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Trip Report: Kruger Park and Surrounds - 27 February to 5 March 2006

25/02/06 - Sun City to Tzaneen

Jenny and Trevor were met by Etienne Marais at the Cascades, Sun City at 07:30. We then travelled westwards and took a back road towards Koedoeskop, where the birding started in earnest. Some good birds here included Southern White-crowned Shrike, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Barred Wren-warbler, Chinspot Batis, and both Southern Yellow-billed and Red-billed Hornbill. Several warblers were in evidence and we had good views of Olive-tree and Icterine Warbler, before being entertained by the resplendent Shaft-tailed Whydah. A Purple Indigobird was also very obliging before we reached a small farmyard, where we saw Great Reed-Warbler and several Amur Falcon, as well as a Cut-throat Finch as it entered the nest of Southern Masked Weaver.

We then travelled eastwards to Bella-bella (Warmbaths) and then north to Nylsvley Nature Reserve. The floodplain had a fair amount of water, and some birding within the reserve produced species such as Greater Honeyguide (doing it’s guide call), White-browed Sparrow-weaver, Burnt-necked Eremomela and Pearl-spotted Owlet. The floodplain areas in the reserve and at Vogelfontein were being patrolled by numbers of Amur Falcon, and here we saw Southern Pochard, White-backed Duck, Little Egret,African Jacana, Common Squacco and Red-breasted Swallow. On the floodplain itself, we were treated to excellent views of Allen’s Gallinule, and fly-past and close up perched views of no less than three Dwarf Bittern.

A brief stop on the bypass at Polokwane produced excellent scope views of a singing Short-clawed Lark.

We arrived at Kurisa Moya and took a late afternoon walk, during which several Yellow-streaked Greenbul were seen. Dense cloud cover blotted out the dusk sunlight and brought a premature end to the walk.

Jackie delivered a superb dinner of Ostrich fillets to the Forest Cabin.

26/02/06 - Tzaneen

We made an early start towards the Woodbush Forest Drive, which remained misty with light rain through the morning. Here we saw Narina Trogon, and were rewarded by excellent views of Barratt’s Warbler in the open. Other forest species included Cape Batis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Cape Parrot (fly-over), Orange Ground-thrush and Forest Canary.

We found somewhat better conditions at Rooikoppies, and here saw the two Bat Hawks roosting a short distance from their nest. Dusky Indigobird, Red-faced Cisticola and Yellow Bishop were among the other birds seen here. We then had a glut of Raptors, which included African Cuckoo-Hawk, a nice dark phase Western Honey-Buzzard and Long-crested Eagle.

In the afternoon we undertook a long walk in the forest at Kurisa Moya, which took us up to the Big Yellowood Tree. The walk produced a Brown Scrub-Robin, which however only offered fleeting glimpses, as it sang beautifully from a deep tangle. Other species seen included Yellow-streaked and Terrestrial Bulbul, Chorister Robin-chat and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher.

Jackie delivered a wonderful Bobotie for dinner.

27/02/06 - Tzaneen to Punda Maria

With persistent rain and dense fog, we opted to try an area of grassland near Haenertsburg. Here we recorded Red-collared Widow, Golden Weaver, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler and Drakensburg Prinia, amongst others. African Firefinch also offered very good views. We visited an interesting area of broadleaved woodland near Tzaneen, where we saw a variety of woodland birds including Golden-breasted Bunting, Orange-breasted Bush-shrike, Black Cuckoo-shrike, Blue Waxbill, Stierling’s Wren-Warbler, Croaking Cisticola and Grey-rumped Swallow.

In the late morning we met up with Malcolm, who took over for the Kruger Leg of the trip.

We met at the Wheel Barrow at 10:30 am on an overcast drizzling morning. Jenny and Trevor had already been out with Etienne, and had seen great birds, but were ready to leave the rainy escarpment and head for the “drier” Kruger National Park. We had a quick change over of vehicles and were soon on our way east to the Park, stopping only for a circling Eurasian Hobby on the way.

At the Kruger National Park Punda Gate, we got out for a photo and ticked our first Goldentailed Woodpecker and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. From there we went straight through to Punda Maria Camp, stopping for our first magnificent Southern Carmine Bee-eater and three roller species – Lilac-breasted, European and Purple Rollers. At the camp we got settled in, birded the aerial insectivores and scoped a Marabou Stork from the Franks’ balcony.

