Zululand October 2021

4th to 16th October 2021

Umfolozi and Hluhluwe.

4th to 8th October 2021

Zululand was calling. We always enjoy our time in Zululand and the time of year is usually good for birding especially as the migrants are returning.

Our plan: to spend four nights in each of three campsites: Nyalazi, Bonamanzi and St. Lucia (Sugarloaf).

We had heard that the Nyalazi campsite was close to the Umfolozi gate. Little did we realise it was literally only about 300 metres from the cattle grid which demarcates the entrance to the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park and less than 3 kms to the Nyalazi entrance gate into the Umfolozi side of the Park.

We had two choices to get to Nyalazi. Travel from Mtubatuba via the R618 and face the two lengthy Stop and Go hazards on the way.

Or alternatively travel 60 km further north on the N2 to the Centenary Gate entrance to Hluhluwe and then through the Park back south to the Nyalazi Gate. The latter alternative would takes us two or more hours of extra driving – admittedly partly through the Game Reserve. We mulled over the choices and decided to go on the shorter route.

Taking the road from Mtubatuba, we prepared ourselves for the two “Stop and Go s”. A South African experience to be avoided in future. No problems till we got to the first of the Stop and Go signs. It then became apparent that the sign was meaningless for many vehicles. Taxis and other local vehicles overtook the queues and went round the Stop and Go despite it being the right of way for oncoming traffic. This happened at both Stop and Go s.

Painfully slow going but we eventually arrived at the campsite.

The camp has 8 campsites. All well laid out for privacy. Each had water and power. They had been levelled and then coarse sand applied. There was also a communal ablution – clean and with hot water. The campsite owners Nunu and … (http://www.nyalazicamp.com/) met us and were extremely friendly. We chose a site at the lowest point in the camp with a view into Umfolozi some few hundred metres distant.

After setting up camp we took a drive into Umfolozi. The first three animals we saw were Elephant, White Rhino and Buffalo – good start animalwise. Birds however were scarce due to the weather. Cold, cloudy with a threat of rain which duly arrived and stayed for most of the time we were there. Mainly as a cold drizzle.

Our days were spent enjoying both Umfolozi – partly overcast with no rain on one day and drizzly on the other. And Hluhluwe – quite rainy and muddy of the tar roads.

Photos of the habitat.

Here are some photos of the birds and animals that we saw in our campsite and in Umfolozi.

As I said earlier we had a very wet and misty day in Hluhluwe. Both animals and birds were scarce. Having said that the sightings we did have were interesting.

Hluhluwe habitats

Why was this Buffalo lying on the road with an empty stomach?

Perhaps the answer lay nearby.

Then there were two Rhinos playing “Pick up Sticks” (Do you remember the game we played all those years ago?).

A few other photos taken in Hluhluwe.

On our last evening we had a not so cute visitor.

Altogether we identified quite a number of different bird species in both areas of the Park. See at end of report which species we sa in each area we visited. Our list for these areas was not bad considering the conditions.

On our last morning we drove through Hluhluwe to the Memorial Gate on our way to Bonamanzi.

Bonamanzi

8th to 12th October 2021

On the way to Bonamanzi we hoped to stop at the Checkers in Hluhluwe town to re-provision. We were hoping it had not been burnt down in the riots. Our hopes were granted.

Not everything went smoothly though due to a huge crowd of people inside and outside, power cuts with tellers and customers who dawdled at the checkout tills. A train of blaring political vehicles drove through the garage next to the store causing chaos there and blocking traffic in the store parking lot. Over an hour later we were on our way again.

At last we arrived at Bonamanzi reception. Through the grapevine we had heard that the Bonamanzi wilderness area was now open for individuals to drive around in their own vehicles. So at the desk I asked them to confirm. To our surprise the receptionist said it was true. To enter the areas we were told to ignore the No Entry signs. We took full advantage of this and covered about perhaps half of the roads/paths.

Our campsite was located at Bundu. Our tracks and coloured Blue.

As you can see from the map of our tracks we covered an extensive area during the 3 full days we were there. On the east we went into the wetland area and followed the canal for about 3 kms. And the north and west tracks are in the Game area.

We had chosen a campsite with our own ablution and kitchen. The site had water and electricity. We were allocated campsite 10. The campsite consisted of only four sites – each with masses of space. On arrival there was only one other camper and we were left alone after 2 nights.

