Saturday, January 7, 2017

South Africa 2016 - Trip Report Part 2

At the risk of repeating myself and because of the length of this tour, 3 weeks, there is so much to tell you and thus I have broken this blog, or more correctly Trip Report, into 5 parts! Here I present Part 2. The final part will be a bird species list and a mammal list. I hope you can forgive the drawn out nature of these information packed day by day accounts of my tour.

South Africa and THE tour. Part Two of the Trip Report and I really hope you will enjoy the read and of course the photographs. 

Tour Leaders: Peter Jones (Worldwide Birding Tours § Co-Author, Editor) and  Wian van Zyl (Birding Guide, Main Author)

This comprehensive tour of South Africa by Worldwide Birding Tours undertook a 3-week journey across eastern South Africa, and down into the Western Cape of South Africa. Starting in Durban on the scenic Kwazulu-Natal coast, we slowly worked our way northwards taking in the rolling hills and forests of Eshowe down to the coastal forest and bushveld of the greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park, before heading up to the high-altitudinal grasslands surrounding the endemic hotspot of Wakkerstroom. Kruger was next on the agenda, where a few days were spent enjoying this true natural side of Africa, before heading onto Cape Town and the Western Cape via Dullstroom. Some time was spent on the Cape Peninsula itself, before heading up the west coast to the sleepy village of Langebaan, thereby bring the tour to an end some three weeks later. Due to the length of the tour, and variety of habitats taken in, a mammoth total of nearly 420 species of bird were found on the tour!
Blue-cheeked Bee Eater

Day 7, 28/11/2016: Birding Mkhuze Game Reserve
With a 05:00 start we managed to get into the Sand Forest area of Mkuze nice and early and got species such as Sabota Lark, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Black Cuckooshrike. The plan was to go to some hides in the area to see if we could pick up on some water birds and riverine edge birds. We managed Bearded Scrub-Robin, African Openbill, Black-winged Stilt and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. After lunch and a rest in the 34 degree heat we went out at 14:00 and did a loop around the airstrip to the same pan as this morning.  We got a Neergaard’s Sunbird female building a nest at a hide and got smashing views of Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove. We continued along the mixed woodland vegetation and got Southern Black Tit, White-crested Helmet-Shrike as well as Cardinal Woodpecker. At the hide at … pan we got Woodlands Kingfisher, Common House Martin, Blue-cheeked- and European Bee-eater and Grey-tit Flycatcher. The heat was getting the better of the group so we decided to jump into the vehicle and continue along back to camp and just before arriving we got a couple of White-backed Vultures perched in a tree.
Bearded Scrub Robin

Day 8, 29/11/2016: Mkhuze Game Reserve transfer to Wakkerstroom

With another 05:00 start to the day we made way to the Kumasinga hide (which unfortunately was under construction) to hunt down the Pink-throated Twinspot. En route we came across Crowned Eagle (which only showed briefly) and a Tawny Eagle perched in a distant tree. After passing some White-backed Vultures in a dead tree we managed to get to the hide’s parking area. It took a good 45 minutes before we could pick up on the Twinspot’s soft, high pitch contact call. We got great views of them repeatedly showing themselves briefly very close to us. After being well satisfied with the Twinspots we went past the Airstrip to look for 2 Cheetah’s that were reported by another guide, unfortunately they’d moved off by the time we got there. We did manage to get great views of Crowned Lapwing and Red-backed Shrike. We carried on to another hide and got Blue Waxbill, Cardinal Woodpecker, a skulking Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike and a nesting Little Bee-Eater. Once we were at the hide we go African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Great egret, Emerald spotted Wood-Dove, Wood Sandpiper and Trumpeter Hornbill. A beautiful displaying Purple-banded Sunbird perched in front of us whilst we got a few more views on Pink-throated Twinspot. On our way out we got Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and a quick view of a Eastern Nicator. En route to Wakkerstroom we managed Steppe Buzzard, African Paradise Flycatcher, Blue Crane and a Long-crested Eagle. We arrived at the Guest House around 16:30 and had a walk around after checking in. We got great views of Southern Red Bishop, Cape Weaver, South African Shelduck, Pied Starling and Red-knobbed Coot. Mammals for the day included Zebra, Giraffe, Baboon, Vervet Monkeys, Nyala, Impala, Slender Mongoose and we got a great view of a Leopard Tortoise (although not a mammal)!
Giraffe a real feature of Mkhuze Game Reserve

Day 9, 30/11/2016: Birding Wakkerstroom

With our breakfast packs loaded and high in spirits, we headed out again at around 05:00 to tackle Wakkerstroom for some grassland birding. We picked up “Norman” (Our local guide) and started off with Buff-streaked Chat, Capped- and Mountain Wheatear, Cape Bunting, Red-winged Francolin and Sentinel Rock-Thrush. After continuing along, the wind picked up to gale force speeds and made birding difficult. Even though the wind made it tough, we managed to track down Yellow-breasted Pipit and Eastern Long-billed Lark of which both were our target species for this specific road. We fueled up in town and made our way through the Wakkerstroom farmlands and managed to record Southern Bald Ibis, White Stork, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Spike-heeled Lark, Blue Crane and Grey-crowned Crane. We had spectacular views of Jackal Buzzard as well as Red-capped Lark and constantly passed Steppe Buzzard perched on the power line poles. Struggling to track down Rudd’s Lark we decided to continue and came upon a dam with Greater Flamingo, Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, South African Shelduck and a whole load of Red-knobbed Coots. We made our way to a spot to look for Botha’s Lark and managed to get absolutely great views as well as photos of these magnificent little specimens (a lifer for PJ at last). On our way back to town we got Grey-winged Francolin and African marsh Harrier. Once we finished our late lunch we managed to find Southern White-bellied Korhaan and ended the day in high spirits, as it should be.
Sentinel Rock Thrush - What's not to love?