A little later we set off on the Flycatcher Trail to do some birding, and were rewarded with the fascinating scene of a sub-adult Redchested Cuckoo being fed by a Bearded Scrub-Robin! Given that the latter was a target bird for the camp, this was a fine way to find it and we had great views of them frantically trying to feed their “chick” that was twice their size.

Our plan for the evening was to go out on a night drive, so at 5 pm we picked up our toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches (the soon-to-be staple diet of the trip along with kudu biltong) and headed out with our rather reluctant KNP ranger Matfield. The bush around Punda Maria was alive with birds. A wet summer thus far had resulted in flooded grasslands with calling Harlequin Quails and later, Kurrichane Buttonquails. We had soon spotted our first cuckoos – two or three Levaillant’s Cuckoos and an African Cuckoo and by the time the sun set (and we had had our toasties and Trevor his Stoney), we had added Wahlberg’s Eagle and Comb Duck.

After drinks, we began spotlighting - the first exciting nocturnal bird, being Fiery-necked Nightjar, which was soon followed by a Square-tailed on the road and later a European Nightjar perched up on a branch. At one point, whilst nightjar spotting, we were aroused by the hair-erecting roar of a male lion from the bottom of one of the valleys we were traversing. We spent some time trying to find the lion with the spotlights, during which time Trevor managed to inadvertently direct a small insect into his ear. This was a bug which had decided that the warm atmosphere of the outer ear canal was a bonanza, and proceeded to celebrate by tapdancing on Trevor’s eardrum – rather irritating as you can imagine. A 15 minute procedure ensued in which we finally displaced it by pouring in water (Jenny had suggested blowing in the other ear…) and during which the lion roared again, twice.

We couldn’t find the lion, but did spotlight a few other large mammals and some small ones including a Spring Hare, a Scrub Hare, a Small Spotted Genet and a family of Thick-tailed Bush Babies which greeted us at the entrance back at the camp.

28/02/06 - Punda Maria to Pafuri and back

We were all woken at 3am by a clap of thunder that had instant bolt-upright-in-bed effects and an ensuing storm that threatened to wash away the camp. It didn’t last too long though and by the time we surfaced, things were drying out and soon we were on our way up to Pafuri and the Luvuvhu River.

We stopped on a few occasions in the cathedral mopane woodland which lines the S60 dirt road and picked up a few species including Southern Black Tit and Yellow-throated Petronia. A little further on where a rocky ridge runs parallel to the northern side of the road, we scoped a Mocking Cliff-chat and an African Green-Pigeon.

From there the woodland thinned out and we started picking up on grassland birds. Apart from the numerous Natal and Swainson’s Francolins that lined the roadsides, we were pleasantly surprised to find an adult African Crake wandering around. Later this surprise turned to disbelief when around the corner we came and there were no less than 6 African Crakes in the road – two adults and four sub-adults!

Seedeaters were plentiful in the chest high grass, and there were lots of birds on the road enjoying rich pickings – common amongst these were Fawn-coloured Larks which flushed with reddish wing patches and perched up in nearby bushes. We ere also lucky enough to flush a Harlequin Quail female, and at one point we heard the call of a Black Coucal. Our raptor count also grew, with a great look at a perched Long-crested Eagle.

At the small dam (Klopperfontein Dam?) closer to the tar road we spotted a Grey-headed Kingfisher and were rewarded with some scope views of him perched up and calling. Once on the tar road heading north, we discovered flocks of Wattled Starlings squabbling for food and overhead, we stopped for circling Steppe and Tawny Eagles.
At the Luvuvhu River Bridge, we were greeted by a swollen red-brown muddy river. We nevertheless managed to bag our first Red-faced Cisticola, White-fronted Bee-eater and Wood Sandpiper. Amongst the aerial insectivores, new, were Mosque and Wire-tailed Swallows.

We did the Nyala Road loop west along the southern bank of the river and there found Longtailed Glossy Starling. On our way back towards the Pafuri Picnic Site, we stopped at a busy spot and finished up the roller list with Broad-billed Roller and added Bennett’s Woodpecker, a species that can be tricky anywhere in the park.

At the Pafuri picnic site, we were soon approached by Frank Mabasa who offered to show us a Yellow-billed Oxpecker nest and we spent the next couple of hours birding the surrounding bush with him. Amongst the birds to be found there were Black-throated Wattle-eye, Thrush Nightingale, Tropical Boubou, White-throated Robin-chat and Ashy Flycatcher.