On the second day there the one of the people in the other campsite came across and told us they had seen a huge bull elephant and logged its co-ords. It was until he got back that he realised that it was very close to our campsite. In all the years we have been visiting Bonamanzi we have never seen one there despite the occasional sightings of very old droppings. In our minds it had become a myth.

In Bonamanzi there are six camping areas, A Forest Camp with six sites (own ablutions) The old main camp now split into 2 sections of 6 sites in each. One sharing ablutions and the other with individual toilet and kitchen facilities. Then there was our site with four campsites (own ablutions). The previous campsites numbered 5 and 6 are still the same but now numbered 17 and 18. Finally the Dinizulu picnic area has been converted into 6 non-powered campsites with shared ablutions.

I doubt there were more than 6 campsites occupied in total while we were there.

Of interest, there was a film crew building old African village sets in the Bonamanzi bush. Did not find out what the film was called.

Our time was spent mainly driving around the game area. The weather was also unpredictable here with most days overcast, drizzly from time to time and very windy.

The game and wetland areas were interesting to drive around and a 4×4 was necessary in some places where the roads were muddy and at other times waterlogged.

Here are photos of the lovely birds and animals we saw while there:

At the edge of one of our drives in the game area we came across a flock of Barn Swallows sitting on a fence line. We had seen the odd Barn Swallow but no where near in these numbers. They are back in a big way.

In the wetland area Sally noticed Pelicans flying away from us. They were White-backed Pelicans and above the lower ones there must have been a good 100 flying.

We had seen a bird in Mapungubwe and watched its interesting behaviour of crossing the road like a chameleon. We were so fortunate at the time to watch its behaviour and never expected to see it again – let alone so soon. But there one was before our eyes in the game area doing just that – a Common Buttonquail.

In the grounds around the reception area we found this cycad among several others all with fruit. The fruit had a plastic look to it .

Then there were our night visitors – three of them scampering around our feet as we cooked – quite brazen.

But they were not the only animals visiting our camp. As we sat inside having dinner – cold and windy outside – we heard noises in the campsite. The sound of trampling and bushes and trees being knocked about. Then it became louder and closer. A tree pushed over, then another and another. Quite obviously an unhappy elephant.

It was not to the next morning that we observed the damage. Apart from campsite trees being uprooted, the elephant had up rooted one of the water points and water was everywhere. It was not that he was thirsty as he knows the pool right next door. He was just being his grumpy self. We were later told that he does this regularly at all the campsites and would probably stay away from this site for a month before returning.

During our time there we identified 118 different bird species.

St. Lucia

12th to 16th October

And then we went to St. Lucia to the Sugarloaf campsite for four nights.

During our time at Sugarloaf we explored both Western and Eastern Shores in Izimangalizo Wetland Park, False Bay and went for a long walk on the beach towards Maphelane.

African Goshawk

We have stayed at Sugarloaf often. It has about 100 campsites, each with power. Sugarloaf habitat is well suited for a variety of birds. It is well treed, shady and has mostly flat sites. There are 4 ablution blocks spread throughout the camp. It was empty – maximum 6 other campsites occupied during the 4 nights we were there sadly. I remember on one visit we logged about 95 different bird species in the camp.

Here is one of the special birds we saw in the campsite a Bananabill as we call it.

Just to let you know that the St Lucia Ski-Boat Club restaurant has re-opened following its closure during the Covid-19 crisis. We enjoyed Fish and Chips there one evening.

On our first day we went to the Western Shores in the Izimangalizo Wetland Park. After all the rains you can see from the slideshow below why it is called a Wetland Park.

It was a chilly and windy day hence birdlife was quiet.

Some photos.

We did get a view of an African Marsh Harrier quartering a field and diving for prey.

On another very windy day we took a drive to False Bay. The water level was way higher than we had seen in the past few years. It was right up to the road heading south. The birds were few and far between but we were entertained by 4 Yellow-billed Storks feeding along the shore line – see video below.

We did visit Eastern Shores on several occasions. Fortunately on one afternoon drive the weather conditions improved and we had an hour in the hide at kuMfazana Pan. The activity had improved from the day before. Migrants were about – Common Sandpipers, Common Ringed Plovers, Greenshank, Wood Sandpipers. Little Grebes and Black-winged Stilts were present. A group of African Spoonbills flew from side to side, Collared Pratincoles were on the grass by the water’s edge opposite us. Two groups of Water Thick-knees had a barney right in front of the hide hurtling loud insults at each other before settling down together. Even a rather pregnant Bushbuck came for a drink.

