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Kruger trip February 2014

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Old Tuesday 25th March 2014, 18:37   #26
amears
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Am enjoying this thread - and that's one stunning photo, Martyn. Here's my diary entry from late Oct09, just for fun,
Andy.

Night drives were a highlight and as soon as we’d arrived at Punda Maria, we asked if we could be booked in for that evening. We were in luck, there were 2 places free. The rest of the spaces turned out to be taken by a group of friendly UK birders from Yorkshire and this meant that when the guide asked what we were hoping to see, she was met with a chorus of “Pennant-winged Nightjar!” I think she probably rolled her eyes, but she also informed us that we were lucky – the first Pennant-wing of the season had been seen the night before. This was luck indeed as we hadn’t researched the nightjar’s seasonal movements in any detail. As dusk fell, we were nervously waiting around the vehicle in the favoured area of dry, stony scrub – but no nightjar showed. A tense van full of birders headed slowly back in the dark and then the shout went up, “On the road!” A surreal, adult male Pennant-winged Nightjar. Great views of it perched in the head lights were followed by several outrageous fly-bys and everyone was very, very happy.
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Old Tuesday 25th March 2014, 18:44   #27
Farnboro John
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Not the best photo I've ever taken, but you get the idea. Amazing birds

Cheers
Martyn
In that case would you mind posting the best photo you've ever taken because that nightjar is 100% astonishing and incredibly beautiful!

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Old Saturday 29th March 2014, 10:39   #28
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White Crowned Lapwing (spurs)

I hope you go back to the Kruger. It is even better weeks earlier. I am not much of a birder, but I try to learn. Can you, or anyone tell me about the white crowned lapwing and their appearance? I speak of what look like black spurs, but are, I think, just feathers folded under the white outer feathers. Do only the males have these? Are they for display in mating or all year around? I can post a photo if needed.







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Thanks for the comments folks. Both the Buffalo and Elephant that approached my car seemed to be just vaguely curious; the elephant wasn't twitching his ears, which I thought was a good sign.
27/2/14 cont.
Taking off from Shingwedzi I got my first sight of White Backed Vultures wheeling around overhead, with one Lappet Faced Vulture, showing the big difference in size.
A solitary Black Crowned Chagra showed well.
In front of me on the road was a raptor which was clearly a harrier when it flew. I was advised later that it was likely to be a Montagu's Harrier. In bushes to the right I saw my first Black Cuckoo Shrike, which became commoner the further north I went, and a pair of Burchell's Coucal.
In some reeds there were Sedge Warblers displaying (just as they do in Europe).
By a pond there was a Malachite Kingfisher, Jameson's Firefinch and Blue Waxbills.

I decided to press on towards Parfuri as it would be my only opportunity to see this changed ecosystem, with some unique birds. There was an abrupt change in habitat as trees changed from the low bush of the Open Savannah which is based on flat Basaltic soil that had been with me since I entered the park to what is called the ' Baobab Rugged Veld', with taller trees.
On the dirt road towards Parfuri Picnic Site I saw a Brown Snake Eagle and my first Meve's Starling, one of the species that are only seen around Parfuri.
At the picnic site beside the Luvulhu River, I met my first fellow tourists of the day, up until now I had the road to myself.
I met Frank, the well-known bird-expert ranger who is usually to be found there. Frank looked at my ID confusions on my camera and Id'ed the female Violet Starling which I'd thought was a thrush!
He brought me out of the shade into the intense heat to try and see a calling White Browed Scrub Robin. I glimpsed it briefly but couldn't tick it and we both withdrew to the shade as the heat was too much.
There were crocodiles lazily floating down-stream and a Common Sandpiper flew past.
I drove on towards Crooks Corner and began to see lots of European Bee-eaters, and my first of many Broad Billed Rollers, another bird of the extreme north of the Kruger. A bronze coloured Diderick's Cuckoo fed high in a tree. On the ground I saw Village Indigobird and my first ever solitary Red Billed Quelia, one of the most abundant birds on the planet!
At Crook's Corner where the Luvulhu meets the Limpopo river I got my first pair of White Crowned Lapwing and Red Billed Firefinch and a Fish eagle sat in a nearby tree. I went as far as the border crossing with Mozambique but didn't fancy dealing with border officials even though I had my passport on me.
Instead I headed back to Punda Maria Camp, about 35km south west.
When I got there I was disappointed not to find any birds at all apart from House Sparrows! There was a troupe of baboons and i wondered had they scared off the birds. I tried the start of the Mahonnie loop before the sun went down but didn't see anything new (European rollers everywhere of course).
Still, I had 21 lifers for the day. No point in being greedy, it was a hugely satisfying day.Attachment 488092

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Old Sunday 30th March 2014, 17:08   #29
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Padraig,

Great report and images

did you arrange the complete trip by yourself - i.e. without any local or tour guide help
sorry about the delay Bill. Yes, I booked everything before I left home: flight to Nelspruit, rental car at Nelspruit airport, two nights in Hazyview and a night each at Letaba, Shingwedzi and Punda Maria. No guides.
it was just a taster trip and I knew I would miss out on lots of common birds; i can think of at least 2 times where I was unable to identify a species; not surprisingly a raptor in the air and a cisticola.
From reading about Pennant-winged Nightjars at Punda Maria, I feel I should have organised a Sunset drive. Unfortunately I was tired from a long drive (50km/hour slows you down) and too much sun at Parfuri. There was also a lack of people to talk to at Punda Maria the night I was there.
I'm thinking of going back this year and filling in the gaps left by the first trip.
Good luck if you decide to organise your own trip. Its not difficult to do.