We used the Picnic site as a base for exploration for the rest of the day during which we drove right to the Luvuvhu-Limpopo confluence and back. Additional birds included White-crowned Lapwings (at the confluence), Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Trumpeter Hornbill and Little Bee-eater.

As the afternoon drew on, we finally tore ourselves away from the shade of the tree lined river banks, and headed back towards Punda Maria. Close to the junction with the main tar road south, we stopped to scan a section of seasonal pans with surrounding Hyphaene palms, and were immediately rewarded with scope views of a singing male Lemon-breasted Canary. The main tar road south was punctuated with stops for birds including a vociferous Eastern Nicator, a pair of Violet-backed Starlings, a flock of White-crested Helmet-shrikes being bombed by a pair of Fork-tailed Drongos, a family of 3 Common Ostriches and a pair of Double-banded Sandgrouse right on the side of the road.

Once back on the dirt road, we made a bee-line for the cathedral mopane woodland, stopping only for a displaying male Long-tailed Paradise-Whydah on the way. In the woodland we spent some time trying to find some of the specials and were soon rewarded with great views of a pair of Arnot’s Chats. We tried for both cuckooshrikes, but could only find Black Cuckooshrike – great views of both a male and a female.

Close to the camp, we stopped to view flocking Red-billed Quelea that were settling down for the night – numbers were in the thousands – and more and more kept on flying in from the surrounding areas. Just as we were leaving, a passing car informed us that there was a male lion walking along the road a few hundred metres back, so we about-turned and sure enough, there was a large male lion padding up the road towards us. We had great views of him as he passed in front of us and settled behind some bushes to await the onset of darkness.

01/03/06 - Punda Maria to Letaba via Shingwedzi

The wind blew and it rained for a large part of the night. We awoke to a drizzle, packed and drove east on the tar road. Conditions were bad until about an hour or so into the morning, by which time we had reached the wetland just south of the T-junction with the main tar road south. There we hung around in the hope of picking up on some of the wetland species and were duly rewarded with a bedraggled looking Corncrake which crossed the road tentatively in front of us. South of this we birded a flock of 10 or so Amur Falcons whilst waiting for the drizzle to pass. But the weather was not improving, and as if to rub our noses in it, we got a flat tyre and spent about a half an hour changing it. The birding wasn’t bad during the tyre-changing affair, especially since we had a good excuse to be out of the car. The most notable of our spectators was a sub-adult Gabar Goshawk which perched up and dried its wings on a nearby dead tree.

Eventually we headed south through mist, more drizzle, flooded steams and grasslands. The picnic site at Babalala was sodden, though we did manage a Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling and a Red-faced Cisticola. South of there we stopped in the grassland patches to look for Desert Cisticola and were eventually rewarded with views of a displaying male. Also quite common in the grasslands were Rufous-naped Larks and just as we were leaving the grasslands for the mopane woodlands, we flushed a sub-adult male Montagu’s Harrier.

Further south, at a point along the Mphongolo River, we found a Lesser Spotted Eagle perched up relatively close to the road. Down below in the sand river bed we spotted a small group of Marabou Storks, and at one point in the bush on the roadside was an adult male Lesser Masked Weaver. Close to Shingwedzi, the clouds had lifted, but it was still drizzling intermittently. This didn’t stop us finding a pair of Black Storks in a drying stream and getting great views of our first Green-winged Pytilia. Another highlight of the Shingwedzi area, was the displaying Black-bellied Bustard which having done its extra terrestrial call, flew off in a hurry and then parachuted slowly down with broad V-shaped wings. Hopefully for him, Jenny was not the only lady impressed by this spectacular effort!

After yet another round of toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, we ventured south from Shingwedzi on the Nhlawu Vlei - Dipene Road. The road follows the Shingwedzi river south east initially and here we were rewarded with some great hippo watching, and at the same viewspot, our first Jacobin Cuckoo. Also interesting was a stump with one Yellow-billed Oxpecker and at least 3 or 4 Red-billed Oxpeckers on it.

Eventually the road leaves the Shingwedzi river and cuts south along the Lebombo mountains. Though the birding was indifferent along this section (Namaqua Dove was new), we stopped at a magnificent viewspot (Shibavantsengele) and surveyed the central Kruger, before heading south-west into the Nshawu drainage area.