At Catalina Bay the water was right below the hide. No waders nor shore birds. However there was a bat sleeping on the floor of the hide overlooking the bay.

We were able to have a pleasant walk along the beach at Cape Vidal and observed Sanderlings and White-fronted Plovers enjoying the water’s edges. And the occasional Grey-headed Gull flying around.

From Cape Vidal we headed back onto the Grassland Loop. As you drive on the raised causeway between Lake Bengazi and the eMfabeni Swamp there was water on both sides right up to the causeway. not something we have seen in a while.

It was on the Grassland Loop that we saw a variety of game, Buffalos and Kudu in particular.

A pair of male Kudu posing together. Photos taken on the road to Mission Rocks.

Back to the Grassland Loop. Our best sighting was that of a Denham’s Bustard trying to cross the road ahead of us.

We had heard that a Rufous-bellied Heron had been seen at the iMboma Pan on the Pan Loop. We had visited several times with no luck. We had also checked the Amazibu Hide and Sally had a fleeting sighting on the first visit of what she thought might have been the Rufous-bellied Heron but she was uncertain. So from the Grassland Loop we headed for the Amazibu Hide.

On the way we spotted an Egret in one of the wetland areas and stopped to check it out. First thoughts was that it was probably a Great Egret but with a closer look through the scope we could see that it was in fact an Intermediate Egret. As you can see from the photos the gape stops below the eye – not passed it.

By now the wind was up and when we got to Amazibu Hide it was blowing like crazy. A quick stop but no chance as everything had hunkered down.

The next morning we went back and checked the pans on the Pan Loop without success. At the Amazibu hide we sat down and waited to see if Sally’s bird appeared. No wind and birds about. we waited and enjoyed the time out of the car. We waited. Then Sally got excited she could just see a head appear in the grass. Was it? Yes, it was the Rufous-bellied Heron. In fact Sally thought she had seen two. (Now we know there were actually three, 2 adults and a juvenile). Special sighting as the bird made itself well visible.

The beach and the lagoon are well worth a visit as long as it is not windy. Our first few days it was far too windy and overcast so we never ventured there. However on our last full day the coast was clear – no wind and blue skies. We got up early and went.

In the past when you walked down the boardwalk to the beach the water level was low enough to create sand banks and muddy patches. You could look out over water almost all the way to Maphalane. Now there is a mass of reeds within a 100 metres of dense reeds and all the mud and sand banks have gone.

The view of what used to be a lagoon – now just reeds with a patch of open water here and there.

A slideshow of the the beach habitat.

We walked maybe 3 kms along the sand dunes towards Maphalane before we came across a break in the reeds. This was where the beach had been breached and where the water birds were. Looking back towards the boardwalk you can see the extent of the new reed beds.

Along the walk we had a few interesting sightings. There was a Brimstone (Bully) Canary singing its heart out. Then at the sea’s edge we spotted White-fronted Plovers, a Common Whimbrel and a Ruddy Turnstone.

A pair of African Fish-Eagles were loudly serenading each other perched on a nearby dune much to the annoyance of the birds scurrying around the shore line feeding on this and that.

Fortunately at this breached section there were no reeds. And there were plenty of birds but not so in numbers of different species. Perhaps it was a bit early for the waders to return in numbers.

Pied Avocets, Greater Crested Terns and hundreds of what we thought were only White-faced Whistling Ducks (more round the corner to the right).

Of the waders present we saw another Common Whimbrel and mainly Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints.

There were about 50 Pied Avocets all together.

It was not long before a flock of Great Crested (Swift) Terns arrived.

A Little Egret appeared and walked in front of everyone showing its brilliant yellow feet.

Little Egret

On closer inspection of the White-faced Whistling Ducks we noticed that seven Fulvous Ducks were amongst them. This took us by surprise. Amongst the White-faced Whistling Ducks they did not stand out very well.

Fulvous among the White-faced Whistling Ducks – easily overlooked.

And that was our 12 days in Zululand.

During that time we recorded 205 different bird species. Click on the link below to see what we saw and where.

Hope you enjoyed the Read.

