close by campers came to my assistance. A pair of jumper cables came out. They were attached and tried and burnt out! The cables were hot hot. Eventually I went to reception for help to get the car started. In no time help arrived and with 2 sets of jumper cables used the car was started. I then took the car for a 2 hour drive to get the batteries up to speed.
On return I checked all to see what could be causing the problem. This idiot had forgotten to plug the charging cable to the car fridge battery before he left Howick 3 days previously!! So I plugged it in to the Anderson plug on the battery box supplying power to the fridge. Problem solved.
Well not so. The next morning the car would not start again. Help came and this time a much thicker cable was used to start the car. And as I was not sure what was going on, I decided to drive into Komatipoort to buy a thick cable. None available, so I ended up buying a Jump Start battery instead.
On our final day at Lower Sabie the car would not start again but the Jump Start got us going. By now I was frantic to know why I had this continuous problem. So, for some reason I know not why, I decided to double check all my cable connections. And that is when I found a second Anderson Plug at the very bottom of the battery case which I should have used to keep the 2nd battery charged from the engine. The one I used was for charging from a solar panel. Since then all has been hunky-dory.
All those troubles aside, how did we enjoy our stay? Amazing start on the first morning.
Our first morning out was quite eventful. We crossed the bridge over the Sabie River and headed north towards Tshokwane. At the first intersection we decided to turn right on the S29. Then the action started.
We had gone not much more than 2 kms when we noticed an unusual bird on the road – a Crake of some sort. It started to run off the road as we stopped well back to put our goggles on it. Fortunately I was able to get a couple of photos and we were able to positively identify it. What was it doing so far away from water? Perhaps there was some sort of wetland close that we could not see.
What a start to the day. But we had not gone much further before there was more excitement. We heard a call that we immediately recognised as that of a Burchell’s Coucal. But there was another call which was not quite as recognisable and there it was right in front of us perched at the top of a short tree – a Black Coucal.
Wow. Could this get even better! Then it did.
As we watched the pair of Coucals , Sally glanced to the other side of the road as a Pallid Harrier came low past us. The black at the ends of the wings on an all white bird clearly identified it.
From there we headed to Leeupan, 7 kms south of Tshokwane on the H1-2. The pan was full – the first time I had seen it so in many many years.
We were in for a treat there too. Lesser Moorhens, African Pygmy Geese among other waterbirds. We saw a Lesser Gallinule but were unable to get a photo. Lesser Jacana were also present but we never found them. What a place. Apparently Olive Tree Warblers were calling there too.
Lesser Moorhen were aplenty.
And the Knob-billed Ducks
Later we took a stroll around the camp and had a number of lovely birds to see.
Meanwhile round the camp we bumped into an European Hobby.
And at Sunset Dam the waterbirds were present.
One day we visited Mpondo Dam – not much about but as we approached the dam from below we were again attacked. This time the creatures had really grown since we were last there. They obviously could hear us coming and were on the road as we approached. We stopped and they came after us. Terrapins. Now the size of a fist. Last November they were more the size of a watch face. Sally thinks people have been feeding them and that is why they come after us.
Occasionally we came across Vultures and Eagles but they were few and far between.
Then there were a range of Animals, Spiders and Damselflies which made for an attempt at good photography (they usually are still subjects).
The male Golden Orb Web Spiders try their luck mating with the much larger female. If they are in and out quick enough they might live another day. To help themselves to survive they try to serenade and distract the lady by playing spiderweb tunes to her.
European and Carmine Bee-eaters were seen unlike on our previous visit in November 2021. And there were plenty of European Rollers
On one occasion we came across a pair of White-faced Whistling Ducks alongside a pair of Hamerkops. Each pair were canoodling with each other, grooming and caressing.
Here are some of the other birds seen around Lower Sabie – as far afield as Crocodile Bridge, Skukuza and Tshokwane.
Then there are the endangered Southern Ground Hornbills which made a show.
And finally we end as we started with another Leopard sighting.
Our time in Lower Sabie was up and we were off to Satara for several days. Satara report to follow.
We were amazed to identify 161 different bird species in the time we were there.
Paul and Sally Bartho