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Kruger trip February 2014

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Old Thursday 13th March 2014, 10:23   #1
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Kruger trip February 2014

My very first trip to the Kruger, something I've looked forward to for years.
I hired a car at Nelspruit airport on the 25th Feb and stayed in a lodge at Hazyview.
Next morning I was up before the sun at it early. Birds that were Southern Africa lifers are in bold. Apologies to seasoned SA birders, this may be a bit like ticking Wood Pigeons and Blackbirds in the UK.

Palm Swift, Black Collared Barbet, Woodland Kingfisher,
Spectacled Weaver, Scarlet Chested Sunbird, Yellow Fronted Canary, African Green Pigeon, dark Capped Bulbul, Violet Backed Starling- female (this bird threw me for some time, I thought it was a thrush), Fork Tailed Drongo, Pin Tailed Wydah, Egyptian Goose, White Fronted Bee-eater, Cattle Egret.

After breakfast I drove off towards Phalaborwa Gate. Along the way, I encountered a mass protest against poor services (electricity, water etc) and was blocked from following my route. Fortunately a friendly man agreed to hop in my car and we spent an hour doing a detour along a bumpy road. After another hour I managed to get past the blockage, only to be stoped my the police for not having fully stopped at a Stop sign.
" That's very dangerous" said the cop, the fine is R750. "I'll pay it at the police station" I said. After 10 minutes further 'interrogation' he let me off with no fine. Always insist at paying at the police station and the 'fine' will be dropped, what they are doing is illegal and they know it.

En route to the gate I saw Purple Crested Turaco, Lilac Breasted Roller, Cape Glossy Starling, Magpie Shrike, Bataleur,
European Roller (this was by far the commonest and most widespread bird I saw in the park), Little Swift.

Once inside the park, I headed for Sable Dam. Here I saw my first SA Red Billed Oxpecker on an Impala, a solitary Fish Eagle, Little Bee-Eater, Blacksmith Plover, Lesser Grey Shrike.
Emerging from the Dam, I saw my very first ever wild elephant! That was an exciting moment. At last, I had arrived.
By early afternoon I arrived at Letaba Camp alongside a magnificent river.
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Old Saturday 15th March 2014, 08:39   #2
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I arrived at Letaba Camp in the early afternoon. The camp overlooks a wide river. There were a couple of elephants browsing along the river and clusters of Maribou Stork and Yellow Billed Stork were wading along the sand bars. A Hooded Vulture and Yellow Billed Kite flew over.
In the trees below the camp a noisy Crested Barbet was defending its territory and a Southern Grey Headed Sparrow had a nest in a hole on a tree.
There were Red Winged Starlings, Hadida Ibis and Red Eyed Dove around the camp.
In the distance I picked up a bird I was hoping to see on the trip, a single Saddle Backed Stork. I missed not having my telescope to get closer views.
As the sun began to sink, I drove to the loops by the river, hoping to get better views of the Saddle Backed Stork. I saw my first wild giraffes munching on Acacia trees beside the road. Another exciting moment.
By the river there was a great White Egret, my first ever Carmine Bee Eater (a bird I had looked forward to seeing for a long time), Natal Spurfowl, Swainson's Spurfowl, Red Billed Hornbill and Tawny Flanked Prinia.
A Buffalo walked right up to the car and looked in the windscreen before turning off into the bush. Do these animals ever attack cars?
Final birds for the day were Pied Kingfisher, 3 Banded Plover and Laughing Dove.
27 Southern Africa lifers for the first day, as well as my first elephants, giraffes and buffalo. I was asleep by 8pm, very happy with Kruger.
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Old Sunday 16th March 2014, 10:28   #3
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Old Sunday 16th March 2014, 19:40   #4
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Sounds like a great trip ! Saw my first Carmine Bee-eater in the Kruger, too, two years ago. Fantstic birds. Looking forward to more from your trip.
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Old Sunday 16th March 2014, 20:43   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterBird View Post
Sounds like a great trip ! Saw my first Carmine Bee-eater in the Kruger, too, two years ago. Fantstic birds. Looking forward to more from your trip.
Regards,
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Thanks Peter. Did you write up your trip in BF?