Sally and Paul Bartho

Kruger and Limpopo – Part 2.

Limpopo

10th to 24th August 2021

Leaving Nthakeni Bush and River Camp, Sally and I headed to Tshipise to stock up and spend some time relaxing. This was the start of our time in various Camps in the Limpopo region and a continuation of our trip which started in the Kruger.

10th to 13th August 2021

Three nights at the Forever Resort was more than adequate time to stock up and relax. We even had time and places to bird in the resort as well as to visit The Sagole Big Tree.

A bit about the resort. On entry the resort looks great – spacious, well laid out and green. Cottages dotted around in pleasant surroundings. However when you enter the campsite area you enter a different world. It was populated by trailers and tents chock-a-block and canvas spread out from one to the next.

There was an empty area which we avoided as we were told by previous visitors that the bats come out at night flying from one tree to the next and pooping on the way over unaware campers.

Luckily for us we found a campsite away from other people on a flat area on the hillside on the left as we entered. So we placed our caravan to look into the bush and up the hill with the squatter camp out of view. A great campsite birding view.

The birds were lively and we were entertained by a number of Robins- White-throated Robin-Chat, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Bearded Scrub-Robin as well as Red-capped Robin-Chats. Often all together forever on the move. Other species also passed through. At night we heard and saw a pair of African Wood-Owl.

Wandering along one of the roads to the stables we noticed trees full of Red-faced Mousebirds. At the stables we listened to a bird calling and spotted a Klaas’s Cuckoo above us. It was a productive walk with many interesting species like Burnt-necked and Yellow-bellied Eremomelas, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Brown-crowned Tchagra, African Harrier-Hawk, Grey-backed Cameroptera, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrikes to name a few.

The Big Tree was calling – from less than 50kms away. Out came the GPS and we plotted the way – well the GPS plotted the way and we followed it. Big mistake.

We followed the suggested blue route. It was only when we got to a point of no sense in returning that we realised we had been misled. The route was taking us through one local community after another on some interestingly rough roads. We should have continued along the main road and then turned south directly to the Big Tree – the route was not shown as an alternative but it was the way we returned.

Eventually we got there and paid our R50 entrance fee and drove to The Big Tree. Coming round one corner there was a large Baobab. Placed there to confuse tourists into thinking they had arrived.

It was not as we remembered so we continued. Arriving we sat in awe as we took in the actual size of the tree. It takes 20 grownup holding hands to completely encircle its girth. The largest tree by girth in Africa and second largest in the world. There were two previous Baobabs in South Africa with larger girths but they both died recently – 2009 and 2016.

A breeding colony of Mottled Spinetails (mottled spinetails) are said to be resident in the tree but they made no appearance when we were there. On our previous visit some years ago we heard them inside the tree and we were fortunate to be there at the right time to see them as they exited.

And that was the highlight of our visit to Tshipise. Next time we stay at Nthakeni we shall visit the Big Tree from there – only 57 kms away.

In all we identified 61 different bird species.

Our next destination was Boelamien River Camp for three nights.

13th to 16th August 2021

Boelamien Campsites are located on the banks of the Limpopo River with the Tuli Bloc (Botswana) on the opposite bank. The sites have power and there is an ablution block with hot water geysers. The sites are flat, among the trees and set apart from each other. We were in campsite 3 partly in the open. Next time we would opt for campsite 2 – well shady for summer time visits. Our site unfortunately had those niggling dubbeltjies aplenty (small grass thorns which irritatingly have a habit of painfully sticking into feet and on sox by the dozen).

Our days were spent wandering up and down river birding – on our side of the bank of course. It was a change from being in the car all day. Once parked our car stayed put for all three days. The Meve’s Starlings visited and sang at all times of the day. Woodpeckers were seen and heard knocking in the overhanging dead tree in front of us.

There was elephant poo everywhere – in the camp, on paths and in the bush. Obviously a large herd had stayed a while sometime in the past. Must have been challenging for those staying in the campsite at that time.

Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls were heard every morning and we eventually found a pair. Ground Hornbills flew across the river to our side and were seen several times on our walks. We were told that there was a pair of Pels Fishing-Owls further downstream – in a holey tree. Unfortunately we never found them – maybe they took the days off when we were there.

