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Monday, July 4, 2022

Extreme birding in Kruger National Park

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If the mere point out of a pennant-winged nightjar, Rudd’s apalis or three-banded courser will get you all twitchy, that is the journey for you.

Phrases: Robert Ingle

Images: Robert Wienand, Arno Pietersen, alamy, gallo/ gettyimages

Picture: Robert Wienand

It’s mid-afternoon, the summer time warmth and humidity are stifling and also you’re having bother staying awake as your recreation automobile ploughs by the grasslands of the Kruger Nationwide Park. However it’s comprehensible. Particularly when you occur to be a participant on an Excessive Birding weekend at Punda Maria Camp. Now of their twenty third 12 months, these weekends type a part of a programme run throughout Kruger each January and February by the West Rand SANParks honorary rangers. They’re a incredible alternative for birders to tick off some lifers with the assistance of South Africa’s prime birding guides, work together with the rangers who work in Kruger, and go to elements of the park not usually accessible to guests. Better of all, earnings from these weekends are used to fund conservation actions within the park, with a spotlight lately on anti-poaching actions.

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The creator conjurs the pennant-winged nightjar together with his signature dance – it really works each time.

The Excessive Birding weekends at Punda Maria are notably widespread, and refill inside minutes of bookings opening, as they provide the one probability of seeing some Kruger specials which aren’t discovered elsewhere within the park. The celebs aligned for me when the spouse of a birder I’d met needed to pull out and I arrived at Punda Maria with a way of nice anticipation. The identify is not any exaggeration: that is hardcore birding and also you’ll spend many (however pleasant) hours out within the bush.

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A resident Pel’s fising owl can generally be seen within the timber alongside the Luvuvhu River – hear out for it’s haunting name at midnight hours

The weekend begins with a night drive the place you’ll get to satisfy your fellow teammates, for not solely is that this excessive birding, it’s additionally aggressive, with prizes on provide for the staff that spots probably the most species. The principle goal hen right here is pennant-winged nightjar and we managed a fast glimpse whereas having fun with sundowners within the heat sand. After one of many quickest braais I’ve ever been to, it was off to mattress to try to catch a couple of hours of sleep earlier than the massive day. Though the official leaving time from camp was 2am (dangerous sufficient), our information determined we must always depart at 1.30am to steal a head begin on the opposite groups. We duly assembled bleary eyed on the designated time – when no sane birder could be out and about –solely to find that each one the opposite groups had had the identical thought.

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Three-banded coursers are not often seen within the north of Kruger throughout sunlight hours.

A 90-minute drive beneath spectacular starry, and surprisingly chilly, skies took us to the Luvuvhu River Valley the place it was nonetheless pitch black with little signal of any birdlife. Nevertheless, a brief drive north of the river offered one of many highlights of the day with a three-banded courser giving nice views within the street. This can be a species restricted to the far north of Kruger which eludes many birders on account of its nocturnal habits. Returning to the river it was nonetheless darkish and so our information determined we must always seek for Pel’s fishing owls alongside the street to Criminal’s Nook. Having seemed in useless for this species on this space many occasions earlier than, I didn’t have excessive hopes however as we sat beneath a tree admiring an indignant wanting Verreaux’s eagle owl who was lower than happy to see us, a ghostly wail was heard from the riverbed. A fast pivot with the highlight revealed a Pel’s in all its glory sitting out within the open on a fallen tree – pure birding magic.

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African openbill storks use their peculiar beaks to pry open shells. (Picture Arno Pietersen)

A dawn breakfast was taken at a birdsong-filled Pafuri picnic web site, a lot to the delight of the native monkeys who usually have to attend a number of hours longer for his or her first victims to reach. We then headed south alongside the administration monitor which runs alongside the border with Mozambique. Whereas gradual going, this affords each panoramic views and entry to the Nwambiya Sandveld which hosts a number of species that aren’t discovered wherever else in Kruger, together with Rudd’s apalis and pink-throated twinspot, each of which duly carried out for us. Lunch was at an ephemeral pan the place we have been entertained by the sight of a giant flock of African openbill storks circling overhead earlier than coming right down to seek for molluscs. These birds all the time look awkward since their beaks don’t shut correctly. In the meantime lesser moorhens have been noisily sputtering away, sounding like automobile engines struggling to begin, and the compulsory African jacanas stepped daintily between lily pads whereas bee-eaters hunted overhead, a magical scene.

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An African jacana’s lengthy legs assist unfold its weight over lily pads so it will probably stroll throughout water; southern carmine bee-eaters make their solution to Kruger in the summertime, a vibrant delight as they catch bugs in flight.

I received’t lie, the lengthy scorching drive by the grasslands within the afternoon is soporific and the lunchtime beer, whereas very pleasant, might not have helped. I duly nodded off for some time and woke as much as the sound of a small canine barking which was very complicated. Nevertheless, it was no canine however a male dwarf bittern displaying on the prime of the bush – one more lifer for the day. Again at camp we loved a slap-up meal, the prize giving competitors (the place our nearly 200 species nonetheless weren’t sufficient to clinch the highest spot), quite a few toasts to have a good time the varied lifers seen after which a collapse into mattress.

A phrase of warning: bushy mammals are very a lot secondary on these weekends. In the event that they occur to be within the background, incredible, however they don’t seem to be the main focus – although we did cease for nearly 60 seconds to take a look at a pair of lions. These well-organised weekends are positively geared toward birders who will now not need to really feel responsible about stopping a recreation automobile to take a look at small nondescript birds. Superlative birding in spectacular environment, and better of all… you’re serving to to guard the park and its wildlife.

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One other summer time specila in Kruger is the pleasant dwarf bittern.

There can be a Kruger Chook & Wildlife Problem subsequent 12 months, from 12 to 19 February 2023. Discover out extra right here or e-mail Norma Gardiner at [email protected] about different upcoming Excessive Birding weekends. 


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