I was up before sunrise on 26/2/2014. Below the viewing area there were 2 Black Crake, a Red Backed Shrike, Speckled Mousebird, African Spoonbill (rare in Kruger according to my book). A Dwarf Bittern flew shoeing its streaked breast. Nice bird. Barn swallows were flying about the place. Hippos were making their way down to the water in the distance. The noticeable thing is how slowly all the big beasts move.
I took a drive to the nearby bridge over the river. A single Jacobin Cuckoo perched in a bush.
On the bridge railings a very obliging Giant Kingfisher allowed me get up close. An African Pied Wagtail was also on the railings. I looked up and saw an eagle species had landed on the opposite railings. Unfortunately it flew, it turned out to be a Wahlberg's Eagle. 4 lifers before breakfast.
Back at the camp I saw one Red Bishop. There were lots of small birds flitting and I identified Yellow Bellied Apalis (male), Bronze Mannikin, Black Backed Puffback, as well as White Fronted Bee-eaters.

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I drove north in the direction of Shingwedzi, my next camp, driving at 50 KPH, maximum allowed speed in the park, which is an ideal speed for spotting birds. I was the only car on the road, which was great as I could stop as often as I wanted to admire things.
On the way I saw Cape turtle Dove, Lesser Striped Swallow, Chinspot Batis, Rock Kestrel (supposed to be uncommon). I took the S50 dirt-track loop. European Golden Oriole, Red Billed Buffalo Weaver, Zitting Cisticola, Sabota Lark, Green Winged Pytilia, Chestnut Backed Sparrowlark, Wattled Starling, Brimstone Canary, Kittlitz Plover, Crowned Lapwing, Red Capped Lark, Red Breasted Swallow, Wood Sandpiper, Grey Hornbill, Spotted Flycatcher. Loads of new species.
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I looked hard for Kori Bustard as the S50 is supposed to be good for them, but the long grass made it hard to scan very far, and I never got to see one, or any bustard/korahan for that matter.
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Old Monday 17th March 2014, 03:12   #6
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Enjoying your Trip Report Padraig !

However your jps are downsized rather too much (they are not much bigger than the thumbnails Also the GIFs are not working for me.
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Old Monday 17th March 2014, 10:05   #7
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Enjoying your Trip Report Padraig !

However your jps are downsized rather too much (they are not much bigger than the thumbnails Also the GIFs are not working for me.
I'll see if I can downsize them to a slightly larger size.

26/2/2014 cont.
After the S50 loop, I decided to pull into Mopani Camp to see what it was like and to have some lunch.
Overlooking the dam, there was a herd of elephants in the distance and a Fish Eagle stood guard. A got great views of my first Go Away Birds feeding in the trees below the restaurant. European Swifts flew overhead; then 2 Dwarf Bitterns flew along the water's edge into a tree. My second sighting of this species in 24 hours!.
Back on the road, I had a close view of Dusky Lark standing on the road and then great views of 2 male an one female Double Sanded Sandgrouse. I also saw Black Shouldered Kite and Namaqua Dove.

I came across a bull elephant coming towards me on the opposite side of the road. I stopped the car 400 m. away from him and watched him approach very slowly and surely. About 10 metres away he switched sides and was now coming directly towards me and filling my screen immensely. Unfortunately my camera battery was flat so I got no photos.I remembered advice to sit still and think positive thoughts about the beast (they pick up on any nervous vibes and can get angry). Fortunately, having checked me out, he crossed back over to his side and exited into the bush right beside me. phew!