Pels Fishing-Owls’ holey tree

We were able to take long walks both up and down river. Birds surprised us in each direction. It was not the best time of the year to see a large variety of different bird species. However, many of the birds we did see were quite special. We would love to return at a better birding time of the year.

Walking up river we passed a hunting camp and came to a section of the river more open, shallow and sandy – a better area to see waders and waterbirds.

Birds seen along the way included Black-faced Waxbill, a pair of Saddle-billed Storks………

Walking back late one afternoon we passed a pod of Hippos. There was one who disliked our presence and barked at us. We had not heard that sound from a Hippo before.

Downstream also had its interests. The river was more suitable for waterbirds but not waders. Walking alongside the river we often heard and fleetingly saw buck and a couple of rodent-like creatures which scampering away. We surmised them to possibly be Canerats or maybe Lesser Canerats.

We had heard the Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl often downstream and went looking for it. As luck would have it we saw a pair on several occasions..

Six Southern Ground Hornbills were seen flying across the river into RSA. They called constantly and we saw them whenever we ventured down river. They are one of the six birds with the largest wing span in Southern Africa.

Down river we saw crocodiles. In the camp we heard Hippos as they scrambled over the weir and plopped upstream. They were kind enough not to wander around the campsite at night.

We met a lovely family of three generations in Campsite 2. Carel Bosman’s family.

I took this photo – unfortunately without Carel. It was a spur of the moment shot. Carel had sent all the family to see Splat in my car. To show them Splat and its antics I had the family gather together 10 metres in front of the car. My camera was handy so I took a shot.

No doubt you want to know about Splat. Splat sits on my car mirror when we drive around the game parks – waving with both hands as each vehicle approaches. People’s responses when they see him varies from finger wagging (implying that wild animals are not allowed in the park), broad smiles showing lovely white teeth, an automatic wave back and then a puzzled look as they get closer, and laughter. Game vehicles often stop and the guests want to take pictures. Here is a picture of Splat when he stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn in the Kruger.

We recorded 78 different bird species while at Boelamien.

After three nights we left for a visit to Blouberg Nature Reserve.

16th to 19th August 2021

Blouberg NR has the largest colony of Cape Vultures in the country and sometimes a rare Ruppell’s Vulture can be seen there. We had been meaning to visit for many years.

There are 6 powerless campsites and an ablution block with a donkey boiler. Each of the sites are quite private. Ours was down a long lane to a shady site at the end. Very private.

The reserve has several attractions: a vulture restaurant, an eye-level hide at a waterhole, a “fig” forest area to the west and of course the Vulture colony on the other side of the reserve. Typical vegetation:

There were no recent carcasses at the Vulture restaurant unfortunately. However the eye-level hide at a waterhole was where we spent a lot of time. It was an active area not only for birds but beasts as well.

The first thing we noticed were Red-billed Queleas in their thousands. They were not only visible by eye but by ear as well. A quiet noise as they arrived from the surrounding trees and took their place around the edges of the waterhole. One or two sips of water then off they went as they were replaced by incoming birds. Suddenly there would be an alarm and they would all take off together with a very loud whooshing sound – loud enough to drown out all other sounds. Spectacular.

Listen to the sounds of the Red-billed Quelea in this short video clip. Then imagine that 10 fold representing the actual number of birds there.

A small number of the Red-billed Queleas trying to drink.

Other birds photoed at the waterhole when they were able to find a spot:

And here are some of the other birds photographed in the reserve:

A wide variety of animals came in regularly for a drink. There were Impala, Zebras, Nyalas, Warthogs, Baboons and Giraffe. Then there were Waterbucks, Hartebeest and Kudu.

Then there was a group of four buck that we had never seen before. They were small like an Impala, had a grey woolly coat, white undersides , white eye-rings, long pointy ears and long-necked like a Llama.

Giraffe appeared then made their way slowly towards the water. Two steps forward then stop and look around. In general the animals were quite skittish. One alarm and they are all off and away. Like the Zebra in this series of photos.

Having come to Blouberg NR we had to make an effort to get to the other side of the mountain to see the Cape vulture colony. The 20 km drive took over an hour and a half to get there. The reason – the road that we took was definitely a 4×4 challenge. Fortunately we took the fenceline road back which saved us at least half an hour. Our big mistake was to leave it too late in the day to get there. Consequently we had little time when we arrived. The birds were distant and we could never have picked out a Ruppell’s Vulture among all the Cape Vultures even with a scope as it was quite a distance away and the nest-sites were all in shadow in the afternoon.

