Wednesday 28 December 2011

Quickly unto the Kruger, South Africa, December 2011

A quick jaunt into the Kruger National Park in South Africa will simply never be enough. I have been driving in the African bush long enough to know that trying to predict how far one might travel in a given time is a pointless exercise. I should have known better but, once again, Time beat me and I had to change plans to get out of the park by dusk.

It is difficult to do justice to the bird watching if you are mammal watching and vice-versa, but occasionally things work out just nicely. Impala were plentiful and this Red-billed Oxpecker was giving one a fine-toothed combing. There was much to see. A Red-crested Koorhan stepped off the road into the long grass and crouched, with its head cocked as if it were about to launch itself into its display leap.

I had arrived at the Phabeni Gate (Google Earth ref; 25 01 30S 31 14 30E) intending to drive as far as the Malelane Gate (25 27 44S 31 31 56E). The journey of 100kms should have been easily possible over the four and a half hours that I had before closing time, but even before reaching Skakuza, less than a third of the way I knew that I would have to leave by the Kruger Gate.

Elephants had proved to be very watchable with 2 big bulls very close to the road. They must have recently taken a bath and were rubbing against a tree to rid themselves of parasites. they came right out onto the road and gave a superb view. These were mature bulls with nothing to prove and were relaxed in close proximity to the car. Across the road a third bull, with one huge tusk on the right, melted away into the sparce bush.

The first soaring bird seen inside the park was a Bataleur, easily recognisable with its short-tailed outline, as it passed over the top of the car. A couple of Levaillant's Cuckoos chased each other through the trees and were closely followed by a pair of Gabar Goshawks doing the same.

Another bird of prey was the Dark Chanting Goshawk. Beyond the range of the Pale Chanting Goshawk, this one was easy to identify without having to check for the pale secondaries contrasting against the darker wing and back.

The road from Phabeni Gate to Skakuza crosses a couple of small water courses. A pair of Water Dikkops was roosting quietly by the bank of one.

Just before turning up to visit the bird hide at Lake Panic, a Juvenile Red-backed Shrike was seen close to the road and it sat well for some pictures.

The best part of the short visit to the Kruger was the hour and a half that I spent at Lake Panic (Google Earth ref; 24 58 53S 31 33 58E). I chose to stop here as it would not have been possible to reach the next gate and thus I was committed to leaving the park by the nearby Kruger Gate come closing time.

Lake Panic was such a delightful place that I will devote a whole post to it and it has given me a post for 10,000Birds in the New Year too. The bird list that follows includes the birds from Lake Panic.
Don’t ever imagine that distance divided by speed will give you a good approximation of time while driving in the Kruger National Park. You can try it, but will probably still be wrong by hours!

Birds seen; 51
Grey Heron 2, Goliath Heron 3, Cattle Egret 6, Striated Heron 1, Hadada Ibis 3, White-faced Whistling Duck 8, Egyptian Goose 6, African Comb Duck 1, African Fish Eagle 2, Brown Snake Eagle 1, Bataleur 4, Dark Chanting Goshawk 1, Gabar Goshawk 2, Common Buzzard 1, Helmeted Guineafowl 8, Black Crake 2, Red-crested Bustard 1, African Jacana 6, Water Thick-knee 2, Blacksmith Lapwing 8, Wattled Lapwing 1, Ring-necked Dove 6, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove 1, Levaillant’s Cuckoo 2, Dideric Cuckoo 1, Little Swift 2, White-rumped Swift 4, Woodland Kingfisher 2, Brown-headed Kingfisher 2, Pied Kingfisher 2, Lilac-breasted Roller 3, African Grey-billed Hornbill 1, African Red-billed Hornbill 1, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill 3, Greater Striped Swallow 50, African Pied Wagtail 2, Cape Wagtail 1, Common Bulbul 4, Tawny-flanked Prinia 1, Cape Crombec 1, Scarlet-chested Sunbird 1, Red-backed Shrike 1, Retz’s Helmetshrike2, Fork-tailed Drongo 15, Cape Glossy Starling 6, Red-billed Oxpecker 3, Southern Masked Weaver 20, Spot-backed Weaver 40,Blue-breated Cordonbleu 1, Common Waxbill 1.
For posts on other sites close to the Kruger National Park, floow the links below;

There are many more posts for sites that are accessible from Johannesberg, Cape Town and far wider on the continent of Africa on the dedicated Africa page.

Kruger, South Africa, JNB Johannesburg,

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