At Shingwedzi Camp, after checking in I got Great Blue Eared Starling,
Crested Barbet, Wire Tailed Swallows over the river.
I took a trip outside to a nearby river and saw a Greenshank. Crossing over the river there was a Hammerkop feeding in the river which allowed me to get within 6 feet of it.
2 new species appeared together: Jameson's Firefinch and Blue Waxbill, and I saw my first male Violet Backed Starling.
Back at base I counted up my tally of lifers for the day: 26. Not bad. And I survived an elephant attack, well maybe not an attack exactly....
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Old Monday 17th March 2014, 15:15   #8
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Glad you've found a way to make the images bigger Padraig. Very nice Giant kingfisher and I love the pic of the Grey Go-away Birds. Knowing Kruger well, I'm really enjoying reading your trip report and visualising the areas you mention, thanks. Hope there is more to come.
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Old Monday 17th March 2014, 18:40   #9
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Shingwedzi 27/2/14
The birds here were different to the Letaba Camp. In the camp itself at first light I saw African Hoopoe,Green Wood Hoopoe, Yellow Billed Hornbill and my first African Mourning Dove.
I drove back to where I had been down by a small river the night before. I saw my first ever Goliath Heron. Three Ground Hornbills posed in a dead tree, looking fantastic and primitive in the morning light. Through the vegetation I got reasonably good views of a single Saddle Backed Stork.Beside my car an Emerald Spotted Wood Dove looked relaxed. 6 Lifers before breakfast. Bon appetit!
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Old Tuesday 18th March 2014, 13:18   #10
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Yes, they do but not often

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Originally Posted by Padraig View Post
A Buffalo walked right up to the car and looked in the windscreen before turning off into the bush. Do these animals ever attack cars?
.
Been on many african trips at various parks only once has a Buffalo attacked our vehicle, but also heard of it happening to others, it happened to us in Hluhluwe–Umfolozi Game Reserve.
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Old Tuesday 18th March 2014, 13:26   #11
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En route to the gate I saw Purple Crested Turaco, Lilac Breasted Roller, Cape Glossy Starling, Magpie Shrike, Bataleur,
European Roller (this was by far the commonest and most widespread bird I saw in the park).
Seriously impressive birds just in this one sentence.....
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Old Tuesday 18th March 2014, 15:44   #12
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Been on many african trips at various parks only once has a Buffalo attacked our vehicle, but also heard of it happening to others, it happened to us in Hluhluwe–Umfolozi Game Reserve.
Also been on many trips and have never been attacked by a buffalo! (Quite glad about that).

Six lifers before breakfast actually sounds more exciting that what most people say which is 'the big five in one day'. Great sightings Padraig.
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Old Tuesday 18th March 2014, 19:44   #13
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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.Click image for larger version

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Old Wednesday 19th March 2014, 08:56   #14
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Must have been great to go so far north! Meve's Starling and Broad-billed Rollers I' ve yet to see! I'm planning a trip to Punda Maria and the Pafuri area in September/ October, so it's extra interesting to read about your experiences there. You asked about my 2012 trip, ther report is here. Only little time was spent in Kruger, but I hope to make up for that this year. Thanks for you great report!
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Old Wednesday 19th March 2014, 09:02   #15
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Apologies for not adding names to photos..can anyone tell me how its done?
In order of sequence they are: White Fronted bee-eater;Giant Kingfisher; Wahlberg's Eagle; Magpie Shrike; Black Shouldered Kite; Crested Barbet; Go Away Bird; Goliath Heron with Elephant; Ground Hornbills; Emerald Spotted wood Dove; Saddle Backed Stork; Tawnny Flanked Prinia; Brown Snake Eagle.
Can anyone tell me the names of the antelope I've posted?

28/2/2014.
Before breakfast I drove down the start of the Mahonnie Loop. It was much better than the night before. In quick succession I saw Grey Headed Bush Shrike, Golden Breasted Bunting, Crowned Hornbill, Brown crowned Chagra. Large Flocks of Red Billed Quelia flew over fast, just as you see them on TV.
4 pre-breakfast lifers today, all colourful birds.
After breakfast I went back along the Mahonnie Loop. I saw Red Faced Mousebirds and an African Paradise Flycatcher.
Later, I got Dusky Indigobird, Cinnamon Breasted Bunting, Arrow Marked Babbler (unfortunately they didn't stay still for a photo and a female Coqui Francolin.
I missed the turn off for the dam, so missed out on what that had to offer.
That was to be my final tally.
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Old Wednesday 19th March 2014, 09:50   #16
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I think your first antelope would be a Nyala and the second a Kudu.
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Old Wednesday 19th March 2014, 13:14   #17
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Thanks for posting this report Padraig, it has given me a good taste of what may be in store for us when we visit Kruger in June. I've never seen a Broad-billed Roller or a Meve's Starling so I'm pretty envious . . . .
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Old Wednesday 19th March 2014, 14:29   #18
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I think your first antelope would be a Nyala and the second a Kudu.
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I agree with these ID's. Nice report BTW, Kruger is a fantastic place.
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Old Wednesday 19th March 2014, 20:25   #19
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Thanks Peter Sal and Mike. I must bone up on my Antelopes. Can anyone name these two? One is Impala I think.
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A special thanks to Sal who gave me invaluable advice here on Bird Forum about various camps before I booked them. She suggested I try Letaba, Shingwedzi and Punda Maria, so that is where I went. Excellent choices.
Sal, I'm surprised you have yet to see Meve's Starling and Broad Billed Roller. I suppose its luck of the draw what turns up.