In total we identified 67 different bird species.

And then it was time to depart for Mapungubwe and Mazhou campsite in the western part of the National Park.

19th to 23rd August 2021

Mapungubwe National Park is one of our favourites to visit. Choose the right time of year when the migrants are present and you never know what will turn up. Two of the very specials we have seen there are the Three-banded Courser and the Pels Fishing-Owl. The latter we have seen all five times we have visited – in the same place.

Campsite:

There are two separate areas to Mapungubwe – the East and West side. The reception is in the East and our Mazhou Campsite is in the West. The two sides are about 30kms apart by the main road or 20 kms cross country past Den Staat farm.

We spent most of our time in the West, birding along the Limpopo River, mornings and evenings in the hide at the waterhole and opposite the entrance gate with tracks in the open countryside.

Along the road by the Limpopo River we found a couple of lookout places over the river. One of them required 4×4 to reach the river, it was so sandy. There was some water in the river and we saw a number of waders.

The Maloutswa Hide overlooks a fair size pan. Not a lot of water but enough to keep the animals and birds watered.

The pan is supplied with water which enters just below the hide. One early morning we arrived to find four large elephants drinking from the pipe – one with his trunk engulfing the pipe. As we opened up the shutters we suddenly realised that they were there within touching distance. Fortunately they were more interested in the fresh water than us.

We had one surprising sighting early one morning – two colourful Bushpigs came down to drink. We did not realise that they were so colourful.

The usual Impala, Zebra, Warthog and Wildebeest also came to drink. A pair of Black-backed Jackal wandered around the pan looking for whatever they could find. To our surprise Eland also appeared.

Colourful birds came – Black-headed Orioles, Meyer’s Parrots, Swainson’s Spurfowls and Grey Go-away-birds – and enjoyed the pan with their wader friends. And then there were the Red-billed Queleas in their thousands.

There is a dry and parched area opposite the Guardhouse entrance with tracks that you can explore – some need 4×4 not only for the wet areas but because the tracks cover some extremely rocky outcrops. We had not checked those tracks before so it was an interesting and rewarding experience for us. Mostly ground birds. Great Sparrow, Chestnut-backed and Grey-backed Sparrow-Larks were our specials.

One morning we went across to the western side. Once through reception we turned left heading for Treetop and the Confluence. After that we headed towards Poacher’s Corner and completed the circle back to reception.

At the start the road overlooks some magnificent scenery over the landscape below – best shown in the clip below.

Then just round the corner excitement awaited us. In the road ahead was a small bird which I came too close to. Expected it to fly – it didn’t. Fearing I might hit it if it flew I stopped and reversed. and this is what we observed. Behaviour we had not seen before and behaviour which helped us to identify the bird.

Common Buttonquail.

What a start to the day. And we had a number of other such pleasurable experiences in store for us.

We took a right turn onto a dead end road leading to Leokwe Camp. Leokwe Camp has quite a number of cottages laid out in a rocky valley surrounded by cliffs. A spectacular location. As usual, as we were about to enter the valley we were stopped by the sight of two dainty Klipspringers beside us overlooking the valley. And a Dassie on the other side of the road.

Leokwe Camp

From Leokwe we went to the Treetop walkway. Unfortunately half the walkway had gone the way of the Limpopo river.

Treetop lookout.

Despite missing half the boardwalk we were still allowed to walk to its new end. Quite windy at the time and a bit wobbly!!

At the confluence we stopped for tea. Very windy and cool so we did not stop long. But in that short time frame we had some great bird sightings. A Kori Bustard flew passed us, a pair of African Hawk-Eagles flew overhead and then a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles flew over.

Topography at the Confluence Lookout:

Next we headed along the river to Poachers Corner. Spotting a Steenbok, an Elephant and a Rock statue along the way.

At Poachers Corner there is a good view over the river where waterbirds can be seen.

Just round the corner is Zebra Pan – an attractive pan with interesting birds sometimes seen there.

Zebra Pan

However our intention at Poachers Corner was to find the Pels Fishing-Owl(s) which lurks in one of two large trees close to the old SADF bunker. The previous time we had to park our vehicle and walk with a member of staff to get to the trees. Today there is a rough road round them.