With the clouds having lifted by now and the sun breaking through on to lush green flooded grassland, the hour or two that we spent birding and enjoying the scenes at the waterholes along the Nshawu drainage, must rate as one of the highlights of the trip. We had cracker views of 2 more Montagu’s Harriers (both males) - one of them flew right across the road in front of us and bounced off across the grassland in full afternoon sunlight. At one of the waterholes Trevor scoped some Red-billed Buffalo Weavers and I brushed up on my African Pipit and Black-backed Cisticola ID while Jenny photographed a herd of Waterbuck that came down to drink. Further on, we stopped to bird a flooded pan and listen to the excited frog chorus and were duly treated to the sight of eight to ten Red-breasted Swallows swooping in for a drink - the russet colour of their breasts gleaming in the post storm, late afternoon sunlight.

Closer to the Letaba River we picked up on a Dusky Lark that had found a tasty grasshopper to eat, and had great views of it dismembering it before swallowing. On the Letaba River bridge, we stopped and got out to take in the last of the afternoon sunlight. Upstream was the tranquil scene of three mother and calf pairs of waterbuck making use of the safety of the sandy river islands. Downstream we scoped our first Greenshank and Kittlitz’s Plovers.

By the time we got to Letaba, it was nearly dark. While I was checking in, Trevor and Jenny found a Mourning Dove close to reception. The perfect ending to a fantastic day’s birding, though, was the African Barred Owlet which we found hunting for insects close to our accommodation.

02/03/06 - Letaba to Lower Sabie via the Old Main Road

We were up early to bird the Letaba camp area before heading south. The large trees in the camp and mix of riverine and bushveld vegetation make it an ideal spot for birding on foot in the Park (a rare opportunity). The highlights of the morning were White-browed Robin-chat (an adult and youngster in a palm thicket), a young Little Sparrowhawk being mobbed by Green Wood-hoopoes, our first proper look at a male Red-headed Weaver, a family of Black-collared Barbets, a Spectacled Weaver and a pair of African Golden Orioles and a flock of Alpine Swifts flying over.

From Letaba, our plan was to head to Olifants for breakfast and then south across the low water bridge from there. When we saw the level of the Olifants River, however, it was obvious that the bridge would be closed, and we opted for breakfast at the N’wamanzi Lookout instead. The river was flowing strongly - hippos and crocs were taking shelter in eddies and on the few remaining islands. With the scope we managed a few new birds including African spoonbill and Yellow-billed Stork. And for the first time in a couple of days, the sun was really beating down.

The highlight of the Olifants River Bridge was a herd of elephants that were browsing in the riverside bush on the south side of the river. From there, our route took us to the Old Main Road via the Ngotso Weir Road. The first bird of interest there was a Lappet-faced Vulture – our first for the trip. This was followed by a great look at a Red-crested Korhaan.

The Old Main Road is known for its grasslands and excellent chance for harriers and other grassland species, but clearly not as much rain had fallen in this area as further north, and it was quieter than expected. We had not so good looks at Chestnut-backed Sparrow-larks near the Bangu waterhole. Further on, we flushed a Long-billed Pipit. We also had a run in with a rather large elephant bull. We initially spotted him on the road far up ahead plodding towards us. The Old Main Road is no highway, though, and there would definitely not have been space for both of us. One of us was going to have to make space. Being in a Mercedes Vito, I thought he’d soon realize his folly and allow us a safe passing, but once he got up close, we noticed that he was in musth. Musth bulls have a tendency to be unpredictable, and often look to test their manhood out on any large enough looking opposition - the odds seemed rather more even than I had first thought. A couple of seconds later when he was a few metres away from the front of the vehicle, the said Vito suddenly looked rather small in comparison to his five ton frame and extra metre and a half height advantage. At this stage reversing would have been a bad plan, and we had a few moments of nervous stand-off, before making space for each other amidst some tyre spinning, head shaking, revving and trumpeting. His manhood seemed pretty intact…

Like a gatekeeper, that bull held the key to a few more birds along the Old Main Road, and soon we had added Red-shouldered Widow, a beautiful Martial Eagle and our first Burchell’s Starling.

Our next destination was Tshokwane for lunch and we made a beeline for it, stopping only to scan the roadside waterholes, picking up Red-billed Teal, Woolly-necked Stork and African Jacana for the list. At Tshokwane itself we found some tasty toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches (yup they had ‘em) and added Klaas’s Cuckoo to the list.