I am aware of many common species I failed to see, which pleases me because I'll have to go back and see them.
I did badly on raptors: no hawks and 2 Eagle species. I didn't see a Martial Eagle, for example. No Kori's Bustard or any Korahan. No Robin Chats.
Apart from Sable Dam, I didnt go to any large water areas (rivers apart) so I saw no ducks at all. And I've yet to see African Jacana in SA.

Here's an African Green Wood Hoopoe:
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My first ever Giraffe:
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Woodland Kingfisher
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Thanks again for helpful comments.
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Old Wednesday 19th March 2014, 20:58   #20
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Thanks Peter Sal and Mike. I must bone up on my Antelopes. Can anyone name these two? One is Impala I think.
Attachment 488250
Attachment 488251
First one is a Waterbuck, second is an Impala.
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Old Friday 21st March 2014, 20:49   #21
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First one is a Waterbuck, second is an Impala.
Thanks Mike. That's four species of Antelope I saw.
Regarding birds of Parfuri, apart from Meve's Starling and Broad Billed Roller, another beauty is the Black Throated Wattle Eye. Apparently they are often seen at the Parfuri Picnic Site. Frank, the resident birding warden also told me that there were Pel's Owls around Crook's Corner. The problem is that you would need to be shown their roosting tree, as you cannot stay there at dusk. Camps shut at 5.30 in March and 5.00 in April. It makes it impossible to see Nightjars as well. I believe in Botswana they close camps an hour later that in the Kruger to allow some nocturnal wandering.

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To end on an ecological note, my last pic is an illustration of how beasts at the top of the food chain contribute to the wellbeing of those further down the chain
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Sweet Elephant's dung.

The End.
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Old Saturday 22nd March 2014, 04:48   #22
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Well you had some great sightings Padraig. Glad i was able to help. Regarding the gate closing times - unfortunately there are a great many people who drive far too fast in Kruger and many animals and birds have been killed in this way. To have the speedsters travelling after dusk could cause not only more animal deaths, but also severe accidents if someone collided with a hippo (they leave the water at dusk and often cross the roads on their way to feeding grounds) or an elephant or rhino, or even some of the antelope. So although its frustrating, its also necessary. Love the ecological note! (Known by us as 'ellidence" as it tells us who crossed the road and whether its worth searching to see if they are still around . . . .)
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Old Saturday 22nd March 2014, 07:30   #23
sidwemn
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Originally Posted by Padraig View Post
It makes it impossible to see Nightjars as well. I believe in Botswana they close camps an hour later that in the Kruger to allow some nocturnal wandering.
At most Kruger Camps you can take a Sunset Drive out of the camp about an hour before sunset. This allows around 2 hours in the dark. Many camps also do a 2 hour night drive which usually leaves when the sunset drives comes back in. When I stayed at Punda Maria in November 2012 the Sunset Drives would target displaying Pennant Winged Nightjars if you asked. An amazing experience!

Cheers
Martyn
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Old Tuesday 25th March 2014, 16:54   #24
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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
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Old Tuesday 25th March 2014, 18:24   #25
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When I stayed at Punda Maria in November 2012 the Sunset Drives would target displaying Pennant Winged Nightjars if you asked. An amazing experience!
Not the best photo I've ever taken, but you get the idea. Amazing birds

Cheers
Martyn
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