Within minutes to our joy we spotted our prey. Isn’t he gorgeous. Another one of the top six Southern African birds with the largest wingspan.

Completing the circle we arrived at a small pan just before reception. Waterbirds were aplenty – Red-billed Teals, Little Grebes, the odd Egyptian Goose and White-faced Ducks with their arses in the air most of the time.

We identified 107 different bird species of which the following stood out for us: Common Buttonquail and its antics, Pels Fishing-Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle, Great Sparrow, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Larks, Meyer’s Parrots, African Hawk-Eagle and of course the Bushpigs.

23rd to 25th August 2021

We were chatting to one of the campers at Mapungubwe asking about where to stay just north of Pretoria on our way home. As it happened he was the owner of Thorn Tree Bush Camp in Dinokeng near Rust De Winter. So that decided where to stay over on the way home. His description of the place piqued our interest so we stayed for two nights – giving us a day to explore the reserve.

As you will see from the pictures it was a well dry area. That said it produced several special bird species that we had not identified on our trip.

Our campsite had its own ablutions with ample hot water. The site was flat and the birdlife around it was plentiful and teasing. There were also tented lodgings and a reception area with a swimming pool.

There were plenty of different bird species in the camp. Here are some of those.

Dinokeng is reputed to have several of the Big Five animals. We unfortunately saw none. Mind you our time was short. We did however see some special bird species.

A map of the trails to explore in Dinokeng;

Coqui Francolins surprised us as we came round one corner. Six of them – a family. Special.

Another surprise Southern Pied Babblers

Then to cap it off for me, was to see why a White-backed Mousebird is so called.

A most enjoyable stopover on the way home.

It was great to get back into Limpopo to do some birding. There is always something different to see and experience. Happy memories.

On the way home we were held up for 45 minutes.

Entertaining to watch how the truck got back on its feet.

A brief Summary of how many different bird species we recorded in and around each camp we visited – for the whole trip including the Kruger:

Here is a list of what we considered to be special bird sightings on our trip through the Kruger NP and Limpopo.

Hope you have enjoyed the read.

Paul and Sally Bartho

Blood Moon in Mapungubwe NP

Kruger and Limpopo – Part 1

27th July to 24th August 2021

August and September are not the best months to go birding but we needed to get away and test our new caravan. The weather was variable – and mostly cool to cold with a few days of T-shirt weather – also not good for birding. However we made the best of it and enjoyed our time up north especially in the Limpopo region outside of the Kruger NP.

After struggling to find places to camp in the Kruger, we eventually found 3 nights in Crocodile Bridge, 2 nights in Satara, 4 nights in Shingwedzi followed by 2 nights in Tsendze. It had to be in that order for only those nights at each of those camps as the park was full. It was the only sequence available. We had hoped to stay longer but unusually even Punda Maria was full.

With that booked we then made a plan to see other places in Limpopo. Leaving Tsendze we headed north for Nthakeni Bush and River Camp (just outside the Pafuri gate) spending 3 nights there, followed by 3 nights at Tshipise (to the west) to replenish food stocks and to see “The Big Tree” – Sagole Baobab (second largest tree by girth in the world) – absolutely impressive. A must see if you are in the area.

From Tshipise we headed west for a little known place on the Limpopo River past Alldays – Boelamien River Camp. 3 nights there then 3 nights at Blouberg Nature Reserve, followed by 4 nights at Mapungubwe National Park, and 2 nights at a campsite in Dinokeng – Thorn Tree Bushcamp – just north of Pretoria before heading home.

Part 1. The Kruger

27th July to 10th August 2021

Crossing the Crocodile River

A long drive to Crocodile Bridge in the Kruger NP – just over 9 hours, we arrived in time to set up camp and go for a short late afternoon drive. Three nights there meant we had only two full days to explore the vicinity round the camp and explore further afield – the S25 following the Crocodile River towards Malelane, north to Skukuza, Lower Sabie and as far north as Tshokwane.

Welcomed by a friendly female Bushbuck

We had sightings of Cheetah and Leopards before we eventually saw a Lion. Elephants abound and Buffalo present. No Rhinos seen however.

Our campsite and typical scenery.

Our Campsite

Sunset Dam nearby Lower Sabie Camp is a “must” visit. There is always activity there of some sort. Crocodiles and Hippos in the water or lying on the banks. Birds on the banks and in the dead trees in the Dam.