The post lunch drive from Tshokwane to Lower Sabie, was hot and not very birdy, so we covered the mileage and stopped only to take in the views from the Nkumbe Viewsite. What a sensational lookout point that is, and it lived up firmly to its name (Nkumbe is the Shangaan word for White Rhinoceros) because down below alongside the Nkelenga stream, were two rhinos (cow and older (probably female) calf) lying in a mudhole. We sat and surveyed the scene for ages, picking up on a further sleeping Nkumbe in the distance as well as a few elephant bulls and a small journey of giraffe. Presently, a rhino bull was spotted making his way to the mudhole for his mid-afternoon wallow. You can imagine his surprise when he discovered that two ladies had just been there and were busy leaving as he was arriving. In fact the sight or rather the smell of these two ladies rather confused him and he took a while to decide whether he should pursue them or not for a further whiff. We watched as he made is way over to the patch of grass they were now eating, and proceeded to move in for a scenting opportunity. For one of the cows this was a little too forward, and she let him have it followed soon after by the definite “cold-shoulder” treatment. He tried the tactic of looking disinterested and eating grass nearby, and then eventually, returning to his original intention, retired to the mudhole.

Down at Lower Sabie, we checked in and were soon out on a night drive with Jan – our keen-to-please young Kruger ranger. There were 20 of us on the truck, and barefoot Jan drove us straight off on a tour of the Big 5 of his patch. In no time we had ticked elephant, and were soon amidst a lowing herd of about 300 buffalo. This was followed by a brilliant performance of how to scare a large crocodile out from the grass on the side of the road by throwing a few stones at it from about 3 metres away…

To his credit, Jan chose his route carefully as we were now outrunning one of the biggest storms we had yet seen on our rainy tour of the park. Once dark settled in, our pace slowed and we were lucky enough to spot a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl and a Southern African Python. Later, we had two different sightings of lion. The first was of 3 lionesses and three very young cubs (2-3 months old). The second was of a male (almost certainly from the same pride) who walked past the truck at pouncing distance.

03/03/06 - Lower Sabie to Pretoriuskop via Skukuza

The storm from the previous night's drive grew bigger and bigger and it rained harder and harder all night. At our agreed departure time, it was raining so hard that it didn't seem worthwhile to head out, and we sat and had tea overlooking the Sabie River which was starting to show signs of increased flow.

By the time we left, most of the hard rain had stopped but all of the dirt roads in the Park had been shut off and we were left with the Sabie River tar road as our only option. We made our way to Nkuhlu Picnic site, stopping to take in the splendour of the flooded tributary streams along the way. The most impressive of these was the Lubyelubye River that was a raging torrent of dark brown flood water complete with dangerous looking standing waves and large debris. By the time we got to the picninc site, the Sabie River had started to rise even more, and the rain was still coming down!

By the time we got to the Sabie River high water bridge, it seemed as though it would be a day of admiring nature at one of her extremes and we decided to watch the Sabie come down in flood. Over the following hour or two we drove the banks of the river, birding and taking in the power of nature. We watched as the river rose by a further metre in height to a point where it was only about 1.5 metres from the top of the arches of the high water bridge. The force of the water eventually reached a level where large 3-4 ton dead trees that had been left stranded on islands by a previous flood, were being picked up and carried downstream.

The birding was fun too, and we added a few more to the list. Most notable of these was Purple-crested Turaco which had been a long time in coming. Also spotted was Malachite Kingfisher and we heard, though frustratingly couldn't find, a Thick-billed Cuckoo.

By lunch time the river was subsiding and we stopped for something to eat at the Skukuza restaurant. Over lunch we entertained ourselves by watching (and watching other people watching) the Tomb bats hanging from the rafters above, and the commotion that surrounded someone discovering a black mamba in a hole at the base of a nearby tree.

We covered the distance to Pretoriuskop fairly quickly, adding only Hooded Vulture as a new one for the trip, though Red-collared Widow was new for our KNP list. Our evening drive around a granite dome near to the camp was uneventful, and we were in bed relatively early.

04/03/06 - Pretoriuskop (incl. Voortrekker Road, Napi Road and night drive)

We woke early and headed out on the Voortrekker Road towards Afsaal picnic site. A southerly wind had got up in the night and blew most of the morning - eventually stopping only after lunch time (as predicted by Malcolm). The road was still pretty wet and in places quite badly washed from the rains. It was beautiful though, and we were once again in territory where there were no other cars, which made it even more enjoyable.

At the crossing of the Hukweni stream below Sifungwane Mountain, we were trying to find a Jacobin Cuckoo, when Jenny suddenly spotted an animal standing on a rock outcrop on the top of the mountain. The "animal" turned out to be two lionesses, our first big game spotting for the morning. Around the corner we picked up on a crash of 3 white rhinos on a nearby hillside, and the first new bird for the day, Pale Flycatcher.