Day 10, 01/12/2016: Wakkerstroom transfer to Kruger National Park
With a later start to the day than usual we departed from Forellenhof Guest House (absolutely amazing place and highly recommended) at around 09:00 and headed straight for the world renowned (and rightfully so) Kruger National Park. We managed to record a few good species en route which included Whiskered Tern, Greater Flamingo, Long-crested Eagle and a big group of Yellow-billed Kites circling over the freeway, hawking on a termite eruption. As soon as we checked in at Crocodile Bridge reception we continued straight for Lower Sabi Rest Camp agreeing to only stop for great finds. Not long upon entering the reserve we came across a family of 6 Southern Ground Hornbill right next to the road pecking in amongst a Rhino Midden (toilet) digging up beetles and all sorts, after filling half a memory card and facing serious heat we continued with our journey to the rest camp. Some other species that we recorded included Magpie Shrike, Lilac-breasted Roller, African Openbill, Saddle-billed StorkWahlberg’s Eagle and many more common birds within the park. Considering that today was mainly a travel day we recorded a fair amount of good birds and arrived in Lower Sabi with great excitement for what the next few days may in the Kruger would bring. Mammals included Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Blesbok, Impala, Kudu, Giraffe and Zebra.
Long-tailed Widowbird - Amazed it could fly with this tail...

Day 11, 02/12/2016: Birding Kruger National Park
With an early start to the day we decided to go out to Sunset dam and the low level bridge for some birding before our Safari Vehicle Driver arrived at Lower Sabi. We managed to get phenomenal views of White-crowned Lapwing, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and some Ruff at Sunset Dam. When we crossed the river we managed Reed Cormorant, Green-backed Heron, African Fish-eagle and Little Swift. As soon as our driver arrived we hopped into the vehicle and made our way along the Southern area of Lower Sabi and got great views of Wattled Starling, Lilac-breasted-, European and Purple Roller. Upon driving past a carcass in the distance we managed to identify Lappet-faced-, Cape, White-backed and Hooded Vulture off the main road. We continued along and after some good views of a couple of lions in the shade trying to escape the African sun, we got Southern Black-tit, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brown-crowned Tchagra. We made our way around the area after a picnic stop and got Orange-breasted-, and Grey-headed Bushshrike and Long-billed Crombec. We ended the day in a hide recording Wood Sandpiper and Woodland Kingfisher. After a long, yet not too tough, day we arrived at camp and carried on birding after the rain.
Lilac-breasted Roller

Day 12, 03/12/2016: Birding Kruger National Park
Waking up to roaring Lions on our second day in Kruger we set out at 05:00 to see what the day held. Before we left camp we got great views of White-browed Robin-Chat, Terrestrial Brownbul and Saddle-billed Stork. As we pulled in at Sunset Dam we got up close and personal with Black-crowned Night-Heron and Pied Kingfisher. After getting some good views of 3 big male Lions we continued south along the main road in search of all things feathered. We soon got Brown-headed Parrot, Purple Heron and Lappet-faced Vulture. We continued on to a hide where we had some Elephant drinking water and recorded White-browed Scrub-Robin and Wood Sandpiper. As we slowly made our way back to camp we managed to get great views of 2 African Hawk-Eagle’s as well as Martial Eagle. We then made our way to Skukuza and had a pretty quiet drive there, only managing to get African Harrier-Hawk, Little Bee-eater and Tawny Eagle in flight. After checking in and a late lunch we set of for Lake Panic hide. Because of it being a Saturday the hide was fairly busy, but we managed to grab seats and were delighted with the likes of Squacco Heron, Pied Kingfisher and African Fish-Eagle. We also went to the nursery and the golf course, mainly to hunt down Broad-billed Roller, what an amazing bird that is. Mammals for the day included Lions, Elephant, Buffalo, White Rhino, Waterbuck, Giraffe, etc.
Martial Eagle

Well the 2nd installment is a wrap, so I am hoping you might follow the blog and read about our remaining adventures on this spectacular tour. If the idea appeals to you, why not consider joining me and Wian later this year on another of our South African adventure tours? 

Details of the tour and itinerary can be found on this link

To see other destinations we visit please visit our main site. Thank you.


Mia Cobb said...

Great post! Helpful for doing my assignment
Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have.
Keep up the good work you are doing here.

Mia Cobb said...

Great post! Helpful for doing my assignment
Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have.
Keep up the good work you are doing here.