Padraig.
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Old Wednesday 9th April 2014, 10:55   #30
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Nice trip, Padraig, glad you enjoyed it. Just got back from Kruger myself, and I was astonished at the frequency of European Rollers, far more than I have seen in the past. I had to work hard to find a lilac-breasted roller, which is usually common. No idea if there is a reason for this, but perhaps somebody could comment.
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Old Saturday 19th April 2014, 23:48   #31
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Have you had a chance to discuss this with anybody Dave?
Do European Rollers do 'irruption' years? You may have heard of Waxwings 'irrupting' every so often from Scandinavia and turning up in large flocks eating berries outside the local supermarket in Britain and Ireland. It usually happens when they run out of food in Scandinavia.
I can't imagine an equivalent explanation for Rollers though.
Any thoughts anyone?

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Old Tuesday 22nd April 2014, 06:24   #32
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Nice trip, Padraig, glad you enjoyed it. Just got back from Kruger myself, and I was astonished at the frequency of European Rollers, far more than I have seen in the past. I had to work hard to find a lilac-breasted roller, which is usually common. No idea if there is a reason for this, but perhaps somebody could comment.
Dave
We spent a week in Kruger last September and there were plenty of Lilac-breasted Rollers, they were the commonest Rollers in the area. But we didn't see any European Rollers though. It was too early for them then. They still could be found here in Lithuania at this time of the year.

The situations with European Rollers is quite difficult in Europe, therefore I would be quite happy to hear that at least in Africa the numbers are high. It is dramatic decrease of them in Austria, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia,etc . The numbers are very low in these countries and they are on the edge of extinction, despite our efforts to safe them.
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Old Wednesday 23rd April 2014, 15:23   #33
Larry Sweetland
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Re the rollers: we noticed on our SA trip a couple of years ago that when we visited the park for 10 days in November it was dry and we saw only 1 European Roller and hundreds of Lilac-breasteds. We returned for a few days at the end of the trip in late March and the (much wetter) park was swarming with European Rollers, but Lilac-breasteds (and several other birds seen earlier) were less in evidence.
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Old Thursday 24th April 2014, 10:17   #34
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Re the rollers: we noticed on our SA trip a couple of years ago that when we visited the park for 10 days in November it was dry and we saw only 1 European Roller and hundreds of Lilac-breasteds. We returned for a few days at the end of the trip in late March and the (much wetter) park was swarming with European Rollers, but Lilac-breasted (and several other birds seen earlier) were less in evidence.
It would be interesting to know from what population do Rollers winter in Kruger or other parts of SA. Two years ago some of Latvian (birds which breed in Latvia) were equipped with geo-locators and some Spanish and Southern France Rollers were equipped with satellites. In the attached map you can see the migration route of birds with satellites. Non of them didn't reach SA. Latvian birds, if I'm not mistaken, didn't go so far to the south, they spent their winter somewhere in Kongo.
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Old Sunday 27th April 2014, 21:35   #35
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Very interesting comments Milda and Larry, thank you.
From the map, it looks like European birds get down as far as the Congo, Angola and maybe Botswana. Could it be they stay in these areas during the (southern) summer months and join other intra-african migrants that head over towards South East Africa (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa) around January to March before they head back to Europe. That's just a hypothesis, but a testable one (if there are any research ornithologists out there reading...)

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The situations with European Rollers is quite difficult in Europe, therefore I would be quite happy to hear that at least in Africa the numbers are high. It is dramatic decrease of them in Austria, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia,etc . The numbers are very low in these countries and they are on the edge of extinction, despite our efforts to safe them.
This is the tragedy of Europe's 'Summer visitors': they are almost invariably all declining rapidly in numbers. The EU Common Agricultural Policy continues to subsidise 'intensification' of farming at the expense of natural habitats. It must be hard Miilda to see the negative impact of EU membership on Eastern Europe. In Britain the once-common Turtle Dove is now faced with 'extinction' , or extirpation.

The next thought concerns the slaughter of migrating birds by Southern European hunters. I understand the EU is now trying at last to put pressure on Maltese hunters to stop the wholesale slaughter. The BBC has a well-known Nature presenter (and birder) called Chris Packham. He recently went to Malta to make a documentary about the on-going annual carnage. He was arrested and spent 4 hours being questioned by Maltese police. How many Maltese cops enjoy shooting birds I wonder? Depressing!

It was great to see a healthy number of European Rollers in Kruger when I was there. Did they displace some of the Lilac Breasted Rollers? Dave Kennedy reckoned he saw far less of the latter this time in March.
European Rollers looks like a species that could increase again in numbers in Europe if the EU does ever master the art of promoting agriculture and wildlife.

Cheers,

Padraig.
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