At the crossing of the Josekhulu stream, Trevor spotted a male Scarlet-chested Sunbird and at the site of the Voortrekker Waterhole and Outspan plaque, we had a glimpse of a Grey-headed Bush-shrike before it dived into a dense bush.

The Afsaal picnic site was quite busy, but we found a quiet corner to eat breakfast and enjoy some of the bushveld birds close up. From there we headed north towards Skukuza, birding and mammal watching along the way. The highlight of this was the coalition of three male cheetah that crossed the road in front of us at one point. But also enjoyable was a small herd of impala that were being attended to by a pair of Red-billed Oxpeckers, a Fork-tailed Drongo and a pair of Lilac-breasted Rollers.

Once back on the Napi Road heading for Pretoriuskop, we had a great sighting of a small breeding herd of elephants crossing the road in front of us. At one point a White-headed Vulture flew overhead, and we had our first Ground-scraper Thrush.

Back at camp we had an afternoon rest, and then birded a little of the camp (Grey Tit-Flycatcher was new) before going out on another night drive. The drive was great fun - our guide was good, our fellow travelers were friendly and the crepuscular and nocturnal life was great. Of the birds, we managed a Dark Chanting Goshawk and after dark, a female Pennant-winged Nightjar (there were also a few Square-tailed and Fiery-necked). Of the mammals, we had great views of a bull White Rhinoceros, as well as a Small Spotted Genet and a troop of baboons clinging onto a cliff face for safety. Good thing we finally got the spotlights to work.

05/03/06 - Pretoriuskop to Johannesburg via Kaapsehoop

Up at first light, we enjoyed a cup of tea and then took a walk around the camp for an hour to bird the morning activity. The highlight of the camp birds only came only once we were packing the car back at our accommodation. We heard a flock of helmet-shrikes calling and they proved to be Retz's Helmet-shrike - one of the prettier birds we had missed in the north.

Our route from Pretoriuskop took us out of the Numbi Gate and through White River, Nelspruit and on up to Kaapsehoop. There we were looking for Blue Swallows, and were disappointed to discover that not only had only one pair returned this year to breed, but that you now needed a guide and permit to go and see them (good for the swallows, but not so good for us who were keen to see them and had not made a booking).

We tried some birding of our own though and soon found Lazy Cisticola, Buff-streaked Chat and Long-billed Pipit. We then spotted the local guide (Richard??) and his client trying to push their car on the forestry road that led into the grasslands and we went across to help. Forestry trucks had made a mess of the very wet clay roads, and sections were practically impassable. or so we thought. Behind the wheel of the "stuck" brand new looking VW Polo, was a very determined lady who was very very keen to see the swallows. What followed was an hilarious display of sheer guts as she guided her VW through mud and water at rally car speeds in between gnawing on biltong and photographing birds! The swallows were not home, but for our efforts we did find Grey-backed and Wing-snapping Cisticolas as well as Secretarybird, Jackal Buzzard and Cape Longclaw.

Closer to Johannesburg International, we stopped for some Cape Vultures that were getting up from a carcass close to the highway. Our final target was Long-tailed Widow, which we searched and searched for until eventually finding it at a small dam west of Witbank. Also at the dam were Yellow-billed Egret and Glossy Ibis.

Trip report by Birding Africa tour leaders Malcolm Fair.

Practical tour information: South Africa Tours

Please click this link for more detailed information about our upcoming South Africa Tours.
Focus For keen birders and mammal enthusiasts. Designed to see as many as possible endemic birds, but while on the walks we spend a lot of time looking for other aspects of wildlife such as mammals, chameleons, geckos, butterflies and interesting plants. We can also customise any itinerary to suit to the keen birder, the wildlife enthusiast or both.
Photography Many participants on our trips are amateur wildlife photographers. And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter. Thus, while the photographic opportunities are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.
Fitness Please enquire as this depends on the exact tour.
Timing Throughout the year.
Climate Cool in the Cape and highlands Drakensberg hot in the lowlands.
Comfort A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and small hotels.
Transport Group tours are usually in minibus or four wheel drive vehicle.
Group Size This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Top birds Several endemics and near-endemics in a spectacular setting. Please see the tour description.
Top mammals African elephant, lion, cheetah, Sable, Roan, Bontebok, Cape zebra, Meerkat
Booking Please contact us if you wish to book. You will receive the booking form and conditions and a tour information pack.

About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders.  We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent.  We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

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